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FRET NOT THYSELF.
PSALM Xxxvii. 1.
T is of more importance to every man, that his mind should be at peace, than that his body should be in health. We use great caution for the preservation of our bodily ease; and are at great expences for the restoring of it when lost. But as a restless mind is a worse evil, and hath also an effect in impairing the faculties of the body, all proper preservatives are diligently to be sought for and applied.
We are sent hither, into a world, where sin produces a thousand disorders: we are therefore born to meet with such things as will disturb and vex us, more or less, according to our different principles and propensities. VOL. V. B
We We must see right invaded, innocence oppressed, wisdom disregarded, merit neglected, justice hated, truth misrepresented and opposed, hypocrisy, rapine and violence unpunished, and sometimes applauded.
At these things the wisest of mankind are apt to be agitated with unreasonable indignatition: while the weak, ignorant, and impatient, are driven to despair, madness and suicide. When
persons of delicate habits, and tender irritable minds, are without principle; which is too often the case in this age of uninformed sentiment; the prospect is dreadful. For when such are disappointed, they become desperate; accusing Providence, when they ought to accuse themselves; and flying out of life, in a rage at those evils, which, perhaps, need not have been; or might have been cured; or, at least, rendered very supportable.
Our blessed Saviour, knowing how his disciples were exposed to all the trials common to other men, and to other uncommon ones brought upon them by their profession, gives them this necessary advice-In your patience possess ye your souls. Of which passage, the physiology is strict and true : for the impatient are not in possession of their souls: they are no more masters of themselves than persons divested of their
And the two cases are so much alike, that the fashion of the times hath confounded them ; by making no distinction, in cases of suicide, between the wickedness of impatience, and the weakness of lunacy.
And what can we find within ourselves to give us patience? Human prudence
be allowed the wisdom of experience, to make us cautious; but it hath nothing positive, to give us strength: no gifts, no doctrines, no promise; all of which are necessary to us in our present state.
The pride of heathen philosophy affected an indifference to pain and pleasure ; and having adopted the principle of a blind fatality in nature, fled to insensibility, as the grand remedy for all the evils of life.
Under the state of the gospel, zeal and piety bring Christian people into difficulties, by exposing them to the hatred of the world. To avoid which, we are under a temptation of betaking ourselves to the convenient policy of of fending nobody : and, to put a face upon our pusillanimity, we call it discretion; the cheapest of all the virtues: because the reputation of it is obtained by doing nothing; at least, by doing no good, for fear of interrupting our own The brightness of the rainbow is atB 2
tended by another circle, of an inferior light wherein the order of the colours is inverted. So is the bright circle of the virtues attended by another set, of a spurious kind, which mock the true; and this faint-hearted discretion is one of them. It may please us for a time, but it will deceive us at last.
The thing to be desired, therefore, is a true religious serenity of mind. We call it patience, in respect to the ways of men ; and faith, or resignation, in respect to the ways of God. .
This is to be attained
The text saith, when the context is added, Fret not thyself because of the ungodly! The troubles of good men arise chiefly from the ways of evil men; of which we have many examples from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ; whose enemies were the greatest of villains and hypocrites, from Herod the king down to Judas the traitor. When good men trouble one another, they do it by mistake : but a bad man cannot act as such, without molesting society, and injuring his neighbours. Vice, as a cause, will have its
effects as brutes, by invariable instinct, follow the fe