Saints' Everlasting Rest Home Page
It was an interesting experience visiting Mr. Baxter; very different, always serious (even when describing the joys of heaven), sometimes insightful, sometimes somewhat naggy, but always very earnest, uncompromising and straightforward. I didn't fall in love with the Puritans through this book, but I came away rather admiring their intense, single-minded devotion to obeying God. Perhaps they were too serious at times, but if so, perhaps we are too frivolous. I suppose the church in each age has its strengths and weaknesses.
Since Baxter talks a lot about hell, lets allow him to explain right up front why he does so...
Preaching heaven and mercy to thee, is entreating thee to seek them, and not reject them; and preaching hell, is but to persuade thee to avoid it. If thou wert quite past hope of escaping it, then it were in vain to tell thee of hell; but as long as thou art alive there is hope of thy recovery, and therefore all means must be used to awake thee from thy lethargy.
As the poor man, that would not believe any one had such a sum as a hundred pounds, it was so far above what he himself possessed, so men will hardly now believe there is such a happiness as once they had, much less as Christ hath now procured.
What presumption would it have been, once, to have thought or spoken of such a thing, if God had not spoken it before us! I durst not have thought of the saints' preferment in this life, as Scripture sets it forth, had it not been the express truth of God. How unbecoming to talk of being sons of God -- speaking to him -- having fellowship with him -- dwelling in him and he in us -- if this had not been God's own language! How much less durst we have once thought of shining forth as the sun -- of being joint heirs with Christ -- of judging the world -- of sitting on Christ's throne -- of being one in him and the Father -- if we had not all this from the mouth, and under the hand of God! But hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? -- Yes, as the Lord God is true, thus shall it be done to the man whom Christ delighteth to honor.
If thou shouldst die full of fears and sorrows, it will be but a moment, and they are all gone and concluded in joy inconceivable. As the joy of the hypocrite, so the fears of the upright are but for a moment. God's "anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." O blessed morning! Poor, humble, drooping soul, how would it fill thee with joy now, if a voice from heaven should tell thee of the love of God, the pardon of thy sins, and assure thee of thy part in these joys! What then will thy joy be, when thy actual possession shall convince thee of thy title, and thou shalt be in heaven before thou art well aware!
O fellow-Christians, what a day will that be, when we, who have been kept prisoners by sin, by sinners, by the grave, shall be brought out by the Lord himself! It will not be such a coming as his first was, in poverty and contempt, to be spit upon, and buffeted, and crucified again. He will not come, O careless world! to be slighted and neglected by you any more. Yet that coming wanted not its glory. If the heavenly host, for the celebration of his nativity, must praise God; with what shoutings will angels and saints at that day proclaim glory to God, peace and good-will toward men! If a star must lead men from remote parts, to come to worship the child in the manger; how will the glory of his next appearing constrain all the world to acknowledge his sovereignty! If, riding on an ass, he enter Jerusalem with hosannas; with what peace and glory will he come toward the New Jerusalem! If, when he was in the form of a servant, they cry out, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?" what will they say when they shall see him coming in his glory, and the heavens and the earth obey him? "Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn."
What sustains the massy body of the earth? What limits the vast ocean of the waters? Whence is that constant ebbing and flowing of the tides? How many times larger than all the earth is the sun, that glorious body of light? Is it not as easy to raise the dead as to make heaven and earth, and all of nothing?
The grave that could not keep our Lord, cannot keep us. He arose for us, and by the same power will cause us to arise. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Let us never look at the grave, but let us see the resurrection beyond it.
To have necessities, but no supply, is the state of them in hell. To have necessity supplied by means of creatures, is the state of us on earth. To have necessity supplied immediately from God, is the state of the saints in heaven. To have no necessity at all, is the prerogative of God himself.
We lament that we do not find a Canaan in the wilderness, or the songs of Sion in a strange land; that we have not a harbor in the main ocean, nor our rest in the heat of the day, nor heaven before we leave the earth; and would not all this be very unseasonable?
To be the people of God without regeneration, is as impossible as to be the children of men without generation. Seeing we are born God's enemies, we must be new-born his sons, or else remain enemies still.
It was our first sin to aspire to be as gods and it is the greatest sin that is propagated in our nature from generation to generation. When God should guide us, we guide ourselves; when he should be our Sovereign, we rule ourselves: the laws which he gives us, we find fault with, and would correct and, if we had the making of them, we would have made them otherwise: when he should take care of us, (and must, or we perish,) we will take care for ourselves: when we should depend on him in daily receiving, we had rather have our portion in our own hands: when we should submit to his providence, we usually quarrel with it, and think we could make a better disposal than God hath made. When we should study and love, trust and honor God, we study and love, trust and honor our carnal selves. Instead of God, we would have all men's eyes and dependence on us, and all men's thanks returned to us, and would gladly be the only men on earth extolled and admired by all. Thus we are naturally our own idols.
How many of the precious servants of God, of all ages and places, have gone before thee! Thou art not to enter an untrodden path, nor appointed first to break the ice. Except Enoch and Elijah, which of the saints have escaped death? And art thou better than they? There are many millions of saints dead, more than now remain on earth. What a number of thine own bosom friends and companions in duty are now gone, and why shouldst thou be so loth to follow? Nay, hath not Jesus Christ himself gone this way? Hath he not sanctified the grave to us, and perfumed the dust with his own body, and art thou loth to follow him too?
When we are idle, we tempt the devil to tempt us; as careless persons make thieves.
A heavenly mind is fortified against temptations, because the affections are thoroughly prepossessed with the high delights of another world.
If thou wouldst have light and heat, why art thou no more in the sunshine? For want of this recourse to heaven, thy soul is as a lamp not lighted, and thy duties as a sacrifice without fire. Fetch one coal daily from this altar, and see if thy offering will not burn. Light thy lamp at this flame, and feed it daily with oil from hence, and see if it will not gloriously shine. Keep close to this reviving fire, and see if thy affections will not be warm.
Faith is as a burning glass to thy sacrifice, and meditation sets it to the face of the sun; only take it not away too soon, but hold it there awhile, and thy soul will feel the happy effect.
This is the noble advantage of faith: it can look on the means and end together. The great reason of our impatience and censuring of God, is that we gaze on the evil itself, but fix not our thoughts on what is beyond it. They that saw Christ only on the cross, or in the grave, shook their heads and thought him lost; but God saw him dying, buried, rising, glorified; and all this at one view.
Could we but clearly see heaven, as the end of all God's dealings with us, surely none of his dealings could be grievous.
It is but equal that our hearts should be on God, when the heart of God is so much on us.
He whose religion is all in his opinions, will be most frequently and zealously speaking his opinions; and he whose religion lies in the knowledge and love of God in Christ, will be most delightfully speaking of that happy time when he shall enjoy them.
Let me advise you who aspire after a heavenly life, not to spend too much of your thoughts, your time, your zeal, or your speech, upon disputes that less concern your souls; but when hypocrites are feeding on husks or shells, do you feed on the joys above.
I wish you were able to defend every truth of God, and to this end would read and study; but still I would have the chief truths to be chiefly studied, and none to cast out your thoughts of eternity.
As he that sits at home may draw exact maps of countries, and yet never see them nor travel toward them; so may you describe to others the joys of heaven, and yet never come near it in your own hearts.
It is pity christians should ever meet together without some talk of their meeting in heaven, or of the way to it, before they part. It is a pity so much time is spent in vain conversation and useless disputes, and not a serious word of heaven among them. Methinks we should meet together on purpose to warm our spirits with discoursing of our rest. To hear a christian set forth that blessed, glorious state, with life and power, from the promises of the Gospel, methinks should make us say, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he opened to us the Scriptures?"
Wicked men can be delighted in talking together of their wickedness; and should not christians then be delighted in talking of Christ, and the heirs of heaven in talking of their inheritance?
Frequency in heavenly contemplation is particularly important, to prevent a shyness between God and thy soul. Frequent society breeds familiarity, and familiarity increases love and delight, and makes us bold in our addresses. The chief end of this duty is, to have acquaintance and fellowship with God; and therefore, if thou come but seldom to it, thou wilt still keep thyself a stranger.
When we come to die ... what a joy will it be to think, "I am going to the place from whence I tasted such frequent delights; to that God whom I have met in my meditation so often! My heart hath been in heaven before now, and hath often tasted its reviving sweetness; and if my eyes were so enlightened and my spirits so refreshed when I had but a taste, what will it be when I shall feed on it freely?"
If thou eat but once in two or three days, thou wilt lose thy strength as fast as it comes. If in holy meditation thou get near to Christ and warm thy heart with the fire of love, and then come but seldom, thy former coldness will soon return.
If I had to do with a feeble creature, there were small hope; for how could he raise this body from the dust and lift me above the sun? But what is this to the Almighty Power which made the heavens and the earth out of nothing? Cannot that power which raised Christ from the dead, raise me? and that which hath glorified the Head, glorify also the members?
The most difficult part of heavenly contemplation is, to maintain a lively sense of heavenly things upon our hearts. It is easier merely to think of heaven a whole day, than to be lively and affectionate in those thoughts a quarter of an hour.
Why hath God given us either our senses or their common objects, if they might not be serviceable to his praise? Why doth the Holy Spirit describe the glory of the New Jerusalem in expressions that are even grateful to the flesh? Is it that we might think heaven to be made of gold and pearl? or that saints and angels eat and drink? No, but to help us to conceive of them as we are able, and to use these borrowed phrases as a glass, in which we must see the things themselves imperfectly represented, till we come to an immediate and perfect sight.
Whatever mixture is in the streams, there is nothing but pure joy in the fountain.
I do now, in the name of The Lord Jesus, cry to thee. "O have mercy, have pity, man, upon thy own soul!" Shall God pity thee, who wilt not be entreated to pity thyself? If thy horse see but a pit before him, thou canst scarcely force him in; and wilt thou so obstinately cast thyself into hell, when the danger is foretold thee? "Who can stand before the indignation of the Lord? and who can abide the fierceness of his anger?" Methinks thou shouldst need no more words, but presently cast away thy soul-damning sins, and wholly deliver up thyself to Christ. Resolve on it immediately, and let it be done, that I may see thy face in rest among the saints.
What hath this world done for its lovers and friends, that it is so eagerly followed and painfully sought after, while Christ and heaven are neglected? or what will the world do for them for the time to come? The common entrance into it is through anguish and sorrow. The passage through it is with continual care and labor. The passage out of it is the sharpest of all. O unreasonable, deluded men! will mirth and pleasure stay by you? will gold and worldly glory prove fast friends to you in the time of your greatest need? Will they hear your cries in the day of your calamity? At the hour of your death will they either answer or relieve you? Will they go along with you to the other world, and bribe the Judge and bring you off clear, or purchase you a place among the blessed?
Many, who, like Agrippa, are but almost christians, will find, in the end, they shall be but almost saved.
Were he not mad that would lie weeping because he is not pardoned, when his prince stands by all the while, offering him a pardon, and persuading him to accept of it? Justifying faith, christian, is not thy persuasion of God's special love to thee, but thy accepting Christ to make thee lovely.
Another cause of distress to christians is their mistaking assurance for the joy that sometimes accompanies it; as if a child should think himself a son no longer than while he sees the smiles of his father's face, or hears the comfortable expressions of his mouth; and as if the father ceased to be a father whenever he ceased those smiles and speeches.
Many honest hearts have weak heads.
God hath made a separation between sin and peace. As long as thou dost cherish thy pride, thy love of the world, the desires of the flesh, or any unchristian practice, thou expectest comfort in vain.
Alas! it is not a few dull words between jest and earnest, between sleeping and waking, that will rouse a dead-hearted sinner. If a house be on fire you will not make a cold oration on the nature and danger of fire, but will run and cry, Fire! fire! To tell a man of his sins as softly as Eli did his sons; or to reprove him as gently as Jehoshaphat did Ahab; "Let not the king say so;" usually does as much harm as good.
If you should see your neighbor fallen into a pit, and should pray God to help him out, but neither put forth your hand to help him, nor once direct him to help himself, would not any man censure you for your cruelty and hypocrisy? It is as true of the soul as of the body. If any man "seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" or what love hath he to his brother's soul?
Good laws will not reform us, if reformation begin not at home.
Afflictions speak convincingly, and will be heard when preachers cannot.
Consider, further, it is but the flesh that is chiefly troubled and grieved by afflictions. In most of our sufferings the soul is free, unless we ourselves wilfully afflict it. "Why then, O my soul, dost thou side with this flesh, and complain as it complaineth? It should be thy work to keep it under, and bring it into subjection; and if God do it for thee, shouldst thou be discontented? Hath not the pleasing of it been the cause of almost all thy spiritual sorrows? Why, then, may not the displeasing of it further thy joy? Must not Paul and Silas sing because their feet are in the stocks? Their spirits were not imprisoned. Ah, Unworthy soul! is this thy thanks to God for preferring thee so far before thy body?
Say not, "I could bear any other affliction but this." If God had afflicted thee where thou canst bear it, thy idol would neither have been discovered nor removed.
If you had a servant whom your wife loved better than yourself, would you not take it ill of such a wife, and rid your house of such a servant? So, if the Lord see you begin to settle in the world, and say, "Here I will rest," no wonder if he soon, in his jealousy, unsettle you. If he love you, no wonder if he take that from you with which he sees you are destroying yourself.
It hath long been my observation of many, that when they have attempted great works, and have just finished them or have aimed at great things in the world, and have just obtained them; or have lived in much trouble, and have just overcome it; and begin to look on their condition with content, and rest in it; they are then usually near to death or ruin. When a man is once at this language, "Soul, take thy ease," the next news usually is, "Thou fool, this night," or this month, or this year, "thy soul shall be required, and then whose shall these things be?"
We are like little children strayed from home, and God is now bringing us home, and we are ready to turn into any house, stay and play with every thing in our way, and sit down on every green bank, and much ado there is to get us home.