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the object, about which it is conversant; then the SERM. several acts, which it requireth, or wherein the exercise thereof consisteth.
1. The object of contentedness is the present state of things, whatever it be, (whether prosperous or adverse, of eminency or meanness, of abundance or scantness,) wherein by divine Providence we are set: Tà èv ois opèr, the things in which we are; that is, our present condition, with all its circumstances: so it may be generally supposed, considering that it is ordinary, and almost natural for men (who have not learned as St. Paul had done, or are not instructed and exercised in the practice of this duty) to be dissatisfied and disquieted in every state; to be always in want of something; to find defects in every fortune; to fancy they may be in better case, and to desire it earnestly: if we estimate things wisely, rich men are more liable to discontent than poor men. It is observable, that prosperity is a peevish thing, and men of highest fortune are apt most easily to resent the smallest things: a little neglect, a slight word, an unpleasing look doth affect them more than reproaches, blows, wrongs do those of a mean condition.
Prosperity is a nice and squeamish thing, and it is hard to find any thing able to please men of a full and prosperous state, which being uncapable of bettering in substantial things, they can hardly find matter of solid delight. Whereas a poor estate is easily comforted by the accession of many things which it wanteth: a good meal, a small gift, a little gain, or good success of his labour doth greatly please a poor man with a very solid pleasure: but a rich man hath nothing to please him, but a new toy, a
SERM. puff of applause, success at a horse-race, at bowls, at XXXVII. hunting; in some petty sport and pastime, which
can yield but a very thin and transitory satisfaction to any man not quite brutified and void of sense: whence contentedness hath place, and is needful in every condition, be it in appearance never so prosJob xx. 22. perous, so plentiful, so pleasant. In the fulness of vii. p. 68. his sufficiency he shall be in straits.
The formal object thereof may indeed seem to be a condition distasteful to our sense, or cross to our fancy; an adverse or strait condition; a condition of poverty, of disgrace, of any great inconvenience or distress incident to us in this world; but since the most men are absolutely in such a condition, exposed to so many wants and troubles; since many more are needy comparatively, wanting the conveniences that others enjoy, and which themselves affect; since there are few, who in right estimation are not indigent and poor, that is, who do not desire and fancy themselves to want many things which they have not, (for wealth consisteth not so much in the possession of goods, as in apprehension of freedom from want, and in satisfaction of desires,) since care, trouble, disappointment, satiety, and discontent following them, do not only haunt cottages, and stick to the lowest sort of people, but do even frequent palaces, and pursue men of highest rank; therefore any state may be the object of contentedness; and the duty is of a very general concernment; princes themselves need to learn it; the lessons teaching it, and the arguments persuading it, may as well suit the rich and noble, as the poor and the peasant; so our apostle himself doth intimate in the Phil. iv. 12. words immediately following our text: I know both
how to be abased, and I know how to abound; SERM. every where, and in all things I am instructed both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need: he had the art, not only to manage well both conditions, but to be satisfied in either.
But seeing real adversity, poverty, and disgrace have naturally the strongest influence in disturbing and disordering our minds; that contentedness is plainly most needful in such cases, as the proper support, or medicine of our mind in them; that other states do need it only as they, by fancy or infirmity, do symbolize or conspire with these; therefore unto persons in these states we shall more explicitly apply our directions and persuasions, as to the proper and primary subjects of contentedness; the which by analogy, or parity of reason, may be extended to all others, who, by imaginary wants and distresses, do create displeasure to themselves. So much for the object, or the subject, of the virtue.
2. The acts, wherein the practice thereof consisteth, (which are necessary ingredients, or constant symptoms of it,) belong either to the mind and understanding, or to the will and appetite, or to external demeanour and practice; being, 1. right opinions and judgments of mind; 2. fit dispositions and affections of heart; 3. outward good actions and behaviours, in regard to our condition and the events befalling us; the former being as the root and stock, the latter as the fruits and the flowers of the duty unto which may be reduced the correspondent negations, or absence of bad judgments, affections, and deportments in respect to the same objects.
SERM. (1.) As to our opinions and judgments of things, contentedness requireth, that,
Amos iii. 6.
1. We should believe our condition, whatever it be, to be determined by God; and that all events befalling us do proceed from him; at least that he permitteth and ordereth them, according to his judgment Soph. Αj. and pleasure; Ξὺν τῷ Θεῷ πᾶς καὶ γελᾷ κᾠδύρεται, all, as Lam.iii.38. the prophet singeth, both good and evil, proceedeth 1 Kings xii, out of the mouth of the Most High; that affliction, as Job said, cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; as a thing arising spontaneously, or sowed by the hand of some creature ; but rather descendeth from him, who saith, Isa. xlv. 7. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.
We are apt, when any thing falleth out unpleasant to us, to exclaim against fortune, and to accuse our Atque stars; or to inveigh against the second causes which astra vocat immediately offend us, ascribing all to their influence;
which proceeding doth argue in us a heathenish ignorance and infidelity, or at least much inconsiderateness, and impotency of mind; that our judgment is blinded and clouded, or perverted and seduced by ill passions; for that in truth there is not in the world any occurrence merely fortuitous or fatal, (all being guided and wielded by the powerful hand of the allwise and almighty God,) there is no creature which in its agency doth not depend upon God, as the instrument of his will, or subordinate thereto; wherefore upon every event we should, raising our minds above all other causes, discern and acknowledge God's
2 Sam. xvi. hand; as David did, when Shimei cursed him; Let
him, said the good king, curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David; as Job did, when
he was rifled of his goods, The Lord, said he, gave, SERM. and the Lord hath taken away; as our Saviour did, when, in regard to the sore hardships he was design- Job i. 21. ed to undergo, he said, The cup which my Father John xviii. hath given me, shall I not drink?
2. Hence we should always judge every thing which happeneth to be throughly good and fit, worthy (all things considered) to be appointed, or permitted by that Governor of things; not entertaining any harsh thoughts of God, as if he were not enough wise, just, or benign in ordering us to be afflicted or crossed; but taking all occurrences to be well consistent with all God's holy perfections and attributes".
We are apt to conceit that the world is ill ordered, when we do not thrive and prosper therein; that every thing is irregular which squareth not to the models of our fancy; that things had gone much better if our designs had found success: but these are vain and perverse conceits; for that certainly is most good which seemeth good to God; his will is a perfect standard of right and convenience, his eye never aimeth wrong, his hand never faileth to hit the mark of what is best; All his paths are mercy and Ps. xxv. 10. truth; he is righteous in all his ways, and holy in cxlv. 17. all his works; so did king Hezekiah rightly judge, when, upon denunciation of a sad doom to his country and posterity, he replied to the prophet; Good 2 Kings xx.
* Παραχωρήσωμεν τοίνυν παρακάλῳ τῷ σοφῷ τοῦ παντὸς κυβερνήτῃ, καὶ στέρξωμεν τὰ οἰκονομούμενα, ὁποῖα ποτ ̓ ἂν ᾖ καν θυμέρη, καν λυπηρὰ, &c. Theod. Ep. 136.
b Placeat homini quicquid Deo placuit. Sen. Ep. 75.
Στέργειν γὰρ χρὴ τὰ παρὰ τῆς ἀῤῥήτου σοφίας πρυτανευόμενα, καὶ ταῦτα πάντως νομίζειν συμφέροντα. Theod. Ep. 15.
Οἶδε γὰρ ὡς σοφὸς τὸ συμφέρον, καὶ ὡς ἀγαθὸς τοῦτο ἡμῖν πραγματεύε