Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Henry Martyn's Lesson in Contentment

I was reading again in John Sargent's The Life and Letters of Henry Martyn, and I was moved by Martyn's self-examination of his contentment in the Lord. While on vacation in north Wales, he reflected on both the beauty of God's creation and on Martyn's own contentment at all times and in all circumstances.  The following is a portion of Martyn's journal entry for July 31, 1802:

"I met a poor Welch pedlar, with a bundle of hats on his back, who, on my inquiring the distance to Tan-y-Bwlch, told me he was going thither.  He went by the old road, which is two miles nearer.  It passes over the most dreary, uncultivated hills I ever saw, where there is scarcely any mark of human industry.  The road in most places is overgrown with grass.  The poor man had walked from Carnarvan that day, with an enormous bundle, and pointed with a sorrowfull look to his head; and indeed he did look very ill; he was however very cheerful:  what a difference between this man's temper and my own!  The difference was humbling to myself -- when shall I learn 'in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content?'"

Then on August 5 he wrote of the pleasant conclusion of his journey with a solemn reflection:

"My walk for ten miles was similar to that of the preceding evening, only still more beautiful, for the Dovey widened continually, and the opposite hills were covered with wood: at last the river fell into the sea, and the view was then fine indeed; the weather was serene, and the sea unruffled.  I felt little fatigue, and my thoughts were turned towards God.  But if I cannot be thankful to Him, and sensible of his presence in seasons of fatigue as well as in periods of enjoyment, how can I distinguish the working of the Spirit from the ebullitions of animal joy?"

How, indeed!  When we experience pleasant days and fair weather, we say, "The Lord has been good to us."  Was He not good to us in days of trial, trouble, and travail, and in stormy weather?  The godly Job responded to his wife in the midst of severe trials: "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10)

God has, indeed, greatly blessed America, including American Christians.  Yet we are among the least contented people on earth.  Health-and-wealth preachers draw huge crowds to their meetings and many thousands to their TV broadcasts.  Even more orthodox churches seek to meet the "felt needs" of our society, rather than exposing society's real need, the need for humble repentance and submission to the will of God as revealed in His Word!

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