Wisdom from Old Times – Prosperity and Adversity from a Puritan Perspective
How focused should we be on material success and wealth? How focused should we be on eternity? Should the fluctuation of our material comforts have a significant influence on our experience of peace, or should we be able to set our hearts on the future grace to be revealed at Christ’s coming?
These are questions addressed in one of the most beautifully named Puritan books, ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’.
This short work was first published in 1648 by Jeremiah Burroughs. Burroughs was yet another mighty Puritan teacher/preacher educated at Emmanuel College at Cambridge University, England. After graduating, Burroughs served in churches in East Anglia, England and then in Rotterdam, Holland.
Some of his insights and comments are challenging. I don’t like some of them! But maybe it’s the ones I don’t like that should instruct me the most!
If you are facing difficult times at the moment then it may be that you will find strength and help in some of the wisdom from the 17th Century.
On God as the Source of true Peace
‘The good of my life and comforts and my happiness and my glory and my riches are more in God than in myself.’ (p.54)
‘If the children of God have their little taken from them, they can make up all their wants in God himself.’ (p.65)
‘Every comfort you have is a forerunner of those eternal mercies you shall have with God in Heaven.’ (p.59)
‘If you will only have contentment when God’s ways suit with your own ends, you can have it only now and then, but a self-denying man denies his own ends, and only looks at the ends of God and therein he is contented…The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches men who are seeking contentment.’ (p.90-91)
On the Unchanging Nature of Human Desire
‘The world is infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have.’ (p.45-46)
‘So if we come to understanding in the school of Christ we will not cry, ‘Why have I not got such wealth as others have?’, but, ‘The Lord sees that I am not able to manage it and I see it myself by knowing my own heart.’’ (p.102)
On how Affliction may Help and Prosperity may Hurt
‘You do not find one godly man who came out of an affliction worse than when he went into it; though for a while he was shaken, yet at last he was better for an affliction.
But a great many godly men, you find, have been worse for their prosperity.’ (p.50)
On Trusting God in Troubled Times
‘We must not have hearts hurrying up and down in trouble, discontent and vexing, but still and quiet hearts, if we [want to] receive mercy from the Lord. If a child throws and kicks up and down for a thing, you [will] not give it him when he cries so…
Even though, perhaps, you intend him to have what he cries for, you will not give it him till he is quiet, and comes, and stands still before you, and is contented without it, and then you will give it him. And truly so does the Lord deal with us.’ (p.124)
‘God is doing you good if you could see it, and if he is pleased to sanctify your affliction to break that hard heart of yours, and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in all your life.’ (p.181-2)
‘By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to him.’ (p.119)
On the Bible as a Source of Comfort
‘There is no condition that a godly man or woman can be in, but there is some promise or other in the Scripture to help him in that condition.’ (p.69)
God has provided for us in His word and in Himself. In all the various trials we face we need to exercise faith in Him, either to be content in our need or to see the necessary breakthrough come. As Burroughs says, there’s no circumstance in life that we face but that some passage of Scripture can speak to us and help us through.
Read the next post on ‘Worry, Trust and Wisdom from the Past to Help you Today’
All quotations are taken from ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’, Banner of Truth edition, which you can purchase here
© 2009 Lex Loizides