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compassionate to others, who never himself hath felt the smart of affliction, or inconveniences of any distress ; for even, as the Apostle teacheth us, our Saviour himself was obliged · to suffer tribulation, that he thence might become merciful, and
disposed to succor the afflicted.' (No wonder, if he that liveth in continual prosperity be a Nabal, churlish and discourteous, insensible of other men's grievances :) and how can he express much piety or love to God, who is not (in submission to God's will, and for his sake) put to suffer any thing grievous, or want any thing desirable ? When can he employ any great faith or hope in God, who never hath any visible need of succor or relief from him, who hath other present aids to confide in ? How can he purely delight in God, and place his sole felicity in him? How can he thoroughly relish spiritual things, whose affections are taken up by an affluence of other goods, whose appetites are glutted with enjoyment of other delights? What but deprivation of these things can lay open the vanity, the deceitfulness, and slipperiness of them? What but crosses and disappointments here can withdraw our minds from a fond admiration, and eager affection toward this world? What but the want of these joys and satisfactions can drive us to seek our felicity otherwhere? when the deceit of riches possesseth us, how can we judge right of things ? when cares about them distract us, how can we think about any thing that is good ? when their snares entangle us, and their clogs incumber us, how can we be free and expedite in doing good ? when abundance fatteneth our hearts, and ease softeneth our spirits, and success puffeth up our minds; when pride, sensuality, stupidity, and sloth (the almost inseparable adherents to large and prosperous estates) do continully insinuate themselves into us, what wisdom, what virtue are we like to have ?
Seeing then adversity is so wholesome and useful, the remedy of so great mischiefs, the cause of so great benefits to us, hy should we be displeased therewith? To be displeased with it, is to be displeased with that which is most needful or most convenient for us, to be displeased with the health and welfare of our souls; that we are rescued from errors and vices, with all their black train of miseries and mischiefs ; to be displeased that we are not detained under the reign of folly and wickedness, that we are not inevitably made fools and beasts. To be disgusted with Providence for affliction or poverty, is no other than as if we should be angry with our physician for administering a purge, or for prescribing abstinence to us; as if we should fret at our chirurgeon for searching our wounds, or applying needful corrosives; as if we should complain of the hand which draweth us from a precipice, or pulleth us out of the fire. Many benefits,' saith Seneca, have a sad and rough countenance, as to burn and cut in order to healing :'* such a benefit of God is adversity to us; and as such with a gladsome and thankful mind should we receive it.
If with a diligent observation we consult experience, we shall find that, as many have great cause to bewail that they have been rich, that they have been blinded and corrupted with prosperity, that they have received their consolation here;' so many have great reason to be glad that they have been poor, that they have been disappointed, that they have tasted the bitter cup; it having instructed and corrected them; it having rendered them sober and considerate, industrious and frugal, mindful of God, and devout toward him : and what we may rejoice in when past, why should we not bear contentedly when present? why should not the expectation of such good fruits satisfy us?
Why should not such a condition, being so plainly better in itself, seem also better unto us? We cannot, if we are reasonable, but approve it in our judgment; why then are we not fully reconciled unto it in our affection ?
* Beneficia multa tristem et asperam frontem habent, quemadmodum urere, et secare, ut sanes.-Sen. de Benef. v. 20.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XL.
PHILIPPIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 11.
5. But still farther : let our state be, as to quality, what it will, we may yet consider that it cannot be desperate; it may not be lasting; for there is no necessary connexion between the present and the future. Considering therefore the reason of things, and the nature of God, we have more reason to hope for its amendment than to fear its continuance : this point enlarged on. Hope lies 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 one can have no greater assurance to keep what he has, than the other to get what he needs, &c.
The truth is, that most discontent arises, not from the sense of incumbent evil, but from suspicion, or fear of somewhat to come: we cannot trust God, nor follow the advice of our Saviour, Take no thought for the morrow, &c. Could we but persuade ourselves to receive this rule, we should never know discontent; for the present is always supportable ; our minds cannot be overwhelmed by the pangs of a transitory moment.
If we need more encouragement for application of this remedy, there are innumerable promises, that none who hope in God shall be disappointed ; as well as illustrious examples of those whom he hath wonderfully raised from extreme distress to high prosperity: instances of both quoted.
6. But farther, imagine that our condition, irksome as it may be, will certainly hold on to the utmost; still consider. that it soon will cease and change of itself, inasmuch as we are all mortal. As this consideration may debase our prosperity, so should it abate and sweeten any sort of adversity. Put the worse case that can exist; and that it should certainly continue during the whole course of our life; yet, since the thread of our life will be soon spun out, and with it all evils will vanish, why are we troubled ? It is but holding out a while, and time will cure us : but it is better we should owe that benefit to reason, and let it presently comfort us: it is better, by rational consideration, to work contentment in ourselves, using the brevity and frailty of life as an argument to sustain us in our adversity, rather than only to find the end thereof a natural and necessary means of escaping from it. Serious reflexion on our mortality is a powerful antidote against discontent on many accounts: these stated.
7. It is also consolatory to consider that the worse our condition is here, the better we may hope our future state will be : this point enlarged on.
8. A like consolation is, to consider that wealth and prosperity are great talents, for the right use of which we must give a strict account; but from such responsibility poverty exempts us.
9. One more question asked, in reference to that state of things which causes our discontent. What is it we want, or wait for? Is it any good which we can procure by our care and industry ; or any evil which we can by those means evade ? If it be so, why do we not vigorously apply ourselves to the business, instead of indulging in vexation of spirit and idle complaints ? But farther, to allay discontent, let us consider the world and the general state of men here.
1. Look first on the world, as it is commonly managed and ordered by men : thou art perhaps displeased that thou dost not thrive and prosper therein : but if thou art wise, thou wilt not wonder or grieve ; for thou hast not perhaps any capacity for this world ; thy disposition is not suited to its ways, nor thy principles to its designs. This world is for worldlings to possess and enjoy: and although God did not altogether design it for them, yet men have almost made it so: they are best qualified to thrive therein, who can bustle, swagger, fawn, overreach others, and stretch their own conscience. But for thee, who canst not find in thy heart to use the means, why dost thou hope to compass the end, or grieve for not attaining it? Why dost thou blend such inconsistencies together, as the eager desires of this, and the hopes of another world ? This world is purposely made somewhat unpleasant, lest we should overmuch delight in it, and wish to set up our rest therein. This life is a state of probation and exercise, like that of God's people in the wilderness: no temptation therefore (or affliction) can seize on us, but such as is human; that is, such as is natural and proper to men.
It always hath been, and it ever will be, an universal complaint, that the life of man is inseparably connected with troubles, &c.; amidst so many common miseries therefore, is it not absurd for any one impatiently to bemoan his particular crosses ?
4. Again, if we more closely survey the state of other men, and compare our case with theirs, our condition can hardly appear so destitute of comforts, but that many are in one much worse than ourselves : this point enlarged on; and examples quoted.
5. We are indeed very apt to look upward towards those few, who, in supposed advantages of life, seem to surpass us, and to repine at their fortune ; but seldom do we cast down our eyes on those innumerable good people, who lie beneath us in all manner of accommodations; whereas if we would consider the case of most men, we should see abundant reason to be satisfied with our own.
6. If even we would take care diligently to compare our