The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11
"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content." Philippians 4:11
"Highlights" from Chapter 14 Rules About Contentment...
Rule 1. Advance faith. All our disquiets do issue immediately from unbelief.
Rule 2. Labour for assurance. Labor to say "my God" and "I know whom I have believed".
Rule 3. Get a humble spirit. The humble man studies his own unworthiness and cries out with Paul, that he is the chief of sinners.
Rule 4. Keep a clear conscience. O take heed of indulging any sin!
Rule 5. Learn to deny yourselves. Look well to your affections, bridle them in. Do two things: mortify your desires and moderate your delights.
1) Get a right judgment of the things here below.
2) Often seriously meditate of mortality.
Rule 6. Get much of heaven into your heart. Fly aloft in your affections, thirst after the graces and comforts of the Spirit; the eagle that flies above in the air, fears not the stinging of the serpent; the serpent creeps on his belly, and stings only such creatures as go upon the earth.
Rule 7. Look not so much on the dark side of your condition, as on the light. Do not pore upon your losses but ponder your mercies.
Thou art not fully sanctified in this life, how then thinkest thou be fully satisfied? *Never look for perfection of contentment till there be perfection of grace.*
Rule 8. Consider in what posture we stand in the world.
We are in a military position; we are soldiers.
We are in a peregrine condition; we are pilgrims and travelers.
We are in a mendicant condition; we are beggars.
Rule 9. Let not your hope depend upon outward things. O never place your felicity in these dull and beggarly things here below! Say with thyself, "if friends leave me, if riches take wings, yet I have that within which comforts me, an heavenly treasure; I still have an interest in God, and that interest cannot be broken off."
Rule 10. Let us often compare our condition. Make this fivefold comparison.
1) Let us compare our condition and our desert together; if we have not what we desire, we still have more than we deserve.
2) Let us compare our condition with others; are you in prison? are you in the lion's den? are you wondering in sheep's skins? art thou tormented with stone or gout? Some Christians who have been in a lower condition, have looked better, been more patient, and more contented than we who enjoy abundance. Can you take up their cross and walk cheerfully under it? or will you murmur under even lighter crosses?
3) Let us compare our condition with Christ's upon the earth. He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor (2Cor.8:9). Jesus Christ was in a low condition, he was never high, but when he was lifted up upon the cross, and that was his humility:he was content to live poor, and die cursed.
4) Let us compare our condition to what it once was. It was a Christless and hopeless condition: but now God hath cut off the entail of hell and damnation; he hath taken you out of the wild olive of nature, and ingrafted you into Christ, making you living branches of that living vine; he hath not only caused the light to shine upon you, but into you, and hath interested you in all the privileges of sonship; is not here that which may make the soul content.
5) Let us compare our condition with what it shall be shortly. God may presently seal a warrant for death to apprehend us; and when we die, we cannot carry estate with us; honor and riches descend not into the grave, why then are we troubled at our outward condition? O lay up a stock of grace! Be rich in faith and in good works, these riches will follow us.
Rule 11. Bring not your condition to mind, but bring your mind to your condition. One man has a whole manor and is discontent; another is satisfied with a few acres of land; what is the difference? The one studies to satisfy curiosity, the other necessity; the one thinks what he may have, the other what he may spare.
Rule 12. Study the vanity of the creature. It matters not whether we have less or more of these things, they have vanity written all over them; the world is like a shadow that declineth; it is delightful, but deceitful; it promiseth more than we find, and it fails us when we need it most. All the world rings changes, and is constant only in its disappointments: what then, if we have less of that which is vanity?
Rule 13. Get fancy regulated. What is the reason one tulip is worth five pounds, and another not worth one shilling? Fancy raiseth the price; the difference is rather imaginary than real; so, why it should be better to have thousands than hundreds, is, because men fancy it so; if we could fancy a lower condition better, as having less care in it, and less account, it would be far more eligible.
Rule 14. Consider how little will suffice nature. Christ hath taught us to pray for our daily bread...not to thirst and not to starve is enough; and the apostle saith, "having food and raiment let us be content." The stomach is sooner filled than the eye; how quickly would a man be content, if he would study rather to satisfy his hunger than his humour.
Rule 15. Believe the present condition is best for us. Flesh and blood is not competent to judge. O what a strange creature man would be, if he were what he could wish himself! A wise Christian hath his will melted into God' will, and thinks it best to be at his finding.
Rule 16. Do not too much indulge the flesh. We have taken an oath in baptism to forsake the flesh. The flesh is a worse enemy than the devil; an enemy within is worst. The flesh puts us upon the immoderate pursuit of the world; it consults for ease and plenty, and if it be not satisfied, then discontent begins to arise. O let it not have the reins! Martyr the flesh!
Rule 17. Meditate much on the glory which shall be revealed. It is but a while and we shall be with Christ, bathing ourselves in the fountain of his love; we shall never complain of wants and injuries anymore. O eternity, eternity! Think often of the kingdom prepared. This is an excellent means to bring the heart to contentment.
Rule 18. Be much in prayer. It is not our strong resolutions, but our strong request to God, which must give the heart ease in trouble; by prayer the strength of Christ comes into the soul, and where that is, a man is able to go through any condition.