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(Chapter three can be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/paul-baynes-brief-directions-unto-a-godly-life-chapter-3/)

CHAPTER FOUR: THE STAGES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

            And yet these and many other suchlike are renounced as they come to be known of God’s servants, and resisted, according to the wisdom which God has given them; although and others there will it rain, and the obtaining of grace to this, as a special part of Christianity. Ephesians 4:22. So that he that exercises himself in observing his soul and shameful lusts, when he has been led away, deceived by them, which of them do most trouble him, and must often  prevail with him, and so by the helps which God has given him, to resist them, though but weakly and imperfectly, he need not doubt but that he is occupied in the godly life.

            Thus all God’s children do renounce and overcome their wickedness, though not all in like measure. Yet even the weakest hate and strive against sin, when it is seen and perceived. All are not so meek as Moses (Numbers 12:13), so faithful as Abraham, so continent is Joseph (Genesis 39); so zealous as David; nor so full of love is the woman in the gospel (Luke 7:47). Yet those that be behind others (so it be a truth that they endeavor) are not to be discouraged, for all believers have not their part of the same degree of mortification, some receive 34, some 60, some an hundred. Indeed those who are most of all troubled for being behind others, do declare plainly, that they love the grace that they mourn for, and hate deadly the corruption which they complaining cry out of. Now who do not mourn their sins, but rather willingly suffer themselves to be ruled and led by their lusts can no ways claim any part of a godly life. For he that is so minded, could not be but carnal, estranged from God, and a bondman of hell.

            Comfort for the Faltering Christian

            But the Christians that strive against those, and declined them in their measure, may stay themselves for their comfort on these three special graces.

            1. That they have a clear knowledge of their salvation.

            2. That they account it as their chief treasure.

            3. That they be settled forward in some plane in good course of life, whereby they grow in faith, and the obtaining of God, though with some striving.

            But if they walk destitute of any of these three, they shall be snared much with fear and unquietness. These therefore, must be earnestly labored for, being of all things most necessary to be learned of such as have obtained already to the knowledge of true happiness by Jesus Christ: for is a man knows nothing profitable of the salvation before he believes, so after he believes, he knows nothing profitably to grow on with comfort is Christian course, without these three faithfully and carefully looked unto that preserved.

            Why Does God Not Sometimes Give Us More Grace?

            As for the greater increase of faith, knowledge, strength against sin, comfort and suchlike fruits of the Spirit, sometime the Lord does withhold them, either because he sees them in some respect not to be good for us or the present (2 Corinthians 10:9), or else try us [to make a trial of our faith], whether we love them[1] so well, that we will seek after them still were no.

            But for the most part, if we grow not, it is most justly to be imputed to our own fault as toour own ignorance, sloth, favoring of ourselves and sin. Or, if these be not the causes, then it is her own timorousness and unbelief, fearing that such graces we desire shall not be given to us; whereas we ought to believe.

            Neither need we fear lest by believing this we should be too  presumptuous, for God has promised it, commanded us to trust in him. James 1:6. And if we fail not in using the means, staying upon the Lord by faith, assuredly he will not fail nor disappoint us; but we shall have grace to guide our feet, to rise when we are fallen, returned when we are stepped out of the way, and to walk in most sweet safety under God’s protection, all the day. Deuteronomy 33:12. And finally, our gain shall be such as shall cause us to marvel at God’s goodness, and giving us more than we have asked.

            Three Levels of Growth in Grace

            Objection: A question may here be moved how the minds and hearts of the believers are taken up usually seeing they renounce outward lusts?

            Answer: Their thoughts are according to their divers [various stages of] growth and ages, which are three[2].

1.      The highest degree as of old age, or the experienced estate which yet is not the perfect age of Christ(for that shall not fall us to the life to come) but a firm, constant, and settled going on to that perfection.

2.      The second is the middle-age in Christianity, in which as young men and wrestling, we have courage against our sinful lusts; but yet like on to them who have many foils, we are oftentimes cooled in our courage, though we sometimes prevail, ever-growing, though slowly.

3.      The third is childhood or infancy, the lowest in the last. That which is principally discerned by an earnest desire of the sincere milk of the word, namely, of the promises of forgiveness of sins; which although some of these dear children of God cannot with full assurance laid hold of; yet this their hungry desire after it (which cannot be satisfied without it) with a sensible fear to offend God, is a true sign thereof.

            Those of Long Experience

            The first sort our such as through long experience, and much acquaintance, the practice of a godly life, have obtained grace to guide themselves more constantly than others, and to keep within bounds. They are much freed from this bondage, and seldom so grossly succumb to a corrupt lust as others: which estate, though it would be aimed at by all godly people, yet it is not obtained but of such as have cost them their minds to the heavenly course, and to whom good meditations and thoughts to shun and avoid evil are become a pleasure; and who understand the content of the commandments so that they can discern the good from evil.

            Now those who have their minds usually set up on some one or other of the infinite [perfect, eternal] heavenly instructions, which from time to time [continually] have treasured up in their hearts. Whereby, though they be not quickened up [changed] as they have desired, or desire to be, yet they are held [back from] much evil. They often consider God’s unutterable kindness, of man’s mortality, the momentary estate of all things under the sun, the blessed estate of the elect, the endless woe of the damned and suchlike.   They are often beholding and meditating on God, his majesty, power, wisdom, eternity, justice, patience and long-suffering, and of his care for them.  But a great part of their daily thought is this, how they may have a good conscience at all things pleasing God, and how they may be prepared for the cross; also how they may hold constantly the profession of their hope onto the end with joy; how they may resist all occasions of evil; what lets  [hindrances] they shall find from without and within. And lastly, how they may order well their particular actions and their callings, that they may make a good account at the end of the day, and so at the last end [the final judgment].

            Thus the first sort are exercised, yet not wholly free from evil thoughts, and vain desires,. For not even Paul was freed from such. 2 Corinthians 12:19, Romans 7:24. And God will make them see their weakness from time to time, especially to subdue pride in them, and to hold them under.

            The Young Men

            The second sort compared to young men, are neither so experienced in Christianity as the father, nor yet utterly unacquainted therewith, as the newborn babes.

            These are especially occupied and fighting against temptations, and resisting unruly lusts. Joel 2:4. For knowing by the light of the Scriptures, or corruptions they have in themselves, they watch their hearts to urgently; they pray against their corruptions often and earnestly; they are always in fear lest they should be overcome, and casting [searching for] how they may avoid the occasions of sin. And sin becomes odious onto them, yet not ever [finally] overcoming [corruptions]. They are often unsettled and distempered; often renewing the covenant with the Lord to please him better; sometimes discouraged, but they rise again, glad to use all good helps, both public and private, and having prevailed against greater corruptions, are earnestly set against the smaller, and such is seem less dangerous, such as the idle rovings of their brain which do not directly so much carry them after evil as hinder them from good [3]

            They are continue to suffer from some infirmities. But God permits this that they may be more humble and not forget what they were in times past.

            And so we see that the second age and growth in Christianity is a striving betwixt fear and hope, sorrow and joy – rather than superiority over unruly affections. It is an estate standing in need of counsel and help, rather than fitted and experienced to counsel, direct and settle others: but the more sure they be of their salvation[4], the more expert they should be in the battle.

            The Little Children

            The third sort compared to little children, who hang up on the breast and do labor for knowledge of their Father in Christ, and desire the means of their spiritual nourishment. 1Peter 2:2. Their thoughts are taken up in these things, and their keeping themselves that they may not offend or displease their Father. They are cheerful while their small faith is held up by cleaving to the promise. And since they will be uncheerful when their faith fails –  they must be careful of two perils.

            The first is, lest upon pretense of seeking continuance of comfort, they neglect their lawful business; for Satan appears as an angel of light[5].

            The second, when they lack the comfort of assurance, they be driven to any distrust or desperate fear; for so the devil appears as a roaring lion.[6]

            These must grow daily out of their childishness, mortifying all such faults as are in them – purging such from them. With these children, the Lord deals most kindly, not showing them all their corruptions at once, which were enough to dismay them; or how many afflictions abide them [are in wait for them] which would likely overwhelm them.

With us we may see in these three degrees, have for the most part the purged hearts of God’s children are taken up; the weakest of which do far differ from the secretive hypocrite.

 


[1] Will we seek the grace of God even if God does not give us immediate ease from sin? Will we be those who will strive for holiness?

[2] At this point, Baynes plainly relies upon the threefold level of maturity mentioned by John:

1 John 2:12–14 (ESV)

    12          I am writing to you, little children,

because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

    13          I am writing to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

                I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

                I write to you, children,

because you know the Father.

    14          I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

                I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God abides in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

 

[3] The mere fact of constant distractions and thoughtlessness – while not evil in itself – create conditions which will later find fertile ground for evil

[4] This is a point made at the beginning of Bayne’s treatise: Security of salvation is a great means to give strength to our Christian growth. Now such assurance must not be careless – from the outside, but may seem the same.

[5] They cannot let their despair over their spiritual state to bring them to carelessness over their other obligations. If they fall apart, Satan will have an opportunity to take further advantage of them.

[6] Again, falling apart, Satan may attack them seeing that they have become so weak.