The dedication of the Saint’s Everlasting Rest (1649).
Baxter dedicates this treatise (“A Treatise of the Blessed State of the Saints in Their Enjoyment of God in Glory”) to the people of Kidderminster, where he was the pastor.
First, the tells a little of how this treatise came to be:
Being in my quarters, far from home, cast into extreme languishing by the sudden loss of about a gallon of blood, after many years foregoing weakness, and having no acquaintance about me nor any book but my Bible and living in continual expectation of death, I bent my thoughts on my everlasting rest; and because of my memory, through extreme weakness, was imperfect, I took my pen and began to draw up my own funeral sermon, or some helps for my own meditations of heaven, to sweeten both of the rest of my life and my death. In this condition God was pleased to continue me about five months from home; where, being able for nothing else, I went on with this work, which so links send to this which you hear see. It is no wonder, therefore, if I be too abrupt in the beginning, seeing I then intended but the length of a sermon or two; much less may you wonder, If the whole be very imperfect seeing it was written as it were with 1 foot in the grave, by a man that was betwixt living and dead, that wanted strength of nature to quicken invention or affection, and had no book but his Bible, well the chief part was finished; nor had any mind of human ornaments, if he had been furnished.
Baxter then proceeds to give “ten directions” to the people of his church for proceeding after he should go his everlasting rest.
Be careful of what you know and how you know it: “to be men of knowledge and sound understanding. A sound judgment is the most precious mercy, and much conduceth to soundness of heart and life. A week judgment is easily corrupted; and if it be wants corrupted, the will and conversation [conduct] Will quickly follow. Your understandings are the Inlet or entrance to the whole soul; and if you be week there, your souls are like a garrison that hath open or ill-guarded gates; and if the enemy be once left in there, the whole city will be quickly his own. Ignorance is virtually every errror, therefore let the Bible be much in your hands and hearts: remember what I taught you on Deuteronomy vi. 6,7. Read much the writings of our old, solid divines. You may be able to read and able divine when you cannot hear one.”
“Do the utmost to get a faithful minister when I taken from you, and be sure to acknowledge him your teacher, overseer, and ruler. 1 Thess. v. 12,13; Acts xx. 28; Heb. xiii 7, 17.” But what if he cannot do that job well? “do not choose him”. Moreover, not all of his work is in the pulpit, “To go daily from one house to another, and see how you live, and examine how you profit, and direct you in the duties of your families, and in your preparations for death, is the great work.”
“Let all your knowledge turn into affection and practice; keep open the passage between your hearts and your hearts, that every truth may go to the quick.”
Teach your families.
Don’t run off from one bad doctrine to another.
Live peaceably with one another.
“Above all, be sure you get down pride in your hearts….No sin is more natural, more common, or more deadly. A proud man is his own idol; only from pride cometh contention. There is no living in peace with a proud person ….To be a true christian without humility is as hard as to be a man without a soul.”
“Be sure to keep the mastery over flesh and senses. Few ever fall from God, but flesh-pleasing is the cause. Many think the by ‘flesh’ the Scripture means our in-dwelling sin, when, alas!it is the inordinate sensitive appetite that it chargeth us to subdue.”
Care for the life and conduct of your fellow believers. “Admonish them lovingly and modestly, but be sure you do it, and that seriously.”
“Lastly, be sure to maintain a constant delight in God, and a seriousness and spirituality in all his worship.”