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The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition

 

of Philippians 4:11

 

by

Thomas Watson

 

 

Table of Contents

About This Book. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. ii

Title Page. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 1

Forward. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 2

Original Table of Contents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 3

Chapter I. The Introduction to the Text.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 6

p. 7

Chapter II. The First Branch of the Text, the Scholar, with the First

Proposition.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Chapter III. Concerning the Second Proposition.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 9

p. 11

Chapter IV. The Second Branch of the Text, the Lesson itself, with the

Proposition.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Chapter V. The resolving of some Questions.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 14

Chapter VI. Shewing the Nature of Contentment.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 15

Chapter VII. Reasons pressing to Holy Contentment.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 17

p. 19

Chapter VIII. Use I. Shewing how a Christian may make his Life

comfortable.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Chapter IX. Use II. A Check to the discontented Christian.. . . . . . . . . . . p. 20

Chapter X. Use III. A Suasive to Contentment.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 22

Chapter XI. Divine Motives to Contentment.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 35

Chapter XII. Three things inserted by way of Caution.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 54

p. 58

Chapter XIII. Use IV. Showing how a Christian may know whether he hath

learned this Divine Art.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

p. 61

Chapter XIV. Use V. Containing a Christian Directory, or Rules about

Contentment.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Chapter XV. Use VI. Of Consolation to the Contented Christian.. . . . . . . p. 70

Indexes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 71

Index of Scripture References. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 71

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The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians Thomas Watson

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The Art of Divine Contentment

An Exposition of Philippians 4. 11

I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

THOMAS WATSON

This etext is from an edition by Free Presbyterian Publications,

ISBN 0902506 269.

No year is indicated.

Permission granted to publish the book on the Internet.

A printed edition is available from any bookshop or directly from the publisher at

Free Presbyterian Publications

133 Woodlands Road

Glasgow G3 6LE

United Kingdom

fpbookroom@compuserve.com

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians Thomas Watson

4:11

FOREWORD

“Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward;” therefore we all need to learn the same lesson

as Paul. “I have learned,” he said “in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” Philippians

4. 11. Believers, especially, wish to attain to a holy equanimity in their tribulations and under the

stresses caused by our increasingly secular society.

In this volume we have a full exposition, by the Puritan, Thomas Watson, of the above verse of

Scripture, originally preached during his ministry as rector of St Stephen’s, Wallbrook, London.

“Although Thomas Watson issued several most valuable books,” said C. H. Spurgeon,

“comparatively little is known of him — even the dates of his birth and death are unknown. His

writings are his best memorial; perhaps he needed no other, and therefore providence forbade the

superfluity.”

Puritan preachers, having an eye to the practice of their hearers, built their heart-searching application

of the truth upon sound biblical doctrine. This characteristic is evident in The Art of Divine

Contentment; as is also the fact that Watson was the “master of a terse, vigorous style and of a

beauty of expression. He could speak not only to win men’s understanding but also to secure a

place for the truth in their memories.”

In reprinting the 1855 edition of The Art of Divine Contentment (the latest edition we know of) we

wished to revise the layout and to add editorial notes for increased clarity. We regret, however, that

lack of staff prevents us doing little more than adding a full table of contents.

We issue this little book with the prayerful hope that it will be useful in teaching the art of Godly

contentment to many, enabling them, like David, to sincerely say to God in their troubles, “Thou

art good, and doest good.”

The Publishers

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CONTENTS

THE TEXT: Philippians 4. 11, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

I THE INTRODUCTION TO THE TEXT

II THE FIRST BRANCH OF THE TEXT

The Scholar, with the First Proposition:

It is not enough to hear our duty — we must learn it

III CONCERNING THE SECOND PROPOSITION

Learning is difficult — good things are hard to come by

IV THE SECOND BRANCH OF THE TEXT

The Lesson: “in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content”, and the Proposition: A gracious

spirit is a contented spirit

V THE RESOLVING OF SOME QUESTIONS

May not a Christian feel his condition, and yet be contented?

May not a Christian tell God his trouble, and yet be contented?

What is properly that contentment doth exclude?

VI SHEWING THE NATURE OF CONTENTMENT

It is a divine thing

It is an intrinsical thing

It is an habitual thing

VII REASONS PRESSING TO HOLY CONTENTMENT

God’s precept

God’s promise

VIII USE I. SHEWING HOW A CHRISTIAN MAY MAKE HIS LIFE COMFORTABLE

IX USE II. A CHECK TO THE DISCONTENTED CHRISTIAN

X USE III. A SUASIVE TO CONTENTMENT

Replies to apologies which discontent makes for itself:

I have lost a child:

It was my only child

I have a great part of my estate melted away

It is sad with me in my relations:

My child is in rebellion

My husband takes ill courses

My friends have dealt very unkindly with me

I am under great reproaches

I have not esteem from men

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I meet with great sufferings for the sake of the truth

The wicked prosper

The evils of the times:

The times are full of heresy

The impiety of the times

The lowness of my parts and gifts

The troubles of the church

My sins disquiet and discontent me

XI DIVINE MOTIVES TO CONTENTMENT

The excellency of contentment

A Christian hath that which may make him content

Be content lest we confute our own prayers

God hath his end, and Satan misseth of his end

The Christian gains a victory over himself

All God’s providences shall do a believer good

The evil of discontent

The competency a man hath

The shortness of life

The nature of a prosperous condition

The example of those eminent for contentment

Trouble here is all the trouble a believer shall have

Competency without contentment is a great judgement

XII THREE THINGS INSERTED BY WAY OF CAUTION

Be not content in a state of sin

Be not content in a condition wherein God is dishonoured

Be not content with a little grace

XIII USE IV. SHOWING HOW A CHRISTIAN MAY KNOW IF HE HATH LEARNED THIS

DIVINE ART

XIV USE V. CONTAINING A CHRISTIAN DIRECTORY, OR RULES ABOUT CONTENTMENT

Advance faith

Labour for assurance

Get an humble spirit

Keep a clear conscience

Learn to deny yourselves

Get much of heaven into your heart

Look not so much on the dark side, as on the light

Consider in what posture we stand here in the world

Let not your hope depend upon these outward things

Let us often compare our condition

Bring your mind to your condition

Study the vanity of the creature

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Get fancy regulated

Consider how little will satisfy nature

Believe the present condition is best for us

Do not too much indulge the flesh

Meditate much on the glory which shall be revealed

Be much in prayer

XV USE VI. OF CONSOLATION TO THE CONTENTED CHRISTIAN

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CHAPTER I

The Introduction to the Text.

These words are brought in by way of prolepsis to anticipate and prevent an objection. The apostle

had, in the former verse, laid down many grave and heavenly exhortations: among the rest, “to be

careful for nothing.” Not to exclude, 1. A prudential care; for, he that provideth not for his own

house, “hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Ti. 5. 8) Nor, 2. a religious care; for

we must give all “diligence to make our calling and election sure.” (2 Pe. 1. 10) But, 3. to exclude

all anxious care about the issues and events of things; “take no thought for your life, what you shall

eat.” (Mat. 6. 25) And in this sense it should be a Christian’s care not to be careful. The word careful

in the Greek comes from the primitive, that signifies “to cut the heart in pieces,” a soul-dividing

care; take heed of this. We are bid to “commit our way unto the Lord;” (Ps. 37. 5) the Hebrew word

is, “roll thy way upon the Lord.” It is our work to cast away care; (1 Pe 5. 7) and it is God’s work

to take care.

By our immoderacy we take his work out of his hand. Care, when it is eccentric, either distrustful

or distracting, is very dishonourable to God; it takes away his providence, as if he sat in heaven

and minded not what became of things here below; like a man that makes a clock, and then leaves

it to go for itself. Immoderate care takes the heart off from better things; and usually while we are

thinking how we shall do to live, we forget how to die. Care is a spiritual canker that doth waste

and dispirit; we may sooner by our care add a furlong to our grief than a cubit to our comfort. God

doth threaten it as a curse, “they shall eat their bread with carefulness.” (Ez. 12. 1) Better fast than

eat of that bread. “Be careful for nothing.”

Now, lest any one should say, yea, Paul thou preachest that to us which thou hast scarce learned

thyself; hast thou learned not to be careful? the apostle seemed tacitly to answer that, in the words

of the text; “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content:” a speech worthy to

be engraven upon our hearts, and to be written in letters of gold upon the crowns and diadems of

princes.

The text doth branch itself into these two general parts. I. The scholar, Paul; “I have learned.” II.

The lesson; “in every state to be content.”

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CHAPTER II

The First Branch of the Text, the Scholar, with the First Proposition.

I begin with the first: The scholar, and his proficiency; “I have learned.” Out of which I shall by

the bye, observe two things by way of paraphrase. 1. The apostle doth noth say, I have heard, that

in every estate I should be content: but, I have learned. Whence our first doctrine, that it is not

enough for Christians to hear their duty, but they must learn their duty. It is one thing to hear

and another thing to learn; as it is one thing to eat and another thing to concoct. St Paul was a

practitioner. Christians hear much, but it is to be feared, learn little. There were four sorts of grounds

in the parable, (Lu. 8. 5) and but one good ground: an emblem of this truth, many hearers, but few

learners.

There are two things which keep us from learning. 1. Slighting what we hear. Christ is the pearl of

price; when we disesteem this pearl, we shall never learn either its value, or its virtue. The gospel

is a rare mystery; in one place, (Ac. 20. 24) it is called “the gospel of grace;” in another, (1 Cor. 4.

4) “the gospel of glory;” because in it, as in a transparent glass, the glory of God is resplendent.

But he that hath learned to contemn this mystery, will hardly ever learn to obey it; he that looks

upon the things of heaven as things by the bye, and perhaps the driving of a trade, or carrying on

some politic design to be of greater importance, this man is in the high road to damnation, and will

hardly ever learn the things of his peace. Who will learn that which he thinks is scarce worth

learning? 2. Forgetting what we hear. If a scholar have his rules laid before him, and he forgets

them as fast as he reads them, he will never learn. (Ja. 1. 25) Aristotle calls the memory the scribe

of the soul; and Bernard calls it the stomach of the soul, because it hath a retentive faculty, and

turns heavenly food into blood and spirits; we have great memories in other things, we remember

that which is vain. Cyrus could remember the name of every soldier in his huge army. We remember

injuries: this is to fill a precious cabinet with dung; but as Hierom saith, how soon do we forget the

sacred truths of God? We are apt to forget three things: our faults, our friends, our instructions.

Many Christians are like sieves; put a sieve into the water, and it is full; but take it forth of the

water, and all runs out: so, while they are hearing a sermon, they remember something: but like the

sieve out of the water, as soon as they are gone out of the church, all is forgotten. “Let these sayings,

(saith Christ) sink down into your ears;” (Lu. 9. 44) in the original it is, “put these sayings into your

ears,” as a man that would hide the jewel from being stolen, locks it up safe in his chest. Let them

sink: the word must not fall only as dew that wets the leaf, but as rain which soaks to the root of

the tree, and makes it fructify. O, how often doth Satan, that fowl of the air, pick up the good seed

that is sown!

USE. Let me put you upon a serious trial. Some of you have heard much, — you have lived forty,

fifty, sixty years under the blessed trumpet of the gospel, — what have you learned? You may have

heard a thousand sermons, and yet not learned one. Search your consciences.

1. You have heard much against sin: are you hearers; or are you scholars? How many sermons

have you heard against covetousness, that it is the root, on which pride, idolatry, treason do grow?

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One calls it a metropolitan sin; it is a complex evil, it doth twist a great many sins in with it. There

is hardly any sin, but covetousness is a main ingredient of it; and yet are you like the two daughters

of the horse-leech, that cry, “give! give!” How much have you heard against rash anger, that is a

short frenzy, a dry drunkenness; that it rests in the bosom of fools; and upon the least occasion do

your spirits begin to take fire? How much have you heard against swearing: It is Christ’s express

mandate, “swear not at all.” (Mat. 5. 34) This sin of all others may be termed the unfruitful work

of darkness. It is neither sweetened with pleasure, nor enriched with profit, the usual vermillion

wherewith Satan doth paint sin. Swearing is forbidden with a subpaena. While the swearer shoots

his oaths, like flying arrows at God to pierce his glory, God shoots “a flying roll” of curses against

him. And do you make your tongue a racket by which you toss oaths as tennisballs? do you sport

yourselves with oaths, as the Philistines did with Samson, which will at last pull the house about

your ears? Alas! how have they learned what sin is, that have not learned to leave sin! Doth he

know what a viper is, that will play with it?

2. You have heard much of Christ: have you learned Christ? The Jews, as Jerom saith, carried

Christ in their Bibles, but not in their heart; their sound “went into all the earth; (Ro. 10. 18) the

prophets and apostles were as trumpets, whose sound went abroad into the world: yet many thousands

who heard the noise of these trumpets, had not learned Christ, “they have not all obeyed.” (Ro. 10.

16) (1.) A man may know much of Christ, and yet not learn Christ: the devils knew Christ. (Mat.

1. 24) (2.) A man may preach Christ, and yet not learn Christ, as Judas and the pseudo-apostles.

(Ph. 5. 15) (3.) A man may profess Christ, and yet not learn Christ: there are many professors in

the world that Christ will profess against. (Mat. 7. 22, 23)

Q. What it is then to learn Christ?

1. To learn Christ is to be made like Christ, to have the divine characters of his holiness engraven

upon our hearts: “we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed

into the same image.” (2 Cor. 3. 18) There is a metamorphosis made; a sinner, viewing Christ’s

image in the glass of the gospel, is transformed into that image. Never did any man look upon Christ

with a spiritual eye, but he went away quite changed. A true saint is a divine landscape picture,

where all the rare beauties of Christ are lively portrayed and drawn forth; he hath the same spirit,

the same judgment, the same will, with Jesus Christ.

2. To learn Christ, is to believe in him; “my Lord, and my God,” (Jno. 20. 28) when we do not only

believe God, but in God, which is the actual application of Christ to ourselves, and as it were the

spreading of the sacred medicine of his blood upon our souls. You have heard much of Christ, and

yet cannot with an humble adherence say, “my Jesus;” be not offended if I tell you, the devil can

say his creed as well as you.

3. To learn Christ, is to love Christ. When we have Bible-conversations, our lives like rich diamonds

cast a sparkling lustre in the church of God, and are, in some sense, parallel with the life of Christ,

as the transcript with the original. So much for the first notion of the word.

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CHAPTER III

Concerning the Second Proposition.

This word, “I have learned,” is a word that imports difficulty; it shows how hardly the apostle came

by contentment of mind; it was not bred in nature. St Paul did not come naturally by it, but he had

learned it. It cost him many a prayer and tear, it was taught him by the Spirit. Whence our second

doctrine: good things are hard to come by. The business of religion is not so facile as most do

imagine. “I have learned,” saith St Paul. Indeed you need not learn a man to sin; this is natural, (Ps.

58. 3) and therefore facile, it comes as water out of a spring, It is an easy thing to be wicked; hell

will be taken without storm; but matters of religion must be learned. To cut the flesh is easy, but

to prick a vein, and not to cut an artery is hard. The trade of sin needs not to be learned, but the art

of divine contentment is not achieved without holy industry: “I have learned.”

There are two pregnant reasons, why there must be so much study and exercitation: 1. Because

spiritual things are against nature. Everything in religion is antipodes to nature. There are in religion

two things, and both are against nature. (1.) Matters of faith: as, for men to be justified by the

righteousness of another, to become a fool that he may be wise, to save all by losing all; this is

against nature. (2.) Matters of practice: as, Self-denial; for a man to deny his own wisdom, and see

himself blind; his own will, and have it melted into the will of God; plucking out the right eye,

beheading and crucifying that sin which is the favourite, and lies nearest to the heart; for a man to

be dead to the world, and in the midst of want to abound; for him to take up the cross, and follow

Christ, not only in golden, but in bloody paths, to embrace religion, when it is dressed in

night-clothes, all the jewels of honour and preferment being pulled of; this is against nature, and

therefore must be learned. Self-examination; for a man to take his heart, as a watch, all in pieces;

to set up a spiritual inquisition, or court of conscience, and traverse things in his own soul; to take

David’s candle and lantern, (Ps. 119. 105) and search for sin; nay, as judge, to pass the sentence

upon himself. (2 Sa. 34. 17) this is against nature, and will not easily be attained to without learning.

Self-reformation; to see a man, as Caleb, or another spirit, walking antipodes to himself, the current

of his life altered, and running into the channel of religion: this is wholly against nature. When a

stone ascends, it is not a natural motion, but a violent; the motion of the soul heaven-ward is a

violent motion, it must be learned; flesh and blood is not skilled in these things; nature can no more

cast out nature, than Satan can cast out Satan. 2. Because spiritual things are above nature. There

are some things in nature that are hard to find out, as the cause of things, which are not learned

without study. Aristotle, a great philosopher, whom some have called an eagle fallen from the

clouds, yet could not find out the motion of the river Euripus, and therefore threw himself into it;

what then are divine things, which are in sphere above nature, and beyond all human disquisition;

as the Trinity, the hypostatical union, the mystery of faith to believe against hope? Only God’s

Spirit can light our candle here. The apostle calls these “the deep things of God.” The gospel is full

of jewels, but they are locked up from sense and reason. The angels in heaven are searching into

these sacred depths. (1 Pe. 22)

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USE. Let us beg the Spirit of God to teach us; we must be “divinely taught;” the eunuch could read,

but he could not understand, till Philip joined himself to his chariot. (Ac. 8. 29) God’s Spirit must

join himself to our chariot; he must teach, or we cannot learn: “all thy children shall be taught of

the Lord”. (Is. 54. 13) A man may read the figure on the dial, but he cannot tell how the day goes,

unless the sun shines upon the dial: we may read the Bible over, but we can not learn the purpose,

till the Spirit of God shines into our hearts. (2 Cor. 4. 6) O implore this blessed Spirit! It is God’s

prerogative-royal to teach: “I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit.” (Is. 48. 17)

Ministers may tell us our lesson, God only can teach us; we have lost both our hearing and eye-sight,

therefore are very unfit to learn. Ever since Eve listened to the serpent, we have been deaf; and

since she looked on the tree of knowledge we have been blind; but when God comes to teach, he

removes these impediments. (Is. 35. 5) We are naturally dead; (Ep. 2. 1) who will go about to teach

a dead man? yet, behold, God undertakes to make dead men to understand mysteries! God is the

grand teacher. This is the reason the word preached works so differently upon men; two in a pew,

the one is wrought upon effectually, the other lies at the ordinances as a dead child at the breast,

and gets no nourishment. What is the reason? Because the heavenly gale of the Spirit blows upon

one, and not upon the other; one hath the anointing of God, which teacheth him all things,! (1 Jno.

2. 27) the other hath it not. God’s Spirit speaks sweetly, but irresistably. In that heavenly doxology,

none could sing the new song, but those who were sealed in their foreheads, (Re. 14. 2) reprobates

could not sing it. Those that are skilful in the mysteries of salvation, must have the seal of the Spirit

upon them. Let us make this our prayer: Lord, breathe thy Spirit into thy word; and we have a

promise, which may add wings to prayer; “if ye then being evil know how to give good gifts unto

your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask

him?” (Lu. 11. 13) And thus much of the first part of the text, the scholar, which I intended only

as a short gloss or paraphrase.

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CHAPTER IV

The Second Branch of the Text, the Lesson itself, with the Proposition.

I come to the second, which is the main thing, the lesson itself, “in whatsoever state I am, therewith

to be content.” Here was a rare piece of learning indeed, and is certainly more to be wondered at

in St Paul, that he knew how to turn himself to every condition, than all the learning in the world

besides, which hath been so applauded in former ages, by Julius Cæsar, Ptolemy, Xenophon, the

great admirers of learning. The text hath but few words in it; “in every state content:” but if that

be true, which once Fulgentius said, that the most golden sentence is ever measured by brevity and

suavity, then, this is a most accomplished speech; the text is like a precious jewel, little in quantity,

but great in worth and value.

The main proposition I shall insist upon, is this, that a gracious spirit is a contented spirit. The

doctrine of contentment is very superlative, and till we have learned this, we have not learned to

be Christians.

1. It is a hard lesson. The angels in heaven had not learned it; they were not contented. Though

their estate was very glorious, yet they were still soaring aloft, and aimed at something higher; “the

angels which kept not their first estate.” They kept not their estate, because they were not contented

with their estate. Our first parents, clothed with the white robe of innocency in paradise, had not

learned to be content; they had aspiring hearts, and thinking their human nature too low and

home-spun, would be crowned with the Deity, and “be as gods.” Though they had the choice of all

the trees of the garden, yet none would content them but the tree of knowledge which they supposed

would have been as eye-salve to have made them omniscient. O then, if this lesson was so hard to

learn in innocency, how hard shall we find it, who are clogged with corruption!

2. It is of universal extent, it concerns all. 1st. It concerns rich men. One would think it needless to

press those to contentment whom God hath blessed with great estates, but rather persuade them to

be humble and thankful; nay, but I say, be content. Rich men have their discontents as well as

others! When they have a great estate, yet they are discontented that they have no more; they would

make the hundred talents a thousand. A man in wine, the more he drinks, the more he thirsts;

covetousness is a dry dropsy; an earthly heart is like the grave, that is “never satisfied;” therefore

I say to you, rich men, be content. Rich men, if we may suppose them to be content with their

estates, which is seldom; yet, though they have estate enough, they have not honour enough: if their

barns are full enough, yet their turrets are not high enough. They would be somebody in the world,

as Theudas, “who boasted himself to be somebody.” (Ac. 5. 36) They never go so cheerfully as

when the wind of honour and applause fills their sails; if this wind be down they are discontented.

One would think Haman had as much as his proud heart could desire; he was set above all the

princes, advanced upon the pinnacle of honour, to be the second man in the kingdom; (Es. 3. 1) yet

in the midst of all his pomp, because Mordecai would not uncover and kneel, he is discontented,

and full of wrath, and there was no way to assuage this pleurisy of revenge, but by letting all the

Jews’ blood, and offering them up in sacrifice. The itch of honour is seldom allayed without blood;

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therefore I say to you rich men, be content. Rich men, if we may suppose them to be content with

their honour and magnificent titles, yet they have not always contentment in their relations. She

that lies in the bosom, may sometimes blow the coals; as Job’s wife, who in a pet would have him

fall out with God himself; “curse God, and die.” Sometimes children cause discontent. How often

is it seen that the mother’s milk doth nourish a viper? and that he that once sucked her breast, goes

about to suck her blood? Parents do often of grapes gather thorns, and of figs thistles. Children are

sweet-briar; like the rose, which is a fragrant flower, but hath its prickles. Our relative comforts

are not all pure wine, but mixed; they have in them more dregs than spirits, and are like that river

Plutarch speaks of, where the waters in the morning run sweet, but in the evening run bitter. We

have no charter of exemption granted us in this life; therefore rich men had need be called upon to

be content. 2dly. The doctrine of contentment concerns poor men. You that do suck so liberally

from the breasts of providence, be content; it is an hard lesson, therefore it had need be set upon

the sooner. How hard is it when the livelihood is even gone, a great estate boiled away almost to

nothing, then to be contented. The means of subsistence is in Scripture called our life, because it

is the very sinews of life. The woman in the gospel spent “all her living upon the physicians;” (Lu.

8. 43) in the Greek it is, she spent her whole life upon the physicians, because she spent her means

by which she should live. It is much when poverty hath clipped our wings then to be content; but,

though hard, it is excellent; and the apostle here had “learned in every state to be content”. God

had brought St Paul into as great variety of conditions as ever we read of any man, and yet he was

content; else sure he could never have gone through it with so much cheerfulness. See into what

vicissitudes this blessed apostle was cast: “we are troubled on every side,” (2 Cor 4. 8) there was

the sadness of his condition; “but not distressed,” there was his content in that condition: “we are

perplexed,” there is his affliction; “but not in despair,” there is his contentation. And, if we read a

little further, “in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults,”

(2 Cor 6. 4,5) &c. there is his trouble: and behold his content, “as having nothing, yet possessing

all things.” When the apostle was driven out of all, yet in regard of that sweet contentment of mind

which was like music in his soul, he possessed all. We read a short map or history of his sufferings;

“in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft,” (2 Cor. 11. 23, 24, 25) &c. yet behold the blessed frame

and temper of his spirit, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Which

way soever providence did blow, he had such heavenly skill and dexterity, that he knew how to

steer his course. For his outward estate he was indifferent; he could be either on the top of Jacob’s

ladder, or the bottom; he could sing either the dirge or the anthem; he could be anything that God

would have him: “I know how to want, and how to abound.” Here is a rare pattern for us to imitate.

Paul, in regard of his faith and courage, was like a cedar, he could not be stirred; but for his outward

condition, he was like a reed bending every way with the wind of providence. When a prosperous

gale did blow upon him, he could bend with that, “I know how to be full;” and when a boisterous

gust of affliction did blow, he could bend in humility with that, “I know how to be hungry.” St Paul

was, as Aristotle speaks, like a die that hath four squares; throw it which way you will, it falls upon

a bottom: let God throw the apostle which way he would, he fell upon this bottom of contentment.

A contented spirit is like a watch: though you carry it up and down with you yet the spring of it is

not shaken, nor the wheels out of order, but the watch keeps its perfect motion: so it was with St

Paul, though God carried him into various conditions, yet he was not lift up with the one, nor cast

down with the other; the spring of his heart was not broken, the wheels of his affections were not

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disordered, but kept their constant motion towards heaven; still content. The ship that lies at anchor

may sometimes be a little shaken, but never sinks; flesh and blood may have its fears and disquiets,

but grace doth check them: a Christian, having cast anchor in heaven, his heart never sinks; a

gracious spirit is a contented spirit. This is a rare art. Paul did not learn it at the feet of Gamaliel:

“I am instructed,” (Ph. 4. 11) I am initiated into this holy mystery; as if he had said, I have gotten

the divine art, I have the knack of it; God must make us right artists. If we should put some men

to an art that they are not skilled in, how unfit would they be for it? put an husbandman to limning

or drawing pictures, what strange work would he make? this is out of his sphere. Take a limner

that is exact in laying of colours, and put him to plough, or set him to planting, or grafting of trees,

this is not his art, he is not skilled in it: bid a natural man live by faith, and when all things go cross,

be contented, you bid him do what he hath no skill in, you may as well bid a child guide the stern

of a ship; to live contented upon God in the deficiency of outward comforts, is an art which “flesh

and blood hath not learned;” nay, many of God’s own children, who excel in some duties of religion,

when they come to this of contentment, how do they bungle? They have scarce commenced masters

of this art.

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CHAPTER V

The resolving of some Questions.

For the illustration of this doctrine, I shall propound these questions.

Q. 1. Whether a Christian may not be sensible of his condition, and yet be contented?

Yes; for else he is not a saint, but a stoic. Rachel did well to weep for her children, there was nature;

but her fault was, she refused to be comforted, there was discontent. Christ himself was sensible,

when he sweat great drops of blood, and said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;”

yet he was contented, and sweetly submitted his will: “nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

The apostle bids us humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God,” (1 Pe. 5. 6) which we cannot

do unless we are sensible of it.

Q. 2. Whether a Christian may not lay open his grievances to God, and yet be contented?

Yes: “unto thee have I opened my cause;” (Jer. 20. 12) and David poured out his complaint before

the Lord. (Ps. 142. 2) We may cry to God, and desire him to write down all our injuries: shall not

the child complain to his father? When any burden is upon the spirit, prayer gives vent, it easeth

the heart. Hannah’s spirit was burdened; “I am” says she, “a woman of a sorrowful spirit.” Now

having prayed, and wept, she went away, and was no more sad; only here is the difference between

a holy complaint and a discontented complaint; in the one we complain to God, in the other we

complain of God.

Q. 3. What is it properly that contentment doth exclude?

There are three things which contentment doth banish out of its diocese, and which can by no means

consist with it. 1. It excludes a vexatious repining; this is properly the daughter of discontent: “I

mourn in my complaint.” (Ps. 55. 2) He doth not say I murmur in my complaint. Murmuring is no

better than mutiny in the heart; it is a rising up against God. When the sea is rough and unquiet, it

casts forth nothing but foam: when the heart is discontented, it casts forth the foam of anger,

impatience, and sometimes little better than blasphemy. Murmuring is nothing else but the scum

which boils off from a discontented heart. 2. It excludes an uneven discomposure: when a man

saith, I am in such straits, that I know not how to evolve or get out, I shall be undone; when his

head and heart are so taken up, that he is not fit to pray or meditate, &c. he is not himself: just as

when an army is routed, one man runs this way, and another that, the army is put into disorder; so

a man’s thoughts run up and down distracted, discontent doth dislocate and unjoint the soul, it pulls

off the wheels. 3. It excludes a childish despondency; and this is usually consequent upon the other.

A man being in a hurry of mind, not knowing which way to extricate, or wind himself out of the

present trouble, begins to faint and sink under it. For care is to the mind as a burden to the back; it

loads the spirits, and with overloading, sinks them. A despondent spirit is a discontented spirit.

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CHAPTER VI

Shewing the Nature of Contentment.

Having answered these questions, I shall in the next place, come to describe this contentment. It is

a sweet temper of spirit, whereby a Christian carries himself in an equal poise in every condition.

The nature of this will appear more clear in these three aphorisms.

1. Contentment is a divine thing; it becomes ours, not by acquisition, but infusion; it is a slip taken

off from the tree of life, and planted by the Spirit of God in the soul; it is a fruit that grows not in

the garden of philosophy, but is of an heavenly birth; it is therefore very observable that contentment

is joined with godliness, and goes in equipage; “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim.

6. 6) Contentment being a consequent of godliness, or concomitant, or both, I call it divine, to

contradistinguish it to that of contentment, which a moral man may arrive at. Heathens have seemed

to have this contentment, but it was only the shadow and picture of it; — the beryl, not the true

diamond: theirs was but civil, this is sacred; theirs was only from principles of reason, this of

religion; theirs was only lighted at nature’s torch, this at the lamp of scripture. Reason may a little

teach contentment, as thus: whatever my condition be, this is that I am born to; and if I meet with

crosses, it is but catholic misery: all have their share, why therefore should I be troubled? Reason

may suggest this; and indeed, this may be rather constraint; but to live securely and cheerfully upon

God in the abatement of creature supplies, only religion can bring this into the soul’s exchequer.

2. Contentment is an intrinsical thing; it lies within a man; not in the bark, but the root. Contentment

hath both its fountain and stream in the soul. The beam hath not its light from the air; the beams of

comfort which a contented man hath, do not arise from foreign comforts, but from within. As sorrow

is seated in the spirit; “the heart knoweth its own bitterness:” (Pr. 14. 10) so contentment lies within

the soul, and doth not depend upon externals. Hence I gather, that outward troubles cannot hinder

this blessed contentment: it is a spiritual thing, and ariseth from spiritual grounds; the apprehension

of God’s love. When there is a tempest without, there may be music within; a bee may sting through

the skin, but it cannot sting to the heart; outward afflictions cannot sting to a Christian’s heart,

where contentment lies. Thieves may plunder us of our money and plate, but not of this pearl of

contentment, unless we are willing to part with it, for it is locked up in the cabinet of the heart; the

soul which is possessed of this rich treasure of contentment, is like Noah in the ark, that can sing

in the midst of a deluge.

3. Contentment is an habitual thing, it shines with a fixed light in the firmament of the soul.

Contentment doth not appear only now and then, as some stars which are seen but seldom; it is a

settled temper of the heart. One action doth not denominate; he is not said to be a liberal man, that

gives alms once in his life; a covetous man may do so: but he is said to be liberal, that is, “given

to hospitality,” that is, who upon all occasions is willing to relieve the necessities of the poor: so

he is said to be a contented man that is given to contentment. It is not casual but constant. Aristotle,

in his rhetoric, distinguisheth between colours in the face that arise from passion, and those which

arise from complexion; the pale face may look red when it blusheth, but this is only a passion; he

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is said properly to be ruddy and sanguine, who is constantly so, it is his complexion. He is not a

contented man, who is so upon occasion, and perhaps when he is pleased: but who is so constantly,

it is the habit and complexion in his soul.

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CHAPTER VII

Reasons pressing to Holy Contentment.

Having opened the nature of contentment, I come next to lay down some reasons or arguments to

contentment, which may preponderate with us.

The first is, God’s precept. It is charged upon us as a duty: “be content with such things as you

have.” (He. 13. 5) The same God, who hath bid us believe, hath bid us be content: if we obey not,

we run ourselves into a spiritual premunire. God’s word is a sufficient warrant; it hath authority in

it, and must be a supersedeas, or sacred spell to discontent. Ipse dixit was enough among

Pythagoras’s scholars: “be it enacted,” is the royal style. God’s word must be the star that guides,

and his will the weight that moves our obedience; his will is a law, and hath majesty enough in it

to captivate us into obedience; our hearts must not be more unquiet than the raging sea, which at

his word is stilled.

The second reason enforcing contentment, is, God’s promise: for he hath said “I will never leave

thee, nor forsake thee.” (He. 13. 5) Here God hath engaged himself, under hand and seal for our

necessary provisions. If a king should say to one of his subjects, I will take care of thee; as long as

I have any crown-revenues, thou shalt be provided for; if thou art in danger, I will secure thee, —

if in want, I will supply thee; would not that subject be content? Behold, God hath here made

promise to the believer, and as it were entered into bond for his security, “I will never leave thee;”

shall not this charm down the devil of discontent: “Leave thy fatherless children with me, I will

preserve them alive.” (Jer. 49. 11) Methinks I see the godly man on his death-bed much discontented,

and hear him complaining what will become of my wife and children when I am dead and gone?

They may come to poverty: saith God, “trouble not thyself, be content, I will take care of thy

children; and let thy widow trust in me.” God hath made a promise to us, that he will not leave us,

and hath entailed the promise upon our wife and children; and will not this satisfy? True faith will

take God’s single bond, without calling for witnesses.

Be content, by virtue of a decree. Whatever our condition be, God the umpire of the world hath

from everlasting decreed that condition for us, and by his providence ordered all appurtenances

thereunto. Let a Christian often think with himself, who hath placed me here, whether I am in a

high sphere, or in a lower. Not chance or fortune, as the purblind heathens imagined; no, it is the

wise God that hath by his providence fixed me in this orb. We must act that scene which God would

have us; say not, such an one hath occasioned this to me; look not too much at the under-wheel.

We read in Ezekiel, of a “wheel within a wheel.” (Ez. 1. 16) God’s decree is the cause of the turning

of the wheels, and his providence is the inner-wheels that move all the rest. God’s providence is

that helm which turns about the whole ship of the universe. Say then, as holy David, “I was dumb,

I opened not my mouth, because thou, Lord, didst it.” (Ps. 39. 9) God’s providence, which is nothing

else but the carrying on of his decree, should be a counterpoise against discontent; God hath set us

in our station, and he hath done it in wisdom. We fancy such a condition of life is good for us;

whereas if we were our own carvers, we should often cut the worst piece. Lot, being put to his

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choice did choose Sodom, which soon after was burned with fire. Rachel was very desirous of

children, “give me children or I die,” and it cost her her life in bringing forth a child. Abraham was

earnest for Ishmael, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” but he had little comfort either of him

or his seed; he was born a son of strife, his hand was against every man, and every man’s hand

against him. The disciples wept for Christ’s leaving the world, they chose his corporeal presence:

whereas it was best for them that Christ should be gone, for else “the comforter would not come.”

(Jno. 16. 7) David chose the life of his child, “he wept and fasted for it;” (2 Sam. 12. 16) whereas

if the child had lived, it would have been a perpetual monument of his shame. We stand oft in our

own light; if we should sort, or parcel out our own comforts, we should hit upon the wrong. Is it

not well for the child, that the parent doth choose for it? were it left to itself, it would perhaps choose

a knife to cut its own finger. A man in a paroxysm calls for wine, which if he had, it were little

better than poison; it is well for the patient, that he is at the physician’s appointment. The

consideration of a decree determining, and a providence disposing of all things that fall out, should

work our hearts to holy contentment. The wise God hath ordered our condition; if he sees it better

for us to abound, we shall abound; if he sees it better for us to want, we shall want; be content to

be at God’s disposal.

God sees, in his infinite wisdom, the same condition is not convenient for all; that which is good

for one, may be bad for another; one season of weather will not serve all men’s occasions, one

needs sunshine, another rain; one condition of life will not fit every man, no more than one suit of

apparel will fit every body; prosperity is not fit for all, nor yet adversity. If one man be brought

low, perhaps he can bear it better; he hath a greater stock of grace, more faith and patience; he can

“gather grapes of thorns”, pick some comfort out of the cross: every one cannot do this. Another

man is seated in an eminent place of dignity; he is fitter for it; perhaps it is a place that requires

more parts of judgment, which every one is not capable of; perhaps he can use his estate better, he

hath a public heart as well as a public place. The wise God sees that condition to be bad for one,

which is good for another; hence it is he placeth men in different orbs and spheres; some higher,

some lower. One man desires health, God sees sickness is better for him; God will work health out

of sickness, by bringing the body of death, into a consumption. Another man desires liberty, God

sees restraint better for him; he will work his liberty by restraint; when his feet are bound, his heart

shall be most enlarged. Did we believe this, it would give a check to the sinful disputes and cavils

of our hearts: shall I be discontented at that which is enacted by a decree, and ordered by a

providence? Is this to be a child or a rebel?

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CHAPTER VIII

Use I. Shewing how a Christian may make his Life comfortable.

It shows how a Christian may come to lead a comfortable life, even an heaven upon earth, be the

times what they will: by Christian contentment. The comfort of life doth not stand in having much;

it is Christ’s maxim, “man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he doth possess,”

(Lu. 12. 15) but it is in being contented. Is not the bee as well contented with feeding on the dew,

or sucking from a flower, as the ox that grazeth on the mountains? Contentment lies within a man,

in the heart; and the way to be comfortable, is not by having our barns filled, but our minds quiet.

The contented man, saith Seneca, is the happy man.

Discontent is a fretting humour, which dries the brains, wastes the spirits, corrodes and eats out the

comfort of life; discontent makes a man that he doth not enjoy what he doth possess. A drop or two

of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine. Let a man have the affluence and confluence of worldly

comforts, a drop or two of discontent will embitter and poison all.

Comfort depends upon contentment; Jacob went halting, when the sinew upon the hollow of his

thigh shrank: so, when the sinew of contentment begins to shrink, we go halting in our comforts.

Contentation is as necessary to keep the life comfortable, as oil is necessary to keep the lamp

burning; the clouds of discontent do often drop the showers of tears.

Would we have comfort in our lives? we may have it if we will: a Christian may carve out what

condition he will to himself. Why dost thou complain of thy troubles? it is not trouble that troubles,

but discontent; it is not the water without the ship, but the water that gets within the leak, which

drowns it; it is not outward affliction that can make the life of a Christian sad; a contented mind

would sail above these waters, — but when there’s a leak of discontent open, and trouble gets into

the heart, then it is disquieted and sinks. Do therefore as the mariners, pump the water out, and stop

the spiritual leak in the soul, and no trouble can hurt thee.

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CHAPTER IX

Use II. A Check to the discontented Christian.

Here is a just reproof to such as are discontented with their condition. This disease is almost

epidemical. Some not content with the calling which God hath set them in, must be a step higher,

from the plough to the throne; who like the spider in the Proverbs, will “take hold with her hands,

and is in kings’ palaces.” Others from the shop to the pulpit; (Nu. 12. 2) they would be in the temple

of honour, before they are in the temple of virtue; who step into Moses’ chair, without Aaron’s

bells and pomegranates; like apes, which do most shew their deformity when they are climbing. It

is not enough that God hath bestowed gifts upon men, in private to edify; that he hath enriched

them with many mercies? but, “seek ye the priesthood also?” (Nu. 16. 10) What is this but discontent

arising from high flown pride? These do secretly tax the wisdom of God, that he hath not screwed

them up in their condition a peg higher. Every man is complaining that his estate is no better, though

he seldom complains that his heart is no better. One man commends this kind of life, another

commends that; one man thinks a country-life best, another a city-life; the soldier thinks it best to

be a merchant, and the merchant to be a soldier. Men can be content to be anything but what God

would have them. How is it that no man is contented? Very few Christians have learned St Paul’s

lesson: neither poor nor rich know how to be content, they can learn anything but this.

If men are poor, they learn to be envious; they malign those that are above them. Another’s prosperity

is an eye-sore. When God’s candle shines upon their neighbour’s tabernacle, this light offends

them. In the midst of wants, men can, in this sense, abound, namely, in envy and malice; an envious

eye is an evil eye. They learn to be querulous, still complaining, as if God had dealt hardly with

them; they are ever telling their wants, they want this and that comfort, whereas their greatest want

is a contented spirit. Those that are well enough content with their sin, yet are not content with their

condition.

If men are rich, they learn to be covetous; thirsting insatiably after the world, and by unjust means

scraping it together; their “right hand is full of bribes,” as the Psalmist expresseth it. (Ps. 26. 10)

Put a good cause in one scale, and a piece of gold in the other, and the gold weighs heaviest. There

are, saith Solomon, four things that say, “it is not enough:” (Pr. 30. 15) I may add a fifth; the heart

of a covetous man. So that neither poor nor rich know how to be content. Never certainly since the

creation did this sin of discontent reign or rather rage more than in our times; never was God more

dishonoured; you can hardly speak with any, but the passion of his tongue betrays the discontent

of his heart; every one lisps out his trouble, and here even the stammering tongue speaks too freely

and fluently. If we have not what we desire, God shall not have a good look from us, but presently

we are sick of discontent, and ready to die out of an humour. If God will not forgive the people of

Israel for their lusts, they bid him take their lives; they must have quails to their manna. Ahab,

though a king, and one would think his crown-lands had been sufficient for him, yet is sullen and

discontented for Naboth’s vineyard. Jonah though a good man and a prophet, yet ready to die in a

pet; and because God killed his gourd, kill me too, saith he. Rachel, “give me children, or I die;”

she had many blessings, if she could have seen them, but wanted this contentation. God will supply

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our wants, but must he satisfy our lusts too? Many are discontented for a very trifle; another hath

a better dress, a richer jewel, a newer fashion. Nero, not content with his empire, was troubled that

the musician had more skill in playing than he. How fantastic are some, that pine away in discontent

for the want of those things which if they had, would but render them more ridiculous!

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CHAPTER X

Use III. A Suasive to Contentment.

It exhorts us to labour for contentation; this is that which doth beautify and bespangle a Christian,

and as a spiritual embroidery, doth set him off in the eyes of the world.

But methinks I hear some bitterly complaining, and saying to me, Alas! how is it possible to be

contented? “The Lord hath made “my chain heavy;” he hath cast me into a very sad condition.”

There is no sin, but labours either to hide itself under some mask; or, if it cannot be concealed, then

to vindicate itself by some apology. This sin of discontent I find very witty in its apologies, which

I shall first discover, and then make a reply. We must lay it down as a rule, that discontent is a sin;

so that all the pretences and apologies wherewith it labours to justify itself, are but the painting and

dressing of a strumpet.

The first apology which discontent makes is this; I have lost a child. Paulina, upon the loss of her

children, was so possessed with a spirit of sadness, that she had liked to have entombed herself in

her own discontent; our love to relations is oftentimes more than our love to religion.

1. We must be content, not only when God gives mercies, but when He takes away. If we must “in

every thing give thanks,” (1 Th. 5. 18) then in nothing be discontented.

2. Perhaps God hath taken away the cistern, that he may give you the more of the spring; he hath

darkened the starlight, that you may have more sun-light. God intends you shall have more of

himself, and is not he better than ten sons? Look not so much upon a temporal loss, as a spiritual

gain; the comforts of the world run dregs; those which come out of the granary of the promise, are

pure and sweet.

3. Your child was not given but lent: “I have, saith Hannah, lent my son to the Lord;” (1 Sa. 1. 28)

she lent him! the Lord hath lent him to her. Mercies are not entailed upon us, but lent; what a man

lends he may call for again when he pleases. God hath put out a child to thee a while to nurse; wilt

thou be displeased if he takes his child home again; O be not discontented that a mercy is taken

away from you, but rather be thankful that it was lent you so long.

4. Suppose your child to be taken from you, either he was good or bad; if he was rebellious, you

have not so much parted with a child, as a burden; you grieve for that which might have been a

greater grief to you; if he was religious, then remember, he “is taken away from the evil to come,”

and placed in his centre of felicity. This lower region is full of gross and hurtful vapours; how

happy are those who are mounted into the celestial orbs! The righteous are taken away, in the

original it is, he is gathered; a wicked child is cut off, but the pious child is gathered. Even as we

see men gather flowers, and candy them, and preserve them by them, so hath God gathered thy

child as a sweet flower that he may candy it with glory, and preserve it by him for ever. Why then

should a Christian be discontented? why should he weep excessively? “Daughters of Jerusalem

weep not for me, but weep for yourselves;” (Lu. 23. 28) so, could we hear our children speaking

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to us out of heaven, they would say, weep not for us who are happy; we lie upon a soft pillow, even

in the bosom of Christ; the Prince of Peace is embracing us and kissing us with the kisses of his

lips; be not troubled at our preferment; “weep not for us,” but weep for yourselves, who are in a

sinful sorrowful world: you are in the valley of tears, but we are on the mountain of spices; we have

gotten to our harbour, but you are still tossing upon the waves of inconstancy. O Christian! be not

discontented that thou hast parted with such a child; but rather rejoice that thou hadst such a child

to part with. Break forth into thankfulness. What an honour is it to be a parent to beget such a child,

that while he lives increaseth the joy of the glorified angels, (Lu. 20. 10) and when he dies increaseth

the number of the glorified saints.

5. If God hath taken away one of your children, he hath left you more, he might have stripped you

of all. He took away Job’s comforts, his estate, his children; and indeed his wife was left, but as a

cross. Satan made a bow of this rib, as Chrysostom speaks, and shot a temptation by her at Job,

thinking to have him shot to the heart; “curse God and die:” but Job had upon him the breast-plate

of integrity; and though his children were taken away, yet not his graces; still he is content, still he

blesseth God. O think how many mercies you still enjoy; yet your base hearts are more discontented

at one loss, than thankful for an hundred mercies! God hath plucked one bunch of grapes from you;

but how many precious clusters are left behind?

You may object, But it was my only child, — the staff of my age, — the seed of my comfort, —

and the only blossom out of which my ancient family did grow.

6. God hath promised you, if you belong to him, “a name better than of sons and daughters.” (Is.

56. 5) Is he dead that should have been the monument to have kept up the name of a family? God

hath given you a new name, he hath written your name in the book of life; behold your spiritual

heraldry; here is a name that can not be cut off. Hath God taken away thy only child? he hath given

thee his only Son: this is a happy exchange. What needs he complain of losses, that hath Christ?

He is his Father’s brightness, (He. 1. 3) his riches, (Col. 2. 9) his delight. (Ps. 42. 1) Is there enough

in Christ to delight the heart of God? and is there not enough in him to ravish us with holy delight?

He is wisdom to teach us, righteousness to acquit us, sanctification to adorn us; he is that royal and

princely gift, he is the bread of angels, the joy and triumph of saints; he is all in all. (Col. 3. 10)

Why then are thou discontented? Though thy child be lost, yet thou hast him for whom all things

are loss.

7. Let us blush to think that nature should outstrip grace. Pulvillus, an heathen, when he was about

to consecrate a temple to Jupiter, and news was brought him of the death of his son, would not

desist from his enterprize, but with much composure of mind gave order for decent burial.

The second apology that discontent makes is, I have a great part of my estate strangely melted

away, and trading begins to fail. God is pleased sometimes to bring his children very low, and

cut them short in their estate; it fares with them as with that widow, who had nothing in her house,

save a pot of oil: (2 Ki. 4. 2) but be content.

1. God hath taken away your estate, but not your portion. This is a sacred paradox, honour and

estate are no part of a Christian’s jointure; they are rather luxuries than essentials, and are extrinsical

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and foreign; therefore the loss of those cannot denominate a man miserable, still the portion remains;

“the Lord is my portion, saith my soul.” (La. 3. 24) Suppose one were worth a million of money,

and he should chance to lose a pin off his sleeve, this is no part of his estate, nor can we say he is

undone; the loss of sublunary comforts is not so much to a Christian’s portion, as the loss of a pin

is to a million. “These things shall be added to you,” (Mat. 6. 33) they shall be cast in as overplus.

When a man buys a piece of cloth he hath an inch or two given in to the measure; now, though he

lose his inch of cloth, yet he is not undone, for still the whole piece remains: our outward estate is

not so much in regard of the portion, as an inch of cloth is to the whole piece; why then should a

Christian be discontented, when the title to his spiritual treasure remains? A thieve may take away

all the money that I have about me, but not my land; still a Christian hath a title to the land of

promise. Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her.

2. Perhaps, if thy estate had not been lost, thy soul had been lost; outward comforts do often quench

inward heat. God can bestow a jewel upon us, but we fall so in love with it, that we forget Him that

gave it. What pity is it that we should commit idolatry with the creature! God is forced sometimes

to drain away an estate: the plate and jewels are often cast over-board to save the passenger. Many

a man may curse the time that ever he had such an estate: it hath been an enchantment to draw away

his heart from God; “they that will be rich, fall into a snare:” are thou troubled that God hath

prevented a snare? Riches are thorns; (Mat. 13. 7) art thou angry because God hath pulled away a

thorn from thee? Riches are compared to “thick clay;” (Ha. 2. 6) perhaps thy affections, which are

the feet of the soul, might have stuck so fast in this golden clay that they could not have ascended

up to heaven. Be content; if God dam up our outward comforts, it is, that the stream of our love

may run faster another way.

3. If your estate be small, yet God can bless a little. It is not how much money we have, but how

much blessing. He that often curseth the bags of gold, can bless the meal in the barrel, and the oil

in the cruise. What if thou hast not the full fleshpots? yet thou hast a promise, “I will abundantly

bless her provision,” (Ps. 132. 15) and then a little goes a great way. Be content thou hast the dew

of a blessing distilled; a dinner of green herbs, where love is, is sweet; I may add, where the love

of God is. Another may have more estate than you, but, more care; more riches, less rest; more

revenues, but with all more occasions of expense; he hath a greater inheritance, yet perhaps God

doth not give “him power to eat thereof” (Ec. 6. 2) he hath the dominion of his estate, not the use;

he holds more but enjoys less; in a word, thou hath less gold than he, perhaps less guilt.

4. You did never so thrive in your spiritual trade; your heart was never so low, as since your condition

was low; you were never so poor in spirit, never so rich in faith. You did never run the ways of

God’s commandments so fast as since some of your golden weights were taken off. You never had

such trading for heaven all your life; this is most abundant gain. You did never make such adventures

upon the promise as since you left off your sea-adventures. This is the best kind of merchandize.

O Christian, thou never hadst such incomes of the Spirit, such spring-tides of joy; and what though

weak in estate, if strong in assurance? Be content: what you have lost one way, you have gained

another.

5. Be your losses what they will in this kind, remember in every loss there is only a suffering, but

in every discontent there is a sin, and one sin is worse than a thousand sufferings. What! because

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some of my revenues are gone, shall I part with some of my righteousness? shall my faith and

patience go too? Because I do not possess an estate, shall I not therefore possess my own spirit? O

learn to be content.

The third apology is, it is sad with me in my relations: where I should find most comfort, there

I have most grief. This apology or objection brancheth itself into two particulars, whereto I shall

give a distinct reply.

1st. My child goes on in rebellion; I fear I have brought forth a child for the devil. It is indeed, sad

to think, that hell should be paved with the skulls of any of our children; and certainly the pangs

of grief which the mother hath in this kind, are worse than her pangs of travail; but though you

ought to be humbled, yet not discontented; for, consider, 1. You may pick something out of your

child’s undutifulness; the child’s sin is sometimes the parent’s sermon; the undutifulness of children

to us, may be a memento to put us in mind of our undutifulness once to God. Time was when we

were rebellious children; how long did our heart stand out as garrisons against God? How long did

he parley with us and beseech us, ere we would yield? He walked in the tenderness of his heart

towards us, but we walked in the frowardness of our hearts towards him; and since grace hath been

planted in our souls, how much of the wild olive is still in us? How many motions of the Spirit do

we daily resist? How many unkindnesses and affronts have we put upon Christ? Let this open a

spring of repentance; look upon your child’s rebellion and mourn for your own rebellion. 2. Though

to see him undutiful is your grief, yet not always your sin. Hath a parent given the child, not only

the milk of the breast, but “the sincere milk of the word?” hast thou seasoned his tender years with

religious education? Thou canst do no more; parents can only work knowledge, God must work

grace; they can only lay the wood together, it is God who must make it burn; a parent can only be

a guide to show his child the way to heaven, the Spirit of God must be a loadstone to draw his heart

into that way. “Am I in God’s stead,” saith Jacob, “who hath withheld the fruit of the womb?” (Ge.

30. 2) Can I give children? So, is a parent in God’s stead to give grace? who can help it, if a child

having the light of conscience, Scripture, education, these three torches in his hand, yet runs wilfully

into the deep ponds of sin? Weep for thy child, pray for him; but do not sin for him by discontent.

3. Say not, you have brought forth a child for the devil; God can reduce him; he hath promised “to

turn the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4. 6) and “to open springs of grace in the

desert.” (Is. 35. 6) When thy child is going full sail to the devil, God can blow with a contrary wind

of his Spirit and alter his course. When Paul was breathing out persecution against the saints, and

was sailing hellward, God turns him another way; before he was going to Damascus, God sends

him to Ananias; before a persecutor, now a preacher. Though our children are for the present fallen

into the devil’s pond, God can turn them from the power of Satan, and bring them in the twelfth

hour. Monica was weeping for her son Augustine: at last God gave him in upon prayer, and he

became a famous instrument in the church of God.

2. The second branch of the objection is, but my husband takes ill courses; where I looked for

honey, behold a sting.

It is sad to have the living and the dead tied together; yet, let not your heart fret with discontent;

mourn for his sins, but do not murmur. For, 1. God hath placed you in your relation, and you cannot

be discontented but you quarrel with God. What! for every cross that befalls us, shall we call the

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infinite wisdom of God into question? O the blasphemy of our hearts! 2. God can make you a gainer

by your husband’s sin; perhaps you had never been so good, if he had not been so bad. The fire

burns hottest in the coldest climate. God often by a divine antiperistasis turns the sins of others to

our good, and makes our maladies our medicines. The more profane the husband is, oft the more

holy the wife grows; the more earthly he is, the more heavenly she grows; God makes sometimes

the husband’s sin a spur to the wife’s grace. His exorbitances are as a pair of bellows to blow up

the flame of her zeal and devotion the more. Is it not thus? Doth not thy husband’s wickedness send

thee to prayer? thou perhaps hadst never prayed so much, if he had not sinned so much. His deadness

quickens thee the more, the stone of his heart is an hammer to break thy heart. The apostle saith,

“the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband;” (1 Cor. 7. 14) but in this sense, the

believing wife is sanctified by the unbelieving husband; she grows better, his sin is a whetstone to

her grace, and a medicine for her security.

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

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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 for

ever: “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.

The next apology is, I am under great reproaches.

Let not this discontent: for, 1. It is a sign there is some good in thee; saith Socrates, what evil have

I done, that this bad man commends me? The applause of the wicked usually denotes some evil,

and their censure imports some good. (Ps. 38. 20) David wept and fasted, and that was turned to

his “reproach”. (Pe. 4. 14) As we must pass to heaven through the spikes of suffering, so through

the clouds of reproach. 2. If your reproach be for God, as David’s was, “for thy sake I have born

reproach; (Ps. 69. 7) then it is rather matter of triumph, than dejection. Christ doth not say, when

you are reproached be discontented; but rejoice: (Mat. 5. 12) Wear your reproach as a diadem of

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honour, for now a spirit of “glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Pe. 4. 14) Put your reproaches

into the inventory of your riches; so did Moses. (He. 11. 26) It should be a Christian’s ambition to

wear his Saviour’s livery, though it be sprinkled with blood and sullied with disgrace. 3. God will

do us good by reproach: as David of Shimei’s cursing; “it may be the Lord will requite me good

for his cursing this day.” (2 Sa. 16. 12) This puts us upon searching our sin: a child of God labours

to read his sin in every stone of reproach that is cast at him; besides, now we have an opportunity

to exercise patience and humility. 4. Jesus Christ was content to be reproached by us; he despised

the shame of the cross. (He. 12. 2) It may amaze us to think that he who was God could endure to

be spit upon, to be crowned with thorns, in a kind of jeer; and when he was ready to bow his head

upon the cross, to have the Jews in scorn, wag their heads and say, “he saved others, himself he

cannot save.” The shame of the cross was as much as the blood of the cross; his name was crucified

before his body. The sharp arrows of reproach that the world did shoot at Christ, went deeper into

his heart than the spear; his suffering was so ignominious, that as if the sun did blush to behold, it

withdrew its bright beams, and masked itself with a cloud; (and well it might when the Sun of

Righteousness was in an eclipse;) all this contumely and reproach did the God of glory endure or

rather despise for us. O then let us be content to have our names eclipsed for Christ; let not reproach

lie at our heart, but let us bind it as a crown about our head! Alas, what is reproach? this is but small

shot, how will men stand at the mouth of a cannon? These who are discontented at a reproach, will

be offended at a faggot. 5. Is not many a man contented to suffer reproach for maintaining his lust?

and shall not we for maintaining the truth? Some glory in that which is their shame, (Ph. 3. 19) and

shall we be ashamed of that which is our glory? Be not troubled at these petty things. He whose

heart is once divinely touched with the loadstone of God’s Spirit, doth account it his honour to be

dishonoured for Christ, (Ac. 15. 4) and doth as much despise the world’s censure, as he doth their

praise. 6. We live in an age wherein men dare reproach God himself. The divinity of the Son of

God is blasphemously reproached by the Socinian; the blessed Bible is reproached by the

Antiscripturist, as if it were but a legend of lies, and every man’s faith a fable; the justice of God

is called to the bar of reason by the Arminians; the wisdom of God in his providential actings, is

taxed by the Atheist; the ordinances of God are decried by the Familists, as being too heavy a

burden for a free-born conscience, and too low and carnal for a sublime seraphic spirit; the ways

of God, which have the majesty of holiness shining in them, are calumniated by the profane; the

mouths of men are open against God, as if he were an hard master, and the path of religion too

strict and severe. If men can not give God a good word, shall we be discontented or troubled that

they speak hardly of us? Such as labour to bury the glory of religion, shall we wonder that “their

throats are open sepulchres,” (Ro. 3. 13) to bury our good name? O let us be contented, while we

are in God’s scouring-house, to have our names sullied a little; the blacker we seem to be here, the

brighter shall we shine when God hath set us upon the celestial shelf.

The sixth apology that discontent makes is disrespect in the world. I have not that esteem from

men as is suitable to my quality and grace.

And doth this trouble? Consider, 1. The world is an unequal judge; as it is full of change so of

partiality. The world gives her respects, as she doth her places of preferment; more by favour often,

than desert. Hast thou the ground of real worth in thee; that is best worth that is in him that hath it;

honour is in him that gives it; better deserve respect, and not have it, than have it and not deserve

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it. 2. Hast thou grace? God respects thee, and his judgment is best worth prizing. A believer is a

person of honour, being born of God: since thou wast precious in mine eyes, “thou hast been

honourable, and I have loved thee.” (Is. 43. 4) Let the world think what they will of you; perhaps

in their eyes your are a cast-away, in God’s eyes, a dove, (Ca. 2. 14) a spouse, (Ca. 5. 1) a jewel.

(Mal. 3. 17) Others account you the dregs of offscouring of the world, (1 Cor. 4. 14) but God will

give whole kingdoms for your ransom. (Is. 43. 3) Let this content: no matter with what oblique

eyes I am looked upon in the world, if God thinks well of me. It is better that God approve, than

man applaud. The world may put us in their rubric and God put us in his black book. What is a man

the better that his fellow-prisoners commend him, if his judge condemn him? O labour to keep in

with God; prize his love! Let my fellow-subjects frown, I am contented, being a favourite of the

king of heaven. 3. If you are a child of God, you must look for disrespect. A believer is in the world,

but not of the world; we are here in a pilgrim condition, out of our own country, therefore must not

look for the respects and acclamations of the world; it is sufficient that we shall have honour in our

own country. (He. 13. 14) It is dangerous to be the world’s favourite. 4. Discontent arising from

disrespect, savours too much of pride; an humble Christian hath a lower opinion of himself than

others can have of him. He that is taken up about the thoughts of his sins, and how he hath provoked

God, cries out, as Agur, “I am more brutish than any man,” (Pr. 30. 2) and therefore is contented,

though he be set among “the dogs of my flock.” (Job 30. 1) Though he be low in the thoughts of

others, yet he is thankful that he is not laid in “the lowest hell.” (Ps. 86. 13) A proud man sets an

high value upon himself; and is angry with others, because they will not come up to his price: take

heed of pride! O had others a window to look into their breast, as Crates once expressed it, or did

thy heart stand where thy face doth, thou wouldst wonder to have so much respect.

The next apology is, I meet with very great sufferings for the truth.

Consider, 1. Your sufferings are not so great as your sins: put these two in the balance, and see

which weighs heaviest; where sin lies heavy, sufferings lie light. A carnal spirit makes more of his

sufferings, and less of his sins; he looks upon one at the great end of the perspective, but upon the

other at the little end of the perspective.The carnal heart cries out, take away the frogs: but a gracious

heart cries out, “take away the iniquity.” (2 Sa. 24. 10) The one saith, never any one suffered as I

have done; but the other saith, never one sinned as I have done. (Mi. 7. 7) 2. Are thou under

sufferings: thou hast an opportunity to show the valour and constancy of thy mind. Some of God’s

saints would have accounted it a great favour to have been honoured with martyrdom. One said,

“I am in prison till I be in prison”. Thou countest that a trouble, which others would have worn as

an ensign of their glory. 3. Even those who have gone only upon moral principles, have shown

much constancy and contentment in their sufferings. Curtius, being bravely mounted and in armour,

threw himself into a great gulf, that the city of Rome might, according to the oracle, be delivered

from the pestilence; and we, having a divine oracle, “that they who kill the body cannot hurt the

soul,” shall we not with much constancy and patience devote ourselves to injuries for religion, and

rather suffer for the truth than the truth suffer for us? The Decii among the Romans, vowed

themselves to death, that their legions and soldiers might be crowned with the honour of the victory.

O what should we be content to suffer, to make the truth victorious! Regulus having sworn that he

would return to Carthage, though he knew there was a furnace heating for him there, yet not daring

to infringe his oath, he did adventure to go; we then who are Christians, having made a vow to

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Christ in baptism, and so often renewed in the blessed sacrament, should with much contentation

rather choose to suffer, than violate our sacred oath. Thus the blessed martyrs, with what courage

and cheerfulness did they yield up their souls to God? and when the fire was set to their bodies, yet

their spirits were not at all fired with passion or discontent. Though others hurt the body, let them

not the mind through discontent; show by your heroic courage, that you are above those troubles

which you cannot be without.

The next apology is, the prosperity of the wicked. I confess it is so often, that the evil enjoy all

the good, and the good endure all the evil, that David, though a good man, stumbled at this, and

had like to have fallen. (Ps. 73. 2)

Well, be contented; for remember, 1. These are not the only things, nor the best things; they are

mercies without the pale; these are but acorns with which God feeds swine; ye who are believers

have more choice fruit, the olive, the pomegranate, the fruit which grows on the true vine Jesus

Christ; others have the fat of the earth, you have the dew of heaven; they have a south-land, you

have those springs of living water which are clarified with Christ’s blood, and indulcerated with

his love. 2. To see the wicked flourish is matter rather of pity than envy; it is all the heaven they

must have; “woe to you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation.” (Lu. 6. 24) Hence it

was that David made it his solemn prayer, “deliver me from the wicked, from men of the world,

which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure. (Ps. 17. 15)

The word (methinks) are David’s litany; from men of the world, which have their portion in this

life, “good Lord, deliver me.” When the wicked have eaten of their dainty dishes, there comes in

a sad reckoning which will spoil all. The world is first musical and then tragical; if you would have

a man fry and blaze in hell, let him have enough of the fat of the earth. O remember, for ever sand

of mercy that runs out of the wicked, God puts a drop of wrath into his vial! Therefore as that soldier

said to his fellow, “do you envy my grapes? they cost me dear, I must die for them;” so I say, do

you envy the wicked? alas their prosperity is like Haman’s banquet before execution. If a man were

to be hanged, would one envy to see him walk to the gallows through pleasant fields and fine

galleries, or to see him go up the ladder in clothes of gold? The wicked may flourish in their bravery

a while; but, when they flourish as the grass, “it is, that they shall be destroyed for ever; (Ps. 92.

7) the proud grass shall be mown down. Whatever a sinner enjoys, he hath a curse with it, (Mal.

2. 2) and shall we envy? What if poisoned bread be given the dogs? The long furrows in the backs

of the godly have a seed of blessing in them, when the table of the wicked becomes a snare, and

their honour their halter.

The next apology that discontent makes for itself, is the evils of the times. The times are full of

heresy and impiety, and this is that which troubles me. This apology consists of two branches, to

which I shall answer in specie; and,

Branch 1. The times are full of heresy. This is indeed sad; when the devil cannot by violence destroy

the church, he endeavours to poison it, when he cannot with Samson’s foxtails set the corn on fire,

then he sows tares; as he labours to destroy the peace of the church by vision, so the truth of it by

error; we may cry out, we live in times wherein there is a sluice open to all novel opinions, and

every man’s opinion is his Bible. Well; this may make us mourn, but let us not murmur through

discontent: consider, 1. Error makes a discovery of men. Bad men; error discovers such as are

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tainted and corrupt. When the leprosy brake forth in the forehead, then was the leper discovered.

Error is a spiritual bastard; the devil is the father, and pride the mother; you never knew an erroneous

man but he was a proud man. Now, it is good that such men should be laid open, to the intent, first,

that God’s righteous jugdment upon them may be adored; secondly, that others, who are free, be

not infected. If a man have the plague, it is well it breaks forth; for my part, I would avoid an heretic,

as I would avoid the devil, for he is sent on his errand. I appeal unto you; if there were a tavern in

this city, where under a pretence of selling wine, many hogsheads of poison were to be sold, were

it not well that others should know of it, that they might not buy? It is good that those that have

poisoned opinions should be known, that the people of God may not come near either the scent or

the taste of that poison. Error is a touch-stone to discover good men: it tries the gold: “there must

be heresies, that they which are approved, may be made manifest.” (1 Cor. 11. 19) Thus our love

to Christ, and zeal for truth doth appear. God shows who are the living fish; such as swim against

the stream: who are the sound sheep; such as feed in the green pastures of the ordinances: who are

the doves; such as live in the best air, where the spirit breathes: God sets a garland of honour upon

these, ” these are they which came out of great tribulation; (Re. 7. 14) so these are they that have

opposed the errors of the times, these are they that have preserved the virginity of their conscience,

who have kept their jugdment sound and their heart soft. God will have a trophy of honour set upon

some of his saints, they shall be renowned for their sincerity, being like the cypress, which keeps

its greenness and freshness in the winter-season. 2. Be not sinfully discontented, for God can make

the errors of the church advantageous to truth. Thus the truths of God have come to be more beaten

out and confirmed; as it is in the law, one may lay a false title to a piece of land, the true title hath

by this means been the more searched into and ratified; some had never so studied to defend the

truth by Scripture, if others had not endeavoured to overthrow it by sophistry; all the mists and fogs

of error that have risen out of the bottomless pit, have made the glorious Sun of truth to shine so

much the brighter. Had not Arius and Sabellius broached their damnable error, the truth of those

questions about the blessed Trinity had never been so discussed and defended by Athanasius,

Augustine, and others; had not the devil brought in so much of his princely darkness, the champions

for truth had never run so fast to Scripture to light their lamps. So that God with a wheel within a

wheel, over-rules these things wisely, and turns them to the best. Truth is a heavenly plant, that

settles by shaking. 3. God raiseth the price of his truth the more; the very shreds and filings of truth

are venerable. When there is much counterfeit metal abroad, we prize the true gold the more; pure

wine of truth is never more precious, than when unsound doctrines are broached and vented. 4.

Error makes us more thankful to God for the jewel of truth. When you see another infected with

the plague, how thankful are you that God hath freed you from the infection? When we see others

have the leprosy in the head, how thankful are we to God that he hath not given us over to believe

a lie and so be damned? It is a good use that may be made even of the error of the times when it

makes us more humble and thankful, adoring the free grace of God, who hath kept us from drinking

of that deadly poison.

Branch 2. The second branch of the apology that discontent makes, is the impiety of the times; I

live and converse among the profane: “O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away

and be at rest.” (Ps. 55. 6)

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It is indeed sad, to be mixed with the wicked. David beheld “transgressors and was grieved:” and

Lot (who was a bright star in a dark night) was vexed, or, as the word in the original may bear,

wearied out with the unclean conversation of the wicked; he made the sins of Sodom spears to

pierce his own soul. We ought, if there be any spark of divine love in us, to be very sensible of the

sins of others, and to have our hearts bleed for them; yet let us not break forth into mourning and

discontent, knowing that God in his providence hath permitted it, and surely not without some

reasons; for, 1st. The Lord makes the wicked an hedge to defend the godly; the wise God often

makes those who are wicked and peacable, a means to safeguard his people from those who are

wicked and cruel. The king of Babylon kept Jeremiah, and gave special order for his looking to,

that he did want nothing. (Jer. 39. 11,12) God sometimes makes brazen sinners to be brazen walls

to defend his people. 2d. God doth but interline and mingle the wicked with the godly, that the

godly may be a means to save the wicked; such is the beauty of holiness that it hath a magnetical

force in it to allure and draw even the wicked. Sometimes God makes a believing husband a means

to convert an unbelieving wife, and e contra: “what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save

thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? (1 Cor. 7. 16) The

godly living among the wicked, by their prudent advice and pious example, have won them to the

embracing of religion; if there were not some godly among the wicked, how in a probable way,

without a miracle, can we imagine that the wicked should be converted? those who are now shining

saints in heaven, sometimes served diverse lusts. (Ti. 3. 3) Paul once a persecutor; Augustine once

a manichee; Luther once a monk; but by the severe and holy carriage of the godly, were converted

to the faith.

The next apology that discontent makes, is, lowness of parts and gifts; I cannot (saith the Christian)

discourse with that fluency, nor pray with that elegancy, as others.

1. Grace is beyond gifts; thou comparest thy grace with another’s gifts, there is a vast difference;

grace without gifts is infinitely better than gifts without grace. In religion, the vitals are best; gifts

are a more extrinsical and common work of the Spirit, which is incident to reprobates; grace is a

more distinguishing work, and is a jewel hung only upon the elect. Hast thou the seed of God, the

holy anointing? be content. (1.) Thou sayest, Thou canst not discourse with that fluency as others.

Experiments in religion are beyond notions, and impressions beyond expressions. Judas (no doubt)

could make a learned discourse on Christ, but well-fared the woman in the gospel that felt virtue

coming out of him, (Lu. 8. 47) a sanctified heart is better than a silver tongue. There is as much

difference between gifts and graces, as between a tulip painted on the wall, and one growing in the

garden. (2.) Thou sayest, thou canst not pray with that elegancy as others. Prayer is a matter more

of the heart than the head. In prayer it is not so much fluency that prevails, as fervency, (Ja. 5. 16)

nor is God so much taken with the elegancy of speech, as the effficacy of the Spirit. Humulity is

better than volubility; here the mourner is the orator; sighs and groans are the best rhetoric.

2. Be not discontented, for God doth usually proportion a man’s parts to the place to which he calls

him; some are set in an higher sphere and function, their place requires more parts and abilities;

but the most inferior member is useful in its place, and shall have a power delegated for the discharge

of its peculiar office.

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The next apology is, the troubles of the church. Alas, my disquiet and discontent is not so much

for myself, as the public! The church of God suffers.

I confess it is sad and we ought for this “to hang our harps upon the willows.” He is a wooden leg

in Christ’s body, that is not sensible of the state of the body. As a Christian must not be proud flesh,

so neither dead flesh. When the church of God suffers, he must sympathise; Jeremiah wept for the

virgin daughter of Sion. We must feel our brethren’s hard cords through our soft beds. In music,

if one string be touched, all the rest sound: when God strikes upon our brethren, our “bowels must

sound like an harp”. Be sensible, but give not way to discontent. For consider, 1. God sits at the

stern of his church. (Ps. 46. 5) Sometimes it is a ship tossed upon the waves, “afflicted and tossed!

(Is. 54. 11) but cannot God bring this ship to haven, though it meet with a storm upon the sea? This

ship in the gospel was tossed because sin was in it; but it was not overwhelmed, because Christ

was in it. Christ is in the ship of this church, fear not sinking; the church’s anchor is cast in heaven.

Do not we think God loves his church, and takes as much care of it as we can? The names of the

twelve tribes were on Aaron’s breast, signifying how near to God’s heart his people are; they are

his portion, (De. 27. 9) and shall that be lost? his glory, (Is. 46. 13) and shall that be finally eclipsed?

No certainly. God can deliver his church, not only from, but by opposition; the church’s pangs shall

help forward her deliverance. 2. God hath always propagated religion by sufferings. The foundation

of the church hath been laid in blood, and these sanguine showers have ever made it more fruitful.

Cain put the knife to Abel’s throat, and ever since the church’s veins had bled: but she is like the

vine, which by bleeding grows, and like the palm-tree, which the more weight is laid upon it, the

higher it riseth. The holiness and patience of the saints, under their persecutions, hath much added

both to the growth of religion, and the crown. Basil and Tertullian observe of the primitive martyrs,

that divers of the heathens seeing their zeal and constancy turned Christians: religion is that Phoenix

which hath always revived and flourished in the ashes of holy men. Isaiah sawn asunder, Peter

crucified at Rome with his head downwards, Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, and Polycarp of Smyrna,

both martyred for religion; yet evermore the truth hath been sealed by blood, and gloriously

dispersed; whereupon Julian did forbear to persecute, not out of pity, but envy, because the church

grew so fast, and multiplied, as Nazianzen well observes.

The twelfth apology that discontent makes for itself, is this, it is not my trouble that troubles me,

but it is my sins that do disquiet and discontent me.

Be sure it be so; do not prevaricate with God and thy own soul; in true mourning for sin when the

present suffering is removed, yet the sorrow is not removed. But suppose the apology be real, that

sin is the ground of your discontent; yet I answer, a man’s disquiet about sin may be beyond its

bounds, in these three cases. 1. When it is disheartening, that is, when it sets up sin above mercy.

If Israel had only pored upon their sting, and not looked up to the brazen serpent, they had never

been healed. That sorrow for sin which drives us away from God, is not without sin, for there is

more despair in it than remorse; the soul hath so many tears in its eyes, that it cannot see Christ.

Sorrow, as sorrow, doth not save, that were to make Christ of our tears, but is useful, as it is

preparatory in the soul, making sin vile, and Christ precious. O look up to the brazen serpent, the

Lord Jesus! A sight of his blood will revive, the plaster of his merits is broader than our sore. It is

Satan’s policy, either to keep us from seeing our sins, or, if we will needs see them that we may be

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swallowed up of sorrow; (2 Cor. 2. 7) either he would stupify us, or affright us; either keep the

glass of the law from our eyes, or else pencil out our sins in such crimson colours, that we may

sink in the quicksands of despair. 2. When sorrow is indisposing, it untunes the heart for prayer,

meditation, holy conference; it cloisters up the soul. This is not sorrow but rather sullenness, and

doth render a man not so much penitential as cynical. 3. When it is out of season. God made us

rejoice, and we hang up our harps upon the willows; he bids us trust and we cast ourselves down,

and are brought even to the margin of despair. If Satan cannot keep us from mourning, he will be

sure to put us upon it when it is least in season. When God calls us in a special manner to be thankful

for mercy, and put on our white robes, Satan will be putting us into mourning, and instead of a

garment of praise, clothe us with a spirit of heaviness; so God loseth the acknowledgement of

mercy, and we the comfort. If thy sorrow hath turned and fitted thee for Christ, if it hath raised in

thee high prizings of him, strong hungerings after him, sweet delight in him; this is as much as God

requires, and a Christian doth but sin to vex and torture himself further upon the rack of his own

discontent.

And thus I hope I have answered the most material objections and apologies which this sin of

discontent doth make for itself. I see no reason why a Christian should be discontented, unless for

his discontent. Let me, in the next place, propound something which may be both as a loadstone

and a whet-stone to contentation.

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CHAPTER XI

Divine Motives to Contentment.

SECT. 1. The first argument to contentation.

1. Consider the excellency of it. Contentment is a flower that doth not grow in every garden; it

teacheth a man how in the midst of want to abound. You would think it were excellent if I could

prescribe a receipt or antidote against poverty: but behold here is that which is more excellent, for

a man to want, and yet have enough, this alone contentment of spirit doth bring. Contentation is a

remedy against all our trouble, an alleviation to all our burdens, it is the cure of care. Contentation,

though it be not properly a grace (it is rather a disposition of mind,) yet in it there is a happy

temperature and mixture of all the graces: it is a most precious compound, which is made up of

faith, patience, meekness, humility, &c. which are the ingredients put into it. Now there are in

species these seven rare excellencies in contentment.

1st. excellency. A contented Christian carries heaven about him: for, what is heaven, but that sweet

repose and full contentment that the soul shall have in God? In contentment there are the first fruits

of heaven. There are two things in a contented spirit, which make it like heaven. (1.) God is there;

something of God is to be seen in that heart. A discontented Christian is like a rough tempestuous

sea; when the water is rough you can see nothing there; but when it is smooth and serene, then you

may behold your face in the water. (Pr. 27. 19) When the heart rageth through discontent, it is like

a rough sea, you can see nothing there, unless passion and murmuring; there is nothing of God,

nothing of heaven in that heart: but by virtue of contentment, it is like the sea when it is smooth

and calm, there is a face shining there; you may see something of Christ in that heart, a representation

of all the graces. (2.) Rest is there. O what a Sabbath is kept in a contented heart! What an heaven!

A contented Christian like Noah in the ark; though the ark were tossed with waves, Noah could sit

and sing in the ark. The soul that is gotten into the ark of contentment, sits quiet, and sails above

all the waves of trouble; he can sing in this spiritual ark; the wheels of the chariot move, but the

axle-tree stirs not; the circumference of the heavens is carried about the earth, but the earth moves

not out of its centre. When we meet with motion and change in the creatures round about us, a

contented spirit is not stirred nor moved out of its centre. The sails of a mill move with the wind,

but the mill itself stands still, an emblem of contentment; when our outward estate moves with the

wind of providence, yet the heart is settled through holy contentment; and when others are like

quicksilver, shaking and trembling through disquiet, the contented spirit can say, as David, “O God

my heart is fixed:” (Ps. 57. 7) what is this but a piece of heaven?

2nd. excellency. Whatever is defective in the creature is made up in contentment. A Christian may

want the comforts that others have, the land, and possessions; but God hath instilled into his heart

that contentment which is far better: in this sense that is true of our Saviour, “he shall receive a

hundred fold.” (Mat. 19. 29) Perhaps he that ventured all for Christ, never hath his house or land

again: aye, but God gives him a contented spirit, and this breeds such joy in the soul, as is infinitely

sweeter than all his houses and lands which he left for Christ. It was sad with David in regard of

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his outward comforts, he being driven as some think from his kingdom; yet in regard of that sweet

contentment he found in God, he had more comfort than men use to have in the time of harvest and

vintage. (Ps. 4. 7) One man hath house and lands to live upon, another hath nothing, only a small

trade; yet even that brings in a livelihood. A Christian may have little in the world, but he drives

the trade of contentment; and so he knows as well how to want, as to abound. O the rare art, or

rather miracle of contentment! Wicked men are often disquieted in the enjoyment of all things; the

contented Christian is well in the want of all things. But how comes a Christian to be contented in

the deficiency of outward comforts? A Christian finds contentment distilled out of the breasts of

the promises. He is poor in purse, but rich in promise. There is one promise that brings much sweet

contentment into the soul: “they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” (Ps. 34. 10) If

the thing we desire be good for us, we shall have it; if it be not good, then the not having is good

for us. The resting satisfied with the promise gives contentment.

3rd. excellency. Contentment makes a man in tune to serve God; it oils the wheels of the soul and

makes it more agile and nimble; it composeth the heart, and makes it fit for prayer, meditation, &c.

How can he that is in a passion of grief, or discontent, “attend upon the Lord without distraction?”

Contentment doth prepare and tune the heart. First you prepare the viol, and wind up the strings,

ere you play a fit of music: when a Christian’s heart is wound up to this heavenly frame of

contentment, then it is fit for duty. A discontented Christian is like Saul, when the evil spirit came

upon him: O what jarrings and discords doth he make in prayer! When an army is put into a disorder,

then it is not fit for battle; when the thoughts are scattered and distracted about the cares of this

life, a man is not fit for devotion. Discontent takes the heart wholly of from God, and fixeth it upon

the present trouble, so that a man’s mind is not upon his prayer, but upon his cross. Discontent doth

disjoint the soul; and it is impossible now that a Christian should go so steadily and cheerfully in

God’s service. O how lame is his devotion! The discontented person gives God but a half-duty,

and his religion is nothing but bodily exercise, it wants a soul to animate it. David would not offer

that to God that cost him nothing.” (2 Sa. 24. 24) Where there is too much worldly care, there is

too little spiritual cost in a duty. The discontented person doth his duties by halves; he is just like

Ephraim, ” a cake not turned;” (Ho. 7. 8) he is a cake baked on one side; he gives God the outside

but not the spiritual part; his heart is not in duty; he is baked on one side, but the other side dough;

and what profit is there of such raw indigested services? He that gives God only the skin of worship,

what can he expect more than the shell of comfort? Contentation brings the heart into frame, and

then only do we give God the flower and spirits of a duty, when the soul is composed. Now a

Christian’s heart is intent and serious. There are some duties which we cannot perform as we ought

without contentment: as, (1.) to rejoice in God. How can he rejoice that is discontented? he is fitter

for repining, than rejoicing. (2.) To be thankful for mercy. Can a discontented person be thankful?

he can be fretful, not thankful. (3.) To justify God in his proceedings. How can he do this who is

discontented with his condition? he will sooner censure God’s wisdom, than clear his justice. O

then, how excellent is contentation, which doth prepare, and as it were, string the heart for duty?

Indeed contentment doth not only make our duties light and agile, but acceptable. It is this that puts

beauty and worth into them; for contentation settles the soul. Now, as it is with milk, when it is

always stirring, you can make nothing of it, but let it settle a while, and then it turns to cream: when

the heart is overmuch stirred with disquiet and discontent, you can make nothing of those duties.

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How thin, how fleeting and jejune are they! but when the heart is once settled by holy contentment,

now there is some worth in our duties, now they turn to cream.

4th. excellency. Contentment is the spiritual arch, or pillar of the soul; it fits a man to bear burdens;

he whose heart is ready to sink under the least sin, by virtue of this hath a spirit invincible under

sufferings. A contented Christian is like the camomile, the more it is trodden upon the more it

grows: as physic works disease out of the body, so doth contentment work trouble out of the heart.

Thus it argues, “if I am under reproach, God can vindicate me; if I am in want, God can relieve

me.” “Ye shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain, yet the valley shall be filled with water:”

(2 Ki. 3. 17) thus holy contentment keeps the heart from fainting. In the autumn, when the fruit and

leaves are blown off, still there is sap in the root: when there is an autumn upon our external felicity,

the leaves of our estate drop off, still there is the sap of contentment in the heart: a Christian hath

life inwardly, when his outward comforts do not blossom. The contented heart is never out of heart.

Contentation is a golden shield, that doth beat back discouragements. Humility is like the lead to

the net which keeps the soul down when it is rising through passion; and contentment is like the

cork which keeps the heart up when it is sinking through discouragements. Contentment is the great

under-prop; it is like the beam which bears whatever weight is laid upon it; nay, it is like a rock

that breaks the waves. It is strange to observe the same affliction lying upon two men, how differently

they carry themselves under it. The contented Christian is like Samson, that carried away the gates

of the city upon his back; he can go away with his cross cheerfully, and makes nothing of it: the

other is like Issachar, couching down under his burden: (Ge. 49. 14) the reason is, the one is

discontent, and that breeds fainting. Discontent swells the grief, and grief breaks the heart. When

this sacred sinew of contentment begins to shrink, we go limping under our afflictions; we know

not what burdens God may exercise us with; let us therefore preserve contentment; as is our

contentment, such will be our courage. David with his five stones and his sling defied Goliath, and

overcame him. Get but contentment into the sling of your heart; and with this sacred stone you may

both defy the world and conquer it; you may break those afflictions, which else would break you.

5th. excellency. Contentment prevents many sins and temptations.

First, It prevents many sins. Where there wants contentment, there wants no sin; discontentedness

with our condition is a sin that doth not go along, but is like the first link of the chain which draws

all the other links along with it. In particular, there are two sins which contentation prevents: (1.)

Impatience. Discontent and impatience are twins: “this evil is of the Lord, why should I wait on

the Lord any longer?” (2 Ki. 6. 33) as if God were so tied, that he must give us the mercy just when

we desire it. Impatience is no small sin; as will appear if you consider whence it ariseth. It is for

want of faith. Faith gives a right notion of God; it is an intelligent grace; it believes that God’s

wisdom tempers, and his love sweetens all ingredients; this works patience: “shall I not drink the

cup which my Father hath given me?” Impatience is the daughter of infidelity. If a patient have an

ill opinion of the physician, and conceits that he comes to poison him, he will take none of his

receipts: when we have a prejudice against God, and conceit that he comes to kill us, and undo us,

then we storm and cry out, like a foolish man, (it is Chrysostom’s similie) that cries out “away with

the plaster!” though it be in order to a cure; is it not better that the plaster smart a little, than the

wound fester and rankle? Impatience is for want of love of God. We will bear his reproofs whom

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we love not only patiently, but thankfully; “love thinketh no evil;” (1 Cor. 13. 5) it puts the fairest,

and most candid gloss upon the actions of a friend; “love covers evil.” If it were possible for God

in the least manner to err, which were blasphemy to think, love would cover that error; love takes

everything in the best sense, it makes us bear any stroke “it endureth all things.” (1 Cor. 13. 7) Had

we love to God, we should have patience. Impatience is for want of humility. An impatient man

was never humbled under the burden of sin; he that studies his sins, the numberless number of

them, how they are twisted together, and sadly accented; is patient and saith, “I will bear the

indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” The greater noise drowns the lesser;

when the sea roars the rivers are still; he that lets his thoughts expatiate about sin, is both silent and

amazed, he wonders it is no worse with him. How great then is this sin of impatience! And how

excellent is contentation, which is a counterpoise against this sin? The contented Christian believing

that God doth all in love, is patient, and hath not one word to say, unless to justify God. That is the

sin that contentation prevents. (2.) It prevents murmuring, a sin which is a degree higher than the

other; murmuring is quarrelling with God, and enveighing against him; “they spake against God.”

(Nu. 21. 5) The murmurer saith interpretatively, that God hath not dealt well with him, and he hath

deserved better from him. The murmurer chargeth God with folly: this is the language, or rather

blasphemy of a murmuring spirit; God might have been a wiser and better God. The murmurer is

a mutineer. The Israelites are called in the same text murmurers and rebels: (Nu. 17. 10) and is not

rebellion as the sin of witchcraft? Thou that art a murmurer art in the account of God as a witch, a

sorcerer, as one that deals with the devil: this is a sin of the first magnitude. Murmuring oft ends

in cursing: Micah’s mother fell to cursing when the talents of silver were taken away, (Ju. 17. 2)

so doth the murmurer when a part of his estate is taken away. Our murmuring is the devil’s music;

this is that sin which God cannot bear: “how long shall I bear with this evil congregation which

murmur against me?” (Nu. 14. 7) It is a sin which whets the sword against a people: it is a

land-destroying sin; “neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of

the destroyer.” (1 Cor. 10. 10) It is a ripening sin this; without mercy it will hasten England’s

funerals. O then how excellent is contentation, which prevents this sin! To be contented, and yet

murmur is a solecism: a contented Christian doth acquiesce in his present condition, and doth not

murmur, but admire. Herein appears the excellency of contentation; it is a spiritual antidote against

sin.

Secondly. Contentment prevents many temptations; discontent is a devil that is always tempting.

1st. It puts a man upon indirect means. He that is poor and discontented, will attempt any thing; he

will go to the devil for riches; he that is proud and discontented, will hang himself, as Ahithophel

did when his counsel was rejected. Satan takes great advantage of discontent; he loves to fish in

these troubled waters. Discontent doth both eclipse reason and weaken faith; and it is Satan’s policy;

he doth usually break over the hedge where it is weakest; discontent makes a breach in the soul,

and usually at this breach the devil enters by a temptation, and storms the soul. How easily can the

devil by his logic dispute a discontented Christian into sin? He forms such a syllogism as this, ” he

that is in want must study self-preservation: but you are now in want; therefore you ought to study

self-preservation.” Hereupon to make good his conclusion, he tempts to the forbidden fruit, not

distinguishing between what is needful, and what is lawful. “What?” saith he, “dost thou want a

livelihood? never be such a fool as starve; take the rising side at a venture, be it good or bad; “eat

the bread of deceit, drink the wine of violence.” Thus you see how the discontented man is a prey

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to that sad tentation, to steal and take God’s name in vain. Contentment is a shield against tentation;

for he that is contented, knows as well how to want as to abound. He will not sin to get a living;

though the bill of fare grows short, he is content. He lives as the birds of the air upon God’s

providence, and doubts not but he shall have enough to pay for his passage to heaven. 2d. Discontent

tempts a man to atheism and apostacy. Sure there is no God to take care of things here below; would

he suffer them to be in want who “have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” saith

discontent: throw off Christ’s livery, desist from the religion! Thus Job’s wife being discontented

with her condition, saith to her husband, “dost thou still retain thy integrity?” As if she had said,

“dost thou not see, Job, what is become of all thy religion? thou fearest God and eschewest evil,

and what are thou the better? see how God turns his hand against thee; he hath smitten thee in thy

body, estate, relations, and dost thou still retain thy integrity? What! still devout? still weep and

pray for him? thou fool, cast off religion, turn atheist!” Here was a sore tentation that the devil did

hand over to Job by his discontented wife; only his grace, as a golden shield, did ward off the blow

from his heart: ” thou speakest as one of the foolish women”. “What profit is it,” saith the

discontented person, “to serve the Almighty? those that never trouble themselves about religion,

are the prosperous men, and I in the mean while suffer want: as good give over driving the trade

of religion, if this be all my reward. This is a sore tentation, and oft it prevails; atheism is the fruit

that grows out of the blossom of discontent. O then, behold the excellency of contentment! It doth

repel this tentation. “If God be mine,” saith the contented spirit, “it is enough; though I have no

lands or tenements, his smile makes heaven; his loves are better than wine; better is the gleaning

of Ephraim than the vintage of Abiezar; (Ju. 8. 2) I have little in hand, but much in hope; my

livelihood is short, but this is his promise, even eternal life; I am persecuted by malice, but better

is persecuted godliness, than prosperous wickedness.” Thus divine contentment is a spiritual antidote

both against sin and tentation.

6th. excellency. Contentment sweetens every condition. Christ turned the water into wine; so

contentment turns the waters of Marah into spiritual wine. Have I but little? yet it is more than I

can deserve or challenge. This modicum is in mercy; it is the fruit of Christ’s blood, it is the legacy

of free grace: a small present sent from a king is highly valued. This little I have is with a good

conscience; it is not stolen waters; guilt hath not muddied or poisoned it; it runs pure. This little is

a pledge of more: this bit of bread is an earnest of that bread which I shall eat in the kingdom of

God; this little water in the cruise is an earnest of that heavenly nectar which shall be distilled from

the true vine. Do I meet with some crosses? my comfort is, if they be heavy, I have not far to go;

I shall but carry my cross to Golgotha and there I shall leave it; my cross is light in regard of the

weight of glory. Hath God taken away my comforts from me? it is well, the Comforter still abides.

Thus contentment, as a honey-comb, drops sweetness into every condition. Discontent is a leaven

that sours every comfort; it puts aloes and wormwood upon the breast of the creature; it lessens

every mercy, it trebles every cross; but the contented spirit sucks sweetness from every flower of

providence; it can make a treacle of poison. Contentation is full of consolation.

7th. excellency. Contentment hath this excellency, it is the best commentator upon providence; it

makes a fair interpretation of all God’s dealings. Let the providence of God be never so dark or

bloody, contentment doth construe them ever in the best sense. I may say of it, as the apostle of

charity, “it thinketh no evil.” (1 Cor. 13. 5) Sickness (saith contentment) is God’s furnace to refine

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his gold, and make it sparkle the more: the prison is an oratory, or house of prayer. What if God

melts away the creature from it? he saw perhaps my heart grew so much in love with it; had I been

long in that fat pasture I should have surfeited, and the better my estate had been, the worse my

soul would have been. God is wise; he hath done this either to prevent some sin or to exercise some

grace. What a blessed frame of heart is this! A contented Christian is an advocate for God against

unbelief and impatience: whereas discontent takes every thing from God in the worst sense; it doth

implead and censure God: this evil I feel is but a symptom of greater evil: God is about to undo

me: the Lord hath brought us hither into the wilderness to slay us. The contented soul takes all well;

and when his condition is ever so bad, he can say, “truly God is good.” (Ps. 73. 1)

Sect. II. The second argument to contentment.

A Christian hath that which may make him content. 1. Hath not God given thee Christ? in him

there are “unsearchable riches;” (Ep. 3. 8) he is such a golden mine of wisdom and grace, that all

the saints and angels can never dig to the bottom. As Seneca said to his friend Polybius, never

complain of thy hard fortune as long as CÊsar is thy friend: so I say to a believer, never complain

as long as Christ is thy friend; he is an enriching pearl, a sparkling diamond; the infinite lustre of

his merits makes us shine in God’s eyes. (Ep. 1. 7) In him there is both fulness and sweetness; he

is unspeakably good. Screw up your thoughts to the highest pinnacle, stretch them to the utmost

period, let them expatiate to their full latitude and extent; yet they fall infinitely short of these

ineffable and inexhaustable treasures which are locked up in Jesus Christ; and is not here enough

to give the soul content? A Christian that wants necessaries, yet having Christ, he hath the “one

thing needful.” 2. Thy soul is exercised and enamelled with the graces of the Spirit, and is not here

enough to give contentment? Grace is of a divine birth, it is the new plantation, it is the flower of

the heavenly paradise, it is the embroidery of the Spirit, it is the seed of God, (1 Jno. 3. 9) it is the

sacred unction, (Jno. 2. 20) it is Christ’s portraiture in the soul; it is the very foundation on which

superstructure of glory is laid. O, of what infinite value is grace! what a jewel is faith! Well may

it be called “precious faith.” (2 Pe. 1. 1) What is love, but a divine sparkle in the soul? A soul

beautified with grace, is like a room richly hung with arras, or tapestry, or the firmament bespangled

with glittering stars. These are the “true riches,” (Lu. 16. 11) which cannot stand with reprobation:

and is not here enough to give the soul contentment? what are all other things but like wings of a

butterfly, curiously painted? but they defile our fingers. Earthly riches, saith Augustine, are full of

poverty; so indeed they are, for, they cannot enrich the soul: oftentimes under silken apparel there

is a thread-bare soul. They are corruptible: “riches are not for ever,” as the wise man saith. (Pr. 27.

24) Heaven is a place where gold and silver will not go. A believer is rich towards God: (Lu. 12.

21) why then are thou discontented? hath not God given thee that which is better than the world?

What if he doth not give thee the box, if he gives thee the jewel? what if he denies thee farthings,

if he pays thee in a better coin? he gives thee gold; spiritual mercies. What if the water in the bottle

be spent? thou hast enough in the fountain. What need he complain of the world’s emptiness, that

hath God’s fulness? The Lord is my portion, saith David, (Ps. 16. 5) then let the lines fall where

they will, in a sick-bed or prison, I will say, “the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, yea, I

have a goodly heritage.” Are thou not heir to all the promises? Hast thou not a reversion of heaven?

When thou lettest go thy hold of natural life, art thou not sure of eternal life? Hath not God given

thee the earnest and first fruits of glory? Is not here enough to work the heart to contentment?

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Sect III. The third argument is,

Be content, for else we confute our own prayers. We pray, “thy will be done:” it is the will of

God that we should be in such a condition; he hath decreed it, and he sees it best for us; why then

do we murmur, and are discontent at that which we pray for? either we are not in good earnest in

our prayer, which argues hypocrisy; or we contradict ourselves which argues folly.

Sect IV. The fourth argument to contentment is,

Because now God hath his end, and Satan misseth of his end. 1. God hath his end. God’s end

in all his providences is to bring the heart to submit and be content; and indeed this pleaseth God

much, he loves to see his children satisfied with that portion he doth carve and allot them; it contents

him to see us contented; therefore let us acquiesce in God’s providence, now God hath his end. 2.

Satan misseth of his end. The end why the devil, though by God’s permission, did smite Job in his

body and estate, was to perplex his mind; he did vex his body on purpose that he might disquiet

his spirit. He hoped to bring Job into a fit of discontent; and then that he would in a passion break

forth against God: but Job being so well-contented with his condition as that he falls to blessing of

God, he did disappoint Satan of his hope. “The devil will cast some of you into prison; (Re. 2. 10)

why doth the devil throw us into prison? It is not so much the hurting our body, as the molesting

our mind, that he aims at; he would imprison our contentment, and disturb the regular motion of

our souls, this is his design. It is not so much the putting us into a prison, as the putting us into a

passion, that he attempts; but by holy contentation, Satan loseth his prey, he misseth of his end.

The devil hath often deceived us; the best way to deceive him, is by contentation in the midst of

temptation; our contentment will discontent Satan. O, let us not gratify our enemy! discontent is

the devil’s delight; now it is as he would have it, he loves to warm himself at the fire of our passions.

Repentance is the joy of the angels, and discontent is the joy of the devils; as the devil danceth at

discord, so he sings at discontent. The fire of our passions makes the devil a bonfire; it is a kind of

heaven to him to see us torturing ourselves with our own troubles; but by holy contentment, we

frustrate him of his purpose, and do as it were put him out of countenance.

Sect. V. The fifth argument is,

By contentment a Christian gains a victory over himself. For a man to be able to rule his own

spirit, this of all others is the most noble conquest. Passion denotes weakness; to be discontented

is suitable to flesh and blood; but to be in every state content, reproached, yet content, imprisoned,

yet content; this is above nature; this is some of that holy valour and chivalry which only a divine

spirit is able to infuse. In the midst of the affronts of the world to be patient, and in the changes of

the world to have the spirit calmed, this is a conquest worthy indeed of the garland of honour. Holy

Job, divested and turned out of all, leaving his scarlet, and embracing the dunghill, (a sad

catastrophe!) yet had learned contentment. It is said, “he fell down upon the ground and worshipped.”

(Job 1. 20) One would have thought he should have fallen upon the ground and blasphemed! no,

he fell and worshipped. He adored God’s justice and holiness. Behold the strength of grace! here

was an humble submission, yet a noble conquest; he got the victory over himself. It is no great

matter for a man to yield to his own passions, this is facile and feminine; but to content himself in

denying of himself, this is sacred.

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Sect. VI. The sixth great argument to work the heart to contentment is,

The consideration that all God’s providences, how cross or bloody soever, shall do a believer

good; “and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Ro. 8. 28) Not

only all good things, but all evil things work for good; and shall we be discontented at that which

works for our good? Suppose our troubles are twisted together, and sadly accented: what if sickness,

poverty, reproach, law-suits, &c, do unite and muster their forces against us? all shall work for

good; our maladies shall be our medicines; and shall we repine at which shall undoubtedly do us

good? “Unto the upright there ariseth light in darkness.” (Ps. 112. 4) Affliction may be baptized

Marah; it is bitter, but physical. Because this is so full of comfort, and may be a most excellent

catholicon against discontent, I shall a little expatiate.

It will be inquired how the evils of affliction work for good? Several ways.

First, They are disciplinary; they teach us. The Psalmist having very elegantly described the church’s

trouble, (Ps. 74) prefixed this title to the psalm, Maschil, which signifies a psalm giving instruction;

that which seals up instruction, works for good. God puts us sometimes under the black rod; but it

is a rod of discipline; “hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.” (Mi. 6. 9) God makes our

adversity our university. Affliction is a preacher; “blow the trumpet in Tekoa:” (Je. 6. 1) the trumpet

was to preach to the people; “be thou instructed, O Jerusalem.” (Je. 6. 8) Sometimes God speaks

to the minister to lift up his voice like a trumpet, (Is. 58. 1) and here he speaks to the trumpet to lift

up its voice like a minister. Afflictions teach us humility. Commonly prosperous, and proud,

corrections are God’s corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. Jesus Christ is the lily of the vallies,

(Can. 2. 1) he dwells in an humble heart: God brings us into the valley of tears, that He may bring

us into the valley of humility; “remembering my affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the

gall; my soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. (La. 3. 19,20) When men are

grown high, God hath no better way with them, than to brew them a cup of wormwood. Afflictions

are compared to thorns, (Ho. 2. 6) God’s thorns are to prick the bladder of pride. Suppose a man

run at another with a sword to kill him; accidentally, it only lets out his imposthume of pride; this

doth him good: God’s sword is to let out the imposthume of pride; and shall that which makes us

humble, make us discontented? Afflictions teach us repentance; “thou hast chastised me, and I was

chastised: I repented, and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh.” (Je. 31. 18,19) Repentance

is the precious fruit that grows upon the cross. When the fire is put under the still, the water drops

from the roses; fiery afflictions make the waters of repentance drop and distil from the eyes; and

is here any cause of discontent? Afflictions teach us to pray better, “they poured out a prayer when

Thy chastening was upon them;” (Is. 26. 16) before, they would say a prayer; now they poured out

a prayer. Jonah was asleep in the ship, but awake and at prayer in the whale’s belly. When God

puts under the fire-brands of affliction, now our hearts boil over the more; God loves to have his

children possessed with a spirit prayer. Never did David, the sweet singer of Israel, tune his harp

more melodiously, never did he pray better, than when he was upon the waters. Thus afflictions

do in discipline; and shall we be discontent at that which is for our good?

Secondly, Afflictions are probatory. (Ps. 66. 10,11) Gold is not the worse for being tried, or corn

for being fanned. Affliction is the touchstone of sincerity, it tries what metal we are made of;

affliction is God’s fan and his sieve. It is good that men be known; some serve God for a livery;

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they are like the fisherman, that makes use of the net, only to catch the fish; so they go a-fishing

with the net of religion, only to catch preferment: affliction discovers these. The Donatists went to

the Goths when the Arians prevailed: hypocrites will fail in a storm, true grace holds out in the

winter-season. That is a precious faith which, like the stars, shines brightest in the darkest night. It

is good that our graces should be brought to trial; thus we have the comfort, and the gospel the

honour, and why then be discontented?

Thirdly, Afflictions are expurgatory, these evils work for our good, because they work out sin, and

shall I be discontented at this? What if I have more trouble, if I have less sin? The brightest day

hath its clouds; the purest gold its dross; the most refined soul hath some less of corruption. The

saints lose nothing in the furnace but what they can well spare; their dross: is not this for our good?

Why then should we murmur? “I am come to send fire on the earth.” (Lu. 12. 49) Tertullian

understands it of the fire of affliction. God makes this like the fire of the three children, which

burned only their bonds and set them at liberty in the furnace, so the fire of affliction serves to burn

the bonds of iniquity: “by this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged: and this is all the

fruit, to take away his sin.” (Is. 27. 9) When affliction or death comes to a wicked man, it takes

away his soul; when it comes to a godly man, it only takes away his sin; is there any cause why we

should be discontented? God steeps us in the brinish waters of affliction that he make take out our

spots. God’s people are his husbandry; (1 Cor. 3. 9) the ploughing of the ground kills the weeds,

and the harrowing of the earth breaks the hard clods: God’s ploughing of us by affliction, is to kill

the weeds of sin; his harrowing of us is to break the hard clouds of impenitency that the heart may

be fitter to receive the seeds of grace; and if this be all, why should we be discontented?

Fourthly, Afflictions do both exercise and increase our grace. They exercise grace; affliction doth

breathe our graces; every thing is most in its excellency when it is most in its exercise. Our grace,

though it cannot be dead, yet it may be asleep, and hath need of awakening. What a dull thing is

the fire when it is hid in the embers, or the sun when it is masked with a cloud! A sick man is living,

but not lively; afflictions quicken and excite grace. God doth not love to see grace in the eclipse.

Now faith puts forth its purest and most noble acts in times of affliction: God makes the fall of the

leaf the spring of our graces. What if we are more passive, if graces be more active. Afflictions do

increase grace; as the wind serves to increase and blow up the flame, so doth the windy blasts of

affliction augment and blow up our graces; grace spends not in the furnace, but it is like the widow’s

oil in the cruise, which did increase by pouring out. The torch, when it is beaten burns brightest,

so doth grace when it is exercised by sufferings. Sharp frosts nourish the good corn, so do sharp

afflictions grace. Some plants grow better in the shade than in the sun, as the bay and the cypress;

the shade of adversity is better for some than the sun-shine of prosperity. Naturalists observe that

the colewort thrives better when it is watered with salt water than with fresh, so do some thrive

better in the salt water of affliction; and shall we be discontented at that which makes us grow and

fructify more?

Fifthly, These afflictions do bring more of God’s immediate presence into the soul. When we are

most assaulted, we shall be most assisted; “I will be with him in trouble.” (Ps. 91. 15) It cannot be

ill with that man with who God is, by his powerful presence in supporting, and his gracious presence

in sweetening the present trial. God will be with us in trouble, not only to behold us, but to uphold

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us, as he was with Daniel in the lion’s den, and the three children in the fiery furnace. What if we

have more trouble than others, if we have more of God with us than others have? We never have

sweeter smiles from God’s face than when the world begins to look strange: thy statutes have been

my song; where? not when I was upon the throne, but “in the house of my pilgrimage.” (Ps. 119.

54) We read, the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire: (1 Ki. 19. 11) but

in a metamorphical and spiritual sense, when the wind of affliction blows upon a believer, God is

in the wind; when the fire of affliction kindles upon him, God is in the fire, to sanctify, to support,

to sweeten. If God be with us, the furnace shall be turned into a festival, the prison into a paradise,

the earthquake into a joyful dance. O why should I be discontented, when I have more of God’s

company!

Sixthly, These evils of affliction are for good, as they bring with them certificates of God’s love,

and are evidences of his special favour. Affliction is the saint’s livery; it is a badge and cognizance

of honour: that the God of glory should look upon a worm, and take so much notice of him, as to

afflict him rather than lose him, is an high act of favour. God’s rod is a sceptre of dignity, Job calls

God’s afflicting of us, his magnifying of us. (Job 7. 17) Some men’s prosperity hath been their

shame, when others afflictions have been their crown.

Seventhly, These afflictions work for our good, because they work for us a far exceeding weight of

glory. (2 Cor. 4. 17) That which works for my glory in heaven, works for my good. We do not read

in Scripture that any man’s honour or riches do work for him a weight of glory, but afflictions do;

and shall a man be discontented at that which works for his glory? The heavier the weight of

affliction, the heavier the weight of glory; not that our sufferings do merit glory, (as the papists do

wickedly gloss,) but though they are not the cause of our crown, yet they are the way to it; and God

makes us, as he did our captain, “perfect through sufferings.” (He. 2. 10) And shall not all this make

us contented with our condition? O I beseech you, look not upon the evil of affliction, but the good!

Afflictions in Scripture are called “visitations.” (Job 7. 18) The word in the Hebrew, to visit, is

taken in a good sense, as well as a bad: God’s afflictions are but friendly visits. Behold here God’s

rod, like Aaron’s rod blossoming; and Jonathan’s rod, it hath honey at the end of it. Poverty shall

starve out our sins; the sickness of the body cures a sin-sick soul; O then, instead of murmuring

and being discontented, bless the Lord! Hadst thou not met with such a rub in the way, thou mightest

have gone to hell and never stopped.

Sect. VII. The seventh argument to contentation is,

Consider the evil of discontent. Malcontent hath a mixture of grief and anger in it, and both of

these must needs raise a storm in the soul. Have you not seen the posture of a sick man? Sometimes

he will sit up on his bed, by and by he will lie down, and when he is down he is not quiet; first he

turns on the one side and then on the other; he is restless; this is just the emblem of a discontented

spirit. The man is not sick, yet he is never well; sometimes he likes such a condition of life but is

soon weary; and then another condition of life; and when he hath it, yet he is not pleased; this is

an evil under the sun. Now the evil of discontent appears in three things.

Evil 1st. The sordidness of it is unworthy of a Christian. (1.) It is unworthy of his profession. It was

the saying of an heathen, bear thy condition quietly; “know thou art a man;” so I say, bear thy

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condition contentedly, “know thou art a Christian.” Thou professeth to live by faith: what? and not

content? Faith is a grace that doth substantiate things not seen; (He. 11. 1) faith looks beyond the

creature, it feeds upon promises; faith lives not by bread alone; when the water is spent in the bottle,

faith knows whither to have recourse; now to see a Christian dejected in the want of visible supplies

and recruits, where is faith? “O,” saith one, “my estate in the world is down.” Ay, and which is

worse, the faith is down. Wilt thou not be contented unless God let down the vessel to thee, as he

did to Peter, “wherein were all manner of beasts of the earth, and fowls of the air?” Must you have

the first and second course? This is like Thomas, “unless I put my finger into the print of the nails,

I will not believe;” so, unless thou hast a sensible feeling of outward comforts, thou wilt not be

content. True faith will trust God where it cannot trace him, and will adventure upon God’s bond

though it hath nothing in view. You who are discontented because you have not all you would, let

me tell you, either your faith is a nonentity, or at best but an embryo; it is a weak faith that must

have stilts and crutches to support it. Nay, discontent is not only below faith, but below reason:

why are you discontented? Is it because you are dispossessed of such comforts? Well, and have

you not reason to guide you? Doth not reason tell you that you are but tenants at will? And may

not God turn you out when he pleases? You hold not your estate by juridical right, but upon favour

and courtesy. (2.) It is unworthy of the relation we stand in to God. A Christian is invested with

the title and privilege of sonship, (Ep. 1. 5) he is an heir of the promise. O consider the lot of

free-grace that is fallen upon thee; thou art nearly allied to Christ, and of the blood royal; thou art

advanced in some sense, above the angels: “why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to

day?” (2 Sa. 13. 4) why art thou discontented? O, how unworthy is this! as if the heir to some great

monarch should go pining up and down because he may not pick such a flower.

Evil 2nd. Consider the sinfulness of it; which appears in three things; the causes, the concomitants,

the consequences of it.

(1.) It is sinful in the causes; such as pride. He that thinks highly of his desets, usually esteems

meanly of his condition: a discontented man is a proud man, he thinks himself better than others,

therefore finds fault with the wisdom of God that he is not above others. Thus the things formed

saith to him that formed it, “why hast thou made me thus?” (Ro. 9. 20) why am I not higher?

Discontents are nothing else but the estuations, and boilings over of pride. The second cause of

discontent is, envy, which Augustine calls the sin of the devil. Satan envied Adam the glory of

paradise, and the robe of innocency: he that envies what his neighbour hath, is never contented

with that portion which God’s providence doth parcel out to him. As envy stirs up strife, (this made

the Plebeian faction so strong among the Romans) so it creates discontent: the envious man looks

so much upon the blessings which another enjoys, that he cannot see his own mercies, and so doth

continually vex and torture himself. Cain envied that his brother’s sacrifice was accepted, and his

rejected; hereupon he was discontented, and presently murderous thoughts began to arise in his

heart. The third cause is covetousness. This is a radical sin. Whence ae vexing law-suits, but from

discontent? and whence is discontent, but from covetousness? Covetousness and contentedness

cannot dwell in the same heart. Avarice is an helluo1, that is never satisfied. The covetous man is

like Behemoth, “behold he drinketh up a river, he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his

1 glutton

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mouth.” (Job 40. 23) “There are four things (saith Solomon) that say not, it is enough.” I may add

a fifth, the heart of a covetous man; he is still craving. Covetousness is like a wolf in the breast,

which is ever feeding; and because a man is not satisfied, he is never content. The fourth cause of

discontent is, jealousy, which is sometimes occasioned through melancholy, and sometimes

misapprehension. The spirit of jealousy causeth the evil spirit. “Jealousy is the rage of a man.” (Pr.

6. 34) And oft this is nothing but suspicion and fancy: yet such as creates real discontent. the fifth

cause of discontent is distrust, which is a great degree of Atheism. The discontented person is ever

distrustful. The bill of provision grows low; I am in these straits of exigencies, can God help me?

“can he prepare a table in the wilderness?” sure he cannot. My estate is exhausted, can God recruit

me? my friends are gone, can God raise me up more? sure the arm of his power is shrunk. I am like

the dry fleece, can any water come upon this fleece? “If the Lord would make windows in heaven,

might this thing be?” (2 Ki. 7. 2) Thus the anchor of hope, and the shield of faith, being cast away,

the soul goes pining up and down. Discontent is nothing else but the echo of unbelief: and remember,

distrust is worse than distress.

(2.) Discontent is evil in its concomitants of it, which are two:

1. Discontent is joined with a sullen melancholy. A Christian of a right temper should be ever

cheerful in God: “serve the Lord with gladness;” (Ps. 100. 2) a sign the oil of grace hath been poured

into the heart when the oil of gladness shines in the countenance. Cheerfulness credits religion;

how can the discontented person be cheerful? Discontent is a dogged, sullen humour; because we

have not what we desire God shall not have a good work or look from us; as the bird in the cage,

because he is pent up, and cannot fly in the open air, therefore beats herself against the cage, and

is ready to kill herself. Thus that peevish prophet; “I do well to be angry even unto death.” (Jon. 4.

9)

2. Discontent is accompanied with unthankfulness; because we have not all we desire, we never

mind the mercies which we have. We deal with God as the widow of Sarepta did with the prophet:

the prophet Elijah had been a means to keep her alive in the famine, for it was for his sake, that her

meal in the barrel, and her oil in the cruise failed not; but as soon as ever her son dies, she falls into

a passion, and begins to quarrel with the prophet: “what have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?

Art thou come to call my sin to rememberance, and slay my son?” (1 Ki. 17. 18) So ungratefully

do we deal with God: we can be content to receive mercies from God, but if he doth cross us in the

least thing, then, through discontent, we grow touchy and impatient, and are ready to fly upon God;

thus God loseth all his mercies. We read in Scripture of the thank-offering; the discontented person

cuts God short of this; the Lord loseth his thank-offering. A discontented Christian repines in the

midst of mercies, as Adam who sinned in the midst of paradise. Discontent is a spider that sucks

the poison of unthankfulness out of the sweetest flower of God’s blessing, and is a devilish chemistry

that extracts dross out of the most refined gold. The discontented person thinks every thing he doth

for God too much, and every thing God doth for him too little. O what a sin is unthankfulness! it

is an accumulative sin. What Cicero said of parricide, I may say of ingratitude: “there are many

sins bound up in this one sin.” It is a voluminous wickedness; and how full of this sin is discontent?

A discontented Christian, because he hath not all the world, therefore dishonours God with the

mercies which he hath. God made Eve out of Adam’s rib, to be an helper, but the devil hath made

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an arrow of this rib, and shot Adam to the heart: so doth discontent take the rib of God’s mercy,

and ungratefully shoot at him; estate, liberty shall be employed against God. Thus it is oftentimes.

Behold then how discontent and ingratitude are interwoven and twisted one within the other: thus

discontent is sinful in its concomitants. (3.) It is sinful in its consequences, which are these. 1. It

makes a man very unlike the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is a meek Spirit. The Holy Ghost

descended in the likeness of a dove, (Mat. 3. 16) a dove is the emblem of meekness; a discontented

spirit is not a meek spirit. 2. It makes a man like the devil; the devil being swelled with the poison

of envy and malice, is never content: just so is the malcontent. The devil is an unquiet spirit, he is

still “walking about,” (1 Pe. 5. 8) it is his rest to be walking. And herein is the discontented person

like him; for he goes up and down vexing himself, “seeking rest, and finding none;” he is the devil’s

picture. 3. Discontent disjoints the soul, it untunes the heart for duty. “Is any among you afflicted,

let him pray.” (Ja. 5. 13) But, is any man discontented? how shall he pray? “Lift up holy hands

without wrath.” (1 Ti. 2. 8) Discontent is full of wrath and passion; the malcontent cannot lift up

pure hands; he lifts up leprous hands, he poisons his prayers; will God accept a poisoned sacrifice?

Chrysostom compares prayer to a fine garland; those, saith he, that make a garland, their hands had

need to be clean; prayer is a precious garland, the heart that makes it had need to be clean. Discontent

throws poison into the spring, which was dealt among the Romans, discontent puts the heart into

a disorder and mutiny, and such as one cannot serve the Lord “without distraction.” 4. Discontent

sometimes unfits for the very use of reason. Jonah, in a passion of discontent, spake no better than

blasphemy and nonsense: “I do well to be angry even unto death.” (Jon. 4. 9) What? to be angry

with God! and to die for anger! Sure he did not know well what he said. When discontent transports,

then, like Moses, we speak unadvisedly with our lips. This humour doth even suspend the very acts

of reason. 5. Discontent doth not only disquiet a man’s self, but those who are near him. This evil

spirit troubles families, parishes, &c. If there be but one string out of tune, it spoils all the music:

one discontented spirit makes jarrings and dis-cords among others. It is this ill-humour that breeds

quarrels and law-suits. Whence are all our contentions, but for want of contentation? “From whence

come wars and fighting among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts?” (Ja. 4. 1) in particular

from the lust of discontent. Why did Absalom raise a war against his father, and would have taken

off not only his crown but his head? was it not his discontent? Absalom would be king. Why did

Ahab stone Naboth? was it not discontent about the vineyard? Oh this devil of discontent! Thus

you have seen the sinfulness of it.

Evil. 3d. Consider the simplicity of it. I may say, as the

Psalmist, “surely they are disquieted in vain:” (Ps. 39. 6) which appears thus, 1. Is it not a vain

simple thing to be troubled at the loss of that which is in its own nature perishing and changeable?

God hath put a vicissitude into the creature; all the world rings changes; and for me to meet with

inconstancy here, to lose a friend, estate, to be in constant fluctuation; is no more than to see a

flower wither or a leaf drop off in autumn: there is an autumn upon every comfort, a fall of the leaf;

now it is extreme folly to be discontented at the loss of those things which are in their own nature

loseable. What Solomon saith of riches, is true of all things under the sun, “they take wings.” Noah’s

dove brought an olive-branch in its mouth, but presently flew out of the ark, and never returned

more: such a comfort brings to us honey in its mouth, but it hath wings; and to what purpose should

we be troubled, unless we had wings to fly after and overtake it? 2. Discontent is a heart-breaking:

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“by sorrow of the heart, the spirit is broken.” (Pr. 15. 13) It takes away the comfort of life. There

is none of us but may have many mercies if we can see them; now because we have not all we

desire, therefore we will lose the comfort of that which we have already. Jonah having his gourd

smitten, a withering vanity, was so discontented, that he never thought of his miraculous deliverance

out of the whale’s belly; he takes no comfort of his life, but wisheth that he might die. What folly

is this? We must have all or none; herein we are like children, that throw away the piece which is

cut them because they may have no bigger. Discontent eats out the comfort of life. Besides, it were

well if it were seriously weighed how prejudicial this is even to our health; for discontent, as it doth

discruciate the mind, so it doth pine the body. It frets as a moth; and by wasting the spirits, weakens

the vitals. The pleurisy of discontent brings the body into a consumption; and is not this folly? 3.

Discontent does not ease us of our burden, but it makes the cross heavier. A contented spirit goes

cheerfully under its affliction. Discontent makes our grief as unsupportable as it is unreasonable.

If the leg be well, it can endure a fetter and not complain; but if the leg be sore, then the fetters

trouble. Discontent of mind is the sore that makes the fetters of affliction more grievous. Discontent

troubles us more than the trouble itself, it steeps the affliction in wormwood. When Christ was

upon the Cross, the Jews brought him gall and vinegar to drink, that it might add to his sorrow.

Discontent brings to a man in affliction, gall and vinegar to drink; this is worse than the affliction

itself. Is it not folly for a man to embitter his own cross? 4. Discontent spins out our troubles the

longer. A Christian is discontented because he is in want, and therefore he is in want because he

is discontented; he murmurs because he is afflicted, and therefore he is afflicted, because he murmurs.

Discontent doth delay and adjourn our mercies. God deals herein with us, as we use to do with our

children; when they are quiet and cheerful, they shall have any thing; but if we see them cry and

fret, then we withhold from them: we get nothing from God by our discontent but blows; the more

the child struggles, the more it is beaten: when we struggle with God by our sinful passions, he

doubles and trebles his strokes; God will tame our curst hearts. What got Israel by their peevishness?

they were within eleven days journey to Canaan; and now they were discontented and began to

murmur, God leads them a march of forty years long in the wilderness. Is it not folly for us to

adjourn our own mercies? Thus you have seen the evil of discontent.

Sect. VIII. the eighth argument to contentation is this:

Why is not a man content with the competency which he hath? Perhaps if he had more he would

be less content; covetousness is a dry drunkenness. The world is such that the more we have the

more we crave; it cannot fill the heart of man. When the fire burns, how do you quench it? not by

putting oil in the flame, or laying on more wood, but by withdrawing the fuel. When the appetite

is inflamed after riches, how may a man be satisfied? not by having just what he desires, but by

withdrawing the fuel, &c. moderating and lessening his desires. He that is contented hath enough.

A man in a fever or dropsy thirsts; how do you satisfy him? not by giving him liquid things, which

will inflame his thirst the more; but by removing the cause, and so curing the distemper. The way

for a man to be contented, is not by raising his estate higher, but by bringing his heart lower.

Sect.IX. The nineth argument to contentation is,

The shortness of life. It is “but a vapour,” saith James. (Ja. 4. 14) Life is a wheel ever-running.

The poets painted time with wings to show the volubility and swiftness of it. Job compares it to a

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swift post, (Job 9. 25) our life rides post; and to a day, not a year. It is indeed like a day. Infancy

is as it were the day-break, youth is the sun-rising, full growth is the sun in the meridian, old age

is sun-setting, sickness is the evening, then comes the night of death. How quickly is this day of

life spent! Oftentimes this sun goes down at noon-day; life ends before the evening of old age

comes. Nay, sometimes the sun of life sets presently after sun-rising. Quickly after the dawning of

infancy the night of death approaches. O, how short is the life of man! The consideration of the

brevity of life may work the heart to contentment. Remember thou art to be here but a day; thou

hast but a short way to go, and what needs a long provision for a short way? If a traveller hath but

enough to bring him to his journey’s end he desires no more. We have but a day to live, and perhaps

we may be in the twelfth hour of the day; why if God gives us but enough to bear our charges, till

night, it is sufficient, let us be content. If a man had the lease of a house, or farm, but for two or

three days, and he should fall a building and planting, would he not be judged very indiscreet? so,

when we have but a short time here, and death calls us presently off the stage, to thirst immoderately

after the world, and pull down our souls to build up an estate, is an extreme folly. Therefore, as

Esau said once, in a profane sense, concerning his birth-right, “lo, I am at the point to die, and what

profit shall this birth-right do me?” so let a Christian say in a religious sense, “lo, I am even at the

point of death, my grave is going to be made, and what good will the world do me? If I have but

enough till sun-setting, I am content.”

Sect. X. The tenth argument to contentation is,

Consider seriously the nature of a prosperous condition. There are in a prosperous estate three

things,

1. More trouble. Many who have abundance of all things to enjoy, yet have not so much content

and sweetness in their lives, as some that go to their hard labour. Sad, solicitous thoughts do often

attend a prosperous condition. Care is the evil spirit which haunts the rich man, and will not suffer

him to be quiet. When his chest is full of gold, his heart is full of care, either how to manage, or

how to increase, or how to secure what he hath gotten. O the troubles and perplexities that do attend

prosperity! The world’s high seats are very uneasy; sunshine is pleasant, but sometimes it scorcheth

with its heat; the bee gives honey, but sometimes it stings: prosperity hath its sweetness and also

its sting; “competency with contentment is far more eligible.” Never did Jacob sleep better than

when he had the heavens for his canopy, and a hard stone for his pillow. A large voluminous estate

is but like a long trailing garment, which is more troublesome than useful.

2. In a prosperous condition there is more danger; and that two ways: First, in respect of a man’s

self. The rich man’s table is oft his snare; he is ready to ingulf himself too deep in these sweet

waters. In this sense it is hard to know how to abound. It must be a strong brain that bears heady

wine; he had need have much wisdom and grace, that knows how to bear an high condition; either

he is ready to kill himself with care, or to surfeit himself with luscious delights. O the hazard of

honour, the damage of dignity! Pride, security, rebellion, are the three worms that breed of plenty.

(De. 32. 15) The pastures of prosperity are rank and surfeiting. How soon are we broken upon the

soft pillow of ease? Prosperity is often a trumpet that sounds a retreat, it calls men off from the

pursuit of religion. The sun of prosperity oft dulls and puts out the fire of zeal; how many souls

hath the pleurisy of abundance killed? They that “will be rich, fall into snares.” (1 Ti. 6. 9) The

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world is birdlime at our feet, it is full of golden sands, but they are quick-sands. Prosperity, like

smooth Jacob, will supplant and betray; a great estate, without much vigilancy, will be a thief to

rob us of heaven; such as are upon the pinnacle of hnour are in most danger of falling. A lower

estate is less hazardous; the little pinnacle rides safe by the shore, when the gallant ship advancing

with its mast and top-sail, is cast away. Adam in paradise was overcome, when Job on the dung-hill

was a conqueror. Samson fell asleep in Delilah’s lap: some have fallen so fast asleep on the lap of

ease and plenty, that they have never awaked till they have been in hell. The world’s fawning is

worse than its frowning, and it is more to be feared when it smiles than when it thunders. Prosperity,

in Scripture, is compared to a candle; “his candle shined upon my head:” (Job 29. 3) how many

have burnt their wings about this candle! “The corn being over-ripe, sheds; and fruit, when it

mellows, begins to rot; when men do mellow with the sun of prosperity, commonly their souls

begin to rot in sin. “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Lu.

18. 24) His golden weights keep him from ascending up the hill of God; and shall we not be content,

though we are placed in a lower orb? What if we are not in so much bravery and gallantry as others?

we are not in so much danger; as we want the honour of the world, so the temptations. O the

abundance of danger that is in abundance! We see, by common experience, that lunatics, when the

moon is declining, and in the wane, are sober enough, but when it is full they are wild and more

exorbitant: when men’s estates are in the wane, they are more serious about their souls, more

humble, but when it is the full of the moon, and they have abundance, then their hearts begin to

swell with their estates, and are scarcely themselves. Those that write concerning the several

climates, observe, that such as live in the northern parts of the world, if you bring them into the

south part, lose their stomachs, and die quickly: but those that live in the more southern and hot

climates, bring them into the north, and their stomach’s mend, and they are long-lived; give me

leave to apply it. Bring a man from the cold, starving climate of poverty, into the hot southern

climate of prosperity, and he begins to lose his appetite to good things, he grows weak, and a

thousand to one if all his religion doth not die; but bring a Christian from the south to the north,

from a rich flourishing estate into a jejune low condition, let him come into a more cold and hungry

air, and then his stomach mends, he hath a better appetite after heavenly things, he hungers more

after Christ, he thirsts more for grace, he eats more than at one meal of the bread of life, than at six

before; this man is now like to live and hold out in his religion. Be content then with a modicum;

if you have but enough to pay for your passage to heaven, it sufficeth. Secondly, a prosperous

condition is dangerous in regard of others. A great estate, for the most part, draws envy to it, whereas

in little there is quiet. David a shepherd was quiet, but David a courier was pursued by his enemies;

envy cannot endure a superior; an envious man knows not how to live but upon the ruins of his

neighbours; he raiseth himself higher by bringing others lower. Prosperity is an eye-sore to many.

Such sheep as have most wool are soonest fleeced. The barren tree grows peaceably; no man

meddles with the ash or willow, but the apple-tree and the damasin shall have many rude suitors.

O then be contented to carry a lesser sail! He that hath less revenues hath less envy; such as bear

the fairest frontispiece and make the greatest show in the world, are the white for envy and malice

to shoot at.

3. A prosperous condition hath in it a greater reckoning; every man must be responsible for his

talents. Thou that hast great possessions in the world, dost thou trade thy estate for God’s glory?

art thou rich in good works? Grace makes a private person a common good. Dost thou disburse thy

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money for public uses? It is lawful, in this sense, to put out our money to use. O let us all remember

an estate is a depositum; we are but stewards; and our Lord and Master will ere long say, “give an

account of your stewardship:” the greater our estate, the greater our charge, the more our revenues,

the more our reckonings. You that have a lesser mill going in the world, be content: God will expect

less from you, where He hath sowed more sparingly.

Sect. XI. The eleventh argument to contentation is,

The example of those who have been eminent for contentation. Examples are usually more

forcible than precepts. Abraham being called out to hot service, and such as was against flesh and

blood, was content. God bid him offer up his son Isaac. This was great work: Isaac was the son of

his old age; the son of his love; the son of the promise; Christ the Messiah was to come of his line,

“in Isaac shall thy seed be called:” so that to offer up Isaac seemed not only to oppose Abraham’s

reason, but his faith too; for, if Isaac die, the world for ought he knew, must be without a Mediator.

Besides, if Isaac be sacrificed, was there no other hand to do it but Abraham’s? must the father

needs be the executioner? must he that was the instrument of giving Isaac his being, be the instrument

of taking it away? Yet Abraham doth not dispute or hesitate, but believes “against hope,” and is

content with God’s prescription: so, when God called him to leave his country, he was content.

Some would have argued thus: “what! leave my friends, my native soil, my brave situation, and

go turn pilgrim?” Abraham is content. Besides Abraham went blindfolds, “he knew not whither he

went.” God held him in suspense; he must go wander he knows not where; and when he doth come

to the place God hath laid out for him, he knows not what oppositions he shall meet with there.

The world doth seldom cast a favourable aspect upon strangers. Yet he is content, and obeys; “he

sojourned in the land of promise.” (He. 11. 9) Behold a little his pilgrimage. First, he goes to

Charran, a city in Mesopotamia. When he had sojourned there a while, his father dies. Then he

removed to Sichem, then to Bethlehem in Canaan; there a famine ariseth; then he went down to

Egypt; after that he returns to Canaan. When he comes there, it is true he had a promise, but he

found nothing to answer expectation; he had not there one foot of land, but was an exile. In this

time of his sojourning he buried his wife: and as for his dwellings, he had no sumptuous buildings,

but led his life in poor cottages: all this was enough to have broken any man’s heart. Abraham

might think thus with himself: “is this the land I must possess? here is no probability of any good;

all things are against me.” Well, is he discontented? no; God saith to him, “Abraham, go, leave thy

country,” and this word was enough to lead him all the world over; he is presently upon his march.

Here was a man that had learned to be content. But let us descend a little lower, to heathen Zeno,

of who Seneca speaks, who had once been very rich, hearing of a shipwreck, and that all his goods

were drowned at sea: “Fortune,” saith he, (he spake in a heathen dialect) “hath dealt with me, and

would have me now study philosophy.” He was content to change his course of life, to leave off

being a merchant, and turn a philosopher. And if a heathen said thus, shall not a Christian much

more say, when the world is drained from him, God would have me leave off following the world,

and study Christ more, and how to get to heaven? Do I see an heathen contented, and a Christian

disquieted? How did heathens vilify those things which Christians did magnify? Though they knew

not God, or what true happiness meant; yet, they would speak very sublimely of a numen or deity,

and of the life to come, as Aristotle and Plato; and for those elysian delights, which they did but

fancy, they undervalued and condemned the things here below! It was the doctrine they taught their

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scholars, and which some of them practised, that they should strive to be contented with a little;

they were willing to make an exchange, and have less gold, and more learning; and shall not we

be content then to have less of the world, so we may have more of Christ? May not Christians blush

to see the heathens content with a viaticum, so much as would recruit nature; and to see themselves

so transported with the love of earthly things, that if they begin a little to abate, and the bill of

provision grows short, they murmur, and are like Mich, Have ye taken away my gods, and do you

ask me what aileth me? (Ju. 18. 24) Have heathens gone so far in contentation, and is it not sad for

us to come short of heaven? These heroes of their time, how did they embrace death itself! Socrates

died in prison; Herculus was burnt alive; Cato, who Seneca calls the lively image and portraiture

of virtue, thrust through with a sword; but how bravely, and with contentment of spirit did they

die? “Shall I (said Seneca) weep for Cato, or Regulus, or the rest of those worthies, that died with

so much valour and patience?” Did not cross providence make them to alter their countenance?

and do I see a Christian appalled and amazed? Did not death affright them? and doth it distract us?

Did the spring-head of nature rise so high? and shall not grace, like the waters of the sanctuary,

rise higher; We that pretend to live by faith, may we not go to school to them who had no other

pilot but reason to guide them? Nay, let me come a step lower, to creatures void of reason; we see

every creature is contented with its allowance; the beasts with their provender, the birds with their

nests; they live only upon providence: and shall we make ourselves below them? Let a Christian

go to school to the ox and the ass to learn contentedness; we think we never have enough, and are

still laying up: the fowls of the air do not lay up, they reap not, nor gather into barns. (Mat. 6. 26)

It is an argument which Christ brings to make Christians contented with their condition; the birds

do not lay up, yet they are provided for, and are contented; are ye not, saith Christ, “much better

than they?” but if you are discontented, are you not much worse than they? Let these examples

quicken us.

Sect. XII. The twelfth argument to contentation is,

Whatever change of trouble a child of God meets with, it is all the hell he shall have. Whatever

eclipse may be upon his name or estate, I may say of it, as Athanasius of his banishment, it is a

little cloud that will soon be blown over, and then his gulf is shot his hell is past. Death begins a

wicked man’s hell, but it puts an end to a godly man’s hell. Think with thyself, what if I endure

this? It is but a temporary hell: indeed if all our hell be here, it is but an easy hell. What is the cup

of affliction to the cup of damnation? Lazarus could not get a crumb; he was so diseased that the

dogs took pity on him, and as if they had been his physicians, licked his sores: but this was an easy

hell, the angels quickly fetched him out of it. If all our hell be in this life, in the midst of this hell

we may have the love of God, and then it is no more hell but paradise. If our hell be here, we may

see to the bottom of it; it is but skindeep, it cannot touch the soul, and we may see to the end of it;

it is an hell that is short-lived; after a wet night of affliction, comes the bright morning of the

resurrection; if our lives are short, our trials cannot be long; as our riches take wings and fly, so do

our sufferings; then let us be contented.

Sect. XIII. The thirteenth argument to contentation is this;

To have competency, and to want contentment, is a great judgement. For a man to have a huge

stomach, that whatever meat you give him he is still craving and never satisfied, you use to say,

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this is a great judgement upon the man: thou who art a devourer of money, and yet never hast

enough, but still criest, give, give, this is a sad judgement: “They shall eat, and not have enough.”

(Ho. 4. 10) The throat of a malicious man is an open sepulchre, (Ro. 3. 13) so is the heart of a

covetous man. Covetousness is not only a sin, but the punishment of a sin. It is a secret curse upon

a covetous person; he shall thirst, and thirst, and never be satisfied: “he that loves silver shall not

be satisfied with silver. (Ec. 5. 10) And is not this a curse? What was it but a severe judgement

upon the people of Judah? “Ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with

drink. (Ha. 1. 6) O let us take heed of this plague! Did not Esau say to his brother, “I have abundance,

my brother,” (Go. 37. 9) or, as we translate it, I have enough; and shall not a Christian say so much

more. It is sad that our hearts should be dead to heavenly things, and a sponge to suck in earthly.

Yet all that hath been said, will not work our minds to heavenly contentation.

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CHAPTER XII

Three things inserted by way of Caution.

In the next place, I come to lay down some necessary cautions. Though I say a man should be

content in every estate, yet there are three estates in which he must not be contented.

1st. He must not be contented in a natural estate: here we must learn not to be content. A sinner

in his pure naturals is under the wrath of God, (Jno. 3. 16) and shall he be content when that dreadful

vial is going to be poured out? Is it nothing to be under the scorchings of divine fury? “who can

dwell with everlasting burnings?” A sinner, as a sinner, is under the power of Satan, (Ac. 26. 18)

and shall he in his estate be contented? Who would be contented to stay in the enemies’ quarters?

While we sleep in the lap of sin, the devil doth to us as the Philistines did to Samson, cut out the

lock of our strength, and put out our eyes. Be not content, O sinner, in this estate! For a man to be

in debt, body and soul; in fear every hour to be arrested and carried prisoner to hell, shall he now

be content? Here I preach against contentation,. Oh get out of this condition! I would hasten you

out of it as the angel hastened lot out of Sodom; (Gen. 19. 15) there is the smell of the fire and

brimstone upon you. The longer a man stays in his sin, the more sin doth strengthen. It is hard to

get out of sin, when the heart as a garrison is victualled and fortified. A young plant is easily

removed, but when the tree is once rooted, there is no stirring of it: thou who art rooted in thy pride,

unbelief, impenitency, it will cost thee many a sad pull ere thou art plucked out of thy natural estate.

(Jer. 6. 16) It is an hard thing to have a brazen face and a broken heart; “he travaileth with iniquity;”

(Ps. 7. 14) be assured, the longer you travail with your sins, the more and the sharper pangs you

must expect in the new birth. O be not contented with your natural estate! David saith, “why art

thou cast down, O my soul?” (Ps. 43. 5) But a sinner should say to himself, why art thou not

disquieted, O my soul? Why is it that thou layest afflictions so to heart, and canst not lay sin to

heart? It is a mercy when we are disquieted about sin. A man had better be at the trouble of setting

a bone, than to be lame, and in pain all his life; blessed is that trouble that brings the soul to Christ.

It is one of the worst sights to see a bad conscience quiet; of the two, better is a fever than a lethargy.

I wonder to see a man in his natural estate content. What! content to go to hell?

2d. Though, in regard of externals, a man should be in every estate content, yet he must not be

content is such a condition wherein God is apparently dishonoured. If a man’s trade be such

that he can hardly use it, but he must trespass upon a command, and so make a trade of sin, he must

not content himself in such a condition; God never called any man to such a calling as is sinful; a

man in this case, had better knock off and divert, better lose some of his gain, so he may lessen

some of his guilt. So, for servants that live in a profane family, the suburbs of hell, where the name

of God is not called upon, unless when it is taken in vain, they are not to content themselves in

such a place, they are to come out of the tents of these sinners; there is a double danger in living

among the profane.

1. Lest we come to be infected with the poison of their ill example. Joseph, living in Pharaoh’s court,

had learned to swear “by the life of Pharaoh.” (Ge. 42. 15) We are prone to suck in example: men

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take in deeper impressions by the eye than the ear. Dives was a bad pattern, and he had many

brethren that seeing him sin, trode just in his steps, therefore saith he, “I pray thee send him to my

father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this

place of torment.” (Lu. 16. 27,28) Dives knew which way they went; it is easy to catch a disease

from another, but not to catch health. The bad will sooner corrupt the good, than the good will

convert the bad. Take an equal quantity and proportion, so much sweet wine with so much sour

vinegar; the vinegar will sooner sour the wine than the wine will sweeten the vinegar. Sin is compared

to the plague, (1 Ki. 8. 37) and to leaven, (1 Cor. 5. 7) to show of what a spreading nature it is. A

bad master makes a bad servant. Jacob’s cattle, by looking on the rods which were speckled and

ring-straked conceived the rods. We do as we see others do before us, especially those that are

above us. If the head be sick, the other parts of the body are distempered. If the sun shines not upon

the mountains, it must needs set in the vallies. We pray, “lead us not into temptation:” Lot was the

world’s miracle, who kept himself fresh in Sodom’s salt water.

2. By living in an evil family, we are liable to incur their punishment: “pour out thy wrath upon

the families that call not upon thy name. (Jer. 10. 25) For want of pouring out of prayer, the wrath

of God was ready to be poured out. It is dangerous living in the tents of Kedar. When God sends

his flying roll, written within and without with curses, it enters into the house of the thief and the

perjurer, “and consumes the timber and the stones thereof.” (Ze. 5. 4) Is it not of sad consequence

to live in a profane perjured family, when the sin of the governor pulls his house about his ears? If

the stones and timber be destroyed, how shall the servant escape? And suppose God send not a

temporal roll of curses in the family, there is a “spiritual roll, and that is worse.” (Pr. 3. 33) Be not

content to live where religion dies. “Salute the brethren, and Nymphas, and the church which is in

his house.” (Col. 4. 15) The house of the godly is a little church, the house of the wicked a little

hell. (Pr. 7. 27) Oh, incorporate yourselves into a religious family; the house of a good man is

perfumed with a blessing. (Pr. 3. 33) When the holy oil of grace is poured on the head, the savour

of this ointment sweetly diffuseth itself, and the virtue of it runs down upon the skirts of the family.

Pious examples are very magnetical and forcible. Seneca said to his sister, though I leave you not

wealth, yet I leave you a good example. Let us ingraft ourselves among the saints; by being often

among the spices, we come to smell of them.

3d. The third caution is, though in every condition we must be content, yet we are not to content

ourselves with a little grace. Grace is the best blessing. Though we should be contented with a

competency of estate, yet not with a competency of grace. It was the end of Christ’s assension to

heaven, to give gifts; and the end of those gifts, “that we may grow up into him in all things who

is the head, even Christ. (Ep. 4. 15) Where the apostle distinguisheth between our being in Christ,

and our growing in him; our ingratifying, and our flourishing; be not content with a modicum in

religion.

It is not enough that there be life, but there must be fruit. Barrenness in the law was accounted a

curse: the farther we are from the fruit, the nearer we are to cursing. (He. 6. 8) It is a sad thing when

men are fruitful only in the unfruitful works of darkness. Be not content with a drachm or two of

grace; next to a still-born, a starveling in Christ is worse. O covet more grace! never think thou

hast enough. We are bid to covet the best things. (1 Cor. 12. 31) It is an heavenly ambition when

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we desire to be high in God’s favour, a blessed contentation when all the strife is who shall be most

holy. St Paul, though he was content with a little of the world, yet not with a little grace: “he reached

forward, and pressed towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Ph. 3. 13,14) A

true Christian is a wonder; he is the most contented, and yet the least satisfied; he is contented with

a morsel of bread, and a little water in the cruise, yet never satisfied with grace; he doth pant and

breath after more; this is his prayer, “Lord, more conformity to Christ, more communion with

Christ; he would fain have Christ’s image more lively pictured upon his soul. True grace is always

progressive; as the saints are called lamps and stars, in regard of their light, so trees of righteousness,

(Is. 61. 3) for their growth: they are indeed like the tree of life, bringing forth several sorts of fruit.

A true Christian grows in beauty. Grace is the best complexion of the soul; it is at the first plantation,

like Rachel, fair to look upon; but still the more it lives, the more it sends forth its rays of beauty.

Abraham’s faith was at first beautiful; but at last did shine in its orient colours, and grew so

illustrious, that God himself was in love with it, and makes his faith a pattern to all believers.

A true Christian grows in sweetness. A poisonous weed may grow as much as the hyssop or

rosemary, the poppy in the field as the corn, the crab as the pearmain; but the one hath a harsh sour

taste, the other mellows as it grows: an hypocrite may grow in outward dimensions, as much as a

child of God, he may pray as much, profess as much: but he grows only in magnitude, he brings

forth only sour grapes, his duties are leavened with pride; the other ripens as he grows; he grows

in love, humility, faith, which do mellow and sweeten his duties, and make them come off with a

better relish. The believer grows as the flower, he casts a fragrancy and perfume.

A true Christian grows in strength: he grows still more rooted and settled. The more the tree grows,

the more it spreads its root in the earth: a Christian who is a plant of the heavenly Jerusalem, the

longer he grows, the more he incorporates into Christ, and sucks spiritual juice and sap from him;

he is a dwarf in regard of humility, but a giant in regard of strength, — he is strong to do duties, to

bear burdens, resist temptations.

He grows in the exercise of his grace; he hath not only oil in his lamp, but his lamp is also burning

and shining. Grace is agile and dexterous. Christ’s vine do flourish; (Ca. 6. 11) hence we read of

“a lively hope, (1 Pe. 1. 3) and “a ferverent love;” (1 Pe. 1. 22) here is the activity of grace. Indeed

sometimes grace is a sleepy habit of the soul, like sap in the vine, not exerting its vigour, which

may be occasioned through spiritual sloth, or by reason of falling into some sin; but this is only for

a while: the spring of grace will come, “the flowers will appear, and the figtree put forth her green

figs.” The fresh gales of the Spirit do sweetly revive and refacilitate grace. The church of Christ,

whose heart was a garden, and her graces as precious spices, prays for the heavenly breathings of

the Spirit, that her sacred spices might flow out. (Ca. 6. 16)

A true Christian grows both in the kind and in the degree of grace. To his spiritual living he gets

an augmentation, he adds to “faith, virtue: to virtue, knowledge: to knowledge, temperance,” &c.

(2 Pe. 1. 5,6) Here is grace growing in its kind. And he goes on “from faith to faith;” (Ro. 1. 17)

there is grace growing in the degree; “we are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, because

your faith groweth exceedingly;” (2 Th. 1. 3) it increaseth over and above. And the apostle speaks

of those spiritual plants which were laden with gospel-fruit. (Ph. 1. 11) A Christian is compared to

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the vine, (an emblem of fruitfulness) he must bear full clusters: we are bid to perfect that which is

lacking in our faith. (1 Th. 3. 10) A Christian must never be so old as to be past bearing; he brings

forth fruit in his old age. (Ps. 92. 14) An heaven-born plant is ever growing; he never thinks he

grows enough; he is not content unless he add every day one cubit to his spiritual stature. We must

not be content just with so much grace as will keep life and soul together, a drachm or two will not

suffice, but we must be still increasing, “with the increase of God.” (Col. 2. 19) We had need renew

our strength as the eagle. (Is. 40. 31) Our sins are renewed, our wants are renewed, our tentations

are renewed, and shall not our strength be renewed? O be not content with the first embryo of grace;

grace in its infancy and minority! You look for degrees of glory, be ye Christians of degrees. Though

a believer should be contented with a modicum on his estate, yet not with a modicum in religion.

A Christian of the right breed labours still to excel himself, and come nearer to that holiness in

God, who is the original, the pattern, and prototype of all holiness.

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CHAPTER XIII

Use IV. Showing how a Christian may know whether he hath learned this Divine Art.

Thus having laid down these three cautions, I proceed, in the next place, to an use of trial. How

may a Christian know that he hath learned this lesson of contentment? I shall lay down some

characters by which you shall know it.

Character 1st. A contented spirit is a silent spirit; he hath not one word to say against God; “I was

dumb and silent, because thou didst it.” (Ps. 39. 9) Contentment silenceth all dispute: “he sitteth

alone and keepeth silence.” (La. 3. 28) There is a sinful silence; when God is dishonoured, his truth

wounded, and men hold their peace, this silence is a loud sin; and there is a holy silence, when the

soul sits down quiet and content with its condition. When Samuel tells Eli that heavy message from

God, that he would “judge his house, and that the iniquity of his family should not be purged away

with sacrifice forever,” (1 Sa. 3. 13,14) doth Eli murmur or dispute? no, he hath not one word to

say against God: “it is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” A discontented spirit saith as

Pharaoh, “who is the Lord?” why should I suffer all this? why should I be brought into this low

condition? “who is the Lord?” But a gracious heart saith, as Eli, “it is the Lord,” let him do what

he will with me. When Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, had offered up strange fire, and fire

went from the Lord and devoured them, (Le. 10. 1) is Aaron now in a passion of discontent? no,

“Aaron held his peace.” A contented spirit is never angry unless with himself for having hard

thoughts of God. When Jonah said, “I do well to be angry,” this was not a contented spirit, it did

not become a prophet.

Character 2d. A contented spirit is a cheerful spirit; the Greeks call it euthema. Contentment is

something more than patience; for patience denotes only submission, contentment denotes

cheerfulness. A contented Christian is more than passive; he doth not only bear the cross, but take

up the cross. (Mat. 6. 24) He looks upon God as a wise God; and whatever he doth, though it be

not willingly, yet sensibly, it is in order to a cure. Hence the contented Christian is cheerful, and

with the apostle, “takes pleasure in infirmities, distresses,” &c. (2 Cor. 12. 10) He doth not only

submit to God’s dealings, but rejoice in them; he doth not only say, “just is the Lord in all that hath

befallen me,” but “good is the Lord.” This is to be contented. A sullen melancholy is hateful. It is

said, “God loveth a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9. 7) aye and God loves a cheerful liver. We are bid in

Scripture, “not to be careful,” but we are not bid not to be cheerful. He that is contented with his

condition, doth not abate of his spiritual joy; and indeed he hath that within him which is the ground

of cheerfulness; he carries a pardon sealed in his heart. (Mat. 9. 2)

Character 3d. A contented spirit is a thankful spirit. This is a degree above the other; “in every

thing giving thanks.” (1 Th. 5. 18) A gracious heart spies mercy in every condition, therefore hath

his heart screwed up to thankfulness; others will bless God for prosperity, he blesseth him for

affliction. Thus he reasons with himself; am I in want? God sees it better for me to want than to

abound; God is now dieting of me, he sees it better for my spiritual health sometimes to be kept

fasting; therefore he doth not only submit but is thankful. The malcontent is ever complaining of

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his condition; the contented spirit is ever giving thanks. O what height of grace is this! A contented

heart is a temple where the praises of God are sung forth, not a sepulchre wherein they are buried.

A contented Christian in the greatest straits hath his heart enlarged and dilated in thankfulness; he

oft contemplates God’s love in election; he sees that he is a monument of mercy, therefore desires

to be a pattern of praise. There is always gratulatory music in a contented soul; the Spirit of grace

works in the heart like new wine, which under the heaviest pressures of sorrow will have a vent

open for thankfulness: this is to be content.

Character 4th. He that is content, no condition comes amiss to him; so it is in the text, “in whatever

state I am.” A contented Christian can turn himself to anything; either want or abound. The people

of Israel knew neither how to abound, nor yet how to want; when they were in want they murmured;

“can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” and when they ate, and were filled, then they lifted

up the heel. Paul knew how to manage every state; he could be either a note higher or lower; he

was in this sense an universalist, he could do anything that God would have him: if he were in

prosperity, he knew how to be thankful; if in adversity, he knew how to be patient; he was neither

lifted up with the one, nor cast down with the other. He could carry a greater sail, or lesser. Thus

a contented Christian knows how to turn himself to any condition. We have those who can be

contented in some condition, but not in every estate; they can be content in a wealthy estate, when

they have the streams of milk and honey; while Gods candle shines upon their head, now they are

content, but if the wind turn and be against them, now they are discontented. While they have a

silver crutch to lean upon, they are contented; but if God breaks this crutch, now they are

discontented. But Paul had learned in every estate to carry himself with an equanimity of mind.

Others could be content with their affliction, so God would give them leave to pick and choose.

They could be content to bear such a cross; they could better endure sickness than poverty, or bear

loss of estate than loss of children; if they might have such a man’s cross they could be content. A

contented Christian doth not go to choose his cross, but leaves God to choose for him; he is content

both for the kind and the duration. A contented spirit saith, “let God apply what medicine he pleaseth,

and let it lie on as long as it will; I know when it hath done its cure, and eaten the venom of sin out

of my heart, God will take it off again.”

In a word, a contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the word, desires

to be wholly at God’s disposal, and is willing to live in that sphere and climate where God has set

him. And if at any time he hath been an instrument of doing noble and brave service in the public,

he knows he is but a rational tool, a servant to authority, and is content to return to his former

condition of life. Cincinnatus, after he had done worthily, and purchased to himself great fame in

his dictatorship, did notwithstanding afterwards voluntary return to till and manure his four acres

of ground: thus should it be with Christians, professing godliness with contentment, having served

Mars, daring to offend Jupiter; lest otherwise they discover only to the world a brutish valour, being

so untamed and head-strong, that when they had conquered others, yet they are not able to rule

their own spirits.

Character 5th. He that is contented with his condition, to rid himself out of trouble, will not turn

himself into sin. I deny not but a Christian may lawfully seek to change his condition: so far as

God’s providence doth go before, he may follow. But when men will not follow providence but

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run before it, as he that said, “this evil is of the Lord, why should I wait any longer. (2 Ki. 6. 33)

If God doth not open the door of his providence, they will break it open, and wind themselves out

of affliction by sin; bringing their souls into trouble; this is far from holy contentation, this is

unbelief broken into rebellion. A contented Christian is willing to wait God’s leisure, and will not

stir till God open a door. As Paul said in another case, “they have beaten us openly, uncondemned,

being Romans, and have cast us into prison, and now do they thrust us out privily? nay, verily, but

let them come themselves and fetch us out:” (Ac. 16. 37) so, with reverence, saith the contented

Christian, God hath cast me into this condition; and though it be sad, and troublesome, yet I will

not stir, till God by a clear providence fetch me out. Thus those brave spirited Christians; “they

accepted not deliverance,” (He. 11. 35) that is, upon base dishonourable terms. They would rather

stay in prison than purchase their liberty by carnal compliance. Estius observes on the place, “they

might not only have had their enlargements, but been raised to honour, and put into offices of trust,

yet the honour of religion was dearer to them, than either liberty or honour.” A contented Christian

will not remove, till as the Israelites he sees a pillar of cloud and fire going before him. “It is good

that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (La. 3. 26) It is good

to stay God’s leisure and not to extricate ourselves out of trouble, till we see the star of God’s

providence pointing out a way to us.

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CHAPTER XIV

Use V. Containing a Christian Directory, or Rules about Contentment.

I proceed now to an use of direction, to show Christians how they may attain to this divine art of

contentation. Certainly it is feasible, others of God’s saints have reached to it. St Paul here had it;

and what do we think of those we read of in that little book of martyrs, (He. 11) who had trials of

cruel mockings and scourgings, who wandered about in deserts and caves, yet were contented; so

that it is possible to be had. And here I shall lay down some rules for holy contentment.

Rule 1. Advance faith. All our disquiets do issue immediately from unbelief. It is this that raiseth

the storm of discontent in the heart. O set faith a-work! It is the property of faith to silence our

doubtings, to scatter our fears, to still the heart when the passions are up. Faith works the heart to

a sweet serene composure; it is not having food and raiment, but having faith, which will make us

content. Faith chides down passion; when reason begins to sink, let faith swim.

How doth faith work contentment? 1. Faith shows the soul that whatever its trials are yet it is from

the hand of a father; it is indeed a bitter cup, but “shall I not drink the cup which my father hath

given me to drink?” It is in love to my soul: God corrects me with the same love he crowns me;

God is now training me up for heaven; he carves me, to make me a polished shaft. These sufferings

bring forth patience, humility, even the peaceful fruits of righteousness. (He. 12. 11) And if God

can bring such sweet fruit out of our stock, let him graft me where he pleases. Thus faith brings

the heart to holy contentment. 2. Faith sucks the honey of contentment out of the hive of the promise.

Christ is the vine, the promises are the clusters of grapes that grow upon this vine, and faith presseth

the sweet wine of contentment out of these spiritual clusters of the promises. I will show you but

one cluster, “the Lord will give grace and glory;” (Ps. 84. 11) here is enough for faith to live upon.

The promise is the flower out of which faith distills the spirits and quintessence of divine

contentment. In a word, faith carries up the soul, and makes it aspire after more generous and noble

delights than the earth affords, and to live in the world above the world. Would ye live contented

lives? Live up to the height of your faith.

Rule 2. Labour for assurance. O let us get the interest cleared between God and our souls! Interest

is a word much in use, — a pleasing word, — interest in great friends, —interest-money. O, if there

be an interest worth looking after, it is an interest between God and the soul! Labour to say, “my

God.” To be without money, and without friends, and without God too, is sad; but he whose faith

doth flourish into assurance, that can say, “I know whom I have believed,” (2 Ti. 1. 2) that man

hath enough to give his heart contentment. When a man’s debts are paid, and he can go abroad

without fear of arresting, what contentment is this! O, let your title be cleared! If God be ours,

whatever we want in the creature, is infinitely made up in him. Do I want bread? I have Christ the

bread of life. Am I under defilement? his blood is like the trees of the sanctuary; not only for meat,

but medicine. (Ez. 47. 12) If any thing in the world be worth labouring for, it is to get sound

evidences that God is ours. If this be once cleared, what can come amiss? No matter what storms

I meet with, so that I know where to put in for harbour. He that hath God to be his God, is so well

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contented with his condition, that he doth not much care whether he hath anything else. To rest in

a condition where a Christian cannot say God is his God, is matter of fear; and if he can say so

truly, and yet is not contented, it is a matter of shame. “David encouraged himself in the Lord his

God.” (1 Sa. 30. 6) It was sad with him, Ziklag burnt, his wives taken captive, his all lost, and like

to have lost his soldiers’ hearts too, (for they spake of stoning him,) yet he had the ground of

contentment within him; an interest in God, and this was a pillar of supportment to his spirit. He

that knows God is his, and all that is in God is for his good, if this doth not satisfy, I know nothing

that will.

Rule 3. Get an humble spirit. The humble man is the contented man; if his estate be low, his heart

is lower than his estate, therefore be content. If his esteem in the world be low, he that is little in

his own eyes will not be much troubled to be little in the eyes of others. He hath a meaner opinion

of himself, than others can have of him. The humble man studies his own unworthiness; he looks

upon himself as “less than the least of God’s mercies:” (Ge. 32. 10) and then a little will content

him: he cries out with Paul, that he is the chief of sinners, (1 Ti. 1. 15) therefore doth not murmur,

but admire. He doth not say his comforts are small, but his sins are great. He thinks it is mercy he

is out of hell, therefore he is contented. He doth not go to carve out a more happy condition to

himself; he knows the worst piece God cuts him is better than he deserves. A proud man is never

contented; he is one that hath an high opinion of himself; therefore under small blessings is

disdainful, under small crosses impatient. The humble spirit is the contented spirit; if his cross be

light, he reckons it the inventory of his mercies; if it be heavy, yet he takes it upon his knees,

knowing that when his estate is worse, it is to make him the better. Where you lay humility for the

foundation, contentment will be the superstructure.

Rule 4. Keep a clear conscience. Contentment is the manna that is laid up in the ark of a good

conscience: O take heed of indulging any sin! it is as natural for guilt to breed disquiet, as for putrid

matter to breed vermin. Sin lies as Jonah in the ship, it raiseth a tempest. If dust or motes be gotten

into the eye, they make the eye water, and cause a soreness in it; if the eye be clear, then it is free

from that soreness; if sin be gotten into the conscience, which is as the eye of the soul, then grief

and disquiet breed there; but keep the eye of conscience clear, and all is well. What Solomon saith

of a good stomach, I may say of a good conscience, “to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet:”

(Pr. 27. 7) so to a good conscience every bitter thing is sweet; it can pick contentment out of the

cross. A good conscience turns the waters of Marah into wine. Would you have a quiet heart? Get

a smiling conscience. I wonder not to hear Paul say he was in every state content, when he could

make that triumph, “I have lived in all good conscience to this day.” When once a man’s reckonings

are clear, it must needs let in abundance of contentment into the heart. Good conscience can suck

contentment out of the bitterest drug, under slanders; “our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our

conscience.” (2 Cor. 1. 12) In case of imprisonment, Paul had his prison songs, and could play the

sweet lessons of contentment, when his feet were in the stocks. (Ac. 16. 25) Augustine calls it “the

paradise of a good conscience;” and if it be so, then in prison we may be in paradise. When the

times are troublesome, a good conscience makes a calm. If conscience be clear, what though the

days be cloudy? is it not a contentment to have a friend always by to speak a good word for us?

Such a friend is conscience. A good conscience, as David’s harp, drives away the evil spirit of

discontent. When thoughts begin to arise, and the heart is disquieted, conscience saith to a man, as

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the king did to Nehemiah, “why is thy countenance sad?” so saith conscience, hast not thou the

seed of God in thee? art not thou an heir of the promise? hast not thou a treasure that thou canst

never be plundered of? why is thy countenance sad? O keep conscience clear, and you shall never

want contentment! For a man to keep the pipes of his body, the veins and arteries, free from colds

and obstructions, is the best way to maintain health: so, to keep conscience clear, and to preserve

it from the obstructions of guilt, is the best way to maintain contentment. First, conscience is pure,

and then peaceable.

Rule 5. Learn to deny yourselves. Look well to your affections, bridle them in. Do two things:

mortify your desires; moderate your delights.

1. Mortify your desires. We must not be of the dragon’s temper, who, they say, is so thirsty, that

no water will quench his thirst: “mortify therefore your inordinate affections.” (Col. 3. 5) In the

Greek it is, your evil affections; to show that our desires, when they are inordinate, are evil. Crucify

your desires; be as dead men; a dead man hath no appetite.

How should a Christian martyr his desires?

(1.) Get a right judgment of the things here below; they are mean beggarly things; “wilt thou set

thine eyes upon that which is not?” (Pr. 23. 5) The appetite must be guided by reason; the affections

are the feet of the soul; therefore they must follow the judgment, not lead it.

(2.) Often seriously meditate of mortality: death will soon crop these flowers which we delight in,

and pull down the fabric of those bodies which we so garnish and beautify. Think, when you are

looking up your money in your chest, who shall shortly lock you up in your coffin.

2. Moderate your delights. Set not your heart too much upon any creature, (Is. 62. 10) what we

over-love, we shall over-grieve. Rachel set her heart too much upon her children, and when she

had lost them, she lost herself too; such a vein of grief was opened as could not be staunched, “she

refused to be comforted.” Here was discontent. When we let any creature lie too near our heart,

when God pulls away that comfort, a piece of our heart is rent away with it. Too much fondness

ends in frowardness. Those that would be content in the want of mercy, must be moderate in the

enjoyment. Jonathan dipt the rod in honey, he did not thrust it in. Let us take heed of ingulphing

ourselves in pleasure; better have a spare diet, than, by having too much, to surfeit.

Rule 6. Get much of heaven into your heart. Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us,

the less earth will content us. He that hath once tasted the love of God, (Ps. 63. 5) his thirst is much

quenched towards sublunary things; the joys of God’s Spirit are heart-filling and heart-cheering

joys; he that hath these, hath heaven begun in him, (Ro. 14. 27) and shall not we be content to be

in heaven? O get a sublime heart, “seek those things which are above.” (Col. 3. 1) Fly aloft in your

affections, thirst after the graces and comforts of the Spirit; the eagle that flies above in the air,

fears not the stinging of the serpent; the serpent creeps on his belly, and stings only such creatures

as go upon the earth.

Rule 7. Look not so much on the dark side of your condition, as on the light. God doth chequer

his providences, white and black, as the pillar of the cloud had its light side and dark: look on the

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light side of the estate; who looks on the back side of a landscape? Suppose thou art cast in a

law-suit, there is the dark side; yet thou hast some land left, there is the light side. Thou hast sickness

in thy body, there is the dark side; but grace in thy soul, there is the light side. Thou hast a child

taken away, there is the dark side; thy husband lives, there is the light side. God’s providences in

this life are variously represented by those speckled horses among the myrtle-trees which were red

and white! (Ze. 1. 1) Mercies and afflictions are interwoven: God doth speckle his work. O, saith

one, I want such a comfort! but weigh all thy mercies in the balance, and that will make thee content.

If a man did want a finger, would he be so discontented for the loss of that, as not to be thankful

for all the other parts and joints of his body? Look on the light side of your condition, and then all

your discontents will easily disband; do not pore upon your losses, but ponder upon your mercies.

What! wouldest thou have no cross at all? Why should one man think to have all good things, when

himself is good but in part; Wouldest thou have no evil about thee, who hast so much evil in thee?

Thou art not fully sanctified in this life, how then thinkest thou to be fully satisfied? Never look

for perfection of contentment till there be perfection of grace.

Rule 8. Consider in what a posture we stand here in the world. 1. We are in a military condition,

we are soldiers, (2 Ti. 2. 3) now a soldier is content with any thing: what though he hath not his

stately house, his rich furniture, his soft bed, his full table, yet he doth not complain; he can lie on

straw as well as down; he minds not his lodging, but his thoughts run upon dividing the spoil, and

the garland of honour shall be set upon his head; and for hope of this, is he content to run any

hazard, endure any hardship. Were it not absurd to hear him complain, that he wants such provision

and is fain to lie out in the fields? A Christian is a military person, he fights the Lord’s battles, he

is Christ’s ensignbearer. Now, what though he endures hard fate, and the bullets fly about? He

fights for a crown, and therefore must be content. 2. We are in a peregrine condition, pilgrims and

travellers. A man that is in a strange country, is contented with any diet or usage, he is glad of any

thing; though he hath not that respect or attendance which he looks for at home, nor is capable of

the privileges and immunities of that place, he is content; he knows, when he comes into his own

country, he hath lands to inherit, and there he shall have honour and respect: so it is with a child

of God, he is in a pilgrim condition; “I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers

were.” (Ps. 39. 12) Therefore let a Christian be content; he is in the world, but not of the world: he

is born of God, and is a citizen of the New Jerusalem, (He. 12. 22) therefore, though “he hunger

and thirst, and have no certain dwelling-place, (1 Cor. 4. 11) yet he must be content: it will be better

when he comes into his own country. 3. We are in a mendicant condition; we are beggars, we beg

at heaven’s gate, “give us this day our daily bread;” we live upon God’s alms, therefore must be

content with any thing; a beggar must not pick and choose, he is contented with the refuse. Oh,

why dost thou murmur that art a beggar, and art fed out of the alms-basket of God’s providence?

Rule 9. Let not your hope depend upon these outward things. Lean not upon sandy pillars; we

oft build our comfort upon such a friend or estate; and when that prop is removed, all our joy is

gone, and our hearts begin either to fail or fret. A lame man leans on his crutches; and if they break,

he is undone. Let not thy contentment go upon crutches, which may soon fail; the ground of

contentment must be within thyself. The Greek word which is used for contentment signifies

self-sufficiency. A Christian hath that from within that is able to support him; that strength of faith,

and good hope through grace, as bears up his heart in the deficiency of outward comforts. The

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philosophers of old, when their estates were gone, yet could take contentment in the goods of the

mind, learning and virtue: and shall not a believer much more in the graces of the Spirit, that rich

enamel and embroidery of the soul? Say with thyself, “if friends leave me, if riches take wings, yet

I have that within which comforts me, an heavenly treasure; when the blossoms of my estate are

blown off, still there is the sap of contentment in the root of my heart; I have still an interest in

God, and that interest cannot be broken off.” O never place your felicity in these dull and beggarly

things here below!

Rule 10. Let us often compare our condition. Make this fivefold comparison.

Comparison 1st. Let us compare our condition and our desert together; if we have not what we

desire, we have more than we deserve. For our mercies, we have deserved less; for our afflictions,

we have deserved more. First, In regard of our mercies, we have deserved less. What can we deserve?

Can man be profitable to the Almighty? We live upon free grace. Alexander gave a great gift to

one of his subjects; the man being much taken with it, “this,” saith he, “is more than I am worthy

of.” “I do not give thee this,” saith the king, “because thou art worthy of it, but I give a gift like

Alexander.” Whatever we have is not merit, but bounty; the least bit of bread is more than God

owes us; we can bring faggots to our own burning, but not one flower to the garland of our salvation;

he that hath the least mercy, will die in God’s debt. Secondly. In regard of our afflictions, we have

deserved more: “thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve. (Ex. 9. 13) Is our condition

sad? we have deserved it should be worse. Hath God taken away our estate from us? he might have

taken away Christ from us. Hath he thrown us into prison? he might ahave thrown us into hell; he

might as well damn us, as whip us; this should make us contented.

Comparison 2d. Let us compare our condition with others; and this will make us content. We look

at them who are above us, let us look at them who are below us; we can see one in his silks, another

in his sackcloth; one hath the waters of a full cup wrung out to him, another is mingling his drink

with tears; how many pale faces do we behold, whom not sickness, but want hath brought into a

comsumption! Think of this, and be content. It is worse with them, who perhaps deserve better than

we, and are higher in God’s favour. Am I in prison? Was not Daniel in a worse place? the lion’s

den. Do I live in a mean cottage? look on them who are banished from their houses. We read of

the primitive saints, “that they wandered in sheep’s skins and goats’ skins, of whom the world was

not worthy.” (He. 11. 37,38) Hast thou a gentle fit of an ague? look on them who are tormented

with the stone and gout, &c. Others of God’s children have had greater afflictions, and have borne

them better than we. Daniel fed upon pulse and drank water, yet was fairer than they who ate of

the king’s portion; (Dan. 1. 15) some Christians who have been in a lower condition, that have fed

upon pulse and water, have looked better, been more patient and contented than we who enjoy

abundance. Do others rejoice in affliction, and do we repine? Can they take up their cross and walk

cheerfully under it, and do we under a lighter cross murmur?

Comparison 3d. Let us compare our condition with Christ’s upon earth. What a poor, mean condition

was He pleased to be in for us? he was contented with any thing. “For ye know the grace of our

Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. (2 Cor. 8. 9) He could

have brought down an house from heaven with him, or challenged the high places of the earth, but

he was contented to be in the wine-press, that we might be in the wine-cellar, and to live poor that

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we might be rich; the manger was his craddle, the cobwebs his canopy; he who is now preparing

mansions for us in heaven, had none for himself on earth, “he had no where to lay his head.” Christ

came in forma pauperis; who, “being in the form of God, took upon him the form of a servant. (Ph.

2. 7) We read not of any sums of money He had; when he wanted money, he was fain to work a

miracle for it. (Mat. 17. 27) Jesus Christ was in a low condition, he was never high, but when he

was lifted up upon the cross, and that was his humility: he was content to live poor, and die cursed.

O compare your condition with Christ’s!

Comparison 4th. Let us compare our condition with what it was once, and this will make us content.

First, Let us compare our spiritual estate with what it was once. What were we when we lay in our

blood? we were heirs apparent to hell, having no right to pluck one leaf from the tree of promise;

it was a Christless and hopeless condition: (Ep. 2. 12) but now God hath cut off the entail of hell

and damnation; he hath taken you out of the wild olive of nature, and ingrafted you into Christ,

making you living branches of that living vine; he hath not only caused the light to shine upon you,

but into you, (2 Cor. 6. 6) and hath interested you in all the privileges of sonship: is not here that

which may make the soul content. Secondly, Let us compare our temporal estate with what it was

once. Alas! we had nothing when we stepped out of the womb; “for we brought nothing into this

world.” (1 Ti. 6. 7) If we have not that which we desire, we have more than we did bring with us;

we brought nothing with us but sin; other creatures bring something with them into the world; the

lamb brings wool, the silk-worm silk, &c. but we brought nothing with us. What if our condition

at present be low? It is better than it was once; therefore, having food and raiment, let us be content.

Whatever we have, God’s providence fetcheth it unto us; and if we lose all, yet we have as much

as we brought with us. This was what made Job content, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb;”

(Job 1. 21) as if he had said, though God hath taken away all from me, yet why should I murmur?

I am as rich as I was when I came into the world? I have as much left as I brought with me; naked

came I hither; therefore blessed be the name of the Lord.

Comparison 5th. Let us compare our condition with what it shall be shortly. There is a time shortly

coming, when, if we had all the riches of India, they would do us no good; we must die, and can

carry nothing with us; so saith the apostle, “it is certain we can carry nothing out of the world; (1

Ti. 6. 7) therefore it follows, “having food and raiment, let us therewith be content.” Open the rich

man’s grave and see what is there; you may find the miser’s bones, but not his riches, says Bede.

Were we to live for ever here, or could we carry our riches into another world, then indeed we

might be discontented, when we look upon our empty bags. But it is not so; God may presently

seal a warrant for death to apprehend us: and when we die, we cannot carry estate with us: honour

and riches descend not into the grave, why then are we troubled at our outward condition? Why do

we disguise ourselves with discontent? O lay up a stock of grace! Be rich in faith and good works,

these riches will follow us. (Re. 14. 13) No other coin but grace will pass current in heaven, silver

and gold will not go there; labour to be rich towards God, (Lu. 12. 21) and as for other things, be

not solicitous, we shall carry nothing with us.

Rule 11. Go not to bring your condition to your mind, but bring your mind to your condition.

The way for a Christian to be contented, is not by raising his estate higher, but by bringing his spirit

lower; not by making his barns wider, but his heart narrower. One man, a whole lordship or manor

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will not content; another is satisfied with a few acres of land; what is the difference? The one studies

to satisfy curiosity, the other necessity; the one thinks what he may have, the other what he may

spare.

Rule 12. Study the vanity of the creature. It matters not whether we have less or more of these

things, they have vanity written upon the frontispiece of them; the world is like a shadow that

declineth; it is delightful, but deceitful; it promiseth more than we find, and it fails us when we

have most need of it. All the world rings changes, and is constant only in its disappointments: what

then, if we have less of that which is at best but voluble and fluid? The world is as full of mutation

as motion; and what if God cut us short in sublunaries? The more a man hath to do with the world,

the more he hath to do with vanity. The world may be compared to ice, which is smooth, but

slippery; or to the Egyptian temples, without very beautiful and sumptuous, but within nothing to

be seen but the image of an ape; every creature saith concerning satisfaction, it is not in me. The

world is not a filling, but a flying comfort. It is like a game at tennis; providence bandies her golden

balls, first to one, then to another. Why are we discontented at the loss of these things, but because

we expect that from them which is not, and repose that in them which we ought not? “Jonah was

exceeding glad of the gourd.” (Jon. 4. 6) What a vanity was it? Is it much to see a withering gourd

smitten? Or to see the moon dressing itself in a new shape and figure?

Rule 13. Get fancy regulated. It is the fancy which raiseth the price of things above their real

worth. What is the reason one tulip is worth five pounds, another perhaps not worth one shilling?

Fancy raiseth the price; the difference is rather imaginary than real; so, why it should be better to

have thousands than hundreds, is, because men fancy it so; if we could fancy a lower condition

better, as having less care in it, and less account, it would be far more eligible. The water that

springs out of the rock, drinks as sweet as if it came out a golden chalice; things are as we fancy

them. Ever since the fall, the fancy is distempered; God saw that the imagination of the thoughts

of his heart were evil. (Ge. 6. 5) Fancy looks through wrong spectacles; pray that God will sanctify

your fancy; a lower condition would content, if the mind and fancy were set right. Diogenes preferred

his cynical life before Alexander’s royalty: he fancied his little cloister best. Fabricius a poor man,

yet despised the gold of king Pyrrhus. Could we cure a distempered fancy, we might soon conquer

a discontented heart.

Rule 14. Consider how little will suffice nature. The body is but a small continent, and is easily

recruited. Christ hath taught us to pray for our daily bread; nature is content with a little. Not to

thirst, not to starve, is enough, saith Gregory Nazianzen; meat and drink are a Christian’s riches,

saith St Hierom; and the apostle saith, “having food and raiment let us be content.” The stomach

is sooner filled than the eye; how quickly would a man be content, if he would study rather to satisfy

his hunger than his humour.

Rule 15. Believe the present condition is best for us. Flesh and blood is not a competent judge.

Surfeiting stomachs are for banquetting stuff, but a man that regards his health, is rather for solid

food. Vain men fancy such a condition best and would flourish in their bravery; whereas a wise

Christian hath his will melted into God’s will, and thinks it best to be at his finding. God is wise,

he knows whether we need food or physic; and if we could acquiesce in providence, the quarrel

would soon be at an end. O what a strange creature would man be, if he were what he could wish

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himself! Be content to be at God’s allowance; God knows which is the fittest pasture to put his

sheep in; sometimes a more barren ground doth well, whereas rank pasture may rot. Do I meet with

such a cross? God shows me what the world is; he hath no better way to wean me, than by putting

me to a step-mother. Doth God stint me in my allowance? he is now dieting me. Do I meet with

losses? it is, that God may keep me from being lost. Every cross wind shall at last blow me to the

right port. Did we believe that condition best which God doth parcel out to us, we should cheerfully

submit, and say, “the lines are fallen in pleasant places.”

Rule 16. Do not too much indulge the flesh. We have taken an oath in baptism to forsake the

flesh. The flesh is a worse enemy than the devil, it is a bosom-traitor; an enemy within is worst. If

there were no devil to tempt, the flesh would be another Eve, to tempt to the forbidden fruit. O take

heed of giving way to it! Whence is all our discontent but from the fleshy part? The flesh puts us

upon the immoderate pursuit of the world; it consults for ease and plenty, and if it be not satisfied,

then discontent begins to arise. O let it not have the reins! Martyr the flesh! In spiritual things the

flesh is a sluggard, in secular things an horse-leech, crying “give, give.” The flesh is an enemy to

suffering: it will sooner make a man a courtier, than a martyr. O keep it under! Put its neck under

Christ’s yoke, stretch and nail it to his cross; never let a Christian look for contentment in his spirit,

till there be confinement in his flesh.

Rule 17. Meditate much on the glory which shall be revealed. There are great things laid up in

heaven. Though it be sad for the present yet let us be content in that it shortly will be better; it is

but a while and we shall be with Christ, bathing ourselves in the fountain of love; we shall never

complain of wants and injuries any more; our cross may be heavy, but one sight of Christ will make

us forget all our former sorrows. There are two things that should give contentment.

1. That God will make us able to bear our troubles. (1 Cor. 10. 13) God, saith Chrysostom, doth

like a lutanist, who will not let the strings of his lute be too slack lest it spoil the music of prayer

and repentance? nor yet too much adversity, “lest the spirit fail before me; and the souls that I have

made.” (Is. 57. 16)

2. When we have suffered a while, we shall be perfected in glory; the cross shall be our ladder by

which we shall climb up to heaven. Be then content, and then the scene will alter; God will ere

long turn out water into wine; the hope of this is enough to drive away all distempers from the

heart. Blessed be God, it will be better: “we have no continuing city here,” therefore our afflictions

cannot continue. A wise man looks still to the end; “The end of the just man is peace.” (Ps. 37. 37)

Methinks the smoothness of the end should make amends for the ruggedness of the way. O eternity,

eternity! Think often of the kingdom prepared. David was advanced from the field to the throne:

first he held his shepherd’s staff, and shortly after the royal sceptre. God’s people may be put to

hard services here: but God hath chosen them to be kings, to sit upon the throne with the Lord

Jesus. This being weighed in the balance of faith, would be an excellent means to bring the heart

to contentment.

Rule 18. Be much in prayer. The last rule for contentment is, be much in prayer. Beg of God, that

he will work our hearts to this blessed frame. “Is any man afflicted? let him pray;” (Ja. 5. 14) so,

is any man discontented? let him pray. Prayer gives vent: the opening of a vein lets out bad blood;

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when the heart is filled with sorrow and disquiet, prayer lets out the bad blood. The key of a prayer

oiled with tears, unlocks the heart of all its discontents. Prayer is an holy spell, or charm, to drive

away trouble; prayer is the unbosoming of the soul, the unloading of all our cares in God’s breast;

and this ushers in sweet contentment. When there is any burden upon our spirits, by opening our

mind to a friend we find our hearts finely eased and quieted. It is not our strong resolutions, but

our strong request to God, which must give the heart ease in trouble; by prayer the strength of Christ

comes into the soul, and where that is, a man is able to go through any condition. Paul could be in

every state content; but that you may not think he was able to do this himself, he tells you that

though he could want and abound, and “do all things;” yet it was through Christ strengthening him.

(Ph. 4. 13) It is the child that writes, but it is the scrivener that guides his hand.

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CHAPTER XV

Use VI. Of Consolation to the Contented Christian.

The last use is of comfort, or an encouraging word to the contented Christian. If there be an heaven

upon earth thou hast is. O Christian! thou mayest insult over thy troubles, and, with the leviathan,

laugh at the shaking of a spear. (Job 41. 7) What shall I say? Thou art a crown to thy profession;

thou dost hold it out to all the world, that there is virtue enough in religion to give the soul

contentment; thou showest the highest of grace. When grace is crowning, it is not so much for us

to be content; but when grace is conflicting, and meets with crosses, temptations, agonies; now to

be content, this is a glorious thing indeed.

To a contented Christian, I shall say two things for a farewell. 1. God is exceedingly taken with

such a frame of heart. God saith of a contented Christian, as David once said of Goliath’s sword,

“there is none like that, give it me.” If you would please God, and be men of his heart, be contented.

God hates a froward spirit. 2. The contented Christian shall be no loser. What lost Job by his

patience? God gave him twice as much as he had before. What lost Abraham by his contentment?

he was content to leave his country at God’s call: the Lord makes a covenant with him, that he

would be his God: he changeth his name; no more Abram, but Abraham, the father of many nations:

(Ge. 17) God makes his seed as the stars of heaven; nay, honours, him with this title, “the father

of the faithful:” (Ge. 18. 17) the Lord makes known his secrets to him, “shall I hide from Abraham

the things that I will do?” God settles a rich inheritance upon him, that land which was a type of

heaven, and afterwards translated him to the blessed paradise. God will be sure to reward the

contented Christian. As our Saviour said in another case, to Nathaniel, “because I said I saw thee

under the fig-tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these:” (Jno. 1. 50) so I say,

art thou contented (O Christian) with a little? thou shalt see greater things than these. God will

distill the sweet influences of his love into thy soul; he will raise thee up friends; he will bless the

oil in the cruise; and when that is done, He will crown thee with an eternal enjoyment of himself;

he will give thee heaven, where thou shalt have as much contentment as thy soul can possibly thirst

after.

End.

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Indexes

Index of Scripture References

Genesis

6:5 17 18:17 19:15 30:2 32:10 42:15 49:14

Exodus

9:13

Leviticus

10:1

Numbers

12:2 14:7 16:10 17:10 21:5

Deuteronomy

27:9 32:15

1 Samuel

1:28 3:13 3:14 30:6

2 Samuel

12:16 13:4 16:12 24:10 24:24 34:17

1 Kings

1:7 8:37 17:18 19:11

2 Kings

3:17 4:2 6:33 6:33 7:2

Esther

3:1

Job

1:20 1:21 6:15 7:17 7:18 9:4 9:25 29:3 30:1 40:23 41:7

Psalms

4:7 7:14 16:5 17:15 26:10 34:10 37:5 37:37 38:20 39:6 39:9 39:9 39:12 42:1

43:5 46:5 55:2 55:6 55:12 55:13 55:14 57:7 58:3 63:5 66:10 66:11 69:7 73:1

73:2 74 84:11 86:13 91:15 92:7 92:14 100:2 112:4 119:54 119:105 132:15 142:2

142:4

Proverbs

3:33 3:33 6:34 7:27 14:10 15:13 18:24 23:5 27:7 27:19 27:24 30:2 30:15

Ecclesiastes

5:10 6:2

Song of Solomon

2:14 5:1 6:11 6:16

Isaiah

26:16 27:9 35:5 35:6 40:11 40:31 43:3 43:4 46:13 48:17 49:16 54:11 54:13 56:5

57:16 58:1 61:3 62:10 63:8

Jeremiah

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6:1 6:8 6:16 10:25 20:12 31:18 31:19 31:20 39:11 39:12 49:11

Lamentations

3:19 3:20 3:22 3:24 3:26 3:28

Ezekiel

1:16 12:1 47:12

Daniel

1:15 2:20

Hosea

2:6 4:10 7:8

Jonah

4:6 4:9 4:9

Micah

6:9 7:5 7:7

Haggai

1:6 2:6

Zechariah

1:1 5:4

Malachi

2:2 3:17 4:6

Matthew

1:24 3:16 5:12 5:34 6:24 6:25 6:26 6:33 7:22 7:23 9:2 13:7 17:27 19:29

Luke

6:24 8:5 8:43 8:47 9:44 11:13 12:15 12:21 12:21 12:49 16:11 16:27 16:28 18:24

20:10 23:28

John

1:50 2:20 3:16 13:1 16:7 20:28

Acts

5:36 8:29 15:4 16:25 16:37 20:24 26:18

Romans

1:17 3:13 3:13 8:28 9:20 10:16 10:18 14:27

1 Corinthians

3:9 4:4 4:11 4:14 5:7 7:14 7:16 10:10 10:13 11:19 12:31 13:5 13:5 13:7

2 Corinthians

1:3 1:12 2:7 3:18 4:6 4:8 4:17 6:4 6:5 6:6 8:9 9:7 11:23 11:24 11:25 12:10

Ephesians

1:5 1:7 2:1 2:12 3:8 4:15

Philippians

1:11 2:7 3:13 3:14 3:19 4 4 4:11 4:11 4:13 5:15

Colossians

2:9 2:19 3:1 3:5 3:10 4:15

1 Thessalonians

3:10 5:18 5:18

2 Thessalonians

1:3

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1 Timothy

1:15 2:8 5:8 6:6 6:7 6:7 6:9

2 Timothy

1:2 2:3

Titus

1:2 3:3

Hebrews

1:3 2:10 6:8 11 11:1 11:9 11:26 11:35 11:37 11:38 12:2 12:11 12:22 13:5 13:5

13:14

James

1:25 4:1 4:14 5:13 5:14 5:16

1 Peter

1:3 1:22 4:14 5:6 5:7 5:7 5:8 22

2 Peter

1:1 1:5 1:6 1:10

1 John

2:27 3:9 4:16

Jude

8:2 17:2 18:24

Revelation

2:10 7:14 14:2 14:13

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Prof. Dr. Benno A. Zuiddam