True Christian contentment is an inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit. Burroughs expounds upon what he means by “frame of spirit”. Firstly, he means that it is a grace that spreads throughout the whole body. It begins in the judgment and spreads to the thoughts, the will, and the affections. The contentment that Burroughs speaks of reaches all the way to the affections. He cites David in Psalm 42 as an example of one that “could not get this grace of contentment to go through the whole frame of his soul.” He later says, “there is such unruliness in our thoughts and affections that our judgments are not always able to rule our thoughts and affections”. Yet, if we are to have that which Burroughs is referencing it must reach our thoughts and affections.
Secondly, this contentment comes from the frame of the soul. “It does not come from outward arguments or from any outward help, as from the disposition of their own hearts”. This section is where Burroughs graces us with the “warming your pants” metaphor. It may seem a little silly but it is brilliantly accurate. Those without this grace of Christian contentment may be like the man who warms his pants by the fire. It is heated from the outside and will provide him warmth. However, if his body is not working properly and supplying him natural heat then the warm pants will eventually cool. If he has natural heat then it is warming from the inside out. It will then stay warm; with or without the fire from the outside. So it is with Christian contentment.
Thirdly, it is a “frame of spirit that shows the habitual character of this grace of contentment”. Rather than having a day with a “good mood” and then another day of a “bad mood”, the truly content Christian will have a “good mood” as the “constant tenor and temper of his heart”. Burroughs closes out this section with a rather strong statement: “A Christian who, in the constant tenor and temper of his heart, can carry himself quietly with constancy has learned this lesson of contentment. Otherwise his Christianity is worth nothing, for no one, however furious in his discontent, will not be quiet when he is in a good mood”.
It should be noted that Burroughs is not saying that if a man does not have contentment then his “Christianity is worth nothing”. I believe what Burroughs is saying here is that if the contentment is not constant, and comes from this inward frame, and is only temporary then your Christianity is not doing anything any more than a good mood could do. So, in this very situation, your Christianity is not profiting you any more than a day of sunshine might. (I think my interpretation would be confirmed by Burroughs typical soft and irenic speech–interpreting it too strongly would go against typical Burroughs).
Admonishment: Be certain that your contentment is not merely a “good mood”.
For Your Consideration: Burroughs wants us to feel a little discouraged at this point. He is desiring to pitch the matter a little high. His desire is to help us see that this is not something we can attain on our own. After letting your defenses down, sincerely ask yourself this question: Is my contentment truly a “constant tenor and temper” of my heart?
“That which comes from the gracious temper of one’s spirit will last.” (p28)
Continue on to our discussion of section 4, Chapter 1 The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.