Directions for the Rich – Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter (d. 1691)

Taken from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Part II: Christian Economics, XXVIII: “Directions for the Rich.”

I have said so much of this already, part i. about covetousness or worldliness, and about good works, and in my book of “Self-denial,” and that of “Crucifying the World;” that my reason commands me brevity in this place.[114]

Direct. I. Remember that riches are no part of your felicity; or that if you have no better, you are undone men. Dare you say that they are fit to make you happy? Dare you say, that you will take them for your part? and be content to be turned off when they forsake you? They reconcile not God; they save not from his wrath; they heal not a wounded conscience: they may please your flesh, and adorn your funeral, but they neither delay, nor sanctify, nor sweeten death, nor make you either better or happier than the poor. Riches are nothing but plentiful provision for tempting, corruptible flesh. When the flesh is in the dust, it is rich no more. All that abounded in wealth, since Adam’s days till now, are leveled with the lowest in the dust.

Direct. II. Yea, remember that riches are not the smallest temptation and danger to your souls. Do they delight and please you? By that way they may destroy you. If they be but loved above God, and make earth seem better for you than heaven, they have undone you. And if God recover you not, it had been better for you to have been worms or brutes, than such deceived, miserable souls. It is not for nothing, that Christ gives you so many terrible warnings about riches, and so describes the folly, the danger, and the misery of the worldly rich, Luke xii. 17-20; xvi. 19-21, &c; xviii. 21-23, &c.; and tells you how hardly the rich are saved. Fire burns most, when it hath most fuel; and riches are the fuel of worldly love and fleshly lust, 1 John ii. 15, 16; Rom. xiii. 13, 14.

Direct. III. Understand what it is to love and trust in worldly prosperity and wealth. Many here deceive themselves to their destruction. They persuade themselves, that they desire and use their riches but for necessity: but that they do not love them, nor trust in them, because they can say that heaven is better, and wealth will leave us to a grave! But do you not love that ease, that greatness, that domination, that fullness, that satisfaction of your appetite, eye, and fancy, which you cannot have without your wealth? It is fleshly lust, and will, and pleasure, which carnal worldlings love for itself; and then they love their wealth for these. And to trust in riches, is not to trust that they will never leave you; for every fool doth know the contrary. But it is to rest, and quiet, and comfort your minds in them, as that which most pleases you, and makes you well, or to be as you would be. Like him in Luke xii. 18, 19, that said, “Soul, take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry, thou hast enough laid up for many years.” This is to love and trust in riches.

Direct. IV. Above all the deceits and dangers of this world, take heed of a secret, hypocritical hope of reconciling the world to heaven, so as to make you a felicity of both; and dreaming of a compounded portion, or of serving God and mammon.[115] The true state of the hypocrite’s heart and hope is, to love his worldly prosperity best, and desire to keep it as long as he can, for the enjoyment of his fleshly pleasures; and when he must leave this world against his will, he hopes then to have heaven as his reserve; because he thinks it better than hell, and his tongue can say, It is better than earth, though his will and affections say the contrary. If this be your case, the Lord have mercy upon you, and give you a more believing, spiritual mind, or else you are lost, and you and your treasure will perish together.

Direct. V. Accordingly take heed, lest when you seem to resign yourselves, and all that you have, to God, there should be a secret purpose at the heart, that you will never be undone in the world for Christ, nor for the hopes of a better world. A knowing hypocrite is not ignorant, that the terms of Christ, proposed in the gospel, Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33, are no lower than forsaking all; and that in baptism, and our covenant with Christ, all must be designed and devoted to him, and the cross taken up instead of all, or else we are no Christians, as being not in covenant with Christ. But the hypocrite’s hope is, that though Christ put him upon these promises, he will never put him to the trial for performance, nor ever call him to forsake all indeed: and therefore, if ever he be put to it, he will not perform the promise which he hath made. He is like a patient that promises to be wholly ruled by his physician, as hoping that he will put him upon nothing which he cannot bear. But when the bitter potion or the vomit comes, he saith, I cannot take it, I had hoped you would have given me gentler physic.

Direct. VI. And accordingly take heed lest while you pretend to live to God, and to use all that you have as his stewards for his service, you should deceitfully put him off with the leavings of your lusts, and give him only so much as your flesh can spare. It is not likely that the damned gentleman, Luke xvi. was never used to give any thing to the poor; else what did beggars use his doors for? When Christ promises to reward men for a cup of cold water, the meaning is, when they would give better if they had it. There are few rich men of all that go to hell, that were so void of human compassion, or of the sense of their own reputation, as to give nothing at all to the poor; but God will have all, though not all for the poor, yet all employed as he commands; and will not be put off with your tithes or scraps. His stewards confess that they have nothing of their own.

Direct. VII. Let the use of your riches in prosperity show, that you do not dissemble when you promise to forsake all for Christ in trial, rather than forsake him. You may know whether you are true or false in your covenant with Christ, and what you would do in a day of trial, by what you do in your daily course of life. How can that man leave all at once for Christ, that cannot daily serve him with his riches, nor leave that little which God requires, in the discharge of his duty in pious and charitable works? What is it to leave all for God, but to leave all rather than to sin against God? And will he do that, who daily sins against God by omission of good works, because he cannot leave some part? Study, as faithful stewards, to serve God to the utmost with what you have now, and then you may expect that his grace should enable you to leave all in trial, and not prove withering hypocrites and apostates.

Direct. VIII. Be not rich to yourselves, or to your fleshly wills and lusts;[116] but remember that the rich are bound to be spiritual, and to mortify the flesh, as well as the poor. Let lust fare never the better for all the fullness of your estates. Fast and humble your souls never the less; please an inordinate appetite never the more in meat and drink; live never the more in unprofitable idleness. The rich must labor as constantly as the poor, though not in the same kind of work. The rich must live soberly, temperately, and heavenly, and must as much mortify all fleshly desires, as the poor. You have the same law and Master, and have no more liberty to indulge your lusts; but if you live after the flesh, you shall die as well as any other. Oh the partiality of carnal minds! They can see the fault of a poor man, that goes sometimes to an ale-house, who perhaps drinks water (or that which is next to it) all the week; when they never blame themselves, who scarce miss a meal without wine and strong drink, and eating that which their appetite desires. They think it a crime in a poor man, to spend but one day in many in such idleness, as they themselves spend most of their lives in. Gentlemen think that their riches allow them to live without any profitable labor, and to gratify their flesh, and fare deliciously every day; as if it were their privilege to be sensual, and to be damned, Rom. viii. 1, 5-9, 13.

Direct. IX. Nay, remember that you are called to far greater self-denial, and fear, and watchfulness against sensuality, and wealthy vices, than the poor are. Mortification is as necessary to your salvation, as to theirs, but much more difficult. If you live after the flesh, you shall die as well as they. And how much stronger are your temptations! Is not he easier drawn to gluttony or excess in quality or quantity, who hath daily a table of plenty, and enticing, delicious food before him, than he that never sees such a temptation once in half a year? Is it not harder for him to deny his appetite who hath the baits of pleasant meats and drinks daily set upon his table, than for him that is seldom in sight of them, and perhaps in no possibility of procuring them; and therefore hath nothing to solicit his appetite or thoughts? Doubtless the rich, if ever they will be saved, must watch more constantly, and set a more resolute guard upon the flesh, and live more in fear of sensuality, than the poor, as they live in greater temptations and dangers.

Direct. X. Know therefore particularly what are the temptations of prosperity, that you may make a particular, prosperous resistance. And they are especially these:

1. Pride. The foolish heart of man is apt to swell upon the accession of so poor a matter as wealth; and men think they are got above their neighbors, and more honor and obeisance is their due, if they be but richer.[117]

2. Fullness of bread.[118] If they do not eat till they are sick, they think the constant and costly pleasing of their appetite in meats and drinks, is lawful.

3. Idleness. They think he is not bound to labor, that can live without it, and hath enough.

4. Time-wasting sports and recreations. They think their hours may be devoted to the flesh, when all their lives are devoted to it; they think their wealth allows them to play, and court, and compliment away that precious time, which no men have more need to redeem; they tell God that he hath given them more time than they have need of; and God will shortly cut it off, and tell them that they shall have no more.

5. Lust and wantonness, fullness and idleness, cherish both the cogitations and inclinations unto filthiness; they that live in gluttony and drunkenness, are like to live in chambering and wantonness.[119]

6. Curiosity, and wasting their lives in a multitude of little, ceremonious, unprofitable things, to the exclusion of the great businesses of life.[120] Well may we say, that men’s lusts are their jailers, and their fetters, when we see to what a wretched kind of life a multitude of the rich (especially ladies and gentlewomen) do condemn themselves. I should pity one in jail, that were but tied so to spend their time; when they have poor, ignorant, proud, worldly, peevish, hypocritical, ungodly souls to be healed, and a life of great and weighty business to do for eternity, they have so many little things all day to do, that leave them little time to converse with God, or with their consciences, or to do any thing that is really worth the living for: they have so many fine clothes and ornaments to get, and use; and so many rooms to beautify and adorn, and so many servants to talk with, that attend them, and so many dishes and sauces to bespeak, and so many flowers to plant, and dress, and walks, and places of pleasure to mind; and so many visitors to entertain with whole hours of unprofitable talk; and so many great persons accordingly to visit; and so many laws of ceremony and compliment to observe; and so many games to play, (perhaps,) and so many hours to sleep, that the day, the year, their lives are gone, before they could have while to know what they lived for. And if God had but damned them to spend their days in picking straws or filling a bottomless vessel, or to spend their days as they choose themselves to spend them, it would have tempted us to think him unmerciful to his creatures.

7. Tyranny and oppression: when men are above others, how commonly do they think that their wills must be fulfilled by all men, and none must cross them, and they live as if all others below them were as their beasts, that are made for them, to serve and please them.

Direct. XI. Let your fruitfulness to God, and the public good, be proportionate to your possessions.[121] Do as much more good in the world than the poor, as you are better furnished with it than they. Let your servants have more time for the learning of God’s word, and let your families be the more religiously instructed and governed. To whom God gives much, from them he doth expect much.

Direct. XII. Do not only take occasions of doing good, when they are thrust upon you; but study how to do all the good you can, as those “that are zealous of good works,” Tit. ii. 14.[122] Zeal of good works will make you, 1. Plot and contrive for them. 2. Consult and ask advice for them. 3. It will make you glad when you meet with a hopeful opportunity. 4. It will make you do it largely, and not sparingly, and by the halves. 5. It will make you do it speedily, without unwilling backwardness and delay. 6. It will make you do it constantly to your lives’ end. 7. It will make you pinch your own flesh, and suffer somewhat yourselves to do good to others. 8. It will make you labor in it as your trade, and not only consent that others do good at your charge. 9. It will make you glad when good is done, and not to grudge at what it cost you. 10. In a word, it will make your neighbors to be to you as yourselves, and the pleasing of God to be above yourselves, and therefore to be as glad to do good, as to receive it.

Direct. XIII. Do good both to men’s souls and bodies; but always let bodily benefits be conferred in order to those of the soul, and in due subordination, and not for the body alone. And observe the many other rules of good works, more largely laid down, part i. chap. iii. direct. 10.

Direct. XIV. Ask yourselves often, how you shall wish at death and judgment your estates had been laid out; and accordingly now use them. Why should not a man of reason do that which he knows beforehand he shall vehemently wish that he had done?

Direct. XV. As your care must be in a special manner for your children and families; so take heed of the common error of worldlings, who think their children must have so much, as that God and their own souls have very little. When selfish men can keep their wealth no longer to themselves, they leave it to their children, who are as their surviving selves. And all is cast into this gulf, except some inconsiderable parcels.

Direct. XVI. Keep daily account of your use and improvement of your Master’s talents.[123] Not that you should too much remember your own good works, but remember to do them; and therefore ask yourselves, What good have I done with all that I have, this day or week?

Direct. XVII. Look not for long life; for then you will think that a long journey needs great provisions; but die daily, and live as those that are going to give up their account: and then conscience will force you to ask, whether you have been faithful stewards, and to lay up a treasure in heaven, and to make you friends of the mammon that others use to unrighteousness, and to lay up a good foundation for the time to come, and to be glad that God hath given you that, the improvement of which may further the good of others, and your salvation.[124] Living and dying, let it be your care and business to do good.


[114]   See more in my “Life of Faith.”

[115]   Heb. x. 34; Luke xviii. 22; Matt. xiii. 20-22; Acts v. 1, &c; ii. 45; Luke xiv. 33.

[116]   Luke xii. 21; Acts x. 1-3.

[117]   Jam. v. 1-6.

[118]   Ezek. xvi.

[119]   Rom. xiii. 13, 14.

[120]   Luke x. 40-42.

[121]   John xv. 5; Mark xii. 41; Luke xii. 48.

[122]   Matt. v. 16; Gal. 6-10; 1 Pet. ii. 12; Heb. x. 24; Tit. iii. 8, 14; ii. 7; Eph. ii. 10; 1 Tim. ii. 10; v. 10; Acts ix. 36.

[123]   Matt. xxv. 14, 15.

[124]   1 Tim. vi. 18; 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2; Luke xvi. 10; 1 Tim. v. 25.

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