Archive for the ‘Richard Baxter’ Category

Love of the World by Richard Baxter

I shall say but little on this subject now, because I have written a Treatise of it already, called “The Crucifying of the World by the Cross of Christ;” in which I have given many directions against this sin.  Understand well the nature and malignity of this sin; both what it is, and why it is so great and perilous.

Lawful Love of Creatures

All love of the creature, the world or riches, is not sin. For:

1. The works of God are all good, as such; and all goodness is worthy of love.  As they are related to God, and his power, and wisdom, and goodness are imprinted on them, so we must love them, even for his sake.

2. All the impressions of the attributes of God appearing on his works do make them as a mirror, in which at this distance we must see the Creator; and their sweetness is a drop from him; by which his goodness and love are tasted.  And so they were all made to lead us up to God and help our minds to converse with him and kindle the love of God in our breasts, as a love-token from our dearest friend; and thus, as the means of our communion with God, the love of them is a duty, and not a sin.

3. They are naturally the means of sustaining our bodies, and preserving life, and health, and alacrity; and as such, our sensitive part hath a love to them, as every beast hath to its food and this love in itself is not of a moral kind, and is neither a virtue nor a vice, till it either be used in obedience to our reason, (and so it is good,) or in disobedience to it (and so it is evil).

4. The creatures are necessary means to support our bodies, while we are doing God the service which we owe him in the world; and so they must be loved, as a means to his service; though we cannot say properly that riches are ordinarily thus necessary.

5. The creatures are necessary to sustain our bodies in our journey to heaven, while we are preparing for eternity; and thus they must be loved as indirect helps to our salvation.  And in these two last respects, we call it in our prayers “our daily bread.”

6. Riches may enable us to relieve our needy brethren and to promote good works for church or state.  And thus also they may be loved; so far as we must be thankful for them, so far we may love them; for we must be thankful for nothing but what is good.

What is Worldliness?

But worldliness, or sinful love of riches, is …

1. When riches are loved and desired, and sought more for the flesh than for God or our salvation; even as the matter or means of our worldly prosperity, that the flesh may lack nothing to please it, and satisfy its desires (Phil. 3:7-9; Jam. 1:10; Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:5; Prov. 23:4, “Labor not to be rich.”).  Or that pride may have enough wherewith to support itself, by gratifying and obliging others, and living ostentatiously, and in that splendor, as may show our greatness, or further our domination over others.

2. And when we therefore desire them in that proportion which we think most agreeable to these carnal ends, and are not contented with our daily bread, and that proportion which may sustain us as passengers to heaven, and tend most to the securing of our souls, and to the service of God.  So that it is the end by which a sinful love of riches is principally to be discerned; when they are loved for pride or flesh-pleasing, as they are the matter of a worldly, corporal felicity, and not principally for God and his service, and servants and our salvation.  And indeed, as sensualists love them, they should be hated.

When Worldliness is Predominant.

Worldliness is either predominant, and so a certain sign of death; or else mortified, and in a subdued degree, consistent with some saving grace.

Worldliness predominant, as in the ungodly, is, when men that have not a lively belief of the everlasting happiness, nor have laid up their treasure and hopes in heaven, do take the pleasure and prosperity of this life for that felicity which is highest in their esteem, and dearest to their hearts, and therefore love the riches of the world, or full provisions, as the matter and means of this their temporal felicity (Luke 14:26, 33).  Worldliness in a mortified person, is, when he that hath laid up his treasure in heaven, and practically esteemeth his everlasting hopes above all the pleasure and prosperity of the flesh, and seeketh first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and useth his estate principally for God and his salvation, hath yet some remnants of inordinate desire to the prosperity and pleasure of the flesh, and some inordinate desire of riches for that end; which yet he hateth, lamenteth, resisteth, and so far subdueth, that it is not predominant, against the interest of God and his salvation (Matt. 6:19-21,33; John 6:27; Luke 12:19, 20 18:22-23.)  Yet this is a great sin, though it be forgiven.

The malignity or greatness of this sin consisteth in these points (especially when it is predominant).

1. The love of the world, or of riches, is a sin of deliberation and not of mere temerity or sudden passion: worldlings contrive the attaining of their ends.

2. It is a sin of interest, love, and choice, set up against our chief interest: it is the setting up of a false end, and seeking that; and not only a sin of error in the means, or a seeking the right end in a mistaken way.

3. It is idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5; James 4:4) or a denying God and deposing him in our hearts and setting up his creatures in his stead, in that measure as it prevaileth.  The worldling giveth that love and that trust unto the creature, which are due to God alone; he delighteth in it instead of God and seeketh and holdeth it as his felicity instead of God: and therefore, so far as any man loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 1 John 2:15.  And the friendship of the world is enmity to God.

4. It is a contempt of heaven; when it must be neglected, and a miserable world preferred.

5. It showeth that unbelief prevaileth at the heart so far as worldliness prevaileth: for if men did practically believe the heavenly glory, and the promise thereof, they would be carried above these present things.

6. It is a debasing of the soul of man, and using it like the brutes, while it is principally set upon the serving of the flesh, and on a temporal felicity and neglecteth its eternal happiness and concernments.

7. It is a perverting of the very drift of a man’s life, as employed in seeking a wrong end, and not only of some one faculty or act: it is a habitual sin of the state and course of mind and life, and not only a particular actual sin.

8. It is a perverting of God’s creatures to an end and use clean contrary to that which they were made and given for; and an abusing God by his own gifts, by which he should he served and honored; and a destroying our souls with those mercies which were given us for their help and benefit.  This is the true character of this heinous sin.  In a word, it is the forsaking God, and turning the heart from him, and alienating the life from his service, to this present world, and the service of the flesh.  Fornication, drunken-ness, murder, swearing, perjury, lying, stealing, &c. are very heinous sins.  But a single act of one of these, committed rashly in the violence of passion, or temptation, speaketh not such a malignant turning away of the heart habitually from God, as to say a man is covetous, or a worldling.

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Direction I. Be neither unnaturally senseless at the death of friends, nor excessively dejected or afflicted.

To make light of the death of relations and friends, be they good or bad, is a sign of a very vicious nature that is so much selfish as not much to regard the lives of others.  He that regards not the lives of his friends is little to be trusted in his lesser concernments.  I speak not this of those persons whose temper allows them not to weep: for there may be as deep a regard and sorrow in some that have no tears, as in others that abound with them.  But I speak of a mischievous, selfish nature that is little affected with any one’s concernments but its own.

Yet your grief for the death of friends must be very different both in degree and kind.

  1. For ungodly friends, you must grieve for their own sakes, because if they died such, they are lost for ever.
  2. For your godly friends, you must mourn for the sake of yourselves and others, because God has removed such as were blessings to those about them.
  3. For choice magistrates, and ministers, and other instruments of public good, your sorrow must be greater, because of the common loss and the judgment thereby inflicted on the world.
  4. For old, tried Christians that have overcome the world and lived so long till age and weakness make them almost unserviceable to the church, and who groan to be unburdened and to be with Christ, your sorrow should be least and your joy and thanks for their happiness should be greatest.  But especially abhor that nature that secretly is glad of the death of parents (or little sorrowful) because that their estates are fallen to you, or you are enriched or set at liberty by their death.  God seldom leaves this sin unrevenged by some heavy judgments even in this life.

Direction II.  To overcome your inordinate grief for the death of your relations, consider these things following.

  1. Excess of sorrow is your sin: and sinning is an ill use to be made of your affliction.
  2. It tends to a great deal more: it unfits you for many duties which you are bound to as to rejoice in God and to be thankful for mercies and cheerful in his love and praise and service.  Is it a small sin to unfit yourselves for the greatest duties?  If you are so troubled at God’s disposal of his own, what does your will but rise up against the will of God; as if you grudged at the exercise of his dominion and government, that is, that he is God!  Who is wisest and best and fittest to dispose of all men’s lives?  Is it God or you?  Would you not have God to be the Lord of all, and to dispose of heaven and earth and of the lives and crowns of the greatest princes?  If you would not, you would not have him to be God.  If you would, is it not unreasonable that you or your friends only should be excepted from his disposal?
  3. If your friends are in heaven, how unsuitable is it for you to be overmuch mourning for them when they are rapt into the highest joys with Christ?  Love for them should teach you to rejoice with them that rejoice, and not to mourn as those that have no hope.
  4. You know not what mercy God showed to your friends in taking them away from the evil to come.  You know not what suffering the land or church is falling into, or at least might have fallen upon themselves, nor what sins they might have been tempted to.  But you are sure that heaven is better than earth and that it is far better for them to be with Christ.
  5. You always knew that your friends must die; to grieve that they were mortal is but to grieve that they were but men.
  6. If their mortality or death be grievous to you, you should rejoice that they are arrived at the state of immortality where they must live indeed and die no more.
  7. Remember how quickly you must be with them again.  The expectation of living on yourselves is the cause of your excessive grief for the death of friends.  If you expected yourselves to die tomorrow, or within a few weeks, you would less grieve that your friends are gone before you.
  8. Remember that the world is not for one generation only; others must have our places when we are gone.  God will be served by successive generations and not only by one.
  9. If you are Christians indeed, it is the highest of all your desires and hopes to be in heaven; and will you so grieve that your friends are gone thither, where you most desire and hope to be?

Objection. All this is reasonable, if my friend were gone to heaven: but he died impenitently, and how should I be comforted for a soul that I have cause to think is damned?

Answer. Their misery must be your grief, but not such a grief as shall deprive you of your greater joys, or disable you for your greater duties.

  1. God is fitter than you to judge of the measures of his mercy and his judgments and you must neither pretend to be more merciful than he nor to object to his justice.
  2. All the works of God are good and all that is good is amiable though the misery of the creature be bad to it, yet the works of justice declare the wisdom and holiness of God; and the more perfect we are, the more they will be amiable to us. For,
  3. God himself, and Christ, who is the merciful Savior of the world, approve of the damnation of the finally ungodly.
  4. The saints and angels in heaven do know more of the misery of the souls in hell than we do; and yet it abates not their joys.  The more perfect any is, the more he is like-minded unto God.
  5. How glad and thankful should you be to think that God has delivered yourselves from those eternal flames!  The misery of others should excite your thankfulness.
  6. Should not the joys of all the saints and angels be your joy, as well as the sufferings of the wicked be your sorrows?  Above all, the thoughts of the blessedness and glory of God himself should overtop all the concernments of the creature with you.  If you will mourn more for the thieves and murderers that are hanged than you will rejoice in the justice, prosperity, and honor of the king and the welfare of all his faithful subjects, you behave not yourselves as faithful subjects.
  7. Shortly you hope to come to heaven: mourn now for the damned, as you shall do then; or at least, let not the difference be too great, when that and not this, is your perfect state.

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Comfort is not desirable only as it pleases us, but also as it strengthens us, and helps us in our greatest duties.  And when is it more needful than in sickness, and the approach of death?  I shall, therefore, add such directions as are necessary to make our departure comfortable or peaceful at the least, as well as safe.

Direction I. Because I would make this treatise no longer than I must in order to overcome the fears of death and get a cheerful willingness to die, I desire the sick to read over those twenty considerations [in an earlier article by Baxter], and the following directions, which I have laid down in my book of “Self-Denial.”  And when the fears of death are overcome, the great impediment of their comfort is removed.

Direction II. Misunderstand not sickness as if it were a greater evil than it is; but observe how great a mercy it is that death has so suitable a harbinger or forerunner: that God should do so much before he takes us hence, to wean us from the world, and make us willing to be gone; that the unwilling flesh has the help of pain; and that the senses and appetite languish and decay, which did draw the mind to earthly things: and that we have so loud a call, and so great a help to true repentance and serious preparation!  I know to those that have walked very close with God and are always ready, a sudden death may be a mercy; as we have lately known divers holy ministers and others, that have died either after a sacrament, or in the evening of the Lord’s day, or in the midst of some holy exercise, with so little pain, that none about them perceived when they died.  But ordinarily it is a mercy to have the flesh brought down and weakened by painful sickness, to help to conquer our natural unwillingness to die.

Direction III. Remember whose messenger sickness is and who it is that calls you to die.  It is he that is the Lord of all the world who gave us the lives which he takes from us.  And it is he that must dispose of angels and men, of princes and kingdoms, of heaven and earth; and therefore there is no reason that such worms as we should desire to be excepted.  You cannot deny him to be the disposer of all things without denying him to be God: it is he that loves us and never meant us any harm in any thing that he has done to us; that he gave the life of his Son to redeem us; and therefore thinks not life too good for us.  Our sickness and death are sent by the same love that sent us a Savior and sent us the powerful preachers of his word and sent us his Spirit and secretly and sweetly changed our hearts and knit them to himself in love; which gave us a life of precious mercies for our souls and bodies and has promised to give us life eternal.  And shall we think that he now intends us any harm?  Cannot he turn this also to our good, as he has done many an affliction which we have complained about?

Direction IV. Look by faith to your dying, buried, risen, ascended, glorified Lord.  Nothing will more powerfully overcome both the poison and the fears of death, than the believing thoughts of him that has triumphed over it. Is it terrible as it separates the soul from the body?  So it did by our Lord who yet overcame it.  Is it terrible as it lays the body in the grave?  So it did by our Savior, though he saw not corruption but quickly rose by the power of his Godhead.  He died to teach us believingly and boldly to submit to death.  He was buried, to teach us not overmuch to fear a grave.  He rose a again to conquer death for us and to assure those who rise to newness of life that they shall be raised at last by his power unto glory and, being made partakers of the first resurrection, the second death shall have no power over them.  He lives as our head, that we might live by him; and that he might assure all those that are here risen with him to seek first the things that are above, that though in themselves they are dead, “yet their life is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-5).  What a comfortable word is that in John 14:19, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

Death could not hold the Lord of life; nor can it hold us against his will who has the “keys of death and hell” (Rev. 1:18).  He loves every one of his sanctified ones much better than you love an eye, or a hand, or any other member of your body, which you are not willing to lose if you are able to save it. When he ascended, he left us that message full of comfort for his followers (John 20:17) “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.”  Which, with these two following, I would have written before me on my sick bed: “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be” (John 12:26); and, “Verily, I say unto you, today shall you be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  Oh what a joyful thought should it be to a believer, to think when he is dying, that he is going to his Savior, and that our Lord is risen and gone before us to prepare a place for us and take us in season to himself (John 14:2-4).  “As you believe in God, believe thus in Christ; and then your hearts will be less troubled.”  It is not a stranger that we talk of to you but your Head and Savior that loves you better than you love yourselves, whose office it is to appear continually for you before God and at last to receive your departing souls; and into his hand it is, that you must then commend them, just as Stephen did in Acts 7:59.

Direction V. Choose out some promises most suitable to your condition, and roll them over and over in your mind, and feed and live on them by faith.  A sick man is not (usually) fit to think of very many things and therefore two or three comfortable promises to be still before his eyes may be the most profitable matter of his thoughts; such as those three which I named before.  If he be most troubled with the greatness of his sin, let it be such as these: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16); “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39); “For I will be merciful unto their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 8:12).  If it be the weakness of his grace that troubles him, let him choose such passages as these: “He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11); “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that you would” (Gal. 5:17); “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41); “All that the Father gives me, shall come to me and him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37); “The apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).  If it be the fear of death, and strangeness to the other world that troubles you, remember the words of Christ before cited in 2 Cor. 5:1-6, 8, “For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.  For we that are in this tabernacle do groan being burdened, not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.  We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.”  [And consider Paul’s own struggle:] “For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23).  [Most of all, consider heaven and its rewards:] “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth: yet, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13); “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55); “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).  Fix upon some such word or promise which may support you in your extremity.

Direction VI. Look up to God, who is the glory of heaven, and the light, and life, and joy of souls, and believe that you are going to see his face and to live in the perfect, everlasting fruition of his fullest love among the glorified. If it be delectable here to know his works, what will it be to see the cause of all?  All creatures in heaven and earth conjoined can never afford such content and joy to holy souls as God alone!  Oh if we knew him whom we must there behold, how weary should we be of this dungeon of mortality and how fervently should we long to see his face!  The chicken that comes out of the shell or the infant that newly comes out of the womb into this illuminated world of human converse receives not such a joyful change as the soul that is newly loosed from the flesh and passes from this mortal life to God.  One sight of God by a blessed soul is worth more than all the kingdoms of the earth.  It is pleasant to the eyes to behold the sun; but the sun is darkness and useless compared to his glory: “And the city had no need of the sun, nor of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23); “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads: and there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, nor light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light, and they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3-5).

If David in the wilderness so impatiently thirsted to appear before God in his sanctuary at Jerusalem (Psalm 42) then how earnestly should we long to see his glory in the heavenly Jerusalem!  The glimpse of his back parts was as much as Moses might behold (Exod. 34) yet that much put a shining glory upon his face.  The sight that Stephen had when men were ready to stone him was a delectable sight (Acts 7:55-56).  The glimpse of Christ in his transfiguration ravished the three apostles that beheld it (Matt. 17:2, 6).  Paul’s vision which rapt him up into the third heavens did advance him above the rest of mankind!  But our beatific sight of the glory of God will very far excel all this. When our perfected bodies shall have the perfect glorious body of Christ to see and our perfected souls shall have the God of truth, the most perfect uncreated light to know, what more is a created understanding capable of?  And yet this is not the top of our felicity; for the understanding is but the passage to the heart or will, and truth is but subservient to goodness: and therefore though the understanding be capable of no more than the beatific vision, yet the man is capable of more even of receiving the fullest communications of God’s love and feeling it poured out upon the heart and living in the returns of perfect love  And in this intercourse of love will be our highest joys, and this is the top of our heavenly felicity.  Oh that God would make us foreknow by a lively faith, what it is to behold him in his glory, and to dwell in perfect love and joy, and then death would no more be able to dismay us, nor should we be unwilling of such a blessed change!  But having spoken of this so largely in my “Saints’ Rest” [The Saint’s Everlasting Rest], I must stop here and refer you thither.

Direction VII. Look up to the blessed society of angels and saints with Christ and remember their blessedness and joy and that you also belong to the same society and are going to be numbered with them.  It will greatly overcome the fears of death to see by faith the joys of them that have gone before us as it will encourage a man that is to go beyond sea, if the far greatest part of his dearest friends be gone before him, and he bears of their safe arrival, and of their joy and happiness.  Those that now see the face of God are our special friends and guardians and entirely love us better than any of our friends on earth do!  They rejoiced at our conversion and will rejoice at our glorification.  And as they are better, and love us better, so therefore our love should be greater to them than to any upon earth, and we should more desire to be with them. Those blessed souls that are now with Christ were once as we are here on earth.  They were compassed with temptations and clogged with flesh and burdened with sin and persecuted by the world, and they went out of the world by sickness and death, as we must do.  And yet now their tears are wiped away, their pains and groans and fears are turned into inexpressible blessedness and joy: and would we not be with them?  Is not their company desirable?  And their felicity more desirable?  The glory of the New Jerusalem is not described to us in vain (Rev. 21 and 22).  God will be all in all there to us as the only sun and glory of that world; and yet we shall have pleasure, not only to see our glorified Redeemer, but also to converse with the heavenly society, and to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and to love and praise him in consort and harmony with all those holy, blessed spirits.  And shall we be afraid to follow where the saints of all generations have gone before us?  And shall the company of our best and most and happiest friends be no inducement to us?

Though it must be our highest joy to think that we shall dwell with God, and next that we shall see the glory of Christ, yet is it no small part of my comfort to consider that I shall follow all those holy persons that are gone before me.  And that I shall dwell with such as Enoch and Elias, and Abraham and Moses, and Job and David, and Peter and John, and Paul and Timothy, and Ignatius and Polycarp, and Cyprian and Nazianzen, and Augustine and Chrysostom and Bernard and Gerson, and Savonarola and Mirandula, and Taulerus and Kempisius, and Melancthon and Alasco, and Calvin and Bucholtzer, and Bullinger and Musculus, and Zanchy and Bucer, and Grynaeus, and Chemnitius and Gerhard, and Chamier and Capellus, and Blondel and Rivet, and Rogers and Bradford, and Hooper and Latimer, and Hildersham and Amesius, and Langley and Nicolls, and Whitaker and Cartwright, and Hooker and Bayne, and Preston and Sibbes, and Perkins and Dod, and Parker and Ball, and Usher and Hall, and Gataker and Bradshaw, and Vines and Ash, and millions more of the family of God.  (I name these for my own delight and comfort; it being pleasant to me to remember what companions I shall have in the heavenly joys and praises of my Lord.  Reader, bear with this mixture: for God will own his image when peevish contenders do deny it or blaspheme it and will receive those whom faction and proud domination would cast out, and vilify with scorn and slanders.)  How few are all the saints on earth in comparison of those that are now with Christ!  And, alas, how weak and ignorant and corrupt, how selfish and contentious and troublesome are God’s poor infants here in flesh when above there is nothing but holiness and perfection!  If knowledge, or goodness, or any excellency do make the creatures truly amiable, all this is there in the highest degree; but here, alas, how little have we!  If the love of God, or the love of us, do make others lovely to us, it is there and not here that these and all perfections flourish.  Oh how much now do I find the company of the wise and learned, the godly and sincere, to differ from the company of the ignorant, brutish, the proud and malicious, the false-hearted and ungodly rabble!  How sweet is the converse of a holy, wise, experienced Christian!  Oh then what a place is the New Jerusalem and how pleasant will it be with saints and angels to see and love and praise the Lord.

Direction VIII. That sickness and death may be comfortable to you as your passage to eternity, take notice of the seal and earnest of God even the Spirit of grace which he has put into your heart.  That which emboldened Paul and such others to groan after immortality, and to “be most willing to be absent from the body and present with the Lord,” was because God himself “wrought or made them for it, and has given them the earnest or pledge of his Spirit” (2 Cor. 5:4-8).  For this is God’s mark upon his chosen and justified ones by which they are “sealed up to the day of their redemption” (Eph. 4:33: 1:13).  And what a comfort should it be to us when we look towards heaven to find such a pledge of God within us!  If you say, I fear I have not this earnest of the Spirit; whence then did your desires of holiness arise?  What weaned you from the world, and made you place your hopes and happiness above?  Whence came your enmity to sin and opposition to it and your earnest desires after the glory of God, the prosperity of the gospel, and the good of souls?  The very love of holiness and holy persons and your desires to know God and perfectly love him do show that heavenly nature or spirit within you, which is your surest evidence for eternal life.  For that spirit was sent from heaven to draw up your hearts and fit you for it; and God does not give you such natures and desires and preparations in vain.  This also is called “The witness of the Spirit with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:15-17).  It witnesses our adoption by evidencing it as a seal or pledge gives witness to our title to that which is so confirmed to us.  The nature of every thing is suited to its use and end; God would not have given us a heavenly nature or desire if he had not intended us for heaven.

Direction IX. Look also to the testimony of a holy life since grace has employed you in seeking after the heavenly inheritance.  It is unlawful and perilous to look after any works or righteousness of your own so as to set it in whole or in part instead of Christ or to ascribe to it any honor that is proper to him; as to imagine that you are innocent or have fulfilled the law or have made God a compensation by your merits or sufferings for the sin you have committed.  But yet you must judge yourselves on your sick beds, as near as you can, as God will judge you.  And “he will judge every man according to his work;” and will recompense and reward men according to their works.  “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a little, I will make you ruler over much. Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you —for I was hungry and you fed me” (Matt. 25:21, 34).   And “He is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).

He that as a benefactor will give you that glory which you could never deserve of him on terms of commutative justice, (for so no creature can deserve any thing of God,) will yet, as a righteous governor and judge, deliver it you only on the terms of his paternal, governing, distributive justice; and all shall receive according to what they have done in the body.  And therefore you may take comfort in that evangelical righteousness which consists in your fulfilling the conditions of the new covenant, though you have no legal righteousness, but only in the merits and sacrifice of Christ.  If you are accused as being impenitent, unbelievers, or hypocrites, Christ’s righteousness will not justify you from that accusation; but only your repentance, faith, and sincerity (wrought in you by the Spirit of Christ).  If you can but show the evidence of this evangelical righteousness, Christ then will justify you against all the other accusations of guilt that can be charged on you.

Seeing therefore the Spirit has given you these evidences to difference you from the wretched world and prove your title to eternal life, if you overlook these, you resist your Comforter, and can see no other ground of comfort than every graceless hypocrite may see.  Imitate holy Paul in 2 Cor. 1:12: “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world” and in 2 Tim. 4:7-8: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.”  To look back and see that in sincerity you have gone the way to heaven is a just and necessary ground of assurance that you shall attain it.

If you say, But I have been a grievous sinner! I answer, so was Paul that yet rejoiced after in this evidence!  Are not those sins repented of and pardoned?  If you say, But I cannot look back upon a holy life with comfort, it has been so blotted and uneven!  I answer, has it not been sincere, though it was imperfect?  Did you not “first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness?”  (Matt. 6:33).  If you say, My whole life has been ungodly till now at last that God has humbled me; I answer, it is not the length of time, but the sincerity of your hearts that is your evidence.  If you came in it the last hour, if now you are faithfully devoted to God, you may look with comfort on this change at last, though you must look with repentance on your sinful lives.

Direction X. When you see any of this evidence of your interest in Christ, appeal to him to acquit you from all the sin that can be charged on you; for all that believe in him are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.  And “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, that walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).  Whatever sin a penitent believer has committed, he is not chargeable with it; Christ has undertaken to answer for it and justify him from it; and therefore look not on it with terror, but with penitent shame and believing thankfulness as that which shall tend to the honor of the Redeemer and not to the condemnation of the sinner.  He has borne our transgressions and we are healed by his stripes.

Direction XI. Look back upon all the mercies of your lives, and think whence they came and what they signify.  Love tokens are to draw your hearts to him that sent them; these are dropped from heaven, to entice you thither!  If God has been so good to you on earth, what will he be in glory!  If he so blessed you in this wilderness, what will he do in the land of promise!  It greatly emboldens my soul to go to that God that has so tenderly loved me and so graciously preserved me and so much abounded in all sorts of mercies to me through all my life.  Surely he is good that so delights to do good!  And his presence must be sweet, when his distant mercies have been so sweet!  What love shall I enjoy when perfection has fitted me for his love who has tasted of so much in this state of sin and imperfection!  The sense of mercy will banish the fears and misgivings of the heart.

Direction XII. Remember (if you have attained to a declining age) what a competent time you have had already in the world. If you are grieved that you are mortal, you might on that account have grieved all your day.  But if it be only that you die so soon, if you have lived well, you have lived long. When I think how many years of mercy I have had since I was near to death, and since many younger than I are gone and when I think what abundance of mercy I have had in all that time, candor forbids me to grudge at the season of my death and makes me almost ashamed to ask for longer life.  How long would you stay before you would be willing to come to God?  If he desired our company no more than we do his and desired our happiness in heaven no more than we desire it ourselves, we should linger here as Lot in Sodom!  Must we be snatched away against our wills and carried by force to our Father’s presence?

Direction XIII. Remember that all mankind are mortal, and you are to go no other way than all that ever came into the world have gone before you (except Enoch and Elias).  Yea, the poor brute creatures must die at your pleasure to satisfy your hunger or delight.  Beasts and birds and fishes, even many to make one meal, must die for you.  And why then should you shrink at the entrance of such a trodden path which leads you not to hell, as it does the wicked, nor merely to corruption as it does the brutes: but to live in joy with Christ and his church triumphant?

Direction XIV. Remember both how vile your body is and how great an enemy it has proved to your soul; and then you will the more patiently bear its dissolution.  It is not your dwelling-house, but your tent that God is pulling down.  And yet even this vile body, when it is corrupted, shall at last be changed “into the likeness of Christ’s glorious body, by the working of his irresistible power” (Phil. 3:20-21).  And it is a flesh that has so rebelled against the spirit and made your way to heaven so difficult and put the soul to so many conflicts, that we should more easily submit it to the will of justice, and let it perish for a time when we are assured that mercy will at last recover it.

Direction XV. Remember what a world it is that you are to leave and compare it with that which you are going to; and compare the life which is near an end, with that which you are next to enter upon.  Was it not Enoch’s reward when he had walked with God, to be taken to him from a polluted world?

  1. While you are here, you are yourselves defiled; sin is in your natures and your graces are all imperfect; sin is in your lives and your duties are all imperfect; you cannot be free from it one day or hour.  And is it not a mercy to be delivered from it?  Is it not desirable to you to sin no more?  And to be perfect in holiness?  To know God and love him as much and more than you can now desire?  You are here every day lamenting your darkness and unbelief and estrangement from God and lack of love to him.  How oft have you prayed for a cure of all this!  And now would you not have it, when God would give it you?  Why has God put that spark of heavenly life into you but to fight against sin and make you weary of it?  And yet had you rather continue sinning than have the victory and be with Christ?
  2. It is a life of grief as well as sin; and a life of cares and doubts and fears!  When you are at the worst, you are fearing worse!  If it were nothing but the fears of death itself, it should make you the more willing to submit to it, that you might be past those fears.
  3. You are daily afflicted with the infirmities of that flesh which are so unwilling to be dissolved.  To satisfy its hunger and thirst, to cover its nakedness, to provide it a habitation, and supply all its wants, what care and labor does it cost you!  Its infirmities, sicknesses, and pains, do make you oft weary of yourselves so that you “groan, being burdened,” as Paul speaks in 2 Cor. 5:3-6.  And yet is it not desirable to be with Christ?
  4. You are compassed with temptations and are in continual danger through your weakness: and yet would you not be past the danger?  Would you have more of those horrid and odious temptations?
  5. You are purposely turned here into a wilderness among wild beasts; you are as lambs among wolves and through many tribulations you must enter into heaven.  You must deny yourselves and take up your cross and forsake all that you have; for all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.  In the world, you must have trouble: the seed of the serpent must bruise your heel before God bruise Satan under your feet!  And is such a life as this more desirable than to be with Christ?  Are we afraid to land after such storms and tempests?  Is a wicked world, a malicious world, a cruel world, an implacable world more pleasing to us than the joy of angels and the sight of Christ and God himself in the majesty of his glory?  Has God on purpose made the world so bitter to us and permitted it to use us unjustly and cruelly and all to make us love it less and to drive home our hearts unto himself?  And yet are we so unwilling to be gone?

Direction XVI. Settle your estates early that worldly matters may not distract or discompose you. And if God has endowed you with riches, dispose of a due proportion to such pious or charitable uses in which they may be most serviceable to him that gave them you.  Though we should give what we can in the time of life and health, yet many that have but so much as will serve to their necessary maintenance may well part with that to good uses at their death which they could not spare in the time of their health: especially they that have no children.

Direction XVII. If it may be, get some able, faithful guide and comforter to be with you in your sickness, to counsel you, and resolve your doubts, and pray with you, and discourse of heavenly things when you are disabled by weakness for such exercises yourselves.  Let not carnal persons disturb you with their vain babblings.  Though the difference between good company and bad be very great in the time of health, yet now in sickness it will be more discernible.  And though a faithful friend and spiritual pastor be always a great mercy, yet now especially in your last necessity.  Therefore make use of them as far as your pain and weakness will permit.

Direction XVIII. Be fortified against all the temptations of Satan by which he uses to assault men in their extremity: stand it out in the last conflict and the crown is yours!

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I shall say but little here of this subject, because I have already treated so largely of it, in my book of “Self-denial,” and in that of “Crucifying the World;” and here before in chap. 4 part. 6, against worldliness and flesh-pleasing, and here against sinful love, which is the cause.

How sinful desires may be known, you may gather from the discoveries of sinful love: as,

  1. When you desire that which is forbidden you.
  2. Or that which will do you no good, upon a misconceit that it is better or more needful than it is.
  3. Or when you desire it too eagerly, and must needs have it, or else you will be impatient or discontented, and cannot quietly be ruled and disposed of by God, but are murmuring at his providence and your lot.
  4. Or when you desire it too hastily, and cannot stay God’s time.
  5. Or else too greedily as to the measure, being not content with God’s allowance, but must needs have more than he thinks fit for you.
  6. Or especially when your desires are perverse, preferring lesser things before greater; desiring bodily and transitory things more than the mercies for your souls which will be everlasting.
  7. When you desire any thing ultimately and merely for the flesh, without referring it to God, it is a sin. Even your daily bread, and all your comforts, must be desired but as provender for your horse, that he may the better go his journey, even as provision for your bodies, to fit them to the better and more cheerful service of your souls and God.
  8. Much more when your desires are for wicked ends, (as to serve your lust, or pride, or covetousness, or revenge,) they are wicked desires.
  9. And when they are injurious to others.

Direction I. Be well acquainted with your own condition, and consider what it is that you have most need of; and then you will find that you have so much grace and mercy to desire for your souls, and that you have a Christ to desire, and an endless life with God to desire, that it will quench all your thirst after the things below. This, if any thing, will make you wiser, when you see you have greater things to mind. A man that is in present danger of his life, will not be solicitous for pins or trinkets: and the hopes of a lordship or a kingdom will cure the desire of little things: a man that needeth a physician for the dropsy or consumption, will scarce long for children’s balls or tops. A man that is going to heaven or hell should have greater things than worldly things to long for.

Oh what a vain and doting thing is a carnal mind which has pardon, and grace, and Christ and heaven, and God, to think of, and that with speed before it be too late; and can forget them all, or not regard them, and eagerly long for some little inconsiderable trifle. [It is] as if they said, I must needs taste of such a dish before I die; I must needs have such a house, or a child, or friend, before I go to another world. Oh study what need your distressed soul has of Christ, and of peace with God, and preparation for eternity, and what need your darkened mind has of more knowledge, and your dead and carnal heart of more life, and tenderness, and love to God, and communion with him. Feel these as thou hast cause, and the eagerness of your carnal desires will be gone.

Direction II. Let every sinful desire humble you, for the worldliness and fleshliness which it discovereth to be yet unmortified in you; and turn your desires to the mortifying of that flesh and concupiscence which is the cause. If you did not yet love the world, and the things that are in the world, you would not be so eager for them. If you were not too carnal, and did not mind too much the things of the flesh, you would not be so earnest for them as you are. It should be a grievous thing to your hearts to consider what worldliness and fleshliness this shows to be yet there. That you should set so much by the creature, as to be unable to bear the want of it; is this renouncing the world and flesh? The thing you need is a better heart—to know the vanity of the creature, to be dead to the world, and to be able to bear the want or loss of any thing in it; and a fuller mortification of the flesh: mortifying and not satisfying it, is your work.

Direction III. Ask your hearts seriously whether God in Christ be enough for them, or not? If they say, no, then renounce him and all hope of heaven; for no man takes God for his God that takes him not for his portion, and as enough for him: if they say, yea, then you have enough to stop the mouth of your fleshly desires, while your hearts confess that they have enough in God. Should that soul that has a filial interest in God, and an inheritance in eternal life, be eager for any conveniences and contentments to the flesh? If God is not enough for you, you will never have enough. Turn to him more, and know him better, if you would have a satisfied mind.

Direction IV. Remember that every sinful desire is a rebelling of your will against the will of God; and that it is his will that must govern and dispose of all, and your wills must be conformed to his; yea, that you must take pleasure and rest in the will of God. Reason the case with your hearts, and say, Who is it that is the governor of the world? And who is to rule me and dispose of my affairs? Is it I or God? Whose will is it that must lead, and whose must follow? Whose will is better guided, God’s or mine? Either it is his will that I shall have what I desire, or not if it be, I need not be so eager, for I shall have it in his time and way; if it be not his will, is it fit for me to murmur and strive against him? Remember that your discontents and carnal desires are so many accusations brought in against God; as if you said, Thou hast not dealt well or wisely, or mercifully by me; I must have it better: I will not stand to your will and government; I must have it as I will, and have the disposal of myself.

Direction V. Observe how your eager desires are condemned by yourselves in your daily prayers. If you pray that the will of God may be done, why does your will rebel against it, and your desires contradict your prayers? And if you ask no more than your daily bread, why thirst you after more? But if you pray as you desire, Lord, let my will be done, and my selfish, carnal desire be fulfilled, for I must needs have this or that; then what an abominable prayer is this! Desire as you must pray.

Direction VI. Bethink you how unfit you are to be the choosers of your own condition. You foresee not what that person, or thing, or place will prove to you, which you so eagerly desire: for aught you know it may be your undoing, or the greatest misery that ever befell you. Many a one has cried with Rachel, “Give me children or else I die,” Gen. 30:1, that have died by the wickedness and unkindness of their children. Many a one has been violent in their desires of a husband or a wife, that afterwards have broken their hearts, or proved a greater affliction to them than any enemy they had in the world. Many a one has been eager for riches, and prosperity, and preferment, that has been ensnared by them, to the damnation of his soul. Many a one has been earnest for some office, dignity, or place of trust, which has made it a great increaser of his sin and misery. And it is flesh and self that is the eager desirer of things that are against the will of God, and nothing is so blind and partial as self and flesh.

You think not your child a competent judge of what is best for him, and make not his desires, but your own understanding, the guide and rule of your dealings with him. And are you fitter choosers for yourselves in comparison of God, than your child is in comparison of you? Either you take God for your Father, or you do not. If you do, is he not wise and good enough to dispose of you, and to determine what is best for you, and to choose for you?

Direction VII. Remember that it is one of the greatest plagues on this side hell, to be given up to our own desires, and that by your eagerness and discontents you provoke God thus to give you up. “So I gave them up to their own heart’s lust, and they walked in their own counsels: Oh that my people had hearkened to me!” &c. Psalm. 81:12. “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts,” &c. Rom. 1:24, 26. “For this cause God gave them up to vile affections,” verse 28. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient,” 2 Thess. 2:10-l2. God may give you that which you so eagerly desire, as he gave “Israel a king, even in his anger,” Hosea. 13:10,11. Or as he gave the Israelites “their own desire, even flesh which he rained upon them as dust, and feathered fowls as the sand of the sea; they were not estranged from their lust but while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them,” Psalm. 78:27, 29-31. “They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert, and he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls,” Psalm. 106:14,15. God may say, Follow your own lust, and if you are so eager, take that which you desire; take that person, that thing, that dignity which you are so earnest for; but take my curse and vengeance with it: never let it do you good, but be a snare and torment to you.

Direction VIII. Take heed lest concupiscence and partiality entice you to justify your sinful desires and take them to be lawful. For if you do so, you will not repent of them, you will not confess them to God, nor beg pardon of them, nor beg help against them, nor use the means to extinguish them; but will cherish them, and be angry with all that are against them, and love those tempters best that encourage them: and how dangerous a case is this! And yet nothing is more ordinary among sinners, than to be blinded by their own affections, and think that they have sufficient reason to desire that which they do desire. And affection maketh them very witty and resolute to deceive themselves. It setteth them on studying all that can be said to defend their enemy, and put a deceitful gloss upon their cause. Try your desires well.

Question 1—Is the thing that you desire a thing that God has hid, or promised in his word to give you, (as grace, Christ, and heaven)? If it be so, then desire it, and spare not; but if not so,

Question 2—Why then are you so eager for it when you should at most have but a submissive, conditional desire after it?

Question 3—Nay, is it not something which you are forbidden to desire? If so, dare you excuse it?

Direction IX. Remember that concupiscence or sinful desire is the beginning of all sin of commission, and leadeth directly to the act. Theft, adultery, murder, fraud, contention, and all such mischiefs, begin in inordinate desires. For “every one is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed: then when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death,” James 1:14, 15. By “lust” is meant, any fleshly desire or will; therefore when the apostle forbiddeth gluttony and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, strife and envying, he strikes at the root of all in this one word, “make no provision for the flesh to satisfy its lusts,” (or wills,) Rom. 13:13, 14.

Direction X. Promise not yourselves long life, but live as dying men, with your grave and winding-sheet always in your eye; and it will cure your thirst after the creature when you are sensible how short a time you must enjoy it, and especially how near you are unto eternity. This is the apostle’s method, 1 Cor. 7:29-31, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use the world, as not abusing it (or as if they used it not): for the fashion of this world passeth away.” So you will desire as if you desired not, when you perceive well how quickly the thing desired will pass away.

Direction XI. In all your desires, remember the account as well as the thing desired. Think not only what it is now at hand, but what account you must make to God of it; “for to whom men give or commit much, of them they require the more,” Luke 12:48. Will you thirst after more power, more honour, more wealth, when you remember that you have the more to give account of? Matt. 25. Have you not enough to reckon for already, unless you had hearts to use it better?

Direction XII. When your desires are over eager, bethink you of the mercies which you have received already and do possess. Has God done so much for you, and are you still calling for more, even of that which is unnecessary, when you should he giving thanks for what you have? This unthankful greediness is an odious sin. Think what you have already for soul and body, estate and friends; and will not all this quiet you, unless you have [some] other lust or fancy satisfied?

Direction XIII. Understand how little it will satisfy you, if God should give you all that you earnestly desire. When you have it, it will not quiet you, nor answer your expectations. You think it will make you happy, and be exceeding sweet to you; but it deceiveth you, and you promise yourselves you know not what, and therefore desire you know not what. It would be to you but like a dreaming feast, which would leave you hungry in the morning, Isa. 29:8.

Direction XIV. Consider that your desires do but make those wants a burden and misery to you which otherwise would be none. Thirst makes the want of drink a torment, which to another is no pain or trouble at all. The lustful wanton is ready to die for love of the desired mate which nobody else cares for, nor is ever the worse for being without. A proud ambitious Haman thinks himself undone if he be not honoured, and is vexed if he be but cast down into the mean condition of a farmer; when many thousand honest, contented men live merrily and quietly in as low a condition. It is men’s own desires, and not their real wants, which do torment them.

Direction XV. Remember that when you have done all, if God loves you, he will be the chooser, and will not grant your sick desires, but will correct you for them till they are cured. If your child cry for a knife, or anything that would hurt him, you will quiet him with the rod if he give not over. And it is a sign some rod of God is near you, when you are sick for this, or that, or the other thing, and will not be quiet and content unless your fancy and concupiscence be humoured.

These “Directions” have been edited, and some have been omitted where the directions were redundant or very similar in the original.

The current formatting and editing is copyrighted by Jim Ehrhard, 1999. You are permitted to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author; (2) any modifications are clearly marked; (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction; and (4) you do not make more than 100 copies without permission. If you would like to post this material to your web site or make any use other than as defined above, please contact Teaching Resources International

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