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and station from the throne to the cottage. They who have it in their power are continually shifting from one place and pursuit to another; and such as are excluded from this privilege envy, grudge, and murmur. The world resembles a number of people in a fever, who relish nothing, are always restless, and try by incessant change of place or posture to escape from their uneasy sensations; but all their efforts are in vain. Does not this single consideration prove, that godliness is the health of the soul, and that without it there can be no abiding contentment?
II. Then we inquire, in what respects godliness with contentment is great gain.
There are certain ends, for which especially men desire riches. They suppose the coveted acquisition would add to their present comfort: secure them against many future disasters; furnish materials for future enjoyment; prove an advantage to their children; enable them to confer benefits on their friends and relatives; and put it in their power to be extensively useful. Perhaps all the reasons, for which men pursue riches, may be referred to these heads: for when avarice becomes so extreme, that money is coveted without any regard to its use, it degenerates into a kind of deplorable insanity.
But it may easily be shewn that "godliness with contentment" answers every one of these purposes far better than any increase of wealth. The wisest of men, who perhaps also was the wealthiest, says experimentally, "when goods increase, they "are increased that eat them: and what good is "there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding
"of them with their eyes?" It is undeniable that increasing riches ensure additional cares, encumbrances, and dangers, rather than any accession of enjoyment. "The grounds of a certain rich "man brought forth plentifully:" but he was as much embarassed about securing his abundance, as his poor neighbours were about paying their rents or maintaining their families. Nor was he the only man who has viewed his treasures with anxious inquiries; What shall I do? where shall I secure them from danger?-Designing men find their advantage in paying court to the wealthy and employ their ingenuity to impose upon them. Thus they are often surrounded with sycophants instead of friends: and even friends become suspected; for the cordiality of confidence is undermined by repeated deceptions, till universal suspicion damps all social intercourse, and destroys the comfort of the most cordial attachments.
Nor does the rich man enjoy any pleasure with higher relish than formerly: he soon loses the exhilaration of new acquisitions and improvements: he has less to hope and more to fear than other men: his abundance and leisure often excite him to improper indulgences: his situation feeds the distemper of his soul; and in proportion as wicked passions predominate true enjoyment languishes. Something unpossessed, or unattainable, still makes him exclaim, "All this availeth me nothing:" "Mordecai will not bow to me:""Naboth will "not sell me his vineyard!" while the attempt to obtain the coveted object, or revenge the
Eccles. v. 11.
imagined affront, opens the door to new crimes and miseries.No wealth can exclude pain, sickness, the loss of friends, or death: and the most prosperous are often " consumed with terrors," by the foreboding of calamities. Peace of conscience and hope of future bliss cannot be purchased, and the way, in which the wealth of ungodly men has been acquired and employed, renders the thoughts of" giving an account of their stewardship" unspeakably tremendous.
Perhaps there is no delusion so general, or so easily detected, as the opinion that increase of wealth implies an increase of enjoyment. Where is that man, who has risen from a bare competency to greatffluence, that can honestly say he has proportionably augmented his happiness? And what numbers confess that their prosperity has been disappointment, and that all is vanity and "vexation of spirit!"
But it has already been shewn, that true godliness is inseparable from contentment: that it affords cordials in affliction, doubles the enjoyment of prosperity, and makes way for triumphant exultation in the prospect of death. The scripture sets before us many examples of believers, in the depth of poverty, in pain and sickness, bereft of friends or forsaken by them, insulted by persecuting enemies, conversant with stripes and imprisonment, and daily expecting a painful death; who have nevertheless been full of comfort, and have manifested a satisfaction of soul, which made them rather the objects of congratulation than condolence: nor are similar instances wholly unknown at present. But who can conceive a man under
the wrath of God, with a guilty conscience, the slave of his domineering lusts, and the sport of his restless passions, to be easy or comfortable in any situation? Godliness therefore does more towards making a man happy, than all other gains and advantages combined together.
But is not wealth a security against future disasters? Is it not a resource in sickness or old age, when trade declines, or when public calamities deprive men of the ordinary means of subsistence? -In some cases it may be a duty, in many allowable, to make a moderate provision against such emergencies: but it is often impracticable, consistently with our various obligations to God and man; and in ten thousands of instances it is done in a degree and manner incompatible with the exercise of faith, and in a worldly selfish spirit. On the other hand, vast multitudes yield to impatience, distrust, envy, and other tormenting passions, because they cannot succeed in their attempts to make such a provision. But godliness is the best security against future distress. Riches still are "uncertain," after every effort to change their nature, as late events have loudly preached to all the inhabitants of Europe. The most wealthy have no absolute security that they shall not end their days in a dungeon or an alms-house. Unforeseen failures often sweep away the property of the affluent and in public calamities it is suddenly transferred, to the amazement of beholders; while the rich and noble are reduced to abject indigence and dependence, and their palaces are occupied by the lowest of the people! In many cases riches are considered as criminality; and
the possessors are proscribed for the sake of confiscations. When famine visits a land, the provisions that avarice had accumulated are frequently seized by an enraged multitude: nay, often the innocent possessor of abundance falls a victim to popular fury. Thus "riches are kept for the "owners of them to their hurt." And, if they prove insufficient for security in such cases, what can they avail in the agonies of pain, at the approach of death, or in the day of judgment?
But he who possesses that " great gain," which the apostle recommends, is liable to none of this uncertainty. "No good thing will the Lord with"hold from them that walk uprightly." "Put thy "trust in the Lord, and do good, dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." "Seek first "the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and "all these things shall be added unto you." "For your Father knoweth what things ye have need "of." He hath all hearts in his hand, and all riches at his disposal. He needs not to work miracles (as in the case of Elijah,) in order to ac complish these promises; yet doubtless all nature would change its course, rather than God would disappoint an expectation warranted by his holy word. We know not indeed by what way our loving Father may see good in his infinite wisdom, to take us home to himself: but we are assured that every circumstance of that event shall be arranged in the most advantageous manner; and, till the appointed period shall arrive, no famine can render us destitute, no pestilence can sweep us away; the sword of war, the fury of a multitude, or the malignity of persecuting tyrants, cannot