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knowledge, faith, love, obedience, and worship 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. 11.
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 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 other; 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
Gen. xxviii. 20, 21.
2 Prov. xxx. 8.
3 Phil. iv. 11.
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*.
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 his misfortunes to the faults of others. 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 misBishop Jer. Taylor. 5 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 him. 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 con
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, radi
cally 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 a 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 re