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The Art of Divine Contentment, pt. 5

by Thomas Watson (1620-1686)


I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11, AV).


[Here we continue Mr Watson’s study on contentment.  In this article, he begins to answer some excuses for not being content.  In the original text of Mr Watson’s book, these were called “Apologies”.  We have changed the word to “Excuses”, for readability’s sake, to be in line with the modern meaning of the words.]




The first excuse which discontent makes is this:

Excuse. I have lost a child.  Paulina, upon the loss of her children, was so possessed with a spirit of sadness, that she was near to entombing herself in her own discontent:  our love to a relation is oftentimes more than our love to religion.

Answer.   1. We must be content, not only when God gives mercies, but when He takes them away.  If we must “in everything give thanks,” (I Thess. 5:18), then in nothing be discontented.

2. Perhaps God has taken away the cistern that He may give you the more of the spring;  He has darkened the starlight, that you may have more sunlight.  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,” said Hannah, “lent my son to the Lord” (I Sam. 1:28).  She lent him?  The Lord had but 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 has put out a child to you awhile to nurse;  will you 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 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 from the evil to come,” (Isa. 57:1), and placed in his center of felicity.  This lower region is full of gross and hurtful vapors.  How happy are those who are mounted into the celestial orbs!  “The righteous is taken away…” (Isa. 57:1):  in the original language it is, “He is gathered.”  A wicked child dying is cut off, but the pious child is gathered.  Even as we see men gather flowers, and preserve them by them; so has God gathered your child as a sweet flower, that He may cover it with glory, and preserve it by Him forever.  Why then should a Christian be discontented?  Why should he weep excessively?  “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves” (Luke 23:28).  So also could we hear our children speaking 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 mountains of spices; we are gotten to our harbor, but you are still tossing upon the waves of inconstancy.”  O Christian, be not discontented that you have parted with such a child, but rather rejoice that you had such a child to part with.  Break forth into thankfulness.  What an honor is it to a parent to beget such a child, that while he lives increases the joy of the glorified angels (see Luke 15:10); and when he dies, increases the number of the glorified saints!

5. If God has taken away one of your children, He has left you other things; He might have stripped you of all.  He took away all 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 here at Job, thinking to have shot him to the heart, “Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9); but Job had upon him the breastplate of integrity; and though his children were taken away, yet not his graces, still he is content, still he blessed God.  O think how many mercies you still enjoy: yet our base hearts are more discontented at one loss, than thankful for a hundred mercies.   God has plucked one bunch of grapes from you; but how many precious clusters are left behind!

Objection.  But it was my only child, the staff of my age, the seed of my comfort, and the only blossom out of which the honor of an ancient family did grow.

Answer.  (1.) God has promised you (if you belong to Him) “a name better than of sons and of daughters” (Isa. 56:5).  Is he dead, who should have been the monument to have kept up the name of a family?  God has given you a new name:  He has written your name in the book of life.  Behold your spiritual heraldry; here is a name that cannot be cut off.

(2).  Has God taken away your only child?  He has given You his only Son:  this is a happy exchange.  What needs he complain of losses who has Christ?  He is His Father’s “brightness” (Heb. 1:3), His “fullness” (Col. 2:9), His “delight” (Prov. 8:30).  Is there enough in Christ to delight the heart of God?  And is there not enough in Him to enrapture us with holy delight?  He is wisdom to teach us, righteousness to acquit us, sanctification to adorn us; He is the joy and triumph of saints, He is all in all (Col. 3:11).  Why then are you discontented?  Though your child be lost, yet you have Him for whom all things are loss.