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wont to raise up fearful tempests in the soul. He teareth himself in his anger, saith Bildad, concerning that Mirror of Patience; Job xviii. 4. And, The sorrow of the world worketh death, saith the Chosen Vessel: so as the male-content, whether he be angry or sad, mischiefs himself both ways.
There cannot be a truer word, than that of wise Solomon, Anger resteth in the bosom of fools; Eccl. vii. 9. What can be more foolish, than for a man, because he thinks God hath made him miserable by crosses, to make himself more miserable by his own distempers If the clay had sense, what a mad thing were it, for it to struggle with the potter! and if a man will spurn against strong iron pikes, what can he hope to carry away, but wounds? How witless a thing it is, for a man to torment himself, with the thoughts of those evils, that are past all remedy! What wise beholder would not have smiled with pity and scorn, to have seen great Augustus, after the defeat of some choice troops, to knock his head against the wall; and to hear him passionately cry out, “O Varus, restore me my lost legions!" Who would not have been angry with that choleric Prophet, to hear him so furiously contest with his Maker, for a withered gourd? What an affliction was it to good Jacob, more than the sterility of a beloved wife, to hear Rachel say, Give me children, or else I die! Gen. xxx. 1: yea, how ill did it sound in the mouth of the Father of the Faithful; Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless! Gen. Yet, thus froward and techy is nature, in the best. If we may not have all we would have, all that we have is nothing: if we be not perfectly humoured, we are wilfully unthankful: all Israel is nothing worth to Ahab, if he may not have one poor vineyard. How must this needs irritate a munificent God, to see his bounty contemned, out of a childish pettishness! How can he forbear, to take away from us his slighted mercies? How can he hold his hand, from plaguing so ungrateful disrespects of his favours ?
As for that other passion of Grief, what woeful work doth it make in ungoverned minds! How many have we known, that, out of thought for unrecoverable losses, have lost themselves! how many have run from their wits! how many, from their lives! yea, how many, that, out of an impatience to stay the leisure of vengeance, have made their own hands their hasty executioners! And, even where this extremity prevails not, look about, and ye shall see men, that are not able matches to their passions, woefully macerating themselves, with their own thoughts; wearing out their tedious days, upon the rack of their own hearts; and making good that observation of the Wise Man, By the sorrow of the heart, the spirit is broken; Prov. xv. 13.
Now all these mischiefs might have been happily prevented, by a meek yieldance of ourselves to the hands of an all-wise and an all-merciful God; and, by an humble composure of our affections to a quiet suffering. It is in the power of patience, to calm the heart in the most blustering trials; and, when the vessel is most
tossed, yet to secure the freight; Ps. xxxvii. 7. James v. 7. This, if it do not abate of our burden, yet it adds to our strength; and wins the Father of Mercies, both to pity and retribution: whereas, murmuring Israelites can never be free from judgments; and it is a dreadful word, that God speaketh of that chosen nation, Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest: it, still, yelleth against me; therefore have I hated it; Jer. xii. 8. A child, that struggles under the rod, justly doubles his stripes; and an unruly malefactor draws on, besides death, tortures.
[8.] Furthermore, it is a main help towards Contentation, to consider the Gracious Vicissitudes of God's Dealing with us: how he intermixes favours with his crosses; tempering our much honey, with some little gall. The best of us are but shrewd children; yet, he chides us not always, saith the Psalmist; Ps. ciii. 9. He smiles often, for one frown; and why should we not take one with another? It was the answer, wherewith that admirable Pattern of Patience stopped the querulous mouth of his tempting wife; What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Job ii. 10.
It was a memorable example, which came lately to my knowledge, of a worthy Christian, who had lived to his middle age in much health and prosperity; and was now, for his two last years, miserably afflicted with the strangury who, in the midst of his torments, could say, "O my Lord God, how gracious hast thou been unto me! thou hast given me eight and forty years of health, and now but two years of pain. Thou mightest have caused me to lie in this torture, all the days of my life; and now, thou hast carried me comfortably through the rest, and hast mercifully taken up with this last parcel of my torment. Blessed be thy name for thy mercy, in forbearing me; and for thy justice, in afflicting me." To be thankful for present blessings, is but ordinary; but, to be so thankful for mercies past, that the memory of them should be able to put over the sense of present miseries, is a high improvement of grace.
The very heathens, by the light of nature and their own experience, could observe this interchange of God's proceedings; and made some kind of use of them, accordingly. Camillus, after he had, upon ten years' siege, taken the rich city Veios, prayed that some mishap might befal himself and Rome, to temper so great a happiness; when one would have thought the price would not countervail the labour, and the loss of time and blood: and Alexander the Great, when report was made to him of many notable victories atchieved by his armies, could say, "O Jupiter, mix some misfortune with these happy news." Lo, these men could tell, that it is neither fit nor safe, for great blessings to walk alone; but, that they must be attended with their pages, afflictions: why should not we Christians expect them with patience and thanks?
They say, thunder and lightning hurts not, if it be mixed with rain. In those hot countries, which lie under the scalding zone, when the first showers fall after a long drought, it is held dangerous to walk suddenly abroad; for that the earth, so moistened, sends up unwholesome steams: but, in those parts, where the rain and sunshine are usually interchanged, it is most pleasant to take the air of the earth, newly refreshed with kindly showers. Neither is it otherwise, in the course of our lives. This medley of good and evil conduces, not a little, to the health of our souls: one of them must serve to temper the other; and both of them to keep the heart in order.
Were our afflictions long, and our comforts rare and short, we had yet reason to be thankful: the least is more than God owes us but now, when if heaviness endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning, and dwells with us, so that some fits of sorrow are recompensed with many months of joy; how should our hearts overflow with thankfulness, and easily digest small grievances, out of the comfortable sense of larger blessings!
But, if we shall cast up our eyes to heaven, and there behold the glorious remuneration of our sufferings, how shall we contemn the worst, that earth can do unto us! There, there is glory enough, to make us a thousand times more than amends, for all that we are capable to endure. Yea, if this earth were hell, and men devils, they could not inflict upon us those torments, which might hold any equality with the glory which shall be revealed; and, even of the worst of them, we must say, with the blessed Apostle; Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding, eternal weight of glory; 2 Cor. iv. 17. When the blessed proto-martyr Stephen had stedfastly fixed his eyes on heaven; and, that curtain being drawn, had seen the heavens opened, and therein the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the righthand of God; Acts vii. 56. do we think he cared ought, for the sparkling eyes, and gnashed teeth, and killing stones of the enraged multitude? O poor impotent Jews, how far was that divine soul above the reach of your malice! how did he triumph over your cruelty! how did he, by his happy evolation, make all those stones precious!
[9.] Lastly, it cannot but be a powerful motive unto Contentation, that we lay before us the notable Examples of Men, whether worse or better than ourselves, that have been eminent in the practice of this virtue: men, that, out of the mere strength of morality, have run away with losses and poverty, as a light burden; that, out of their free choice, have fallen upon those conditions, which we are ready to fear and shrink from.
What a shame is it for Christians, to be outstripped herein by very Pagans?
If we look upon the ancient philosophers, their low valuation of these outward things, and their willing abdication of those comforts wherewith others were too much affected, made them admired of the multitude. Here do I see a cynic housed in his tub, scorn
ing all wealth and state; and making still even, with his victuals and the day who, when he was invited to supper to one of Alexander's great lords, could say, "I would rather lick salt at Athens, than feast with Craterus." Here I meet with him, whom their oracle styled the wisest of men, walking bare-foot in a patched, thread-bare cloak; contemning honours, and all earthly things: and, when that garment would hang no longer on his back, I can hear him say, "I would have bought a cloak, if I had had money:" "After which word," saith Seneca, "whosoever offered to give, came too late:" Apollodorus, amongst the rest, sends him a rich mantle, towards his end; and is refused: with what patience, doth this man bear the loud scoldings of his Xantippe; making no other of them, than the creaking of a cart-wheel! with what brave resolution, doth he repel the proffers of Archelaus; telling him how cheap the market afforded meal at Athens, and the fountains water! Here I meet with a Zeno, formerly rich in his traffic for purple, now impoverished by an ill sea-voyage; and can hear him say, "" I sailed best, when I shipwrecked." Here I see an Aristippus, drowning his gold in the sea, that it might not drown him. Here I can hear a Democritus, or Cleanthes, when he was asked how a man should be rich, answer, "If he be poor in desires." What should I speak of those Indian Sophists, that took their name from their nakedness; whom we hear to say †, "The sky is our house, and the earth our bed we care not for gold: we contemn death?" One of them can tell Onesicritus, "As the mother is to the child, so is the earth to me: the mother gives milk to her infant; so doth the earth yield all necessaries to me." And, when gold was offered to him, by that great conqueror, "Persuade," said he, " if thou canst, these birds, to take thy silver and gold, that they may sing the sweeter; and, if thou canst not do that, wouldst thou have me worse than them?" Adding, moreover, in a strong discourse, "natural hunger, when we have taken food, ceaseth; and, if the mind of man did also naturally desire gold, so soon as he hath received that which he wished, the desire and appetite of it would presently cease: but, so far is it from this satiety, that the more it hath, the more it doth, without any intermission, long for more; because this desire proceeds not from any motion of nature; but only out of the wantonness of man's own will, to which no bounds can be set." Blush, O Christian Soul, whosoever thou art that readest these lines, to hear such words falling from heathen lips; when thou seest those, that profess godliness, dote upon these worthless metals, and transported with the affection and cares of these earthly provisions.
If, from these patterns of men that should be below ourselves, we look up to the more noble precedents of Prophets and Apostles, lo, there, we find Elijah, fed by ravens; Elisha, boarding with his poor Sareptan hostess; a hundred prophets, fed by fifty in a cave, with bread and water; 1 Kings xviii. 13. the sons of + Inter Opera Ambrosii, De Moribus Brachmannorum.
the prophets, for the enlarging of their over-strait lodgings, hard at work they are their own carpenters, but their tools are borrowed; 2 Kings vi. 2-5. There, we shall find a few barley loaves and little fishes, the household provision of our Saviour's train. Yea, there, we find the most glorious Apostle, the great Doctor of the Gentiles, employing his hands to feed his belly; busily stitching of skins for his tent-work.
Yea, what do we look at any or all of these, when we see the Son of God, the God of all the World, in the form of a servant? Not a cratch to cradle him in, not a grave to bury him in, was his own and he, that could command heaven and earth, can say, The foxes have holes, and the birds have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head; Matt. viii. 20.
Who now can complain of want, when he hears his Lord and Saviour, but thus provided for? He could have brought down with him a celestial house, and have pitched it here below, too glorious for earthen eyes to have looked upon: he could have commanded all the precious things, that lie shrouded in the bowels of the earth, to have made up a majestical palace for him, to the dazzling of the eyes of all beholders: he could have taken up the stateliest court, that any earthly monarch possessed, for his peculiar habitation But his straitness was spiritual and heavenly and he, that owned all, would have nothing; that he might sanctify want unto us; and that he might teach us, by his blessed example, to sit down contented with any thing, with nothing.
By that time, therefore, we have laid all these things together, and have seriously considered of the Mean Valuation of all these Earthly Things, for their Transitoriness, Unsatisfaction, Danger; of the over-ruling Providence of the Almighty, who most wisely, justly, mercifully disposeth of us, and all events that befal us; of the worse Condition of many thousand Others; of the great Inconveniences that attend Great and Full Estates; of the secret Benefits of Poverty; of the Smallness of that Pittance that may Suffice Nature; of the Miseries that wait upon Discontentment; of the merciful Vicissitudes of Favours, wherewith God pleaseth to interchange our Sufferings; and, lastly, the great Examples of those, as well without as within the bosom of the Church, that have gone before us, and led us the way to Contentation: our judgment cannot chuse, but be sufficiently convinced, that there is abundant reason to win our hearts, to a quiet and contented entertainment of want, and all other outward afflictions.
(2.) But all these intervenient miseries are slight, in comparison of the last and utmost of evils, Death. Many a one grapples cheerfully with these trivial afflictions, who yet looks pale and trembles at the King of Fear. His very name hath terror in it; but his looks more. The courageous champion of Christ, the blessed Apostle, and, with him, every faithful soul, makes his challenge universal, to whatsoever estate he is in: to the estate of Death, therefore, no less than the afflictive incidents of life. When, therefore, this ghastly giant shall stalk forth, and bid defiance to the