(From Thomas Watson‘s The Art of Divine Contentment)
Epistle to the Reader
Having seriously considered the great dishonor done to almighty God (as well as the prejudice which accrues to ourselves) by the sin of discontent (a universal and epidemic sin), it put me upon the study of this subject at first. More is it incongruous to handle this next in order to “The Christian Charter“) [reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria in The Sermons of Thomas Watson], I showed you there the great things which a believer has in reversion. Things to come are his, and here behold a Christian’s holy and gracious deportment in this life, which reveals itself in nothing more eminently than in being content.
Discontent is to the soul as a disease is to the body: it puts it out of temper and much hinders its regular and sublime motions heavenward. Discontent is hereditary, and, no doubt, is much augmented by the many sad eclipses and changes that have fallen out of late in the political body, yet the disease is not to be excused because it is natural, but resisted because it is sinful. That which should put us out of love with this sullen distemper is the contemplation of the beautiful queen of contentment.
For my part, I do not know of any ornament in religion that more bespangles a Christian, or glitters in the eye of God and man more, than this of contentment. Nor certainly is there anything wherein all the Christian virtues work more harmoniously or shine more transparently than in this orb. Every grace acts its part here. This is the true philosopher’s stone, which turns all into gold. This is the curious enamel and embroidery of the heart, which makes Christ’s spouse all glorious within. How should every Christian be ambitious to wear such a sparkling diamond!
If there is a blessed life before we come to heaven, it is the contented life. And why not be contented? Why are you angry, and why is your countenance fallen? Man, of all creatures, has the least cause to be discontented. Can you deserve anything from God? Does He owe you anything? What if the scene were to turn and God put you under the blackrod? Whereas He now uses a rod, He might use a scorpion. He might as well damn you as whip you. Why, then, are you discontented? Why do you give way to this irrational and hurtful sin of discontent? May the good Lord humble His own people for nourishing such a viper in their breast as not only cuts out the bowels of their comfort, but spits venom in the face of God Himself!
Oh, Christian, if you are overspread with this fretting leprosy, you carry the man of sin about you, for you set yourself above God and act as if you were wiser than He, and would sassily prescribe to Him what condition is best for you! Oh, this devil of discontent which, whenever it possesses a person, makes his heart a little hell!
I know there will never be perfect contentment in this life. Perfect pleasure is only at God’s right hand, yet we may begin here to tune our instrument before we play the sweet lesson of contentment exactly in heaven. I should be glad if this little piece might be like Moses’ casting the tree into the waters, to make the bitter condition of life more sweet and pleasant to drink of.
I have once more ventured to address the public. I acknowledge this work to be homespun. Some better hand might have made a more effective draft, but, having preached upon the subject, I was earnestly solicited by some of my hearers to publish it, and although it is not dressed in that rich attire of eloquence as it might have been, I am not about poetry or oratory, but divinity. Nor is this intended for fancy, but practice.
If I may herein do any service, or cast but a mite into the treasury of the church’s grace, I have my desire. The end of our living is to live to God, and to lift up His name in the world. May the Lord add an effectual blessing to this work and fasten it as a nail in a sure place. May He, of His mercy, make it as spiritual medicine to purge the ill humor of discontent out of our hearts, so that a crown of honor may be set upon the head of religion, and the crystal streams of joy and peace ever run in our soul. This is the prayer of him who is desirous to be a faithful orator for you at the throne of grace,
From my study at Stephens, Walbrook
May 5, 1653
The Art of Divinie Contentment
or available online http://www.ccel.org/ccel/watson/contentment.html