Learning to be Happy/The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
Grace Publications Trust/Evangelical Press 1998
I would like to be writing a review of the classic Puritan work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. The reason I am not is that, like so many Puritan works on my bookshelves, there is a bookmark in it about halfway through. I never finished reading it.* Don’t misunderstand, there is gold in the book. It’s just that the complex style of writing and the way words have changed meaning since the 1600’s make the book difficult to read for the fainthearted. That is why I am excited to tell you about Learning to be Happy.
Sharon James and Philip Tait have taken the main points of Burroughs’ best known work and have condensed and simplified them for a modern audience, reducing the original 228 page book to only 62 pages. Obviously, they lose many of Burroughs’ sub-points and much of his nuance, but the result is a challenging, simply written book that even an older child could read and understand. The book is divided into short chapters, most of them are just few pages in length. Tait and James have inserted discussion questions after every two or three chapters. This format lends itself beautifully to family worship, devotional reading or to use in a mentoring relationship.
In both books, Burroughs explains what Christian contentment is, where we find reason for it, how we learn to practice it, why we want it, and how complaining dishonors God. Here’s a comparison of the way “contentment” is defined in both books:
- …that sweet inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. (The Rare Jewel)
- …the deep inner satisfaction that Christians feel about what God has done for them. (Learning to be Happy)
The entire book is a meticulous exposition of Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” written by a wise and loving pastor to instruct his flock during persecution. Burroughs was born in 1599 in England and was a contemporary of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. His depth of thought, masterful weaving of Scripture through the book, and his “black belt Christianity” applications left me humbled at the shallowness of my own Christian thought and experience. Whichever book you choose to read, you are sure to be challenged by the content.
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is available through www.ChristianBook.com for $14.99 or from various other outlets. You can read it online for free through Google Books.
Learning to be Happy is available through www.ChristianBook.com for $3.99 or from various other outlets.
*I did finally finish the Puritan work, and it was worth the effort!