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TEXT: I John 4:16

SUBJECT: Baxter on Love #1 (Enemy)

Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll start a new Puritan study. The author is Richard Baxter, an English pastor who lived from 1615 to 1691. To say he wrote a lot is an understatement. His works have been collected into four volumes of 1,000 pages each in tiny print and double column. We're not going to study his complete works!

What we're going to do, God willing, is to dip into his Christian Directory for a few thoughts on love. Thus far, I've got four topics to cover: (1) love for enemies, (2) love for neighbors, (3) love for brethren, and (4) love for special friends.

If I find other things worthwhile, we'll look at them too, the Lord willing. But for now, let's start with Richard Baxter on Loving your Enemies.


Baxter deals with the topic pretty extensively, but it was not he who came up with the idea. The duty of loving your enemy is found in the Word of God--in both Old and New Testaments.

"If you meet your enemy's ox or donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it" (Exodus 23:4-5).

"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44-45).

And so, let's remember this: Loving your enemy is not the Puritan thing to do, but the godly thing! The Lord your Savior wants you to love people who don't love you.


This is where Baxter begins. He tells us who he doesn't have in mind, and who he does.

"Not everyone who is angry with you, or gives you foul words, or undervalues you, or speaks against you or does you wrong...but he who hates you and seeks or desires your destruction".

When I think of my enemies, I usually think of the people Baxter doesn't mean. People who are mad at me or who don't appreciate me or who gossip about me now and then. I wonder if I can love these horrid enemies.

He assumes we love these people--they're not enemies at all! No, he tells us to love people who want to see us ruined, dead, or in hell!

So we're not talking about "imperfect friends" or "people you feel funny around", but hateful and malicious people. Jesus Christ says "Love your enemies".


On this point, Baxter touches a raw nerve with me. He says we're love our enemies,

"Primarily with a love of complacence, for all the good that is in them..."

It is possible, in other words, to hate someone without becoming a devil. Your enemies may have many good qualities. You're obliged to recognize these good traits and to admire them. This is the opposite of what I do. If someone does me wrong, I tend to magnify his every fault and minimize his every good trait. If he's a loving husband or hard worker or honest man--that's nothing to me! If he did me wrong, he's a two-fold child of hell! That's how I feel. Maybe you do too. But that feeling--says the good Puritan--is wrong.

He adds,

"Secondarily, we must love them with a love of benevolence, wishing them all the happiness we desire for ourselves, and seeking to promote it as much as we can".

This means, we're not only to "feel good" about our enemies, but do them good as much as we can. If your enemy needs help, you can provide it. If he won't let you, you can still pray for him.


No one can be saved without repentance. And so what do you do for that stubborn enemy of yours? Baxter knows.

"You must desire at once that God will give him repentance and forgiveness".

This is good theology and good psychology. If God wills the salvation of all men, you ought to wish for it too. Also, willing and praying for a man's salvation has a way of draining the bitterness off your soul.


That's a good question! What if your enemy doesn't hate you so much as he hates your Savior? Should you love one who hates Christ?

Baxter is very careful about this one. First of all, he distinguishes between a believer who is wrong about some things and an unbeliever.

"There are too many who have too much enmity to each other, upon the account of different opinions and parties in religion, in an erroneous zeal for godliness, who are not to be taken for enemies of God. What acts of hostility have in this age been used by zealous Christians against each other!"

Being wrong about baptism doesn't make you the enemy of God! Speaking in tongues doesn't mean you despise the Holy Word of God and won't submit to its clear teaching. Mistakes about election and the order of salvation don't mean you prefer the works of men to the grace of God. If you're not saved by perfect theology, you're not lost by imperfect theology. Many who truly love God are badly mistaken about many doctrines. Including you and me.

And so, let's be careful about equating "Arminian" or "Charismatic" with the enemy of God. On some points, they're "the weaker brethren". But--to be honest--on other points, it's we who are "the weaker".

But then, assuming your enemy truly is God's enemy, what do you do? Here's what:

"You must hate their sin and love their humanity and all that is good in them, and wish their repentance, welfare, and salvation".

Some people are enemies of God--and not just critics of the church. They hate Him from the heart and try to undo all His good work. Surely, these people must be hated? No. They must be loved too. If God is "Kind to the unthankful and evil", you must be too.


This is another good question. Some people hate love; it makes them feel guilty. Or they don't believe it's sincere. The more you love them, the more they hate you. What do you do with these scoundrels?

Baxter says,

"Usually, kindness tends to convict and melt an enemy's heart, and to hinder him from hurting you".

That is usually true. Maybe we don't believe it because we've never done it! Hard and bitter men are often touched by loving words and kind actions. A friend told me about a Biker he knows. The man is hard as nails. But his hardness is a shell for a broken heart. Love reaches him in a way nothing else can.

Baxter is honest enough to know some people won't respond to love. How do we act toward them?

"You may show him kindness without putting a sword in his hand. Prudence will find the way to love him by considering the circumstances".

Should rapists be loved? Yes. But does that mean a sister should counsel him at his home? Of course not. Wisdom is called for. What about a husband who won't listen to the Gospel? Must the loving wife keep on preaching to him? No. For her, "The Gospel lived" is a better way of reaching her man than more preaching.

If there's someone in your life who needs your love, but is apt to turn it against you or God, pray for wisdom. The Lord will give it to you if you ask Him in faith.


Thus far, Baxter has told us what we should do. Now, in Part II, he tells us why to love our enemies. Ten motives are given. They need little comment from me. You should love your enemies because:

1."God loves His enemies".

2."The example of Jesus Christ".

3."God loved you when you were His enemy, Romans 5:8."

4."To be God's enemy is very bad. But to be your enemy isn't so bad".

5."You wrong yourself more often than anyone else wrongs you. Yet you love yourself, why not love your lesser enemies?"

6."Your enemies are made in the Image of God, and, therefore, have much to love in them".

7."To love your enemy means you are impartial and fair-minded, while to love only yourself or your friends proves your selfish and partial".

8."Even publicans love those who love them".

9."Loving others is a way of winning them to Christ".

    1. "If loving others ends up hurting you, God will wipe away every tear and justify your good will in the end".


Baxter ends the chapter with some advice on how to love your enemies. He has fourteen "directives". Let's look as some.

1."Make no man your enemy so far as you can avoid it".

This is good advice! It means: Don't take everything so personally. Don't turn every word into an insult. Don't equate little oversights with being snubbed. Don't interpret my liking your enemy with hating you. In short, "Overlook transgressions" and "cover a multitude of sins with love".

If everyone is against you, it's probably because you're too sensitive.

2."Take not those for your enemies who are not, and believe not anyone to be your enemy till evidence makes you. Take heed, therefore, of ill suspicious, and ungrounded censures".

Don't be so paranoid! Don't imagine enemies. The world is probably not ganging up against you. Mark Twain said, "Ive suffered many things in life--and most of them never happened". Sometimes we're this way about enemies. We have so many of them--though most of them don't know it.

3. "Be not inquisitive to know what men think or say of you".

Let's face it--we all think and say bad things about others. If you're just dying to know every little word I say about you, you're sure to be offended. Solomon knew this. And warned us about it.

"Do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others" (Ecclesiastes 7:21).

4."Study and search and hearken after all the good that is in your enemies. Hearken not to those who would hide the good in them".

Enemies tend to be bad--not in every possible--but in only some ways, maybe even one way. Don't concentrate on his bad, but remember his good points too.

5."Consider how much better your enemy may become by God's grace".

6."Hide not your love to your enemies".

7."Do not be unnecessarily strange (or distant or cold) to your enemies, for these stir suspicions and ill thoughts".

8."Abhor above all enemies that pride of heart that scorns to stoop to others for love and peace".

Your biggest enemy is pride--your pride. You think you were in the right? So what! Apologize anyway. If you're too proud to make things right with those who've wronged you--well, you're just too proud!

9."Let the enmity be in them alone".

10."Do all the good for them that you can...first in those things they value and relish...and labor to reconcile him to God and save his soul".


If we want to be "Doers of the word and not hearers only", let's do some homework. Think of an enemy this week. And do something about reconciling him. You may have to apologize to someone; you may have to make a gesture of good will. Maybe you can't do anything but pray. But in any event, do what you can to make peace. Romans 12:18.

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