Page images
PDF
EPUB

them fair. 8. That in as much as I am but a steward, I will be very careful that my management of my trust may be such as will bear my Lord's scrutiny ; I will not employ my stock of wealth or honour to the dishonour of my Lord, in riot or exce's, in vanity or oppression ; but will do as much good with it as I can, according to the trust committed to me, that I may give ajust and fair and comfortable accountof my stewardship when my Lord and Master calls for it. 9. That in as much as those very externals are in themselves blessings if well employed, though not the bleflings of the greatest magnitude; I will with all humility and thankfulness acknowledge the Divine bounty to me, in trusting me with abundance, and will employ it to his honour.

Seneca Thyest. Act. 2.

STET quicumque volet potens
Aulæ culmine lubrico:
Me dulcis saturet quies;
Obscuro positus loco,
Leni perfruar otio ;
Nullis nota Quiritibus
Ætas per tacitum fiuat.

Sic cum transierint mei
Nullo cum strepitu dies,
Plebeius moriar sener.
Illi mors gravis inculat,
Qui notus ni mis omnibus,
Ignotus moritur sibi.

LET him that will ascend the tott'ring seat
Of courtly grandeur, and become as great
As are his mounting wishes; as for me,
Let sweet repose, and rest my portion be;
Give me some mean obscure recess; a sphere
Out of the road of business, or the fear
Of falling lower, where I sweetly may
Myself, and dear retirement still enjoy :
Let not my life, or name, be known unto
The Grandees of the times, tost to and fro
By cenfures or applause; but let my age
Slide gently by, not overthwart the stage
Of public action ; unheard, unseen,
And unconcern’d, as if I ne'er had been.
And thus while I shall pass niy filent days
In shady privacy, free from the noise
And bustles of the World, then thall I
A good old innocent plebeian die.
Death is a mere surprise, a very snare,
To him that makes it his life's greatest care
To be a public pageant, known to all,
But unacquainted with himself doth fall.

N

2

CONTENTATION,
AND THE MOTIVES TO IT, BOTH MORAL

AND DIVINE.

PHIL. IV. 11,

FOR I HAVE LEARNED IN WHATSOEVER STATE I AM

THEREWITA TO BE CONTENT.

THERE are ikree excellent virtues which efpecially refer to our condition in this life, and much conduce to our safe and confortable passage through it.

1. Equality of Mind, or Equanimity. ..
2. Patienie.

3. Cor.tertidness. 1. Equality of Mind, or Equarimity, is that virtue which refers both to prosperity and adversity, whereby in all conditions of that kind we carry an even and equal temper, neither over much lifted up by prosperity, nor over much deprefcd in adversity.

2. Patienie properly reiers to causes, disappointment, afflictions, and adversity, whereby we carry a quict and submissive mind, without murmuring, pafLion, or dilccm. posure of spirit, in all afflictions, whether fickness, lots of friends, poverty, reproach, disgrace, or the like.

3. Contentation, which differs from equality of mind, because that respects as well profperity as adversity, this only adversity; and in some reipects differs also from

Contentment.

patience patienice (though this always accompanics it). 1. In the extent of the olj ct, for patience respects all kinds of affliction ; contentedness, in propriety of specch, re. spects principally the affliction of want or poverty. 2. In the act itelf, för patienc., in propriety of spcech, iinplies only a quiet compo'ed toleraion of the evils of adversity; but contentedness imports for what more, namely, not only a quietness of mind, but a kind of che rful free submission to our present condition of adverfity, a ready compliance with the Divine Providence and, in effect, a choice of that flate wherein the Divine dispensation placeth us, as well as in bear. ing it.

These, though they may in strictnes give a distinction between patience and contentation, yet we must observe that contentation is never without patience, though it be something more: and that in the common acceptation and latitude of the word, Contentation doth not only extend to the condition or affli&ion of povity, but even to all other outward aftlicions reached to us by the inflicting or pe mitting hand of Divine Pro. vidence: and in this large acceptation I fall here ap. ply and use it.

Content, therefore, in its large acceptation, is not only a quiet and patient, but also a free and cheerful closing with the estate and condition of life, which the Divine disp nsation shall allot unto us, whether mean or poor, or laborious and painful, or obscure, or necesi tous, or sickly, or unhealthy, or without friends, or with loss or absence of friends, or any other state that fzems un, grateful to our natures or difpofitions. For we need not apply this virtue to a flate of high proʻocrity in all things, wherein, (though men are not ordinarily contented) yet they have but small tomstations to dil. content from the itite itself wherein they are fo. • This letion of contentation was learnt by this Apoftle, which imports these things: 1. That it is a lion that is possible to be l arned, for the Apoflela? kari dit. 2. That it is a lition that requiris loincihing of inN 3

duitry

dustry and pains to acquire it, for he learned it before he attained it. 3. That it is a leison that deserves the learning, for he speaks of it as of a thing of moment and great use, well worth the pains he took to attain it. And the truth is, it is of so great importance to be learnt, that without it we want the comfort of our lives; and with it all conditions of life are not only to. lerable, but comfortable. And hence it is, that this excellent Apostle doth very often inculcate and press, and commend this leffon in many of his epistles, • Godliness with contentinent is great gain !.' Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will not leave thee nor forsake thee?' Again, ? And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content 3.'

I shall therefore set down those reasons that may persuade and encourage us to contentation with our condition, and likewise to patience under it; for patience and contentation cannot be well severed. And the reasons are of two forts; 1. Moral. 2. Divine and Evangelical. Neither shall I decline the use of moral reasons, considering how far, by help of these, many Heathens (that had not the true knowledge of God revealed in his Word and Son) advanced in the practice of these virtues. The Moral Reajons therefore are these:

1. Very many of the external evils we suffer are of our own choice and procurement, the fruits of our own follies and inadvertence, and averseness to good counsel. And why should we be discontented, or impatient under those evils which we ourselves have chosen, or repine because these trees bear their natural fruit ?

2. The greatest part of evils we suffer are of that nature and kind, that are not in our power either to prevent or help : Some come from the very condition of cur nature, as sickness, death of friends; and of absolute necesity, the more relations any man hath, the II Tin. vi. 6. '? Hleb. xiii. 5. 31 Tim. vi. 8.

more

more evils of this kind he may suffer: And can we reasonably expect that the very nature of things should be changed to please our humours ? Again, some come from the hands of men, that, may be, are more powerful, more subtle and malicious : Why should we discontent ourselves, or be impatient, because others are too strong for us? Others again come by occurrences natural (though disposed by the hand of the Divine Providence) as losses by storms and tempests, by unfeasonable weather, by intemperateness of the air or meteors : Can we reasonably expect that the Great God of heaven and earth should alter his settled laws of nature for the convenience of every such little worm as you or I am ? It may be that storm or intemperate season, that may do you or me some prejudice, may do others as many and as good, or it may be more and better, a benefit; that wind that strikes my ship against the rock, may fetch off two or more from the fands. Let us be content therefore to suffer Almighty God to govern the world according to his wisdom, and not our will, though it may be a particular detriment to you or to me; or if we repine against it, we must not think thereby to obtain our own wills.

3. The texture and frame of the world is such, that it is absolutely necessary, that if some be rich and powerful, or great, or honourable, others must be poor, and subject, and ignoble. If all were equally powerful, there would be no power nor government, becauseall would be equal: if all were equally rich, it would be but only nominally, indeed none would be rich, but all would be poor, there could be no artificers, no la. bourers, no servants. Since therefore it is of neceflity, in the order of the world, that some must be poor, or less rich or powerful than others, why should I be fo unreasonable, or unjust, to defire that lot of poverty of lowness of condition should be another's and not mine? Or why should not I be contented to be of the lower sort of men, since the order of the world requires that such fome inust be ?

« PreviousContinue »