Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saint's Everlasting Rest

Before Richard Baxter hit the big time– wait a minute, have you ever heard of him? He wrote The Reformed Pastor (very convicting) and The Christian Directory (very long). He was an English Puritan, and popular among Reformed-minded pastors like Jeff and me.

Well, before Jeff and I heard of him, he fell very sick. So sick that he began blood letting (this was the 1600’s), which ties today’s post back to yesterday’s by the way. And so sick that he thought for sure he was going to die any day. He was only a young pastor at this time.

Baxter began to sketch some thoughts about heaven, hell, and eternity from the Bible (where else can you learn about such things?). He figured they would console him or possibly be used for his funeral sermon (or both?).

But an interesting thing happened. He didn’t die. Instead, he just kept writing.

And so was born a rather lengthy book (Puritans, and especially Baxter, are known for these). The book is titled The Saint’s Everlasting Rest and went through many printings.

A long while ago, I had heard about this book and sought to get hold of it. I found a used, abridged copy. Unlike the original, it’s short. But, I’m not so great at finishing long books anyway and, truth be told, sometimes the Puritans do go on a bit long. It’s not that they don’t have great things, certainly smart and orthodox things, to say, it’s just that they can say them…repeatedly.

Unlike Baxter, I had never finished this book. So I started reading it again yesterday.

Early on, Baxter gives thought to what it must be like for the soul to leave the body. He reflects on how terrifying this is for the one who “loitered” (hesitated) concerning his spiritual condition. And yet the reverse is true also. How joyful is that moment for the believer!

The contrast may be seen by considering two passages of Scripture. In Acts 6:54-60, Stephen leaves his body with Jesus joyfully in view. He is not concerned about the injustice and pain that is leveled against him; in fact, he forgives.

55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together [2] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Those in Revelation 6:12-17, however, also see Jesus—but they are terrified at the prospect.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

I’m looking forward to further thoughts from this sober, young man. As I said, he went on to some degree of fame in his later years. More significantly, he went on to meet Jesus . We will too.

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