[Here we continue our reprint of Chapter 2 from Richard Baxter's classic tome A Christian Directory.1 This chapter consists of twenty directions to (as Mr. Baxter says) "young Christians or beginners in religion, for their establishment and safe proceeding." Though these studies were written specifically for "young" Christians, I think that you will find (as I have), there is much in here worthy of meditation also for those who have been walking with God for many years.]--Ed.
Direction XX - God As All
See that your religion be purely divine, and animated all by God, as the beginning, the way and the end; and that first upon thy soul, and then upon all that thou hast or dost, there be written "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD;" and that thou corrupt not all with an inordinate hypocritical respect to man.
To be holy is to be devoted to God, and appropriated to Him, and His will and use; and that our hearts and lives be not common and unclean. To be godly is to live to God, as those that from their hearts believe that He is God indeed, and that "He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him," (Heb. 11:6, KJV); that He is "our God all-sufficient, our shield and exceeding great reward," (Heb. 11:6; Gen. 15:1 ; 17:1, KJV); and that "of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things," that all may give the glory forever unto Him (Rom. 11:36, KJV). As God is infinitely above all creatures, so living upon God, and unto God, must needs advance us above the highest sensual life, and therefore religion is transcendently above all sciences or arts. So much of God as is in you and upon you, so much you are more excellent than that highest worldly perfection can advance you to. God should be the First, and Last, and All in the mind, and mouth, and life of a believer. God must be the principal matter of your religion. The understanding and will must be exercised upon Him. When you awake you should be still with Him (see Ps. 139:8). Your meditations of Him should be sweet, and you should be glad in the Lord (see Ps. 104:34). God must be author of your religion; God must institute it, if you expect He should accept it and reward it. God must be the rule of your religion, as revealing His will concerning it in His word. God must be the ultimate end of your religion; it must be intended to please and glorify Him. God must be the continual motive and reason of your religion, and of all you do; you must be able truly to fetch your reason from heaven, and to say, "I do it because it is His will; I do it to please, and glorify, and enjoy Him." God must be taken as the Sovereign Judge of your religion, and of you, and of all you do; and you must wholly look to his justification and approbation, and avoid whatever He condemneth. Can you take God for your Owner, your Sovereign, your Saviour, sufficient Protector, your Portion, your All? If not, you cannot be godly, nor be saved: if His authority have not more power upon you, than the authority of the greatest upon earth, you are atheistical hypocrites, and not truly religious, whatever you pretend. If "holiness to the Lord" be written upon you (see Ex. 39:30), and all that is yours, you are devoted to Him and His own peculiar ones. If your names be set upon your sheep, or plate, or clothes, you will say, if another should take them, "They are mine: do you not see my mark upon them?" Slavery to the flesh, the world, and the devil, is the mark that is written upon the ungodly (upon the foreheads of the profane, and upon the hearts of hypocrites and all); and Satan, the world, and the flesh have their service. If you are consecrated to God, and bear His name and mark upon you, tell every one that would lay claim to you, that you are His, and resolved to live to Him, to love Him, to trust Him, and to stand or fall to Him alone. Let God be the very life, and sense and end of all you do.
When once man hath too much of your regard and observation, that you set too much by his favour and esteem, or eye Him too much in your profession and practice; when man's approbation too much comforteth you, and man's displeasure or dispraise doth too much trouble you; when your fear, and love, and care, and obedience are too much taken up for man; you so far withdraw yourselves from God, and are becoming the servants of men, and friends of the world, and turning back to bondage, and forsaking in our Rock and Portion, and your excellency; the soul of religion is departing from you, and it is dying and returning to the dust. And if once man get the pre-eminence of God, and be preferred and set above Him in your hearts or lives, and feared, trusted, and obeyed before Him, you are then dead to God, and alive to the world; and as men are taken for your gods, you must take up with such a salvation as they can give you. If your alms and prayer are done to be seen of men, and to procure their good thoughts and words; if you get them, make your best of them, "for verily," your Judge hath said unto you, "you have your reward," (Matt. 6:1-3, KJV).
Not that man is absolutely to be contemned or disregarded. No; under God, your superiors must be obeyed; you must do wrong to none, and do good to all, and as far as in you lieth, you must avoid offence, and give good example, and, under God have so much regard to men, as to become all things to all men for their salvation. But if once you set them above their rank, and turn yourselves to an inordinate dependence on them, and make too great a matter of their opinion or words concerning you, you are losing your godliness or divine disposition, and turning it into man-pleasing and hypocrisy. When man stands in competition with God, for your first and chief regard, or in opposition to Him or as a sharer in co-ordination with Him, and not purely subordination to Him, He is to be numbered with things to be forsaken. Even good men, whom you must love and honour, and whose communion and help you must highly value, yet may be made the object of your sin, and may become your snare. Your honouring of them, or love to them, must not entice you to desire inordinately to be honoured by them, nor cause you to set too much by their approbation. If you do, you will find that while you are too much eyeing you are losing God, and corrupting your religion at the very heart. And you may fall among those that, how holy soever, may have great mistakes in matters of religion, tending to much sin, and may be somewhat censorious against those that are not of their mind; and so the retaining of their esteem, and the avoiding of their censures, may become one of the greatest temptations of your lives. And you will find that man-pleasing is a very difficult and yet unprofitable task. Love Christ as He appeareth in any of His servants, and be followers of them as they are followers of Christ and regard their approbation as it agreeth with Christ's: but O see that you are able to live upon the favour of God alone, and to be quieted in His acceptance, though man despise you; and to be pleased so far as God is pleased, though man be displeased with you; and to rejoice in His justification, though men condemn you with the odiousest slanders and the greatest infamy, and cast out your names as evil-doers. See that God be taken as enough for you, or else you take Him not as your God; even as enough without man, and enough against man; that you may be able to say, "If God be for us, who can be against us? Who is He that condemneth? It is God that justifieth" (Rom. 8:31,33,34, KJV). "Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ," (Gal. 1:10, KJV). "Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath the desert, and shall not see when good cometh. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (Jer. 17:5-8, KJV). "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa. 2:22, KJV).
Having given you these directions, I must tell you in the conclusion, that they are like food, that will not nourish you by standing on your table, or like physic, that will not cure you by standing in the box: they must be taken and digested, or you will find none of the benefit. It is not the reading of them that will serve the turn to so great use, as the safe proceeding and confirmation of beginners or novices in religion; it will require humility to perceive the need of them; and labour to learn, digest, and practice them. Those slothful souls, that will refuse the labour, must bear the sad effects of their negligence; there is not one of all these directions, as to the matter of them, which can be spared. Study them, understand them, and remember them, as things that must be done. If either a senselessness of your necessity, or a conceit that the spirit must do it without so much labour and diligence of your own, do prevail with you, to put off all these with a mere approbation, the consequence may be sadder than you can yet foresee. Though I suppose you to have some beginnings of grace, I must tell you, that it will be comparatively a bad kind of life, to be erroneous, and scandalous, and troublesome to the church, or full of trouble, and fears, and passions, and to be burdensome to others and yourselves! Yea, it is reason that you be very auspicious of your sincerity, if you desire not to increase in grace, and be not willing to use the means which are necessary to your increase. He is not sincere, that desireth not to be perfect; and he desireth not sincerely, who is not willing to be at the labour and cost, which is necessary to the obtaining of the thing desired. I beseech you, therefore, as you love the happiness of prudent, strong, and comfortable Christians, and would escape the misery of those grievous diseases, which would turn lives into languishing, unserviceableness, and pain; that you seriously study these directions, and get them into your minds, and memories, and hearts; and let the faithful practice of them be your greatest care, and the constant employment of your lives.