Directions for Hating Sin

by Richard Baxter

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Direction I: Labor to know God, and to be affected with His attributes, and always to live as in His sight. They that fear God will fear sinning; they that in their hearts are bold irreverently with God, will, in heart and life, be bold with sin. The atheist, who thinks there is no God, thinks there is no sin against Him. Nothing in the world will tell us so plainly and powerfully of the evil of sin, as the knowledge of the greatness, wisdom, goodness, holiness, authority, justice, and truth of God. The sense of His presence, therefore, will revive our sense of sin's malignity.

Direction II: Consider well of the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ. His office is to expiate sin, and to destroy it. His blood was shed for it; His life condemned it. Love Christ, and you will hate that which caused His death. Love Him, and you will love to be made like Him, and hate that which is so contrary to Christ. These two great lights will show the odiousness of darkness.

Direction III: Think well about the holy work of the Holy Ghost, and how great a mercy it is to us. Shall God Himself, the heavenly Light, come down into a sinful heart, to illuminate and purify it? And yet shall I keep my darkness and defilement, in opposition to such wonderful mercy?

Direction IV: Know and consider the wonderful love and mercy of God. Think what he has done for you and you will hate sin, and be ashamed of it. To offend a God of infinite goodness, who has filled up our lives with mercy, is an aggravation which makes sin odious even to common reason.

Direction V: Remember that the soul of man is made to love, obey, and glorify our Maker; and then you will see what sin is, which disables and perverts it. How excellent, and high, and holy a work are we created for! Should we defile the temple of God and serve the devil in filthiness and folly?

Direction VI: Think what pure and sweet delights a holy soul may enjoy from God, in His holy service; and then you will see what sin is, which prefers fleshly lusts instead of these delights. O how happily might we perform every duty, and how fruitfully might we serve our Lord, and what delight should we find in His love, if it were not for sin, which brings down the soul from the doors of heaven, to wallow with swine in a dunghill!

Direction VII: If you could see and hear for just one hour how the blessed spirits in heaven are occupied in loving and magnifying the glorious God in purity and holiness, it would make you loathe sin ever after, and look on sinners as on men in bedlam wallowing naked in their dung. Think what a life it is which you must live forever, if you live in heaven, where is no sinning, no worldly mind, no pride, no passion, no fleshly lust. And then think whether sin, which is so contrary to it, be not a vile and hateful thing.

Direction VIII: Look but to the state and torment of the damned, and think well of the difference between angels and devils, and you may know what sin is. Angels are pure, devils are polluted. Sin dwells in hell, and holiness in heaven. Remember when you sin, that you are imitating the devil, and are so far like him (John 8:44). And the end of all is that you may feel his pains. If hell-fire is not good, then sin is not good.

Direction IX: Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last. What do men in heaven say of it? And what do men in hell say of it? And what do men at death say of it? And what do converted souls, or awakened consciences, say of it? Will any of them speak well of it?

Direction X: Look always on sin and judgment together. Remember that you must answer for it before God, and angels, and all the world; and you will the better know it.

Direction XI: Look now but upon sickness, poverty, shame, despair, death, and rottenness in the grave, and it may a little help you to know what sin is. These are things within your sight or feeling; you do not need faith to tell you of them.

Direction XII: Look but upon some eminent, holy persons upon earth, and upon the mad, profane, malignant world; and the difference may tell you in part what sin is. Is not the mad, confused, ignorant, ungodly state of the world a very pitiful sight? What, then, is the sin that all this consists in?

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Living the Life

Though the principal part of the cure is in turning the will to the hatred of sin, and is done by this discovery of its malignity; yet I shall add a few more directions for the executive part, supposing that what is said already has had its effect.

Direction I: When you have found out your disease and danger, give up yourselves to Christ as the Savior and Physician of souls, and to the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier, remembering that He is sufficient and willing to do the work which He has undertaken.

Direction II: Yet must you be willing and obedient in applying the remedies prescribed by Christ. And you must not be sensitive and say Christ's remedy is too bitter, too sharp; but trust His love and skill and care, and take it as He prescribes it. He commands you nothing but what is safe, and wholesome, and necessary. Are humiliation, confession, restitution, mortification, and holy diligence worse than the fire of hell?

Direction III: Do not strive against the Spirit and conscience, or hate the reproof of ministers and godly friends, for they are means to be cured and sanctified.

Direction IV: Avoid the gross self-deceit of speaking about the evil of sin in general, but failing to detect your own particular sins, such as pride, worldliness, lack of love, or sinning against conscience for worldly gain or safety. This is like him that will speak against treason, and the enemies of the king, but because the traitors are his friends and kindred, will protect or hide them.

Direction V: Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life.

Direction VI: As grace and duty are contrary to sin, and are its cure, live in the exercise of those graces and duties.

Direction VII: Cast not away the comforts of God, which are your cordials and strength. It is the encouraging sense of the love of God, and thankful sense of grace received (with a cautious fear) that is fittest to resist sin.

Direction VIII: Be always suspicious of carnal self-love, which is the fortress of sin. We are very prone to be partial to our own cause. Our passions, our pride, our back-bitings, our neglects of duty, seem small and excusable to us; whereas we could easily see the faultiness of all these in another. Yet we should hate our own sins most.

Direction IX: Make it your first and greatest labor to cleanse the heart, which is the fountain; for out of the heart come the evils of the life. Know which are the master-roots of sin, and bend your greatest effort to mortify those: especially ignorance, unbelief, inconsiderateness, selfishness and pride, fleshliness (in pleasing a brutish appetite, lust, or fantasy), and senseless hard-heartedness and sleepiness in sin.

Direction X: Account the world and all its pleasures, wealth, and honors, no better than indeed they are, and then Satan will find no bait to catch you. Esteem all as dung with Paul (Phil. 3:8).

Direction XI: Keep up above in a heavenly conversation, and then your souls will be always in the light, and as in the sight of God, and taken up with those businesses and delights which cause you to spurn the baits of sin.

Direction XII: Let Christian watchfulness be your daily work; and cherish a preserving, though not a distracting and discouraging fear.

Direction XIII: Take heed of the first approaches and beginnings of sin. Oh, how great a matter does a little of this fire kindle! And if you fall, rise quickly by sound repentance, whatever it may cost you.

Direction XIV: Make God's word your only rule and labor diligently to understand it.

Direction XV: In doubtful cases, do not easily depart from the unanimous judgment of the generality of the most wise and godly of all ages.

Direction XVI: Further, in doubtful cases do not be passionate or rash, but proceed deliberately and prove things well before you accept them.

Direction XVII: Know your own weaknesses and what sins they most incline you to, and what sins also your calling or living situation leave you most open to, that there your watch may be the stricter.

Direction XVIII: Stay in a life of holy discipline, such as God has appointed you to walk in. For there is no preservation for stragglers thatforsake the order which God commands them. And this order lies principally in these points: 1. That you keep in union with the universal church. Do not separate from Christ's body upon any pretence whatever. With the church as regenerate, hold spiritual communion, in faith, love, and holiness; with the church as congregate and visible, hold outward communion, in profession and worship. 2. If you are not teachers, live under your faithful pastors, as obedient disciples of Christ. 3. Let the most godly, if possible, be your familiars. 4. Be laborious in an outward calling.

Direction XIX: Turn all God's providences, whether of prosperity or adversity, against your sins. If He gives you health and wealth, remember He thereby obliges you to obedience, and calls for special service from you. If He afflict you, remember that it is sin that He is offended at, and searches after; and therefore take it as His medicine, and see that you do not hinder, but rather help on its work, that it may purge away your sin.

Direction XX: Wait patiently on Christ till he has finished the cure, which will not be till this trying life is finished. Persevere in attendance on His Spirit and means; for He will come in season, and will not tarry. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord He will heal your backslidings, and love you freely" (Hos. 6:3;14:4). "Unto you that fear his name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings" (Mal. 4:2); "and blessed are all they that wait for Him" (Isa. 30:18).

Thus I have given such directions as may help for humiliation under sin, or hatred of it, and deliverance from it.

Thanks to Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings

About the Author

Richard Baxter was born on the 12th of November, 1615 at Rowton, in Shropshire County, England. and died at the age of 76 on December 8, 1691. As a Nonconformist (or Puritan) preacher, his name is principally connected with the parish of Kidderminster, in the English Midlands. Here, J. I. Packer says, as the vicar of Kidderminster from 1647 to 1661 he converted "just about the whole town." "Holy Baxter," as he has long been called, catechised systematically with his assistant in Kidderminster at the rate of fourteen families per week, teaching the people by question and answer in their own home situations, the basic teachings of Scripture. His method was widely copied across England.

A copious author, his works include some which are still in print more than 300 years later. These include The Saint's Everlasting Rest, A Call to the Unconverted, and The Reformed Pastor. 

He deeply lamented the divisions in the church of his day, and pleaded for what he called "mere Christianity." Virtually alone among other Puritan leaders he advocated unity on the basis of the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer.

With many others, he was ejected in 1662 and suffered in a notorious manner at the hands of Judge Jeffreys during that fearful time when Nonconformists in England and Scotland were being assaulted for their faith. He married Margaret Charleton after the Great Ejection, and she was a great help to him in every way-including working to support them during intermittent hard times-until her death in 1681.

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