« PředchozíPokračovat »
constancy in him, that there should be "yea and nay" in his promises; but they are all "yea and amen.' Thy heart can tell thee that thou hast often broken vow and promise with him, and dealt unfaithfully in his covenant; but do not offer him that indignity, in addition to all thy other injuries, as to measure him by thyself, to judge of his feelings by thine, and to think him altogether such an one as thyself, so false, so fickle, so uncertain as thou art. Far be all such thoughts from every one of us! Though we deny him, yet he abideth faithful, and will not, cannot deny himself. We are fleeting and mutable, off and on; to-day not the same as we were yesterday and to-morrow, perhaps, like neither of the former days; yet he continueth yesterday, to-day, and the same for evermore. Roll thyself then upon his providence, and repose thyself with assured confidence upon his promises, and contentment will follow. Upon this base the apostle hath betokened contentation. (Heb. xiii. 5.) "Be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
The next thing we are to look after in this business is humility and poverty of spirit. It is our pride most that undoeth us; much of our discontent springeth from it. We think highly of ourselves; thence our envy, fretting and pining away, when we see others who we think deserve not much better than we do to have yet much more than we have, wealth, honor, power, ease, reputation, anything. Pride and beggary sort ill together, even in our own judgments; so hateful a thing is a proud beggar in the opinion of the world, that proverbs have grown from it; we think he better deserveth the stocks or the whip, than an alms, that beggeth at our doors, and yet taketh scornfully what is given him if it be not of the best in the house. Can we hate this in others towards ourselves, and yet be so blind with the future. Only understand those promises rightly, with their due pride and self-love as not to discern the same hateful disposition in ourselves towards our good God? Extremely beggarly we are. Are we not very beggars, that came naked into the world, and must go naked out of it ?—that brought nothing along with us at our coming, and it is certain we shall carry nothing away with us at our departure? Are we not errant beggars, that must beg, and that
daily, for our daily bread ?—and yet are we also extremely proud, and take the alms, that God thinketh fit to bestow upon us, in great snuff*, if it be not every way to our liking. Alas! what could we look for if God should give us but what we deserve? Did we but well consider our own unworthiness, it would enforce an acknowledgment from us, like that of Jacob, that we are far "less than the least of his mercies," &c. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under his table, as our dogs do under ours, who far better deserve it at our hands than we do at his. Our hands did not make them nor fashion them, yet they love us, and follow us, and guard our houses, and do us pleasures and services many other ways; but we, although we are his creatures, and the workmanship of his hands, yet do nothing (as of ourselves) but hate him, and dishonor him, and rebel against him, and by most unworthy provocation daily and minutely tempt his patience; and what good thing, then, can we deserve at his hands ?—rather, what evil thing do we not deserve, if he should render to us according as we deal with him? Why should we then be displeased with any of his dispensations? Having deserved nothing, we may very well hold ourselves content with anything.
A third help unto contentation is to set a just valuation upon the things we have. We commonly have our eye upon those things that we desire, and set so great a price upon them, that the overvaluing of what we have in chase and expectation maketh us much undervalue what we have in present possession; an infirmity to which the best of the faithful (the father of the faithful not excepted) are subject. It was the speech of no worse a man than Abraham: "O Lord," saith he, "what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?" as if he had said, "All this great increase of cattle, and abundance of treasure, which thou hast given me, avail me nothing so long as I have never a child to leave it to." It differeth not much, you see, from the speech of discontented Haman, "All this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai," &c., save that Abraham's speech proceeded from the weakness of his faith at that time, and under that temptation, and Haman's from habitual infidelity, and a heart totally carnal. It is the ad. • Snuff, perverse resentment.
mirable goodness of a gracious God that he accepteth the faith of his poor servants, be it never so small, and passeth by the defects thereof, be they never so great; only it should be our care not to flatter ourselves so far as to cherish those infirmities, or allow ourselves therein, but rather to strive against them with our utmost strength, that we may overcome the temptation; and that is best done by casting our eye, as well upon what we have, and could not well be without, as upon what we fain would have, but might want. The things the Lord hath already lent thee, consider how useful they are to thee; how beneficial, how comfortable; how ill thou couldst spare them; how much worse thou shouldst be, than now thou art without them; how many men in the world, that want what thou enjoyest, would be glad, with all their hearts, to exchange for it that which thou so much desirest. And let these considerations prevail with thee, both to be thankful for what God hath been pleased already to give thee, and to be content to want what it is his pleasure yet to withhold from thee.
Another help for the same purpose, fourthly, is to compare ourselves and our estates rather with those that are below us, than with those that are above us. We love comparisons but too well unless we could make better use of them. We run over all our neighbors in our thoughts, and when we have so done we make our comparisons so untowardly, that there is no neighbor we have, but (as we handle the matter) we are the worse for him; we find in him something or other that serveth as fuel, either to our pride, or uncharitableness, or other corrupt lusts. We look at our poorer
neighbor, and, because we are richer than he, we cast a scornful eye upon him, and in the pride of our hearts despise him. We look at our richer neighbor, and, because we are not so full as he, we cast an envious eye upon him, and, out of the uncharitableness of our hearts malice him. Thus, unhappily, do we misplace our thoughts, or misapply them, and, whatsoever the promises are, draw wretched conclusions from them-as the spider is said to suck poison out of every flower; whereas sanctified wisdom, if it might be heard, would rather teach us to make a holy advantage of such-like comparisons for the increase of some precious graces in us; and, namely, these two of thankfulness and contentedness, as the bee gathereth honey out of every weed. And the course is
this observe thy present corruption, whatever it be, when it beginneth to stir within thee, and then make the comparison so as may best serve to weaken the temptation arising from that lust. As for example: when thou findest thyself apt to magnify and exalt thyself in thine own greatness, and puffed up with the conceit of some excellency (whether real or but imaginary) in thyself, to swell above thy meaner brethren, then look upwards, and thou shalt see, perhaps, hundreds above thee that have something that thou hast not. It may be, the comparing of thyself with them may help to allay the swelling, and reduce thee to a more sober and humble temper. But when, on the other side, thou findest thyself apt to grudge at the prosperity of others, and to murmur at the scantiness of thine own portion, then look downwards, and thou shalt see, perhaps, thousands below thee that want something that thou hast. It may be, the comparing thyself with them may help to silence all those repining thoughts and obmurmurations against the wise dispensations of almighty God; for, tell me, why should one or two richer neighbors be such a grievous eyesore to thee, to provoke this discontent, rather than ten or twenty poorer ones a spur to quicken thee to thankfulness? If reason, by the instigation of corrupt nature, can teach thee to argue thus:-" My house, my farm, my stock, my whole condition is naught; many a man hath better;" why should not reason, heightened by God's grace, teach thee as well to argue thus:-"Mine are good enough; many a good man hath worse?"
Fifthly, for the getting of contentment, it would not a little avail us to consider the insufficiency of those things, the want whereof now discontenteth us, to give us content if we should obtain them; not only for that reason, that as the things increase, our desires also increase with them (which yet is most true, and of very important consideration too, as Solomon saith, "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver,") but for a farther reason also, because, with the best conveniences of this life, there are interwoven sundry inconveniences withal, which, for the most part, the eagerness of our desires will not suffer us to foresee whilst we have them in chase, but we shall be sure to find them at length in the possession and use. Whilst we are in pursuit of anything, we think ever and ever how beneficial it may be to us, and we prom
ise to ourselves much good from it; and our thoughts are so taken up with such meditations, that we consider it abstractedly from those discommodiousnesses and incumbrances which yet inseparably cleave thereunto; but when we have gotten what we so importunely desired, and think to enter upon the enjoyment, we then begin to find those discommodiousnesses and incumbrances which before we never thought of, as well as those services and advantages which we expected from it. Now, if we could be so wise and provident beforehand, as to forethink and forecast the inconveniences as well as the usefulness of those things we seek after, it would certainly bring our desires to better moderation, work in us a just disestimation of these earthly things which we usually overprize, and make us the better contented if we go without them— as Damocles said of his diadem, what a glorious lustre doth the imperial crown make to dazzle the eyes of the beholders, and to tempt ambition to wade even through a sea of blood, and stretch itself beyond all the lines of justice and religion to get within the reach of it! Yet, did a man but know what legions of fears and cares, like so many restless spirits, are encircled within that narrow round, he could not be excused from the extremity of madness if the should much envy him that wore it; much less if he should by villainy or bloodshed aspire to it. When Damocles had the sword hanging over his head in a twine thread, he had little stomach to eat of those delicacies that stood before him upon the board, which a little before he deemed the greatest happiness the world could afford. There is nothing under the sun but is full, not of vanity only, but also of vexation; why then should we not be well content to be without that thing (if it be the Lord's will we should want it), which we cannot have without much vanity, and some vexation withal?
In the sixth place, a notable help to contentment is sobriety, under which name I comprehend both frugality and temperance. Frugality is of very serviceable use, partly to the acquiring, partly to the exercising of every man's graces and virtues, as magnificence, justice, liberality, thankfulness, &c., and this contentation among the rest. Hardly can that man be either truly thankful unto God, or much helpful to his friends, or do any great matters in the way of charity and to pious uses, or keep touch in his