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The ART of Contentment.

By the Author of THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN, &c.

It is but lost labor, that ye hasten to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness: for so he giveth his be­loved sleep. Psal. 127. 3.

At the THEATER in OXFORD. M. DC. LXXV.

Imprimatur,

RAD. BATHVRST. Vice-Cancell. Oxon.

THE PREFACE.

THE desire of happiness is so coessential with our nature, so interwoven and incorporate with it; that nothing but the dissolution of the whole frame can extinguish it. This runs thro the whole race of mankind, and amidst the infinit variety of other inclina­tions, preserves its self entire. The most various contradictory tempers do [Page] yet conspire in this, and men of the most unequal fortunes, are yet equal in their wishes of being happy.

But this concurrence as to the end is not more universal then the disa­greement about the way. Every man would have happiness, but wherein that consists, or how it is to be at­tain'd, has bin very diversly opin'd. Indeed the ultimate supreme happi­ness as it is originally inherent in God, so it is wrapt up in those clouds and darkness, which, as the Psalmist saies, are round about him Psal. 18. 11. And we can see nothing of it, but in those gleams and raies he is pleas'd to dart out upon us; so that all our estimates as to our final feli­city, must be mesur'd by those revela­tions he has made of it.

[Page] But one would think our temporal happiness were as much a mystery as our eternal, to see what variety of blind pursuits are made after it. One man thinks tis seated on the top pin­nacle of honor, and climbs till per­haps he falls head-long. Another thinks it a mineral, that must be dig'd out of the earth, and toils to lade himself with thick clay, Hab. 2. 6. and at last finds a grave, where he sought his tresure. A third supposes it consists in the variety of pleasures, and wearies himself in that pursuit, which only cloies, and disappoints. Yet every one of these can read you lectures of the gross mistake and folly of the other, whilst himself is equal­ly deluded.

Thus do men chase an imaginary [Page] good, till they meet with real evils; herein exposing themselves to the same cheat Laban put upon Jacob, they serve for Rachel, and are rewarded with Leah, court fancied beauty, and marry loath'd deformity. Such delusive felicities as these are the largesses of the Prince of the Air, who once at­temted to have enveigled even Christ himself, Mat. 4.

But Gods proposals are more sin­cere: he knows how sandy, how false a foundation all these external things must make, and therefore warns us not to build so much as our present satisfa­ction upon them, but shews us a more certain, a more compendious way to acquire what we gasp after, by tel­ling us that as Godliness in respect of the next, so contentment for this [Page] world is great gain 1 Tim. 6. 6. It is indeed the unum necessarium, the one point in which all the lines of wordly happiness are concentred, and to complete its excellence, tis to be had at home: nay indeed only there. We need not ramble in wild pursuits after it, we may form it within our own breasts: no man wants materials for it, that knows but how to put them together.

And the directing to that skill is the only design of the ensuing Tract, which coming upon so kind an er­rand, may at least hope for an unpre­judic'd reception. Contentment is a thing we all profess to aspire to, and therefore it cannot be thought an un­friendly office to endeavor to conduct men to it. How far the ensuing con­siderations [Page] may tend to that end, I must leave to the judgment, and ex­perience of the Reader, only desiring him that he will weigh them with that seriousness which befits a thing wherein both his happiness and duty are concern'd: for in this (as in ma­ny other instances) God has so twist­ed them together, that we cannot be innocently miserable. The present in­felicities, have an appendant guilt, which will consign us to a more irre­versible state of dissatisfaction here­after.

THE ART OF CONTENTMENT.

SECT. I.
Of the necessary Connexion be­tween Happiness and Con­tentment.

1. GOD who is essentially hap­py in himself, can receive no accession to his felicity by the poor contributions of men. He cannot there­fore be suppos'd to have made them up­on intuition of increasing, but com­municating his happiness. And this his ori­ginal [Page 2] design is very visible in all the parts of his Economy towards them. When lapsed man had counterplotted against himself, defeated the purpose of the Di­vine goodness, and plunged his whole nature into the opposite state of endless mi­sery; he yet reinforc'd his first design, and an expedient as full of wonder as mercy, the death of his Son, recovers him to his former capacity of bliss. And that it might not only be a bare capacity, he has added all other methods proper to work upon a rational creature. He has shewed him his danger, set before him in perspective that eternal Tophet, which he is advis'd to shun. On the other side he has no less lively describ'd the heavenly Jerusalem, the Celestial country to which he is to aspire: nay farther has levell'd his road to it, leads him not as he did the Israelites thro the wilderness, thro intricate mazes to puzle his understand­ing; thro a land of drought wherein were fiery Serpents and Scorpions, Deut. 8. 15. to discourage and affright him: but has in the Gospel chalkt out a plain, a safe, nay a plesant path; as much superior both in the ease of the way, and in the end to which it leads, as heaven is to Canaan.

[Page 3] 2. BY doing this he has not only se­cured our grand and ultimate happiness, but provided for our intermedial also. Those Christian duties which are to carry us to heaven, are our refreshments, our viaticum in our journy: his yoke is not to gall and fret us, but an engine by which we may with ease (and almost insensibly) draw all the clogs and incumbrances of humane life. For whether we take Chri­stianity in its whole complex, or in its several and distinct branches, tis certain­ly the most excellent, the most com­pendious art of happy living: its very tasks are rewards, and its precepts are nothing but a divine sort of Alchymy, to sublime at once our nature and our ple­sures.

3. THIS may be evidenc'd in every particular of the Evangelical law: but having formerly made some attemt to­wards it in anotherDecay of Christian Piety. tract, I shall not here reassume the whole sub­ject. I shall only single out one particular precept, wherein happiness is not (as in the others) only implied, and must be catcht at the rebound by conse­quence and event; but is literally exprest, and is the very matter of the duty; I [Page 4] mean the precept of acquiescence and Contentment. Happiness and this true ge­nuine Contentment, being terms so con­vertible, that to bid us be content, is but another phrase for bidding us be happy.

4. TEMPORAL enjoiments, such as are plesure, wealth, honor, and the rest, tho they make specious pretences to be the mesure of human happiness, are all of them justly discarded by the Philosopher in his Ethics, upon this one considerati­on, that coming from abroad they may be with-held or taken from us: and our tenure being precarious, we even for that rea­son are unhappy in our most desirable pos­sessions, because we still are liable to be so. And therefore he concludes, that fe­licity must be placed in the mind and soul, which stands without the reach of fortune; and in the practice of vertue, which in its own nature, and not in its contingent use is truly good, and therefore certainly renders the possessors such.

5. BUT this practice being diffused thro the whole extent of Moral duty, E­pictetus thought he had deserved well of human nature, when he drew it up in two short words, to sustain and abstain: that is to bear with constancy adverse events, [Page 5] and with moderation enjoy those that are prosperous. Which complexure of Phi­losophy is yet more fully, as well as more compendiously exprest in the single no­tion of Contentment: which involves the patient bearing of all misadventures, and generous contemt of sensual illectives. This state of mind the Greeks express by calling it [...] or self-sufficiency, which, we know properly speaking, is one of the incommunicable attributes of the divine nature: and the Stoics expresly pretend, that by it mortal men are enabled to rival their Gods; in Seneca's phrase, to make a controversy with Jupiter him­self. But abating the insolent blasphemy of an independent felicity, Christianity acknowledges a material truth in the as­sertion: and St. Paul declares of himself, that having learnt how to want and how to abound, and in whatever state he happens to be in, therewith to be content: he is a­ble to do all things thro Christ that strength­ens him, Phil. 4. 11. 12, 13. and having no­thing, to possess all things. 2 Cor. 6. 10.

6. WHICH great event comes about, not only because all good things are emi­nently in the divine nature, and he who by Vertue and Religion possesses Him, there­by [Page 6] by, in a full equivalence has every thing; but also upon human mesures, and the principles of Philosophy: the compendi­ous address to wealth, as Plato rightly ob­serv'd, being not to encrease possessions, but lessen desires. And if so, twill follow that the contented man must be abundant­ly provided for, being so entirely satisfied with what he has, as to have no desires at all. Indeed tis truly said of covetous men, and is equally verified of all who have any desire to gratify, that they want no less what they have, then what they have not: but the reverse of that Paradox is really made good by Contentment, which bestowes on men the enjoiment of whatever they have, and also whatever they have not; and by teaching to want nothing, abun­dantly secures not to want happiness.

7. ON the other side this one grace being absent, it is not in the power of any success or affluence to make life a tole­rable thing. Let all the materials of earth­ly happiness be amast together and flung upon one man, they will without con­tentment be but like the fatal prize of Tar­peia's treason, who was prest to death with the weight of her booty. He that has the elements of felicity, and yet cannot form [Page 7] them into a satisfaction, is more despe­rately miserable then he that wants them: for he who wants them has yet something to hope for, and thinks if he had them he might be happy; but he who insig­nificantly possesses them, has no reserve, has not so much as the Flattery of an ex­pectation: for he has nothing left to de­sire, and yet can be as little said to en­joy.

8. HE therefore that would have the extract, the quintessence of happiness, must seek it in Content. All outward accessions are but the dross and earthy part: this alone is the spirit, which when tis once separated, depends not upon the fate of the other; but preserves its vigor when that is de­stroi'd. St. Paul whom I before mention'd, is a ready instance of it, who professes to be content in what ever state. Contentment being not so inseparately link'd to external things, but that they may subsist apart. That those are often without it we are too sure, and that it may be without them is as certainly true; tho by our own de­fault we have not so many examples of it. A heart that rightly computes the difference between temporals and eter­nals, may resolve with the Prophet, Al­tho [Page 8] the figtree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herds in the stall; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my Salvation. Hab. 3. 17. 18. He that has God need not much deplore the want of any thing else: nor can he that considers the plenty and glory of his fu­ture state, be much dejected with the want or the abjectness of his present.

9. YET so indulgent is God to our infirmities, that knowing how unapt our impatient natures are to walk only by faith, and not at all by sight 2 Cor. 5. 7. he is pleas'd to give us fair antepasts of sa­tisfaction here, dispenses his temporal blessings tho not equally, yet so univer­sally, that he that has least, has enough to oblige not only his acquiescence, but his thankfulness. Tho every man has not all he wishes, yet he has that which is more valuable then that he complains to want; nay which he himself could worse spare were it put to his option.

10. AND now from such a disposure of things who would not expect that man­kind should be the cheerfullest part of the [Page 9] creation: that the sun should not more rejoice to run his course Psal. 19. 5. then man should to finish his: that a journy which has so blessed an end, and such good accommodation by the way, should be past with all imaginable alacrity, and that we should live here practicers and learners, of that state of unmix'd inter­minable joies to which we aspire. But alas if we look upon the universality of men, we shall find it nothing so; but while all other creatures gladsomly fol­low the order of their creation, take ple­sure in those things God has assign'd for them, we with a fullen perversness quar­rel at what we should enjoy, and in eve­ry thing make it our business, not to fit it for our use, but to find out some con­celed quality which may render it unfit. We look insidiously upon our blessings, like men that design'd only to pick a quar­rel, and start a pretence for mutining. From hence it is that man who was de­sign'd the Lord of the world, to whose satisfaction all inferior beings were to contribute, is now the unhappiest of the creatures: nay as if the whole order of the universe were inverted, he becomes slave to his own vassals, courts all these [Page 10] little sublunary things with such passion, that if they prove coy and fly his embra­ces, he is mad and desperate: if they fling themselves into his Arms, he is then glut­ted and satiated; like Amnon he hates more then he loved 2 Sam. 13. 15. and is sicker of his possession, then he was of his desire.

10. AND thus will it ever be till we can keep our desires more at home, and not suffer them to ramble after things without our reach. That honest Roman who from his extraordinary industry up­on his little spot of ground received such an increase as brought him under suspi­cion of witchcraft, is a good example for us. God has placed none of us in so barren a soil, in so forlorn a state, but there is somthing in it which may afford us comfort; let us husband that to the ut­most, and tis scarce imaginable what im­provements, even he that appears the most miserable may make of his condition. But if in a sullen humor we will not cul­tivate our own field, because we have perhaps more mind to our neighbors, we may thank our selves if we starve. The despising of what God has already given us, is sure but a cold invitation to farther bounty. Men are indeed forced somtimes [Page 11] to reward the mutinous: but God is not to be so attaqued, nor is it that sort of vio­lence which can ever force heaven. The Heathen could say that Jupiter sent his plagues among the poorer sort of men, because they were alwaies repining: and indeed there is so much of truth in the observation, that our impatience and dis­content at our present condition, is the greatest provocation to God to make it worse.

11. IT must therefore be resolv'd to be very contrary to our interest, and surely tis no less too our duty. It is so if we do but own our selves men, for in that is im­pli'd a subordination and submission to that power which made us so; and to dispute his managery of the world, to make other distributions of it then he has don, is to renounce our subjection, and set up for dominion. But this is yet more intole­rable as we are Christians, it being a spe­cial part of the Evangelical discipline, cherefully to conform to any condition: to know how to be abased, and how to abound, to be full and to be hungry, Phil. 4. 12. to be careful for nothing ver. 6. Nay so little do's Christ give countenance to our peevish dis­contents, our wanton out-cries when we [Page 12] are not hurt, that he requires more then a contentment, an exultancy and transport of joy even under the heaviest pressures, under reproches and persecutions. Re­joice ye in that day, and leap for joy Lu. 6. 23. And sure nothing can be more con­trary to this, then to be alwaies whining and complaining, crying in the Prophets phrase, my leanness my leanness, wo is me. Isa. 24. 16. When perhaps Moses's simile do's better fit our state, Iesurun waxed fat and kicked. Deut. 32. 15.

12. AND as this querulous humor is against our interest and duty, so is it vi­sibly against our ease. Tis a sickness of the mind, a perpetual gnawing and cra­ving of the appetite without any possibi­lity of satisfaction: and indeed is the same in the heart which the Caninus appetitus is in the stomach, to which we may aptly enough apply that description we find in the Prophet, he shall snatch on the right hand and be hungry, and he shall eat on the left and not be satisfied, Esay. 9. 20. Where this sharp, this fretting humor abounds, nothing converts into nurishment: every new accession do's but excite some new desire; and as tis observ'd of a trencher-fed dog, that he tasts not one bit for the gree­dy [Page 13] expectation of the next; so a discon­tented mind is so intent upon his pursuits, that he has no relish of his acquests. So that what the Prophet speaks of the Co­vetous, is equally appliable to all other sorts of Male-contents: he enlarges his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, Hab. 2. 5. And sure if the desire accomplished be as Solomon saies sweet to the soul, Prov. 13. 19. it must be exceedingly bitter, to be thus con­demned to endless unaccomplishable de­sires; and yet this is the torture which e­very repining uncontented spirit provides for it self.

13. WHAT a madness is it then for men to be so desperatly bent against their interest and duty, as to renounce even their ease too for company? One would think this age were sensual enough to be at defiance with the least shadow of unea­siness. It is so I am sure where it ought not, every thing is laborious when tis in compliance with their duty, a few minutes spent in praier Oh what a weariness is it! Mal. 213. If they chance but to miss a meal, they are ready to cry out, their knees are weak thro fasting. Psa. 109. 23. yet they can without regret, or any self-com­passion, [Page 14] macerate and cruciate themselves with anxious cares and vexations, and as the Apostle speaks 1 Tim. 6. 10. pierce themselves thro with many sorrows. That proposal therefore which was very rashly made by St. Peter to our Saviour, Master pity thy self, Mat. 16. 22. which we render be it far from thee, would here be an ad­vised motion to the generality of man­kind, who are commonly made unhap­py not by any thing without them, but by those restless impatiencies that are within them.

14. IT may therefore be a seasonable office to endevor the appeasing those storms, by recalling them to those sober rational considerations, which may shew as well the folly, as uneasiness of this re­pining unsatisfiable humor. Tis certain that in true reasoning, we can find no­thing whereon to found it, but a great deal to enforce the contrary. Indeed tis so much against the dictate of reasona­ble nature to affect damage, sin, and torment, that were there nothing else to be said but what I have already menti­on'd, it might competently discover the great unreasonableness of this sin.

15. BUT we need not confine our ap­peal [Page 15] to reason, as it is only a judg of u­tility and advantage; but enlarge it to a­nother notion, as it is judg of equity and right: in which respect also it gives as cleer and peremtory a sentence against all murmuring and impatience. To evince this I shall insist upon these particulars. 1. that God is debtor to no man, and therefore what ever he affords to any, it is upon bounty not of right, a benevo­lence not a due. 2ly. that this bounty is not streight or narrow, confin'd to some few particular persons, and wholly over­skipping the rest, but more or less univer­sally diffused to all. So that he who has the least, cannot justly say but he has bin li­berally dealt with. 3ly that if we compare our blessings with our allaies, our good things with our evil, we shall find our good far surmounting. 4ly that we shall find them yet more so, if we compare them with the good we have don, as on the contrary we shall find our afflictions scarce discernible if balanced with our sins. 5ly that as God is Rector of the uni­verse, so it appertains to him to make such allotments, such distributions, as may best preserve the state of the whole. 6ly that God notwithstanding that universal care, [Page 16] has also a peculiar aspect on every parti­cular Person, and disposes to him what he discerns best for him in special. 7ly if we compare our adversities, with those of other men, we shall alwaies find som­thing that equals if not exceeds our own. All these are certain irrefragable truths, and there is none of them single but may, if well prest upon the mind, charm it into a calmness and resignation; but when there is such a conspiration of argu­ments, it must be a very obstinate pervers­ness that can resist them: or should they fail to enforce a full conviction; will yet introduce those subsidiary proofs which I have to alledg, so advantagiously, as will being put altogether, amount unto perfect and uncontroulable Evidence.

SECT. II.
Of Gods Absolute Soveraignty.

1. THE first proposition that God is debtor to no man, is too clear and apparent to require much of illustration: for as he is a free agent and may act as he pleases, so he is the sole proprietary and can wrongfully detain from none, because all original right is in himself. This has bin so much acknowledged by the blindest Heathens, that none of them durst make insolent addresses to their Gods, challenge any thing of them as of debt, but by sacrifices and praiers own'd their dependance and wants, and implor'd supplies. And sure Christianity teaches us not to be more sawcy. If those Dei­ties who ow'd their very being to their votaries, were yet acknowledged to be the spring and source of all, we can with no pretence deny it to that supreme power in whom we live, move, and have our be­ing. Acts. 17. 28. For if it were merely an [Page 18] act of his choice to give us a being, all his subsequent bounties can have no other original then his own good plesure. We could put no obligation upon God before we were: and when we began to be, we were his creatures, and so by the most in­disputable right owe our selves to him, but can have no antecedent title on which to clame any thing from him: so that the Apostle might well make the challenge which he doth on Gods behalf, who hath given any thing unto him, and it shall be re­compenc'd to him again? Rom. 11. 35.

2. Now ordinary discretion teaches us not to be too bold in our expectations from one to whom we can plead no right. It has as little of prudence as modesty, to press impudently upon the bounty of a Patron, and do's but give him temtation (at least pretence) to deny. And if it be thus with men, who possibly may somtimes have an interest, sometimes a vanity to oblige us; it must be much more so towards God, who cannot be in want of us, and therefore need not buy us: our good, as the Psalmist speaks, extends not to him. Psal. 16. 2. He has a fundamental right in that little we are, which will stand good tho it should ne­ver be corroborated by greater benefits. [Page 19] With what an humble bashfulness should we then sue for any thing, who have no argument to invite the least donation? being already so preingag'd, that we can­not mortgage so much as our selves in consideration of any new favor: and surely extravagant hopes do very ill befit people in this condition. We see the modesty of good Mephibosheth, who tho he was by a slanderous accusation outed of half the estate David had given him, yet upon a reflexion that he deriv'd it all from his good plesure, disputed not the sentence, but cherefully resign'd the whole to the same disposure, from which he received it, saying, Yea, let him take all. 2 Sam. 19, 30. A rare example and fit for imitation, as being adapted to the present case, not only in that one circumstance of his ha­ving receiv'd all from the King, but also in that of the attainder of his blood, which he confesses in the former part of the verse, for all of my fathers house were but dead men before my Lord. And alas may we not say the very same? was not our whole race tainted in our first Parent? So that if God had not the primary title of vassalage, he would in our fall have acquir'd that of confiscation and escheat. And can we [Page 20] think our selves then in terms to capitulate and make our own conditions, and ex­pect God should humor us in all our wild demands?

3. THIS is indeed to keep up that old rebellion of our Progenitor, for that con­sisted in a discontent with that portion God had assign'd him, and coveting what he had restrein'd him. Nay indeed it comes up to the height of the Devils pro­posal, the attemting to be as God. Gen. 3. 5. For tis an endevor to wrest the ma­nagery out of his hands, to supersede his Autority of dispensing to us, and to carve for our selves. This is so mad an insolence, that were it possible to state a case exactly parallel between man and man, it would raise the indignation of any that but pre­tended to ingenuity. Yet this is, without Hyperbole, the true meaning of every mur­muring repining thought we entertain.

4. BUT as bad as it is, who is there of us, that can in this particular say we have made our heart clean? Prov. 20. 9. Tis true we make some formal ackowledg­ment sometimes that we receive all from Gods gift, custom teaches us from our in­fancy after every meal we eat to give him thanks (tho even that is now thought too [Page 21] much respect, and begins to be discarded as unfashionable.) Yet sure he cannot be thought to do that in earnest, that has all the time of his eating bin grumbling that his table abounds not with such delicacies as his neighbors. And yet at this rate God knows are most of our thanksgivings. Indeed we have not so much ordinary ci­vility to God, as we have to men. The common proverb teaches us not too curi­ously to pry into the blemishes of what is given us: but on Gods gifts we sit as Censors, nicely examine every thing which is any way disagreable to our fancies, and as if we dealt with him under the notion of chapmen, disparage it, as Solomon saies buiers use to do, it is naught, it is naught, saith the buier Prov. 20. 14. Nay we seem yet more absurdly to change the scene, and as if God were to make oblations to us, we as critically observe the defects of his benefactions, as the Levitical priests were to do those of the sacrifice, and (like angry Dei­ties) scornfully reject, what ever do's not perfectly answer our wanton appetites.

5. AND now should God take us at our words, withdraw all those blessings which we so fastidiously despise, what a [Page 22] condition were we in? Tis sure we have nothing to plead in reverse of that judg­ment. There is nothing in it against ju­stice: for he takes but his own. This he intimates to Israel Hos. 2. 9. I will re­turn and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax: in which he asserts his own propriety, my corn, my wine &c▪ and recalls them to the remembrance that they were but usufru­ctuaries: and tis as evident that our tenure is but the same. Nay this pro­ceeding would not be repugnant even to mercy, for even that is not obliged still to prostitute its self to our contemt. I am sure such a tolerance is beyond all the mesures of humane lenity. Should any of us offer an alms to an indigent wretch, and he when he sees tis Silver, should murmur and exclame that it is not Gold, would we not draw back our hand, and reserve our charity for a more worthy object? Tis true indeed Gods thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor our narrow bowels equal mesures for the divine compassions, and we experimen­tally find that his long-suffering infinitly exceeds ours, yet we know he do's in the [Page 23] parable of the Lord and the servant Mat. 18. declare that he will proportion his mercy by ours, in that instance; and we have no promise that he will not do it in this: nay we have all reason to expect he should; for since his wisdom promts him to do nothing in vain, and all his bounty to us is design'd to make us hap­py, when he sees that end utterly fru­strated by our discontents, to what pur­pose should he continue that to us which we will be never the better for?

6. BESIDES tho he be exceedingly patient, yet he is not negligent or in­sensible, he takes particular notice, not only with what diligence we employ, but with what affections we resent eve­ry of his blessings. And as ingratitude is a vice odious to men, so it is extremely provoking to God: so that in this sense also, the words of our Savior are most true, from him that hath not (i.e.) that hath not a grateful sense and value, shall be taken away even that he hath Mat. 25. 29. But we may find a threatning of this kind yet more express to Israel, because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with gladness and with joifulness of heart for the abundance of all things, therefore shalt [Page 24] thou serve thine enemies, whom the Lord God will send among thee, in hunger and in thirst and in nakedness and in want of all things Deut 28. 27. 28. a sad and dismal inversion, yet founded wholly in the want of that cheerful recognition which God expected from them. And if Israel the lot of his own inheritance, that people whom he had singled out from all the na­tions of the world, could thus forfeit his favor by unthankfulness, sure none of us can suppose we have any surer entail of it. In a word as God loves a cheerful giver, so he also loves a cheerful receiver. One that complies with his end in be­stowing, by taking a just complacence in his gifts. But the querulous and unsa­tisfied, reproch his bounty: accuse him of illiberality and narrowness of mind. So that he seems even in his honor engag'd to bring them to a righter apprehension of him, and by a deprivation teach them the value of those good things, which they could not learn by the enjoiment.

7. IF therefore ingenuity and grati­tude cannot, yet at least let prudence and self-love engage us against this sin of Murmuring, which we see do's abun­dantly justify the character the Wise man [Page 25] gives when he tells us tis unprofitable Wis. 1. 11. he might have said pernicious also, for so it evidenly is in its effects. Let us then arm our selves against it, and to that pur­pose impress deeply upon our minds the present consideration, that God ows us nothing, and that what ever we receive is an alms, and not a tribute. Diogenes be­ing asked what wine drank the most ple­sant, answered, that which is drunk at a­nothers cost. And this circumstance we can never miss of to recommend our good things to us: for be they little or much, they come gratis. When therefore in a pettish mood we find our selves apt to charge God foolishly, and to think him strait-handed towards us, let us ima­gine we hear God expostulating with us, as the housholder in the parable, Friend I do thee no wrong: is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Mat. 20. 15. If God have not the right of dispo­sing, let us find out those that have, and see how much better we shall speed, but if he hath, let us take heed of disputing with him: we that subsist merely by his favor, had need court and cherish it by all the arts of humble observance. E­very man is ready to say how ill beggary [Page 26] and pride do agree. The first qualification we cannot put off; O let us not provide it of the other so inconvenient so odious an adjunct. Let us leave off prescribing to God (which no ingenuous man would do to an earthly benefactor) and let us betake our selves to a more holy and suc­cesful policy, the acknowledgment of past mercies, and our own unworthiness. This was Jacobs method, I am not wor­thy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast shew'd unto thy servant: for with my staff I passed over this Iordan, and now I am become two bands, and with this humble preface he introduces his petition for rescue in his present di­stress, Deliver me I pray thee from the hand of my brother, &c. Gen. 32. 10. 11. An excellent pattern of Divine Rhetoric, which the success demonstrates to have bin very prevalent. And we cannot tran­scribe a better copy, to render our de­sires as succesful. Indeed we are so ut­terly destitute of all arguments from our selves, that we can make no reasonable form of address, if we found it not in somthing of God: and there is nothing even in him adapted to our purpose, but his mercy; nor can that be so advan­tageously [Page 27] urged by any thing, as by the former instances, it has given of it self: for as God only is fit to be a precedent to himself, so he loves to be so. Thus we find, not only Moses, but God often re­collecting his miraculous favors towards Israel, as an argument to do more: let us therefore accost him in his own way, and by a frequent and grateful recounting of his former mercies, engage him to future. Nor need we be at a loss for matter of such recollection, if we will but seriously consider what we have already received, which is the subject of the next Section.

SECT. III.
Of Gods Vnlimited Bounty.

1. IT is the known character of an un­worthy nature, to write injuries in Marble, and benefits in dust: and how­ever some (as Seneca well observes) may acquit themselves of this imputation as to man, yet scarce any do so in relation to God. Tis true indeed the charge must be a little varied; for God neither will nor can do us injury: yet we receive a­ny thing that is adverse with such a re­sentment as if it were, and engrave that in our memories with indelible chara­cters, whilst his great and reall benefits are either not at all observ'd, or with so transient an advertence, that the compari­son of dust is beyond our pitch, and we may be more properly said to write them in wa­ter. Nay so far are we from keeping re­cords and registers of his favors, that e­ven those standing and fixt ones which sense can promt us to (without the aid of our memories) cannot obtain our notice.

2. WERE it not thus, it were impos­sible for men to be so perpetually in the [Page 29] complaining Key, as if their voices were capable of no other sound. One wants this, and another that, and a third som­thing beyond them both, and so on ad infinitum; when all this while every one of them enjoies a multitude of good things without any remark. That very breath wherewith they utter their complaints, is a blessing, and a fundamental one too: for if God should withdraw that, they were incapable of whatsoever else they either have, or desire. Tis true that some mens impatiencies have risen so high, as to cast away life, because it was not clothed with all circumstances they wisht. Yet these are rare instances, and do only shew such mens depraved judgment of things. A rich Jewel is not the less valuable, because a mad man in his raving fit flings it into the fire: but as to the generality of men, the devil (tho a liar) gave a true account of their sense, when he said, Skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life. Job. 2. 4. And tho perhaps in an angry fit many men have with Jonas Chap. 4. 3. wisht to die, yet ten to one should death then come, they would be as willing to divert it, as was the man in the Apologue, who wearied with his burden of sticks, flung [Page 30] it down and call'd for death, but when he came, own'd no other occasion for him, but to be helpt up again with his bundle. I dare in this appeal to the experience of those, who have seemed very weary of life, whether when any suddain danger has sur­prised them, it has not as suddenly altered their mind, and made them more desire life, then before they abhor'd it. Tis the common saying, As long as there is life there is hope: there is so as to secular con­cerns, for what strange revolutions do we often see in the age of a man? from what despicable beginnings have many arriv'd to the most splendid conditions? Of which we have divers modern as well as ancient instances. And indeed tis admirable to see what time and industry will (with Gods blessing) effect. But there is no work, nor device, nor knowledg, nor wisdom in the grave. Ecc. 9. 10. we can improve no more when we are once transplanted thither.

3. BUT this is yet much more consi­derable in respect of our spiritual state. Our life is the day wherein we are to work. Joh. 9. 4. (yea to work out our Salvation:) but when the night comes (when death o­vertakes) no man can work. Now alas when tis consider'd how much of this day [Page 31] the most of us have loiter'd away, how many of us have stood idle till the sixt or ninth hour, it will be our concern not to have our day close before the e­leventh. Nay alas tis yet worse with us: we have not only bin idle, but very often ill busied; so that we have a great part of our time to unravel, and that is not to be don in a moment. For tho our works may fitly enough be represented by the Prophets comparison of a spiders web, Isay. 59. 5. yet they want the best pro­perty even of that; they cannot be so soon undon. Vices that are radicated by time and custom, lie too deep to be lightly swept away. Tis no easy thing to perswade our selves to the will of parting with them. Many violences we must offer to our selves, a long and strict course of mortification must be gon thro, ere we can find in our hearts to bid them be gon: and yet when we do so, they are not so tractable as the Centurions servants. They will indeed come when-ever we bid them, but they will scarce go so: they must be expell'd by force and by slow degrees; we must fight for every inch of ground we gain from them: and as God could not assist the Israelites to subdue the Canaa­nites, [Page 32] at once Deut. 7. 22. so neither ordi­narily do's he us to master perfectly our corruptions. Now a process of this difficul­ty is not to be dispatcht on a sudden. And yet this is not all our task, for we have not only ill habits to extirpate, but we have also good ones to acquire: tis not a mere negative vertue will serve our turns, nor will emty lamps enter us into the marriage chamber, Mat. 25. 10. We must add to our faith vertue, and to vertue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, &c. 2 Pet. 1. 5. No link must be wanting of that sacred chain, but we must (as the same Apostle advi­ses) be holy in all manner of conversation. 1 Pet. 1. 15.

4. AND now I would desire the Rea­der seriously to consider, whether he can upon good grounds tell himself that this so difficult (and yet so necessary) a work is effectually wrought in him. If it be, he is a happy man, and can with no pre­tence complain of any external want: (he that is fed with Manna, must be strange­ly perverse if he murmur for a belly-full of leeks and onions. Num. 11. 5.) But on the con­trary he owes infinite thanks to God, that has spared him time for this important bu­siness, and did not put a period to his na­tural [Page 33] life, before he had begun a spiritual. For I fear there are among the best of us few of so entire an innocence, but they may remember some, either habits or acts of sin, in which it would have bin dread­ful for them to have bin snatcht away. And then how comprehensive, how pro­lifie a mercy has life bin to them, when it has carried eternity in its womb, and their continuance on earth has qualified them for heaven? Neither are such per­sons only to look on it as a blessing in the retrospect, as it relates to the past, but also in the present and future: which if they continue to employ well, do's not only confirm, but advance their reward. Besides God may please by them to glo­rify himself, make them instrumental to his service; which as it is the greatest ho­nor, so it is also the greatest satisfaction to a good heart. He shews himself too mercenary that so longs for his reward, as to grow impatient of his attendances: he that loves God, thinks himself blest in the opportunity of doing work, as well as in receiving wages. Thus we see how life is under all these aspects a mercy to a pious man, and such as not only obliges him to contentment, but gratitude.

[Page 34] 5. BUT supposing a man cannot give this comfortable account of his life, but is conscious that he has spent it to a very different purpose, yet do's not that at all lessen his obligations to God, who meant he should have emploi'd it better, and that he has not don so is merely his own fault. Nay indeed the worse his state is, the greater mercy it is, that God has not yet made it irreversible, that he has not cut him off at once from the earth and the possibility of heaven too, but affords him yet a longer day, if yet he will hear his voice Psal. 95. 7. This long-suffering is one of the most transcendent acts of divine goodness, & therefore the Apostle rightly stiles it the riches of his goodness and long-suffering and forbearance Rom. 2. 4. and so at last we commonly acknowledg it, when we have worn it out, and can no longer receive advantage by it. What a value do's a gasping despairing soul put upon a small parcel of that time, which before he knew not how fast enough to squan­der? Oh that men would set the same e­stimate on it before, and then certainly, as it would make them better husbands of it, so it would also render them more thankful for it, Accounting that the long-suffering [Page 35] of our Lord is Salvation. 2 Pet. 3. 15.

6. INDEED did men but rightly com­pute the benefit of life upon this score, all secular encumbrances and uneasinesses of it would be overwhelmed, and stand only as Cyphers in the account. What a shame is it then that we should spend our breath in sighs and out-cries? which if we would employ to those nobler ends for which twas given, would supersede our complaints, and make us confess we were well dealt with, that our life (tho bare and stript of all outward accessaries) is given us for a prey. Jer. 45. 5. And indeed he that has yet the great work of life to do, can very ill spare time or sorrow to bestow upon the regretting any temporal distress, since his whole stock is little e­nough to bewail and repair his neglects of his eternal concerns. Were our lives therefore destitute of all outward com­fort, nay were they nothing but a scene of perpetual disasters, yet this one ad­vantage of life would infinitly outweigh them all, and render our murmurings very inexcusable.

[Page 36] 7. BUT God has not put this to the utmost trial, has never plac'd any man in such a state of unmixt calamity, but that he still affords many and great allaies: he finds it fit somtimes to defalk some of our outward comforts, and perhaps im­bitter others, but he never takes all a­way. This must be acknowledged, if we do but consider how many things there are in which the whole race of man­kind do in common partake. The four Elements, fire and water, air and earth, do not more make up every mans composi­tion, then they supply his needs: the whole host of heaven, the Sun, Moon, and Stars, Moses will tell us, are by God divided to all nations under the whole Heaven, Deut. 4. 19. Those resplendent bodies, equally afford their light and influence to all. The sun shines as bright on the poor Cot­tage, as on the most magnificent Palace; and the stars have their benign Aspects, as well for him, that is behind the Mill, as for him that sitteth on the Throne. Ex. 11. 5. Pro­priety (the great incendiary below) breeds no confusion in those celestial Orbs, but they are every mans tresure, yet no mans peculiar (as if they meant to teach us, that our love of appropriation descends not from [Page 37] above Jam. 3. 15. is no heavenly quality.)

8. AND as they make no distinction of the ranks and degrees of men, so nei­ther do they of their vertues. Our Sa­vior, tells us God causes his Sun to rise on the good and on the evil, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust, Mat. 5. 45. If now we descend lower to the sublunary creatures, they equally pay their homage to man, do not disdain the dominion of the poor, and submit to that of the rich, but shew us that that their instinct extends to the whole nature. An horse draws the poor mans plough, as tamely as the Prin­ces chariot, and the beggars hungry cur follows him with as much obsequiousness and affection as the pamper'd lap-dogs of the nicest Ladies. The sheep obey a poor mercenary shepherd as well as they did the Daughters of the wealthy Laban Gen. 29. 9. or of Iethro a Prince Exod. 2. 16. and as willingly yield their fleece to clothe La­zarus, as to make purple for Dives. And as animals, so vegetables are as communica­tive of their qualities to one man as ano­ther. The corn nurishes, the fruits re­fresh, the flowers delight, the simples cure the poor man as well as the rich.

9. BUT I foresee it will be objected, [Page 38] that these natural privileges are insig­nificant, because they are evacuated by those positive laws which bound proprie­ty, and that therefore tho one man could use the creatures as well as another, yet e­very man has them not to use. I answer, that for some of the things I have menti­on'd, they are still in their native latitude, cannot be inclosed or monopoliz'd. The most ravenous oppressor could never yet lock up the sun in his chest: he that laies house to house and land to land, till there be no place Esay. 5. 8. cannot inclose the common air: and the like may be said of divers of the rest, so that there are some (and those no mean) blessings, which con­tinue still the indefeisible right of man­kind in general.

10. As for those other things which are liable to the restrictive terms of meum and tuum, tis not to be deni'd but there is vast difference in the dispensing them; as great as Nathans parable describes, when he speaks of the numerous flocks of the rich man, and the single ewe lamb of the poor, 2 Sam. 12. 2. yet there is scarce any so deplorably indigent, but that by one means or other, he has or may have the necessary supports of life. Perhaps they [Page 39] fall not into his lap by birth-right and inheritance, yet they are acquirable by labor and industry, which is perhaps the better tenure. They cannot it may be arrive to Sodoms fulness of bread: yet if they have not her abundance of Idleness, Ez. 16. 49. they commonly need not want that, which was the height of Agurs wish, food convenient, Pro. 30. 8. Tis true indeed, if they will fold their hands in their bo­som, if with Solomons Sluggard, they will not plough by reason of the cold, they must take his fate in the summer, as they have his ease in the winter, they may beg in harvest, and have nothing, Prov. 20. 4. But then tis visible they are the Authors of their own necessities. And indeed to men of such lazy careless natures, tis hard to say, what degree of Gods bounty can keep them from want, since we often see the fairest for­tunes dissipated as well by the supine neg­ligence, as the riotous prodigality of the owners. And therefore if men will be idle, they are not to accuse God, but them­selves if they be indigent.

11. BUT then there is one case where­in men seem more inevitably expos'd, and that is when by age, sickness, or decre­pitness, they are disabled from work; [Page 40] or when their family is too numerous for their work to maintain. And this indeed seems the most forlorn state of poverty: yet God has provided for them also, by assigning such persons to the care of the rich; nay he has put an extraordinary mark of favor on them, given them the honor of being his proxies and representatives, made them letters of Attorny (as it were) to demand relief in his name, and upon his account. And tho tis too true, that even that Autority will not prevail with many of the rich to open their purses, yet even in this Age of frozen charity, there are still some who remember upon what terms they received their wealth, and employ it accordingly. And tho the number of them is not so great as were to be wisht, yet there are in all parts some scattered here and there like Cities of refuge in the Land, Deut. 19. 2. to which these poor distressed creatures way flee for succour. And I think I may say, that between the legal provisions that are made in this case and voluntary contributions, there are not very many that want the things that are of absolute necessity: and we know St. Paul comprizes those in a small compass, food and raiment, and proposes [Page 41] them as sufficient materials of Content. 1 Tim. 6. 8. I say not this to contract any mans bowels, or lessen his compassions to such poor wretches. For how much soever they lend, I wish as Ioab did in an­other case to David, the Lord increase it a hundred-fold, 2 Sam. 24. 3. I only urge it as an evidence of the assertion I am to prove, that no man is so preter­mitted by God or his disposal of tempo­rals, but that even he that seems the most abandon'd has a share in his providence, and consequently cannot justly murmur, since even this state which is the highest instance of human indigence, is not with­out its receits from God.

12. BUT the number in this form are but few, compar'd to those in a higher, for between this and the highest affluence, how many intermedial degrees are there, in which men partake not only of the ne­cessaries, but comforts of life; that have not only food and raiment, but their di­stinction of holy-day and working-day fare and apparel? He that is but one step advanced from beggery has so much, he that has got to a second has more then is necessary, and so every degree rises in plenty till it comes to vanity and excess, [Page 42] and even there too there are gradual ri­sings, some having so much fewel for luxury, that they are at as great a losse for invention, as others can be for materials, and complain that there are no farther ri­ots left for them to essay. How many are there who have so cloi'd and glutted their senses, that they want some other inlets for plesure, and with the rich man in the Gospel, are in distress where to be­stow their abundance?

13. AND sure such as these cannot de­ny that they have reciev'd good things, yet generally there are none less conten­ted, which is a clear demonstration that our repinings proceed not from any de­fect of bounty in God, but from the ma­lignant temper of our own hearts. And as it is an easier thing to satisfy the cravings of an hungry, then to cure the nauseous recoilings of a surfeited stomach; so cer­tainly the discontents of the poor, are much easier allai'd then those of the rich; the indigence of the one has contracted his desires, and has taught him not to look farther then a little beyond bare necessa­ries, so that a moderate Alms satisfies, and a liberal transports him: but he who by a perpetual repletion has his desires stretcht [Page 43] and extended, is capable of no such sa­tisfaction: when his enjoiments fore­stall all particular pursuits, and he knows not upon what to fasten his next wish; yet even then he has some confus'd un­form'd appetites, and thinks himself mi­serable because he cannot tell what would make him more happy. And yet this is that envi'd state which men with so much greediness aspire to, every man looks on it as the top of felicity to have nothing more to wish in the world. And yet alas even that when attain'd, would be their torment. Let men never think then that contentment is to be caught by long and forreign chaces; he is likliest to find it who sits at home, and duly contemplates those blessings which God has brought within his reach, of which every man has a fair proportion, if he will advert to it.

14. FOR besides these external acces­sions (of which the meanest have some, the middle sort a great deale, and the uppermost rather too much) man is a principality within himself, and has in his composure so many excellent impresses of his Makers power and goodness, that he need not ask leave of any exterior thing to be happy, if he know but aright how [Page 44] to value himself: the very meanest part of him, his body is a piece of admira­ble workman-ship, of a most incom­prehensible contrivance, as the Psalmist saies, he is fearfully and wonderfully made; and tis astonishing to think of what a sym­metry of parts this beautiful fabric is made up. Nor are they only for shew, but use: every member, every limb is endowed with a particular faculty to render it ser­viceable to the whole; and that admira­ble contexture of veins and arteries, si­nues and muscles, nerves and tendons, none are superfluous, but some way or o­ther contributes to vegetation, sense, or motion, nay the most noble and most useful parts are all of them double, not only as a reserve in case of misadventure of one part; but also as an instance of the bounty of the Donor. And indeed it is observable of Galen in his writings, that after he had taken great care to exemt himself and all of his Profession from ta­king notice of the Deity, by saying that to discourse concerning the Gods, was the task of speculative Philosophers; yet coming to write de usu partium, and con­sidering the frame of humane bodies, and therein discovering the wonderful [Page 45] contrivance of every part in reference to its self, and also to the whole; their strength, agility, and various movement, infinitly surpassing the powers of all Me­chanic engines; he seems to have had the fate we read of Saul in holy Scripture, and against his genius and purpose, to be­come a Prophet; breaking frequently out into Hymns and sacred raptures; saying, these Mysteries are more divine then the Samothracian or Elusinian; and confessing they both strictly require, and infinitly excell the low returnes of human praise. But beyond the fabric of parts as organic, what an extract of wonder are our senses, those five operations of the Lord as the son of Syrach rightly (and by way of emi­nence) stiles them, Ecclus. 17. 5? By these we draw all outward objects to our selves; what were the beauties of the universe to us, if we had not sight to behold them, or the most melodious sounds, if we had not hearing? and so of the rest. And yet these are not only generally given, but also preserv'd to the greater part of men, and perhaps would be to more, did not our base undervaluing of common mercies, force God somtimes to instruct us in their worth, by making us feel what it is to want them.

[Page 46] 15. MULTITUDE of refreshments also God has provided for our bodies, particularly that of sleep, of which he has bin so considerate, as in his distribu­tions of time, to make a solemn allotment for it: yet who almost when he lies down considers the mercy, or when he rises re­fresht, rises thankful also? But if our rest at any time be interrupted by the cares of our mind, or pains of our bodies, then, (and not till then) we consider, that tis God who gives his belov'd sleep Psal. 127. 2. and think it a blessing worth our esteem. Thus it is with health, strength, and every thing else, we despise it whilst we have it, and impatiently desire it whilest we have it not; but in the interim sure we cannot complain, that Gods hand is short­ned towards us, when in the ordinary course of his providence we commonly enjoy these mercies many years, which we find so much miss of, if they be with­drawn but for a few houres. And in­deed there is not a greater instance of human pravity then our senseless con­temt of blessings, merely because they are customary; which in true reason is an argument why we should prize them the more. When we deal with men, we [Page 47] discern it well enough, he that gives me once a 100. pounds, I account not so much my benefactor, as if he made it my annual revenue; yet God must lose his thanks, by multiplying his favors; and his benefits grow more invisible by their being alwaies before us.

16. BUT the body (with its enjoi­ment) is but the lowest instance of Gods bounty, tis but a decent case for that inestimable Jewel he has put in it: the soul, like the Ark, is the thing for which this whole tabernacle was framed, and that is a spark of Divinity in which alone it is that God accomplished his design of making man in his own image Gen. 1. 26. Twould be too long to attemt an exact survey of its particular excellencies, the mere intellectual powers wherewith it is indued, have exercised the curiosity and raised the admiration of the great con­templators of nature in all ages, yet af­ter all, of so subtile composure is the soul, that it is inscrutable even to it self: and tho the simplest man knows he has the faculties of Imagination, Apprehension, Memory, Reflecting; yet the learnedst cannot assign where they are seated, or by what means they operate. Tis enough [Page 48] to us that we have them, and many ex­cellent uses for them; one whereof (and a most necessary one) is a thankful re­flexion on the goodness of God who gave them. He might have made us in the ve­ry lowest form of creatures, insensible stocks or stones; or if he had advanc'd us a step-higher, he might have fixt us among mere animals, made us perhaps of the noxious, at best of the tamer sort of beasts; but he has plac'd us in the highest rank of visible creatures, and not only given Dominion over the works of his hands Psal. 8. 6. but has given us reason wherewith to manage that soveraignty, without which we had only bin the more masterful sort of brutes.

17. YET still the soul is to be consi­der'd in a higher notion, that of its im­mortality and capacity of endless bliss: and here indeed it owns its extraction, and is an image of the first being, whose felicity is coexistent with himself; this as it is the most transcendent accomplish­ment of our nature, so it is most univer­sal. Whatever disparity there may be be­tween man and man in other respects, yet in this all are equal, the poor beg­ger at the gate has a soul as capacious of [Page 49] eternal happiness, as he whose crumbs he begs for (nay somtimes better prepar'd for it, as that parable shews Luke 16. 21.) And tho the dignities of earth are the prize of the rich and noble, the subtle and designing; yet heaven is as easily mounted from the dung-hill as the throne, and an honest simplicity will sooner bring us thi­ther, then all the Machiavelian policy. Nay God has not only design'd us to so glorious an end, but has don all on his part to secure us of it, sent his Son to lead us the way, his spirit to quicken us in it. We need not dispute how universal this is; tis sure it concerns all to whom I am now speaking, those that are within the pale of the church: and if it should prove confin'd only to them, the more peculiar is their obligation, that are thus singled out from the rest of the world, and the greater ought to be their thank­fulness. The heathen Philosopher made it matter of his solemn acknowledgment to fortune, that he was born a Grecian and not a Barbarian: and sure the advantages of our Christianity are of a much higher strein, and ought to be infinitly more celebrated. The Apostle we find often ap­plauding this glorious privilege, as that [Page 50] which makes fellow citizens with the Saints, and of the houshold of God, Ephes. 3. 19. nay which elevates us to a higher state, the adoption of sons, Gal. 4. 5. nor only Sons, but Heirs also of God, and joint Heirs with Christ, Rom. 8. 17. And what ambi­tion is there so greedy which this will not satisfy? yet this is our common state, the birth-right of our regeneration, if we do not degrade our selves, and with Esau basely sell our title.

18. AND now methinks every man may interrogate himself in the same form, wherein Ionadab did Amnon 2 Sam 13. 4. why art thou, being the Kings son, thus lean from day to day? Why should a Person who is adopted by the King of Kings, thus languish and pine? What is there below the sun worthy his notice, much less his de­sires, that hath a Kingdom above it? Cer­tainly did we but know how to estimate our selves upon this account, twere im­possible for us with such sordid condes­centions to court every petty wordly in­terest, and so impatiently vex our selves when we cannot attain it. Alas how un­worthily do we bear the name of Chri­stians, when that which carried the Fore­fathers of our Faith thro the most fiery tri­als, [Page 51] cannot support us under the disappoint­ment of any extravagant desire? They had such respect to the recompence of the reward, Heb. 11. 26. as made them cheerfully ex­pose their Fame to ignominy, their Goods to rapine, their Bodies to the most exqui­site tortures, and their Lives to death. Yet the same hopes cannot work us to any tolerable degree of patience, when we suffer but the smallest diminution in any of these. What shall we say? Is Heaven grown less valuable, or Earth more then it was then? No surely, but we are more infatuated in our estimates: we have so long abetted the rivalry of the hand-maid, that the Mistress, like Sarah, appears despicable. Like Ionah we sit down sul­len upon the withering of a gourd, never considering that God has provided us a better shelter, a building of God eternal in the Heavens. 2 Cor. 5. 1. Indeed there can be no temporal destitution so great, which such an expectation cannot make supportable. Were we in Iobs condition sitting upon a dunghil, and scraping our selves with a potsheard, yet as long as we can say with him our Redeemer liveth. Job. 19. 25. we have all reason to say with him also, blessed be the name of the Lord. [Page 52] Chap. 1. 21. What a madness is it then for us to expose our selves to be pierc'd and wounded by every temporal adversi­ty, who have so impenetrable an armour? nay what an ungrateful contumely is it to that goodness of God, to shew that we cannot make him a counterpoise to the most trivial secular satisfaction? on which account sure he may again take up that exprobrating complaint we find in the Pro­phet, A goodly price that I was valued at by them. Zac. 11. 13.

19. BUT how mean soever he is in our eies, tho Christ seem the same to us in his glory which he did in his abjection, to have no beauty that we should desire him; yet he puts another rate upon himself, and tell us that he that loves Father or Mother, Son or Daughter more then me, is not worthy of me. Mat. 10. 37. Now our love and our joy are passions coincident, and therefore whatever we joy more in then we do in him, we may be presum'd to love better; and if he cannot endure the competition of those more ingenuous objects of our love he there mentions, how will he suffer that of our vanities, our childish wanton appetites? And yet those are the things after which we so impati­ently [Page 53] rave. For I believe I may truly affirm, that if there were a scrutiny made into all the discontents of mankind, for one that were fastned upon any great con­siderable calamity, there are many that are founded only in the irregularity of our own desires.

20. BY what has bin said we may just­ly conclude in the Prophets phrase, God hath not bin to us a wilderness, a land of darkness, Jer. 2. 31. but has graciously dispen'st to us in all our interests. Yet the instances here given are only common, such as relate to all, or at least the far greater part of mankind: but what vo­lums might be made, should every man set down his own particular experiences of mercy? In that case twould be no ex­travagant Hyperbole we find Joh. 22. 25. That even the world it self could not contain the books which should be written. God knows our memories are very frail, and our observations slight in this point: yet ab­stracting from all the forgotten or negle­cted favors, what vast catalogues may every man make to himself, if he would but yet recollect, what effects he has had of Gods bounty in giving, of his providence in protecting, of his grace in restraining, [Page 54] and exciting, of his patience in forbear­ing? And certainly all these productions of the divine goodness were never de­sign'd to die in the birth. The Psalmist will tell us, the Lord hath so don his mar­vellous works, that they ought to be had in remembrance. Ps. III. 4. Let every man then make it his daily care to recount to him­self the wonders God hath don, as for the children of men in general, so for him­self in particular. When the Israelites murmured under their bondage, Pha­raoh imputes it to their idleness, and prescribes them more work, as the rea­diest cure: a piece indeed of inhuman Tyranny in him, but may with equity and success be practiced by us upon our selves. When we find our appetites mu­tinous, complaining of our present con­dition, let us set our selves to work, im­pose it as a task upon our selves to re­collect the many instances of Gods mer­cies. And surely if we do it sincerely, and with intention, we cannot have past thro half our stages, before our sullen murmurs will be beat out of counte­nance, and retire with shame, when they are confronted with such a cloud of wit­nesses, such signal testimonies of Gods [Page 55] goodness to us: for when we have mu­ster'd up all our little grievances, most critically examin'd all our wants, we shall find them very unproportionable to our comforts, and to our receits; in which comparative notion, the next Section is to consider them.

SECT. IV.
Of the Surplusage of our Enjoiments above our Sufferings.

1. TO regulate our estimate of those things which we either enjoy or suffer, there are three precedent queries to be made: the first of their number or plen­ty, the second of their weight, the third of their constancy and continuance; for according as they partake more of these properties, every good is more good, and every evil is more evil. It will therefore be our best method of trial in the pre­sent case, to compare our blessings and our calamities in these three respects.

2. AND first in that of plenty, the mercies of God are the source of all our good, are set out to us in holy scripture in the most superlative strein, They are mul­titudes, Psal. 102. 20. Plenteous redemtion, Psal. 130. 7. as high as the heaven, Psal. 103. 11. He fills all things living with plenteousness, Psal. 145. 16. His mercies in­deed [Page 57] are such as come not within the compass of number, but stretch them­selves to infinity, and are best represent­ed by such a calculation as God made to Abraham, when he shew'd him the nu­merousness of his posterity by the innu­merableness of the stars, Gen. 15. 5. Were there but a single mercy apportion'd to each minute of our lives, the sum would arise very high: but how is our Arithme­tic confounded, when every minute has more then we can distinctly number? for besides the original stock mention'd in the last section, and the accession of new bounty, the giving us somewhat which we had not before; what an accu­mulative mercy is it, the preserving what we have? We are made up of so many pieces, have such varieties of interests, spiritual, temporal, public, and private; for our selves, for our friends, and dependants; that it is not a confused general regard that will keep all these in security one moment. We are like a vast building, which costs as much to maintain, as to erect. And in­deed considering the corruptibleness of our materials, our preservation is no less a work of omnipotence, then our first forming: nay perhaps tis rather a greater. [Page 58] Our original clay tho it had no aptness, yet it had no aversions to the receiving a human form; but was in the hand of the potter to make it what he pleased: but we now have principles of decay within us, which vehemently tend to dissolution; we want the supplies of several things without us, the failing whereof returns us again to our dust. Nay we do not only need the aid, but we fear the hostility of outward things. That very air which som­times refreshes us, may at another starve and freeze us: that which warms and comforts us, has also a power of consu­ming us. Yea that very meat which nu­rishes, may choak and stifle us. In a word, there is no creature so despicable, so inconsiderable, which may not somtimes serve us, and which may not at any time (if God permit) ruine us. Now whence is it that we so constantly, so frequently find the good, the benign efficacy of these things, and so seldom, so rarely the evil? whence I say is it, but from the active unwearied providence, which draws forth the better properties of the creatures for our use, and restrains the worser for our security? which with a particular adver­tence watches not only over every Per­son, [Page 59] but over every several concern of that person. And how astonishing a con­templation is this? If the mere ebbing and flowing of the sea, put the Philosopher into such an extasy, that he flung him­self into it, because he could not com­prehend the inscrutable cause of it; in what perpetuall raptures of admiration may we be, who have every minute within us, and about us, more and greater won­ders, and those too in our favor, when we deserve rather the divine power should exert it self in our destruction?

3. BUT alas our danger from the vi­sible creatures, is little compar'd with those from the spirits of darkness. We wre­stle not only with flesh and blood, but with Principalities and Powers, with spiritual wickedness, &c. Eph. 6. 12. So inveterate is the enmity between the Serpent and the seed of the Woman in general, that he watches all advantages against us, not on­ly in our souls, but even our bodies, our goods, and in every part of our concerns. Thus we see he not only assaulted Iobs soul by the wicked insinuations of his Wife, but (with more effect) his body with boiles and sores, his possessions by teh Chaldeans and Sabeans, and the i­mages [Page 60] of himself, his dearest Children, by a wind from the wilderness. Job. 1. And can we think his malice is now worn out? no surely he still wishes as ill to mankind as ever, and we should soon see the woful effects of it, did not the same power which let him loose for Iobs trial, restrain him for our safety. Nay had he but power to affright, tho not to hurt us, even that would make our lives very uncomfortable. We cannot hear the relation of Sprights or apparitions, but our blood chills upon it, and a horror runs thro our veins: what should we then do if he should make his night-walks thro our chambers, and with his illusory terrors disturb our rest? Yet all this and much more he would do, if God did not chain up this old Dragon, Rev. 20. Nay if he were not at the ex­pence of a guard about us, and those no less then Angels. I shall not dispute whi­ther every person hath not his peculiar Guardian: for tho many have not impro­bably asserted it, we have ground enough of acquiescence in the general affirmation of the Apostle, that they are all ministring Spirits, sent forth to minister for them, who shall be heires of Salvation, Heb. 1. 14. And now if the Reader please to sum [Page 61] up how many are his concerns, and how many are the dangers which await him in them all, he cannot sure render the ac­count of those mercies which preserve the one, and divert the other, in any other phrase then that of the Psalmist. They are more then I am able to express. Psa. 40. 7.

4. WE may now challenge the most miserable, or the most querulous man living, to produce causes of complaint, proportionable to those of thanks-giving. He that has the greatest stock of calami­ties, can never vye with the heaps of be­nefits; the disproportion is greater then that of the Armies of Ahab and Benha­dad. 1 Kings. 20. 27. whereof the one was like two little flocks of Kids, the other filled the country. God has told us that he afflicts not willingly, nor grieves the chil­dren of men. Lam. 3. 33. whereas on the contrary, he delighteth in mercy. Mich. 7. 18. We may judge by our selves which he is likeliest often to repete, those acts which he doth with regret and reluctancy, or those which he do's with plesure and delight. But we need no inferences where we have the attestation of experience. Let every man therefore make this his judge in this case, let him every night [Page 62] recollect, how many things within and about him he is concern'd in, and con­sider how many of those have bin preserv'd intire to him, still accounting every thing so continued as a new donation. If he begin with his Spiritual state, tis too pos­sible he may somtimes find he has lost his innocence, committed some, perhaps many sins: but even in these he will find cause to justify God, if he do but recol­lect with what inward checks and admo­nitions, and outward restraints, God has endevored to bridle him. If he will break thro those fences, that do's not at all de­rogate from the mercy of God which so guarded him, but it rather illustrates his goodness, that after so many quenchings of his Spirit, do's yet continue its influ­ence. So that even he that has the most deplorably violated his integrity, is yet to confess that Gods purpose was to have preserv'd it intire: and he might really so have kept it, had he compli'd with those aids which were afforded him. But in tem­poral concerns we are not so apt to under­mine our selves, and therefore shall much more rarely find we have suffer'd detri­ment in them, then in our spiritual; but are there ordinarily like to meet with a [Page 63] better account. Let a man therefore con­sider what is lacking to him of all the se­cular good things he had in the morn­ing, and tell me whither for the most part he may not give such an account, as the Israelitish officers did of their men after the slaughter of the Midianites, that he hath not lost one. Num. 31. 39. Or if somtimes he do suffer a diminution, yet at the worst he will find that many more good things have bin preserv'd to him, then have bin taken from him. A man may perhaps meet with some dammage in his estate, yet tis manifold odds that that dammage is but partial, and that he has still more left then is lost. Or if it be more intire; yet if he have his health, his limbs, his senses, his friends, and all things beside his estate left him, so that for one thing he has lost, he still retains a multi­tude, he may say of it as the Disciples of the few Loaves, what is this among so many? Mat. 14. 17. Aristippus being bemoan'd for the losse of a Farm, repli'd with some shapr­ness upon hsi Condoler, you have but one field, and I have yet three left, why should I not rather grieve for you? intimating that a man is not so much to estimate what he has lost, as what he has left. A piece [Page 64] of wisdom which if we would transcribe, we might quickly convince our selves, that even in our most adverse estate there are as Elijah speaks, more with us then against us, 2 King. 6. 16. that our enjoiments are more then our sufferings, and Gods acts of grace, do far out-number those of his severity.

5. AND as they do out-number, so also do they out-weigh them. The mercies we receive from God are (as the last Se­ction has shew'd) of the greatest impor­tance; the most substantial solid goods, and the greatest of all, I mean those which concern our eternal state, are so firmly fixt on us, that unless we will voluntarily quit our clame, tis not in the power of men or devils to defeat us. Light bodies are easily blown away by every gust of wind, but this weight of glory, as the Apostle calls it, 2 Cor. 4. 17. continues firm and sta­ble, is proof against all storms, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary Land. Isai. 32. 2. Those dark adumbrations we have of it, might have served to refresh and deceive the tediousness of our pilgrimage, and therefore the most formidable cala­mities of this life are below all mesures of comparison with this hope of our calling, this riches of the glory of our inheritance. [Page 65] Eph. 3. 16. The heaviest and most pressing of our afflictions are to that, but like the small dust of the balance: Esa. 40. 15. so that if we should here stop our inquisition, we have a sufficient resolution of the pre­sent question, and must conclude, that God has given us an abundant counter­poise of all, we either do or can suffer here.

6. IF therefore there be any so for­lorn as to temporals, that he can fetch thence no evidence of Gods fatherly care of him, yet this one consideration may solve his doubts, and convince him that he is not abdicated by him. We read of no gifts Abraham gave Isaac, yet to the sons of the concubins tis said he did Gen. 25. 6. It had bin a very fallacious infe­rence, if Isaac should have concluded himself neglected, because his far greater portion was but in reversions. And it will be the same in any of us, if we argue an unkindness from any temporal wants who have the entail of an eternal inheri­tance. But surely God do's not leave himself without witness, Act. 14. 17. even in secu­lar things; there is no man breathing but has some blessings of his left hand, as well as his right, as I have already mention'd: [Page 66] and unless it be some few prodigies of Calamity in whose punishment or pati­ence God designs signally to glorify him­self, there are none who enjoy not great­er comforts of life then those they want, I mean such as are really greater, tho per­haps, to their prejudicate fancies they do not appear so. Thus in point of health, if a man be disaffected in one part, yet all the rest of his body may be (and of­ten is) well; or if he have a complica­tion, and have more then one disease, yet there is no man that has all, or half so many as are incident to human bo­dies, so that he is comparatively more healthy then sick. So again it is not ve­ry common for a man to loose a limb, or sense, the generality of men keep them to their last; and they who do, have in that an overbalance to most outward adversities; and even they who are so unhappy to loose one, yet commonly keep the rest; at least the Major part: or if at any time any man is left a mere breath­ing trunk, yet it is by such stupifying diseases as dead the sense, or such mor­tal ones as soon take them away; and so the remedy overtakes the Malady. Be­sides it pleases God very often, to make [Page 67] compensation for the want of one mem­ber or faculty by improving the use of another. We have seen feet supply all the necessary uses of hands to those who have had none; and it is a thing of daily observation that men that are blind, have the greater internal light: have their in­tellects more vigorous and active, by their abstractions from visible objects.

7. THUS also it is in the matter of wealth, he that is forced to get his bread by the swet of his browes, tis true he cannot have those delicacies wherewith rich men abound; yet his labor helps him to a more poignant, more savory sauce then a whole College of Epicures can compound. His hunger gives a higher gust to his dry crust, then the surfeited stomach can find in the most costly, most elaborate mixtures: so verifying the ob­servation of Solomon, the full soul loatheth the hony comb, but to the hungry soul e­very bitter thing is sweet, Prov. 27. 7. He cannot indeed stretch himself upon his bed of Ivory, Am. 6. 4. yet his sleeps are soun­der then those that can. The wiseman tells us, and experience dos so too, that the sleep of a laboring man is sweet. Eccles. 5. 12. He is not clothed Gorgeously, [Page 68] has not the splendor of glittering appa­rel, so neither has he the care of con­triving it, the fears of being forestal'd in a new invention, or any of those un­manly solicitudes which attend that va­nity. He has the proper genuine use of clothing; the preventing shame and cold, and is happily determin'd to that which the wiser men of the world have volun­tarily chosen. To conclude, he has one advantage beyond all these; his necessi­ties rescue him from idleness, and all its consequent temtations; which is so great a benefit, that if rich men be not their own taskmasters as his wants are his, if they do not provide themselves of busi­ness; that one want of theirs is infinitly more deplorable then all his: and he is not only happy comparatively with himself, in having better things then he wants, but with them also.

8. IF we come now to reputation and fame, the account will be much the same, he that is eminent in the world for some great atchievement, is set up as an object of every mans remark; when as his excellencies on the one hand are visible, so his faults and blemishes are on the o­ther. And as human frailty makes it too [Page 69] probable these later will be really more, so human envy makes it sure that they shall be more precisely, more curiously obser­ved, and more loudly blazon'd. So that upon the whole, a good quiet security, tho it be not the road to glory, yet is the likliest fence against infamy. And in­deed he that can keep up the repute of a sober integrity within his own pri­vate sphere, need not envy the trium­phant sallies of others, which often meet with a fatall turn at the later end of the day. But twill be said that even that more moderate sort of reputation is not every mans portion, but that many lie un­der great ignominy and scandals. I shall here ask whither those be just or unjust: If they be just they belong not to our present subject, which relates only to those inflictions which are the effects of Gods immediate providence, not of our own crimes; for I never doubted but that by those we may divest our selves of any, nay of all the good things God has de­sign'd us. But if the obloquy be unjust, tis probable that tis taken up only by ill men, and that the good pass a more e­quitable sentence; and then surely the at­testation of a few such, is able to out­weigh [Page 70] a multitude of the others. And in this case a man may not only find pati­ence but plesure in reproches. Socrates lookt with trouble and jealousy on him­self when ill men commended him, say­ing what ill have I don? and sure a Chri­stian has a farther reason to be pleas'd with their revilings, they being his secu­rity againsts the woe pronounc'd to those whom all men speak well of, Luke 6. 26. But somtimes it happens, that even good men are seduc'd, and either by the artifi­ces of the wicked, or their own too hasty credulity, give credit to unjust reports. And this I confess is a sharp trial to the injur'd person, yet even this cannot often be uni­versal, there can scarce be any innocence so forlorn but that there may be opportu­nities of cleering it to some or other, and by them propagating it to more, and if the cloud ever come to be dispers'd, their fame will appear with the brighter luster. But if none of this happen, they have yet a certain and more blessed retreat, even an appeal to the unerring judg, who never beholds us with more approbation, then when we are under the unjust condemna­tion of men. Indeed we have then a double tie upon him, not only his justice [Page 71] but his pity is concern'd in our cause. God particularly owns himself as the re­fuge of the oppressed, and there is scarce a sharper and more sensible oppression then this of Calumny: yet even this proves ad­vantage, whil'st it procures Gods imme­diate patronage, makes us the objects of his more peculiar care and compassion, who can make our righteousness as cleer as the light, Psa. 37. 6. if he see it fit; but if in his wisdom he chuse not that for us, tis comfort enough for us that we have ap­prov'd it to him. Twas Elkanahs que­stion to Hannah in her disconsolation, Am not I better to thee then ten Sons? I Sam. 1. 8. And sure we may say the like of Gods approbation, that tis better to us I say not then ten, but ten thousand Eu­logies of men. The very Echo of it in the testimony of a good conscience is an unspeakable comfort, and this voice sounds more audibly, more sweetly, among the loudest, the harshest accusations of men. So that we see even this assault too is not without its guard, and these waters of Marah. Exod. 15. 23. may be render'd not only wholsome but pleasant.

9. I have now instanced in the three most general concerns of human life, the [Page 72] Body, Goods, and Fame, to which heads may be reduced most of the afflictions incident to our out-ward state, as far as immediately concerns our selves. But there is no man stands so single in the world, but he has some relations or friends in which he thinks himself interessed, and many times those oblique strokes which wound us thro them, are as painful as the more direct: yet here also God is ordinarily pleas'd to provide some allaies, if we would but take notice of them. He who has had one friend die, has ordina­rily divers others surviving; or if he have not that, usually God raises him up others. Tis true we cannot have a succession of Fathers and Mothers, yet we often have of other friends that are no less helpful to us: and indeed there are scarce in a­ny thing more remarkable evidences of Providence, then in this particular. He that is able out of stones to raise up chil­dren to Abraham, Mat. 3 9. do's many times by as unexpected a production sup­ply friends to the desolate. But we do som­times loose our friends while they are liv­ing, they withdraw their kindness which is the soul of friendship: and if this hap­pen by our own demerit, we can accuse [Page 73] neither God nor them for it: nor can we rationally expect that God shall provide supplies, when we wilfully despoile our selves. But when they are unkind with­out provocation, then is the season for his interposition, who uses to take up those whom Father and Mother forsake, Psa. 27. 10. and we frequently see signal proofs of his care in exciting the compassions of other friends and relatives, or perhaps of mere strangers. Nay somtimes God makes the inhumanity of a mans relations, the oc­casion of his advantage. Thus the bar­barous malice of Iosephs brethren was the first step to his Dominion over Egypt. And it is a common observation in Fami­lies, that the most discountenanc'd child oft makes better proof, then the dearl­ing.

10. WE are yet liable to a third affli­ction by the calamity of our friends, which by the Sympathy of Kindness pres­ses us no less (perhaps more) sensibly then our own: but then tis to be consi­der'd, that theirs are capable of the same allaying circumstances that ours are, and God has the same arts of alleviating their burdens; so that we have the same argu­ments for acquiescence in their sufferings [Page 74] that we have in our own, and shall do a more friendly office in impressing those upon them, then in the most passionate adopting their sorrows.

11. THE last and greatest discomfort from friends, is that of their sin: and if ever we may be allow'd that disconsolate strein of the Prophet, Esa. 22. 4. Turn away from me, I will weep bitterly, labor not to comfort me; this seems to be the time: yet even this vally of Achor is not without a door of hope, Hos. 2. 15. A vici­ous person may be recalled, multitudes have bin; so that as long as God conti­nues life, we ought no more to deposite our hope, then to quit our endevor. Be­sides there are few that make this com­plaint that have not somthing to balance, or at least to lighten it. I shall instance in that relation which is the nearest and most tender, that of a Parent. He that has one bad child may have divers good. If he have but one virtuous tis a very great mercy, and tis another that he may be the better taught to value it by the op­position of the contrary. But if any be so unhappy as to have many children, and all to consume his eies and grieve his heart, 1 Sam. 2. 33. it may be a seasonable reflexion [Page 75] for him to examin how far he has contri­buted to it either by Elies fond indulgence, or by a remiss and careless education: or which is worst of all, by his most impious example. If any, or all of these be found the cause, he is not so much to seek for allaies to his grief, as for pardon of his sin: and when he has penitently retracted his own faults, he may then have better ground of hope that God may reform those of his children. In the mean time he may look on his own affliction in them as Gods discipline on him, and gather at least this comfort from it, that his heavenly Fa­ther has more care of him, then he had of his; and do's not leave him uncorre­cted.

12. THUS we see in all the concerns (which are the most common and im­portant of human life, and wherein the justest of our complaints are usually found­ed) there is such a temperature and mix­ture, that the good do's more then equal the ill, and that not only in the grosser bulk, when our whole state is weighed together, but in every single branch of it. God having herein dealt with this little world Man, as he has don with the greater, wherein he is observ'd to have [Page 76] furnished every country with Specific re­medies for their peculiar diseases. I have only given these short hints by way of essay and pattern for the Readers con­templation, which when he shall have ex­tended to all those more minute particu­lars wherein he is especially concern'd, more curiously compar'd his sufferings with his allaies and comforts; I cannot doubt but he will own himself an instance of the truth of the present Thesis, and confess, that he has much more cause of thankfulness then complaint.

13. THIS I say supposing his afflicti­ons to be of those more solid and conside­rable sorts I have before mention'd. But how many are there who have few or none of such, who seem to be seated in the land of Goshen, in a place exemt from all the plagues that infest their Neighbors? And those one would think should give a rea­dy suffrage to this conclusion, as having no temtation to oppugn it; yet I doubt tis far otherwise, and that such men are of all the most unsatisfied. For tho they have no crosses of Gods imposing, they usually create a multitude to themselves. And here we may say with David, it is better to fall into the hand of God, then in­to [Page 77] the hand of man, 2 Sam. 24. 14 tis easier to bear the afflictions God sends, then those we make to our selves. His are li­mited both for quantity and quality, but our own are as boundless as those extrava­gant desires from which they spring.

14. AND this is the true cause why contentment is so much a stranger to those who have all the outward causes of it, they have no definite mesure of their de­sires; tis not the supply of all their real wants will serve their turn, their appe­tites are precarious and depend upon con­tingencies. They hunger not because they are emty, but because others are full. Many a man could have liked his own portion well enough, had he not seen an­other have somthing he liked better. Nay even the most inconsiderable things ac­quire a value by being anothers, when we despise much greater of our own. A­hab might well have satisfied himself with the Kingdom of Israel, had not Naboths poor plot lain in his eie: but so raving were his desires after it, that he disrelishes all the pomps of a Crown, yea the ordi­nary refreshments of Nature, can eat no bread till he have that to furnish him with Sallads. 1 King. 21. 2. And how many [Page 78] are there now adaies whose cloths sit un­easy if they see another have had but the luck to be a little more ingenuously vain; whose meat is unsavory if they have seen but a greater rarity, a newer cookery at anothers Table: in a word who make other peoples excesses the standard of their own felicities.

15. NOR are our appetites only ex­cited thus by our outward objects, but precipitated and hurried on by our inward lusts. The proud man so longs for ho­mage and adoration, that nothing can please him if that be wanting. Haman can find no gust in all the sensualities of the Persian Court, because a poor despi­cable Jew denies his abaisance, Est. 5. 13. The lustful so impatiently pursues his im­pure designs, that any difficulty he meets in them, makes him pine and languish like Amnon, who could no way recover his own health but by violating his sisters honor. 2 Sam. 13. 14. The revengeful la­bors under an Hydropic thirst till he have the blood of his enemy: all the liquor of Absaloms sheep-sheering could not quench his, without the slaughter of his brother, 2 Sam. 1 [...]. 29. And thus every one of our pas­sions keeps us upon the rack till they have [Page 79] obtained their designs. Nay when they have, the very emtiness of those acqui­sitions is a new torment, and puts us up­on fresh pursuits. Thus between the im­petuousness of our desires, and the emti­ness of our enjoiments, we still disquiet our selves in vain, Psa. 39. 7. And whil'st we have such cruel task-masters, tis not strange to find us groaning under our bur­dens. If we will indulge to all our vi­cious or foolish appetites, think our lives bound up with them, and solicite the satisfaction of them with as impatient a vehemence, as Rachel did for children, Gen. 30. 1. give me them or I die: no won­der that we are alwaies complaining of disappointments, since in these the very success is a defeat, and is but the exchang­ing the pain of a craving ravenous sto­mach, for that of a cloi'd and nauseated. Indeed men of this temper condemn them­selves to a perpetual restlessness, they are like phantastic mutineers, who when their superiors send them blanks to write their own conditions, know not what will please them: and even Omnipotence it self cannot satisfy these till it have new moulded them, and reduced their desires to a certainty.

[Page 80] 16. BUT in the mean time how un­justly do they accuse God of illiberality, because every thing answers not their hu­mor? He has made them reasonable crea­tures, and has provided them satisfacti­ons proportionable to their nature; but if they will have wild irrational expecta­tions, neither his wisdom, nor his good­ness is concern'd to satisfy those. His supplies are real and solid, and therefore have no correspondence to imaginary wants. If we will create such to our selves, why do we not create an imaginary satis­faction to them? Twere the merrier fren­zy of the two, to be like the mad Athe­nian that thought all the ships that came into the harbor his own: and twere bet­ter Ixion like to have our Arms fil'd with a cloud, then to have them perpetually beating our own breasts, and be still tor­menting our selves with unsatisfiable de­sires. Yet this is the state to which men voluntarily subject themselves, and then quarrel at God because they will not let themselves be happy. But sure their ve­ry complaints justify God, and argue that he has dealt very kindly with them, and afforded them all the necessary accomo­dations of life: for did they want them, [Page 81] they would not be so sensible of the want of the other. He that is at perfect ease may feel with some vexation the biting of a flea or gnat, which would not be at all ob­servable if he were upon the rack. And should God change the scene, and make these nice people feel the destitution of necessaries; all these regrets about super­fluities would be overwhelmed. In the mean time how deplorable a thing is it, that we are still the poorer for Gods boun­ty, that those to whom he has opened his hand widest, should open their mouth so too, in outcries and murmurs? For I think I may say that generally, those that are the farthest remov'd from want, are so from content too; they take no notice of all the real substantial blessings they enjoy, leave these (like the ninty nine sheep in the wilderness) forgotten and neglected, to go in quest after some fu­gitive satisfaction, which like a shadow flies still faster in proportion to their pur­suit.

17. AND now would God they could be recalled from this unprofitable chace, and insteed of the Horsleeches note, Give give, Prov. 30. 15. take up that of the Psalmist, what shall I render to the Lord [Page 82] for all the benefits he hath don unto me? Psa. 116. 12. Let them count how many va­luable or rather inestimable things, they have received from his mercy▪ and then confront them with those corrections they have found from his justice; and if they do this impartially, I doubt not they will find wherewithal to check their highest mutinies; and will join with me in con­fessing, that their good things abundantly outweigh their ill.

18. IF now we carry on the compari­son to the last circumstance, and consider the constancy, we shall find as wide a diffe­rence. Let us take the Psalmists testi­mony, and there will appear a very distant date of his mercies and punishments. His mercies endure for ever Psal. 136. whereas his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eie Psal. 30. 5. And accordingly God owns his acts of severity as his strange work Isa. 28. 21. that which he resorts to only up­on special emergencies; but his mercies are renewed every morning, Lam. 3. 25. and doubtless we may all upon trial affirm the same. There are many of the most ne­cessary comforts of life which do not on­ly somtimes visit us as guests, but dwell with us as inmates and domestics. How [Page 83] many are there who have lived in a per­petual affluence from their cradles to their graves, have never known what it is to want? And tho the goods of fortune are perhaps less constant to some, yet the refreshments of nature are usually so to us all. We eat and drink, we sleep, we recreate, we converse in a continued cir­cle, and go our round almost as constant­ly as the sun do's his. Or if God do's somtimes a little interrupt us in it, put some short restraint upon our refresh­ments, yet that comparatively to the time we enjoy them, is but proportiona­ble to the stop he has somtimes made of the Sun, Jos. 10. 13. 2 Kings 20. 8. or of the sea, Exod. 14. 21. which as they were no subversions of the course of nature, so neither are those short pauses he som­times makes, a repeal of those fixt and customary benefits his providence usually allots us. But who is there can say that any one of his afflictions has bin of equal con­tinuance, or has prest him with so few in­termissions? Perhaps he may have mist some few nights sleep: but what is that to a twelve-months, or perhaps a whole lives enjoying it? Tis possible his stomach and his meat have not alwaies bin ready to­gether; [Page 84] but how much oftner have they met to his delight? and generally those things that are most useful, are but rarely interrupted. Nay to a great many even the delicacies of life are no less constant, and their luxuries are as quotidian as their bread: whereas unless their vices or their fancies create uneasinesses to them, those that come immediately from Gods hand, make long intermissions and short staies. Yet for all this they that should mesure by the uncessantness of mens complaints, would judge that the scene was quite re­verst, and that our good things are as Iob speaks, swifter then a wavers shuttle, Job. 7. 6. whilest our ill, like Gehazies Leprosy, cleave inseparably to us. 2. King 5. 10.

19. THE truth is we will not let our selves enjoy those intervals God allowes us, but when a calamity do's retire we will still keep it in fiction and imagina­tion; revolve it in our minds, and be­cause tis possible it may return, look up­on it as not gon. Like Aguish patients we count our selves sick on our well-day, because we expect a fit the next. A strange stupid folly thus to court vexation, and be miserable in Chimera. Do's any man [Page 85] or indeed any beast desire to keep a di­stastful relish still in his mouth, to chew the cud upon gall and wormwood? yet certainly there are a multitude of people whose lives are imbitter'd to them merely by these fantastic imaginary sufferings. Nor do we only fright our selves with i­mages and Ideas of past calamities, but we dress up new bugbears and mormoes, are Poetic and aerial in our inventions, and lay Romantic scenes of distresses. This is a thing very incident to jealous natures, who are alwaies raising alarms to themselves. A suspicious man looks on every body with dread. One man he fears has designs upon his fortune, an­other on his reputation, perhaps a third upon his life: whilst in the mean time, the only ill design against him is ma­naged by himself; his own causeless fears and jealousies which put him in a state of hostility with all the world; and do often betray him to the very things he groundlesly suspected. For it is not sel­dom seen that men have incurr'd reall mischiefs by a fond sollicitude of a­voiding imaginary ones. I do not que­stion but this is a state calamitous e­nough, and shall acknowledg it very [Page 86] likely that such persons shall have little or no truce from their troubles, who have such an unexhausted spring within themselves; yet we may say to them as the Prophet did to the house of Iacob, Is the spirit of the Lord straitned? are these his doings? Mich. 2. 7. Such men must not cry out that Gods hand lies heavy upon them, but their own; and so can be no impeachment to the truth of our observation, that Gods blessings are of a longer duration, keep a more fixt steddy course then his punishments. The result of all is, that the genera­lity of mankind have good things (e­ven as to temporals) which do in the three respects fore-mention'd exceed the ill. I mean the true and real ills which God sends, tho not those fanciful ones they raise to themselves.

20. AND now why should it not ap­pear a reasonable proposition that men should entertain themselves with the ple­santer parts of Gods dispensations to them, and not alwaies pore upon the harsher: especially since the former are so much a fairer object, and perpetual­ly in their eie, why should we look on [Page 87] the more sadening spectacles of human frailty or misfortune, thro all the mag­nifying optics our fancies can supply, and perversly turn away our eies from the cheerfuller? Yet this God knows is too much the case with most of us. How nicely and critically do we observe eve­ry little adverse accident of our lives? what tragical stories of them do our me­mories present us with? When alas a whole current of prosperity glides by without our notice. Like little children our fingers are never off the sore place, till we have pickt every light scratch in­to an Ulcer. Nay like the leuder sort of beggers, we make artificial sores to give us a pretence of complaint. And can we then expect God should concern himself in the cure? Indeed in the course of his ordinary providence there is no cure for such people, unless it be by re­vulsion, the making them feel the smart of some very great and pressing afflicti­on. They therefore put themselves un­der an unhappy dilemma, either to con­tinue their own tormentors, or to en­dure the severest course of Gods disci­pline. Tis true the last is the more [Page 88] eligible, but I am sure the best way is to prevent both, by a just and grateful sense of Gods mercies, which will be yet farther illustrated if we compare them with our own demerits.

SECT. V.
Of our Demerit towards God.

1. IT is the common fault of our na­ture, that we are very apt to be par­tial to our selves; and to square our expe­ctations more by what we wish, then by what we deserve. Somthing of this is vi­sible in our dealings with men. We oft look to reap where we have not sowed, Mat. 25. 25. expect benefits where we do none: yet in civil transactions there are still remain­ing such footsteps of natural justice, that we are not universally to unreasonable: all traffic and commerce subsisting upon the principle of equal retribution, giving one good thing for another equivalent; so that no man expects to buy corn with chaff, or Gold with dross. But in our dealings with God, we put off even this common equity; are vast in our expecta­tions, but penurious and base in our re­turns; and as if God were our steward not our Lord, we require of him with a con­fidence proper only to those who ask their [Page 90] own: whilst in the interim, what we of­fer to him is with such a disdainful slight­ness, as if we meant it rather an alms then an homage.

2. GOD indeed is so munificent, that he prevents us with his blessings, Psal. 21. 3. gives us many things before we ask: had he not don so, we could not have bin so much as in a capacity of asking. But tho the first & fundamental mercies are absolute and free, yet the subsequent are conditional: and accordingly we find in scripture, that God makes no promise either concerning this life or a better, but on condition of Obe­dience. The jews who had much larger pro­posals of temporal happiness then Christians have, yet never had them upon other terms. God expressly articled for the preformance of his commands, and made all their en­joiments forfeitable upon the failure, as we may see at large in the book of Deu­teronomy. And under the Gospel St. Paul appropriates the promises as well of this life as of that to come unto godliness, 1 Tim. 4. 8. It will therefore be a mate­rial inquiry for every man, whether he have kept his title entire, and have not by breach of the condition forfeited his clame, even to the most common ordina­ry [Page 91] blessings; for if he have, common rea­son will tell him he can challenge none: and that the utmost he can hope for, must be only upon a new score of unmerited favor.

3. And here certainly every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God, Rom. 3. 19. For alas who is there that can say his obedience has bin in any degree proportionable to his obli­gation? Tis manifest we have all received abundantly from Gods hand, but what has he had from ours? I may challenge the best man, to cast up the account of his best day, and tell me whether his receits have not infinitly exceeded his disburs­ments: whether for any one good thing he has don, he has not received many. Nor is the disparity only in number, but much more in value. Gods works are per­fect, all he do's for us like the first 6 daies productions, are all very good, Gen. 1. but alass our very righteousness is as filthy rags, Esai. 64. 6. we offer him the blind and the lame, Mal. 1. 9. a few yewning drowsy prai­ers perhaps, wherein he has the lest share: the fuller current of our thoughts running towards our secular or sinful concerns. We drop it may be a scanty Alms, where­in [Page 92] tis odds our vain-glory scrambles for a share with him, if it do not wholly in­gross it. We sit an hour at a sermon, but tis rather to hear the wit or eloquence of the preacher, then the word of God. Like the duller sort of animals, we like well to have our itching ears scratcht, but grow sturdy and restive when we should do what we are there taught. In a word all our services at the best are mi­serably maim'd, and imperfect; and too of­ten corrupt and unsound. So that God may well upbraid us as he did Israel, Of­fer it now to thy governor, will he be pleas'd with it? Mal. 1. 8. These very iniquities of our holy things, are enough to defeat all our pretences to any good from Gods hand; yet God knows this is much the best side of us: tis not every one that can make so fair an appearance as this amounts to. With many, there is no place to com­plain of the blemishes of their sacrifices, for they offer none; of whom we may say in the words of the Psalmist, God is not in all their thoughts, Psal. 10. 4. I fear there want not those who drive away the day, the week, nay the year, without remem­bring in whose hand their time is, Psal. 31. 18. or paying him any solemn tribute [Page 93] of it; who enjoy the services of all infe­rior creatures, without considering that theirs are more due to the supreme Lord: in a word, who live as if they were abso­lutly independent; had their existence purely from themselves, and had no Crea­tor to whom they owed their being, or any consequent duty. And sure men who thus discard themselves from Gods fami­ly, have very little reason to expect the provisions of it: yet even such as these have the impudence to complain, if any thing be wanting to their needs (shall I say) or to their lusts; can ravingly pro­fane Gods name in their impatiencies, which they know not how to use in their praiers: as if the Deity were considerable in no other notion, then that of their ca­terer or steward.

4. IF now we seriously reflect, what can be more admirable then that infinit patience of God; who notwithstanding the miserable infirmities of the pious, and the leud contemt of the impious, still goes on resolutly in his bounty, and conti­nues to all mankind some, and to some all his temporal blessings? He has no ob­ligation of justice to do so, for it is no part of his compact; he has none of gra­titude, [Page 94] for he is perpetually affronted and disobliged. Surely we may well say with David, Is this after the manner of men, O Lord? 1 Chro. 17. 17. Can the high­est human indulgence bear any proportion with this divine Clemency? no certainly, no finite patience but would be exhausted with the thousandth part of our provo­cations.

5. BUT is not our dealing too as lit­tle after the manner of men? I mean of reasonable creatures: for us who have for­feited our right to all, and yet by mere favor are still kept in the possession of many great blessings: for us to grow mu­tinous, because there is perhaps somthing more trifling which is deni'd us, is such a stupid ingratitude, as one would think impossible to human nature. Should a Te­nant with us have at once forfeited his lease and maliciously affronted his Land­lord, he would sure think himself very gently dealt with, if he were suffer'd to enjoy but a part of his first estate; but we should think him not only insolent, but mad, who when the whole were left him, should quarrel and clamor if he might not have his Cottage adorn'd with mar­ble floors, and gilded roofs. Yet at this wild [Page 95] rate we behave our selves to our great Landlord, grow pettish and angry if we have not every thing we can fancy, tho we enjoy many more useful, merely by his indulgence. And can there be any thing imagin'd more unreasonable? Let us therefore if not for piety, yet at least to justify our clame to rationality, be more ingenuous; let us not consult only with our fond appetites, and be thus perpetu­ally solliciting their satisfaction; but ra­ther reflect on what tenure we hold what we already have, even that of su­perabundant mercy; and fear, least like insolent beggers by the impudence of our demands we divert even that charity which was design'd us. In short let every man when he computes what he wants of his desires, reckon as exactly how much he is short of his duty; and when he has duly ponder'd both, he will think it a very gentle composition to have the one unsupplied, so he may have the other re­mitted; and will see cause contentedly to sit down and say with honest Mephibosheth, What right have I to cry any more unto the King? 2 Sam. 19. 28. But if it be thus with us upon the mere score of our imperfectionsor omissions, what an obnoxious state do our [Page 96] innumerable actual sins put us in? If the spots of our sacrifices are provoking, what are our sacrileges and bold profanations? If those who neglect or forget God are listed among his enemies, what are those who avowedly defy him? Indeed he that so­berly considers the world, and sees how daringly the divine Majesty is daily af­fronted, cannot but wonder that the per­versions of our manners, those prodigies in morality, should not be answer'd with as great prodigies in calamity too; that we should ever have other ruin then that of Sodom, or the earth serve us for any other purpose then to be, as it was to Korah, Num. 16. our living sepulcher.

6. NOR is this longanimity of God observable only towards the mass and col­lective body of mankind, but to every man in particular. Who is there that if he ransack his conscience, shall not find guilts enow to justify God in the utmost severities towards him? so that how much soever his punishments are short of that, so much he evidently owes to the lenity and compassion of God. And who is there that suffers in this world the utmost that God can inflict? We have a great many suffering capacities, and if those [Page 97] were all fill'd up to the height, our con­dition would scarce differ from that of the damned in any thing but duration. But God is more merciful, and never in­flicts at that rate on us here. Every mans experience can tell him, that God dischar­ges not his whole quiver at once upon him, but exemts him in many more particulars then he afflicts him; and yet the same experience will probably tell most of us, that we are not so modest in our assaults upon God; we attacque him in all his con­cerns (as far as our feeble malice can reach) in his Sovereignty, in his honor, in his relatives, nay somtimes in his very essence and being. And as they are uni­versal in respect of him, so also in regard of our selves: we engage all our powers in this war, do not only yield (as the A­postle speaks) our members instruments of unrighteousness, Rom. 6. 18. but we press them upon the service of sensual and vile lusts, even beyond our native propensions. Nor are only the members of our body, but the faculties of our souls also thus em­ploied; our understandings are busied first in contriving sins, and then excuses and disguises for them; our wills are yet more sturdy rebels, and when the understand­ing [Page 98] is beat out of all its out-works, yet sullenly keep their hold in spight of all conviction; and our affections madly rush on like the horse into the battel, Jer. 8. 6. deterred by nothing of danger, so there be but sin enough in the attemt.

7. AND now with what face can peo­ple that thus pursue an hostility, expect that it should not be return'd to them? do's any man denounce war, and yet expect from his adversary all the caresses, the obligements of friendship? self-de­fence will promt even the meekest nature to despoile his enemy at least of those things which he uses to his annoiance; aud if God should give way even to that lowest degree of anger, where or what were we? for since we imploy our whole selves against him, nothing but destru­ction can avert our injuries. But tis hap­py for us we have to do with one who cannot fear us, who knows the impotence of our wild attemts, and so allai's his re­sentment of our insolence, with his pity of our follies. Were it not for this, we should not be left in a possiblity so oft to iterate our provocations; every wicked imagination and black design, would be at once defeated and punisht by infatuati­on [Page 99] and frenzy: every blasphemous Athe­istical speech would wither the tongue, like that arm of Ieroboam which he stretcht against the Prophet, 2 King. 13. 4. and every impious act would like the prohi­bited retrospect of Lots Wife, fix us perpe­tual monuments of divine vengeance.

8. AND then how much do we owe to the mercy and commiseration of our God, that he suffers not his whole disple­sure to arise, Psa. 78. 39. that he abates any thing of that just severity he might use toward us? He that is condemned to the Gallowes, would think it a mercy to scape with any inferior penalty: why have we then such mean thoughts of Gods Cle­mency, when he descends to such low compositions with us? corrects us so light­ly as if twere only matter of ceremony and punctilioe, the regard of his honor, rather then the execution of his wrath. For alas let him among us that is the most innocent, and undeservedly afflicted, muster up his sins and sufferings, and he will see a vast in­equality: and (had he not other grounds of assurance) would be almost temted to think those were not the provoking cause, they are so unproportionably answered. He sins in innumerable instances, and is [Page 100] punisht in few; he sins habitually and per­petually, and suffers rarely and seldom; nay perhaps he has somtimes sin'd with greediness, and yet God has punisht with regret and reluctancy, How shall I give thee up O Ephraim? Hos. 11. 8. And when all these disparities are consider'd, we must certainly join heartily in Ezras confes­sion, Thou O God has punisht us less then our iniquities deserve, Ezra. 9. 13.

9. NAY besides all our antecedent, we have after guilts no less provoking, I mean our ungracious repinings at the light chastisements of our former sins, our out-cries upon every little uneasiness, which may justly cause God to turn our whips into scorpions; and according as he threatned Israel Lev. 26. 18. to punish us yet seven times more. And yet even this do's not immediately exasperate him. The Jews were an instance how long he could bear with a murmuring generation; but certainly we of this nation are a greater, yet let us not be high-minded but fear, Rom. 11. 20. for we see at last the doom fell heavy tho it was protracted, a succession of miraculous judgments pur­sued those murmurers, so that not one of them enter'd Canaan. And tis very [Page 101] observable that whereas to other sins Gods denunciations are in scripture conditio­nal and reversible; this was absolute and bound with an oath, He sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest, Psa. 95. 11. And yet if we compare the hard­ships of the Israelites in the wilderness, with most of our sufferings, we shall be forced to confess our mutinies have less temtation, and consequently less excuse; from whence tis very reasonable to infer, as the greatness of our danger if we per­sist, so the greatness of Gods long suffer­ing towards us, who yet allows us space to reform: and sure new complaints sound very ill from us, who are liable to so se­vere an account for our old ones. I fear the most resign'd persons of us will up­on recollection find, they have upon one occasion or other out-vied the num­ber of the Israelites murmurs, therefore unless we will emulate them in their plagues, let us fear to add one more, lest that make up the fatal sum, and render our destruction irrevocable.

10. UPON all these considerations it appears how little reason any of us have to repine at our heaviest pressures; but there is yet a farther circumstance to be advert­ed [Page 102] to, and is too applicable to many of us, that is, that our sins are not only the constant meritorious cause of our suffer­ings, but they are also very often the in­strumental cause also; and produce them not only by way of retaliation from God, but by a natural efficacy. Solomon tells us he that loves plesure, shall be a poor man, and that a whorish woman will bring a man to a piece of bread Prov. 6. 26. that he that sits long at the wine shall have red­ness of eies, Chap. 23. 29. 30. that the slothful soul shall suffer hunger, 19. 15. and all these not by immediate supernatural infliction from God, but as the proper genuine effects of those respective vices. Indeed God in his original establishment of things, has made so close a connexion between sin and punishment, that he is not often put to exert his power in any extraordinary way, but may trust us to be our own Lictors, our own backslidings reprove us Jer. 2. 19. and our iniquities are of themselves enough to become our ruine, Exod. 18. 38.

11. It may therefore be a seasonable question for every man to put to himself, whether the troubles he labors under; be not of this sort; whether the poverty he [Page 103] complains of, be not the effect of his riot and profusion, his sloth and negligence? whether when he cries out that his comeli­ness is turn'd into corruption, Dan. 10. 8. he may not answer himself, that they are his visits to the harlots houses which have thus made rottenness enter into his bones, Hab. 3. 16. whether when he is beset with contentions, and has wounds without cause, he have not tarried long at the wine; when he has lost his friend, whether he have not by some trecherous wound Eccle. 22. 22. forced him to depart: or when he lies under infamy, whether it be not only the Echo of his own scandalous crimes. If he find it thus with him, cer­tainly his mouth is stopt, and he cannot without the most disingenuous impudence complain of any but himself. He could not be ignorant that such effects did natu­rally attend such causes, and therefore if he would take the one, he must take the other also. No man sure can be so mad, as to think God should work miracles (disunite those things which nature hath conjoin'd) only that he may sin at ease, have all the bestial plesures he can pro­ject, and none of the consequent smart. We read in deed God divided the sea, but [Page 104] it was to make the way for the Ransomed of the Lord to pass over Isa. 51. 10. those who were his own people, and went in at his command; but when they were secu­red, we find the waters immediatly re­turn'd to their chanel, and overwhelmed the Egyptians, who ventured without the same warrant. And sure the case is alike here, when any man can produce Gods mandate for him to run into all ex­cess of riot, to desecrate the temple of the holy Ghost, and make his body the member of an harlot, 1 Cor. 6. 15. In a word when God bids him do any of those things, which God and good men abhor, then and not before he may hope he may sever such acts from their native penal effects; for till then (how profuse soever some Le­gendary stories represent him) he will certainly never so bestow his miracles.

12. But I fear upon scrutiny there will appear a yet farther circumstance upon which to arraign our mutinies, for tho it be unreasonable enough to charge God with the ill effects of our own leudness, yet tis a higher step to murmur because we have not materials to be wicked e­nough. And this I fear is the case with too many of us, who tho they are not [Page 105] so dispoil'd by their sins, but that they can keep up their round of vicious ple­sures, yet are discontented because they think some others have them more exqui­site, think their vices are not Gentile e­nough, unless they be very expensive, and are covetous only that they may be more Luxurious. These are such as St Iames speaks of, who ask amiss, that they may consume it upon their lusts. Jam. 4. 3. and sure to be mutinous on this account is one of the highest pieces of frenzy. Would any man in his wits tell another he will cut his throat, and then expect he should furnish him with a knife for it? And yet to this amount our murmurs against God, for his not giving us those things wherewith we only design to wage war with him. For surely if the discontents of mankind were closely inspected, I doubt a great many would be found of this kind. It concerns the Reader therefore to make the inquisition in his own breast, both in this and all the former particulars, and I doubt not, if he do it with any in­genuity and uprightness, he will be abundantly convinced that for his few mites of obedience he paies to God, he receives talents of mercies (even tempo­ral) [Page 106] from him: and that on the other side, that God as much underpaies his sins, as he overpaies his services: by which God do's sufficiently attest how little he delights in our affliction, how gladly he takes any light occasion of caressing and cherishing, and over-skips those of pu­nishing us. Which sure ought to make us convert all our displesures against our sins, which extort those acts of severity from him, to which his nature is most averse. And here indeed our resentments cannot be too sharp, but towards God our fit­test address will be in the penitential form of the prophet Daniel, O Lord, to us be­longeth confusion of face, but to the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, tho we have rebelled against him, Dan. 9. 8. 9. And as his justice is to be revered in his inflictions, so is his wisdom also, in so disposing of events to particular per­sons, as may best consist with the univer­sal Oeconomy and managery of the world, the consideration whereof is the design of the next Section.

SECT. VI.
Of Gods general Providence.

1. WHEN God made the universe, he intended not only to glorify himself in one transient act of his power, and then leave this great and wonderful production of his, as the Ostrich her eggs in the wilderness, Lam. 4. 3. but having drawn it out of its first Chaos, he secur'd it from returning thither again, by esta­blishing as a due symmetry of parts, so al­so a regular order of motion: hence it is that the heavens have their constant re­volutions, the earth its succession of de­terminate seasons, animals their alternate course of generation and corruption: and by this wise Oeconomy, the world after so many thousand years, seems still in its spring and first beauty. But it had bin in vain to have thus secured the defe­ction of the creatures, if man for whose sake they were made had bin excluded from this care. His faculty of reason would [Page 108] have made him but the more fatal instru­ment of confusion, and taught him the more compendious waies of disturbing the world. Iob compares him to the wild asses colt. Job 11. 12. which takes its range without adverting to any thing of the common good. God has therefore dou­bly hedged in this unruly creature, made a fence of laws about him (both natural and positive) and besides has taken him into the common circle of his providence, so that he, as well as the rest of the crea­tion, has his particular station assign'd him; and that not only in reference to other creatures, but himself; has put a difference between one man and another, ordained several ranks and Classes of men, and endowed them with special and ap­propriate qualifications for those stations wherein he has set them.

2. THIS, as it is a work of infinit wis­dom in God, so it is of unspeakable ad­vantage to men. Without this regular dis­posure, the world would have bin in the same confusion which we read of in the host of the Midianites, every mans sword against his fellow, Jud. 7. 22. Nothing but force could determine who should do, or enjoy any thing; and even that decision [Page 109] also would have bin repelable by a grea­ter force: so that we have all reason to confess the utility of that order God has set among men: and even he that bears the lowest and most despicable place in it, is certainly infinitly more happy by con­tributing to that general Harmony, then he could be in any state of discord.

3. WERE this now well consider'd, methinks it should silence all our com­plaints, and men should not be so vehe­mently concern'd in what part of the stru­cture it pleases the great Architect to put them: for every man is to look on him­self only as a small parcel of those mate­rials which God is to put into form. E­very stone is not fit for the corner, nor every little rafter for the main beam: the wisdom of the Master builder is alone to determin that. And sure there cannot be a more vile contemt of the divine wis­dom then to dispute his choice. Had God wisdom enough to contrive this vast and beautiful fabric, and may he not be trusted with one of us poor worms? Did he by his wisdom make the heavens, and by his un­derstandimg stretch out the clouds, Pro. 3. 19. and shall he not know where to place a little lump of figur'd earth? this is cer­tainly [Page 110] the most absurd distrust imagina­ble, and yet this is really the true mean­ing of our repining at the condition he has placed us in.

4. THE truth is, we are so full of our selves, that we can see nothing beyond it: every man expects God should place him where he has a mind to be, tho by it he discompose the whole scheme of his providence. But tho we are so senselessly partial, yet God is not so: he that com­prehends at once the whole concern of mankind, applies himself to the accomo­dating those, not the humoring any par­ticular person. He has made the great and the small and careth for all alike, Wisd. 6. 7. He is the common Father of man­kind, and disposes things for the public advantage of this great family, and tis not all the impatient cravings of a froward child that shall make him recede from his designed method. We are apt enough, I am sure, to tax it not only as a weak­ness, but injustice too in a Prince, when he indulges any thing to a private favo­rite to the public disadvantage; yet so unequal are we, that we murmur at God for not doing that, which we murmur at men for doing.

[Page 111] 5. BESIDES a man is to consider, that other men have the same appetites with himself. If he dislike an inferior state, why should he not think others do so too? and then as the wise man speaks, whose voice shall the Lord hear? Ecclus. 34. 24. Tis sure great insolence in me to expect that God should be more concern'd to humor me, then those multitudes of others who have the same desires. And the more impatient my longings are, the less in reason should be my hopes; for mutiny is no such endearing quality as to render any man a dearling to God. But if all men should have equal satisfactions, we should puzle even Omnipotence it self. Every man would be above and superior, yet those are comparative terms, and if no man were below, no man could be above. So in wealth, most men desire more, but every man do's at least desire to keep what he has; how then shall one part of the world be supplied without the diminuti­on of the other, unless there should be as miraculous a multiplication of tresure for mens avarice, as there was of Loaves for their hunger, Mat. 16. 9. It was a good answer which the Ambassadors of an op­prest Province made to Antony, If O [Page 112] Emperor, thou wilt have double taxes from us, thou must help us to double Springs and Harvests. And sure God must be at the expence of a new Creation, make us a double world, if he should oblige him­self to satisfy all the unreasonable appe­tites of men: and if he satisfy not all, why should any particular person look that his alone should be indulged to?

6. YET as unreasonable as it is, the most of us do betray such a perswasion. No man is discontented that there are lower, as well as higher degrees in the world, that there are poor as well as rich, but all sensible men assent to the fitness of it: yet if themselves happen to be set in the lower form, they exclame as if the whole order of the world were subverted; which is a palpable indication that they think that Providence which governs o­thers, should serve them, and distribute to them not what it, but themselves think good. This immoderate self-love is the spring and root of most of our complaints, makes us such unequal judges in our own concerns, and promts us to put in Caveats and exceptions on our own behalf, as David did on his sons, See that thou hurt not the young man Absolom? 2 Sam. 18. 15. [Page 113] as if God were to manage the govern­ment of the world with a particular re­gard to our liking, and were like the An­gels at Sodom, Gen. 19. 22. to do nothing till we had got into Zoar, had all our de­mands secured to us.

7. IT would indeed astonish a consi­dering man to see, that altho the con­cerns of men are all disposed by an unerr­ing Wisdom, and acknowledged by them­selves to be so, yet that scarce any man is pleased. The truth is, we have gene­rally in us the worser part of the Levelers principle, and tho we can very content­edly behold multitudes below us, yet are impatient to see any above us; not only the foot (to use the Apostles simile) com­plains that it is not the hand, but the eare because it is not the eie, 1 Cor. 12. 15. 16. Not only the lowermost, but the higher ranks of men are uneasy, if there be any one step above them. Nay so importu­nate is this aspiring humor, that we see men are forced to feed it tho but with aire and shadows. He that cannot make any real advance in his quality, will yet do it in effigie, in all little gaieties and pageantries of it. Every degree in these respects not only emulates, but imitates its [Page 114] superior, till at last by that impatience of their proper distance they make it greater, and sink even below their first state by their ridiculous profusion. Indeed the world seems to be so over-run with this vanity, that there is little visible distinction of de­grees, and one had need go to the Heralds office to know mens qualities, for neither their habit nor equipage do now adaies inform us with any certainty.

1. BUT by all these it appears that men look on themselves only as single per­sons, without reference to the commu­nity whereof they are members. For did they consider that, they would endevor rather to become the places wherein they were set, by doing the duties belonging to them, then be perpetually projecting for a change. A tree that is every year transplanted will never bear fruit, and a mind that is alwaies hurried from its pro­per station, will scarce ever do good in a­ny. This is excellently exprest to us by Solomon, As a bird that wandereth from his nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place. Pro. 27. 8. Tis easy to divine the fate of those young ones from whom the damn wanders, and tis as easy to guess how the duties of that place will be per­formed, [Page 115] whose owner is alwaies upon the wing and making towards another. I wish we had not too costly experiments both in Church and State of the truth of this observation. Alas we forget that we are all servants to the same Master, and that he is to appoint in what office we shall serve him. How should we like it in any of our own families, to have an inferior officer leave his work undon, because he has more mind to be Major-Domo? Yet this insolence we every day repete towards God, sullenly dispute his orders, and un­less we may chuse our own imploiments, will do nothing.

9. TIS evident this perverse temper of mankind breeds a great deal of mis­chief and disturbance in the world, but would breed arrant confusion and subver­sion, if it were suffered to have its full range. If God permit but one ambitious spirit to break loose in an age as the in­strument of his wrath, what destruction do's it often times make? How do's it cause the whole earth to tremble, and shake Kingdoms as is said of Nebuchadnezzar, Isa. 14. 16. and may be said of many o­thers of those whole-sale robbers who have dignified the trade? But if every aspir­ing [Page 116] humor should be as prosperous, where would it find fuel to maintain the flame? No doubt every age produces men of as unbounded desires as Alexander or Cesar, but God gives them not the same opportu­nities to trouble the world. And according­ly in the more petty ambitions of private men he often orders it so, that those soar­ing minds can find no benign gale to help their mounting. He that sets bounds to the sea, saying, hitherto shalt thou come and no farther, and tho the waves thereof toss themselves yet can they not prevaile, tho they roar yet can they not pass over, Jer. 5. 22. do's also depress the swelling pride of men, hangs clogs and weights upon them that they cannot rise to their affected height. For tho we are all willing to for­get it, yet God remembers that he is the Rector of the Universe, and will assert his Dominion. The subtilest contrivance can­not circumvent him, the most dareing pretender cannot wrest any thing out of his hand, the Lord will still be King, be the people never so impatient, Psa. 99. 1. Twill therefore sure be as well our pru­dence as our duty to be still and know that he is God, Psal. 46. 10. with an humble dereliction of our own wills acquiesce in [Page 117] his, and not by ineffective struglings pro­voke, whom we are sure never to subdue. We may like unmanaged horses fome and fret, but still God has the bridle in our jawes, and we cannot advance a step farther then he permits us. Why should we then create torment to our selves by our repinings, which only sets us farther from our aims. Tis Gods declared me­thod to exalt the lowly, and tis observa­ble in the first two Kings of Israel who were of Gods immediate election, that he surprized them with that dignity when they were about mean and humble im­ploiments, the one searching his fathers Asses, the other keeping his fathers sheep: and would men honestly and diligently exercise themselves in the business of their proper calling, they might perhaps find it a more direct road to advancement, then all the sinister arts by which ambi­tious men endeavor to climb. Solomon sets it down as an Aphorism, seest thou a man diligent in his business he shall stand before Kings, he shall not stand before mean men Pro. 22. 29. But whether it happen to have that effect or no, it will have a better, for it will sweeten his present condition, divert his mind from mutinous reflections [Page 118] on other mens height, and his own low­ness, for tis commonly men who mind not their work that are at so much lei­sure to gaze. He that carefully plies his own business will have his thoughts more concentred: and doubtless tis no small happiness to have them so, for tis their gadding too much abroad, looking on other mens conditions that sends them back (like Dianah deflowred) to put all in uproar at home. The son of Sy­rach speaks with transportation of the state even of him that labors and is con­tent, and calls it a sweet life, Ecclus. 40. 18. And certainly tis infinitly more so then that of the greatest Prince whose mind swels beyond his territories.

10. UPON all these considerations it cannot but appear very reasonable that we should leave God to govern the world, not be puting in like the sons of Zebedee for the highest seats; but contentedly rest our selves where he has placed us, till his providence (not our own designs) ad­vance us. We can no where be so obscure as to be hid from his eies, who as he va­lued the widows mite above the great oblations of the rich; so he will no less graciously accept the humble endevors [Page 119] of the mean, then the more eminent ser­vices of the mighty; himself having de­clared, that he accepts according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not, 2 Cor. 8. 12. so that in what rank soever a man is set, he has still the opportunity of approving himself to God, and tho in the eie of the world he be a vessel of dishonor, yet in the day when God comes to make up his Iewels Mal. 3. 17. there will be another estimate made of him who regularly moves in his own sphere. And sure he that sits down in this acquiescence is a happier man, then he that enjoies the greatest worldly splendor: but infinitly more so then he who impatient­ly covets but cannot attain them; for such a man puts himself upon a perpe­tual rack, keeps his appetites up at the utmost stretch, and yet has nothing wherewith to satisfy them. Let there­fore our ease if not our duty promt us to acquiescence, and a ready submission to Gods disposals, to which we have yet a farther inducement from that distinct care he hath over every mans peculiar, by which he proportions to him, what is really best for him; of which we are farther to con­sider in the next Section.

SECT. VII.
Of Gods particular Providence.

1. IT is the imperfection of our finite nature that we cannot at once at­tend to divers things, but the more ve­hement our intention is upon one, the greater is our neglect of the rest. But Gods infinity cannot be so bounded; his eies at once see, and his providence at once orders all the most distant and dis­parate things in the world. He is not such an Epicurean Deity, as to sequester himself wholy to the enjoiment of his own felicity, and to despise the concerns of poor mortals; but tho he have his dwel­ling so high, yet he humbleth himself to be­hold the things in heaven and earth, Psal. 113. 5. Nor do's his providence confine it self to the more splendid and greater parts of managery, the conduct of Em­pires and states, but it descends to the lowest parts of his creation, to the foules of the air, to the lilies of the field, and [Page 121] then sure our Saviors inference as to man­kind is irrefragable, are ye not much better then they? Mat. 6. 26. If a sparrow (as he elsewhere tells his disciples) cannot fall to the ground without Gods particu­lar notice, surely no human creature is less considerable to him; nay if our very haires are numbred, we cannot think the excrescence is of more value then the stock, but must conclude that God with a particular advertence watches over the concerns of every man.

2. NOW God being infinitly good, cannot thus attend us upon any insidi­ous design of doing us mischief, he wat­ches over us as a guardian not as a spy; and directs his observation to the more seasonable adapting his benefits: and as he is thus gracious in designing our ad­vantage, so is he no less wise in contri­ving it. All things saies the wiseman are not profitable for all men Ecclus. 37. 28. Indeed nothing is absolutly good but God, all created things are good or ill in reference to that to which they are ap­plied. Meat is good, but to a surfeited stomach tis not only nauseous but dange­rous. Fire is good, but if put in our bo­soms, not only burns our cloths but flesh.

[Page 122] And as humane wisdom directs the right application of these and the like, so the supreme and divine orders events accor­ding to the disposition of the person con­cern'd; he knows our frame Psal. 103. 14. and discerns what operation such or such things will have upon us, while we who know neither our selves nor them can make but random guesses, and worse choices. And sure he that do's but thus in the gene­ral acknowledge Gods providence, good­ness and wisdom (which he is, no Christian who do's not) has a sufficient amulet a­gainst all his solicitudes, much more his repinings. He cannot think he suffers unawares to him who sees all things. He cannot think his sufferings are design'd for ill to him because they are dispos'd by him who intends and projects his good. Nor can he fear those intentions can mis­carry, which are guided by an infinit and unerring wisdom, and backt by an un­controlable power. And sure this is as the Apostle speaks Heb. 6. 18. strong con­solation if we would but duely apply it.

3. YET because general notions do of­ten make but light impressions on us, it may not be amiss to make a little more inspection, and to observe how ap­plicable [Page 123] they are to the several kinds of our discontents. Now those may be redu­ced to two, for either we are troubled at the want of somthing we desire, or at the suffering of somthing we would avert; so that the two notions of privative and positive, divide between them all our affliction.

4. THE first of these is usually the most comprehensive, for there are few who have not more torment from the apprehensi­on of somwhat they want, then from the smart of any thing they feel. And in­deed whilst our desires are so vagrant and exorbitant, they will be sure to furnish matter enough for our discontents. But certainly there is not in the world such a charm for them, as the consideration that God is more wise to discern, and more careful to provide what is really good for us then we our selves. We poor purblind creatures look only on the sur­face of things, and if we see a beautiful appearance, somwhat that invites our sen­ses, we court it with the utmost earnest­ness; but God penetrates deeper, he sees to the bottom both of us and those things we desire, and finds often that tho they may please our appetite, they will hurt our [Page 124] health: and will no more give them to us, then a careful father will to his child those gilded poisons he cries for. Per­haps this man is taken with the enchanting music of fame, likes not his own obscure station, but would fain present himself upon a more public Theater, come into the eie and croud of the world; but how little do's he know how he shall act his part there: whither he shall come off with a plaudite or a hiss? he may render him­self but the more public spectacle of scorn; or if he do not that, he may by a better success feed up his vaine glory to such a bulk as may render him too great a weight for that tottering pinacle whereon he stands: and so after he has made a tow­ring circle, he may fall back with more ignominy to his first point. Another it may be no less eagerly desires wealth, thinks (as once Cresus did) that he that abounds in tresure cannot be emty of fe­licity; but alas how knows he how he shall imploy it? There are two contrary temta­tions that attend riches; riots, and co­vetousness: and he is sure a little too con­fident, that dares promise himself that when there is such odds against him, he shall certainly chuse the one just mean, [Page 125] and if he do not, he do's only inflame his account at the great Audit: Besides the more wealth he has, the fairer booty he is to the avarice of others; and it has bin often seen, that many a man had not di­ed so poor, if he had lived less rich. Ano­ther perhaps thinks not himself so much to want wealth as children to heir it, and complains with Abraham, Lord what wilt thou give me seeing I go childless? Gen. 15. 2. yet how knows he whether that child he so much desires shall be a wise man or a fool, Eccle. 2. 19. a comfort or a ve­xation to himself if he live to see his proof? and if he do not, he do's but project for an access to his dying cares in what hands to leave him. Rachel sollicited this satis­faction with the greatest impatience, give me children or I die, Gen. 30. 1. and tis ob­servable that the grant of her wish proved the loss of her life.

5. THUS in these and innumerable other instances we drive on blindfold, and very often impetuously pursue that which would ruin us: and were God as short­sighted as we, into what precipices should we minutely hurry our selves? or were he so unkind as to consider our impor­tunity more then our interest, we should [Page 126] quickly sink under the weight of our own wishes; and as Iuvenal in his tenth Satyr excellently observes, perish by the sucess and grant of our Praiers. I suppose there is no man that soberly recollects the e­vents of his life, but can experimentally say, he has somtimes desired things which would have bin to his mischief if he had had them, and that himself has after lookt on the denial as a mercy: as on the o­ther side when he has prosper'd in his aims, and had what his soul lusted after, it has bin but like the quailes to the Israelites, a conviction and punishment, rather then a satisfaction. And now surely God may complaine of us as he did of Israel, How loug will it be ere you believe me? Num. 14. 11. After all the attestations he has given of his care and Providence over us, after all the experiments we have had of the folly of our own elections, we can­not yet be brought either to distrust our selves, or rely upon him. We will still be chusing and look on him as no farther concern'd, then as the executioner of our designs.

6. THIS is certainly a strange perverse­ness, and such as no sensible man would be guilty of in any other instance. In all [Page 127] our secular affaires we trust those whom we have cause to think understand them better then our selves, and rely upon men in their own faculty. We put our estates in the Lawiers hand, our bodies into the Physicians, and submit to their advice tho it be against our humor, merely because we account them more competent judges. Yet this deference we cannot be perswad­ed to pay to God, but will still be pre­scribing to him, and are very angry if his dispensations do not exactly answer our fancies. And can we offer him a great­er affront then thus to distrust him? What is it but interpretatively to deny either his wisdom, or his goodness, or both? and so derogate from him in two of his essential attributes. For there can be no rational account given by any who be­lieve those, why they should not remit their whole concerns to him. So that the short account is, that in our distrusts we either deny him to be God, or our selves to be men, by resisting the most evident dictates of that reason which di­stinguishes us from brutes. For certainly there is not in human discourse a more irrefragable Maxim, then that we ought for our own sakes, to resign our selves [Page 128] to him, who we are infallibly sure, can, and will, chuse better for us, then we for our selves.

7. THIS was so apparent by mere na­tural light, that Socrates advised men to pray only for blessings in general, and leave the particular kinds of them to Gods election, who best knows what is good for us. And sure this is such a piece of divinity, as extremely reproches us Chri­stians, who cannot match a Heathen in his implicit faith in God. Nay indeed tis the vilest defamation upon God him­self, that we who pretend to know him more, should trust him less. So that we see our repinings do not terminate in their own proper guilt, but do in their conse­quences swell higher, and our discontents propagate themselves into Blasphemy. For while we impatiently complain of our wants, we do tacitly tax God to want either that wisdom, power, or love, where­by he should supply us. And sure he must be very Atheistical to whom this will not give a competent prejudice against this sin.

8. AND this very consideration will equally prejudge the other branch of our discontents, I mean those which repine [Page 129] at the ills we suffer. And not only our privative, but our positive afflictions may by it have their bitterness taken off: for the same goodness and wisdom which de­nies those things we like, because they are hurtful for us, do's upon the very same reason give us those distastful things which he sees profitable. A wise Phy­sician do's not only diet, but if occasion be purge his patient also. And surely there is not such a purifier, such a cleanser of the soul as are afflictions, if we do not (like disorderly patients) frustrate their efficacy by the irregular managery of our selves under them.

SECT. VIII.
Of the Advantage of Afflictions.

1. IT were the work of a volume to give an exact and minute account of the benefit of afflictions. I shall only point at some of the more general and obvious. And first it is one of the most awakening calls to repentance; and to this end it is that God most usually designs it. We see the whole scene of it, Hos. 5. 15. I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledg their offence, and seek my face: in their afflicti­on they will seek me early: and in the very next verse we find this voice of God e­choed forth by a penitential note, Come and let us return unto the Lord, for he hath torn, and he will heal us, he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. Thus we find the Brethren of Ioseph, tho there had a long interval passed betwixt their barbarous u­sage of him, and his feigned rigor to them, yet when they saw themselves distrest by the one, then they begin to recollect the [Page 131] other, saying, We are verily guilty concern­ing our brother, Gen. 42. 21. Prosperity is an intoxicating thing, and there are few brains strong enough to bear it; it laies us a sleep, and amuses us with plea­sant dreams, whil'st in the mean time Sa­tan rifles our tresures, and spoiles us, by the deceitful charms of sin, of our inno­cency and real happiness. And can there be a more friendly office don for a man in this condition, then to rouze him, and bring him to apprehend the designs that are laid against him? And this is the er­rand on which afflictions are sent: so that we have reason to look on them as our friends and confederates that intend our rescue, and to take the alarm they give us, and diligently seek out those intestine enemies of which they warn us. And he that instead of this, quarrels at their in­terposing, thinks them his enemies because they tell him the truth, Gal. 4. 16. do's miserably pervert the counsel of God against himself, Luk. 7. 30. and may at last ve­rify his own jealousies; and by so provok­ing an ingratitude, convert those into the wounds of an enemy, which were o­riginally meant as the corrections of a Father.

[Page 132] 2. AND as afflictions do thus in gene­ral admonish us of sins, so it pleases God most frequently so to model and frame them, that they bear the very image and impress of those particular guilts they are to chastise, and are the dark shadows that attend our gay delights, or flagrant in­solencies. The wise man observes that the turning the Egyptian waters into blood, was a manifest reproof of that cru­el commandment for the murdering of the Hebrew infants, Wisd. 12. 5. And surely we might in most if not all our suf­ferings, see some such corresponding cir­cumstances; as may lead us to the imme­diate provoking cause of it. God who do's all things in number, weight, and mesure, do's in punishments also observe a symmetry and proportion, and adapts them not only to the heinousness, but even the very specific kind of our crimes. The only fixt immutable rule he has given for his Vice-gerents on earth to punish by, is that in the case of murder, which is we see grounded on this rule of propor­tion, He that sheddeth mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed, Gen. 9. 6. And tho he have now rescinded the inferior retaliations of the eie for the eie, the tooth [Page 133] for the tooth, Exod. 21. 24. (probably for the hardness of our hearts, because he saw our revengeful natures would be too much pleased with it) yet he has not pre­cluded himself from acting by those me­sures, but we see it do's very often signally make men feel the smart of those violen­cies or injustices they have used to others. Of this the Sacred story affords several ex­amples (as Adonibezek, Jud. 1. 6. and A­hab, 1 King. 21. 19.) and profane many more, and daily experience and observa­tion most of all. And tho this method of retaliation is not alwaies so evident and apparent to the world, because mens sins are not alwaies so, yet I believe if men would duly recollect, it would be for the most part discernable to their own consciences, and they would apparently see, that their calamities did but trace the footsteps of their sins.

3. NOW if we rightly weigh this, we cannot but think it a very advantageous circumstance. We are naturally blind when we look inward, and if we have not some adventitious light to clear the object, will be very apt to overlook it. Therefore since the end of all our afflictions is our repentance, it is a wise and gracious dis­posal, [Page 134] that they do thus point to us those particular sins of which we are to repent. The body of sin will not be destroied in the whole entire bulk, but must be dis­membred, pull'd to pieces limb by limb. He that attaques it otherwise, will be like Sertorius's soldier, who ineffectively tugg'd at the horses tail to get it off at once, when he that pull'd it hair by hair, quickly did it. Therefore as it is a great part of our spiritual Wisdom to know in what espe­cial parts the Sampson-like strength of our corruptions lie, so is it a great instance of Gods care of us, thus by his corrections to discipline and instruct us in it.

4. In all our afflictions therefore it is our concern, nicely and critically to ob­serve them. I mean not to enhance our murmurs and complaints, but to learn by them what is Gods peculiar controversy against us. This is indeed to hear the rod, and who hath appointed it, Mic. 6. 9. Let him therefore that suffers in any of his concerns, examin whether he have not some corresponding guilt which answers to it, as face answers face, Prov. 27. 19. He that is impoverished in his estate, let him consider first how he acquired it, whether there were not somthing of fraud [Page 135] or injustice, which like a cancrous hu­mor, mixt in its very elements and con­stitution, and eat out its bowels: or whe­ther some sacrilegious prize, some coal from the altar have not fired his nest. Or if nothing can be charged upon the ac­quest, let him consider how he has used it; whether he have not made it the fuel of his lusts, in riot and excesses, or the object of his adoration in an inordinate value of it. In like manner he who is afflicted in his body, groans under the torment of some grievous disease, may very seasonably interrogate himself, whether it have not bin contracted by his vice, whe­ther his bones be not (in a more literal sense then Iob meant it) full of the sins of his youth, Job. 20. 11. and his furfeting and drunkeness be not the cause, that his soul, as the Psalmist speaks, abhors all man­ner of meat, and is even hard at deaths door, Psal. 107. 18. or at least whether the not imploying his health and strength to those purposes for which twas given, is not the reason of its being withdrawn. He also that is invaded in his reputation, that lies under some great infamy, is to consider whether it be not deserved; whether some part if not the whole guilt of which he [Page 136] is accused, stick not to him: or if he be clear in that particular instance, whether some conceled sin of his would not if it were known, incur as great scandal: for in that case he has in right forfeited his reputation, and God may make the feizure as well by an unjust, as a just ac­cusation. Or if his heart accuse him not here, yet let him farther reflect, whether his vain-glorious pursuits of praise and high conceits of himself, have not made this an apt and necessary humiliation for him. Or lastly let him recollect how he has behaved himself towards others in this kind: whether he have had a just ten­derness of his neighbors fame, or have not rather exposed and prostituted it. In these and many other instances such a particular scrutiny, would (in all proba­bility) discover the affinity and cogna­tion between our guilts and our punish­ments, and by marking out the spring and fountain head, direct us how to stop or divert the current. And he that would diligently imploy himself in this inquisition, would find little leisure and less cause to condole his afflictions, but would divert all his complaints upon him­self, accept of the punishment of his iniqui­ty, [Page 137] and thank the Lord for thus giving him warning, Psal. 16. 8.

5. A second benefit which God de­signs us in our afflictions is the weaning us from the world, to disentangle us from its fetters and charms, and draw us to him­self. We read in the story of the Deluge, that so long as the earth was covered with waters, the very Raven was con­tented to take shelter in the Ark, but when all was fair and dry, even the Dove finally forsook it, Gen. 8. 12. And tis much so with us, the worst of men will commonly in distresses have recourse to God (the very heathen mariners in a storm could rebuke Ionah for not calling upon his God, Jon. 1. 6.) when yet the very best of us, are apt to forget him a­midst the blandishments and insinuations of prosperity. The kind aspects of the world are very enchanting, apt to in­veigle and besot us, and therefore it is Gods care over us, to let us sometimes see her more averting countenance in her frowns and storms; that, as children frighted by some ugly appearance, we may run into the arms of our father. A­las were all things exactly fitted to our humors here, when should we think of a [Page 138] remove? and had not death some har­bingers to prepare us or him, what a surprising guest would he be to us? Tis storied of Antigonus, that seing a soldier in his camp of so dareing a courage that he alwaies courted the most hazardous at­temts, and observing him also of a very infirm sickly habit, he took a particular care of him, and by medicines and good attendance recovered him; which no sooner he had don, but the man grew more cautious, and would no longer ex­pose himself as formerly; and gave this reason for it, that now he was healthy his life was of some value to him, and not to be hazarded at the same rate, as when it was only a burden; and should God cure all our complaints, render us per­fectly at ease, I fear too many of us would be of the soldiers mind, think our lives too good to resign to him, much more to ha­zard for him, as our Christianity in many cases obliges us. The son of Syrach ob­serves how dreadful death is to a man that is at rest in his possessions, that hath abundance of all things, and hath nothing to vex him, nay he descends much lower; and puts in him who is yet able to receive meat, Ecclus. 14. 1. The truth is we do so passionate­ly [Page 139] dote upon the world, that like besotted lovers, we can bear a great deal of ill usage, before we quit our pursuit. Any little slight favor atones us after multiplied af­fronts, and we must be disciplined by re­peted disappointments, ere we can with­draw our confidence. But how fatally secure should we be, if God should per­mit this Siren alwaies to entertain us with her music, and should not by some discordant grating notes, interrupt our raptures, and recal us to sober thoughts?

6. INDEED tis one of the highest in­stances of Gods love, and of his clemen­cy also, thus to project our reducement. We were all in our Baptism affianced to him, with a particular abrenunciation of the world, so that we cannot without the greatest disloialty cast our selves into its embraces; and yet when we have thus broken the covenant of our God, Prov. 2. 17. he do's not pursue us with a jealous rage, with the severity which an abused rival'd kindness would suggest, doth not give us a bill of divorce and disclame his relation; but contrives how he may reclame and bring us back to himself. The transcen­dency of this lenity God excellently de­scribes by the prophet in the case of Israel [Page 140] They say if a man put away his wife, and she become another mans shall he return unto her again? but thou hast plaied the harlot with many lovers, yet return unto me saith the Lord, Jer. 3. 1. And this tho a great height of indulgence, is no more then he daily repetes to us. After we have basely adulterated with the world, converted our affections from God to it, he do's not give us over, abandon us to our leud course, and consequent ruin; but still invites our return, and lest that may not serve, he do's with a great deal of holy artifice essay to break that accur­ed League into which we are enter'd, pulls off the disguise in which the world courted us, and makes us see it as it is it self, a scene of vanity and vexation of spirit, Eccles. 1. 14.

6. AND as he do's this in general, so also with a particular application to those temporal satisfactions wherewith we were most transported; the things to which we are more indifferent do not so much en­danger us, tis those upon which we have more vehemently set our hearts which be­come our snares, and awake his jealousy; and accordingly we frequently see that tis in those he chuses to cross us. How [Page 141] often do's it happen that those which are enamoured of themselves, dote upon their own features, do meet with some disease or accident which blasts their beau­ty, withers that faire flower, and makes their winter overtake their spring? So in our friends and relations tis usually seen, we soonest loose those for whom we have the greatest, the most immode­rate passion. If there be one fondling a­mong our children, tis odds but that is taken away, or made as much the object of our grief and sorrow, as ever it was of our joy and love. When God sees our hearts so excessively cleave to any tran­sitory thing, he knows tis necessary to sever them, for whilst we have such clogs upon us, our souls will cleave to the dust. Psa. 119. 1. will not be able to soare up to the higher region for which they are design'd.

7. IN a word God so loves us, that he removes what ever he sees will obstruct that intimate union which he desires with us, and sure this is so obliging, that tho he should bid us to our loss, tho he could not recompence us for what he takes from us, yet we must be very ill natur'd if we can be angry at so much kindness. But [Page 142] when to this is added that all this is prin­cipally, nay solely design'd for our ad­vantage, that God takes from us all these emty delusory contentments merely that he may instate us in solid and durable joies; we betray as much ignorance of our interest, as insensibleness of our ob­ligation, if we repine that God makes us so much his care. Tis true indeed, the things to which we have so inordinatly adhered, do stick so close, that they cannot be pull'd away without some pain: yet for our cor­poral security we can endure the sundring of parts that do not only cleave, but grow to us. He that has a gangrend member suffers it to be cut off to save his whole body, and do's not revile, but thank and reward the Chirurgion. Yet where our souls are concern'd, and where the things have no native union with us, but are only cemented by our passions, we are impa­tient of the method, and think God deals very hardly with us, not to let us perish with what we love. The sum of all is this, God tho he be abundantly conde­scending, yet he will never stoop so low as to share his interest in us with the world: if we will devote our selves to it, tis not all our emty forms of service will satisfy [Page 143] him, if he cannot divorce our hearts from it, he will divorce himself eternally from us. And the case being thus, we are sure very ill advised if we do not contentedly resign our selves to his methods, and cheer­fully endure them how sharp soever. The only expedient we have for our own ease, is to shorten the cure by giving our assi­stance, and not by struglings to render it more difficult and painful, let us en­tirely surrender our wills to him, and when we have don that, we may without much pain let him take any thing else. But the more difficult we find it to be disen­tangled from the world, the greater should our caution be against all future engage­ments to it. If our escape hath bin as the Apostle saies, so as by fire, Jud. 23. with much smart and hazard, let us at least have so much wit, as the common pro­verb allows children, and not again ex­pose our selves: let us never glue our hearts to any external thing, but let all the con­cerns of the world hang loose about us: by that means we shall be able to put them off insensibly when ever God calls for them, or perhaps we shall prevent his call­ing for them at all, it being for the most part, our too close adhesion to them which promts him to it.

[Page 144] 8. A third advantage of afflictions is, that it is a mark and signature of our ad­option, a witness of our legitimation. What son is he (saith the Apostle) whom the Father chastiseth not? but if ye be with­out chastisement whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons, Heb, 12. 7. 8. Iacob clad his dearling Ioseph in a party-coloured Coat, and Gods favorites do here wear a Livery inter-woven with a mixture of dark and gloomy colours; their long white robes are laid up for them against they come to the marriage of the Lamb, Rev. 19 7. Indeed we much mi­stake the design of Christianity, if we think it calls us to a condition of ease and se­curity. It might suit well enough with the votaries of the Golden Calf, to sit down to eat and drink and rise up to play, Exod. 32. 6. but the disciples of the cru­cified Savior are trained to another dis­cipline, our profession enters us into a state of warfare, and accordingly our very Bap­tismal engagement runs all in military terms, and we are not only servants of Christs family, but soldiers of his camp. Now we know in a war men must not ex­pect to pass their time in ease and soft­ness, but besides all the dangers and dif­ficulties [Page 145] of the combat, have many other hardships to endure; hunger and thirst, heat and cold, hard lodgings and weary marches: and he that is too nice for those, will not long stick to his colors. And it is the same in our spiritual warfare, ma­ny pressures and sufferings are annexed to it, and our passive valor is no less tried then our active. In respect of this it is that our Savior admonishes his Profelytes to compute first the difficulties incident to their profession, and that he may not ensnare us by proposing too easy terms, he bids us reckon upon the worst, and tells us, that he that forsakes not all that he hath, shall not be his disciple, Luk. 14. 26. and that we must thro much tribulatiou enter into the kingdom of God, Act. 14. 22. In­deed twere very absurd for us to expect easier conditions, when these are the same to which our Leader has submitted, the Captain of our Salvation was perfected by sufferings. Heb. 2. 10. and if it behooved Christ to suffer before he enter'd into his glory, Luk 24. 46. it were insolent madness for us to look to be carried thither upon our beds of Ivory, of from the noise of our harps and viols, be immmediatly rapt into the Choire of Angels.

[Page 146] 8. THIS has bin so much consider'd by pious men, that they have lookt upon their secular prosperities with fear and jea­lousy, and many have solemnly petition'd for crosses, as thinking them the necessary attestation of their son-ship, and means of assimulation to their elder brother. Why then should that which was so desirable to them, appear so formidable to us? or why should we so vehemently deprecate, what they so earnestly invited? If we indeed think it a privilege to be the sons of God and fellow-heirs with Christ, why do we grudg at the condition? The Ro­man Captain tells St. Paul that he ob­tained the immunities of a Roman with a great sum, Act. 22. 28. and shall we expect so much a nobler and more advan­tageous adoption perfectly gratis? look that God should change his whole Oeco­nomy for our ease, give us an eternal in­heritance discharged of those temporal in­cumbrances himself has annexed to it This were sure as unjust a hope as it would be a vain one. When David had that en­snaring proposal made him of being the Kings son in law, 1 Sam. 18. 21. he set such a value upon the dignity, that he de­spised the difficulty of the condition: and [Page 147] sure we must have very low abject souls, if when so infinitly a higher advancement is sincerely offer'd us, we can suffer any apprehension of hardship to divert us. In a word let us remember that of the Apostle, if we suffer, we shall also reign with him, 2 Tim. 2. 12. And tho our afflictions be in themselves not joious but grievous, yet when they are consider'd as the earnest of our future inheritance, they put on an­other face, and may rather enamour then fright us.

9. A fourth advantage of afflictions is, that they excite our compassions towards others: there is nothing qualifies us so rightly to estimate the suffering of others, as the having our selves felt them: with­out this our apprehensions of them are as dull and confused, as a blind mans of co­lors, or a deaf man of sounds. They that stretch themselves upon their couches, that eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall: that chaunt to the sound of the viol, drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments, will not much be grieved with the afflictions of Ioseph. Am. 6. 4. Nay so necessary is our experience towards our commiserati­on, that we see twas thought a requisite [Page 148] accomplishment of our high Priest (that highest example of unboundnded com­passion) and therefore saith the Apostle, It behooved him in all things to be made like his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertain­ing to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people, for in that he himself hath suffer'd being temted, he is able also to suc­cour them that are temted, Heb. 2. 17, 18. But if he whose mere sense of our mise­ries brought him down to us, chose this expedient to advance his pity, how ne­cessary is it to our petrified bowels? And since God has assign'd our mercies to our brethren, as the standard by which he will proportion his to us, tis more ours then their advantage to have them inlarg­ed: so that when by making us tast of their cup, acquainting us with the bitter re­lish of their sufferings, he prepares us to a Christian sympathy with them, tis but a remoter way of obliging and qualify­ing us for a more ample portion of his mer­cy. Nay besides the profit there is ho­nor accrues to us by it; compassion is one of the best properties of our nature, and we unman our selves when we put it off; nay more tis an attribute of the Divi­nity, [Page 149] and the more we advance in it, the closer approches we make to him. And therefore we have all reason to bless him for that discipline by which he promotes us in so excellent, so necessary a grace.

10. A fifth benefit of afflictions is that it is an improvement of devotion, sets us with more heartiness to our praiers. Whilst prosperity flows in upon us we bath our selves in its streams, but are very apt to forget its source; so that God is fain to stop the current, leave us dry and parched that our needs may make us do what our gratitude would not, trace our blessings up to the original spring, and both acknowledg and invoke him as the Author of all our good. This effect of afflictions is observ'd by the prophet, Lord in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a praier when thy chastning was upon them, Isa. 26. 16. And I believe I may appeal to every mans experience whe­ther his praiers be not more frequent and more hearty too, when he is under some distress. Then how importunate are we in our petitions? how profuse in our vowes and promises? saying with Israel deliver us only we pray thee this day: and they put away the strange Gods from among them, [Page 150] and served the Lord. Jud. 10. 15. I con­fess tis no good indication of our temper that we need thus to be put in the press ere we will yield any thing? yet since we are so disingenuous, tis a mercy in God to adapt his methods to us; to extort when we will not give, and if he can have no free will offerings, yet at least to exact his tribute. Nor do's he design the effect of this should cease with the calamity that rais'd it, but expects our compel'd ad­dresses should bring us into the way of voluntary ones, and happily ensnare us in­to piety. And indeed herein are we worse then brutish if it do not. We think it a barbarous rudeness to engage a man in our affaires, and as soon as we have served our own turns, never take farther notice of him. Nay indeed the very beasts may lecture us in this piece of Morality, ma­ny of them paying a signal gratitude where they have received benefits, and shall we not come up at least to their pitch? shall not the endearment of our delive­rance bring our deliverer into some repute and consideration with us, and make us desire to keep up an acquaintance and entercourse with him? Yet if ingenuity work not with us, let interest at least pre­vail, [Page 151] and the remembrance how soon we may need him again, admonish us not to make our selves strangers to him. God complains of Israel wherefore say my peo­ple we are Lords? we will come no more at thee, Jer. 2. 31. A very insolent folly to re­nounce that dependance by which alone they subsisted, and no less will it be in any of us if we stop our recourse to him because we have had advantage by it. We have no assurance that the same occasion shall not recur, but with what face can we then resume that entercourse which in the interval we despised? So that if we have but any ordinary providence we shall still so celebrate past rescues as to continue in a capacity of begging more, and then we cannot but also con­fess the benefit of those first calamities which inspirited our devotion, and taught us to pray in earnest, and will be asha­med that our thanks should be utter'd in a fainter accent then our petitions; or our daily spiritual concerns should be more coldly sollicited then our temporal acci­dental ones.

11. NOR is it only our devotion that is thus improved by our distresses, but many other Graces; our faith, our hope, our pati­ence, [Page 152] our Christian sufferance & fortitude. It is no triumph of faith to trust God for those good things which he gives us in hand, this is rather to walk by sense then faith, but to rely on him in the greatest de­stitution, and against hope to believe in hope, this is the faith of a true child of Abraham, and will be imputed to us (as it was to him) for righteousness Rom. 4. 23. So also our pa­tience owes all its opportunities of exer­cise to our afflictions, and consequently owes also a great part of its being to them, for we know desuetude will loose habits. What imaginable use is there of patience, where there is nothing to suffer? In our prosperous state, we may indeed imploy our temperance, our humility, our cau­tion; but patience seems then a useless vertue: nay indeed for ought we know may be counterfeit, till adversity bring it to the test. And yet this is the most glo­rious accomplishment of a Christian, that which most eminently conforms him to the Image of his Savior, whose whole life was a perpetual exercise of this grace; and therefore we love our ease too well if we are unwilling to buy this pearl at any price.

[Page 153] 12. LASTLY our thankfulness is (at least ought to be) increa'st by our di­stresses. Tis very natural for us to reflect with value and esteem upon those bles­sings we have lost, and we too often do it to aggravate our discontent: but sure the more rational use of it is to raise our thankfulness for the time wherein we en­joied them. Nay not only our former en­joiments, but even our present depriva­tions deserves our gratitude, if we con­sider the happy advantages we may reap from them. If we will perversly cast them away, that unworthy contemt paies no scores, for we still stand answerable in Gods account for the good he design'd and we might have had by it, and we be­come liable to a new charge for our in­gratitude in thus despising the chastisement of the Lord, Heb. 12. 5.

13. AND now if all these benefits of afflictions (which are yet but imperfectly recited) may be thought worth consi­dering, it cannot but reconcile us to the sharpest of Gods methods; unless we will own our selves such mere animals, as to have no other apprehensions then what our bodily senses convey to us; for sure he that has reason enough to under­stand [Page 154] that he has an immortal soul, can­not but assent that its interests should be served, tho with the displacency of his flesh. Yet even in regard of that, our murmurings are oft very unjust, for we do many times ignorantly prejudg Gods designs towards us even in temporals, who frequently makes a little transient uneasiness the passage to secular felici­ties. Moses when he fled out of Egypt, probably little thought that he should re­turn thither a God unto Pharoah, Exod. 4. 16. and as little did Ioseph when he was brought thither a slave, that he was to be a ruler there: yet as distant as those states were, the divine providence had so con­nected them, that the one depends upon the other. And certainly we may often observe the like over-ruling hand in our own distresses, that those events which we have entertained with the greatest re­gret, have in the consequences bin very beneficial to us.

14. To conclude, we have certainly both from speculation & experience abun­dant matter to clam all our disquiets, to satisfy our distrusts, and to fix in us an en­tire resignation to Gods disposals, who has designs which we cannot penetrate, but [Page 155] none which we need fear, unless we our selves pervert them. We have our Sa­viors word for it, that he will not give us a stone when we ask bread, nor a scorpion when we ask a fish, Mat. 7. 9. Nay his love secures us yet farther from the errors of our own wild choice, and do's not give us those stones and scorpions which we importune for. Let us then leave our concerns to him who best knows them, and make it our sole care to entertain his dispensations with as much submission and duty, as he dispences them with love and wisdom. And if we can but do so, we may dare all the power of earth and hell too, to make us miserable: for be our af­flictions what they can, we are sure they are but what we in some respect or other need; be they privative or positive, the want of what we wish, or the suffering of what we wish not, they are the disposals of him who cannot err, and we shall fi­nally have cause to say with the Psalmist, It is good for me that I have bin afflicted, Psal. 119. 71.

SECT. IX.
Of our Misfortunes compared with other mens.

1. WE come now to impress an equally just and useful consideration, the comparing our misfortunes with those of o­ther mens: & he that do's that, will certainly see so little cause to think himself singular, that he will not find himself superlative in calamity; for there is no man living that can with reason affirm himself to be the ve­ry unhappiest man, there being innume­rable distresses of others which he knows not of, and consequently cannot bring them in balance with his own. A mul­titude of men there are whose persons he knows not, and even of those he do's, he may be much a stranger to their distres­ses; many sorrows may lie at the heart of him who carries a smiling face, and many a man has bin an object of envy to those who look but on the surface of his state, who yet to those who know his private griefs appears more worthy of com­passion. And sure this confused uncer­tain [Page 157] estimate of other mens afflictions, may divert us from all loud out-cries of our own. Solon seeing a friend much op­prest with grief, carried him up to a town that over-lookt the City of Athens, and shewing him all the buildings, said to him, consider how many sorrows have, do, and shall in future ages inhabit under all those roofs, and doe not vex thy self with those inconveniencies which are common to mortality, as if they were only yours. And sure twas good advice: for suffering is al­most as inseparable an adjunct of our na­ture, as dying is: yet we do not see men very apt to imbitter their whole lives by the fore-sight that they must die, but see­ing it a thing as universal as inevitable, they are more forward to take up the E­picures resolution, Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we die, 1 Cor. 15. 32. And why should we not look upon afflictions also as the common lot of humanity, and as we take the advantages, so be content to bear the incumbrances of that state?

2. BUT besides that implicite allow­ance that is thus to be made for the un­known calamities of others, if we survey but those that lie open and visible to us, the most of us shall find enough to dis­countenance [Page 158] our complaints. Who is there that when he has most studiously re­collected his miseries, may not find some or other that apparently equals, if not ex­ceeds him? He that stomacs his own be­ing contemn'd and slighted, may see an­other persecuted and opprest. He that groans under some sharp pain, may see another afflicted with sharper: and even he that has the most acute torments in his body, may see another more sadly cruci­ated by the agonies of his mind. So that if we would but look about us, we should see so many forreign occasions of our pi­ty, that we should be asham'd to confine it wholly to our selves.

3. IT will perhaps be said that this can­not be universally true, for that there must in comparative degrees be some lowest state of misery: I grant it, but still that state consists not in such an indivisible point, that any one person can have the inclosure; or if it do, twill be so hard for any to discern who that one person is; that I need desire no fairer a composition, then to have every man suspend his repinings, till he can evince his title. But alas there are but few that can make any approches to such a pretenec: for tho if we advert to [Page 159] mens complaints, we should think all de­grees of comparison were confounded, and every man were equally the greatest sufferer; yet certainly in the truth of things tis nothing so: for (not to repete what was before mention'd, that proba­bly no man is miserable in any propor­tion to the utmost degree of possibility) the remarkably unhappy are very far the lesse number. And how passionatly so­ever men exaggerate their calamities, yet perhaps in their sober mood, they will scarce change states with those whom they profess to think more happy then them­selves. It was the saying of Socrates, that if there were a common bank made of all mens troubles, most men would rather chuse to take those they brought, then to venter upon a new dividend. And indeed he had reason for his supposition; for considering how great a part of many mens afflictions are of their own making, fictitious and imaginary, they may justly fear least they should exchange feathers for lead, their own emty shadows for the real and pressing calamities of others, and cannot but think it best to sit down with their own, which serves their declamations as well, and their ease much better. We [Page 160] oft see men at a little mis-shaping of a garment, a scarce discernable error in their cook, or their shortest interruption in their sports, in such transports of trou­ble, as if they were the most unfortunate men in the world; yet for all that you shall hardly perswade them to change with him whose course clothings supersedes all care of the fashion, whose appetite was ne­ver disappointed for want of sawce, and whose perpetual toil makes him insensi­ble what the defeat of sport signifies.

4. NAY even where the exchange seems more equal, where the afflictions are on both sides solid and substantial, yet a prudent man would scarce venture upon the barter. Tis no small advantage to know what we have to contest with, to have experimented the worst of its atta­ques, by which we become better able to guard our selves: but a new evil comes with the force of a surprise, and finds us open and disarmed. It is indeed almost a miraculous power that custom has in re­conciling us to things otherwise displea­sing; all our senses are taught to remit of their aversion by familiarity with un­grateful objects: that ugly form which at first makes us start, by use devests its [Page 161] terror, and we reconcile our selves to harsh-sounds & ill relishes by long custom. And sure it has the very same effect upon our minds, the most fierce calamities do by acquaintance grow more tractable; so that he that exchanges an old one for a new, do's but bring a wild Lion into his house instead of a tame: it may for ought he knows immediatly tear him in pieces, but at least must cost him a great deal of pains to render it gentle and familiar, and certainly no wise man would wish to make such a bargain.

5. BY all this it appears that how extra­vagantly soever we aggravate our own calamities and extenuate other mens, we dare not upon recollection stand to our own estimate, and what can be said more in prejudice of our discontents? Tis a grant­ed maxim that every man must have affli­ctions, man that is born of a woman, saies Iob, is of few years, and full of trouble Job. 14. 4. and we must reverse Gods funda­mental law, before we can hope for a to­tal exemption. All that any man can aspire to, is to have but an equal share with o­thers, and the generality of men have so, at least none can prove he has not so; and till he can, his murmurs will sure be [Page 162] very unjustifiable, especially when they have this convincing circumstance a­gainst them, that he dares not upon sober thoughts change his afflictions with most of his neighbors. He is an ill member of a community, who in public assesments would shuffle off all paiments: and he is no better who in this common tax God has laid upon our nature, is not content to bear his share.

6. AND truly would we but consider that in all our sufferings nothing befals us but what is common to our kind, nay which is extremely exceeded by many within the verge of our own observation, we must be senselessily partial to be impa­tient. The Apostle thought it a compe­tent consolation for the first Christians that there had no temtation befallen them but what was common to men, 1 Cor. 10. 13. and we betray very extravagant opi­nions of our selves if it be not so to us. Indeed twas scarce possible for us to be so unsatisfied, as the greatest part of us are, did we in the comparing our selves with others, proceed with any tolerable ingenuity.

7. BUT alas we are very fallacious and deceitful in the point, we do not com­pare [Page 163] the good of others with our good, not their evil with our evil; but with an envious curiosity we amass together all the desireable circumstances of our neigh­bors condition, and with as prying dis­content we ransack all our grievances, and confront to them. This is so insin­cere a way of proceeding, as the most or­dinary understanding can detect. If I should wager that my arm were longer then another mans, and for tryall mesure my arm with his finger, he must be stu­pidly silly, that should award for me; and yet this were not a grosser cheat, then that which we put upon our selves, in our comparisons with others. And tis a little strange to observe unto what various pur­poses we can apply this one thin piece of Sophistry, for when we compare our neighbors and our selves in point of mo­rality, we do but reverse the fallacy, and presently make his vices as much exceed ours, as our calamities did his in the o­ther instance. They are indeed both great violences to reason and justice, yet the la­ter is sure the pleasanter kind of deceit. A man has some joy in thinking himself less wicked then his neighbor, but what imaginable comfort can he take in think­ing [Page 164] himself more miserable? certainly he that would submit to a cousenage, had much better shift the scene, and think his sufferings less then they are, rather then more; for since opinion is the thing that usually sets an edg upon our cala­mities, it might be a profitable deceit that could steal that from us.

8. BUT we need not blindfold our selves if we would but use our eies aright, and see things in their true shapes; and if we did thus, what a strange turn would there be in the common estimates of the world? How many of the gilded troubles of greatness, which men at a distance look on with so much admiration and de­sire, would then be as much contemned as now they are courted? A competency would then get the better of abundance, and the now envied pomp of princes, when balanced with the cares and hazards annext, would be so far from a bait, that men like Saul 1 Sam 10. 22. would hide themselves from the preferment; and he that understood the weight, would rather choose to weild a Flayle then a Scepter: yet so childishly are we besotted with the glittering appearance of things, that we conclude felicity must needs dwell where [Page 165] there is a magnificent Portico, and being possest with this fancy we over-look her in our own humbler Cottages, where she would more constantly reside, if she could but find us at home: but we are commonly engag'd in a rambling pursuit of her where she is seldomest to be found, and in the interim misse of her at our own doors.

9. INDEED there is scarce a greater folly or unhappiness incident to mans na­ture, then this fond admiration of other mens enjoiments, and contemt of our own. And whilst we have that humour, it will supplant not only our present, but all pos­sibilities of our future content: for tho we could draw to our selves all those things for which we envy others, we should have no sooner made them our own, then they will grow despicable and nauseous to us. This is a speculation which has bin attested by innumerable experiments, there being nothing more frequent, then to see men with impatient eagerness, nay often with extreme hazards pursue those acquests, which when they have them, they are immediatly sick of. There is scarce any man that may not give himself instances of this in his own particular: and yet so fatally stupid are we, that no de­feats [Page 166] will discipline us, or take us off from these false estimates of other mens hap­pinesses. And truly while we state our comparisons so unequally, they are as mis­chievous as the common proverb speaks them odious: but if we would begin at the right end, and look with as much compassion on the adversities of our bre­thren, as we do with envy on their prospe­rities, every man would find cause to sit down contentedly with his own burden, and confess that he bears but the propor­tionable share of his common nature, un­less perhaps it be where some extraordi­nary demerits of his own have added to the weight; and in that case he has more reason to admire his afflictions are so few, then so many. And certainly every man knows so many more ills by himself, then it is possible for him to do by another, that he that really sees himself exceed others in his sufferings, will find cause enough to think he do's in sins also.

10. BUT if we stretch the comparison beyond our contemporaries, and look back to the generations of old, we shall have yet farther cause to acknowledge Gods great indulgence to us. Abraham tho the friend of God was not exemted from se­vere [Page 167] trials; he was first made to wander from his Country, and betake himself to a kind of vagrant life, was a long time suspended from the blessing of his desired off-spring, and when at last his beloved Isaac was obtained, it caused a domestic jarre, which he was fain to compose by the expulsion of Ishmael tho his son also. But what a contest may we think there was in his own bowels when that rigorous task was imposed on him of sacrificing his Isaac? and tho his faith gloriously triumpht over it, yet sure there could not be a great­er pressure upon human nature. David the man after Gods own heart is no less signal for his afflictions then for his piety, he was for a great while an exile from his Countrey, and (which he most bewailed) from the Sanctuary by the persecutions of Saul: and after he was setled in that throne to which Gods immediate assigna­tion had intitled him, what a succession of calamities had he in his own family? the incestuous rape of his Daughter, the retaliation of that by the as unnatural mur­der of Amnon, and that seconded by an­other no less barbarous conspiracy of Ab­solom against himself, his expulsion from Ierusalem, the base revilings of Shimei, [Page 168] and finally the losse of that dearling son in the act of his sin. A cluster of affli­ctions in comparison whereof the most of ours are but like the gleanings (as the Prophet speaks) after the vintage is don. It were indeed endless to instance in all the several Fore-fathers of our Faith before Christs incarnation, the Apostle gives us a brief, but very comprehensive compendium of their sufferings, They had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings; yea moreover, of bonds and imprisonments: they were stoned, were sawn asunder, were temt­ed, were slain with the sword: they wan­dred about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented: they wandred in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and caves of the earth, Heb. 11. 36. 37. 38. And if we look on the Pri­mitive Christians, we shall see them per­fectly the counrerpart to them, their pri­vileges consisted not in any immunities from calamities; for their whole lives were scenes of sufferings. St. Paul gives us an account of his own, in labors more abun­dant, in stripes above mesure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft: of the Iews five times received I fourty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I [Page 169] stoned, thrice I suffer'd shipwrack, a night and a day have I bin in the deep, in journy­ing often, &c. 2 Cor. 11. 23. and if his sin­gle hardships rose thus high, what may we think the whole sum of all his fellow-laborers amounted to together, with that noble Army of martyrs who sealed their faith with their blood; of whose suffer­ings Ecclesiastic history gives us such a­stonishing relations?

11. AND now being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, the Apo­stles inference is very irrefragable, let us run with patience the race which is set be­fore us, Heb. 12. 1, 2. But yet it is more so, if we proceed on to that consideration he adjoins, Looking unto Iesus the Author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endur'd the cross, despising the shame, verse 3. Indeed if we contemplate him in the whole course of his life, we shall find him rightly stiled by the Prophet a man of sorrows, Isai. 51. And as if he had charged himself with all our griefs as well as our sins, there is scarce any human calamity which we may not find exemplified in him. Do's any complain of the lowness and poverty of his condition? Alas his whole life was a [Page 170] state of indigence: he was forc'd to be an inmate with the beasts, be laid in a stable at his birth, and after himself professes that he had not where to lay his head, Luk. 9. 58. Is any opprest with infamy and re­proch? he may see his Savior accus'd as a glutton and a wine-bibber, Luke 7. 34. a Blasphemer, Joh. 10. 33. a sorcerer, Mat. 12. 24. a perverter of the nation, Luk. 23. 2. yea to such a sordid lowness had they sunk his repute, that a seditious thief and murderer was thought the more eligible person, not this man but Barabbas, Joh. 18. 40. And finally all this scene of indigni­ties clos'd with the spightful pageantry of mockery acted by the soldiers, Mat. 27. 28. and the yet more barbarous insult­ings of Priests and Scribes, verse 41. Is any man despised or deserted by his friends? he was contemned by his country-men, thought frantic by his friends, betraied by one of his disciples, abandon'd by all, un­less that one who followed him longest, to renounce him the most shamefully by a threefold abjuration. Nay what is in­finitly more then all this, he seem'd desert­ed by God also, as is witnessed by that doleful exclamation, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mar. 27. 64. Is a­ny [Page 171] dissatisfied with the hard-ships or la­boriousness of his life? let him remember his Saviors was not a life of delicacy or ease, he was never enter'd in those Aca­demies of luxury, where men are gorgeously apparel'd and live delicately, Luk. 7. 25. but he was brought under the mean roof of a Carpenter, and consequently subje­cted to all the lowness of such an educa­tion. His initiation to his Prophetic of­fice was with the miraculous severity of a 40. daies fast, and in his discharge of it, we find him in perpetual labors, go­ing about doing good, Act. 10. 38. and that not in triumph (like a prince bestowing his largesses) but in weary peregrinations, never riding but once, and that only up­on a borrow'd beast, and to fulfil a pro­phecy, Mat. 24. Do's any man groan under sharp and acute pains? let him con­sider what his redeemer endur'd, how in his infancy at his circumcision he offer'd the first fruits, as an earnest of that bloody vintage when he trod the wine-press alone Isai. 63. 3. Let him attend him through all the stages of his direful passion, and behold his arms pinion'd with rough cords, his head smote with a reed, and torn with his crown of thorns, his back ploughed [Page 172] with those long furrows (Psal. 120. 3.) the scourges had made, his macerated feeble body opprest with the weight of his cross, and at last rackt and extended on it; his hands and feet, those nervous and consequently most sensible parts trans­fixt with nailes, his whole body fastned to that accursed tree, and exposed naked to the air in a cold season; his throat par­ched with thirst and yet more afflicted with that vinegar and gall wherewith they pretended to relieve him; and final­ly his life expiring amidst the full sense of these accurate torments. Lastly do's any man labor under the bitterest of all sorrows, importunate temtations to, or a wounded spirit for sin? even here also he may find that he has an high Priest who hath bin touched with the sense of his infir­mities, Heb. 4. 15. He was violently as­saulted with a succession of temtations, Mat. 4. and we cannot doubt but Satan would on him imploy the utmost of his skill. Nor was he less opprest with the bur­den of sin, (ours I mean tho not his own.) What may we think were his apprehen­sions in the Garden, when he so earnestly deprecated that which was his whole er­rand into the world? What a dreadful [Page 173] pressure was that which wrung from him that bloody sweat? and cast him into that inexplicable agony, the horror whereof was beyond the comprehensions of any, but his who felt it? and finally how a­mazing was the sense of divine wrath, which extorted that stupendious com­plaint, that strong cry on the cross, Heb. 5. 7. the sharp accent whereof, if it do a­right sound in our hearts, must certainly quite overwhelm our loudest groans? And now certainly I may say with Pilate, Ecce homo behold the man, or rather with a more divine Author, Behold if ever there were sorrows like unto his sorrows, Lam. 1. 12.

12. AND sure it were but a reasonable inference, that which we find made by Christ himself, if these things be don in a green tree, what shall be don in the dry? Luk. 23. 31. If an imputative guilt could nu­rish so scorching a flame, pull down so severe a wrath, what can we expect who are merely made up of combustible mat­ter; whose proper personal sins cry for vengeance? Sure were we to judg by human mesures, we should reckon to have more then a double portion of our Saviors sufferings entail'd upon us: yet such is the efficacy of his, that they have commuted [Page 174] for ours, and have left us only such a share, as may evidence our relation to our cru­cified Lord: such as may serve only for badges and cognizances to whom we re­tain. For alas, let the most afflicted of us weigh our sorrows with his, how absurdly unequal will the comparison appear? And therefore as the best expedient to baffle our mutinies, to shame us out of our re­pinings, let us often draw this uneven pa­rallel, confront our petty uneasinesses with his unspeakable torments; and sure tis im­possible but our admiration and gratitude must supplant our impatiencies.

13. THIS is indeed the method to which the Apostle directs us, Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds: ye have not yet resisted unto blood, Heb. 12. 34. Was he contradicted, and shall we expect to be humor'd and compli'd with? Did he resist to blood, and shall we think those pressures intolerable, which force only a few tears from us? This is such an unmanly niceness, as utterly makes us unfit to follow the Captain of our Salva­tion. What a soldier is he like to make, that will take no share of the hazards and hardships of His General? Honest Uriah [Page 175] would not take the lawful solaces of his own house upon the consideration that his Lord Ioab (tho but his fellow subject) lay incamped in the open fields, 2 Sam. 11. 11. yea tho he was sent by him from the Camp. And shall we basely forsake ours in pursuit of our ease? He is of a dege­nerous spirit, whom the example of his superior will not animate. Plutarch tells us that Cato marching thro the desarts, was so distrest for water, that a small quantity was brought to him in a helmet as a great prize, which he refusing because he could not help his soldiers to the like, they were so transported with that generosity, that it extinguisht the sense of their thirst, and they were ashamed to complain of what their Leader voluntarily endured for their sakes. And surely we extremely discre­dit our institution, if we cannot equal their ingenuity, and follow ours with as great alacrity thro all the difficulties he has traced before us, and for us.

14. NOR let us think to excuse our selves upon the impotency of our flesh, which wants the assistance which his di­vinity gave him: for that plea is super­seded by the fore-mention'd examples of the Saints, men of like passions with us, [Page 176] who not only patiently, but joifully en­dur'd all tribulations, by which it appears it is not impossible to our nature, with those aids of grace which are common to us with them: for certainly the difference between them and us, is not so much in the degrees of the aids, as in the diligence of imploying them. Let us therefore, as the Apostle advises, lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, Heb. 12. 12. and with a noble emulation follow those heroic patterns they have set us: and since we see that even those Favorites of hea­ven, have smarted so severely, let us never dream of an immunity, but whenever we find our selves inclining to any such flat­tering hope, let every one of us upbraid our selves in those terms the Jews did our Savior, Art thou greater then Abraham, and the Prophets, whom makest thou thy self? Joh. 8. 52. Nay we may descend lower and take in not only all the inferior Saints of former times, but all those our contem­poraries in sufferings, which are most within our view, and may ask the Apostles question, what then are we better then they? Rom. 3. 9. If we think we are, tis certain we are so much worse by that insolence; and if we confess we are not, upon what [Page 177] score can we pretend to be better treated? To conclude, let us not pore only upon our peculiar evils, but attentively look about us, and consider what others endure: and since in frolics we can sport our selves with many uneasinesses for company sake, let us not be more pusillanimous in our soberer moods, but every man cheerfully take his turn in bearing the common bur­den of mortality, till we put off both it and its appendages together, when this mortal shall put on immortality, 1 Cor. 15. 54.

SECT. X.
Of particular Aids for the gaining of Contentment.

1. WE have now past thro all those considerations we at first pro­posed, and may trust the considering Rea­der to make his own collections: yet be­cause impatience is the vice that has bin all this while arraign'd, I am to fore-see it possible, that those who have the greatest degree of that, may be the least willing to attend the whole process, and there­fore I think it may not be amiss, for their ease to suit and reduce all into some short directions and rules for the acquiring con­tentment.

2. THE first and most fundamental is, the mortifying our pride, which as it is the seminary of most sins, so especially this of repining. Men that are highly o­pinion'd of themselves are commonly un­satisfiable: for how well soever they are treated, they still think it short of their merits. Princes have often experimented [Page 179] this in those who have don them signal services; but God finds it in those who have don him none, and we expect he shall dispence to us according to those false estimates we put upon our selves. Therefore he that aspires to Content, must first take truer mesures of himself, and con­sider that as he was nothing till God gave him a being, so all that he can produce from that being, is Gods by original right, and therefore can pretend to nothing of reward; so that whatever he receives, is still upon the account of new bounty; and to complain that he has no more, is like the murmurs of an unthankful debtor, who would still increase those scores which he knows he can never pay.

3. IN the second place, let every man consider how many blessings (notwith­standing his no clame to any) he daily in­joies: and whether those he so impatiently raves after be not much inferior to them. Nay let him ask his own heart, whether he would quit all those he has, for them he wants, and if he would not (as I sup­pose no man in his wits would, those wits being part of the barter) let him then judg how unreasonable his repinings are, when himself confesses he has the better part of [Page 180] worldly happiness, and never any man living had all.

4. IN the third place therefore let him secure his duty of thankfulness for those good things he hath, and that will insen­sibly undermine his impatiencies for the rest, it being impossible to be at once thankful and murmuring. To this pur­pose it were very well, if he would keep a solemn catalogue of all the bounties, protections, and deliverances he has re­ceiv'd from Gods hand, and every night examin what accessions that day has brought to the sum: and he that did this, would undoubtedly find so many incita­tions to gratitude, that all those to dis­content would be stifled in the croud. And since acknowledgment of Gods mer­cies is all the tribute he exacts for them, we must certainly look on that as an in­dispensable duty: and therefore he that finds that God shortens his hand, stops the efflux of his bounty towards him, should reflect on himself, whether he be not behind in that homage by which he holds, and have not by his unthankful­ness turn'd away good things from him, Esa. 59. 8. And if he find it so (as who alas is there that may not) he cannot sure for [Page 181] shame complain, but must in prudence reinforce his gratitude for what is left, as the best means to recover what he has lost.

5. BUT his murmurs will yet be more amazingly silenc'd, if in the fourth place he compares the good things he enjoies with the ill he has don. Certainly this is a most infallible cure for our impatiencies, the holiest man living being able to ac­cuse himself of such sins, as would ac­cording to all human mesures of equity forfeit all blessings, and pull down a greater weight of judgment then the most mise­rable groan under. Therefore as before I advised to keep a catalogue of benefits receive'd, so here it would be of use to draw up one of sins committed. And doubtless he that confronts the one with the other cannot but be astonished to find them both so numerous, equally wondring at Gods mercy in continuing his blessings, in despight of all his provocations, and at his own baseness in continuing his pro­vocations, in despight of all those bles­sings. Indeed tis nothing but our affe­cted ignorance of our own demerits, that makes it possible for us to repine under the severest of Gods dispensations. Would [Page 182] we but ransack our hearts, and see all the abominations that lie there, nay would the most of us but recollect those bare­fac'd crimes which even the world can wit­ness against us, we should find more then enough to balance the heaviest of our pres­sures. When therefore by our impatient struglings we fret and gall our selves under our burdens, let us interrogate our souls in the words of the Prophet, Why doth a living man complain, a man for the pu­nishment of his sin? Let us not spend our breath in murmurs and out-cries, which will only serve to provoke more stripes: but let us search and try our waies, and turn again to the Lord, Lam. 3. 39. dili­gently seek out that accursed thing which has caused our discomfeiture, Jos, 6. 18. and by the removal of that, prepare the way for the access of mercy. But alas how preposterous a method do we take in our afflictions? We accuse every thing but what we ought, furiously fly at all the se­cond causes of our calamity, nay too of­ten at the first by impious disputes of pro­vidence, and in the mean time, as Iob speaks, the root of the matter is found in us, Job. 19. 28. We shelter and protect in our bosoms the real Author of our mise­ries. [Page 183] The true way then to allay the sense of our sufferings, is to sharpen that of our sins. The prodigal thought the meanest condition in his fathers family a prefer­ment, Make me one of thy hired servants, Luk. 15. 19. And if we have his penitence, we shall have his submission also, and calm­ly attend Gods disposals of us.

6ly. As every man in his affliction is to look inward on his own heart, so also up­ward, and consider by whose providence all events are order'd. Is there any evil (i. e. of punishment) in the city, and the Lord hath not don it? Am. 3. 6. and what are we worms that we should dispute with him? Shall a man contend with his Maker? Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth, Isa. 45. 9. And as his power is not to be control'd, so neither is his ju­stice to be impeach'd. Shall not the judg of all the earth do right? Gen. 18. 25. And where we can neither resist nor appeal, what have we to do but humbly to sub­mit? Nor are we only compell'd to it by necessity, but induced and invited by in­terest, since his dispensations are directed not barely to assert his dominion, but to evidence his paternal care over us. He discerns our needs, and accordingly ap­plies [Page 184] to us. The benignity of his nature permits him not to take delight in our di­stresses, he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men, Lam. 3. 33. and therefore when ever he administers to us a bitter cup, we may be sure the ingredi­ents are medicinal, and such as our infir­mities require. He dares not trust our in­temperate appetites with unmixt prospe­rities, the lushiousness whereof tho it may please our palats, yet like St. Johns book Rev. 10. 9. that hony in the mouth may prove gall in the bowels, ingender the most fatal diseases. Let us therefore in our calamities not consult with flesh and blood, Gal. 1. 16. (which the more it is bemoan'd, the more it complains) but look to the hand that strikes; and assure our selves, that the stripes are not more severe, then he sees necessary in order to our good: and since they are so, they ought in reason to be our choices as well as his; and not only religion, but self love will promt us to say, with old Ely, it is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good, 1 Sam. 3. 11. But alas we do not understand what is our interest, because we do not rightly understand what we are ourselves. We consider our selves merely in our ani­mal [Page 185] being, our bodies and those sensitive faculties vested in them, and when we are invaded there, we think we are undon, tho that breach be made only, to relieve that diviner part within us, besieged and opprest with the flesh about it (for so God knows it too often is;) or if we do not con­sider it in that notion of an enemy, yet at the utmost estimate, the body is to the soul but as the garment to the body, a decent case or cover: now what man (not stark frantic) would not rather have his clothes cut then his flesh? and then by the rate of proportion, we may well question our own sobriety, when we repine that our souls are secur'd at the cost of our bo­dies, and that is certainly the worst, the unkindest design, that God has upon us; and our impatient resistances serve only to frustrate the kind, the medicinal part of afflictions, but will not at all rescue us from the severe. Our murmurings may ruine our souls, but will never avert any of our outward calamities.

7. A seventh help to contentment is to have a right estimate of the world, and the common state of humanity: to consider the world but as a stage and our selves but as actors, and to resolve that it is very lit­tle [Page 186] material what part we play so we do it well. A Comedian may get as much ap­plause by acting the slave as the conque­ror, and he that acts the one to day, may to morrow reverse the part, and personate the other. So great are the vicissitudes of the world, that there is no building any firm hopes upon it. All the certainty we have of it, is, that in every condition it has its uneasinesses: so that when we court a change, we rather seek to vary then end our miseries. And certainly he that has well imprest upon his mind the vanity and vexation of the world, cannot be much surprised at any thing that befalls him in it. We expect no more of any thing but to do its kind, and we may as well be angry that we cannot bring the lions to our cribes, or fix the wind to a certain point, as that we cannot secure our selves from dangers and disappointments in this rough and mutable world. We are there­fore to lay it as an infallible maxim, that in this vale of tears every man must meet with sorrows and disasters: and then sure we may take our peculiar with evenness of temper, as being but the natural con­sequent of our being men. And tho pos­sibly we may every one think himself to [Page 187] have double portion, yet that is usually from the deceitful comparisons we make of our selves with others. We take the magnifying glasses of discontent and envy when we view our own miseries and others felicities, but look on our enjoiments and their sufferings thro the contracting optics of ingratitude and incompassion: and whilst we do thus, tis impossible but we must foment our own dissatisfactions. He that will compare to good purpose must do it honestly and sincerely, and view his neighbors calamities with the same attention he do's his own, and his own comforts with the same he do's his neighbors; and then many of the great seeming inequalities would come pretty neer a level.

8. BUT even where they do not, it in the 8th place deserves however to be con­sider'd how ill natur'd a thing it is, for any man to think himself more miserable because another is happy: and yet this is the very thing, by which alone many men have made themselves wretched: for ma­ny have created wants, merely from the envious contemplation of other mens a­bundance. And indeed there is nothing more disingenuous, or (to go higher) more [Page 188] Diabolical. Lucifer was happy enough in his original state, yet could not think himself so because he was not like the most high Isa. 14. 14. And when by that inso­lent ambition he had forfeited bliss, it has ever since bin an aggravation of his tor­ment, that mankind is assumed to a capa­city of it; and accordingly he makes it the design of his envious industry to de­feat him. Now how perfectly are the two first parts of this copy transcrib'd, by those who first cannot be satisfied with any in­ferior degree of prosperity, and then whet their impatiencies with other mens enjoi­ments of what they cannot attain? And tis much to be doubted, that they who go thus far may compleat the parallel, and endea­vor when they have opportunity to un­dermine that happiness they envy. There­fore since Satan is so apt to impress his whole image, where he has drawn any of his lineaments, it concerns us warily to guard our selves, and by a Christian sym­pathy with our brethren, rejoice with them that do rejoice, Rom. 12. 15. make the comforts of others, an allay not an im­provement of our own miseries. Chari­ty has a strange magnetic power, and at­tracts the concerns of our brethren to us, [Page 189] and he that has that in his breast can never want refreshment, whilst any about him are happy, for by adopting their interest, he shares in their joies. Iethro tho an a­lien rejoiced for all the good God had don to Israel, Exod. 18. 9. and why should not we have as sensible a concurrence with our fellow Christians? And he that has so, will still find somthing to balance his own sufferings.

9. Let him that aspires to content­ment set bounds to his desire. Tis our common fault in this affaire, we usually begin at the wrong end, we enlarge our desires as hell, and cannot be satisfied, Hab. 2. 5. and then think God uses us ill, if he do not fill our insatiable appetites: where­as if we would confine our expectations to those things which we need, or he has pro­mis'd, there are few of us who would not find them abundantly answer'd. Alas how few things are there which our nature (if not stimulated by fancy and luxury) re­quires? And how rare is it to find them who want those? Nay who have not ma­ny additionals for delight and pleasure? And yet Gods promise under the Gospel extends only to those necessaries, for where Christ assures his disciples that these things shall [Page 190] be added unto them Mat. 6. 33. the context apparently restrains these things to meat and drink and clothing. Therefore take no thought for the life what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, nor yet for the body what you shall put on, verse 25. now what pretence have we to clame more then our Charter gives us? God never articled with the ambitious to give him honors, with the covetous to fill his bags, or with the voluptuous to feed his luxuries. Let us therefore, if we expect to be satisfied, modestly confine our desires within the li­mits he has set us: and then every acces­sion which he superadds will appear (what it is) a largess and bounty. But whilst our appetites are boundless, and rather stretcht then filled with our acquest's, what possi­bility is there of their satisfaction? And when we importune God for it, we do but assign him such a task the Poets made a representation of their Hell, the filling a sieve with water, or the rolling a stone up a precipice.

10ly. A great expedient for content­ment, is to confine our thoughts to the present, and not to let them loose to fu­ture events. Would we but do this, we might shake off a great part of our bur­den: [Page 191] for we often heap fantastic loads upon our selves by anxious presages of things which perhaps will never happen, and yet sink more under them, then under the real weight that is actually upon us. And this is certainly one of the greatest follies imaginable: for either the evil will come or it will not, if it will, tis sure no such desirable guest that we should go out to meet it, we shall feel it time enough when it falls on us, we need not project to anticipate our sense of it: but if it will not, what extreme madness is it for a man to torment himself with that which will never be, to create engines of tortures, and by such aerial afflictions, make him­self as miserable as the most real ones could do? And truly this is all that we usually get by our fore-sights. Prevision is one of Gods attributes, and he mocks at all our pre­tences to it, by a frequent defeating of all our fore-casts. He do's it often in our hopes: some little crosse circumstance ma­ny times demolishes those goodly machins we raise to our selves: and he do's it no less in our fears, those ills we solemnly expected often baulk us, and others from an unexpected coast suddenly invade us. And since we are so blind, so short-sighted, [Page 192] let us never take upon us to be scouts, to discover danger at a distance (for tis mani­fold odds we shall only bring home false a­larms) but let us rest our selves upon that most admirable Aphorism of our blessed Lord, Sufficient unto the day is the evil there­of, Mat. 6. 34. apply our selves with Chri­stian courage to bear the present, and leave God either to augment or diminish, as he sees fit for the future. Or if we will needs be looking forward, let it be in o­bedience not contradiction to our duty: let us entertain our selves with those fu­turities which we are sure are not Chime­ra's, death and judgment, heaven and hell. The nearer we draw these things to our view, the more insensible will all inter­medial objects be; they will deceive our sense of present, and much more fore-stal the apprehension of future evils: for tis our neglect of things eternal, that leaves us thus at leisure for the transitory

11. IN the last place let us in all our distresses supersede our anxieties and sol­licitudes by that most effectual remedy the Apostle prescribes, Is any man afflicted let him pray, Jam. 5. 14. And this sure is a most rational prescription: for alas what else can we do towards the redress [Page 193] of our griefs. We who are so impotent, that we have not power over the most despi­cable excrescence of our own body, can­not make one hair white or black, Mat. 5. 36. what can we do towards the new mould­ing our condition, or modelling things without us? Our sollicitudes serve only to bind our burdens faster upon us, but this expedient of Praier will certainly re­lieve us. Call upon me, saies God, in the time of trouble, and I will hear thee, and thou shalt praise me, Psal. 50. 15. When­ever therefore we are sinking in the floods of affliction, let us thus support our selves by representing our wants unto our gracious Lord, cry unto him as St. Peter did, Mat. 14. 30. and he will take us by the hand, and be the winds never so boiste­rous or contrary, preserve from sinking: the waves or billows of this troublesom world, will serve but to toss us closer into his arms, who can with a word appease the roughest tempest, or rescue from it. O let us not then be so unkind to our selves, as to neglect this infallible means of our deliverance! but with the Psalmist take our refuge under the shadow of the divine wings till the calamity be over-past Psa. 57. 1. And as this is a sure expedient in [Page 194] all our real important afflictions, so is it a good test by which to try what are so. We are often peevish and disquieted at trifles, nay we take up the quarrels of our lusts and vices, and are discontented when they want their wisht supplies. Now in either of these cases, no man that at all considers who he praies to, will dare to insert these in his praiers, it being a con­temt of God to invoke him in things so slight as the one, or impious as the other. It will therefore be good for every man when he goes to address for relief, to con­sider what of his pressures they are, that are worthy of that solemn deprecation: and when he has singled those out, let him reflect, and he will find he has in that prejudg'd all his other discontents as frivolous or wicked. And then sure he cannot think fit to harbour them, but must for shame dismiss them, since they are such, as he dares not avow to him, from whom alone he can expect relief. God alwaies pities our real mi­series, but our imaginary ones dare not demand it. Let us not then create such diseases to our selves, as we can­not declare to our Physitian: and when those are precluded, for all the rest St. [Page 195] Pauls recipe is a Catholicon, Be care­ful for nothing, but in every thing by prai­ers and supplications, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Phil. 4. 6.

SECT. XI.
Of Resignation.

1. AND now amidst such variety of re­ceits, twill be hard to instance any one sort of calamity which can escape their efficacy, if they be but duly appli'd. But indeed we have generally a compendious way of frustrating all remedies by never making use of them: like fantastic pati­ents we are well enough content to have our disease discourst, and medicines pre­scrib'd, but when the Physic comes, have still some pretence or other to protract the taking it. But I shall beseech the Reader to consider, that counsels are not charms, to work without any cooperation of the concern'd person: they must be ad­verted to, they must be ponder'd and con­sider'd, and finally they must be practic'd, or else the utmost good they can do us, is to give us a few hours divertisment in the reading: but they do us a mischief that infinitly out-weighs it, for they im­prove [Page 197] our guilts by the ineffective tender they make of rescuing us from them, and leave us accountable not only for the o­riginal crimes, but for our obstinate adhe­sion to them in spight of admonition.

2. I say this because it is a little too notorious, that many take up books only as they do cards or dice, as an instrument of diversion. Tis a good entertainment of their curiosity to see what can be said upon any subject, and be it well or ill handled, they can please themselves e­qually with the ingenuity or ridiculous­ness of the composure, and when they have don this, they have don all they de­sign'd. This indeed may be tolerable in Romances and Play-books, but sure it ill befits Divinity. And yet I fear it oftnest happens there: for in the former some do project for some trivial improvements, as the embellishing of their stile, the inspi­riting of their fancies; and some men would scarce be able to drive their pedling trade of wit, did they not thus sweep the stage: but alas how many books of piety are read, of which one cannot discern the least tincture in mens conversations, which sure do's in a great mesure proceed from the want of a determinate design in [Page 198] their reading, mens practice being not apt to be less rovers then their specula­tion. He that takes a practical subject in hand, must do it with a design to con­form his practice to what he shall there be convinc'd to be his duty, and he that comes not with this probity of mind, is not like to be much benefited by his reading.

3. BUT one would think this should be an unnecessary caution at this time, for since the intent of this tract, is only to shew men the way to contentment, tis to be suppos'd the Readers will be as much in earnest as the writer can be, it being every mans proper and most important interest, the instating him in the highest and most supreme felicity that this world can admit: yet for all this fair probabili­ty, I doubt many will in this instance have the same indifference they have in their other spiritual concerns.

4. TIS true indeed that a querulous re­pining humor, is one of the most per­nicious, the most ugly habits incident to mankind, but yet as deformed people are oft the most in love with themselves, so this crooked piece of our temper, is of all others the most indulgent to it self. Me­lancholy [Page 199] is the most stubborn and untra­ctable of all humors; and discontent being the offspring of that, partakes of that in­flexibility: and accordingly we see how impregnable it often is, against all assaults of reason and religion too. Ionah in a sullen mood would justify his discontent even to God himself, and in spight of that calm reproof, dost thou well to be angry? Jon. 4. 9. aver he did well to be angry e­ven to the death. And do we not frequent­ly see men upon an impatience of some disappointment, grow angry even at their comforts? Their friends, their children, their meat, their drink, every thing grows nauseous to them, and in a frantic discon­tent, they often fling away those things which they most value. Besides this peevish impatience is of so aerial a diet, that tis scarce possible to starve it. Twill nurish it­self with Phantasms and Chimeras, suborn a thousand surmises & imaginary distresses to abet its pretences: and tho every one of us can remonstrate to another, the unrea­sonableness of this discontent; yet scarce any of us will draw the argument home, or suffer our selves to be convinc'd by what we urge as irrefragable to others. Nay farther this humor is impatient of any di­version, [Page 148] loves to converse only with it self. In bodily pains, men that despair of cure are yet glad of allaies and mitigations, and strive by all arts, to divert and de­ceive the sense of their anguish; but in this disease of the mind, men cherish and improve their torment, roll and chew the bitter pill in their mouths, that they may be sure to have its utmost flavor; and by devoting all their thoughts to the subject of their grief, keep up an uninterrupted sense of it: as if they had the same Ty­ranny for themselves which Caligula had for others, and loved to feel themselves die. Indeed there is not a more absurd contradiction in the world, then to hear men cry out of the weight, the intolera­bleness of their burden, and yet grasp it as fast as if their life were bound up in it; will not deposite it, no not for the smal­est breathing time. A strange fascinati­on sure, and yet so frequent, that it ought to be the fundamental care of him that would cure men of their discontents, to bring them to a hearty willingness of being cured.

5. IT may be this will look like pa­radox, and every man will be apt to say he wishes nothing more in earnest, then to [Page 201] be cured of his present discontent. He that is poor would be cured by wealth, he that is low and obscure by honor and great­ness: but so an Hydropic person may say he desires to have his thirst cur'd by a perpetual supply of drink: yet all sober people know, that that is the way only to increase it: but let the whole habit of the body be rectified, and then the thirst will cease of it self. And certainly tis the very same in the present case, no outward accessions will ever satisfy our cravings, our appetites must be tam'd and reduc'd, and then they will never be able to raise tumults, or put us into mu­tiny and discontent: and he (and none but he) that submits to this method, can truly be said to desire a cure.

6. BUT he that thus attests the reali­ty of his desires, and seeks contentment in its proper sphere, may surely arrive to some considerable degrees of it. We find in all ages men, that only by the dire­ction of natural light have calmed their disquiets, and reason'd themselves into contentment even under great and sen­sible pressures; men who amidst the acu­test torments, have still preserv'd a se­renity of mind, and have frustrated con­temts [Page 202] and reproches by disregarding them: and sure we give a very ill account of our Christianity, if we cannot do as much with it as they did without it.

7. I do not here propose such a Stoical insensibility as makes no distinction of e­vents, which, tho it has bin vainly pretend­ed to by many, yet sure was never attain'd by any upon the strength of discourse. Some natural dulnesse or casual stupefa­ction must concur to that, and perhaps by doing so, has had the luck to be ca­noniz'd for vertue. I mean only such a superiority of mind as raises us above our sufferings, tho it exemt us not from the sense of them. We cannot propose to our selves a higher patern in any vertue then our blessed Lord: yet we see he not only felt that load under which he lay, but had the most pungent and quick sense of it, such as promted those earnest deprecations, father if it be possible let this cup pass: yet all those displacencies of his flesh were surmounted by the re­signation of his spirit, nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt, Luk. 22. And certainly he that in imitation of this pat­tern, do's in spight of all the reluctancies of his sense, thus entirely submit his will, [Page 203] however he may be sad, yet he is not im­patient; nor is he like to be sad long, for to him that is thus resign'd, light will spring up, Psal. 97. 11. some good Angel will be sent like that to our Savior to re­lieve his disconsolation. God will send either some outward allaies, or give such interior comforts and supports, as shall counterpoise those afflictions he takes not off.

8. INDEED the grand design of God in correcting us is (the same with that of a prudent parent towards his child) to break our wills. That stubborn faculty will scarce bend with easy touches, and there­fore do's require some force: and when by that rougher handling, he has brought it to a pliantness, the work is don. Tis therefore our interest to cooperate with this design, to assist as much as we are able towards the subjugating this unruly part of our selves. This is that Sheba 2 Sam. 20. the surrendring of whom is Gods expecta­tion in all the close sieges he laies to us. Let us then be so wise, as by an early re­signing it to divert his farther hostilities, and buy our peace with him.

9. AND truly this is the way not only to gain peace with him, but our selves [Page 204] too: tis the usurpation of our will over our reason which breeds all the confu­sion and tumults within our own breasts, and there is no possibility of curbing its insolence, but by putting it into safe cu­stody, committing it to him who (as our Church teaches us) alone can order the unruly wills of sinful men. Indeed no­thing but experience can fully inform us of the serenity and calm of that soul, who has resign'd his will to God. All care of chusing for himself is happily supersed­ed, he is temted to no anxious forecasts for future events, for he knows nothing can happen in contradiction of that supreme will, in which he hath sanctuary: which will certainly chuse for him with that tenderness and regard, that a faithful-Guardian would for his pupil, an indul­gent father for his child that casts its self into his arms. Certainly there is not in the world such a holy sort of artifice, so Divine a charm to tie our God to us, as this of resigning our selves to him. We find the Gibeonites by yielding themselves vassals to the Israelites, had their whole army at their beck to rescue them in their danger Jos. 10. 6. and can we think God is less con­siderate of his homagers and dependents? [Page 205] No certainly, his honor as well as his com­passion is concern'd in the relief of those who have surrendred themselves to him.

10. FARTHER yet, when by resig­nation we have united our wills to God, we have quite changed the scene, and we who when our wills stood single were liable to perpetual defeats, in this blessed combination can never be crost. When our will is twisted and involved with Gods, the same omnipotenee which backs his will, do's also attend ours. Gods will, we are sure, admits of no controle, can never be resisted, and we have the same securi­ty for ours, so long as it concurs with it. By this means all calamities are unsting'd, and even those things which are most re­pugnant to our sensitive natures, are yet very agreable to our spirits, when we consider they are implicitly our own choice, since they are certainly his, whom we have deputed to elect for us. Indeed there can be no face of adversity so aver­ting and formidable, which set in this light will not look amiable. We see daily how many uneasinessess and prejudices men will contentedly suffer in pursuit of their wills: and if we have really espou­sed Gods, made his will ours, we shall [Page 206] with as great (nay far greater) alacrity embrace its distributions, how uneasy soever to our sense; our souls will more acquiesce in the accomplishment of the Divine will, then our flesh can reluct to any severe effects of it.

11. HERE then is that footing of firm ground, on which whosoever can stand, may indeed do that which Archimedes boasted, move the whole world. He may as to himself subvert the whole course of sublunary things, un­venem all those calamities which are to others the gall of Asps; and in a farther sense verify that Evangelical prophecy, of beating swords into plough-shares, and spears into pruning hooks, Esay. 2. 4. the most hostile weapons, the most adverse events, shall be by him converted into instruments of fertility, shall only advance his spiritual growth.

12. AND now who can chuse but con­fess this a much more eligible state, then to be alwaies harrassed with solicitudes and cares, perpetually either fearing fu­ture defeats, or bewailing the past. And then what can we call it less then mad­ness or enchantment, for men to act so contrary to their own dictates, yea to [Page 207] their very sense and experience, too see and acknowledge the inexplicable felicity of a resigned will, and yet perversely to hold out theirs, tho they can get nothing by it, but the sullen pleasure of opposing God, and tormenting themselves? Let us therefore if not for our duty or ease, yet at least for our reputation, the as­serting our selves men of sobriety and common sense, do that which upon all these interests we are obliged; let us but give up our wills, and with them we shall certainly divest our selves of all our fruitless anxieties, and cast our burdens upon him who invites us to do so. He who bears all our sins, will bear all our sorrows, our griefs too: if we will but be content to deposite them, he will relieve us from all those oppressing weights, which make our souls cleave to the dust, Psal. 119. 25. and will in exchange give us only his light, his pleasant burden, Mat. 11. 33. In a word there will be no care left for us, but that of keeping our selves in a capacity of his: let us but secure our love to him, and we are ascertain'd that all things shall work together for our good, Rom. 8. 28.

To conclude, Resignation and Con­tentment are vertues not only of a near [Page 208] cognation and resemblance, but they are linked as the Cause and the Effect. Let us but make sure of Resignation, and Content will flow into us without our farther industry: as on the contrary whilst our wills are at defiance with Gods, we shall alwaies find things at as great defi­ance with ours. All our subtiletes or in­dustries will never mould them to our sa­tisfactions, till we have moulded our selves into that pliant temper that we can cor­dially say, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. 1 Sam. 3. 18.

The Close.

1. THIS short institution of the Art of Contentment, cannot more na­turally, or more desirably draw to a con­clusion, then in the resort we have given it, in the bosome of divine Providence. The Roman conquerors as the last pitch of all their triumphs, went to the Capi­tol, and laid their Garlands in the lap of Iupiter: but the Christian has an easier way to Triumph, to put his crown of thornes (for that is the trophy of his vi­ctories) within the arms of his gracious God; there lodg his fears, his wants, his sorrows, and himself too, as in the best repository.

2. THE Gospel command of not ca­ring for the morrow, Mat. 6. 34, and being careful for nothing, Phil. 4. 6. nakedly propos'd, might seem the abandoning of us to all the calamities of life: but when we are directed to cast all our care upon a gracious and all-powerful Parent, and are assur'd that he cares for us, 1 Pet. 5. 7. that tho a woman may forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion [Page 210] of the son of her womb, yet will he not for­get his children, Isa. 49. 15. this will abundantly supersede all cavil and obje­ction. Whilst worldly men trust in an arm of flesh, lay up tresure on earth, a prey for rust and moth, Mat. 6. 19. and a tor­ment to themselves, Jam. 5. 3. the Chri­stian has Omnipotence for his support, and a tresure in heaven, where no thief approches, nor moth corrupts, Mat. 6. 20. Whil'st bold inquirers call in question Gods secret will, oblige him to their sub or supralapsarian schemes, their absolute or conditional decrees, their grace fore­seen or predetermin'd; the pious man with aweful acquiescence submits to that which is revel'd: resolves for ever to obey, but never to dispute; as knowing that the belov'd Disciple lean'd on his Masters bo­some; but tis the thiefs and traitors part to go about to rifle it.

3. TIS surely a modest demand in the behalf of God Almighty, that we should allow him as much privilege in his World, as every Pesant clames in his Cottage; to be Master there, and dispose of his house­hold as he thinks best: to say to this man, Go, and he goeth: and to another, Come, and he cometh: and to his servant, Do this, [Page 211] and he doth it, Mat. 8. 9. And if we would afford him this liberty, there would be an immediate end put to all clamor and complaint.

4. WE make it our daily praier that the will of God may be don in earth as it is in heaven, with a ready, swift, and uninterrupted constancy. As tis Giant­like rebellion to set up our will against his, so is it mad perverseness to set it up against our own; be displeas'd that our requests are granted, and repine that his, and therewith our will is don. It were indeed not only good manners, but good policy, to observe the direction of the Heathen, and follow God: not prejudg his determinations by ours; but in a mo­dest suspension of our thoughts, hearken what the Lord God will say concerning us, for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his Saints that they turn not again, Psa. 85. 8.

5. OR however upon surprise we may indulge to a passionate affection, and dote upon our illegitimate off-spring, our dearl­ing guilts or follies, as David did upon that Child, who was the price of Murder and adultery: yet when the brat is taken from us, when the Child is dead, it will [Page 212] become us to do as he did, rise from our sullen posture on the earth, and worship in the house of the Lord, 2 Sam. 12. 20. It will behove us, as he saies in another place, to lay our hand upon our mouth, be­cause it was his doing, Psal. 30. 10. and with holy Iob Chap. 40. 4. when charg'd with his murmurings, Behold I am vile, what shall I answer? Once have I spoken, but I will not answer: yea twice, but I will proceed no farther.

6. Socrates rightly said of Content­ment, opposing it to the riches of fortune and opinion, that tis the wealth of nature; for it gives every thing that we have learnt to want, and really need: but Resignation is the riches of Grace, be­stowing all things that a Christian not only needs, but can desire, even Almighty God himself. He indeed, as the Schole­men teach, is the objective happiness of the Creature; He who is the fountain of being, must be also of blessedness: and tho this be only communicable to us, when we have put off that flesh which can­not enter into the kingdom of God, and laid aside that corruption which cannot inherit incorruption, 1 Cor. 15. yet even in this life, we may make approches to that bles­sed [Page 213] state, by acts of Resignation and de­nial of our selves. It was the generous saying of Socrates being about to die un­to his friend; O Crito, since it is the will of God, so let it be: Anytus and Melitus may kill me, but cannot hurt me. But such a resignation as tis infinitly a greater duty to a Christian, so it is also a more firm security. In that case tis not the Martyr, but Iesus of Nazareth who is thus persecuted, and he who attaques him will find it hard to kick against the pricks, Act. 9. 5.

7. THERE could not be a greater instance of the profligate sensuality of the Israelites, then that they murmured for want of leeks and onions, Num. 11. 5. when they ate Angels food, and had bread rain'd down from heaven. Tis im­possible for the soul that is sensible of God Almighties favor, to repine at any earthly pressure. The Lord is my shep­herd, saith David, therefore can I lack nothing, Psa. 23. 1. And, thou hast put gladness into my heart, more then when their corn, and wine, aud oil encreased, Psa. 4. 7. and in passionate rapture he cries out, Psa. 73. 25. Whom have I in heaven but thee: and there is none upon earth that I [Page 214] desire in comparison of thee? my flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. And likewise Psal. 46. 1. God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, tho the earth be moved: and tho the hills be carried into the midst of the sea. Tho the waters there­of rage and swell, and tho the mountains shake at the tempest of the same. If God be in the midst of us, we shall not be removed, he will help us, and that right early. Let us therefore possess our selves of this sup­port, and as the Prophet advises Isa. 8. 12. neither fear, nor be afraid, in any exigence how great soever; but be still and quiet, and sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be our fear, and let him be our dread.

FINIS.

THE CONTENTS.
SECTION

  • 1. Of the necessary Connexion between Happiness and Contentment. p. 1.
  • 2. Of Gods Absolute Soveraignty. p. 17.
  • 3. Of Gods Unlimited Bounty. p. 28.
  • 4. Of the Surplusage of our Enjoiments above our Sufferings. p. 56.
  • 5. Of our Demerit towards God. p. 86.
  • 6. Of Gods general Providence. p. 107.
  • 7. Of Gods particular Providence. p. 121.
  • 8. Of the Advantage of Afflictions. p. 130.
  • 9. Of our Misfortunes compar'd with o­ther mens. p. 156.
  • 10. Of particular aids for the gaining Con­tentment. p. 178.
  • 11. Of Resignation. p. 196.
  • The Close. p. 209.

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