Jeremiah Burroughs, Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory, Edited by Phillip L. Simpson (originally published in 1675; republished by Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013). Paperback, 119 pgs. $10.00.
Jeremiah Burroughs’ (1599-1646) Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory was originally published as the appendix to one of his most well-known works, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. After facing a series of difficult circumstances—including deprivation and slander—he found himself leading three large congregations in England in 1641. It was while he was at one of these, Stepney, that he preached a series of sermons, which were collected, edited, and became The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.
Burroughs’ Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory is the collection of three sermons with a view of having true contentment in the midst of prosperity and wealth. Contentment, he argues, is not only found when one is facing difficulty and poverty, but also when one is facing prosperity. He defines contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet gracious frame of spirit” that freely submits to and delights in “God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
After a brief, though helpful, biographical preface by Phillip Simpson—who wrote A Life of Gospel Peace: The Biography of Jeremiah Burroughs (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011)—the contents of the book are divided into ten rather short chapters, including an introduction. The guiding biblical verse is from Philippians 4:12 – “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to about: every where and in all things I am instructed to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
In my opinion, the book has three overarching positives. First, it is refreshingly God-centered (common for puritan literature!). There is no pandering to modern sensitivities or entitlements. It is a warm, uncompromising presentation of how to be content in prosperity, not letting the foothold of wealth to pull the believer from his first Love.
Second, Burroughs gives some helpful advice for living in moderation. As the poor should not be so troubled for their lack of abundance, so the rich should not be so troubled with their wealth of abundance. Do not be worried about becoming poor nor envious of the prosperous life. Living in moderation—with an eye for God’s glory—is a precious pursuit.
Third, Burroughs presents grounded application that can be easily translated into modern-day living. The trans-cultural, trans-generational truth as outlined spills over into pastoral uses for Christian living. At the heart of it is a concern about the placement of one’s true satisfaction. Seeking a satisfied heart in anything but the Lord is not only sinful, but also quite unfulfilling.
Ultimately, as Burroughs put it, those who are prosperous ought to be “in love with godliness” and not the possessions of the world. In whatever situation one finds himself, he is to realize his utter dependence upon God. I heartily recommend this little book for the wider public as it has both challenging and encouraging exhortation for the people of God, especially those facing the “burden” of prosperity.