James Smith, 1860
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13
Man is a poor discontented creature. He is never satisfied for long. Whatever he has — he wants something that he has not. And if he had all that he could desire — he would rack his mind to find out something to wish for, and be dissatisfied about. Sin is the source of all dissatisfaction — the parent of all discontent.
But if lost sinners are discontented — believers ought not to be. They are commanded to be content with such things as they have. They are exhorted, having food and clothing, therewith to be content. But, alas! many Christians know but little of real contentment. Now, if I can pen a few lines, which with God's blessing, would produce or increase contentment in my own heart, and the hearts of a few of my fellow believers — I shall do good. Let me then look up to the Lord, and beseech him to give me grace, to enable me to do so, to the praise and glory of his holy name.
Fellow traveler to Zion, are you contented with the lot your God has cast for you? Or, are you complaining, sighing, and uselessly wishing for a change? If the latter — then stop complaining, and listen for a few moments to me.
Consider what God is to you. Is he not your God in Jesus? Is he not your Heavenly Father? Does he not love you with an everlasting love? Has he not ordained and arranged all your affairs for you in his infinite wisdom? Has he not also assured you, that all things work together for your good? And under such circumstances — must it not be wicked to complain, repine, or be discontented?
Then, consider what Christ has done for you. Has he not put away your sins, by the sacrifice of himself? Has he not provided you with a glorious, an everlasting righteousness? Has he not promised to be with you always, even unto the end? Is he not now pleading for you in Heaven, and preparing a place for you in his Father's house? Has he not also given you his Word, that he will come again, and receive you unto himself, that where he is, there you may be also? Is this the case — and you discontented? O for shame!
Consider what eternity will be to you. Eternity, a
state of endless existence, what will it be to the believer? It will be . .
light — without darkness;
joy — without sorrow;
health — without sickness;
pleasure — without pain;
triumphs — without trials;
and life — without death.
In eternity, you will . . .
receive all that you desire,
enjoy all that you can wish,
be where you will be perfectly happy, and
possess all that your God can give.
Set then eternity — against time, the future — against the present, and blush if you feel the least dissatisfaction with your lot.
Consider the providence that watches over you.
Providence is . . .
God's eye fixed upon you,
God's mind devising for you,
God's heart sympathizing with you,
God's hand supplying you,
God's arm placed beneath you.
You are the especial care, of a special and particular
providence, which . . .
numbers the very hairs of your head,
watches every step you take, and
will overrule everything for your eternal welfare.
Child of providence, child of the God of providence — be content!
Consider the design which God has, in trying you. It is to prevent your falling into the evils produced by fullness of bread, or uninterrupted prosperity. It is to produce humility, or faith, or some other grace — which will adorn your character, count on your future history, and bring honor to his dear name. God's design in every pain or privation, in every trial and trouble, in every loss and cross — is worthy of himself.
All flows from divine love.
All is directed by infinite wisdom.
All is designed for your good.
Ought you not then to be thankful!
Consider the consequences of prosperity to many.
How it . . .
feeds their pride,
inflates them with vanity, and
binds them to the present world.
In the closet, they are lifeless;
in the sanctuary uninterested;
in Christian society, uncomfortable;
and when thinking of death, unhappy.
They have . . .
little gratitude to God, and
but little comfort in their own souls.
They do little good, have little fellowship with God, and are very unlike the Lord Jesus Christ. Would you wish to be like them?
Consider why the Spirit is given to you. It is to
. . .
fortify you against fear,
strengthen you in every trouble, and
conform you to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Spirit is given to you . . .
to lead you to Christ,
to teach you to make use of Christ, and
to instruct you how to bring honor and glory to Christ.
The Spirit is given to you to . . .
unfold and apply the promises,
help your infirmities in prayer, and
cry, Abba Father, in your heart.
The Spirit is to do all within you — as the Lord Jesus has done all without you. Then, sow to the Spirit, live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit — and discontent will flee away; joy, peace, and gratitude, will fill your soul; and your life will be as happy, as it is often uncomfortable now.
Or, consider God's decree, which fixed your lot, and did so for the wisest and best of reasons. His decree is so fixed, that all your struggling, fretting, and complaining, will not alter it.
Consider Christ's example, who chose the poor man's place; and who was poorer than you are, more tried than you are, and who suffered far more than you can. Yet he never complained. No one ever heard a word tinged with discontent proceed from his lips; and he is the copy you are to imitate, the example you are to follow.
Consider the gracious promises. Promises . . .
of God's presence,
of God's care, and
of God's assistance.
Promises made to . . .
excite your gratitude, and
inspire you with holy confidence.
Promises which secure to you, all that is necessary for the present life — and of that which is to come.
Consider the condition of the primitive saints. Where you have one trial — they had fifty. Where they had one outward comfort — you have a hundred. They were many of them homeless, friendless, and oppresed. To them, earth was a wilderness, life only a series of trials; and death, or the coming of Jesus, alone afforded them hope of deliverance. Look at them hidden in dens and caves of the earth, clothed in goat skins, or sheep skins, wandering about from place to place — destitute, afflicted, tormented!
Consider of your deserts. What have you merited?
What have you deserved? Can you claim one comfort, one privilege, one
exemption from suffering on the ground of desert? Or, if you had only
your desert — would you have . . .
a rag to cover you,
a morsel to feed you,
a drop to refresh you,
a shed to shelter you,
a law to protect you,
a friend to speak to you, or
one ray of hope to cheer you?
Would you have anything but Hell? The frown of God, the wrath of God, the curse of God, and these forever! Oh, what a dreadful state you would be in, if you had only your deserts!
Consider your future prospects:
DELIVERANCE, perfect deliverance . . .
from every foe and every fear,
from every pain and every privation,
from every trouble and every trial.
POSSESSION, eternal possession . . .
of health and wealth,
of life and liberty,
of God and Heaven,
of Christ and inconceivable glory!
Oh, how bright, how beautiful, how blessed, the prospects of a believer in Jesus are!
Consider, finally, God's glorious designs in all that he does or permits. It is his own glory in connection with your present and everlasting welfare. His designs are always worthy of himself, and he never does anything, or allows anything to be done, which will in any way affect his people — but with a wise, a holy, a gracious design.
How then, can you be discontented . . .
if you believe that God fixed your lot by his immutable decree;
if you keep your eye fixed on Jesus as your example;
if you receive and rest on the great and gracious promises;
if you consider the condition in which primitive saints were placed;
if you think of your own deserts;
if you consider the prospects opening before you;
if you meditate on God's glorious designs in all that happens to you?
I ask, how can you be discontented?
But if discontent should be felt working within you, then
as an antidote to this accursed evil, think . . .
of what God is to you;
of what Christ has done for you;
of what eternity will be to you;
of the providence that watches over you;
of the design of God in trying you;
of the painful consequences of prosperity to many;
and of the purposes for which the Holy Spirit is given you.
And, if such considerations fail to make you humble, grateful, and contented — then go to the mercy-seat and confess your sins, mourn over your evil heart, and beseech God to give you more grace — so that your whole soul may be brought into subjection to the obedience of Christ.
Gracious God, you have commanded us to be content with such things as we have, because you will never leave us, nor forsake us. We beseech you to give us the grace of contentment, that we may obey your wise and holy command! O, grant that we may not only be content — but grateful. And from a deep sense of your undeserved goodness, and unmerited love — may we praise and bless your glorious name forever!
Holy Spirit, give us such a view of the Hell we have escaped, such a view of the Heaven promised us, and such a view of the price Jesus paid for our ransom — that we may sink into the profound depths of humility, and rise to the highest heights of grateful love!
O Savior, we bless you, we praise you, and we magnify your glorious name, for all you have procured for us, wrought in us, and set before us! And we rejoice that throughout eternity, we shall be still praising you!