Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings
[Table of Contents]  [Fast Index]  [Site Map] 

Consider the Nature of Man in General

by Richard Baxter

But, 1. We must know how frail, and erroneous, and unconstant a thing man is; and therefore not be too high in our expectations from man. We must suppose that men will mistake us, and wrong us, and slander us, through ignorance, passion, prejudice, or self-interest. And when this befalls us, we must not account it strange and unexpected.

2. We must consider how far the enmity that is in lapsed man to holiness, and the ignorance, prejudice, and passion of the ungodly, will carry them to despise, and scorn, and slander all such as seriously and zealously serve God, and cross them in their carnal interest. And therefore, if for the sake of Christ and righteousness, we are accounted as the scorn and offscouring of all things, and as pestilent fellows, and movers of sedition among the people and such as are unworthy to live and have all manner of evil spoken of us falsely, it must not seem strange or unexpected to us, nor cast us down, but we must bear it patiently, yea, and exceedingly rejoice in hope of our reward in heaven.

3. Considering what remnants of pride and self-conceitedness remain in many that have true grace, and how many hypocrites are in the church, whose religion consisteth in opinions and their several modes of worship; we must expect to be reproached and abused by such, as in opinions, and modes, and circumstances do differ from us, and take us therefore as their adversaries. A great deal of injustice, sometimes by slanders or reproach, and sometimes by greater violence, must be expected, from contentious professors of the same religion with ourselves: especially when the interest of their faction or cause requireth it: and especially if we bring any truth among them, which seemeth new to them, or crosseth the opinions which are there in credit, or would be reformers of them in any thing that is amiss.

4. No men must be pleased by sin, nor their favour preferred before the pleasing of God. Man's favour as against God, is to be despised, and their displeasure made light of. If doing our duty will displease them, let them be displeased; we can but pity them.

5. We must place none of our happiness in the favour or approbation of men, but account it as to ourselves to be a matter of no great moment, neither worth any great care or endeavour to obtain it, or grief for losing it. We must not only contemn it as compared to the approbation and favour of God but we must value it but as other transitory things, in itself considered; estimating it as a means to some higher end, the service of God, and our own or other men's greater good: and further than it conduceth to some of these, it must be almost indifferent to us what men think or say of us: and the displeasure of all men, if unjust, must be reckoned with our light afflictions.

6. One truth of God, and the smallest duty, must be preferred before the pleasing and favour of all the men in the world. Though yet as a means to the pro noting of a greater truth or duty, the favour and pleasing of men must be preferred before the uttering of a lesser truth, or doing a lesser good at that time: because it is no duty then to do it.

7. Our hearts are so selfish and deceitful, naturally, that when we are very solicitous about our reputation, we must carefully watch them lest self be intended, while God is pretended. And we must take special care, that we be sure it be the honour of God, and religion, and the good of souls, or some greater benefit than honour itself, that we value our honour and reputation for.

8. Man's nature is so prone to go too far in valuing our esteem with men, that we should more fear lest we err on that hand, than on the other, in undervaluing it. And it is far safer to do too little than too much, in the vindicating of our own reputation, whether by the magistrate's justice, or by disputing, or any contentious means.

9. We must not wholly rest on the judgment of and, about the state of our souls, nor take their judgment of us for infallible; but use their help that we may know ourselves.

10. If ministers, or councils called general, do err and contradict the word of God, we must do our best to discern it; and discerning it, must desert their error rather than the truth of God. As Calvin, and after him Paraeus on I Cor. iv. 3, say, "We must give an account of our doctrine to all men that require it, especially to ministers and councils: but when a faithful pastor perceiveth himself oppressed with unrighteous and perverse designs and factions and that there is no place for equity and truth, he ought to be careless of man's esteem, and appeal to God, and fly to his tribunal. And if we see ourselves condemned, our cause being unpleaded, and judgment passed, our cause being unheard, let us lift up our minds to this magnanimity, as despising men's judgment, to expect with boldness the judgment of God;" and say with Paul, "With me it is a small matter to be judged of you, or of man's judgment, I have one that judgeth me, even the Lord."

11. God must be enough for a gracious soul, and we must know "that in his favour is life," and his "loving-kindness is better than life itself," and this must be our care and labour, that "whether living or dying" we may be accepted of him, and if we have his approbation it must satisfy us, though all the world condemn us. Therefore having faithfully done our duty, we must leave the matter of our reputation to God, who, if our ways please him, can make our enemies to be at peace with us, or be harmless to us as if they were no enemies. As we must quietly leave it to him what measure of wealth we shall have, so also what measure of honour we shall have. It is our duty to love and honour, but not to be beloved and honoured.

12. The prophecy of our Saviour must be still believed, that the "world will hate us," and his example must be still before our eyes, who submitted to be spit upon, and scorned and buffeted, and slandered as a traitor or usurper of the crown, and "made himself of no reputation," and "endured the cross," and "despised the shame;" leaving us an example that we should follow his steps, "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed all to him that judgeth righteously." This is the usage that must be the christian's expectation, and not to be well spoken of by all, nor to have the applause and honour of the world.

13. It is not only the approbation of the ignorant and ungodly that we must thus set light by; but even of the most learned and godly themselves, so as to bear their censures as an easy burden, when God is pleased this way to try us; and to be satisfied in God alone, and the expectation of his final judgment.

Return to Previous Page (Main document on Man-pleasing)
Richard Baxter on Man-pleasing


Table of Contents Main Page Quote of the Week
History & Biography Poetry If You're Looking For...
New & Favourite Reformed Links Fast Index
Site Map Frivolous Search
About the Puritans Our Church