The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment book cover
  • ISBN: 978-0851510910
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Page Count: 232
  • Publisher: Banner Of Truth Trust

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Jeremiah Burroughs)

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Without a doubt, the most readable and useful book ever written to promote a contented, thankful, uncomplaining and grateful walk with God. We live in a world of grumblers, discontent with God’s widespread goodness. It is all too easy for Christians to share in this spirit with the world.

This book, in typical Puritan form, “doctors” us by proposing remedies to our “spiritual disease” and helps us grow a spirit of thankfulness in its place.

The author focuses especially on helping to bring calm and contentment to the hearts of those in sad and discouraged times. He also aims to promote peace and harmony among believers with various differences of opinion.



The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Doctoring the Spiritual Disease of Discontent

Without a doubt, the most readable and useful book ever written to promote a contented, thankful, uncomplaining and grateful walk with God. We live in a world of grumblers, discontent with God’s widespread goodness. It is all too easy for Christians to share in this spirit with the world.

This book, in typical Puritan form, “doctors” us by proposing remedies to our “spiritual disease” and helps us grow a spirit of thankfulness in its place.

The author focuses especially on helping to bring calm and contentment to the hearts of those in sad and discouraged times. He also aims to promote peace and harmony among believers with various differences of opinion.


Biographical Introduction 11
1 Christian Contentment Described 17
I It is inward 20
II It is quiet 21
What this is not opposed to 21
What it is opposed to 22
III It is a frame of spirit 25
IV It is a qracious frame 29
V It freely submits to God’s disposal 31
VI It submits to God’s disposal 33
VII It takes pleasure in God’s disposal 33
VIII It submits and takes pleasure in God’s disposal 35
IX It does this in every condition 36
2 The Mystery of Contentment 41
I A Christian is content, yet unsatisfied 42
II He comes to contentment by subtraction 45
III By adding another burden to himself 47
IV By changing the affliction into something else 49
V By doing the work of his circumstances 51
VI By melting his will into God’s will 53
VII By purging out what is within 55
3 The Mystery of Contentment – continued 56
VIII He lives on the dew of God’s blessing 56
IX He sees God’s love in afflictions 60
X His afflictions are sanctified in Christ 60
Xl He gets strength from Christ 62
XII He makes up his wants in God 65
XIII He gets contentment from the Covenant 69
4 The Mystery of Contentment – concluded 74
He supplies wants by what he finds in himself 74
He gets supply from the Covenant 78
I. The Covenant in general 78
2. Particular promises in the Covenant 80
XIV He realizes the things of Heaven 83
XV He opens his heart to God 84
5 How Christ Teaches Contentment 86
I The lesson of self-denial 86
II The vanity of the creature 91
III To know the one thing needful 92
IV To know one’s relation to the world 93
V Wherein the good of the creature is 97
VI The knowledge of one’s own heart 99
6 How Christ Teaches Contentment- Concluded 103
VII The burden of a prosperous condition 103
VIII The evil of being given up to one’s heart’s desires 109
IX The right knowledge of God’s providence 111
7 The Excellence of Contentment 118
I By it we give God his due worship 119
II In it is much exercise of grace 121
III The soul is fitted to receive mercy 124
IV It is fitted to do service 125
V It delivers from temptations 126
VI It brings abundant comforts 128
VII It gets the comfort of things not possessed 129
VIII It is a great blessing on the soul 133
IX A contented man may expect reward 133
X By it the soul comes nearest the excellence of God 134
8 The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit 136
I It argues much corruption in the soul 137
II It is the mark of an ungodly man 138
III Murmuring is accounted rebellion 139
IV It is contrary to grace, especially in conversion 141
V It is below a Christian 144
9 The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit – concluded 152
VI By murmuring we undo our prayers 152
VII The evil effects of murmuring 153
VIII Discontent is a foolish sin 157
IX It provokes the wrath of God 161
X There is a curse on it 165
XI There is much of the spirit of Satan in it 166
XII It brings an absolute necessity of disquiet 167
XIII God may withdraw his protection 167
10 Aggravations of the Sin of Murmuring 170
I The greater the mercies the greater the sin of murmuring 170
II When we murmur for small things 176
III When men of gifts and abilities murmur 178
IV The freeness of God’s mercy 178
V When we have the things for the want of which we were discontented 178
VI When men are raised from a low position 179
VII When men have been great sinners 180
VIII When men are of little use in the world 180
IX When God is about to humble us 181
X When God’s hand is apparent in an Affliction 182
XI When God has afflicted us for a long time 183
11 The Excuses of a Discontented Heart 185
I ‘It is a sense of my condition’ 185
II ‘I am troubled for my sin’ 186
III ‘God withdraws himself from me’ 188
IV ‘It is men’s bad treatment that troubles me’ 190
V ‘I never expected this affliction’ 191
VI ‘My affliction is so great’ 192
VII ‘My affliction is greater than others’ 193
VIII ‘If the affliction were any other, I could be content’ 194
IX ‘My afflictions make me unserviceable to God’ 195
X ‘My condition is unsettled’ 199
XI ‘I have been in a better condition’ 202
XII ‘I am crossed after taking great pains’ 204
XIII ‘I do not break out in discontent’ 205
12 How to Attain Contentment 207
I Considerations to content the heart in any afflicted condition 207
1 The greatness of the mercies we have 207
2 God is beforehand with us with his mercies 208
3 The abundance of mercies God bestows 209
4 All creatures are in a vicissitude 209
5 The creatures suffer for us 210
6 We have but little time in the world 211
7 This has been the condition of our betters 211
8 We were content with the world without grace, and should be now with grace without the world 213
9 We did not give God the glory when we had our desires 213
10 The experience of God doing us good in afflictions 213
13 How to Attain Contentment-concluded 216
II Directions for attaining contentment 216
1 There must be grace to make the soul steady 216
2 Do not grasp too much of the world 216
3 Have a call to every business 217
4 Walk by rule 217
5 Exercise much faith 219
6 Labour to be spiritually-minded 219
7 Do not promise yourselves great things 220
8 Get hearts mortified to the world 221
II Directions for attaining contentment- continued
9 Do not pore too much on afflictions 222
10 Make a good interpretation of God’s ways to you 223
11 Do not regard the fancies of other men 225
12 Do not be inordinately taken up with the comforts of the world 226

About the Author, Puritan minister Jeremiah Burroughs

Jeremiah Burroughs combined harmoniously in his own person what might be considered incompatible qualities: a fervent zeal for purity of doctrine and worship, and a peaceable spirit, which longed and laboured for Christian unity. For the first of these qualities the Puritans are renowned; in the second, they are deemed by some critics to have been deficient. A close study of the problem suggests that, as a whole, the Puritans were no more and no less concerned about the visible unity of the Church than is the Word of God. But in the case of Burroughs, certainly, we are faced with a man who, among his contemporaries and colleagues, was recognized as outstanding for his conciliatory temper and efforts. The often-quoted opinion of Richard Baxter was that if all the Episcopalians had been like Archbishop Ussher, all the Presbyterians like Stephen Marshall, and all the Independents like Jeremiah Burroughs, then the breaches of the Church would soon have been healed. Of Burroughs himself, it was said that his heart was broken by the divisions among the Puritan reformers in the 1640’s and that this contributed to his premature death at the age of forty-seven.

The life and ministry of Burroughs, though comparatively short, exemplify many of the best features of the era to which he belonged. Born in 1599, he was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Founded in 1584 on the site of an old Dominican college, Emmanuel became the greatest seminary of Puritan preachers. Through it passed Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, Thomas Shepard (all of them founding fathers in New England), as well as Stephen Marshall, William Bridge, Anthony Burgess, Thomas Brooks and Thomas Watson. It is recorded that, while still at Cambridge, Burroughs was a nonconformist and eventually he was forced to leave the university for this reason.

Jeremiah Burroughs’ ministry falls readily into three periods: (1) After leaving Cambridge, he ministered to two congregations in East Anglia, the region where the influence of Puritan principles was strongest. In his first charge, at Bury St Edmunds, Burroughs’ colleague was Edmund Calamy, who was also later to be a famous city preacher, as well as a leading writer (one of the co-authors of a tract against the episcopacy and liturgy of the Church of England) and a church leader (after the Restoration of Charles II, he refused a bishopric). In 1631 Burroughs was appointed Rector of Tivetshall, Norfolk. Although East Anglia was a Puritan stronghold, his position was soon in jeopardy as the bishops, under the over-all direction of Laud, were determined to enforce nationwide conformity. Bishop Wren of Norwich (later of Ely) was one of the most severe and bigoted members of the episcopal bench. By means of his visitation articles, he insisted on the placing of the communion table altar-wise, encouraged superstitious gestures (not countenanced by the Prayer Book) and prohibited afternoon sermons on the Lord’s day, as well as requiring all ministers to read the ‘Book of Sports’, which urged the people to engage in various recreations on the Lord’s day after attending morning worship. Several godly ministers were suspended by Wren for nonconformity or for refusing to read the ‘Book of Sports’, among them Calamy, Bridge and Burroughs himself.

(2) The Laudian regime caused not only Puritan ministers but many citizens and church members to leave England, seeking liberty to worship God according to Scripture and their consciences. Some crossed the Atlantic to found a New England. Others, like the Protestant Reformers a century before, sought haven on the Continent. In the 1630’s Holland, which had shaken off the yoke of Roman Catholic Spain, was especially hospitable to the exiles. A succession of noted divines ministered to the English congregations there. The learned Dr William Ames, formerly Professor of Theology at the University of Franeker, became teacher of the English Church at Rotterdam in 1632 (though he died the next year), and Burroughs agreed in 1637 to fulfil the same office. His course continued to run parallel to that of William Bridge who, after being forced to leave his charge at Norwich by Bishop Wren, joined Burroughs at Rotterdam as Pastor of the Church. (The Independents, like the New England Congregationalists, regarded the offices of pastor and teacher as distinct, though of course similar.)

(3) The final period, up to his death in 1646, witnessed his greatest success as a popular preacher in London and a leading reformer of the Independent persuasion. The Long Parliament, which ended many of the objectionable features of the Laudian era, invited the exiled ministers, among them Burroughs, to return to England. He came back in 1642 to play an important dual role, as a city preacher and as one of the framers of the new religious settlement. In the latter capacity, he was summoned to take his place as a member of the Westminster Assembly. Burroughs played a full part in the work of the Assembly, though he was among the small group of Independents who opposed certain features of the form of church government agreed to by the majority of the Assembly. The ‘Five Dissenting Brethren’, as the Independent leaders were called, were, however, in full doctrinal agreement with the other Puritans, and Burroughs, especially, deplored the deep division which ensued.

One of his most famous works was Irenicum or Heart-Divisions Opened, in which he pleaded for the unity of all who loved the truth, and argued that what made comparatively minor differences into causes of rigid divisions was a wrong spirit and wrong motives. His efforts to promote a united church settlement were to prove unsuccessful, though many of the leading Puritan ministers kept, like him, a true sense of proportion.

In the period of Parliament’s ascendancy, many of the ablest preachers gravitated towards London, and Burroughs was chosen to preach at Stepney and Cripplegate, described on the title-page of the first edition of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment as ‘two of the greatest congregations in England’. At Stepney he shared the ministry with William Greenhill, famous for his Commentary on Ezekiel, so that Burroughs (who preached at 7 a.m.) was called the morning-star of Stepney, and Greenhill the evening-star.

The substance of Burroughs’ preaching is revealed in his published works, which are mainly sermons. These writings, most of which were published posthumously, were extremely popular in the seventeenth century, but they have never been collected and issued as a complete set. His grasp of doctrine, discernment into the very recesses of the human heart, comprehensive and profound knowledge of Scripture and ability to apply it, and superb gift of illustration, are all exemplified in them. Burroughs died in 1646, two weeks after a fall from his horse.