Jeremiah Burroughs is perhaps best known for his writings on Christian contentment. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is his best known work, which is the publication of his sermon series on Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
Hidden in the back of Burroughs’ famous book is an appendix, which Reformation Heritage Books has published as part of their Puritan Treasures for Today series. It is titled Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory. Christian contentment has two sides, but we usually think of primarily one—learning to be content with little. But the apostle said that we have another need, that is, learning how to be full (prosperous), how to handle the abundance of comforts we receive from God. That is the subject of this little book. In the second chapter, “What Learning to Be Full Means,” we learn what it means to “be full,” that is, to be content with fullness, or prosperity.
- A man has learned to be full when he has learned to set a suitable price on his fullness. “No man can attain to the grace of Christian contentment if he is unable to handle his afflictions; he must understand and know his affliction, or he cannot come to Christian contentment. Similarly, we cannot learn how to be full unless we understand the mercies God has granted to us….He must prize the mercy God has granted to him at a suitable rate.”
- A man learns how to be full when he can discern the best use of what he has—that is, when he can tell how best to distribute the fullness God gives him. “A man learns this lesson when he makes no more use of what he has than is appropriate for him, even though he is in the midst of abundance.”
- A man learns how to be full when he can use the comforts he has received but does so in a way that avoids the evil of the temptations that go along with them. “It takes a wise man or woman to know how to do this—to be able to distinguish between the good and the evil of the temptation that goes along with any good thing.”
- A man knows how to be full when he can keep under his command everything he enjoys, and he can retain command over his own spirit in what he enjoys. “A man doesn’t know how to rule if he allows himself to be under his servant; likewise, a man does not know how to be full if he does not have command over what he enjoys in the world—or better yet, command over his own spirit in the use of what he enjoys.”
- A man has learned how to be full when he can use the gifts of God and yet remain ready to part with all his comforts if God calls for them. “We are too passionate about created things when our hearts cleave to them, and taking them away rips our hearts.”
- A man who knows how to be full when he can make all his fullness to further grow in all his graces—to act upon his graces, to exercise his graces, and to draw forth his graces. “While fullness may deaden the graces of other men, fullness will strengthen the graces of someone who knows how to be full.”
- A man knows how to be full when his fullness leads him to the source of his fullness—that is, when his grace leads him to God. “For someone with a grace-filled heart, it is not enough to have the peace of God; he must have the God of peace. It is not enough to have honor from God; he must have the God of that honor. All the riches in the world cannot satisfy him unless he has the God that gave him those riches.”
- A Christian learns to be full when he can spread out all his fullness and offer it to God for His use—that is, when he can improve what he has to serve God. “I use it, yes, but I do not use it for myself so much as for God. I know how to be full when I can see the opportunities for service that God has given to me in my fullness.”
- A man learns to be full when he uses the things of this world as if he did not use them. “A man has learned to be full when he can use his fullness, not as his end but as a means to the end—not as things that he depends upon for his happiness but as things that are incidental.”
- A man knows how to abound if he knows how to make use of his worldly comforts, yet is able to do so in such a way that he is not hindered by the afflictions or troubles that go along with those comforts. “For example, Haman abounded, but he did not know how to abound. Therefore, when he became aggravated in one thing (that Mordecai did not bow the knee to him), why, all the comfort of his prosperity vanished."
- Finally, a man has learned how to abound if he knows his own heart in the midst of his abundance. “Sailors are not so concerned about maneuvering a ship if they are given enough room at sea to do so. They find this to be an easy part of their job; as long as they have enough room at sea, they feel safe doing so. But this is not the case when you have the great sea of prosperity. In a vast sea of prosperity you actually fare far worse for yourselves.”