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ceives 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 composed 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'.
• 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; be 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.
and their motives in acting as they do towards him, and he looks to God as the author of his troubles. Thus he soothes his mind, not only to resignation, but to contentment. Shall a patient have such a physician, and shall he not be thankful for his treatment, however at present painfuls?
But godliness uniformly produces gratitude to God for the many mercies we actually enjoy; and I need not say that a grateful heart cannot be a discontented one. A rebellious despondency, which refuses to acknowledge a thousand blessings, because there are attendant troubles, is no part of the Christian temper. On the contrary, piety recounts and magnifies the bounties of Heaven: it enumerates the past instances of God's favour, and records the daily goodness which he bestows. It treasures up the blessings of God in youth, and remembers his deliverances in riper years. It dwells on the divine compassion, and bids all around us join in the accents of praise. Thus the godly man takes a cheerful view of his circumstances, and looks round, not for matter of complaint, but of thankfulness. He contemplates, not the persons who are above him in society, and whom he may be tempted to envy, but those in similar
Law's Call, chap. xxii.
or worse circumstances than himself, that he may learn to be content.
A consideration of the example of our blessed Saviour is, again, ever connected with godliness and a source of composure of mind. Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; he endured the contradiction of sinners; he was born in mean circumstances; he was treated with ignominy and unkindness and ingratitude by all around him. The foxes had holes and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. And when did a murmuring word escape his lips? When did he complain of any personal inconveniences? Did not the most unspotted meekness and contentment adorn the Saviour? And what is a Christian but one who loves and imitates Christ?
The shortness of time, and the nearness and glories of eternity, are, moreover, truths which a regard to God inculcates, and which go to form the Christian to contentment. Why should he be fretful and uneasy, when the voyage of life, however stormy, is so brief? Already the shore begins to appear. A few more tossing waves and the fever of the passage will subside, and the haven open upon him with a transporting view. And what a haven! There the wearied mariner will repose indeed, and repose for eternity. There he will gain at length all the bless
ings which he has so long sought, and which his Saviour purchased at so great a price. There he will see the vision of God, and enjoy the songs of angels, and join the company of the blessed, and be numbered with them and share their felicity for ever. Shall he then descend from this elevation to mingle in the passions and murmurs of this lower world, to complain again of those scenes which are to train him for this consummate felicity, and to magnify those inequalities and disorders which appear indeed considerable when he views them on the surface of the earth, but which fade from the sight when he rises to the contemplation of God and the glories of paradise?
3. But it is time to proceed to notice in the next place, the gain which is the result of the godliness and contentment we have thus described. The Apostle, in the passage from which my text is taken, had been speaking of sacrilegious persons addicted to worldly gain, who made a profession of Christianity a means of advancing their base interests; and then in my text he elegantly, and not without irony, repeats in a higher sense the same word Gain, which he had just before employed in speaking of the false teachers'. Those persons, indeed,
9 Calvin in loc.