The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit by Jeremiah BurroughsJeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) - A Popular Independent Puritan Preacher and a Member of the Westminster Assembly.
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“The holiness of God is the height of God’s excellency.”
The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit by Jeremiah Burroughs
Thus we have showed in many respects the excellence of this grace of contentment, laboring to present the beauty of it before your souls, that you may be in love with it. Now, my brethren, what remains but the practice of this? For this art of contentment is not a speculative thing, only for contemplation, but it is an art of divinity, and therefore practical. You are now to labor to work upon your hearts, that this grace may be in you, that you may honor God and honor your profession with this grace of contentment, for there are none who more honor God, and honor their profession than those who have this grace of contentment.
Now that we may come to grips with the practice, it is necessary that we should be humbled in our hearts because of our lack of contentment in the past. For there is no way to set about any duty that you should perform, you might labor to perform it, but first you must be humbled for the lack of it. Therefore I shall endeavor to get your hearts to be humbled for lack of this grace. ‘Oh, had I had this grace of contentment, what a happy life I might have lived! What abundance of honor I might have brought to the name of God! How might I have honored my profession! What a great deal of comfort I might have enjoyed! But the Lord knows it has been far otherwise. Oh, how far I have been from this grace of contentment which has been expounded to me! I have had a murmuring, a vexing, and a fretting heart within me. Every little cross has put me out of temper and out of frame. Oh, the boisterousness of my spirit! What evil God sees in the vexing and fretting of my heart, and murmuring and repining of my spirit!’ Oh that God would make you see it! Now to the end that you might be humbled for lack of it, I shall endeavor in these headlings to speak of it: First I shall set before you The evil of a murmuring spirit. There is more evil in it than you are aware of.
In the second place, I will show you some aggravations of this evil. It is altogether evil, but more so in some cases than others.
Thirdly, I shall labor to take away the excuses that any murmuring, discontented heart has for his disorder.
There are these three things in this use of humbling of the soul for the want of this grace of contentment.
For the present, the first: The great evil that is in a murmuring, discontented heart.
1. THIS MURMURING AND DISCONTENTEDNESS OF YOURS REVEALS MUCH CORRUPTION IN THE SOUL.
As contentment argues much grace, and strong grace, and beautiful grace, so murmuring argues much corruption, and strong corruption, and very vile corruptions in your heart. If a man’s body is of such a temper that every scratch of a pin makes his flesh to rankle and be a sore, you will surely say, this man’s body is very corrupt, his blood and his flesh is corrupt, that every scratch of a pin shall make it rankle. So it is in your spirit, if every little trouble and affliction makes you discontented, and makes you murmur, and even causes your spirit within you to rankle. Or like a wound in a man’s body, the evil of the wound is not so much in the largeness of it, and the abundance of blood that comes out of it, but in the inflammation that there is in it, or in a fretting and corrupting humor that is in the wound.
When an unskilled man comes and sees a large wound in the flesh, he looks upon it as a dangerous wound, and when he sees a great deal of blood gush out, he thinks, these are the evils of it; but when a surgeon comes and sees a great gash, he says: ‘This will be healed within a few days, but there is a smaller wound and an inflammation or a septic sore in it, and this will cost time’, he says, ‘to cure.’ So he does not lay balsam and healing salves upon it, but his great is to get out the septic inflammation, and the thing that must heal this wound is some potion to purge. But the patient says, ‘What good will this do to my wound? You give me something to drink, and my wound is in my arm, or in my leg. What good will this do that I am putting in my stomach?’ Yes, it purges out the infection, and takes away the inflammation, and till that is taken away the salves can do no good.
So it is, just for all the world, in the souls of men: it may be that there is some affliction upon them, which I compare to the wound; now they think that the greatness of the affliction is what makes their condition most miserable. Oh now, there is a fretting humor, an inflammation in the heart, a murmuring spirit that is within you, and that is the misery of your condition, and it must be purged out of you before you can be healed. Let God do with you what he will, till he purges out that fretting humor your wound will not be healed. A murmuring heart is a very sinful heart; so when you are troubled for this affliction you had need to turn your thoughts rather to be troubled for the murmuring of your heart, for that is the greatest trouble. There is an affliction upon you and that is grievous, but there is a murmuring heart within and that is more grievous. Oh, that we could but convince men and women that murmuring spirit is a greater evil than any affliction, whatever the affliction! We shall show more fully afterward that a murmuring spirit is the evil of the evil, and the misery of the misery.
2. THE EVIL OF MURMURING IS SUCH THAT WHEN GOD WOULD SPEAK OF WICKED MEN AND DESCRIBE THEM, and show the brand of a wicked and ungodly man or woman, he instances this sin in a more special manner. I might name many Scriptures, but that Scripture in Jude is a most remarkable one. In the 14th verse onwards, it is said, ‘That the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and all of their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ Mark here in this 15th verse mention is made four times of ungodly ones: all that are ungodly among them, all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. This is in general, but now he comes in particular to show who these are: ‘These are’, he says, ‘murmurers’,-that is the very first. Would you know who are ungodly men, whom God when he comes with ten thousands of angels shall come to punish for all their ungodly deeds that they do, and those that speak ungodly things against him? These ungodly ones are murmurers; murmurers in Scripture are put in the forefront of all. You had need to look to your spirits; you may see that this murmuring, which is the vice contrary to this contentment, is not as small a matter as you think. You think you are not as ungodly as others, because you do not swear and drink as others do, but you may be ungodly in murmuring. It is true there is no sin but some seeds and remainders of it are in those who are godly; but when men are under the power of this sin of murmuring, it convicts them as ungodly, as well as if they were under the power of drunkenness, or whoredom, or any other sin. God will look upon you as ungodly for this sin as well as for any sin whatever. This one Scripture should make the heart shake at the thought of the sin of murmuring.
3. AS WELL AS BEING MADE A BRAND OF UNGODLY MEN, YOU WILL FIND IN SCRIPTURE THAT GOD ACCOUNTS IT REBELLION.
It is contrary to the worship that is in contentedness. That is worshipping God, crouching to God and falling down before him, even as a dog would crouch when you hold a stick over him; but a murmuring heart is a rebellious heart, as you will find, if you compare two Scripture together: they are both in the book of Numbers. ‘But on the morrow’, says
Numbers 16:41, ‘all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord.’ They all murmured; now compare this with chapter 17 and
verse 10: ‘And the Lord said unto Moses, Bring Aaron’s rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels.’ In the 16th chapter they murmured against Moses and Aaron, and in the 17th chapter we read, Bring the rod of Aaron again, before the testimony, for a token against the rebels. So you see that to be a murmurer, and to be a rebel, in Scripture phrase is all one; it is rebellion against God. Just as it is the beginning of rebellion and sedition in a kingdom, when the people are discontented. When discontent comes, it grows to murmuring, and you can go into no house almost, but there is murmuring when men are discontented, so that within a little while it breaks forth into sedition or rebellion. Murmuring is but as the smoke of the fire: there is first a smoke and smouldering before the flame breaks forth; and so before open rebellion in a kingdom there is first a smoke of murmuring, and then it breaks forth into open rebellion. But because it has the seeds of rebellion, it is accounted before the Lord to be rebellion. Will you be a rebel against God? When you feel your heart discontented and murmuring against the dispensation of God towards you, you should check it thus: Oh, you wretched heart! What, will you be a rebel against God? Will you rise in rebellion against the infinite God? Yet you have done so. Charge your heart with this sin of rebellion.
You who are guilty of this sin of murmuring, you are this day charged by the Lord, as being guilty of rebellion against him, and God expects that when you go home, you should humble your souls before him for this sin, that you should charge your souls for being guilty of rebellion against God.
Many of you may say, I never thought that I was a rebel against God before, I thought that I had many infirmities, but now I see the Scripture speaks of sin in a different way than men do, the Scripture makes men, though only murmurers, to be rebels against God. Oh, this rebellious heart that I have against the Lord, which has manifested itself in this way of murmuring against the Lord! That is a third point in the evil of discontent.
4. IT IS A WICKEDNESS WHICH IS GREATLY CONTRARY TO GRACE, AND ESPECIALLY CONTRARY TO THE WORK OF GOD, IN BRINGING THE SOUL HOME TO HIMSELF.
I know no disorder more opposite and contrary to the work of God in the conversion of a sinner, than this is.
Question. What is the work of God when he brings a sinner home to himself? Answer. 1. The usual way is for God to make the soul to see, and be sensible of the dreadful evil that is in sin, and the great breach that sin has made between God and it, for, certainly, Jesus Christ can never be known in his beauty and excellence till the soul knows that. I do not say what secret work of the Holy Ghost there may be in the soul, but before the soul can actually apply Jesus Christ to itself, it is impossible but that it must come to know the evil of sin, and the excellence of Jesus Christ. A seed of faith may be put into the soul, but the soul must first know Christ, and know sin, and be made sensible of it. Now how contrary is this sin of murmuring to any such work of God! Has God made me see the dreadful evil of sin, and made my soul sensible of the evil of sin as the greatest burden? How can I be then so much troubled for every little affliction? Certainly, if I saw what the evil of sin was, that sight would swallow up all other evils, and if I were burdened with the evil of sin, it would swallow up all other burdens. What! am I now murmuring against God’s hand? says such a soul, whereas a while ago the Lord made me see myself to be a damned wretch, and apprehend it as a wonder that I was not in Hell?
2. Yea, it is strongly contrary to the sight of the infinite excellence and glory of Jesus Christ, and of the things of the Gospel. What! am I the soul to whom the Lord has revealed the infinite excellence of Jesus Christ, and yet shall I think such a little affliction to be so grievous to me, when I have had the sight of such glory in Christ as is worth more than ten thousand worlds? A true convert will say: ‘Oh, the Lord at such a time gave me a sight of Christ that I would not be without for ten thousand, thousand worlds.’ But has God given you that, and will you be discontented for a trifle in comparison to that?
3. A third work when God brings the soul home to himself is by taking the heart off from the creature, disengaging the heart from all creature-comforts: that is the third work ordinarily that the soul may perceive of itself. It is true, God’s work may be altogether in the seeds in him, but in the various actings of the soul, in turning to God, it may perceive these things in it. The disengagement of the heart from the creature is the calling of the soul from the world-‘whom the Lord hath called he hath justified’-what is the calling of the soul but this? The soul which before was seeking for contentment in the world, and cleaving to the creature, is now called out in the world by the Lord, who says: ‘Oh Soul, your happiness is not here, your rest is not here, your happiness is elsewhere, and your heart must be loosened from all the things that are here below in the world.’ This is the work of God in the soul, to disengage the heart from the creature, and how contrary is a murmuring heart to such a thing! Something which is glued to another cannot be taken off, but you must tear it; so it is a sign your heart is glued to the world, that when God would take you off, your heart tears. If God, by an affliction, should come to take anything in the world from you, and you can part from it with ease, without tearing, it is a sign then that your heart is not glued to the world.
4. A fourth work of God in converting a sinner is this, the casting of the soul upon Jesus Christ for all its good. I see Jesus Christian the Gospel as the Fountain of all good, and God out of free grace tendering him to me for life and for salvation, and now my souls casts itself, rolls itself upon the infinite grace of God in Christ for all good. now have you done so? Has God converted you, and drawn you to his Son to cast your soul upon him for all your good, and yet you are discontented for the want of some little matter in a creature comfort? Are you he who has cast your soul upon Jesus Christ for all good? As he says in another case, ‘Is this thy faith?’ 5. The soul is subdued to God. And then it comes to receive Jesus Christ as a King, to rule, to order, and dispose of him how he pleases, and so the heart is subdued unto God. Now how opposite is a murmuring, discontented heart to a heart subdued to Jesus Christ as King, and receiving him as a Lord to rule and dispose of him as he pleases! 6. There is in the work of your turning to God the giving up of yourself to God in an everlasting covenant. As you take Christ, the head of the Covenant, to be yours, so you give up yourself to Christ. In the work of conversion there is the resignation of the soul wholly to God in an everlasting covenant to be his. Have you ever surrendered up yourself to God in an everlasting covenant? Then, certainly, this fretting, murmuring heart of ours is strongly opposite to it, certainly you forget this covenant of yours, and the resignation of yourself up to God. It would be of marvellous help to you to humble your souls when you are in a murmuring condition.
If you could but obtain so much liberty of your own spirits as to look back to see what the work of God was in converting you, there is nothing would prevail more than to think of that. I am now in a murmuring, discontented way, but how did I feel my soul working when God turned my soul to himself! Oh, how opposite is this to that work, and how unbecoming! Oh, what shame and confusion would come upon the spirits of men and women, if they could but compare the work of corruption in their murmuring and discontent with the work of God that was upon their souls in conversion! Now we should labor to keep the work of God upon our souls which was present at our conversion; for conversion must not be only at one instant at first. Men are deceived in this, if they think their conversion is finished merely at first; you must be in a way of conversion to God all the days of your life, and therefore Christ said to his disciples, ‘Except ye be converted and become as little children?’ Ye be converted. Why? Were they not converted before? Yes, they were converted, but they were still to continue the work of conversion all the days of their lives. What work of God there is at the first conversion is to abide afterwards. There must always abide some sight and sense of sin; it may be not in the way which you had, which was rather a preparation than anything else, but the sight and sense of sin is to continue still, that is, you are still to be sensible of the burden of sin as it is against the holiness, and goodness, and mercy of God to you. And the sight of the excellence of Jesus Christ is to continue, and your calling away from the creature, and your casting of your soul upon Christ, and your receiving Christ as King-still receive him day by day-and the subduing of your heart, and the surrendering of yourself up to God in a way of covenant. Now if this were but daily continued, there would be no space nor time for murmuring to work upon your heart: that is the fourth point.
5. MURMURING AND DISCONTENT IS EXCEEDINGLY BELOW A CHRISTIAN.
Oh, it is too mean and base a disorder for a Christian to give place to it.
Now it is below a Christian in many respects.
1. Below the relation of a Christian. How below the relation of a Christian? The relation in which you stand. Below what relation? you will say.
i . The relation in which you stand to God. Do you not call God your father? and do you not stand in relation to him as a child? What! do you murmur? In
2 Samuel 13:4 there is a speech of Jonadab to Amnon: ‘Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me?’; and so he told him, but that was for a wicked cause. He perceived that his spirit was troubled, for otherwise he was of a fat and plump temper of body, but because of trouble of spirit he even pined away. Why? What is the matter? You stand in this relation to the King and yet let anything trouble your heart-that is his meaning; is there anything that should disquiet your heart when you stand in such a relation to the King, as the King’s son? So I may say to a Christian: Are you the King’s son, the son, the daughter, of the King of Heaven, and yet so disquieted and troubled, and vexed at every little thing that happens? As if a King’s son were to cry out that he is undone for losing a toy; what an unworthy thing would this be! So do you: you cry out as if you were undone and yet are a King’s son, you who stand in such relation to God, as to a father, you dishonor your father in this; as if either he had not wisdom, or power, or mercy enough to provide for you.
i i . The relation in which you stand to Jesus Christ. You are the spouse of Christ. What! One married to Jesus Christ and yet troubled and discontented? Have you not enough in him? Does not Christ say to his spouse, as Elkanah said to Hannah: ‘Am not I better to thee than ten sons?’ (1 Samuel 1:8). So does not Christ your husband say to you, ‘Am not I better to you than thousands of riches and comforts, such comforts as you murmur for want of?’ Has not God given you his Son and will he not with him give you all things? Has the love of God to you been such as to give you his Son in marriage? Why are you discontented and murmuring? Consider your relation to Jesus Christ, as a spouse and married to him: his person is yours, and so all the riches of Jesus Christ are yours, as the riches of a husband are his wife’s.
Though some husbands are so vile that their wives may be forced to sue for maintenance, certainly Jesus Christ will never deny maintenance to his spouse, it is a dishonor for a husband to have the wife to whining up and down. What! you are matched with Christ and are his spouse, and will you murmur now, and be discontented in your spirit? You will observe that with those who are newly married, when there is discontent between the wife and the husband, their friends will shake their heads say, ‘They are not meeting with what they expected; you see ever since they were married together how the man looks, and the woman looks, they are not so cheery as they used to be. Surely it is likely to prove an ill match.’ But it is not so here, it shall not be so between you and Christ. Oh, Jesus Christ does not love to see his spouse with a scowling countenance; no man loves to see discontent in the face of his wife, and surely Christ does not love to see discontent in the face of his spouse.
iii. You stand in relation to Christ, not only as a spouse, but as a member. You are bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh; and to have a member of Jesus Christ in a condition of discontent exceedingly unworthy.
iv. He is your elder brother likewise, and so you are a co-heir with him.
v . The relation in which you stand to the Spirit of God. You are the temple of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost is your Comforter. It is he who is appointed to convey all comforts from the Father and the Son, to the souls of his people. And are you the temple of the Holy Ghost, and does he dwell in you, and yet for all that you murmur for every little thing? vi. The relation in which you stand to the angels. You are made one body with them, for so Christ has joined principalities and powers with his Church: they are ministering spirits for the good of his people, to supply what they need, and you and they are joined together, and Christ is the head of you and angels.
vii. The relation in which you stand to the saints. You are of the same body with them, they and you make up but one mystical body with Jesus Christ, and if they are happy you must needs be happy.
Oh, how beneath a Christian is a murmuring spirit, especially when he considers the relations in which he stands! 2. A Christian should consider, That murmuring and discontentedness is below the high dignity which God has put upon him. Do but consider the high dignity which God has put upon you: the meanest Christian in the world is a lord of heaven and earth. he has made us kings unto himself, kings to God, not kings to men to rule over them; and yet I say, every Christian is lord of heaven and earth, yea of life and death. That is, as Christ is Lord of all, so he has made those who are his members lords of all. ‘All are yours’, says the Apostle, ‘even life and death, every thing is yours.’ It is a very strange expression, that death should be theirs, death is yours, that is, you are, as it were, lords over it, you have what shall make death your servant, your slave, even death itself, your greatest enemy is turned to be your slave. Faith makes a Christian as lord over all, lifted up in excellence above all creatures that ever God made, except the angels, and in some respect above them.
I say the poorest Christian who lives is raised to a position above all creatures in the world except angels, and above them in many respects too- and yet discontented! That you who were as a firebrand of hell, and might have been scorching and yelling and roaring there to all eternity, yet that God should raise you to have a higher excellence in you than there is in all the works of creation that ever he made except angels, and other Christians, who are in your position! Indeed, you are nearer the Divine nature than the angels, because your nature is joined in a hypostatical union to the Divine nature, and in that respect your nature is more honored than the nature of the angels. And the death of Christ is yours. He died for you and not for the angels, and therefore you are likely to be raised above the angels in many respects. You who are in such a position as this, you who are set apart to the end that God might manifest to all eternity what the infinite power of a Deity is able to raise a creature to-for that is the position of a saint, a believer: his position is that he is set apart to the end that God might manifest to all eternity what his infinite power is able to do to make a creature happy.
Are you in such a position? Oh, how low and beneath this position is a murmuring and discontented heart for want of some outward comforts here in this world! How unseemly it is that you should be a slave to every cross, that every affliction shall be able to say to your soul, ‘Bow down to us’! We accounted it a great slavery, when men said to our souls, ‘Bow down’, as the cruel prelates were wont to do, in imposing things upon men’s consciences: in effect they said, ‘Let your consciences, your souls, bow down to us, that we may tread upon them’. That is the greatest slavery in the world, that one man should say to another, ‘Let your consciences, your souls, bow down, that we may tread upon them’; but will you allow every affliction to say, ‘Bow down that we may tread upon you’? Truly it is so, when your heart is overcome with murmuring and discontent; know that those afflictions which have caused your to murmur have said to you, ‘Bow down that we may tread upon you.’ Nay, not afflictions, but the very Devil prevails against you in this. Oh! how this is beneath the happy position to which God has raised a Christian! What! will the son of a King let every base fellow come and bid him bow down, that he may tread upon his neck? That is what you do in every affliction: the affliction, the cross and trouble that befalls you, says, ‘Bow down that we may come and tread upon you.’ 3. Murmuring is below the spirit of a Christian. The spirit of every Christian should be like the spirit of his Father: every father loves to see his spirit in his child, loves to see his image, not the image of his body only, to say, here is a child for all the world like his father, but he has the spirit of his father too. A father who is a man of spirit loves to see his spirit in his child, rather than the features of his body. Oh, the Lord who is our Father loves to see his Spirit in us. Great men love to see great spirits in their children, and the great God loves to see a great spirit in his children. We are one spirit with God and with Christ, and one spirit with the Holy Ghost; therefore, we should have a spirit that might manifest the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in our spirits: that is the spirit of a Christian.
The spirit of a Christian should be a lion-like spirit; as Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (so he is called) so we should manifest something of the lion-like spirit of Jesus Christ. He manifested his lion-like spirit in passing through all afflictions and troubles whatsoever without any murmuring against God. When he came to drink that bitter cup, and even the dregs of it, he prayed indeed to God that if it were possible it might pass from him, but immediately: ‘Not my will, but thy will be done.’ As soon as ever he mentioned the passing of the cup from him, though it was the most dreadful cup that ever was drunk since the world began, yet at the mentioning of it: ‘Not my will, but thy will be done.’ Here Christ showed a lion-like spirit in going through all kinds of afflictions whatsoever, without any murmuring against God in them. Now a murmuring spirit is a base, dejected spirit, cross and contrary to the spirit of a Christian, and it is very base.
I remember that the Heathens accounted it very base. Plutarch reports of a certain people, who used to manifest their disdain to men who were overmuch dejected by any affliction, and condemned them to this punishment: to wear women’s clothes all their days, or for a certain space of time at least, they should go in women’s clothes I token of shame and disgrace to them because they had such effeminate spirits. They thought it against a manly spirit, and therefore, seeing they did un-man themselves, they should go as women. Now, shall they account it an unmanly spirit, to be overmuch dejected in afflictions? and shall not a Christian account it an unchristianlike spirit to be overmuch dejected by any affliction whatsoever? I remember someone else compares murmuring spirits to children, when they are weaning: what a great deal of stir you have with your children when you wean then! how perverse and vexing they are! So, when God would wean you from some outward comforts in this world, oh, how fretting and discontented you are! Children will not sleep themselves nor let their mothers sleep when they are weaning; and so, when God would wean us from the world, and we fret, vex, and murmur, this is a childish spirit.
4. It is below the profession of a Christian. The profession of a Christian- what is that? A Christian’s profession is to be dead to the world and to be alive to God, that is his profession, to have his life hid with Christ in God, to satisfy himself in God. What! is this your profession? And yet if you have not everything you want, you murmur and are discontented. In that you even deny your profession.
5. It is below that special grace of faith. Faith is what overcomes the world; it makes all the promises of God ours. Now when you look upon you the profession of religion did God ever promise you that you would live at ease, and quiet, and have no trouble? I remember Augustine has a similar expression: ‘What! is this your faith? Did I ever promise you (he says) that you should flourish in the world? Are you a Christian to that end? And is this your faith? I never made any such promise to you when you took upon you to be a Christian.’ Oh, it is very contrary to your profession. You have no promise for this, that you should not have such an affliction upon you.
And a Christian should live by his faith. It is said that the just live by faith; now you should not look after any other life but the life that you have by faith. You have no ground for your faith to believe that you should be delivered out of such an affliction, and then why should you account it such a great evil to be under this affliction? Certainly the good that we have in the ground for our faith is enough to content our hearts here, and to all eternity.
A Christian should be satisfied with what God has made the object of his faith. The object of his faith is high enough to satisfy his soul, were it capable of a thousand times more than it is. Now if you may have the object of your faith you have enough to content your soul. And know that when you are discontented for want of certain comforts, you should think thus: God never promised me that I should have these comforts, at this time, and in such a way as I would have. I am discontented because I have not these things which God never yet promised me, and therefore I sin much against the Gospel, and against the grace of faith.
6. It is below a Christian because it is below those helps that a Christian has more than others have. They have the promises to help them, which others have not. It is not so much for the heart of a Nabal to sink, because he has nothing but the creature to uphold him. But it is much for a Christian, who has the promises and ordinances to uphold his spirit, which others have not.
7. It is below the expectation that God has of Christians, for God expects not only that they should be patient in afflictions, but that they should rejoice and triumph in them. Now, Christians, when God expects this from you, and you have not even attained to contentedness under afflictions! Oh, this is beneath what God expects from you.
8. It is below what God has had from other Christians. Others have not only been contented with little trials, but they have triumphed over great afflictions, they have suffered the spoiling of their goods with joy. Read the latter part of the eleventh of the Hebrews, and you will find what great things God has had from his people. Therefore not to be content with smaller crosses must needs be a great evil.
6. THE SIXTH EVIL IN A MURMURING SPIRIT IS, By murmuring you undo your prayers, for it is exceedingly contrary to the prayer that you make to God. When you come to pray to God, you acknowledge his sovereignty over you, you come there to profess yourselves to be at God’s disposal. What do you pay for, unless you acknowledge that you are at his disposal? Unless you will stand, as it were, at his disposal never come to petition him. If you will come to petition him and yet will be your own carver you go contrary to your prayers, to come as if you would beg your bread at your Father’s gates every day, and yet you must do what you list: this is the undoing of the prayers of a Christian. I remember reading that Latimer, speaking concerning Peter who denied his master, said: ‘Peter forgot his Paternoster,* for that was, Hallowed be thy name, and thy kingdom come.’ [*Paternoster &emdash; The Lord’s Prayer, so called because the Latin version begins: ‘Pater noster’ (Our Father).] So we may say, when you have murmuring and discontented hearts, you forget your prayers, you forget what you have prayed for. What do you pray, but, Give us this day our daily bread? (For you must make the Lord’s prayer a pattern for your prayers; that is Christ’s intention, that we should have it as a pattern and a directory, as it were, how to make our prayers.) Now God does not teach any of you to pray, Lord, give me so much a year, or let me have this kind of cloth, and so many dishes at my table. Christ does not teach you to pray so, but he teaches us to pray, ‘Lord, give us our bread,’ showing that you should be content with a little. What, have you not bread to eat? I hope there are none of you here but have that.
Objection. But I do not know what would become of my children if I were to die. Or if I have bread now, I do not know where I shall get it from next week, or where I shall get provision for the winter.
Answer. Where did Christ teach us to pray, Lord, give us provision for so long a time? No, but if we have bread for this day, Christ would have us content. Therefore when we murmur because we have not so much variety as others have, we do, as it were, forget our Paternoster. It is against our prayers; we do not in our lives hold forth the acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God over us as we seem to acknowledge in our prayers.
Therefore when at any time you find your murmuring, then do but reflect yourselves and think thus: Is this according to my prayers, in which I held forth the sovereign power and authority that God has over me? 7. THE SEVENTH THING WHICH I ADD FOR THE EVIL OF DISCONTENT IS the woeful effects that come to a discontented heart from murmuring. I will name you five; there are five evil effects that come from a murmuring spirit: 1. By murmuring and discontent in your hearts, you come to lose a great deal of time. How many times do men and women, when they are discontented, let their thoughts run, and are musing and contriving, through their present discontentedness and let their discontented thoughts work I in them for some hours together, and they spend their time in vain! When you are alone you should spend your time in holy meditation, but you are spending your time in discontented thoughts. You complain that you cannot meditate, you cannot think on good things, but if you begin to think of them a little, soon your thoughts are off from them. But if you are discontented with anything, then you can go alone, and muse, and roll things up and down in your thoughts to feed a discontented humor. Oh, labor to see this evil effect of murmuring, the losing of your time.
2. It unfits you for duty. If a man or woman is in a contented frame, you may turn such a one to anything at any time, and he is fit to go to God at any time; but when one is in a discontented condition, then a man or woman is exceedingly unfit for the service of God. And it causes many distractions in duty, it unfits for duty, and when you come to perform duties, oh, the distractions that are in your duties, when your spirits are discontented! When you hear any ill news from sea and cannot bear it, or of any ill from a friend, or any loss or cross, oh, what distractions do they cause in the performance of holy duties! When you should be enjoying communion with God, you are distracted in your thoughts about the trial that has befallen you, whereas had you but a quiet spirit, though great trials befell you, yet they would never hinder you in the performance of any duty.
3. Consider what wicked risings of heart and resolutions of spirit there are many times in a discontented fit. In some discontented fits the heart rises against God, and against others and sometimes it even has desperate resolutions what to do to help itself. If the Lord had suffered you to have done what you had sometimes thought to do, in a discontented fit, what wretched misery you would have brought upon yourselves! Oh, it was a mercy of God that stopped you; had not God stopped you, but let you go on when you thought to help yourselves this way and the other way, oh, it would have been ill with you. Do but remember those risings of heart and wicked resolutions that sometimes you have had in a discontented mood, and learn to be humbled for that.
4. Unthankfulness is an evil and a wicked effect which comes from discontent. The Scripture ranks unthankfulness among very great sins. men and women, who are discontented, though they enjoy many mercies from God, yet they are thankful for none of them, for this is the vile nature of discontent, to lessen every mercy of God. It makes those mercies they have from God as nothing to them, because they cannot have what they want.
Sometimes it is so even in spiritual things: if they do not have all they desire, the comforts that they would have, then what they do have is nothing to them. Do you think that God will take this well? Suppose you were to give a friend or a relation some money to trade with and he came and said: ‘What is this you have given me? There are only a few coins here.
This is no good to me.’ This would be intolerable to you, that he should react to your gift like this, just because you have not given him as much money as he would like. It is just the same when you are ready to say: ‘All that God has given me is worthless. It is no good to me. It is only a few coins.’ For you to say that what God gives you is nothing and only common gifts, all given in hypocrisy, and counterfeit, when they are the precious graces of God’s Spirit and worth more than thousands of worlds &emdash; how ungrateful it is! The graces of God’s Spirit are nothing to a discontented heart who cannot have all that he would have. And so for outward blessings: God has given you health of body, and strength, and has given you some competence for your family, some way of livelihood, yet because you are disappointed in something that you would have, therefore all is nothing to you. Oh, what unthankfulness in this! God expects that every day you should spend some time in blessing his name for what mercy he has granted to you. There is not one of you in the lowest condition but you have an abundance of mercies to bless God for, but discontentedness makes them nothing. I remember an excellent saying that Luther has: ‘This is the rhetoric of the Spirit of God’ he said, ‘to extenuate evil things, and to amplify good things: if a cross comes to make the cross but little, but if there is a mercy to make the mercy great.’ Thus, if there is a cross, where the Spirit of God prevails in the heart, the man or woman will wonder that it is no greater, and will bless God that though there is such a cross, yet that it is no greater, and will bless God that though there is such a cross, yet that it is no more: that is the work of the Spirit of God; and if there is a mercy, he wonders at God’s goodness, that God granted so great a mercy.
The Spirit of God extenuates evils and crosses, and magnifies and amplifies all mercies; and makes al mercies seem to be great, and all afflictions seem to be little. But the Devil goes quite contrary, says Luther, his rhetoric is quite otherwise: he lessens God’s mercies, and amplifies evil things. Thus, a godly man wonders at his cross that it is not more, a wicked man wonders his cross is so much: ‘Oh’, he says, ‘none was ever so afflicted as I am.’ If there is a cross, the Devil puts the soul to musing on it, and making it greater than it is, and so it brings discontent.
And on the other side, if there is a mercy, then it is the rhetoric of the Devil to lessen the mercy. ‘Aye, indeed’, he says, ‘the thing is a good thing, but what is it? It is not a great matter, and for all this, I may be miserable.’ Thus the rhetoric of Satan lessens God’s mercies, and increases afflictions.
I will give you a striking example of this which we find in Scripture: it is the example of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in
Numbers 16:12, 13: ‘And Moses sent to call Dathan, and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up: Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?’ Mark, the slighted the land that they were going to, the land of Canaan; that was the land that God promised them should flow with milk and honey.
But mark here their discontentedness, because they met with some troubles in the wilderness: oh, it was to slay them, they make their affliction in the wilderness greater than it was, oh, it was to kill them, though indeed it was to carry them to the land of Canaan. But though their deliverance from Egypt was a great mercy, they made it to be nothing, for they say ‘You have brought us out of a land that floweth with milk and honey’ &emdash; what land was that? It was the land of Egypt, the land of their bondage, but they call it a land that flowed with milk and honey, though it was the land of their most cruel and unbearable bondage; whereas they should have blessed God as long as they lived for delivering them out of the land of Egypt. Yet, meeting with some cross they make their deliverance from Egypt no mercy, no, it was rather a misery to them. ‘Oh’, they say, ‘Egypt was a land that flowed with milk and honey.’ Oh, what baseness there is in a discontented spirit! A discontented spirit, out of envy to God’s grace, will make mercies that are great little, yea to be none at all. Would one ever have thought that such a word could have come from the mouth of an Israelite, who had been under bondage and cried under it? and yet when they meet with a little cross in their way they say, ‘You have brought us out of the land that floweth with milk and honey.’ To say they were better before than now, and yet before, they could not be contented either: this is the usual, unthankful expression of a discontented heart.
It is so with us now when we meet with any cross in our estates, any taxation and trouble, especially if any among you have been where the enemy have prevailed, you are ready to say: ‘We had plenty before, and we are now brought to a condition of hardship, we were better before when we had the Prelates and others to domineer,’ and so we are in danger of being brought into that bondage again. Oh, let us take heed of this, of a discontented heart; there is this woeful cursed fruit of discontent, to make men and women unthankful for all the mercies God has granted to them, and this is a sore and grievous evil.
5. Finally, there is this evil effect in murmuring, it causes shiftings of spirit. Those who murmur and are discontented are liable to temptations to shift for themselves in sinful and ungodly ways; discontent is the ground of shifting courses and unlawful ways. How many of you are condemned by your consciences of this, that in the time of your afflictions you have sought to shift for yourselves by ways that were sinful against God, and your discontent was the bottom and ground of it? If you would avoid shifting for yourselves by wicked ways, labor to mortify this sin of discontent, to mortify it at the root.
8. THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF FOLLY, EXTREME FOLLY, IN A DISCONTENTED HEART; IT IS A FOOLISH SIN.
I shall open the folly of it in many respects.
1. It takes away the present comfort of what you have, because you have not something that you would have. What a foolish thing is this, that because I have not got what I want, I will not enjoy the comfort of what I have! Do you not account this folly in your children?: you give them some food and they are not contented, perhaps they say it is not enough, they cry for more, and if you do not immediately give them more they will throw away what they have. Though you account it folly in your children, yet you deal thus with God: God gives you many mercies, but your see others have more mercies than you and therefore you cry for more; but God does not give you what you want and because of that you throw away what you have &emdash; is not this folly in your hearts? It is unthankfulness.
2. By all your discontent you cannot help yourselves, you cannot get anything by it. Who by taking care can add one cubit to his stature, or make one hair that is white to be black? You may vex and trouble yourselves but you can get nothing by it. Do you think that the Lord will come in mercy a whit the sooner because of the murmuring of your spirits? Oh, no, but mercy will be rather deferred the longer for it; though the Lord was about to send mercy before, yet this disorder of your hearts is enough to put him out of his course of mercy, and though he had thoughts that you should have the thing before, yet now you shall not have it. If you had a mind to give something to your child, yet if you see him in a discontented, fretting mood you will not give it him. And this is the very reason why many mercies are denied to you, because of your discontent. You are discontented for want of them, and therefore you do not get them, you deprive yourselves of the enjoyment of your own desires, because of the discontent of your hearts, because you do not get your desires, and is not this a foolish thing? 3. There are commonly many foolish attitudes that a discontented heart is guilty of. They carry themselves foolishly towards God and towards men.
Such expressions, and such kinds of behavior come from them, as to make their friends ashamed of them many times. Their carriages are so unseemly, they are a shame to themselves and their friends.
4. Discontent and murmuring eats out the good and sweetness of a mercy before it comes. It God should give a mercy for the want of which we are discontented, yet the blessing of the mercy is, as it were, eaten out before we come to have it. Discontent is like a worm that eats the meat out of the nut, and then when the meat is eaten out of it, you have the shell. If a child were to cry for a nut of which the meat has been eaten out, and is all worm-eaten, what good would the nut be to the child? So you would fain have a certain outward comfort and you are troubled for the want of it, but the very trouble of your spirits is the worm that eats the blessing out of the mercy.
Then perhaps God gives it to you, but with a curse mixed with it, so that you were better not to have it than have it. If God gives the man or woman who is discontented for want of some good thing, that good thing before they are humbled for their discontent, such a man or woman can have no comfort from the mercy, but it will be rather an evil than a good to them.
Therefore for my part, if I should have a friend or brother or one who was as dear to me as my own soul, whom I saw discontented for the want of such a comfort, I would rather pray, ‘Lord, keep this thing from them, till you shall be pleased to humble their hearts for their discontent; let not them have the mercy till they come to be humbled for their discontent over the want of it, for if they have it before that time they will have it without any blessing.’ Therefore it should be your care, when you find your hearts discontented for the want of anything, to be humbled for it, thinking thus with yourselves: Lord, if what I so immoderately desire were to come to me before I am humbled for my discontent for want of it, I am certain I could have no comfort from it, but I should rather have it as an affliction to me.
There are many things which you desire as your lives, and think that you would be happy if you had them, yet when they come you do not find such happiness in them, but they prove to be the greatest crosses and afflictions that you ever had, and on this ground, because your hearts were immoderately set upon them before you had them. As it was with Rachael: she must have children or else she died &emdash; ‘Well’, said God, ‘seeing you must, you shall have them,’ but though she had a child she died according to what she said, ‘Give me children or else I die.’ So in regard of any other outward comforts, people may have the thing, but oftentimes they have it so as it proves the heaviest cross to them that they ever had in all their lives.
The child whom you were discontented for the want of, may have been sick, and your hearts were out of temper for fear that you should lose it; God restores it, but he restores it so as he makes it a cross to your hearts all the days of your lives. Someone observes concerning manna, ‘When the people were contented with the allowance that God allowed them, then it was very good, but when they would not be content with God’s allowance, but would gather more than God would have them, then, says the text, there were worms in it.’ So when we are content with our conditions, and what God disposes of us to be in, there is a blessing in it, then it is sweet to us, but if we must needs have more, and keep it longer than God would have us to have it, then there will be worms in it and it will be no good at all.
5. It makes our affliction a great deal worse than otherwise it would be. it in no way removes our afflictions, indeed, while they continue, they are a great deal the worse and heavier, for a discontented heart is a proud heart, and a proud heart will not pull down his sails when there comes a tempest and storm. If a sailor, when a tempest and storm comes, is perverse and refuses to pull down his sails, but is discontented with the storm, is his condition any better because he is discontented and will not pull down his sails? Will this help him? Just so is it, for all the world, with a discontented heart: a discontented heart is a proud heart, and he out of his pride is troubled with his affliction, and is not contented with God’s disposal, and so he will not pull down his spirit at all, and make it bow to God in this condition into which God has brought him. now is his condition any better because he will not pull down his spirit? No, certainly, abundantly worse, it is a thousand to one but that the tempest and storm will overwhelm his soul.
Thus you see what a great deal of folly there is in the sin of discontentment.
9. THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF DANGER IN THE SIN OF DISCONTENT, FOR IT HIGHLY PROVOKES THE WRATH OF GOD.
It is a sin that much provokes God against his creature. We find most sad expressions in Scripture, and examples too, how God has been provoked against many for their discontent. In Numbers 14 you have a noteworthy text, and one would think that it was enough for ever to make you fear murmuring: in the
26th verse, it is said, ‘The Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron saying’ &emdash; what did he say? &emdash; ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?’ How long shall I bear with them? says God, this evil congregation, oh it is an evil congregation that murmur against me, and how long shall I bear with them? They murmur, and they have murmured; as those who have murmuring spirits, and murmuring dispositions, they will murmur again, and again. How long shall I bear with this evil congregation that murmur against me? How justly may God speak this of many of you who are this morning before the Lord: how long shall I bear with this wicked man or woman who murmurs against me, and has usually in the course of their lives murmured against me when anything falls out otherwise than they would have it? And mark what follows after, ‘I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel.’ You murmur, and maybe others do not hear you, it may be that you do not speak at all, or but half-words; yet God hears the language of your murmuring hearts, and those muttering speeches, and those half-words that come from you. And observe further in this verse how the Lord repeats this sin of murmuring,’ ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?’
Secondly, ‘I have heard their murmuring.’ Thirdly, ‘which they murmur against me’. Murmur, murmur, murmur &emdash; three times in one verse he repeats it, and this is to show his indignation against the thing. When you express indignation against a thing, you repeat it over again, and again; now the Lord, because he would express his indignation against this sin, repeats it over again, and again, and it follows in the 28th verse, ‘Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so I will do to you.’ Mark, God swears against a murmurer. Sometimes in your discontent perhaps you will be ready to swear. Do you swear in your discontent? &emdash; So does God swear against you for your discontent. And what would God do to them? ‘Doubtless your carcasses shall fall in the wilderness; and you shall not come into the land concerning which I sware, to make you dwell therein.’ It is as if God should say, ‘If I have any life in me your lives shall go for it, as I live it shall cost you your lives.’ A discontented, murmuring fit of yours may cost you your lives. You see how it provokes God; there is more evil in it than you were aware of. If may cost you your lives, and therefore look to yourselves, and learn to be humbled at the very beginnings of such disorders in the heart. So in Psalm 106:24, 25: ‘Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word; but murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. Therefore he lifted up his hand against them to overthrow them in the wilderness.’ There are several things to be observed in this Scripture.
We spoke before of how a murmuring heart slights God’s mercies, and so it is here: ‘They despised the pleasant land.’ And a murmuring heart is contrary to faith: ‘they believed not his word, but (says the text) they murmured in their tents, and hearkened not to the voice of the Lord.’ Many men and women will hearken to the voice of their own base murmuring hearts, who will not hearken to the voice of the Lord. If you would hearken to the voice of the Lord, there would not be such murmuring as there is.
But mark what follows after it; you must not think to please yourselves in your murmuring discontentedness, and think that no evil shall come of it: ‘Therefore he lifted up his hand against them to overthrow them.’ You who are discontented lift up your hearts against God, and you cause God to lift up his hand against you. Perhaps God lays his finger on you softly in some afflictions, in your families or elsewhere, and you cannot bear the hand of God, which lies upon you as tenderly as a tender-hearted nurse lays her hand on a child. You cannot bear the tender hand of God which is upon you in a lesser affliction; it would be just for God to lift up his hand against you in another kind of affliction. Oh, a murmuring spirit provokes God exceedingly.
There is another place in
16th of Numbers: compare the 41st verse, and the 46th verse together: ‘But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord,’ and mark in the 46th verse: ‘And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation and make atonement for them, for there is wrath gone out from the Lord, the plague is begun.’ Mark how God’s wrath is kindled: in the 41st verse, the congregation had murmured, and they murmured only against Moses and Aaron (perhaps you murmur more directly against God) and that was against God, in murmuring against God’s ministers. it was against God but not so directly; if you murmur against those whom God makes instruments, because you have not got everything that you would have, against the Parliament, or such and such who are public instruments, it is against God. It was only against Moses and Aaron that the Israelites murmured, and they said that Moses and Aaron had killed the people of the Lord, though it was the hand of God that was upon them for their former wickedness in murmuring. It is usual for wicked, vile hearts to deal thus with God, when God’s hand is a little upon them, to murmur again and again, and so to bring upon themselves infinite kinds of evils. But now the anger of God was quickly kindled: ‘Oh’, said Moses, ‘go, take the censer quickly, for wrath is gone out from Jehovah, the plague is begun.’ So while you are murmuring in your families, the wrath of God may quickly go out against you. In a morning or evening, when you are murmuring, the wrath of God may come quickly upon your families or persons. You are never so prepared for present wrath as when you are in a murmuring, discontented fit. Those who stand by and see you in a murmuring, discontented fit, have cause to say: ‘Oh, let us go and take the censer, let us go to prayer, for we are afraid that wrath is gone out against this family, against this person.’ And it would be a very good thing for you, who are a godly wife, when you see your husband come home and start murmuring because things are not going according to his desire, to go to prayer, and say: ‘Lord, pardon the sin of my husband.’ And similarly for a husband to go to God in prayer, falling down and beseeching him that wrath may not come out against his family for the murmuring of his wife.
The truth is that at this day there has been, at least lately, as much murmuring in England as there ever was, and eve in this very respect the plague has begun. This very judgment comes many times on those who are discontented in their families, and are always grumbling and murmuring at any thing that falls out amiss.
I say this text of Scripture in Numbers clearly holds forth that the Lord brings the plague upon men for this sin of murmuring; he does it in kingdoms and families, and on particular persons. Though we cannot always point out the particular sin that God brings it for, yet we should examine how far we are guilty of the sin of murmuring, because the Scripture holds forth this so clearly, that when Moses but heard that they murmured: ‘Do they murmur?’ he said, ‘go forth quickly and seek to pacify the anger of God, for wrath is gone out, and the plague is begun.’ And you have a notable example of God’s heavy displeasure against murmuring in 1 Corinthians 10:10: ‘Neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.’ Take heed of murmuring as some of them did &emdash; he speaks of the people of Israel in the wilderness &emdash; for, he says, what came of it? They were destroyed of the destroyer. Now the destroyer is thought to be the fiery serpents that were sent among them. They murmured and God sent fiery serpents to sting them. What! do you think that a certain cross and affliction stings you? Perhaps such an affliction is upon you, and it seems to be grievous for the present; what! do your murmur and repine? God has greater crosses to bring upon you. Those people who murmur for want of outward comforts, for want of water, and for the want of bread, murmur, but the Lord sends fiery serpents among them. I would say to a murmuring heart, ‘Woe to you that strive with your maker! Woe to that man, that woman who strives against their maker! What else are you doing but striving against your maker? Your maker has the absolute disposal of you, and will you strive against him? What is the murmuring, discontented heart of yours doing but wrangling and contending and striving even with God himself? Oh, woe to him who strives against his maker! I may further say to you, as God spoke to Job, when he was impatient (
Job 38:1, 2): ‘Now God spake’, says the text, ‘out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?’ So, do you speak against God’s way, and his providences which have taken place concerning your condition and outward comforts? Who is this? Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Where is the man or woman whose heart is so bold and impudent that they dare to speak against the administration of God’s providence? 10. THERE IS A GREAT CURSE OF GOD UPON MURMURING AND DISCONTENT; SO FAR AS IT PREVAILS IN ONE WHO IS WICKED, IT HAS THE CURSE OF GOD UPON IT.
In Psalm 59:15, see what the curse of God is upon wicked and ungodly men: ‘Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied.’ That is the imprecation and curse upon wicked and ungodly men, that if they are not satisfied they shall grudge. When you are not satisfied in your desires and find your heart grudging against God, apply this Scripture &emdash; what! is the curse of the wicked upon me? This is the curse that is threatened upon wicked and ungodly ones, that they shall grudge if they be not satisfied.
And in Deuteronomy 28:67, it is threatened as a curse of God upon men that they cannot be content with their present condition: ‘But they shall say in the morning, Would God it were even! and at even, Would God it were morning!’ So they lie tossing up and down and cannot be content with any condition that they are in, because of the sore afflictions that are upon them.
Therefore it is further threatened as a curse upon them, in the 34th verse, that they should be mad for the sight of their eyes which they should see: this is but the extremity of their discontentedness, that is, they shall be so discontented, that they shall even be mad. Many men and women in discontented moods are a mad sort of people, and though you may please yourselves with such a mad kind of behavior, you should know that it is a curse of God upon men to be given up to a kind of madness for evils which they imagine have come upon them, and which they fear. In the 47th verse, there is a striking expression to show the curse of God on murmuring hearts: The Lord threatens the curses which shall be upon them, and says (verses 45-47): ‘The curses shall pursue thee, and they shall be upon thee for a sign, and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever: Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things.’ God here threatens to bring this curse upon them, so as to make them a wonder and a sign to others. Why? Because they served not the Lord with joyfulness of heart, therefore God would bring such a curse upon them as would make them a wonder to all that were about them. Oh, how far are you, then, who have a murmuring heart, from serving the Lord with joyfulness! 11. THERE IS MUCH OF THE SPIRIT OF SATAN IN A MURMURING SPIRIT.
The Devil is the most discontented creature in the world, he is the proudest creature that is, and the most discontented creature, and the most dejected creature. Now, therefore, so much discontent as you have, so much of the spirit of Satan you have. It was the unclean spirit that went up and down and found no rest; so when a man or woman’s spirit has no reset, it is a sign that it has much of the unclean spirit, of the spirit of Satan, and you should think with yourself, Oh, Lord, have I the spirit of Satan upon me? Satan is the most discontented spirit that is, and oh! how much of his spirit have I upon me who can find no rest at all? 12. IF YOU HAVE A MURMURING SPIRIT, YOU MUST THEN HAVE DISQUIET ALL THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.
It is as if a man in a great crowd were to complain that other folks touch him. While we are in this world God has so ordered things that afflictions must befall us; and if we will complain and be discontented at every cross and affliction, why, we must complain and be discontented all the days of our lives! Indeed, God in just judgment will let things fall out on purpose to vex those who have vexing spirits and discontented hearts; and therefore it is necessary that they should live disquieted all their days. People will not be troubled much if they upset those who are continually murmuring. Oh, they will have disquiet all their days! 13. FINALLY, THERE IS THIS FURTHER DREADFUL EVIL IN DISCONTENT AND MURMURING: God may justly withdraw his care of you, and his protection over you, seeing God cannot please you in his administration.
We would say so to discontented servants: If you are not pleased, better yourselves when you will. If you have a servant not content with his diet and wages, and work, you say, Better yourselves; so may God justly say to us &emdash; we who profess ourselves servants to him, to be in his work, and yet are discontented with this thing or that in God’s household, God might justly say &emdash; Better yourselves. What is God should say to any of you, If my care over you does not please you, then take care of yourselves, if my protection over you will not please you, then protect yourselves? Now all things that befall you, befall you through a providence of God, and if you are those who belong to God, there is a protection of God over you, and a care of God. If God were to say, ‘Well, you shall not have the benefit of my protection any longer, and I will take no further care of you’, would not this be a most dreadful judgment of God from Heaven upon you? Take heed what you do then in being discontented with God’s will towards you, for, indeed, on account of discontent this may befall you. That is the reason why many people, over whom God’s protection has been ver gracious for a time, when they have thriven abundantly, yet afterwards almost all who behold them may say of them that they live as if God had cast off his care over them, and as if God did not care what befell them.
Now then, my brethren, put all these points together, those we spoke of in the last chapter, and these points that have been added now in this chapter, for setting out a murmuring and discontented spirit. Oh, what an ugly face has this sin of murmuring and discontentedness! Oh, what cause is there that we should lay our hands upon our hearts, and go away and be humbled before the Lord because of this! Whereas your thoughts were wont to be exercised about providing for yourselves, and getting more comforts for yourselves, let the stream of your thoughts now be turned to humble yourselves for your discontentedness. Oh, that your hearts may break before God, for otherwise you will fall to it again! Oh, the wretchedness of man’s heart! You find in Scripture, concerning the people of Israel, how strangely they fell to their murmuring, again and again. Do but observe three texts of Scripture for that, the first in the 15th of Exodus at the beginning. There you have Moses and the congregation singing to God and blessing God for his mercy: ‘Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.’ And then: ‘The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation, he is my God and I will prepare him an habitation, my father’s God and I will exalt him.’ So he goes on: ‘and who is like unto thee, O Lord, amongst the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?’ Thus their hearts triumphed in God, but mark, before the chapter is ended, in the 23rd verse: ‘When they came to Marah (in the same chapter) they could not drink of the waters of Marah for they were bitter, therefore the name of it was called Marah; and the people murmured against Moses.’ After so great a mercy as this, what unthankfulness was there in their murmuring! Then God gave them water, but in the very next chapter they fell to their murmuring. You do not read that they were humbled for their former murmuring, and therefore they murmur again (Exodus 16:1 ff.): ‘All the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, etc.
And the whole congregation’ (in the second verse) ‘of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness, and the chlordane of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full.’ now they want flesh; they wanted water before, but now they want meat. They fell to murmuring again, they were not humbled for this murmuring against God, not even when God gave them flesh according to their desires, but they fell to murmuring again: they wanted somewhat else. In the very next chapter (they did not go far), in the
17th of Exodus at the beginning: ‘And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin and pitched in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink.’ Then in the second verse: ‘Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?’ And in the third verse: ‘And the people thirsted for water, and the people murmured against Moses and said, Wherefore is this, that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us, and our children, and our cattle with thirst?’ So one time after another, as soon as ever they had received the mercy, then they were a little quieted, but they were not humbled. I bring these Scriptures to show this, that if we have not been humbled for murmuring, when we meet with the next cross we will fall to murmuring again.
Excerpt from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment