A Classic Study:

Patience in Affliction

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A Classic Study by Richard Baxter (1615–1691)


[In each article, Mr. Baxter gives advice on how to be patient through a specific type of affliction.]—Ed.


The Prosperity and Triumphs

of Enemies of the Church


Another great trial of our patience is the triumph of the wicked enemies of the church, and that the saints are usually under their feet in sufferings and scorn.  I spake before of persecution, and as to the prosperity and triumphs of malignants.  David, who was under the like temptation, hath long ago given us considerations sufficient for our patience (see Ps. 37 and 73).  And the triumph of the wicked is but for a moment, and their motion as the grasshoppers, that fall as they rise.  Their victories, and glory, and rage, are like a squib of gunpowder, which makes a noise and is presently extinct:  they are moved dust, which the wind of God’s displeasure blows into our eyes:  they are dying while they are raging, and their own death is at hand and lingereth not, while they are killing others.  Go into the sanctuary and see their end, and it may silence all impatience; for see their corpses in rottenness, and their souls in hell, and pity will overcome envy, and their case will appear to you a thousand times sadder than theirs that suffer by them for righteousness’ sake.  Their contrivances do but plot themselves into misery.  All the blood which they shed, must be reckoned for:  and precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints, even when they seem deserted.  Where now is Alexander, Caesar, Tamerlane, and such other famous murderers called conquerors?  Are they now triumphing?  Is it an ease to their tormented souls, or life to their dust, that living fools do magnify their names, and their dear-bought victories and murders?  If it be no glory to a serpent, crocodile, or a wolf, or a mad dog, to kill men, no nor to the devil, who is a murderer from the beginning, why should it be a glory to these instruments of the devil?  Oh what a dreadful search will it be to Babylon, when in her shall be found the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus, and upon her shall come at once all the righteous blood that hath been shed!  The blood of the many hundred thousand Waldenses, Albigenses, Bohemians, etc., did but render the enemies more odious:  their inquisition, and Alva’s cruelties, lost them the Low Countries.  They got nothing in France by the sudden murder of thirty or forty thousand protestants; nor will they get at last by their present cruelties.  The two hundred thousand murdered by the Irish, prepared for the murderers’ greater ruin, but did not satisfy their desires.  Queen Mary’s fires did but make her allies the more easily and commonly hated and extirpated in the days of her successor.  Persecutors are not immortal, but must die as well as others:  and they have not always the choice of their successors.  And as their names rot with their carcasses, and to pious, sober, and wise posterity no names are more odious, so their designs and works also often perish with them.  We have seen in our days and land, the same men that were the terror of the nation in war, laid in a grave and left to the common earth, where no one is afraid of them.  And the same men that were lift up by many victories, thought kings, parliament, ministers, and people must submit to their will, as being in their power, within one or two years were hanged, drawn, and quartered, and their quarters hung up over the gates of the city; their victorious army being dissolved without one drop of bloodshed.

If we saw a drunken man or a mad-man raging in the streets, so that people were afraid to come near him, who would think such a man therefore ever the more happy?  Or who would desire to be in his case?  If we judge of them by that part they are now acting on the stage, under great names and garbs, we shall be deluded as they are.  Look on them undressed, and off the stage, see what they are under the pangs of death, or when the soul is dragged away to punishment, and hath left their ghastly faces and carcasses for the grave.  See what God saith of them in His word, and believe His prognostic what shall befall them.  Is Ahab ever the better for being recorded in Scripture, as an enemy to faithful prophets?  Or Cain ever the better for being the first murderer in the world?  Or Herod ever the better for being mentioned in the gospel?  Or Pilate, for having his name in the creed?  Or are the flames ever the easier to Dives, because he once fared sumptuously, and was clothed richly every day, while Lazarus lay at his gate in sores?  The time is short; the conqueror and the conquered will be equal in the dust, where they will cease to trouble, and lie in peace; but the persecutor and the persecuted (for righteousness’ sake) will be as distantly separated as hell from heaven.  The men of this world, who have their portion in this life, are God’s sword and rod to correct His children; but as they now glory in their shame, so they shall shortly be ashamed of their glorying, and wish in vain that all their proud oppressions and cruel victories had been not done, or could be undone.