What and why must be the concern of the Christian in this life? First, it is a good to the church that one’s life and one’s society be peaceful, civil, ordered:
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Second, it is good that the church have peace — not for the sake of peace alone, but for the good which can come from the church’s peace.
Third, it is good to be thankful for the health of one’s body. It is a wicked Gnosticism which makes the real world into a false or unimportant one. For example, the biblical counselor must be sensitive to the physical body. It is often best to send a counselee to see a medical doctor at the first — either their state has caused injury to their body (through worry or anxiety), or their physical condition in part gives rise to one’s distress. Only a fool would sever the body and soul as to make the body the tomb and the soul a bird set to fly away — as the pagans had it, soma sema (and no, the “flesh” in Paul does not mean the physical body is the source of sin).
Baxter proves this from the Lord’s own actions: if the physical body were nothing, than why did Jesus grant physical healing:
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. Mark 1: 32-34.
(Note: demons are associated with disease — not as the cause for some sin. Second, not every disease was caused by a demon.) Second, The Lord himself came in a physical body — a point which believers must not deny:
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 Joh 3:1-3.
He also physically resurrected:
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.
38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate before them. Luke 24:36-42
And believers are promised a physical resurrection:
1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.
4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened-not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.
In fact, it was this point which brought on the gawfaws of the Mars Hill crowd:
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
33 So Paul went out from their midst.
34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Acts 17:29-34
Without question then the physical body must be affirmed and seen as good (corrupted by sin, yes; but not intrinsically evil).
Moreover, enjoyment of physical good is commended:
18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.
19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil-this is the gift of God.
20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
We must also rejoice in our friends, and join in their sorrows:
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans 12:14-16
We are also called to give comfort to other in distress:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6
Thus, the real life of others is a matter of great concern. It is such a matter to be considered at the time of judgment: At the separation of the sheep and goats, The Lord will commend those who cared for the prisoner, the hungry, the naked, the stranger:
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:27-40
Likewise, the wicked will condemned for their refusal to care for the poor — for they failed to care for The Lord himself. This is a constant reference for the judgment which came upon Israel:
6 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals-
7 those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned;
8 they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined. Amos 2:6-8
Baxter also gives thanks for “the land of my nativity” (8). He notes the connection between the ordering of the civil state and the good of the Gospel. Now, Baxter wrote at such a time that godliness could easily land one in prison or worse. Oppression on all sides was the order of the day — he lived through the working out of freedom of conscience (a thing rare under the sun).
What Baxter did not see was the poison which the state could feed religion by gradual compromise and coziness.