This is a continuation of a Study Guide on Jeremiah Burroughs The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The previous post may be found here:
There is a Great Deal of Grace in Contentment:
The second point made by Burroughs has to do with the “grace” which is poured out in contentment.
To understand this argument, it will be necessary to understand that the Puritians routinely used the word “grace” in a different manner than it is typically used by contemporary Christians. In contemporary usage, the word “grace” often refers only to the initial act of God’s saving work, “For by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). More broadly, it is God’s mercy towards our remnant sin.
When Puritans used the word, they routinely referenced God’s grace as the various operations of God’s good will toward us and work in us.
Consider the following passage from John Owen:
If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold his hand from giving us more. His graces, as well as his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with.
John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, “The Mortification of Sin,” vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 13. And:
By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them. So the apostle opposes the fruits of the flesh and of the Spirit: “The fruits of the flesh,” says he, “are so and so,” Gal. 5:19–21; “but,” says he, “the fruits of the Spirit are quite contrary, quite of another sort,” verses 22, 23. Yea; but what if these are in us and do abound, may not the other abound also? No, says he, verse 24, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” But how? Why, verse 25, “By living in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit;”—that is, by the abounding of these graces of the Spirit in us, and walking according to them.
John Owen, at p. 19. Grace is something that God does in us and through. Grace is not merely the disposition of God nor just our realization of God’s disposition, but grace God’s good work. That is why Burroughs writes in this section, “That in Contentment there is much exercise of grace“.
Contentment is to be prized by the believer, because in action evidences much of God’s good work in our lives.
1. Before we analyze Burroughs’ argument, why would evidence of God working in one’s life be desirable? In this prayer from The Valley of Vision, the unknown author refers to his preconversion life as “graceless”:
O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between my receivings and my deservings,
between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness,
between the heaven I am bound for
and the hell I merit.
Edited by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision (Kindle Locations 213-215). The Banner of Truth Trust. What does “graceless” mean? Does that help understand what clear knowledge of God’s grace would be a comfort and encouragement?
A. Burroughs writes:
Much exercise of grace, There is a composition of grace in Contentment, there is faith, and there is humility, and love, and there is patience, and there is wisdom, and there is hope, all graces almost are compounded, it is in oil that hath the ingredients of all kind of graces, and therefore though you cannot see the particular grace, yet in this oil you have it all;
B.What are the various things which Burroughs lists as separate graces? What makes up the “composition of grace”?
C. Use your knowledge and a concordance to find passages in the Bible which extol each faith, humility, love, patience, wisdom.
D. How do each of these “graces” contribute to being content? For example, how does humility make one more content, make contentment possible?
E. Based upon what you have considered, how is it a joy and encouragement to find evidence of each of these graces in your life?
F. How do these graces contribute to the strength and exercise of the other graces? How does love contribute to patience, and so on?