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Phil. iv. 11.
I have learned in whatever state, &c. III. FURTHER, if we consider our condition, (be SERM.
. it what it will, how poor, how mean, how despicable XXXIX. and forlorn soever,) we can have from it no reasonable ground of discontent.
1. Our condition in this world cannot, if rightly estimated, and well managed, be extremely bad or sorrowful; nothing here can occur insupportable, or very grievous in itself; we cannot, if we please, want any thing considerable, and the defect whereof may not be supplied, or supported by far better enjoyments. If we have high opinions of some things, as very excellent or very needful for us, it is no wonder if we do want them, that our condition is unpleasant to us; if we take other things for huge evils, then, if they be incumbent on us, we can hardly scape being displeased: but if we thoroughly look through such things, and scan them exactly, valuing them, not according to fallacious impressions of sense, or illusive dreamings of fancy, but according to sound dictates of reason, we may find that neither absence of the former nor the presence of the latter doth make
SERM. our condition much worse, or render our case deXXXIX.
We are, for instance, poor: that condition, rightly weighed, is not so very sad: for what is poverty? what but the absence of a few superfluous things, which please wanton fancy rather than answer needa; without which nature is easily satisfied, and which if we do not affect we cannot want? what is it but to wear coarse clothes, to feed on plain and simple fare, to work and take some pains, to sit or go in a lower place, to have no heaps of cash or hoards of grain, to
keep no retinue, to have few friends, and not one Vid.Plut, in flatterer? And what great harm in this? It is a state
which hath its no small conveniences and comforts, its happy fruits and consequences; which freeth us from many cares and distractions, from many troubles and crosses, from many encumbrances, many dangers, many temptations, many sore distempers of body and soul, many grievous mischiefs, to which wealth is exposed; which maintaineth health, industry, and sobriety; disposeth us to feed heartily, to move nimbly, to sleep sweetly; which preserveth us from luxury, from satiety, from sloth and unwieldiness b. It yieldeth disposition of mind, freedom and leisure to attend the study of truth, the acquist of virtue. It is a state which many have borne with great cheerfulness; many (very wise men) have voluntarily
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Είς τους τραγωδους χρήσιμο ουκ εις τον βίον. Socrat. b Si vis vacare animo, aut pauper sis oportet, aut pauperi similis.
Multis ad philosophandum obstitere divitiæ ; paupertas expedita est, secura est.
Sen. Ep. 17.
Isa. Ixvi. 2.
embraced; which is allotted by divine wisdom to SERM.
XXXIX. most men; and which the best men often do endure; to which God hath declared an especial regard, which the mouth of truth hath proclaimed happy; which Psal. x. 14. the Son of God hath dignified by his choice, and sanc- lxviii
. 10. tified by his partaking deeply thereof : and can such a xxii
. 4, 13. condition be very loathsome ? can it reasonably dis-el,12; please us?
Luke vi, 20. Again, thou art, suppose, fallen into disgrace, or Jam. ii. 5. from honour and credit art depressed into a state of contempt and infamy? This also rightly prized is no such wretchedness ; for what doth this import? what, but a change of opinion in giddy men, which thou dost not feel, which thou art not concerned in, if thou pleasest; which thou never hadst reason much to regard, or at all to rely upon ? what is thy loss therein ? it is the breaking of a bubble, the sinking of a wave, the changing of a wind, the cracking of a thing most brittle, the slipping away of a thing most fugacious and slippery: what is honour, and fame, but thought? and what more flitting, what sooner gone away than a thought? And why art thou displeased at the loss of a thing so very slender and slim ? If thou didst know its nature, thou canst not be disappointed ; if thou didst not, it was worth thy while to be thus informed by experience, that thou mayest not any more regard it. Is the contempt thou hast incurred from thy fault? bear the consequence thereof patiently, and do thy best by removing the cause to reverse the effect: is it undeserved and causeless? be satisfied in thy innocence, and be glad that thou art above the folly and injustice of those who contemn thee. Let thy affections rather be employed in pity of theirs, than in displeasure for thy own case.
SERM. Did, let me ask thee again, the good opinion of men XXXIX.
please thee? that pleasure was fond and vain, and it is well thou art rid of it: did it not much affect thee? why then dost thou much grieve at the loss thoreof? Is not also thy fortune in this kind the same with that of the best men ? have not those who
have deserved most honour been exposed to most Job xxx. 1, contempt ? But now, Job could say, they that are younger than I have me in derision,
—they abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in Ps. xxii. 6, my face. And, I am, could that great and good king
say, a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people : all they that see me laugh
me to scorn ; they shoot out the lip, they shake the 1 Cor. iv. head :-and, we are defamed, we are reviled,
we are made as the filth of the world, and the off
scouring of all things unto this day, could the holy Isa, li. 3. apostles say; and, He is despised and rejected
of men he was despised and we esteemed him not, was said of our Lord himself: and can this condition then in just esteem be so very pitiful or grievous ?
But thou art perhaps troubled because thou art wrongfully censured, odiously traduced and defamed, abused by slander or by detraction; which asperseth thee with things whereof thou art nowise guilty, or representeth thee in a character unworthy of thee C: be it so; what then? why doth this so much affect thee?
Is not every man subject to these things ? are not the greatest men, are not the wisest men, are not
· Exempl. Jeremiæ. Chrys, ad Olymp. 16.
ago meo, quod dignus sum quem mundus oderit. Hier. Ep. 39. (ad Asellam.)
the best men liable to the same? yea chiefly liable, SERM.
XXXIX. excellency being the special mark of envy and obloquy? Can any good men escape free of them among 'Ana' oi pin so many bad men, whose doings as goodness dothyrox reproach, so it provoketh their malignity? Canst
Theod. Ep. thou imagine to pass thy days in so unjust and 80: spiteful a world without incurring such bad usage ? can so many vain, so many bold, so many lawless tongues be tied up, or kept within compass of truth or equity ? Wilt thou suffer it to be in the power of any man at his pleasure so easily to discompose and vex thee? because he will be bad, shalt thou be miserable ? why dost thou not rather please thyself in the conscience of thy endeavouring to deserve and do well; in thy innocence, and clearness from the blame which they impose on thee; in thy having given no cause of such offence and outrage? why dost thou not rather pity their unworthiness and unhappiness, who stoop to so mean and base practices, than fret at them, as bad to thee? They do themselves far more mischief than they can do thee.
And why dost thou not consider, that indeed thou art guilty of many faults, and full of real imperfections, so that no man can easily derogate from thee more than thou deservest : he may indeed tax thee unjustly, he may miss in the particulars of his charge, he may discover groundless contempt and ill-will toward thee: but thou knowest thyself to be a grievous sinner, and it is just that thou shouldst be reproached, (God, for thy humiliation or thy correction, may have ordered him, as David said he might have ordered Shimei, to curse thee ;) thou hast therefore more need to be humble in reflection on