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CHAPTER IX

Use II. A Check to the discontented Christian.

Here is a just reproof to such as are discontented with their condition. This disease is almost epidemical. Some not content with the calling which God hath set them in, must be a step higher, from the plough to the throne; who like the spider in the Proverbs, will “take hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” Others from the shop to the pulpit; (Nu. 12. 2) they would be in the temple of honour, before they are in the temple of virtue; who step into Moses’ chair, without Aaron’s bells and pomegranates; like apes, which do most shew their deformity when they are climbing. It is not enough that God hath bestowed gifts upon men, in private to edify; that he hath enriched them with many mercies? but, “seek ye the priesthood also?” (Nu. 16. 10) What is this but discontent arising from high flown pride? These do secretly tax the wisdom of God, that he hath not screwed them up in their condition a peg higher. Every man is complaining that his estate is no better, though he seldom complains that his heart is no better. One man commends this kind of life, another commends that; one man thinks a country-life best, another a city-life; the soldier thinks it best to be a merchant, and the merchant to be a soldier. Men can be content to be anything but what God would have them. How is it that no man is contented? Very few Christians have learned St Paul’s lesson: neither poor nor rich know how to be content, they can learn anything but this.

If men are poor, they learn to be envious; they malign those that are above them. Another’s prosperity is an eye-sore. When God’s candle shines upon their neighbour’s tabernacle, this light offends them. In the midst of wants, men can, in this sense, abound, namely, in envy and malice; an envious eye is an evil eye. They learn to be querulous, still complaining, as if God had dealt hardly with them; they are ever telling their wants, they want this and that comfort, whereas their greatest want is a contented spirit. Those that are well enough content with their sin, yet are not content with their condition.

If men are rich, they learn to be covetous; thirsting insatiably after the world, and by unjust means scraping it together; their “right hand is full of bribes,” as the Psalmist expresseth it. (Ps. 26. 10) Put a good cause in one scale, and a piece of gold in the other, and the gold weighs heaviest. There are, saith Solomon, four things that say, “it is not enough:” (Pr. 30. 15) I may add a fifth; the heart of a covetous man. So that neither poor nor rich know how to be content. Never certainly since the creation did this sin of discontent reign or rather rage more than in our times; never was God more dishonoured; you can hardly speak with any, but the passion of his tongue betrays the discontent of his heart; everyone lisps out his trouble, and here even the stammering tongue speaks too freely and fluently. If we have not what we desire, God shall not have a good look from us, but presently we are sick of discontent, and ready to die out of an humour. If God will not forgive the people of Israel for their lusts, they bid him take their lives; they must have quails to their manna. Ahab, though a king, and one would think his crown-lands had been sufficient for him, yet is sullen and discontented for Naboth’s vineyard. Jonah though a good man and a prophet, yet ready to die in a pet; and because God killed his gourd, kill me too, saith he. Rachel, “give me children, or I die;” she had many blessings, if she could have seen them, but wanted this contentation. God will supply our wants, but must he satisfy our lusts too? Many are discontented for a very trifle; another hath a better dress, a richer jewel, a newer fashion. Nero, not content with his empire, was troubled that the musician had more skill in playing than he. How fantastic are some, that pine away in discontent for the want of those things which if they had, would but render them more ridiculous!

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