“Be content with such things as you have,” saith the Apostle, “for godliness, with contentment, is great gain.” But how shall I be content? says Fervidus. I have a bad wife, a cross neighbour, and disobedient children; I have a dear farm, the times are bad, and I cannot make the two ends of the year to meet; I meet with crosses and losses, and no man has ever met with greater cause of complaint than I have. This is a miserable world, and there is nothing to be found here but vanity and vexation of spirit.
Have you done, Fervidus? You ask how you can be contentÂ—your wife, your children, your neighbour offend you. But do you offend them? There is one thing can conquer a bad wife and a bad neighbourÂ—patience and the Word of God. Your children are disobedient, but perhaps you taught them to be so when young. But can you say you do everything in your power to reclaim your wife and your neighbour, and do you bring up your children in the fear of God? If not, Fervidus, you are to blame. But perhaps you attempt to perform your duty, and yet you cannot reclaim them. If so, you have your duty yet to learn. Would you wish to hear your duty, and the motive to perform it? Contentment consists in bearing cheerfully what it pleases God to lay upon us in the course of His providence, as this is His revealed will to us in the present case. But you askÂ—Is it the will of God that you should bear the intemperate tongue of your wife, the peevish ill-natured language of your neighbour, the disobedience of your children? Besides, you have contracted debts to pay your rents, and you are afraid you cannot pay them, and that your creditors and the world in general will look upon you as dishonest. Can it be the will of God that you should be content in such a dismal situation? Hear the language of your Saviour, FervidusÂ—Take up your cross. What is the design of the cross? To subdue our corrupt passions, and to wean us from our evil habits. You are proud and passionate; nay, do not be angry, FervidusÂ—this is the sin that easily besets you. The providence of God means to bring down your pride, and instead of submitting as you ought, you rebel and refuse. When your wife scolds, you rage;
when your neighbour is peevish, you are passionate. Instead of this you ought to pray to God to give you patience to bear these crosses with becoming fortitude. The language of that dispensation isÂ—Be clothed with humility. The suspicion your creditors have that you are dishonest, is calculated to conquer your pride also. This is your cross, and you ought to bear it; and if you take every thing as proceeding from God, it will do you good in the latter end.
The motives to contentmentÂ—First, your lot is carved out to you with unerring wisdom. Be it so that your present lot is the result of your own follyÂ—what then? the permission of such folly is
calculated to your good if you be not wanting to yourself. As you did not consult God by prayer before you made your choice, what remains for you now is to bear the consequences of your own follyÂ—bear it with patience, and he can and will bring good out of your evil. Do not say that another lot had been better for you. Are you angry at God that He did not work a miracle to prevent your making a bad choice? As he has permitted you to go forward in your own way till your folly has corrected you, take with patience the chastisement of your sins. You say that another lot had been better for you. Be it so; yet you cannot alter it now to the betterÂ—therefore bear it. Do not say that it had been better for you to have as much money and credit as would set you above the world. This is your errorÂ—He sees what is best for youÂ—if He has said that you will not be rich, all your anxiety and all your endeavours cannot make you soÂ—be thankful for such things as you have. And if you have the divine blessing, a little that a good man has is better than the treasures of the wicked.
Another and a greater motive to contentment is, that submission and resignation to the Divine will is the shortest road to happiness. If our lot be never so hard, this can make us cheerful and well pleased under it. It may likewise be a means to remove our trouble, whatever it be. The design of every cross is to cure us of some evil temper; when that is removed, the trouble will be removed also. And resignation will extract good out of evil; it is like the philosopher’s stone, it can convert every substance into gold.
It is said of a certain heathen king that he obtained the gift that whatever he touched might become gold. Contentment can do moreÂ—it can convert our crosses and what we look upon as curses, into the greatest blessings. And in order to obtain this precious blessing, let us seek the love of God in our souls. This will fill up every vacancy in our heart. No creature, however excellent, can do this. A creature has but a drop of sweetness: but He has the fountain of life. Let us endeavour to say with the PsalmistÂ—”All my springs are in Thee”Â—springs of joy, of bliss, of complete happiness are only to be found in Him.
Lachlan Mackenzie 1754-1819