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plains Christ's paradoxical declaration to Peter. 66 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered, and said, verily, I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wise, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this life, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." The plain import of these declarations is, that godliness or true benevolence disposes men to be contented with, and to enjoy, not only all the personal good that falls to their lot, but to be contented with, and to enjoy all the good which they see fall to the lot of all their fellow creatures. Those who are godly and contented, do really gain all the good there is in this world, so far as it is possible they should gain it, or enjoy it. Those who live in the exercise of godly contentment, cannot desire that God should make the least alteration in the mode of treating the whole human race. And as they pass over the world, they are satisfied and contented with their own state, as connected with the state of all their fellow men. They behold the world now, as God did at first, and say it is all very good. Nothing can be added to it, or taken from it, or altered in it, to make it any better. Thus godly contentment gives them the enjoyment, though not the possession, of the whole world. But to enjoy the whole world is much better than to possess it; and is really to gain it, in the highest and best sense of the word. I may observe again,
2. That those who possess godly contentment, gain not only this world, but the world to come. As they are contented and satisfied with all things as they are in the present world, so they will be equally contented and satisfied with all things as they are in a future world. God is pleased with all things in eternity. He sees every creature and every object there, in that situation which gives him complete satisfaction and self enjoyment. He constantly enjoys all the good that all his holy creatures enjoy, and that in connection with all the evil that his unholy creatures suffer. He sees nothing amiss in eternity, but beholds all things in the situation in which he pleased to place them, with infinite delight and satisfaction. Just so, the godly in the exercise of godly contentment, are prepared to enjoy all the good in eternity, so far as they now see or expect it, and so far as others see or expect it. Contentment here, prepares them for contentment there. Godliness here, prepares them to enjoy godliness
And as they enjoy their own good and the good of others here, so they now enjoy their own good and the good of others laid up for them there.
for them there. Godliness gains every thing in this world and in the world to come; in this world contentment, and in the world to come eternal life. Accordingly, the
, apostle represents the godly as actually possessing this rich, durable, double gain. For he says of them, “ All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or lise, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours.” Now it must be great gain indeed, to gain not only all the good there is in this world, but all the good there is in the world to come. Godliness is as profitable, as it is possible any thing should be. It will gain all the good in the universe. In its final issue, it will make all the godly as happy as their finite and limited capacities will permit. This not only may be, but must be, according to the nature of godliness and the express declarations of God himself. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor any human heart conceived, the full and final gain of godliness.
1. If godliness produces contentment, then those have reason to doubt of the sincerity of their religion, who do not derive contentment from it. Among the professors of godliness, some are more godly than others, and consequently derive more contentment from their godliness than others; but all who are really godly, derive some sensible satisfaction and contentment from it. Those, therefore, who do not derive any satisfaction or contentment from their professed godliness, have reason to fear that they never have experienced the grace of God in truth. The want of the effect argues the want of the cause. Godliness has a natural tendency to produce contentment, and the scripture represents the godly as deriving this happy effect from their godliness. The sincere piety of David produced this effect. “ There be many that say, Who will show us any good ? Lord, list thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased.” His piety produced that peace and contentment which the world cannot give. And he says to God again, “ Great peace have they who love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.”. And this peace and quietness he says he derived from his filial piety. “ Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother. My soul is even as a weaned child." Solomon says, “A good man shall be satisfied from himself." And he asserts that wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” The connection between godliness and contentment is so intimate and inseparable, that none
have reason to think that they possess the one, if they do not enjoy the other. Godliness is ihe same in every person who possesses it, and always produces the same effect, though in different degrees. It cannot be supposed that any possess real godliness, and yet never derive real contentment from it. The gain of godliness greatly consists in contentment, when all other things fail of affording it. A false hope, derived from a false religion, may yield a certain kind of satisfaction in days of prosperity; but it is only real godliness that can afford solid peace and contentment in days of adversity. It is then the godly find the gain of godliness, and those who do not find this happy effect of their religion, when it is brought to the test, have reason to fear that the love of God has never been shed abroad in their hearts. Job said of God, “ Though he slay me, I will trust in him.” Paul's godliness taught him to
I be content in whatever state he was placed. The professed godliness which does not produce contentment, is real ungodliness.
2. If godliness produces contentment, then none can be contented who are destitute of godliness. It is the exclusive nature and tendency of godliness to produce contentment, and therefore we are constrained to conclude that contentment cannot be derived from any other source. It is the scripture character of the ungodly that they are always discontented. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” “ They are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” God himself cannot (to speak with reverence) make them contented. This has been demonstrated in the course of providence, for nearly six thousand years. God has filled ihe earth with his goodness, and granted the largest portion of good things to the ungodly. The prosperity of the wicked has been a stumbling block to the righteous. Job could not account for it, that “the tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly." David could not account for “the prosperity of the wicked, who are not in trouble as other men ; neither are plagued as other men,” and “whose eyes stand out with fatness, and who have more than heart could wish.” God has poured the blessings of his providence into the bosoms of the ungodly, in the largest profusion. But none of these things could ever make them contented. The more he has given them, the more they have wanted, and the less they have been satisfied. Though he has given silver to those who have loved silver, yet they have never been satisfied with silver. Though he has given abundance to those who love abundance, yet they have never been satisfied with increase. Though he has clothed some with silk and purple, raised them to royal
dignity, and put crowns of gold and diamonds on their heads, yet they have never been satisfied with their elevated stations. It appears from the experience of ages, that it is impossible to satisfy the desires of the ungodly. Their desires are selfish desires, and these are so unlimited and discordant, that they never can be satisfied. All who are in the state of nature, and destitute of real godliness, know by their own experience, that they never have found true contentment in any situation in which they have been placed, nor in the possession of any worldly good. They may have restrained their hopes and expectations from the world, but they have never given up their worldly desires. These continue to disturb their peace, and prevent all true contentment. The whole world of the ungodly are continually murmuring and repining under all the great and innumerable external favors and blessings, that God is constantly pouring down upon them in his providence.
3. If godliness be so gainful as we have heard, then none can be godly too soon. Almost all who enjoy religious instructions, whether private or public, or both, seriously intend to become godly before they die and go into eternity. They know that as they brought nothing into the world, so they can carry nothing out of it. They know that the fashion of this world passes away, and they are passing away with it. And they know enough about their future state to be convinced that they must become godly in order to be happy there. But they imagine that they can be much more happy here, without godliness than with it. They imagine that godliness will be a great loss, instead of great gain, while they are in health and prosperity. So the child thinks. So the youth thinks. So the man of the world thinks. And so every sinner thinks. They hope to gain instead of losing, by living without God in the world, as long as they can with safety. But this is a most egregious mistake, if godliness be profitable unto all things, and gains the happiness of both this world, and of the world
And this is certainly true, if godliness produces real contentment, which the enjoyments of the world never did, and never can produce. Contentment is the supreme and ultimate end which all the ungodly are seeking and hoping to find in the things of the world; but if they should gain the whole world, the whole world could not give them contentment. Those who have obtained the most wealth, the most power, the most magnificence and affluence, have told us from their own experience, that these things, instead of yielding true contentment, are a fruitful source of disappointment and vexation of spirit. This is agreeable to the experience of all the ungodly. Ask any ungodly man whether he has ever found contentment, and he will answer no. But ask any godly person,
rich or poor, high or low, whether he has ever found contentment, and he will answer that he has found it in the enjoyment of God, and not in the things of the world. If we may give credit to the testimony of both the godly and ungodly, we must believe that godliness is the only source of contentment, and that none can become godly too soon for their own present as well as future happiness. As soon as they become godly, and reconciled to the character and government of God, they will find the treasure hidden in the field, and the pearl of great price, which will make them both rich and happy. “For the
6 Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."
4. If godliness be so gainful as we have heard ; then there is no danger of being too godly. The men of the world often complain of the children of light, for being too godly, and paying too much regard to the glory of God, and the interests of his kingdom. They imagine they spend too much time in religious services, expose themselves too much in attending public worship at all seasons, and deny themselves too much for the promotion of the cause of Christ. They imagine they waste their health and their time, and really injure their interests, by giving God too much of their hearts and lives. They think they rather lose, than gain, by being too godly. But wisdom is justified of her children. The godly are the only men who display true wisdom, in their views, and feelings, and conduct. And the more godly any are, the more practical wisdom they exhibit before the eyes of the unwise and ungodly world. Though the godly may sometimes feel and express a zeal which is not according to knowledge, and which they have reason to regret, yet no godly person ever regretted being too godly. When pious persons review their conduct at the end of a day, or at the end of a year, or especially at the end of life, they always regret their barrenness and unfruitfulness in the service of God, and lament their having had too little, and not too much religion. And they certainly have reason to lament this, if godliness be great gain. Were Abraham, or Moses, or Job, or Paul, too godly? Were the friends and followers of Christ, when he was on earth, too godly? Have any christians since, been too godly? Or have they ever regretted having too much godly contentment, whether in prosperity or adversity ? So far from this, all christians have lamented their great proneness to murmur and complain, both in prosperity and adversity, which has been owing to their want of godly contentment. 5. If godliness be so gainful as has been represented, then the