30 October 2006

Motivation (6): Baxter

Richard Baxter (1615-1691), Puritan pastor and author, on regeneration and the motivational metamorphosis which ensues:

"The word regeneration signifies the same thing with conversion, but with this small difference. 1st. The term is metaphorical, taken from our natural generation; because there is so great a change, that a man is as it were another man. 2d. The word is, in scripture sense, I think more comprehensive than conversion, repentance or vocation; for it signifies not only the newness of our qualities, but also of our relations, even our whole new state."

After speaking of the first part of regeneration/conversion as being upon the mind, Baxter writes:

"The second part of the work of conversion is upon the heart or will, to which this change of the mind or understanding is preparative: and in this change of the heart, there are these several parts observable. (1.) The will is brought to like what it disliked, and to dislike what it liked before. (2.) It is brought to choose what it refused; and to consent to that which it would not consent to. (3.) It is brought to resolve, where it was either resolved on the contrary; or unresolved. (4.) The several affections are changed, of love and hatred; desire and aversion; delight and sorrow; hope and despair; courage and fear; and anger with content and discontent.

"1. The first change that God maketh on the heart or will in the work of conversion . . . is in the complacency or displacency of it: he causeth that to savour or relish as sweet to the will, which before was as bitter: the soul receiveth a new inclination; it liketh that which before it disliked, not only by a mere approbation, but by a willing agreement of the heart therewith. . . . Before conversion the very bent of man’s mind is toward the things below, and his heart is against the things of God: he relisheth the things below as sweet: and it pleaseth him to possess them, or to think of possessing them, but he hath no pleasure in God, nor in thinking or hearing of the life to come: all things please or displease a man, according as they agree or disagree to his inclination; and as they seem to him either suitable or unsuitable.

"Yet a wonderful change is made on them: they that had no savour of God and glory before, do now savour nothing else so much; they can truly say, as David, though perhaps not so feelingly as he, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on earth that I can desire besides thee?'"

--“A Treatise on Conversion,” in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter: Select Treatises (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 291-297.

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