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as our portion. St Paul, in the third chapter of this epistle, describes men of that character, who so mind and affect earthly things, as “enemies of the cross of Christ;” and, in opposition to them, gives it as the character of himself and other Christians, “Our conversation is in heaven,” ver, 19, 20. On the other hand, it is not inconsistent with the grace of contentment, to have a sense of anything ungrateful or uneasy in our present lot. To be without that would be stupidity, and not contentment. Nor will every desire or regular endeavour to better our outward circumstances, be an argument of discontent. Such desires are the foundation of diligence and industry in men's callings, which serve so many good purposes in the world : and God himself encourages men, by temporal promises, to diligence, to make the improvement of their worldly condition a subordinate end to their labours. But true Christian contentment with our state and lot, comprehends in it such things as these : 1. That our desires of worldly good are low and moderate; that we are not eager after much, nor “seek great things for ourselves;” but that our desires be reduced within the bounds of necessity and reasonable convenience, or at least are not hot and impetuous after more. To this the apostle exhorts, 1 Tim. vi. 8. “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content;” that is, let us be able to acquiesce and be easy, though we should be allowed no more. We find Jacob forming his desires with such moderation at his setting out in the world, and when he was to enter upon a journey of some length and distance from his father's house : he asked not riches and grandeur, but that “God would give him bread to eat, and raiment to put on,” Gen. xxviii. 20. And it will be the wisdom and the happiness of other young people, to set out in the world without mounting their desires very high ; at least with a resolution to be easy, though they should be able to compass no more than a subsistence. A man that cannot be easy with that, knows not in truth what would make him easy; for covetousuess is insatiable. We see people arriving at one enjoyment after another, which once seemed the top of their ambition; and yet so far from contentment, that their desires grow faster than their substance; and they are as eager to improve a good estate when they are become masters of it, as if they were still drudging for food and rai.
ment. Christ warns us against this sort of covetousness, which consists in insatiable desire: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,” Luke xii. 15. In the parable which immediately succeeds this caution, the rich fool, whom Christ describes and blames, is charged with no injustice or evil practices, but only with insatiable desires of abundance, and too intense a concern to lay up goods for many years. The apostle exhorts the Hebrews, chap. xiii. 15. “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have :” log raggan, present things. Till we arrive at such a temper, that we can be content and easy with what we have at present, covetousness is predominant; and the same principle will keep us uneasy in any future circumstances, when they may become present. ; 2. That in all our views of bettering our worldly condition, we indulge not immoderate cares. A prudent care of our affairs becomes us as reasonable creatures, and as Christians. But a contented mind will not allow us to over-do herein. And we may over-do, either by engaging in a greater variety of cares than we can manage with composure of mind, and inconsistent with our other duties, or by suffering any particular cares to run out into anxiety. Some, from their eager desire of gain, drown themselves in such a variety and hurry of business, as is beyond their capacity and head to manage. Such a conduct generally defeats its own end, and issues in disappointment and loss for this world; but especially it is prejudicial to men's souls, either not leaving them reasonable time to attend to their better interests, or following them into their reading, and hearing, and praying, so that they cannot perform them without great distraction of thought, or presently wearing off any good impression made upon their spirits. Our Saviour cautions his disciples against this, as well as intemperance, Luke xxi. 34. “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” And if it concern us to take heed lest this should be the case “at any time,” what must be the mischief and danger of a perpetual hurry of worldly business, when men launch out beyond their depth, and possibly cannot retreat and disengage themselves when they will? .
Others, though they may not enter upon an undue multiplicity of business, yet are intemperately solicitous about that in which they do engage, that is, about the issue and success of their projects and endeavours. They are not satisfied with having acted the proper and prudent part incumbent on them, and then to leave the event to God; but torment and rack their minds about that which is not in their own power. This is that sort of "taking thought for to-morrow," against which our Saviour cautions, Matt. vi. 34.; and that sinful carefulness, from which the apostle dehorts us, Phil. iv. 6. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Anxiety is an evident mark of discontent, and will be a certain hinderance to contentment in any condition, as long as it is indulged.
3. That whatever our present condition be, we cheerfully submit to the providence of God in it. In opposition to all murmuring complaints of him, though our lot should be strait and uneasy. Christian contentment essentially includes in it a respect to divine providence in all our circumstances, and an humble acquiescence in the disposals of it. If we "fret against the Lord," because things are not according to our mind, we fly in the face of the great Governor of the world, and instead of helping ourselves, shall vastly increase our difficulty, by making him our enemy. But when we have uprightly done our part, whatever the event be, it becomes us to say with Eli, 1 Sam. iii. 18. " It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." If any comfort, which may appear desirable in itself, is denied us, there should be a placid submission, upon the foot of what Jacob told Rachel, when she was discontented for want of children, Gen. xxx. •2. "God hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb." It was a truth which became a better mouth than that of Balak, when he said to Balaam, Numb. xxiv. 11. "The Lord hath kept thee back from honour;" and it should be a quieting thought to good men, whenever they are disappointed in such expectations. If you have not that success, by an industrious application to business, as others around you have, it should be a thought present with you, "The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich, he bringeth low, and lifteth up," I Sam. ii. 7- Contentment, as a grace, includes in it this regard to God.
•4. That we are so easy with our own lot, as not to envy others who may be in more prosperous circumstances. Envy is an infallible mark of discontent. Duty to God, and charity to our neighbour, would induce us to take pleasure in the welfare of others, whether we immediately share in it or not. A eontented mind, upon the principles of religion, would naturally fall into such reflections as these, if we see other men possessed of a larger affluence of comforts than we; * The love or hatred of God, are not known by such things as these.' If our more prosperous neighbours should be bad men, their ric hes may be to their hurt, and the prosperity of fools may destroy them. If they be good men, God, who knows what is best for every one, may know it safer for them to be entrusted with such comforts, than it would be for us; that they may be great mercies to them, and yet Would prove too strong temptations for us. Or, if that should not be the case, yet "shall not God do what he will with his own?" Or shall my eye be evil against my neighbour, because God is good to him? 'Matt, xx. 15. As charity, so contentment envieth not.
5. That we are so far satisfied with our present condition, whatever it be, that we will not use any unlawful means to better it. It is a certain sign that our minds are not brought down to the pleasure of God in our lot, if we can allow ourselves to go out of God's way in any instance to change it. He that is possessed of the grace of contentment, will not allow himself, whatever inconveniences may accrue to his body, to venture upon the displeasure of God, and the violation of his conscience, to remove them. He cannot find in his heart to mend his circumstances by any acts of injustice, or fraud, or violence, or by making shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. The apostle opposes to contentment such a disposition that men "Will be rich," 1 Tim. vi. 8—10. ,;They will be so at all adventures, whatever it costs them, though .they should sacrifice principle, and religion, and honor, to. the obtaining of their end. We are told particularly the mischievous effects of such a resolute determination in this case: "They that will be rich, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money (such a love of money, or covetousness,) is the root of all evil; which, while some have coveted after, they have erred
from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” When the Roman soldiers came to John the Baptist, among others that were struck with the novelty of his preaching and baptism, and asked him, “And what shall we do 2° John wisely addressed them, suitable to their temptations, with these advices, Luke iii. 14. “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.” The soldiers were pinched with their narrow allowance, and too apt to injure other people to make up that defect, either by using violence or false accusations, that they might reap the plunder of other men's goods. John, therefore, particularly cautions them against these ill ways of providing for themselves, and exhorts them to contentment with the allowance of their station, as an effectual preservation against all such irregular courses.
6. That we make the best of our condition, whatever it may be. We are too prone to cast our eye only upon the dark side of our condition. But a contented man will impartially survey all the circumstances of his lot, and that will soon enable him to discern many things fit to alleviate and balance his uneasiness. He will reflect in such a way as this:—‘If I have not so large a share as some others, yet have I not enough to carry me through the world 2 If I have not a large provision made for time to come, yet hath not God hitherto given me my daily bread, and what occasion have I to distrust him for the future ? If I have not enough to gratify every random inclination, yet have I not sufficient to supply real wants 2, . If I am denied some things which I desire, yet is not this the case of the great and of the most abounding 2 If others prosper in the world more than I, yet are not some more distressed ? If I live more directly upon providence, yet have not goodness and mercy followed me all my past days 2 And why should I doubt, but that in the way of duty they will follow me “all the days of my life 2" If I have not every thing I wish for, yet have I not unspeakably more than 1 deserve o’ A disposition to contentment readily cherishes itself with such considerations.—But it will be proper farther to shew,
II. How such a fame is to be lamed.