Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

viands. But to ease of mind, self-approbation is indispensable. Unless the Conscience approve, and smile; serenity can never overspread the world within. So long as the Conscience reproaches, wounds, and terrifies ; the soul must be perturbed, restless, and unhappy. That Contentment should exist in such a mind, can neither be proper, nor possible. But, whenever the man begins to submit to be controlled by his Conscience, he begins to be approved by himself. The tumult of the soul then begins to subside : the storm ceases to lower, and to threaten: the violence of the blast is hushed: the angry clouds disperse. A summer-evening overspreads the soul; calm, serene, bright; the promise of a future, peaceful, and delightful day. II. I shall now briefly mention some of the benefits of Contentment. 1. This disposition of mind secures to us the Favour of God. The preceding Observations make it evident, that Cententment is, in an extensive sense, obedience to the Divine Will. It is also directly, and repeatedly, commanded in the Scriptures. To Timothy, St. Paul writes, Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. To the Hebrews he says, universally, Be content with such things as ye have. This injunction he also enforces by the best of all reasons; viz. that God hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. That God is pleased with obedience to his commands, needs no illustration. Equally unnecessary would be an attempt to show, that a state of mind, formed, as Contentment obviously is, chiefly of faith, submission, humility, gratitude, and self-government, must be obedience eminently acceptable. But him, whom God approves, He will bless. The promises of the divine favour to such, as cordially obey the divine will, are spread-every where throughout the Scriptures; and not one of them will fail of being accomplished. But the favour of God is the sum of all benefits, and the source whence every other proceeds. Contentment begins with a hope of the divine favour; and, as a continued course of obedience to the commands of God, originates unceasingly new hopes, and makes sure of new communications of the same invaluable blessing. 2. Contentment enables him, who possesses it, to perform his duty

[ocr errors]

with more exactness, and more pleasure, than he can otherwise attain. The contented mind is unincumbered by many cares, and many hindrances, which usually obstruct, and retard, men in the performance of their duty. The serenity of its disposition leaves it at full leisure calmly to examine, and therefore clearly to understand, and thoroughly to feel, the nature, direction, and amount, of its duty. Satisfied with the divine dispensations, and assured of the approbation of Him, whose dispensations they are, it is prepared, before hand, to accord with their tenour, and to perform whatever they may require. In this case, its obedience obviously becomes easy, cheerful, and of course delightful; as well as uniform, and exact. It is the punctilious and cheerful obedience of a child; compared with which the occasional and reluctant performances of a discontented man, are merely the mercenary drudgery of an unfaithful servant. But to perform our duty with pleasure, is to lead a life of enjoyment: for, our duty returns every moment of our lives. To perform our duty, also, with exactness, is not only delightful in itself; but is a continual source of self-approbation and peace; and the only source, whence these blessings can be derived. 3. The man, in whom this spirit prevails, is secured from many Temptations and many Sins, to which others are exposed. A discontented man naturally indulges, and is always liable to, the sin of murmuring against God, arraigning his Justice, Wisdom, and Goodness, and hardening his heart against his Mercy; because he is impatient under his own allotments, and unwilling to accord with any proposals from a Being, whose Character he disrelishes, and whose Conduct he regards as the source of his troubles. The envious man is pronopted by his ruling disposition to repine at the blessings of others; to accuse God of partiality in bestowing them; to wish them lessened; to resort not unfrequently to active, insidious, and malignant exertions for the purpose of lessening them ; and to exercise a kind of infernal joy, when they are taken away. Such a man turns a gloomy, misanthropic eye on all those, who, he thinks, are richer, greater, wiser, or happier, than himself. From these rebellious and

fiend-like dispositions, from the temptations which they create, and the sins to which they lead, the contented mind is delightfully free. Satisfied with its own lot, it feels no anxiety, mortification, or opposition to its Maker, because others are possessed of superior good. Particularly, it is undisturbed by the sight of superior wealth in the possession of others; of superior power, pleasures, reputation, and influence. On all these splendours it can look, as the eagle on the Sun, with a steady and serene eye; and can find its happiness not lessened, but increased, because others are happy. The disposal, both of its own concerns and theirs, it is willing to leave wholly to God; and prepared to enjoy any good, which He is pleased to bestow, whoever may be the recipient. Thus, 4. It is a disposition eminently Peaceful and Comfortable. On the one hand, it is preserved from many troubles, suffered by others; and on the other, finds many pleasures, which others never know. The distress, experienced in an unceasing course of disappointments, by all discontented, covetous, and ambitious men, is chiefly unknown to him, who has acquired this delightful spirit. Equally free is he, also, from the pain of ungratified desires, and from continual fears, that his desires will be ungratified. Nor is he less secure from that complication of woe, which springs incessantly from distrust of the goodness and faithfulness of God; from murmuring against his providence; from reluctance to obey his pleasure ; and from the consciousness of not having faithfully obeyed at all. At the same time, he is delivered from those fears of future woe, which so often harass the minds of guilty men. It is not here intended to insinuate, that the Contented man is free from afflictions: but that he is comparatively free from them, is unquestionable. Contentment will not remove the thorns and briers, spread over this unhappy world by the apostasy; and renew upon its face the bloom, the beauty, and the fragrance, of Eden. But it will blunt the point of many a thorn, and convert many a wilderness into a fruitful field. The sorrows, which it feels, will be all allayed by the remembrance, that they come from the hand of the Infinitely Good; and by the hope, that they will all terminate in the promotion of its own best interests. To the blast of calamity, also, it yields, like the willow; and is, therefore, not rooted up and destroyed. In the mean time, whenever troubles arrive, however numerous or great they may be, their distressing efficacy is always allayed by the soothing, balmy influence of peace and self-approbation. This delightful influence, also, is regularly diffused over every enjoyment. The enjoyments of the contented man are, in his view, all gifts, and blessings; not acquisitions, made by his own ingenuity and efforts. As gifts, they are relished with gratitude to their Glorious Author. The light, in which they are seen by this grateful disposition, is always glossy and brilliant; and the taste, which they furnish, is singularly sweet. Thus the contented man finds pleasures, where others find only troubles. Thus, when troubles arrest him, their bitterness is allayed: and thus all the pleasures, which he finds, are enhanced by his own happy disposition. Even in seasons, when darkness overspreads the world; and such seasons, it must be acknowledged, there are; when the gloom overshadows his mind, as well as the minds of those around him; and when the face of the Sun of Righteousness is eclipsed, to the eyes of mankind; hope, humble and serene, will lift up her exploring eye, and behold the divine luminary still visible, and environing the intervening darkness with a circle of Glory. 5. Contentment renders its possessor eminently Pleasing and Comfortable to others. Uniform serenity, cheerfulness, and sweetness of disposition, constitute that character in man, which to his fellow-men is more agreeable than any other. Religion itself, however pious and benevolent the mind may be, is despoiled, if sensibly destitute of this disposition, of its peculiar burnish and beauty. It will indeed be approved, and esteemed. But it will not be entirely relished. Gravity, existing beyond a certain degree, may render it forbidding. Reserve may render it suspicious ; and a sorrowful, melancholy aspect may excite a sympathy, so painful, as to make it unwelcome. But a sweet, serene, and cheerful, temper is the object, not only of esteem, but of delight. The presence of a person, who manifests this temper, is universally coveted; and diffuses a kind of lustre over every circle.

He is accordingly welcomed to every house, and to every company. Even men, destitute of Religion, will strongly relish his company; and will never mention his character without pointed commendation. Beside the immediate, and extensive, pleasure, which such a person communicates to those, with whom he converses, this disposition recommends his opinions, his rules of life, his various conduct, and the several plans, which he proposes for the benefit of mankind. Multitudes will embark with readiness and ardour in the promotion of purposes, which he recommends; because they are recommended by him; because they think favourably of whatever he proposes, and love to unite with him in any pursuit. Thus this spirit, beside rendering him eminently agreeable to others, gives him an influence with mankind, which he could not otherwise possess; and in the happiest manner increases his power to do good. It deserves particular consideration, that some of the most popular men, who have ever lived in this country, have not been distinguished for brilliancy of genius, extensiveness of views, or profoundness of research; but, while they possessed respectable talents, were remarkably distinguished by the disposition, which I have here described. Of this disposition, Contentment is the uniform, and the only efficacious, source. By a discontented man, it can be assumed only by effort, and for a moment; and must speedily, and characteristically, give way to the uneasy, fretful spirit, which has taken possession of his mind. There is, indeed, a native good humour, which is pleasant to the possessor, and very agreeable to those with whom he converses. But this desirable disposition, although possessing many advantages, is radically defective, because it is a mere propensity, and not a moral principle. Too frail to sustain the rude shocks, or the long-continued pressure, of adversity, it is prone to give way in seasons of severe trial; and is incapable of the serene and steady endurance, so characteristical of a contented mind. Such a mind may bend; but, while life lasts, it will not break. Where native good-humour would shrink, and fly, from the conflict, on innumerable occasions; the Contented mind will firmly brave the danger; sustain the assault; and, with a cool, noiseless, unruffled energy,

« AnteriorContinuar »