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Contentment.

THE Bible teaches us, chiefly, by narratives, which not only tell the story of human life, but unveil the heart. It is so with respect to contentment, of which we have two most instructive and encouraging examples, one in the Old Testament and the other in the New. St. Paul could say, when in prison, and enduring reproaches and persecutions, and manifold distress, for Christ's sake, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content ;” and this " Shanammite," whose words are the motto for this meditation, speaks of her home and her home life, and her full contentment with both, when, in answer to the proposal that she should seek or accept a higher station and greater abundance of the good things of this life, she declines the change, and says, “I dwell among mine own people.

Let us inquire what were the springs of this contentment ; what were the attractions of the home, which she declined to leave. We shall find, as we review the narrative, that her home was the abode of competence, if not of affluence ; of hearty and graceful hospitality, and of conjugal affection; and that, after these words of hers were spoken, declining the change proposed to her, her dwelling became the home of parental and filial love and joy, the home in which sorrow was borne with calm resignation, and deliverance welcomed with devout gratitude ; and to which, after seven long years of exile, this Shunammite returned, that she might die, as she had chosen to dwell among her own people.

She certainly was possessed of competence, perhaps even of affluence. We see her husband amongst the reapers in his fields. Probably he was rich in flocks and herds. She is described as “a great woman," having in all likelihood a fortune in her own right as an heiress. But her wealth had not been a snare to her, or if she had felt it sometimes to be a snare, she had not been taken and held fast by it. If she had been tempted to hoard her wealth, and to trust in her riches, she had not yielded to the temptation. She remained humble, generous and contented. We learn that wealth need not destroy piety, though it does endanger it. We read :-"How hardly shall they that have riches inherit the Kingdom of Heaven ;” but we learn that this is possible, by God's grace, though difficult, and that piety and prudence can hallow and consecrate riches, teaching and enabling their possessors to use, and not to abuse, them; and so to have the true enjoyment of the good things which God so richly bestows.

We next see this Shunammite using her ample means to show hearty and pious hospitality. Her pleasure in this was one of the reasons why she was so happy in her home, and so contented to abide in it.

But we notice next a deeper fountain of blessedness. The home to which this narrative introduces us was enriched by conjugal affection. This is not forced upon our attention. It is not directly mentioned at all, but the signs of it are easily recognised. The wife suggests to her husband the hospitality which she wishes to be shown to the prophet. The husband delights to comply promptly with his wife's wish. Afterwards, when, in the day of

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trouble, she desires to seek the prophet, and prefers her request to her husband, he complies at once, though the request seems to him a strange one, and he is not told her errand. He reposes an affectionate and welldeserved confidence in his wife's prudence and wisdom. And when the famine drove them away from their home and country, they went together to their seven years' exile, soothing each other's sorrows and alleviating each other's privations, as they had shared together the prosperity and peace of their pleasant home. Her words, “I dwell among mine own people,” express her thankful contentment while enjoying this prosperity. The occasion for these words arose from the gratitude of the prophet Elisha, for the kindness. and hospitality which had been lavished upon him. " He said to Gehazi, his servant, 'Call this Shunammite.' And when he had called her she stood before him. And he said to him 'Say now unto her : Behold thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee 9 Wouldest thou be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the host ?'It would seem that Elisha had influence in high places, and could have obtained for her or for her husband great place, or higher rank, or increased wealth, or other worldly advantages such as ambition craves. This matron has no wish for such things. She is happy in her husband, in her friends, in her own home. Her answer tells us that, if more words had been needed, she would have said “We have enough for ourselves. We can be generous to others. We are happy in each other, and in the God of our fathers, who has chosen for us a pleasant place and a goodly heritage. There will we contentedly abide.”

Does anyone say it would be easy to be as contented as was this Hebrew matron if we were as happily circumstanced as she was—if we had her ample competence, her social pleasures, her rich domestic bliss? Would it be easy? Look around you. How many, more richly endowed than she was, are not content, but are eagerly striving to outstrip each other in the race for opulence and distinction. How true is the saying that it is easy to satisfy a man's wants, but it is impossible to satisfy his desires. One is eager to make a fortune ; another aspires to a title; another has made a fortune and received a title already, but is restless, seeking higher rank. Look not only around you, but look within your own heart. Can you say “I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content”? Can you testify from your own experience that “Godliness with contentment is great gain"? Do you habitually so rule your own spirit as to curb your wishes, remembering that true happiness springs from that which is within you rather than from things around you—from what you are rather than from what you possess and display? Changes sometimes come to us from God's appointment. Sometimes His providence directs us to seek change of our outward lot. He does not command us to restrain the spirit of enterprise, or to refuse the rewards of success. It is the Divine order that the hand of the diligent should be filled with riches. But God does forbid a restless and discontented desire for change. He bids us consider how much happiness there may be in a lowly home and an obscure station if our hearts are right with God and with one another, and how uncertain it is whether we

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should have the same satisfaction in a condition which we have not tried, and for which it may be that we are not suited. Let us, then, give heed to the precept, “Be content with such things as ye have." Happy is that family, all the members of which are so content with their home that, except when love and duty call them away, each of them would answer to all invirations to change, “I dwell among mine own people.”

We are now to observe the changes which came to the Shunammite's house and family after these words were spoken. In her deep and thankful contentment she does not express any wish, either for herself or her husband. Yet they had a wish, long and earnestly cherished, the wish that their eyes might see and their arms embrace and their hearts welcome a son. The prophet is permitted to promise that this their wish shall be fulfilled. Their child is born, and as they watch his growth in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man their cup of joy overflows. We may imagine them speaking to each other, in the words of a great and good man of our own times, of the almost awful happiness of their domestic life. Could they now say of their home, “Sorrow has fled away, and pain dares not invade this guarded nest”? There is but one home of which that can be said, and that home is not on earth, but in heaven. The day came when this child of their old age, the child of promise and of prayer, sickened in the morning, and at noon was lying dead on his mother's knee. Mark well the calm and beautiful self-control, the noble trust in God and submission to His will, as well as the deep tenderness of a mother's heart, which shine in every act and word and gesture of this mother in Israel. Of this most alictive dispensation she can take faith's estimate, and say, even when her child lies lifeless in the prophet's chamber, and her heart is overwhelmed by the sudden and terrible bereavement, “ It is well.” It is well for him who is gone, well for us who remain. Who can imagine the depth of feeling which was expressed then, and has been expressed myriads of times since, by these few and simple but most touching words of faith, of resignation, of grief tempered by hope, “ It is well.” Well with those who behold the face of God and are satisfied with His likeness, well for us if we are hastening onward to join them and to be with Him for ever.

Speedy deliverance came out of this deep distress. Before night the child's life was given to the prophet's prayers, and his mother again pressed him to ther bosom. Is this the last time that trouble saddens that household ? Do the father and mother and son abide together and dwell in generous kindness and mutual love and fulfilled hopes among their own people? The famine approaches, and the prophet's kindness can only forewarn them of its approach, and bid them go and sojourn where they may find a refuge and obtain bread for the day. So they depart, with many regrets and lingering looks at their peaceful abode, and sojourn in the land of the Philistines seven years. We are not told their history during those weary years, but we do not doubt that they could still say, “It is well.” It may be, that in that land of their banishment the faith and patience of the wife and mother were tried even more severely than ever before ; for, while we read that the mother and her son returned, we do not read that the husband also

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returned. Did she return a widow ? Was the grave of her husband in the land of the Philistines ? If such and so severe were her sorrows, we are sure that the promise was fulfilled to her—"As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” It may be, however, that, though the brief narrative does not mention the husband, he did return with his wife and son, and that when the king commanded the restoration of their house and land and all their property, they enjoyed together the familiar scenes and pleasant comforts of their early home, the husband and wife rejoicing all the rest of their lives in the wealth and wisdom and worth which blessed and adorned the ripening manhood of their only son. Competence, benevolence, mutual love would, with their wise moderation and with the blessing of Jehovah, make it easy for them to be content; and when sorrow came and death approached, that stroke of death which must separate for a little while even those nearest and dearest to each other, each of them would be able to say, “I have dwelt, and now I die, amongst my own people, and I go to the God of my fathers, I go to the beloved ones who have departed before me, I go to meet them in His presence, where there is fulness of joy at His right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore.”

We have looked on this picture of a happy home, of an affectionate, peaceful and contented family. Are our homes like theirs ? We well know how every home may gain a happiness like theirs. If we have competence and genial friends, and dwell amidst hopes fulfilled and mutual love, Christian contentment will give a new charm and a richer relish to all our joys. And when these are taken away from us, and our home and our heart are made desolate, Christian faith can teach us and strengthen us to say,

" It is well." Let us pray that our hearts may be renewed in Christ's likeness, and filled with Christ's peace. Let us pray and strive that our homes may be adorned with Christian tempers and our conduct, to each other, guided by Christian grace. Thus we shall have no restless desire for change, though we shall cheerfully submit to all changes which God may appoint.

Few can now expect to dwell all their lives among their own people. Some are sent far

away among the heathen. Some go to found and build up Christian colonies, winning thus new provinces for Christ's kingdom. Some depart to find the regrets of parting allayed as they become the light and joy of new homes, and call the dwellers in those new homes their own people, knit to them by fresh ties of love. Concerning all these things, concerning all things that pertain to our earthly home, let us say, God “shall choose our inheritance for us ;” and let us look to the home of final reunion, and everlasting fellowship in our Father's house above. Oh thrice happy, if meeting all those who are dear to us here, we shall say as we enter our heavenly home, “Now and for ever I dwell among mine own people.

JOHN LOCKWOOD.

Explain!-How many troubles might munkind be spared if they would only stop to hear each other's explanation! How many ailments both of bɔdy and soul, if explanations only came more frequently and freely !

This edaste. Six days before His last passover, as the Lord Jesus Christ sat at meat along with His disciples and some others in the house of Simon of Bethany, there came behind him a woman-it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarushaving an alabaster box of ointment, very precious ; and she brake the box and poured it on His head.” It was indeed a costly service. The value of the ointment, taking the estimate of the murmurers, was about £9 of our present money, which in those times would be the wages of a labouring man for a whole year. As they saw what was thus done, some who were present had indignation within themselves.” All that precious ointment used in one anointing ! How useless it was ! Beyond the passing pleasure it might afford to its object there was no good end which it seemed likely to answer. So they grudgingly asked, “ To what purpose is this waste ? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.”

John mentions only Judas as thus objecting, and he adds, “ This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." Yet it was a kind of remark with which at first others might sympathise, who after very little thought would feel that they were wrong.

But did the Lord Himself regard it as “waste"? No. He looked beyond the act to the great motive by which it was prompted. He saw that Mary's soul was filled with deep, tender, unutterable love-love intensified by the persuasion that this was almost the last service she would be permitted to render to her Lord-love which counted nothing too costly as the expression of its most entire consecration; and as such He accepted it. He saw in it, moreover, the fulfilment of another purpose. “She hath done what she could,” He said, “she is come beforehand to anoint My body to the burying." And then He added, “Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”

Whatever else this beautiful and touching story may teach us, it plainly teaches this, that many things may be condemned as waste which are really not waste.

Waste is always to be condemned. It is a grievous thing to see any of God's good gifts squandered in reckless profusion or destroyed. Our Lord Himself did not think it beneath Him to teach a lesson of economy even in connection with one of His most wonderful miracles. After He had fed the five thousand with five barley loaves and two small fishes, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost." We should guard carefully against every kind of waste, whether of food, or money, or time, or influence, or anything else with which God has entrusted

We ought to ask respecting every gift of God, How can I use this so as best to promote my own true welfare, the good of my fellow creatures, and the glory of God?

But a principle which is right enough in itself may be wrongly applied.

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