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which we are required to rejoice; the result of the Wisdom, Power, and Goodness, which constitute the Perfect Character of this glorious Being. No man can be contented, who does not believe, that the administration, by which all his own interests, both personal and social, are ultimately to be decided, is both just and benevolent. The state of things, with which we are immediately concerned, is mysterious and distressing. The mysteries we cannot unravel : the distresses we often find it difficult to bear. Both, united, must frequently be insupportable, unless we could confide in the Wisdom and Goodness of Him. who controls the Universe, as furnishing sufficient assurance, that they are right and good in themselves, and will in the end be shown to be right and good. The reality, and excellence, of the Divine Government, therefore, must indispensably be objects of a steady faith to a contented mind.
2. Contentment involves a humble Hope, generally existing: that We are interested in the Divine Favour.
We suffer many evils in the present world. Philosophy bids us suffer them with firmness; since they cannot be avoided ; and since impatience and sinking under them will only make them heavier. I am not disposed to deny the prudence, or even the propriety, of this precept. It may be, it usually is, true, that we lessen the degree of our sufferings by resolving firmly to endure them. But it is equally true, that the immoveable nature of evils is no cause of Contentment. On the contrary, it is always the most distressing consideration, which can attend them. This, however, is the only support, which Philosophy can give to the sufferer.
No motive can rationally make us willing to suffer. There is no virtue in suffering evil for its own sake. All rational submission to evil arises from the consideration, that God wills us to suffer, as the proper reward of our sins, and as the means of pro
, moting his Glory, and the good of ourselves or others; of others alway, and of ourselves, if we do not prevent it by our disobedience to his pleasure. This motive to Contentment, Christianity holds out to its disciples, invariably, by pointing their attention, and their faith, to the government of God. The hope of an interest in his favour, Christianity, also, regularly inspires,
by presenting to them all the promises of infinite Mercy through the Mediation of Christ. Without such a hope, the ills of life would often overcome the equanimity of such minds, as ours. The outcast would be feebly supported by an assurance, that he could obtain no relief for his sufferings; and the martyr, by being told, that his flames could not be extinguished. In the hope of the divine mercy, a remedy is found for every present evil; and he, who exercises it, will naturally summon all his powers to sustain, with serenity, distresses, which, although grievous for the present, will operate as the means, and terminate in the enjoyment, of everlasting good.
3. Conteniment involves a Conviction, that it is both our Duty, and our Interest, to acquiesce in the divine dispensations.
With the dispositions, already mentioned, it may be regarded as a thing of course, that such a conviction will prevail in the mind. If God is the universal Ruler; if his government is the result of infinite excellence ; if what he does, or permits to be done, is right in itself, and will hereafter appear to be right ; if we are furnished with a humble hope of an interest in his favour; then, however mysterious and perplexing the events of divine providence may be, and however distressing to us, we, still, shall see, and feel, abundant reason to be satisfied. We shall readily admit, that the most untoward events, the most difficult to be reconciled with our apprehensions of wisdom and goodness, are difficult only in the view of creatures, whose minds are limited,
We shall believe, that they are perplexing, only because we cannot explain them; that they seem wrong, only because we cannot understand them. With such views, we shall cheerfully resign the Government of the Universe into the hands of its Maker, and wait for the removal of our own perplexities, until the day when the mystery shall be finished, when God shall appear just in judging, and clear even in condemning.
4. Contentment implies a Cordial Acknowledgment, that we are unworthy of the mercies which we receive.
There are in the present world many afflictions. If we are guiltless beings; our sufferance of them must be unmerited; and the communication of them to us by our Creator is irreconcileable with all our ideas of equity. If we admit God to be just; we
are obliged also to admit, that ourselves are sinners. If we are not sinners, but are unjustly distressed; there is no reason, why we should be contented with our situation. No being can be bound to be contented with injustice. But if we are sinners; we can have no claim to any favour. If we are conscious, that we are sinners; we shall see, that we have no such claim. We shall see, that, however small our blessings may appear, God hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Enjoyments, in the view of a mind thus at. tempered, will all appear to be mere gifts of Sovereign Goodness, mere emanations of benevolence, to a being, destitute of any claim to the favour of God. Without such views, seated in the heart, and controlling its affections, it appears to me impossible, that such a being, as man, should be contented.
5. Contentment involves a disposition steadily to mark the daily mercies of God.
The great body of mankind seem to regard their enjoyments either as things of course; or as acquisitions, made by their own ingenuity, and efforts. With such views it seems impossible, that they should consider them as blessings. Their afflictions, on the contrary, they appear to consider as mere hardships; partly as injuries, done to them by their fellow-men, and partly as vexatious and unlucky events, brought upon them by, they know not what, untoward chance, or evil destiny. Accordingly, in their hours of complaining, they customarily pronounce themselves to be ill-starred; unlucky; unfortunate ; persecuted by ill-fortune; plagued; and harassed; and, what is very remarkable, never speak of themselves as chastised or afflicted by God. According to their own account, their enjoyments are accidents, and acquisitions ; not blessings : and their sufferings are calamities; not judgments of God.
Multitudes also, who do not go all this length, suffer the mercies, which they daily receive, and these both invaluable and numberless, to pass by them in a great measure unregarded. Converse with these men on this subject; and they will readily acknowledge, that all their enjoyments are gifts of God, and in po sense merited by themselves. Still, from their ordinary conversation, and conduct, it is evident, that such acknowledgments
are no part of the current state of their minds. From their obvious indifference, from their regardless inattention, amid the common and most necessary blessings of life, it is undeniably certain, that they are scarcely conscious even of the existence, much less of the Source, of these blessings. Were these persons to number their enjoyments; they would be astonished to find their amount. Were they to estimate them; they would be equally astonished to perceive their value. Were they to cxamine their own character; they would be amazed, that blessings of such valuc, and of such an amount, were bestowed on themselves.
The man, who actually adopts this conduct, will soon discern in the importance, and number, of his enjoyments, and in his own undeserving character, ample reasons, not only for being satisfied, but also for being grateful. On the one hand, he will admire that Divine Goodness, which is manifested to him every hour in so many forms; and will wonder, on the other, that it should be manifested to so guilty and undeserving a creature. So long as we do not perceive these facts; and, unless we mark them, we shall not perceive them; it seems impossible, that we should possess a contented spirit.
6. Contentment involves the Moderation of those desires, which are directed to worldly enjoyments.
There are two modes, in which mankind seek happiness; Indulging their wishes, and seeking to find objects, sufficient in their nature and number to gratify them; and Confining their wishes by choice, and system, to a moderate number of objects, and thus preparing themselves to find their enjoyment in such objects, as, in the ordinary course of things, they may rationally expect to obtain. The former of these modes is generally pursued by mankind. Still, it is palpably unwise ; full of danger; and regularly attended by disappointment, mortification, and distress. Every man, who adopts it, will be compelled to learn, that the state of this world is altogether unsuited to satisfy numerous and eager desires. The enjoyments, which it furnishes, are comparatively few, and small. They are incapable, therefore, of fulfilling the demands of numerous and extensive desires. At the same time, he will find his desires enlarging incomparably more, and inVol. IV.
creasing incomparably faster, than their gratifications. A rich man covets property with far more greediness, than the possessor of moderate wealth. He, who has entered the chase for fame, power, or pleasure, will find his wishes become more vehement, as well as more expanded, by every new instance of success; and will soon perceive, that, what he once thought to be sufficient good, has ceased to be good at all. If he gains all that he pursues; he will, therefore, be continually less and less satisfied; and, while he snatches on the right hand, and devours on the left, he will still be hungry in the midst of his gluttony and plunder.
Incomparably more wise, and hopeful, is the latter of these modes. The wishes, which are directed to wordly enjoyments, can be controlled, to an indefinite degree, by reason, firmness, and regular pre-concertion. In this case, the mind, demanding only moderate enjoyments, may ordinarily be in a good measure satisfied: for, moderate enjoyments not only exist in our present state, but are commonly attainable, without much difficulty, by the great body of mankind. Our wishes, in this case, are suited 10 our circumstances. As, therefore, our enjoyment is commensurate to the satisfaction of our wishes ; so, when our wishes are moderate, the moderate enjoyments, which this world supplies, will furnish us with sufficient gratification.
Without this moderation of our desires, Contentment cannot exist. An eager pursuit of earthly good would make an Angel discontented. Vehement desires, ungratified, are sure and copious sources of misery. The demands of enjoyment in the mind, which cherishes them, are too high to be satisfied by any thing, which this world has to give. The mind seeks for enjoyment, not with the spirit of a rational, industrious man, but with that of a miser; and cries unceasingly, “ Give, give ;" but, whatever may be its acquisitions, is never sufficiently satisfied to be able to say, “ It is enough.”
7. Contentment involves Self-approbation.
All enjoyment commences in the state of the mind itself. When that is disturbed, no external gratifications can be relished, or regarded. No seasoning, no daintiness, will enable him, who is languishing under a fever, to relish even the choicest