c. It is the frame of spirit that shows the habitual character of this grace of contentment. Contentment is not merely one act—just a flash in a good mood. You find many men and women who, if they are in a good mood, will be very quiet. But this will not hold. It is not the constant tenor of their spirits to be holy and gracious under affliction.
— Contentment is a gracious frame, opposed to natural quietness. Indeed, in contentment there is a compound of all graces. But now the gracious frame of spirit is in opposition to three things:
a. In opposition to the natural quietness of many men and women. Some are so constituted by nature that they are more still and quiet. Others are of a violent and hot constitution, and they are more impatient.
b. In opposition to a sturdy resolution. Some men through the strength of a sturdy resolution do not seem to be troubled, come what may. So they are not disquieted as much as others.
c. By way of distinction from the strength of natural (though unsanctified) reason that may quiet the heart in some degree. But now I say that a gracious frame of spirit is not merely a stillness of the body that comes from its natural constitution and temper, nor a sturdy resolution, nor the strength of reason.
You will ask, “In what way is the grace of contentment distinguished from all these?” Where contentment of heart springs from grace, the heart is very quick and lively in the service of God! The difference is very clear: The one whose disposition is quiet is not disquieted as others are, but neither does he show any activeness of spirit to sanctify the name of God in his affliction. But, on the other hand, he whose contentment is of grace keeps his heart quiet with regard to vexation and trouble and at the same time is not dull or heavy, but very active to sanctify God’s name in the affliction that he is experiencing.
I will give you just one mark of the difference between a man or woman who is content in a natural way and one who is content in a spiritual way: Those who are content in a natural way when outward afflictions befall them are just as content when they commit sin against God. When they have outward crosses or when God is dishonored, it is all one to them whether they themselves are crossed or whether God is crossed. But a gracious heart that is contented with its own affliction will rise up strongly when God is dishonored.
— by Jeremiah Burroughs
Contentment is an inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit. It is an inward frame of spirit and a gracious frame. Contentment is a soul business.
a. It is a grace that spreads itself through the whole soul. In some, there is a partial contentment. It is not the [whole] frame of the soul, but [only] some part of the soul has some contentment. Many a man may be satisfied in his judgment about a thing, who cannot for his life rule his affections, his thoughts, or his will. I do not doubt that many of you know this in your own experience, if you observe the workings of your own hearts.
But there is a great deal of hope of attaining contentment, if you can sit down and say, “I see good reason to be contented.” Yet even when you have [gotten this] far, you may still have much to do with your hearts afterwards. There is such unruliness in our thoughts and affections that our judgments are not always able to rule them. That is what makes me say that contentment is an inward frame of spirit. The whole soul—judgment, thoughts, will, affections—all are satisfied and quiet.
b. Spiritual contentment comes from the frame of the soul. The contentment of a man or woman who is rightly content does not come so much from outward arguments or help, as from the disposition of their own hearts. Let me explain myself. Someone is disturbed. If you come and bring some great thing to please him, perhaps it will quiet him, and he will be “contented.” It is the thing you bring that quiets him, not the disposition of his own spirit, but the external thing you bring him. But when a Christian is content in the right way, the quiet comes more from the disposition of his own heart than from any external argument or from the possession of anything in the world. To be content because of some external thing is like warming a man’s clothes by the fire. But to be content through an inward disposition of the soul is like the warmth that a man’s clothes have from the natural heat of the body.
6. It is opposed to sinking discouragements. God would have us to depend on Him though we do not see how the thing may be brought about; otherwise, we do not show a quiet spirit.
7. It is opposed to sinful shiftings and shirkings to get relief and help. Thus do many, through the corruption of their hearts and the weakness of their faith, because they are not able to trust God and follow Him fully in all things and always. For this reason, the Lord often follows the saints with many sore temporal crosses as we see in the case of Jacob, though they obtain the mercy. It may be that your carnal heart thinks, “I do not care how I am delivered, if only I may be freed from it.” Your hearts are far from being quiet!
8. The last thing that quietness of spirit is the opposite of is desperate risings of the heart against God by way of rebellion. That is the most abominable. They find in their hearts something of a rising against God. Their thoughts begin to bubble, and their affections begin to move in rebellion against God Himself. This is especially the case with those, who besides their corruptions, have a large measure of melancholy. The devil works both upon the corruptions of their hearts and the melancholy disease of their bodies. Now Christian quietness is opposed to all these things. When affliction comes, whatever it is, you do not murmur or repine, you do not fret or vex yourself.
–by Jeremiah Burroughs
February 9, 2017
B. What contentment is opposed to
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.
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, others, and ourselves. We should prize duty more highly than to be distracted by every trivial occasion.
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 possession as to divide between soul and spirit (Heb 4: 12), but he would not allow the fear and noise of evil tidings to take such a hold in his soul as to make a division and struggling there, like the twins in Rebekah’s womb (Gen 25:22).
– by Jeremiah Burroughs
What contentment is not opposed to
1. It is not opposed 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” (Luke 9:23).
2. It is not opposed to making in an orderly manner our moan to God and to our friends.
3. It is not opposed to all lawful seeking for help in different circumstances, or to endeavoring simply to be delivered out of present afflictions by the use of lawful means—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, as God wills, and how God wills — this is not opposed to the quietness that God requires in a contented spirit.
— Jeremiah Burroughs
Contentment…what a word and a very rare jewel. Who would have thought that this word could mean so much and change how we respond to our everyday situation. As I began reading through this book I realized what was missing in my life. I had not been content with the things I’ve gone through. Every time something happened I didn’t like I would complain until I realized what I was doing.
In recent years we have gone through some tremendous hurt and pain yet the Lord keeps reminding me, “Violet, trust Me! I know exactly what I’m doing whether you know or not.” I’ve read and reread this book and I thought it would be great to share little tidbits out of it with you. May the Lord bless each of you in the reading of the parts posted from this very special book.
The Rare Jewel of Contentment
By Jeremiah Burroughs
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 the one most necessary duty: 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 6:6,8, you find expressed both the duty and the glory of it. “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (6:8)—there is the duty. “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (6:6)—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 with such things as you have” (Heb 13:5).
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. This description is a box of precious ointment and very comforting and useful for troubled hearts in troubled times and conditions.