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But godliness with contentment is great gain. - 1 TIMOTHY, vi 6.
Since God orders all the circumstances of human life, every person ought to be entirely satisfied with that state and situation in which he is placed. One person has no more reason to complain of his condition than another. This the apostle directed Timothy to teach others. “Let as many servants as are under the yoke, count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters let them not despise them because they are brethren ; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words.of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions which are unprofitable.” And then he adds, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” The apostle here directs Timothy to teach all men to be religious in order to be contented, and to be contented in order to be happy in any situation in which God places them; whether as masters, or servants, whether in the most eligible, or least eligible, circumstances of life. This is the connection of the text, and in treating upon it, I shall,
I. Explain godliness;
1. It consists in a godly heart. Godly signifies godlike. Those who have a heart after God's own heart are godly, and bear his moral image, in which man was at first created, and to which every renewed person is restored by the special influence of the divine Spirit
. The Spirit in regeneration enstamps the moral image of God upon the heart, which consists in righteousness and true holiness. There is nothing in which men so nearly resemble God, as in a godly heart. This transforms them into the divine likeness, and makes them holy as God is holy, and perfect as God is perfect. Godliness comprises every species of holy affections, as ungodliness comprises every species of sinful affections. Godliness is the essence of all vital piety, and contains every thing that belongs to experimental religion. Besides,
2. Godliness implies not only a godly heart, but a godly lise. All men will live according to their hearts. Those who have a godly heart, will live in a godly manner; which implies,
1. A sincere consecration of themselves to God. Those who mean to live a godly life, give themselves away to God in an everlasting covenant, never to be forgotten. They consecrate their time, their talents, their property, and all their influence to his service. They resolve to live to him, and not to themselves. They sincerely aim to do every thing to his glory. Whether they are rich or poor, whether they are rulers or subjects, whether they are bond or free, they mean to be the servants of God, and to seek the interests of his kingdom, above every other interest. They mean to acknowledge him in all their ways, and look to him to guide all their steps, and supply all their wants. These have been the inward views and feelings of all who have lived a godly life, in every age and part of the world. Nor is this all; for
2. The godly not only devote themselves to God, but pay a sincere and habitual obedience to the intimations of his will. They delight in the law of the Lord after the inner man. Abraham was all obedience to the divine commands. He went wherever God directed him to go, and gave up whatever God commanded him to give up. Moses was equally obsequious to the will of God, under the most self-denying circumstances. All who possess a godly heart are willing to express it, in all the various ways which God requires. They esteem his precepts concerning all things to be right, and find a peculiar pleasure in obeying his voice. If they are rich, they mean to obey the commands given to the rich. If they are poor, they mean to obey the commands given to the poor. If they are rulers, they mean to obey the commands given to rulers. If they are subjects, they mean to obey the commands given to
subjects. If they are teachers, they mean to obey the commands given to teachers. If they are hearers, they mean to obey the commands given to bearers. If they are masters, they mean to obey the commands given to masters. If they are servants, they mean to obey the commands given to servants. If they are in prosperity, they mean to obey the commands given to the prosperous. If ihey are in adversity, they mean to obey the commands given to the afflicted. If they are aged, they mean to obey the commands given to the aged. Or if they are young, they mean to obey the commands given to the young. They mean to walk with God in the way of his commands, and to avoid every evil and false way. They habitually aim to be both internally and externally conformed to the character, the will, and commands of God. I now proceed to show,
II. That this godliness will produce contentment. This is plainly suggested in the text. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” The connection here is that of cause and effect. Godliness naturally leads men to be contented in every condition of life. This Paul knew to be true, by his own happy experience. He says, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” His godliness taught him this rare and useful lesson. Now, it will appear from various considerations, that contentment naturally flows from godliness. For,
1. Godliness leads those who possess it to realize that God always treats them as well as they deserve. They live under an habitual sense of their unworthiness in the sight of God. They realize that they have forfeited all good, and have deserved all evil, at the hands of their Creator and Benefactor. They are ready to say to God, as Jacob did, “ I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant." And they can heartily adopt the language of the prophet. “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." The godly always feel their unworthiness, which naturally creates contentment in their present condition, whether they are in prosperity or adversity. Under the deepest afflictions, they are disposed to say with the prophet, “ Wherefore doth a living man complain?" And again, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause." So far as godliness tends to produce a sense of unworthiness, just so far it tends to create contentment with all the allotments of providence.
2. The godly are sensible that God always treats them according to their prayers, which reconciles them to the divine dispensations towards them. They give themselves to prayer,
and in their prayers they desire God to give, or to deny, or to take away favors, according to his own pleasure. They know not what is best, and cheerfully leave it to God to do what he knows to be best. They desire to submit their understandings to his understanding, and their wills to his will. They know, therefore, that he gives what they desire he should give, that he denies what they desire he should deny, and that he takes away what they desire he should take away. He treats them exactly according to their desires in their most serious and devout moments; which cannot fail to give them satisfaction. This gave Job satisfaction when he said, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This gave satisfaction to David, when he said, " I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.” This disposed the primitive christians to say, “ As dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” A godly spirit disposes the godly to choose that God would give or deny them favors, and order all their external circumstances as he sees best; and when he has given, or withholden, or taken away, they know he has done his own pleasure, which is what, in their most fervent prayers, they desired him to do. His will being known, affords them true satisfaction and contentment. For it was their heart's desire, and prayer to God, that his will, and not theirs, might be done. Godliness carries in its own nature, contentment under all the dispensations of divine providence. And this will farther appear, if we consider,
3. That it leads men to live by faith in the perfect wisdom and rectitude of the divine government. The godly believe that the hand and heart of God are concerned in all the events which actually take place. They believe that there is no good and no evil in the world which God has not, for wise and good reasons, determined should exist.
They believe that God always treats them, and all other men, as well as infinite wisdom and goodness can treat them. They believe that he never sends any evil, nor denies any favor, but when his own glory and the best interests of the universe require it. They believe his own declaration, that “he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” They believe that "he is good
.' unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works ;” and that he will make “ all things work together for good to them that love him." And while they exercise this holy and godly faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, they cannot distrust the care and faithfulness of God, nor feel discontented with their present, nor anxious about their future condition. While they thus
stay themselves upon God, and confide in his wisdom and rectitude, they are in perfect peace. They must be satisfied, while they realize that God gives them as many and as great favors, and inflicts as few and as light evils, as he can possibly do, consistently with his unerring wisdom and perfect goodness. They cannot wish to be treated better than a perfectly wise and good being can treat them. Instead of murmuring and repining under his frowns, they are disposed to admire and praise him for his astonishing goodness and mercy. Hear the godly and gracious language of David, notwithstanding all the evils he suffered: “ The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.” “ Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Such ample and joyful contentment naturally flows from genuine godliness. It only remains to show,
III. That godly contentment will produce great gain; or rather, that godliness with contentment is great gain. Or, as the apostle says in another passage in this epistle, “ Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
This leads me to say, 1. That godly contentment gains all the good in this world. Those who are contented after a godly sort, enjoy all the things that they possess, and they actually possess as much as they desire to possess; which affords thern complete contentment. The contented person is in just such a situation as he, all things considered, desires to be in. So that he actually enjoys all the personal good bestowed upon him; and this is all the good that he at present desires. And being contented with his own lot, he becomes contented with the lot of all mankind. He is godly, and feels as God does towards all the human race. God is perfectly satisfied, or (if I may use the term) contented, with the state and circumstances of the whole family of man. Every person enjoys just as much good, and suffers just as much evil, as God sees best he should enjoy and suffer. He constantly sees all men in the very circumstances most pleasing to him, and would not have a single circumstance altered, for the time being, with respect to any creature, person or event on earth. Just so, the godly person who is contented with his own state, is equally contented with the state and circumstances of all mankind, so far as his knowledge extends. And this contentment necessarily puts him into the possession of all the good he sees and knows to exist in the world. He actually enjoys the whole. He gains all the good, which he sees bestowed upon himself, and upon his fellow creatures. This ex