Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 3)

See Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 2). The following excerpts on how to cultivate peace and deal with conflict are from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory.

9. Buy Peace

Buy peace at the price of any thing which is not better than it.

You must often part with your right for peace, and to put up wrongs in word or deed. Money must not be thought  too dear to buy it, when the loss of it will be worse than the loss of money….

He is no friend of peace, that will no have it except when it is cheap.

10.  Watch Your Criticism

Avoid censoriousness [i.e. the tendency to be overly critical] which is the judging of people or matters that you have no call to meddle with, and the making of matters worse than sufficient proof will warrant you.

Censorious persons are the great dividers of the church, and everywhere adversaries to peace while they open their mouths wide against their neighbors, to make the worst of all that they say and do, and  thus sow the seeds of discord amongst all.

11. Be Upfront

Neither talk against people behind their backs, nor patiently hearken to them that use it.

If you have anything to say against your neighbor, tell it to him in a friendly manner to his face, that he may be the better for it. If you tell it only to another, to make him odious, to listen to backbiters that defame people secretly, you show that your business is not to do good, but to diminish love and peace.

12. Emphasize the Good

Speak more of the good than of the evil which is in others.

There are none so bad as to have no good in them. Why don’t you mention that which is more useful to the hearer than to hear of someone’s faults?

13. Know Your Neighbor

Don’t be strangers, but instead be lovingly familiar with your neighbors.

Among any honest, well-meaning persons, familiarity is a great reconciler.

It is nearness that must make them friends.

14. (Don’t) Keep Your Distance

Come as near  to them as you can. Don’t run away from them, lest you run towards the opposite extreme.

15. Be Flexible

Don’t be overly stiff in your own opinions, as those that can yield in nothing to another. Nor yet so facile and yielding as to betray or lose the truth.

It greatly pleases a proud person’s mind when you seem to be convinced by him, and to change your mind because of his arguments, or to be much informed and edified by him. But when you deny this honor to his understanding, and contradict him, and stiffly maintain your opinion against him, you displease and lose him.

A wise person should gladly learn of any that can teach him more, and should most easily, more than anyone else, let go of an error. And he will be most thankful to anyone that will increase his knowledge–not only in errors to change one’s mind, but in small and indifferent things to submit to silence, is typical of a modest, peaceable person.

16. Wage War

Impiis me diis ecclesiae paci condulere, was one of the three means which Luther foretold would cast out the gospel. [And if you can translate that into Latin, have at it!]

**Monday’s post: Preparing for Advent

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)

Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 1)

In the land of “Minnesota Nice,” October 1, 2013 is a day that betrayed my state’s moniker. Yes, it’s the day the U.S. government shut down because of pointed differences with Obamacare. But it’s also the same day that Osmo Vänskä resigned as beloved conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, a position he’s held since 2003. Vänskä’s resignation follows a bitter year-long lockout between the Minnesota Orchestra board and musicians. After the board cancelled the highly anticipated Carnegie Hall concerts, Vänskä walked. Both parties fault the other while music lovers fight disillusionment as we witness the jarring dismantling of a prominent orchestra. For the birthplace of Prince, Bob Dylan, the Andrews Sisters and Judy Garland, Vänskä’s departure, even though he’s from Finland, is quite a blow to our Scandinavian psyche.

Which, oddly enough, brings me to Richard Baxter.

Baxter is a Puritan from the 1600’s who wrote a massive (nearly 1000 pages), yet massively helpful, imgres-1book called A Christian Directory. It was re-released in 1990 with a money-Foreword by J.I. Packer, who wrote, “It is the fullest, most thorough, and in this writer’s judgment, most profound treatment of Christian spirituality and standards that has ever been attempted by an English-speaking Evangelical author.” The book’s front cover includes an endorsement by then relatively unknown pastor Tim Keller, who had just planted Redeemer Presbyterian Church, asserting that A Christian Directory is “the greatest manual on Biblical counseling ever produced.” High praise, indeed.

But (you ask), how does Baxter’s A Christian Directory relate to the U.S. government shutdown and the Minnesota Orchestra lockout? Yes, filthy lucre is central to both stories, but both dilemmas can be summed up in one pregnant word:


Conflict, originating from the Latin meaning “to strike together,” even sounds awful to say. Chances are imgresyou’re dealing with conflict right now, whether in your family, job, church, neighborhood, or with a friend. Maybe you’re experiencing conflict in every key relationship imaginable. When that happens, life seems unbearable. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience. I wish I was writing as someone with a great track record for handling conflict in God-glorifying ways. But all too often I don’t. I need help in better dealing  with, anticipating, or even preventing conflict altogether. It’s an area in my life where I need to grow.

Yet conflict is not reserved exclusively for embittered politicians or musicians. We all experience it in various degrees. But whether you’re presently embroiled in conflict, or to better  prepare you to manage, or even avoid unnecessary strife, Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory can help.

One of the book’s sections, “Christian Politics,” includes chapter 13, “Directions for Keeping Peace with all Men,” containing 16 practical directives on how to keep peace with everyone. It’s surprisingly practical, even for the 21st century.

This post is merely the kickoff to Baxter’s 16 “conflict directives.” Part 2 will cover directives 1-8, while Part 3 will cover directives 9-16. My aim is to bring Baxter’s helpful counsel on how to better, and more biblically, handle conflict for us today. When necessary, I’ll update Baxter’s archaic 1600’s King James English to modern vernacular, as well as incorporate brevity.

Baxter’s A Christian Directory is available for free on Kindle (although, regrettably, it doesn’t contain Packer’s Foreword).

See “Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict” (Part 2)

See also “Puritan Advice Regarding Sinful Dreams” (Part 1)