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1 TIMOTHY, vi. 6.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. · Virtues,' observes an eminent writer,' are like friends, necessary in all fortunes; but those are the best which are the friends of our sadness. No good man then can be friendless, nor have reason to complain of the Divine Providence, or accuse the public disorder of things or his own infelicity, since God has appointed one remedy for all the evils in the world, and that is, a contented spirit'. This happy temper the Apostle speaks of in my text: he teaches us that it is inseparably connected with godliness ; and that the two are the greatest gain to us as sinful and disordered creatures. It is my intention to explain this interesting subject, which must always be a seasonable one, but espe
Bishop Jer. Taylor, Holy Living, Sect. IV.
cially at a time when the peculiar visitations of God on our country make it more necessary to sbow the nature of that humble acquiescence in his will under all circumstances, which the devout Christian will endeavour to cultivate.
To this end, let us consider,
1. The general instruction conveyed in my
text. II. The particular use which may be made
of it under our present circumstances.
And may God, who “ alone can order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men,” so bless what may be said, by the influences of his Holy Spirit, that we may know for ourselves the unspeakable advantage of a meek and quiet spirit, which in his sight is of great price!
I. We are first then to explain the general instruction conveyed in the text.
1. In doing this, we must begin by describing what godliness and contentment are. Godliness is a due regard to God in our affections and conduct. It is that disposition of mind wbich becomes the excellencies of God and our relations to him: for, as the command to live soberly respects the duties which we owe to ourselves, and the command to live righteously, comprehends our duties towards our neighbour; so that of living godly, relates to our duties to the ever-blessed God? Godliness, then, includes in it a supreme regard to God, a sense of his presence and authority, an adoration of his works, a desire to please him, a fear of his anger, a dependence on his providence, a worship of him in his appointed ordinances, an obedience to his commands, and an aim at his glory. As an ungodly man is one who has not God in all his thoughts, and who lives as without God in the world; so a godly man is one who thinks of God and regards him continually, and who lives under the habitual and willing government of his laws.
This temper of mind must however always be considered in connexion with the dispensation of mercy, under which man is placed in the Gospel. Man is a sinner, and fallen from God. He can only be restored to his service through a a Mediator. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; no man can come unto the Father but through him. Godliness, then, must begin by an entire conversion of the heart, and a compliance with the proposals of grace made to us, through the merits of Jesus Christ. The influences of the Holy Spirit then gradually form the true believer in Christ to all the exercises of godliness, and he advances in the
2 Titus, ii. 12.
knowledge, faith, love,'obedience, and wor, ship of his reconciled God and Father. God becomes more and more his portion, his delight, his pattern, his object, his end. To obey him here, is his great duty; to partake of the full fruition of his glory hereafter, his supreme joy.
Contentment is a disposition of mind which humbly and cheerfully acquiesces in the will of God as to our outward condition. It is a calm and tranquil satisfaction of spirit under any external events. It makes a man sufficient (in a right sense of the word) for himself, in opposition to those who are the sport of outward circumstances. It is not so well seen in affluence, as in comparative poverty. It belongs chiefly to a condition which is not the easiest, and yet not the most difficult, in which we might be placed; because, in deep afflictions, we are to exercise another Christian grace, resignation, which has in it all that is to be found in contentment, except cheerfulness 3. To act well under ordinary misfortunes, and to bear with composure the difficulties of our appointed lot, is contentment. - If God will be with me, said the pious Jacob, in this way that I go, and - will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in
3'Dr. Jortin on Phil. iv. II.
peace; then the Lord shall be my God'. Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, was the prayer of Agur". I
I have learned, said the Apostle, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content 3. These are examples of this pious disposition of mind, in opposition to those instances of a discontented one, which appeared in our first parents when they fell, in King Ahab coveting the field of Naboth, in Haman, in King Solomon, in Jonah the Prophet, in Diotrephes, and in the rich fool in our Lord's parable, not to mention many other cases.
Contentment, however, does not consist in our making earthly blessings our portion and happiness: this would be idolatry and worldlymindedness. Nor does it require that we should absolutely prefer our present state to every otber; this would be insensibility. Nor does it forbid us to feel the inconveniences of our condition, and to use lawful and moderate means for removing them: this would be stoicism and indolence. But it requires of us a state of mind reconciled to our outward circumstances, so long as God sees fit to continue us in them. It teaches us that, in order to composure, a man's mind and his condition must be brought together; and that, as it would be madness to hope
1 Gen. xxviii. 20, 21.
2 Prov. XXX. 8.
3 Phil. iv. 11.