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because his spirit was so regulated hy the grace of God, that he could be reconciled to any condition. Most people judge otherwise; they imagine they could be content and at rest, if they could obtain such a comfort v/hich their hearts are now set upon, if they could arrive at an estate of such a size as would supply their present wishes. Vain thought! If they are gratified in their present desire, a worldly mind unmorti• fied will outgrow their acquisitions; new wants and new contrivances will start up, and they will be as far from satisfaction as at their setting out. A low condition, considered in itself, may seem to give the strongest temptations to discontent; but if we consult experience, we shall find the rich and the powerful as frequently strangers to an easy mind, as those in a mean state of life. The reason is, their irregular inclinations, and insatiable desires, are enlarged with their substance; and, therefore, all they have passes for nothing, because their own distempered appetites will not let them rest.
We have a lively instance of this in Haman. If his desires could have had any bounds, one would think he had all in possession that heart could wish for. See how he reckons it up himself to his friends, Esth. v. 11, 12. "He told thera of the glory of his riches." He had amassed together vast treasures, and was enabled by that means to live in great splendor. "And the multitude of his children." Many heap up riches, but have neither child nor brother to inherit them; but Haman had a multitude of his own descendants, no less than ten sons, whatever other children he had; so that he might have hopes that his house should continue for ever, and his dwelling-place to all generations. "And all the things wherein the king had promoted him." The several high offices, and stations of trust and honor, which he had conferred upon him. "And how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king." He was prime minister, took place of the greatest princes, who were natives of the country, and of the highest officers of the court, who all paid him the next honors to the sovereign himself. "Yea," says he, "Esther the queen let no man come in with the king unto the banquet which she had prepared, but myself; and to-morrow am I invited unto her also with the king." He thought himself to stand as high in the queen's favor as in the king's: and from the distinguishing marks of regard he had from
both, and from the new invitation sent him for the next day, he had reason to apprehend that he was established in his high dignity. But in all this agreeable situation of his affairs, is the man contented? No; he immediately adds, ver. 13. "Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." Mordecai had denied him the respect and reverence which he expected, and this spoiled the enjoyment of all his delights. His haughty mind could not brook one man at court, who would not cringe to him; so that he could not relish the obeisance paid him by all the rest: his riches, his children, his power, his dignities, all availed him just nothing.
This strange, but very striking instance, is a full evidence, that the largest collection and the greatest variety of worldly good, will not produce contentment; that a small uneasiness, the not having a single appetite or passion gratified, will take away the relish of what is agreeable in life, if such an appetite or passion is allowed to be headstrong; and, therefore, that no condition can make us happy, unless a foundation be laid for it in the due regulation of our own spirits.
3. Let us, therefore, labour to have our minds so formed, that they can be content and tolerably easy in any state of life. Let us endeavour to carry such a temper along with us, that we can comport with any condition, and make the best of it; or else, in truth, there is no condition which will not furnish occasions for discontent. The apostle goes on thus to explain his attainment, ver. 12. "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where, and in all things, I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." Now, what is this universal for contentment through all the changes of life? It must consist of these ingredients: a low opinion of this world, and mortified . affections to the things of it; a lively faith in the promised realities of the life to come; comfortable hopes of our own title to the heavenly inheritance; and a hearty resignation to the disposal of our heavenly Father for our circumstances by the way. By means of these we shall enjoy a happy calm through every state, and without these we may be overset in any.
Heb. x. 36.
For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the •will of God, ye might receive the promise.
PATIENCE is very near akin to the grace of contentment, which I have been last upon: and yet there is a difference between them. Contentment properly respects our worldly condition, only as it is supposed capable of raising higher, and as our possession of the good things of life is not complete. Patience respects the evils of life, which we are actually feeling; or some future good, which we have ground to expect, but that is as yet delayed. And the apostle, in the text, compared with the context, represents Christians as needing patience in both these respects.
He reminds those converted Hebrews to whom he wrote, how they had already been called to suffer for Christ, and how well they had acquitted themselves in the trial, ver. 32, S3, 34- •* Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured (the word signifies, ye endured with patience,) a great fight of afflictions. Partly while ye were made a gazing-stock by reproaches and afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." But their warfare was not yet accomplished; and,
therefore, he exhorts them to maintain the same temper, ani* mated by the same hope, ver. 35. "Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.'' 'Quit not the patience, the courage, and freedom, you have used in maintaining your profession; for the rewards you expect, will make full amends for all the trials which may be yet behind, as well as for those already undergone.' And, therefore, stop not short of the prize: For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. There is a promise to be received by Christians, which is sufficient to compensate the utmost sufferings and services they can pass through here. But this shall not be received, till after they have done the will of God; till they have gone through their course of obedience to his preceptivte will, and of submission to his providential will, for as long time as he sees meet to continue them by the way. And therefore every Christian has need of patience, in order to this.
I shall discourse of the subject in the following method.
I. Inquire into the nature of Christian patience.
II. Shew the need and occasion which a Christian has for it, from this consideration, that he is not to receive the promise till after he hath done the will of God. And,
III. Represent the way to which Christianity directs us for supplying this need, or for furnishing us with the patience required.
I. The nature of Christian patience is to be considered.
I have already suggested, that the province wherein patience is to be exercised, is, either in bearing present inconveniencies and evils, or in waiting for some future good; and especially in the Christian's case, waiting for the future blessedness of heaven.
Two words are more especially used in the New Testament to express this temper. One is /iaxjodu/i/a, a length of mind. This our translators sometimes render patience, as in Heb. vi. 12. James v. 10.; and sometimes long-sufferingt as Rom. ii. 4. 2 Cor. vi. 6. Rom. ix. 22, &c. It is directly opposed to hastiness of spirit. The other word, most frequently used for patience, is that in the text, abiding constant tender afflictions; or, sustaining the evils which befcl us, with perseverance in our duty, in expectation of the deliverance and recompence promised in due time.
Patience is not an insensibleness of present evils, or an indifference for future good: "No affliction for the present is joyous, but grievous." Christ himself was sensible of his sufferings, and expressed his sense of them. Nor should we be coldly affected to the blessings for which God has encouraged us to hope: that would be a reflection upon their excellence, or upon our own taste; and would make us negligent in endeavours to obtain them.
But Christian patience is a disposition that keeps us calm and composed in our frame, and steady in the practice of our duty, under the sense of our afflictions, or in the delay of our hones.
The principal expressions of it may be reduced to these instances.
1. Patience secures the possession of our souls in every circumstance that tends to discompose our minds. Christ exhorts his disciples, when he had foretold the sufferings and dangers to which they would be exposed, Luke xxi. 19. ** In patience possess ye your souls." * Whatever you meet with, keep up the possession of yourselves, let reason and grace maintain the ascendant, and shew yourselves men.' This exhortation supposes, what, in fact, we find too often true, that smart trials, or the deferring of men's hopes, are apt to make "their heart sick," to master and enslave the mind; so that people are hardly their own men, but their violent affections and tumultuous passions run away with them. Patience is to guard the soul against this j to preserve it sedate and sober, that unreasonable passions and resentments may not boil up either against God or man; that inward peace, upon the solid grounds of religion, may net be lost in the scuffle of passion, or clouded by events which have no connection with it; that we may not be so infatuated as to lose the enjoyment of the blessings we have, because of some evils we feel; and that we may still be able clearly to discern our present duty in any turns of providence. This is to possess our souls in any trial of patience; to continue in an even frame, and ward off all . impressions which would ruffle our minds, or put us out of the temper becoming us as men and Christians.