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A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness Hardcover – September, 1997
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In this important work, Burroughs shows from Scripture the great sin of thinking as the world thinks rather than thinking God's thoughts after Him. Then, realizing that right conduct is the result of right thinking, Burroughs gives us another gem in the second treatise offered here, A Heavenly Conversation, or Walk with God.The Puritans rightly discerned the relationship between a person's doctrine and their walk before God and fellow man. May the Lord use these sermons to give us the same kind of discernment in our day. May we learn to think biblically, and then may we begin to act accordingly. Author Jeremiah Burroughs was a prolific writer, highly esteemed by Puritan leaders of his day, some of whom published his writings after his death. Nearly all of his books are compilations of sermons.
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Burroughs book is nonetheless a real gem. Out of print from 1649 until now, its message needs to be read again in an age where worldliness abounds in the professing church. There are actually three treatises in one book here: the first is "A Treatise of Earthly-mindedness", the second is "A heavenly Conversation", the third is "On walking with God". Each call the believer to focus not on earthly things but on heaven. Burroughs exposes the emptiness of worldly pleasures in favor of the heavenly vision that we all should have, and in good Puritan fashion, manages to lucidly address a hundred other essential topics in passing.
The unbeliever will be left confused by this book. It will make little sense to him. Sadly, many believers will also take one look at the title and find its message too convicting for comfort. If you are ensnared by the materialism of the world, this will be good medicine for your soul.
It is not an exaggeration to say that there is more solid content in one page of Burroughs than in an entire volume by many a contemporary Christian author.
In the first part, Burroughs begins by examining the characteristics of worldliness consisting of nine particulars which I thought are keen observations of someone who understands a worldly value system (p. 7-21). If these nine items were to be condensed in one sentence of what worldliness is, it is an attitude or a lifestyle that aims for the greatest possible enjoyment of the world as the end of itself or as the goal of life. Next, the evil, or I should say the misery, of worldliness is brought up. Here is an interesting comment that though it doesn't represent all the dangers, misery and folly of worldliness, yet it gives us the idea of their essence, namely, a great hindrance to walking with God.
"When men fetter themselves in the world, and entangle themselves with an abundance of business and creature contentments, it mightily hinders their freedom in walking with God" (p.240).
Something that struck me is when Burroughs brought up worldliness being a dishonor to God and a scandal to religion as I was reminded of the promise of prosperity gospel, which is nothing but scandal to religion. "Every professor of religion should endeavor to put a luster on religion, and to make the ways of God to be beautiful, amiable, and glorious in the eyes of all who behold them. But to give a lie about a gospel profession by your earthly conversation is a very great scandal to the name of Christ that is upon you" (p. 49). And here is where I see the point of the comment about the Puritans being too much of navel-gazers, and perhaps a little too redundant and verbose. Burroughs, as if the nine characteristics of worldliness weren't enough, also adds nine additional indicators to determine whether or not one is worldly. After adequately beating up, rebuking and warning the readers, Burroughs offers precious counsels on not only how to avoid worldliness, but also to embrace a heavenly conversation Christians should live in the second and third parts of the study. Some noteworthy ones among others are the consideration of the shortness of life, the transitory and uncertain nature of riches, as well as the corollary reminder that a little will suffice to sustain us in our pilgrimage in this world (p. 76-79) which he reiterates later in the second part, "It is only a little while before you shall be with God, for Him to be all in all to your soul enjoying full communion with Him. Exercise faith; wait for it; look for it every day. Consider that it is nearer and nearer; your salvation is nearer than when you first believed" (p. 176).
But the weightier considerations and the better counsels that Burroughs offers to be set free from worldliness are by being humbled much because of our sins, and the meditation of the death of Christ from Phil 3:7-11. "Conversing much with the death of Jesus Christ deadens the heart much to the world" (p.89).
In regards to heavenly conversation and walking with God, a key question to ask, I believe, is if one can be content with so little in this world and can live such comfortable lives in the enjoyment of so little (p. 129-130). Burroughs' comment is as follows, something that might sound familiar to the readers' ears, "I truly believe that there are many poor, low people in this world whose houses are filled with more of the blessings of God in one day than many rich, great, noble men have in twenty or forty years" (p.128). But as one pays too much attention to the outward performances that display heavenly-mindedness, he also warns of the so-called a show of formality, which I thought a stinging but appropriate and necessary rebuke as I apply it to myself "So it is with hypocrites; they have a greater show of religion than many who have the truth of God and who are truly gracious. They wonder at the excellent parts that they have, excellent abilities it may be. They will discourse sometimes in an excellent manner about heavenly things. You shall find some who have no soundness at all, yet will have very excellent discourse. They speak the very language of Canaan, but it is in such company where they may gain respect by it... They have, many times, the most excellent expressions in prayer; yet God sees their hearts basely cleaving to some earthly things. There is some base, earthly contentment their hearts are upon while they seem to be so heavenly" (p.145).
A thoughtful consideration he offers on the benefit of a heavenly-mindedness is when he says that it will make suffering easy though I hesitate about the use of the word "easy," and thought "easier" is probably more appropriate. "It will be nothing to suffer anything you meet with in this world if your conversations are in heaven. All revilings, reproaches, and wrongs will be nothing if you just get a heavenly conversation. You will condemn all these things that the men of the world think to be such great matters. Men who have conversed in heaven will never be very offended for any sufferings" (2 Cor 4:17, p.160).
What I like the most about Puritans' Scripture expositions, as navel-gazing as they might be, is that they are intensely practical. They offend and rebuke my flesh. They wake me up from a dangerous slumber. Their counsels are comforting balms to the souls. While not claiming to be free from of worldliness and on the contrary, I took up this volume precisely because of my struggle with worldliness, I have to say, I appreciate greatly all these precious and practical studies from the Bible as well as the resulting warnings and counsels. I savor them thoroughly, and take them to heart most of what Pastor Burroughs brings up in this volume. I believe it would do much good for the readers as well, particularly when combined with another one of Burroughs' excellent text, "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" on Phil 4:11 related to the same issue of worldliness.