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them that love God. Therefore, how little foever we enjoy, we have Cause to be thankful for it: and how much foever we suffer, we have Cause to be resigned ; nay thankful too, even for that; as we may be the happier in this world for many of our Sufferings; and ihall, if we bear them as we ought, be improved in Goodness by them all, and made happier to Eternity.
But further yet: though we may not be conscious of what we shall study to hide from ourselves, that our Desires carry us either to behave or wish ill to our Neighbours; or to repine againft God : ftill, if they disturb and agitate our Minds; if we are eager and vehement about the Objects of them ; we are not arrived at the State, in which we should be found. Some Feeling of this inward Tumult, especially on trying Occafions, may be unavoidable by fallen Man; and more of it natural to one Petfon than another : but, after all, it is voluntary Indulgence, that gives our Appetites, and Passions, and Fancies, the far greatest Share of their Dominion. We inflame them, when else they would be moderate : we affect Things, for which we have really no Liking, merely because they are fashionable: we create imaginary Wants to ourselves; and then grow as earneft for what we might do perfectly well without, as if the Whole of our Felicity conlisted in it. This is a very immoral State of Mind : and hurries Persons, almost irresistibly, into as immoral a Course of Life. In Proportion as worldly Inclinations of any kind engage the Heart, they exclude from it social Affection, compassion, Generosity, Integrity; and yet more effectually Love to God, and Attention to the Concerns of our future State. Nor do they almost ever fail to make us at present miserable, as well as wicked. They prey upon our Spirits, torment us with perpetual Self-Difike, waste our Health, sink our Character, drive us into a thousand foolish Actions to gratify them; and, when all is done, can never be gratified, so as to give us any lasting Satisfaction. First, we shall be full
Rom. viii. 28.
of Anxieties and Fears: when we have got over these and obtained our Wish, we shall quickly find it comes very short of our Expectation : then we shall be cloyed, and tired, and wretchedly languid, till some new Crave ing fets us on work to as little Purpose as the former did; or till we are wise enough to see, that such Purfuits are not the Way to Happiness.
But supposing Persons are not violent in pursuing the imagined good Things of this World; yet if they be dejected and grieved, that no more of them have fallen to their Lot; if they mourn over the Inferiority of their Condition, and live in a perpetual Feeling of Amiction (be it ever so calm) on that Account; or indeed on Account of any Cross or Disadvantage whatever, belonging to the present Life: this also is a Degree, though the lowest and least, yet still a Degree, of inordinate Defire. For we are not grateful, if, instead of taking our Portion of Happiness here with Cheerfulness, and due Acknowledgments for it, we only lament, that it is not, in this or that Respect, more considerable; and we are not wise, if we embitter it, be it ever so small, by a fruitless Sorrow, instead of making the best of it.
These then being the Excelles, which this Commandment forbids'; the Duty, which of course it requires, is, that we learn, like St. Paul, in whatsoever State are, therewith to be content". This Virtue every Body practises in some Cales : for who is there, that could not mention several Things which he should be glad to have, yet is perfectly well fatisfied to go without them? And would we but strive to be of the same Disposition in all Cafes; the Self-Enjoyment, that we should reap from it, is inexpressible. The worldly Condition of Multitudes is really quite as good as it needs to be and of many others (who do not think so) as good as it well can be. Now for such to be anxious abouc mending it, is only being miserable for Nothing. And in whatever we may have Cause to wish our Circum.
stances were better, moderate Wishes will be sufficient to excite a reasonable Industry to improve them, as far as we can: and immoderate Eagerness will give us no Alistance, but only Disquiet. More than a few consume themselves with longing for what Indolence and Despondency will not fuffer them to try if they can obtain. The Desire of the flothful killeth him: for his Hands refuse to labour k. And sometimes, on the contrary, the Precipitance, with which we aim at a favourite Point, is the very Reason that we overshoot the Mark, and miss it.
But supposing the most folicitous were always the moft likely to gain their Ends: yet this Likelihood will be often crossed, both by Delays and Disappointments; which to iinpatient Tempers will be extremely grievous : and the saddest Disappointment of all will be, that they will find the most perfect Accomplishmenç of their Wisþes, after a very small Time, to bę little or no Increase of their Happiness. Persons uneasy in their present Situation, or intent on fome darling Object, imagine that could they but succeed in such a Pursuit, or had they but such a Person's good Fortune or ACcomplishments, then they should be perfectly at Eafe, and lastingly delighted. But, they utterly mistake, Every Enjoyment palls and deadens quickly: every Condition hath its unseen Inconveniences and Suffer. ings, as well as its visible Advantages. And Happiness depends scarce at all on the Pre-eminence commonly admired. For the noble, the powerful, the rich, the learned, the ingenious, the beautiful, the gay, the voluptuous, are usually to the full as far from it, and by turns own they are, as any of the Wretches, whom they severally despise. Indeed, when every Thing is tried round, we thall experience at laft, what we had much better see at firft, as we easily may, that the cheerful Composure of a reasonable and religious, and therefore contented, Mind, is the only folid Felicity that
& Prov. xxi. 250
this World affords; the great Blessing of Heaven here below; that will enable us to relish the rest, if we have them; and to be satisfied, if we have them not. What Solomon hath faid of Wealth, he found to be equally true of every Thing else beneath the Sun. God giveth to a Man, that is good in his Sight, Wisdom, and Knowledge, and Joy: but to the Sinner he giveth Travel, to gather and heap up. This also is Vanity, and Vexation of Spirit
Contentment therefore being the Gift of God, we Thould earnestly pray to Him for it. And in order to become fit Objects of his Favour, we should frequently and thankfully recollect the many undeserved Comforts of our Condition, that we may bear the Aflictions of it more patiently; reasoning with Job, Shall we receive Good at the Hand of God, and Mall we not receive Evili? Nor should we fail to join with our Meditations on his past and present Mercies, the firm Assurance, which both his Attributes and his Promises furnish, that the fame loving Kindness shall follow us all the Days of our Lifek; and be exerted, though sometimes for our Correction or Trial, yet always for our Benefit; and so as to make our Lot supportable in every Variety of outward Circumstances. Let your Conversation therefore be without Covetousness; and be content with such Things as ye have : for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee! Another very important Confideration, and necessary to be often brought to mind, is, that the Season both of enjoying the Advantages, and bearing the Inconveniences, of Life is fhort: but the Reward of enjoying and bearing each, as we ought, is eternal and inconceivably great.
Together with these Reflections, let us exercise a steady Care to check every faulty Inclination in its earliest Rife. For it is chiefly indulging them at first, that makes them so hard to conquer afterwards. And yet
Eccl. ii. 26, 1 Heb. xiii.
we Thall always find the bad Consequences of yielding to outweigh vastly the Trouble of resisting: and that to bring our Desires, when they are the strongest, down to our Condition, is a much easier Work, than to raise our Condition up to our Desires, which will only grow the more ungovernable, the more they are pampered. Further : whatever Share we possess of worldly Plenty, let us bestow it on ourselves with decent Moderation, and impart of it to others with prudent Liberality : for thus knowing how to abound, we shall know the better how to suffer Need m, if Providence calls us to it. And lastly, instead of setting our Affections on any Things on Earth", which would be a fatal Neglect of the great End, that we are made for, let us exalt our Views to that blessed Place, where Godliness with Contentment will be unspeakable Gaino: and they who have restrained the inferior Principles of their Nature by the Rules of Religion, shall have the highest Faculties of their Souls abundantly satisfied with the Fatness of God's House, and be made to drink of the River of his Pleasures P.
Thus then you fee, both the Meaning, and the Importance, of this laft Commandment: which is indeed the Guard and Security of all the preceding ones. For our Actions will never be right habitually, till our Desires are so. Or if they could; our Maker demands the whole Man, as he surely well may: nor, till that is devoted to Him, are we mect for the Inheritance of the Saints in Light 4.
And now, both the first and the second Table of the ten Commandments having been explained to you, it only remains, that we beg of God sufficient Grace' to keep them; earnestly entreating him in the Words of his Church: Lord, have Mercy upon us, and write all these thy Laws in our Hearts, we befeech thee.
m Phil. iv. 12. 1 Pfalm xxxvi. 8.
Col, iii, 2. 9 Col. i. 12.
2 Cor. xii. 9.
I Tim. vi. 6.