Charles Spurgeon once described the Puritan Thomas Watson as a “racy” writer. By this he meant that Watson had a vivid way of writing which grabs the reader’s interest and attention. It is often suggested to those who want to begin reading the Puritans that they start with Watson. This past year I read Watson’s The Art of Divine Contentment (original 1653; Soli Deo Gloria reprint, 2001), an extended reflection on Philippians 4:11: “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” One suggestion which Watson makes for cultivating contentment is to recognize the brevity of life. I thought this might be a good meditation to share as one year ends and another begins:
The next argument to contentment is the shortness of life. It is but a vapor (James 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 swift runner (Job 9:25), and to a day, not a year. It is indeed like a day. Infancy is, as it were, the daybreak; youth is the sunrise; 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; life ends before the evening of old age comes. Nay, sometimes the sun of life sets presently after sunrise. Quickly after the dawning of infancy, the night of death approaches. Oh, how short is the life of man! The consideration of the brevity of life may spur the heart to contentment.
Remember, you are to be here but a day. You have but a short way to go; and what need is there for long provision for a short way? If a traveler has but enough to bring him to the journey’s end, he desires not 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 until night, it is sufficient; let us be content. If a man had the lease of a house or a farm but for two or three days, and should fall to building and planting, would he not be judged as very indiscreet? So, when we have but a short time here, and death calls us presently off the stage, is it not extreme folly to thirst immoderately after the world and pull down our souls to build up an estate? Therefore, as Esau said once in a profane sense concerning his birthright, “Lo, I am at the point of dying, and what profit shall this birthright do to 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 until sunset, I am content” (pp. 88-89).
May the Lord grant us contentment as we measure our days in this new year and give our lives to his service.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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