Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Heart in Heaven
By Richard Baxter (16151691)
From The Saints Everlasting Rest
CONSIDER, a heart in heaven is the highest excellency of your spirits here, and the noblest part of your Christian disposition: as there is not only a difference between men and beasts, but also among men, between the noble and the base; so there is not only a common excellency, whereby a Christian differs from the world, but also a peculiar nobleness of spirit, whereby the more excellent differ from the rest: and this lies especially in a higher and more heavenly frame of spirit. Only man, of all inferior creatures, is made with a face directed heavenward; but other creatures have their faces to the earth. As the noblest of creatures, so the noblest of Christians are they that are set most direct for heaven. As Saul is called a choice and goodly man, higher by the head than all the company; so is he the most choice and goodly Christian, whose head and heart is thus the highest (1 Sam. iv. 2, and x. 23, 24). Men of noble birth and spirits do mind high and great affairs, and not the smaller things of low poverty. Their discourse is of councils and matters of state, of the government of the commonwealth, and public things: and not of the countrymans petty employments. Oh! to hear such a heavenly saint, who hath fetched a journey into heaven by faith, and hath been raised up to God in his contemplations, and is newly come down from the views of Christ, what discoveries will he make of those superior regions! What ravishing expressions drop from his lips! How high and sacred is his discourse, Enough to make the ignorant world astonished, and perhaps say! Much study hath made them mad (Acts xxvi. 24); and enough to convince an understanding hearer that they have seen the Lord: and to make one say, No man could speak such words as these, except he had been with God. This, this is the noble Christian; as Bucholcers hearers concluded, when he had preached his last sermon, being carried between two into the church, because of his weakness, and there most admirably discoursed of the blessedness of souls departed this life, Cæteros concionatores a Bucholcero semper omnes, illo autem die etiam ipsum a sese superatum, that Bucholcer did ever excel other preachers, but that day he excelled himself; so may I conclude of the heavenly Christian, he ever excelleth the rest of men, but when he is nearest heaven he excelleth himself. As those are the most famous mountains that are highest; and those the fairest trees that are tallest; and those the most glorious pyramids and buildings whose tops do reach nearest to heaven; so is he the choicest Christian, whose heart is most frequently and delightfully there. If a man have lived near the king, or have travelled to see the sultan of Persia, or the great Turk, he will make this a matter of boasting, and thinks himself one step higher than his private neighbours, that live at home. What shall we then judge of him that daily travels as far as heaven, and there hath seen the King of Kings? That hath frequent admittance into the Divine presence, and feasteth his soul upon the tree of life? For my part, I value this man before the ablest, the richest, and the most learned in the world.