Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 5 - The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit

Part 5 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is entitled The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit. Burroughs explains what this part will be about:

Thus we have showed in many respects the excellence of this grace of contentment, laboring to present the beauty of it before your souls, that you may be in love with it. Now, my brethren, what remains but the practice of this? For this art of contentment is not a speculative thing, only for contemplation, but it is an art of divinity, and therefore practical...Now that we may come to grips with the practice, it is necessary that we should be humbled in our hearts because of our lack of contentment in the past. For there is no way to set about any duty that you should perform, you might labor to perform it, but first you must be humbled for the lack of it... Now to the end that you might be humbled for lack of it, I shall endeavor in these headlings to speak of it: First I shall set before you the evil of a murmuring spirit. There is more evil in it than you are aware of.

Burroughs goes through 13 points to humble the reader for their lack of contentment in the past. His fourth point was one that I found challenging me above the others. It reads "IT [a lack of contentment] IS A WICKEDNESS WHICH IS GREATLY CONTRARY TO GRACE, AND ESPECIALLY CONTRARY TO THE WORK OF GOD, IN BRINGING THE SOUL HOME TO HIMSELF."

Burroughs delivers his first argument for the point above:

The usual way is for God to make the soul to see, and be sensible of the dreadful evil that is in sin, and the great breach that sin has made between God and it, for, certainly, Jesus Christ can never be known in his beauty and excellence till the soul knows that. I do not say what secret work of the Holy Ghost there may be in the soul, but before the soul can actually apply Jesus Christ to itself, it is impossible but that it must come to know the evil of sin, and the excellence of Jesus Christ. A seed of faith may be put into the soul, but the soul must first know Christ, and know sin, and be made sensible of it. Now how contrary is this sin of murmuring to any such work of God! Has God made me see the dreadful evil of sin, and made my soul sensible of the evil of sin as the greatest burden? How can I be then so much troubled for every little affliction? Certainly, if I saw what the evil of sin was, that sight would swallow up all other evils, and if I were burdened with the evil of sin, it would swallow up all other burdens. What! am I now murmuring against God's hand? says such a soul, whereas a while ago the Lord made me see myself to be a damned wretch, and apprehend it as a wonder that I was not in Hell?

I have been challenged several times in the past few weeks about sin and the degree to which I hate it. I came across a quote by Thomas Goodwin on the blog Miscellanies which is as follows:

“Work in your hearts a hatred of sin… If a man had killed your friend, or father, or mother, how would you hate him! You would not endure the sight of him, but follow the law upon him. Send out the avenger of blood with a hue and cry after thy sin; bring it afore God’s judgment seat, arraign it, accuse it, spit on it, condemn it and thyself for it, have it to the cross, nail it there, if it cry I thirst, give it vinegar, stretch the body of sins upon his cross, stretch every vein of it, make the heart strings crack; and then when it hangs there, triumph over the dying of it, show it no pity, laugh at its destruction, say, Thou hast been a bloody sin to me and my husband, hang there and rot. And when thou art tempted to it [sin], and art very thirsty after the pleasure of it, say of that opportunity to enjoy it, It is the price of Christ’s blood, and pour it upon the ground. … Shall I live upon that which was Christ’s death? Shall I please myself in that which was his pain? Shall I be so dishonest, so unkind, as to enjoy the pleasure for which he endured the smart?” (Christ the Mediator in The Works of Thomas Goodwin 5:294)

It seems the Puritans believed strongly in learning to despise sin. They certainly understand that God has that perspective. I would do well to apply this to my life.

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