A posing question, put by the wise man, viz. Solomon, to the wisest men concerning making a judgment of the temporal conditions : wherein you have the ignorance of man (in knowing, what is good, or evil, for man in this life) discovered, together, with the mistakes that flow from it : and the great question resolved, viz. whether the knowledg of, what is good for a man in this life, be so hid from man, that no man can attain it
Baxter, Benjamin, Preacher of the Gospel., Baxter, Richard, 1615-1691.

We now come to the Resolution of this great Question, Whether the knowledg, of what is good for a man in this life, be so hidden from man, that it may not in some measure be attained to; And if so, What Directions are there, for the attaining of this Knowledg?

Page  93Answ. Though the full and perfect Know∣ledg of what is good for a man in this Life, be so hidden, That a Man cannot make a Judgement of others conditions, yet we grant that he may make a judgement of his own Condition. And here I shall give in, some Directions to help Men, in making a Judgement of their own Condition.

  • 1. General.
  • 2. Particular.

I. General Directions.

  • 1. Something is to be Known.
  • 2. Something is to be Done.

I. Something is to be Known, before we can make a right Judgement of our Condition. So the things to be Known, are these:

1. Who is the Framer of our Conditions; Who it is Ordains and Appoints them, and puts us into them? It is not, as the Heathen thought, Quisque fortunae suae faber, That every Man is the Framer of his own Fortune; and so of his own Condition. Conditions are Divine Allotments. Misery (saith Job) springs not out of the Dust. And the Psalmist tells us, That Promotion comes neither from the East, nor from the West; but God is the Judge: i. e. He is the great Orderer, and Dispo∣ser of Conditions: He puteth down One, and set∣teth up Another. It comes not from the East or West; It comes not from Earth, nor from Man; but it is God, that brings a Man, and his Con∣dition together, and that Frames it for him. Page  94 And it is impossible, that ever any Man should make a true Judgement of his Condition, That doth not first Know, who is the Framer of it.

2. We must know the right way of making a Judgement of Conditions. Except we know that, it is impossible, but we must be Mistaken. And, I shall give you some Particulars concerning that:

  • 1. In Judging of Conditions, Take heed of being over-Hasty. Hasty, and Rash Judg∣ment, is seldom Right. We are to Weigh, and Consider well of a Condition, before we make a Judgement of it. A Condition, at the first Blush, may seem otherwayes then it is. The Good, and so the Evil, of a Con∣dition, doth not appear presently; It may lie at the Bottom of it. The good of Affliction doth not appear presently: but the Apostle, saith, Heb. 12. 11. It yeildeth the quiet fruit of Righteousnesse, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to them that are exercised thereby. So, that we must be Exercised in a Condition, before we can make a Judgement of a Condition. And the Apostle, in that Chapter, telleth us, That an Afflicted condition, at the first sight, seems grievous, and not joyous: but, afterwards (saith he) it brings forth the quiet fruit of Righteousness. This was the Errour of Job's Friends; they were too hasty in making a Judgement of his Con∣dition: and so, it is no wonder they were so Mistaken about it.
  • 2. In making a Judgement of Conditi∣ons, you must not judge of the Person by the Condition, but of the Condition by the Page  95 Person. Some there be, that judge of Per∣sons, by the Condition; As the Barbari∣ans did of Paul, when they saw a Viper hanging on his Hand; Surely, this Man is a Murderer, &c. Thus, some judge of Per∣sons, to be Good, or Evil, according as their Conditions are. So, they judge those to be Good, whose condition is Prosperous; as those in Malachi, Mal. 3. 15. called the proud Happy. And, so they look upon those as Wicked, who are in an Afflicted condition. Thus, Job's Friends did judge of him, by his Condition. Now, the right way of making a Judgement of Conditions, is, To Judge of Conditions by Persons. To a Wicked man, every condition is Evil: And, to a Godly man, every condition is Good. That, as the Expression is, Tit. 1. 15. To the Pure, all things are Pure: So, to those that are Good, all things are Good. If he hath Prosperity, it causeth Thankfulness; if Adversity, it worketh Patience. Rom. 8. 28. All things work together for Good, to them that Love God. So that we must know, we are to judge of Conditions, by the Per∣sons. When one came to Austin, and told him of one that came to a strange End, he presently asked, But, how did he Live? Inti∣mating, That, a man was not to be judged of, by the manner of his Death, if he were Godly in his Life.
  • 3. In making of a Judgement of Con∣ditions, you must judge of them, by what Men are to, and in, their Conditions. I Page  96 have told you before, A condition is to a Man, as he is to, and in, his condition. It is, as a Man mannageth his condition. Would you know, whether Prosperity be Good for a Man? You must see how he doth manage that condition; and how he doth carry, and deport himself in it. If he demean himself Proudly, and make the Things he enjoyes, to be Fuel for his Lust; you may conclude, his condition is Evil for him. So, on the contrary; Would you know, Whether an Afflicted condition be Evil for a Man? Mark how he Behaves him∣self in that condition; If Foolishly, if Im∣patiently; Either on the one hand, Despising the Affliction; Or, on the other hand, Mur∣muring at it: You may know, that it is Evil for him. Of this, I shall speak more afterwards.
  • 4. To make a Judgement of Conditions, We must Know our Spirits, and Dispositi∣ons. Now, we cannot know the Spirits, and Dispositions of others; but we should labour to know our own, which we may know; and thereby come to know what is good for us in this Life. Some there are, That will undertake to make a Judgement of a condition, without ever eying, or considering their own Disposition. It is with some Men, as it is with some that sit at the Wine: when they have drunk so many Cups, yet they call for the other Quart, and the other Pint, when they have Drunk too much already; not considering what their Page  97 heads will bear. Consider, as all heads, so all dispositions are not alike. This Agur acknowledged in that prayer of his, Prov. 30. 8. Give me not Riches. He looked upon them, as a heady and intoxicating Drink, which was too Strong for him. The Pro∣phet speaks of some, that are strong to drink Wine. Now a man of a weak Brain, that will make their measure his, is easily overtaken. We are apt to eye the prospe∣rous condition of another, and to think such a condition is good for us; and to de∣sire, to have our condition made after that Fashion and Mode. But this is, as if the younger child should cry, to have the coat of his elder brother, which would be too long for him, and ready continually to make him fall.
  • 5. In making a Judgment of a conditi∣on, we must judg of it, by the relation it hath to another condition, viz. that which is Spiritual and Eternal. The saying is, that what is the first, and best, in every thing, is the Rule of the rest: So the best condi∣tion, must direct us, how to judg of lower conditions. That condition is good for a man, that makes his Spiritual Condition the better: This is the fault of many, they judg of conditions, without considering how they stand in conjunction with, or op∣position to, their Spiritual and Eternal Condition. We may safely conclude, that that Condition is good for a man in this Life, that is an advantage to him, in re∣lation Page  98 to another Life. Many, little consi∣der this. We should put the question to our selves, in every condition, Am I the bet∣ter for being in this Condition, in relation to the Spiritual and Eternal Good of my Soul? Doth it hinder, or further my growth in Grace? Doth it hinder, or further my Salvation? Doth it set me, nearer Heaven, or nearer Hell?
  • 6. In making a Judgment of Conditions, we must make use of Faith, and not Judg, by Sense and Opinion, not by Appearances; Those that Judg so, will never make a Right Judgment of Conditions. An Eye of Faith will see Good, in that wherin an Eye of Sense, yea of Reason too, can see none, Heb. 11. 26. It is said, By Faith, Moses refused to be called the Son of Pharoahs Daughter, &c. Where see, what he refused (viz.) to be called, the Son of Pharoahs Daughter; which seemingly, was the great∣est Honour and Advancement, that a man could attain unto; And then see what he chose, (viz.) to Suffer Affliction with the People of God. One would have thought, he had chose the Evil, and refused the Good. But by an Eye of Faith, he saw Evil in that, that Sense and Reason would have told him was good; and Good in that, that they would have told him was Evil. It is observable, in Mat. 5. that all the Beati∣tudes are affixed, to unlikely conditions: Blessed are the poor in Spirit. Blessed are those that are Persecuted for Righteousness Sake. Page  99 Blessed are ye, when men Revile, and Persecute you, and speak all manner of evil against you, falsly for my Names sake. This is to shew, that the Judgment of the Word, and the Judgment of the world, are contrary. Faith will shew you, that the men of the world, are infoeliciter foelices miserable in being hap∣py. And the Children of God, are foelici∣ter infoelices, happy in their being misera∣ble. So that, as the Apostle saith, Without Faith, it is impossible to please God: So, with∣out Faith, it is impossible to make a judg∣ment of conditions. I shall close this, with an Answer, given to one, that passed his censure upon a picture, as ill drawn, when it was not so; Si meos oculos haberes, non ita diceres, If thou hadst mine eyes, thou wouldst not say so. Faith teacheth a man, to make another Judgment of Conditions, then Sense or Reason doth.

III. Those that will make a judgment of a con∣dition, must know another thing, (viz.) What it is makes a condition good, and what makes a con∣dition evil for a man in this life. I shall in some particulars shew, What it is, that makes a mans condition good for him in this life.

1. An Interest in the Covenant. Where there is that Interest, there is an assurance that all is good, and all is for good. When we once come to know our Interest in the Covenant, we may then make a judgment of a condition. I shewed you before; we are not to judg of persons, by their conditions, but of conditions, by the persons, Psal. 25. 10. All the wayes of the Lord, are Mercy and Page  100 Truth, to them that keep his Covenant. So it is to them that have an Interest in the Covenant. All conditions fall under a Promise, when the Scrip∣ture saith, All shall work together for good. An Af∣flicted condition it self, falleth under that promise. So when it is said, No good thing, will He with-hold from them, that walk uprightly. Afflictions them∣selves, come under that promise. If Afflictions be good for them, they shall have them; and if they have them, they may be assured they are good for them. It is the Covenant, and Promise, that help∣eth us, to make a right Interpretation of all condi∣tions, and of all the Dealings of God with us in this life.

2. That which makes a condition good for a man in this life, is the Enjoyment of God in a Condition; and so we may conclude, that that condition is good for a man in this life, in which he enjoys God. The best condition, without God in it, is evil; and the worst condition, in which we enjoy God, is good. God is the chiefest Good, and that condition must needs be good, in which we enjoy the chiefest Good. Look upon the worst of outward conditions, it is the best, if there be an enjoyment of God the more in it. This was the ground of Moses choice, Heb. 11. 26. that he choose rather, the suffering of Affliction with the People of God, then the enjoyment of all the Plea∣sures and Treasures of Egypt. He saw, God was to be Enjoyed in that Condition. So that by this, we may make a judgment of conditions: That con∣dition is good for a man in this life, in which he enjoys the chiefest Good. The Apostle saith, 2 Cor. 1. 5. As our Tribulations abound for Christ, so Page  101 our Consolations abound through Christ. When one seeth Christians abound in Tribulations, he would think their condition evil; but when he cometh to see their Consolations abound in that condition, he must needs conclude it good. To close up this, There is no condition good, without the enjoy∣ment of the Chiefest Good. He that enjoys God in a condition, enjoys Him, whose Favour is Life, and whose Countenance is a Sun, to enlighten the darkest condition. It is the Sun, that makes day, let the Starrs be never so many, and shine never so bright, yet it is night still. So it is in respect of conditions, let a man enjoy never so much of the creature, yet without the enjoyment of God, it is but a dark condition. It is His Countenance, that makes the darkness of a condition, to be light about us, Psal. 18. 28. He shall make my darkness, to be light. Mic. 7. 7. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light about me. So that that conditi∣on is good for a man in this life, that God en∣lightneth, and shineth upon, with the beams of His Countenance.

3. That that speaks a mans condition Good for him in this Life, is, The suitableness of his Spirit to his condition. When the Spirit is not above the condition. As it is to be observed in a Married condition; the sweetness of the condition lieth in this, In the Suitableness of their Spirits. So, in every condition, the sweetness, and goodness of it, lieth in the Suitableness that is between our Spi∣rits, and our Condition. We see how it is with some, That their spirits are above their condi∣tion; their spirits are High, when their condition is Low; and upon this, their condition doth not Page  102 please them. And this is the cause of much Dis∣content, because their spirits suit not with their condition. This is the great thing we are to look to; In making a judgement of conditions, to search, and find out, How our spirits suit with our condition. Whether we can say, as the Apostle doth, Phil. 4. 11. I have learnt, in every estate to be Content. He had a spirit fitted for every condition. So then, when your spirits and conditions suit, it is one thing, by which you are to make a judgement of your condition.

4. That which makes a condition Good for a man in this Life, is, Peace within. What ever the condition be Without, if there be peace Within, it makes it good and sweet to him. Want of that imbitters a condition. Solomon saith, A good Con∣science is a continual Feast. It Feasts a man, and makes him Merry in all conditions; and so makes the worst Outward estate and condition to be good and sweet to him. Isa. 48. 22. There is no peace, saith my God, to the Wicked. Put him into what condi∣tion you will, he hath no Peace in that condition; and that spoils all.

5. That, that makes a condition good for a man in this Life, is, Doing the Work of his con∣dition. Conditions have their several, and suit∣able Improvements. In every condition, a man should put such a Question to himself, as the Pro∣phet puts, Mich. 6. 8. And now, What doth the Lord thy God require of thee? So, in every condition we should put this Question to our selves; What is it that the Lord requires me do, as the work of my con∣dition? The Apostle James tells us of Duties suitable to conditions, Jam. 5. 13. If any man be Afflicted, Page  103 let him Pray; If any man be Merry, let him sing Psalmes. An Afflicted condition hath its Duties, and a Prosperous condition hath it's: And by do∣ing the Work, and performing the Duties of a condition, we make a Judgement of it, Whether it be good for us in this Life.

6. That, that makes a condition good for a man in this Life, is, His living above his outward condition. When, though there be a suitableness of spirit to the condition, yet he takes not up with his condition, but fetcheth in his Content∣ment from some higher thing. What is it, that makes a Prosperous condition Evil to some? Sure∣ly this, they look no further than their condi∣tion; They look no higher than Riches and Ho∣nour, &c. and seek for all their comfort, and con∣tentment from them. And likewise, What is it that makes an Afflicted condition Evil to some? Sure∣ly this, they have their Eye only upon their Con∣dition; they look no higher than their Troubles, and Crosses, and Afflictions. They see nothing be∣yond their condition; as Hagar, when she was wandering in the Wilderness, and the Water in her Bottle was spent, she concludes, that She, and her Child, must Die: as though the Bottle was all that she, and her Child, had to live upon; when yet, there was a Fountain near, but she could not see it. Let a mans condition be what it will, yet it cannot hurt him, if he live Above it. Prosperity cannot hurt that man, who maketh God his All, in a condition. There is an Expression, Job 20. 22. concerning a Wicked man; That in the midst of his Sufficiency he shall be in Straits. Thus it is with some men, Let their condition be what it will, yet Page  104 in the midst of it they are in Straits: the Reason is, Because they live no Higher than their condi∣tion. In the midst of their Prosperity, and Suffici∣ency, they are in straits, by reason of their many Cares, and Fears, and perplexing Thoughts, and unsatisfied Desires; and if so in Prosperity, much more in Adversity. Now, a man that lives upon that, that is Higher than his Condition, hath such sweet In-comes of Joy, and Peace, and Comfort, and Contentment in every Condition, that he is never in any Straits. Hence it is, the Apostle tel∣leth us, 1 Tim. 6. 6. Godliness, with Contentment, is great Gain: Or, it may be read thus, Godliness is great Gain, with Contentment; i. e. It bringeth Gain with Contentment. Now, what is Godliness? It is an Heavenly impression, and propension in the heart and soul of a Man, whereby it is, in all con∣ditions, carried towards God. Now, what ever a mans condition be, Godliness will make it Gain∣ful, and that with Contentment. Our Saviour told his Disciples, when they urged Him to Eate, John 4. I have meat to eate, that ye know not of. So it is with such a man, that lives upon God, and Christ, he hath, in every condition, that comfort, & contentment, that the World knows not of. Thus the Apostle Paul lived above his condition, 2 Cor. 6. 10. As Sorrowful, yet always Rejoycing; As having No∣thing, yet possessing All things. q. d. Men look upon us, as those that are in a sad condition, being Poor, and having Nothing; but we live upon something that is above our condition. So that every con∣dition is good to him, that hath something to live upon above his condition. That, as it is in respect of Ordinances, so it is in respect of Conditions, Page  105 We are, in the Use of Ordinances, to live above them, and to seek to find God in them: So in con∣ditions, we are to live above them, and to seek to God, for that comfort and contentment that sweet∣neth a condition. Before I leave this, I must tell you, there is a two-fold living above ones condition.

  • 1. Sinful: Arising from Haughtiness of Spirit.
  • 2. Holy: Proceeding from Heavenliness of Spirit.

1. Sinful: When a mans Heart, and Spirit, is not contented with its present Condition; when his spirit is above his condition, and he thinks his condition too low, and mean for him. This is Sinful.

2. Holy: When a man hath such a Heavenly Spirit, that causeth him, not to take up with the things of his Outward condition; but lives up∣on Higher things. And this stands in Two things.

  • 1. Living above the Comforts of a Con∣dition.
  • 2. Above the Crosses of a Condition.

1. Living above the Comforts of a Condition. It is thus with a gracious heart: when the outward condition is comfortable, yet he liveth upon some∣thing above the comforts of his condition. It is the Apostles Counsel, 1 Cor. 7. 29. &c. Let those that have Wives, be as though they had none, and those that rejoyce, as though they rejoyced not. He liveth upon higher things, than the comforts of a Wife, So that it is, as if he should have said; The comfort in a Wife, was nothing, in respect of the comfort he finds in God, and Christ. And so he seeth, that in his condition, there is nothing to rejoyce in, in comparison of higher things. As Christ said to Page  106 his Disciples, Rejoyce not in this, That the Devils are subject to you; But rather rejoyce in this, That your Names are written in Heaven.

2. Living above the Crosses of a Condition: The Apostle saith, 1 Cor. 1. 29. Let them that weep, be as though they wept not. To shew, that Chri∣stians, should live above the Crosses of their Con∣dition, enjoying that that makes them weep, as if they wept not.

7. That, that makes a condition Good for a man in this Life, is, Watchfulness against the Temptations that attend a Condition. There must be standing upon our guard in Conditions, and watching against Temptations. Conditions (as I have shewed you formerly) are attended with Temptations. There are Temptations, that attend a Prosperous, and an Afflicted condition. Sathan layeth snares for us in every Condition; but cannot hurt us, if we but once know his Devices. He is subtle, and loves to Fish in all Waters; and so he layeth Snares in all conditions. This then speaks a condition Good, when we Watch against the Temptations of a Condition. The Apostle writing to Timothy, a young man, 2 Tim. 2. 22. biddeth him flie the lusts of Youth. Youth hath its Lusts, and Conditions have their Temptations, which we ought to Watch against. A Prosperous condition hath its Temptations, and an Afflicted condition hath its Temptations. The Apostle, 1 Tim. 6. 17. bids him, Charge them that are Rich in this World, that they be not High-minded; and that they trust not in uncertain Riches: Which shews the Temptations that attend that Condition, viz. High-mindedness, and trusting in Riches. Page  107 An Afflicted condition hath its Temptations too, Heb. 12. 5. Where, writing to them that were in an Afflicted condition, he exhorteth them to avoid two Extreams, in ver. 5. My Son, Despise not the Chastning of the Lord; neither faint, when thou art Rebuked of him. In an Afflicted condition, we are apt, either to Despise the Affliction, or to be too much dejected and cast down under the Afflicti∣on: And therefore, ver. 12. he bids them lift up the hands that hang down. So James 5. he speaks to Afflicted ones to be Patient, and stablish their Hearts. And ver. 9. saith, Grudge not one against another, Brethren. The word is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Groan not one against another. In it, there is an Exhorta∣tion to them, to watch against the Temptations that attend an Afflicted condition. Some think▪ the Apostle there forbids Murmuring Groans, which arise from our being discontented at Providences: This is one Temptation. Some think, they are Vindictive Groans, proceeding from Revenge, and Stomack against those that were the Instru∣ments of our Affliction: This is another Tempta∣tion. Some think, are meant Envious Groans, pro∣ceeding from their Envying at those, that suffered lesse than they did: This is another Temptation. Thus we see, That all Conditions have their Temptations. And this is that, that speaks a con∣dition Good for a man; when, in his Condition, he is watchful against the Temptations of it; avoiding the Snares of it. Satan observeth wind and tide in his Temptations; he observeth the wind and tide of a Condition. He observeth, whether the wind that bloweth, be a warm Sou∣therly wind of Prosperity, or an cold Northerly Page  108 wind of Adversity; and accordingly he suits his Temptations. It is the Condition that makes the Temptation in season. He seldom tempts a poor man to pride: And therefore it is made, by Solomon, a prodigious sight, Eccles. 10. 7. to see Servants on Horse-back. So he seldom tempts Rich men to Steal; the reason, is, Because such Temptations are unsuitable to their Condi∣tion.