Old Testament Study:
A Classic Study:
Patience in Affliction
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A Classic Study by Richard Baxter (1615Ė1691)
[Here, we continue a reprint of excerpts from Richard Baxterís work entitled Obedient Patience.† In each article, Mr. Baxter gives advice on how to be patient through a specific type of affliction.]óEd.
The Loss of Teachers,
and Suitable Means of Grace and Salvation - II
(This study is continued from the previous issue.† Mr. Baxter is enumerating considerations pertaining to the loss of godly teachers)
4.† When God taketh teachers from one people (before death) he usually sends them to another; and it proveth oft to the advantage of the church.† When the disciples were all driven away from Jerusalem, they went preaching the gospel into all countries about.† Persecution drove the apostles all over the world:† it sent Paul to Rome, to preach it at the doors of Nero.† When he and Barnabas were driven from one city, they carried the gospel to another.† Persecution had a great hand in sending the gospel to most nations in the world that had it.† Yea, the very banishment of Nestorius, Dioscorus, and such others, as heretics, for some forms of speech, had a great hand in the sending of Christianity into Persia, India, and many remote parts of the east, south, and north; and of late to New England, and other plantations in America, it was sent by the prelates an other rulers from this land.† A captive maid, it is said, began the conversion of the Iberians; as Frumentius and Edesius did of the Indians (or rather, planted a ministry in Habassia, miscalled India, which before had none but lay Christians since the eunuchís days).
And every good Christian is of a public spirit, and loveth Christís greatest interest with the greatest love, and therefore loveth the church and the word better than himself, or his native soil.† Why then should we not the more patiently bear the loss of those labourers, whom God sends to do greater work abroad?† Is it like that Mr. John Elliot would ever have done half the good in England that he hath done in America?† We pray that Godís name may be hallowed, and His kingdom come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and England is a very little part of the earth.
5.† We must have our time of rest with Christ, when we have had our time of labour.† If God call home His servants to Himself, rejoice with them that there rejoice, ďand have fought a good fight, and have finished their course, and do receive the crown of righteousnessĒ (II Tim. 4:7); grudge them not their rest and happiness.† God sent them hither to work, run, and fight, and not to reign or long abide.† Remember that James, who hoped to sit next to Christ in His kingdom on earth, was so quickly taken from His apostleship; but he had his petition to be near to Christ in a better manner than he desired:† and Stephen and he did more in service for Christ by the way they died, than most others do by living long.† The foundation of the Church was to be laid in blood; and none is too precious for so great a work, for which Christís blood was not too precious.
6.† Ministers are not idle or useless when they are silenced:† they are praying for the Church, and they are lights in the houses and company where they come, and Christ disdained not oft to preach to one woman or man; as John 4, 9, etc.† And some of them publish Godís truth by writing, and that to a far greater extent and number than ever they could have by voice.† The word of God is not bound, when we are bound.
7.† Yea, the silence and sufferings of Christís faithful ministers, do powerfully preach:† it maketh men see the evil of that proud, malignant spirit, which hateth such men, and cannot endure them.† The vulgar are hardly brought to wisdom by mere words, or to know the difference between good and evil, till by sense and experience they feel and taste the several fruits.† The cured blind man (see John 9) could quickly discern that God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a true worshipper of God, him He heareth; and that he must needs be of God that could open his eyes; and that therefore those men were not of God that hated and persecuted him that did so much good.† The vulgar hate ungodly religious leaders far more for persecution, than for any doctrinal error in their religion.† And when long experience hath assured them that the persecuted ministers preached the true gospel of Jesus Christ with great plainness, seriousness, and love to souls, and that they sought no worldly gain or honour but menís salvation, and that they lived as they preached; and when they see that it is this very sort of men that some bend their malice against, and study to extirpate, silence, and destroy; and that godliness and conscience is the intolerable enemy which they would drive out of the land; and that the most wicked, sensual, filthy, debauched, unconscionable malignants, are their agents, and the men that they employ and trust, who will obey them before God, and against Him; this loudly tells the people what they are; and by their fruits, wolves, thorns, and thistles are known:† they can tell whose servants they are by their works, better than by their livery, clothing, or names.† To hinder the gospel and good of souls, and make the godly hated, scorned, persecuted people, and cause men of no conscience to be better thought of, is the devilís work, yea, his chiefest work in the world.† And they are so far his servants that do it, by what names or titles soever they be called.† And as human nature hateth cruelty, and Christianity hateth ungodliness, malignity, and persecution, so these works do effectually preach to the people, and tell them who are their friends, and who their foes; what to love, and what to hate.
8.† God will do His work by others when we are dead and gone.† Successive generations must partake of His mercies, and do His service here, and not the same men still continue.† And when we grow dull with age and weakness, young men of greater vigour and alacrity shall succeed us.
9.† And it hath hitherto been Godís way to carry on His work with great changes and variety in the world.† As He causeth winter and summer, nights and days, so His Church hath had hitherto its turns of prosperity and adversity.† And prosperity hath increased the number of Christians, and adversity hath tried them, and increased the grace of those that persevere.
10.† It is more our diligence and faithful use of means, by which we grow in grace, than by the enjoyment of the best, if we be slothful under it:† and sometimes God seeth that fullness breedeth wantonness and loathing, and like foolish children we play with our meat, or quarrel about it; and then it is time to take it away, and let fasting help us to a better appetite.† I have known those that when they lived among the ignorant, and could hardly hear a good sermon without going divers miles for it, and hardly borrow a good book, and rarely speak with a serious Christian, were so hungry, affectionate, and diligent, that they evidently profited very much; but when they came where they had variety, choice, and fulness of teachers, books, and religious converse, some grew more notional, worldly, and cold; and some self-conceited, proud, and quarrelsome; and some downright heretical or schismatical.† And do we need any more to justify the afflicting providence of God in taking away, and silencing ministers, than the sad review of our common miscarriages?† Have not pious ministers been disgracefully guilty of overvaluing their own judgments and opinions, and laying life and death on words they understood not, and raising hatred, censures, and contempt against their brethren that differed from them, though wiser and better than themselves?† We have heard with grief what unchristian contentions there have long been in all lands, among Protestants called Lutherans and Calvinists, and how oft the former have persecuted the latter.† We have heard of late, how some represent Calvinists, as if they were as bad as heathens; and some in the pulpits say, ĎThe religion of the Arminians is the religion of the devil.í† If none of these speak the words of truth or charity, nor know either what they say, or what manner of spirit they are of; is it not just with God to silence them all?† What dreadful work hath the interest and controversies of diocesans, liturgy, and ceremonies here made!† And when we cannot bear with one another, it is just with God to bear with none of us.† How long have episcopal, presbyterians, independents, and anabaptists been censuring, condemning, and some of them persecuting one another; and been teaching the people to believe that those that they accuse deserve it!† And if we thus show that we all deserve it, how can we open our mouths against Godís justice if He reject us all?
11.† And when God taketh away health, strength, and life from the aged, they must be thankful that they enjoyed them so long, and consider how they used them while they had them; so when He taketh away ministers and public helps, we must be thankful that we had so long peaceable enjoyment of them, and consider whether it be not for our abuse, that we are deprived of them.
12.† God is not tied to outward helps, though He tie us to them while we may have them.† If He take them from us, He can give us that grace in our secret closets, which we had in the public assemblies; and we may expect His assistance and blessing in any means which He appointeth us to use.