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Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 23

Watson has been writing about excuses for not being contented. He continues:

The next apology that discontent makes is, but my friends have dealt very unkindly with me, and proved false.

It is sad, when a friend proves like a brook in summer. (Job 6. 15) The traveller being parched with heat, comes to the brook, hoping to refresh himself, but the brook is dried up, yet be content.


1. Thou art not alone, others of the saints have been betrayed by friends; and when they have leaned upon them, they have been as a foot out of joint. This was true in the type David; “it was not an enemy that reproached me, but it was thou, O man, mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance; we took sweet counsel together: (Ps. 55. 12, 13, 14) and in the antitype Christ; he was betrayed by a friend: and why should we think it strange to have the same measure dealt out to us as Jesus Christ had? “the servant is not above his master”. 


2. A Christian may often read his sin in his punishment: hath not he dealt treacherously with God? How oft hath he grieved the Comforter, broken his vows, and through unbelief sided with Satan against God? how oft abused love, taken the jewels of God’s mercies, and made a golden calf of them, serving his own lusts? how oft made the free grace of God, which would have been a bolt to keep out sin, rather a key to open the door to it? These wounds hath the Lord received in the house of his friends. Look upon the unkindness of thy friend, and mourn for thy own unkindness against God; shall a Christian condemn that in another, which he hath been too guilty of himself?
 

3. Hath thy friend proved treacherous? Perhaps you did repose too much confidence in him. If you lay more weight upon a house than the pillars will bear, it must needs break. God saith, “trust ye not in a friend:” (Mi. 7. 5) perhaps you did put more trust in him, than you did dare to put in God. Friends are as Venice-glasses, we may use them, but if we lean too hard upon them, they will break; behold matter of humility, but not of sullenness and discontent.

4. You have a friend in heaven who will never fail you; “there is a friend” — saith Solomon — “that sticketh closer than a brother:” (Pr. 18. 24) such a friend is God; he is very studious and inquisitive on our behalf; he hath a debating with himself, a consulting and projecting how he may do us good; he is the best friend which may give contentment in the midst of all discourtesies of friends. Consider, (1.) He is a loving friend. “God is love;” (1 Jno. 4. 16) hence he is said sometimes to engrave us on the “palm of his hand,” (Is. 49. 16) that we may never be out of his eye; and to carry us in his bosom, (Is. 40. 11) near to his heart. There is no stop or stint in his love; but as the river Nilus, it overflows all the banks; his love is as far beyond our thoughts, as it is above our deserts. O the infinite love of God, in giving the Son of his love to be made flesh, which was more than if all the angels had been made worms!
God in giving Christ to us gave his very heart to us: here is love penciled out in all its glory, and engraven as with the “point of a diamond.” All other love is hatred in comparison of the love of our Friend. (2.) He is a careful friend: “He careth for you”. (1 Pe. 5. 7) He minds and transacts our business as his own, he accounts his people’s interests and concernments as his interest. He provides for us, grace to enrich us, glory to ennoble us. It was David’s complaint, “no man careth for my soul:” (Ps. 142. 4) a Christian hath a friend that cares for him. (3.) He is a prudent friend. (Da. 2. 20) A friend may sometimes err through ignorance or mistake, and give his friend poison instead of sugar; but “God is wise in heart; (Job 9. 4) he is skilful as well as faithful; he knows what our disease is, and what physic is most proper to apply; he knows what will do us good, and what wind will be best to carry us to heaven.
(4.) He is a faithful friend. And he is faithful in his promises; “in hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie hath promised.” (Tit. 1. 2) God’s people are “children that will not lie;” (Is. 63. 8) but God is a God that cannot lie; he will not deceive the faith of his people; nay, he cannot: he is called “the Truth;” he can as well cease to be God as cease to be true. The Lord may sometimes change his promise, as when he converts a temporal promise into a spiritual; but he can never break his promise. (5.) He is a compassionate friend, hence in Scripture we read of the yearning of his bowels. (Jer. 31. 20) God’s friendship is nothing else but compassion; for there is naturally no affection in us to desire his friendship, nor no goodness in us to deserve it; the loadstone is in himself. When we were full of blood, he was full of bowels; when we were enemies, he sent an embassage of peace; when our hearts were turned back from God, his heart was turned towards us. O the tenderness and sympathy of our Friend in heaven! We ourselves have some relentings of heart to those which are in misery; but it is God who begets all the mercies and bowels that are in us, therefore he is called “the Father of mercies.” (2 Cor. 1. 3) (6.) He is a constant friend: “his compassions fail not.” (La. 3. 22) Friends do often in adversity drop off as leaves in autumn; these are rather flatterers than friends. Joab was for a time faithful to king David’s house; he went not after Absalom’s treason; but within a while proved false to the crown, and went after the treason of Adonijah. (1 Ki. 1. 7) God is a friend forever: “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Jno. 13. 1) What though I am despised? yet God loves me. What though my friends cast me off? yet God loves me; he loves to the end, and there is no end of that love. This methinks, in case of discourtesies and unkindnesses, is enough to charm down discontent.


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.)
 

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