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1 TIM. VI. 6.
-But godliness with contentment is great gain.
THE Apostle Paul is, in this epistle to Timothy, whom he styles his son, describing the duties of a minister. He notices, particularly, the vari.. ous parts of the ministerial work, and in order more thoroughly to furnish him for this work, he points out the errors and evils which dide and would prevail, and which would be attended with bad consequences, against which Timothy was to guard. See the first verse of the fourth chapter, and the verse preceding our text. The Apostle observes, that some persons of perverse minds suppose gain to be godliness, and so cloak their avarice under religion ; but he gives them to understand, that the reverse is true. That instead of gain being godliness, godliness with contentment is great gain ; that it redounds to great personal advantage.
I. I am to speak of true godliness. It supposos a life of conformity to God. He has named his faithful followers after himself: In other words, godliness is true religion. But, the question may still return, what is true religion? I an
It is conformity in temper and life, to the statutes and judgments of the law and gospel. It includes the graces of the spirit, such as faith, repentance, joy in God, &c. with the holy fruits in conformity to the gospel.-But the question may again return, wherein does obedience to the law of God essentially consist. It is considered as con, formity to God, who is said to be love. Indeed, it is directly summed up in love. But still the question returns, what kind of love ? It is a love that is opposed to private, selfish affection. It unites to the whole good of being--to holiness, as being what it is—and therefore, regards God as supreme-and our neighbor as ourselves. It leads to all that regularity of life, and external conforinity to the precepts of law, which is the natural dictate of love.
II. I enquire what we are to understand by contentment? It is something more than a Stoical insensibility to adverse scenes of Providence. It is a willingness to have things just as they are to feel that they are right.
1. Contentment flows from a supreme regard to the will and glory of God and the cause of Christ. It supposes a belief that God does order all circumstances for his glory and the best good of his people.
In the exercise of christian contentment, the pious soul would not be willing to have things otherwise than they are ; the prosperous or adverse events of life being what God has allotted. There can be no contentment under adverse scenes, if we regard our interest, pleasure or friends, more than God or his will.
We must prefer the glory of God to any thing which we possess, in order to contentment.
2. Contentment is a disposition of mind to leave every interest with God-to feel that life, health, companions, children and friends, are all in safe hands--to feel entirely quiet, if things cross our
natural inclinations, and to have no disposition'ta carve for ourselves.
III. I proceed to show in what sense, godliness with contentment is gain. It is so in relation to things of time and it is so as to things of the future life.
1. It is great gain as to the present life, it enables us to sustain the burthen of unavoidable evils. We cannot shun evils altogether ; but contentment enables us to bear them. The greatest burthen is doubtless a discontented mind under ad.
Godliness with contentment will render any situation tolerable, and even comforts able.
It not only prevents anxiety, but adds a sweetness, peace and quietude of mind, which is the richest treasure. All the world without it, would be of little value. The peasant in his cottage, en- . joying a contented mind, is happier than the aspiring prince, who dwells in a palace. If we had all the world, what would it be, unless we were content? If we are content, no situation can be very uncomfortable.
Godliness with contentment contributes to the enjoyment of this world, as it expands the mind, and interests us in the happiness of others. The man destitute of true godliness, is attached only to himself and his own little spot; he does not take that satisfaction which the good man does, who rejoices in the happiness of all around him.
It contributes to social happiness, and produces love and kindness in neighborhoods.
It makes good husbands and wives, good parents and chil. dren, good rulers and people. Were this spirit to prevail, there would be a love of justice, and but few contentions and law-suits, which create so much unhappiness. It is a charitable and sympa thetic spirit, producing kindness, and banishing rough and unkind behavior. Under the influence of this spirit, rulers would be fathers to the people, and act under the influence of God's laws. People, also, would submit to rulers, and give them due honor. It would restrain all slanders and misrepresentations, make us tender of each other's character, and quiet many tumults.
There seems to be a prevailing disposition to disregard religious order, public worship, &c. as superstitious: And many of this character are ready to call themselves enlightened. But I think their light to be darkness. There is nothing in religion but what tends to the good of society. The observance of gespel institutions, family instruction and worship, though some may call it superstition, is necessary to train up a family to be a comfort and blessing.
We see then, that godliness with contentment is connected with great advantages, and wisdom will dictate the pursuit of it. If this life were the only life we should ever enjoy, it would be worth our while to live a godly life, to conform to God's commands, and to cultivate a spirit of content
2. But the most important gain is with relation to another life. Godliness enables us to enjoy the good of all in this world a hundred fold : But it has the promise not only of the life that now is, but of that which is to come. It is great gain, as it will enable us to escape that wrath which will be the portion of the ungodly. The future misery of such will be an evil beyond conception, for it will be complete and eternal. But the godly, on the other hand, will inherit endless bliss. Heaven will be to them a state of perfect beatitude. There, as a fruit of true godliness, they shall be delivered from all the pains and sorrows, attende
ant on the present life. Sin shall be completely done away, together with doubts, buffetings and temptations. Not one uneasy feeling or unsatisfied desire shall exist in their minds. They will ever be with Christ and with all the godly. Every interposing cloud being removed, they shall be admitted to the open vision and complete fruition of God, and shall inherit the riches of his heavenly kingdom. All this glory and good will be eternal, and so may well be said to be great gain.
Improvement. 1. We see that it is no vain thing to serve the Lord. True religion recommends itself in every view. It is our greatest wisdom and understand. ing. Without this, the world cannot afford much enjoyment: Without this there is no support in death-no consoling prospect beyond the grave.
2. We see that all those who try to overturn the principles of christianity, are not only enemies to the gospel, but to the welfare of mankind : They are enemies to every kind of social enjoyment, and blind to their own advantage, here as well as hereafter. There is nothing of any comparative value but religion and its fruits. There are many who af. fect to despise religion, but they only expose their folly. If we had all this world in our possession, without religion it would be of little avail.
-3. Let me then urge, that whatever you pursue, you would make godliness with contentment your great object, and consider it as the one thing needful. This will afford you peace in any scene.
It is the only way of life, and whatever you may gain without it, you must at last lose your souls.