« AnteriorContinuar »
under it, the less we feel its violence and pungency: it is tumbling and tossing that stirreth the ill humors, and driveth them to the parts most weak, and apt to be affected with them; the rubbing of our sores is that which inflameth and exasperateth them where the mind is calm, and the passions settled, the pain of any grievance is in comparison less acute, less sensible.
4. Whence, if others in our distress are uncharitable to us, refusing the help they might or should afford toward the rescuing us from it, or relieving us in it, we hereby may be charitable and great benefactors to ourselves; we should need no anodyne to be ministered from without, no succor to come from any creature, if we would not be wanting to ourselves, in hearkening to our own reason, and enjoying the consolation which it affordeth. In not doing this, we are more uncharitable and cruel to ourselves, than any spiteful enemy or treacherous friend can be; no man can so wrong or molest us, as we do ourselves, by admitting or fostering discontent.
5. The contented bearing of our condition is also the most hopeful and ready means of bettering it, and of removing the pressures we lie under.
It is partly so in a natural way, as disposing us to embrace and employ the advantages which occur conducible thereto : for as discontent blindeth men, so that they cannot descry the ways of escape from evil, it dispiriteth and discourageth them from endeavoring to help themselves, it depriveth them of many succors and expedients, which occasion would afford for their relief; so he that being undisturbed in his spirit hath his eyes open and his courage up, and all his natural powers in order, will be always ready and able to do his best, to act vigorously, to snatch any opportunity, and employ any means toward the freeing himself from what appeareth grievous to him.
On a supernatural account, content is yet more efficacious to the same purpose: for cheerful submission to God's will doth please him much, doth strongly move him to withdraw his afflicting hand, doth effectually induce him to advance us into a most comfortable state of all virtues, there is none more acceptable to God than patience. God will take it well at our hands if we do contentedly receive from his hand the worst
things it is a monstrous thing not to receive prosperity with grateful sense, but it is heroical with the same mind to receive things unpleasant : he that doth so ζημιοῦται μὲν ὡς ἄνθρωπος, στεφανοῦται δὲ ὡς φιλόθεος,* he suffereth loss as a man, but is crowned as a lover of God.' Besides that, it is an unreasonable thing to think of enjoying both rest and pleasure here, and the rewards hereafter; our consolation here with Dives, and our refreshment hereafter with Lazarus.
Be humbled,' saith St. Peter, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time,' (ev kapų, when it is opportune and seasonable;) and, Be humbled,' saith St. James, before the Lord, and he will exalt you ;' and, When,' saith Job's friends, men are cast down, then thou shalt say there is lifting up, and he will save the humble person.' God with favorable pity hearkeneth to the groans of them who are humbly contrite' under his hand, and reverently tremble at his word;' he 'reviveth the spirit of the humble;' he is nigh to the broken of heart,' and 'saveth such as are of a contrite spirit ;' 'he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds;' he proclaimeth blessedness to the poor in spirit,' and 'to those that mourn,' because they shall find comfort and mercy all which declarations and promises are made concerning those who bear adversity with a submiss and contented mind; and we see them effectually performed in the cases of Ahab, of the Ninivites, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Manasses, of Hezekiah, of David; of all persons mentioned in holy Scripture, on whom adversities had such kindly operations. But discontent and impatience do offend God, and provoke him to continue his judgments, yea to increase the load of them: to be sullen and stubborn is the sure way to render our condition worse and more intolerable: for, who hath hardened himself against God and prospered?' The Pharaohs and Sauls, and such like persons, who rather would break than bend, who, being dissatisfied with their condition, chose rather to lay hold on other imaginary succors, than to have recourse to God's mercy and help; those, who (like the refractory Israelites) have been smitten in vain' as to any quiet submission or conversion
Chrys. tom. vi. Or. 89.
unto God, what have they but plunged themselves deeper into wretchedness?
It is indeed to quell our haughty stomach, to check our froward humor, to curb our impetuous desires, to calm our disorderly passions, to suppress our fond admiration and eager affection toward these worldly things, in short, to work a contented mind in us, that God ever doth inflict any hardships on us, that he crosseth us in our projects, that he detaineth us in any troublesome state; until this be achieved, as it is not expedient that we should be eased, as relief would really be no blessing to us; so God (except in anger and judgment) will nowise grant or dispense it; it would be a cruel mercy for him to do it. If therefore we do wish ever to be in a good case as to this world, let us learn to be contented in a bad one: having got this disposition firmly rooted in our hearts, we are qualified for deliverance and preferment; nor will God fail in that due season to perform for us what he so often hath declared and promised; his nature disposeth him, his word hath engaged him to help and comfort us.
These are the most proper inducements unto contentedness, which, considering (in the light of reason and holy Scripture) the nature of the thing, suggested unto my meditation: there are beside some other means advisable, (some general, some more particular,) which are very conducible to the production of content, or removing discontent; which I shall touch, and then conclude.
1. A constant endeavor to live well, and to maintain a good conscience he that doth this can hardly be dismayed or disturbed with any occurrence here; this will yield a man so ample and firm a satisfaction of mind, as will bear down the sense of any incumbent evils; this will beget such hope in God, and so good assurance of his favor, as will supply the want of all other things, and fully satisfy us that we have no cause to be troubled with any thing here; he that by conscientious practice hath obtained such a hope, is prepared against all assaults of fortune with an undaunted mind and force impregnable; He will,' as the psalmist saith, not be afraid of any evil tidings, for his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.' Maintaining this will free us from all anxious care, transferring it on
God; it will breed a sure confidence that he will ever be ready to supply us with all things convenient, to protect and deliver us from all things hurtful; insuring to us the effect of that promise, by the conscience of having performed the condition thereof: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.'
This was that which supported the Apostles, and kept them cheerful under all that heavy load of distresses which lay on them; Our rejoicing is this,' could they say, 'the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity-we have had our conversation in this world.'
It is the want of this best pleasure, that both rendereth the absence of all other pleasures grievous, and their presence insipid: had we a good conscience, we could not seem to want comfort; as we could not truly be unhappy, so we could hardly be discontent; without it, no affluence of other things can suffice to content us. It is an evil conscience that giveth an edge to all other evils, and enableth them sorely to afflict us, which otherwise would but slightly touch us; we become thence uncapable of comfort, seeing not only things here on earth to cross us, but heaven to lower on us; finding no visible succor, and having no hope from the power invisible; yea having reason to be discouraged with the fear of God's displeasure. As he that hath a powerful enemy near cannot abide in peace, without anxious suspicion and fear; so he that is at variance with the Almighty, who is ever at hand, ready to cross and punish him, what quiet of mind can he enjoy? There is no peace to the wicked.'
2. The contemplation of our future state is a sovereign medicine to work contentedness and to cure discontent: as discontent easily doth seize on, and cleaveth fast to souls, which earnestly do pore and dote on these present things, which have in them nothing satisfactory or stable; so if we can raise our minds firmly to believe, seriously to consider, and worthily to prize the future state and its concernments, we can hardly ever be discontent in regard to these things. Considering heaven and its happiness, how low and mean, how sordid and vile, how unworthy of our care and our affection, will these inferior things appear! how very unconcerned shall we see ourselves to be in
them, and how easily thence shall we be content to want them! What, shall any of us be then ready to say, doth it concern me in what rank or garb I pass my few days here? what considerable interest can I have in this uncertain and transitory state? what is any loss, any disgrace, any cross in this world to me, who am a citizen of heaven, who have a capacity and hope of the immense riches, the incorruptible glories, the perfect and endless joys of eternity? This was that which sustained the holy Apostles in all their distresses; for this cause,' saith St. Paul, 'we faint not-while we look not on the things which are seen, but on the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal:' and, I reckon,' saith he again, that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.'
If likewise we do with faith and seriousness consider the dismal state below of those, who are eternally secluded from all joy and bliss, who are irrecoverably condemned to utter darkness and the extremity of horrible pain, how tolerable, how pleasant, how very happy will the meanest state here appear to be? how vain a thing will it then seem to us to be to dislike, or to be troubled with any worldly thing; to account any chance happening to us to be sad or disastrous? What, shall we say then, each of us, is this same loss to the loss of my soul and all its comforts for ever? what is this want to the perpetual want of heavenly bliss? what is this short and faint pain to the cruel pangs of endless remorse, to the weeping and gnashing of teeth in outward darkness, to everlasting burnings?'
Thus infinitely silly and petty must all concernments of this life appear to him, who is possessed with the belief and consideration of matters relating to the future state; whence discontent, in regard to them, can hardly find access to his mind.
3. Constant devotion is an excellent instrument and guard of content, an excellent remedy and fence against discontent.
It is such in way of impetration, procuring the removal or alleviation of our crosses: for God hath promised that he will give good things to those that ask him ;' The Lord is nigh