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unto all that call on him in truth;' he will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them.' 'The poor man crieth, and the Lord heareth him, and saveth him out of all his troubles;' the holy Scripture is full of such declarations and promises, assuring us of succor from our distresses on our supplication to God; whence St. Paul thus adviseth against all solicitude: be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God: and (addeth, signifying the consequence of this practice) the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.'
It likewise performeth the same by procuring grace and aid from God, which may enable and dispose us to bear all evils well, which is really much better than a removal of them; for that hence they become wholesome and profitable to us, and causes of present good and grounds of future reward: thus when St. Paul besought God for deliverance from his thorn in the flesh, the return to him was; My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness:' it was a greater favor to receive an improvement of spiritual strength, occasioned by that cross, than to be quite freed from it.
Devotion also hath immediately of itself a special efficacy to produce content. As in any distress it is a great consolation that we can have recourse to a good friend, that we may discharge our cares and our resentments into his bosom; that we may demand advice from him, and, if need be, request his succor; so much more it must be a great comfort that we can in our need approach to God, who is infinitely the most faithful, the most affectionate, the most sufficient friend that can be; always most ready, most willing, most able to direct and to relieve us: he desires and delights, that in the day of our forth our trouble we should seek him;' that we should pour hearts before him;' that we should cast our burdens and our cares on him;' that we should on all occasions implore his guidance and aid: and complying with his desires, as we shall assuredly find a successful event of our devotions, so we shall immediately enjoy great comfort and pleasure in them.
The God of all consolation' doth especially by this channel convey his comforts into our hearts; his very presence (that presence, in which the psalmist saith there is fulness of joy') doth mightily warm and cheer us; his Holy Spirit doth, in our religious intercourse with him, insinuate a lightsome serenity of mind, doth kindle sweet and kindly affections, doth scatter the gloomy clouds of sadness; practising it, we shall be able to say with the psalmist, In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.'
Humbly addressing ourselves to God, and reverently conversing with him, doth compose our minds and charm our passions, doth sweeten our humor, doth refresh and raise our spirits, and so doth immediately breed and nourish contented
It also strengtheneth our faith, and quickeneth our hope in God, whereby we are enabled to support our present evils, and peace of mind doth spring up within us.
It inflameth our love unto God, in sense of his gracious illapses, thence rendering us willing to endure any want or pain for his sake, or at his appointment.
It, in fine, doth minister a ravishing delight, abundantly able to supply the defect of any other pleasures, and to allay the smart of any pains whatever; rendering thereby the meanest estate more acceptable and pleasant than any prosperity without it can be. So that if we be truly devout, we can hardly be discontent; it is discosting from God, by a neglect of devotion or by a negligence therein, that doth expose us to the incursions of worldly regret and sorrow.
These are general remedies and duties both in this and all other regards necessary, the which yet we may be induced to perform in contemplation of this happy fruit (contentedness) arising from them. Farther,
4. It serveth toward production of contentedness to reflect much on our imperfection, unworthiness, and guilt; so as thereby to work in our hearts a lively sense of them, and a hearty sorrow for them: this will divert our sadness into its right channel, this will drown our lesser grief by the influx of a greater. It is the nature of a greater apprehension or pain incumbent to extinguish in a manner, and swallow up the sense
of a lesser, although in itself grievous; as he that is under a fit of the stone doth scarce feel a pang of the gout; he that is assaulted by a wolf will not regard the biting of a flea. Whereas then, of all evils and mischiefs, moral evils are incomparably far the greatest, in nature the most ugly and abominable, in consequence the most hurtful and horrible; seeing, in St. Chrysostom's language, excepting sin, there is nothing grievous or terrible among human things; not poverty, not sickness, not disgrace, not that which seemeth the most extreme of all evils, death itself; those being names only among such as philosophate, names of calamity, void of reality; but the real calamity this, to be at variance with God, and to do that which displeaseth him;' seeing evidently, according to just estimation, no evil beareth any proportion to the evil of sin, if we have a due sense thereof we can hardly be affected with any other accident; if we can keep our minds intent on the heinous nature and the lamentable consequences of sin, all other evils cannot but seem exceedingly light and inconsiderable; we cannot but apprehend it a very silly and unhandsome thing to resent or regard them: what, shall we then judge, is poverty, in comparison to the want of a good conscience? what is sickness, compared to distemper of mind and decay of spiritual strength? what is any disappointment, to the being defeated and overthrown by temptation? what any loss, to the being deprived of God's love and favor? what any disgrace, to the being out of esteem and respect with God? what any unfaithfulness or inconstancy of friends, to having deserted or betrayed our own soul? what can any danger signify to that of eternal misery, incurred by offending God? what pressure can weigh against the load of guilt, or what pain equal that of stinging remorse? in fine, what condition can be so bad as that of a wretched sinner? any case surely is tolerable, is desirable, is lovely and sweet, in comparison to this: would to God, may a man in this case reasonably say, that I were poor and forlorn as any beggar; that I were covered all over with botches and blains as any Lazar; that I were bound to pass my days in an hospital or a dungeon; might I be chained to an oar, might
* Chrys. 'Avôp. é. r'. 6. Vid. ad Olymp. Ep. 13. ad Theod. 1.
I lie on the rack, so I were clear and innocent: such thoughts and affections, if reflecting on our sinful doings and state do suggest and impress, what place can there be for resentment of other petty crosses?
Contrition also on this score is productive of a certain sweetness and joy, apt to quash or to allay all worldly grief: as it worketh a salutary repentance not to be repented of,' so it therewith breedeth a satisfactory comfort, which doth ever attend repentance he that is very sensible of his guilt, cannot but consequently much value the remedy thereof, mercy; and thence earnestly be moved to seek it; then, in contemplation of divine goodness, and considering God's gracious promises, will be apt to conceive faith and hope, on his imploring mercy, and resolution to amend; thence will spring up a cheerful satisfaction, so possessing the heart as to expel or to exclude other displeasures: a holy and a worldly sadness cannot well consist together.
5. Another good instrument of contentedness is sedulous application of our minds to honest employment. Honest studies and cares divert our minds, and drive sad thoughts from them : they cheer our spirits with wholesome food and pleasant entertainments; they yield good fruits, and a success accompanied with satisfaction, which will extinguish or temper discontent : while we are studious or active, discontent cannot easily creep in, and soon will be stifled.
Idleness is the great mother and the nurse of discontent : it layeth the mind open for melancholy conceits to enter; it yieldeth harbor to them, and entertainment there; it depriveth of all the remedies and allays which business affordeth.
Reciprocally, discontent also begetteth idleness, and by it groweth; they are like ice and water, arising each out of the other we should therefore not suffer any sadness so to encroach on us, as to hinder us from attending to our business, (the honest works and studies of our calling,) for it thereby will grow stronger and more hardly vincible.
6. A like expediment to remove discontent is good company. It not only sometimes ministereth advices and arguments for content, but raiseth the drooping spirit, erecting it to a loving complaisance, drawing it out towards others in expressions of
kindness, and yielding delight in those which we receive from others, infecting us by a kind of contagion with good humor; and instilling pleasant ideas into our fancy, agreeably diverting us from sad and irksome thoughts: discontent affecteth retirement and solitude, as its element and food; good company partly starveth it by smothering sad thoughts, partly cureth it by exhilarating discourse. No man hardly can feel displeasure, while friendly conversation entertaineth him; no man returneth from it without some refreshment and ease of mind.
7. Having right and lowly conceits of ourselves is a most sure guardian and procurer of content; for answerable to a man's judgment of himself are his resentments of the dealing he meeteth with from God or man. He that thinks meanly as he ought of himself, will not easily be offended at any thing: any thing, will he think, is good enough for me: I deserve nothing from God, I cannot deserve much of man; if I have any competence of provision for my life, any tolerable usage, any respect, it is more than my due, I am bound to be thankful: but he that conceiteth highly (that is, vainly) of himself, nothing will satisfy him; nothing, thinks he, is good enough for him, or answerable to his deserts; nobody can yield him sufficient respect; any small neglect disturbeth and enrageth him he cannot endure that any man should thwart his interest, should cross his humor, should dissent from his opinion; hence, seeing the world will not easily be induced to conceit of him as he doth of himself, nor to comply with his humors and pretences, it is impossible that he should be content.
8. It conduceth to this purpose to contemplate and resent the public state of things, the interest of the world, of our country, of God's church. The sense of public calamities will drown that of private, as unworthy to be considered or compared with them; the sense of public prosperity will allay that of particular misfortune. How (will a wise and good man say) can I desire to prosper and flourish, while the state is in danger or distress? how can I grieve, seeing my country is in good condition? is it just, is it handsome, that I should be a nonconformist either in the public sorrow or joy? Indeed,