William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

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The Greatest Thing in the World


by Richard Baxter


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.

 

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