We come to the end of another month, and to the end of another Puritan classic, Jeremiah Burroughs' The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I can conclude in no better way than to recount Burroughs' "Twelve Step Program" on how the believer may obtain contentment, found on pages 216-228:
1. All the rules and helps in the world will do us little good unless we get a good temper within our hearts.
2. If you would get a contented life, do not grasp too much of the world, do not take in more of the business of the world than God calls you to.
3. Be sure of your call to every business you go about.
4. What has just been said is especially true if I add: That I walk by rule in the work that I am called to. I am called to such a business, but I must manage this work that I am called to by rule. I must walk by the Word, order myself in this business according to God's mind as far as I am able.
5. Exercise much faith; that is the way for contentedness. After you have done with all the considerations that reason may suggest to you, if you find that these do not do it, Oh, then, call for the grace of faith.
6. Labor to be spiritually minded.
7. Do not promise yourselves too much beforehand; do not reckon on too great things.
8. Labor to get your hearts mortified to the world, dead to the world.
9. Let not men and women pore too much upon their afflictions: that is, busy their thoughts too much to look down into their afflictions.
10. I beseech you to observe this, though you should forget many of the others: Make a good interpretation of God's ways towards you.
11. Do not so much regard the fancies of other men, as what indeed you feel yourselves. For the reason of our discontentment many times is rather from the fancies of other men than from what we find we lack ourselves.
12. Be not inordinately taken up with the comforts of this world when you have them. When you have them, do not take too much satisfaction in them.
Burroughs follows this by predicting the success of the "name-it-claim-it" preachers of our day: My brethren, to conclude this point, if I were to tell you that I could show you a way never to be in want of anything, I do not doubt but then we should have much flocking to such a sermon, when a man should undertake to manifest to people how they should never be in want any more. (pg. 227)
How much better when we remember: But what I have been preaching to you now comes to as much. It countervails this, and is in effect all one. Is it not almost all one, never to be in want, or never to be without contentment? That man or woman who is never without a contented spirit, truly can never be said to want much. Oh, the Word holds forth a way full of comfort and peace to the people of God even in this world. You may live happy lives in the midst of all the storms and tempests in the world. There is an ark that you may come into, and no men in the world may live such comfortable, cheerful and contented lives as the saints of God. Oh, that we had learned this lesson. (ibid)
Lord, teach us this lesson, that we may say, ...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11b, ESV)
The Ink: Robert Estienne (1503–1559)
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