« AnteriorContinuar »
SERM. ed him; who have so little requited his love, and so XXXVIII. much abused his patience; who have borne so little fruit, and rendered him so little service; shall we be angry that our humour is not pleased in all things? Shall we affect to swim in plenty, to wallow in pleasure, to bask ourselves in ease; to be fed with dainties, to be gaily clothed, to flourish in a brave and splendid condition, to be worshipped and honoured; who deserve not the meanest competence or lowest respect, to whom it is a great favour that we are permitted to subsist, whom strict justice would often have cast into utter misery and disconsolateness? It is not surely for such persons to be dissatisfied with any thing in this world, but to bless God's exceeding mercy that they abide there on this side of the bottomless pit; it is their part, with most submissive patience, to bear whatever is inflicted on them, humbly Mic. vii. 9. saying with him in the prophet, I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him. Seeing, whatever our crosses or sufferings be, we cannot but confess to God, with those in Ezra ix. 13. Ezra, Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve; being gainers upon the matter, having so much of our debt remitted in effect; being, in comparison to what was due to us, very tolerably, yea very favourably dealt with, why should we be dissatisfied? If in such cases men should deal so favourably with us, we should be much pleased, and ready to thank them; why then should we take it ill of God, when he, even in his hardest proceedings against us, expresseth so much indulgence and mercy?
If we must be displeased, and lust to complain, we have reason much rather to accuse ourselves, than to
exclaim at Providence; to bewail our sins, than to SERM. deplore our fortune; for our evils are not indeed so much the voluntary works of God, who doth not Lam.iii. 33. Αυθαίρετα afflict willingly, or grieve the children of men, as hara. the natural products of our sins, which we do wilfully commit: it is, as the prophet speaketh, our Jer. v. 25. sins that withhold good things from us, and bring evil things upon us: fools, because of their trans- Psal. cvii. gression, and because of their iniquities, are af-17. flicted. We make adversity necessary, or expedient for us, then we cry out upon it: we labour in planting, but cannot brook the fruit of our doings; we, Jer.xvii. 10. like prodigals, fling away our estate in wanton pro-xxxii. 19. fusions, then complain of want; we affect and choose the causes, but loathe and cannot abide the certain consequences; so fond in our conceits, so perverse are we in our affections: Wherefore doth the living Lam.iii. 39. man complain for the punishment of his sins? so well might the prophet demand and expostulate.
We may further, looking on ourselves, consider ourselves as servants to God, or rather as slaves, absolutely subject to his disposal; and shall any servant, shall a mere slave presume to choose his place, or determine his rank in the family? Shall he appoint to himself what office he will discharge, what garb he shall go in, what diet he must have; what he will do, and how he shall be accommodated? Is it not fit that all these things should be left to our Master's discretion and pleasure? It is most reasonable that we should thoroughly acquiesce in his determination: even a pagan philosopher could teach us that this is reasonable, who thus piously directeth his speech to God; For the rest use me to what thou pleasest. I do consent unto thee, and am indifferent. I re
SERM. fuse nothing which seemeth good to thee. Lead me XXXVIII. whither thou wilt; put on me what garment thou pleasest. Wilt thou have me to be a governor or a private man, to stay at home or to be banished away, to be poor or to be rich? I will, in respect to all these things, apologize for thee with men1 ; thus did Epictetus say, and such speech well becometh our relation to God: servants should be content with their masters' appointments and allowances; they should not only themselves forbear to find fault with, but be ready to maintain his proceedings against any who shall presume to reprehend or blame them. Luke xvii. Especially such servants as we are, who, after we have done all things commanded us, must acknowledge that we are unprofitable servants; such as can bring no considerable benefit to our Lord, or anywise advance his state; such as therefore cannot challenge any wages from him more than he out of mere favour is pleased to allow could we by our labours enrich God, or raise him in dignity, or procure delight to him, it might seem congruous that he should answerably reward us; but as he getteth nothing by us, so we cannot require any thing from him: our best services do indeed rather need pardon, than deserve any reward: no man hath lived so well, that he can pretend any thing from God, that he is not indeed much behindhand in his accounts with God, having received from God far more of benefit than he can return to him in service: no man, without extreme presumption and arrogance, can offer to
· Χρῶ μοι λοιπὸν εἰς ὃ ἂν θέλῃς. Ὁμογνωμονῶ σοι, ἴσος εἰμί. Οὐδὲν παραιτοῦμαι τῶν σοι δοκούντων. Ὅπου θέλεις ἄγε, ἣν θέλεις ἐσθῆτα περίθες. Αρχειν με θέλεις, ἰδιοτεύειν, μένειν, φεύγειν, πένεσθαι, πλουτεῖν ; ἐγώ σοι ὑπὲρ ἁπάντων τούτων πρὸς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀπολογήσομαι. Arr. ii. 16.
prescribe, in what measure, or what manner, God SERM. should reward him.
Again, if we consider ourselves as the children of God, either by birth or nature, or by adoption and grace, how can we be discontent for any thing? Have we not thence great reason to hope, or rather to be confident, that we shall never want any good thing, (necessary or convenient for us,) that no great evil shall ever oppress us? For is not God hence by paternal disposition inclined, is he not in a manner by paternal duty engaged, in all needful occasions to supply and succour us? Can we, without great profaneness, and no less folly, surmise, that he, which is so immensely good, will be a bad (an unkind, or a neglectful) Father to us? No; as there is no other father in goodness comparable to him, so none, in real effects of benignity, can come near him; so our Lord assureth us: If ye, saith he, being evil, know Matt. vii. how to give good things unto your children; how much more will our heavenly Father give good things to his children that ask him?
If we consider ourselves as Christians, we have still more reason to practise this duty as such, we are not only possessed of goods abundantly sufficient to satisfy our desires; we have hopes able to raise our minds above the sense of all present things; we have entertainments that ever may divert our minds, and fill our hearts with comfort: but we have also an assurance of competent supplies of temporal goods; for, Godliness is profitable to all things, having the Tim.iv.8. promise both of the present life, and of that which is to come: and, If we seek first the kingdom of Matt.iv. 33. heaven, and its righteousness, all these things shall be added unto us. It is indeed strangely unhand
SERM. some for a Christian ever to droop, or to be disconXXXVIII. solate; for a friend of God, and an heir of heaven, to
think he wants any thing, or fear that he shall ever want; for him, whose treasure and heart are above, to be so concerned with any thing here as deeply to resent it.
Again, if we reflect upon ourselves as rational men, how for shame can we be discontent? Do we not therein much disparage that excellent perfection of our nature? Is it not the proper work of reason to prevent things hurtful or offensive to us, when that may be done; to remove them, if they are removable; if neither of these can be compassed, to allay and mitigate them; so that we may be able well to support them? Is it not its principal use to drive away those fond conceits, and to quell those troublesome passions, which create or foment disquiet and displeasure to us? If it cannot do this, what doth it signify? to what purpose have we it? Is not our condition really worse than that of brute beasts, if reason serveth only to descry the causes of trouble, but cannot enable to bear it? All the reasons we have produced, and all that we shall produce against discontent, will, if we are reasonable men, and reason availeth any thing, have this effect upon us.
Wherefore considering ourselves, our capacities, our relations, our actions, it is most reasonable to be content with our condition, and with whatever doth befall us.