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Reviews

Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory Review

Jeremiah Burroughs. Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s GloryGrand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013. $6.75 (Amazon), 119 pp.

This little book is a reprint of an appendix to The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. Burroughs (1599-1646) was a member of Westminster Assembly and helped draft the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger Catechism.

Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory has been edited by Philipp L. Simpson with the modern reader in mind: the English is smoother, making this great Puritan work accessible to almost any reader. Burrough’s text is one of several books available in the “Puritan Treasures for Today” series published by Reformation Heritage Books. 

The whole book is essentially an exposition of Philippians 4:12, where Paul says he has learned how to be content both in prosperity and in need. Burroughs main argument throughout the book is that prosperity is a far greater trial for the Christian than affliction. After all, he states, no man ever was led to conversion because of his prosperous estate (49). Therefore, Burroughs writes to help Christians learn how to honor God in fullness. This, he says, is a much better lesson to learn than simply “how [to] get full,” that is, how to be prosperous (10).

His argument takes shape in ten short chapters. Many readers may be turned off by the repetitiveness of Burroughs classic Puritan approach (he takes 119 pages to explain one verse!), but if you stick in there and follow Burrough’s biblical logic, you will be challenged, convicted, and motivated to honor God by being content and satisfied in him when prosperity comes. Here are ten quotes that really get to the heart of Burroughs’ main point:

  • “It’s better to know how to honor God with those good things I have than to know how I can get more. It’s better to know how I might behave myself in the enjoyment of those good things God has given me than to know how to get more of those good things” (10). 
  • “If you let out your heart in such a way that you rejoice in created things so as to make them your primary joy, your only joy, then such a joy is not right. But it is not so with the heart of man who knows how to be full [i.e. content]” (23).
  • “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” (28).
  • “It is…harder to manage fullness [i.e. prosperity] than being poor; more skill is required to manage fullness than is required otherwise…Many have been melted under the heat of prosperity, losing their godly character, though they previously withstood the scorching heat of affliction” (35).
  • “Truly I can find no examples…in Scripture, where the prosperous estate of a man was the occasion leading to his conversion. Therefore, that shows that there is a great deal of danger in a fuller [i.e. more prosperous] condition” (49).
  • “Oh this is a sign of true humility, when you find your income to be more than it had been previously…and [you] sit down before the Lord…saying, ‘Oh, Lord, who am I, that Thou shouldest deal so graciously with me and that Thou shouldest make such a difference between me and others?'” (89).
  • “Do not be overly worried about the possibility of becoming poor, and do not be so impatient and impetuous in your desire for riches. Do not envy those who are above you. Observe the risks there are of misbehavior and spiritual failure when one enjoys abundance. It may well be that God saw you did not know how to abound, and therefore He has in mercy denied to you that which He has in wrath given to others. Remind yourselves of the examples of those who have failed in their fullness, and that will be a tremendous help to you” (109).
  • “Some of you have gloried in the fact that you have spent like kings; instead, let it be your glory that you give like kings” (113).
  • “Praise Him for His blessings, but especially praise Him if He has blessed His blessings to you. Learn to thank Him when these blessings point you to Him” (113).
  • “God’s grace so satisfies and strengthens the heart that the things that are outside of it in the world make very little difference to it. External things cannot alter a heart full of grace” (119).

By the world’s standards, everyone in America is rich. If you are reading this blog on any kind of electronic device, you already have more than billions of others. Prosperity is a blessing from God, but it is also a trial. It is a test of where our true joy lies. Burroughs sees this reality and he wants us to see it to. I heartily commend this little book to you for your joy as you seek to glorify God in the trial of prosperity.

Categories
Theology

The Great Discovery of the Gospel

The Father peculiarly fixes [love] upon the saints; this they are immediately to [look at] in him, to receive of him, and to make such returns thereof as he is delighted withal. This is the great discovery of the gospel: for whereas the Father, as the fountain of the Deity, is not known any other way but as full of wrath, anger, and indignation against sin, nor can the sons of men have any other thoughts of him (Rom. 1:18: Isa. 33:13-14; Hab. 1:13; Ps. 5:4-6; Eph. 2:3)—here he is now revealed peculiarly as love, as full of it unto us; the manifestation whereof is the peculiar work of the gospel.

– John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, ed. by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 107.

Categories
Life Theology

A Colloquy on Rejoicing

What drew me to post this whole prayer was the single line: “For whatever a man trusts in, from that he expects happiness.” (By the way, a “colloquy” is a conversation or discussion.)

Remember, O My Soul,
It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
He requires it of thee for all his favours of grace.
Rejoice then in the Giver and his goodness,
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,
for whatever a man trusts in,
from that he expects happiness.

He who is the ground of thy faith
should be the substance of thy joy.
Whence then come heaviness and dejection,
when joy is sown in thee,
promised by the Father,
bestowed by the Son,
inwrought by the Holy Spirit,
thine by grace,
thy birthright in believing?

Art thou seeking to rejoice in thyself
from an evil motive of pride and self-reputation?
Thou hast nothing of thine own but sin,
nothing to move God to be gracious,
or to continue his grace towards thee.
If thou forget this thou wilt lose thy joy.
Art thou grieving under a sense of indwelling sin?
Let godly sorrow work repentance,
as the true spirit which the Lord blesses,
and which creates fullest joy;
Sorrow for self opens rejoicing in God,
Self-loathing draws down divine delights.
Hast thou sought joys in some creature comfort?
Look not below God for happiness;
fall not asleep in Delilah’s lap.
Let God be all in all to thee,
and joy in the fountain that is always full.

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Categories
Ministry

Baxter on the Nature and Motive of Personal Oversight for Pastors

Puritan pastor Richard Baxter gives pastors five keys to personal oversight and eight keys as to why personal oversight should be given in his classic text The Reformed Pastor:

The Nature of Oversight

  1. Take heed to see that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls.
  2. Take heed to keep your graces active, and that you preach to yourself the sermons you study, before you preach them to others.
  3. Take heed so you don’t unsay with your life what you say with your mouth.
  4. Take heed so you don’t commit the sins you preach against.
  5. Take heed so you don’t lack biblical qualifications of an elder.

The Motives of Oversight

  1. Take heed to yourselves, for heaven is there to win or lose, and souls will be happy or miserable for eternity.
  2. Take heed to yourselves, for you have a depraved nature, and sinful inclinations just as others do.
  3. Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will supply more temptations than he does to others.
  4. Take heed to yourselves, because many eyes will fall upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls.
  5. Take heed to yourselves, because your sins are more severe than other men’s.
  6. Take heed to yourselves, because such a calling as ours require greater grace than other men’s.
  7. Take heed to yourselves, for the honor of your Lord and Master, and of his holy truth and ways, lies more on you than on other men.
  8. Take heed to yourselves, for the success of all your work depends on it.
– Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), pp. 53-86.
Categories
Life Theology

Resting in God

A guest post by Andrew Reiners

This is a devotional taken out of a book called The Valley of Vision edited by Arthur Bennett. This specific devotional pretty much sums up what I have been feeling lately as I have fought for joy and peace with God throughout a couple of stressful weeks at work and the absence of my wonderful girlfriend who is in Serbia on a missions project for the next five weeks. I have often found myself lately wanting to just crawl into bed for the next few weeks and avoid the realities and hardships of life. This is my prayer tonight that the Lord would restore my joy in him and give me a deeper pleasure in the gospel and desire to let the light of Christ shine in me during my day. The author of this devotional is unknown as the book does not state the authors of each specific article.  Hope this can be an encouragement and blessing to others.

O God, most high, most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace. Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills. Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint. Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to Thee, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls. Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit. Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee. Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling. Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy. Abide in me, gracious God.