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which he had to Christ, his church, and all the faithful, obliged me to be the larger in describing his example for your use and comfort; for as Christ, gone to heaven, hath left here his servants, called his brethren, that men in them may show their love and thankfulness to him, which he will reward as done unto himself, so the way which I must take to express my love and gratitude to your deceased father is by desiring and endeavouring the true felicity of his wife and children, whom he so dearly loved; and that must be, by taking God for your God and Father ; Christ for your Saviour; the holy Spirit for your Sanctifier; the holy Scriptures for your rule; the church for the body of which you are members; true pastors for your teachers; the faithful for your most beloved companions; (especially each other who are by so many bonds obliged to more than ordinary endearedness and love ;) and Christ for your chief pattern, and such as your father in following him ; heaven for your felicity, home, and hope ;" and this short life for the day of your preparation and salvation; and the world, flesh, and devil, so far as they are against any of this, for the enemies which, with all vigilancy and resolution, must be overcome.
Oh! how great, how good, and absolutely necessary a work is this, which if any one of you should miscarry about, you would be more inexcusable than most persons in the world! But that you will all faithfully imitate such an example of holiness, humility, meekness, mortification, peace, and dearest love to one another, and to all good men, is the comfortable hope and hearty prayer, as it is the present faithful counsel of
Your servant for such ends,
RICHARD BAXTER. December 7, 1680.
FAITHFUL SOULS SHALL BE WITH CHRIST,
JOHN xii. 26.
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there
shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, Father honour.
him will my
If our judgments and wills had been the choosers and disposers of human events, as the affairs of the world would be otherwise managed than they are ; so the meeting of this day would rather have been for a joyful thanksgiving for our deceased friend's recovery to health than a mourning solemnizing of his funeral; but it is not we that made the world, or our own or others' souls, and it is not our right to determine of their time and events. It is one prime Agent, supreme Ruler, and ultimate end; one that is infinite in power, wisdom, and goodness, who is omnipresent, immutable, and every way perfect, that must actuate, order, and bless a world of such imperfect and differing individuals; and not such ignorant understandings, such partial and ill-guided wills, and such impotent powers as ours are : he that maketh the watch, determineth how many hours it shall go. The giver of life and time, must give us the measures of it; it is our part to spend it well : it is because the Creator having left us to some liberty and trust about ourselves, we are the misusers of it, that there are so many disorders, and, consequently, calamities, in the world, and on ourselves and ours, as there are. And if the God of love did not keep the overruling determination in his hand, and bring good out of all our evil, and harmony out of our discords and confusions, what a chaos, or hell, would the world become! Let us, therefore, humbly and willingly leave God's own work to himself, (he will do all well, and at last we shall understand it,) and let us mind our
He hath taken up our brother's soul from earth: it is our part to think how to improve this; our own are following: our
FAITHFUL SOULS. SHALL BE WITH CHRIST.
hour is at hand: our oil is wasting apace: our glass is almost run; every pulse, every breath, every word leaveth us one less of the number appointed us. It is our great concern to look inwards, and look upwards, and with our utmost diligence to study how to spend the short time that remaineth, that we may die in safety, peace, and hope, and follow the departed saints to glory.
To instruct myself and you herein, I have chosen this text, as giving us both sure directions, and such great and comfortable promises as in life, and at death, we may boldly trust.
They are spoken by no doubtful messenger, but by the mouth of Christ himself; and that to men who were under our temptations, and earnestly desired to see Christ glorified on earth, and to partake of outward greatness here; to see that famous man who had wrought so many miracles, and lately raised the dead. But he tells them that both he and they must die before they can be glorified, and that they must overcome the inordinate love of this life, if ever they would attain a life of blessedness ; (John xii. 23–25;) and that they might not, by uncertainty of the end or way, say, as Philip, “ We know not whither thou goest, and how shall we know the way,” he summarily tells them both; the way is to serve him, and follow him; the end that is promised is, to be where he is, and to be honoured of his Father.
As if he should say, I know that your weakness and remaining carnality is such, that you would fain see me reign as an universal king on earth, that you might be advanced by me in the flesh ; and it is a hard lesson to you to learn to lay down this life, which is so dear to you, and to pass into a world which you never saw, and know so little of. But have I not, by my doctrine, life, and frequent miracles, and newly by raising Lazarus from the dead, convinced you that I am the true Messiah, sent of God, to whom you may boldly trust the conduct and disposal of your lives and souls? If so, then see that you absolutely trust me, learn of me, serve me, and follow me. And let this satisfy you living and dying, that you shall speed as I myself do, and be with me where I am, though the place and state be yet unseen to you; and there you shall, by my Father, be advanced to far greater dignity and honour, than in this sinful life and world you are capable of. And of all this I give here my promise, which you must believe and trust, if you will be saved by me.'
This is the plain exposition of the text. But let us more distinctly inquire. I. What is here meant by serving Christ. II. What it is to follow him. And, afterwards, III. What it is to be where he is. IV. And what to be honoured by his Father.
I. Some, that by false and narrow notions have received a. wrong opinion of saving faith, may be puzzled at this, that serving Christ and following him are made the necessary terms or conditions of being where he is. And some say, that justifying faith, and saving faith, are two different things; and some say, that Christ himself did not clearly preach the doctrine of justification by faith, but left it for St. Paul. But the plain truth is, that in the gospel it is all one, to be a believer, a Christian, and a disciple of Christ, in covenant with him as the true Messiah. And in those times the disciples of any great and famous teachers were taken into their families, and were their servants ; not in a worldly common work, but in order to the ends of their office and instructions ; it is the same word which we often translate “deacons ;” and as it was then usual with Jews and heathens, at their great feasts, for the servitors to give every guest his part, by the appointment of the ruler of the feast; so the Spirit, by the apostles, did institute church deacons to be servants to distribute the provisions made at their love-feasts, and the proportions allowed for each one's relief, to look to the poor, and to execute such church orders as the present bishops or elders did appoint (by which you may see how big the bishop's church then was). And so Christ calleth all Christians his deacons, ministers, or servants, and some above others, peculiarly in office, as those that were to serve hiin as the Saviour of the world, for their own and men's salvation; as his relation to us partaketh by analogy of many, so is our service to him. It is as the service of a scholar in obedient and diligent humble learning; as the obedience of a patient to his physician; as the obedience of a beggar in asking, and thankfully accepting ; as the obedience of a malefactor, who thankfully taketh a pardon; and if a rebel, promiseth to lay down arms, and live in true subjection to his prince; as the service of a child that liveth dependently in dutiful gratitude and love. It is not to give Christ any thing that he needeth ; but to be readier to hear him, than to offer him the sacrifice of fools, who, by thinking to oblige him by their gifts, do but offend him.
The matter of our required service is, 1. To confess, with grief, our sin, our misery, and our need of him, his grace and mercy.
2. To learn, understand, and believe his word.
3. Thereby to know God, from whom we were revolted; and to return to him in the hand of our Mediator, by absolute resignation, devotion, and subjection; to obey, and trust, and love him, and joyfully to hope for everlasting happiness in his love.
4. To give up ourselves to Christ as our Saviour, by his sacrifice, merits, teaching, government, and intercession; to bring us home to God, by justifying, sanctifying, and finally glorifying us.
5. To obey the motions of his Spirit to that end, which are but to bring us to a conformity of his word.
6. To love God in his saints and creatures, and do all the good to one another that we can, and cherish a holy unity and peace, and to do wrong to none.
7. To watch against and resist all the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the devil, which would draw us from any of this duty.
8. To bear our medicinal corrections patiently and profitably, and pray, seek, and wait for blessed immortality.
9. To pray long, and labour for the public good, the church's welfare, and the conversion of the dark, unbelieving world.
10. To do all this for the glorifying of God and our Redeemer, and the pleasing of his holy will, as the end and only rest of souls.
This is the service which Christ requireth; and is there any thing in all this which is not safe, delightful, honourable, profitable, and exceedingly desirable, to every one that knoweth what it is to hope for happiness, and to live like a Christian or a man?
II. And what is it that is meant by following Christ? Disciples then were wont to dwell with their Master, that they might be always at hand to do what he bid them.
To follow Christ, includeth, 1. The absolute taking him for the guide and Saviour, to whom we trust our bodies and souls. 2. The obedient following of his instruction and commands. 3. The following of his example, in all the imitable parts of his life. 4. The submissive following him through all the sufferings wherewith God trieth us, and by. what death he chooseth for us, into the heavenly mansions, whither he is ascended.