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state with that of persons whom we are most apt to admire and envy, it would often afford matter of consolation and contentment to us : this point enlarged on.
7. Farther, it may induce us to be content, if we consider what commonly hath been the lot of good men in the world : scarcely is there recorded in holy Scripture any person eminent for goodness, who did not taste deeply of wants and distresses : instances quoted: the example of our Lord himself enlarged on. Have all these then, of whom the world was not worthy, undergone all sorts of inconvenience, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; and shall we disdain, or be sorry to be in such company? This subject enlarged on. In fine, seeing that adversity is a thing so natural to all men, so common to most men, so incident to great men, so proper to good men, so peculiar to Christians, we have great reason to observe the Apostle's advice, Beloved, wonder not concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as if some strange thing happened SERMON XL.
PHILIPPIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 11.
I have learned in whatsoever state, &c.
5. But farther : let our state be, as to quality, what it will, good or bad, joyful or unpleasant, we may yet consider that it cannot be desperate, it may not be lasting; for there is not any necessary connexion between the present and the future : wherefore as the present, being momentary and transient, can little trouble us, so the future, being unknown and uncertain, should not dismay us. As no man reasonably can be elevated with confidence in a good state, presuming on its duration, (Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth;') so no man should be dejected for a bad one, in suspicion that it will abide long; seeing neither (considering the frequent vicissitudes that occur, and the flux nature of all things here) is each of them in itself stable ; and the continuance of each absolutely dependeth on God's arbitrary disposal; and as God often doth overturn prosperity, to human judgment most firmly grounded, so he most easily can redress the to appearance most forlorn adversity; and he, being especially the helper of the helpless,' doth frequently perform it: as he poureth contempt on princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty :' so‘he raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill : he casteth down the mighty from their seat, and exalteth the humble and meek : he sendeth the rich empty away, and filleth the hungry with
good things.' He maketh sore, and bindeth up ; he woundeth,
' • and his hands make whole.'
Considering therefore the reason of things, and the nature of God, if our state be at present bad or sorrowful, we have more reason to hope for its amendment than to fear its continuance. If indeed things went on in a fatal track, merely according to a blind and heedless chance, or a stiff and unalterable necessity; if there were no remedy from God's providence, or support by his grace to be expected, (although even then there would be no reason to grieve or complain : grief would be unreasonable, because unprofitable, complaint would be vain, because fortune and fate are deaf,) yet our infirmity might somewhat excuse that idle proceeding; but since 'not a sparrow falleth to the ground, nor a hair of our head perisheth ;' nothing at all passeth otherwise than by the voluntary disposition of a most wise and gracious God; since he doth always strictly view, and is very sensible of our griefs, yea doth in a manner sympathise with them, (according to those pathetical expressions in the prophets, His bowels sound,' and are troubled ;' his heart is turned within him: 'In all their afflictions he was afflicted :') since he farther hath by promise obliged himself to
care for us,' to support and succor us ; we have all reason to hope, yea firmly to believe, (if at least we can find in our hearts to hope and to believe,) that we shall, as soon as it is good and expedient for us, find relief and ease; we shall have that eŰkaipov Bondelay, that`seasonable succor,' of which the Apostle to the Hebrews speaketh.
Hope lieth at the bottom of the worst condition that can be : • The poor,' saith Job's friend, - hath hope ;' and the rich can have no more ; the future being equally close to both, the one can have no greater assurance to keep what he hath, than the other bath to get what he needeth ; yea clearly the poor hath the advantage in the case; for God hath more declared that he will relieve the poor man's want, than that he will preserve the rich man's store : if then we have in every condition a hope present to us, why do we “grieve as those who have no hope ?' having ever ready the best anchor that can be to rest on, (for in this rolling sea of human affairs, there is no firmer anchor than hope,) why do we let our minds be tossed with discontent
ful solicitudes and fears ? why do we not rather, as the Apostle enjoineth, “rejoice in hope,' than grieve out of despair? why do we not, as the prophet adviseth, ' hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord ?' The effect of so reposing ourselves for the future on God's providence would be perfect content and peace, according to that of the prophet, • Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee;' and that of the wise man,' A patient man will bear for a time, and afterwards joy shall spring up unto him.
The truth is, and it seemeth very observable, in order to our purpose, that most discontent ariseth, not from the sense of incumbent evil, but from suspicion, or fear of somewhat to come; although God at present dispenseth a competency of food and raiment, although we are in a tolerable condition, and feel no extremity of want or pain, yet, not descrying the way of a future provision for us, answerable to our desires, we do trouble ourselves; which demeanor implieth great ignorance and infidelity : we think God obliged in kindness, not only to bestow on us what is needful in its season, but to furnish us with stores, and allow us securities ; we must have somewbat in hand, or we cannot trust him for the future: this is that which our Saviour cautioneth against, as the root of discontent and sign of diffidence; • Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself ; sufficient to the day is the evil thereof:' an advice no less pious, than manifestly full of reason and wisdom : for what a palpable folly is it to anticipate that evil which we would avoid ; then, when we earnestly desire to put off sorrow, to pull it toward us; to feel that mischief which possibly shall never be; to give it a being in our fancy which it may never have in nature ? Could we follow this advice, never resenting evils before they come, never prejudging about future events against God's providence and our own quiet; constantly depending on the divine care for us ; not taking false alarms, and trembling at things which shall never come near us; not being disturbed with panic fears; no discontent could ever seize on us : for the present is ever supportable ; our mind cannot be overwhelmed by the pangs of a transitory moment.
If we need farther encouragement for application of this remedy, we have manifold experiments to assure its virtue : as there are innumerable promises that none who hope in God shall be disappointed ; so there are many illustrious examples of those, whom God hath in remarkable manner and wonderful measure relieved from wants and distresses, raising them out of deepest poverty, contempt, and worldly wretchedness, into most eminent degrees of wealth and prosperity ::Look,' saith the Hebrew sage, “into the ancient generations, and see; Who hath trusted in the Lord, and hath been ashamed? Or who hath abiden in his fear, and hath been forsaken? Or who hath invoked him, and he did overlook (or despise) him ? If we look into those generations, we may there find Joseph, out of slavery and out of prison, advanced to be the chief governor of a most flourishing kingdom: Moses, from an exile and a vagrant, made the redeemer and commander of a populous nation : Job, out of extreme poverty and disgrace, restored to be in wealth and honor twice greater than “ the greatest men of the East :' Daniel, out of captivity and persecution, become president of the greatest monarchy on earth : David, raised out of great meanness to highest dignity, restored out of extreme straits into a most prosperous state; according to those words of admiration and acknowlegement : ‘0 what great troubles and adversities hast thou showed me; and yet didst thou turn and refresh me, yea and broughtest me from the deep of the earth again : thou hast brought me to great honor, and comforted me on every side.' Thus hath God eminently done with divers; thus we may be assured that he will do competently with us, if with the like faith and patience we do, as they did, rely and wait on him.
6. But farther, imagine or suppose that our condition (so irksome to us at present) will certainly hold on to the utmost ; yet consider also, that it soon will cease, and change of itself : since we are mortal, our evils cannot be perpetual, we cannot long be infested with them.
As it may debase and embitter all the prosperity in the world, to consider that it is very fading and short-lived ; that its splendor is but a blaze, its pleasure but a flash, its joy but as the crackling of thorns;' so it should abate and sweeten any