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make me miserable, but it cannot prevent, what another hath in his power and purpose: and prosperities can only be enjoyed by them, who fear not at all to lose them ; since the amazement and passion concerning the future takes off all the pleasure of the present possession. Therefore if thou hast lost thy land, do not also lose thy constancy: and if thou must die a little sooner, yet do not die impatiently. For no chance is evil to him that is content, and to a man nothing is miserable, unless it be unreasonable. No man can make another man to be his slave unless he hath first enslaved himself to life and death, to pleasure or pain, to hope or fear : command these passions, and you are freer than the Parthian kings.
Instruments or Exercises to procure Contentedness. Upon the strength of these premises we may reduce this virtue to practice by its proper instruments first, and then by some more special considerations or arguments of content.
1. When any thing happens to our displeasure, let us endeavour to take off its trouble by turning it into spiritual or artificial advantage, and handle it on that side in which it may be useful to the designs of reason. For there is nothing but hath a double handle, or at least we have two hands to apprehend it. When an enemy reproaches us, let us look on him as an impartial relator of our faults, for he will tell thee truer than thy fondest friend will; and thou mayest call them precious balms, though they break thy head, and forgive his anger, while thou makest use of the plainness of his declamation. “ The ox, when he is weary, treads surest :” and if there be nothing else in the disgrace, but that it makes us to walk warily, and tread sure for fear of our enemies, that is better than to be flattered into pride and carelessness. This is the charity of Christian philosophy, which expounds the sense of the Divine Providence fairly, and reconciles us to it by a charitable construction: and we may as well refuse all physic, if we consider it only as unpleasant in the taste; and we may find fault with the rich valleys of Thasus, because they are circled by sharp mountains : but so also we may be in charity with every un
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pleasant accident, because, though it taste bitter, it is intended for health and medicine.
If therefore thou fallest from thy employment in public, take sanctuary in an honest retirement, being indifferent to thy gain abroad, or thy safety at home. If thou art out of favour with thy prince, secure the favour of the King of kings, and then there is no harm come to thee. And when Zeno Citiensis lost all his goods in a storm, he retired to the studies of philosophy, to his short cloak and a severe life, and gave thanks to fortune for his prosperous mischance. When the north wind blows hard, and it rains sadly, none but fools sit down in it and cry; wise people defend themselves against it with a warm garment, or a good fire and a dry roof. When a storm of a sad mischance beats upon our spirits, turn it into some advantage by observing where it can serve another end, either of religion or prudence, of more safety or less envy: it will turn into something that is good, if we list to make it so; at least it may make us weary of the world's vanity, and take off our confidence from uncertain riches, and make our spirits to dwell in those regions, where content dwells essentially. If it does any good to our souls, it hath made more than sufficient recompense for all the temporal affliction. He that threw a stone at a dog, and hit his cruel step-mother, said, that although he intended it otherwise, yet the stone was not quite lost: and if we fail in the first design, if we bring it home to another equally to content us, or more to profit us, then we have put our conditions past the power of chance ; and this was called, in the old Greek comedy, “ a being revenged on fortune by becoming philosophers,” and turning the chance into reason or religion : for so a wise man shall overrule his stars, and have a greater influence upon his own content than all the constellations and planets of the firmament.
2. Never compare thy condition with those above thee : but, to secure thy content, look upon those thousands with whom thou wouldest not, for any interest, change thy fortune and condition. A soldier must not think himself unprosperous, if he be not successful as the son of Philip, or cannot grasp a fortune as big as the Roman empire. Be content, that thou art not lessened as was Pyrrhus; or if thou beest, that thou art not routed like Crassus: and when that comes to thee, it is a great prosperity that thou art not caged and made a spectacle, like Bajazet, or thy eyes were not pulled out, like Zedekiah's, or that thou wert not flayed alive, like Valentinian. If thou admirest the greatness of Xerxes, look also on those that digged the mountain Atho, or whose ears and noses were cut off, because the Hellespont carried away the bridge. It is a fine thing (thou thinkest) to be carried on men's shoulders : but give God thanks, that thou art not forced to carry a rich fool upon thy shoulders, as those poor men do whom thou beholdest. There are buta few kings in mankind; but many thousands who are very miserable, if compared to thee. However it is a huge folly rather to grieve for the good of others than to rejoice for that good which God hath given us of our own.
And yet there is no wise or good man that would change persons or conditions entirely with any man in the world. It may be, he would have one man's wealth added to himself, or the power of a second, or the learning of a third ; but still he would receive these into his own person, because he loves that best, and therefore esteems it best and therefore overvalues all that which he is, before all that which any other man in the world can be. Would any man be Dives to have his wealth, or Judas for his office, or Saul for his kingdom, or Absalom for his bounty, or Achitophel for his policy? It is likely he would wish all these, and yet he would be the same person still. For every man hath desires of his own, and objects just fitted to them, without which he cannot be, unless he were not himself. And let every man, that loves himself so well as to love himself before all the world, consider if he have not something for which in the whole he values himself far more than he can value any man else. There is therefore no reason to take the finest feathers from all the winged nation to deck that bird, that thinks already she is more valuable than any of the inhabitants of the air. Either change all or none. Cease to love yourself best, or be content with that portion of being and blessing for which you love yourself so well.
3. It conduces much to our content, if we pass by those things which happen to our trouble, and consider that which is pleasing and prosperous, that, by the representation of the better, the worse may be blotted out : and, at the worst, you
have enough to keep you alive, and to keep up and to improve your hopes of heaven. If I be overthrown in my suit at law, yet my house is left me still and my land; or I have a virtuous wife, or hopeful children, or kind friends, or good hopes. If I have lost one child, it may be I have two or three still left me. Or else reckon the blessings, which already you have received, and therefore be pleased in the change and variety of affairs, to receive evil from the hand of God as well as good. Antipater of Tarsus used this art to support his sorrows on his death-bed, and reckoned the good things of his past life, not forgetting to recount it as a blessing, an argument that God took care of him, that he had a prosperous journey from Cilicia to Athens. Or else please thyself with hopes of the futureP: for we were born with this sadness upon us; and it was a change, that brought us into it, and a change may bring us out again. Harvest will come, and then every farmer is rich, at least for a month or two? It may be thou art entered into the cloud, which will bring a gentle shower to refresh thy sorrows.
Now suppose thyself in as great a sadness as ever did load thy spirit, wouldst thou not bear it cheerfully and nobly if thou wert sure that within a certain space, some strange excellent fortune would relieve thee, and enrich thee, and recompense thee so as to overflow all thy hopes and thy desires and capacities? Now then, when a sadness lies heavy upon thee, remember that thou art a Christian designed to the inheritance of Jesus : and what dost thou think concerning thy great fortune, thy lot and portion of eternity? Dost thou think, thou shalt be saved or damned ? Indeed if thou thinkest thou shalt perish, I cannot blame thee to be sad, till thy heart-strings crack: but then why art thou troubled at the loss of thy money? What should a damned man do with money, which in so great a sadness it is impossible for him to enjoy? Did ever any man upon the rack afflict himself, because he had received a cross answer from his mistress ? or call for the particulars of a purchase upon the gallows? If thou dost really believe thou shalt be damned, I do not say, it will cure the sadness of thy poverty, but it
will swallow it up. But if thou believest thou shalt be saved, consider, how great is that joy, how infinite is that change, how unspeakable is the glory, how excellent is the recompense, for all the sufferings in the world, if they were all laden upon the spirit? So that let thy condition be what it will, if thou considerest thy own present condition, and comparest it to thy future possibility, thou canst not feel the present smart of a cross fortune to any great degree, either because thou hast a far bigger sorrow, or a far bigger joy. Here thou art but a stranger travelling to thy country, where the glories of a kingdom are prepared for thee; it is therefore a huge folly to be much afflicted, because thou hast a less convenient inn to lodge in by the way.
But these arts of looking forwards and backwards, are more than enough to support the spirit of a Christian : there is no man, but hath blessings enough in present possession to outweigh the evils of a great affliction. Tell the joints of thy body, and do not accuse the universal Providence for a lame leg, or the want of a finger, when all the rest is perfect, and you have a noble soul, a particle of divinity, the image of God himself: and, by the want of a finger, you may the better know how to estimate the remaining parts, and to account for every degree of the surviving blessings. Aristippus, in a great suit at law, lost a farm, and to a gentleman, who in civility pitied, and deplored his loss, he answered, “I have two farms left still, and that is more than I have lost, and more than you have by one.” If you miss an office, for which you stood candidate, then, besides that you are quit of the cares and the envy of it, you still have all those excellences, which rendered you capable to receive it, and they are better than the best office in the commonwealth. If your estatę be lessened, you need the less to care who governs the province, whether he be rude or gentle. I am crossed in my journey, and yet I escaped robbers; and I consider, that if I had been set upon by villains, I would have redeemed that evil by this, which I now suffer, and have counted it a deliverance : or if I did fall into the hands of thieves, yet they did not steal my land. Or I am fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators, and they have taken all from me: what now ? let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving