Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.
Consider the simplicity of it. I may say, as the Psalmist, "surely they are disquieted in vain," which appears thus —
(1) Is it not a vain, simple thing to be troubled at the loss of that which is in its own nature perishing and changeable?
(2) Discontent is a heart breaking: "by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." It takes away the comfort of life.
(3) Discontent does not ease us of our burden, but it makes the cross heavier. A contented spirit goes cheerfully under its affliction.
(4) Discontent spins out our troubles the longer. The argument to contentation is this, Why is not a man content with the competency which he hath? Perhaps if he had more he would be less content. The world is such that the more we have the more we crave; it cannot fill the heart of man. When the fire burns, how do you quench it? Not by putting oil on the flame, or laying on more wood, but by withdrawing the fuel. The argument to contentation is the shortness of life. It is "but a vapour." The argument to contentation is, Consider seriously the nature of a prosperous condition. There are in a prosperous estate three things.
1. More trouble.
2. In a prosperous condition there is more danger.
3. A prosperous condition hath in it a greater reckoning; every man must be responsible for his talents.The argument to contentation is the example of those who have been eminent for contentation. Examples are usually more forcible than precepts. Abraham being called out to hot service, and such as was against flesh and blood, was content. God bid him offer up his son Isaac. The argument to contentation is this, To have a competency and to want contentment is a great judgment.
XI. THREE THINGS INSERTED BY WAY OF CAUTION. In the next place I come to lay down some necessary cautions. Though I say a man should be content in every estate, yet there are three estates in which he must not be contented.
1. He must not be contented in a natural estate; here we must learn not to be content.
2. Though, in regard to externals, a man should be in every estate content, yet he must net, be content in such a condition wherein God is apparently dishonoured.
3. The third caution is, though in every condition we must be content, yet we are not to content ourselves with a little grace. Grace is the best blessing. Though we should be contented with a competency of estate, yet not with a competency of grace.
XII. SHOWING HOW A CHRISTIAN MAY KNOW WHETHER HE HATH LEARNED THIS DIVINE ART.
1. A contented spirit is a silent spirit. He hath not one word to say against God: "I was dumb and silent, because thou didst it." Contentment silenceth all dispute: "He sitteth alone and keepeth silence."
2. A contented spirit is a cheerful spirit. The Greeks call it euthema. Contentment is something more than patience; for patience denotes only submission, contentment denotes cheerfulness.
3. A contented spirit is a thankful spirit. This is a degree above the other; "in everything giving thanks."
4. He that is content no condition comes amiss to him; so it is in the text, "in whatever state I am." He could carry a greater sail or lesser. Thus a contented Christian knows how to turn himself to any condition.
5. He that is contented with his condition, to rid himself out of trouble, will not turn himself into sin.
XIII. CONTAINING A CHRISTIAN DIRECTORY, OR RULES ABOUT CONTENTMENT. And here I shall lay down some rules for holy contentment.Rule 1. Advance faith. All our disquiets do issue immediately from unbelief. It is this that raiseth the storm of discontent in the heart. O set faith a work! How doth faith work contentment?
(1) Faith shows the soul that whatever its trials are, yet it is from the hand of a father.
(2) Faith sucks the honey of contentment out of the hive of promise.Rule 2. Labour for assurance. O let us get the interest cleared between God and our souls!Rule 3. Get an humble spirit. The humble man is the contented man. If his estate be low, his heart is lower than his estate, therefore be content.Rule 4. Keep a clear conscience. Contentment is the manna that is laid up in the ark of a good conscience.Rule 5. Learn to deny yourselves. Look well to your affections; bridle them in.
(1) Mortify your desires.
(2) Moderate your delights. Set not your heart too much upon any creature. What we over love, we shall over grieve.Rule 6. Get much of heaven into your heart. Spiritual things satisfy. The more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us.Rule 7. Look not so much on the dark side of your condition as on the light.Rule 8. Consider in what a posture we stand here in the world.
(1) We are in a military condition; we are soldiers. Now a soldier is content with anything.
(2) We are in a mendicant condition; we are beggars.Rule 9. Let not your hope depend upon these Outward things.Rule
10. Let us often compare our condition. Make this five-fold comparison.
(1) Let us compare our condition and our desert together.
(2) Let us compare our condition with others, and this will make us content.
(3) Let us compare our condition with Christ's upon earth.
(4) Let us compare our condition with what it was once, and this will make us content.
(5) Let us compare our condition with what it shall be shortly.Rule
11. Get fancy regulated. It is the fancy which raiseth the price of things above their real worth.Rule
12. Consider how little will suffice nature. The body is but a small continent, and is easily recruited.Rule
13. Believe the present condition is best for us. Flesh and blood is not a competent judge.Rule
14. Meditate much on the glory which shall be revealed.
XIV. OF CONSOLATION TO THE CONTENTED CHRISTIAN. To a contented Christian I shall say for a farewell — God is exceedingly taken with such a frame of heart.
Parallel VersesKJV: Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.