A Classic Study:
Patience in Affliction
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[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.
When God Does Not Bless the Labors of
Our Callings - II, by Richard Baxter
[Continued from the June/July 2003 issue.]
II.† The second cause of frustration is to have children and servants who follow not our Lord.† I confess it is a grievous case to bring up children who will be slaves of Satan, plagues to the church, and firebrands in hell; and to speak to them in vain, as blocks or mad-men.† But good men have lived comfortably that had bad children:† Adam had a Cain, Noah had a Ham, Abraham had an Ishmael, Isaac had an Esau, Jacobís sons greatly sinned; Eli had a Hophni and Phinehas, Samuelís sons forsook their fatherís way; David had an Amnon and an Absalom, Solomon had a Rehoboam, Hezekiah had a Manasseh, Job justly feared his sonsí forgetting God in their fullness, and lost them in it:† Christ saith, the son shall be against the father (see Matt. 13:12).†
And if you have but one good child, you owe great thanks to God for that.† If a minister must not deny God his thanks, nor himself his comforts, though most of his flock prove obstinate and perish; neither must parents be unthankful or uncomfortable, if most of their children should be obstinate and perish, if God permit it, who hath more interest in them than you have; you must submit, and take comfort in your good desires and faithful duty:† but oh see carefully that you neglect not love, and prudent diligence, and good example, and that you keep out of tempting company, and keep under suitable means.
III.† And it is as near a trial, when a husband cannot convert a wicked wife, nor a wife a wicked husband, but one must lie in the bosom of a slave of Satan, and an enemy of Christ, and no persuasion will do such good.† The nearness maketh the affliction very great, such as few that have not had sad experience of it can know.† It is a very hard thing to love such with a true conjugal love, who have no true loveliness of soul, but hate the holy ways of Christ; and it is not easy to keep up innocence, and godliness, and peace, under the constant opposition of one so near.
But yet this must be patiently borne, when it cannot be remedied.† For, 1. Usually it is a just correction for a sinful choice, which must be repented of; and it is a mercy that your repentance hath some help.
2. It may be such a constant exercise of your grace, especially patience and prudence, as may render you better and stronger Christians, than those that have less exercise by trials.
3.† The greatness of the temptations must cause you to double your watchfulness and resolutions against the sins which you will be tempted to, and to perform all the duties of our place.† As, (1). See that no pretence of love, or pleasing, or obedience, draw you to imitate a husband or a wife in sin, and to become as bad as they, or to receive any error from them, or grow cold to holy duties.† Some women that have erroneous husbands cannot tell how to love and please them, without being flattered or drawn into their errors; strong constant trials need strong and constant watch and resolution:† for if you be overcome to be as they, it is a thousand times worse than all the grief that you have by them.
(2). See that their badness destroy not conjugal affections towards them: those may be loved as husbands or wives, who cannot be loved as sincere Christians.
(3).† See that you exceed mere carnal persons in all the duties of your relations.† If your difference and grief do cast you into sourness and unpleasing, discontented conversation, or if you be as peevish and forward as common persons, you will be a scandal to those that you should win, and drive them further from religion and salvation.† You must show, if you are wives, more love, and meekness, and patience, and obedience, than carnal persons do, as well as more forwardness in religion.† Froward, impatient wives do harden many ill husbands in their sin.† It hath much pleased me to hear a husband saying of a good wife, I differ from my wife in religion and chrch orders; I go to one church, and she to another:† I think she is too precise and strict; but I think there is not a better wife, a better mother, and a better mistress in the land.† A good Christian must be good in all relations.
(4).† Continue prayers and winning endeavors while there is hope.
(5).† And let the sense of anotherís sin and misery provoke you to be thankful to God for His grace, and that He hath not left you to the like.
IV.† And as to the next case, (when God blasteth our labors and estates, and prospereth not our callings), it is a usual trial:† some are ruined by deceivers and breaking tradesmen, some by losses at sea, some by suretyship, some by fire, some by false servants, some by prodigal sons, some by soldiers, some by unjust suits at law, some overreached in bargains about land; and divers other ways there are by which the rich have been brought to poverty, (to say nothing of gaming, luxury, and such vice, which belongs not to this present case) and by which lawful means of living want success.
And here, 1. It is your duty to see that there be no guilt of any other unpardoned sin which God punisheth this way.† Sometimes an estate is blasted by God, because it was unlawfully got by ancestors:† sometimes the owner is guilty of former defrauding others, and hath made no restitution; sometimes God thus punisheth some other secret sin, as fornication, lying, flesh-pleasing, and such like.† Search deep, and see that no such guilt be unrepented of, and be as a moth or fire to consume your wealth.
2.† Especially search lest your hearts grow secretly into a worldly disposition, and too great hopes of riches and prosperity, and too great a desire after plenty, and too much pleasure in the possession, or the hopes of it:† if this be your case, it is Godís great mercy to blast all to you, and to break your idol, and to fire you out of the garrison that you trust.† They that trust in riches, Christ tells you, are as hardly saved as for a ďcamel to go through the eye of a needleĒ:† and it is menís hope which is called their trust.† When you hope for more from riches than they can give, you are said to trust in them.† If ever God save you, He will save you from this worldly mind and love:† and sure prosperity is not the likeliest way to that; but rather withering the object of your hopes.
3.† However, make this use of your crosses, to be more weaned from the world, and more careful to lay up a treasure in heaven, where fire, rust, or moth corrupts not, and thieves, pirates, or soldiers cannot steal, and then your loss, be it never so great, is made your gain.
4.† And let your crosses and frustrations call you to exercise the graces suitable to your condition; to renew repentance, submission to Godís will, prayer and dependence for your daily bread, abatement of pride, not disdaining the lowest employment, nor to be beholden to others:† and if you can follow Christ and His apostles in a holy poverty, you shall quickly be above contempt and want.† And let it make you ply that calling and work which will never disappoint you:† believe and hope strongly, pray earnestly, obey diligently, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as your labor shall not be in vain, though all your worldly wealth be blasted.
I conclude all this case of labor frustration, and hopes cast down, with a necessary warning:† Judge of Godís love to you by the great and sure tokens of His love, and not by uncertain, transitory things. If God loved those best that prosper most in honor and wealth, tyrants, and the most luxurious, wicked men, would have the best proof of His love.† If your souls prosper in the increase of faith, and in sweeter or desiring thoughts of heaven, and in delight in God and holiness, and in victory over all your carnal affections and discontents, and in a more willing obedience to all Godís laws, and in a word, in a fuller compliance of your wills to the will of God, then you are truly prosperous persons, and have the certain tokens of the love of God.