Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 3 - The Lessons That Christ Teaches

In the third part of Jeremiah Burroughs' book entitled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, which is the current work being considered in Reading the Classics with Challies, the author explains what lessons the student of Christ will learn.

The lessons that Christ teaches are:
1. The lesson of self-denial.
2. The vanity of the creature.
3. A third lesson which Christ teaches a Christian when he comes into his school is this: he teaches him to understand what is the one thing that is necessary, which he never understood before.
4. The soul comes to understand in what relation it stands to the world.
5. Christ teaches us wherein consists any good that is to be enjoyed in any creature in the world.
6. Christ teaches the soul whom he brings into this school in the knowledge of their own hearts.
7. The seventh lesson by which Christ teaches contentment is the burden of a prosperous outward condition.
8. Christ teaches them what a great and dreadful evil it is to be given up to one's heart's desires.
9. The ninth and last lesson which Christ teaches those whom he instructs in this art of contentment is the right knowledge of God's providence.
This section is very practical and very convicting. Sometimes I wonder if I am nothing more than a big baby! I have not been a student of Christ like I need to be in the area of contentment.

The author uses the watch as a metaphor on two occasions. In point #6 as seen above, we see one of the things that Christ will teach us is the knowledge of our own heart. Burroughs gives 3 ways in which knowing your heart will help one arrive at contentment:
1. By studying your heart you will come soon to discover wherein your discontent lies.
2. This knowledge of our hearts will help us to contentment, because by it we shall come to know what best suits our condition.
3. By knowing their own hearts they know what they are able to manage, and by this means they come to be content.
In the first way of help we are given the first watch metaphor:
When a man has a watch, and understand the use of every wheel and pin, if it goes amiss he will soon find out the cause of it; but when someone has no skill in a watch, if it goes amiss he does not know what is the matter, and therefore cannot mend it. So indeed our hearts are as a watch, and there are many wheels and windings and turnings there, and we should labor to know our hearts well, that when they are out of tune, we may know what is the matter.
Knowing one's heart in detail will allow the Christian to know exactly what is impairing the heart in terms of discontentment. If we do not know our hearts, we may be upset and anxious and not know the cause of it. My eldest daughter gets very vexed when she encounters new things. We have discussed this tendency and she is learning to know her heart in this way. This helps her to deal with the lack of peace in a purposeful way instead of just fretting. She still cries in many of these situations, but she knows why she is crying and takes steps to work through it.

The second watch metaphor surfaces in the ninth lesson that Christ teaches which is "the right knowledge of God's providence." I have been learning and wrestling with doctrines related to God's sovereignty and providence. I'm sure I am going to profit from this struggle though I'm sure it is nowhere even close to being finished. However, Burroughs offers 4 things we need to understand in regards to the right knowledge of God's providence:
1. The universality of providence, wherein the soul must be thoroughly instructed in to come to this art of contentment.
2. The efficacy that is in providence.
3. The infinite variety of the works of providence, and yet the order of things, one working towards another.
4. Christ teaches them the knowledge of providence.
The metaphor we are looking for comes out in the third point.
There is an infinite variety of the works of God in an ordinary providence, and yet they all work in an orderly way...We, indeed, look at things by pieces, we look at one detail and do not consider the relation that one thing has to another, but God looks at all things at once, and sees the relation that one thing has to another. When a child looks at a clock, it looks first at one wheel, and then at another wheel: he does not look at them all together or the dependence that one has upon another; but the workman has his eyes on them all together and sees the dependence of all, one upon another: so it is in God's providence...Now notice how this works to contentment: when a certain passage of providence befalls me, that is one wheel, and it may be that if this wheel were stopped, a thousand other things might come to be stopped by this. In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependant upon one another. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.

When we fight against God's providence in a certain matter we are like an infant trying to remove a wheel from the inner workings of a clock; we have no idea of the consequences of such an action nor of the way and manner of clocks. How much more infinitely complex is God's ordering of everything which we call providence.

This was yet another excellent reading from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I truly consider this a classic in Christian literature for it's applicability as well as for the truth it contains.

1 comment:

  1. The watch metaphors are so good. I especially liked the last one you quoted. The intricacy of God's "inner workings" in our lives is so far beyond our understanding, yet we can trust that HE knows what he is doing so that we don't have to worry about it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.