The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Jeremiah Burroughs The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment the banner of truth trust

THE BANNER OF TRUTH TRUST Head Office 3 Murrayfield Road Edinburgh, EH12 6EL UK North America Office PO Box 621 Carlisle, PA 17013 USA banneroftruth.org First published 1648 Modernized text with new chapter divisions © The Banner of Truth Trust 1964 Reprinted 1979, 1987, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2018 Reprinted (retypeset) 2022 * ISBN Print: 978 1 80040 015 3 EPUB: 978 1 84871 323 9 Kindle: 978 1 84871 346 8 * Typeset in 10/13 Minion Pro at The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh Printed in the USA by Versa Press Inc., East Peoria, IL.

[v] Contents Biographical Introduction xiii 1. Christian Contentment Described 1 1. It is inward 4 2. It is quiet What this is not opposed to What it is opposed to 6 6 7 3. It is a frame of spirit 12 4. It is a gracious frame 16 5. It freely submits to God’s disposal 18 6. It submits to God’s disposal 20 7. It takes pleasure in God’s disposal 21 8. It submits and takes pleasure in God’s disposal 24 9. It does this in every condition 24 2. The Mystery of Contentment 31 1. A Christian is content, yet unsatisfied 32 2. He comes to contentment by subtraction 36

the rare jewel of christian contentment [vi] 3. By adding another burden to himself 38 4. By changing the affliction into something else 41 5. By doing the work of his circumstances 43 6. By melting his will into God’s will 46 7. By purging out what is within 48 3. The Mystery of the Contentment – continued 51 8. He lives on the dew of God’s blessing 51 9. He sees God’s love in afflictions 56 10. His afflictions are sanctified in Christ 57 11. He gets his strength from Christ 59 12. He makes up his wants in God 62 13. He gets contentment from the covenant 67 4. The Mystery of Contentment – concluded 73 He supplies wants by what he finds in himself 73 He gets supply from the covenant (1) The covenant in general (2) Particular promises in the covenant 78 78 81 14. He realizes the things of heaven 85 15. He opens his heart to God 86 5. How Christ Teaches Contentment 87 1. The lesson of self-denial 88

[vii] 2. The vanity of the creature 93 3. To know the one thing needful 95 4. To know one’s relation to the world 97 5. Wherein the good of the creature is 100 6. The knowledge of one’s own heart 104 6. How Christ Teaches Contentment – concluded 109 7. The burden of a prosperous condition 109 8. The evil of being given up to one’s heart’s desires 116 9. The right knowledge of God’s providence 119 7. The Excellence of Contentment 129 1. By it we give God his due worship 130 2. In it is much exercise of grace 132 3. The soul is fitted to receive mercy 136 4. It is fitted to do service 138 5. It delivers from temptations 139 6. It brings about abundant comforts 142 7. It gets the comfort of things not possessed 143 8. It is a great blessing on the soul 148 9. A contented man may expect reward 148 10. By it the soul comes nearest the excellence of God 150 contents

the rare jewel of christian contentment [viii] 8. The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit 153 1. It argues much corruption in the soul 154 2. It is the mark of an ungodly man 156 3. Murmuring is accounted rebellion 157 4. It is contrary to grace, especially in conversion 159 5. It is below a Christian 163 9. The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit – concluded 173 6. By murmuring we undo our prayers 173 7. The evil effects of murmuring 174 8. Discontent is a foolish sin 180 9. It provokes the wrath of God 184 10. There is a curse on it 189 11. There is much of the spirit of Satan in it 191 12. It brings an absolute necessity of disquiet 191 13. God may withdraw his protection 192 10. Aggravations of the Sin of Murmuring 197 1. The greater the mercies the greater the sin of murmuring 197 2. When we murmur for small things 205 3. When men of gifts and abilities murmur 207 4. The freeness of God’s mercy 207

[ix] 5. When we have the things for the want of which we were discontented 208 6. When men are raised from a low position 208 7. When men have been great sinners 210 8. When men are of little use in this world 210 9. When God is about to humble us 211 10. When God’s hand is apparent in an affliction 212 11. When God has afflicted us for a long time 213 11. The Excuses of a Discontented Heart 217 1. ‘It is a sense of my condition’ 217 2. ‘I am troubled for my sin’ 218 3. ‘God withdraws himself from me’ 220 4. ‘It is men’s bad treatment that troubles me’ 224 5. ‘I never expected this affliction’ 225 6. ‘My affliction is so great’ 226 7. ‘My affliction is greater than that of others’ 227 8. ‘If the affliction were any other, I could be content’ 228 9. ‘My afflictions make me unserviceable to God’ 229 10. ‘My condition is unsettled’ 235 11. ‘I have been in a better condition’ 238 12. ‘I am crossed after taking great pains’ 241 13. ‘I do not break out in discontent’ 242 contents

the rare jewel of christian contentment [x] 12. How to Attain Contentment 245 1. Considerations to content the heart in any afflicted condition 245 (1) The greatness of the mercies we have 245 (2) God is beforehand with us with his mercies 247 (3) The abundance of mercies God bestows 248 (4) All creatures are in a vicissitude 248 (5) The creatures suffer for us 249 (6) We have but little time in the world 250 (7) This has been the condition of our betters 250 (8) We were content with the world without grace, and should be now with grace without the world 252 (9) We did not give God the glory when we had our desires 253 (10) The experience of God doing us good in afflictions 253 13. How to Attain Contentment – concluded 257 2. Directions for attaining contentment 257 (1) There must be grace to make the soul steady 257 (2) Do not grasp too much of the world 258 (3) Have a call to every business 258 (4) Walk by rule 259

[xi] (5) Exercise much faith 260 (6) Labour to be spiritually minded 262 (7) Do no promise yourselves great things 262 (8) Get hearts mortified to the world 263 (9) Do not pore too much on afflictions 265 (10) Make a good interpretation of God’s ways to you 266 (11) Do not regard the fancies of other men 269 (12) Do not be inordinately taken up with the comforts of the world 270 contents

[xiii] Biographical Introduction Jeremiah Burroughs combined harmoniously in his own person what might be considered incompatible qualities: a fervent zeal for purity of doctrine and worship, and a peaceable spirit, which longed and laboured for Christian unity. For the first of these qualities the Puritans are renowned; in the second, they are deemed by some critics to have been deficient. A close study of the problem suggests that, as a whole, the Puritans were no more and no less concerned about the visible unity of the church than is the word of God. But in the case of Burroughs, certainly, we are faced with a man who, among his contemporaries and colleagues, was recognized as outstanding for his conciliatory temper and efforts. The often-quoted opinion of Richard Baxter was that if all the Episcopalians had been like Archbishop Ussher, all the Presbyterians like Stephen Marshall, and all the Independents like Jeremiah Burroughs, then the breaches of the churchwould soon have been healed. Of Burroughs himself, it was said that his heart was broken by the divisions among the Puritan reformers in the 1640s and that this contributed to his premature death at the age of forty-seven. The life and ministry of Burroughs, though comparatively short, exemplify many of the best features of the era

the rare jewel of christian contentment [xiv] to which he belonged. Born c. 1599/1601, he was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Founded in 1584 on the site of an old Dominican college, Emmanuel became the greatest seminary of Puritan preachers. Through it passed Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, Thomas Shepard (all of them founding fathers in New England), as well as Stephen Marshall, William Bridge, Anthony Burgess, Thomas Brooks and Thomas Watson. It is recorded that, while still at Cambridge, Burroughs was a nonconformist and eventually he was forced to leave the university for this reason. Jeremiah Burroughs’ ministry falls readily into three periods: 1. After leaving Cambridge, he ministered to two congregations in East Anglia, the region where the influence of Puritan principles was strongest. This ended in 1636 when he was suspended, and then deprived. 2. In 1637 he responded to a call to serve the English church at Rotterdam, where he stayed for four years. 3. The final period, up to his death in 1646, witnessed his greatest success as a popular preacher in London and a leading reformer of the Independent persuasion. 1. In his first charge, at Bury St Edmunds, Burroughs’ colleague was Edmund Calamy, who was also later to be a famous city preacher, as well as a leading writer (one of the co-authors of the tract Smectymnuus against the episcopacy and liturgy of the Church of England) and a church leader (after the Restoration of Charles II, he refused a bishopric). In 1631 Burroughs was appointed Rector of Tivetshall, Norfolk. Although East Anglia was a Puritan stronghold, his position was soon in jeopardy as the bishops, under the over-all direction of Laud, were determined to enforce nation-wide conformity. Bishop Wren of Norwich (later of

[xv] Ely) was one of the most severe and bigoted members of the episcopal bench. By means of his visitation articles, he insisted on the placing of the communion table altarwise, encouraged superstitious gestures (not countenanced by the Prayer Book) and prohibited afternoon sermons on the Lord’s day, as well as requiring all ministers to read the ‘Book of Sports,’ which urged the people to engage in various recreations on the Lord’s day after attending morning worship. Several godly ministers were suspended byWren for nonconformity or for refusing to read the ‘Book of Sports,’ among them Calamy, Bridge and Burroughs himself. 2. The Laudian regime caused not only Puritan ministers but many citizens and church members to leave England, seeking liberty to worship God according to Scripture and their consciences. Some crossed the Atlantic to found a New England. Others, like the Protestant Reformers a century before, sought haven on the Continent. In the 1630s Holland, which had shaken off the yoke of Roman Catholic Spain, was especially hospitable to the exiles. A succession of noted divines ministered to the English congregations there. The learned Dr William Ames, formerly Professor of Theology at the University of Franeker, became teacher of the English church at Rotterdam in 1632 (though he died the next year), and Burroughs agreed in 1637 to fulfil the same office. His course continued to run parallel to that of William Bridge who, after being forced to leave his charge at Norwich by Bishop Wren, joined Burroughs at Rotterdam as pastor of the church. (The Independents, like the New England Congregationalists, regarded the offices of pastor and teacher as distinct, though of course similar.) biographical introduction

[1] 1 Christian Contentment Described I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. – Philippians 4:11 This text contains a very timely cordial to revive the drooping spirits of the saints in these sad and sinking times. For the ‘hour of temptation’ has already come upon all the world to try the inhabitants of the earth. In particular, this is the day of Jacob’s trouble in our own bowels. Our great apostle holds forth experimentally in this gospel-text the very life and soul of all practical divinity. In it we may plainly read his own proficiency in the school of Christ, and what lesson every Christian who would prove the power and growth of godliness in his own soul must necessarily learn from him. These words are brought in by Paul as a clear argument to persuade the Philippians that he did not seek after great things in the world, and that he sought not ‘theirs’ but ‘them.’ He did not long for great wealth. His heart was taken up with better things. ‘I do not speak,’ he says, ‘in respect of want, for whether I have or have not, my heart is fully satisfied, I have enough: I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.’

[2] the rare jewel of christian contentment ‘I have learned’ – Contentment in every condition is a great art, a spiritual mystery. It is to be learned, and to be learned as a mystery. And so in verse 12 he affirms: ‘I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed.’ The word which is translated ‘instructed’ is derived from the word that signifies ‘mystery’; it is just as if he had said, ‘I have learned the mystery of this business.’ Contentment is to be learned as a great mystery, and those who are thoroughly trained in this art, which is like Samson’s riddle to a natural man, have learned a deep mystery. ‘I have learned it’ – I do not have to learn it now, nor did I have the art at first; I have attained it, though with much ado, and now, by the grace of God, I have become the master of this art. ‘In whatsoever state I am’ – The word ‘estate’ is not in the original, but simply ‘in what I am,’ that is, in whatever concerns or befalls me, whether I have little or nothing at all. ‘Therewith to be content’ – The word rendered ‘content’ here has great elegance and fullness of meaning in the original. In the strict sense it is only attributed to God, who has styled himself ‘God all-sufficient,’ in that he rests fully satisfied in and with himself alone. But he is pleased freely to communicate his fullness to the creature, so that from God in Christ the saints receive ‘grace for grace’ (John 1:16). As a result, there is in them the same grace that is in Christ, according to their measure. In this sense, Paul says, I have a self-sufficiency, which is what the word means. But has Paul got a self-sufficiency? you will say. How are we sufficient of ourselves? Our apostle affirms in another case, ‘That we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves’ (2 Cor. 3:5). Therefore his meaning

[3] must be, I find a sufficiency of satisfaction in my own heart, through the grace of Christ that is in me. Though I have not outward comforts and worldly conveniences to supply my necessities, yet I have a sufficient portion between Christ and my soul abundantly to satisfy me in every condition. This interpretation agrees with that place: ‘A good man is satisfied from himself (Prov. 14:14) and also with what Paul avers of himself in another place, that ‘though he had nothing yet he possessed all things.’ Because he had a right to the covenant and promise, which virtually contains everything, and an interest in Christ, the fountain and good of all, it is no marvel that he said that in whatsoever state he was in, he was content. Thus you have the true interpretation of the text. I shall not make any division of the words, because I take them only to promote that one most necessary duty, viz. quieting and comforting the hearts of God’s people under the troubles and changes they meet with in these heart-shaking times. The doctrinal conclusion briefly is this: That to be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of a Christian. This evangelical truth is held forth sufficiently in the Scripture, yet we may take one or two more parallel places to confirm it. In 1 Timothy 6:6 and 8 you find expressed both the duty and the glory of it: ‘Having food and raiment,’ he says in verse 8, ‘let us be therewith content’ – there is the duty. ‘But godliness with contentment is great gain’ (verse 6) – there is the glory and excellence of it; as if to suggest that godliness were not gain except contentment be with it. The same exhortation you have in Hebrews: ‘Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content christian contentment described

[4] the rare jewel of christian contentment with such things as you have’ (Heb. 13:5). I do not find any apostle or writer of Scripture who deals so much with this spiritual mystery of contentment as this our apostle has done throughout his Epistles. To explain and prove the above conclusion, I shall endeavour to demonstrate four things: 1. The nature of this Christian contentment: what it is. 2. The art and mystery of it. 3. What lessons must be learned to bring the heart to contentment. 4. Wherein the glorious excellence of this grace chiefly consists. I offer the following description: Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. I shall break open this description, for it is a box of precious ointment, and very comforting and useful for troubled hearts, in troubled times and conditions. 1. Contentment is a sweet, inward heart-thing. It is a work of the Spirit indoors. It is not only that we do not seek to help ourselves by outward violence, or that we forbear from discontented and murmuring expressions with perverse words and bearing against God and others. But it is the inward submission of the heart. ‘Truly, my soul waiteth upon God’ (Psa. 62:1) and ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God’ (verse 5) – so it is in your Bibles, but the words may be translated as correctly: ‘My soul, be thou silent unto God. Hold thy peace, O my soul.’

[5] Not only must the tongue hold its peace; the soul must be silent. Many may sit silently, refraining from discontented expressions, yet inwardly they are bursting with discontent. This shows a complicated disorder and great perversity in their hearts. And notwithstanding their outward silence, God hears the peevish, fretful language of their souls. A shoe may be smooth and neat outside, while inside it pinches the flesh. Outwardly there may be great calmness and stillness, yet within amazing confusion, bitterness, disturbance and vexation. Some people are so weak that they cannot restrain the unrest of their spirits, but inwords and behaviour they reveal what woeful disturbances there are within. Their spirits are like the raging sea, casting forth nothing but mire and dirt, and are troublesome not only to themselves but also to all with whom they live. Others, however, are able to restrain such disorders of heart, as Judas did when he betrayed Christ with a kiss, but even so they boil inwardly and eat away like a canker. So David speaks of some whose words are sweeter than honey and butter, and yet have war in their hearts. In another place, he says, ‘While I kept silence my bones waxed old.’ In the same way these people, while there is a serene calm upon their tongues, have blustering storms upon their spirits, and while they keep silence their hearts are troubled and even worn away with anguish and vexation. They have peace and quiet outwardly, but within war from the unruly and turbulent workings of their hearts. If the attainment of true contentment were as easy as keeping quiet outwardly, it would not need much learning. It might be had with less strength and skill than an apostle possessed, yea, less than an ordinary Christian has or may christian contentment described

[6] the rare jewel of christian contentment have. Therefore, there is certainly more to it than can be attained by common gifts and the ordinary power of reason, which often bridle nature. It is a business of the heart. 2. It is the quiet of the heart. All is sedate and still there. That you may understand this better, I would add that this quiet, gracious frame of spirit is not opposed to certain things: (1) To a due sense of affliction. God gives his people leave to be sensible of what they suffer. Christ does not say, ‘Do not count as a cross what is a cross’; he says, ‘Take up your cross daily.’ It is like physical health: if you take medicine and cannot hold it, but immediately vomit it up, or if you feel nothing and it does not move you – in either case the medicine does no good, but suggests that you are greatly disordered and will hardly be cured. So it is with the spirits of men under afflictions: if they cannot bear God’s potions and bring them up again, or if they are insensitive to them and no more affected by them than the body is by a draught of small beer, it is a sad symptom that their souls are in a dangerous and almost incurable condition. So this inward quietness is not in opposition to a sense of afflictions, for, indeed, there would be no true contentment if you were not apprehensive and sensible of your afflictions, when God is angry. (2) It is not opposed to making in an orderly manner our moan and complaint to God, and to our friends. Though a Christian ought to be quiet under God’s correcting hand, he may without any breach of Christian contentment complain to God. As one of the ancients says, Though not with a tumultuous clamour and shrieking out in a confused

[7] passion, yet in a quiet, still, submissive way he may unbosom his heart to God. Likewise he may communicate his sad condition to his Christian friends, showing them how God has dealt with him, and how heavy the affliction is upon him, that they may speak a word in season to his weary soul. (3) It is not opposed to all lawful seeking for help in different circumstances, nor to endeavouring simply to be delivered out of present afflictions by the use of lawful means. No, I may lay in provision for my deliverance and use God’s means, waiting on him because I do not know but that it may be his will to alter my condition. And so far as he leads me I may follow his providence; it is but my duty. God is thus far mercifully indulgent to our weakness, and he will not take it ill at our hands if by earnest and importunate prayer we seek him for deliverance until we know his good pleasure in the matter. Certainly seeking thus for help, with such submission and holy resignation of spirit, to be delivered when God wills, and as God wills, and how God wills, so that our wills are melted into the will of God – this is not opposed to the quietness which God requires in a contented spirit. But what, then, it will be asked, is this quietness of spirit opposed to? (1) It is opposed to murmuring and repining at the hand of God, as the discontented Israelites often did. If we cannot bear this either in our children or servants, much less can God bear it in us. (2) To vexing and fretting, which is a degree beyond murmuring. I remember the saying of a heathen, ‘A wise man may grieve for, but not be vexed with his afflictions.’ There is a vast difference between a kindly grieving and a disordered vexation. christian contentment described

[8] the rare jewel of christian contentment (3) To tumultuousness of spirit, when the thoughts run distractingly and work in a confused manner, so that the affections are like the unruly multitude in the Acts, who did not know for what purpose they had come together. The Lord expects you to be silent under his rod, and, as was said in Acts 19:36, ‘Ye ought to be quiet and to do nothing rashly.’ (4) It is opposed to an unsettled and unstable spirit, whereby the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships, towards God, ourselves and others. We should prize duty more highly than to be distracted by every trivial occasion. Indeed, a Christian values every service of God so much that though some may be in the eyes of the world and of natural reason a slight and empty business, beggarly elements, or foolishness, yet since God calls for it, the authority of the command so overawes his heart that he is willing to spend himself and to be spent in discharging it. It is an expression of Luther’s that ordinary works, done in faith and from faith, are more precious than heaven and earth. And if this is so, and a Christian knows it, he should not be diverted by small matters, but should answer every distraction, and resist every temptation, as Nehemiah did Sanballat, Geshem and Tobiah, when they would have hindered the building of the wall, with this: ‘I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?’ (Neh. 6:3). (5) It is opposed to distracting, heart-consuming cares. A gracious heart so esteems its union with Christ and the work that God sets it about that it will not willingly suffer anything to come in to choke it or deaden it. A Christian is desirous that the word of God should take such full

[129] 7 The Excellence of Contentment Having concluded our study of the lessons we are to learn, we come to the next sub-division, which is, the excellence of this grace of contentment. There is, indeed, a great deal of excellence in contentment; that is, as it were, another lesson for us to learn. The apostle says ‘I have learned,’ as if he should say: Blessed be God for this! Oh! it is a mercy of God to me that I have learned this lesson, I find so much good in this contentment, that I would not for a world be without it. ‘I have learned it,’ he says. Now even the heathen philosophers had a sight of the great excellence that is in contentment. I remember reading of Antisthenes,1 who desired of his gods (speaking after the heathenish way) nothing in this world to make his life happy but contentment, and if he might have anything that he would desire to make his life happy, he would ask of them that he might have the spirit of Socrates, to be able to bear any wrong, any injuries that he met with, and to continue in a quiet temper of spirit whatsoever befell him; 1 Antisthenes (445–365 bc) was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates (d. 399 bc).

[130] the rare jewel of christian contentment for that was the temper of Socrates: whatever befell him he continued the same man, whatever cross befell him, however great, nobody could perceive any alteration of his spirit. This a heathen attained to by the strength of nature, and a common work of the Spirit. Now Antisthenes saw such an excellence in this spirit that, as Solomon when God said to him: ‘What shall I give thee?’ asked of him wisdom, so he said: ‘If the gods should put it to me to know what I would have, I would desire this thing, that I might have the spirit of Socrates.’ He saw what a great excellence there was in this; and certainly a Christian may see an abundance of excellence in it. I shall labour to set it out to you in this chapter that you might be in love with this grace of contentment. 1. By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to him. It is a special part of the divine worship that we owe to God, to be content in a Christian way, as has been shown to you. I say it is a special part of the divine worship that the creature owes to the infinite Creator, in that I tender the respect that is due from me to the Creator. The word that the Greeks have that signifies ‘to worship’ is the same as to come and crouch before someone, as if a dog should come crouching to you, and be willing to lie down at your feet. So the creature in the apprehension of its own baseness, and the infinite excellence that is in God above it, when it comes to worship God, comes and crouches to this God, and lies down at the feet of God: then the creature worships God. When you see a dog come crouching to you, and by holding your hand over him, you can make him lie down at your feet, then consider, thus should you do before

[131] the Lord: you should come crouching to him, and lie down at his feet, even on your backs or bellies, to lie down in the dust before him so as to be willing that he should do with you what he will. Just as sometimes you may turn a dog this way or that way, up and down, with your hand, and there he lies before you, according to your showing him with your hand; so when the creature shall come and lie down thus before the Lord, then a creature worships God and tenders the worship that is due to him. Now in what disposition of heart do we thus crouch to God more than when we have this state of contentment in all the conditions that God disposes us to? This is crouching to God’s disposal, to be like the poor woman of Canaan, who when Christ said, ‘It is not fit to give children’s meat to dogs,’ said ‘The dogs have crumbs,’ I am a dog I confess, but let me have only a crumb. And so when the soul shall be in such a disposition as to lie down and say, ‘Lord, I am but as a dog, yet let me have a crumb,’ then it highly honours God. It may be that some of you have not your table spread as others have, but God gives you crumbs; now, says the poor woman, dogs have crumbs, and when you can find your hearts thus submitting to God, to be but as a dog, and can be contented and bless God for any crumb, I say this is a great worship of God. You worship God more by this than when you come to hear a sermon, or spend half an hour, or an hour, in prayer, or when you come to receive a sacrament. These are the acts of God’s worship, but they are only external acts of worship, to hear and pray and receive sacraments. But this is the soul’s worship, to subject itself thus to God. You who often will worship God by hearing, and praying, and receiving sacraments, and yet afterwards will be froward the excellence of contentment

[132] the rare jewel of christian contentment and discontented – know that God does not regard such worship, he will have the soul’s worship, in this subjecting of the soul unto God. Note this, I beseech you; in active obedience we worship God by doing what pleases God, but by passive obedience we do as well worship God by being pleased with what God does. Now when I perform a duty, I worship God, I do what pleases God; why should I not as well worship God when I am pleased with what God does? As it was said of Christ’s obedience: Christ was active in his passive obedience, and passive in his active obedience; so the saints are passive in their active obedience, they are first passive in the reception of grace, and then active. And when they come to passive obedience, they are active, they put forth grace in active obedience. When they perform actions to God, then the soul says: ‘Oh! that I could do what pleases God!’ When they come to suffer any cross: ‘Oh, that what God does might please me!’ I labour to do what pleases God, and I labour that what God does shall please me: here is a Christian indeed, who shall endeavour both these. It is but one side of a Christian to endeavour to do what pleases God; you must as well endeavour to be pleased with what God does, and so you will come to be a complete Christian when you can do both, and that is the first thing in the excellence of this grace of contentment. 2. In contentment there is much exercise of grace. There is much strength of grace, yea, there is much beauty of grace in contentment; there is much exercise of grace, strength of grace, and beauty of grace: I put all these together. (1) Much exercise of grace. There is a compound of grace in contentment: there is faith, and there is humility, and

[133] love, and there is patience, and there is wisdom, and there is hope; almost all graces are compounded. It is an oil which has the ingredients of every kind of grace; and therefore, though you cannot see the particular grace, yet in this oil you have it all. God sees the graces of his Spirit exercised in a special manner, and this pleases God at the heart to see the graces of his Spirit exercised. In one action that you do you may exercise one grace especially, but in contentment you exercise a great many graces at once. (2) There is a great deal of strength of grace in contentment. It argues a great deal of strength in the body for it to be able to endure hard weather and whatever comes, and yet not to be much altered by it; so it argues strength of grace to be content. You who complain of weakness of memory, of weakness of gifts, you cannot do what others do in other things; but have you this gracious heart-­ contentment, that has been explained to you? I know that you have attained to strength of grace in this, when it is as spiritual as has been shown to you in the explication of this point. If a man is distempered in his body, and has many obstructions, has an ill stomach, and his spleen and liver obstructed, and yet for all this his brain is not disordered, it is an argument of a great strength of brain; though many evil fumes may arise from his corrupt stomach, yet still his brain is not disordered but he continues in the free exercise of his reason and understanding. Everyone may understand that this man has a very strong brain, when such things do not upset him. If other people who have a weak brain do not digest but one meal’s meat, the fumes that arise from their stomach disorder their brain and make them unfit for everything, whereas these have strong heads, and strong the excellence of contentment

[134] the rare jewel of christian contentment brains, and though their stomachs are ill and they cannot digest meat, yet they still have the free use of their brain: this, I say, argues strength. So it is in a man’s spirit: you find many who have weak spirits, and if they have any ill fumes, if accidents befall them, you will soon find them out of temper; but there are other men, who though things fume up, still keep in a steady way, and have the use of reason and of their graces, and possess their souls in patience. I remember it is reported of the eagle that it is not like other fowls: when other fowls are hungry they make a noise; but the eagle is never heard to make a noise though it lacks food. Now it is from the magnitude of its spirit that it will not make such complaints as other fowls do when they lack food, because it is above hunger, and above thirst. Similarly it is an argument of a gracious magnitude of spirit, that whatsoever befalls it, yet it is not always whining and complaining as others do, but it goes on in its way and course, and blesses God, and keeps in a constant tenor whatever befalls it. Such things as cause others to be dejected and fretted and vexed, and take away all the comfort of their lives, make no alteration at all in the spirits of these men and women. This, I say, is a sign of a great deal of strength of grace. (3) It is also an argument of a great deal of beauty of grace. There is a saying of Seneca, a heathen, ‘When you go out into groves and woods, and see the tallness of the trees and their shadows, it strikes a kind of awful fear of a deity in you, and when you see the vast rivers and fountains and deep waters, that strikes a kind of fear of a God in you, but,’ he said, ‘do you see a man who is quiet in tempests, and who lives happily in the midst of adversities, why do not

[135] you worship that man?’ He thinks him a man worthy of such honour who will be quiet and live a happy life, though in the midst of adversities. The glory of God appears here more than in any of his works. There is no work which God has made – the sun, moon, stars and all the world – in which so much of the glory of God appears as in a man who lives quietly in the midst of adversity. That was what convinced the king: when he saw that the three children could walk in the midst of the fiery furnace and not be touched, the king was mightily convinced by this, that surely their God was the great God indeed, and that they were highly beloved of their God who could walk in the midst of the furnace and not be touched, whereas the others who came only to the mouth of the furnace were devoured. So when a Christian can walk in the midst of fiery trials, without his garments being singed, and has comfort and joy in the midst of everything (when like Paul in the stocks he can sing, which wrought upon the jailor), it will convince men, when they see the power of grace in the midst of afflictions. When they can behave themselves in a gracious and holy manner in such afflictions as would make others roar: oh, this is the glory of a Christian. It is what is said to be the glory of Christ (for it is thought by interpreters to be meant of Christ) in Micah 5:5: ‘And this man shall be the peace when the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces.’ This man shall be the peace when the Assyrian shall come into our land – for one to be in peace when there are no enemies is no great thing, but the text says, when the Assyrian shall come into our land, then this man shall be the peace. That is, when all shall be in a hubbub and uproar, yet then this the excellence of contentment

RkJQdWJsaXNoZXIy MzIyNDk=