William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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Directions Against Inordinate Man-pleasing


or that overvaluing the Favour and Censure of Man, which is the Fruit of Pride,
and a great cause of Hypocrisy; or, Directions against Idolizing Man.
by Richard Baxter


Direction I. Do Not Run to the Opposite Extreme
The Proper Respect We are to Have Towards Men
Consider the Nature of Man in General
Direct II. The Favour of Men is a Snare
Direction III. Remember How Silly a Creature Man Is
Direction IV. Remember the Judgment of God
The Judgement of God Compared to that of Men
Direction V. Why Honour Men so Much?
Direction VI. Men-Pleasing is Slavery
Direction VII. Remember what a pitiful reward you seek.
Direction VIII. The Fleeting Nature of Honour
Direction IX. Can You Please Men?
The Folly of Trying to Please Men
Direction X. Men-Pleasing a Vexation
Direction XI. Remember Your True Business
The Advantages of Pleasing God Rather than Men
The Benefits of Seeking to Please God
Signs of Living to Please God

As in other cases, so in this, iniquity consisteth not simply in the heart's
neglect of God, but in the preferring of some competitor, and prevalence of some
object which standeth up for an opposite interest. And so the obeying man before
God and against him, and the valuing the favour and approbation of man before or
against the approbation of God, and the fearing of man's censure or displeasure
more than God's, is an idolizing man, or setting him up in the place of God. It
turneth our chiefest observance, and care, and labour, and pleasure, and grief
into this human fleshly channel, and maketh all that to be but human in our
hearts and lives, which (objectively) should be divine. Which is so great and
dangerous a sin, partaking of so much impiety, hypocrisy, and pride, as that it
deserveth a special place in my directions, and in all watchfulness and
consideration to escape it.

As all other creatures, so especially man, must be regarded and valued only in a
due subordination and subserviency to God. If they be valued otherwise, they are
made his enemies, and so are to be hated, and are made the principal engine of
the ruin of such as overvalue them. See what the Scripture saith of this sin:
Isa. ii. 22, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is
he to be accounted of?" Matt. xxiii. 9, "And call no man your father upon the
earth; for one is your Father which is in heaven." ver. 8, "And be not ye called
Rabbi, for one is your Master even Christ: but he that is greatest among you
shall be your servant" Jer. xx. 15, "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and
maketh flesh his arm." Psalm cxviii. 6, 8, 9, "The Lord is on my side, I will
not fear what man can do unto me. It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put
confidence in man,-yea, in princes." Job xxxii. 21, 22 "Let me not accept any
man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man: for I know not to
give flattering titles; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away." Job xxi.
4, "As for me, is my complaint to man? "Gal. i. 10, "Do I seek to please men?
For if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ." I Cor. iv. 3,
"But with me it is a very small thing to be judged of you, or of man's
judgment." Luke xiv. 26, "If a man come to me, and hate not his father, and
mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life
also, he cannot be my disciple." "Blessed are ye when man shall revile you, and
persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.
Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven," Matt. v.
Ii-, 12. "Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers," Eph. vi. 6; Col. iii. 22. I
Thess. ii. 4, "So we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who trieth our hearts."
Jude 16, "Having men's persons in admiration because of advantage." This is
enough to show you what Scripture saith of this inordinate man-pleasing, or
respect to man: and now I shall proceed to direct you to escape it.
Direct. I. Understand well wherein the nature of this sin consisteth, that you
may not run into the contrary extreme, but may know which way to bend your
opposition. I shall therefore first show you, how far we may and must please
men, and how far not.

The Proper Respect We are to Have Towards Men
Consider the Nature of Man in General

Direct II. Remember that the favour and pleasing of man is one of your snares,
that would prevail against your pleasing God: therefore watch against the danger
of it, as you must do against other earthly things.

Direct. III. Remember how silly a creature man is and that his favour can be no
better than himself. The thoughts or words of a mortal worm are matters of no
considerable value to us.

Direct. IV. Remember that it is the judgment of God alone, that your life or
death for ever doth depend upon; and how little you are concerned in the
judgment of man.

The Judgement of God Compared to that of Men

Direct. V. Remember that the judgment of ungodly men, is corrupted and directed
by the devil and to be overruled by their censures, or too much to fear them, is
to be overruled by the devil, and to be afraid of his censures of. us. And will
you honour him so much? Alas! it is he that puts those thoughts into the minds
of the ungodly, and those reproachful words into their mouths. To prefer the
judgment of a man before God's, is odious enough, though you did not prefer the
devil's judgment.


Direct. VI. Consider what a slavery you choose, when you thus make yourselves
the servants of every man, whose censures you fear, and whose approbation you
are ambitious of. I Cor. vii. 23, "Ye are bought with a price. Be not ye the
servants of men:" that is, do not needlessly enthral yourselves. What a task
have men-pleasers! they have as many masters as beholders! No wonder if it take
them off from the service of God; for the "friendship of the world is enmity to
God;" and he that will thus be "a friend of the world, is an enemy to God,"
James iv. 4. They cannot serve two masters God and the world. You know men will
condemn you, if you be true to God: if, therefore, you must needs have the
favour of men, you must take it alone without God's favour. A man-pleaser cannot
be true to God, because he is a servant to the enemies of his service; the wind
of a man's mouth will drive him about as the chaff, from any duty, and to any
sin. How servile a person is a man-pleaser! How many masters hath he, and how
mean ones! It perverteth the course of your hearts and lives, and turneth all
from God to this unprofitable way.

Direct. VII. Remember what a pitiful reward you seek. "Verily," saith our Lord,
concerning hypocrites and man-pleasers, "they have their reward," Matt. vi. 25.
O miserable reward! The thought and breath of mortal men, instead of God-instead
of heaven; this is their reward! Their happiness will be to lie in hell, and
remember that they were well spoken of on earth! and that once they were
accounted religious, learned, wise, or honourable! and to remember that they
preferred this reward be fore everlasting happiness with Christ! If this be not
gain, your labour is all lost, which you lay out in hunting for applause. If
this be enough to spend your time for, and to neglect your God for, and to lose
your souls for, rejoice then in the hypocrite's reward.

Direct. VIII. And remember that honour is such a thing as is found sooner by an
honest contempt of it, than by an inordinate affection of it, and seeking it. It
is a shadow which goeth from you if you follow it, and follows you as fast as
you go from it. Whose names are now more honourable upon earth, than those
prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and preachers, and holy, mortified
christians, who in their days set lightest by the approbation of the world, and
were made the scorn or foot-ball of the times in which they lived? Those that
have been satisfied with the approbation of their heavenly Father, who saw them
"in secret," have been "rewarded by him openly." It is, even in the eyes of
rational men, a far greater honour to live to God, above worldly honour, than to
seek it. And so much as a man is perceived to affect and seek it, so much he
loseth of it: for he is thought to need it, and men perceive that he plays a low
and pitiful game, that is so desirous of their applause! As they would contemn a
man that should lick up the spittle of every man where he comes, so will they
contemn him that liveth on their thoughts and breath, and honour him more that
lives on God.

Direct. IX. If nothing else will cure this disease, at least let the
impossibility of pleasing men, and attaining your ends, suffice against so
fruitless an attempt. And here I shall show you how impossible it is, or, at
least, a thing which you cannot reasonably expect.

The Folly of Trying to Please Men

Direct. X. Remember what a life of unquietness and continual vexation you
choose, if you place your peace or happiness in the good will or word of man.
For having showed you how impossible a task you undertake, it must needs follow
that the pursuit of it must be a life of torment. To engage yourselves in so
great cares, when you are sure to be disappointed; to make that your end, which
you cannot attain; to find that you labour in vain, and daily meet with
displeasure instead of the favour you expected; must needs be a very grievous
life. You are like one that dwelleth on the top of a mountain, and yet cannot
endure the wind to blow upon him; or like him that dwelleth in a wood, and yet
is afraid of the shaking of a leaf. You dwell among a world of ulcerated,
selfish, contradictory, mutable, unpleasable minds, and yet you cannot endure
their displeasure. Are you magistrates? The people will murmur at you, and those
that are most incompetent and uncapable will be the forwardest to censure you,
and think that they could govern much better than you. Those that bear the
necessary burdens of the common safety and defence, will say that you oppress
them, and the malefactors that are punished, will say you deal unmercifully by
them; and those that have a cause never so unjust, will say you wrong them, if
it go not on their side. Are you pastors and teachers? You will seem too rough
to one, and too smooth to another; yea, too rough to the same man when by
reproof or censure you correct his faults, who censureth you as too smooth and a
friend to sinners, when you are to deal in the cause of others. No sermon that
you preach is like to be pleasing to all your hearers; nor any of your
ministerial works. Are you lawyers? The clients that lost their cause, behind
your backs will call you unconscionable, and say you betrayed them; and those
that prevailed, will call you covetous, and tell how much money you took of
them, and how little you did for it: so that it is no wonder that among the
vulgar your profession is the matter of their reproach. Are you physicians? You
will be accused as guilty of the death of many that die; and as covetous takers
of their money whether the patient die or live; for this is the common talk of
the vulgar, except with some few with whom your care has much succeeded. Are you
tradesmen? Most men that buy of you are so selfish, that except you will beggar
yourselves, they will say you deceive them, and deal unconscionably and sell too
dear: little do they mind the necessary maintenance of your families, nor care
whether you live or gain by your trading; but if you will wrong yourselves to
sell them a good penny-worth, they will say you are very honest men: and yet
when you are broken, they will accuse you of imprudence, and defrauding your
creditors. You must buy dear and sell cheap, and live by the loss, or else
displease.

Direct. XI. Remember still that the pleasing of God is your business in the
world, and that in pleasing him your souls may have safety, rest, and full
content, though all the world should be displeased with you. God is enough for
you; and his approbation and favour is your portion and reward. How sweet and
safe is the life of the sincere and upright ones, that study more to be good
than to seem good, and think if God accept them that they have enough! O what a
mercy is an upright heart! which renounceth the world, and all therein that
stands in competition with his God; and taketh God for his God indeed even for
his Lord, his Judge, his Portion, and his All: who in temptation remembereth the
eye of God, and in all his duty is provoked and ruled by the will and pleasure
of his Judge, and regardeth the eye and thoughts of man, but as he would do the
presence of a bird or beast, unless as piety, justice, or charity, require him
to have respect to man, in due subordination to God: who when men applaud him as
a person of excellent holiness and goodness, is fearful and solicitous lest the
all-knowing God should think otherwise of him than his applauders: and under all
the censures, reproaches, and slanders of man, yea, (though through temptation
good men should thus use him,) can live in peace upon the approbation of his God
alone; and can rejoice in his justification by his righteous Judge and gracious
Redeemer, though the inconsiderable censures of men condemn him. Verily I cannot
apprehend, how any other man but this can live a life of true and solid peace
and joy. If God's approbation and favour quiet you not, nothing can rationally
quiet you. If the pleasing of him does not satisfy you, though men, though good
men, though all men should be displeased with you, I know not how or when you
will be satisfied. Yea, if you be above the censures and displeasure of the
profane and not also of the godly, (when God will permit them, as Job's wife and
friends, to be your trial,) it will not suffice to an even, contented, quiet
life. And here consider

The Advantages of Pleasing God Rather than Men

1. If you seek first to please God and are satisfied therein, you have but one
to please instead of multitudes; and a multitude of masters are hardlier pleased
than one.
2. And it is one that putteth upon you nothing that is unreasonable, for
quantity or quality.
3. And one that is perfectly wise and good, not liable to misunderstand your
case and actions.
4. And one that is most holy, and is not pleased in iniquity or dishonesty.
5. And he is one that is impartial and most just, and is no respecter of
persons, Acts x. 34.
6. And he is one that is a competent judge, that hath fitness and authority, and
is acquainted with your hearts, and every circumstance and reason of your
actions.
7. And he is one that perfectly agreeth with himself, and putteth you not upon
contradictions or impossibilities.
8. And he is one that is constant and unchangeable; and is not pleased with one
thing to-day, and another contrary to-morrow; nor with one person this year,
whom he will be weary of the next.
9. And he is one that is merciful, and requireth you not to hurt yourselves to
please him: nay, he is pleased with nothing of thine but that which tendeth to
thy happiness, and displeased with nothing but that which hurts thyself or
others, as a father that is displeased with his children when they defile or
hurt themselves.
10. He is gentle, though just, in his censures of thee; judging truly, but not
with unjust rigour, nor making your actions worse than they are.
11. He is one that is not subject to the passions of men, which blind their
minds, and carry them to injustice.
12. He is one that will not be moved by tale-bearers, whisperers, or false
accusers, nor can be perverted by any misinformation.

The Benefits of Seeking to Please God

Consider also the benefits of taking up with the pleasing of God. 1. The
pleasing of him is your happiness itself; the matter of pure, and full, and
constant comfort, which you may have continually at hand, and no man can take
from you. Get this and you have the end of man; nothing can be added to it, but
the perfection of the same, which is heaven itself.
2. What abundance of disappointments and vexations will you escape, which tear
the very hearts of man-pleasers, and fill their lives with unprofitable sorrows!
3. It will guide and order your cares, and desires, and thoughts, and labours to
their right and proper end, and prevent the perverting of them, and spending
them in sin and vanity on the creature.
4. It will make your lives not only to be divine but this divine life to be
sweet and easy, while you set light by human censures which would create you
prejudice and difficulties. When others glory in wit, and wealth, and strength,
you would glory in this, that you know the Lord, Jer. ix. 23, 24.
5. As God is above man, thy heart and life is highly ennobled by having so much
respect to God, and rejecting inordinate respect to man: this is indeed to walk
with God.
6. The sum of all graces is contained in this sincere desire to please thy God,
and contentedness in this so far as thou findest it attained. Here is faith, and
humility, and love, and, holy desire, and trust and the fear of God joined
together. You "sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and make him your fear, and
dread, and sanctuary," Isa. viii. 13, 14.
7. If human approbation be good for you and worth your having, this is the best
way to it; for God hath the disposal of it. "If a man's ways please the Lord, he
maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him," Prov. xvi. 7. God does this by
appeasing their wrath, or restraining them from intended evil, or doing us good
by that which they intend for hurt.

Signs of Living to Please God

See therefore that you live upon God's approval as that which you chiefly seek,
and will suffice you: which you may discover by these signs.
1. You will be most careful to understand the Scripture, to know what doth
please and displease God.
2. You will be more careful in the doing of every duty, to fit it to the
pleasing of God than men.
3. You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your ends, and
thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.
4. You will look to secret duties as well as public and to that which men see
not, as well as unto that which they see.
5. You will reverence your consciences, and have much to do with them, and will
not slight them: when they tell you of God's displeasure, it will disquiet you;
when they tell you of his approval, it will comfort you.
6. Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious in order to
the pleasing of God, and not proud and ambitious for your honour with them, nor
impious against the pleasing of God.
7. Whether men be pleased or displeased, or how they judge of you, or what they
call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interest, in comparison
to God's judgment. You live not on them. You can bear their displeasure,
censures, and reproaches, if God be but pleased. These will be your evidences.

 

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