Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 2)

For an introduction to the series, read Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 1). The following excerpts on how to cultivate peace and deal with conflict are from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory.

1.  Humble Yourself

Get your own hearts in a humble frame; and abhor all the motions of pride and self exalting.

His language will be submissive; his patience great; he is content that others go before him; he is not offended that another is preferred. A low mind is pleased in a low condition.

A proud person’s opinion must always go for truth…to be slighted or crossed seems to him an unsufferable wrong.

2.  Don’t Covet, but Be Content

Be not covetous lovers of the world, but be contented with your daily bread.

Ambitious and covetous persons must have so much room, that the world is not wide enough for many of them…[they are like] boys in the winter nights, when the bedclothes are too narrow to cover them; one pulls, and another pulls, and all complain.

3.  Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

You can bear with great faults in yourselves, and never fall out with yourselves for them; but with your neighbors you are quarrelling for those that are less. Do you fall out with another because he has spoken dishonorably or slightly of you, or slandered you, or some way done you wrong? You have done a thousand timers worse than all that against yourselves, and yet can bear too patiently with yourselves!

But all this you do against yourselves (even more than all the devils in hell do) and yet you  are too little offended with yourselves. See here the power of blind self-love! If you loved  your neighbors as yourselves, you would agree as peaceably with your neighbors almost as with yourselves. Love them more, and you will bear more with them, and provoke them less.

4.  Be Gentle and Meek

Compose your minds to Christian gentleness and meekness, and suffer not passion to make you either turbulent and unquiet to others, or impatient and troublesome to yourselves. A gentle and quiet mind hath a gentle, quiet tongue. It can bear as much wrong as another can do….a passionate person is frequently provoking or provoked.

Bid but a neighbor speak some hard speeches of him, or one of his family neglect or cross him, and he is presently like the raging sea, whose waves cast up the mire and dirt.

If you do not in patience possess your souls, they will be at the mercy of everyone that hath a mind to vex you.

He that loses his own peace is likely to break the peace of others.

5.  God Appoints Government [i.e. in families, churches, schools, etc.]

If you will break this vessel, peace will flow out and be quickly spilt.

Take heed therefore of any thing which would dissolve these bonds.

6.  Watch Your Mouth

Avoid all revengeful and provoking words.

Christianity is so much for peace, that it hates all that is against it.

7.  Think Twice Before Entering a Dispute

Engage not yourselves too forwardly or eagerly in disputes, nor at any time without necessity. And when necessity calls you, set an extraordinary watch upon your passions. Though disputing is lawful, and sometimes necessary to defend the truth, yet it is seldom the way of doing good to those whom you dispute with. It engages people in partiality, and passionate, provoking words…they think they are pleading for the truth, they are militating for the honor of their own understanding.

The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all people.

8.  Mind Your Own Business

Have as little to do with people, in matters which their commodity is concerned in, as you can.

See Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 3)