Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Burroughs--Contentment, a Gracious Frame of Spirit

This matter of Christian contentment is a matter of the soul. Today (p.5-6)we will see three things about this "inward, quiet frame of spirit".

First, we see that it is a "grace that spreads itself through the whole soul." What Burroughs means by this is that contentment begins in the soul's understanding (reason, judgment, cognition) and satisfies the thoughts. Then as the thoughts are satisfied it moves to the will--which submits to the understanding. Then as the will submits the affections follow. Therefore, true Christian contentment penetrates through the entire soul.

Some have only a partial contentment. They are able to get their understanding and therefore their thoughts in check but for whatever reason they cannot seem to harness their affections. A great example of this would be Psalm 42. David has a settled disposition but yet his soul is still downcast. Yet even without having his affections settled he is in a far better state than the soul who cannot be settled in his understanding. But if we are to have true Christian contentment then it must penetrate all of our soul.

Secondly, we see that "spiritual contentment comes from the frame of the soul." What Burroughs means by this is that contentment does not come from outward help but from "the disposition of their own hearts". "When a Christian is content in the right way, the quiet comes more from the temper and disposition of his own heart than from any external argument or from the possession of anything in the world".

To help us to see this Burroughs gives an example of a man with cold clothes. He can get his clothes warmed by two different ways. Either by sitting by a fire (outward) or by wearing them for awhile and letting his natural body heat warm them (inward). This is compared to the differences in many men. Some are ill and their natural body heat will not warm them. They can go to the fire but it will only warm them for awhile. Only while the outward help is upon them, but when left to themselves their "contentment" will soon dwindle. The one who has true Christian contentment will at first field the coldness of the affliction but after awhile will warm up to it and become content under the trial. This will continue because it came from the inward state. Therefore, "when it comes from the spirit of a man or woman--that is true contentment."

Lastly, we see that this frame of spirit "shows the habitual character of this grace of contentment". By this Burroughs simply means that contentment is no mere flash in the pan. It is a lasting endeavor. It is not fixed upon moods or seasons. True Christian contentment will find itself as the "constant tenor and temper of their hearts". If we are to call it Christian contentment then it must be persevering.

What then can we learn from Burroughs today?
  • I am especially challenged by Burroughs second point. Thinking of all the different "fires" that might warm me I realized that I can be tempted to find comfort in things other than Jesus. We know, as does Burroughs, that true contentment only comes from the soul's satisfaction with God. That is where this "inward soul-warming" comes from. I am challenged then to discover the areas in my life where my "contentment" only comes from outward blessing and not inward satisfaction.
  • It is also challenging to determine whether or not our attitude is continually contented or is it shifting with our various moods and cirumstances.
  • Therefore, we must cling to Jesus to teach us this mystery of contentment.

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