by Thomas Brooks
If the saints have such an excellent, such a transcendent, and such a matchless portion, oh then, let them be content with their present condition, let them sit down satisfied and contented, though they have but a handful of meal in their barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, 1 Kings 17:12. O sirs, in having of God you have much, in having of God you have enough, in having of God you have all; and why then should you not sit down quiet with your present allowance? Certainly, if much will not satisfy you, if enough will not satisfy you, if all will not satisfy you, nothing will satisfy you: Heb. 13:5, 'Let your conversation be without covetousness (or love of silver, as the Greek word signifies); and be content with such things as you have (or as the Greek hath it, ἀρκούμενοι τοῖς παρουσιν, be content with present things): for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' There are five negatives in the Greek, 'I will not, not, not, not, not leave thee nor forsake thee;' fully to assure and fully to satisfy the people of God that he will never forsake them, and that he will everlastingly stick close to them. What doth this unparalleled gemination, 'I will never, never, never, never, never,' import but this, 'I will ever, ever, ever, yea and for ever and ever take care of thee, and look after thee, and be mindful of thee.' Though they had changed their glory for contempt, Heb. 11:36–38, their fine raiment for sheep-skins and goat-skins, their silver for brass, their plenty for scarcity, their fulness for emptiness, their stately houses for holes and caves, and dens of the earth, yet they are to be contented and satisfied with present things, upon this very ground, that God will always cleave to them, and that he will never turn his back upon them. The Hebrews had been stripped and plundered of all their goods that were good for any thing, and yet they must be contented, they must sit down satisfied, with their hands upon their mouths, though all were gone, Heb. 10:34. Though men cannot bring their means to their minds, yet they must bring their minds to their means, and then they will sit down in silence, though they have but a rag on their backs, a penny in their purse, and a crust in their cupboards, &c. O sirs! a little will serve nature, less will serve grace, though nothing will serve men's lusts; and why then should not Christians be contented with a little? O friends! you have but a short journey to go, you have but a little way home, and a little will serve to bear your charges till you come to heaven, and therefore be contented with a little. To have more than will serve to bring a man to his journey's end is but a burden. One staff is helpful to a man in his journey, but a bundle is hurtful; and this, doubtless, Jacob well understood when he made that proposal in Gen. 28:20, 21, 'If God will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, then shall the Lord be my God.' Jacob doth not say, If God will give me delicates and junkets to eat, he shall be my God! Oh no! But if he will give me but bread to eat, though it be never so coarse, and never so black, and never so dry, he shall be my God. He doth not say, If God will give me so many hundreds, or so many thousands a year, he shall be my God! Oh no! But if he will give me bread to eat, he shall be my God. Nor he doth not say, If God will give me so many hundred pounds in my purse, a comfortable habitation, and a thriving trade, he shall be my God! Oh no! But if he will give me bread to eat, he shall be my God. Nor he doth not say, If God will give me costly apparel, or rich and royal raiment to put on, he shall be my God! Oh no! But if God will give me raiment to put on, though it be never so mean and poor, he shall be my God. If Jacob may but have a little bread to feed him, and a few clothes to cover him, it is as much as he looks for. Look, as a wicked man in the fulness of his sufficiency is in straits, as Job speaks, Job 20:22, so a holy man, in the fulness of his straits, enjoys an all-sufficiency in God, as you may see in Jacob. O Christians! though you have but little, yet you have the highest and the noblest title that can be to that little that you do enjoy; for you hold all in capite, as the apostle sheweth in that large charter of a Christian, 1 Cor. 3:21–23, which the wicked do not. Now, a hundred a year upon a good title is a better estate than a thousand a year upon a cracked, crazy title. Saints have the best title under heaven for all they enjoy, be it little or be it much. But all the titles that sinners have to their earthly enjoyments are but crazy titles, yea, in comparison of the saints' titles, they are no titles.
Again, That little that a saint hath, he hath it from the special love and favour of God; he hath it from a reconciled God, Prov. 15:17. Now, a little from special love is better than a great deal from a general providence. A penny from a reconciled God is better than a pound from a bountiful God; a shilling from God as a father is a better estate than an hundred from God as a creator. The kiss that a king gave to one in the story, was a greater gift than the golden cup that he gave to another; a little, with the kisses of God's mouth, is better than all the gold of Ophir, Cant. 1:2. A drop of mercy from special love is better than a sea of mercy from common bounty. Look, as one draught of clear, sweet spring water is more pleasing, satisfying, and delightful to the palate than a sea of brackish salt water, so one draught out of the fountain of special grace is more pleasing, satisfying, and delightful to a gracious soul than a whole sea of mercy from a spring of common grace: and therefore do not wonder when you see a Christian sit down contented with a little.
Again, That little that a Christian hath shall be certainly blessed and sanctified to him, 1 Tim. 4:3–5; Titus 1:15; Jer. 32:41, &c. Though thy mercies, O Christian, are never so few, and never so mean, yet they shall assuredly be blessed unto thee. The Lord hath not only promised that he will bless thy blessings to thee, but he hath also sworn by himself that in blessing he will bless thee; and how darest thou then, O Christian, to think that the great and faithful God will be guilty of a lie, or that which is worse, of perjury? Gen. 22:16, 17. Now, a little blessed is better than a great deal cursed; a little blessed is better than a world enjoyed; a pound blessed is better than a thousand cursed; a black crust blessed is better than a feast cursed; the gleanings blessed are better than the whole harvest cursed; a drop of mercy blessed is better than a sea of mercy cursed; Lazarus's crumbs blessed was better than Dives his delicates cursed; Jacob's little blessed unto him was better than Esau's great estate that was cursed unto him. It is always better to have scraps with a blessing than to have manna and quails with a curse; a thin table with a blessing is always better than a full table with a snare, Ps. 78:18, 32; a thread-bare coat with a blessing is better than a purple robe cursed; a hole, a cave, a den, a barn, a chimney-corner, with a blessing, is better than stately palaces with a curse; a woollen cap blessed is better than a golden crown cursed; and it may be that emperor understood as much, that said of his crown, when he looked on it with tears, If you knew the cares that are under this crown, you would never stoop to take it up. And, therefore, why should not a Christian be contented with a little, seeing his little shall be blessed unto him? Isaac tills the ground, and sows his seed, and God blesses him with an hundred fold, Gen. 26:12; and Cain tills the ground, and sows his seed, but the earth is cursed to him, and commanded not to yield to him his strength, Gen. 4:12. Oh, therefore, never let a Christian murmur because he hath but a little, but rather let him be still a-blessing of that God that hath blessed his little, and that doth bless his little, and that will bless his little to him.
Again, That little estate that a righteous man hath is most commonly a more lasting, a more abiding, a more permanent, and a more enduring estate than the great and large estates of the wicked are, Prov. 15:16, and 16:8. Ps. 37:16, 'A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked.' One old piece of gold is worth more than a thousand new counters, and one box of pearls is more worth than many loads of pebbles, and one hundred pounds a year for ever is better than many hundreds in hand. It is very observable the psalmist doth not simply say, the estate, but the rich estate; the riches not of one, or a few, but of many wicked, are not comparable to that little that a righteous man hath. The Hebrew word המון, Hamon, that is here rendered riches, signifies also a multitude, or an abundance, or store of riches. A little that a righteous man hath is better than the multitude of riches, or the abundance of riches, or the store of riches that many wicked men have; and he gives you the reason of this in the 17th verse: 'For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but he upholdeth (or under-props) the righteous.' By 'the arms of the wicked,' you are to understand their strength, their valour, their power, their wit, their wealth, their abundance, which is all the arms they have to support and bear up themselves in the world with. Now, these arms shall be broken, and when they are broken, then, even then, will God uphold the righteous, that is, God will be a continual overflowing fountain of good to his righteous ones, so that they shall never want, though all the springs of the wicked are dried up round about them.
O Sirs! there are so many moths, and so many dangers, and so many crosses, and so many losses, and so many curses that daily attends the great estates of wicked men, that they are very rarely long-lived. Ah! how many in this great city are there that have built their nests on high, and that have thought that they had laid up riches for many years, and that have said in their hearts, that their lands, and stocks, and trades, and houses, and pompous estates should abide for ever, who are now broken in pieces like a potter's vessel. Ah! how often doth the pride, the oppression, the lying, the cheating, the over-reaching, the swearing, the cursing, the whoring, the covetousness, the drunkenness, and the wantonness of the wicked, cut the throat of all their mercies! These are the wickednesses that as a fire burns up all their outward enjoyments, and that turns their earthly paradise into a real hell. It is the wickedness of the wicked that causeth their prosperity to wither, and that provokes God to turn their plenty into scarcity, their glory into contempt, and their honour into shame. It is very observable, that in the holy Scriptures the prosperous estates of the wicked are frequently compared to things of an abrupt existence, to a shadow which soon passeth away; to chaff, which a puff, a blast of wind easily disperseth and scattereth; to grass, which quickly withereth before the sun; to tops of corn, which in an instant are cut off; to the unripe grape, which on a sudden drops down; yea, to a dream in the night; and what is a dream, but a quick fancy, and a momentary vanity? All the riches that the wicked gain, either by their trades, or by their friends, or by their great places, or by their high offices, or by their subtle contrivances, or by their sinful compliances; and all the honour they gain in the court, or in the camp, or in the school, is but light and inconstant; it is but like the crackling of thorns under a pot. They are fading vanities, that commonly die before those that enjoy them are laid in the dust.
Oh, therefore, let all Christians be contented with their little, seeing that their little shall outlast the large estates of wicked and ungodly men. A man that hath God for his portion can truly say that which no wicked man in the world can say, viz., 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,' Ps. 23:6. The psalmist doth not say that goodness and mercy should follow him a day, or a few days, or many days, but that 'goodness and mercy should follow him all the days of his life.' The Hebrew word radaph, that is here rendered to follow, signifies to persecute; saith the psalmist, 'Goodness and mercy shall follow me, as the persecutor follows him he persecutes;' that is, it shall follow me frequently, it shall follow me constantly, it shall follow me swiftly, it shall follow me earnestly, it shall follow me unweariedly. The word signifies a studious, anxious, careful, diligent following; it is a metaphor that is taken from beasts and birds of prey, that follow and fly after their prey with the greatest eagerness, closeness, and unweariedness imaginable. Why thus should mercy and loving-kindness follow David all the days of his life; and if in a temptation, he should prove so weak and so foolish as to run from goodness and mercy, yet goodness and mercy should follow him, like as the sun going down followeth the passenger that goeth eastward with his warm beams.
O, but now the mercies of the wicked are short-lived. Though the wicked flourish and spread themselves like a green bay tree one day, yet they are cut down the next, and there is neither root nor branch to be found, tale nor tidings to be heard of them; for in a moment, they, with all their greatness, state, pomp, and glory, are utterly vanished and banished out of the world, Ps. 37:35–37. And so, Ps. 34:10, 'The young lions do lack and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.' Young lions are lusty, strong, fierce, and active to seek their prey, and have it they will if it be to be had: and yet for all that they shall lack and suffer hunger. By young lions, the learned understand,
[1.] First, All wicked rulers; men that are in the highest places and authority, as the lion is the king of beasts, Prov. 28:15, Ezek. 32:2.
[2.] Secondly, By lions they understand all cruel oppressors, that are still oppressing and grinding of the faces of the poor: Prov. 30:30; 'rich cormorants,' as the Septuagint renders it, 'who live on the spoil of the poor, and are never satisfied.'
[3.] Thirdly, By lions, they understand the tyrants and the mighty Nimrods of the world, which are sometimes called lions, Jer. 2:15, 1 Chron. 11:22, Nahum 2:13.
[4.] And lastly, By lions, they understand all the crafty and subtle politicians of the earth: Ezek. 38:13, 'The lion lurks very craftily and secretly for his prey.' The sum of all is this, That wicked men that are in the highest authority, and that great oppressors, cruel tyrants, and crafty politicians shall be impoverished, and brought to penury, beggary, and misery. And this we have often seen verified before our eyes.
O Christian! what though thou hast but a little of this world, yet the God of all mercies, and all the mercies of God, the God of all comforts, and all the comforts of God, are thine; and what wouldst thou have more? In God is fulness, all fulness, infinite fulness; and if this, with a little of the world, will not satisfy thee, I know not what will. If a God for thy portion will not content thee, all the world will never content thee. Shall Diogenes, a heathen, be more content with his tub to shelter him, and with his dish to drink in, than Alexander was with all his conquests? And shall not a Christian sit down contented and satisfied in the enjoyment of God for his portion, though he hath but a tub to shelter him, bread to feed him, and a dish of water to refresh him? I shall conclude this head with a weighty saying of Cato's, Si quid est quo utar utor, si non scio quis sum; mihi vitio vertunt, quia multis egeo, et ego illis, quia nequeunt egere. I have neither house, nor plate, nor garments of any price in my hands; what I have I can use; if not, I can want it: some blame me because I want many things, and I blame them because they cannot want. Oh let not nature do more than grace! Oh let not this heathen put Christians to a blush!
Source: The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks.