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amenity of temper is confined to a few, it can never be trusted in as a secure ground of contentment, even by its favored possessor. No habit or disposition is
permanent and safe that is not raised on the solid and indestructible basis of principle; and instances are not wanting of those in whom a long series of disasters and disappointments has soured and destroyed this cheerful temper, and changed the gay and fond enthusiast into a severe and gloomy misanthrope.
Nor did the contentment of the Apostle arise from that torpor and inactivity of mind, those frigid and phlegmatic feelings, which make some men acquiesce in the evils of their condition, because they are too insensible to feel them with keenness, or too indolent to allow themselves to be made unhappy by them. It was something, which he had learned, not inherited from nature; a principle which was taught him by his religion, not given with his constitution; it was not the transient vegetation, which is called forth by the breeze, and cut down by the blast, but the solid and deep-rooted product of virtuous sentiment and holy affection.
In order to arrive at this state of unruffled contentment with our condition, it is necessary that we should begin by freeing ourselves as much as possible from the influence of artificial wants, and those desires which are produced by a comparison of our lot with that of others. Originally all our wishes are pro
duced only by the actual wants of nature ; but the refinements of society produce new desires and artificial passions, and we begin at length to feel wants in consequence of our wishes. Imagination stamps a value on many things which have no use but because we have agreed to value them, and they afterwards pass currently as the representatives of real goods. The actual and original wants of nature are few and easily supplied; and he who can learn to narrow his wishes to his necessities, will make a surprising deduction from the mass of human infelicity. To lessen the number of our desires is in fact the same thing, at least produces the same effect, as proportionably to increase the means of gratifying them; and he who can reduce his wishes within the limit of the real demands of nature, will place himself beyond the reach of by far the greater number of the usual sources of discontent.
In imitating the Apostle Paul in this respect however, we shall not be called on to contract our desires within the bounds of absolute necessity. There probably is not one within the sound of my voice to whom the goodness of God has not given all the important conveniences of life. To make any one of us, my friends, contented with his condition, it is only necessary that we should cease to compare what we possess with what has been given to others; to consider the real value of our blessings instead of thinking only how they might
have been increased. The fair question in examining the happiness or unhappiness of our condition is not whether we should not be happier with inore, but whether we have not now enough for enjoyment; not whether more might not be desirable, but whether more is necessary. that you are less rich than your happier neighbour. It is not necessary in order to show that this is no ground of discontent, to prove that you overrate the advantages of riches, and forget the cares and anxieties which always accompany them. Let it be granted that they are as desirable as your imagination paints them, the question is not whether riches are good, but whether mediocrity is an evil; whether you may not be a rational, wise, and happy being, even though you should remain as you now are. This is, I conceive, the test which we are to apply to all our wants; and if we would do it fairly, I cannot say that all our wants would disappear, but I do venture to affirm that the number of them would be diminished beyond our expectation. If we would view life thus fairly and soberly, we should find that the evils, which were made so great by the false medium through which we had surveyed them, are far from being insupportable. The mists and fogs which caused human calamity to appear like a mountain, spreading its base to the horizon, and hiding its head in the clouds, would clear away, and we should see only an acclivity, which may slightly impede our progress, but which
with resolution and perseverance, we may easily overpass.
Another help to a contented disposition, is to learn to estimate the goods of life by their real value, and to think more of what we possess, and less of what we want. After all, the common blessings which we all in a greater or less degree possess, are really the most important. What is there, which can be put into comparison with the blessings of daily bread, and nightly rest, of sound bodies, and vigorous understandings, of society, of children, and parents, and brothers, and friends ? Let us remember, too, that the greatest of all blessings are those which reside in the mind and are therefore in a great measure independent of external circumstances. It is our intellectual advantages alone, which, to the sober eye of reason, , purged of the films of prejudice and folly, appear worthy of our solicitude. It is wisdom, virtue, integrity, an enlightened understanding, a well
regulated heart, a delight in the exercise of justice and mercy; it is to learn to think rationally and nobly, to learn to govern ourselves, to conquer our lusts, to use our faculties according to the will of the Giver, to love God above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves, to acquire an habitual inclination to what is right and good, and great, and holy and pure, to make, in fine, the christian temper and the christian hopes familiar to our hearts ;—this is to possess what alone is really good, what is immortal as the mind itself, what no shock of misfortune can impair, and what we may still enjoy, even though we have neither riches nor greatness, nor power, nor even vigour nor health.
But though considerations like these, will sweep the list of human calamity of many of the most weighty evils of life, yet it must be acknowledged, that there will still remain some, which are too real, and too severe, to be explained away or disguised. A habit of contented acquiescence under these evils can be, I am persuaded, effectually produced, only by views which are peculiarly christian. The temper of humility, which the gospel labours so much to form in us, tends directly and powerfully to this end. The basis of all discontent is pride under some or other of its forms, or a belief that our condition is below our deserts.
We are continually disposed by our tendency to vanity, to look at the bright side of our characters and the dark side of our condition, and, as has been somewhat pointedly said, it is almost as rare to find a man, who thinks he has too little merit, as to find one who thinks he has too much wealth or honour. But the murmur of discontent will be silenced, the moment it rises in the breast of any one, who has that deep sense which the gospel nourishes in every christian, of his own incapacity to judge of what is best for himself, or the whole system with which he is connected, and of his unworthiness to enjoy even the blessings which he still pos