The Danger of Prosperity
William Bates (1625-1699) was a much-loved and highly esteemed Puritan pastor who played a key role in the restoration of King Charles II. Appointed a royal chaplain, he preached at St. Dunstan-in-the-West until forced out by the Great Ejection of 1662. Eventually he settled over a dissenting congregation at Hackney near London, where he spent the remainder of his life in fruitful ministry.
In The Danger of Prosperity, Bates insightfully teaches Christians how wealth, honor, and fame often contribute to the downfall of the unwary. He challenges his readers with the tender encouragement of a shepherd to carefully consider the ways in which the abuse of prosperity is both deadly and destructive. He provides numerous helps that Christians who enjoy God’s hand of blessing can use to avoid its sinful abuse and improve it to God’s glory and their eternal advantage.
This classic work has been carefully prepared for the enjoyment of a new generation of Christian readers. Previously available only as part of a “complete works” lithograph from the early 19th century, this new edition includes a biographical preface by James Marsh.
- Prosperity abused is fatal and destructive to foolish sinners
- It is folly and madness above all wonder when sinners abuse the blessings of God to their destruction
- The justice, certainty, and heaviness of destruction that shall seize on foolish sinners that abuse prosperity is considered
- How to avoid the evils that usually attend prosperity and improve it to our eternal advantage
Each of the above chapters has numerous sub-sections. Listing only those for chapter 4, as a sample, they are:
- Humbly preserve a sense of your original meanness, continual frailty, and sinful unworthiness
- Maintain a meek temperament and deportment
- Sanctify prosperity with a solemn and affectionate thanksgiving to God for his mercies
- Fear God and take great care to be vigilant in avoiding the sins that so easily encompass us
- Use worldly things in moderation
- Let the favor of God be your most precious and joyful possession
- Employ riches and power for the glory of God and the good of others
- Resolve firmly to part with all possessions and dignities when God’s honor and the testimony of His truth requires it
- Pray earnestly and constantly to God for divine grace
About the Author
William Bates was born in London in November 1625, and was educated at Cambridge, initially at Emmanuel College and subsequently (1644) at Queens’ College. In 1647 he proceeded B.A. He was a Presbyterian. His first living was St. Dunstan’s-in-the-West, London, and he remained as vicar until the Act of Uniformity 1662 was passed, when he was ejected. He also took part in the ‘Morning Exercises’ lecture series in Cripplegate church.
In the negotiations for the restoration of Charles II, Bates took part. Royal favour came to him, and he was appointed one of the royal chaplains. In 1660 he acted as one of the commissioners of the Savoy conference. In 1661 Cambridge conferred on him the degree of D.D. by royal mandate. At the same time he was urged to accept the deanery of Lichfield and Coventry, but like Richard Baxter, Edmund Calamy the elder, Thomas Manton, and others in their position, he declined office. Later, Bates conducted the discussion between the nonconformists and John Pearson, Peter Gunning, and Anthony Sparrow. In 1665 Bates took the oath imposed by the parliament which met at Oxford ‘that he would not at any time endeavour an alteration in the government of church or state.’ In this he was supported by John Howe and Matthew Poole, although Richard Baxter refused it.
“For the Relief of Nonconformists”
In 1668 some of the more moderate churchmen endeavored to work out a scheme of comprehension that would bring Presbyterians back into the Church of England. In this Bates, Baxter, and Manton co-operated. But no agreement could be reached. A little later he joined in the presentation of a petition to the king for ‘relief of nonconformists.’ His majesty received him graciously, but nothing came of it. Again in 1674, under the conduct of John Tillotson and Edward Stillingfleet, a fresh effort was made towards comprehension through Bates, but once more nothing came of it. After the accession of James II, the disabilities and sufferings of the nonconformists increased. Bates was at Baxter’s side when George Jeffreys browbeat and insulted Baxter and his associates. He successfully interceded with Archbishop Tillotson in behalf of Nathaniel, Lord Crewe, bishop of Durham, who had been excepted from the act of indemnity of 1690.
On the accession of William III and Mary, Bates delivered two speeches to their majesties on behalf of the dissenters. In the last years of his life he was pastor of the Presbyterian church of Hackney. He died there in July of 1699 at age 74. He had outlive and preached the funeral sermons of Baxter, Manton, Thomas Jacomb, and David Clarkson. As a preacher he was held to be ‘silver-tongued’ and the ‘politest’ of all the nonconformists. John Howe’s funeral sermon to Bates’s memory was printed with Bates’s works.