Friday, September 12, 2008

Richard Baxter on Delighting in God

Richard Baxter wrote a treatise entitled, The Character of a Confirmed Christian. In it, he lists 60 characteristics of true Christianity. He describes the true Christian experience of such, then describes the weak Christian’s experience of it, and finally the false professor’s (“Seeming Christian”) experience of the same. All 60 characteristics are considered under each of these three headings (the True Christian, the Weak Christian, the Seeming Christian).

Below is his description of the True Christian's experience of Delight in God (#23). Is this true of you?

XXIII. 1. A Christian indeed daily delights himself in God, and finds more solid content and pleasure in his commands and promises, than in all this world ; his duties are sweet to him, and his hopes are sweeter. Religion is not a tiresome task to him, the yoke of Christ is easy to him, his burden light, and his commandments are not grievous. That which others take as physic, for mere necessity, against their wills he goes to as a feast, with appetite and delight; he prays because he loves to pray; and he thinks and speaks of holy things, because he loves to do it. Hence it is that he is so much in holy duty, and so unwearied, because he loves it and takes pleasure in it. As voluptuous persons are oft and long at their sports, or merry company all because they love them, and take pleasure in them: so are such Christians oft and long in holy exercises, because their hearts are set upon them as their recreation, and the way and means of their felicity. If it be a delight to a studious man to read those books which most clearly open the most abstruse mysteries of the sciences, or to converse with the most wise and learned men: and if it be a delight to men to converse with their dearest friends, or to hear from them and read their letters, no marvel if it be a delight to a Christian indeed, to read the gospel mysteries of love, and to find there the promises of everlasting happiness, and to see in the face of Christ the clearest image of the eternal deity; and foresee the joys which he shall have forever. He sticks not in superficial formality, but breaking the shell, doth feed upon the kernel. It is not bare external duty which he is taken up with, nor any mere creature that is his content; but it is God in creatures and ordinances that he seeks and lives upon ; and therefore it is that religion is so pleasant to him. He would not change his heavenly delights, which he finds in the exercise of faith, hope, and love to God, for all the carnal pleasures of this world ; he had rather be a door-keeper in the house of God, than dwell in the tents or palaces of wickedness. A day in God’s court is better to him than a thousand in the court of the greatest prince on earth. He is not a stranger to the joy in the Holy Ghost, in which the kingdom of God in part consists. ‘In the multitude of his thoughts within him, the comforts of God delight his soul. – His meditation of God is sweet, and he is glad in the Lord.’ The freest and sweetest of his thoughts and words run out upon God and the matters of salvation. The word of God is sweeter to him than honey, and better than thousands of gold and silver. And because his delight is in the law of the Lord, therefore he meditates in it day and night, he sees great reason for all those commands, ‘rejoice evermore, let the righteous be glad, let them rejoice before God, yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy all that are upright in heart.’ He is sorry for the poor unhappy world, that have no better things than meat, drink, clothes, house, land, money, lust, play, and domineering over others, to rejoice in; and heartily he wishes that they had but a taste of the saint’s delights, that it might make them abandon their luscious, unclean, unwholesome pleasures. One look to Christ, one promise of the gospel, one serious thought of the life which he must live with God for ever, doth afford his soul more solid comfort than all the kingdoms on earth can afford. Though he live not continually in these high delights, yet peace with God, peace of conscience, and some delight in God, and godliness, is the ordinary temperature of his soul, and higher degrees are given him in season for his cordials and his feasts.


From: The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, Baker (714-715)