Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings
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The Greatest Thing in the World

by Richard Baxter

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The flesh is not only the common idol, but the most devouring idol in all the world. It hath not, as subservient, flattered idols have, only a knee and compliment, or now and then a sacrifice or ceremony, but it hath the heart, the tongue, the body to serve it; the whole estate, the service of friends, the use of wit and utmost diligence; in a word, it hath all. It is loved and served by the sensualist, as God should be loved and served by his own, even "with all their heart, and soul, and might:" they "honour it with their substance, and the firstfruits of their increase." It is as faithfully served as Christ requireth to be of his disciples: men will part with father, and mother, and brother, and sister, and nearest friends, and all that is against it, for the pleasing of their flesh. Nay, Christ required men to part with no greater matter for him than transitory earthly things, which they must shortly part with whether they will or no; but they do for the flesh ten thousand thousandfold more than ever they were required to do for Christ. They forsake God for it. They forsake Christ, and heaven, and their salvation for it. They forsake all the solid comforts of this life, and all the joys of the life to come for it. They sell all that they have, and lay down the price at its feet; yea, more than all they have, even all their hopes of what they might have to all eternity. They suffer a martyrdom in the flames of hell for ever, for their flesh. All the pains they take is for it. All the wrong they do to others, and all the stirs and rums they make in the world, is for it. And all the time they spend is for it: and had they a thousand years more to live, they would spend it accordingly If any thing seem excepted for God, it is but the bones, or crumbs, or leavings of the flesh; or rather, it is nothing: for God hath not indeed the hours which he seems to have, he hath but a few fair words and compliments, when the flesh hath their hearts in the midst of their hypocritical worship, and on his holy day; and they serve him but as the Indians serve the devil, that he may serve their turns, and do them no hurt.

Also by Baxter: Ten Marks of a Flesh-Pleaser

Index to Richard Baxter


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