The Motives To This Oversight
Having shown us in the first part that we need to ‘take heed of ourselves‘, Baxter moves on in chapter 2 to discuss the motives behind this ‘duty’.
1. ‘Take heed of yourselves, for you have a heaven to win or lose…O what sadder case can there be in the world, than for a man, who made it his very trade and calling to proclaim salvation, and to help others to heaven, yet after all to be himself shut out! A holy calling will not save an unholy man.’ (p72)
Translation: We who preach the gospel must know the gospel for ourselves. How scary it is that men and women up and down the UK stand in pulpits in the name of a gospel they have not understood. Be warned, says Baxter, salvation is only in Christ and hell is full of many a ‘pastor’ who wore a nice suit and had a nice patter in Greek on a Sunday morning.
2. ‘Take heed, for you have a depraved nature and , and sinful inclinations, as well as others. If one thief be in the house, he will let in the rest; because they have the same disposition and design.’ (p73)
Translation: We are worse than we ever dared imagine. Our hearts are black and our thoughts are evil and we must be awake to, and aware of, just how capable of sin we really are. We must guard our hearts constantly against ourselves, or we will be caught unawares.
3. ‘Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will more ply you with temptations than other men. He beareth the greatest malice to those that are engaged to do him the greatest mischief. The devil is a greater scholar than you, a nimbler disputant; he can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive.’ (p74)
Translation: Those engaged in the pastoral ministry will face many and great temptations. Those of us who dare to stand out and speak up for the truths of the glorious gospel will come under savage attack by our enemy. We should never underestimate the devil and think we know better than him, or we are stronger than him, or our faith will overcome his schemes. Pride has destroyed many a ministry.
4. ‘Take heed to yourselves, because there are many eyes upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls. If other men may sin without observation, so cannot you. And you should thankfully consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch over you…Do your work as those who remember that the world looks on them.’ (Pp75-76)
Translation: People are watching and waiting for us to trip up. They are looking for any excuse not to believe and to justify their sinful disobedience to God. Our failings give them the perfect cover for their sinful shortcomings. Many find this a pressure but it can be a blessing and spur us on to greater holiness and Christlike obedience in our ministries.
5. ‘Take heed to yourselves, for your sins have more heinous aggravations than other men’s. (1) You are more likely than others to sin against knowledge because you have more than they. (2) Your sins have more hypocrisy in them than other men’s, by how much the more you have spoken against them. (3) Your sins have more perfidiousness in them than other men’s, by how much the more you have engaged yourselves against them.’ (Pp76-77)
Translation: Because of your position, your sins have greater consequences and a higher ‘fallout’ than a normal Sunday Joe. (1) It is worse because you do it knowing more truth. (2) It is worse because you have been engaged in sin whilst at the same time encouraging others to lay it down. (3) It is worse because you have used the pulpit to denounce the very things you have been actively engaged in.
6. ‘Take heed to yourselves, because such great works as ours require greater grace as other men’s.’ (p77)
Translation: If you attempt great things for God then you will require greater grace to receive the strength needed for the task. There is no point engaging in the heat of spiritual battle if you are careless about your soul.
7. ‘Take heed to yourselves, for the honour of your Lord and Master, and of his holy truth and ways, doth lie more on you than on other men. The nearer men stand to God, the greater dishonour hath he by their miscarriages. Why, if one of you that is the leader of the flock, should be ensnared but once into some scandalous crime, there is scarcely a man or woman that seeketh diligently after their salvation,within the hearing of it, but, besides the grief of their hearts for your sin, are likely to have it cast in their teeth by the unGodly about them, however much they may detest it, and lament it.’ (p79)
Translation: When men of our standing fall into serious sin then it is a big deal. God’s name is greatly dishonoured. Not only does it hurt the sheep but it also gives the wolves ammunition to throw it back in the faces of the truly Godly. Our actions have serious and devastating consequences far beyond our own lives.
8. ‘Take heed of yourselves, for the success of all your labours doth very much depend upon this. (1) Can it be expected that God will bless man’s labours, not for God but for himself? (2) Can you think that he is as likely to be as successful as others, who dealeth not heartily and faithfully in his work, who believeth not what he saith, and is not truly serious when he seemeth most diligent? (3) Do you think that it is a likely thing that he will fight against satan with all his might, who is himself a servant to satan? (4) It is not likely that people will regard much the doctrine of such men, when they see that they do not live as they preach. (p80)
Translation: We must be careful that we are motivated by a deep desire to honour God above all else in our work for him. (1) It is too easy to go for applause and the praise of others. God blesses the faithful labourer. (3) We must believe what we say and teach with all of our hearts, otherwise any success we do have will be meaningless in the light of eternity, when God will judge our efforts by an entirely different criteria. (3) We cannot serve two masters and sooner or later our allegiance will come to the fore. (4) Right minded people will soon clue up to the fact that your ministry sucks and you are a liar, because your life does not match up to the package you are selling.
I was really challenged by this chapter. If we want to serve the Lord then we must guard our own hearts first and question our own motivations constantly. May God help all of us to live solely for the glory of His name and His Word.