A Classic Study by Richard Baxter (1615Ė1691)
In Pains and Sicknesses of the Body
Consider these things:
1. Sinful souls! Look back upon the folly which is the cause of all thy pains. As Adam and Eveís sin brought sufferings into the world upon our natures, so my own sin is the cause of my own particular suffering. A sinful pleasing of my appetite with raw apples, pears, and plums, when I was young, did lay the foundation of all my uncurable diseases: and my many offences have since deserved Godís chastisements! While conscience so justly accuseth thyself, dare not to mutter discontents and accusations against God. "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him" (Micah 7:9). My pain is to me as the distress of Josephís brethren was to them: "We were verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear: therefore is this distress come upon us" (Gen. 42:21). "What shall we say unto my Lord? What shall we speak, or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants," (Gen. 44:16). So may I say, "How oft hath God checked my vain and wandering imaginations, and carnal thoughts, and I did not sufficiently regard Him! And if God find out my sin, and my sin find out me, why should I blame any but myself and sin?"
2. I can see the necessity of justice towards others; and why should I not see it towards myself? What is a kingdom without it, but a wilderness of wild beasts, or a land of tories? What is a school without it, but a masterless house of rebellious folly? What is a family without it, but a pernicious equalling good and bad? If God made no laws to rule mankind, He were not their moral governor, but only a cause of physical motion. If He made no laws, then there are no laws in the world but manís; and then there is no sin against God, and law-makers themselves are lawless, and can do nothing for which they need to fear the displeasure of God. But if God has made laws, and will not by execution correct disobedience, His laws are contemptible, and no laws, because no rules of judgment. And should I alone expect to be free from fatherly justice, and that my sin should gave no correction and rebukes?
3. It is but the same vile flesh that suffers, which must shortly rot and turn to earth, and if I can submit to that, why should I not submit to present pain?
4. As sin made its entrance by the senses into the soul, God wisely driveth it out the same way, and maketh the same passage the entrance of repentance. It is pleasure that tempteth and destroyeth the sinner. It is smart and sorrow which contradicteth that deceitful pleasure, and powerfully undeceiveth brutish sinners. And when repentance is necessary to pardon and salvation, and if it be not deep, and true, and effectual, it will not serve; why should I be impatient with so suitable a remedy and help, as my bodily pains and weakness are? Had I been in this pain when I was tempted to any youthful folly, how easily should I have resisted the temptations which overcame me!
5. The great benefit that I have found in former afflictions, assureth me that they came from fatherly love; yea, have been so merciful a work of Providence, as I can never be sufficiently thankful for. What have they done but keep me awake, and call me to repentance, and to improve my short and precious time, and to bid me work while it is day? What have they done but keep me from covetousness pride, and idleness, and tell me where I must place all my hope, and how little the world and all its vanities do signify? And shall I think that the same God, who intended me good by all the rest of the afflictions of my life, doth now intend my hurt at last? Experience condemneth my impatience.
6. As deliverances have eased many a pain already, and turned all into thankfulness to God, so heaven will quickly end the rest, and turn all into greater thanks and joy. And can I be impatient if I firmly believe so good an end of all?
7. What! Did Christ suffer for my sin, and shall not I patiently bear a gentle rod?
8. What do the animals that never sinned, endure by man and for his sins? They labour, they are beaten, and hurt, and killed for us, and eaten by us. What then do sinners deserve of God?
9. How much sorer punishment in hell hath God forgiven me, through Christ! And how much sorer must the unpardoned endure forever! And cannot I bear these rebukes for pardoned sin, when they are intended to prevent far worse?
10. How do I forsake all, and how could I suffer martyrdom for Christ, if I cannot bear His own chastisement? Are these sharper than the flames?
11. God hath from my youth been training me up in the school of affliction, and calling on me, and teaching me to prepare for suffering, and am I yet unprepared?
12. Impatience is no remedy, but a great addition to my suffering; both by adding to my sin, and by a foolish vexation of myself. If God afflict my body, shall I therefore foolishly vex my soul?
Lord! All these reasons do convince me of my interest and duty: I am fully satisfied of Thy dominion, wisdom, and perfect goodness, and that all that Thou doest is well done, and should not be accused. I am fully satisfied, that I ought with an obedient will to accept of this chastisement, and not to murmur against thy hand. But the grace and strength to do this must come all from Thee. O strengthen Thy servant that he faint not, nor lay by his faith and hove, or sin against Thee.
Question. But is there no means but such reasoning with ourselves to be used, to help us to be obedient in our sicknesses and pain?
Answer. What means but intellectual can be fit to quiet souls? Opiate medicines, that quiet the body, cannot cause the submission of the mind. But:
1. Preparatorily, it is of great advantage not to use the body too tenderly in our health: pamper it not, and use it not with too great indulgence, as to its appetite, ease, and pleasure. Be as careful of its health as you can, but not of its sensual desires. As they that fondly indulge their children, and let them have what they will in health, cannot rule them in sickness; so it is with our bodies; use them to temperance, and seasonable fasting, and daily labour, and a diet and garb not over-pleasant: as Paul teacheth Timothy, "Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," (II Tim. 2:3). They that live in sensual pleasure are dead while they live. They that must have sport, and meat, and drink, and ease, because the flesh desireth it, and must take nothing that appetite, or sloth, or fancy is against, do cherish the flesh in each a state of self-pleasing, as will hardly be brought to patient suffering.
2. Read the sufferings of Christ with due consideration.
3. Read oft the histories of the martyrsí sufferings.
4. Go oft to the hospitals, or sick that lie in pain, that you may see what is to be expected.
5. Look on the graves, and bones, and dust, and you will perceive, that it is no wonder if such an end must have a painful way.
6. Get deep repentance for sin, and holy self-displeasure and revenge will make you consent to Godís correction.
7. Get but a sense of the danger of prosperity, and bodily delights, and ease, and how many millions are tempted by it into the broad way of damnation, and what those door souls must suffer forever, and you will the easier bear your pains; and choose to be Lazarus rather than Dives, and a Job rather than a Nero.
8. But there is no effectual cure till faith and hope have such fast apprehensions of the glory, where all your pains will end, as may teach you to take them but as physic for your everlasting health. Therefore prayer for grace, depending on Christ, obedience to the Spirit, and a fruitful, heavenly life, are the true preparations for patient sufferings.