Of course, godliness with contentment is great gain.
I. THE GAIN OF GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT. "But godliness with contentment is great gain."
1. Godliness is a gain in itself, because it has "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." Godly men come into happy and thriving circumstances, for they are taught to pursue their callings with due industry, foresight, and perseverance.
2. Godliness, allied to contentment, is great gain.
(1) This does not mean that contentment is a condition necessary to the gainful character of godliness, but is rather an effect of godliness and part of its substantial gain. It is a calm and sedate temper of mind about worldly interests. It is God's wisdom and will not to give to all men alike, but the contented mind is not disquieted by this fact.
(2) The godly man is content with what he possesses; submits meekly to God's will, and bears patiently the adverse dispensations of his providence. The godly heart is freed from the thirst for perishing treasures, because it possesses treasures of a higher and more enduring character.
II. THE REASON FOR THIS SENTIMENT. "For we brought nothing into the world, because neither are we able to take anything out of it."
1. We are appointed by God to come naked into the world. We may be born heirs to vast possessions, but they do not become ours till we are actually born. Rich and poor alike bring nothing into the world.
2. This fact is a reason for the statement that we can carry nothing out of the world. It is between birth and death we can hold our wealth. The rich man cannot carry his estates with him into the grave. He will have no need of them in the next life.
3. There could be no contentment if we could take anything with us at death, because in that case the future would be dependent upon the present.
4. The lesson to be learned from these facts is that we ought not eagerly to grasp such essentially earthly and transitory treasures.
III. THE TRUE WISDOM OF CONTENTMENT. "But if we have food and raiment, with these let us be satisfied." These are what Jacob desired, Agur prayed for, and Christ taught his disciples to make the subject of daily supplication. The contented godly have these gifts along with God's blessing. The Lord does not encourage his people to enlarge their desires inordinately. - T.C.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.I. SEEK THE BLESSEDNESS OF GODLY CONTENTMENT.
1. No doubt contentment apart from godliness is a good thing. Seneca and , and other pagan philosophers, were never tired of singing its praises; and , when he walked through the streets of Athens, and saw around him the evidences of wealth, art, and culture, exclaimed, "How many things there are which I can do without."(1) To some this feeling of contentment with their present condition seems constitutional. There are men and women who have an easy-going disposition, which makes the best of everything.(2) Others again are content, not so much from happy temperament, as from the fact that the lines have fallen unto them in pleasant places, and they have a goodly heritage. Belonging to the rich and leisured classes, they have no temptation to win a position, or to make money, by unworthy means, for these are already theirs without effort.
2. It is not contentment, however, which is inculcated here so much as "godliness with contentment." Many a man has been content without being godly, who might have been saved had his content been disturbed and destroyed.
II. ENTERTAIN A LOWLY ESTIMATE OF YOURSELVES. "We brought nothing into this world." Of all God's creatures, the human child is most helpless, most dependent upon kindly care; and one of the lessons taught by the coming of an infant into the home is the lesson of human dependence. What have we, indeed, through life that we did not receive? The very powers which enable us to win position or wealth are as much Divine gifts as the wealth itself. No one here has reason for boasting or pride, but only for reverent gratitude to Him who has crowned us with loving-kindness and with tender mercy.
III. ESTIMATE JUSTLY THE VALUE OF EARTHLY THINGS. However precious worldly things may seem, it is certain "we can carry nothing out" of the world when we leave it. It is a narrow bed which will form the last resting-place even for the owner of a province or the ruler of a nation.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
(E. Garbett, M. A.)I. WHAT IS MEANT IN SCRIPTURE BY "GODLINESS"? It frequently means the gospel. As in this same first Epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:16), "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness." In other passages godliness means, as the word actually means in the old Saxon, Godlikeness, or a likeness to God; because the object of the revelation of Christ in the gospel is to show us the character of God in the person of a man, and thereby set us a pattern for us to copy — and by offering grace to all, by which they may be able to copy that pattern, to make them Godlike by making them like Christ.
II. NOW THE EFFECT OF THIS GODLINESS IS IN THE TEXT STATED TO BE "CONTENTMENT" — "godliness with contentment" — that is, religion with the contentment which it always brings forth. Let us now, in examining this part of our subject, endeavour to learn how true religion produces contentment.
1. It teaches us to know God. The ideas which men are able to form of God's character, by observing His works, and without the help of revelation, are not such as to produce contentment. His works show the extent of His power; and the order and harmony of them, His own knowledge and perfection. But to know this will not produce contentment. We must know God's moral character for this. Now the Bible reveals God to us as a God whose name is "Love"; as a God whose goodness and mercy are as great as His power and wisdom. Thus the Bible reveals the Eternal God as the kindest friend of sinful man. And when this, which the Word of God thus discovers, is believed in the heart, then contentment must be produced, and will increase as the knowledge of God's character and the assurance of His love increase. For the Christian thus reasons: Is God all-wise? then surely He knows what is best for me. Is He as good as He is wise? then surely He will give what is best for me.
2. But, secondly, the Scripture teaches us to know ourselves, and thus leads us to contentment. Discontent always springs from pride and an overweening conceit of our own value and excellence. We are all by nature high-minded, and esteem ourselves at more than we are worth. Thus, true religion, by humbling a man, tends to produce contentment, for it shows him and makes him feel that he deserves nothing, so that every thing he has is more than he deserves; since he who values himself at nothing will count everything he receives to be above his value, and therefore a call on him for gratitude. And this contentment, the blessed fruit of godliness, were it spread through the world, were it growing in every heart, would set the foundations of the earth in course again, and bring into order what sin has thrown into confusion. It would teach men to keep to their place and to fulfil its duties. It would cut up all covetousness by the root, while it would give no check to honest industry and proper care to provide for our own household. It would put an end to that diseased love of change, and restless, excited spirit, which is continually agitating the mind of those who are in the world as the winds ruffle the unstable ocean.
(W. W. Champneys, M. A.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Dictionary of Illustrations.Mahmoud, the first Mohammedan conqueror who entered India, when a mortal disease was consuming him, ordered all his costly apparel, and his vessels of silver and gold, and his pearls and precious stones, to be displayed before him. In the royal residence at Ghuznee, which he called the Palace of Felicity, he drew from this display, wherewith he had formerly gratified the pride of his eye, a mournful lesson, and wept like a child. "What toils," said he, "what dangers, what fatigues, both of body and mind, bays I endured for the sake of acquiring these treasures, and what cares in preserving them! and now I am about to die and leave them."
(Dictionary of Illustrations.)I. I AM TO EXPLAIN GODLINESS. This consists in two things.
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.
2. Godliness implies not only a godly heart, but a godly life. All men will live according to their hearts.(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.(2) The godly not only devote themselves to God, but pay a sincere and habitual obedience to the intimations of His will.
II. THAT THIS GODLINESS WILL PRODUCE CONTENTMENT.
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.
2. The godly are sensible that God always treats them according to their prayers, which reconciles them to the Divine dispensations towards them.
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.
III. THAT GODLY CONTENTMENT WILL PRODUCE GREAT GAIN; or rather, that godliness with contentment is great gain.
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 them complete contentment. The contented person is in just such a situation as He, all things considered, desires to be in.
2. That those who possess godly contentment, gain not only this world, but the world to come. Contentment here prepares them for contentment there. Godliness here prepares them to enjoy godliness there.Improvement:
1. If godliness produces contentment, then those have reason to doubt of the sincerity of their religion who do not derive contentment from it.
2. If godliness produces contentment, then none can be contented who are destitute of godliness.
3. If godliness be so gainful as we have heard, then none can be godly too soon.
4. If godliness be so gainful as we have heard, then there is no danger of being too godly.
5. If godliness be so gainful as has been represented, then the godly have good reason to pity the ungodly.
6. If godliness be so gainful as has been represented, then the godly ought to do all they can to lead others to be godly. Godliness is benevolence, and benevolence wishes well to all mankind.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)We brought nothing into the world. —
The Homilist.There is a sense in which the text is true, and there is a sense in which it is not true.
I. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS TRUE. It is true that we can carry nothing of our material possessions out of the world. We must leave behind our homes, our business, our property, our very bodies. This is —
1. A fact the most obvious.
2. A fact the most practically disregarded.
II. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS NOT TRUE. There are certain things which we did not bring with us, but which we shall carry away with us.
1. Our memories. We came without recollections, we shall carry thousands away.
2. Our responsibilities. We came without responsibilities, we shall carry loads away.
3. Our characters. We came without a character, we shall carry one away.
4. Our true friendships. We came without true friendships, we shall carry many away.
5. Our true sources of spiritual joy. Powers of holy meditation, hopes of approaching good, communion with the Infinite Father, etc., and all these we shall carry away with us.
(The Homilist.)I. CONSIDER MAN'S DEPENDENCE AND MORTALITY. Everything that we possess and enjoy is not so much a gift as a loan. Strength to labour, and the reward of our labour, all worldly possessions and happiness, are merely for a time. They are only lent to us during our life, to be returned at our death. We often hear of a man having only a life interest in certain property. But who has more than a life interest in any worldly possessions? But, as the text reminds us, we shall have to go out of this world.
II. CONSIDER MAN'S MORAL AND SPIRITUAL NATURE, AND CONSEQUENT ACCOUNTABILITY. We brought much with us into this world, and we shall carry more out.
1. We brought a spiritual nature with us into this world, or, rather, we came into this world spiritual beings. Man is not a body, but a spirit. We have bodies, we are spirits. The universal consciousness of man testifies to the fact that he possesses a life higher than that of the brutes. Into the heavenly kingdom there cannot enter anything that defileth. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
2. We brought a moral nature with us into this world, or, to speak more correctly, we came into this world moral beings. Things affect us, not merely as pleasurable or painful, but as right or wrong.
3. We shall carry out of this world what we did not bring with us into the world. We must all carry with us the record of our life.
4. Besides the record of our life, which we must carry with us out of the world, we shall be blessed or condemned for what we leave behind us in the world. All of us will leave behind an influence which will live long after we are forgotten.
(A. F. Joscelyne, B. A.)
Having food and raimentI. Let us consider THE NECESSITIES OF NATURE. These are few, and simple, and easily satisfied. For we should distinguish between real and artificial wants. In reference to happiness, a man only has what he can use. If he possesses a thousand pounds which he cannot use, it matters not, as to the benefit he derives from it, whether it be in his coffer or in the bowels of the earth.
II. We should do well to consider THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE CREATURE. When we see men dissatisfied with what they have, and all anxiety and exertion to amass an abundance of this "world's goods," we should imagine that there was a superlative excellency in these things, and that our happiness absolutely depended upon them. Happiness is an eternal thing. "A good man shall be satisfied from himself."
III. To induce you to be satisfied with such things as you have, consider Your UNWORTHINESS. You murmur because you have not more — but should you not be thankful for what you have? If a man owes you a debt, you ought to have your demand; and if you do not receive the whole, you may justly complain. But it is otherwise with a beggar who asks alms. How much more therefore are we bound to say, with Jacob, " I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies"! Cease complaining, Christian.
IV. Observe WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY IN POSSESSION OR IN REVERSION. When I view the Christian — when I see him blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places — when I see him a son of God, an heir of immortality — loved with an infinite love; redeemed by the blood of the everlasting covenant; called out of darkness into marvellous light. Oh why do not these blessings absorb us! Once they did. When we were first induced to seek them-we thought of nothing else. We then said, If I succeed and obtain these — how willingly can I leave everything else!
V. Consider THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. Suppose now a voice from heaven were to assure you that a little was best for you. You answer, I would try to acquiesce. And cannot God speak by actions as well as words?
VI. Consider HOW MUCH SAFER YOU ARE WITH LITTLE THAN WITH MUCH. Honey does not more powerfully attract bees than affluence generates temptations. Did you never see men ruined by prosperity? Have you duly considered the duties as well as snares of a prosperous condition? "Where much is given, much will be required."
VII. Consider THE BREVITY OF YOUR CONTINUANCE UPON EARTH, WHERE ALONE YOU WILL NEED ANY OF THESE THINGS. "What is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away!" And how much of this fleeting period is already consumed! There may be but a step between you and death. Now if time be short, your trouble cannot be long. Were you ever so prosperous, it is only the sunshine of a day — the evening shades are beginning to spread, and will hide all your glories from your view. Read the verse before the text: "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."
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