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ii. 18, 13.
our bands. Take heed, regard not iniquity; for SERM. this hast thou chosen rather than affliction. We XXXVII. should rather continue poor, than by cozenage or Job xxxvi. rapine endeavour to raise our fortune; we should rather lie under disgrace and contempt, than by sinful or sordid compliances strive to acquire the respect and favour of men; we should rather willingly rest in the lowest condition, than do as those, who, by disturbing the world, by fomenting disorders and factions, by supplanting their neighbour's welfare, by venting slanders and detractions, do labour to amplify their estate: we should rather endure any inconvenience or distress, than have recourse to ways of evading them disallowed by God; doing as the Jews did, who in their straits, against the declared pleasure of God, set their faces toward Jer. xlii.15. Egypt, strengthened themselves in the strength of Isa. xxx. 2. Pharaoh, trusted in the staff of that broken reed. xxxi. 1. In neglect or diffidence toward God, to embrace such 15. aids, is, as God in the prophet declareth, a very blameable and mischievous folly: Ephraim, saith he, is Hos.vii. 11. like a silly dove without heart; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria-Woe unto them, for they have fled from me; destruction unto them, because they have transgressed against me. We may consider how St. Paul reproveth the Corinthians for seeking a redress of wrong, scandalous and dishonourable to the church: Now, therefore, it is utterly a fault 1 Cor. vi. 7. among you, that ye go to law one with another; Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Even to right ourselves in a way whereby any dishonour may come to God, or damage to his church, is not to be approved; and better it is, in the apostle's judgment,
SERM. to bear any injury or damage ourselves: Better XXXVII. it is, saith St. Peter, if the will of God be so, that 1Pet. iii.17. we suffer for well doing, than to do ill. And, Let them, who suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator, is another wholesome advice of that great apostle.
5. We should, notwithstanding any adversity, proceed in our affairs (such as God requireth, or reason putteth us upon) with alacrity, courage, and industry; performing however, so far as our circumstances do permit, what is good and fit for us : no disappointment or cross, no straits or grievances of condition, should render us listless or lazy, but rather it should quicken and inflame our activity; this being a good way to divert us from the sense of our misfortunes, and to comfort us under their pressure; as also the readiest way to remove or to abate them, τὸ παρὸν εὖ θέσθαι, to order the present well, whatever it be°; to make the best of a bad matter, to march forward whither reason calls, how difficultly soever, or slowly it be, in a rough or dirty way; not to yield to difficulties, but resolutely to encounter them, to struggle lustily with them, to endeavour with all our might to surmount them?; are acts worthy of a manly reason and courage: to direct ill accidents to good ends, and improve them to honest uses, is the work of a noble virtue. If a bad game be dealt us, we should not presently throw up, but play it out so well as we can; so perhaps we may save somewhat, we shall at least be busy till a
Κερδαντέον τὸ παρὸν σὺν εὐλογιστίᾳ. Ant. iv. 26. vi. 2.
Τὸ παρὸν ἀπευθύνειν πρὸς ὁσιότητα καὶ δικαιοσύνην. Id. xii. r.
P Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.
Put thy trust in the Lord, and be SERM. doing good, is the Psalmist's advice in such a case; and it is a practice necessary to the procuring and Ps. xxxvii. maintaining content; if we be not otherwise well employed, we shall be apt, in our thoughts, to melancholize, and dote upon our mischances, the sense of them will fasten upon our spirits, and gnaw our hearts.
6. We should behave ourselves fairly and kindly toward the instruments and abettors of our adversity; toward those who brought us into it, and those who detain us under it, by keeping off relief, and those who forbear to afford the succour we might expect; forbearing to express any wrath or displeasure, to exercise any revenge or enmity toward them; but rather, even upon that score, bearing good-will, and expressing kindness toward them; not only as to our brethren, whom, according to the general law of charity, we are bound to love, but as to the servants of God in this particular case, and the instruments of his pleasure toward us; considering, that by maligning or molesting them, we do express ill resentments of God's dealing with us, and, in effect, through their sides, do wound his providence thus did the good king behave himself toward Shimei, when he was bitterly reproached and cursed by him; not suffering (upon this account, because he was God's instrument of afflicting himself) that any harm should be done unto him: thus the holy apostles being reviled, did bless; being de- 2 Sam. xvi. famed, did entreat: thus our Lord demeaned him-7 Cor. iv. self toward his spiteful adversaries; who, when he 12, 13: was reviled, did not revile again; when he suf. iii. 9. fered, he did not threaten; but committed it to him
1 Pet. ii.23.
SERM. that judgeth righteously. In all these cases we XXXVII. should at least observe the rules and advices of the Prov. xxiv. Wise Man: Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me, I will render to the man according to his work; say thou not, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee.
29. XX. 22.
Discontent usually consisteth not so much in displeasure for the things we suffer, as at the persons who bring them on us, or who do not help to rid us from them; it is their presumed injury or discourtesy which we do fret at such passions therefore toward men being discarded, our evils presently will become supportable, and content easily will ensue. As men in any sickness or pain, if their friends are about them, affording comfort or assistance, do not seem to feel any thing, and forbear complaining; so, if the world about us doth please us, if we bear no disaffection or grudge toward any person in view, our adversity will appear less grievous, it will indeed commonly be scarce sensible to us.
In these and such like acts the duty and virtue of contentedness doth especially reside; or it is employed and exercised by them: and so much may suffice for the explication of its nature. I come now to consider the way of attaining it, intimated by St. Paul here, when he saith, I have learned.
PHIL. iv. 11.
I have learned, &c.
THESE words signify how contentedness may be attained, or how it is produced: it is not an endow-xxxvIII. ment innate to us; it doth not arrive by chance into us; it is not to be purchased by any price; it springeth not up of itself, nor ariseth from the quality of any state; but it is a product of discipline; I have learned.
It is a question debated in Plato, ei didakтový apeτn, whether virtue be to be learned; St. Paul plainly resolveth it in this case by his own experience and testimony. What Seneca saith in general of virtue (Nature giveth not virtue; it is an art to become good) is most true of this virtue; it is an art, with which we are not born, no more than with any other art or science; the which, as other arts, cannot be acquired without studious application of mind, and industrious exercise: no art indeed requireth more hard study and pain toward the acquiry of it, there being so many difficulties, so many obstacles in the way thereto : we have no great capacity, no to
a Non dat natura virtutem, ars est bonum fieri. Sen. Ep. 89. Virtus etiamsi quosdam impetus ex natura sumit, tamen perficienda doctrina est. Quintil. xii. 2.