A Classic Study by Richard Baxter (1615–1691)

[Here, we continue a reprint of excerpts from Richard Baxter’s work entitled Obedient Patience. In each article, Mr. Baxter gives advice on how to be patient through a specific type of affliction.]—Ed.

 

Injuries from Malicious Enemies - II

(Continued from the previous issue)

 

But when you have made sure that you suffer not as evil-doers, upon mistake, but for your duty and for righteousness, consider these following reasons for your patience.

1. If you believe not that anything is done against you by man, but what falls under the overruling, disposing will and providence of God, you deny His government, and are unfit to do or suffer. Though God caused none of the malice and sin of the murderers of Christ, yet as to the effect of their free, sinful volitions, there was nothing done but what God’s counsel fore-determined for the redemption of the world: and if you believe this, dare you impatiently grudge at the providence of God?

2. Though you are innocent towards your persecutors, and you suffer for well-doing, you are not innocent towards God, who may use bad men for just chastisement.

3. It is an unspeakable mercy to have unavoidable, deserved sufferings to be made the sanctified means of your salvation, and to be forever rewarded for bearing that which else would have been but the foretaste of hell. Sin brought unavoidable pain and death on all mankind. No power, or policy, or price can save you from it. If you deny Christ and sell heaven to save your lives, you shall die for all that; and he that so saveth his life shall lose it, and lose his soul also by such self-saving. "It is appointed to all men once to die, and after that the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). A martyr doth but die, and so doth his persecutor; and death to the ungodly is the door of hell. And is it not a marvellous mercy that suffering but the same death in faith and hope, and obedience for Christ, and for your duty, shall procure you a crown of glory? Even as the same outward blessings, which to the wicked are but the fuel of sin and hell, are by believers improved for grace and glory; so is it also with the case of suffering. And what a terror is it to conscience, when the sentence of death shall be passed upon you, to think, "Now that life is at an end, which I sold my soul to save, oh that I had rather chosen to die for duty, than by my sin: this death would then have been the entrance into heaven, but is now the entrance into misery." This made many dying Christians in Cyprians’ charge to be hardly comforted, because they had not died martyrs, that death might have been a double gain to them. Is it not better to have a glorious reward for dying, than die for nothing?

4. It is no small benefit to be called out to the exercise of that which everyone who will be saved must resolve on, and be prepared for: that we may not be deceived, but know by experience, whether we are sincere or not. Whatever worldly hypocrites think, Christ was in good earnest when He said, "He that forsaketh not all that he hath, even life itself, cannot by my (sincere) disciple," (Luke 14:26,30,33). Holiness here, and heaven hereafter, is that which Christ came to procure for His own, and that which all must choose and trust to as their hope and portion, that will be His. Worldings never make this choice, but being doubtful of the life to come, prefer the present prosperity of the flesh, and will be religious only in subordination thereto, and hope for heaven (if there be any life to come) but as a reserve and second good, because they cannot keep the world: which they will not lose for the hope of heaven, as long as they can keep it, but will rather venture their souls than bodies. This being the true difference between the faithful and the worldly hypocrite, all that will be saved must be such as would let go life, and all the world, rather than by willful sin to forfeit their salvation, if they were called to it: though all be not actually put upon the trial, and seeing it is so easy for a prosperous man to profess Christianity with a worldly mind, and say that he would rather die than willfully sin, being in hope that he shall never be put to it; it is a great advantage to our assurance of salvation, to find that we can suffer in a time of trial, and so that our resolution was not false; for so far as any man loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him. The heat of persecution withereth the corn that groweth on the rocks. They are offended and go sorrowful away, because they cannot make sure both of earth and heaven. And as the faithful have the fullest proof of their sincerity in the greatest sufferings, no wonder if they have the greatest comfort. No reasoning will so fully answer all their fears and doubts, whether they are sincere, and should not forsake Christ in suffering.

5. Believers should much more pity their persecutors than themselves. If a madman in Bedlam should spit in your face, would you have your action against him, or would you be sorry for him? They are preparing fuel for themselves in hell, while they make a purgatory for you on earth. O think who it is that ruleth them, and how he will reward them, and how dear they will pay for this forever, without conversion; and pray God to have mercy on them in time. If the righteous be scarcely saved, and must suffer before they reign, where shall the ungodly and sinners appear? "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you that are troubled, rest with Christ" (II Thess. 1:6,7). Do but believe that dreadful reckoning of their day that is coming, when in vain they will wish the hills to cover them, and shall receive according to their works, and then you will rather weep over their foreseen misery, than make too great a matter of your suffering by them. They know nothing but present things, like beasts; but you foreknow things to come. God beareth with them, because He knoweth that their day is coming.

6. And remember, that if you suffer for Christ and righteousness, the wrong is much more to Him than to you: and He will judge them that do but neglect His servants, much more that persecute them, as doing it all against Himself: and the cause and interest being much more His than yours, cast it upon Him, and trust Him with His own cause. Who is to be trusted if He be not? And when is He to be trusted, if not when we suffer for Him? An honest master would bear out his servant who suffereth for obeying him, and will not Christ? Do you think that Christ will be too slow, or deal too gently in His revenge? Sure you would wish no greater punishment to persecutors than He hath threatened. It were better a millstone were hanged about their neck, and they cast into the sea, who offend but His little ones. On whom this stone falls, it will grind him to powder.

7. The promises made to them that patiently suffer for well-doing are so many and great. I will not recite them, supposing you cannot be ignorant of them. And do you not believe the word of Christ? He hath bound Himself to save you harmless, and to be with you in your sufferings, and never to fail you nor forsake you; and to give you for all that you lose for him a hundredfold (in value) in this world, and in the world to come, eternal life. If we trust these promises, undoubtedly our patience and choice will show it. He that is offered a lordship in a foreign land, if he will leave his native land and friends where he liveth in poverty or prison, if he trust the promiser, will leave all and go with him; but if he dare not venture, he doth not trust him.

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