On the Means of Acquiring Patience
Consider first, that patience, like all other good things, is not to be acquired by desiring, by seeking, by praying for it; but by desiring it earnestly, by seeking it diligently, by praying for it fervently. 'If any one wants this true wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all abundantly and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering,' St. James i. 5, 6. But how shall we heartily desire, seek, or pray for that which we have little or no esteem for? Wherefore, the first step towards acquiring patience is to study to know its true value, and the great treasures it brings along with it to the soul which is so happy as to find it. Now this knowledge must come by consideration, and meditation on the manifold fruit it produces, both for this world and the next: here, a complete victory over all our enemies, peace of soul, true liberty, and dominion over our passions, with an abundance of other graces; and hereafter, all those sublime rewards that are promised to the conquerors, Apoc. ii. and iii., 'To him that overcometh I will give to eat of the tree of life, that is in the paradise of my God' Apoc. ii. 7, 'He that shall overcome I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more, and I will write upon him the name of my God,' &c., Apoc. iii. 12, 'and to him that shall overcome I will give to sit with me in my throne,' & c., verse 21.
Consider 2ndly, that in order to acquire patience it will be of great service to us, in all our afflictions, pains, or other sufferings, to reflect on these three points: first, upon what we have deserved by our sins, and how very little what we suffer is in comparison with what we ought to suffer if we had our deserts; 2ndly, upon the suffering the Son of God endured for our sins out of pure love for us, and the patience with which he endured them; 3rdly, on the holy will of God, who sends us these sufferings, and sends them for our greater good; who knows what is best for us,, and orders all things for the best if we leave ourselves to him. Ah! how vain it is for us to resist his mighty hand! How foolish and sinful not to submit to the dispositions of him, that is infinitely wise and infinitely good! See, my soul, what a large field for meditations is here opened to us in these three points! What motives for patience under all our sufferings!
Consider 3rdly, in order to be more in earnest in seeking to acquire the virtue of patience the manifold evils we are exposed to by impatience; in a long train of sins against God, against our neighbours, and against ourselves, which proceed from this unhappy source; murmurings and rebellions against God; uncharitable censures and rash judgments, perpetual animosities, quarrels, and desires or revenge against our neighbours; desires of our own death, through infinitely unfit for it, continual uneasiness with ourselves, desponding thoughts, and a strange sluggishness as to taking any pains for the salvation of the soul. Such are usually the wretched fruits of impatience; and what can be worse? Faith is lulled asleep, it is quite dead; hope is forgotten; the love of God and of our neighbours is lost; prayer is neglected; the care of the soul is flung away; and in the mean time the evils under which we labour, instead of being redressed, become more grievous and more intolerable by our impatient resistance of the holy will of God; we lose the benefit of our sufferings, and we forfeit all the comforts which God usually affords to patient sufferers. Ah! my soul, how does this impatience of ours make our sufferings resemble those of the damned, who suffer without merit and without comfort, resisting in vain the will of the Almighty?
Conclude to pray and to labour in earnest for acquiring the virtue of patience: it will make all thy sufferings light and easy and entitle them to an eternal reward. Whenever thou art visited with any cross, of what kind soever, always consider it as coming from the hand of God; presently accept of it, and offer it up to Jesus Christ crucified, to be united to his sufferings, to be sanctified through him, and accepted of by his Father for his own greater glory, and the remission of thy sins. O how happy shalt thou be if, under all thy sufferings, thou make this thy practice!