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.

Vexations, Strong Temptations of Satan,

Especially to Melancholy Persons

Another case that needeth patience is: molesting, strong temptations of Satan, especially to afflicted, sad, discontented, and melancholy persons. As to alluring temptations to sinful love and pleasure, it is abhorrence, watchfulness, and fear that are more necessary than patience. But vexing temptations, which would draw men to murmuring, anger, malice, fear, hurtful grief, and such other sins, must be overcome by patience and watchfulness conjunct. Consider:

1. God did not think meet to keep innocent Adam and Eve, no nor Christ Himself, from being tempted. This life is appointed for trial and conflict, in order to a better. Not to be tempted, were not to be men on earth. There is no crown of glory, but to them that overcome; and no victory where there is no fight or strife. It is not force, but temptations, by which Satan conquereth the world, and which all must conquer that will be saved. Yea, Christ was tempted to the most odious crime, to worship the devil. But to be tempted is no sin of ours: resist and conquer, and it increaseth our acceptance with God, and (which some call our merit) our fitness for the reward. It may be an advantage to our own confirmed, rooted faith and holiness, and contribute to our greater glory in heaven.

2. Satan is a conquered enemy: Christ our Head was tempted that He might overcome him for us. And as He said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, AV); so we may believe and rejoice, that He hath overcome the devil, that we might overcome him. "He was tempted, that He might succour them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18).

3. All that are in heaven (that had the use of reason) came thither by overcoming of temptations on earth. And would you go a way different from them all?

4. The tempter cannot do what he will, but what God permitteth him, who hath promised to restrain, that he may not overpower us: "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Cor. 10:13, AV).

5. But alas! We commonly are guilty of giving the tempter his advantage against us. We provoke God by sin to turn him loose upon us, and we give him entertainment by long parleys with him, and by thinking over all that he hath against us, and leaving our imaginations open to his access, and oft also our eyes and ears to feed them. In these cases true repentance is needful to our deliverance from temptations. Yea, and our own mistakes, corruptions, discontents, impatience, and sinful passions are the very strength of the tempter, and he findeth within us the fire which he bloweth up. In this case, the cure must be mostly wrought upon ourselves.

6. Strong love and resolution rejoice to conquer strong temptations; as strong men love not to be tied to the work of children and women, but would have such as exerciseth their strength. It is the joy of friendship, to undergo much for a friend: "Love is strong as death; many waters cannot quench it, nor the floods drown it" (Song. 8:7, AV). If you would give all the substance of your house for love, it would be utterly contemned. Jacob will serve long and patiently for love. And when Satan showeth his malice against Christ and us, strong love would do as Samson and David by the Philistines, go out against them in Godís strength, and overcome them. And though we are weak, Godís grace is sufficient for us, and His strength is manifested in our weakness.

7. Remember who the tempter is, that you may meet his temptations with hatred and abhorrence. God in mercy put an enmity against devils into our natures, as soon as the devilís enmity had conquered man, that so we might abhor whatever we know to be from them. What if the devil appeared to you in some shape, and persuaded you to despair, or to blaspheme God, or to doubt of the life to come, or to any other sin or mischief? Would it not be a sufficient preservative to know that it is the devil that makes the motion? I do not think that the present forward servants of the devil would obey him as they do, if they saw him to be the tempter. If he brought the cup to the drunkard in a known apparition and shape, sure it would go down with terror, if at all: if he brought a harlot to the whoremongerís bed, it would cool his lust: if he appeared and persuaded the malignant to hate, deride, and persecute men for obeying God, it would sure abate their rage. And why should it not work alike in troubling temptations, when you know they come from him (which nature and fruit of them may make you know)?

8. Let temptations move you to study their confutation. Know every snare, and the remedy: God hath furnished you in Scripture with armor against all, if you will use it.

9. Long for the blessed day when the tempter and troubler shall be cast out, and never more molest the faithful soul with any motion against God or comfort.

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