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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 20

The second apology that discontent makes is, I have a great part of my estate strangely melted away, and trading begins to fail. God is pleased sometimes to bring his children very low, and cut them short in their estate; it fares with them as with that widow, who had nothing in her house, save a pot of oil: (2 Ki. 4. 2) but be content.

1. God hath taken away your estate, but not your portion. This is a sacred paradox, honour and estate are no part of a Christian’s jointure; they are rather luxuries than essentials, and are extrinsical and foreign; therefore the loss of those cannot denominate a man miserable, still the portion remains; “the Lord is my portion, saith my soul.” (La. 3. 24) Suppose one were worth a million of money, and he should chance to lose a pin off his sleeve, this is no part of his estate, nor can we say he is undone; the loss of sublunary comforts is not so much to a Christian’s portion, as the loss of a pin is to a million. “These things shall be added to you,” (Mat. 6. 33) they shall be cast in as overplus. When a man buys a piece of cloth he hath an inch or two given in to the measure; now, though he lose his inch of cloth, yet he is not undone, for still the whole piece remains: our outward estate is not so much in regard of the portion, as an inch of cloth is to the whole piece; why then should a Christian be discontented, when the title to his spiritual treasure remains? A thieve may take away all the money that I have about me, but not my land; still a Christian hath a title to the land of promise. Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her.

2. Perhaps, if thy estate had not been lost, thy soul had been lost; outward comforts do often quench inward heat. God can bestow a jewel upon us, but we fall so in love with it, that we forget Him that gave it. What pity is it that we should commit idolatry with the creature! God is forced sometimes to drain away an estate: the plate and jewels are often cast overboard to save the passenger. Many a man may curse the time that ever he had such an estate:
it hath been an enchantment to draw away his heart from God; “they that will be rich, fall into a snare:” are thou troubled that God hath prevented a snare? Riches are thorns; (Mat. 13. 7) art thou angry because God hath pulled away a thorn from thee? Riches are compared to “thick clay;” (Ha. 2. 6) perhaps thy affections, which are the feet of the soul, might have stuck so fast in this golden clay that they could not have ascended up to heaven. Be content; if God dam up our outward comforts, it is, that the stream of our love may run faster another

3. If your estate be small, yet God can bless a little. It is not how much money we have, but how much blessing. He that often curseth the bags of gold, can bless the meal in the barrel, and the oil in the cruise. What if thou hast not the full fleshpots? yet thou hast a promise, “I will abundantly bless her provision,” (Ps. 132. 15) and then a little goes a great way. Be content thou hast the dew of a blessing distilled; a dinner of green herbs, where love is, is sweet; I may add, where the love of God is. Another may have more estate than you, but, more care; more riches, less rest; more revenues, but with all more occasions of expense; he hath a greater inheritance, yet perhaps God doth not give “him power to eat thereof” (Ec. 6. 2) he hath the dominion of his estate, not the use; he holds more but enjoys less; in a word,thou hath less gold than he, perhaps less guilt.

4. You did never so thrive in your spiritual trade; your heart was never so low, as since your condition was low; you were never so poor in spirit, never so rich in faith. You did never run the ways of God’s commandments so fast as since some of your golden weights were taken off. You never had such trading for heaven all your life; this is most abundant gain. You did never make such adventures upon the promise as since you left off your sea-adventures. This is the best kind of merchandise. O Christian, thou never hadst such incomes of the Spirit, such spring-tides of joy; and what though weak in estate, if strong in assurance?
Be content: what you have lost one way, you have gained another.

5. Be your losses what they will in this kind, remember in every loss there is only a suffering, but in every discontent there is a sin, and one sin is worse than a thousand sufferings. What! because some of my revenues are gone, shall I part with some of my righteousness? shall my faith and patience go too? Because I do not possess an estate, shall I not therefore possess my own spirit? O learn to be content.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. 
My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

I managed to post this one on Wednesday, not Sunday. Sorry.