Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: Contentment, Prosperity, and God's Glory by Jeremiah Burroughs

Contentment, Prosperity, and God's Glory (Puritan Treasures for Today), by Jeremiah Burroughs; edited by Phillip L. Simpson
Reformation Heritage Books (2013); 119 pp.
Cross Focused Reviews Blog Tour

If you know me personally and/or academically, you can probably guess how excited I was to have the chance to review an edition of a work by Jeremiah Burroughs (1600–1646), a Puritan Congregationalist minister and Westminster divine. I have scarcely waded into the vast body of Puritan literature so far, but I have enjoyed everything I have had the opportunity to read from this era. About two years ago I read Burrough's lovely (and better-known) work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, so when I saw that the contents of Contentment, Prosperity, and God's Glory had been intended as an appendix to the former book, I was eager for more.

This book is part of Reformation Heritage Books' "Puritan Treasures for Today" series, which is meant to remove barriers to modern readers by smoothing out difficult seventeenth-century language and presenting works in a less intimidating (shorter!) format. After reading this book, I think the editors are onto something great. First, I didn't feel that the "updating" of the language was at all clunky or distracting; it was readable and still felt true to the style of other (decidedly not updated!) Puritan works I've read. Second, though this isn't the type of thing I would usually dwell on, the book is quite pretty! The paperback is attractively designed and the perfect size to stick in my bag to read at spare moments.

I don't want to belabor the details of this book, because I think the best way to entice you to read it is to offer a sampling of rich quotations. But I'll preface that by noting that Burroughs' theme is a simple one: based on Paul's statement in Philippians 4:12, he wants his readers to "learn how to be full." While he wants Christians to know how to suffer affliction faithfully, Burroughs' concern here is the difficult, in some ways more subtle, calling of stewarding abundance with a contented heart. It's also important to note that, while he refers to those who administer vast estates and own prosperous businesses, he classifies as "full" anyone whose daily needs are amply supplied.

  • "A man knows how to be full when he can keep under his command everything he enjoys, and he can retain command over his own spirit in what he enjoys. Therefore, he is not a slave to what he has, but he makes what he has a slave to himself." (21)
  • "You do not know how to abound when you cannot take into account the good of mercy when you consider an affliction. Even when God afflicts you in something, He still gives you an abundance of occasions to bless Him and praise Him. But when you can bless God for all mercies and be humbled for all afflictions at the same time, then you are a man who knows how to abound." (32)
  • "Fullness will . . . feed self-love to the extreme. When a man perceives himself to be self-sufficient, he sees no need for God or Christ or mercy or the Word and its promises. [. . .] This is the reason the Word rarely ever does any good to those who are full." (43)
  • "A godly man learns how to be full by regularly surrendering up his estate, his comforts, and his possessions to God . . . This is a way that a natural man understands little of--to know how to enjoy his comforts by surrendering them up--yet that is the way of a gracious heart. [. . .] A man who can just as easily resign everything up to God as he can receive anything from God . . . is the only man who is blessed in what he enjoys in this world." (77)
  • "God has set this time of your life as the time to provide for eternity . . . This would make you cautious of spending so much time in the use and enjoyment of the things of this world if they hinder you in the least in fulfilling the great work for which you live: the advancement of the gospel and your own spiritual good. Learning this lesson would move you to use all that you own, to the utmost of your ability, for these great purposes. In doing this, you will learn how to truly abound." (100–101)

If you have never read Puritan writings before, don't be intimidated by the thought of a book that's going on 400 years old. I think you'll find this book to be as timely, inviting, yet challenging as I did.

1 comment:

  1. Great review Sarah! Thanks for being a part of the blog tour.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews