Page images
PDF
EPUB

wives, be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they poffefsed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away." The violent pulse of the foul in our high-bended hopes, perplexing racking fears, vehement love, swelling joy, and overmuch forrow about these matters, is a fad fymptom of the distemper of natural corruption that has seized all Adam's sons. The greedy appetite that the heart is carried with to these things, is a fad sign of an unweaned soul. A man may have a sinful lust to his meat, which yet is necessary to support his body; and a lust in the using of it, as those of the old world, Matth. xxiv. 38. 1 Sam. xiv. 32. The dogs of Egypt, they say, lap the water of the river Nile running, for fear of the crocodiles; for not only in every berry of the vine, but in all created things, there is a devil. See how the Lord tried the people, Judg. vii. 6. " And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.

All these things the law requires in their perfection, without the least mixture. Where is the clean man to cast a stone at the rest? It must be on a very transient glance of the heart that men fay, The world is not their temptation, they care not for the world. For a view of the spirituality of the law would make us fee that the world is fixed in our hearts, and only grace can loose it at the root, and only death can cast it over the hedge.

Secondly, A full contentment with our own condition, for the fin in our condition, it is not from God, and there is no good in it; we are not called to be content with it, because it is not the condition which God set us in. But whatever else be in our condition, we are obliged to be content with it, because so is the will of God that we should be in it. Every one is to look on his condition, as the paradise that God has set him down in; and though it be planted with thorns and briers, he must not look over the hedge ; for thou shalt not covet. Though that which is wanting in thy condition cannot be numbered, and that which is crooked cannot be made straight, yet none of these things must ren. der us uneasy in the least. There is required a full content

As

eye. Much

on.

ment, without a discontented glance of the

goes to the making up of it, all here required.

1. Hearty renunciation of our own will, saying, with the pattern of contentment, Not my will, but thine be done. We must no more be chusers for ourselves of our own lot; but as little children standing at the table, not to carve for themselves, but to take the bit that is given them. “ He shall chuse our inheritance for us,” fays the Pfalmift, Psal. xlvii. 4. Shall not Infinite Wisdom rule the world? This lies in three things.

(1.) We must not determine the kind or fort of our comforts, as we often do, like petted children, that will not have this the parent holds out, but that which they set their eye

Like Adam, whom the fruit of the tree of life could not ferve, but he would have the forbidden fruit. The defire of fruit was natural, therefore not evil; other fruit would have served that desire, if kept orderly; but the lusting defire could not want forbidden fruit. Rachael had a husband, but she must have children too. Orpah must have a husband. Ruth wants both; but she determines nothing, but only she must have a God; and that she got, and both too.

(2.) We must not be positive as to the measure of our comforts; and there is no reason that beggars should be chusers. If the heart say of our comforts, They are too little, and of afflictions, they are too great, it flies in the face of this command, and of God's fovereignty, setting up for independency, 1 Tim. vi. 8. “ Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content,” though the food be coarse, though scanty, &c. Nature is content with little, grace with less, and fets no measure; but the measure of lust can never be filled.

(3.) We must not be wilful in any thing, 1 Tim. vi. 9.

They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare," &c. They that will have these things, and will not want them, will never be truly content till God's will be brought down to theirs ; which will never be altogether; and if in a particular it come to be fo, they will readily get their will with a vengeance, as the Ifraelites in the wilderness got. Psal. lxxviii. 29.-31. “ So they did eat, and were well filled : for he gave them their own desire; they were not estranged from their lust: but while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and flew

[ocr errors]

the fattest of them, and finote down the chosen men of Israel.” Thus we must renounce our own will.

2. Absolute resignation to the will of the Lord, Matth. xvi. 24. “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” We must give over the war betwixt our will and the will of God, and our will must run as a captive after his triumphal chariot. His preceptive will is the rule of our duty; and his providential will muft, with our consent, be the rule of our condition. Our will must follow his, as the shadow does the body, without gainsaying. If he will let us have a created comfort, we must be content to keep it; if not, we must be content to part with it. We must lie at the foot of Providence, as a ball before him that tofses it, to be thrown up and cast down as our God sees meet. This Providence will do with us whether we be willing or not; but if we are thus resigned, then our necessity is our obedience.

3. Entire submission to the will of God, 1 Sam. iii. 18. “ It is the Lord : let him do what feemeth him good.” As they resign themselves to his disposal, they must stand to his decision in the case. We must no more dispute the fovereignty with God, but allow the divine will and pleasure to carry it over the belly of our corrupt inclinations, and be disposed of by him as the weaned child is by the nurse. If that which is crooked cannot be made straight, we must ply to it as it is; if our lot be not brought up to our mind, we must bring down our mind to our lot, as Paul did, Phil. iv. 11, 12. “ Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where, and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." In this submission to the will of the Lord the soul of content lies. For God does not subject the man only, or cast him down, as he can do the most discontented person, making him walk with the yoke wreathed about his neck, whether he will or not. But the man voluntarily submits himself to God's difposal in the whole of his condition, whatever his wants be. Whatever be wanting in our condition, if we would be content,

1st, We must submit to them as just, without complaining, as Cain did; faying with the prophet, Micah vč. 9.

“ I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have fin. ned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” We meet with no hardships in our lot, but what we have procured to ourselves. And it is but just that we kiss the rod, and be filent under it. Let us complain of ourselves; why not? only leave our complaints there ; but not set our mouths against the heavens ; no, not in our hearts, for God knows the language of our hearts as well as our mouths. We must love his holiness and justice, in all the works thereof, though against ourselves. Nay more,

2dly, We must be quiet under them, without murmuring, as tolerable, Lam. iii. 27.-29. “ It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He fitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope." So was Job at first, though his corruption got up at length, Job i. 22. “ In all this Job finned not, nor charged God foolisl. ly.' How often do we cry out of insufferable affliction? yet we do bear up under it for all that, and would bear the better if we could be content and quiet under it. A meek and quiet spirit makes a light cross, for a proud unsubdued fpirit lays a great overweight upon every cross; as Rachael's unquiet fpirit made the want of children wonderfully heavy, which others go very quietly and contentedly under. Nay more,

3dly, We must be easy without those things we want, as things we can want, without anxiety to get them, Phil. iv. 12. Weaned hearts will be very easy without those things which others cannot digest the want of. What is the reason of so much uneasiness in our condition, but that we are wedded to this and the other thing; and being glad of the having of it, we are exceeding uneasy at the parting with it, as Jonah was with his gourd? The contented man will be easy, and that not upon a sensible prospect, but on the faith of the promise, Phil. iv. 6. “ Be careful for nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” But more than that,

4thly, We must be well satisfied, and bear up comfortably under the want of them; ítanding upright when they are

gone, as we did when we had them, or would do if we had them; even as the house stands when the prop that it did lean upon is taken away, Hab. iii. 17, 18. “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olives shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my falvation.” It

It is a fad evidence of the corruption of our nature, that woful lust after the creature that is bred and born with us, that our comfort waxeth and waneth, according to the waxing and waning of created enjoyments, and ebbs and flows as the breasts of the creature are full or empty. So, many lose all spirit and life in religion, when God pulls their worldly comforts from them; and even good people walk much discouraged and damped, not so much with the sense of God's anger, as the affliction in their lot. But what is yet more,

5thly, We must have a complacency in our condition, as what is good for us, otherwise we can have no full content. Observe the language of a contented mind, not only just, but “Good is the will of the Lord,” If. xxxix. ult. Content suffers not a person to go drooping under God's yoke, but makes him carry it evenly with a sort of complacency in it. Wise men have a pleasure in the working of physic, though it gripe them fore, if their physician thinks it good for their health, and they think so too. And

grace

fometimes finds a pleasure in pain, and a paradise within the thorny thicket of afflictions. See how the apostle gathered oliveberries off the thorn-hedge of crofles, 2 Cor. xii. 10. “ Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecution, in distresses for Christ's fake ; for when I am weak, then am I strong.' Ay, there is a refined pleasure there, to see how God stops the entry for provision, that lufts may be starved; how he cuts off the by-channels, that the whole stream of love may run towards himself; how he pulls and holds off the man's burden, that he may run the more expeditely in the way to heaven. Nay, more than all that,

6thly, We must have a complacency in our condition, as that which is best for us for the time. Though he take health from thee, wealth, relations, &c. How is that poffible. It is not easy to do it, but you must endeavour to see

« PreviousContinue »