Dealing with Agony

From Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Chapter III, Part I, page 67,

Sometimes, the soul that would draw near to God, is overwhelmed with grief and terror, so that the sense of sin, and danger, and misery do even distract men and cast them into agony…Yea, they think they feel God thrust them from him, and tell them that he hath utterly forsaken them. In this case, faith must look to Christ, and remember that he was in an agony when he prayed, and in greater agony than ever you were so that he sweat even drops of blood; and yet in agony he prayed more earnestly…And yet he was the beloved of the Father, and is no at his right hand in glory: and all this he did that we might not be forsaken. He hath removed the enmity: he hath reconciled us to God. By grief he passed himself to joy, and he will wipe away his servants’ tears, and cause their griefs to end in joy.
Sometimes the soul that would draw near to God, is molested with a storm of hideous temptations, and even confounded with a swarm of disordered, perplexed thoughts. Satan assaulteth it with temptations to despair, temptations to horrid blasphemous thoughts, temptations to entangle, intermit, corrupt, or pervert the duty which they are about; so that the soul is discouraged, overwhelmed, and broken with the inward assaults, and troubles, and distractions which it undergoeth. In this case faith bath a Saviour suitable to our relief. It can look to him that was tempted in all points lie as we are, without sin, and is now such a High Priest as can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; and therefore we may come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He submitted not only to be tempted by Satan, but tempted in a wilderness, where he had no man to comfort him; and to be tempted to the most horrid blasphemy and wickedness, even to fall down and worship the devil himself: and he suffered the tempter violently to carry him to the pinnacle of the temple. What should we think of ourselves, if we had been used thus? Should we not think that God had utterly forsaken us? He suffered himself to be tempted also by men; by the abused and reproaches of his enemies; by the desertion of his followers; by the carnal counsel of Peter, persuading him to put by the death which he was to undergo. And he that made all temptations serve to the triumph of his patience, and conquering power, will give the victory also to his grace, in the weakest soul.
It would be the greatest attractive to us to draw near to God, and make the thoughts of him pleasant to us, if we could but believe that he dearly loveth us, that he is reconciled to us, and taketh us for his children, and that he taketh pleasure in us, and that he resolveth for ever to glorify us with his Son; and that the dearest friend that we have in the world, doth not love us the thousandth part so much as he. And all this in Christ, is clearly represented to the eye of faith…Light and heat are not more abundant in the sun, than love is in Jesus Christ. To look on Christ, and not perceive the love of GOd, is as to look on the sun, and not to see and acknowledge its light. Therefore whenever you find your hearts averse to God, and to have no pleasure in him, look then to Jesus, and observe in him the unmeasurable love of God.”

Books to Read

From Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Chapter 2, Part 1, page 56,

Make careful choice of the books which you read. Let the holy Scriptures ever have the pre-eminence; and next them, the solid, lively, heavenly treatises, which best expound and apply the Scriptures; and next those, the credible histories, especially of the church, and tractates upon inferior sciences and arts: but take heed of the poison of the writings of false teachers, which would corrupt your understanding; and vain romances, play-books, and false stories, which may bewitch your fantasies, and corrupt your hearts.
Let Scriptures be first and most in your hearts  and hands, and other books be used as subservient to it.”

Avoiding Extremes, Following God

From Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Chapter 2, Part 2, pages 48-49,

When you are repenting of or avoiding any extreme, do it not without sufficient fear and caution of the contrary extreme. In the esteem and love of God, your ultimate end, you need not ear overdoing: nor any where, when impediments, and backwardness or impotency, do tell you that you can never do too much. But sin lieth on both sides of the rule and way: and nothing is more common, than to turn from one sin to another, under the name of duty or amendment. Especially this is common in matter of opinion. 
Some will first believe, that God is nothing else but mercy, and after, take notice of nothing but his justice. First, they believe that almost all are saved, and afterward, that almost none: first, that every profession is credible, and next, that none is credible without some greater testimony: first, that none are now partakers of the Holy Spirit; and next, that all saints have the Spirit, not only to illuminate and sanctify them, by transcribing the written word upon their hearts; but also to inspire them with new revelations, instead of Scripture.
The remedy against this disease, is, to proceed deliberately, and receive nothing and do nothing rashly and unadvisedly in religion. For, when you have found out your first error, you will be affrighted from that into the contrary error. See that you look round about you; as well to the error that you may run into the other side, as into that which you have run into already.

An Impregnable Rock and Fortress

From Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory Chapter 2, Part 1, page 43,

God is on your side, who hath all your enemies in his hand, and can rebuke thenm, or destroy them in a moment. On what is the breath or fury of dust or devils, against the Lord Almighty!
In the day when thou didst enter into covenant with God, and he with thee, thou didst enter into the most impregnable rock and fortress, and house thyself in that castle of defence, where thou mayest (modestly) defy all adverse powers of earth or hell. If God cannot save thee, he is not God. And if he will not save thee, he must break his covenant. Indeed, he may resolve to save thee, not from affliction and persecution, but in it, and by it. But in all these sufferings you will be “more than conquerors, through Christ that loveth you.” That is, it is far more desirable and excellent to conquer by patience, in suffering for Christ, than to conquer our persecutors in the field, by force of arms.”

Getting into Doctrinal Controversy

From Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory Chapter 2, Part 1, page 40,

“Begin not too early with controversies in religion: and when you come to them, let them have but their due proportion of your time and zeal: but live daily upon these certain great substantials, which all christians are agreed in.
Plunge not yourselves too soon into controversies: For, (1) It will be exceedingly your loss, by diverting your souls from greater and more necessary things: you may get more increase of holiness, and spend your time more pleasingly to God, by drinking in deeper the substantials of religion, and improving them on your hearts and lives.
(2) It will corrupt your minds, and instead of humility charity, holiness, and heavenly-mindedness, it will feed your pride, and kindle faction and a dividing zeal, and quench your charity, and possess you with a wrangling, contentious spirit, and you will make a religion of these sins and lamentable distempers.”