PHIL. 4. 12.
YOu may remember the last day we finished the Do∣ctrine of Christian Contentment.
The close of that Point, it was the propound∣ing several Considerations for Christian Contentment, And,
Secondly, We gave several Directions what to do, that we might have the exercise of the Grace of Christian Contentment:
And among all others, that's one special thing that then I commended, and still would but pick out, To name that concerns the power of God; and that is, The making of a good interpretation of Gods mercies and dealings to∣wards them. Have good thoughts of God, and make good interpretations of what the dealings of God are to∣wards you. It's very hard to live comfortably and cheer∣fully among friends, when one makes hard interpretations of the words and actions of another: The onely way to keep Page 2 sweet contentment and comfort in Christian Societies, and to make the best interpretation of things as we can. And so, a chief way and help to keep comfort and contentment in our hearts, is to make good interpretations of Gods dealing towards us.
But I would not look back to any thing that I have spo∣ken concerning that Argument, but leave those things that have been delivered, to the blessing of God upon you; hoping that when any Temptation arises for Discon∣tentment, that some truths that have been delivered, may come into your Minds: and that some of you may be able, when you see others discontented, as the Wife with the Husband, the Husband with the Wife, or one Brother or Friend with another, to make use of something out of the Text for this Grace of Contentment. For though we have been preaching a long time of it, yet it is longer a learning then it is a teaching; you need be longer time to learn it than I have been a preaching of it. It is not a few weeks that will learn it, we had need be years a learning this great Lesson.
Well, but now we are come to another lesson that is as hard to learn as this; and that is, How to be full. I have learned, saith he, how to be content in all Estates; I am instructed how to be full. Now this, though it be a hard lesson, yet because these times are times wherein that generally people suffer, and have not things so full as formerly; therefore I told you, I would not be so large upon this Argument as upon the other; that being more suitable: and yet because the truth is, we that live here, in comparison of our Brethren in other parts, though we be not so full as we have been, yet we may be said to be full; and the lesson will be useful and profitable (I hope) to us to learn how to be full, and it's the onely way for Page 3 God to hasten our fullness, if we be taught how to be full when it comes. I shall come to speak of this Lesson, I am instructed how to be full (saith the Apostle) any condi∣tion, either full or empty, any way. There's many peo∣ple, they are neither well (as we use to say) full nor fast∣ing. If they be in affliction, then they are froward and discontented; if they be in prosperity, there they are wanton; just like Children, if you let them not have what they would have, then they cry and are froward; and if you do let them have what they would have, then they are wanton; and so they are not in order any way. There are some of such cross and untoward dispositions, that in whatever condition they be put into, they are un∣toward. As I remember I have read of Hannibal, he said concerning Marcellus, He can neither bear good nor ill for∣tune; so he called it: That is, if he be conquered, he cannot tell how to bear that; no nor he cannot tell how to be a Conqueror. So there are some, having untoward hearts, are untoward in every state they are put into: But Paul by the work of the Grace of God, he was fitted for all estates; not only for affliction, but if God did will him prosperity, he could tell how to make use of that. A place somewhat parallel to this we have in the 2 Cor. 6. 8. saith Paul, when he shews the different condition that he went through; By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report. Sometimes the Apostles had honour, sometimes they had dishonour; sometimes people report∣ed well of them, and sometimes they reported ill of them; yet, saith he, we went through all, we carried on the work of the Gospel in all things: and so in the 10th. verse, As sorrowful, yet alwayes rejoycing; as poor, yet making many rich; &c. Whatever our condition were, yet through the grace of God we were carried through it; and so as to Page 4 sanctifie Gods name, and to further the Gospel in it. Ma∣ny men are fit for one condition, but they are not fit for another: But this was the excellency of the Grace of God in the Apostle, that he was fit for any condition; God might turn him to any thing. Now then, for the Lesson, of being full, that's our point.
That a Christian is taught by God to know how to be full.* He learns this Lesson. There's many would be glad to hear of a lesson how they should get to be full; but to know how they should sanctifie Gods name in their fulness, this they think not so much needful. If I could preach a Sermon or two to you, to teach you all how you should get, how to supply your want, and be made full; I make no question but we should have very full Congre∣gations: for such Sermons as these, To teach poor peo∣ple how they should get to be rich, to teach those that are disgraced, how they should get to be honoured; to teach men how they should get good and prosperous voyages (and the like.) But I am teaching you a lesson as from God, or God rather than man, at this time; that is bet∣ter, and is a better lesson; for one to know how to ho∣nour God in fullness, then it is to know how they should get to be full. And it were a good sign of truth of grace for you to judge this to be the better thing: That is, I had rather know how to honour God in what good thing▪ I have, then to know wayes how to get more: I had ra∣ther know how I might behave my self in the enjoyment of those good things God hath given me, then to know how to get more of those good things. God hath given me some competent measure of estate, that my house hath a fulness in it; for I have all things needful. It may be you have not so much bravery as others have, but what Page 5 do many of you want in your Houses, you have all kind of Houshold-stuffe that is needful for you, and conveni∣ent Diet that is needful for you. Then you are full, when you have things needful, though your Eye be not full. We use to say, It's better to fill a Childs Belly than his Eye. Perhaps your fancy is not full, but your necessity is sup∣plied; and when the necessity of a Man or Woman is sup∣plied, his condition may be said to be full: and therefore let not those that are in a poorer condition than others, think that this condition concerns not them. Thou hast not so much as others have, I but you have enough to keep you in health and strength, fitted for the service of God. Now that's a full condition.
Now we are to be taught this Lesson, How we should honour God in the fulness that God hath set any of us in; and I shall cast what I shall speak of this Lesson into these seven Heads; yet I intend to be but very brief in them, though they might take up as much time as the former Lessons have done. These are the seven Heads:
1. When may a Man be said to have learned how to be full. I am instructed, saith Paul, and know how to be full.
2. I shall shew you the difficulty of this Lesson.
3. The necessity of this Lesson, What great need there is that we should learn how to be full.
4. The Excellency of this Lesson, What an excellent thing it is for a Man to know how to be full. And then,
5. The Mystery of Godliness that there is in this Lesson. There is a Mystery in this as well as in the other.
6. What are the several Lessons that Christ doth learn ••e soul that he doth learn how to be full. As I shewed •ou what were the several Lessons that Christ learns the Page 6 Soul that he learns to be content in want; so there are se∣veral Lessons that Christ doth teach the Soul, when he learns it how to be full. And then,
7. The Application of all. These are the seven Heads that I shall cast the matter into.
[ I] For the first, When hath a Man learned how to be full? What do you mean, when you say that Christ doth teach his people to know how to be full? A Man hath learned how to be full, when he hath attained to these several par∣ticulars:
First, When a Man hath learned to set a due price on his fullness. When he hath learned to set a due price and value upon those mercies that God hath been pleased to grant unto him: When he can prize them, not too high nor too low, but as they are, those mercies that God grants him. A Man doth not learn to be full, when he doth not understand what the mercies are that God hath granted to him. As no man can attain to the grace of Christian Con∣tentment that is stupid under affliction, he must under∣stand his affliction, and know his affliction, or else he can∣not come to Christian Contentment: so neither can We learn how to be full, except we know what the mercies are that God hath granted to us. If a man should enjoy many mercies, and doth not understand them, he is not taught how to be full; he must prize the mercy that God hath granted to him, at a due rate. As he must look upon (even these outward mercies) as the good blessings of God to him, he must not slight them; and he must look upon them as coming to him from the promise. Godliness hath the promise of this life, and the promise of the life to come; as a fruit of the promise of God to him, and as Gods goodness for the encouraging of him in the way 〈◊〉Page 7 righteous God hath set him in. He must so look upon the outward things that he doth enjoy. He must look upon them as good Utensils (as I may so speak) as affording op∣portunity to do God service in the place where God hath set him: And so good things, in that regard he must prize them according to the due value of them. A man that slights Gods mercies and thinks there is little in them, he doth not know how to be full. But now, as he must not prize them at too low a rate, his Health and Estate, and Comfort that he hath; neither will he prize them at too high a rate; they are mercies, but they are but outward mercies: they come to me from Gods goodness, I but it's from Gods general Goodness. Though it's true, a Chri∣stian may look upon every mercy that he hath, as coming from another fountain than the ungodly; but yet the ge∣neral goodness of God is enough to bestow the things themselves: For the matter of them, they are mercies, but they are but common mercies: Indeed I have them, but yet they are no other, but that a Reprobate may have as well as my self. They are good things, but they are not such good things as they make any one to be good. There are good things, that are not only given by God freely, but they do make those acceptable unto God, that God gives them. Here's the difference between all the good things that we are speaking of now, as the fullness of Estate, the outward Comforts of this world, and the things of Grace: Why the things of Grace are given by God freely, and they make those that they are given unto to be acceptable to God; they are such things as makes them to be good in Gods eye. But now, let God give never so much outward things, they make one to be never a whit the better in Gods eye. Though we say, Such a man is the best man in the Parish, yet certainly, such things Page 8 makes not a man the better. Grace makes a man or wo∣man the better. But now, as the fulness of prosperity, it hath onely a goodness in it so far as it makes them to be good, but grace that's good in its self. But now, these things are good as a man may have, and not good to him. If they be good to him, it must be from some good∣ness that he hath himself; as he shall use them: that's the first thing. When a man shall come to know the true va∣lue of the fulness of his outward mercies, not prize them at too high a rate, nor at too low a rate; then he learns to be full: That's the first thing.
Secondly, Then doth a man learn to know how to be full, when he can tell how to make use of what he hath: when he can tell how to proportion the use of that fulness that God gives him. When he can tell how much will serve his turn for the use of it, and how little; and at what time to make use of such and such comforts of the creature, and how much use to make of them: then he hath lerned how to be full. There's many men that when they have a fulness, First, They know not how to prize it▪ they know not the worth of it. Secondly, They know not how to make use of what they should, how much or how little, or at what time they should make use of the good things that God doth give unto them: so as they come to be excessive, yea defective in the en∣joyment of what the Lord grants to them. Some are ex∣cessive, that because they have abundance of the Crea∣ture, they still are taking in of more than is any way useful to them for their fulness: They think that they may do what they will with their own. 'Tis not enough (my Brethren) because a man's Drink is his own, there∣fore to drink as much as he pleases: Or because his Meat is his own, therefore to eat as much as he will, and not Page 9 to know how to order and moderate: Or because his E∣state is his own, therefore to spend it as he list, in an ex∣cessive way. I remember for that, it was the answer of a Philosopher Zeno, when he did reprove an excessive Feasting: This was answered to him, And why do you re∣prove it, he spends nothing but his own. The Philosopher could answer thus, Is this a good Answer, That you spend of your own; suppose you had a Cook that had a great deal of Salt, and he should put two or three handfuls into your Meat, for the seasoning of it; and being askt why he did so, he should answer, I had Salt enough; and the Salt did not cost much: there was enough in the place where I had it: or I can have more at an easie rate. Would this be good Answer? saith he. So, 'tis not enough, for to say, that our Estates are our own, and therefore we may be exces∣sive in the use of the Creature. No, thou hast not learn∣ed how to be full, till thou hast learned how much will serve thy turn for thy use. It may be God gives thee a great deal of the Creature, but he intends that thou shalt not make use of it all for thy self. God gives thee so much a year, it is not because that thou shouldest spend it all upon thy own Back and Belly. Thou hast not learned how to be full, till thou hast learned how to proportion the use of thy Estate and outward Comforts that thou dost enjoy, according to thy need. Then doth a man learn, That though he be in the midst of abundance, yet he makes no more use of that he hath than is fit for him. Though a man be at a Feast where there are a great many Dishes, is it enough for him to say, There was a great deal of Cheer, and therefore for him to be a Glutton. Then doth a man know how to be temperate, when he is in the midst of a great many Dishes, and knows which is fittest for his Body, and feeds moderately on them. That's Page 10 the second thing, First, How to put a due valuation up∣on mercy, and then, Secondly, How to proportion the use of mercy, so much at such a time, and so much at an∣other time. And then,
Thirdly, When a man can use the comforts of the Crea∣ture, and yet so as he is inabled to avoid the evil of the temptation that goes along with the Creature: As we shall shew afterwards, there are abundance of temptations that go along with fulness. Now then doth a man learn how to be full, when he can make use of the Creature; and yet still so as to deliver himself from the evil of those temptations that are joyned together with the Creature. And that's a wise man, a wise woman, that knows how to make use of all the comforts that God gives unto them, that they have any use of, and yet can tell how to avoid the temptations; can be able to distinguish between the good and the evil of temptation that doth cleave unto the good thing. You many times swallow down all, all is fish that comes to net; you think there is no temptation in the fulness that you have, but take it down without any consideration of what temptation may be joyned with the fullness. You are wiser with your selves other wayes. If you eat a Fish that is full of little bones, you will be picking out those little bones; you will not presently swallow it down in whole bitts: So you should consider, when God gives you fullness, O there may be many little bones together with it; yea, if you do not take heed, it may be wrapt up in such a skin, that may be bitterness to you, unless you pick out something. If you swallow it down whole, it may be a poyson to you. Now doth a man or woman know how to be full, when they can tell how to pick out the temptation; to enjoy the thing, and yet avoid the temptation. There are some, because they Page 11 hear there are many temptations in the enjoyment of the comforts of the Creature, they think there is no way but to fling away the Creature. As that Aristippus, because he saw that so many were hurt by their wealth, he cast his money into the Sea, saying, I will drown you, least you should drown me. Now this is not to learn how to be full, that is, because I would avoid the temptation, not to enjoy the comfort and the blessing; as many men and women, through weakness and tenderness of conscience, being afraid that they shall get hurt by the use of the Creatures that God doth give them: Upon that they de∣ny themselves abundance of comfort in the Creature that they should have. Now, though God may accept of their desires to honour him, and of their fearfulness of sinning against him; but yet this argues a great deal of weak∣ness. The strength of a Christian is to enjoy Gods Crea∣tures, to take the use of that that God doth afford, to take out the sweetness, and yet to avoid the temptation; to take away that that's good, and cast away that that is naught. As there's many kind of Meats, which you may not eat all of them; and a child, who must either have all or none, you will not give it meat that hath something mingled with it that is naught, because he knows not how to pick it out: But now, one that hath understand∣ing, he knows how to pick out the good and fling away the naught; and not to fling it all away, because there's something that is naught as well as good. Now that's the third thing, and there's very few that understand this Lesson; but they must swallow down all, without thinking of any temptation that is annexed to the fullness that they do enjoy.
Fourthly, Then doth a man know how to be full, when he can have all that he doth enjoy, under his command, Page 12 and he can have the command of his own spirit in what he doth enjoy. As thus, when he is not a slave to what he hath, but he makes what he hath a slave to him. Some men that are rich, you say they have such posses∣sions; the truth is, their possessions have them rather, than they their possessions; they are under their possessi∣ons. But now, Then a man knows how to be full, when all that he hath he makes his underling, he makes his servants; he makes it to be serviceable to him, and he can command any thing that he hath, according as there is use of it. He will never be a servant to his ser∣vant. It's a sordid disposition for any man or woman to be a servant to their servant; but now, to your Estates you will be a servant, they shall command you; and your Credit and you will be a servant. But it's a sign you know not how to be full. As a man doth not know how to rule, if he will be under his servant; so he doth not know how to be full, except he hath a command over what he doth enjoy in the world; yea and a command over his own spirit in the use of what he doth enjoy. That's thus, When a man or woman can let out as much of his heart to the Creature as is useful, and no more; and can call it in again, when there is cause: As ordinarily peo∣ple do not let out their spirits a little to joy, but they let them out so as they have no command over their spi∣rits; but they have lost the command of their spirits: they cannot call in their spirits again, to be serious and humble, and to be mourning for sin, when God calls them to it. As now for instance, when you say you will be merry, and go and visit your friends, and have good cheer; God gives you leave to do so; if you know how to make use of this: But now, Do not you let out your hearts so far, as you cannot call them in Page 13 again; you let them out so, that when you should come at night to go and humble your souls before God in pray∣er, your hearts are light and vain, and you have no command over your spirits at all; and perhaps the next day you are worse for it. Its just with your hearts as with little Children; let them have but their wills a little while, and you shall have no rule over them for many dayes, many weeks after. So when you let your hearts have liberty a little while to rejoyce in the Creature, you have little command over your hearts for many weeks after. Now you may be merry, Religion keeps not one from mirth, but yet so as to have a command over our spirits; that I can call my heart in again, when there is occasion. I will rejoyce in the Creature, I but I will re∣serve my chief joy for something else; there is some∣thing else that I am to rejoyce in, more than in the use of the Creature. If you let out your heart so, when you rejoyce in the Creature, as you make it your chief joy, your onely joy; your joy is not right. But it is not so with the heart that knows how to be full.
Fifthly, Then hath a man or woman learned how to be full, when they can so use the creatures of God, as yet they are in a readiness to part with all their comforts, if God will call for them. If I enjoy comfort, but in such a manner as my heart lies down before God ready prepared to give up those comforts that I do enjoy; whenever God will have me: Then I have learned to be full. When a man or woman shall have their hearts taken so with the Crea∣ture, as they cannot leave them, whatever comes of them: They must preserve their Estate, now having had full Estates, and lived full handed; they cannot live mean∣ly: rather venture upon sin or any thing in the world, to preserve their Estates. O how is it possible for a man as Page 14 hath had such bringing up as I (saith one) now to be put to straits, that I can scarce have bread. And upon this the hearts of men rather then they will come to part with the comforts of the Creature, when God would have them; they will keep them, as it were, whether God will or no. O thou hast not learned how to be full. If thy heart were right in thy fulness, thou wouldst take the comfort of the Creature, when God gives them. But Lord, If thou hast use of them, any other way, here I am, do with me what thou pleasest: The Lord gives, and the Lord takes, and blessed be the Name of the Lord. I'll take them as long as thou wilt have me, and when thou wilt sanctifie thy Name in my want, Lord take them. We are too eager upon the Creature when our hearts cleave to it and we cannot be taken from it, without the rending of our hearts. It is with many mens Spirits, as it is with the Bee, when it comes to sting, it thrusts its sting so far in that it cannot get it out, but leaves it there: So our hearts are so riveted into the Creature, that we cannot part with the Creature; and when God would take away the Creature from us, it is as dear unto us, &c. And that's the reason that people do so cry out, and complain that they are undone, and wring their hands, if they have but lost any part of their Estates; though they have a great part still remaining: Oh how they wring their hands as if they were undone. Oh thou didst not learn when thou wert full, how to be full. That man or woman that is immoderately sorrowful, when God takes away the Crea∣ture from them, did never learn how to be full; that is, to know how to be full: when we can tell how to enjoy them, and how to be without them. O think of this when you are at your full Tables. Now I have al things about me, but can I now, if God should call me to Page 15 suffer poverty, could I be content to be laid in a Prison for his Name sake? Paul he could, when he was at the fullest, readily come off: O Lord, if thou wilt honour thy self by me, in a Prison, or Poverty, or Disgrace, why Lord, here I am: He was ready prepared. And know, that you have not learned how to be full, ex∣cept you can find your hearts in the midst of your fulness; to be ready prepared to part with all your fulness for Jesus Christ. Now in the very naming of these things, I sup∣pose you all think this is hard lesson; you think it's hard for poor people to know how to want; that's hard, but the truth is, it's rather the harder of the two to know how to be full: That's the fifth thing, when a man knows how to be full.
Sixthly, Then doth a man know how to be full, when he can make all his fulness to be furtherance of his graces, to act his graces, to exercise his graces, to draw forth his graces: As now, when he can make the fulness that he hath, to be a means to act and draw forth the grace of Love; to love God in all his fulness: Not so much to love the Creature, as to love God in the Creature. When he can make his fulness to be a means to help his faith: Thus, Lord, thou hast said, That godliness hath the promise of this life and the life that is to come; why Lord thou hast made thy promise good unto me, and so it strengthens my faith: When a mans fulness can exercise the grace of Charity to others: When a mans fulness can exercise his grace of heavenly mindedness; as in this man∣ner, O Lord, These comforts that thou givest me in thy creatures, O they are sweet; but how sweet is thy self! how sweet is Jesus Christ, that is the fulness of all this fulness! And if so be that this life be so sweet here in this world, what hast thou then in the heavens, to make me Page 16 to long after heaven! Then a man hath learned how to be full, when he knows how to exercise his graces by his fulness; that that which deads the graces of other men, shall be a means to exercise his graces.
Seventhly, And so I might make that another conside∣ration, When this fulness doth lead him to the fountain of his fulness; that is, when his grace leads him to God, to acknowledge him in all, and to be thankful to God in all; when it stirs up his thankfulness to God; and when it encourages him in the duties that God doth require of him. O I receive much wages, saith a gracious heart; I receive much from God, then surely there must needs be much work required at my hands. I receive more than others do, and therefore it is fit that I should do more work than others do. Thus a Christian learns to be full, when it can further his graces, and carry him to God, that is the fountain of all his fulness.
Eighthly, Then a Christian learns to be full, when he can improve and lay out all his fulness for God. I use it, I but I do not use it for my self so much as for God. When I can consider what are the opportunities of service that God grants unto me in this my fulness. Doth not God give unto me a larger opportunity of service than unto others, O then let me improve it for publick work. Perhaps I am made a publick man, whereas others that are poor, that are fit for publick service as well as I, in regard of their gifts and graces, but because of their Estate they cannot be employed in publick work as I. Now I will improve my fulness in publick work, that I may be a use∣ful man in the place where God hath set me; that I may be as full of good works as possibly I can; that I may be a publick blessing to the place where the Lord hath cast me. Why then doth a man learn to be full. And then,
Page 17 Ninthly, When a man doth so use the world as if he used it not. When a man enjoys his fulness of out∣ward things, but as things by the by; that is, so as his comforts doth not depend upon them. I have comfort in them, but it doth not depend upon them. Most people do so enjoy their fulness, that the truth is they have it as all their fulness; they do not use them as things by the by, but as their end. Not as means to the end, but as their end. Then a man learns to know how to be full (I say) when he can use his fulness, not as his end, but means to the end: Not as things that he doth depend upon for his happiness, but as things by the by. Put all these together now, and here's the man that learns to be full. And thus St. Paul, I am instructed as well to be full and rich, as to need. O I beseech you, before this can come to be ap∣plied in the whole, apply these particulars to your hearts. In the mean time, I appeal this day in the Name of God to your Conscience; Have you learned to be full? You are full many of you, as to outward things; but have you been in Christs School, to learn to enjoy your fulness in such a manner as this is. I am verily perswaded that ma∣ny of your Consciences will cause mis-giving thoughts to be in you this day about this thing, if you do believe that these are the truths of God, as I cannot imagine but any man may be convinc'd of this; and therefore I do not stand to enlarge and bring proofs for them: but every mans conscience will tell him, certainly I have not learned these things, I have not learned to be full; that is, I have not learned to sanctifie the Name of God by my fulness. Now give conscience liberty to reprove you for being Tru∣ant in the School of Jesus Christ; and let this humble your souls before the Lord. I shall speak more to that afterwards; but for the present, know, that this is your work, to go and Page 18 be humbled before the Lord, that you have not under∣stood what it is to sanctifie God in the fulness that you en∣joy. Lord, Through thy mercy I have all my dayes been full of outward comforts; Thou hast been full-hand∣ed towards me, in the wayes of thy mercy: but Lord, though I have had fulness a long time, O how far have I been from knowing how to be full. If this be to know it, then I have been a stranger to it hitherto.
Tenthly, A man doth know how to abound, when he knows how to make use of the Comforts he doth enjoy of the world; so as not to be hindered by the afflictions or troubles that doth attend his Comforts. In mens a∣bounding and being full of comforts in this world; they cannot but have some affliction and some troubles attend∣ing these comforts; for all Creature comforts are mingled comforts: Now then, Then a man knows rightly how to be full, when he enjoyes his fulness, so as though he hath some affliction mixed, yet he can tell how to make use of his affliction for his humiliation, and his comforts for thanksgiving unto God at the same time: whereas now abundance of people when they enjoy comfort, if they meet with any trouble and affliction mixed with their comfort, they are filled so with vexation and bitter∣ness, and their spirits are so troubled, that they lose all the good of their comforts: As Haman, he did abound, but he did not know how to abound; therefore when he was but crossed in one thing, that Mordecay did not bow the Knee to him, why all the comfort of his pro∣sperity was taken away, and his spirit was filled with rage and bitterness, and malice. And thus it is with many people, that have abundance in their Families; they are full of outward comforts, they have their Yoke-fellows, comfortable Children; they have Estates, they Page 19 have their Tables furnished, and all things that one would think might content the heart of a man almost: But now, if any one cross doth fall out that doth displease them, they are put into such a vexation and fretting humour, as they lose all the benefit of the comforts. Do'st thou know how to abound, when as thou goest abroad and something crossest thee, or thy Servant doth something amiss, why presently thou art in a rage and fretting, and all thy thanksgiving to God for all thy mercies, that's forgot. Nothing but fretting and vexing in the Family for one cross, when as there are a hundred mercies that thou shouldest bless God for. Thou dost not know how to to abound, when thou canst not tell how to sever the good of mercy, from the consideration of affliction: And though God doth afflict thee in something, yet he gives thee abundance of occasions to bless him and praise him. But now, when thou canst bless God for all mercies, and be humbled for all afflictions at the same time; If God doth grant me more mercies then affliction, he shall have more thanksgiving from me then sorrow, or then trouble; Ile have more joy then I will have trouble, if I have more mercy then I have correction. This man knows how to abound, that can do thus then.
Eleventhly, lastly, That man knows how to abound, that in his abundance yet knows himself. Such a man or woman knows how to be full, and to abound (I say) that if they are full and abound, yet they know themselves. Its ordinary for people not to know them∣selves, when once they come to abound. Saul was little in his own eyes when he was in a mean estate, but when Saul came to abound he knew not himself: And so it hath been ordinary with people, that their abun∣dance hath taken away the very knowledge of themselves; Page 20 they have grown wanton and foolish and proud, that they have not known themselves when they have abound∣ed. But now, when a man in the midst of abundance knows his own meaness, and wretchedness, and sinfulness, and vile∣ness, notwithstanding his abundance; here's a man that hath learned this lesson of the Apostle, how to abound. But this is a very difficult lesson: If there be such things as as these in learning how to abound, surely the lesson must needs be difficult. You that are Mariners think if you have Sea-roome enough you are safe; you care not then: but it's otherwise in this that we are speaking of, your Sea-roome may be your undoing; and the more abundance you have, the more difficult it will be for you to know how to order your selves in your way. I gave divers rea∣sons why this lesson was more difficult then the other; to know how to be full than to be empty; which few people in the world will think so, but certainly it is so.
Now though the very naming of these things may shew he difficulty of it, yet we shall come in the Second place, to shew that there's a great deale of difficulty in Mens and Womens knowing how to be full: And I name this the rather, because I would put your hearts upon exercise, that you may not lightly pass over what is said, when we speak of knowing how to be full; for it is ordinary for Men that have estates and outward comforts, to slight the Word. Well, Let me have what will satisfie me, and for this lesson, to know how to be full, I hope we shall do well enough for that. Now for this, that you may not slight the lesson; I shall shew you something about the difficulty of it.
You that are Marriners, If you may have Sea-roome enough, you care not; you think then you can do well e∣nough, but though you can do well enough in your Art, Page 21 when you have Sea-roome; yet the truth is, you do the worst for your selves, when you have the greatest Sea of prosperity, there you do worst of all; and it is your Sea-room that doth undo you: I mean the abundance of out∣ward prosperity, it is that ordinarily which doth undo men. So it is easier a great deal, you know, for one to ma∣nage a little Boat in the Thames, then for one to be able to manage an East-Indian Ship. The truth is, less skill will serve for the ordering of a mans estate when it is low and mean in the world, than when he comes to be full. It were a mad thing for a man that can but onely row in the Thames, to undertake the command of one of your greatest Ships: And so it is for those that are mean, if God doth not teach them how to be full, they are like to undo themselves by their fulness as well as any way. It is easier for a man to manage a little estate that he hath, then for him to manage great merchandizing. There is more dif∣ficulty and skill required in fulness, than in other wayes; as extremity of heat is harder to bear than cold: though it be very cold, yet by exercise we may get our selves a heat: but when it is extream hot weather, that's very te∣dious, and it breeds diseases. And so it is easier to carry a Cup that is but half full steadily, than to carry a Cup that is brim-full. And a Traveller (you know the ex∣pression) the storm and the tempest makes him to get his Cloak closer together, and to hold it faster: but when the warm beams of the Sun comes and shines upon him, that makes him cast off his Cloak. You know the Fable of the Sun and the Wind to get the Travellers Cloak, which should do it; when the Wind came blustering, that could not do it; but the warm Sun beams, that made him throw it off. So many times those that can hold fastest in the time of adversity, yet in the time of prosperity they Page 22 lose the seeming graces that they had before; and so let all go.
Now there are divers reasons that I should give you why it is thus difficult to learn this lesson; as,
First, Because we are most of us flesh, we are more flesh than spirit of our selves: Now because we have so little spirit in us, therefore all those things that shall come for to joyn with the flesh (I do not now speak of corrup∣tion) but to joyn with our natural part and sensual part, we having so little spirit in us, it must needs be dangerous for us to manage those things that joyn with our natural part, that is flesh, though it were not corrupt; yet be∣cause we have so little spirit. That is, First, We have lost the Image of God. The best of us have but little of the Image of God, others have lost is quite; and then our very reason is wounded by our fall: therefore having so little strength in our spirits, all those things that come to joyn with the flesh, do very much endanger us; and do indeed very much weaken our better part. Now adversi∣ty, that pulls from the flesh, that takes from the flesh; and many times the spirit is much the stronger; but what doth add to the strength of the flesh, doth endanger us: as it is more dangerous to set a Child upon a pamper'd Horse, than upon a Horse that is wearied out with work: And so for us that are weak in our spirits, to have our flesh to be pampered and satisfied; I now speak but of our na∣tural flesh and sensual part, to be pampered and fully sa∣tisfied, there's a great deal of danger in that.
And then farther, In prosperity there are more duties required than in adversity. A man that is in a mean estate and condition, there are not so many duties required of him; but a man that enjoys a fulness, there's abundance of duties required of such a man: every comfort that he Page 23 enjoys is an obligation to some special duty. A poor man that works hard at his dayes labour, he hath nothing to do but to bless God when he comes into his Family, and look to his own heart; and to see that the service of God is in his Family: But now, take a man that is full, that is of an estate in the world, God requires of him to look abroad in the publick; and God gives him charge, Look that my Worship be set up, look that Justice be executed, I will require these things at your hand; look that my Sabboths be not prophan'd, look that Godliness be coun∣tenanced, look that Sin is discountenanced.
But perhaps you will say, Every man that is rich, he is not a Justice of Peace, or in place.
I but by your countenance you may make friends to this and the other; every one is tied to be a friend to those that are rich. There are a great many duties that lie upon you, that do not lie upon those that are poor. If indeed a man that had an estate, had nothing else to do but to sit by the fire side, and have his servants to bring him his provision; if this were all to be full, it were easie for a man to know how to be full: but you must know that there is much more lies upon you then so, which you must answer for, and give an account of be∣fore God; now this is the thing that makes the diffi∣culty.
And then the third thing is, The variety of Temptati∣ons that do attend upon a full condition: O abundance of temptations there are in a full estate, more than there are in a mean estate. I confess extream poverty hath ma∣ny temptations with it, very sore and grievous temptati∣ons that do attend extremity of poverty; but yet not so many as do attend upon a full estate. As the flies come in abundance to sweet things, honey (and the like) so Page 24Belzebub, that signifies the God of Flies; O the Devils that have that name, they come in abundance, where they see sweetness, where they see is much prosperity. Rats and Mice come to full Barns, not to empty ones; and so the Vermin of temptations, as I may call them, do attend upon full estates. A Tree that hath nothing on it, the Traveller that comes by will not fling at it; but a Tree that is full of fruit, a Traveller flings at that: so those that are in a mean and low condition, the Devil passes by them, but he especially labors at those that he sees hath much of the world, and he hath more hopes of gaining of them: As it's a very observable place concerning Jo∣seph, do but consider the Scripture that speaks of the condition of Joseph and his Blessing; we may compare two Scriptures together for it, the one is in the Book of Genesis, where you have Jacob blessing of Joseph; and the other is in the Book of Deuteronomy, where Moses's Blessing was, chap. 33. 13. and of Joseph he said, Bles∣sed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of hea∣ven; for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath: And for the precious fruits brought forth by the Sun, and for the precious things put forth by the Moon, and for the chief things of the ancient Mountains; and for the preci∣ous things of the lasting hills; and for the precious things of the earth, and fulness thereof, &c. Here's for all his out∣ward blessings, what a many precious things are here, that Joseph had, and the fulness thereof. But mark, of all the Tribes, what is said concerning Joseph, Gen. 49. 22. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a Well; whose branches run over the wall. But now mark in the 23. verse, The Archers have sorely grieved him and shot at him, and hated him. There's none of the Tribes, where it is said, that the Archers did so shoot at, as at Joseph; and Page 25 there is none of the Tribes that is blessed with so many several pretious things as Joseph is blest withal. So that by comparing these two Scriptures, you see, that those that have most of the pretious things of this world, they are like to be shot at most; and the Devil shoots at them more then he doth at others.
And then, as the variety of temptations is greater, so the suitableness of temptations is more; the Devil can pre∣vail more in his temptations with fulness, than where there is want and emptiness; why, because though there be temptations in a poor condition, yet they are not so pleasing to a mans own nature as the temptations of a full condition. A poor man is tempted, but what is he tempted to, he is tempted to impatience, but that's no pleasing thing but a tedious thing; and he is tempted to despair, but that hath no pleasingness with it; and he is tempted to take shifting courses, I but there's fear in that, least he should be discovered and so be punished: So that their temptations that are in poverty, are not so suitable to their nature, as the temptations of one that is in a full estate; for his estate is a temptation to pride, to uncleanness, a temptation to intemperance: Now such things are very suitable to the very nature of a man, there∣fore there's a great deal more danger in the temptations that comes by fulness than by want, because the tempta∣tions of one are tedious to a mans nature; but the tempta∣tions of the other are suitable to a mans nature. As it's more dangerous to have Rats-bane lie about the house for your children, than to have Alloes or Wormseed: Suppose that Alloes had a poyson in it, it's true it may do hurt, but it's not so likely as Rats-bane; because though Rats-bane hath poyson in it, yet it hath sweetness in it too. There is poyson sometimes in a poor condition, Page 26 that is, there are temptations to great evils in a poor condition; I but their temptations have a bitterness in them. But the temptation of a full condition hath a sweetness in them; and therefore there's a greater dan∣ger in them, and more difficulty to avoid those tempta∣tions.
And then further, The temptations that come from ful∣ness, they are more subtle; those that come from want they are not so subtle, they are more apparent; but the tempta∣tions lies in fulness for the most part in lawful things, it is in lawful things that we most fail in: And the temptation comes so fairly, why, why may not a man take liberty to comfort himself in Gods Creatures, may not a man take his own, may not a man make use of his own? For the most part (I say) all the temptations of fulness, or great part of them, lies in things that seem to have no hurt in them; and therefore they are very subtle, and a man need be very wary of them: they are (as we said before upon oc∣casion) like little bones in the Fish that you can hard∣ly see them, and therefore there's great deal more danger in swallowing of them down, then of other prick∣ly things. And so the temptations of a full estate lies very secret; it's very hard to see them unless you look very narrowly.
And then further, which is a main thing; because ful∣ness doth not onely afford a temptation to sin, but few∣el for all kinds of lust; fulness will feed them if you have not learned to be full. As now, If a man hath the lust of pride, there he hath enough to act his pride, he will feed it to the full; and will make a proud man to be a scornful man: so that he will scorn and jeer, not onely at his Brethren, but at God, and his truth, and Ministers, and Religion, and all because he is full; Page 27 his pride is so fed to the full. And fulness of estate it will feed self-love extreamly. When a man hath a kind of self-sufficiency in himself, then he sees no need that he hath of God, nor Christ, nor Mercy, nor of the Word and Promises. It feeds his Malice, if he hath a malicious spi∣rit against another man, he can undo him, and he can spend so much to have his will; it feeds his Stubbornness. If he will be unclean, he can, and who will meddle with such an one. And it will feed his Licentiousness, he can take his liberty and ride up and down from place to place. A poor man hath as much mind perhaps to satisfie his lusts, but he must fall to his work, or else his family will starve: I but a man that is full, he hath elbow-room enough to serve his lusts, and he can go abroad in the morning and stay till midnight; and spend from the be∣ginning of the week to the end of it, and not want. O this is mighty pleasing to flesh, and this feeds a mans lusts, and makes him strong. And this is the reason why there are so few that are full, that ever the Word doth good upon. Ordinarily the poor receive the Gospel, so the Scripture saith; Not many rich, not many mighty, not many great ones. Why here's the reason of it, because they have so much matter to feed their lusts withal, that their lusts grows too strong, that it doth resist the Word, resists all means that should do them any good; and there∣fore it's a very hard lesson for a man to learn to know how to be full. And that that shews it to be a hard lesson, also shews it to be a necessary lesson. O Lord what case is a man in then that is full, and yet for all that hath not learned to be full. If he hath such matter for his lusts, and knows not how to order himself, he is like to be a lost man.
Page 28 There is one thing more why it is so difficult to learn how to abound, and that's this, Because that a full estate is in danger to hinder those Graces that are the especial Graces of a Christian. The Graces of a Christian that are the most peculiar and proper graces of a Christian, are in an exceeding danger by a prosperous estate; that if a man doth not learn to abound, those graces will especi∣ally be hurt; and it is very difficult for a man or woman to carry themselves in an even course; so as when there is (as it were) siege laid to those graces that are the special graces of a Christian.
As thus, The graces of a Christian are Faith, Self-de∣nial, Humility, Patience, Tenderness, and such kind of gra∣ces as these are. Now a prosperous estate doth mightily endanger these graces.
As now, Faith, you know the nature of that grace is for one to be emptied of himself, and to be nothing of himself; and for to rely upon that that is without. This is the grace of Faith, To be taken from our own bot∣tom, from our selves, and from the Creature; to cast our selves upon free grace, upon the goodness and mercy of God, upon the righteousness of another. But now, when men abound, and have a fulness in themselves, why 'tis very natural for them to depend upon themselves and not upon another. A full estate hinders very much the de∣pending life, which is the life of a Christian. I the life of a Christian is a more depending life then the life of Adam was: and therefore a low condition is more sui∣table to a depending life, then a full condition.
And so for self-denial, One that is in a low conditi∣on, it's easier for such a one to deny himself: But now, when one comes to have much of self, and to have self to be cockered (as it were) then yet to deny a mans Page 29 self, and to be nothing in his own eyes, this is a great deal harder.
And so for Humility, It's not so much for one that is poor, and in a low condition to have his heart low, but to have his heart low when his estate is high, that's the difficulty. You know there's nothing more natural to men, then to have their hearts rise as their estates rise; as the comforts of the creatures rises, so their hearts will rise; and therefore it's hard to learn this lesson, How to be full.
And then that grace likewise of Tenderness, of a ten∣der heart, a soft heart, that's a grace that belongs to a Christian in a special manner; that they should keep con∣stantly tender, soft spirited. Now though many in time of Affliction have their hearts tender and soft, yet when they come to prosper once, then their hearts are hard; the prosperity of the world doth bake (as it were) their hearts, and hardens their hearts. As the Sun doth harden the Clay, so prosperity doth harden the hearts of men, and takes away that tenderness as was wont to be (as might be shewn in many examples.)