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The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment: A Review

Summary


Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment takes the reader on a journey through the channels of Christianity as expressed through the pious philosophy of contentment. Through his work, Burroughs seeks to expand the idea of Christian contentment by delineating the doctrinal conclusion: “that to be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory, and excellence of a Christian.”[1] He demonstrates this clearly in a fourfold, sequential format laid out in the preliminary paragraphs: 1) the nature of this Christian contentment: what it is. 2) The art and mystery of it. 3) What lessons must be learned to bring the heart to contentment. 4) Wherein the glorious excellence of this grace chiefly consists.[2]

           

Burroughs begins his quest by describing, in his terms, Christian contentment as the “sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”[3] Upon this definition, he formulates the succeeding argument. The continuing theme of Burrough’s work establishes the idea that, for the believer, contentment allows them to experience godliness in a different perspective, maintaining a sense of peace within the Christian’s heart that is inseparably bound to contentment, all whilst permitting them to endure times of adversity and blessing alike with greater tenacity. Moreover, it is worthy of the reader’s attention that Burroughs does not argue that contentment is intrinsic in some, whilst non-existent in others. Quite the contrary, it is a spiritual work whereby it is developed and deposited within the heart of a believer as one depends upon the sufficiency of Christ through experience. It is not something to be merely bartered but earned through a lifelong process.

           

This jewel of contentment, as the title implies, is something of a rarity—difficult to be found in the modern facets and fancies of society. Yet, with rarity comes a mystery, of which Burroughs highlights several. In his concluding remarks on contentment’s mystery, he provides a summation of this strange mystery, of which he states: “a Christian … is able to make up all his outward wants of creature comforts from what he finds in himself.”[4] In essence, Burroughs’ argument is that, if one has God, one has all things, something he notes as “the fullness in God” because He is “the infinite first being of all things, that may make up all their wants.”[5]

           

Perhaps the crowning chapters of Burroughs’ text would be his remarks regarding contentment as taught by Christ in the fifth and sixth chapters. He implies that there are lessons taught by Christ that bring the believer to a place of contentment. He shares nine pivotal lessons that implanted contentment into the heart of Paul, and argues such principles also bring all believers to the same position. Contentment, initially, says Burroughs, derives from a place of self-denial, whereby such a person understands that they are nothing, and, furthermore, are deserving of nothing. From this point, contentment can begin to have its work. Additionally, in the second step of Burroughs’ outline of Christ’s teaching, he argues that Jesus teaches that there is vanity of the creature—a form of emptiness. With this, the progression moves from the creature itself to the thought-pattern of that creature. Here, Christ teaches that one must come to an understanding of the one thing which is necessary but was misunderstood before. This necessary thing is Christ’s instruction of the soul. Then, the soul must understand what relation it has to the world, whereby Burroughs delineates that one must be a soldier, pilgrim, stranger, and traveler.[6] 

           

In considering the sufferings of Christ, however, Burroughs underlines the fact that “as Christians know that they are in their warfare, they are here in this world fighting and combating with the enemies of their souls and their eternal welfare, and they must be willing to endure hardness here. A right understanding of this fact that God has put them into such a condition is what will make them content, especially when they consider that they are certain of the victory and that ere long they shall triumph with Jesus Christ.”[7] In juxtaposition, Burroughs highlights what a shame it is to be given up to one’s heart desires—an emptiness and discontentment ensues. May such not be the case, but that godliness may have its perfect work, exemplifying contentment.


Analysis of Exegesis


Jeremiah Burroughs's use of Scripture throughout his work is done appropriately and within context, not sacrificing the meaning or intent of the author for the sake of arguing his case for contentment as godliness. Moreover, the foundational passage he utilizes as inspiration for the remainder of the book are Paul’s notable words, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).[8] In providing a summation, then further an in-depth exegesis of Paul’s words, Burroughs states that “these words are brought in by Paul as a clear argument to persuade the Philippians that he did not seek after great things in the world . . . his heart was taken up with better things.” Then, in sequence, he breaks down, word by word, the verse and provides the reader with what appears to be a brief commentary and exegesis of the text on pages two and three.


Burroughs utilizes the sixteenth chapter of Numbers, the speech of Moses to Korah and his company, to answer the objection of unbeknownst afflictions. Whilst he may not know the affliction, he argues his awareness of available mercies and their outnumbering of affliction in the life of a believer.[9] Concerning murmuring, Burroughs uses Job’s words to his wife, in addition to the seventh chapter of Ecclesiastes to argue his case. In speaking of the molding of one’s will into God’s, he utilizes the forty-seventh Psalm. And, in stating that one must purge out that which is wicked within to discover the mystery of contentment, James’s words echo from the fourth chapter of his book, symbolizing the lusts within the believer and the need for purging. Therefore, the exegesis Burroughs employs is fitting and well-defended.


Usefulness to the Modern Reader


            In a society where the lust for the glimmering gadgets and places of prominence is at the forefront of almost every motive, Burroughs calls the reader to a refreshing place of reflection on Christ, contentment, and His sufficiency to meet every need. Perhaps the monumental struggle for believers and unbelievers alike is contentment, or the lack thereof, where a sense of unrest and dissatisfaction pervades the church, home, educational systems and workplaces of a fast-paced, unrelenting modern world. Where the sounds of a booming economy seem to drown out the humble contentedness of the days of slow-paced, simpler times, Burroughs’ words echo through the centuries and pierce through the noise and chaos of discontentedness.


            It has been said by many that society has become content with being discontent. Such a prognosis of the culture, while unfortunate, is overwhelmingly accurate for the modern man. Whereas Burroughs ventures to make arguments in favor of contentment and how it should be sought, society proves the opposite in and of itself by denying the various steps on the pathway to contentment. The steps, as Burroughs outlines, of humility, disposableness, graciousness, submission, the burden of one’s sin, and the turning of affliction to good. Such principles run against the grain of modernism.


            So, Jeremiah Burroughs' work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, whilst enduring the test of time and providing a sense of grounding to the aimlessness one can find in a fast-paced lifestyle, remains both relevant and clear for the modern reader. It calls the reader to pause and reflect on the joys and mystery of Christian contentment. Burroughs’ voice thunders not only to place a high prize on Christian contentment, but to intrigue readers to embark on a journey of finding for themselves the rarity and mystery of such a jewel.

 

Bibliography


Burroughs, Jeremiah. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Edinburgh, UK: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2022.


The Holy Bible: King James Version. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2000.


Footnotes


[1] Burroughs, Jeremiah. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Edinburgh, UK: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2022), 3.

[2] Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 4.

[3] Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 4.

[4] Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 73.

[5] Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 73.

[6] Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 97.

[7] Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 100.

[8] Phil 4:11 (King James Version)

[9] Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 201.


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