A Classic Study:
Patience in Affliction
To contact us:
A Classic Study by Richard Baxter (1615–1691)
[Here we conclude Mr. Baxter’s fine study on bearing all types of affliction.]—Ed.
General Directions for Bearing Trials
I will draw out this treatise no longer, but to remind all Christians, that the common great defect of patience is a great dishonor to our profession of faith and heavenly hope, and leadeth us to that within as the cause, which we should be greatly humbled for; and that it is a disease so painful to ourselves, as should make us loth to cherish or excuse it. A tender state of body is not desirable, which can endure neither cold or air; neither winter or summer, &c. Much worse is a tender, impatient mind, that is hardly pleased by man or God; that is impatient at every loss or cross, at every real or supposed wrong, at every danger, threatening, or ill news; that must be stroked or rocked, and used as a child. Alas! many people that truly fear God, have so great a want of patience, as that one can hardly live quietly with them; but he must have extraordinary skill, and care, and tenderness, if not flattery, who will not be a trouble to them.
And yet because some causelessly judge these to be worse than they are, I will say again, that passion and the will’s defection, are very different sorts of impatience.
I conclude with these few brief directions, for establishing the hearers with patience in all trials whatsoever.
1. Understand well the true nature of patience and impatience, that you mistake not natural temper for either saving grace or damning sin. The passions must be distinguished from the judgment and will. A man of a choleric temper, and aged, sick, or weak persons, may be peevish and impatient with the little provocations which daily befall them, so far as to be angry and trouble themselves and others. Children will cry and most women are more easily cast into passion than men; they are apt to fear beyond all reason, and to be troubled and troublesome to others to unquiet grief, displeasedness or anger. This must neither be made light of, as no fault, nor yet made a greater fault than it is. Many men have stronger natures, and are free from passion (and some almost to stupidity), which joined with grace and a due sense of weighty things, is a great advantage, and ornament: but it is found oft in the graceless, wicked men, who deceive themselves by it, and think they are better than passionate, honest men. Yea, it usually proveth a great hindrance to their repentance and reformation; no sermon, no reason, no thought of death or eternity, will move and change their senseless hearts.
But the saving grace of patience is principally in this, when a man hath so resolvedly given up himself to God by Christ for life eternal, and is so much under divine authority that he can endure the loss of all, even reputation, estate, friends, liberty, or life, rather than forsake Christ, or hazard his salvation by willful sin; and therefore also strives against all sinful passions, and repents of that which doth surprise him.
And damning impatience is, when a man cannot deliberately bear the loss of corporal prosperity for the sake of Christ and righteousness, nor hold on in a holy, righteous, sober life; but will rather fall off, and willfully sin, and venture his soul, than deny his flesh and be undone in the world: such take godliness for a grievous yoke, or else they would not be impatient to bear it, and they take not God and heaven for their best.
2. Nothing therefore will make one patient in a holy, saving sense, but the well-grounded, resolved choice of God’s love in Christ, and the blessedness of another world, as that portion which must make us happy, whatever we lost or suffer on earth. Therefore faith and hope must be from above, and fetch from heaven the matter of our constant resolution, or else there can be no true patience: if we live more on earthly hopes and comforts than heavenly, and more to the flesh than the Spirit, there can be no true patience, much less durable: for in the world we shall have troubles; and if we have not, yet a content in the love of it is more damnable than trouble.
3. Therefore the true contempt of fleshly prosperity and worldly things, by mortification, is absolutely necessary to patience. While the body and its appetite, ease or life, is over-dear to us, we shall never patiently lose or spare them; and while we love the flesh and world, reputation, wealth, and pleasure too much, we shall be over-much troubled to lose them. Account all loss and dung for Christ, as Paul did, and you will easily bear the loss of it.
4. Think what you have, as well as what you want; reckon up truly all the riches of grace in Christ; to be a child of God, beloved by Him, an heir of heaven, a member of Christ, pardoned, justified, sanctified, under God’s true promise of everlasting joy; and compare this with your suffering, and think whether it becomes an heir of heaven to be impatient in the way.
5. Therefore be diligent to make your calling and election sure; neither neglect necessary obedience, nor cherish causeless doubts, lest you lose that comfort of hope which must make you patient in all trials; else when heaven and God’s love should support you under all, you will be still questioning your title to it, and so have nothing to set against all your sufferings and fears. If this anchor of hope be not well-grounded, what shall uphold men in sufferings and death?
6. Live in constant belief and apprehension of God’s absolute disposal of all the world and see all things and persons as in His hand, and remember that there is nothing comes to pass without Him, and that He uses even the permitted sins of men to His good and holy ends. Think on no man, or action, or event, as independent upon God; but remember still with whom you have to do, and who it is that overrides all, and whose rod your enemies and afflictions are: and this will tell you that nothing is done amiss by Him, and that nothing shall be finally hurtful to the faithful, and that we must not dare to accuse our Maker: and it will make you say, “It is the Lord, let Him do as seems Him good. The will of the Lord be done.”
7. Here see still the certain end of all: how the sufferings of the faithful will end; and how the power, wealth, prosperity, and triumph of the wicked will end. Go into the sanctuary. Believe what God hath foretold you, and faith may fully satisfy you.
8. Keep a due humbling sense of your own and other’s sin, and of God’s common mercies to you and all men, that you may still perceive how much better God deals with you than you deserve. It is no small mercy to be alive, out of hell, and to have the free offers of a Savior, of pardon and salvation, and to have God entreating you to be reconciled to Him, and promise you Christ and life, if you do but willingly accept his gift.
9. Be acquainted with your chief temptations, both to impatience and to other sins, that you may live in arms and watchful resistance. 1. Renew not your own wounds and sufferings by gross negligence or willful sin, and yielding to the tempter; for if you put God to use a sharper rod, your patience will have a harder work. And do not by rashness make your own suffering, and run into it (as by words, by suretyship, and imprudent actions, many do): you may more confidently look for God's support under the cross which He layeth on you for trial, than that which you make for yourselves; though there also repentance may give us comfortable remedy. 2. And understand what are your temptations to impatience. Is it crosses, poverty, threatenings of men, a froward companion, a wicked child, or rather a weak and peevish, passionate temper? Whatever it is, get those particular considerations against it, which must be your armor, and live in the daily use of them.
10. Resist the beginnings of unbelieving, troubling thoughts, and roll them not in your mind. Abhor the first degrees of distrusting God, or discontent with His providence, or any secret accusation of His disposals; and turn your thoughts presently to His love, and mercies, and promises, and Christ’s abundant grace; pore not upon troubling and discontented things any further than is necessary to avoid the evil; but study the satisfactory promises and terms of further grace and endless glory. Be careful (with distrust and trouble) for nothing, but in all wants and straits go to God and open all to Him, and ask Him for your daily bread, remembering that He clothes the lilies of the field, and that a sparrow moves not without His providence, and that all the hairs of your head are numbered, and that He knows what you need, and what is best for you, and that sufficent to the day is the evil thereof. Think what a mercy it is that He commands you to “cast all your care on God, who cares for you” (I Peter 5:7) and whether if the king bid a beggar or prisoner trust him, and cast all his care on him, it would not comfort him.
11. Forget not all the wonderful deliverances that you and the church of God have had, and how oft His mercies have confuted and reproved your distrust.
12. Lastly, thoroughly study a crucified Christ and the reasons and use of the cross, and why He will have us imitate Him and follow Him in His sufferings to glory. And never think God disappoints you, if He will but bring you safe into heaven. And read of the sufferings of Christ, and His sermons (see Matt. 5; John 12:14-16; Matt. 6; Rom. 8.; I Pet. 3 and 4.; James 4 and 5.; Rev. 2 and 3; Rom. 5:3-4; Col. 1:11; Heb. 4:12; 12:1ff; Rom. 12:12ff; 15:4, 5; I Tim. 6:11). “For you have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God you may inherit the promise,” (Heb 10:26). “Count it all joy when you fall into divers [or trying] temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith (which is more precious than gold which perishes) worketh patience; but let patience have its perfect work” (James 1:2-3). And show that you are patient toward God by your patience toward men. “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another according to Christ Jesus,” (Rom. 15:5). So prayeth your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.
(This concludes Mr. Baxter’s study.)