Quotes from The Art of Divine Contentment

The Art of Divine ContentmentIn The Art of Divine Contentment, Thomas Watson is very skillful with his imagery and language to get his message on contentment across to the reader. The following quotes are some of my favorites.

Note that these quotes are taken from The Art of Divine Contentment: In Modern English, a modern update of Thomas Watson’s original work. As such, these quotes are not Watson’s original wording, but they should convey his original ideas and illustrations. If you want the quote in the original text for any of these, just add a comment below, and I will find it for you!

Page numbers are from the print version, and the quotes are organized by chapter.

To the Reader

“I know that there will not be perfect contentment here in this life. Perfect pleasure is only at God’s right hand; yet we can begin now to tune our instrument before we play the sweet music of contentment with perfection in heaven.” (pg 4)

Introduction

“It is our work to cast our cares, and it is God’s work to take care. In our pride, we take His work out of His hand.” (pg 7)

“Worry that is either untrusting or distracting is very dishonorable to God.” (pg 7)

“Our worry is more likely to add a mile to our grief than a yard to our comfort.” (pg 7)

The Study of Contentment

“There is a metamorphosis that occurs; a sinner viewing Christ’s image in the glass of the gospel is transformed into that image. No man ever looked on Christ with a spiritual eye without being quite changed.” (pg 11)

The Lesson of Contentment

“The main proposition I insist on is this: that a gracious spirit is a contented spirit. The doctrine of contentment is very important; for until we have learned this, we have not learned to be Christians.” (pg 16)

“Christ Himself was aware when He sweat great drops of blood, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me’ (Matt 26:39); yet He was content, and sweetly submitted His will, ‘nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” (pg 21)

“Here is the only difference between a holy complaint and a discontented complaint; in the one, we complain to God; and in the other, we complain of God.” (pg 22)

“Contentment excludes bitter complaining, which is properly the daughter of discontent.” (pg 22)

“He is not a contented man who is so only on occasion, like when he is pleased, but who is so continually. It is the habit and complexion of his soul.” (pg 25)

Reasons for Contentment

“Our hearts cannot be more unsettled than the raging sea, which at His word was stilled.” (pg 26)

 “We must act out the scene which God chose for us.” (pg 27)

“God’s providence, which is nothing but the fulfillment of His decree, should be a guarantee and an opposing force against discontent. In His wisdom, God has set us in our current station.” (pg 28)

“We imagine a certain condition of life as good for us, but if we were our own carvers, we should often cut the worst piece.” (pg 28)

“We often see things in our own light, but if we could sort and portion out our own comforts, we would get it wrong.” (pg 29)

“The wise God has ordered our condition; if He sees it better for us to abound, we will abound; if He sees it better for us to want, we will want. Be content to be at God’s disposal.” (pg 29)

“It is not trouble that troubles, but discontent;” (pg 31)

“Every man complains that his estate is not better, though he seldom complains that his heart is not better.” (pg 31)

Objections to Contentment

“There is no sin that does not work either to hide itself behind some mask or, if it cannot be concealed, then to vindicate itself by some justification.” (pg 35)

“We must lay down a rule, that discontent is a sin, so that all pretenses and arguments it uses to justify itself are just the dress and adornment of a prostitute.” (pg 35)

“We must be content not only when God gives mercies but when He takes them away.” (pg 35)

“Mercies are not entailed on us, but lent to us.” (pg 36)

“Oh, do not be discontent that a mercy is taken away from you; but, rather, be thankful that it was lent to you for so long.” (pg 36)

“Yet, our base hearts are more discontent at one loss than thankful for a hundred mercies.” (pg 37)

“Is there not enough in Christ to delight the heart of God? And is there not enough in Him to ravish us with holy delight? He is wisdom to teach us, righteousness to acquit us, and sanctification to adorn us.” (pg 38)

“God has taken away your estate, but not your portion.” (pg 39)

“Honor and estate are not part of a Christian’s inheritance. They are accessories rather than essentials.” (pg 39)

“Why then should a Christian be discontented, when the title to his spiritual treasure remains?” (pg 40)

“Outward comforts often quench inward heat.” (pg 40)

“Be content if God dams up your outward comforts, so that the stream of your love may run faster another way.” (pg 40)

“Whatever your losses of this kind, remember in every loss there is only a suffering. But, in every discontent there is a sin, and one sin is worse than a thousand sufferings.” (pg 41)

“Parents can only disperse knowledge; God must work grace.” (pg 43)

“Parents can only be guides to show their children the way to heaven; the Spirit of God must be a magnet to draw their hearts into that way.” (pg 43)

“You cannot be discontent without quarreling with God.” (pg 44)

“For every cross that befalls us, shall we call the infinite wisdom of God into question?” (pg 44)

“Look at the unkindness of your friend, and mourn for your own unkindness against God. Should a Christian condemn that in another, which he has also been guilty of himself?” (pg 45)

“Reproach motivates us to search out our sin. A child of God works to read his sin in every stone of reproach that is cast at him.” (pg 49)

“Let this content you: no matter how the world looks down on you, if you are in Christ, God thinks well of you. It is better that God approve than man applaud.” (pg 52)

“Grace is beyond Gifts. You compare your grace with another’s gifts, and there is a vast difference! Grace without gifts is infinitely better than gifts without grace.” (pg 60)

“In prayer, the greater importance is fervency, not fluency. God is not so much taken with the elegancy of speech, as with the efficacy of the Spirit.” (pg 60)

“God usually assigns your gifts in the place where He calls you.” (pg 61)

“But the most inferior member is useful in their place and has a delegated power to fulfill their unique role.” (pg 61)

“Consider this: God sits at the stern of His church. Sometimes it is like a ship tossed by the waves; “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted” (Isa 54:11). But can God not bring this ship to heaven even if it meets a storm on the sea?” (pg 62)

“True mourning for sin means that you regret the sin even after any suffering caused by the sin is removed.” (pg 63)

“Sorrow over sin is disheartening when it sets itself up above mercy. If Israel had gazed only at their wounds, and not looked up to the bronze serpent, they would never have been healed (Num 21:9).” (pg 63)

“Sorrow alone does not save (that would be to make a Messiah of our tears), but it is useful in preparing the soul to see sin as vile and Christ as precious.” (pg 63)

“If your sorrow over sin has turned you around, fit you for Christ, raised your esteem for Him, increased your hunger for Him, and delighted you in Him, this is as much as God requires. You sin when you vex and torture yourself continually on the rack of your own discontent.” (pg 64)

Arguments for Contentment

“A contented Christian is like Noah in the ark; although he was tossed by the waves, Noah could sit and sing in the ark.” (pg 66)

“A Christian can lack for the comforts, land, and possessions of others, but God has distilled into his heart that contentment which is far better.” (pg 66)

“Wicked men are often discontent in the enjoyment of all things; the Christian is at peace in the want of all things.” (pg 67)

“Discontent takes the heart wholly off of God and fixes it on the present trouble so that a man’s mind is not on his prayers, but on his cross.” (pg 67)

“A Christian has life inwardly when his outward comforts do not blossom.” (pg 69)

“Discontentment with your condition is a sin that does not go alone but is like the first link of the chain, which draws all the other links along with it.” (pg 70)

“Murmuring is quarreling with God and protesting against Him; it is a speaking against God” (pg 71)

“To be content and yet murmur, this is a contradiction. A content Christian accepts his present condition and does not murmur but admires.” (pg 72)

“Contentment is a shield against temptation, because the one who is content knows equally how to lack and how to abound.” (pg 73)

“Do I experience some crosses? My comfort is that if they are heavy, I do not have far to go; I will just carry my cross to Golgotha and there leave it. My cross is light in regard to the weight of glory. Has God taken away my comforts from me? It is well; the Comforter still abides in me.” (pg 75)

“But discontent is a leaven that sours every comfort; it puts heavy bitterness on the breast of the creature. It lessens every mercy and magnifies every cross.” (pg 75)

“Contentment makes a good interpretation of all of God’s dealings.” (pg 75)

“A contented Christian is an advocate for God against unbelief and impatience, but discontent takes everything from God in the worst sense.” (pg 76)

“Discontent is the devil’s delight; it is just as he would have it. He loves to warm himself at the fire of our passions. Repentance is the joy of the angels, and discontent is the joy of the devils. Just as the devil dances at discord, so he sings at discontent. The fire of our passions makes the devil a bonfire.” (pg 79)

“God makes adversity our university and affliction our preacher.” (pg 81)

“The Saints lose nothing in the furnace except what they can spare—their impurities.” (pg 83)

“When affliction or death comes to a wicked man, it takes away his soul; when it comes to a godly man, it only takes away his sin.” (pg 84)

“God will be with us in our troubles, not only to behold us, but to uphold us,” (pg 85)

“What does it matter if we have more trouble than others have if we have more of God with us than others have!” (pg 85)

“If God is with us, the furnace will be turned into a festival, the prison into a paradise, and the earthquake into a joyful dance.” (pg 85)

“Anything that works for my glory in heaven, works for my good.” (pg 86)

“Had you not met with such a bump in the road, you might have gone to hell without stopping.” (pg 87)

“True faith trusts God where it cannot trace Him; it trusts in God’s promises, though it has nothing in view.” (pg 88)

“He who thinks highly of what he deserves usually looks down on what he has.” (pg 89)

“The envious man looks so much at the blessings that others enjoy, that he cannot see his own mercies, and so he continually vexes and tortures himself.” (pg 89)

“We deal with God so ungratefully. We are content to receive mercies from Him, but if He crosses us in the least thing, then, through discontent, we grow irritable and impatient and ready to rail against Him! Consequently, God loses the thanks due for all His mercies.” (pg 91)

“The discontented person thinks everything he does for God is too much, and everything that God does for him is too little.” (pg 92)

“Is it not a vain and foolish thing to be troubled at the loss of that which is in its own nature perishing and temporary? God has put variability into creation so that all the world rings with change.” (pg 94)

“Now it is extreme folly to be discontented at the loss of those things which are in their own nature losable.” (pg 94)

“All of us have many mercies if we can see them. But now, because we do not have all we desire, we lose the comfort of the things that we already have.” (pg 95)

“Discontent makes our grief as insupportable as it is unreasonable.” (pg 95)

“The way for a man to be content is not by raising his estate higher, but by bringing his heart lower.” (pg 96)

“The consideration of the shortness of life can help the heart to be content. Remember that you are only here a day, having such a short way to go. Why do you need so many provisions for such a short way? If a traveler has only enough to bring him to his journey’s end, he desires no more. We have only a day to live, and perhaps we might be in the twelfth hour of that day. If God gives us only enough to manage our responsibilities until night, it is sufficient; let us be content.” (pg 97)

“The sun of prosperity often dulls and puts out the fire of zeal.” (pg 98)

“The world’s fawning is worse than its frowning, and you should fear its smiles more than its thunder.” (pg 99)

“Should we not be content then to have less of the world, so that we may have more of Christ?” (pg 103)

“Death begins a wicked man’s hell, but it puts an end to the godly man’s hell.” (pg 104)

“Indeed, if all our hell is here, it is but an easy hell. What is the cup of affliction compared to the cup of damnation?” (pg 104)

“To know the truth but to still lack contentment is its own punishment.” (pg 105)

“Covetousness is not only a sin but the punishment of a sin.” (pg 105)

Three Cautions

“Blessed is the trouble that brings the soul to Christ.” (pg 108)

“A true Christian is a wonder because he is the most content but the least satisfied. He is content with a morsel of bread and a little water in the jar, yet he is never satisfied by a little grace.” (pg 112)

“We must not be content with only enough grace to get by in life; a drop or two must not suffice, but we must still be increasing “with a growth that is from God” (Col 2:19). We need to renew our strength “like eagles” (Isa 40:13).” (pg 114)

Assessment of Contentment

“Contentment is something more than patience because patience denotes only submission; contentment denotes cheerfulness.” (pg 117)

“He looks upon God as a wise God, knowing that whatever He does, it is to heal.” (pg 117)

“A gracious heart sees mercy in every circumstance; therefore, his heart is conditioned for thankfulness.” (pg 118)

“A content Christian does not choose his cross, but he allows God to choose for him.” (pg 119)

“He that is content with his condition, does not seek to rid himself of trouble by running himself into sin.” (pg 120)

“It is good to wait on God’s timing, not extricating ourselves out of trouble until we see the star of God’s providence leading the way.” (pg 120)

How to Learn Contentment

“Oh, set faith to work; it is the characteristic of faith to silence our doubts, to scatter our fears, and to quiet the heart when our passions arise.” (pg 122)

“If God is ours, whatever we lack on earth is infinitely made up in Him.” (pg 124)

“He who knows God is his, knows that all that is in God is for his good. And if this does not satisfy him, I know nothing that will.” (pg 124)

“Get a correct perspective on the things of this earth, that they are ordinary lacking things. Will you set your eyes on that which is not? The appetite must be guided by reason. The affections are the feet of the soul; therefore, they must follow the mind rather than lead it.” (pg 127)

“Do not set your hearts too much on any object. What we over-love, we will over-grieve.” (pg 128)

“When we allow anything to lie too near to our heart, when God pulls away that comfort, a piece of our heart is torn away with it.” (pg 128)

“Do not pore over your losses, but ponder your blessings.” (pg 129)

“Do not let your contentment rest on crutches which may soon fail. The foundation of contentment must be within yourself.” (pg 131)

“He has taken you out of the wild olive vine of nature, and grafted you into Christ, making you living branches of that living vine. He has not only caused the light to shine on you, but into you, and has granted you all the privileges of sonship. Is not here that which may make the soul content?” (pg 134)

“Open the rich man’s grave and see what is there; you might find the miser’s bones, but not his riches.” (pg 135)

“The world is like a shadow that recedes—it is delightful but deceitful. It promises more than we find, and it fails us when we have most need of it.” (pg 136)

“The world is as full of mutation as it is of motion, so what if God cuts us short in earthly matters?” (pg 136)

“Why are we discontent at the loss of these things? It is because we expect something from them that they cannot give, and we rest in them, which we should not do!” (pg 136)

“If we could cure our distempered perceptions, we might soon conquer a discontented heart.” (pg 137)

“The stomach is quicker to be filled than the eye. How quickly would a man be content, if he would study to satisfy his hunger rather than his desires!” (pg 138)

“Every crosswind will, at last, blow me to the right port.” (pg 138)

“Be content, and the scene will alter. God will before long turn our water into wine. The hope of this is enough to drive away all distempers from the heart.” (pg 140)

To the Contented Christian

“Are you content, Christian, with a little? You will see greater things than these. God will distill the sweet influences of His love into your soul; He will raise up friends for you; He will bless the oil in the pot; and when that is done, He will crown you with an eternal enjoyment of Himself. He will give you Heaven, where you will have as much contentment as your soul can possibly thirst after!” (pg 143)

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