Nov 14, 2023

E. B. Pusey


Contentment doesn’t come naturally. It’s a learned behavior. Paul writes in Philippians. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4.12). If Paul can learn the secret of contentment, so can we. Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) was a Hebrew Professor at Oxford University, England, for 52 years. E. B., as he was called, was also a leader in the Oxford Movement seeking to restore high church worship to the Church of England. He wrote and preached on contentment. If we wish to gain contentment, he advised these five rules:
1. Allow thyself to complain of nothing, not even of the weather.
2. Never picture thyself to thyself under any circumstances in which thou art not.
3. Never compare thine own lot with that to another.
4. Never allow thyself to dwell on the wish that this or that had been, or were, otherwise than it was, or is. God                          Almighty loves thee better and more wisely than thou dost thyself.
5. Never dwell on tomorrow. Remember that it is God’s not thine. The heaviest part of sorrow often is to look forward              to it. “The Lord will provide.”
What a provocative list! Paul’s claim to have learned the secret of contentment in Philippians issues in the next verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4.13). Contentment isn’t found in external variables. It originates from an inward sufficiency, “through Christ who strengthens me.” One more quote from E. B., “God’s chief gift of those who seek Him is Himself.” Since God in Christ cannot give us anything greater than himself, he gives us himself. It’s the secret of contentment as expressed in E. B.’s prayer:

O Eternal Truth, and True Love, and Loving Light, our God and All,
enlighten our darkness by the brightness of Thy light,
irradiate our minds by the splendor of holiness,
that in Thy Light we may see light,
that we, in turn, may enlighten others,
and kindle them with the love of Thee.

Open Thou our eyes,
that we may see wondrous things out of Thy law,
Who makest eloquent the minds and tongues of the slow of speech.
To Thee, to Thy glory, to the good of Thy Church and people,
may we labor, write, live.

Thou hast said, Lord, to Thine Apostles and Prophets,
their followers and interpreters,
“Ye are the salt of the earth.
Ye are the light of the world.”
Thou hast said it, and, by saying it, hast done it.
Grant to us, then, Lord, that we too,
like them may be preachers of heaven, sowers for eternity,
that they who read, may, by the knowledge of Thy Scriptures,
through the graveness and the weight despise the ensnaring entanglements of earth,
and be kindled with the love of heavenly good,
and the effectual earnest longing for a blessed eternity.

This be our one desire, this our prayer,
to this may all our reading and writing and all our toil tend,
that Thy Holy Name may be hallowed,
Thy Holy Will be done, as in heaven, so on earth,
Thy Holy Kingdom of grace, glory, and endless bliss,
where Thou wilt be all things in all,
may come to us.

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.