Richard Baxter on Suffering and Death

19 03 2013

Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
Thy blessèd face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet
What will Thy glory be!

Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Savior’s praise.

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.

 





Richard Baxter: How to Spend the Day with God

19 12 2011

This was written by Baxter for his parishioners as a useful guide on how to make Sunday morning relevant for the rest of the week. Some people might be a bit put off by Baxter’s apparent legalism, let me just say however that having read much of the man he is no legalist. Rather, there are certain practices that enhance the depth of grace a person experiences in their life. For example, one may experience the message of God’s grace in a conversation at a coffee shop but if that person doesn’t go back and make a habit of scripture reading then his experience of grace will likely be quite shallow. The other thing that strikes me about this little guide is how much more seriously previous generations of Christians took their journey with God than Christians in the church do today. As a final thought, I’m left wondering about young people who come to the church seeking guidance on how to grow spiritually. The church in recent decades has taken a “discover for yourself” approach becaue they think to do anything more would be arrogant. But because the young people didn’t get the guidance they were looking for, they just hop on over to new age which has NO PROBLEM giving them lists on how to spend their day. Sorry for the random asides. Check out Baxter’s list. Maybe try it out for a week and report back how it went.

A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties – with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.

Sleep
Measure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labour, and not to slothful pleasure.

First Thoughts
Let God have your first awaking thoughts; lift up your hearts to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before and cast yourself upon Him for the day which follows.

Familiarise yourself so consistently to this that your conscience may check you when common thoughts shall first intrude. Think of the mercy of a night’s rest and of how many that have spent that night in Hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonising pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives.

Think of how many souls were that night called from their bodies terrifyingly to appear before God and think how quickly days and nights are rolling on! How speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time and seek it without delay.

Prayer
Let prayer by yourself alone (or with your partner) take place before the collective prayer of the family. If possible let it be first, before any work of the day.

Family Worship
Let family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.

Ultimate Purpose
Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day’s work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do.

Do no activity which you cannot entitle God to, and truly say that he set you about it, and do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify and enjoy Him. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Diligence in Your Calling
Follow the tasks of your calling carefully and diligently. Thus:

(a) You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.
(b) You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind, that swarm in the minds of idle persons.
(c) You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.
(d) You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.
(e) You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle persons have no time for praying and reading because they lose time by loitering at their work.
(f) You may expect God’s blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.
(g) it may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul.

Temptations and Things That Corrupt
Be thoroughly acquainted with your temptations and the things that may corrupt you – and watch against them all day long. You should watch especially the most dangerous of the things that corrupt, and those temptations that either your company or business will unavoidably lay before you.

Watch against the master sins of unbelief: hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, flesh pleasing and the excessive love of earthly things. Take care against being drawn into earthly mindedness and excessive cares, or covetous designs for rising in the world, under the pretence of diligence in your calling.

If you are to trade or deal with others, be vigilant against selfishness and all that smacks of injustice or uncharitableness. In all your dealings with others, watch against the temptation of empty and idle talking. Watch also against those persons who would tempt you to anger. Maintain that modesty and cleanness of speech that the laws of purity require. If you converse with flatterers, be on your guard against swelling pride.

If you converse with those that despise and injure you, strengthen yourself against impatient, revengeful pride.

At first these things will be very difficult, while sin has any strength in you, but once you have grasped a continual awareness of the poisonous danger of any one of these sins, your heart will readily and easily avoid them.

Meditation
When alone in your occupations, improve the time in practical and beneficial meditations. Meditate upon the infinite goodness and perfections of God; Christ and redemption; Heaven and how unworthy you are of going there and how you deserve eternal misery in Hell.

The Only Motive
Whatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.

Redeeming The Time
Place a high value upon your time, be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let worthless recreations, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time.

Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life that would rob you of your time than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.

Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way that you can and do not prefer a less profitable way before one of greater profit.

Eating and Drinking
Eat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health, not for unprofitable pleasure. Never please your appetite in food or drink when it is prone to be detrimental to your health.

Remember the sin of Sodom: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness” – Ezekiel 16:49.

The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their minds on earthly things, being enemies to the cross of Christ” – Philippians 3:18-19. O then do not live according to the flesh lest you die (Romans 8:13).

Prevailing Sins
If any temptation prevails against you and you fall into any sins in addition to habitual failures, immediately lament it and confess it to God; repent quickly whatever the cost. It will certainly cost you more if you continue in sin and remain unrepentant.

Do not make light of your habitual failures, but confess them and daily strive against them, taking care not to aggravate them by unrepentance and contempt.

Relationships
Remember every day the special duties of various relationships: whether as husbands, wives, children, masters, servants, pastors, people, magistrates, subjects.

Remember every relationship has its special duty and its advantage for the doing of some good. God requires your faithfulness in this matter as well as in any other duty.

Closing the Day
Before returning to sleep, it is wise and necessary to review the actions and mercies of the day past, so that you may be thankful for all the special mercies and humbled for all your sins.

This is necessary in order that you might renew your repentance as well as your resolve for obedience, and in order that you may examine yourself to see whether your soul grew better or worse, whether sin goes down and grace goes up and whether you are better prepared for suffering, death and eternity.

May these directions be engraven upon your mind and be made the daily practice of your life.

If sincerely adhered to, these will be conducive to the holiness, fruitfulness and quietness of your life and add to you a comfortable and peaceful death.

This was adapted by Matthew Vogan and can be found in its original context here





Richard Baxter: Six Points to Avoiding Problems Between Husband and Wife

19 12 2011

Baxter was a Puritan pastor in England in the mid 1600′s. I enjoy his writings very much for his clear, pracitcal, advice on a range of Christian concerns. The following is an excerpt from a pamphlet on keeping discord out of the home. Baxter’s typical style is to begin by showing you why you should be concerned before applying practical advice. I have left that section out but you can see it if you click through. Below you will simply find six practical instructions to help a husband and wife have a peaceful relationship. I’d like to draw your attention to two of them. Baxter’s first point is that the couple should have sex a lot! (and you call him a Puritan?!?!?). Conjugal is of course merely an adjective for the state of marriage between husband and wife, however in Baxter’s context “conjugal love” plus “heat and vigor” equal sex. This is a timely word to husbands and wives in modern North America who are simply too busy to have sex. Baxter says “make time! It’s important!” The second point that I would like to draw your attention to comes under heading number 5, which simply suggests that if you get in an argument you should seek to pray with one another. I have found bringing Jesus into an argument through prayer quickly throws cold water on any heated argument (if both parties submit to the prayer that is). So enjoy this bit of advice from a long dead pastor…

(1) Keep up your conjugal love in a constant heat and vigor. Love will suppress wrath; you cannot have a bitter mind upon small provocations, against those that you dearly love; much less can you proceed to reviling words, or to averseness and estrangedness, or any abuse of one another. Or if a breach and wound be unhappily made, the balsamic quality of love will heal it. But when love once cooleth, small matters exasperate and breed distaste.

(2) Both husband and wife must mortify their pride and passion, which are the causes of impatiency; and must pray and labour for a humble, meek, and quiet spirit. A proud heart is troubled and provoked by every word or carriage that seemeth to tend to their undervaluing. A peevish, froward mind is like a sore and ulcerated member, that will be hurt if it be touched. He that must live near such a sore, diseased, impatient mind, must live even as the nurse doth with the child, that maketh it her business to rock it, and lull, and sing it quiet when it crieth; for to be angry with it, will do no good; and if you have married one of such a sick or childish temper, you must resolve to bear and use them accordingly. But no Christian should bear with such a malady in themselves; nor be patient with such impatiency of mind. Once get the victory over yourselves, and the cure of your own impatience, and you will easily keep peace with one another.

(3) Agree together beforehand, that when one is in the diseased, angry fit, the other shall silently and gently bear, till it be past and you are come to yourselves again. Be not angry both at once; when the fire is kindled, quench it with gentle words and carriage, and do not cast on oil or fuel, by answering provokingly and sharply, or by multiplying words, and by answering wrath with wrath.

(4) If you cannot quickly quench your passion, yet at least refrain your tongues; speak not reproachful or provoking words: talking it out hotly doth blow the fire, and increase the flame; be but silent, and you will the sooner return to your serenity and peace. Foul words tend to more displeasure. As Socrates said when his wife first railed at him, and next threw a vessel of foul water upon him, ‘I thought when I heard the thunder, there would come rain’; so you may portend worse following, when foul, unseeming words begin. If you cannot easily allay your wrath, you may hold your tongues, if you are truly willing.

(5) Let the sober party condescend to speak fair and to entreat the other. Say to your angry wife or husband, ‘You know this should not be betwixt us; love must allay it, and it must be repented of. God doth not approve it, and we shall not approve it when this heat is over. This frame of mind is contrary to a praying frame, and this language contrary to a praying language; we must pray together anon; let us do nothing contrary to prayer now: sweet water and bitter come not from one spring,’ etc. Some calm and condescending words of reason, may stop the torrent, and revive the reason which passion had overcome.

(6) Confess your fault to one another, when passion hath prevaileth against you; and ask forgiveness of each other, and join in prayer to God for pardon; and this will lay a greater engagement on you the next time to forbear: you will sure be ashamed to do that which you have so confessed and asked forgiveness for of God and man. If you will but practise these directions, your family peace may be preserved.

read it all here