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But godliness with contentment is great gain.
THERE
HERE are some

are some dispositions which SERM. men are inclined to encourage, manifestly IX. to their own loss and discomfiture; revenge, for instance, is of this nature; all wrath, malice, envy, and hatred; covetousness, inordinate ambition ; but, above all, discontent. (To begin with the most obvious argument on this head) supposing discontent to have some shadow of reason on its side, that is, supposing our condition was really perversely unfortunate; that all we most depended upon had failed; all we most desired and wished for been withheld, would a spirit of discontent mend

our

SERM. our misfortunes, or lighten our griefs ? IX. Certainly not; it would be (to speak by

a figure) giving advantage to our enemy; to suffer, and not murmur, takes away all shame at once ; but to suffer and to murmur too is only to add to our own distresses. But though this seems a palpable folly, yet nothing is more common. The least misfortune that befals us, throws us off our guard, and we immediately forget that no misfortune is greater than an uneasy mind; so, if our troubles arise from any injury that our neighbour has done us, either by actual violence, or through neglect, instantly a spirit of revenge arises; we are unquiet to the greatest degree, till we have either made him suffer in return, or till we have slighted him with equal coldness and indifference. In the meanwhile this is not to be done without great agitation of mind; every indifferent thing goes wrong till the final object of revenge and retaliation is accomplished, and when the whole matter comes to be wound up, the result is this, that having with much

trouble

IX.

trouble suffered an injury, we put ourselves SERM. to a great deal more trouble to inflict an injury in return. This is certainly downright folly; and, like many other mistakes that men fall into, all “vanity and vexation “ of spirit.” Wrath and anger are of the same nature, though more sudden, perhaps, and less durable, than revenge in general, yet they are very turbulent passions, greatly discomposing and agitating both the mind and body; so far from leading to any good end, as commonly, by the confession of those most subject to them, exceedingly to increase the evils by which they are excited. Envy is a passion also no less troublesome than base, for ever interfering with our happiness, and lessening all our pleasures; leading us into comparisons productive always of pain, mortification, and despondency ; hatred is equally distressing; and covetousness, forbidding us ever to be satisfied with present possessions, renders us a prey to intemperate desires, or gloomy apprehensions. All these passions evidently fail of their end ; in

dulged

SERM. dulged to correct or avert some ill or other,
IX. they invariably increase and aggravate its

effects. And what can we say, better of
discontent? Discontent can only arise
from some sense of evil, either real or ima-
ginary; when it arises from any real evil,
if it could in any manner remove the evil
itself, we would grant it to be reasonable;
but can discontent make us rich, if for-
tune has made us poor? Can discontent
make us well, if disease has made us sick ?
Can discontent set us up on high, if
Providence has cast our lot among the
lowly and obscure? Can discontent feed
us if we are hungry, clothe us if we
are naked, comfort us if we are wretched
and forlorn ? No, none of these things
can discontent accomplish, but on the
contrary it must exceedingly heighten all
these calamities ; (for discontent, at best,
is no other than great uneasiness of mind,
and useless anxiety) but if, under any of
the above misfortunes, we are not discon-
tented, then they all become more tolerable.
The
poor man may be cheerful and gay;

the

IX.

the sick man patient and full of hope; the SERM. lowly, humble and submissive, and so on; but cheerfulness and gaiety, patience and hope, meekness and humility, are all free from agitation and anxiety, and therefore are in fact blessings and advantages which the misfortunes we endure may only the more set off and heighten; for to be rich and cheerful is only to be, what if we are not, riches are of no account; but if we are poor and cheerful, sick but full of hope, then we fairly triumph over our misfortunes, and most effectually derive good from evil. The Apostle, therefore, might well have pronounced contentment alone to be great gain ; for if it tends to lessen all our losses, surely it is great gain. But, in the words of my text he has gone much further, and has given contentment its noblest character: “ For,” saith he, “ godliness with contentment is great gain." God is the author of all things; all we have, be it what it will, God alone has given to us; all we have not, God alone has, by his eternal providence, withheld from us; all we can hereafter hope for,

L

pray

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