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Richard Baxter.

Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691) was an English Puritan church leader, poet, hymn-writer,[1] theologian, and controversialist. Dean Stanley called him "the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen". After some false starts, he made his reputation by his ministry at Kidderminster, and at around the same time began a long and prolific career as theological writer. After the Restoration he refused preferment, while retaining a non-separatist presbyterian approach, and became one of the most influential leaders of the nonconformists, spending time in prison.

Contents

Early life and education

Baxter was born at Rowton, Shropshire, at the house of his maternal grandfather. Richard's early education was poor, being mainly in the hands of the local clergy, themselves virtually illiterate. He was helped by John Owen, master of the free school at Wroxeter, where he studied from about 1629 to 1632, and made fair progress in Latin. On Owen's advice he did not proceed to Oxford (a step which he afterwards regretted), but went to Ludlow Castle to read with Richard Wickstead, chaplain to the Council of Wales and the Marches.

He was reluctantly persuaded to go to court, and he went to London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, with the intention of doing so, but soon returned home, resolved to study divinity. He was confirmed in the decision by the death of his mother.

After three months spent working for the dying Owen as a teacher at Wroxeter, Baxter read theology with Francis Garbet, the local clergyman, adding to his reading (initially in devotional writings, of Richard Sibbes, William Perkins and Ezekiel Culverwell, as well as the Calvinist Edmund Bunny at age 14,[2] and then in the scholastic philosophers) orthodox Church of England theology in Richard Hooker and George Downham, and arguments from conforming puritans in John Sprint and John Burges. In about 1634, he met Joseph Symonds (assistant to Thomas Gataker) and Walter Cradock, two Nonconformists.[3]

Early ministry, 1638-1660

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Dudley and Bridgnorth

In 1638 Baxter became master of the free grammar school at Dudley, where he commenced his ministry, having been ordained and licensed by John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester. His success as a preacher was at first small; but he was soon transferred to Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, where, as assistant to a Mr Madstard, he established a reputation for conscientiousness.

Baxter remained at Bridgnorth for nearly two years, during which time he took a special interest in the controversy relating to Nonconformity and the Church of England. He soon became alienated from the Church on several matters; and after the requirement of the "et cetera oath," he rejected episcopacy in its English form. He became a moderate Nonconformist; and continued as such throughout his life. Though regarded as a Presbyterian, he was not exclusively tied to Presbyterianism, and often seemed prepared to accept a modified Episcopalianism. All forms of church government were regarded by him as subservient to the true purposes of religion. During this time he also taught at the boys school St Pauls, in london which had been set up by John Colet the Dean of St Pauls Cathedral. In a letter by one of his pupils Cameron Daniels, later Lord Runn wrote 'My master Baxter is an indefatiguable talker, his oratory is pronounced with the severity of its cause. His humour is found dry, but its spirit alive, and us boys cannot but only nod as if in sure attention.'Baxter's tenure ended abruptly in 1660 when he is reputed to have accidentally burned down his hall of residence.

Kidderminster

One of the first measures of the Long Parliament was to reform the clergy; with this view, a committee was appointed to receive complaints against them. Among the complainants were the inhabitants of Kidderminster. The vicar George Dance agreed that he would give £60 a year, out of his income of £200, to a preacher who should be chosen by certain trustees. Baxter was invited to deliver a sermon before the people, and was unanimously elected as the minister. This happened in April 1641, when he was twenty-six.

Title page of a 1657 edition of The Reformed Pastor.

His ministry continued, with many interruptions, for about nineteen years; and during that time he accomplished many reforms in Kidderminster and the neighbourhood. He formed the ministers in the country around him into an association, uniting them irrespective of their differences as Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Independents. The Reformed Pastor was a book which Baxter published in relation to the general ministerial efforts he promoted.

The English Civil War

On the outbreak of the First English Civil War, Baxter blamed both parties and recommended the Protestation; but Worcestershire was a Royalist county, and he was exposed to annoyance and danger in Kidderminster. He temporarily retired to Gloucester. He was preaching at Alcester, on 23 October 1642, during the battle of Edgehill. He returned, but only to be driven out again. He moved next to Coventry. There he found himself with no fewer than thirty fugitive ministers, among whom were Richard Vines, Anthony Burges, John Bryan and Obadiah Grew. He officiated as chaplain to the garrison, preaching once each Sunday to the soldiers, and once to the townspeople and strangers, including Sir Richard Skeffington, Colonel Godfrey Bosville, George Abbot the layman scholar, and others. After the Battle of Naseby he took the situation of chaplain to Colonel Edward Whalley's regiment, and continued to hold it till February 1647. During these stormy years he wrote his Aphorisms of Justification, which on its appearance in 1649 excited great controversy.[3] Of numerous critics[4] the one with whom Baxter engaged most closely was Christopher Cartwright.[5]

He regretted that he had not previously accepted Oliver Cromwell's offer to become chaplain to the Ironsides. Cromwell avoided him; but Baxter, having to preach before him after he had assumed the Protectorship, chose for his subject the old topic of the divisions of the church, and in subsequent interviews argued with him about liberty of conscience, and even defended the monarchy he had subverted. This contact with Cromwell occurred when Baxter was summoned to London to assist in settling "the fundamentals of religion".[3]

In 1647, Baxter was staying at the home of Lady Rouse, wife of Sir Thomas Rouse, 1st Baronet, of Rouse Lench in Warwickshire. There, though debilated by illness, he wrote the most of a major work, The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650).[3]

Return to Kidderminster

On his recovery he returned to Kidderminster, where he also became a prominent political leader, his sensitive conscience leading him into conflict with almost all the contending parties in state and church. A debate all day on 1 January 1650 with John Tombes at Bewdley ended in confused disorder.[6]

Ministry following the Restoration, 1660-1691

18th-century engraving of Richard Baxter, after a 17th century portrait by John Riley.

After the Restoration in 1660 Baxter, who had helped to bring about that event, settled in London. He preached there till the Act of Uniformity 1662 took effect, and looked for such terms of comprehension as would have permitted the moderate dissenters with whom he acted to have remained in the Church of England. In this hope he was sadly disappointed. Church leaders did not wish for such comprehension, and their objective in negotiation was to excuse their own breach of faith. The Savoy conference resulted in Baxter's Reformed Liturgy, though it was cast aside without consideration.

The same reputation which Baxter had obtained in the country he secured in London. The power of his preaching was universally felt, and his capacity for business placed him at the head of his party. He had been made a king's chaplain, and was offered the bishop of Hereford, but he could not accept the offer without assenting to things as they were.

After his refusal he was not allowed, even before the passing of the Act of Uniformity, to be a curate in Kidderminster, and Bishop George Morley prohibited him from preaching in the diocese of Worcester. Baxter married on 24 September 1662 Margaret Charlton, a woman like-minded with himself. She died in 1681. Baxter wrote the words for the hymn Ye Holy Angels Bright in that year.

Legal troubles

From 1662 until the indulgence of 1687, Baxter's life was constantly disturbed by persecution of one kind or another. He retired to Acton in Middlesex, for the purpose of quiet study, but was placed in prison for keeping a conventicle. Baxter procured a habeas corpus in the court of common pleas.

He was taken up for preaching in London after the licences granted in 1672 were recalled by the king. The meeting house which he had built for himself in Oxendon Street was closed to him after he had preached there only once.

In 1680, he was taken from his house; and though he was released that he might die at home, his books and goods were seized. In 1684, he was carried three times to the sessions house, being scarcely able to stand, and without any apparent cause was made to enter into a bond for £400 in security for his good behaviour.

But his worst encounter was with the chief justice, Sir George Jeffreys, in May 1685. He had been committed to the King's Bench Prison on the charge of libelling the Church in his Paraphrase on the New Testament, and was tried before Jeffreys on this accusation. No authoritative report of the trial exists; if the partisan account on which tradition is based is accepted, Jeffreys was infuriated. Baxter was sentenced to pay 500 marks, to lie in prison till the money was paid, and to be bound to his good behaviour for seven years. Jeffreys is even said to have proposed he should be whipped behind a cart. Baxter was now seventy, and remained in prison for eighteen months, until the government, hoping to win his influence, remitted the fine and released him.

Later writings and last years

Baxter's health had grown even worse, yet this was the period of his greatest activity as a writer. He wrote 168 or so separate works, including major treatises such as the Christian Directory, the Methodus Theologiae Christianae, and the Catholic Theology. His Breviate of the Life of Mrs Margaret Baxter records the virtues of his wife. A slim devotional work published in 1658 under the title Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live formed one of the core extra-biblical texts of evangelicalism until at least the middle of the nineteenth century.

The remainder of his life, from 1687 onwards, was passed peacefully. He died in London, and his funeral was attended by churchmen as well as dissenters.

Theology

Richard Baxter held to a form of Amyraldism, a less rigorous, though more moderate, form of Calvinism which rejected the idea of a limited atonement in favor of a universal atonement similar to that of Hugo Grotius. He devised an eclectic middle route between Bezan Reformed, Grotius Arminian, John Cameron's Amyraldism, and Augustine's Roman doctrines of grace: interpreting the kingdom of God in terms of Christ as Christus Victor and Rector of all men. He explained Christ’s death as an act of universal redemption (penal and vicarious, though substitutionary in explication), in virtue of which God has made a "new law" offering pardon and amnesty to the penitent. Repentance and faith, being obedience to this law, are the believer’s personal saving righteousness.

Practically all aspects of his soteriology have been dealt with in one way or another. Remarkably, however, much disagreement has remained. This disagreement not only concerns the evaluation of Baxter, but often begins at the level of understanding his position as such. These differences in interpretation probably arise from a combination of factors: (1) where Baxter's soteriology, or his theology in general, constitutes but one of a number of issues investigated, some inaccuracies may arise. (2) The scholar's own theological preferences may cause him to present a biased picture of Baxter's theology, whether that be done consciously or unconsciously. (3) Baxter's discussions are often extremely intricate. In a real sense, Baxter is a scholastic theologian. His constant use of distinctions is nearly proverbial among his critics as well as his students. To understand Baxter's theological positions one must go through the arduous process of analyzing the numerous distinctions he makes. Neglecting to sort out the various nuances in these distinctions may easily lead to a misunderstanding of certain aspects of Baxter's theology. (4) Baxter's theological system is a tightly knit unit. Once Baxter's theological method is grasped, the various pieces fit together. Prior to one's unlocking of Baxter's theological system, however, it is often difficult to locate its constitutive elements. This lack of understanding may result in an inaccurate portrayal of his theology.

The disagreements are not restricted to some incidental points. Indeed, it is a much debated question how Baxter's theology must be identified. Of course, Baxter styled himself a "Catholic Christian," an adherent to "meer Christianity." But this does not take away the need to come to a more theologically determined circumscription of his position. Some regard Baxter as a Calvinist. Others, however, interpret his theology as Amyraldian or Arminian. Then again, his theology has been described as Roman Catholic or even Socinian.

Baxter insisted that the Calvinists of his day, armed with their unyielding allegiance on the sola fide of the Reformation, ran the danger of ignoring the conditions that came with God's gift of the covenant of grace. Justification, Baxter insisted, required at least some degree of faith and works as the human response to the love of God: "[I]f in acknowledgement of the favour of his Redemption, he will but pay a pepper corn, he shall be restored to his former possession, and much more."

Baxter's theology was set forth most elaborately in his Latin Methodus theologiæ Chriatianæ (London, 1681); the Christian Directory (1673) contains the practical part of his system; and Catholic Theology (1675) is an English exposition. His theology made Baxter very unpopular among his contemporaries and caused a split among the Dissenters of the eighteenth century. As summarized by Thomas W. Jenkyn, it differed from the Calvinism of Baxter's day on four points:

  1. The atonement of Christ did not consist in his suffering the identical but the equivalent punishment (i.e., one which would have the same effect in moral government) as that deserved by mankind because of offended law. Christ died for sins, not persons. While the benefits of substitutionary atonement are accessible and available to all men for their salvation; they have in the divine appointment a special reference to the subjects of personal election.
  2. The elect were a certain fixed number determined by the decree without any reference to their faith as the ground of their election; which decree contemplates no reprobation but rather the redemption of all who will accept Christ as their Savior.
  3. What is imputed to the sinner in the work of justification is not the righteousness of Christ but the faith of the sinner himself in the righteousness of Christ.
  4. Every sinner has a distinct agency of his own to exert in the process of his conversion. The Baxterian theory, with modifications, was adopted by many later Presbyterians and Congregationalists in England, Scotland, and America (Isaac Watts, Philip Doddridge, and many others).

Baxter is best understood as an eclectic scholastic covenantal theologian for whom the distinction between God's conditional covenant (the voluntas de debito) and his absolute will (the voluntas de rerum eventu) is key to the entire theological enterprise. Despite the difficulty in classifying Baxter, his emphasis on the conditionality of the covenant of grace and therefore on the necessity of faith and works for our standing before God is undeniable.

Bibliography

Our most valuable source is Baxter's autobiography, called Reliquiae Baxterianae or Mr Richard Baxter's Narrative of the most memorable Passages of his Life and Times (published by Matthew Sylvester in 1696). Edmund Calamy the Younger abridged this work (1702). The abridgment forms the first volume of the account of the ejected ministers, but whoever refers to it should also acquaint himself with the reply to the accusations which had been brought against Baxter, and which will be found in the second volume of Calamy's Continuation. William Orme's Life and Times of Richard Baxter appeared in 2 vols. in 1830; it also forms the first volume of "Practical Works" (1830, reprinted 1868). Sir James Stephen's interesting paper on Baxter, contributed originally to the Edinburgh Review, is reprinted in the second volume of his Essays. See also the estimates of Baxter given by John Tulloch in his English Puritanism and Its Leaders, and by Dean Stanley in his address at the inauguration of the statue to Baxter at Kidderminster (see Macmillan's Magazine, xxxii. 385). Geoffrey Nuttall lists 141 books written by Baxter in his biography of Baxter published in 1965.

Legacy

There is a portrait of Baxter in Dr Williams's Library, Gordon Square, London.

A tribute of general esteem was paid to him nearly two centuries later, when a statue was erected to his memory at Kidderminster. Unveiled 28 July 1875, sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock. Originally in the Bull Ring but moved to its present site, outside St Mary's parish church, March 1967.[7] [8] There have also been numerous sightings of the ghost of an old man in this area that some individuals have identified as possibly being that of Baxter. [9]

Baxter House, a boarding house at Old Swinford Hospital school in Stourbridge, is named after him.

The high school, Baxter College, in Kidderminster, is named after him.

Baxter's House in Bridgnorth is still standing near the High Street with a name plaque on the front.

In 1674, Baxter cast in a new form the substance of Arthur Dent's book The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven under the title, The Poor Man's Family Book. In this way, Arthur Dent of South Shoebury was a link between Baxter and another great Puritan John Bunyan.

Max Weber (1864–1920), the German sociologist, made significant use of Baxter's works in developing his thesis for "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" (1904, 1920).

His influence in New England is referenced in the first chapter of the 19th century devotional work "I Will Be A Lady - a book for girls" by Mrs. Tuthill.

Richard Baxter is commemorated in the Calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America with a feast day on December 8.

References

  1. ^ Christian Hymns ed. Paul E G Cook & Grahan Harrison,Evangelical Press of Wales,Bridgend,Wales 1977 ISBN 978-1850490173
  2. ^  "Bunny, Edmund". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  3. ^ a b c d  "Baxter, Richard". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  4. ^ Anthony Burges, John Crandon, William Eyre, George Lawson, John Tombes, Thomas Tully, and John Wallis; see Christopher FitzSimons Allison, The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter (2003), p. 154.
  5. ^  "Cartwright, Christopher". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  6. ^  "Tombes, John". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  7. ^ The Buildings of England: Worcestershire, Nikolaus Pevsner, 1968 p207
  8. ^ Kidderminster Since 1800, Ken Tomkinson and George Hall, 1975 p209-210
  9. ^ Worcestershire, The Haunted County, Anne Bradford, 2007 p57

For more on Baxter's autobiography and its historical usefulness, see Lee Gatiss, "The Autobiography of a "Meer Christian": Richard Baxter's Account of the Restoration' at http://www.theologian.org.uk/churchhistory/baxterianae.html

For Baxter's involvement in the Great Ejection and the persecution of puritans, see Lee Gatiss, The Tragedy of 1662: The Ejection and Persecution of the Puritans at http://www.latimertrust.org/ls66.htm

For a small selection of Baxter's hymns, see his Cyberhymnal page.

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Richard Baxter (November 12, 1615 – December 8, 1691) was an English Puritan church leader, divine scholar and controversialist, called by Dean Stanley "the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen".

Sourced

  • When the Son of God comes to rescue us and bring us back to God, He does not find in us the ability to believe.
    • The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650), "The Nature of the Saints' Rest"
  • All are making haste towards hell, until by conviction, Christ brings them to a halt, and then, by conversion, turns their hearts and lives sincerely to himself.
    • The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650), "The Nature of the Saints' Rest"
  • Special mercy arouses more gratitude than universal mercy.
    • The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650), "The Splendor of the Saints' Rest"
  • In hell, sinners shall forever lay all the blame on their own wills. Hell is a rational torment by conscience.
    • The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650), "The People Who Receive the Saints' Rest"
  • Sinners, hear and consider, if you wilfully condemn your souls to bestiality, God will condemn them to perpetual misery.
    • A Sermon Preached at the Funeral of Mr. John Corbet
  • Christ leads me through no darker rooms Than He went through before.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 11.
  • Do not mathematics and all sciences seem full of contradictions and impossibilities to the ignorant, which are all resolved and cleared to those that understand them?
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 36.
  • If I were but sure that I should live to see the coming of the Lord, it would be the joyfulest tidings in the world. O that I might see His kingdom come! It is the characteristic of His saints to love His appearing, and to look for that blessed hope. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 102.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691), English puritan divine, called by Dean Stanley "the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen," was born at Rowton, in Shropshire, at the house of his maternal grandfather, in November (probably the 12th) 1615. His ancestors had been gentlefolk, but his father had reduced himself to hard straits by loose living. About the time of Richard's birth, however, he changed decisively for the better. The boy's early education was poor, being mainly in the hands of the illiterate and dissolute clergy and readers who held the neighbouring livings at that time. He was better served by John Owen, master of the free school at Wroxeter, where he studied from about 1629 to 1632, and made fair progress in Latin. On Owen's advice he did not proceed to Oxford (a step which he afterwards regretted), but went to Ludlow Castle to read with Richard Wickstead, the council's chaplain there. Wickstead neglected his pupil entirely, but Baxter's eager mind found abundant nourishment in the great library at the castle. He was persuaded - against his will - to turn his attention to a court life, and he went to London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, master of the revels, to follow that course; but he very soon returned home with a fixed resolve - confirmed by the death of his mother - to study divinity. After three months' schoolmastering for Owen at Wroxeter he read theology, and especially the schoolmen, with Francis Garbet, the local clergyman. About this time (1634) he met Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock, two famous Nonconformists, whose piety and fervour influenced him considerably. In 1638 he was nominated to the mastership of the free grammar school, Dudley, in which place he commenced his ministry, having been ordained and licensed by John Thornborough, bishop of Worcester. His success as a preacher was, at this early period, not very great; but he was soon transferred to Bridgnorth (Shropshire), where, as assistant to a Mr Madstard, he established a reputation for the vigorous discharge of the duties of his office.

He remained at Bridgnorth nearly two years, during which time he took a special interest in the controversy relating to Nonconformity and the Church of England. He soon, on some points, especially matters of discipline, became alienated from the Church; and after the requirement of what is called "the et cetera oath," he rejected episcopacy in its English form. He could not, however, be called more than a moderate Nonconformist; and such he continued to be throughout his life. Though commonly denominated a Presbyterian, he had no exclusive attachment to Presbyterianism, and often manifested a willingness to accept a modified Episcopalianism. All forms of church government were regarded by him as subservient to the true purposes of religion.

One of the first measures of the Long Parliament was to effect the reformation of the clergy; and, with this view, a committee was appointed to receive complaints against them. Among the complainants were the inhabitants of Kidderminster, a town which had become famous for its ignorance and depravity. This state of matters was so clearly proved that an arrangement was agreed to on the part of the vicar (Dance), by which he allowed £60 a year, out of his income X200, to a preacher who should be chosen by certain trustees. Baxter was invited to deliver a sermon before the people, and was unanimously elected as the minister of the place. This happened in April 1641, when he was twenty-six years of age.

His ministry continued, with very considerable interruptions, for about nineteen years; and during that time he accomplished a work of reformation in Kidderminster and the neighbourhood which is as notable as anything of the kind upon record. Civilized behaviour succeeded to brutality of manners; and, whereas the professors of religion had been but small exceptions to the mass, the unreligious people became the exceptions in their turn. He formed the ministers in the country around him into an association for the better fulfilment of the duties of their calling, uniting them together irrespective of their differences as Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Independents. The spirit in which he acted may be judged of from The Reformed Pastor, a book published in relation to the general ministerial efforts he promoted. It drives home the sense of clerical responsibility with extraordinary power. The result of his action is that, to this day his memory is cherished as that of the true apostle of the district where he laboured.

The interruptions to which his Kidderminster life was subjected arose from the condition of things occasioned by the civil war. Baxter blamed both parties, but Worcestershire was a cavalier county, and a man in his position was, while the war continued, exposed to annoyance and danger in a place like Kidderminster.

He therefore removed to Gloucester, and afterwards (1643-1645) settled in Coventry, where he preached regularly both to the garrison and the citizens. After the battle of Naseby he took the situation of chaplain to Colonel Whalley's regiment, and continued to hold it till February 1647. During these stormy years he wrote his Aphorisms of Justification, which on its appearance in 1649 excited great controversy.

Baxter's connexion with the Parliamentary army was a very characteristic one. He joined it that he might, if possible, counteract the growth of the sectaries in that field, and maintain the cause of constitutional government in opposition to the republican tendencies of the time. He regretted that he had not previously accepted an offer of Cromwell to become chaplain to the Ironsides, being confident in his power of persuasion under the most difficult circumstances. His success in converting the soldiery to his views does not seem to have been very great, but he preserved his own consistency and fidelity in a remarkable degree. By public disputation and private conference, as well as by preaching, he enforced his doctrines, both ecclesiastical and political, and shrank no more from urging what he conceived to be the truth upon the most powerful officers than he did from instructing the meanest followers of the camp. Cromwell disliked his loquacity and shunned his society; but Baxter having to preach before him after he had assumed the Protectorship, chose for his subject the old topic of the divisions and distractions of the church, and in subsequent interviews not only opposed him about liberty of conscience, but spoke in favour of the monarchy he had subverted. There is a striking proof of Baxter's insight into character in his account of what happened under these circumstances. Of Cromwell he says, "I saw that what he learned must be from himself." It is worthy of notice that this intercourse with Cromwell occurred when Baxter was summoned to London to assist in settling "the fundamentals of religion," and made the memorable declaration, in answer to the objection that what he had proposed as fundamental "might be subscribed by a Papist or Socinian," - "So much the better, and so much the fitter it is to be the matter of concord." In 1647 he was staying at the home of Lady Rouse of Rouse-Lench, and there, in much physical weakness, wrote a great part of his famous work, The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650). On his recovery he returned to his charge at Kidderminster, where he also became a prominent political leader, his sensitive conscience leading him into conflict with almost every one of the contending parties in state and church. His conduct now, as at all times, did "credit to his conscientiousness rather than to his wisdom." After the Restoration in 1660 Baxter, who had helped to bring about that event, settled in London. He preached there till the Act of Uniformity took effect in 1662, and was employed in seeking for such terms of comprehension as would have permitted the moderate dissenters with whom he acted to have remained in the Church of England. In this hope he was sadly disappointed. There was at that time on the part of the rulers of the church no wish for such comprehension, and their object in the negotiations that took place was to excuse the breach of faith which their rejection of all reasonable methods of concession involved. The chief good that resulted from the Savoy conference was the production of Baxter's Reformed Liturgy, a work of remarkable excellence, though it was cast aside without consideration. The same kind of reputation which Baxter had obtained in the country he secured in the larger and more important circle of the metropolis. The power of his preaching was universally felt, and his capacity for business placed him at the head of his party. He had been made a king's chaplain, and was offered the bishopric of Hereford, but he could not accept the offer without virtually assenting to things as they were. This he could not do, and after his refusal he was not allowed, even before the passing of the Act of Uniformity, to be a curate in Kidderminster, though he was willing to serve that office gratuitously. Bishop Morley even prohibited him from preaching in the diocese of Worcester. Baxter, however, found much consolation in his marriage on the 24th of September 1662 with Margaret Charlton, a woman likeminded with himself. She died in 1681.

From the ejectment of 1662 to the indulgence of 1687, Baxter's life was constantly disturbed by persecution of one kind or another. He retired to Acton in Middlesex, for the purpose of quiet study, and was dragged thence to prison for keeping a conventicle. The mittimus was pronounced illegal and irregular, and Baxter procured a habeas corpus in the court of common pleas. He was taken up for preaching in London after the licences granted in 167 2 were recalled by the king. The meetinghouse which he had built for himself in Oxendon Street was closed against him after he had preached there but once. He was, in 1680, seized in his house, and conveyed away at the risk of his life; and though he was released that he might die at home, his books and goods were distrained. He was, in 1684, carried three times to the sessions house, being scarcely able to stand, and without any apparent cause was made to enter into a bond for £400 in security for his good behaviour.

But his worst encounter was with the chief justice, Sir George Jeffreys, in May 1685. He had been committed to the king's bench prison on the ridiculous charge of libelling the Church in his Paraphrase on the New Testament, and was tried before Jeffreys on this accusation. The trial is well known as among the most brutal perversions of justice which have occurred in England, though it must be remembered that no authoritative report of the trial exists. If the partisan account on which tradition is based is to be accepted, it would appear that Jeffreys himself acted like an infuriated madman. (See Jeffreys, Sir George.) Baxter was sentenced to pay Soo marks, to lie in prison till the money was paid, and to be bound to his good behaviour for seven years. It was even asserted at the time that Jeffreys proposed he should be whipped at the cart's tail through London. The old man, for he was now seventy, remained in prison for eighteen months, when the government, vainly hoping to win his influence to their side, remitted the fine and released him.

During the long time of oppression and injury which followed the ejectment, Baxter was sadly afflicted in body. His whole life was indeed one continued illness, but in this part of it his pain and languor had greatly increased. Yet this was the period of his greatest activity as a writer. He was a most voluminous author, his separate works, it is said, amounting to 168. They are as learned as they are elaborate, and as varied in their subjects as they are faithfully composed. Such treatises as the Christian Directory, the Methodus Theologiae Christianae, and the Catholic Theology, might each have occupied the principal part of the life of an ordinary man. His Breviate of the Life of Mrs Margaret Baxter records the virtues of his wife, and reveals on the part of Baxter a tenderness of nature which might otherwise have been unknown. His editors have contented themselves with republishing his "Practical Works," and his ethical, philosophical, historical and political writings still await a competent editor.

The remainder of Baxter's life, from 1687 onwards, was passed in peace and honour. He continued to preach and to publish almost to the end. He was surrounded by attached friends, and reverenced by the religious world. His saintly behaviour, his great talents, and his wide influence, added to his extended age, raised him to a position of unequalled reputation. He helped to bring about the downfall of James II. and complied with the Toleration Act under William and Mary. He died in London on the 8th of December 1691, and his funeral was attended by churchmen as well as dissenters. A similar tribute of general esteem was paid to him nearly two centuries later, when a statue was erected to his memory at Kidderminster in July 1875.

Baxter was possessed by an unconquerable belief in the power of persuasive argument. He thought every one was amenable to reason - bishops and levellers included. And yet he was as far as possible from being a quarrelsome man. He was at once a man of fixed belief and large appreciation, so that his dogmatism and his liberality sometimes came into collision. His popularity as a preacher was deservedly pre-eminent; but no more diligent student ever shut himself up with his books. He was singularly fitted for intellectual debate, but his devotional tendency was equally strong with his logical aptitude. Some of his writings, from their metaphysical subtilty, will always puzzle the learned; but he could write to the level of the common heart without loss of dignity or pointedness. His Reasons for the Christian Religion is still, for its evidential purpose, better than most works of its kind. His Poor Man's Family Book is a manual that continues to be worthy of its title. His Saints' Everlasting Rest will always command the grateful admiration of pious readers. It is also charged with a robust and manly eloquence and a rare and unsought felicity of language that make it a masterpiece of style. Perhaps no thinker has exerted so great an influence upon nonconformity as Baxter has done, and that not in one direction only, but in every form of development, doctrinal, ecclesiastical and practical. He is the type of a distinct class of the Christian ministry - that class which aspires after scholarly training, prefers a broad to a sectarian theology, and adheres to rational methods of religious investigation and appeal. The rational element in him was very strong. He had a settled hatred of fanaticism. Even Quakerism he could scarcely endure. Religion was with him all and in all - that by which all besides was measured, and to whose interests all else was subordinated. Isaac Barrow said that "his practical writings were never minded, and his controversial ones seldom confuted," and John Wilkins, bishop of Chester, asserted that "if he had lived in the primitive time he had been one of the fathers of the church." Bibliography. - OUr most valuable source is Baxter's autobiography, called Reliquiae Baxterianae or Mr Richard Baxter's Narrative of the most memorable Passages of his Life and Times (published by Matthew Sylvester in 1696). Edmund Calamy abridged this work (1702). The abridgment forms the first volume of the account of the ejected ministers, but whoever refers to it should also acquaint himself with the reply to the accusations which had been brought against Baxter, and which will be found in the second volume of Calamy's Continuation. William Orme's Life and Times of Richard Baxter appeared in 2 vols. in 1830; it also forms the first volume of "Practical Works" (1830, reprinted 1868). Sir James Stephen's interesting paper on Baxter, contributed originally to the Edinburgh Review, is reprinted in the second volume of his Essays. More recent estimates of Baxter are those given by John Tulloch in his English Puritanism and its Leaders, and by Dean Stanley in his address at the inauguration of the statue to Baxter at Kidderminster (see Macmillan's Magazine, xxxii. 385).

There is a good portrait of Baxter in the Williams library, Gordon Square, London.


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