A Classic Study by Richard Baxter (1615Ė1691)
Sufferings by Bad Children, Servants,
Tenants or Subjects
Another case that needeth patience, is the suffering of superiors by bad children and servants, tenants, tradesmen, and others, whom they must use and trust. Of bad children I have partly spoken before. Natural love maketh this one of the heaviest afflictions in the world. When parents have been at all that suffering, care, labour, and cost, which go to the bringing of children into the world, and bringing them up from the breasts to maturity, and teaching them their duty to God and man, and preparing them to be useful to themselves and others, that after all this they should prove brutish, fleshly sots, that are slaves to their bellies, and wallow in the sink of filthy lust, and savour nothing but pride and fleshly pleasure, and the belief of Godís word hath of serious holiness, and enemies of good men, and plagues to their country, and fight against the only means of their own and other menís salvation, oh!, what a heart-breaking affliction is this! Yea, when in case of the most ungodly error, or swinish appetite and lust, the counsel, the tears, the prayers of parents cannot move them to any true repentance or reformation, what a heavy cross that is.
Consider these things:
1. In this sad case, make not light of it, or as ungodly parents do, that are troubled more for their childrenís wastefulness and want than for their souls. And yet be not over-much cast down: neglect no means (prayer, counsel, company, etc.) which may tend to their recovery, while there is any hope; and especially look back (not with despair, but) with true repentance upon your own sins of youth against God, your parents, and yourselves. And then examine whether you have dealt with Christian wisdom and fidelity to have prevented their misery, in their education. Did you with love and diligence labour to make them understand the things of God and their salvation? Did you labour to bring it to their hearts, that they might fear God and His judgments, and know the evil and danger of sin? Did you labour to make religion pleasant to them by showing them the goodness of it, and avoiding harsh, averting ways? Did you watch over their ways, and keep them from a custom of pleasing their appetites over-much? And did you engage them in wise and good company, and use them in religious exercises, and keep them from the infectious company of bad, licentious youths, especially in places of plays and gaming, drinking and idleness, wicked schools or academies, where temptations are too strong for fleshly, unexperienced youth. If you have failed in these duties, and have sent your children among the vicious, sensual, and malignant, whether on pretence of learning, ministry, courtship, breeding, or gainful trades, no wonder if both they and you do suffer by it, and if they be plagues to their country and to you, who have been plagues and treacherous to them, and sent them as into a pest-house, or a stews, and then are grieved for their diseases.
2. Be humbled for the viciousness of your own natures, which had the root of all these sins, and conveyed them originally to your children.
3. Let it make you the more sensible of the greatness of Godís mercy, which hath healed your natures, and pardoned your sin, and saved you from that willful sottishness and wickedness, which others are given over to, of which you were in danger.
4. The thoughts of the far greater misery of most of the world, who lie in idolatry, infidelity, wickedness, or error, may somewhat drown the sense of a particular affliction: as the common plague in London did overcome the sense of the loss of our own friends; and the common fire overcame the sense of the loss of our houses.
5. Yet while there is life there is hope. God hath ways enough to humble and break the stiffest and the hardest heart: therefore pray for them and warn them to the last.
6. Grace maketh all Christís members dear to us as well as our own kindred. Christ Himself answered, when they mentioned His mother and brethren, that they that heard Godís word and kept it, were His mother, sisters, and brethren. And when one said, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee," He said, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and do it." Therefore rejoice in the welfare of all the children of God in heaven and on earth, who will be as dear to you as your own children.
7. Submit to Godís absolute dominion, who best knoweth what to do with His own, and never did wrong to any, nor can do, and will satisfy all at last of the wisdom and goodness of all His dispensations.
II. Bad servants also are to some an exercise of patience: some will not learn nor be reformed, but hate goodness and live wickedly; some in drunkenness, filthiness, gaming, and play-houses; some deceive and rob their masters; some are eye-servants and slothful, and make no conscience of any fault or neglect which they can but hide, or excuse with lying; some burn their mastersí houses, or undo them, or at least much damage them by heedlessness, carelessness, and forgetfulness; and the best ofttimes prove very costly by their neglects.
In all these cases, 1. Repent of all your neglects of them. If you have not diligently taught them the principles of religion, which should have made them better; or if you have not seriously endeavored their true conversion and sanctification, and bringing heavenly things to their hearts, which would have kept out the love of sin; or if you have not taught them a conscionable life, by a careful example of it in yourselves; be humbled, and acknowledge the justness of your correction, and bear it as the fruit of your own sin.
2. Be sure that the sin and misery of your servants be more grievous to you than your own loss and suffering by them. It is but temporal things that you lose.
3. Remember what unprofitable and unfaithful servants you have been to God, and how much more He daily beareth with in us all.
4. Remember that the frailty of man is such that nothing will be done perfectly which imperfect persons do. The wisest and best are liable to many oversights, forgetfulness, and omissions, and have much which must be borne with.
5. Be the more careful that you fail not in any of the duty which you owe to them or any others: for our own sin hurts us more than othersí.
III. What I say of servants, may serve as to the case of bad tenants, who will not pay their rents; and bad tradesmen, who unconscionably borrow and break, and live on other menís estates, and ruin others by their falseness. God will permit manís badness to show itself; and He will have all worldly things appear to be transitory, and unsatisfactory, and accompanied with vexation.
IV. As to the patience necessary in princes and magistrates to bad, provoking subjects, I am not to meddle with it, being discharged by rulers from being a monitor to them.