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to bring his outward estate to his wishes, he must take the other alternative, and bring his mind down to his condition. A contented man, then, is placed in the varieties of human events, like the nave or centre of a wheel, in the midst of all the circumvolutions and changes of posture, without violence or change, save that it turns gently in compliance with its changed parts 4.
Contentment is therefore opposed to covetousness, murmuring, envy, impatience, and despondency; and to all those other evil tempers which make a man uneasy in his lot, which lead him to use unlawful means of extricating himself, or to impute bis misfortunes to the faults of otbers. In short, it is the chief duty enjoined in the tenth commandment, where the prohibition to covet our neighbour's goods is as much in effect as to require every man to rest satisfied with that portion of outward things which God is pleased, by fair and justifiable means, to derive to him"; according to the apostolical admonition, Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have: and to the spirit of the petition in our Lord's Prayer, Give us this day our daily bread.
2. I have dwelt thus fully on the nature of contentment, because it is a point much mis4 Bishop Jer. Taylor. s Bishop Sanderson on Phil. iv. 11. understood, and because it lies at the foundation of all the instruction I wish to derive from the text. Let us proceed, then, in the next place, to point out the connexion between it and godliness; for the language of the Apostle in my text implies that they are inseparably united. This may be shown in several particulars.
Godliness produces contentment, because, as I have briefly noticed, it brings a man back to God, the source of all blessedness. The soul was created for God, and can be happy only in hiin. So long as men are in opposition to their Maker, who is the eternal fountain of justice and mercy, they must be far from peace: but when they return to him in Jesus Christ, a spring of comfort is opened to them, they drink of the pure river of life and joy, they learn to be content.
Godliness, also, delivers men from the torment of an accusing conscience, and thus promotes composure of spirit.. One great cause of discontent is a mind disturbed by guilt. The anger of God, whom we have offended by our sins, is a constant source of fear and misery. The man is like a person in a fever, restless and uneasy, and unable to obtain relief, though he perpetually changes his posture. But godliness leads him, as we have seen, to a scriptural peace of conscience; it brings him to the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and thus cures at once, radically cures, the disease which occasioned much of his disquietude.
A regard to God further produces all those dispositions of heart which are the parents of contentment, and takes away those sinful ones which are the enemies of it. It produces the love of God, and of our neighbour for God's sake. It leads to meekness, patience, superiority to the world, peace, joy, gratitude, hope, goodness, truth; while it teaches us to deny vanity, pride, the love of the world, envy, hatred, variance, covetousness, prodigality, selfishness, impurity. And I need not stop to remark how all these vices immediately and necessarily nourish discontent; whilst the contrary virtues calm and bless the soul.
Again, godliness tends to promote contentment, as it impresses deeply on the mind u sense of our unworthiness of all God's mercies. He who feels that he deserves nothing, is the man to be content. Now, the true Christian knows that as a sinner he has forfeited every thing, and has merited only everlasting condemnation; and he not only knows this, but his view of the excellencies and glory of God fills him with a genuine and habitual lowliness and contrition of heart before him. Thus almost all the sources of discontent are withered at the root. The man feels that he can claim nothing, he dares not to murmur at God's appointments, but receives all he bestows on him as greatly beyond his deserts. He is, therefore, upon principle a contented man,
Godliness teaches him further that the condition of man in this world is one of trial and probation; that man is in a ruined state, with disordered passions and appetites; that religion, as it has but an incomplete influence on him, remedies only in a partial manner the disorder; that a future state of exact retribution is to adjust at length the apparent inequalities of the Divine Providence here, and that, in the mean time, an inward principle of contentment is the only means of obtaining any considerable relief. The lust and concupiscence of man it is in vain to satisfy. It is an abyss without a bottom. No earthly blessings can fill the ever-deepening void. But to acquiesce in God's will and rest contented there, closes at once the vast gulph. Then the heart is satisfied, and no longer torments itself, like a froward child, by impotent fretfulness and vain passions, but sinks coinposed and tranquil into the bosom of its heavenly Father and friend. In this way the Christian finds that the important secret of life is self-government, and that, to keep the vessel steady in so stormy a sea, he does not so much want levers and shores from without, as ballast and conduct within.
6 Gataker on Phil. iv. 11.
But faith in the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of God, is another fruit of godliness, which directly tends to confirm all the preceding considerations, and to produce contentment. The Christian knows the love of God; he believes his faithfulness to his promises; he is persuaded that his understanding is infinite. He has learnt, also, his own extreme ignorance and folly-an ignorance which takes no comprehensive view of events, and a folly which perverts the best principles and deductions of reason. He stands silent then before God. He is sure every thing is under an infinitely wise guidance; and thus he is content. Shall there be a mutiny among the flocks, because the shepherd chooses their pastures?? Shall the child tremble, though in the darkest hour, whilst it grasps
its parent's arm?
A regard to God tends further to this end, by instructing us in the holy and necessary discipline of affliction. As the patient submits cheerfully to the prescriptions of a physician, on whose skill and fidelity he can entirely depend, so the Christian relies on his heavenly Saviour. He is aware of the moral disorders under which he still labours. He knows that a man in a dropsy may require a different regimen from one in health. He therefore looks off from men
7 Bishop Jer. Taylor