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but as colonies deduced from our own flesh ? yea,
rather ourselves made up in other models. This loss cannot but go near thee.
But, tell me, what was the disposition of the son thou mournest for?
If he were graceless and debauched, as thy shame so thy sorrow should die with him: set the hopes thou mightest have had of his reclaiming against the fears of his continuing and increasing wickedness, and thou couldst have made no other present account but of dishonour and discomfort. If it be sad, that he is taken away
in his wildness; it had been more heavy, that he would have added to the heap of his sin, and therein to his torments.
If he were gracious, he had a better Father than thyself, whose interest was more in him than thine: and if that Heavenly Father have thought good to prefer him to a crown of immortal glory, why shouldst thou be afflicted with his advancement? Why shouldst thou not rather rejoice, that thy loins have helped to furnish heaven with a Saint ? Were it put to thy choice, that thy son might be called off from his blessed rest, and return to his former earthly relations; couldst thou be so injurious in thy self-love, as to wish the misery of so disadvantageous a change to that soul, which, as it was never of thy production, so it were pity it should be at thy disposing ? Rather labour to have thine own soul so disposed, that it may be ready to follow him into those blessed mansions; and that it may love and long for heaven so much more, for that one piece of thee is there beforehand.
COMFORTS AGAINST POVERTY, AND LOSS OF OUR ESTATE.
SECT. 1. The fickle nature of these earthly goods. Thou art driven into want; and, that which is worse, out of abun. dance :-Those evils, that we have been inured to as being bred up with us from our cradle, are grown so familiar, that we are little moved with their presence : but those, into which we fall suddenly out of an outward felicity of estate, are ready to overwhelm us. Let thy care be, not to want those better riches, which shall make thy soul happy; and thou shalt not be too much troubled, with the loss of this trivial and perishing stuff.
Had these been true goods, they could not have been lost: for that good, that is at last capable of loss, as it is unsatisfying in the time of an unperfect and unsure fruition; so, in losing, it turns evil. Didst thou not know that riches have wings ? Prov. xxiii. 5: and what use is there of wings, if not to fly? If another man's violence shall clip those wings, even this very clipping is their flight. Set thy heart upon that excellent and precious wealth, which can never be taken from thee; which shall never leave thee, nor thou it; thou shalt easily slight these poor losses.
As these were not goods; so they were not thine. Here, thou foundest them; and here, thou leavest them; 1 Tim. vi. 7. What hadst thou, but their use? Neither can they be otherwise thine heir's, whom thou leavest behind thee. I am ashamed to bear the Heathen Philosopher say,“All that is mine, I carry about me;" when many of us Christians are ready to hug those things, as most ours, which are without ourselves. It was an unanswerable question, which God moves to the rich man in the Parable, upon the parting with his soul: Then, whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided ? Luke xii. 20. perhaps, a stranger's; perhaps, as in case of undisposed lands, the occupant's; perhaps, à false executor's; perhaps, an enemy's. Call that thine, that thou shalt be sure to carry away with thee; that shall either accompany thy soul in its last passage, or follow it: such shall be thy holy graces, thy charitable works, thy virtuous actions, thy heavenly dispositions. Lo, these are the treasures, which thou shalt lay up for thyself in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt; where thieves do not break through nor steal ; Matt. vi. 20.
They are not ours; but lent us. Thou hast lost thy goods :—May I not rather say, thou hast restored them? He parted with more than thou, that said, The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken ; Job. i. 21.
Lo, whether it were by way of patrimony, or by way of providence and industry, the Lord gave it; and, whether it were by the hands of Chaldeans or Sabeans, the Lord hath taken it. The Lord is in both: he did but give and take his own. Is it not just so with thee? What reason hast thou then to complain?
Or may I not yet rather say, it was not given, but lent thee for a while, till it were called for? and dost thou grudge to restore, what thou borrowedst?
Nay, that thou mayest have yet less claim to this pelf, was it not only left in thy hand by the owner to employ for his use, till he should re-demand it with the increase? What is it to thee, but to improve and account for? If others have taken off thy charge, while they have spoiled they have eased thee.
The right valuation of riches is in the mind. The wealth is gone :-Hast thou necessaries left ? Be thankful for what thou hast : forget what thou hadst.
Hadst thou had more, thou couldst have made use of no more than nature calls for: the rest could but have lain by thee, for sight, for readiness of employment.
Do but forbear the thought of superfluities, and what art thou the worse? Perhaps, thy fare is coarser, thy dishes fewer, thy utensils meaner, thy clothes homelier, thy train shorter : what of this ? how is thy mind affected? Contentment stands not in quantities, nor in qualities; but in the inward disposition of the heart. That alone can multiply numbers, and raise prices : that alone can turn honest friezes into rich velvets, pulse into delicacies; and can make one attendant
officers. Wise Seneca tells thee truly *, that the true mould of wealth is our body, as the last is of the shoe: if the shoe be too big for the foot, it is but troublesome and useless; and how poor an answer would it be of the cordwainer to say, that he had leather good store! It is fitness, which is to be regarded here, not largeness.
Neither is this any other than the charge of the blessed Apostle; Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content; 1 Tim. vi. 8. And if we have no more, we shall be but as we were, as we shall be: For we brought nothing into the world, neither shall we carry any thing out ; v. 7.
It may be good for us to be held short. Thou hast parted with thy wealth :—Perhaps, for thine own good. How many have we known, that have been cumbered with plenty, like as the ostrich or bustard with bulk of body, so as they could not raise their thoughts to spiritual things; who, when their weight hath been taken off, have mounted nimbly towards their heaven! How many have we known, that had lost their lives, if, with the Philosopher, they had not foregone their gold! Yea, how many, that had lost their precious souls ! The whole vessel had sunk in this boisterous sea, if the luggage of tbis earthly freight had not been cast overboard. And why art thou so troubled to lose that, which might have undone thee in the keeping ?
* Sen, Ep. 107.
The danger of abundance. Thou hadst wealth :-Hast thou not parted with that, for which many a man hath been the worse? worse, both in body and soul : and by which never any soul was better? Have we not seen many good corn-fields marred with rankness ? have we not seen many a good bough split with the weight of too much fruit? Whereas those fields, had they been either thinner sown or seasonably eaten down, had yielded a fair crop; and those boughs, had they been but moderately laden, had outlived many autumns.
Dost thou not hear thy Saviour say, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! Mark x. 23. Art thou troubled, that there is a rub removed out of thy way to happiness ? that the bunch of the camel is taken off, if yet thou mayest pass through the eye of the needle ?
The cares that attend wealth. Thou hadst riches :—But hadst thou not cares to boot? Surely, else thou hast fared better than all thy neighbours. Nobody, but thyself, could ever handle these roses, without pricking his fingers.
He * was famous amongst the Jewish Doctors, whose rule it was, “ He, that multiplies riches, multiplies cares :" and our Blessed Saviour hath coupled these two together, The cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches; Mark iv. 19.
We have heard of one, who was glad to be rid of his latelyfound bag, that he might sleep and sing again. He was noted and envied at Rome for his wealth, which could experimentally say, “ The poor man laughs more often and more heartily than the rich t:” and tells us, that “outward felicity is an unquiet thing, never ceasing to vex itself 1."
Thy sides are now rid of these thorns: why dost thou grumble at thine own ease?
The imperiousness of ill-used wealth. Thou lately possessedst great riches :-Yea, mayest thou not rather say, thou wert possessed of them?
That wise Roman truly observed, that “many a one hath wealth,
* Rab. Gamaliel.
+ Sen. Ep. 80.
# Epist. 36.
as we are wont to say, a man hath taken an ague; when, indeed, the ague hath taken him, and holds him in a painful manner *.” The truth is, many a man's wealth is his master, and keeps him under hard conditions; not allowing him sufficient diet, not com. petent rest, not any recreation. If thou wert thus a drudge to thine estate, thou art now thine own man : enjoy thy liberty ; and, together with thy patience, be thankful.
If thine own negligence, laziness, improvidence, unthriftiness, rash engagements; thou hadst reason to bear that burthen, which thou hast pulled upon thine own shoulders : and, if thou be forced to make many hard faces under the load; yet, since thy own will hath brought upon thee this necessity, even the necessity should move thy will to trudge away, as lightly and as fast as thou mayest, with that pressing weight.
If the mere oppression and injury of others, thou shalt the more comfortably run away with this cross, because thine own hand hath not been guilty of imposing it. How easy is it for thee here, to see God's hand chastising thee by another man's sin! and more to be grieved at the sin of that other's wrong, than at thine own smart !
How sad a thing it is, for any good soul to see brethen a prey to each other! that neighbours should be like the reed and the brake set near together, whereof the one starves the other ! that we should have daily occasion to renew that woeful comparison of our Bromiard +, betwixt the friends and enemies of Christ; That Jews do not suffer beggars; that Christians make beggars !
In the mean time, if God think fit to send poverty to thy door upon the message of men, bid it welcome, for the sake of him,
sent it; and entertain it, not grudgingly, for its own sake ; as that, which, if it be well used, will repay thee with many blessings: the blessings of quiet rest, safe security, humble patience, contented humility, contemptuous valuation of these earthly things; all which had balked thy house, in a prosperous condition.
SECT. 9. The examples of those who have affected poverty. Thou art stripped of thy former conveniences for diet, for lodging, for attendance :- How many have purposely affected to do that out
* Ep. 109.
+ Brom. V. Eleemosyna.