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the truth of the promise, “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
ON WORLDLY ANXIETY,
There are three evils which are opposed to contentment, and which of course are productive of much discontent: these I shall consider in their order:-they are worldly anxiety; the inordinate desire of worldly enjoyment, or covetousness; and the love of power, or the principle of ambition.
Worldly anxiety is a harassing concern either for our own comfort, or the comfort of those who are justly dear to us. It may be partly occasioned by the experience or the apprehension of trials. We feel that we are continually liable to afflictions, losses, and disappointments, which we cannot possibly escape. We are naturally led to make every exertion to avoid their recurrence in future, as well as to obtain that measure of worldly good which we conceive to be necessary to an exemption from some of the most painful of them. We are extremely desirous, it may be, to make provision for the objects of our affection,-a feeling which, when indulged in moderation, is in itself amiable and laudable, but which, when entertained with undue fervour and frequency, produces an anxious frame of mind. Especially is this the case, when the kind and overruling providence of God is overlooked, or when there is not implicit confidence reposed in it.
* 1 Cor. ii. 9.
It is unnecessary to point out, at any length, the folly and sinfulness of this temper of mind. It is foolish, since it is anxiety respecting what is in itself uncertain, fleeting, and what, however largely possessed, must be soon and for ever parted with; and also because it is utterly unavailing to the attainment of that which is so much desired. “ Which of you by taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If then ye be not able to do that thing which is léast, why take ye thought for the rest ?" It is sinful, because it disturbs and perplexes the mind, unqualifies for the prudent, successful, and acceptable discharge of duty, and since it tends to confirm that distrust in God, in his protecting goodness and care, from which, at first, it chiefly proceeded. It often issues in discontent, to which, in every stage of its progress, it is nearly allied; while it awakens the ingratitude, envy, selfishness, and présumption, which the human heart is so prone to indulge. Has it not a pernicious influence on the temper, the peace, the domestic quiet, of the person under its influence? Does it not expose him to the temptation of undervaluing the interests of others, and of using unwarrantable means to gain possession of what has given him so much concern, and which he estimates so highly?
But, it may be asked, is intense anxiety sinful in all circumstances, and in reference to all things?
Is there no occasion on which even a painful and harassing anxiety may be lawfully indulged ? To this question the Scriptures give an explicit reply. “ Be careful for nothing: but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus *.” Our Saviour has given a direction similar to that of the Apostle. “ Take no thought for the morrow: the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on t."
This reiterated command shews that worldly anxiety is prohibited in all circumstances. The chief reason assigned for the prohibition is, that God takes charge of the creatures that he has made;-that he feeds the fowls of the air, and that therefore he will feed us, that he clothes the grass of the field, and that therefore he will surely clothe those whom he has endowed with life and understanding.
“ Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed ? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek :) For your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." The same inspired volume which contains pro* Phil. iv. 6,7.
of Matt. vi. 25-34.
hibitions against wordly anxiety, presents to us a remedy under those evils, by the fear of which it is occasioned. We are commanded, in everything, to trust in God, to apply to him for support and relief, and to address our supplications to him with the fervour, the constancy, and confidence of those who regard him as the hearer of prayer.
The state of mind which this exercise requires, and which, when engaged in with proper motives, it always produces, is opposed to a feverish, harassing anxiety: while it is favourable to the serenity, the joy, and hope which result from the lively faith of the Gospel. In making our request known unto God by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving, can we fail to experience the peace which is promised,—the peace which arises from a firm belief, a humble reliance, in the power, goodness, faithfulness, and overruling providence of God: the conviction, that he ever watches over us, that he ever pities us; that whatever can befall us shall take place only by his appointment or permission ; and that all the dispensations through which we may be called to pass, shall, if we love him, be made to work together for our good.
How essential to our happiness and usefulness is this peace, which, if we shall only use the prescribed means of obtaining, we may fully enjoy! Its worth, its influence on our moral feelings and character, as well as the source from which it proceeds, entitles it to the description which the Apostle Paul has given of it,—“The peace of God, that passeth all understanding, and that keeps the heart and
mind, through Christ Jesus.” With this heavenly principle, soothing our sorrows, moderating our desires, and elevating our hopes, we are happy in ourselves, and are the means of giving happiness to others: we are not only freed from a fertile source of temptation, but have ever present with us the motives and the frame of mind favourable to the exercise of righteousness, kindness, and truth. So close is the connexion between the possession of christian contentment and the practice of morality.
ON THE INORDINATE DESIRE OF WORLDLY ENJOYMENT, OR
This is another of the evils which are opposed to contentment. It is closely allied to worldly anxiety; so much so, indeed, that it seems impossible to indulge the one, without giving way, in some measure, to the other.
It is not unlawful to desire worldly good, when the desire is indulged within the bounds of christian moderation. Even when that good is in the possession of others, we may, without sin, desire it, provided it be lawful in the owners to part with it, and provided also, that we are willing to give an equivalent. It is the inordinate desire of this,—that is, such a desire as is unreasonable, as is unsuited to the principles and prospects of a christian, as surpasses the real value of the object wished for, and is accompanied with