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SERMON XI.

ON PATIENCE.

LUKE xxi. 19.

In your patience possess ye your souls. The possession of our souls is a very emphatical expression. It describes that state in which a man has both the full command, and the undisturbed enjoyment, of himself; in opposition to his undergoing some inward agitation which discomposes his powers. Upon the least reflection it must appear how essential such a state of mind is to happiness. He only who thus possesses his soul is capable of possessing any other thing with advantage; and in order to attain and preserve this self-possession, the most important requisite is, the habitual exercise of patience.

I know that patience is apt to be ranked by many among the more humble and obscure virtues; belonging chiefly to those who

groan on a sick bed, or who languish in a prison. If their situation be, happily, of a different kind, they imagine that there is no occasion for the discipline of patience being preached to them. But I hope to make it appear, that, in every circumstance of life, no virtue is more important, both to duty and to happiness, or more requisite for forming a manly and worthy character. It is not confined to a situation of continued adversity. It principally, indeed, regards the disagreeable circumstances which are apt to occur; but in our present state, the occurrence of these is so frequent, that in every condition of life patience is incessantly called forth. Prosperity cannot be enjoyed, any more than adversity supported, without it. It must enter into the temper, and form the habit of the soul, if we would pass through the world with tranquillity and honour. What I purpose is to point out some of the chief occasions on which patience is required; and to recommend and enforce the exercise of it, in order to our possessing our souls.

I. Patience under provocations. The wide circle of human society is diversified by an endless variety of characters, dispositions, and passions. Uniformity is, in no respect, the genius of the world. Every man is marked by some peculiarity which distinguishes him from another; and no where can two individuals be found who are exactly, and in all respects, alike. Where so much diversity obtains, it cannot but happen, that, in the intercourse which men are obliged to maintain, their tempers shall often be ill adjusted to that intercourse; shall jar and interfere with each other. Hence, in every station, the highest as well as the lowest, and in every condition of life, public, private, and domestic, occasions of irritation frequently arise. We are provoked sometimes by the folly and levity of those with whom we are connected; sometimes by their indifference or neglect, by the incivility of a friend, the haughtiness of a superior, or the insolent behaviour of one in lower station. Hardly a day passes without somewhat or other occurring which serves to ruffle the man of impatient spirit. Of course, such a man

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lives in a continual storm. He knows not what it is to enjoy a train of good humour. Servants, neighbours, friends, spouse, and children, all, through the unrestrained violence of his temper, become sources of disturbance and vexation to him. In vain is affluence; in vain are health and prosperity. The least trifle is sufficient to discompose his mind, and poison his pleasures. His

very amusements are mixed with turbulence and passion.

I would beseech this man to consider, of what small moment the provocations which he receives, or at least imagines himself to receive, are really in themselves; but of what great moment he makes them, by suffering them to deprive him of the possession of himself. I would beseech him to consider, how many hours of happiness he throws away,

which a little more patience would allow him to enjoy; and how much he puts it in the power of the most insignificant persons to render him miserable. “ But who can expect," we hear him exclaim, “ that he is to possess the insensi

bility of a stone? How is it possible for “ human nature to endure so many re

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pect, when

“ peated provocations ? or to bear calmly “ with such unreasonable behaviour ?”. My brother! If you can bear with no instances of unreasonable behaviour, withdraw yourself from the world. You are no longer fit to live in it. Leave the intercourse of men. Retreat to the mountain and the desert; or shut yourself up in a cell: for here, in the midst of society, offences must come. You might as well ex

you

beheld a calm atmosphere and a clear sky, that no clouds were ever to rise, and no winds to blow, as that your life was long to proceed, without receiving provocations from human frailty. The careless and the imprudent, the giddy and the fickle, the ungrateful and the interested, every where meet us. They are the briars and the thorns with which the paths of human life are beset. He only who can hold his course among them with patience and equanimity, he who is prepared to bear what he must expect to happen, is worthy of the name of a man.

Did you only preserve yourself composed for a moment, you would perceive the insignificancy of most of those provoca

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