"BE CONTENT WITH SUCH THINGS AS YE HAVE."
"Be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.--Heb. 13:5,6.
BAD ADVICE, very bad advice, says Mr. Worldlywiseman; it is because this advice has not been followed that we of America have made such progress within the past century. It is because the workmen of the United States are ambitious, energetic, and not content with such things as they have, but constantly trying to make two blades of grass grow, where one grew before, and to put ten dollars in the bank to one that was there before, that our nation has stepped rapidly to the front, and become noted for the genius, thrift and progressiveness of its people.
We will not dispute Mr. Worldlywiseman's statement, except to say that all of the remarkable progress of the present century is not due alone to discontent: much of it is due to freedom, which has come chiefly as the result of greater enlightenment,--an enlightenment which has come largely as a result of having the Bible in the living languages of the people and in their possession. Another element contributing to the marvelous developments of this century is one of which few take note; namely, that since 1799 we have been in the period known in the Scripture, as "the day of his preparation:" the period in which the Lord has been lifting the vail, and letting in upon the world, through natural channels, a stream of inventive genius designed to bring forward to perfection, through chemistry and mechanics and art, the devices and contrivances which will ere long most marvelously, under the guiding control of Immanuel, during the Millennium, make of this earth a Paradise. Nevertheless, we are willing to concede that ambition and discontent are present, and that they are helping in their way to bring forward the various devices which shall ultimately prove so great a blessing to mankind; but on the other hand, we contend that just in proportion as discontent is spread, in that proportion unhappiness is present, and an anarchistic spirit begotten.
We see more clearly than those looking in other directions, that discontent is permeating the entire fabric of society and making it restless, and rapidly leading to the great catastrophe of trouble and anarchy which the Scriptures point out will be the end of this present age, "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." We notice also that discontent and selfish ambition are at work in the home, in the mill, in the factory and in the Church; and that wherever these touch and grind, somebody is bruised or crushed, or at least made sore and sensitive. Wherever they abound, they blight peace, joy and a holy spirit. They are in antagonism to the spirit of Christ --meekness, patience, gentleness, brotherly kindness, love. They tend toward the spirit of the Adversary, --anger, malice, envy, hatred, strife, bitterness. What wonder, then, that the statistics show that despite the great increase of medical skill, especially in the treatment of nervous and mental ailments, and despite also the more favorable conditions of birth and living, mental and nervous diseases are greatly on the increase, and asylums are being enlarged and new ones built. Nor are these conditions confined to this country; reports from Europe are to the same effect,-- even worse as respects insanity and suicide.
It would be useless to point the world to the fact that happiness, the desirable quality, is on the decrease as wealth and business are on the increase--that the grandfathers of the present generation, altho less favorably situated every way, enjoyed life better because more contented than their grandchildren of to-day: [R2351 : page 244] the world would be unwilling to go back to the conditions which were happifying in the past, and have a craving for still more of luxury for the future, and will have it or at least strive to get it, whatever the cost. Indeed, knowing this, and knowing also of the divine provision for the future, and how present discontent is shortly to teach mankind a great lesson through the wreck of the present social structure, built upon selfishness, covetousness, ambition, and discontent, we think it wisest to let the world alone, to let it take its course and reap the reward of that course, and ultimately learn the lesson which Providence will teach. We therefore say little to the world on the subject of discontent, except as their cases may come close to us and properly under our criticism and advice. Even then our advice would not be that the world should attempt the impossible thing of being content while under a spirit of selfishness and discontent; rather we will advise such to seek and find the Lord and his spirit of love and peace and gentleness and goodness, and finding it, prove that "Godliness with contentment is great gain,"--"having the promise of the life which now is and also of that which is to come."--1 Tim. 6:6; 4:8.
THE THINGS WHICH WE HAVE--WITH WHICH WE
Nor should it be overlooked that this is the standpoint of all Scriptural address--the inspired injunctions and admonitions are not to the world, but to those who have become the Lord's covenanted people. The poor world, and especially the poor world who are without God, and who have no hope, have surely very little cause for contentment;--they have neither the luxuries desired for this life, nor the exceeding great and precious promises for the future life. Indeed, under the false teaching inculcated by the great adversary of God and truth and man, many not only have a comfortless treadmill existence in the present time, but are led to look forward to awful tortures in the future--a hell of unending suffering, or a purgatorial period of suffering, to last for hundreds or thousands of years. Poor world! What wonder if it is downcast, discontented, morbid, anarchistic.
But with the Christian--the true Christian, begotten of the truth (by the Word of truth, not by the word of error), how different are all these things! He sees what the world does not see, namely, the reason why God has permitted the reign of sin and death in the world for the past six thousand years. He sees more, namely that God, who has been just to inflict the penalty of sin--death, and its concomitants of disease and pain and trouble,--is also loving and gracious, and has prepared a redemption from the sentence and an ultimate deliverance from the blight of sin and death. He rejoices to know that this ransom price has already been paid and that its payment was formally acknowledged by Jehovah at Pentecost. He is instructed by the Word of grace that as a result of this redemption the whole world which was first tried and sentenced in Father Adam is to be tried again individually; and that the provision for this fresh trial was made in the "ransom for all" given at Calvary. He learns also that the divine time for this trial of the whole world, under the offer of eternal life through Christ, and the conditions of the New Covenant, is yet future--during the Millennial age--according as it is written, "God hath appointed a day in the which he will judge [grant trial to] the world, by that man whom he hath ordained--Jesus Christ."--Acts 17:31.
Having learned this much, he rejoices in the hope of eternal life, and longs for release from the present conditions of weakness and the fall, and for a full delivery into the liberty (freedom from sin) of the sons of God. While thus rejoicing in his new-found hope, and looking forward expectantly for its realization, at the second coming of the Redeemer, to inaugurate the times of restitution of all things (Acts 3:19-23), he receives a further message to the effect that since he appreciates the divine goodness already made known to him, he is privileged to know of and to share in a still further blessing. The steps of grace are explained to him as follows, by the divine Word:
(1) The step of faith and acceptance of the great redemptive sacrifice which you have already taken is reckoned to you for and as justification in God's sight; and now being thus reckoned as justified, you are to be treated as not only freed from the sentence of death in Adam, but also as tho freed from your imperfections, inherited through the fall, which are reckoned as being "covered."
(2) All this is in order that you may take the second step, which is now due; namely, you may present your body to the Lord by full consecration, and without reservation: to be or to do or to suffer, to have or not to have, to enjoy or not to enjoy further, the things of this present lifetime; and to spend yourself and be spent, with all that you have and all that you are, in the Lord's service, in the service of the truth, and in the service of all those who are in harmony with the truth.
(3) It is pointed out to you that in many respects this is the pathway which the great Redeemer trod, and that by walking in this difficult "narrow way" you will be following in his footsteps and along the same path of sacrifice which he trod.
(4) Furthermore, the assurance is given that, if you follow in this pathway faithfully, to the end of [R2351 : page 245] life's journey, all of your unwilling and unintentional blemishes will continue to be covered by the merit of [R2352 : page 245] your Redeemer's sacrifice: so that, at the end of the journey, all these who are now "called" and who thus gladly obey the "call," will be granted also the privilege of sharing with the Redeemer in the honors and glories of his Millennial Kingdom: and of being instruments of God, with the Redeemer, for conferring upon the world of mankind all the gracious benefits and blessings purchased by the Redeemer's death, finished at Calvary;--sharing in the judging of the world, in the ruling of the world, and, as members of the royal priesthood, in the blessing and helping of the world back, by restitution paths,--to all that was lost in Adam and his transgression.
Whoever has heard this glorious message, in the true sense of hearing it--with the hearing of faith and acceptance--has received indeed what is called by some a "Second Blessing." If the forgiveness of his sins and reconciliation to the Lord, through the blood of the cross, the Christian's first experience in grace, was a great blessing that could scarcely be comprehended or measured, still more is this second blessing a cause for fulness of joy, in that it has brought to us begetting of the holy spirit, whereby we know that we are the sons of God, "and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, our Lord, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." It is enough to know that, "Now we are the sons of God, and [that] it doth not yet appear what [the full completeness of the glory and blessing that shall come to us at his second advent] shall be, for we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him."--1 John 3:2.
It is this class that the Apostle addresses in the words of our text. We that have such blessings would surely be unappreciative, unthankful, if we are not content with such blessed things as we have. We have such things as should make us happy under the most adverse circumstances, so far as the present life is concerned. We, by the grace of God, have found the pearl of great price, and are not only content with the terms upon which it is offered to us, but most gladly, willingly, joyfully, we count all else but loss and dross that we may retain our ownership in it,--win Christ, and be found in him,--members of the body of the great Prophet, Priest and King, who shortly, as the antitype of Moses, shall stand forth as the deliverer of all who love righteousness, from the bondage of Sin and Satan.--Acts 3:22,23.
All who have intelligently taken the position of followers of Christ, knew from their start in the narrow way to expect trials and difficulties and adversities, and have said to the Master:--
"Not for ease or worldly pleasure,
Nor for fame my prayer shall be;
Gladly will I toil and suffer,
Only let me walk with thee, close to thee."
We should view every affair and incident of this present life that is not painful as a cause for thankfulness to the Lord; because it is that much less than our covenant might legitimately require; for our Master distinctly informed us that the way was rugged, saying, "Whosoever will live godly in this present time shall suffer persecution." And furthermore, our Lord's own example of suffering and enduring patiently the mockings, slanders, evil speaking, and general contradiction of sinners against himself, and the examples of the Apostles, who followed closely in his footsteps in the same path, all indicate that, all things considered, we of the present time who "have not yet resisted unto blood [death], striving against sin" and the machinations of sinners and the wiles of the Adversary, have much to be thankful for, that our lines have fallen unto us in comparatively pleasant places. We have every reason for thankfulness, no reason for murmuring.
And not only are we to be appreciative of the smooth places along the "narrow way," in which the Lord gives rest to our weary feet, but we are to be thankful also for all the trials and tribulations. If by faith we have laid hold, first, upon justification; and secondly, upon the high calling, and its exceeding great and precious promises, we must thirdly lay hold also by faith on the assurances of the Lord's Word that all things are working together for good to those who have made this covenant with him, and who are seeking to perform it;--to those who love God, and who were called according to his purpose, to this high calling. Viewed from the proper standpoint, all the trials and difficulties which come to us will be seen to be mercies and blessings, designed to shape us in conformity with the lines of character manifested in our Lord and Head, and to polish us and to make us fit for the inheritance of the saints in light. While, therefore, we are not to rush into temptation, nor to bring upon ourselves persecution by injudicious conduct, yet when these things come to us as rewards for fidelity to principles of truth and righteousness, exercised in the spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience and love, we are to rejoice in them, as so many ministries of evil toward us, which under divine guidance are fitting and preparing us to further reflect the Lord's likeness, and to further be his representatives and ministers of righteousness, now and hereafter. And to shrink back from and to avoid the trials and difficulties and persecutions incident to faithfulness to the Lord and to his service, would be, in a measure at least, to draw back from our consecration, which is to [R2352 : page 246] suffer with him, that we may also reign with him--to be dead with him, that we may also live with him.
FEW ARE APPRECIATIVE--FEW VALUE THE THINGS
THAT THEY HAVE.
But evidently only the smaller number of those who have named the name of Christ, and who have made consecration of life and time and influence and all things to him, have ever appreciated these matters in their true light; and hence, not only are the so-called Christian nations the most discontented peoples of the world, but professed Christians are often among the most discontented and unhappy of individuals. Nay more, even some of those who have made the full consecration to the Lord, and some who have come to a considerable knowledge of present truth and respecting the wonderful time in which we are living, and the high calling and its object, and the glories to follow the sufferings of this present time,--many of these also, we fear, are among the discontented of the world,--unhappy, restless, not enjoying the rest which God provides for his people, not having "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" to rule in their hearts and keep all the other affairs of life in subjection and in order.
Brethren, these things ought not so to be. See to it that they do not so continue. Remember that according to our covenant we sacrificed all of our earthly interests and rights, that we might become sharers with our Master in the divine nature and all the heavenly promises. Remember that the only things of an earthly kind promised us by the Lord are that we shall have the things needful. If we learn aright the lessons of necessity, we will find that the things needful for our sustenance might mean a bill of fare of very limited variety and of very inexpensive food; and it might mean a wardrobe of great simplicity and of very little cost; and it might mean a home of very humble appearance and very small and very scantily furnished. Whatever we have more than necessity is that much more than the Lord has promised to us in this present time; and is a cause for thankfulness of lip, and gratitude of heart.
With these things rightly viewed, where is the occasion or the desire to murmur or complain about such things as we have? Where would be the desire to wish for, hope for, or ask for more than the Lord has promised to give us, and more than his unerring wisdom has seen would be best for us? If these lessons from the Lord's Word are received into the good soil of honest hearts, they will speedily bring forth, under the sunshine of the divine favor and the droppings of divine grace, a hundredfold more of joy and peace and trust and contentment and happiness and love, in the lives of all who put them into exercise: and the influence upon our families, neighbors and associates will be a good influence, for their happiness as well as our own.
Instead of complaining about the weather, that it is too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry, too bright or too dark, or that it is too foggy or cloudy or murky, or something, let us be content with such weather as we have. We did not make it and we cannot change it. And since our wise and loving heavenly Father sees best to permit it so now, we see it best to have it so now. In his own good time his favor shall reach not only the world of mankind, to lift up and bless and heal it, but will reach also the home of mankind, the earth, to bring it into the Paradisaic condition which he has promised it shall have in the "times of restitution of all things."
If your health is not the best, do not go mourning and complaining all your days; be thankful-- thankful that it is not worse, remembering that as a member of the fallen race the full penalty of sin against you is pain and suffering unto death. Whatever therefore you have, that is moderate or endurable or in some measure enjoyable, be very thankful, very grateful, and make the most of it.
Our text, then, is not only a good medicine to bring us spiritual health and joy in the Lord, but also very profitable to our physical health; for it is unquestionably a fact that the majority of people aggravate their physical complaints and diseases [R2353 : page 246] by their fretfulness and unhappiness of mind. If you are one of the Lord's children, remember the words of our Redeemer, Master and Forerunner in the narrow way, to the effect that the Gentiles (those who know not God, who are not his covenant people) seek continually after what they shall eat, what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed, and that we should not be like unto them, because our Heavenly Father knoweth what things we have need of, before we ask him; and he has already promised, that we shall have what is best for us.
If your position in life is a lowly one, and requires continual labor to secure the things needful, do not complain, but, on the contrary, render thanks--thanks for the health and strength to perform the needed labor; thanks for the realization that the present brief life is only the schooling time, and that the lessons of the present, rightly learned, will bring riches of grace and glory which the world could neither give nor take away. Think then, on the other hand, of the fact that your condition is in some respects more favorable than that of some others who seem to be more prosperous or better situated: how many who have had wealth and leisure have found in them a curse! How [R2353 : page 247] many who have not been cursed by wealth have found that the deceitfulness of riches and the pride they are apt to induce are hindrances instead of helps in the "narrow way;" how many have found the meaning of the Lord's words, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God."
Remember also the words of the Apostle, that not many rich, not many great, not many learned, are amongst God's chosen; that chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, shall be heirs of the Kingdom. Realizing that riches of faith, riches of trust, riches of contentment, and riches of godliness, with the fruits of the spirit which accompany these constitute the true riches, give thanks to the Lord that in his wisdom and grace he has so favorably situated you.
"HAVE FAITH IN GOD"--"LORD, INCREASE OUR
The same principle holds good with reference to all of our affairs, no matter what. The lesson of faith, to those who have become the Lord's consecrated people, is not merely faith in doctrines and theories, nor, indeed, chiefly this faith. The chief feature of faith is confidence in God; that what he has promised he is able and willing to fulfil. This faith grasps not only the things to come, but also the things present; this faith rejoices not only in the glory that shall be revealed, but rejoices also in the sufferings and trials and difficulties and all the rich experiences which an all-wise Father sees best to permit. Let us therefore, as the Apostle exhorts, rejoice evermore, "in everything giving thanks."--1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20.
The best illustrations of this true faith, this continuous confidence in God, is found, as we should expect, in our dear Redeemer's experiences and their narrative. Realizing that he was in the world for the purpose of serving the divine plan, he realized also continually the supervision of divine wisdom in respect to all his affairs: consequently he not only went to the Father frequently in prayer, and went to the Word of the Lord for guidance, but every experience through which he passed, and all the opposition with which he met, he recognized as being under the divine supervision. He knew that he was fully consecrated to the Father, and seeking not his own will but the will of him that sent him; he knew consequently that the Father's providential care was superintending all the affairs of his life.
This is forcibly illustrated in his answer to Pilate; when the latter said to him, "Knowest thou not that I have power either to deliver thee or to put thee to death?" Jesus answered, "Thou couldest have no power, except it were given thee of my Father." Again he said, with respect to the cup of suffering and ignominy, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" Indeed, it was sufficient for him in any and every matter to realize that the Father was controlling: this thought gave him courage to do, to suffer and to bear.
And similar confidence in divine Providence is necessary to all who would come off conquerors through him who loved us and died for us. If we can feel sure that we have fully surrendered ourselves to God according to his call, we may also feel sure that all things are working for our good: we may realize in every emergency of life that the Father has prepared the cup, and will sustain and bless us while we drink it: our Lord Jesus, the Father's representative, oversees our trials and ignominy and suffering; he permits the cup to be prepared for us by blinded servants of Satan. This knowledge should not only enable us to take joyfully the spoiling of our goods (anything that we deemed precious, trade, influence, good name, etc.), but should enable us also to entreat with kindness and gentleness, and with a spirit of forgiveness those who prepare and administer the cup of our sufferings. But none can have this confidence of faith-- none should have it--except one certain, particular class; and it is not a large class as compared to the world, but a "little flock"--those who have believed in the precious blood unto justification, and who have, as members of the body of Christ, consecrated themselves unreservedly to walk in their Redeemer's footsteps, to suffer with him, and to be finally glorified together with him.
"WHAT IS FAITH'S FOUNDATION STRONG?"
In our text, after the Apostle has urged us to be "content with such things as ye have," he adds the reason or ground upon which this advice is given, saying, "For he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Yes; this is the true ground of contentment, the realization of the Lord's care, and that the Lord's wisdom and grace are being exercised towards us,--and that such things as he grants are the things which are best for us, and which we would choose for ourselves, if we had sufficient wisdom and insight into all the circumstances of the case.
The Apostle adds, "So then we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me." The whole world has wondered at the intelligent courage of the humble ones of the Lord's people. The secret of their courage and of their strength is in their confidence that the Lord is their helper, that he, with wisdom and love which are infinite, is both able and willing to make all things work together for their good.
Possibly some may be inclined to wonder why so much attention has been given in these columns of late [R2353 : page 248] to themes similar to the one here discussed, and kindred topics calculated to develop more and more the spirit of love and the various fruits of that spirit, and to counteract the spirit of selfishness, and the evil fruits of that spirit. We answer, it is because we believe these lessons to be specially opportune at the present time. The Lord, by his grace, has removed many blinding errors from our minds, and given us clearer insight of his glorious plans, and revealed to us his glorious character in connection with his plan; and there has perhaps been more or less danger, that in such a study of theology the real object of all this knowledge, the object of the Gospel, may be lost sight of. It is not God's object to merely find an intellectual people, nor to instruct a people with reference to his plans, but to sanctify a people with the truth, and thus to make them "meet [fit] for the inheritance of the saints in light." We are of the opinion that the testings which the Lord designs for his people are not merely doctrinal tests, and consequently we expect, more and more, that the harvest siftings and separations amongst those who come to a knowledge of the truth, will be considerably along the lines of character, and of the fruits of the spirit.
The Lord's final decision is not, If you be ignorant of certain things you are none of mine; nor, If you have certain knowledge you are mine; but, "If any man have not the spirit [disposition, mind] of Christ, he is none of his." And if we are right in this, dear readers, it is of paramount importance that we, as soldiers of the cross, put on not only the intellectual covering, the helmet of salvation, but also the heart covering, love of righteousness and truth and goodness and purity, with the shield of faith. The breastplate of righteousness will be found to be one of the most important pieces of armor in the battle which is upon us, and respecting which we are told that thousands shall fall at our side.--Psa. 91:7; Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:11.
Not only so, but we believe that the lesson foregoing is of great importance, because the time is short; and those of the Lord's people who do not soon start to cultivate a spirit of contentment and thankfulness will not only not be fit for the Kingdom, but will as sharers of the world's spirit of discontent be in sore distress with the world very shortly, in the great time of trouble. Contentment and the faith which it implies, are necessary to godliness: and whoever is attempting godliness without striving for cultivation of contentment will surely make a failure of it. Godliness and the fruits of the spirit, meekness, patience, gentleness, longsuffering, brotherly-kindness, love, will not grow in the garden of the soul, where the weeds of discontent are permitted to sap the strength and vitiate the air with their noxious presence and influence.
The sentiment of one of our precious hymns is quite to the point, and we desire, for ourselves and for all of the Lord's people, that condition of faith and consecration and contentment which will permit us to sing from the heart, with the spirit and with the understanding [R2354 : page 248] also, the words:--
"Content with beholding his face,
My all to his pleasure resigned,
No changes of season or place
Can make any change in my mind.
"While blest with the sense of his love
A palace a toy would appear,
And prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus still dwelt with me there."
Who can tell that the Lord may not ultimately put some such tests to us, as these mentioned by the poet which were applied to himself and to others of the faithful in the past? Let us remember that we will not be faithful in large things unless we have learned to be faithful in little things. Let each, therefore, begin, and faithfully continue, a transformation of his life along these lines of godliness with contentment in the most trifling affairs of life. He will thus not only be making himself and others the happier in the present time, but he will be preparing himself for greater trials and tests that the Lord may be pleased to impose later, to prove to what extent we are overcomers of the world and of its spirit.
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith;" because faith lies at the foundation of all loyalty to God and his cause. Faith in the divine supervision of all our affairs not only gives peace and content, but it saps the root of all selfish ambitions and vain gloryings and boastings; because of our faith in the Lord's Word, that "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted and he that exalteth himself shall be abased." Faith in the Lord's supervision prefers the Lord's arrangement to any other as respects the sufferings of this present time and the glory that is to follow; and hence it doth not puff up but builds up in the character-likeness of our Redeemer.