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good-will and choicest benefits, to receive most cruel hatred and grievous injuries, to be loaded with the bitterest reproaches, the foulest slanders, the sorest pains which most spiteful malice could invent, or fiercest rage inflict, this was his lot: ' Am I poor?' so, may one say, was he to extremity; Am I slighted of the world? so was he notoriously; Am I disappointed and crossed in my designs? so was he continually, all his most painful endeavors having small effect: Am I deserted or betrayed of friends? so was he by those who were most intimate, and most obliged to him; Am I reviled, slandered, misused? Was not he so beyond all comparison most outrageously?
Have all these, and many more, of whom the world was not worthy,' undergone all sorts of inconvenience, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; and shall we then disdain or be sorry to be found in such company? Having such a cloud of martyrs, let us run with patience the race that is set before us.' Is it not an honor, should it not be a comfort to us, that we do in condition resemble them? If God hath thus dealt with those, who of all men have been dearest to him, shall we take it ill at his hands, that he in any manner dealeth so with us? Can we pretend, can we hope, can we even wish to be used better than God's first-born, and our Lord himself hath been? If we do, are we not monstrously fond and arrogant? especially considering that it is not only an ordinary fortune, but the peculiar character of God's chosen, and children, to be often crossed, checked, and corrected; even Pagans have observed it, and avowed there is great reason for it; God,' saith Seneca, hath a fatherly mind toward good men; and strongly loveth them-therefore after the manner of severe parents, he educateth them hardly,' &c. The Apostle doth in express terms assure us thereof; for, whom,' saith he, the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons but if ye be without chastisement, whereof all (that is, all good men, and genuine sons of God) are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.' Would we be illegitimated, or expunged from the number of God's true children; would we
be divested of his special regard and good-will? if not, why do we not gladly embrace, and willingly sustain adversity, which is by himself declared so peculiar a badge of his children, so constant a mark of his favor? if all good men do, as the Apostle asserteth, partake thereof;' shall we, by displeasure at it, show that we desire to be assuredly none of that party, that we affect to be discarded from that holy and happy society? Verily, verily, I say unto you, that he shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice.' It is peculiarly the lot of Christians, as such, in conformity to their afflicted Saviour; they are herein predestinated to be conformable to his image; to this they are appointed.' (Let no man,' saith St. Paul, be moved by these afflictions, for ye know that we are appointed thereunto :') to this they are called, (if when ye do well,' saith St. Peter, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; for even hereunto were ye called,') this is propounded to them as a condition to be undertaken and undergone by them as such; they are by profession crucigeri, bearers of the cross; (if any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me; every one that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution :') by this are they admitted into the state of Christians; (by many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven;') this doth qualify them for enjoying the glorious rewards, which their religion propoundeth; (we are coheirs with Christ;' so that, if we suffer together, we shall also together be glorified with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him :') and shall we then pretend to be Christians, shall we claim any benefit from thence, if we are unwilling to submit to the law, to attend the call, to comply with the terms thereof? Will we enjoy its privileges, can we hope for its rewards, if we will not contentedly undergo what it requireth? Shall we arrive to the end it propoundeth, without going in the way it prescribeth, the way which our Lord himself doth lead us in, and himself hath trod before us?
In fine, seeing adversity is, as hath been declared, a thing so natural to all men, so common to most men, so incident to great men, so proper to good men, so peculiar to Christians,
we have great reason to observe the Apostle's advice, Beloved, wonder not concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you, as if some strange thing happened to you;' we should not wonder at it as a strange or uncouth thing, that we are engaged in any trouble or inconvenience here; we are consequently not to be affected with it as a thing very grievous.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XLI.
PHILIPPIANS, CHAP IV.-VERSE 11.
MOREOVER a consideration of the nature of this duty itself may be a great inducement and aid to the practice of it.
1. It is a sovereign remedy for all poverty and all sufferance; removing them, or allaying all the mischief they can do to us. The condition of him who hath contentment, a most essential ingredient of happiness, is as good as that of the most prosperous of mankind.
2. Yea it is much better than can arise from any secular prosperity; for satisfaction springing from rational consideration and virtuous disposition of mind, is far more precious, more noble, more solid and durable, more delectable, than that which any fruition of worldly goods can afford: this subject fully enlarged on.
3. Even the sensible smart of adversity is by contentedness somewhat tempered and eased: the stiller and quieter we lie under it, the less we feel its violence and pungency: it is the rubbing of our sores that inflames and exasperates them.
4. Wherefore, if others in our distress are uncharitable to us, refusing the help they might or should afford for our relief, we may hereby become charitable, and great benefactors to ourselves.
5. The contentedly bearing our condition is also the most hopeful and ready way of bettering it, and removing the pressure under which we lie. It is partly so in a natural way, as disposing us to embrace and employ advantages which occur; and also on a supernatural account; for cheerful submission to
God's will pleases him much, and disposes him to advance us into a more comfortable state. It is indeed to check our forward humor, to curb our impetuous desires, and to suppress our fond admiration of worldly things, that God inflicts hardships on us, crosses our projects, and detains us in any troublesome state: if then we wish ever to be in a good case as to this world, let us learn to be contented in a bad one. These are the most proper inducements to contentment: but besides these there are other means, some general, and some more particular, conducive to its production.
1. A constant endeavor to live well, and to maintain a good conscience for he that doth this, can hardly be dismayed or disturbed by any occurrence here: this supported the Apostles under afflictions.
2. The contemplation of our future state. By considering heaven and its happiness, how low and sordid, how unworthy of our care and affection, will these inferior things appear! For this cause, saith St. Paul, we faint not, &c.
3. Constant devotion is an excellent instrument of contentment, and remedy against discontent. It is such in way of impetration, procuring the removal or alleviation of our troubles; for God hath promised that he will give good things to those that ask him, &c.: also by procuring grace and aid from God, which may dispose and enable us to bear all evils well; which is really much better than a removal of them; since they become wholesome and profitable to us. Devotion also has immediately of itself a special efficacy to produce content, strengthening our faith, quickening our hope, and inflaming our love of God, &c. These are general remedies and duties. Farther,
4. Reflexion on our own imperfection and unworthiness serves to produce contentedness, by exciting a lively sense of our guilt and hearty sorrow for it in our minds: this diverts our