« AnteriorContinuar »
them; and therefore ought to be gentle ourselves. We should endeavour by prudent and mild treatment of those with whom we are concerned, by discreet vigilance over them, by friendly instruction and admonitions given them, to prevent their acting wrongly by us: and, if they do, notwithstanding, we should consider calmly, and without exaggeration, the degree of the fault committed, hear and weigh their defences and excuses, make use of cool expostulations to convince and reform them; and employ others in this good work, who may be more likely to do it well and successfully, if we have any cause to distrust our own temper or weight. And amongst other things we should frequently recollect, how happy and pleased with ourselves we have been afterwards, when we have resisted and overcome incitements to unreasonable rage, and how miserable and full of fruitless remorse, when we have yielded to them.
But besides the directions more peculiarly appropriated to each of the four temptations to be impatient, which I have mentioned, there are some scarcely touched upon yet, which in a good measure belong to them all. One is, to think often how possible it is, that more or fewer of these temptations may sooner or later come to our share. Were we indeed to imagine it more probable than it is, that many of them would, this might sink our spirits, and weaken our strength; our hearts failing us for fear, and for looking after those things, which perhaps, are not coming*. But previously considering in a reasonable manner, to what sort of accidents we are liable, will guard us against the vain imagination of being exempt from evil, prevent us from being alarmed, sur
Luke xxi. 26.
prised, and cast down by it, as though some strange thing happened unto us*, and gradually reconcile us to the lot of humanity: we shall be ready and prepared for whatever may fall out; recollect immediately that no trial hath overtaken us, but such as is common to men†; and resist all emotions of immoderate vehemence, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in our brethren that are in the world. Another direction is, that under a long continuance of pain, or grief, or fear, or provocations to anger, if we find that by the mere use of arguments from prudence, virtue, or religion, we cannot get the better of them, but are in danger. of being overcome; we should try the effect of turning our attention from them for the present, as well as we are able, to other subjects: undoubtedly to the best and most valuable that we can; but to any, that are innocent, rather than grow fretful, or despond. Only we must never take refuge in trifles out of choice; but consider it as a mark of weakness, and cause of shame, that we are driven to them: and we must beware, that they never banish pious and serious thoughts out of our minds, or depreciate them in our esteem.
Every one of these rules, I trust, may assist us, more or less, to run with patience, the race that is set before us, as the Apostle exhorts. But the great assistance will be what in the next words he directs, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross—and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. His first disciples were enabled to bear pain, sorrow, fear, provocation, each of them in the highest degree, from their cruel persecutors, + 1 Cor. x. 13. ‡ 1 Pet. v. 9.
1 Pet. iv. 12.
| Ver. 2.
by considering him, that endured such contradiction of sinners, lest they should be wearied and faint in their minds*. Well then may we, who have so much less to undergo, possess our souls in patience amidst it all. Indeed without patience we cannot, in the lowest sense, possess our souls; be masters of ourselves, and enjoy even the present being, which God hath given us; the best things will be tasteless, most things bitter; we shall torment ourselves, and repine against him. But if we watch over our hearts, and apply to God, he will strengthen us with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness : tribulation will work patience: and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope will not make us ashamed. For not only shall we possess our souls in comfort here, but if, as St. James enjoins, we let patience have her perfect works, we shall secure the possession of endless felicity hereafter. For God will give to them, who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life. Therefore, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience ¶: and the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and the patient waiting for Christ**. For ye have need of patience, that after have done the will of God, ye may receive the promisett.
* Heb. xii. 3. Rom. ii. 7.
† Col. i. 11. Rom. v. 5, 4, 5. § James i. 4. Luke viii. 15. ** 2 Thess. iii. 5. †† Heb. x. 36.
PHIL. IV. 11.
-I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
You have lately been exhorted to the duty of patience: which consists in bearing well such things, as immediately and necessarily give uneasiness: and now I proceed to that of contentment under such, as disturb us only on reflection and comparison. One should think, that they who need not suffer any thing, would not; yet very often such, as feel no positive evil, that is worth naming, are very far from being at ease. Multitudes are dissatisfied, and some extremely miserable, with very little other cause for it, than the unreasonable workings of their own minds. Instead of contriving to be as happy as they can in their condition, which is plainly the wise part, they set themselves to find out, why they should be wretched in it, and accordingly become so. Were they only to desire with moderation any proper good thing, which they have not, or endeavour with moderation to obtain it, this would be always void of blame, often worthy of praise: they would be pleased, perhaps improved also, if they succeeded; and composed, though they failed. But vain man extends his wishes and his claims far beyond these bounds: and will enjoy no peace within, because he is not, in this or that respect, what he might have been, or what others are.
But suppose he were all that he wishes, how doth he know, that he should not quickly wish for more, with the same tormenting eagerness, or that his wishes would ever end? For there would be just the same ground for new ones. His complaint at present is, not that he positively suffers any thing, but that he wants something. Now something is, and must be always, wanting to finite beings, be they raised ever so high: else they would be infinite. The fallen angels were unspeakably above human rank; yet they felt a deficiency, and absurdly repined at it: Heaven was not good enough for them, and so they were cast down to Hell. Men imagine, that were they but in such or such a state, they should never be tempted to think of any thing more. But this is only a sign, that they do not know themselves. In proportion as their situation was raised, their prospect would be enlarged and they would long to be masters of all within their view. Success would encourage them to hope for greater success yet: and, besides, they would be disappointed in the felicity they promised themselves from what they have got; but instead of learning from thence, in what real felicity lies, would go on to seek for it in something else; and be at least as remote from it, as they were before. We see this perpetually, or with the smallest attention may see it, in the case of others: and it is astonishing partiality, that we cannot believe it would be our own. Nay, perhaps we see it is our own case, as far as we have advanced hitherto and yet are weak enough to imagine it would be quite otherwise, could we but advance a few steps more: whereas in truth, he that is uneasy merely because he hath not all he would, never will be easy till he grows wiser.
Happily we none of us disquiet ourselves about