Vital Godliness: A Treatise on
Experimental and Practical Piety
By William S. Plumer
"I have learned to be content in whatever
circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have
a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being
content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I
am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For
we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can't carry anything
out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that." (1
Our libraries abound with treatises on contentment. Some
of them are written with great ability. Nor has there ever been much formal
disputation among writers on morals, respecting the obligation and
excellence of the attainment of this wonderful virtue of contentment. It
produces results so happy, and is enforced by so many urgent reasons, that a
man must be particularly blinded before he can regard discontent as
either lawful or only slightly criminal. The difficulty therefore is not so
much in the lack of good rules and strong reasons for guiding us into a
state of contentment—as in the deep-rooted aversion of our hearts to a
duty which requires our submission to the will of God. We know
better than we do. Seeing the right—we pursue the wrong. We smile at
the folly, or frown at the wickedness of discontent in others—and then
follow their example.
But what is contentment; and how may it be known
from evil states of mind somewhat resembling it? Contentment is not
carelessness or extravagance. It is not dullness of sensibility. It is
the disposition of mind in which we rest satisfied with the will of God
respecting our temporal affairs, without hard thoughts or hard speeches
concerning his allotments, and without any sinful desire for a change.
It submissively receives what is given. It thankfully enjoys present
mercies. It leaves the future in the hand of unerring wisdom. Nor is there
anything in true contentment to make men satisfied with the present world,
as a portion or as a permanent abode. The most contented person may long for
the day when Christ shall call him home. He may, like Paul, be in a strait
between two, not knowing whether to desire to abide in the flesh for the
sake of others, or to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better. God
never required any man to be willing to live here forever.
Nor is there anything stoical in contentment. It is not
bluntness of feeling. True piety does not make men dream that a prison is a
palace, nor make them reckless of their own happiness. Refined sensibility
is promoted by true religion.
We may form some correct idea of contentment by
considering its opposites. Of these, one
of the most prominent is ENVY. There is
not a more vile, nor a more violent passion than envy. It is full of deadly
malice. When a man's heart grows jealous of the superior success of others,
and hates them on that account—he is not far from ruin. Evans says, "Envy is
an infallible mark of discontent. Duty to God, and charity to our neighbor,
would induce us to take pleasure in the welfare of others, whether we
immediately share in its benefits or not." If your eye is envious towards
your neighbor because God is good to him, it is proof that your real quarrel
is with Providence. This is the more inexcusable, because God has expressly
informed us that the 'men of the world' have their portion in this life. He
has provided for his spiritual children a portion better than was ever
enjoyed on earth by any man, even by Adam before his fall. And if God should
give to one of his children more than he gives to you, has he not a right to
do what he desires, with what belongs to him? Contentment is also opposed to
corroding care about our worldly condition. The command of the New Testament
is, "Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Phil. 4:6.
Similar to this is the exhortation, "Cast all your cares upon him—for he
cares for you." 1 Pet. 5:7. To the same purpose spoke our Lord: "Do not be
anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet
for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and
the body than clothing?" Matt. 6:25.
It is of the greatest importance to our peace and
usefulness, that we settle it in our minds that all fretting care about
the things of this life is both a sin and a folly. It is to these
immoderate cares that our Lord refers when he says, "Take heed to
yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and
drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you
unawares." Luke 21:34. See a man eager after the things of time, behold one
in great peril—peril heightened by his success. Our hearts are very
deceitful. Jonah may be too much taken up with his gourd, as well as Solomon
with his vast public works.
Contentment is opposed to
COVETOUSNESS. "There are two words in the Greek Testament which
may be rendered covetousness. The one literally signifies the love of money;
the other a desire of more, in Eph. 4:19 rendered greediness. These two
senses are co-existent, for no man desires more of that which he does not
love; and as he that loves silver cannot be satisfied with the silver which
he already possesses, he will of course desire more.
To both of these contentment is the opposite. It does not
inordinately love what it has—nor is greedy for more. So says the Scripture:
"Let your life, your behavior—be without covetousness, and be content with
such things as you have." ieb. 15:5. "Having food and clothing, let us be
therewith content." 1 Tim. 6:8. What a man parched with the thirst of cancer
needs, is not more water, but more health. It is as impossible to remove the
restlessness of a covetous mind by heaping wealth upon it, as to extinguish
fire by pouring oil upon it. It is a great thing to learn that "a man's
life's consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses." Luke
12:15. So that "if a man is not content in that state he is in, he will not
be content in any state he would be in."
Evans says, "We see people arriving at one enjoyment
after another, which once seemed the top of their ambition; and yet so far
from contentment, that their desires grow faster than their substance, and
they are as eager to improve a good estate when they are become masters of
it, as if they were still drudging for food and clothing." "Beware of
Contentment is also the opposite of
PRIDE. "Humility is the mother of contentment." "Those who
realize that they deserve nothing, will be content with anything." When
we become lifted up with pride, and think we deserve something good at God's
hands, it is impossible to satisfy us. But with the humble is wisdom,
quietness, gentleness, and contentment. He who expects nothing, because he
deserves nothing—is sure to be satisfied with the treatment he receives at
God's hands. So that "the little that a righteous man has, is better than
the riches of many wicked;" for "the wicked, through the pride of his
countenance, will not seek after God."
The proud man is like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.
He is turbulent and fiery. He alienates friends; he makes enemies. He has
much trouble and sorrow—where the humble man passes quietly along. Pride and
contentment do not go together. Neither do contentment and unholy ambition
at all agree. "Are you seeking great things for yourself? Seek them not!"
Our actual needs are not many; but the ambitious create a
thousand desires and demands, which are hard, if not impossible to meet. If
men are bent on gratifying the strong desires of a wicked ambition, it will
require more resources than any mortal possesses to meet the half of them.
If a wise man cannot bring his condition to his desires—he will honestly
endeavor to bring his desires to his condition. But this the ambitious will
not do. He will be content with nothing gained, because each elevation
widens his horizon, and gives him a view of something else which he greatly
longs for, and so he is tossed from vanity to vanity—a stranger to
solid peace. Are you ambitious for the things of this world? then you are
your own tormentor!
Contentment is opposed to
MURMURINGS and repinings against God's providence; and dwells
with her sisters—gratitude, submission and resignation. Like Hezekiah, she
exclaims concerning all God's orderings, "Good is the word of the Lord." Isa.
39:8. This is a great point. If you can say nothing clearly to the glory of
God, it is wise to be silent and not open your mouth. Psalm 38:13; 39:2.
Contentment is also opposed to
DISTRUST of God, and to despondency respecting the orderings of
his providence. Instead of waiting on the Lord, and relying on him for
strength of heart, how many forebode ill from all that occurs to them, or is
anticipated by them. They have little if any cheerfulness. Their souls are
never as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever.
Apprehension takes the place of confidence. True contentment will break up
this state of things. It will settle, confirm, and establish the soul.
The proper FRUITS of contentment
are many, pleasant, and easily discerned.
1. Contentment begets CHEERFULNESS and THANKFULNESS of
speech. He who is always singing dirges, and has no songs of
praise; he who is perpetually filling the ear of friendship with his
complaints, and has nothing to say of loving-kindness, is not blessed with
Contentment tells a different tale. It does not charge
God foolishly. If it sings of judgment, it sings also of mercy.
2. True contentment makes men conscientious and exact in
piously performing their DUTIES to all around them. They trust in
the Lord, and do good. They do good to all men, especially to the household
of faith. If God takes away one friend, they will endeavor more meekly and
assiduously to render all that is due to those who remain. If God takes half
one's worldly goods, the remaining portion is more than ever conscientiously
employed for his glory. If such cannot do as they wish, they will do as
3. The truly contented will not resort to wicked or to
doubtful expedients for relieving their own needs and distresses.
They had rather suffer wrong—than do wrong. To them, poverty is not
so bad—as ill-gotten wealth. They prefer to endure a hard lot—rather than to
drive a hard bargain. Stealing, cheating, wild speculation, or any fraud—is
to them worse than poverty. They go not down to Egypt nor over to Assyria
for help, when they have been told to trust in Jehovah alone. They are
willing to be rid of poverty or straits—but not at the expense of a good
4. If the truly contented have been been wronged by
others in any way—they are not malignant, but benevolent towards them.
They look upon their enemies as God's hand and God's sword, the rod
of his anger, the scourge of his people. Their enemies may be violent and
unreasonable, and so wholly culpable—but the contented Christian does not
forget who has said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." Everything is
committed to God's unerring wisdom and eternal love.
The MATTERS of discontent
are chiefly such as relate to wealth, honor, or pleasure. These
are the objects of both lawful and unlawful care and desire. It is quite
reasonable that we should be contented in regard to each of them.
1. As to WEALTH. The judgment of the sober,
and especially of the wise and godly of all ages, might reasonably be
expected to have some influence over us to check our discontent on this
point. Sages and saints, teachers from earth and teachers sent from God have
united in bearing a solemn testimony against the love of money, and in favor
of contentment with our lot. Hear their words.
Socrates: "Content is natural wealth." Democritus: "If
you do not desire much, a little will seem to you an abundance." Horace:
"Care and thirst for more, attend a growing fortune." Woolstoncraft: "The
middle rank contains most virtue and abilities." Clarkson: "There is no
greater calamity than that of leaving children an affluent inheritance."
Dymond: "The most rational, the wisest, the best portion of mankind, belong
to the class who possess neither poverty nor riches." Wilberforce: "A much
looser code of morals commonly prevails among the rich than in the lower and
middling orders of society." Lord Bacon: "As baggage is to an army, so are
riches to virtue. It hinders the march, yes, and the care of it sometimes
loses or disturbs the victory." Hannah More: "It is to be feared that the
general tendency of rank, and especially of riches, is to withdraw the heart
from spiritual exercises." Mason: "To have a portion in the world is a
mercy; but to have the world for a portion is a misery." "We must answer for
our riches; but our riches cannot answer for us." "If the world be our
portion here—hell will be our portion hereafter." Johnson:
"Wealth heaped on wealth—neither truth nor safety buys,
The dangers gather—as the treasures rise."
When his vast estates were confiscated for his adherence
to God's truth, the Marquis of Vico said, "Their gold and silver perish with
them, who count all the wealth of the world worth one hour's communion with
Christ." Pollok: "Gold many hunted, sweat and bled for—wasting all the
nights, and laboring all the days. And what was this allurement, do you ask?
Some dust dug from the bowels of the earth—which, being cast into the fire,
came out a shining thing—which fools admired, and called a god—and in devout
manner before it kneeled—and on its altar sacrificed ease, peace, truth,
faith, integrity, good conscience, friends, love, charity, benevolence."
Bunyan: "Nothing more hinders a soul from coming to
Christ than a vain love of the world; and until a soul is freed from it, it
can never have a true love for God." Beveridge: "There is one piece of folly
which all mankind are naturally guilty of, and that is desire of
riches—whereby men love and long for fine houses and lands, and silver and
gold, and such like things. Just as we may have sometimes seen an idiot
pleasing himself with having his pocket full of stones or dirt; or rather,
as deranged people desire swords or such like weapons, whereby to destroy
themselves. Just so, to others who have lost their senses and the right use
of their reason, nothing will serve them but a great deal of wealth—however
they come by it, and therefore they go through a thousand temptations and
dangers to get it. And when they have got it, what then? Then they are in a
thousand times worse condition than they were before!"
Richard Baxter shows the malignity of the sin of
worldliness, in several particulars.
1. It is a deliberate and intentional sin.
2. It is a sin against our chief interest.
3. It is idolatry.
4. It is contempt of heaven. Eternal glory is
neglected—and a miserable world preferred.
5. It shows that unbelief prevails in the heart.
6. It is a debasing of the soul of man.
7. It perverts and debases the very drift of a man's
8. It is a perverting of God's creatures to an end and
use clean contrary to that which they were made and given for."
John Owen: "Learn to be contented with your lot. Our wise
God gave you exactly what is commensurate for your good. Had He known that a
foot's breadth more had been needful, you would have had it." Thomas Scott:
"An inordinate desire for increasing riches, however obtained, is idolatry,
and totally inconsistent with the life of faith." Arndt: "Riches are like a
stream, which soon flows to a person, and may also soon flow away." Home:
"Of all things here below, wealth is that on which poor deluded man is
chiefly tempted, even to the loss of life, to place his confidence; and when
riches increase, it proves a hard task for the human heart to keep its
affections sufficiently detached from them."
Such are the views of some of the wisest poets,
philosophers, statesmen, nobles, and divines, who have warned us of the
folly of loving the world. These men spoke from their natural sense, or were
guided by pious principle; but they were all uninspired. When we open the
oracles of God, they speak in a manner still more clear and solemn.
King David, who had personally tried both humble life and
great wealth, said, "The little that a righteous man has, is better than the
treasures of many wicked." "If riches increase, do not set your heart upon
them." Like unto his, is the testimony of his son. Solomon says, "He who is
greedy for gain, troubles his own house." "Riches do not profit in the day
of wrath." "He who trusts in his riches shall fall." "There is that makes
himself rich, yet has nothing: there is that makes himself poor, yet has
great riches." "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."
"Labor not to be rich: for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly
away as an eagle towards heaven." "He who makes haste to be rich shall not
be innocent." Ezekiel says, "Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom:
she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security,
but didn't support the poor and needy." Agur: "Two things I ask of you; deny
them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me
neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the Lord?" or lest I be poor
and steal and profane the name of my God."
John: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in
the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
James: "Go now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall
come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness
against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped
treasure together for the last days." Paul: "those who will be rich fall
into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which
drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of
all evil; which while some coveted after, they have pierced themselves
through with many sorrows." "Charge those who are rich in this world, that
they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living
God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they
be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to give; laying up for
themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay
hold on eternal life."
But of all the teachers ever sent by God to men, his dear
Son spoke the most fully and clearly respecting riches. Jesus Christ said,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." "Lay not up for yourselves
treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break
through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where
neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor
steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." "You
cannot serve God and mammon." "Seek first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." "Take heed,
and beware of covetousness." "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What
shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the
Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that
you need them all." "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye
than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom. of God." "make friends for
yourselves with worldly wealth, so that when it gives out, you will be
welcomed in the eternal home. If you have not been faithful in the
unrighteous mammon, who will commit to you the true riches?" "The cares of
this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word." "He lifted up
his eyes to his disciples, and said, "Blessed are you who are poor, for
yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be
filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you
when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw
out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day, and
leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers
did the same thing to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich! For you
have received your consolation. Woe to you, you who are full now, for you
will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep."
Thus spoke the Messiah, the one Mediator between God and
man. Shall not we be wiser for all these instructions? The Author of our
religion was the only sinless being ever born of woman. He lived and died in
poverty. He knows, and he has felt, the humiliation of dependence. God has
greatly honored virtuous poverty in every age—as the history of
science, of literature, of philosophy, of poetry, and of piety in every
country shows. He takes the poor from the ash-heap, and sets him among
princes. Though poverty is no virtue, yet most of the striking examples of
virtue have been from humble life. POVERTY brought on by
indolence, extravagance or waste is a disgrace, because it is a punishment!
But WEALTH is the great corrupter of all who have it—who do not
have extraordinary grace.
Only a few of our race live and labor, that they may have
the means of doing good to others. This is scriptural: "The thief must no
longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he
has something to share with anyone in need." One of the calmest and
profoundest writers on political economy some years ago said, "I suppose the
British and Foreign Bible Society, during the twenty or thirty years that it
has existed, has done more direct good in the world—has had a greater effect
in improving the condition of the human race—than all the measures which
have been directed to the same ends by all the prime ministers of Europe
during a century." Oh that men everywhere were moved by that insatiable
benevolence which, not contented with reigning in the dispensation of
happiness during the contracted term of human life, or on the narrow theater
of its own vicinage—strains with all the graspings and reachings of a
vivacious mind to extend the dominion of its bounty beyond the limits of one
country or of one generation. Were such the temper of all men, we would have
no need of preaching sermons to check the rapacity, or moderate the desires,
of each succeeding generation, and bring human wishes within the limits of a
holy contentment. People devoted to doing good are commonly a cheerful and
happy class of people.
2. As to honor, rank, standing in the world,
much needs not be said, to make a wise man more contented with his lot. For
what is more fickle than popular applause? The man whose name is today
mingled with shouts of welcome, is tomorrow met with hisses and hootings.
The very crowd that spread branches in the road, and cried, "Hosanna,
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," as Jesus entered Jerusalem
in the triumph which prophecy had decreed to him, did in three days
vociferate, "Away with this fellow! Crucify him, crucify him!" The very city
that murdered the prophets also built their sepulchers.
It is the habit of popular opinion to shift incessantly.
Men are constant only in fickleness. But even if popular favor was perfectly
settled—what is it but a puff of wind? What good can it do any man? If the
praise of others is undeserved, it is but flattery, and may lure us
to self-conceit and ruin. If the praise is merited and just, we are
apt to know our own virtues soon enough, without having them trumpeted by
others. Besides, the best men that ever lived, have had their names cast out
as evil—and have been far more frequently under the loathing, than under the
smile of their generation. In many cases, they have died amid the
execrations of their contemporaries.
He has the best name who gets the "white stone with a new
name written on it. No one will know that name except the one who is given
the stone." How often men are warned not to seek the favor of the world. In
one of the great contests in England for a seat in parliament, one of the
candidates suddenly died. Burke, the survivor, on that occasion uttered a
sentence which has become like one of our proverbs: "What shadows we
are—and what shadows we pursue!"
3. But many are not content, because they have so few
worldly pleasures. Do they not know that all pleasure but that
which springs from lawful sources, leaves a sting behind? Communion with God
has its pleasures, which do not cloy the appetite. "She who lives in
pleasure is dead while she lives." It is commonly the case, that the more
worldly pleasure—the less happiness there is. The more pleasure, the more
sin also. The more pleasure, the more dreadful the last account. Bunyan
says, "The epicure, who delights in the dainties of this world, little
thinks that these very creatures will one day witness against him." The
pleasures of sin are but for a season, and that season so short. The
pleasures of the table are often followed by dreadful forms of disease and
anguish. The pleasures of sense are wholly insufficient to give permanent
enjoyment. "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing."
Contentment is a most reasonable duty. "Come now, you who
say, "Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a
year there and do business and make a profit." You don't even know what
tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke
that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, "If
the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." But as it is, you boast
in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." (James 4:13-16) It is best
that you are not able to determine and control your affairs. Your health,
ease, success, wealth, reputation, and enjoyment deeply concern you; but are
you fit to wisely direct them? If God should give you your way—would you be
satisfied? Would not your desires soon be drowned in cares and troubles and
sorrows? Is it best for you, to have uninterrupted health? Without some
bodily pain, you might forget that you were mortal. It would be more painful
to a truly pious man to say when, how long, and how severely he should be
sick, than it would be to be sick all his life.
Wealthier circumstances than you now have, might be your
downfall. More ease might subject you to dreadful infirmities or diseases.
Make not your lot worse by sinful repining! You have not shown wisdom
sufficient to direct any of your own affairs. It is a mercy to us all that
"it is not in man that walks, to direct his steps." Human knowledge is
ignorance; human prudence folly; human strength weakness; human virtue a
slender reed. God may cross your desires without doing you any
injustice. Your will is the will of a sinner. Sometimes God has tried you by
gratifying your desires for something new, something different. The result
has not generally been favorable. "He gave them a king in his anger, and
took him away in his wrath." You have often done worse when full, than when
empty. "The Lord's people grew rich, but rebellious; they were fat and
stuffed with food. They abandoned God their Creator and rejected their
mighty savior." Good Hezekiah greatly desired life, and God gave him fifteen
years more; but in that time he greatly erred, and left a sad blot on his
name. A man may live too long for his own peace, or honor, or usefulness.
Your wishes are not always wise.
A child was sick. His mother was almost frantic. She
fasted, she fainted, she wept, she screamed. God restored her boy to health,
and at manhood he committed felony, was arrested, imprisoned, convicted,
executed—and broke her heart! How much less would she have suffered had he
died in childhood!
Your views are liable to be full of error. But God is fit
to govern you—and all things. He knows what is best for you—how much you can
bear—and when a smile or a stroke will do you most good. His
grace is great, and so are his truth, and power, and wisdom. If he shall
direct, all things will go right. He is never deceived nor outwitted. He is
gentle and kind. "He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." His
will is holy, just, and good. He keeps mercy for thousands. His faithfulness
is unto all generations. You should be glad that Jehovah governs the
universe—and that he governs you!
If you are wise, you will "trust in the Lord and do
good—and you will be safe;" for he has said, "I will never leave you, nor
forsake you." What a promise! what a promise! Learn to be content in
whatever circumstances you are in. You are the borrower, not the owner of
any blessing. Suppress the first risings of ambition, covetousness,
self-will, restlessness, and the spirit of murmuring. Rest quietly in God.
The future will bring a full explanation of the present. Treasure up
in your heart the blessed promises of God. Incessantly ask the Lord to
increase your faith. Diligently perform all known duties, especially
domestic duties. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Say
not, that God has forgotten you. Resist all unworthy thoughts of your Savior
and heavenly Father. Be content with your lot, and leave results with him
who governs all things after the counsel of his own will. So shall you walk
safely, and your burden shall be light, and soon the Almighty shall call you
to himself, and "the days of your mourning shall be ended!"
But until that day of joy has arrived, rest in the Lord,
and wait patiently for him, remembering that "we brought nothing into this
world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." It was one of the
greatest attainments ever made, when Paul was able to say, "I have learned
to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a
little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have
learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in
abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens
me." (Philippians 4:11-13)
Hall says, "If a man would be rich, honorable, or aged,
he should not strive so much to add to his wealth, reputation, or years—as
to detract from his desires. For certainly in these things he has the
most, that desires least. A poor man who has little and desires no more,
is truly richer than the greatest monarch who thinks he has not what he
should have, or what he might yet have, or who grieves that there is no more
to have. It is not necessity, but carnal ambition—with which men torture
There are THREE CONSIDERATIONS which should quite
reconcile us to be without much of what mankind are generally so greedy
The first is, that God generally
gives the great amount of the wealth, honors, and pleasures of this world to
his foes. How seldom do the potentates of earth fear God. How few
very rich men love prayer. The 'sons of pleasure' are never the 'sons of
God'. No wise man should care much for that which God habitually bestows on
those who have no share in his saving mercy—and shall never see his face in
The second consideration is, that
the arts by which these things may be, and often are gained, are of the
basest kind. It requires no virtue to build up a great fortune,
to have many praising you, or to be called a man of pleasure. One great
secret in the lives of many who rise to eminence in these things is, that
first of all they deny God, and give themselves over to irreligion. They
part with a good conscience. They may speak much of honor, but often there
is no honor there. If a man will but agree to flatter and deceive, lie and
defraud, oppress and banter; if he will allow his selfishness to reign
supreme; if he will harden his heart against the demands of justice, the
dictates of equity, and the urgencies of charity; if he will hold fast all
he gets, and get all he can—he may become rich. And if he can once acquire
wealth, there are always some who will sound his praise; and so he may by
money and flattery buy his way to power and notoriety.
It is the deliberate judgment of many close observers,
that the mass of the successful in worldly schemes, are deficient in virtue
and morality. This may seem strange to some, but let every man look over the
list of his acquaintance, and see if it is not so.
The third consideration is, that
nothing can make us happy if our minds are restless and grasping.
Contentment is itself riches, honors, and pleasures. "The sleep of the
laboring man is sweet, whether he eats much or little; but the abundance of
the rich will not allow him to sleep." The Persians have this proverb: "Ten
poor men can sleep tranquilly upon a mat; but two kings are not able to live
at peace in a quarter of the world." And one of our own poets has said,
"Contentment gives a crown—where fortune has denied it." "Godliness with
contentment is great gain."