Delivered on Sabbath Evening, March 25th, 1860, by the
Rev. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."―Philippians 4:11.
The apostle Paul was a very learned man, but not the least among his manifold acquisitions in science was this―he had learned to be content. Such learning is far better than much that is acquired in the schools. Their learning may look studiously back on the past, but too often those who cull the relics of antiquity with enthusiasm, are thoughtless about the present, and neglect the practical duties of daily life. Their learning may open up dead languages to those who will never derive any living benefit from them. Far better the learning of the apostle. It was a thing of ever-present utility, and alike serviceable for all generations, one of the rarest, but one of the most desirable accomplishments. I put the senior wrangler, and the most learned of our Cambridge men in the lowest form, compared with this learned apostle; for this surely is the highest degree in humanities to which a man can possibly attain, to have learned in whatsoever state he is, to be content. You will see at once from reading the text, upon the very surface, that contentment in all states is not a natural propensity of man. Ill weeds grow apace; covetousness, discontent, and murmuring, are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. You have no need to sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth, upon which rests the curse; so you have no need to teach men to complain, they complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener's care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in it. Paul says, "I have learned to be content;" as much as to say he did not know how at one time. It cost him some pains to attain to the mystery of that great truth. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned, and then broke down. Frequently too, like boys at school, he had his knuckles rapped; frequently he found that it was not easy learning this task, and when at last he had attained unto it, and could say, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content," he was an old grey-headed man upon the borders of the grave, a poor prisoner shut up in Nero's dungeon at Rome.