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Full text of "Richard Baxter"

EN wof\TH 

HEMEMBEPG 




G.D.BOYLE M.A. 




RICHARD BAXTER. 



"$>. 



RICHARD BAXTER. 



BY 



G. D. BOYLE, M.A, 



Dean of Salisbury. 



II 



Bonbon : 

HODDER AND STOUGHTON, 
27, PATERNOSTER ROW. 

MDCCCLXXXI1I. 

(All rights reserved.") 



Butler & Tanner, 

The Selwood Printing Works, 

Frome, and London. 



THOSE who are well acquainted with the life and 
times of Baxter will soon perceive how greatly 
the writer of this sketch is indebted to Mr. Orme, 
Principal Tulloch, and the impartial historian of 
the period, Dr. Stoughton. The untimely death 
of Dean Stanley, who had promised to write an 
estimate of Baxter's Review of his own life, has 
deprived the reader of these pages of what would 
have been a true distinction. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGE 

EARLY DAYS i 

CHAPTER II. 
THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK . . . . * 9 

CHAPTER III. 
THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER 30 

CHAPTER IV. 
THE RESTORATION 42 

CHAPTER V. 
THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS 59 

CHAPTER VI. 
THE TRIAL AND THE END 76 

CHAPTER VII. 
THE RETROSPECT 86 

CHAPTER VIII. 
THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE 98 

CHAPTER IX. 
BAXTER'S TEACHING 119 

vii 



viii CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER X. 

PAGE 

BAXTER'S TEACHING, CONTINUED . . . . .126 

CHAPTER XI. 
THE PRACTICAL TEACHER 135 

CHAPTER XII. 
THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER 155 



CHAPTER I. 

EARLY DAYS. 

r I ""HERE is no figure among the eminent English- 
-L men of the seventeenth century more interesting 
than that of Richard Baxter. To some he appears to 
occupy the foremost position in the ranks of Puritan 
divines. To others he seems to recall many of the 
characteristics of the great schoolmen of the Middle 
Ages. Whatever opinions may be held as to the part 
he played in the political struggles of his time, his con- 
duct as a pastor and his renown as the author of some 
of the best-known devotional and hortatory works in the 
English language have secured for him a lasting place 
in the religious annals of England. He was born at the 
village of Eaton Constantine, in Shropshire, on the i2th 
of November, 1615. His father had originally possessed 
some fortune, but had squandered his means in gambling. 
The name of his mother was Beatrice, a daughter of 
Richard Adeny, of Rowton, near High Ercall, the seat 
of Lord Newport. 

The first ten years of Baxter's life were spent in his 
grandfather's house. Not long before his birth his father 
had experienced a remarkable religious change. He 
gave much of his time to reading the Bible, and seems 

B 



2 RICHARD BAXTER. 

to have given his adherence to the men who were en- 
deavouring to raise the standard of belief and practice 
in his neighbourhood. There is no reason to believe 
that the picture which Baxter draws of the clergy he 
saw about him in his youth is at all an unfair one. The 
incumbent of the parish was eighty years of age. He 
never preached, and employed labourers and people of 
indifferent character to read the lessons in church. A 
son of his own, a notorious gamester, forced his way into 
holy orders and became his father's curate. Neglect on 
the part of the teachers produced the usual result. Few 
could read. Bibles were rarely to be met with in 
cottages. Here and there men were to be found ready 
to rise into open rebellion against their teachers. There 
was no disposition, however, to stray beyond the con- 
fines of the Church. It is clear from the interesting 
notices in Baxter's "Reminiscences," that attachment 
to the Liturgy was still strong. Such forms of private 
prayer as were in use were the Collects and short ejacu- 
lations of the Prayer-Book. Baxter says of his father, 
that he never " scrupled common prayer, nor cere- 
monies, nor spake against bishops, nor even so much as 
prayed but by a book or form." There is some touch 
of exaggeration in the catalogue he draws out of his 
youthful fancies. He believed that the foundation of 
his miserable health was laid in his " excessive glutton- 
ous eating of apples and pears," and it is clear that he 
was sickly from his birth. The love for tales and 
romances, which seems to him so terrible, is in modern 



EARLY DAYS. 3 

times looked upon as a healthy instinct. He must, 
however, have been thoroughly unfortunate in his 
teachers. The curates of the parish were ignorant and 
sottish ; and what learning he acquired during the first 
ten years of his life, he owed to them. A more com- 
petent guide awaited him when he returned to his 
father's house, and during two years he seems to have 
gained something from his new tutor, who, though com- 
petent, was far from conscientious. At the Free School 
of Wroxeter, under the charge of Mr. John Owen, he 
made his first acquaintance with classical authors. 
Here, too, he had schoolfellows of some position : the 
sons of Sir Richard Newport, and Dr. Allestree, one day 
destined to become Regius Professor of Divinity at 
Oxford, and Provost of Eton. Owen was anxious that 
Baxter should be placed under the charge of Mr. Wich- 
stead, chaplain at Ludlow, instead of proceeding at once 
to the University. Every one who is familiar with 
Baxter's writings must deplore the abandonment of his 
academical career. The chaplain at Ludlow neglected 
his duty, and his pupil was left to himself. He had time 
however and books at his command j and an increasing 
love for theological reading seems to have shown itself 
at this period of his history. He was fortunate, too, 
in finding at Ludlow the true friend, of whom he says, 
" he was the first that ever I heard pray extempore, and 
that taught me so to pray." But the two friends were in 
after years separated; and he who may be said to 
have influenced Baxter in high and noble ways became 



4 RICHARD BAXTER. 

the victim of self-indulgence. On Baxter's return from 
Ludlow he found his old master, Owen, in the last stage 
of consumption, and at the desire of a neighbouring 
nobleman, he undertook the charge of a school. He 
began shortly after this to study in real earnest. A 
terrible break-down ensued. His health gave way en- 
tirely ; but he looked back upon this time as one of 
real spiritual growth. Few passages in the memoirs of 
saintly men are more touching and expressive than 
the simple recital he gives of his spiritual progress 
during this illness. In early years he had dreamt of 
literary distinction ; but he was now convinced that his 
whole life must be spent in simple surrender of his 
powers to God. It is singular that the book, lent, it 
is said, by a poor man to his father, and to which he 
owed much of his first real interest in practical religion, 
known by the name of " Bunny's Resolution," was 
written by a Jesuit of the name of Parsons, though edited 
by Bunny, a stern Puritan of the straitest sect. 

It is difficult to conceive that such writings as Bunny's 
and the "Bruised Reed," praised highly by Baxter, could 
really have effected the great change he ascribes to 
them. All the movements of his mind were gradually 
tending towards theology. He mentions with delight 
the precise moment when he began to study theology as 
a science ; and it is also clear that his bodily maladies 
became powerful motives for entrance into the ministry. 
He already longed, in his own words, to preach as a 
dying man to dying men ; and at this period in his life 



EARL Y DA VS. 5 

he began the practice of habitual meditation, which pro- 
duced in after days " The Saint's Rest." Then came a 
time when one of his most remarkable experiences oc- 
curred. Charles the First had lately come to the throne. 
The position of Baxter in life was such that he might 
reasonably expect to rise in life through Court favour. 
His old master, Mr. Wichstead, had considerable in- 
fluence with Sir Henry Herbert, master of the revels, 
and to his good offices Baxter was entrusted, and actually 
spent a month at Court. The experiment was eminently 
unsuccessful. "I had quickly enough of the Court; 
when I saw a stage-play instead of a sermon on the 
Lord's Days in the afternoon, and saw what course was 
there in fashion, and heard little preaching but what was 
as to one part, against the Puritans, I was glad to be 
gone. At the same time it pleased God that my mother 
fell sick, and desired my return ; and so I resolved to 
bid farewell to those kinds of employments and expecta- 
tions." 

Among the many voluminous writings of Baxter there 
are passages which bear considerable traces of the in- 
fluence of Jacob Behmen. During his residence in Lon- 
don he made the acquaintance of Humphrey Blunden, 
afterwards known as the collector and publisher of some 
of Behmen's writings. It is hardly fanciful to suppose 
that it was from Blunden that Baxter derived his know- 
ledge of the famous mystic. Like Samuel Taylor Cole- 
ridge, Baxter levied contributions from all quarters ; and 
although absolutely incapable of wilfully appropriating 



6 RICHARD BAXTER. 

other men's ideas, he may unconsciously have reproduced 
some of the sentences he had heard in Blunden's labora- 
tory. Baxter left London about Christmas, 1633. After 
a severe frost there had come a great snowstorm. He 
met on the road a loaded wagon, and to escape it spurred 
his horse up a bank. The girths broke, and Baxter was 
thrown before the wheel of the wagon. Unaccountably 
the horses stopped, and his life was preserved. This 
almost miraculous preservation was constantly in his 
thoughts ; and he describes with true pathos his return 
to his own home, where his mother's groans were heard 
throughout the house. After terrible sufferings she died, 
in May, 1634, and very shortly after her death the reso- 
lution to enter the ministry entirely mastered him. No 
one perhaps has ever experienced as fully as he did the 
intense desire to speak his own experience to others. 
Before him lay the world, full of sin, and yet replete with 
human interest. The great snowstorm which had begun 
at Christmas lasted until Easter, and in that dreary 
winter Baxter determined that his life should be given 
for his brethren. To the last he maintained his noble 
resolve. He wrote with no desire for fame, but simply 
from the interest he felt in speaking for what he believed 
to be truth. The dominant motive of his ministry was 
to be a preacher intent on saving the souls of men. At 
this time he began his studies in Hooker. It is a re- 
markable fact in the ecclesiastical history of the period, 
that the great work of Hooker should have already ob- 
tained such an influence and sway. 



EARL Y DA YS. 7 

Although Baxter's father was called Puritan chiefly 
from his aversion to the " Book of Sports," he was 
favourable to a liturgy, and held some of the great 
Church writers in high esteem. Upon the whole, it may 
be said, that Baxter, in his view of the whole controversy, 
inclined towards the party of moderation. He does not 
rail against ceremonies. The chief fault he found with 
the Church, was her want of discipline. His view of 
Episcopacy can hardly be distinguished from that of 
Leighton. It is strange, however, to find that he was 
ignorant of the Homilies, and had entirely neglected the 
Ordinal. 

In 1638, Mr. Foley of Stourbridge recovered some 
land at Dudley left for charitable uses. He built a 
school and added some endowment. The head master- 
ship was offered to Baxter, and the Bishop of Worcester 
recognised the office as a title for holy orders. Bishop 
Thornborough was a man of distinction, and it would be 
interesting to know if he recognised in the pale and 
sickly student any of the qualities for which he afterwards 
became conspicuous. Baxter merely says : " Mr. Foley 
and James Berry going with me to Worcester at the time 
of ordination, I was ordained by the bishop, and had a 
licence to teach school." This entry does not seem to 
intimate that the revival of interest in the ember seasons, 
advocated by Laud as a needful reform, had reached the 
cathedral of Worcester. At Dudley Baxter found the 
people ready to listen to the sermons he delivered from 
time to time at the lecture service. 



8 RICHARD BAXTER. 

After a stay of about a year at Dudley he was invited 
to Bridgnorth as assistant to Mr. William Madstard, a 
man whom he describes as an excellent preacher. Pas- 
toral work was more^ to his taste than the office of a 
teacher. At Bridgnorth he may be said to have com- 
menced his ministerial labours in earnest. His friends 
were evidently all men who leant to the Nonconformist 
views. 

The great struggle of the Civil War was about to 
commence, and there can be no doubt that he would be 
reckoned in the ranks of those who were stoutly opposed 
to all the opinions of Laud and his friends. 



CHAPTER II. 

THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 

THE proceedings of the Long Parliament for many 
years past have been subjected to the most rigorous 
and searching criticisms. It is highly probable that the 
researches which have done so much for us in the eluci- 
dation of difficult questions can hardly now be prosecuted 
with the hope of obtaining more light. Baxter has left 
us an incomplete account of the state of feeling in his 
neighbourhood ; but he touches upon various points of 
the prevailing controversies in such a way as to make 
clear what the principal evils of the time were. The 
attempt of Laud to bind down the clergy to an absolute 
adherence to the existing polity, in what was called the 
Et Csetera Oath, raised a storm amongst the clergy who 
favoured Puritan views. 

Baxter was one of those who took a strong part in 
opposition. He resumed his studies in divinity, and con- 
vinced himself that a system where such tyrannous abuse 
of power was possible, bore faint resemblance to the 
primitive ideal. Human nature is the same in all ages 
of history. A milder policy, such as that advocated 
in later days by the saintly Leighton and the vigorous 
Usher, might have had the effect of restraining the bolder 



io RICHARD BAXTER. 

spirits of the Puritan faction, and enabled them to pass 
their days in the moderate conformity after which Baxter 
always sighed. But events of even greater importance 
were now engaging the attention of all thoughtful citi- 
zens. Far and wide broadsides containing the speeches 
of Falkland and Pym were printed and circulated. The 
agitation against ship-money had begun. No real attempt 
to revive the waning feelings of loyalty and reverence was 
made. 

The Scottish army marched into England, and the 
great struggle between King and Commons was the only 
subject talked of in market-places and Church gatherings. 

When every allowance has been made for the exaggera- 
tion of partisans, it must be admitted that if one-tenth 
part of the exposure made of the ignorance and folly of 
many of the clergy were true, there was enough to justify 
the invective of Prynne and even the vituperation, couched 
in miserable Latin, of Dr. Bastwich of Colchester. 

It was at this time that the men of Kidderminster 
petitioned against their vicar, a certain Mr. Dance. He 
preached four times a year, and was said to be a 
drunkard. His curate was even worse than the vicar. 
He traded in illicit marriages, and was an open scoffer. 
The vicar compounded matters with his parishioners. 
He was willing to delegate most of his duties to a 
lecturer; and on the Qth of March, 1640, a document 
was signed inviting Baxter to fill the place. The church, 
a noble specimen of the later Gothic, was convenient. 
There was a promise of an ardent and faithful con- 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL. WORK. n 

gregation. To Kidderminster Baxter at once repaired, 
and after one sermon, or rather one preaching, he was 
unanimously elected. The various documents bearing 
upon this portion of his history are still carefully pre- 
served, and can hardly be perused without emotion. 
There is hardly anything more touching than the ex- 
pression of the desire of persons who have suffered 
neglect, for greater spiritual privileges. The town had 
been gradually growing in importance and had a trade 
of its own. But it had been left to the tender mercies 
of worthless men in an age of reviving zeal. Baxter 
felt for the place and the people all the attachment 
felt by those who commence the care of souls in earnest 
under special disadvantage. " Thus," says he, speaking 
of his call to the place, " I was brought, by the gracious 
providence of God, to that place which had the chiefest 
of my labours, and yielded me the greatest fruits of 
comfort ; and I noted the mercy of God in this, that 
I never went to any place in my life, which I had before 
desired, or thought of, much less sought, till the sudden 
invitation did surprise me." Through all the various 
changes of his life his thoughts returned to the place 
where he had spent so many years. In his poetical 
fragments there are some lines which express fully the 
feelings of a pastor. 

4 ' But among all, none diet so much abound 
"With fruitful mercies, as that barren ground, 
Where I did make my best and longest stay, 
And bore the heat and burden of the day. 



12 RICHARD BAXTER. 

Mercies grew thicker there than summer flowers, 
They over numbered my days and hours. 
There was my dearest flock and special charge ; 
Our hearts with mutual love Thou didst enlarge. 
'Twas there Thy mercy did my labours bless 
With the most great and wonderful success." 

Baxter's first residence at Kidderminster lasted only 
about two years. Political agitation greatly hindered 
his work. His health was bad. Malignant slanders 
were circulated regarding his life. At one time it 
appears he was in actual danger. At the commence- 
ment of the Civil War the Royalist cause was popular 
with the mob. Baxter was advised to withdraw, and 
he went to Gloucester, where he remained for a month, 
and was a witness of the first public disputations 
between the ministry of the Church and sectaries, 
which were then becoming the occupation of many 
people in towns. On his return to Kidderminster he 
found that it was in vain to think of quiet pastoral 
work while the whole thoughts of the people were 
engaged in the struggle. The account given by Baxter 
of the battle of Edgehill contains some interesting par- 
ticulars. "Upon the Lord's day, October 23rd, 1642, 
I preached at Alcester for my reverend friend, Mr. 
Samuel Clark. As I was preaching, the people heard 
the cannon play, and perceived that the armies were 
engaged. When the sermon was done, in the afternoon, 
the report was more audible, which made us all long 
to hear of the success. About sun-setting, many troops 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 13 

fled through the town, and told us that all was lost on 
the Parliament side ; and that the carriages were taken, 
and the wagons plundered, before they came away. 
The townsmen sent a message to Stratford-on-Avon to 
know the truth. About four o'clock in the morning he 
returned and told us that Prince Rupert wholly routed 
the left wing of the Earl of Essex's army ; but while 
his men were plundering the wagons the main body and 
the right wing routed the rest of the king's army, took 
his standard, but lost it again ; killed General the Earl 
of Lindsay, and took his son prisoner ; that few persons 
of quality on the side of the Parliament were lost, and 
no noblemen, but Lord St. John, eldest son to the Earl 
of Bolingbroke ; that the loss of the left wing happened 
through the treachery of Sir Faithful Fortescue, major 
to Lord Fielding's regiment of horse, who turned to 
the king when he should have charged ; and that the 
victory was obtained principally by Colonel Hollis's 
regiment of London redcoats, and the Earl of Essex's 
own regiment and life guard, where Sir Philip Stapleton, 
Sir Arthur Haselrigge, and Colonel Urey did much. 
Next morning, being desirous to see the field, I went 
to Edgehill, and found the Earl of Essex, with the 
remaining part of his army, keeping the ground, and the 
King's army facing them upon the hill about a mile off. 
There were about a thousand dead bodies in the field 
between them ; and many I suppose were buried before. 
Neither of the armies moving towards each other, the 
King's army presently drew off towards Banbury and then 



14 RICHARD BAXTER. 

to Oxford. The Earl of Essex's went back to provide 
for the wounded, and refresh themselves at Warwick 
Castle, belonging to Lord Brook. For myself I knew 
not what course to take. To live at home, I was 
uneasy ; but especially now, when soldiers on one side or 
other would be frequently among us, and we must still 
be at the mercy of every furious beast that would 
make a prey of us. I had neither money nor friends. I 
knew not who would receive me in any place of safety, 
nor had I anything to satisfy them for my diet and 
entertainment. Hereupon I was persuaded by one 
that was with me to go to Coventry where an old 
acquaintance, Mr. Simon King, was minister; so thither 
I went, with a purpose to stay there till one side or 
other had got the victory, and the war was ended ; for so 
wise in matters of war was I, and all the country beside, 
that we commonly supposed that a very few days or 
weeks, by one other battle, would end the wars. Here 
I stayed at Mr. King's a month ; but the war was then 
as far from being likely to end as before. While I was 
thinking what course to take in this necessity, the 
Committee and Governor of the city desired me to 
stay with them, and lodge in the Governor's house, and 
preach to the soldiers. The offer suited well with my 
necessities \ but I resolved that I would not be chaplain 
to a regiment, nor take a commission : yet, if the mere 
preaching of a sermon once or twice a week to the 
garrison would satisfy them, I would accept of the offer 
till I could go home again. Here, accordingly, I lived 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. . 15 

iii the Governor's house, followed my studies as quietly 
as in a time of peace, for about a year, preaching once 
a week to the soldiers, and once, on the Lord's day, to 
the people, taking nothing from either but my diet." 

It is well known that Clarendon attempts to show that 
the result of the battle of Edgehill was not unfavourable 
to the King. Baxter held a different opinion ; but his 
agreement with Clarendon's account is such as to give 
us a favourable idea of his desire for truth. Indeed, 
during the whole of his intricate details we have con- 
stant evidence of an anxiety for accuracy, though it must 
fairly be said he is never able to conceal his own bias. 
At this time he seems to have been in great want of 
money. Skirmishes were taking place continually in his 
old neighbourhood. His father was imprisoned ; and 
when Baxter had obtained his release, he resolved to 
accept the invitation of the governor of Coventry, and 
act as chaplain to the soldiers there. In many respects 
his position was an unfortunate one. He thought it 
needful to engage in strife with Separatists, Anabaptists, 
and Antinomians ; but even by his own account, his 
efforts after peace were far from successful. He re- 
mained during his second residence at Coventry for 
more than a year. It was a time of great trial. The 
fights of Newbury, the sieges of Gloucester, Plymouth, 
and Taunton, the great disaster of Marston Moor, 
succeeded each other rapidly. " Miserable and bloody 
days," he calls them, " in which he was the most 
honourable who could kill most of his enemies." The 



1 6 RICHARD BAXTER. 

men with whom he lived in Coventry were reform- 
ers, not revolutionists. They were still aiming after 
such changes only as would restore the balance be- 
tween King and Parliament. Baxter looked upon the 
accounts given in the Court News-book as to the 
rise of Anabaptism in the army as much exagger- 
ated, and it was not until his arrival at headquarters 
that he discovered how rapid the growth of sectarian 
factions had been. After the great victory of Naseby, 
he determined to find out for himself how things stood. 
He joined his friends at headquarters, and very soon 
made up his mind that he ought to undertake the duty 
of acting as chaplain to Whalley's regiment. Some time 
before he actually commenced his work as chaplain, he 
had received a pressing invitation from Cromwell to 
minister to the spiritual need of his great troop. Bax- 
ter's refusal to do so had evidently annoyed Cromwell, 
who received him when he actually joined the army with 
a cold welcome. The two men regarded each other with 
a profound distrust. It is hardly too much to say that 
the view of Cromwell's character, undoubtedly prevalent 
until the publication of Mr. Carlyle's great book, was 
owing chiefly to the perhaps exaggerated value attached 
to Baxter's representations. It has been said that 
Guizot, whose knowledge of the history of this time was 
certainly great, estimated very highly Baxter's account of 
the conduct of Cromwell during the period of his chap- 
laincy. Baxter evidently perceived that there were men 
who desired to induce Cromwell to adopt measures from 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 17 

which he himself shrank ; and the portraits he has 
drawn of Harrison and some others, though slightly 
tinged with acerbity, are remarkable evidences of his 
knowledge of human character. When at Coventry he 
took the Covenant, but his repentance was bitter. In 
what he calls his " penitent confessions," we read the 
struggles of a man who felt himself hampered by the 
Covenant and the declaration for the Parliament which 
it involved. Had it been possible for Baxter to abstain 
entirely from political action, he would certainly have 
been free from the torments occasioned by his indul- 
gence in casuistical scruples. He had no sympathy with 
the men who were gradually gathering all power into 
their own hands ; and with those who claimed perfect 
liberty of conscience he had a standing quarrel. It is 
never quite safe to differ from one who understands the 
complicated religious history of this time so well as 
Principal Tulloch ; but there is some reason to think 
that when he ascribes to Baxter a lack of charity in his 
judgments on parties and sects, he is somewhat hard. 
What strikes the impartial student of Baxter's memoirs, 
is his desire for impartiality. He was a real lover of the 
monarchical principle ; and although his views of Church 
government alter from time to time, he hated with a per- 
fect hatred the excesses of the Vanists, Seekers, Ranters, 
and others, who raised their heads, struggling, like Mr. 
Carlyle's vipers in a pitcher, for predominance and power. 
It is interesting to note ' that he discusses in his cata- 
logue of sects the Behmenists with a certain tenderness, 

c 



1 8 RICHARD BAXTER. 

and declares that they seem to have attained to greater 
meekness and conquest of passion than any of the rest. 
His mention, however, of the follies of Dr. Pordage, is 
a proof that he could discriminate between the mystical 
fervour of some of these followers of Behmen, and the 
ridiculous legends which certainly go far to excuse those 
who can see nothing in Behmen's writings but incurable 
frenzy. Baxter did not escape from the almost universal 
belief of thoughtful Englishmen, that many of the ex- 
cesses of the sects were at this time secretly encouraged 
by Jesuits. Whatever part the members of the Society 
of Jesus may have taken in the earlier troubles of the 
reign of Charles, it seems tolerably certain that they had 
little or nothing to do with the leaders of the popular 
party. In all Baxter's discussions on the religious dis- 
cords, we find hardly any recognition of the point of 
liberty of conscience, as this is now understood. It is 
quite clear that if he had had his own way, a system of 
stern repression would have been adopted. 

During the whole of his service with the army he 
suffered much from his constitutional maladies. At last, 
however, he was obliged to retire in order to enjoy a little 
quiet and rest. He fell ill at Worcester, and was sent to 
Tunbridge Wells. Once more he attempted to resume 
his duties, but he found that his frame could stand the 
exposure of campaigning life no more. He had found 
a warm friend in Sir Thomas Rons, of Rous-Lench, in 
Worcestershire. He was attacked by illness at Mil- 
bourne, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and Lady Rons sent her 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 19 

servant to search for the preacher, who had already been 
for some time an inmate at Rous-Lench. He returned to 
his kind friends "in great weakness," he says, "thither 
I made shift to get, where I was entertained with the 
greatest care and tenderness, while I continued the use 
of means for my recovery ; and when I had been there a 
quarter of a year, I returned to Kidderminster." His 
work in the army, however disappointing to himself, could 
hardly have been in vain. Contact with a man of real 
unselfishness always exercises some influence, even upon 
the roughest and most indifferent of men. Where purity 
of motive is evident, involuntary tributes of respect are 
sure to be rendered in some form or other. It was the 
peculiar happiness of Baxter, in all stages of his career, 
to extract even from opponents admiration for his self- 
denial and fervour. Many who were weaned to death 
by his endless diatribes against the dogmas of the sect- 
aries, must have inwardly reverenced the man who had 
left quiet for strife, and who could not conceal his burn- 
ing love for the souls of the rude and turbulent soldiery. 
In the peaceful retirement of Rous-Lench, Baxter 
commenced to work with his pen. He was, as he tells 
us himself, " in continual expectation of death, with one 
foot in the grave," and yet he was able to write what 
certainly stands out as the highest and best of all his 
works, the first part of " The Saint's Everlasting Rest." 
The terrible experience of the last two years exercised 
a most invigorating influence upon his thoughts. He 
looked back upon the struggles and disputes with a 



20 RICHARD BAXTER. 

lofty, chastened temper. Undoubtedly this noble medi- 
tation owes much to the fact that at Rous-Lench he was 
away from his books, and not tempted to indulge in the 
prolix digressions which disfigure many of his other 
writings. At no time did he attain so pure and eloquent 
a style. To tell the truth, his style is most unequal. 
In the midst of tedious controversial arguments, he will 
sometimes surprise his reader by short and terse passages 
which will often tempt us to exclaim, " O si sic omnia /" 
In the first part of " The Saint's Rest," he seems to move 
freely. Principal Tulloch's words must be admitted to 
express admirably the result of thoughtful consideration 
on this remarkable book : "The second part of 'The 
Saint's Rest ' shows the comparative disadvantage of 
scholastic leisure, and his habitual turn for polemical 
discursiveness. It is tedious and out of place. It 
might be omitted, and the work improved. But as it is 
there is a touching harmony of tone in 'The Saint's 
Rest.' There are few with any solemn feeling of reli- 
gion who can read it unmoved ; the fervour and passion 
of its heavenly feeling, blending with the scenes of glory 
which it depicts, the pathos of its appeals, the ardour of 
its description, the enraptured sweetness of some of its 
pictures, the affection, force, and hurry of its eloquence, 
when he gives free rein to his spiritual impulses, and 
brushes unheeding and headlong past the tangled brakes 
of logic that lie in wait for him all render it one of the 
most impressive treatises which have descended to us 
from the seventeenth century. Much of its impressive- 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 21 

ness flows from the intensity of the Puritan feeling which 
it everywhere reflects, and the vivid realization of the 
unseen, in which this feeling lived and moved. The 
colouring of its heaven is steeped in the intense hues of 
the religious imagination of the time Brook, Hampden, 
and Pym were among the saints whom he rejoiced he 
should meet above. The definitions, the arguments, 
many of the descriptions, are Puritan ; yet the highest 
charm of the treatise is the fulness with which it reflects 
the catholic ideas of the eternal rest the love, life, and 
fervour of tender-hearted and universal piety that it 
breathes." Other characteristics of " The Saint's Rest" 
have been well touched upon by Archbishop Trench in 
the first volume of "St. James's Lectures." 

" A great admirer of Baxter has recently suggested a 
doubt whether he ever recast a sentence, or bestowed 
a thought on its rhythm and the balance of its several 
parts ; statements of his own make it tolerably certain 
he did not. As a consequence he has none of those 
bravura passages which must have cost Jeremy Taylor in 
his ' Holy Living and Dying,' and elsewhere, so much of 
thought and pain, for such do not come of themselves, 
and unbidden, to the most accomplished masters of 
language. But for all this there reigns in Baxter's 
writings, and not least in ' The Saint's Rest,' a robust 
and masculine eloquence ; nor do these want from time 
to time rare and unsought felicities of language, which 
once heard can scarcely be forgotten. In regard, 
indeed, of the choice of words, the book might have 



22 RICHARD BAXTER. 

been written yesterday. There is hardly one which 
has become obsolete, hardly one which has drifted 
away from the meaning which it has in his writings. 
This may not be a great matter ; but it argues a rare 
insight, conscious or unconscious, into all which was 
truest, into all which was farthest removed from affec- 
tation and untruthfulness in the language, that after 
more than two hundred years so it should be ; and we 
may recognise here an element, not to be overlooked, of 
the abiding popularity of the book. Having tarried thus 
long as in the outer court of the temple, let me now 
draw nearer to the heart of things. And first I will 
attempt to realize to myself and to you the conditions, 
outward and inward, under which this book was pro- 
duced, the forces which contributed to its production ; 
for these will have gone far to make it what it is. I 
remarked at the outset that the book was one of those 
which seem rather to write themselves than to be written. 
Let this, however, be as it may, so much at least stands 
fast, that it was originally composed for his own use, 
surely an invaluable condition for a book of practical 
divinity, that it should have been written to instruct, to 
comfort, to strengthen him from whom it came, and then, 
if it might be, others. 

***** 

41 But the author of ' The Saint's Rest ' aims at some- 
thing more than the disenchanting us from the love of 
this world, and from the minding of earthly things. 
This is but half, and the easiest half, of the task which 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 25 

he has set before him. 'To despise earth,' he has 
somewhere said, ' is easy to me ; but not so easy to be 
acquainted and conversant in heaven.' This, as its name 
sufficiently declares, is the motive and final cause of the 
book to assist and set forward, in himself first, and then 
in others, this acquaintance with heaven, this conversa- 
tion in heaven; to kindle by meditation on heavenly 
things, above all of the heavenly rest the cold affec- 
tion towards these which he mourned in himself, which 
he saw too plainly in others ; which who is there among 
us that does not feel in himself? And here is indeed 
an explanation of the immense importance which he 
attached to meditation, of the prominence which he gave 
to it as a help, nay, almost as an exercise, absolutely 
necessary for the strengthening and deepening of the 
spiritual life of the soul, with the most careful directions 
when and where and how this may be most profitably 
exercised, which he gives. Many, if I mistake not, are 
wont to regard this exercise of meditation with cold- 
ness and distrust, as a device for the promotion of a 
certain artificial piety, and a transient excitement of the 
religious affections, much extolled and much practised in 
the Roman Catholic Church ; and - recently, with other 
questionable helps to devotion, borrowed from it by a 
few among ourselves. There cannot, however, be a 
greater mistake than this. It needs but a very slight 
acquaintance with the best Puritan divinity of the seven- 
teenth century, with such books as Gurnall's ' Christian 
Armour,' with Bates' treatise on this very matter, above 



24 RICHARD BAXTER. 

all with the writings of Baxter, and this one first of all, to 
dissipate any such notion. The fourth and concluding 
portion of ' The Saint's Rest,' nearly three hundred 
pages, and constituting almost an independent work 
for it has its own title-page, its own preface, its own 
dedication is devoted exclusively to the urging of this 
duty, which he describes as ' the delightfullest task to 
the spirit, and the most tedious to the flesh, that ever 
men on earth were employed in.' I must needs consider 
it the most precious portion of the whole book ; indeed, 
he himself announces that all which went before was but 
as a leading up to this. But he shall himself describe 
this section of his work : ' A directory,' he calls it, ' for 
the getting and keeping of the heart in heaven by 
the diligent practice of that excellent unknown duty of 
heavenly meditation, being the main thing intended by 
the author in the writing of this book, and to which all 
the rest is but subservient.' And on meditation, not 
merely as a help to the heavenly life, but as one which 
none may lawfully forego, he often expresses him- 
self very strongly, as thus : ' That meditation is a duty 
of God's ordering, I never met with a man that would 
deny. It is in word confessed to be a duty by all, but 
by the constant neglect denied by most." 

* * * * * 

''There are passages, not a few, toward the end of the 
book, strains of the most passionate devotion, in which 
he seeks to initiate such as have yielded themselves to 
his guidance into the deeper mysteries of Divine medita- 



THE BEGINNING OP PASTORAL WORK. 25 

lion, to furnish them with some of the materials on 
which the soul may work, to leftd them upward and 
onward, step by step, from strength to strength, from 
glory to glory, to the contemplation of the glory of God. 
Take, for example, this. He has spoken of some 
motives to love, and proceeds : ' But if thou feelest 
not thy love to work, lead thy heart further, and show 
it yet more. Show it the King of saints on the throne 
of His glory, who is the first and last, who liveth and 
was dead. Draw near and behold Him. Dost thou not 
hear His voice ? He that called Thomas to come near 
and see the prints of the nails, and to put his fingers into 
His wounds, He it is that calls to thee. Come near, 
and be not faithless but believing. Look well upon Him. 
Dost thou not know Him? Why, it is He that brought 
thee up from the pit of hell, and purchased the advance- 
ment which thou must inherit for ever. And yet dost 
thou not know Him? Why, His hands were pierced, 
His head was pierced, His side was pierced, His heart 
was pierced with the sting of thy sins, that by these 
marks thou mightest always know Him. Hast thou for- 
gotten since He wounded Himself to cure thy wounds, 
and let out His own blood to stop thy bleeding? If thou 
know Him not by the face, the voice, the hands ; if thou 
know Him not by the tears and bloody sweat ; yet look 
nearer, thou mayest know Him by the heart. Hast thou 
forgotten the time when thou wast weeping, and He wiped 
the tears from thine eyes ? when thou wast bleeding, and 
He wiped the blood from thy soul ? when pricking cares 



26 RICHARD BAXTER. 

and fears did grieve thee, and He did refresh thee and 
draw out the thorns? Hast thou forgotten when thy 
folly did wound thy soul, and the venomous guilt did 
seize upon thy heart ; when He sucked forth the mortal 
poison from thy soul, though therewith He drew it into 
His own ? Oh, how often hath He found thee sitting like 
Hagar, while thou gavest up thy state, thy friends, thy 
life, yea, thy soul for lost, and He opened to thee a well 
of consolation, and opened thine eyes also, that thou 
mightest see it. How oft hath He found thee in the 
posture of Elias, sitting down under the tree forlorn and 
solitary, and desiring rather to die than to live ; and He 
hath spread thee a table of relief from heaven, and sent 
thee away refreshed and encouraged to His work. 
How oft hath He found thee in such a passion as Jonas, 
in thy peevish frenzy a- weary of thy life; and He hath 
not answered passion with passion, though He might 
indeed have done well to be angry, but hath mildly 
reasoned thee out of thy madness, and said, " Dost thou 
well to be angry, and to repine against Me ? " How often 
hath He set thee on watching and praying and repent- 
ing and believing, and when He hath returned hath 
found thee fast asleep ; and yet He hath not taken thee 
at the worst, but instead of an angry aggravation of thy 
fault, He hath covered it over with the mantle of love, 
and prevented thy overmuch sorrow with a gentle 
excuse, " The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 
How oft hath He been traduced in His cause or name, 
and thou hast (like Peter) denied Him, at least by thy 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 27 

silence, while He hath stood in sight ; yet all the 
revenge He hath taken hath been a heart-melting look, 
and a silent remembering thee of thy fault by His coun- 
tenance.' 

" And hear him once, and only once more, as he 
rebukes with the same passionate earnestness those 
who, loving God, do not love Him better \ who, profess- 
ing to seek, and in a sense seeking, a heavenly country, 
are yet unwilling to reach it, and to find themselves (all 
life's tempest past) in the Fair Havens of the eternal rest. 
'Ah, foolish, wretched soul, doth every prisoner groan for 
freedom? and every slave desire his jubilee? and every 
sick man long for health ? and every hungry man for 
food ? And dost thou alone abhor deliverance ? Doth 
the seaman long to see the land ? Doth the husbandman 
desire the harvest ? and the traveller long to be at home ? 
and the soldier long to win the field? And art thou 
loth to see thy labours finished, and to receive the end 
of thy faith, and to obtain the things for which thou 
livest ? Are all thy sufferings only seeming ? have thy 
griefs and groans been only dreams ? If they were, yet 
methinks we should not be afraid of waking ; fearful 
dreams are not delightful. Or is it not rather the world's 
delights that are all mere dreams and shadows ? Is not 
all its glory as the light of a glow-worm, a wandering fire, 
yielding but small directing light, and as little comfort- 
ing heat, in all our doubtful and sorrowful darkness ? 
Or hath the world in these its latter days laid aside 
its ancient enmity? Is it become of late more kind? 



28 RICHARD BAXTER. 

Who hath wrought this great change, and who hath 
made his reconciliation ? Surely not the great Recon- 
ciler. He hath told us in the world we shall have 
trouble, and in Him only we shall have peace. We may 
reconcile ourselves to the world (at our peril), but it 
will never reconcile itself to us. Oh, foolish, unworthy 
soul, who hadst rather dwell in this land of darkness 
than be at rest with Christ ; who hadst rather stay 
among the wolves, and daily suffer the scorpion's stings, 
than to praise the Lord with the host of heaven ! If 
thou didst well know what heaven is, and what earth is, 
it would not be so.' " 

The first edition was published in 1649. It is said 
that for many years " The Saint's Rest," the " Pilgrim's 
Progress," and Baxter's " Call to the Unconverted," were 
the most popular religious books in England. In the 
editions published since 1659 the names of Brook, 
Hampden, and Pym are omitted, in deference to the 
licenser of books. Baxter has been blamed for this 
omission ; but the charge is hardly fair. His own later 
judgment would probably have been against the intro- 
duction of anything like doubtful matter. His admira- 
tion of the men of whom so much has since been written 
continued probably unchanged. The inferiority of the 
second portion of the book has perhaps injured its repu- 
tation in more recent days. But if it be true that the 
" Imitation of Christ," the " Pilgrim's Progress," and the 
" Christian Year," find a ready sale in all places where 
English emigrants are found to congregate, it may be 



THE BEGINNING OF PASTORAL WORK. 39 

assumed that the more devout will have added to these 
volumes the book which has been the solace of so many 
weary hearts, and which has made the name of Baxter 
dear to readers who knew little of the remarkable life of 
its author. 

After his retirement at Rous-Lench we find him once 
more installed at Kidderminster. The people invited 
him to take the vicarage, but he declined ; and with that 
contempt for money which he always manifested, he 
merely resumed his old position, receiving ^"80 or ^"90 
a year and a few rooms " at the top of another man's 
house." 

The vicar and his curate were pensioned, and in this 
way Baxter avoided any accusations which might have 
been brought against him. In spite of his feeble health, 
he manfully resumed the pastoral labours which have 
made him even more famous than his voluminous 
writings. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER. 

TV" IDDERMINSTER, like all towns during the great 
X\~ struggle, was no pleasant place to reside in 
when Baxter commenced his memorable pastorate. The 
ignorance and immorality on which Baxter remarked 
forcibly, had increased terribly. Many persons, uncon- 
nected with the trade of the place, had settled in the 
town, and from the licentiousness of this mixed multitude 
many troubles arose. In all pastoral work, the one thing 
needful is that the servant of Christ should throw himself 
entirely into the task set before him. In England there 
had been not a few men, who, like George Herbert, in 
small and quiet places made the life of .a country pastor 
delightful and memorable. 

It would be a mistake to suppose that all the religious 
zeal was to be found amongst the Puritans. But' as far 
as we know, no one had ever yet devoted himself in a 
perfect spirit of self-surrender to the work of the ministry 
in towns. Laud himself frequently complained of the 
neglect of their charge on the part of the clergy in 
London. There are very few pictures of pastoral work 
in any age of the Church's history so artless and 



THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER. 31 

buoyant as the touching records given by Baxter of his 
ministry at Kidderminster. It is wonderful, indeed, that 
he should have been able to struggle successfully against 
the attacks of bodily weakness to which he was con- 
tinually subject. His maladies, and the extraordinary 
remedies he adopted, must provoke the smiles of the 
readers of his autobiography. He was in no way in 
advance of his age, and seems to have been at the mercy 
of every vendor of quack medicines. But a man who 
writes of himself that he was seldom an hour free from 
pain, may well be excused if he dwells somewhat 
tediously on his troubles and deliverances. During the 
first part of his stay at Kidderminster, he was in the 
habit of prescribing for the maladies of the people. His 
studies were grievously hindered, and the fear of advising 
wrongly made his life a burden to him. In a happy 
hour he induced a diligent physician to settle in the 
town, and from that time, except in case of necessity, he 
practised no more. After the war it was Baxter's habit 
to preach only once on Sunday. On Thursdays he 
lectured, and on the evening of that day anxious inquirers 
met at his house. One of them repeated what he could 
remember of the sermon. Doubts were talked over, 
and the pastor, according to his ability, resolved them. 
Days of humiliation were held occasionally. Baxter and 
his assistant visited fourteen families weekly. There 
was private catechizing and conference. It was the duty 
of the assistant to bring the people to the pastor. Some- 
times persons of all ages were catechized in church, and 



32 RICHARD BAXTER. 

expostulation with individuals seemed to be constant. 
He did not neglect the meetings of ministers. His 
reputation often secured to him the office of moderator, 
and there are most interesting contemporary notices in 
the records of some Worcestershire parishes, which give 
distinct evidence of the esteem in which he was held by 
his brethren. During the whole period of Cromwell's 
sway, Baxter looked upon himself as comparatively 
silenced, and he dwells with exultation on the exemption 
he enjoyed from positive persecution. His ministry was 
successful. We must give the result of his earnest 
labour in his own words : 

" My public preaching met with an attentive, diligent 
auditory. Having broke over the brunt of the opposition 
of the rabble before the wars, I found them afterwards 
tractable and unprejudiced. Before I entered into the 
ministry, God blessed my private conference to the con- 
version of some, who remain firm and eminent in holiness 
to this day; but then, and in the beginning of my 
ministry, I was wont to number them as jewels ; but since 
then I could not keep any number of them. The con- 
gregation was usually full, so that we were fain to build 
five galleries after my coming thither ; the church itself 
being very capacious, and the most commodious and 
convenient that ever I was in. Our private meetings, 
also, were full. On the Lord's day there was no disorder 
to be seen in the streets ; but you might have heard a 
hundred families singing psalms and repeating sermons, 
as you passed through them. 



THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER. 33 

" In a word, when I came thither first, there was about 
one family in a street that worshipped God, and called 
on His name, and when I came away, there was some 
streets where there was not one poor family in the side 
that did not do so ; and that did not, by professing 
serious godliness, give us hopes of their sincerity. And 
in those families which were the worst, being inns and 
alehouses, usually some persons in each house did seem 
to be religious. Though our administration of the 
Lord's Supper was so ordered as displeased many, and 
the far greater part kept away, we had six hundred that 
were communicants ; of whom there were not twelve 
that I had not good hopes of as to their sincerity ; those 
few who consented to our communion, and yet lived 
scandalously, were excommunicated afterwards. I hope 
there were also many who had the fear of God, and that 
came not to our communion in the sacrament, some of 
them being kept off by husbands, by parents, by masters, 
and some dissuaded by men that differed from us. Those 
many that kept away yet took it patiently, and did not 
revile us as doing them wrong ; and those unruly young 
men who were excommunicated, bore it patiently as to 
their outward behaviour, though their hearts were full of 
bitterness. 

" When I set upon personal conference with each family, 
and catechizing them, there were very few families in 
all the town that refused to come; and these few were 
beggars at the town's ends, who were so ignorant that 
they were ashamed that it should be manifest. Few 



34 RICHARD BAXTER. 

families went from me without some tears or seemingly 
serious promises for a godly life. Yet many ignorant 
and ungodly persons there were still among us ; but 
most of them were in the parish, and not in the town, 
and in those parts of the parish which were farthest 
from the town. And whereas one part of the parish 
was impropriate, and paid tithes to laymen, and the 
other part maintained the church, a brook dividing them, 
it fell out that almost all that side of the parish which 
paid tithes to the church were godly, honest people, 
and did it willingly, without contestation, and most of 
the bad people of the parish lived on the other side. 

" Some of the poor men did competently understand 
the body of divinity, and were able to judge in difficult 
controversies. Some of them were so able in prayer, 
that very few ministers did match them in order and 
fulness and apt expressions and holy oratory, with 
fervency. Abundance of them were able to pray very 
laudably with their families, or with others. The temper 
of their minds and the innocency of their lives were 
much more laudable than their parts. The professors 
of serious godliness were generally of very humble minds 
and carriage, of meek and quiet behaviour unto others, 
and of blamelessness and innocency in their conversation. 
God was pleased also to give me abundant encourage- 
ment in the lectures I preached about in other places ; 
as at Worcester, Cleobury, etc., but especially at Dudley 
and Sheffnall. At the former of which, being the first 
place that ever I preached in, the poor nailers and other 



THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER. 35 

labourers would not only crowd the church as full as 
ever I saw any in London, but also hang upon the 
windows and the leads without." 

In a passage of delightful temper, this true pastor 
paid a noble tribute to his two 'admirable assistants. 
Like a great teacher in the University of Oxford who 
dedicated a work to those from whom he learned much 
while he seemed to be teaching, Baxter spoke of Mr. 
Sergeant and his successor, Humphrey Weldern, as men 
who had led him on with untiring diligence to difficult 
labours. Among the laymen of the parish were men 
who aided him in every way. He believed, too, that he 
had an advantage in the occupation of the weavers, who 
"as they stand in their loom, they can set a task before 
them, or edify one another." He circulated freely some 
of the plainer of his practical writings. " To every 
family that was poor," he says, " and had not a Bible, I 
gave a Bible." The proceeds of his writings he dis- 
pensed in alms. Some of his richer friends enabled him 
to send promising pupils from the school to the uni- 
versities. He seems to have carefully abstained from 
all pecuniary entanglements with his people. He never, 
however, refrained from attacking the political principles 
of those he considered real enemies to religion. Chry- 
sostom himself, in the days of his complete sway, was 
not more fearless than Baxter in his bold invective 
against vice and error. Indeed, in reading the simple 
account of the maintenance of discipline at Kidder- 
minster during the greater part of Baxter's pastorate, we 



36 RICHARD BAXTER. 

seem almost transported to the times when Church 
censure was a reality, and when an emperor quailed 
before the menace of an Ambrose or a Hildebrand. 
Personal veneration for a man of blameless character 
and high aim often reconciles men to the endurance 
even of public shame. Even Baxter's opponents, who 
took an entirely different view of doctrine and practice, 
were foremost in expressing their high value of the 
purity of his life. Sir Ralph Clare, the stout cavalier, 
who felt bound to oppose Baxter's wishes after the 
Restoration, asked him to accept a purse of money, 
which it is needless to say Baxter refused. It is cer- 
tainly a remarkable proof of the reality of Baxter's 
teaching, that six hundred persons were in the habit of 
attending the holy communion. This missionary zeal 
for the souls of his people was infectious. He says of 
the godly people of the place, " they thirsted after the 
salvation of their neighbours and were in private my 
assistants, and being dispersed through the town, were 
ready in almost all companies to repress seducing words, 
and to justify godliness, convince, reprove, and exhort 
men, according to their needs ; as also to teach them how 
to pray, and to help them to sanctify the Lord's day." 

Any estimate formed of Baxter's ministry would be 
imperfect if his conscientious care to respect the scruples 
of others were unmentioned. To those who preferred the 
kneeling posture at the celebration of holy communion, 
he administered the sacrament after their own fashion. 
He was rigid, with regard to baptism, and required an 



THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER. 37 

acknowledgment of sin in the case of offenders. His 
kind treatment, however, disarmed hostility, and many 
hardened persons were brought by his gentle per- 
suasion to a better mind. The zeal and ardour with 
which many men advocate some peculiar opinion, 
Baxter evidently carried into his ordinary exhortation to 
observe the moral law and to retain " unity with the 
Church Catholic, love to men, and the hope of life 
eternal." He dwells especially on the advantage he 
derived from the care bestowed on his affairs by the 
faithful housekeeper who managed his household for 
fourteen years, " so that I never had one hour's trouble 
about it." In " The Reformed Pastor " he lays down the 
lines of his simple method. It is characteristic of the 
man, that when he mentions in his reminiscences the 
thirty advantages which contributed to his success, all 
that he says of any merely personal gift is an allusion to 
his " familiar moving voice," and " his dealing in funda- 
mentals." 

Most of his practical works were probably originally 
preached, in some form or other. The sermons of 
Wesley and Whitefield are dull reading, and often lead 
readers to wonder at the extraordinary effect produced 
by their oratory. There is not much to attract in the 
sermons of Baxter, but we know that he never failed 
in arresting attention, and there are some records of 
the influence produced by individual sermons sufficient 
to indicate that the sermon was the man. It was 
an age when men enjoyed prolixity. There was some- 



3$ RICHARD BAXTER. 

thing attractive in divisions and sub-divisions to men 
who were in real earnest about the influence of par- 
ticular tenets ; and it has been well remarked that the 
very digressions, so tedious to modern readers, were a 
help and not a hindrance to those whose only source 
of culture was the Bible and the truths drawn from it. 
Yet, scattered throughout the formal treatises of Baxter 
are to be found passages of intense energy and ra.pid 
vigour. No man can sustain the pace of such movement 
always. We can, however, form some idea of the 
delight imparted to devout souls by the delivery of 
truths which were felt to have mastered the whole being 
of the preacher, often bowed down by physical suffering, 
and yet able to convince all that he desired nothing 
more than their spiritual health. It is indeed a beautiful 
picture of a faithful ministry which may be gathered 
from the scattered notices and simple outpourings of 
Baxter's memoirs. 

To most men the practical labour of the ministry 
would have been too engrossing to permit of active 
theological writing. But it was during his fourteen 
years at Kidderminster that he produced many of his 
most important contributions to theology. His treatise 
against infidelity was called forth by the writings of 
Clement Writer, of Worcester, a professed Seeker. It 
has no particular interest for modern readers. In 
" Christian Concord and Universal Concord " he gives 
vent to the desire for universal unity which was the 
passion of his life. In controversy with Dr. Owen upon 



THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER. 39 

this subject, Baxter does not shine. The great school- 
man Puritan surpassed him in restraint and temper. 
" Disputations on Sacramental Doctrine and Church 
Government " made little or no mark on the theolo- 
gical discussions of the time. Eclecticism in theology 
seldom attracts any but the thoughtful few. In Baxter's 
day parties and sects were strongly marked and fiercely 
divided. The peacemaker, who desired to do what S. 
T. Coleridge and F. D. Maurice aimed at in their at- 
tempts, to show how portions of truth had been appro- 
priated by minds differing widely, had no place of honour 
in the seventeenth century. A passage from Baxter's 
sermon on " Making light of Christ and Salvation," 
throws an interesting light on his practical teaching : 

" Dearly beloved in the Lord, I have now done 
that work which I came upon; what effect it hath or 
will have upon your hearts, I know not, nor is it any 
further in my power to accomplish that which my soul 
desireth for you. Were it the Lord's will that I might 
have my wish herein, the words that you have this day 
heard should so stick by you that the secure should be 
awakened by them, and none of you should perish by 
the slighting of your salvation. I cannot now follow you 
to your several habitations to apply this word to your 
particular necessities ; but oh that I could make every 
man's conscience a preacher to himself, that it might do 
it, which is ever with you : that the next time you 
go prayerless to bed, or about your business, conscience 
might cry out, 'Dost thou set no more by Christ and 



40 RICHARD BAXTER. 

thy salvation ? ' That the next time you are tempted to 
think hardly of a holy and diligent life (I will not say 
to deride it, as more ado than needs), conscience might 
cry out to thee, ' Dost thou set so light by Christ and 
thy salvation ? ' That the next time you are ready to 
rush upon known sin, and to please your fleshly desires 
against the command of God, conscience might cry out, 
' Is Christ and salvation no more worth than to cast 
them away, or venture them for thy lusts ? ' That when 
you are following the world with your most eager desires, 
forgetting the world to come, and the change that is 
a little before you, conscience might cry out to you, * Is 
Christ and salvation no more worth than so ? ' That 
when you are next spending the Lord's day in idleness 
or vain sports, conscience might tell you what you are 
doing. In a word, that in all your neglects of duty, 
your sticking at the supposed labour or cost of a godly 
life, yea, in all your cold and lazy prayers and per- 
formances, conscience might tell you how unsuitable 
such endeavours are to the reward ; and that Christ and 
salvation should not be so slighted. I will say no more 
but this at this time, It is a thousand pities that when 
God hath provided a Saviour for the world, and when 
Christ hath suffered so much for their sins, and made so 
full a satisfaction to justice, and purchased so glorious 
a kingdom for His saints, and all this is offered so freely 
to sinners, to lost, unworthy sinners, even for nothing, 
that yet so many millions should everlastingly perish 
because they made light of their Saviour and salvation 
and prefer the vain world and their lusts before them. 



THE WORK AT KIDDERMINSTER. 41 

I have delivered my message, the Lord open your 
hearts to receive it. I have persuaded you with the word 
of truth and soberness ; the Lord persuade you more 
effectually, or else all this is lost. Amen." 

It ought not to be forgotten, that even in the busiest of 
his days, Baxter had many yearning and tender thoughts 
about the conversion of the heathen. He was indeed 
in many respects before his age. Readers familiar with 
Butler's closely argued " Analogy," will often be startled 
to find how Baxter, in an occasional sentence, has 
almost anticipated some of the more striking positions 
of the great bishop. In the same way, we seem to be 
living in the time of Simeon or Selwyn, when we read 
Baxter's correspondence with Eliot, the apostle of the 
Indians in America. He dwells on the industry of the 
Jesuits and friars, and their successes, which "do shame 
us all save you," in one of his letters. Had he gone 
himself on a career like Eliot's, he would have rivalled 
Francis Xavier in missionary zeal, as he rivalled Oberlin 
in pastoral activity. Happily, and on the whole peace- 
fully, the long period of his ministry at Kidderminster 
passed away. England, under the strong rule of Crom- 
well, was beginning to be a true power in European 
politics. Those who, like Baxter, had received the 
assumption of power with distrust, were beginning to 
feel the benefit of peace, and to desist at least from 
open opposition. But suddenly the Protector ended 
his strange career. The accession and resignation 
of Richard Cromwell still found Baxter pursuing his 
labour of love. 



F 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE RESTORATION. 

EW characters in history are so entitled to sym- 
pathy as Richard Cromwell. Baxter described 
the feeling of many regarding this single-hearted man. 
Those who considered the father "no better than a 
traitorous hypocrite, did begin to think they owed him 
subjection j which I confess was the case with myself." 
Had there been no military party in England, it is pro- 
bable that a great number at least would have acquiesced 
in the advent to power of one who had an evident 
desire to return to the ancient forms of constitutional 
government. The very virtues of Richard Cromwell 
stood in his way. Fleetwood and Lambert, with others 
of inferior note, saw their opportunity. Vane and his 
enthusiast followers were still dreaming of a republican 
Utopia. Owen and the Independents were in no mood 
to resign their empire. The mild nature of Richard 
Cromwell shrank from violent measures. He was glad 
to retire into obscurity, and leave the factions to their 
work of disturbance. 

It was not until Monk had occupied London that 
Baxter left his pastoral labours. In times of great 



THE RESTORATION. 43 

popular excitement, men of his temper naturally desire 
to be within reach of the centre of influence. He had 
an interview with the general in order to prevail upon 
him to restrain the excesses of popular feeling. He 
was accused of having attempted to induce Monk to 
refrain from effort to restore the kingdom. It hardly 
needed his own positive denial to contradict a state- 
ment so entirely contrary to his well-known zeal for 
royalty. People are often credulous where their wishes 
are interested ; and it is certainly strange to see how 
easily Baxter was imposed upon by the letters put into 
circulation as to Charles's attachment to Protestant 
principles. The Presbyterian party strove heartily to 
prove that the Restoration was owing to their means. 
According to Calamy, Sir Ralph Clare had informed 
Baxter that in the event of restoration terms of com- 
promise might be arranged. It is even said that some 
correspondence took place between Baxter and Dr. 
Hammond upon the terms of union. This scheme of 
comprehension met with the usual fate of such attempts. 
From Breda, on the 4th April, 1660, came the famous 
declaration of liberty to tender consciences. Baxter's 
friends had still some misgivings. The Convention 
Parliament, which had sent for the King, named a day 
for fasting and prayer. Baxter, Calamy, and Dr. Gau- 
den were selected to preach and pray at St. Margaret's, 
Westminster. There were many Cavaliers in the par- 
liament, but the majority, it is supposed, were favourable 
to Presbyterian views. Baxter still hankered after re- 



44 RICHARD BAXTER. 

conciliation, and in his sermon told bis hearers of the 
remarkable harmony between his own views and those 
of Usher, a harmony which had been established in half 
an hour's talk. 

The enthusiasm of the nation swept all difficulties 
aside. The attachment to monarchy was far stronger 
than Cromwell and his friends had ever believed. It 
is difficult to understand how men like Baxter could 
be misled by the pompous professions of men who 
merely used them for their own ends. There can, 
however, be no mistake as to the complete purity of 
Baxter's motives. He was simply intent on the promo- 
tion of what he believed favourable to spiritual reli- 
gion. But it is impossible to help wishing that he had 
had no part to play in semi-political struggles. Most of 
the Presbyterian leaders indulged the fond hope that 
some adaptation of the ancient system would include 
them within the pale of an established Church. It is 
needless to narrate the gradual extinction of these hopes. 
Baxter, it must be said, was somewhat unfair to Claren- 
don, who, had he had his own will, would probably have 
tried hard to consider fairly the proposals in favour of 
Usher's scheme of 1641. 

It is difficult to refrain from wishing that greater 
concessions had been made on both sides, when the 
important meeting at Sion College between the leading 
Presbyterians and Churchmen took place. Wise heads 
on both sides saw that reconciliation was not wholly 
impossible. The memory of the sufferings of the clergy 



THE RESTORATION. 45 

was too strong in the minds of the Churchmen to 
permit of any real departure from what they deemed 
almost essential. Different ideas as to the conduct of 
worship lay, however, at the bottom of the discrepancy 
of views. The majestic Collects and moving Com- 
munion Office had no hold on the Puritan mind. They 
were endeared to their opponents by long use and the 
sanctity acquired in times of trouble. 

To some students of this portion of our ecclesiastical 
annals, it seems that there was no real desire to meet 
Baxter and his friends half way. Yet there must have 
been men who could appreciate the spirit of the author 
of "The Saint's Rest." A bishopric was offered to 
Baxter, Reynolds and Calamy had discussed the ques- 
tion as to the consistency of accepting such an offer. 
Reynolds in the end was the only one who saw his 
way to a mitre. There are very few letters in the 
language more touching than that in which Baxter de- 
clines to Clarendon the offer of a bishopric. He had 
waited until the declaration as to liberty of conscience 
was finally settled, and finding that many things were 
to be granted which he desired, he was willing that 
his friends should accept the office which he declined 
on the ground of personal insufficiency. 

" For my own part, I hope, by letters this very week, 
to disperse the seeds of satisfaction into many counties 
of England. My conscience commanding me to make 
this very work and business, until the things granted 
should be reversed, which God forbid. I must profess 



46 RICHARD BAXTER. 

to your lordship that I am utterly against accepting 
of a bishoprick, because I am conscious that it will 
overmatch my sufficiency, and affright me with the 
thought of my account for so great an undertaking. 
Especially because it will very much disable me from 
an effectual promoting of the Church's peace. As men 
will question all my argumentations and persuasions 
when they see me in the dignity which I plead for, but 
will take me to speak my conscience impartially when I 
am but as one of themselves ; so I must profess to your 
lordship that it will stop my own mouth, that I cannot 
for shame speak half so freely as now I can and will, if 
God enable me, for obedience and peace j while I know 
that the hearers will be thinking I am pleading for 
myself. I therefore humbly crave, that your lordship 
will put some able man of our persuasion into the place 
which you intend for me, that I now think that Dr. 
Reynolds and Mr. Calamy may better accept of a bishop- 
rick than I, which I hope your lordship will promote. 
I shall presume to offer some choice to your consider- 
ation : Dr. Francis Roberts, of Wrington, in Somerset- 
shire, known by his works ; Mr. Froyzall, of Clun, in 
Shropshire and Hereford diocese, a man of great worth 
and good interest ; Mr. Daniel Cawdrey, of Billing, 
in Northamptonshire ; Mr. Anthony Burgess, of Sutton 
Coldfield, in Warwickshire all known by their printed 
works ; Mr. John Trap, of Gloucestershire ; Mr. Ford, 
of Exeter ; Mr. Hughes, of Plymouth ; Mr. Bampfield, 
of Sherborne ; Mr. Wood bridge, of Newbury ; Dr. 



THE RESTORATION. 47 

Chambers, Dr. Bryan, and Dr. Grew, all of Coventry ; 
Mr. Brinsley, of Yarmouth ; Mr. Porter, of Whitchurch, 
in Shropshire ; Mr. Gilpin, of Cumberland ; Mr. Bowles, 
of York; Dr. Temple, of Brompton, in Warwickshire. 
I need name no more. 

11 Secondly : That you will believe I as thankfully 
acknowledge your lordship's favour as if I were by it 
possessed of a bishoprick ; and if your lordship continue 
in those intentions, I shall thankfully accept it in any 
other state or relation that may further my service in 
the Church and to His Majesty. But I desire, for the 
fore-mentioned reasons, that it may be no cathedral 
relation. And whereas the vicar of the parish where 
I have lived will not resign, but accept me only as 
his curate, if your lordship would procure him some 
prebendary, or other place of competent profit, for I 
dare not mention him to any pastoral charge, or place 
that requireth preaching, that so he might resign that 
vicarage to me, without his loss, according to the late 
Act before December; for the sake of that town of 
Kidderminster, I should take it as a very great favour. 
But if there be any great inconvenience or difficulties in 
the way, I can well be content to be his curate. I crave 
your lordship's pardon for this trouble which your own 
condescension has drawn upon you, and remain, etc." 

Dr. Reynolds, without consultation with Baxter and 
Calamy, after making clear to the king that he did not 
take the Laudian view of the episcopate, accepted the 
offer of a see. He preserved a character for moderation 



48 RICHARD BAXTER. 

and good sense, and was widely mourned in his diocese 
when he died at Norwich, in 1676. Calamy seems to 
have longed for the office of a bishop, but after much 
hesitation he declined. Manton and Bates were offered 
deaneries, but were unable to accept them. The de- 
cision of Baxter gained for him the Royal approbation. 
The king in his declaration had intimated that the 
Liturgy should be revised. Baxter urged on the Chan- 
cellor the fulfilment of this promise, and after some 
deliberation the Savoy Conference was held. Had the 
Conference taken place at once, there seems reason to 
believe that moderate counsels might have prevailed. 
With a new Parliament, however, the prospects of 
Churchmen grew brighter. As has so often happened, 
the zeal of the main body of Churchmen outran that of 
the leaders. Some at least of the bishops were already 
committed to changes and alterations, but when the first 
meeting of the Conference took place, it must have been 
evident to thoughtful men how it would end. The 
Bishop of London insisted that what Baxter and his 
friends desired should at once be made known. He 
and his brethren, he said, had no proposals to make. 
The policy was ingenious ; and Baxter agreed to bring 
all the exceptions taken at one time, and all the addi- 
tions at another. Baxter undertook to frame a new 
Liturgy, and this amazing resolution was really fatal to 
all progress. In the course of a fortnight his task was 
done, and the step, which all lovers of his memory must 
regret, cost him dear. 



THE RESTORATION. 49 

There is little to be said about the Liturgy itself. It 
shows at once the weakness and strength of Baxter's 
character. A weapon of the most formidable nature 
was handed over to those who desired no change. It 
is very probable that few of the bishops ever read " the 
fair copy of our reformed Liturgy," as Baxter called it. 
The study of liturgies has in modern days been almost 
dignified into a science. The terse and yet exquisite 
forms recovered by the diligence of explorers, bear faint 
resemblance to the prayers and ejaculations to be found 
in Baxter's work. But there is still much to interest a 
student in the attempt, not always unsuccessful, to 
subdue the rigour of dogma and to frame forms of words 
intended to be used by persons who, though differing in 
many ways, agreed to worship together on the basis of 
the truth of the creed of Christendom. The Conference 
degenerated into a mere intellectual disputation. 
Baxter, with his keen instinct for logical strife, took a 
prominent part and gained some distinction. The cause 
of the bishops was maintained by Gunning, an able and 
somewhat vehement admirer of the views of Laud. 
The members of the new Convocation, summoned about 
this time, threw their influence on the side of those who 
desired no concession. In Baxter's account of the final 
struggle, there is an earnest desire to be fair to the 
bishops ; but a tone of disappointment, natural enough 
under the circumstances, is perceptible. The question 
of ordination engaged much of the attention of the few 
disputants who lingered to the close of the Conference. 



50 RICHARD BAXTER, 

There is little to object to in Burnet's account of the 
final disputation. " The two men that had the chief 
management of the debate were the most unfit to heal 
matters, and the fittest to widen them, that could have 
been found out. Baxter was the opponent, and Gun- 
ning was the respondent, who was afterwards advanced 
first to Chichester, and then to Ely. He was a man of 
great reading, and noted for a special subtlety of arguing. 
All the arts of sophistry were made use of by him on 
all occasions, in as confident a manner as if they had 
been sound reasoning. Baxter and he spent some days 
in much logical arguing, to the diversion of the town, 
who thought here were a couple of fencers engaged in 
disputes that could never be brought to an end, or have 
any good effect." 

When the Conference was at an end, Baxter drew up 
a paper containing an account of what had been done. 
It was laid before the king, with the expression of a 
hope that the declaration in favour of tolerance would 
be carried out. The Chancellor gave encouragement to 
these expectations. Attempts have been made to throw 
discredit on the honesty of Clarendon's intentions. 
There is no real reason, however, to doubt his sincerity. 
A wayward spirit had gained possession of the clergy. 
Sheldon, the master spirit, was unyielding. Many also 
who were somewhat indifferent to the whole question, 
believed that the Presbyterians were impracticable. It 
must be said, also, that there was little opportunity for 
the more attractive parts of Baxter's character to show 



THE RESTORATION. 51 

themselves at this time. He soon, however, turned 
away from the disputes of London, and endeavoured to 
regain his old position at Kidderminster, desiring 
nothing more than to resume his pastoral labours. The 
incompetent vicar, now re-instated, was willing to submit 
to any terms. It would have been a scandal to bestow 
on him a prebend, but circumstances retained him in his 
vicarage. There is a touch of irony in Baxter's account 
of the negotiation : 

"Sir Ralph Clare and Sir John Packington," says 
Baxter, "who were very great with Dr. Morley, newly 
made Bishop of Worcester, had made him believe that 
my interest was so great, and I could do so much with 
ministers and people in that county, that unless I would 
bind myself to promote their cause and party, I was 
not fit to be there. And this bishop being greatest of 
any man with the Lord Chancellor, must obstruct my 
return to my ancient flock. At last Sir Ralph Clare did 
freely tell me, that if I would conform to the orders and 
ceremonies of the Church, preach conformity to the 
people, and labour to set them right, there was no man 
in England so fit to be there, for no man could more 
effectually do it ; but if I would not, there was no man 
so unfit for the place, for no man could more hinder it. 
I desired it as the greatest favour of them, that if they 
intended not my being there they would plainly tell me 
so, that I might trouble them and myself no more about 
it ; but that was a favour too great to be expected. I 
had continual encouragement by promises, till I was 



52 RICHARD BAXTER. 

almost tired in waiting on them. At last, meeting 
Sir Ralph Clare in the bishop's chamber, I desired 
him, before the bishop, to tell me to my face if he had 
anything against me which might cause all this ado. 
He told me that I w 7 ould give the sacrament to none 
kneeling, and that of eighteen hundred communicants, 
there were not past six hundred who were for me, and 
the rest were rather for the vicar. I answered, I was 
very glad that these words fell out to be spoken in the 
bishop's hearing. To the first accusation, I told him, 
that he himself knew I invited him to the sacrament, 
and offered it him kneeling, and that under my hand 
in writing ; that openly, in his hearing, in the pulpit, I 
had promised and told both him and all the rest, I 
never had nor never would put any man from the 
sacrament on account of kneeling, but leave every one 
to the posture he should choose. I further stated, that 
the reason I never gave it to any kneeling, was because 
all who came would sit or stand, and those who were 
for kneeling only followed him, who would not come 
unless I would administer it to him and his party on 
a day by themselves, when the rest were not present ; 
and I had no mind to be the author of such a schism, 
and make, as it were, two Churches of one. But 
especially the consciousness of notorious scandal, which 
they knew they must be accountable for, did make 
many kneelers stay away; and all this he could not 
deny. As to the second charge, I stated, there was a 
witness ready, to say as he did. I knew but one man 



THE RESTORATION. 53 

in the town against me, which was a stranger newly 
come, one Ganderton, an attorney, steward to the Lord 
of Abergavenny, a Papist, who was lord of the manor. 
This one man was the prosecutor, and witnessed how 
many were against my return. I craved of the bishop 
that I might send by the next post to know their minds, 
and if that were so, I would take it for a favour to 
be kept from thence. When the people heard this at 
Kidderminster, in a day's time they gathered the hands 
of sixteen hundred of the eighteen hundred communi- 
cants, and the rest were such as were from home. 
Within four or five days after, I happened to find Sir 
Ralph Clare with the bishop again, and showed him the 
hands of sixteen hundred communicants, with an offer 
of more if they might have time, all very earnest for my 
return. Sir Ralph was silenced as to that point; but 
he and the bishop appeared so much more against my 
return. 

" The letter, which the Lord Chancellor upon his own 
offer wrote for me to Sir Ralph Clare, he gave at my 
request unsealed ; and so I took a copy of it before I 
sent it away, thinking the chief use would be to keep it, 
and compare it with their dealings. It was as followeth : 

" { SIR, I am a little out of countenance, that after 
the discovery of such a desire in His Majesty that 
Mr. Baxter should be settled in Kidderminster, as he was 
heretofore, and my promise to you by the king's direc- 
tion, that Mr. Dance should very punctually receive a 



54 RICHARD BAXTER. 

recompense by way of a rent upon his or your bills 
charged here upon my steward, Mr. Baxter hath yet 
no fruit of this His Majesty's good intention towards 
him ; so that he hath too much reason to believe that 
he is not so frankly dealt with in this particular as he 
deserves to be. I do again tell you, that it will be very 
acceptable to the king if you can persuade Mr. Dance 
to surrender that charge to Mr. Baxter; and in the 
meantime, and till he is preferred to as profitable an 
employment, whatever agreement you shall make with 
him for an annual rent, it shall be paid quarterly upon a 
bill from you charged upon my steward, Mr. Cluttcr- 
bucke ; and for the exact performance of this you may 
securely pawn your full credit. I do most earnestly 
entreat you, that you will with all speed inform me what 
we may depend upon in this particular, that we may not 
keep Mr. Baxter in suspense, who hath deserved very 
well from His Majesty, and of whom His Majesty hath 
a very good opinion ; and I hope you will not be the 
less desirous to comply with him for the particular re- 
commendation of 

:< ' Sir, 
" ' Your very affectionate servant, 

"' EDWARD HYDE.' 

" Can anything be more serious, cordial, and obliging 
than all this? For a Lord Chancellor, that hath the 
business of the kingdom upon his hand, and lords 
attending him, to take up his time so much and often 



THE RESTORATION. 55 

about so low a vicarage or a curateship, when it is not 
in the power of the king and the Lord Chancellor to 
procure it for him, though they so vehemently desire it ! 
But oh ! thought I, how much better life do poor men 
live, who speak as they think, and do as they profess, 
and are never put upon such shifts as these for their 
present conveniences ! Wonderful ! thought I, that 
men who do so much over-value worldly honour and 
esteem, can possibly so much forget futurity, and think 
only of the present day, as if they regarded not how 
their actions be judged of by posterity. Notwithstand- 
ing all his extraordinary favour, since the day the king 
came in I never received, as his chaplain, or as a 
preacher, or on any account, the value of one farthing 
of public maintenance. So that I, and many a hundred 
more, had not had a piece of bread but for the volun- 
tary contribution, whilst we preached, of another sort 
of people ; yea, while I had all this excess of favour, I 
would have taken it indeed for an excess, as being far 
beyond my expectations, if they would but have given me 
liberty to preach the Gospel, without any maintenance, 
and leave me to beg my bread." 

This long extract is the only authentic account of this 
singular transaction. It is not clear that Clarendon was 
not in earnest. At a time when party feeling ran high, 
an arrangement which required tact and delicacy on both 
sides would probably have been difficult to carry out. 
Ranke has done much towards vindicating the character 
of Clarendon in some of the most difficult passages of 



56 RICHARD BAXTER. 

his long career. He was by nature a trimmer, and was 
shrewd enough to know the benefit his party would gain 
from the kindly treatment of a man like Baxter. Bishop 
Morley was believed by some to have been anxious 
to reconcile some of the leading Presbyterians to the 
Church. The bishop may not have been able to carry 
out his intentions. Orme, who approaches the subject 
with a strong bias, evidently thinks that the chancellor 
and the bishop might have secured Baxter in his 
position if they pleased. 

The separation from his beloved flock almost broke 
Baxter down. He found refuge in London, and was 
for some time the colleague of Dr. Bates, at St. 
Dunstan's-in-the-West. His enemies began to mis- 
represent his preaching. Few people have been more 
misunderstood than Baxter. He preached also at St. 
Bride's, and his labours at this time were miserably 
requited. His anxiety to live a quiet life was shown 
in an application he made to the Bishop of London 
for a license to preach. He was treated with great 
courtesy, and subscribed a declaration in which he 
promised not to preach against the doctrine of the 
Church and the ceremonies in use in the diocese. He 
returned again to Kidderminster, and offered to be 
curate to the vicar. This offer was refused, and it is 
miserable to relate that a farewell sermon and celebra- 
tion of the holy communion to his attached people was 
denied him. 

By this time Bishop Morley had evidently been 



THE RESTORATION. 57 

persuaded that it would be impolitic to retain Baxter 
in his diocese. The bishop and the dean took the 
strong step of preaching sermons at Kidderminster 
against the general teaching of the beloved pastor. It 
is to be feared that this effort only ended in the com- 
plete estrangement of the people. 

It was a time of rapid movement. The fierce spirits 
of the Parliament of 1661 were resolved to press 
matters on. Every member of the Parliament was 
required to take the sacrament. The Covenant was 
ordered to be burnt. A complete justification for 
strong measures was found in the mad insurrection of 
Venner and the Fifth-Monarchy men. The Act of 
Uniformity was passed in May, and before August 24th, 
Saint Bartholomew's day, every minister was required 
to assent, under penalty of the loss of his preferment, 
to everything in the Prayer-Book. Baxter ceased to 
preach on the 25th of May. Some of the lawyers 
held that a clause in the Act required him as a 
lecturer to do so. He had made up his mind that 
absolute conformity was for him impossible, and he 
was anxious that some of his more hesitating brethren 
should be made aware, that he at least could not see 
his way to submission. 

This is not the place to discuss the policy which led 
to the Act of Uniformity. Every impartial student of 
Baxter's life and times must come to the conclusion 
that in many respects he could have had little personal 
difficulty in obeying the requirements of the Act. In- 



58 RICHARD BAXTER. 

deed, in the wonderful passage in which he reviews his 
ministry, quite without a parallel in English theology, 
those who can read between the lines can see how 
his soul yearned after a comprehension to which Acts 
of Parliament hardly presented a barrier. Whatever 
opinion may be formed as to the conduct of both 
parties at this time, there can be but one as to the 
courage and faith with which most of the ministers met 
their hard fate. Like the leaders of the Free Church 
in Scotland in 1843, many went out from the Church 
without a hope of even a bare maintenance. Sacrifices 
made for the sake of conscience are not extinct. It is 
by the repetition of noble acts of self-denial and faith 
that national character is nerved for high and con- 
tinuous effort. 



CHAPTER V. 

THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 

SOON after the passing of the Act of Uniformity, an 
event took place which seems to have made a stir 
in England. This was the marriage of Baxter. He 
tells us that before it' took place it was "rung about 
everywhere, partly as a wonder, partly as a crime ; and 
that the king's marriage was scarcely more talked of 
than his." He was now in his forty-seventh year. All 
the world knew that his health was infirm, and to tell 
the truth it required some boldness on the part of any 
one to undertake the care of a man, certainly peculiar. 
Margaret Charlton was the daughter of a Shropshire 
justice of the peace, and must certainly have been no 
ordinary person. Her mother, in the great struggle of 
the Civil War, showed great discretion in the manage- 
ment of her affairs. She managed her son's estate well, 
and after some time spent in settling her matters in 
Shropshire, she came to Kidderminster, where her 
daughter Margaret soon joined her. Here the mother 
and daughter were of the greatest use to Baxter in his 
personal labours. Margaret seems to have been ready 
to devote herself entirely to all Baxter's good works. 

59 



60 RICHARD BAXTER. 

" The Breviate of her Life/' one of the most interesting 
and characteristic of Baxter's writings, leaves upon the 
reader's mind the impression of a woman of real nobility 
of character. She had suffered much from the conceal- 
ment of her affection. During the troubles of the times 
of his ministry at Kidderminster, Baxter believed that 
marriage would have hindered his work. Many obstacles 
and delays were at last removed, and although there was 
a disparity between their ages (she was but twenty-three 
at the time), all his objections seemed to have vanished 
away when the time came for his separation from 
Kidderminster. 

There is something wonderfully touching in the calm 
and fervent account Baxter gives of the arrangements 
made before the marriage. "She consented to these 
conditions of our marriage : first, that I should have 
nothing that before our marriage was hers ; that I, who 
wanted no earthly supplies, might not seem to marry 
her for covetousness. Secondly, that she would so 
alter her affairs, that I might be entangled in no 
lawsuits. Thirdly, that she would expect none of my 
time which my ministerial work should require. When 
we were married, her sadness and melancholy vanished ; 
counsel did something to it, and contentment some- 
thing, and being taken up with our household affairs 
did somewhat. We lived in inviolated love and mutual 
complacency, sensible of the benefit of mutual help, 
nearly nineteen years. I know not that ever we had 
any breach in point of love or point of interest, save 



THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 61 

only that she somewhat grudged that I had persuaded 
her for my quietness to surrender so much of her estate, 
to the disabling her from helping others so much as she 
earnestly desired. But that even this was not from a 
covetous mind is evident from these instances. Though 
her portion, which was two thousand pounds beside 
what she gave up, was by ill debtors two hundred 
pounds lost in her mother's time, and two hundred 
pounds after, before her marriage ; and all she had, 
reduced to about one thousand six hundred and fifty 
pounds, yet she never grudged at anything that the 
poverty of debtors deprived her of." 

For some time the life of Baxter and his wife must 
have been thoroughly uncomfortable. They moved 
from place to place, but Margaret bore all this trouble 
unmurmuringly. The first years after the passing of 
the Act were years of great depression. Some of the 
writings of Baxter produced at this time contain sad 
evidences of the effect produced upon his spirit by the 
sufferings and hardships of his brethren. Open perse- 
cution is sometimes more easy to bear than the vexatious 
espionage enforced on the Nonconformists. A prayer- 
meeting for the recovery of a sick woman " was de- 
nounced as the keeping of a conventicle. Many 
instances of needless oppression are recorded. During, 
however, the mild and peaceable reign of Archbishop 
Juxon, attempts were made to relax the rigour of the 
enactments. Sheldon, his successor, was the advocate 
of more stringent measures, and with his accession to 



62 RICHARD BAXTER. 

the primacy fresh difficulties arose. Baxter, in his 
account of this time, says that he possessed the favour 
of some of the leading prelates. It must be admitted 
that his habit of constant interference in particular 
cases must often have led him into trouble ; and there 
can be no doubt, that many of the leading clergy in 
London must have rejoiced when they heard of his 
intention of settling at Acton, in 1663, where he in- 
tended to spend his life in study and retirement. His 
pen was unceasingly active. Several practical and 
controversial works were written between the time when 
he left Kidderminster and the year 1665. His reputa- 
tion had reached the Continent. Some eminent men in 
France and Switzerland were anxious to engage him in 
correspondence, but the strict watch kept upon him 
frustrated all such intentions. His account of the Great 
Plague of London is most interesting. During part of 
the time when the plague was raging, he was safely 
entertained by the son of John Hampden, in Bucking- 
hamshire. It is certainly most creditable to the Non- 
conformists, that they continued to labour at their posts 
in the face of the danger. The Bishop of London, as 
appears from some letters in Sir Henry Ellis's collection, 
had some difficulty in restraining some of his clergy 
from desertion. 

A common danger did not mitigate the fierce spirit 
of controversy. More rigorous measures were adopted, 
and the exasperation of the clergy against Noncon- 
forming ministers reached a terrible height. No defence 



THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 63 

has ever been made of the provisions of the Five 
Mile Act, in which it was declared that all who 
would not swear that it was unlawful, on any ground, to 
take up arms against the king, should be banished five 
miles from any place returning members to Parliament. 
An absolute infatuation seemed at this time to have 
seized upon the nation. The popular hatred against 
Papists was only equalled by that against Noncon- 
formists. Clarendon, during the last few months of his 
reign of power, allowed those friendly -to extreme 
measures to have their own way. He clung to office, 
and certainly in his fall abandoned the equilibrium he 
had displayed in earlier days. Buckingham bought 
some popular favour by promises of remission of 
penalties in cases of Nonconformity. Nothing, perhaps, 
can better show the low condition of opinion at this 
time than the prominence and position given to men 
of no character, who were favourable to the designs of 
leading statesmen. Hopes were entertained that toler- 
ation and liberty might find some favour at Court ; and 
the meetings of Nonconformists were for a time connived 
at. Proposals for comprehension and indulgence were 
made in 1672, and in the various negotiations Baxter 
took part. It was an age of pamphlets. Those who 
are curious in such literature will be struck by the 
forbearance shown to the character of Baxter by many 
of the writers. It was evidently the desire of many to 
conciliate a man whose arguments they feared and 
whose character they respected. 



64 RICHARD BAXTER. 

For some years Baxter fixed his residence at Acton. 
There he enjoyed many pleasant and peaceful hours. 
In the long roll of eminent English judges, few names 
are more illustrious than that of Sir Matthew Hale. 
He was a neighbour of Baxter, with whom he held 
constant intercourse. Burnet's delightful account of 
Hale's life is well known. In every way possible Hale 
did his utmost to secure for Baxter quietness and 
peace. When men came together to listen to Baxter's 
expositions, Hale never interfered with them, and in- 
deed his voice was always raised in favour of complete 
toleration. He belonged to the delightful company of 
those who were always anxious to discover the higher 
and nobler parts of character. Baxter was anxious to 
know the real sentiments of Selden. Hale assured 
him that Selden "was an earnest professor of the 
Christian faith, and so angry an adversary to Hobbes, 
that he hath rated him out of the room." We must give 
in Baxter's own words the description of the parson of 
the parish, a man certainly of a different temper from 
Sir Matthew Hale : 

" The parson of this parish was Dr. Ryves, Dean of 
Windsor and of Wolverhampton, parson of Hasely and 
of Acton, chaplain in ordinary to the king, etc. His 
curate was a weak young man, who spent most of his 
time in the ale-houses, and read a few dry sentences to 
the people once a day. Yet, because he preached true 
doctrine, and I had no better to hear, I constantly 
heard him when he preached, and went to the beginning 



THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 65 

of the common prayer. As my house faced the church 
door, and was within hearing of it, those that heard me 
before went with me to the church ; scarcely three, that 
I know of, in the parish refusing. When I preached, 
after the public exercise, they went out of the church 
into my house. It pleased the doctor and parson that I 
came to church and brought others with me, but he was 
not able to bear the sight of people crowding into my 
house, though they heard him also; so that though 
he spoke me fair, and we lived in seeming love and 
peace while he was there, yet he could not long endure 
it. When I had brought the people to church to hear 
him, he would fall upon them with groundless reproaches, 
as if he had done it purposely to drive them away ; and 
yet he thought that my preaching to them, because it 
was in a house, did all the mischief, though he never 
accused me of anything that I spake, for I preached 
nothing but Christianity and submission to our superiors, 
faith, repentance, hope, love, humility, self-denial, meek- 
ness, patience, and obedience. He was the more 
offended because I came not to the sacrament with 
him, though I communicated in the other parish 
churches in London and elsewhere. I was loth to 
offend him by giving him the reason, which was that he 
was commonly reputed a swearer, a curser, a railer, etc. 
In those tender times, it would have been so great 
an offence to the congregational brethren if I had 
communicated with him, and perhaps have hastened 
their sufferings who durst not do the same, that I 
thought it would do more harm than good." 

F 



66 RICHARD BAXTER. 

It would be difficult to heighten the picture of the times 
presented to us in this extract. Dean Ryves, it must be 
said, had in his time suffered from the harsh measures of 
the parliamentary forces ; but he certainly, when his own 
hour of power had arrived, forgot mercy and forbear- 
ance. At his instance the justices of Brentford con- 
demned Baxter for holding a conventicle. The popula- 
tion of Acton expressed great indignation when it was 
determined to send their neighbour to prison. Sir 
-Matthew Hale could hardly restrain his tears when he 
heard of the issue of the warrant. The imprisonment, 
however, had some compensations. His wife, says 
Baxter, " was never so cheerful a companion to me as 
in prison, and was very much against my seeking to be 
released. She had brought so many necessaries, that we 
kept house as contentedly and as comfortably as at 
home, though in a narrower room, and had the sight 
of more of my friends in a day than I had at home in 
half a year." In fact, the dean and the justices had 
committed a great blunder. The moderate party of the 
clergy, according to Baxter, were much offended, and 
saw how odious the folly of his persecutors had made 
the clergy. Lord Orrery was among those who spoke 
plainly to the king. Some legal difficulties were in the 
way, but at length this imprisonment came to an end. 

Baxter was now in difficulties. His persecutors had 
made it impossible for him to go back to Acton, and he 
was obliged to spend a year in cold and smoky quarters 
at Totteridge, near Barnet, and underwent much pain 



THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 67 

from sciatica. When in prison his intellectual activity 
was great. He discussed with Owen a scheme of com- 
prehension, and exhibited very considerable asperity in 
the conduct of the dispute. Owen certainly kept his 
temper better than his opponent, and the courtesy of his 
tone contrasts favourably with Baxter's. 

There was no lull in the war against tolerance. In the 
year 1670 the Conventicle Act was renewed, although 
Bishop Wilkins, with characteristic high-mindedness, 
refused to do the king's bidding, and gave the Act his 
strenuous opposition in the House of Lords. Baxter 
believed that some clauses of the Act were inserted with 
a view to his position. Men in high places feared his 
influence. In the same year the Earl of Lauderdale 
offered him preferment in Scotland, where he was 
shortly about to commence the reign of power fraught 
with such important results to that country. Baxter's 
refusal is contained in an admirable letter, which gives 
some particulars of his domestic life. " I have a family, 
and in it a mother-in-law of 80 years of age, of honour- 
able extract and great worth, whom I must not neglect, 
and who cannot travel. To such an one as I, it is so 
great a business to remove a family, with all our goods 
and books so far, that it deterreth me from thinking of 
it, especially having paid so dear for removals these 
eight years as I have done ; and being but yesterday 
settled in a house which I have newly taken, and that 
with great trouble and loss of time. And if I should 
find Scotland disagree with me, which I fully conclude it 



68 RICHARD BAXTER. 

would, I must remove all back again." He spoke of 
his desire to complete a theological work, and dwelt 
pathetically upon the weariness of contention, and his 
own desire for a quiet life. With Lauderdale he had 
some further correspondence upon the state of religious 
feeling throughout the land. Possibly if Baxter had 
gone to Scotland he might have been able to mitigate 
the harsh extremities of Lauderdale's administration. It 
has been thought by some that the whole transaction 
was simply an ingenious device to remove Baxter from 
the sphere of his influence. On the eve of the Restora- 
tion, however, there had been some previous dealings 
with Lauderdale on Baxter's part, and it is possible that 
the strange being, who had some taste for theological 
dispute, had been drawn towards Baxter by the earnest- 
ness and simplicity of his character. 

Some attempt was made to stop the circulation of 
Baxter's writings. Mr. Robert Grove, one of the Bishop 
of London's chaplains, of a well-known Wiltshire 
family, licensed his books and stood his friend. This 
service, as well as the kindness of Mr. Cook, the Arch- 
bishop's chaplain, are gratefully remembered in the 
interesting review of the years 1670 and 1671. In 
Serjeant Fountain he had a true friend, and at his death 
he lost a small annuity. 

The necessities of the king led, as is well known, in 
1671, to the shutting up of the exchequer. Baxter, like 
like many others, was a sufferer. All his small fortune 
was lost. The account he gives is so characteristic that 



THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 69 

it must not be omitted : " Among others, all the money 
and estate that I had in the world, of my own, was 
there, except ten pounds per annum, which I enjoyed 
for eleven or twelve years. Indeed, it was not my 
own, which I will mention to counsel those that would 
do good to do it speedily, and with all their might. 
I had got in all my life the net sum of one thousand 
pounds. Having no child, I devoted almost all of 
it to a charitable use, a free school ; I used my best 
and ablest friends for seven years, with all the skill 
and industry I could, to help me to some purchase of 
house or land to lay it out on, that it might be accord- 
ingly settled. But though there were never more sellers, 
I could never, by all these friends, hear of any that 
reason could encourage a man to lay it cut on, as 
secure, and a tolerable bargain ; so that I told them, I 
did perceive the devil's resistance of it, and did verily 
suspect that he would prevail and I should never settle, 
but it would be lost. So hard is it to do any good when 
a man is fully resolved. Divers such observations verily 
confirm me that there are devils that keep up a war 
against goodness in the world." 

Wherever he lived, Baxter's thoughts always reverted 
to Worcestershire. In the third part of his memoirs 
there are some interesting notices of the various ministers 
who were silenced under the intolerant measures of the 
time. He particularly mentions Mr. Benjamin Baxter, of 
Upton, a preacher of wonderful power, and it is interest- 
ing to find mention of a certain Mr. Thomas Foley, who 



70 RICHARD BAXTER. 

not only founded a well known hospital, still doing 
good in the world, but planted in Stourbridge and 
Kidderminster the patronage of which he acquired by 
purchase sons whose residence was a blessing to the 
people. On Kidderminster his thoughts were constantly 
dwelling. When he records the death of an old free- 
holder there, he exclaims, "Oh, how many holy souls are 
gone to Christ out of that one parish of Kidderminster in 
a few years, and yet the number seemeth to increase." 

In 1672 the famous declaration giving liberty of 
preaching to the Nonconformists was issued. It origin- 
ated in a wish to do something for the Roman Catholic 
party. It was needful, however, to propitiate the Non- 
conformists. According to Burner, many of the leaders 
obtained pensions. Baxter would not touch a penny. 

He was attacked at this time with a severe fit of sick- 
ness. He recovered, however, sufficiently to be able, 
after ten years' silence, on the day of his baptism to re- 
commence his public ministry. The declaration was 
declared by the Parliament, early in the following year, 
to be illegal. In some places the old penalties were en- 
forced. We find Baxter now settled in a house in 
Bloomsbury, and busied with much preaching and 
writing. At no time of his life was he ever on cordial 
terms with the Independent body. He could not, if 
the complaints of some Independents are to be trusted, 
refrain from indulging in reflections on their conduct in 
the pulpit. 

He was never free from sickness and weakness. In 



'2 HE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 71 

1674 he was obliged to abandon some of his work. 
The presence of mind of his wife was shown to advan- 
tage when Baxter was preaching at St. James's market- 
house during this year. A main beam gave way. Mrs. 
Baxter, on hearing a crack, left the congregation, and 
found a carpenter, who at once propped up the beam. 
The noise made alarmed the people, but a senseless 
rush was prevented by Baxter's firmness. Next day 
the terrible condition of the floor gave evidence of the 
danger. 

The storm of opposition rose higher. Again and 
again attempts at union were brought forward in vain. 
Tillotson and Stillingfleet made honourable exertions for 
peace and quietness, but all their efforts failed. Baxter 
was obliged to submit to the constant vexation of infor- 
mations laid against him. On one occasion he was 
fined ^50. His wife bravely encouraged him to sub- 
mit, and by her efforts many of his valuable books were 
hidden or given away, to avoid distraint. Harvard 
College, in America, was benefited by this unjust fine. 
When we read the amazing account Baxter gives of his 
own ailments, and the constant annoyance he was 
subjected to on all sides, it is really marvellous that he 
was capable of any exertion whatever. It is needless to 
follow him from one place of worship to another. 
Persecution seems to have raised up for him many 
friends. For twenty-four Sundays in succession his 
chapel in Swallow Street was watched by informers. It 
is right, however, to remember that the interruptions of 



72 RICHARD BAXTER. 

his ministry would have been less numerous had he 
abstained from allusions to the political troubles of the 
time. 

We find him, in 1682, preaching in New Street. " I 
took," he says, "that day my leave of the pulpit and 
public work in a thankful congregation, and it was like 
indeed to be my last." No sooner, however, was his 
sermon ended than he was seized under a warrant. 
According to Baxter, Charles II. was averse to this 
harsh treatment, and said, "Let him die in his bed.' 5 
It is a miserable story. The old man, racked with 
disease, was deprived of his goods, and had to leave 
his house and take secret lodgings at a distance in a 
stranger's house. Other trials awaited him. Two years 
afterwards he was again made the subject of an infamous 
information. We conclude the terrible record of un- 
merited punishment with the final passage of his 
memorials. 

"On the nth of December, 1684," he says, " I was 
forced, in all my pain and weakness, to be carried to 
the sessions house, or else my bonds of four hundred 
pounds would have been judged forfeit. The more 
moderate justices, who promised my discharge, would 
none of them be there, but left the work to Sir William 
Smith and the rest, who openly declared that they had 
nothing against me, and took me for innocent, but that 
I must continue bound lest others should expect to be 
discharged also ; which I openly refused. My sureties, 
however, would be bound against my declared will, lest 



THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 73 

I should die in jail ; and so I must continue. Yet they 
discharged others as soon as I was gone, I was told 

they did all by instructions from , and that the 

main end was to restrain me from writing ; which now 
should I do with the greatest caution, they will pick out 
something that a jury make take for a breach of my 
bonds. January lyth, I was forced again to be carried 
to the sessions, and after divers good words, which put 
me in expectation of freedom, when I was gone, one 
Justice Deerham said, that it was likely these persons 
solicited for my freedom that they might hear me in 
conventicles. On that they bound me again in a four 
hundred pound bond for above a quarter of a year ; and 
so it is like it will be till I die, or worse, though no one 
ever accused me for any conventicle or preaching since 
they took all my books and goods about two years ago, 
and I for the most part keep my bed. Mr. Jenkins 
died in Newgate this week, January iQth, 1684-5, as 
Mr. Bampneld, Mr. Raphson, and others died lately 
before him. The prison where so many are, suffocateth 
the spirits of aged ministers ; but blessed be God, that 
gave them so long time to preach before at cheaper 
rates ! One Richard Baxter, a Sabbatarian Anabaptist, 
was sent to jail for refusing the oath of allegiance, and it 
went current that it was I. As to the present state of 
England the plots; the execution of men high and 
low ; the public counsels and designs ; the qualities and 
practice of judges and bishops ; the sessions and 
justices; the quality of the clergy, and the universities 



74 RICHARD BAXTER. 

and patrons ; the church government by lay civilians ; the 
usage of ministers and private meetings for preaching 
or prayer ; the expectations of what is next to be done, 
etc., the reader must expect none of this sort of history 
from me. No doubt there will be many volumes of it 
transmitted by others to posterity, who may do it more 
fully than I can now do." 

He was now alone in the world. On the i4th of 
June, 1681, she of whom he says, " She was the meetest 
helper that I could have had in the world," had passed 
away. She was only forty when she died. Throughout 
her married life she had experienced many trials ; but 
Howe, who preached her funeral sermon, has testified to 
the perfect patience and resignation with which she met 
all her troubles. The " Breviat of the Life of Mrs. 
Margaret Baxter " was published shortly after her death, 
and is certainly as delightful a tribute to worth and piety 
as was ever paid to woman. We can form from its 
pages some idea of a noble and devoted character. 
With her husband's occasional rashness of speech, and 
what he calls backwardness in duty, she was often 
vexed, but would " modestly " tell him of it. Her 
catholic spirit readily led her to acknowledge the good 
points even in those most opposed to her husband's 
ways and thoughts. 

Throughout the memoir of his wife, Baxter evidently 
keeps his feeling under strict control, and this is indeed 
its great charm. There is a touching passage in which, 
after mentioning the holy lives of his step-mother, spared 



THE MARRIAGE AND ITS RESULTS. 75 

till she was a hundred years old, and that of the faithful 
housekeeper, Jane Matthews, who died shortly before his 
wife, he speaks of his mother-in-law, a woman of great 
character also : " She is gone after many of my 
choicest friends, who within one year are gone to Christ, 
and I am following even at the door. Had I been to 
enjoy them only here, it would have been but a short 
comfort mixed with the many troubles which all our 
failings and sins, and some degree of unsuitableness be- 
tween the nearest and dearest, cause. But I am going 
after them to that blessed society where life, light, and 
love, and therefore harmony, concord, and joy, are per- 
fect and everlasting." 

Baxter buried his wife in Christchurch, then in ruins, 
in her mother's tomb. The last two lines of the epitaph 
enforce the lesson he was never weary of preaching, 

" Hear, now, this preaching grave : without delay 
Believe, repent, and work while it is day." 



CHAPTER VI. 

7HE TRIAL AND THE END. 

THE sufferings of Baxter during the last few years 
of his life were almost intolerable. Few periods in 
English history are more terrible than the close of the 
reign of Charles II. The general gloom was increased 
by the fear existing as to the designs of James II. In 
the year of his accession, Baxter had published a work 
on the New Testament. There was nothing in its pages 
to justify the issue of a warrant, in which the work was 
described as seditious and scandalous. Baxter, fearing 
the confinement of a prison, went into the country, 
having applied for a habeas corpus. Counsel moved on 
the 1 8th May for delay on account of his state of health. 
The infamous Jefferies exclaimed, " I will not give him 
a minute's time more, to save his life. We have had to 
do with other sorts of persons, but now we have a saint 
to deal with ; and I know how to deal with saints as well 
as sinners. Yonder stands Gates in the pillory, and he 
says he suffers for the truth, and so says Baxter ; but if 
Baxter did but stand on the other side of the pillory 
with him, I would say two of the greatest rogues and 
rascals in the kingdom stood there." 



THE TRIAL AND THE END. 77 

Fortunately for English justice there are few records 
of trials like Baxter's. In reading the particulars of this 
disgraceful affair, it is impossible to refrain from astonish- 
ment, that even in that degraded age such outrages were 
possible. The trial began on the 3oth of May. Sir 
Henry Ashurst, a faithful friend through life, stood by the 
prisoner. He had engaged the celebrated Pollexfen to 
defend Baxter, and the first outbreak of the Chief Justice 
burst forth when the counsel, desirous of defending some 
of Baxter's interpretations, made a reference to Dr. 
Hammond. It is needless to recount the violent and 
abominable utterances of Jefferies. Mr. Orme, in his 
life of Baxter, has given extracts from a manuscript 
written by a person who was present at the trial. In 
most respects it agrees with the account given by 
Calamy. The boldness of Pollexfen, who remonstrated 
against the stopping of Nonconformist utterances, was 
thus treated by the Chief Justice. " Pollexfen," said 
Jefferies, "I know you well; I will set a mark upon 
you j you are the patron of the faction. This is an old 
rogue, who has poisoned the world with his Kidder- 
minster doctrine. Don't we know how he preached 
formerly, 'Curse ye Meroz; curse them bitterly that 
come not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the 
Lord against the mighty.' He encouraged all the women 
and maids to bring their bodkins and thimbles to carry 
on their war against the king of ever blessed memory. 
An old schismatical knave, a hypocritical villain ! " "I 
beseech your lordship," said Pollexfen, " suffer me a 



73 RICHARD BAXTER. 

word for my client. It is well known to all intelligent 
men of age in this nation that these things do not apply 
to the character of Mr. Baxter, who wished as well to 
the king and royal family as Mr. Love, who lost his head 
for endeavouring to bring in the son long before he was 
restored. And, my lord, Mr. Baxter's loyal and peace- 
able spirit King Charles would have rewarded with a 
bishoprick when he came in, if he would have con- 
formed." "Aye, aye," said the judge, " we know that ; 
but what ailed the old blockhead, the unthankful villain, 
that he would not conform? Was he wiser or better 
than other men ? He hath been ever since the spring 
of the faction. I am sure he hath poisoned the world 
with his linsey-woolsey doctrine." In vain was it urged 
by another counsel that Baxter, although he had said 
hard things of Romish prelates, used no language but 
that of respect in speaking of English bishops. Baxter 
also declared that he had incurred the censure of his 
brethren for his moderation. The Chief Justice burst 
forth, " Baxter for bishops ! that's a merry conceit indeed. 
I know what you mean by bishops, rascals like your- 
selves ) Kidderminster bishops ; factious, snivelling Pres- 
byterians." Again Baxter attempted to speak, but a 
violent outbreak of abuse silenced him. Many of the 
bystanders were in tears, and this miserable scene of 
brow-beating and injustice at last came to an end. 
" Does your lordship," says Baxter, " think any jury 
would pretend to pass a verdict upon me, upon such a 
trial." "I'll warrant you, Mr. Baxter," said Jefferies; 



THE TRIAL AND THE END. 79 

"don't you trouble yourself about that." The jurors, 
chosen by the partisan sheriffs, from strong opponents 
of the prisoner, went through the farce of deliberation 
for a minute or two, and returned Baxter guilty. There 
were clergymen in attendance who were ready to testify 
to his merits as a divine and a lover of peace, but they 
were not allowed to be heard. As the venerable man 
left the court, he alluded to his great friend, Sir Matthew 
Hale, in words which might have touched the hardest 
heart ; but the Chief Justice was unmoved, and it was 
believed that he had actually proposed to his brethren, 
that a man who had been offered and had refused a 
bishopric should be whipped through the streets at 
a cart's tail. The scandal, however, of such a sentence 
was prevented by the three judges who sat with Jefferies 
on the bench. He was fined five hundred marks, and 
was condemned to imprisonment till the sum was paid. 
It appears clear that a remarkable letter to the Bishop 
of London was written between the delivery of the 
verdict and the pronunciation of the sentence. It is 
necessary to give this letter entire, as it contains a 
simple statement of the attitude Baxter preserved to- 
wards the Church of England, No imprisonment or 
injustice shook the resolution which he maintained 
during the few and troubled years still remaining to 
him : 

" MY LORD, Being by Episcopal ordination vowed 
to the sacred ministry, and bound not to desert it, when 



8o RICHARD BAXTER. 

by painful diseases and debility I waited for my change, 
I durst not spend my last days in idleness, and knew not 
how better to serve the Church than by writing a ' Para- 
phrase on the New Testament/ purposely fitted to the 
use of the most ignorant, and the reconciling of doctrinal 
differences about texts variously expounded. Far was it 
from my design to reproach the Church, or draw men 
from it, having therein pleaded for diocesans as succes- 
sors of the apostles over many Churches; though I 
confute the overthrowing opinion which setteth them 
over but one Church, denying the parishes to be 
churches. But some persons, offended it is like at some 
other passages in the book, have thought fit to say that 
I scandalised the Church of England ; and an informa- 
tion being exhibited in the King's Bench, at a trial before 
a common jury, on my owning the book, they forthwith 
found me guilty without hearing my defence, and I have 
cause to expect a severe judgment the beginning of the 
next term. All this is on a charge that my unquestion- 
able words were meant by me to scandalise the Church, 
which I utterly deny. If God will have me end a 
painful, weary life by such a suffering, I hope I shall 
finish my course with joy; but my conscience com- 
mandeth me to value the Church's strength and honour 
before my life, and I ought not to be silent under the 
scandal of suffering, as an enemy to it. Nor would I 
have my sufferings increase men's prejudice against it. 
I have lived in its communion, and conformed to as 
much as the Act of Uniformity obliged one in my condi- 



THE TRIAL AND THE END. 81 

tion. I have drawn multitudes into the Church, and 
written to justify the Church and ministry against sepa- 
ration, when the Paraphrase was in the press ; and my 
displeasing writings (whose eagerness and faults I justify 
not) have been my earnest pleadings for the healing of 
a divided people, and the strengthening of the Church 
by love and concord on possible terms. I owe satisfac- 
tion to you that are my diocesan, and therefore presume 
to send you a copy of the information against me, and 
my answer to the particular accusations ; humbly en- 
treating you to spare so much time from your weighty 
business as to peruse them, or to refer them to be 
perused for your satisfaction. I would fain send them 
with one sheet (in vindication of my accused life and 
loyalty, and of positive proofs that I meant not to 
accuse the Church of England, and of the danger of 
exposing the clergy to charges of thoughts and meanings 
as prejudice shall conjecture), but for fear of displeasing 
you by length. For expositions of Scripture to be thus 
tried by such juries, as often as they are but called 
seditious, is not the old way of managing Church differ- 
ences, and of what consequence you will easily judge. 
If your lordship be satisfied that I am no enemy to the 
Church, and that my punishment will not be for its 
interest, I hope you will vouchsafe to present my petition 
to His Majesty, that my appeal to the Church may 
suspend the sentence till my diocesan, or whom His 
Majesty shall appoint, may hear me, and report their 
sense of the cause. By which your lordship will, I doubt 

G 



82 RICHARD BAXTER. 

not, many ways serve the welfare of the Church, as well 
as 

"Oblige your languishing, 

" HUMBLE SERVANT." 

Baxter was permitted to have his own servants in 
attendance on him in prison. Matthew Henry has left 
an interesting account of a visit he paid to him. His 
tranquillity was great, and he drew consolation from 
some little alleviations, which would hardly indeed have 
appeared such to most men. Through the kindness pi 
Lord Powis a release from the Crown was granted towards 
the close of 1686. He lived for some time within the 
rules of the prison, but in the following year removed to 
a house in Charterhouse Yard. When his feeble health 
permitted exertion, he assisted Sylvester in his ministry. 

Unfortunately we have no record from his own pen 
of the last few years of his life. It is a pleasure to 
think that these years were free from molestation. He 
took little part in political discussion. He refused, 
however, to address the Crown when the famous de- 
claration for liberty of conscience, really issued in the 
interests of Romanists, spread confusion through the 
land. Like .all Nonconformists, he embraced the privi- 
leges bestowed by the declaration. His name does 
not appear in the list of the ministers of London who 
addressed the Prince of Orange on his arrival. Very 
possibly the strict views he held on the subject of royal 
succession placed some difficulty in his way. 



THE TRIAL AND THE END. 83 

The observations of Baxter on the subscription re- 
quired to the greater part of the Thirty-nine Articles 
may still be read with interest The real moderation of 
his mind is observable in every sentence. Few amongst 
his Nonconformist brethren at that time would have 
ventured to express a hope regarding the salvation of 
Socrates, Cicero, Epictetus, Plutarch, and many other 
famous men of old. He, if ever any man did, saw that 
articles of faith, to be really effective, must be articles 
of peace. Indeed, the reader of his remarks on the 
Three Creeds, cannot fail to be reminded of the argu- 
ment advanced by the venerable historian of Latin 
Christianity to his colleagues on a Royal Commission 
in our own day. There is no reason to believe, as 
Mr. Orme thinks, that Baxter took any active part in 
framing the Nonconformist Articles, intended by Howe 
to reconcile entirely Presbyterian and Independent 
differences. The picture which Sylvester has given us 
of the last few months is a most pleasing one. At 
morning and evening his neighbours were in the habit 
of joining him at family worship. In his own house, 
like St. Paul at Rome, " he preached the kingdom of 
God, and taught those things which concern the Lord 
Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding 
him." Dr. Bates, in his funeral sermon, has given us 
particulars of his last days. On one occasion it is said, 
that, "After a slumber, he waked and said, 'I shall 
rest from my labour.' A minister then present said, 
' And your works will follow you.' To whom he re- 



84 RICHARD BAXTER. 

plied, * No works ; I will leave out works, if God will 
grant me the other.' When a friend was comforting 
him with the remembrance of the good many had 
received by his preaching and writings, he said, ' I was 
but a pen in God's hands ; and what praise is due to 
a pen ?' His resigned submission to the will of God 
in his sharp sickness was evident. When extremity of 
pain constrained him earnestly to pray to God for his 
release by death, he would check himself : ' It is not 
fit for me to prescribe when Thou wilt, what Thou 
wilt, and how Thou wilt.' Being in great anguish, he 
said, ' Oh ! how unsearchable are His ways, and His 
paths past finding out ; the reaches of His providence 
we cannot fathom ! ' And to his friends, ' Do not think 
the worse of religion for what you see me suffer.' " 

On Monday, Dec. ;th, 1691, Baxter had a terrible 
attack of pain. His bodily sufferings must indeed 
have been great, and Mrs. Bushel, his housekeeper, 
asked him if he knew her or not. He softly cried, 
11 Death, death." He lingered through the night, and 
was able to say words of kindness to his colleague, 
Sylvester, and indeed his speculative intellect was still 
busy. Foolish rumours as to his having expressed a 
doubt in his last hours were absolutely contradicted by 
Sylvester after his death. Although he felt persuaded 
that his soul was safe in the hands of Christ, his mind 
was full of trembling adoration, and Sylvester records his 
quietness and confidence, without " transport of spirit." 
At four o'clock, on Tuesday, Dec. 8th, Baxter closed his 



THE TRIAL AND THE END. 85 

long and memorable life. He was buried in Christ- 
church, near the graves of his wife and mother-in-law. 
Many of the clergy attended the funeral. It was felt 
not in London only, but throughout England, that a 
fearless and noble worthy had passed into the rest which 
he had so truly depicted. " Rest from sin, but not 
from worship; from sorrow, but not from solace." 



- 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE RETROSPECT. 

" T OSE not a day in reading the last twenty-four 
-1 ^ pages of the first part of Baxter's narrative of 
his own life ; you will never repent of it," said the late 
Sir James Stephen to Dean Stanley. The advice was 
at once taken, and from the day on which the large- 
hearted divine delivered his inaugural lectures at Oxford 
as Professor of Ecclesiastical History, until the last 
time of his ministration in the Abbey where his re- 
mains now lie, he was never weary of enlarging on the 
wonderful and teaching passage which has been often 
reprinted, and ought to be in the hands of every student 
of Baxter's life. Indeed there are few things in the 
whole range of Christian biography to be compared 
with it. To use the words of an address, felicitously 
delivered by Dean Stanley on the occasion of the un- 
veiling of a noble statue which stands in the centre 
of Kidderminster, " it sums up * the soul's experiment ' 
by which the venerable man, at the close of his eventful 
life, acquaints his readers ' what change God had made 
upon his mind and heart since the unriper times of his 
youth, and where he had differed in judgment and 



THE RETROSPECT. 87 

disposition from his former self/ The interest of this 
summary is not merely that it reiterates in every shape 
and form that desire for unity of which I have already 
spoken, but that it points out the various stages by 
which every serious student of human nature and of 
his own history may rise above the crude and narrow 
notions to which all men, especially perhaps all religious 
men, are exposed in their early or their less instructed 
years." 

The remark of Wilhelm von Humboldt, that no 
man ever writes a diary or confession without having 
in his mind an image of some reader, is undoubtedly 
a true one. Religious diaries are often misleading and 
bear evident traces of temporary excitement or enthu- 
siasm. Yet they are often full of instruction ; and the 
deepest and truest thoughts of original minds, thrown, 
as it were, on paper at random, have often had greater 
results than the most elaborate and carefully constructed 
treatises. The purity of Baxter's motive in writing the 
review of his own life gives the passage a most re- 
markable and peculiar interest. He writes out of the 
fulness of his heart, in the hope that his experience 
may be of real benefit to younger brethren. The style, 
though far from faultless, possesses great purity and 
dignity. Where all is excellent, it is difficult to make 
judicious selection. The following passages are, how- 
ever, really essential to the complete understanding of 
Baxter's unique position in English theology : 

" The temper of my mind hath somewhat altered 



83 RICHARD BAXTER. 

with the temper of my body. When I was young I 
was more vigorous, affectionate, and fervent in preach- 
ing, conference, and prayer, than ordinary I can be 
now. My style was more extemporate and lax, but 
by the advantage of warmth, and a very familiar, mov- 
ing voice and utterance, my preaching then did more 
affect the auditory than it did many of the last years 
before I gave over preaching. But what I delivered 
then was much more raw, and had more passages that 
would not hear the trial of accurate judgments ; and 
my discourses had both less substance and less judg- 
ment than of late. My understanding was then quicker, 
and could more easily manage any thing that was 
newly presented to it upon a sudden; but it is since 
better furnished and acquainted with the ways of truth 
and error, and with a multitude of particular mistakes 
of the world, which then I was the more in danger 
of, because I had only the faculty of knowing them, 
but did not actually know them. I was then like a 
man of quick understanding, that was to travel a way 
which he never went before, or to cast up an account 
which he never laboured in before, or to play on an 
instrument of music which he never saw before. I am 
now like one of somewhat a slower understanding, who 
is travelling a way which he hath often gone, and is 
casting up an account which he hath ready at hand, 
and that is playing on an instrument which he hath 
frequently used : so that I can very confidently say 
my judgment is much sounder and firmer now than it 



THE RETROSPECT, 89 

was then ; for though I am now as competent a judge 
of the actings of my own understanding as then, I 
can judge better of the effects. When I peruse the 
writings which I wrote in my younger years, I can find 
the footsteps of my unfurnished mind, and of my 
emptiness and insufficiency ; so that the man that 
followed my judgment then, was likelier to have been 
misled by me than he that should follow it now. . . . 
" My judgment is much more for frequent and serious 
meditation on the heavenly blessedness than it- was in 
my younger days. I then thought that a sermon on 
the attributes of God and the joys of heaven was not 
the most excellent ; and was wont to say, * Everybody 
knoweth that God is great and good, and that heaven is 
a blessed place ; I had rather hear how I may attain 
it.' Nothing pleased me so well as the doctrine of 
regeneration and the marks of sincerity, because these 
things were suitable to me in that state ; but now I had 
rather read, hear, meditate on God and heaven, than 
on any other subject. I perceive that it is the object 
which altereth and elevateth the mind ; which will re- 
semble that which it most frequently feedeth on. It 
is not only useful to and comfort to be much in heaven 
in believing thoughts ; it must animate all our other 
duties, and fortify us against every temptation and sin. 
The love of the end is the poise or spring which setteth 
every wheel a-going, and must put us on to all the 
means ; for a man is no more a Christian indeed than 
he is heavenly." . . . 



90 RICHARD BAXTER. 

" I now see more good and more evil than heretofore 
I did, I see that good men are not so good as I once 
thought they were, but have more imperfections ; and 
that nearer approach and fuller trial do make the best 
appear more weak and faulty than their admirers at a 
distance think. I find that few are so bad as either 
malicious enemies or censorious, separating professors 
do imagine. In some, indeed, I find that human nature 
is corrupted into a greater likeness to devils than I once 
thought that any on earth had been ; but even in the 
wicked, usually, there is more for grace to make advan- 
tage of, and more to testify for God and holiness, than I 
once believed there had been." . . . 

" My soul is much more afflicted with the thoughts of 
this miserable world, and more drawn out in desire of 
its conversion, than heretofore. I was wont to look but 
little further than England in my prayers, not considering 
the state of the rest of the world ; or if I prayed for 
the conversion of the Jews, that was almost all. But 
now, as I better understand the case of the world, and 
the method of the Lord's prayer, there is nothing in 
the world that lieth so heavy upon my heart, as the 
thought of the miserable nations of the earth. It is the 
most astonishing part of all God's providence to me, 
that He so far forsaketh almost all the world, and 
confineth His special favour to so few j that so small a 
part of the world hath the profession of Christianity, in 
comparison of heathens, Mahometans, and other in- 
fidels ; that among professed Christians there are so 



THE RETROSPECT. 91 

few that are seriously religious, and who truly set their 
hearts on heaven. I cannot be affected so much with 
the calamities of my own relations or the land of my 
nativity, as with the case of the heathen, Mahometan, 
and ignorant nations of the earth. No part of my 
prayers are so deeply serious as that for the conversion 
of the infidel and ungodly world, that God's name may 
be sanctified, and His kingdom come, and His will be 
done on earth as it is in heaven. Nor was I ever before 
so sensible what a plague the division of languages is, 
which hindereth our speaking to them for their con- 
version. Nor what a great sin tyranny is, which keepeth 
out the Gospel from most of the nations of the world. 
Could we but go among Tartars, Turks, and heathens, 
and speak their language, I should be but little troubled 
for the silencing of eighteen hundred ministers at once 
in England, nor for all the rest that were cast out here, 
and in Scotland and Ireland; there being no em- 
ployment in the world so desirable in my eyes as to 
labour for the winning of such miserable souls ; which 
maketh me greatly honour Mr. John Elliot, the apostle 
of the Indians in New England, and whoever else have 
laboured in such work. I am more deeply affected for 
the disagreements of Christians than I was when I was 
a younger Christian. Except the case of the infidel 
world, nothing is so- bad and grievous to my thoughts 
as the case of divided Churches ; and therefore I am 
more deeply sensible of the sinfulness of those prelates 
and pastors of Churches who are the principal cause 01 



92 RICHARD BAXTER. 

these divisions. Oh! how many millions of souls are 
kept by them in ignorance and ungodliness, and deluded 
by faction as if it were true religion. How is the 
conversion of infidels hindered by them, and Christ and 
religion heinously dishonoured! The contentions be- 
tween the Greek Church and the Roman, the Papists and 
the Protestants, the Lutherans and the Calvinists, have 
woefully hindered the kingdom of Christ. I am further 
than ever I was from expecting great matters of unity, 
splendour, or prosperity to the Church on earth, or 
that saints should dream of a kingdom of this world, or 
flatter themselves with the hope of a golden age, or of 
reigning over the ungodly, till there be a new heaven 
and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. On 
the contrary, I am more apprehensive that suffering must 
be the Church's most ordinary lot ; and true Christians 
must be self-denying cross-bearers, even where there are 
none but formal, nominal Christians to be the cross- 
makers ; for though, ordinarily, God would have vicissi- 
tudes of summer and winter, day and night, that the 
Church may grow externally in the summer of prosperity, 
and intensively and radically in the winter of adversity ; 
yet usually their night is longer than their day, and that 
day itself hath its storms and tempests." . . . 

" If I were among the Greeks, the Lutherans, the 
Independents, yea, the Anabaptists, owning no heresy, 
nor setting themselves against charity and peace, I would 
sometimes hold occasional communion with them as 
Christians, if they would give me leave without forcing 



THE RETROSPECT. 93 

me to any sinful subscription or action; though my 
most usual communion should be with that society 
which I thought most agreeable to the Word of God 
if I were free to choose. I cannot be of their opinion 
that think God will not accept him that prayeth by the 
Common Prayer-Book, and that such forms are a self- 
invented worship, which God rejecteth; nor yet can 
I be of their mind that say the like of extempore 
prayers." . . . 

" I am more and more pleased with a solitary life, and 
though in a way of self-denial I could submit to the 
most public life for the service of God, when He re- 
quireth it, and would not be unprofitable that I might 
be private, yet I must confess it is much more pleasing 
to myself to be retired from the world, and to have very 
little to do with men, and to converse with God and 
conscience and good books. Though I was never very 
much tempted to the sin of covetousness, yet my fear 
of dying was wont to tell me that I was not sufficiently 
loosened from the world; but I find that it is com- 
paratively very easy to me to be loose from this world, 
but hard to live by faith above. To despise earth is 
easy to me ; but not so easy to be acquainted and 
conversant with heaven. I have nothing in this world 
which I could not easily let go ; but to get satisfying 
apprehensions of the other world is the great and 
grievous difficulty/' . . . 

" Having mentioned the changes which I think were 
for the better, I must add, that as I confessed many of 



94 RICHARD BAXTER. 

my sins before, so I have been guilty ot many since, 
because materially they seemed small, have had the less 
resistance, and yet on the review do trouble me more 
than if they had been greater, done in ignorance. It 
can be no small sin formally, which is committed against 
knowledge and conscience and deliberation, whatever 
excuse it have. To have sinned while I preached and 
wrote against sin, and had such abundant and great 
obligations from God, and made so many promises 
against it, doth lay me very low : not so much in fear 
of hell, as in great displeasure against myself, and such 
self-abhorrence as would cause revenge upon myself, 
were it not forbidden. When God forgiveth me I can- 
not forgive myself; especially for my rash words or 
deeds, by which I have seemed injurious and less tender 
and kind than I should have been to my near and dear 
relations, whose love abundantly obliged me. When 
such are dead, though we never differed in point of 
interest, or any other matter, every sour, or cross, pro- 
voking word which I gave them, maketh me almost 
irreconcilable to myself, and tells me how repentance 
brought some of old to pray to the dead whom they had 
wronged, to forgive them, in the hurry of their passion. 
That which I named before, by the by, is grown one of 
my great diseases ; I have lost much of that zeal which 
I had to propagate any truths to others, save the mere 
fundamentals. When I. perceive people or ministers to 
think they know what indeed they do not, which is too 
common, and to dispute those things which they never 



THE RETROSPECT. 95 

thoroughly studied, or expect that I should debate the 
case with them, as if an hour's talk would serve instead 
of an acute understanding, and seven years' study, I have 
no zeal to make them of my opinion, but an impatience 
of continuing discourse with them on such subjects, 
and am apt to be silent or to turn to something else; 
which, though there be some reason for it, I feel cometh 
from a want of zeal for the truth, and from an impatient 
temper of mind. I am ready to think that people 
should quickly understand all in a few words ; and if 
they cannot, to despair of them, and leave them to 
themselves. I know the more that this is sinful in me, 
because it is partly so in other things, even about the 
faults of my servants or other inferiors ; if three or four 
times warning do no good to them, I am much tempted 
to despair of them, turn them away, and leave them to 
themselves. I mention all these distempers that my 
faults may be a warning to others to take heed, as they 
call on myself for repentance and watchfulness. O 
Lord ! for the merits, and sacrifice, and intercession of 
Christ, be merciful to me a sinner, and forgive my 
known and unknown sins ! " 

The intensity and reality of these passages thoroughly 
justify the warm eulogy that has been pronounced upon 
them by men widely differing from one another in theo- 
logical sentiment. Sylvester, in his funeral sermon, has 
a few sentences which confirm the impression produced 
by Baxter's own recollections. "When he spoke of 
weighty soul concerns, you might find his very spirit 



96 RICHARD BAXTER. 

drenched therein." He adds some particulars as to 
Baxter's personal habits, which were such as we should 
naturally expect. " His personal abstinence, severity, 
and labours were exceeding great. He kept his body 
under, and always feared pampering his flesh too much. 
He diligently, and with great pleasure, minded his 
Master's work within doors and without, whilst he was 
able. His charity was very great in proportion to his 
abilities. His purse was ever open to the poor; where 
the case required it, he never thought great sums too 
much. He suited what he gave to the necessities and 
character of those he gave to ; and his charity was 
not confined to parties and opinions." If we add to 
this the words of Bates, that " it was his meat and drink, 
the life and joy of his life, to do good to souls," we are 
certainly presented with a picture for ever memorable 
and for ever worthy of study. In the life of such a man 
we long to possess some such records as those which 
have conveyed to the minds of all readers the impression 
produced by the table-talk of a Luther or a Johnson. 
Baxter rarely suffers us to see him in undress ; and it is 
to be regretted that the personal matters, which he tells 
us he intended to add to the life of his wife, were 
omitted according to the advice of some friends. In 
the remarkable " Penitent Confession," and necessary 
vindication, addressed to Bishop Stillingfleet, there are 
some disclosures of particulars in his life and writings 
which leave a strong impression as to his desire after 
fairness and plain dealing. Few men have ever had so 
complete an indifference as to public opinion. 



THE RETROSPECT. 97 

Iii person Baxter was tall and slender. The best 
portrait of him conveys the impression of a grave and 
thoughtful man, much worn by sickness, who could 
smile with sweetness and dignity. One of his most 
valued female friends, the wife of a Scottish earl, in 
an unpublished letter, tells us that his voice was rich 
and full. 



H 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 

THE loose and characteristic sentence of Burnet, 
that " Baxter meddled in too many things, and 
was, most unhappily, subtle and metaphysical in every- 
thing," will not, we venture to think, in any way in any 
degree express the real opinion of those who have 
delved into the great mine of Baxter's writings. Un- 
doubtedly he was one of the most voluminous of Eng- 
lish theologians. Mr. Orme thinks that a uniform 
edition of all his works could not be comprised in 
less than sixty volumes, making more than from thirty 
to forty thousand closely printed pages. Southey, it has 
been said, would have been more in his right place had 
he had the custody of some great monastic library. 
Baxter might have been a happier man had he sat at the 
feet of one of the great schoolmen, to whom he has 
often been compared. Very few persons have in these 
days patience to peruse the "Catholic Theology" and 
" Methodus Theologian Christianas," the one containing 
seven hundred, and the other nine hundred folio pages. 
Yet the future historian of English dogmatic theology 
must, if he is honest, devote some attention to these 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 99 

remarkable productions. Every page bears the marks 
of the greatness of Calvin's influence. No one, how- 
ever, can call Baxter a formal Calvinist. He occupies 
a position of his own. It was a true instinct that made 
men call his theology Baxterian. 

In every page of the early dogmatic writings of 
Baxter we find distinct traces of the influence of Calvin. 
Yet Baxter, though he began his theological life as a 
Calvinist, struggled hard to escape from the meshes of 
the net. He stands apart, in many respects, from all 
parties, though at times he seems almost in contact with 
men whose differences were on first principles. It has 
been said, indeed, that although at the end of his life 
he would still have called himself a Calvinist, he dressed 
out Calvinism in Arminian robes. The particular de- 
cision of the Synod of Dort, that our Lord died for all 
men, appeared to Baxter to afford a means of reconcili- 
ation between the sterner Calvinistic dogma and the 
larger Arminian statement. The position, indeed, which 
Baxter assumed as to this question, was not unlike that 
taken by Bishop Davenant, of Salisbury, who held that 
there was an ordination of the elect to faith and glory, 
while the non-elect were not ordained to unbelief; but 
that the fact of their impenitence being foreseen, justi- 
fied the declaration that they were ordained to repro- 
bation. Baxter really, by his constant maintenance of 
the conditions of duty required from man, undermined 
the very foundations of the Calvinistic scheme. A re- 
markable controversy, of quite modern times, may be 



ioo RICHARD BAXTER. 

said to have been anticipated in many of Baxter's keen 
and subtle arguments against the more positive dogma- 
tists of the Calvinist School. The position that we 
cannot kno\v anything of the being of God, he con- 
tinually contradicted. Scripture, according to Baxter, 
who asserts the contrary with as much vehemence as the 
late Dr. Whewell did, in a passage from a sermon which 
may be found in his remains, must be re-written if these 
dogmatists are to have their own way. The knowledge 
of God is eternal life. Mere negation could never 
afford ground for the positive personal love Scripture 
requires from man, and which is found to be the real 
stay and experience of faithful souls. We can see and 
know the character and nature of God in the- soul, 
which is His image. Ideas and conceptions may be 
inadequate, but they are not untrue. In short, it is 
clear and evident that Baxter, though ready to admit the 
imperfection of the knowledge of God possessed by 
human beings, strove stoutly against any theory which 
seemed to place an infinite distance between the Creator 
and the creature, the soul and the Saviour. 

In the same way Baxter, although in the opinion of 
many the leader of the Presbyterians, was by no means 
at any time in his career a real Presbyterian. Mr. 
Hunt has well said, "as to conformity, Baxter was 
always on its very borders." He can hardly be said to 
have changed his position greatly since the time when, 
as we have seen, he resisted the " et cetera oath." As 
far as it can be ascertained accurately, his contention 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 101 

was more against the extreme excesses of the party of 
which Laud was the head, than the efforts of the few 
who were trying to combine deference to old usage with 
increased liberty to the favourers of extempore prayer 
and other puritan innovations. 

Some persons have asserted that there was an incon- 
sistency of conduct in Baxter's effort to bring back the 
monarchy, and his readiness to receive preferment if 
certain changes, deemed by him essential, were made. 
But the truth is, that in his defence of the decisions of 
the Long Parliament and the Westminster Assembly, 
he always maintained that there were certain alterations 
desirable in doctrine and discipline, which, if granted, 
would have had the effect of enlarging the borders of 
the Church of England. Many of his views upon the 
polity of the Church are contained in the " Treatise of 
Episcopacy," a work often suspended, but not written 
until 1671. He held the opinion which has gained 
great ground in recent years, as to the difference be- 
tween bishops and presbyters. The bishop, according 
to Baxter, was to be primus inter pares. He wished to 
return to the primitive condition of things. Every city 
was to have a bishop, who was to have oversight of 
a small diocese. Undoubtedly, Baxter may be claimed 
by those who hold that episcopacy contributes to the 
bene esse of a Church. It is singular to note how 
Baxter's keen insight, not of course, aided by the ac- 
curate historical method of modern research, has led 
him to somewhat similar conclusions to those adopted 



102 RICHARD BAXTER. 

by the present Bishop of Durham, in his well-known 
essay on the " Christian Ministry." There are few 
things in the history of controversy more sad than the 
neglect at the proper moment of such moderate counsels 
as are to be found in Baxter's treatise. He may have 
been too sanguine in his belief that the Westminster 
Assembly, if met in a proper spirit, would have adopted 
the modified episcopacy recommended. But there can 
be no doubt that if men, at the Restoration, on both 
sides, had consented to "let bygones be bygones," a 
national Church, such as perhaps the future may have 
in store for Great Britain, might have come within the 
range of practical politics. 

It is interesting to observe, that in the last year 
of Baxter's life, in his "Book of National Churches," 
he does not in any way depart from the spirit of 
his earlier writings on the subject. In fact, he assumes 
more and more the ground occupied by Cranmer, 
Hooker, and Field, and it is difficult to see that 
his view of a national Church differs much from the 
conceptions of these last two writers. He saw very 
clearly that the growth of the Papacy had been effected 
by the gradual extinction of national Churches. The 
noblest part of the speculations, carried perhaps to 
extravagance by Dr. Arnold, as to the religious character 
of kings and magistrates, may be said to be expressed 
in some indignant sentences against the degradation of 
secular offices. While Baxter was clear as to the proper 
place to be occupied by the king, or chief ruler, in a 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 103 

national system, he is always careful to assert for the 
Church a complete spiritual independence in matters 
essential to the faith. He was no voluntary in the 
modem sense of the word, but a fervent believer, that 
in a perfect polity the rights of Church and State could 
be so wisely maintained as to render encroachment from 
either side impossible. He opposed the theory, advo- 
cated by some of the stronger spirits of the bishops of 
the Restoration, that a sacerdotal head should be sub- 
stituted for the just supremacy of the prince. The 
doors of a national Church, he taught, should be opened 
to receive all who accepted the Apostles' Creed. 
Tolerance was to be accorded to all who dissented, 
except to those that are heretics. 

This treatise, on account of the peculiar position 
occupied by Baxter in the latter part of his life, has 
not received the attention it deserves. It will cer- 
tainly surprise many readers to find that the position 
so often maintained as the only one possible to the 
Church of England, that she rests on Scripture and 
the practice of those who immediately succeeded the 
Apostles, is declared by Baxter to be the unique dis- 
tinction of the Church of England, as her reformers 
and most eminent divines described her. The weari- 
some particularity and prolixity of style, painfully evident 
in many of Baxter's doctrinal writings, is entirely absent 
in the pages in which he treats of Episcopacy and 
national religion. There he treads with no uncertain 
footing, and writes like an Englishman who gloried in 



104 RICHARD BAXTER. 

the full possession of personal liberty and access to 
the truth. In his own practice he gave an example of 
the reasonable conformity he advocated, for it is known 
that in his latter years he took the sacrament in church 
kneeling. 

It may be well to describe at greater length Baxter's 
position as a writer on evidence. Mr. Hunt, in his very 
able account of his position in the history of "Religious 
Thought in England," claims a place for him as the first 
English writer on the evidences of Christianity. Baxter 
was led to engage in this particular field of theology 
from the excesses of those sectaries who claimed for 
themselves the title of special exponents of the mind of 
the Holy Spirit. Baxter, on the contrary, affirmed that 
the Holy Spirit did not supersede the exercise of the 
gift of reason, but illuminated all who, with a hearty 
desire after truth, exercised the faculties given them 
by God. " The gift of reason " (we give Mr. Hunt's 
description of Baxter's view) " is God's gift, as well as 
the gift of the Spirit, The reason has to be rectified, 
purified, illuminated ; and then the evidence of the truth 
of Christianity is invincible. The Spirit may be called 
the efficient cause of our belief; but the question to be 
examined is the evidence itself, the objective cause. 
The evidence exists independently of the Spirit's 
testimony. But for this, men who had not the Spirit 
would be excusable in their unbelief." 

This is an excellent account of the fundamental 
position occupied by Baxter in his various works on 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 105 

evidences. Sometimes, indeed, we meet with passages 
which almost seem to claim a paramount place for 
reason. But the statements in which he might seem to 
have anticipated those who claim for the verifying 
faculty the ultimate court of appeal, must be modified 
by a reference to what Baxter lays down regarding the 
revelation of Scripture. To this, he says, there can be 
no possible addition. The Holy Spirit enables the 
reason to discover the meaning of Scripture, but has 
ceased to give any supplementary revelation. The 
moderation of his tone as a theologian is most remark- 
able in his treatment of Scripture. There is a passage 
in his review of his own life, which expresses his highest 
and deepest thoughts upon the certainty of the Christian 
faith, which deserves, in these days, the best attention 
of all students in theology : 

"Among truths, certain in themselves, all are not 
equally certain unto me ; and even of the mysteries ot 
the Gospel, I must needs say, with Mr. Richard Hooker, 
in his ' Eccles. Polit.,' that, whatever men pretend, the 
subjective certainty cannot go beyond the objective 
evidence ; for it is caused thereby, as the print on the 
wax is caused by that on the seal. I do more of late 
therefore, than ever, discern a necessity of a methodical 
procedure in maintaining the doctrine of Christianity, 
and of beginning at natural verities, as presupposed 
fundamentally to supernatural ; though God may, when 
he pleases, reveal all at once, and even natural truths by 
supernatural revelation. It is a marvellous great help 



io5 RICHARD BAXTER. 

to my faith to find it built on so sure foundations, and 
so consonant to the law of nature. I am not so foolish 
as to pretend my certainty to be greater than it is, 
merely because it is a dishonour to be less certain ; nor 
will I by shame be kept from confessing the infirmities, 
which those have as much as I, who hypocritically 
reproach me with them. My certainty that I am a man 
is before my certainty that there is a God; for quod 
facit notum, est magis nottim. My certainty that there is 
a God is greater than my certainty that He requireth 
love and holiness of His creature; my certainty of 
this is greater than my certainty of the life of rewards 
and punishment hereafter; my certainty of that is 
greater than my certainty of the endless duration of it, 
and of the immortality of individuate souls ; my certainty 
of the Deity is greater than my certainty of the Chris- 
tian faith; my certainty of the Christian faith, in its 
essentials, is greater than my certainty of the perfection 
and infallibility of all the holy Scriptures ; my certainty 
of that is greater than my certainty of the meaning 
of many particular texts, and so of the truth of many 
particular doctrines, or of the canonicalness of some 
certain books. So that, as you see by what grada- 
tions my understanding doth proceed, so also that my 
certainty differeth as the evidences differ. And they 
that will begin all their certainty with that of the truth 
of the Scripture, as the principium cognoscendi, may meet 
me at the same end ; but they must give me leave to 
undertake to prove to a heathen or infidel the being of a 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 107 

God, and the necessity of holiness, and the certainty of a 
reward or punishment, even while yet he denieth the truth 
of Scripture, and in order to his believing it to be true." 
Clement Writer, of Worcester, who had at one time 
been eminent among the religious writers of his day, fell 
into infidelity. He began his new career as a writer 
against a ministry, and followed this production up by 
an attack against Scripture, and the position taken by 
Baxter in "The Saint's Rest." Writer seems in an 
awkward fashion of his own to have anticipated the 
famous argument of Hume; and in his "Unreasonable- 
ness of Infidelity," Baxter assails his adversary with great 
ability. It really contains many arguments adopted by 
later writers without any acknowledgment, and it is still 
well deserving the attention of those who are again called 
upon to furnish arguments against misbelievers. The 
book is divided into four portions. In the first he 
grapples with the writer's view, that no one is bound to 
accept the miracles of Christ on the bare testimony of 
His followers. The subject of the second portion is the 
internal evidence of the truth of Christianity, in which 
may be found the germ of a once well known, but now 
forgotten, work of the saintly Thomas Erskine, of Lin- 
lathen. The third part of the treatise, much inferior in 
ability to the preceding portions, is an attempt to 
indicate the exact intention of the works wrought by 
Christ. In the last part he endeavours to show that 
arrogant reason and perverse pride are the chief causes 
of infidelity. 



loS RICHARD BAXTER. 

The weakness and strength of Baxter are very evi- 
dent in this work. There are some passages which 
recall forcibly some of the noblest thoughts of Pascal, 
and there are also narratives of apparitions which re- 
mind us that it is not given to a Baxter or a Pascal 
to live above the spirit of their own age. If the great 
Frenchman had his weak and credulous side, so it must 
be confessed had the author of " The Saint's Rest." The 
first portion of the treatise will give to those who are in 
any doubt as to Baxter's intellectual ability, the un- 
doubted impression that when he pleases he can be as 
clear as Paley, and often as cogent. What he says of 
the internal evidence of the truth is after all little more 
than an appeal to the consciousness of the individual 
believer. Like all expositions of a similar kind, his 
persuasive enforcements of holiness, and the adaptation 
of truth to the wants of the soul, will be found more 
effectual in increasing the satisfaction of those who 
believe already, than effective in controlling the errors of 
unbelievers. From this portion of the book many touch- 
ing illustrations of the deep tenderness of Baxter's nature 
might be drawn. He writes like one possessed of truth ; 
and it may be said of him, indeed, that an intense desire 
to recommend the doctrine he loved so dearly to oppo- 
nents, is everywhere present. 

In the works of Owen and Howe there are many 
passages which show the desire of these two remarkable 
writers to put forward the " self-evidencing power " of 
the Bible as a bulwark against temptations to infidelity. 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 109 

But in moral persuasion, and that peculiar touch of 
personal interest in his work and object, Baxter certainly 
stands pre-eminent. The reader is often startled by a 
sentence which seems exactly fitted to meet a modern 
objector. But it is true, that after having said many 
things admirably, he proceeds to dilute the strength of 
what he has uttered by some amazing words of weak- 
ness and credulity. He is not happy in that portion 
of his work in which he treats of the blasphemy oi 
the Holy Ghost; and there is much of scholastic 
subtlety in what he says. His whole treatment of the 
work of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity is 
strangely wanting in breadth and power. It was this 
portion of the book, however, which attracted the 
attention of foreigners, and was translated into German 
not long after its publication in this country. In the 
last part of his argument there is a great deal ot 
vigorous writing, but it can hardly be said that its strong 
denunciations of the pride of intellect are altogether 
effective. It is not unlikely that he had some of the 
more resolute spirits who crossed his path when he was 
labouring at Kidderminster, in his eye, when he penned 
particular passages. 

A special interest attaches to the work which he 
published, in order to supply the defects of his former 
treatise, in 1667. This book is called "The Reasons 
of the Christian Religion." In writing this book, he 
assigns as a reason his desire to promote the "con- 
version of idolaters and infidels" to God and to the 



no RICHARD BAXTER. 

Christian faith. This is another proof of the spirit in 
which he regarded the condition of the heathen world. 
He was the friend of Robert Boyle, and he seems 
to have caught something of the noble temper which 
induced that remarable man, not only to forward every 
good design for the propagation of the faith, but to 
endow the lecture which has on the whole proved 
itself to be a real aid to Christian evidence. But, 
indeed, Baxter had from early years entertained many 
various and deep thoughts regarding the slender con- 
quests made by the Christian faith among heathens and 
Mahometans. These feelings are expressed, not only 
in his correspondence with Eliot, but in many other 
places. It can hardly be said that this particular book 
does much in the way of what he calls " the highest part 
of his design " ; but the spirit which breathes in the 
dedication is noble and pure, and is interesting as 
affording true insight into his character. In the work 
itself there is an admirable account of natural religion, 
as the idea presented itself to men's minds in Baxter's 
days ; and he shows throughout the treatise remarkable 
and varied learning. 

Some writers have placed the second part of this 
book among the best statements of the .positive grounds 
of revelation. Indeed, when we consider the great 
delicacy of the task which he proposes to himself, it is 
difficult to praise portions of this division of the book 
too highly. The first describes the congruity of the 
revelation regarding God made in the Bible, with the 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. in 

conceptions man frames of the Almighty, from his un- 
assisted reason, and then proceeds to give an account 
of the " witness of Jesus Christ as the demonstrative 
evidence of his verity and authority." In this part of the 
work he discusses the witness of prophecy the character 
of Christ the miracles, and those of the apostles and 
finally, the living evidence given in the perpetual mani- 
festation of power in the salvation of souls. The 
particular arrangement of this book will probably repel 
some readers. It abounds, however, in passages of real 
beauty. Nothing can be more touching than the 
following passage, taken from the earlier portion of the 
second part : 

" As the impress on the wax doth make the image 
more discernible than the sculpture on the seal ; but 
the sculpture is true and perfect, when many acci- 
dents may render the impressed image imperfect and 
faulty; so is it in this case. To a diligent inquirer, 
Christianity is best known in its principles delivered by 
Christ, the author of it ; and, indeed, is no otherwise 
perfectly known, because it is nowhere else perfectly to 
be seen. But yet it is much more visible and taking 
with unskilful, superficial observers, in the professors 
lives; for they can discern the good or evil of an 
action, who perceive not the nature of the rule and 
precepts. The vital form in the rose-tree is the most 
excellent part; but the beauty and sweetness of the 
rose is more easily discerned. Effects are most sensible, 
but causes are most excellent ; and yet in some 



ii2 RICHARD BAXTER. 

respects the practice of religion is more excellent than 
the precepts, inasmuch as the precepts are means to 
practice ; for the end is more excellent than the means 
as such. A poor man can more easily perceive the 
worth of charity in the person that clotheth and feedeth 
and relieveth him, than the worth of a treatise or sermon 
of charity. Subjects easily perceive the worth of a wise, 
and holy, and just, and merciful king or magistrate in 
his actual government, who are not much taken with the 
precepts which require yet more perfection ; and among 
all descriptions, historical narratives, like Xenophon's 
' Cyrus,' do take most with them. Doubtless, if ever the 
professors of Christianity should live according to their 
own profession, they would thereby overcome the oppo- 
sition of the world, and propagate their religion with the 
greatest success through all the earth." 

Those who have been accustomed to look upon 
Baxter as a latitudinarian, will be much surprised to find 
that in his account of the doctrine of the Trinity, con- 
tained in this book, he pursues his argument in strict 
accordance with the method of the Athanasian Creed. 
He is careful, however, to distinguish between the dis- 
tinctions which were made necessary in the course of 
controversy, and the original statements of Scripture. 
His statements regarding the occasional character of the 
books of the Bible, and the general question of inspira- 
tion, are studiously moderate. He shrinks from assign- 
ing an absolute infallibility to the Bible, although he 
pronounces clearly his belief that everything essential to 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 113 

salvation is contained in Scripture. If the "Reasons of 
the Christian Religion " are compared with the statements 
made in the review of his life, no greater inconsistency 
will be found than that which is constantly perceptible 
in the writings of any fair-minded man who desires to 
increase his knowledge, and infuse charity into every 
utterance of opinion. The beautiful conclusion of 
Baxter's address to the Holy Spirit is well worth 
quoting : 

"As Thou art the Agent and Advocate of Jesus, my 
Lord, oh plead His cause effectually in my soul against 
the suggestions of Satan and my unbelief; and finish 
His healing, saving work, and let not the flesh or world 
prevail. Be in me the resident witness of my Lord, the 
author of my prayers, the spirit of adoption, the seal 
of God, and the earnest of mine inheritance. Let not 
the nights be so long, and my days so short, nor sin 
eclipse those beams which have often illuminated my 
soul. Without these, books are senseless scrawls, studies 
are dreams, learning is a glow-worm, and wit is but wan- 
tonness, impertinence, and folly. Transcribe those sacred 
precepts on my heart, which by Thy dictates and aspira- 
tions are recorded in Thy holy word. I refuse not Thy 
help for tears and groans ; but oh, shed abroad that love 
upon my heart, which may keep it in a continual life of 
love. Teach me the work which I must do in heaven ; 
refresh my soul with the delights of holiness, and the 
joys which arise from the believing hopes of the ever- 
lasting joys. Exercise my heart and tongue in the holy 



Ii4 RICHARD BAXTER. 

praises of my Lord. Strengthen me in sufferings ; and 
conquer the terrors of death and hell. Make me the 
more heavenly, by how much the faster I am hastening 
to heaven ; and let my last thoughts, words, and works 
on earth, be likest to those which shall be my first in 
the state of glorious immortality ; where the kingdom is 
delivered up to the Father, and God will for ever be all, 
and in all ; of whom, and through whom, and to whom, 
are all things, to whom be glory for ever. Amen." 

There was another supplement to this work, published 
in 1672. In the first part Baxter vindicates the Scrip- 
tures against the charges of an anonymous writer, and 
in the second he deals with the work of Lord Herbert 
of Cherbury, the first deistical writer who attracted 
notice. Baxter rarely appears to such advantage as in 
the tender and delicate dedication of this little book. 
He speaks with strong emotion of the " sweet gust and 
fervent, ascendant, holy love," that breathed in George 
Herbert's poems, the brother of the author and of the 
Sir Henry Herbert to whom he writes. There is a 
beautiful allusion to his own personal condition, in the 
forcible appeal he makes to Lord Herbert. And with 
this passage we must conclude the account of Baxter's 
writings upon Evidence. After having admitted that 
there are many instances of unworthy pastors, he vindi- 
cates the lives and labours of his brethren ; and does 
not scruple to refer in modest terms to his own circum- 
stances and condition: 

" And as for will and interest, it is notorious that 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 115 

thousands of the ministry have so little set by worldly 
interest, as that it is upon the terms of greatest self- 
denial to the flesh that they take up and exercise their 
office, being moved only by the great interest of their 
own and other's souls ; their voluntary, diligent labours, 
their holy lives, their contempt of the world, may con- 
vince any of this that are not blinded by prejudice or 
malice. There are few learned men in the reformed 
churches but might far better use their studies and 
labours, if they took that for best which is most profit- 
able, advancing, or pleasing to the flock. You had a 
brother of your own, so holy a man, as his sincerity was 
past exception, and so zealous in his sacred ministry, as 
showed he did not dissemble ; and, I suppose, had it 
been necessary, you would have so maintained him, that 
he should not have fled from truth for fear of poverty. 
What can you think of all those that gave up their lives 
for the Christian faith and hope ? Did they go upon 
such carnal grounds as you maintain? The revolution 
of states, and the diversity of sentiments, and especially 
the interests of the carnal part, do bring it to pass, by 
God's over-ruling of all, that usually the most serious 
Christians and pastors are the sufferers of the age they 
live in ; so that how much hath God done hereby, to 
confute such suspicions and accusations ! There are 
now in England learned and worthy men, in church 
preferments, which doubtless do not so love them, as to 
buy them with the loss of truth, and that to keep up a 
religion against their consciences. But if you did so 



ii6 RICHARD BAXTER. 

accuse them, surely the many hundred silenced ministers 
now in England, that live in poverty, and many of them 
want bread, when they might have preferment as well 
as others, do live out of the reach of this accusation. I 
write not this at all as meddling with their cause, but as 
answering your exception. I have myself got no more 
for preaching the Gospel these nine years than if I had 
been a layman ; I mean, I have preached for nothing, 
if the success on men's souls were not something, and 
God's acceptance, so far as I did preach ; and more 
than that, I would offer any man my almost oath to 
satisfy him, that I believe and profess the Christian doc- 
trine for its proper evidence, and for the hopes of the 
blessedness promised thereby, which, if they prevailed 
not with me above all the riches, preferments, and 
pleasures of this world, I would never have been a 
preacher or a Christian, nor would continue in my call- 
ing and profession one day, much less on the self-deny- 
ing terms, as I now do. But O my Lord, Thou hast 
been to me a faithful Saviour, a happy Teacher, a sup- 
porting Comforter, in my greatest dangers, distress, and 
fears ; Thy service hath been sweet and good ; Thy word 
hath been a powerful light, a quickening, a changing, an 
elevating, a guiding, a comforting word. So far am I 
from repenting that I am Thy disciple, or Thy servant, 
that, now I am not far from my departure from this 
world, I do vehemently protest, that I beg no greater 
mercy of Thee in this world, than that I may believe in 
Thee more firmly, and hope in Thy promises more con- 



THE DOCTRINAL DIVINE. 117 

fidently, and by Thine intercession receive more of Thy 
Holy Spirit, by which I may have nearer access to God, 
and that by Thy blood and merits I may be justified and 
cleansed from the guilt of all my sins, and that by Thee I 
may be taught to know the Father, and to love Him as 
His love and goodness hath manifested itself in Thee, and 
in the gracious work of man's redemption; that Thou 
wilt be the undertaker for my soul and body through my 
life, and that at death I may commend my spirit into 
Thy hands, in a strong and well-grounded faith and hope, 
and come to Thee in the fervent desire of Divine and 
heavenly love. And I ask for no greater felicity here- 
after than to see the glory of the blessed Deity, and live 
in the perfect knowledge, and love, and praise of God. 
And I may add, that it is not only clergymen that are 
Christians ; besides them, the most learned men in the 
world have defended or adhered to the Christian faith. 
I need not name to you either men of your own rank, 
such as the two Mirandulas, the great Du Plessis, Mar- 
nixius de Aldegonde, Anhaltinus, a prince, though a 
divine, Bacon, and many a worthy nobleman of these 
kingdoms, and of 'many others ; nor such laymen as the 
Scaligers, Salmasius, Grotius, Casaubon, Thuanus, and 
multitudes more. Were all these, larvati vel palliati, 
biassed by price or fleshly interest ? He that is not a 
Christian for spiritual and eternal interest, taking up his 
cross and following a crucified Christ on terms of self- 
denial, even to the forsaking of all for Him, not except- 
ing life itself, and doth not by his cross even crucify 



iiS RICHARD BAXTER. 

the flesh and the world, which is the provision for its 
lusts, is, indeed, no Christian at all." 

There is little- to be said about a work on Immortality, 
published in 1682. The treatise on the "Certainty 
of the World of Spirits," one of the last of Baxter's pub- 
lications, is only memorable as containing extraordinary 
stories of apparitions and prodigies. Here, Baxter was 
in no way superior to Sir Matthew Hale and Robert 
Boyle. The long-standing belief in witchcraft is one 
of the many strange problems in the history of religious 
thought. 



CHAPTER IX. 

BAXTER'S TEACHING. 

NO good purpose could be served by attempting to 
deal at length, or in detail, with Baxter's doctrinal 
writings. His extraordinary acuteness induced him to 
attempt a revival of formal scholasticism. In his 
famous " Methodus " he carries this to excess. His 
speculations on the Divine Trinity or Unity are most 
subtle and intricate. He saw a threefold unity in all 
things. As the great Leibnitz saw monadism every- 
where, so did Baxter see triadism. The germ of his 
theological speculations is to be found in his earliest 
publication on Justification. This led him into elabo- 
rate controversies. It must be owned that he frequently 
allowed himself to be betrayed into statements incon- 
sistent with his professions as a peacemaker. The 
asperity and peevishness of many of these writings is 
often relieved by passages of calm and stately dignity. 
In his " Confession of Faith/' 3 published in 1665, where 
he declares his adherence to the articles of the synod 
of Dort, there is a passage which presents a favourable 
specimen of his view of one of the doctrinal questions, 
which possessed supreme interest for the men of his 



120 RICHARD BAXTER. 

generation. It may be taken as almost defining Baxter's 
position as a doctrinal theologian. Mr. Orme says : 

"As every man ought to be allowed to be the ex- 
positor of his own sentiments, let no man after this 
question or deny the Calvinism of Richard Baxter. 
He was as much a Calvinist as thousands who then, 
or who now, bear the name without suspicion. He 
indeed used language liable to be misunderstood, as 
do all who are disposed to be too refined or meta- 
physical on moral subjects. His very efforts at pre- 
cision in the use of words and phrases involved him 
in controversy which, by a more general mode of speak- 
ing, he would have avoided. He was open and honest ; 
what other men swallowed in a mass, he divided, 
analysed, and explained, often to a troublesome extent. 
Yet his very scrupulosity in holding and explaining his 
sentiments, compels us to respect him ; while his supreme 
regard for the honour of God, the holiness of His govern- 
ment, and the claims of His law, entitles him to our 
highest approbation. The man who could write the 
following passage cannot be regarded as holding either 
narrow or obscure views of the divine moral govern- 
ment, or of the system of redemption which that moral 
government embraces and develops. 

"As is the moon with the stars unto the' expanded 
firmament ; as are the well-ordered cities with their or- 
naments and fortifications to the woods and wilderness 
such is the Church to the rest of the world. The 
felicity of the Church is in the love of God, and its 



BAXTER'S TEACHING. 121 

blessed influence ; whose face is that sun which doth en- 
lighten and enliven it. If earth and sin had not caused 
a separation and eclipse, the world and the Church 
would have been the same, and this Church would have 
enjoyed an uninterrupted daylight. It is the earth that 
moveth and turneth from this sun, and not the sun's re- 
ceding from the earth, that brings our night. It is not 
God, but man, that lost his goodness ; nor is it necessary 
to our reparation that a change be made on Him, but 
on us. Christ came not into the world to make God 
better, but to make us better ; nor did He die to make 
Him more disposed to do good, but to dispose us to 
receive it. His purpose was not actually to change 
the mind of God, nor to incline Him to have mercy 
who before was disinclined, but to make the pardon 
of man's sin a thing convenient for the righteous and 
holy Governor of the world to bestow, without any 
impeachment of the honour of His wisdom, holiness, 
or justice; yea, to the more eminent glorifying of them 
all. Two things are requisite to make a man amiable 
in the eyes of God, and a fit object. for the Most Holy 
to take pleasure in : one is his suitableness to the 
holiness of God's nature ; the other respecteth his 
governing justice. We must, in this life, see God in 
the glass of the creature, and especially in a man that 
beareth His image. Were we holy, He would love us 
as a holy God; and were we innocent, He would 
encourage us as a righteous and bounteous Governor. 
But as there is no particular governing justice without 



122 RICHARD BAXTER. 

that universal natural justice which it pre-supposeth 
and floweth from, so can there be no such thing as 
innocency in us as subjects, which floweth not from 
a holiness of our natures as men. We must be good 
before we can live as the good. In both these respects 
man was amiable in the eyes of his Maker, till sin 
depraved him and deprived him of both. To both 
these must the Saviour again restore him ; and this is 
the work that He came into the world to do, even 
to seek and to save that which was doubly lost, and 
to destroy that twofold work of the devil, which hath 
drawn us to be both unholy and guilty. As in the fall 
the natural and real evil was antecedent to the relative 
guilt ; so is it in the good conferred in the reparation. 
We must, in order of nature, be first turned by repent- 
ance unto God, through faith in the Redeemer, and 
then receive the remission of our sins. As it was man 
himself that was the subject of that twofold unrighteous- 
ness, so it is man himself that must be restored to that 
twofold righteousness which he lost ; that is, sanctity and 
not-guiltiness. Christ came not to possess God with 
any false opinion of us, nor is He such a physician as 
to perform but a supposed or representative cure ; He 
came not to persuade His Father to judge us to be 
well, because He is well ; or to leave us uncured, and 
to persuade God that we are cured. It is that we 
were guilty and unholy j it is that we must be justi- 
fied or condemned, and therefore it is we that must 
be restored unto righteousness. If Christ only were 



BAXTER'S TEACHING. 123 

righteous, Christ only would be reputed and judged 
righteous, and Christ only would be happy. The Judge 
of the world will not justify the unrighteous, merely 
because another is righteous; nor can the holy God 
take complacency in an unholy sinner, because another 
is holy. Never did the blessed Son of God intend, in 
His dying or merits, to change the holy nature of His 
Father, and to cause Him to love that which is not 
lovely, or to reconcile Him to that which He abhorreth, 
as He is God. We must bear His own image, and 
be holy as He is holy, before He can approve us, or 
love us in complacency. This is the work of our 
blessed Redeemer, to make man fit for God's appro- 
bation and delight. Though we are the subjects, He 
is the cause. He regenerateth us, that He may pardon 
us ; and He pardoneth us, that He may further sanctify 
us, and make us fit for our Master's use. He will not 
remove our guilt till we return, nor will he accept our 
actual services till our guilt be removed. By super- 
natural operations must both be accomplished : a regress 
from such a privation as was our unholiness requireth 
a supernatural work upon us, and a deliverance from 
such guilt and deserved punishment requireth a super- 
natural operation for us. The one Christ effecteth in 
us by His sanctifying Spirit, through the instrumen- 
tality of His Word, as informing and exciting ; the 
other He effecteth by His own (and His Father's) will, 
through the instrumentality of His Gospel grant, by 
way of donation, making an universal conditional deed 



124 RICHARD BAXTER. 

of gift of Himself, and remission and right to glory, 
to all that return by repentance and faith. His blood 
is the meritorious cause of both, but not of both on 
the same account; for directly it was guilt only that 
made His blood necessary for our recovery. Had there 
been nothing to do but renew us by repentance and 
sanctification, this might have been done without any 
bloodshed, by the work of the word and the Spirit. 
God at first gave man his image freely, and did not 
sell it for a price of blood ; nor doth He so delight 
in blood, as to desire it, or accept it for itself, but for 
the ends which it must, as a convenient means, attain. 
Those ends are the demonstration, proximately, of His 
governing justice, in the vindication of the honour of 
His law and rule, and for the wrong of others ; ulti- 
mately and principally it is the demonstration of His 
natural sin-hating holiness, and His unspeakable love 
to the sons of men, but specially to His elect. In this 
sense was Christ a sacrifice and ransom, and may be 
truly said to have satisfied for our sins. He was not a 
sinner, nor so esteemed, nor could possibly take upon 
Himself the numerical guilt, which lay on us, nor yet a 
guilt of the same sort, as having not the same sort of 
foundation or efficient; ours arising from the merit of 
our sin and the commination of the law ; His being 
rather occasioned than merited by our sin, and occa- 
sioned by the laws threatening of us. He had neither 
sin of His own, nor merit of wrath from such sin, nor 
did the law oblige Him to suffer for our sins ; but He 



BAXTER'S TEACHING. 125 

obliged Himself to suffer for our sins, though not as 

in our persons strictly, yet in our stead in the person 
of a Mediator." 



CHAPTER X. 

BAXTER'S TEACHING, CONTINUED. 

MR. ORME, in his very complete account of the 
doctrinal works of Baxter, has remarked that the 
peculiar character of his mind, leading him often into 
unsuspected concession and intricate refinement, makes 
the task of any writer who desires to form a true estimate 
of Baxter as a doctrinal theologian exceedingly difficult. 
In early life he laid down in his " Aphorisms " many of 
the principles which he asserted from time to time in 
his more elaborate works. The book abounds in crude 
statements and harsh definitions. His account of the 
grounds of the Christian's title to forgiveness led to 
immediate controversy, 'and the general acceptance of 
the work was undoubtedly hindered by the introduction 
of some views of a purely speculative character. William 
Eyre, of Salisbury, attacked the book in a volume to 
which Owen wrote a preface. A more formidable answer 
was written by John Crandon. In his memoirs, Baxter 
speaks of these two writers in somewhat caustic terms. 
In what he calls " His Apology " there is a formal 
answer to his opponents. The beautiful conclusion of 
the dedication to General Whalley must be given in 
full : 



BAXTER'S TEACHING. 127 

" The work of these papers has been, to my mind, 
somewhat like those sad employments wherein I attended 
you : of themselves grievous and ungrateful, exasperating 
others and not pleasing ourselves. The remembrance of 
those years is so little delightful to me, that I look back 
upon them as the saddest part of my life ; so the review 
of this apology is but the renewing -of my trouble ; to 
think of our common frailty and darkness, and what 
reverend and much-valued brethren I contradict j but 
especially the fear lest men should make this collision 
an occasion of derision, and by receiving the sparks into 
combustible affections, should turn that to a conflagra- 
tion which I intended but for an illumination. If you 
say, I should then have let it alone, the same answer 
must serve as in the former case we were wont to use. 
Some say that I, who pretend so much for peace, should 
not write of controversies. For myself it is not much 
matter ; but must God's truth stand as a butt for every 
man to shoot at ? Must there be 'such liberty of oppos- 
ing it, and none of defending ? One party cannot have 
peace without the other's consent. To be buffeted and 
assaulted, and commanded to deliver up the truth of 
God, and called unpeaceable if I defend it and resist, 
this is such equity as we were wont to find. In a word, 
both works were ungrateful to me, and are so in the 
review ; but in both, as Providence and men's onset 
imposed a necessity and drove me to that strait, that I 
must defend or do worse, so did the same Providence 
clear my way, and draw me on, and sweeten unusual 



128 RICHARD BAXTER. 

troubles with unusual mercies, and issue all in testi- 
monies of grace, that as I had great mixtures of comfort 
with sorrow in the performance, so have I in the review ; 
and as I had more eminent deliverances, and other 
mercies, in those years and ways of blood and dolor, 
than in most of my life besides, so have I had more 
encouraging light since I was engaged in those contro- 
versies. For I speak not of these few papers only, but 
of many more of the like nature that have taken up my 
time; and as I still retained a hope that the end of all 
our calamities and strange disposings of Providence, 
would be somewhat better than was threatened of late, 
so experience hath taught me to think that the issue of 
my most ungrateful labours shall not be in vain ; but 
that Providence which extracted them hath some use to 
make of them better than I am yet aware of ; if not in 
this age, yet in times to come. The best is, we now 
draw no blood ; and honest hearts will not feel them- 
selves wounded with that blow which is only given to 
their errors. However, God must be served when He 
calls for it, though by the harshest and most unpleasing 
work. Only, the Lord teach us to watch carefully over 
our deceitful hearts, lest we should serve ourselves while 
we think and say we are serving Him; and lest we 
should militate for our own honour and interest, when 
we pretend to do it for His truth and glory ! I hope, 
sir, the diversity of opinions in these days will not 
diminish your estimation of Christianity, nor make you 
suspect that all is doubtful because so much is doubted 



BAXTER'S TEACHING. 129 

of. Though the tempter seems to be playing such a game 
in the world, God will go beyond him, and turn that to 
illustration and confirmation which he intended for con- 
fusion and extirpation of the truth. You know it is no 
news to hear of men, ignorant, proud, and licentious, of 
what religion soever they be ; this trinity is the creator 
of heresies. As for the sober and godly, it is but in 
lesser things that they disagree ; and mostly about words 
and methods more than matter, though the smallest 
things of God are not contemptible. He that wonders 
to see wise men differ, doth but wonder that they are yet 
imperfect, and know but in part ; that is, that they are 
yet mortal sinners, and not glorified on earth ! Such 
wonderers know not what man is, and are too great 
strangers to themselves. If they turn these differences 
to the prejudice of God's truth or dishonour of godliness, 
they show themselves yet more unreasonable than those 
who blame the sun that men are purblind ; and, indeed, 
were pride and passion laid aside in our disputes, if men 
could gently suffer contradiction and heartily love and 
correspond with those that in lower matters do gainsay 
them, I see not but such friendly debates might edify. 
For yourself, sir, as you were a friend to sound doctrine, 
to unity, and to piety, and to the preachers, defenders, 
and practisers thereof, while I conversed with you, and 
as fame informeth us, have continued such, so I hope 
that God, who hath so long preserved you, will preserve 
you to the end ; and He that hath been your shield in 
corporal dangers will be so in spiritual. Your great 



130 RICHARD BAXTER. 

warfare is not yet accomplished ; the worms of corruption 
that breed in us will live, in some measure, till we die 
ourselves. Your conquest of yourself is yet imperfect. 
To fight with yourself you will find the hardest but most 
necessary conflict that ever yet you were engaged in, and 
to overcome yourself the most honourable and gainful 
victory. Think not that your greatest trials are all over. 
Prosperity hath its peculiar temptations, by which it hath 
foiled many that stood unshaken in the storms of adver- 
sity. The tempter, who hath had you on the waves, will 
now assault you in the calm, and hath his last game to 
play on the mountain, till nature cause you to descend. 
Stand this charge, and you win the day." 

The career of Whalley, who was one of the judges, is 
recorded by Southey in the Quarterly Review. Before 
the Restoration he escaped to America, and was for many 
years in concealment. near the town of Hadley. There 
he died in 1688. Baxter published his "Confession of 
Faith" in 1655. It is from this treatise that some 
hardly justifiable inferences as to his theological position 
have been drawn. His extreme anxiety to do justice to 
both sides led some to claim him as a thorough-going 
Arminian, while there were others who were anxious to 
place him in the Calvinist camp. It would serve no 
good purpose even to attempt to disentangle these 
intricate questions. He was evidently sensitive on the 
subject of his orthodoxy, and in one or two of the 
occasional publications, which he sent forth in 1672 and 
some following years, he constantly recurs to the defini- 



BAXTER'S TEACHING. 131 

tions contained in the Protestant confessions, and de- 
clares his adherence to their expositions of doctrine. A 
folio volume of seven hundred pages appeared in 1675, 
with an astonishingly long title. It was upon Catholic 
theology, and in the preface there are some words 
of a touchingly personal character, which express very 
forcibly the temper and quality of what is perhaps the 
most* extraordinary of all his writings : 

" My mind being these years immersed in studies of 
this nature, .and having also long wearied myself in 
searching what fathers and schoolmen have said of such 
things before us, and -my genius abhorring confusions 
and equivocals, I came, by many years' longer study, to 
perceive that most of the doctrinal controversies among 
Protestants are far more about equivocal words than 
matter ; and it wounded my soul to perceive what work, 
both tyrannical and unskilful disputing clergymen had 
made these thirteen hundred years in the world ! Ex- 
perience, since the yera 1643, till this year 1675, natn 
loudly called me to repent of my own prejudices, 
sidings, and censurings of causes and persons not under- 
stood, and of all the miscarriages of my ministry and 
life, which have been thereby caused, and to make it my 
chief work to call men that are within my hearing to 
more peaceable thoughts, affections, and practices. And 
my endeavours have not been in vain, in that the 
ministers of the county where I lived were very many 
of such a peaceable temper, and a great number more 
through the land, by God's grace (rather than any 



132 RICHARD BAXTER. 

endeavours of mine), are so minded. But the sons of 
the cowl were exasperated the more against me, and 
accounted him to be against every man that called all 
men to love and peace, and was for no man as in a 
contrary way. And now looking daily in this posture, 
when God calleth me hence, summoned by an incurable 
disease to hasten all that ever I will do in this world ; 
being incapable of prevailing with the present Church 
disturbers, I do apply myself to posterity, leaving them 
the sad warning of their ancestors' distractions, as a 
pillar of salt, and acquainting them what I have found 
to be the cause of our calamities, and therein they will 
find the cure themselves." 

The extent of reading, and the remarkable subtlety of 
the author's mind, must strike every reader who attempts 
to make acquaintance with the contents of this volume. 
Occasionally he astonishes us with a passage of terse 
and aphoristic brevity, and it must be added not very 
seldom displays astounding powers of prolixity, es- 
pecially when dealing with metaphysicians to whom he 
is opposed. Those who make the experiment will fin^l 
here, as in all Baxter's writings, an undercurrent of the 
truest piety. A real love for his Saviour, as a personal 
friend with whom he took sweet counsel, is constantly 
and most touchingly manifested. Never was there a 
theologian who realized more completely the intense 
effect which a grasp of truth is intended to produce on 
the mind and the affections. Some will be reminded 
of the most glowing passages in the works of Anselm, 



BAXTER'S TEACHING. 133 

and will hardly assign an inferior place to Baxter, if a 
comparison can be fairly made between the great 
representative of mediaeval theology and the austere 
preacher of a restless and perplexed age. 

The only Latin work written by Baxter was the 
" Methodus Theologize Christianas." It appeared in 
1 68 1, and had been the occupation of many years. 
In nature and morality he saw the principle of a 
Divine Trinity or Unity. He revels in specu- 
lation. Much of the book is fanciful and extrava- 
gant, but justice has never been done to the 
metaphysical ability contained in many of its pages. 
Dean Mansel, whose judgment upon such a subject 
is unquestionable, rated the ability of Baxter in 
this book very highly. In the year 1691 Baxter 
published "An End of Doctrinal Controversies which 
have lately troubled the Churches, by Reconciling 
Explanation without much Disputing." The book is 
interesting as containing his last words on justification, 
good works, merit, and perseverance. But he does not 
add much to what he had already said upon these 
subjects. The conclusion of the preface is a sincere 
expression of his feeling on the subject of peace : " The 
glorious light will soon end all our controversies, and 
reconcile these who by unfeigned faith and love are 
united in the Prince of Peace, or Head, by love dwelling 
in God, and God in them. But false-hearted, malignant, 
carnal worldlings, that live in the fear of wrath and 
strife, will find, so dying, the woeful maturity of their 



134 RICHARD BAXTER. 

enmity to holy unity, love, and peace; and that the 
causeless shutting the true servants of Christ out of their 
churches, which should be the porch of heaven, is the 
way to be themselves shut out of the heavenly Jerusalem. 
If those that have long reproached me as unfit to be in 
their church, and said Ex uno disce onmes t with their 
leader, find any unsound or unprofitable doctrine here, 
I shall take it for a great favour to be confuted, even 
for the good of others excluded with me, when I am 
dead.-" . 

A review of Baxter's doctrinal writings will, it is 
thought, lead many to a far higher estimate of his power 
as a theologian than that which has been commonly held. 
The truth is, that his intense vigour in the practical 
treatment of the Christian life has obscured his fame 
as a doctrinal theologian. An admirable volume of 
selections might be made from the great folios which 
now lie undisturbed in the recesses of libraries; and 
passages, equal to any to be found in the works of 
Hooker and Bull, might be chosen to illustrate his 
profound appreciation of the real characteristics of 
Christian theology. 



CHAPTER XI. 

THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 

BAXTER appears as a casuist in the Directory which 
forms the first volume of the original edition of 
his practical works. It is a book of mental and moral 
anatomy. He surveys the field of private duty, 
economics, or family duties, and touches on Church 
order and politics. It is in all respects modelled ac- 
cording to the fashion of the regular writers upon 
casuistry, and simply exhibits in detail the astonishing 
fashion for dissecting human life, so characteristic of the 
seventeenth century. Calvin at Geneva had attempted 
to map out and order human duty with a rigour entirely 
impossible under the ordinary conditions of society. 
The same spirit appears in the thorough-going casuists 
of the Church of Rome. Baxter was not a whit behind 
in his effort to subdue and control human nature. He 
would have had, if he had been permitted, an almost 
martial law in every parish, and cases of conscience 
would have been determined like actions about petty 
thefts. His notions as to the liberty of the subject were 
as narrow and constrained as those of the Jesuits ; and 
it is impossible to read pages of the Directory without 



136 RICHARD BAXTER. 

perceiving that he would have gone as far, in the 
doctrine of divine right and passive obedience, as Filmer 
himself. 

It is pleasant to pass from the exaggerated details 
of a work such as this, to the practical theology which 
still preserves Baxter's name. In this department he 
stands almost alone. Others before him have dealt with 
exposition and practical teaching, but it is difficult to 
find before Baxter's time any writings which spoke so 
directly to the conscience as " The Call to the Uncon- 
verted," and the various smaller treatises still dear to 
the lovers of fervent and persuasive exhortations. 

Mr. Orme has well said, " that Baxter's severity never 
partakes of the nature of misanthropy. He never seems 
to take pleasure in wounding. He employs the knife 
with an unsparing hand ; but that hand always appears 
to be guided by a tender, sympathizing heart." These 
words exactly express the peculiar distinction of Baxter's 
practical teaching. His pages seem to glow with the 
love for souls which even his bitterest enemies were 
ready to declare that he possessed. An admirable 
instance of this spirit is contained in the dedication 
of his treatise of Conversion, to the inhabitants of the 
borough and foreign of Kidderminster. One sentence 
may be quoted ; as it fully expresses the desire of his 
heart : " I have earnestly besought you, and begged of 
you to return, and if I had tears at command, I should 
have mixed all these exhortations with my tears ; and if 
I had but time and strength (as I have not), I should 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 137 

have made bold to have come once more to you, and sit 
with you in your houses, and entreated you on the behalf 
of your souls, even twenty times for once that I have 
entreated you." 

In this book there is a remarkable apology for the 
plainness and simplicity of his style. Compliments, he 
says, are not needed, " when we run to quench a com- 
mon fire : " and again, " If we see a man fall into fire or 
water, we stand not upon mannerliness in plucking him 
out, but lay hands upon him as we can, without delay." 

It was at Archbishop Usher's request that Baxter wrote 
upon the subject of Conversion. He mentions this in 
his preface to the famous " Call to the Unconverted." 
Admirable as much of this well-known book is, it does 
not possess the intense fervour of a tract, called " Now 
or Never ; " by far the best specimen of Baxter's most 
impassioned manner. 

"The Call," however, has enjoyed an extraordinary 
popularity. There is nothing to equal the remarkable 
knowledge of character shown in the caustic portraits of 
William Law; but there is often in Baxter's pages an 
evidence of real knowledge of the human heart, and a 
power of dissecting motives only to be found in the 
writings of those who had real acquaintance with the 
excuses men often make for themselves in the province 
of religious life. It has been said that Baxter under- 
values the power of the will, and is too apt to regard the 
work of conversion as entirely proceeding from God. It 
must be remembered, however, that he often had in his 



138 RICHARD BAXTER. 

mind the dry didactic treatises of his age, some written 
by Puritans, and some by very different persons, in which 
the cultivation of the religious affections was often treated 
in a dry and mechanical fashion. 

"The Mischiefs of Self-ignorance, and the Benefits 
of Self-acquaintance," opened in divers sermons at St. 
Dunstan's, is a very pleasing specimen of Baxter's 
practical writings. It is interesting, also, as giving us a 
glimpse of Baxter's relations with some great people. 
The book is dedicated to the Countess of Balcarras, 
whose life forms the subject of an interesting mono- 
graph by the late Lord Crawford. We give Baxter's own 
account of the lady : 

"She was daughter to the late Earl of Seaforth, in 
Scotland, towards the Highlands, and was married to 
the Earl of Balcarras, a Covenanter, but an enemy to 
Cromwell's perndiousness, and true to the person and 
authority of the king. With the Earl of Glencarne, he 
kept up the late war for the king against Cromwell; 
and his lady, through dearness of affection, marched 
with him, and lay, out of doors with him on the 
mountains. At last Cromwell drove them out of Scot- 
land, and they went together beyond sea to the king, 
whom they long followed. He was taken for the head 
of the Presbyterians with the king ; but, by evil in- 
struments, he fell out with the Lord Chancellor, who, 
prevailing against him upon some advantage, he was for 
a time forbidden the Court ; the grief whereof, added to 
the distempers he had contracted by his warfare on the 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 139 

cold and hungry mountains, cast him into a consumption, 
of which he died. He was a lord of excellent learning, 
judgment, and honesty, none being praised equally with 
him for learning and understanding in all Scotland. 
When the Earl of Lauderdale (his near kinsman and 
great friend) was prisoner in Portsmouth and Windsor 
Castle, he fell into acquaintance with my books, and so 
valued them that he read them all, and took notes of 
them, and earnestly commended them to the Earl of 
Balcarras then with the king. The earl met, at the first 
sight, with some passages where he thought I spoke too 
favourably of the Papists, and differed from many other 
Protestants ; so he cast them by, and sent the reason of 
his distaste to the Earl of Lauderdale, who pressed him 
but to read one of the books over ; which he did, and 
then read them all (as I have seen many of them 
marked with his hand), and was drawn to over-value 
them more than the Earl of Lauderdale. Thereupon 
his lady reading them also, and being a woman of 
very strong love and friendship, with extraordinary 
entireness swallowed up in her husband's love, she, for 
the book's sake, and her husband's sake, became a most 
affectionate friend to me, before she ever saw me. While 
she was in France, being zealous for the king's restora- 
tion (in whose cause her husband had pawned and 
ruined his estate), by the Earl of Lauderdale's direction, 
she, with Sir Robert Murray, got divers letters from the 
pastors and others there to bear witness of the king's 
sincerity in the Protestant religion ; among which there 



I 4 o RICHARD BAXTER. 

was one to me from Mr. Caches. Her great wisdom, 
modesty, piety, and sincerity, made her accounted the 
saint at Court. When she came over with the king, her 
extraordinary respect obliged me to be so often with her 
as gave me acquaintance with her eminency in all the 
foresaid virtues. She was of solid understanding for her 
sex, of prudence much more than ordinary ; of great 
integrity and constancy in her religion ; a great hater of 
hypocrisy ; and faithful to Christ in an unfaithful world. 
She was somewhat over-affectionate to her friends, which 
hath cost her a great deal of sorrow in the loss of her 
husband, and since of other special friends ; and may 
cost her more, when the rest forsake her, as many in 
prosperity do to those that will not forsake their fidelity 
to Christ. Her eldest son, the young Earl of Balcarras, 
a very hopeful youth, died of a strange disease ; two 
stones being found in his heart, of which one was very 
great. Being my constant auditor, and over-respectful 
friend, I had occasion for the just praises and acknow- 
ledgments which I have given her ; which the occasion- 
ing of these books hath caused me to mention." 

The Countess Anna was no ordinary person. In an age 
of disquiet she enjoyed the friendship of many eminent 
people, who espoused different sides in the great contest 
of the time. When her daughter joined the Church of 
Rome, we find her consulting Bishop Gunning, and 
afterwards Baxter, who wrote a letter upon the subject 
tinged with some asperity. Her feeling for Baxter was 
most affectionate. " Mr Baxter's picture " occupied an 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 141 

honourable place on her walls, and when she had married 
her second husband, the unfortunate Earl of Argyll, she 
continued to maintain friendly relations with many of the 
divines of the period. Lord Crawford's words are well 
worth quoting : " Her sympathy was, like the Apostle's, 
with all who loved the Lord Jesus with sincerity. If 
Baxter was her personal friend in one direction, Dr. 
Earles, the excellent Dean of Westminster and Bishop of 
Salisbury whose 'innocent wisdom,' l sanctified learn- 
ing,' and 'pious, peaceable temper,' are the theme of 
Isaac Walton's eulogy was, as we have seen, her ' old 
kind friend,' on the other ; and if the ' Divine Life,' and 
'Saint's Rest,' were dear to her alike from their subject 
and their author, the writings of Robert Boyle and 
Isaac Barrow were equally objects of her admiring 
familiarity. Nothing indeed is more remarkable than 
the mutual understanding and cordiality, and even the 
affection, which we constantly find to have subsisted in 
those days between individuals belonging to parties in 
Church and State which we are accustomed in the retro- 
spect to consider as at deadly enmity. As partisans, 
doubtless, they would have fought a routrance when 
arrayed in the opposing ranks of polemical or political 
controversy ; but in their individual relations, in the 
intercourse of life, they seem to have thought more of the 
points of agreement than those of difference, and found 
those points a sufficient basis for a common and kindly 
understanding." 

It is worth remembering that the generous catholicity 



H2 RICHARD BAXTER. 

of spirits, so evident in the account of Baxter's rela- 
tions with Sir Matthew Hale and Robert Boyle, was 
not only the characteristic of his later days, but may 
be said to be a governing principle, even in the troubled 
times of his earlier life, when, like Falkland, in the midst 
of trouble he sighed for peace. 

When we consider the extraordinary personal labours 
of Baxter, in the days of his pastoral activity, the mere 
catalogue of his various works is most astonishing. He 
wrote on the advancement of the spiritual life again 
and again. His " Method for Settled Peace of Con- 
science, and Spiritual Comfort," was suggested by his 
experience at Kidderminster. It was dedicated to 
Colonel and. Mrs. Bridges, and Mr. and Mrs. Foley, 
wealthy members of his flock. Colonel Bridges, indeed, 
was the patron of the living. Dr. Hammond, he tells 
us, was pleased with the book. 

From an assize sermon preached at Worcester, we 
derive one of the most remarkable passages of Baxter's 
hortatory style. Often as this life has been likened to a 
stage and its actors, it has been seldom more tersely 
described than in the following words : " It is but like 
children's games, where all is done in jest, and which 
wise men account not worthy their observance. It is 
but like the acting of a comedy, while great persons and 
actions are personated and counterfeited ; and a pompous 
stir there is for a while, to please the foolish spectators, 
that themselves may be pleased by their applause, and 
then they come down and the sport is ended, and they 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 143 

are as they were. It is but like a puppet play, where 
there is great doings to little purpose ; or like the busy 
gadding of the laborious ants, to gather together a little 
sticks and straw, which the spurn of man's foot will 
soon disperse." 

The last quotation, illustrative of Baxter's powers as a 
preacher, which we shall make, is also taken from this 
remarkable sermon : 

" Honourable, worshipful, and all well-beloved, it is 
a weighty employment that occasioned! your meeting 
here to-day. The estates and lives of men are in your 
hands. But it is another kind of judgment which you 
are all hastening towards : where judges and juries, the 
accusers and accused, must all appear upon equal terms, 
for the final decision of a far greater cause. The case 
that is to be there and then determined, is not whether 
you shall have lands or no lands, life or no life (in our 
natural sense), but whether you shall have heaven or 
hell, salvation or damnation, an endless life of glory 
with God and the Redeemer, and the angels of heaven, 
or an endless life of torment with devils and ungodly 
men. As sure as you now sit on those seats, you shall 
shortly all appear before the Judge of all the world, 
and there receive an irreversible sentence, to an un- 
changeable state of happiness or misery. This is the 
great business that should presently call up your most 
serious thoughts, and set all the powers of your souls on 
work for the most effectual preparation ; that if you are 
men, you may quit yourselves like men, for the prevent- 



144 RICHARD BAXTER, 

ing of that dreadful doom which unprepared souls must 
then expect. The greatest of your secular affairs are 
but dreams and toys to this. Were you at every assize 
to determine causes of no lower value than the crowns 
and kingdoms of the monarchs of the eiirth, it were but 
as children's games to this. If any man of you believe 
not this, he is worse than the devil that tempteth him 
to unbelief; and let him know that unbelief is no pre- 
vention, nor will put off the day, or hinder his appear- 
ance, but ascertain his condemnation at that appearance. 
He that knows the law and the fact may know before 
your assize what will become of every prisoner, if the 
proceedings be all just, as in our case they will certainly 
be. Christ will judge according to His laws; know, 
therefore, whom the law condemneth or justifieth, and 
you may know whom Christ will condemn or justify. 
And seeing all this is so, doth it not concern us all to 
make a speedy trial of ourselves in preparation to this 
final trial ? 

"I shall for your own sakes, therefore, take the bold- 
ness, as the officer of Christ, to summon you to appear 
before yourselves, and keep an assize this day in your 
own souls, and answer at the bar of conscience, to what 
shall be charged upon you. Fear not the trial; for 
it is not conclusive, final, or a peremptory, irreversible 
sentence that must now pass. Yet slight it not ; for it 
is a necessary preparative to that which is final and 
irreversible. Consequentially it may prove a justifying 
accusation, an absolving condemnation, and if you 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 145 

proceed to execution, a saving, quickening death, which 
I am now persuading you to undergo. 

"The whole world is divided into two sorts of men : 
one that love God above all, and live for Him ; and the 
other that love the flesh and world above all, and live to 
them. One that seek first the kingdom of God and His 
righteousness ; another that seek first the things of this 
life. One that mind and savour the things of the flesh and 
of man, the other that mind and savour most the things 
of the Spirit and of God. One that account all things 
dung and dross that they may win Christ ; another that 
make light of Christ in comparison of their business and 
riches and pleasures in the world. One that live by sight 
and sense upon present things ; another that live by faith 
upon things invisible. One that have their conversation 
in heaven, and live as strangers upon earth ; another 
that mind earthly things, and are strangers to heaven. 
One that have in resolution forsaken all for Christ, and 
the hopes of a treasure in heaven ; another that resolve 
to keep somewhat here, though they venture and forsake 
the heavenly reward, and will go away sorrowful that 
they cannot have both. One that being born of the 
flesh is but flesh ; the other that being born of the Spirit 
is spirit. One that live as without God in the world ; 
the other that live as without the seducing world in God, 
and in and by the subservient world to God. One that 
have ordinances and means of grace, as if they had 
none ; the other that have houses, lands, wives, as if 
they had none. One that believe as if they believed 

L 



146 RICHARD BAXTER. 

not, and love God as if they loved Him not. and pray as 
if they prayed not, as if the fruit of these were but 
a shadow ; the other that weep as if they wept not, for 
worldly things, and rejoice as if they rejoiced not. One 
that have Christ as not possessing Him, and use Him 
and His name as but abusing them ; the other that buy 
as if they possessed not, and use the world as not 
abusing it. One that draw near to God with their lips, 
when their hearts are far from Him ; the other that 
corporally converse with the world, when their hearts are 
far from it. One that serve God who is a Spirit, with 
carnal service, and not in spirit and in truth ; the other 
that use the world itself spiritually, and not in a carnal, 
worldly manner. In a word, one sort are children of 
this world ; the other are the children of the world to 
come, and heirs of the heavenly kingdom. One sort 
have their portion in this life ; and the other have God 
for their portion. One sort have their good things in 
this lifetime, and their reward here ; the other have their 
evil things in this life, and live in hope of the everlasting 
reward." 

In the treatise on Self-denial there are many evidences 
of the effect produced on Baxter's mind by the multipli- 
cation of jangling sects. He cannot see any remedy 
for the miserable dissensions which were separating 
brethren in the faith, and he betrays in many pages his 
discontent and uneasiness. In "The Life of Faith," 
dedicated to the son of John Hampden, we have the 
substance of the celebrated sermon of three hours, 



1'HE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 147 

preached before the king, and it must be confessed that 
the monarch might well have been excused for the 
expressions he is said to have used. The sermon is 
tiresome and utterly unsuitable for the occasion. 

It is impossible to give any detailed account of the 
various efforts made by Baxter to restore peace to Chris- 
tendom. Like many writers who have devised schemes 
of comprehension, he made no allowance for the pre- 
judices and prepossessions of men. He forgot that there 
are very few in any age who really desire to discover 
what are the true and essential doctrines of the Faith, 
and that men are for the most part too much occupied 
with the petty controversies of the hour to devote atten- 
tion to that which is really permanent in Christianity. 
With Stillingfleet, who had written in the earlier part of 
his life an Irenicum conceding much to Nonconformist 
feeling, Baxter had a long and protracted controversy, 
Stillingfleet, as is well known, departed from the compre- 
hensive attitude of his earlier work; and the publication 
of his "Mischief of Separation," in 1680, was the 
signal for a general debate upon the subject of Church 
government. Many painful things were said and done 
in the course of this controversy, but those who have 
time to devote attention to it will be surprised to find 
indirect statements of Baxter maintaining many of the 
positions advanced by Hooker in his defence of the 
peculiar attitude of the Church of England. 

Some mention must be made of Baxter's efforts in 
poetry. James Montgomery, no mean critic, has de 



148 RICHARD BAXTER. 

scribed the volume of poetical fragments as " inestim- 
able for its piety, and far above mediocrity in many 
passages of its poetry." The volume was first published 
in 1 68 1, and the title expresses its contents well : 
" The Concordant Discord of a Broken, Healed Heart ; 
sorrowing, rejoicing, fearing, hoping, living, dying." 
The following extract, in which he describes the charac- 
ter of the book, is a touching commentary on Baxter's 
married life : 

''These poetical fragments," he says, "except three 
heretofore printed, were so far from being intended for 
the press, that they were not allowed the sight of many 
private friends, nor thought worthy of it ; only, had I 
had time and heart to have finished the first, which 
itself, according to the nature and designed method, 
would have made a volume far bigger than all this, 
being intended as a thankful historical commemoration 
of all the notable passages of my life, I should have 
published it as the most self-pleasing part of my writings. 
But, as they were mostly written in various passions, so 
passion hath now thrust them out into the world. God, 
having taken away the dear companion of the last nine- 
teen years of my life, as her sorrows and sufferings long 
ago gave being to some of these poems, for reasons 
which the world is not concerned to know ; so my 
grief for her removal, and the revived sense of former 
things, have prevailed with me to be passionate in the 
open sight of all." 

Some years afterwards he published additions to the 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 149 

fragments, and after his death Sylvester gave to the 
world a paraphrase of the Psalms. Interest always 
attaches to the poetical efforts of prose writers. In 
many of the voluminous writings of Baxter we come 
upon passages of pathos and expression, which would 
lead us to suppose that in rhyme and metre he would 
be far from deficient. But the truth is, that Baxter's 
poetical works bear tokens of the influence of Herbert 
and Donne, and are often cramped and full of conceits. 
A dialogue between " Death and a Believer " is a striking 
instance of the influence of Donne. The dialogue 
between " Flesh and Spirit " is more happy. Our first 
extract shall be taken from " The Resolution." 

' ' As for my friends, they are not lost : 

The several vessels of thy fleet, 
Though parted now by tempests tost, 

Shall safely in the haven meet. 
Still we are centred all in Thee ; 

Members, though distant, of one head, 
In the same family we be, 

By the same faith and Spirit led. 
Before the throne we daily meet, 

As joint petitioners to Thee ; 
In spirit we each other greet, 

And shall again each other see. 
The heavenly hosts, world without end, 

Shall be my company above ; 
And Thou, my best, my surest Friend, 

Who shall divide me from Thy love ? " 

There is a singular beauty of a severe and chastened 
character in " The Valediction." Archbishop Trench 



150 RICHARD BAXTER. 

has given it a place in his choice " Household Book of 
English Poetry." All who do not know it already will 
be glad to make acquaintance with its solemn strain. 
The grandeur of the opening portion cannot be said to 
be sustained throughout the poem, but the whole piece 
possesses a charm which belongs to some of the severer 
strains of old religious music : 

" Vain world, what is in thee ? 
What do poor mortals see, 
Which should esteemed be 

Worthy their pleasure ? 
Is it the mother's womb, 
Or sorrows which soon come, 
Or a dark grave and tomb, 

Which is their treasure ? 
How dost thou man deceive 

By thy vain glory ? 
Why do they still believe 
Thy false history ? 

Is it children's book and rod, 
The labourer's heavy load, 
Poverty undertrod, 

The world desireth ? 
Is it distracting cares, 
Or heart-tormenting fear?, 
Or pining grief and tears, 

Which man requireth ? 
Or is it youthful rage, 

Or childish toying ; 
Or is decrepit age 

Worth man's enjoying? 

Is it deceitful wea'th, 

Got by care, fraud, or stealth, 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER. 151 

Or short, uncertain health, 

Which thus befool men ? 
Or do the serpent's lies 
By the world's flatteries 
And tempting vanities 

Still overrule them ? 
Or do they in a dream 

Sleep out their season ? 
Or borne down by lust's stream, 

Which conquers reason ? 



The silly lambs to-day 
Pleasantly skip and play, 
Whom butchers mean to slay 
Perhaps to-morrow ; 
In a more brutish sort 
Do careless sinners sport, 
Or in dead sleep still snort 

As near to sorrow ; 
Till life, not well begun, 

Be sadly ended, 
And the web they have spun 

Can ne'er be mended. 



What is the time that's gone, 
And what is that to come ? 
Is it now as none ? 

The present stays not. 
Time posteth, oh how fast ! 
Unwelcome death makes haste ; 
None can call back what 's past 

Judgment delays not. 
Though God bring in the light, 

Sinners awake not ; 
Because hell 's out of sight 
They sin forsake not. 



152 RICHARD BAXTER. 

Man walks in a vain show ; 
They know, yet will not know ; 
Sit still, when they should go ; 
But run for shadows ; 
While they might taste and know 
The living streams that flow, 
And crop the flowers that grow 

In Christ's sweet meadow; 
Life's better slept away 

Than as they use it ; 
In sin and drunken play 

Vain men abuse it. 



Malignant world, adieu ! 
Where no foul vice is new 
Only to Satan true, 

God still offended ; 
Though taught and warned by God, 
And His chastising rod, 
Keeps still the way that's broad, 

Never amended. 
Baptismal vows some make, 

But ne'er perform them ; 
If angels from heaven spake, 

'Twould not reform them. 



They dig for hell beneath, 
They labour hard for death, 
Run themselves out of breath 

To overtake it. 
Hell is not had for nought, 
Damnation's clearly bought, 
And with great labour sought ; 

They'll not forsake it. 



THE PRACTICAL TEACHER, 153 

Their souls are Satan's fee 

He'll not abate it; 
Grace is refused that's free, 

Mad sinners hate it. 



Is this the world men choose, 
For which they heaven refuse, 
And Christ and grace abuse, 
And not receive it ? 
Shall I not guilty be 
Of this in some degree, 
If hence God would me free, 

And I'd not have it ? 
My soul, from Sodom fly, 

Lest wrath there find thee ; 
Thy refuge-rest is nigh ; 

Look not behind thee ! 

There's none of this ado, 
None of the hellish crew. 
God's promise is most true, 

Boldly believe it. 
My friends are gone before, 
And I am near the shore ; 
My soul stands at the door, 

O Lord, receive it ! 
It trusts Christ and His merits, 

The dead He raises ; 
Join it with blessed spirits, 
Who sing Thy praises." 

In the lives of saintly men and women nothing is 
more remarkable than the combination so often found 
of a deep and almost oppressive sense of sin with an 
intense realization of true joy. Again and again do we 



154 KTCPTARD BAXTER. 

find in Baxter's writings instances of this strange but not 
unnatural union. It may seem far-fetched to compare 
Baxter once more with St. Anselm, perhaps the most 
attractive figure in early English Church history. But 
those who are acquainted with the meditations and 
letters of that great man, will often be struck with the 
similarity of thought, and even sometimes of expression. 
The great mediaeval Churchman, who has impressed upon 
at least one great doctrine of the faith the dogmatic 
character of his intellect, was fully alive to all the sweeter 
influences of life, had an eye for nature in her sweetest 
moods, loved the common things of beauty, and the 
songs of birds. With him these things dwelt, and gave 
interest and life to the gloom of the cloister and the 
turmoil of political strife. Baxter, too, in his poetry, 
and in various passages of his prose writings, felt these 
influences to be a part of the life of the soul. His 
highest aspiration went, to use the phrase* of his time, 
God-ward. As he expresses himself nobly in "The 
Saint's Rest " : " As the lark sings sweetly while she soars 
on high, but is suddenly silenced when she falls to the 
earth ; so is the frame of the soul most delightful and 
divine while it keepeth God in view by contemplation. 
But, alas ! we make there too short a stay, and lay by 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 

IN an age of haste and unrest, it is almost necessary 
to state distinctly the reasons for assigning a high 
place to Baxter among men worth remembering. 
Barrow certainly uttered a high encomium when he said 
that his practical writings were never mended, and his 
controversial ones seldom confuted. The opinion of 
Doddridge is also well known. He particularly dwells 
on the effect of the " Reformed Pastor " on the spirit of 
men devoted to the ministry. Baxter, he declares, was 
his particular favourite : " It is impossible to tell you 
how much I am charmed with the devotion, good sense, 
and pathos which is everywhere to be found in him." 
Few utterances as to Baxter's writings excel the saying 
of Dr. Bates, that " there is a vigorous pulse in them 
that keeps the reader awake and attentive." He was a 
favourite of Addison ; and Johnson's rather too in- 
dulgent reply to BoswelPs question what works of Baxter 
he should read, " Read any of them, for they are all 
good," is well known. William Wilberforce, who to his 
many virtues and accomplishments added a fine critical 
taste, admired and loved Baxter as one of the greatest 



1 5$ RICHARD BAXTER. 

of practical divines. Mr. Hunt, in our own day, has well 
said that he represented the spirit of his century more 
than any other single man, both in its weakness and its 
strength. The leading characteristic of his life and his 
writings is his perfect veracity. About this there can be 
no possible mistake. It inspired his earliest and his 
latest effusions. He had a consuming desire to attain 
truth. His words upon this subject might almost form 
mottoes for works devoted to the acquisition of science 
in any of its departments. 

Dean Stanley, in his admirable address, delivered in 
the scene of Baxter's labours, has selected some sentences 
scattered through Baxter's writings. If they stood alone, 
as all that remained to tell us what Baxter really was, 
they are sufficient to justify the very warmest eulogy 
of the most ardent disciple. He says, "He that can 
see God in all things, and hath all his life sanctified 
by the love of God, will above all men value each 
particle of knowledge of which such holy use may be 
made, as we value every grain of gold." " Every degree 
of knowledge tendeth to more, and every known truth 
befriendeth others, and like fire tendeth to the spread- 
ing of our knowledge to all neighbour truths that are 
intelligible." " Look to all things, or to as many as 
possible. When half is unknown, the other half is not 
half known." "Truth is so dear a friend, and He 
that sent it so much more dear, that whatever I suffer 
I dare not stifle or conceal it." "As long as you are 
uncertain, profess yourselves uncertain ; and if men 



THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 157 

condemn you for your ignorance when you are willing 
to know the truth, so will not God; but when you 
are certain, resolve in the strength of God, and hold 
fast whatever it costs you, even to the death, and 
never fear being losers by God, by His truth, or by 
fidelity in your duty." That strain, indeed, is of a 
higher mood than the cant of the mere theological 
disputant. It is the strain of Luther or of Locke. It 
is the rebuke to the cowardly panics of our religious 
world; it is the rebuke to the cynical indifference of 
our scientific world ; from one who, had he lived in our 
days, would, alike in the pulpit and the lecture room, 
have opened upon us that consuming fire of his love for 
truth which, as he says, " he could not keep secret to 
himself, shut up in his heart and bones." 

What Sir James Stephen has well called his "omni- 
vorous appetite," has certainly been an impediment to the 
due appreciation of Baxter's literary position. The world 
is slow to believe that a man can attain excellence in 
many departments of literature. But of Baxter it may 
be said that every fresh discovery of works, hitherto 
partially or altogether unknown, as his composition, 
discloses a fresh view of his integrity and sincerity. 

Some years ago, Mr. Grosart, who has done so much 
for English literature and theology, reprinted a tractate 
so rare as to excite the cupidity of eager bibliomaniacs. 
"The Grand Question Solved" well deserves Mr. 
Grosart's praise, when he declares that it "has all its 
saintly author's best characteristics." Extracts, indeed, 



158 RICHARD BAXTER. 

from this little work would go far to prove, in spite of 
the declarations of many in these days, that it is still 
possible for those who desire it to communicate the great 
truths enshrined in the Ten Commandments, the Lord's 
Prayer, and the Apostles' Creed, in such a form as to 
unite, without any injury to the distinctiveness of Chris- 
tian verity, those who are often separated from each other 
in acts of worship. His desire for comprehension, and 
for real unit}-, was the governing motive of Baxter's 
later career. He anticipated much that has been written 
in modern days ; and when the miserable condition of a 
divided Christendom ever comes home with proper force 
to the minds of thoughtful and meditative students, 
sentences will be extracted from Baxter's review of his 
own life, which will throw light upon many a wrangle 
and dispel many a cloud. True lovers of peace will 
always delight in aphorisms such as these : " Acquaint 
yourselves with healing truths j and labour to be as 
skilful in the work of pacifying and agreeing men, as 
most are in the work of dividing and disagreeing. 
Know it to be a part of your Catholic work to be peace- 
makers, and therefore study how to do it as a workman 
that needeth not to be ashamed. I think most divines 
themselves in the world do study differences a hundred 
hours for one hour that ever they study the healing of 
differences ; and that is a shameful disproportion. Do not 
bend all your wits to find what more may be said against 
others, and to make the differences' as wide as you can, 
but study as hard to find out men's agreements, and 



THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 159 

to reduce the differences to. as narrow a compass as is 
possible. And to that end be sure that you see the true 
state of the controversy, and distinguish all that is merely 
verbal from that which is material ; and that which is 
but about methods and modes and circumstances from 
that which is about substantial truths; and that which 
is about the inferior truths, though mighty, from that 
which is about the essentials of Christianity. Be as 
industrious for peace among others, as if you smarted 
by it yourself; seek it, and beg it, and follow it, and 
take no nay. Make it the work of your lives. Lay the 
unity of the Church upon nothing but what is essential 
to the Church. Seek after as much truth, and purity, 
and perfection as you can, but not as necessary to the 
essence of the Church, or any member of it ; nor to 
denominate and specify your faith and religion by. 
Tolerate no error or sin so far as not to seek the heal- 
ing of it ; but tolerate all error and sin consisting with 
Christian faith and charity, so far as not to unchristian 
and unchurch men for them. Own no man's errors or 
sins, but own every man that owneth Christ, and whom 
Christ will own, notwithstanding those errors and in- 
firmities that he is guilty of. Bear with those that 
Christ will bear with ; especially learn the master duty 
of self-denial, for it is self that is the greatest enemy 
to Catholicism." 

But it was not only as a lover of truth and compre- 
hension that many among the best of his own genera- 
tion prized him ; even in his day there were a few 



160 RICHARD BAXTER. 

who saw clearly that a man need not necessarily be 
a traitor to the faith who entertained some doubts as to 
the genuineness and authenticity of certain portions of 
Holy Writ. The passage which seemed too broad for 
the timid believers of a past generation, and was, indeed, 
omitted from many editions of " The Saint's Rest," has a 
special interest for us at this time : 

" Though all Scripture be of Divine authority, yet he 
that believeth but some one book, which contained! the 
doctrine of the substance of salvation, may be saved ; 
much more they that have doubted but of some par- 
ticular books. They that take the Scripture to be but 
the writings of godly, honest men, and so to be only a 
means of making known Christ, having a gradual pre- 
cedency to the writings of other godly men. and do 
believe in Christ upon those strong grounds which are 
drawn from His doctrine, miracles, etc., rather than 
upon the testimony of the writing, as being purely 
infallible and Divine, may yet have a Divine and saving 
faith. Much more those that believe the whole writing 
to be of Divine inspiration where it handleth the sub- 
stance, but doubt whether God infallibly guided them 
in every circumstance. And yet more, those that be- 
lieve that the Spirit did guide the writers to truth, both 
in substance and circumstance, but doubt whether He 
guided them in orthography, or whether their pens 
were as perfectly guided as their minds. And yet more 
may those have saving faith who only doubt whether 
Providence infallibly guided any transcribers or printers, 



THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 161 

so as to retain any copy that perfectly agreeth with the 
autograph." 

It is not intended to press this point further. No 
one is likely to maintain the paradox that Baxter had 
foresight sufficient to see the direction of modern 
criticism. All that can be contended is, that he grew 
in love and freedom, and that the spiritual wealth 
of his treasure-house increased as he gathered from 
all sources testimonies to the enduring force of the 
vital principles of the simplest of the creeds, and the 
spirit of the Apostolic and early Church. 

As a controversialist he had the faults of his age. 
He was often peevish and unfair. His credulity on the 
matters of sorcery and witchcraft he shared with all the 
men of his generation. It is needless to dwell at length 
on the often amusing details on these subjects, which 
may be culled from his writings. The tobacco pipe 
which had the habit of moving itself from a shelf at one 
end of the room, can be easily matched in many of the 
memoirs of his time. All lovers of his character would 
rather dwell on that " love to the souls of men " which 
one of his friends declared was the peculiar character of 
Mr. Baxter's spirit. Two sentences, which express the 
most intense desire of his soul, ought to be laid to heart 
by all who sigh for unity : "I would as willingly be a 
martyr for charity as for faith ; " and again, " I would 
rather be a martyr for love than for any other article 
of the Christian creed." 

The portraits of Baxter hardly represent him, as Bates 

M 



162 RICHARD BAXTER. 

declared, with a countenance somewhat inclining to a 
smile. They are marked by the austerity and repres- 
sion which most men associate with his character. It is 
indeed said that he was somewhat ungracious in his 
address ; yet it is impossible to think that he who wrote 
the touching pages of " The Breviate " did not at 
times unbend and relax. The Rev. Edward Bradley, 
who contributed some interesting papers some years 
ago to the Leisure Hour, has carefully compared and 
estimated the various portraits of Baxter, and speaks 
of one engraved by Caldewell, for " Palmer's Memo- 
rials," as full of character no less than of kindness. 

In the place where he ministered so faithfully, the 
pulpit from which he preached, the copy of "The 
Saint's Rest" presented by Baxter to the corporation, 
and various relics, are still carefully preserved. On 
the fly leaf of "The Saint's Rest," in the handwriting of 
the divine, stands the following sentence : " This Booke 
being Devoted, as to the service of the Church of Christ 
in generall, so more especially to the Church at Kider- 
minster j the Author desireth that this Coppy may be 
still ill the custody e of the high BaylirTe, and intreateth 
them carefully to Read and Practice it, and beseecheth 
the Lord to blesse it to their true Reformation, Con- 
solation, and Salvation. RICH. BAXTER." It was not, 
however, until our own day that a statue of an impres- 
sive and interesting kind was erected in the town which 
owed so much to him. It would be impossible to omit 
the beautiful close of Dean Stanley's address from this 



THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 163 

sketch of Baxter's character : " His tall, commanding 
figure, his gaunt features, by the art of the sculptor, are 
once more seen among us. They now recall something 
higher and more universal even than his efforts after 
union, or his struggles for liberty. He and his works 
have entered into that everlasting rest for which he so 
longed. He has taught us the way to that rest in words 
which rise above the jargon of all sects, and may strike 
a chord in the most philosophic, no less than in the most 
devout mind. His uplifted hand calls to the unconverted, 
as of the seventeenth, so of the nineteenth century, ' to 
turn and live ; ' to turn and live in accordance with the 
thousand voices of the Bible, of conscience, of good 
example, of nature ; to turn from all our mean, degrad- 
ing sins ; from all our frivolity, self-indulgence, idleness, 
corruption, and party spirit ; from that want of charity, 
and want of truth, and want of faith, which depress us 
all alike upwards to the higher and more heavenly 
frame of heart, to the peculiar nobleness of spirit, which, 
as he truly says, distinguishes not only men from beasts, 
or the good from the bad, but the best of men from the 
mediocrity of their kind. Not only in the turmoil of 
controversy, but in the toil and misery of daily life, in 
the restlessness of this restless age, his serene counten- 
ance tells us of that unseen, better world, where ' there 
remaineth a rest for the people of God.' It reminds us 
of that entire resignation wrung from his lips in those 
latest words : ' Where Thou wilt, what Thou wilt, how 
Thou wilt.' It reminds us of the high and humble hope 



164 RICHARD BAXTER. 

that ' after the rough and tempestuous day we shall at 
last have the quiet, silent night light and rest together ; 
the quietness of the night without its darkness." 

The claim of Baxter to stand high on the roll of Eng- 
lish worthies must be grounded on his eminent example 
of self-sacrifice. His life and his writings were one long 
and continuous testimony to the true power of Chris- 
tianity. It has been beautifully observed by the present 
Bishop of Durham, that "the moral teaching and 
example of our Lord will ever have the highest value 
in their own province ; but the core of the Gospel does 
not lie here. Its distinctive character is, that in reveal- 
ing a Person it reveals also a principle of life the union 
with God in Christ, apprehended by faith in the present, 
and assured to us hereafter by the Resurrection." It is 
the glory of Christendom that the lives of holy and 
self-sacrificing men confirm by example rather than 
by precept the abiding force of the truth contained in 
these words. 

Principal Tulloch has, with his usual acumen, remarked 
that the intense enthusiasm of Baxter's character really 
proved a hindrance to any effectual result from the 
negotiations which followed the Restoration. The more 
the history of that time is studied, the more clear does 
it become that a man who possessed statesmanlike 
qualities, in which Baxter was deficient, was the only 
fitting guide through such stormy waters. The very 
absence, however, of this peculiar energy does not detract 
in any way from the grand heroism of Baxter's character. 



THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 165 

He longed for peace and concord, and was impatient 
of the craft and delays of statesmen. Had he only pos- 
sessed a small portion of the temper so conspicuous in 
Gilbert Burnet, who with all his faults was always equal 
to the occasion, he might have induced Sheldon and 
his brethren to look with generous forgetfulness on the 
sufferings of the clergy, and to stand less resolutely to 
their own positions. The harshness which certainly 
shows itself in Baxter's treatment of political partisans, 
undoubtedly proceeded from the sad temper engendered 
by constant suffering. Stern, however, as he might be to 
others, he was never indulgent to himself. " Self-denial 
and contempt of the world," said Bates, " were shining 
graces in him." He expected too much of his own 
spirit from the somewhat narrow thinkers among whom 
his lot was cast, yet there were some even among them 
who were fully aware of the commanding character of 
their friend, and who could thoroughly appreciate the 
impassioned pathos of his more remarkable utterances. 
When Sylvester says that " when Baxter spoke of weighty 
soul concerns, you might find his very spirit drenched 
therein," he probably expressed the very feelings which 
many entertained regarding their spiritual master, who 
was as powerful in the pulpit as he was potent with his 
pen. 

The saintly Thomas Erskine, in his preface to an 
abridged edition of " The Saint's Rest," in speaking of 
the qualities of Baxter as a writer uses language which 
recalls that of Sylvester : " He seizes irresistibly on the 



1 66 RICHARD BAXTER. 

attention, and carries it along with him ; and we assuredly 
do not know any author who can be compared with him 
for the power with which he brings his reader directly 
face to face with death, judgment, and eternity, and 
compels him to look upon them and converse with 
them. He is himself most deeply serious, and the holy 
solemnity of his own soul seems to envelope the reader 
as with the air of a temple." 

It has been one of the peculiar felicities of Baxter 
to have gained the admiration of men differing widely 
from each other in theological sentiment. In 1837 
the learned Master of Trinity, Dr. Christopher Words- 
worth, published his " Christian Institutes," selections 
from the body of English divinity, and containing 
among other treatises Baxter's " Catechizing of Families." 
In his preface he apologises somewhat elaborately 
for including Baxter in his series. But after explain- 
ing his reasons fully, he says, " the main decisive argu- 
ment, I confess, appeared to me the special value and 
excellence of the work itself. I sought long, and con- 
tinued my researches far and wide, but could find no- 
thing in method, in execution, in extent adapted to my 
wants comparatively with this volume." The Master 
of Trinity then contrasts Baxter's work with Nowell's 
Catechism, very much to the advantage of Baxter. The 
peculiar structure of this book, being in the form of 
question and answer, has probably stood in the way of 
its general acceptance. As a complete account of what 
may still be called the fundamentals of Christian doctrine 



THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 167 

and practice, it has no rival in the English language. It 
is not too much to say, that on the subject of Baptism 
and the Lord's Supper, Baxter preserves a tone of studied 
and judicial moderation, which will find its parallel only 
in such writings as the remarkable series of Charges of 
the late Bishop Thirlwall. Few among those who are 
now separated by conscientious conviction will object to 
the statements of Baxter upon many questions which 
have perplexed and divided Christendom. 

In these days men will still prize Baxter's summary of 
the essence of the contents of Holy Scripture. " Indeed 
the Holy Scriptures do bear the very image and super- 
scription of God in their ends, matter, and manner, and 
prove themselves to be His Word. For God has not given 
us external proofs that such a book or doctrine is His which 
is itself no better than human works, and has no intrinsic 
proof of its Divine original : but the intrinsic and extrinsic 
evidences concur. What book like the sacred Scriptures 
has taught the world the knowledge of God, the creation 
of the world, the end and hope and felicity of man? 
What the heavenly glory is, and how procured, and how 
to be obtained, and by whom ? How man became sin- 
ful and miserable ? And how he is recovered ? And 
what wonders of love God has shown to sinners to win 
their hearts in love to Him ? What book has so taught 
men to live by faith and the hopes of glory, above all the 
lusts of sense and flesh, and to refer all things in this 
world to spiritual, holy, and heavenly ends ; to love 
others as ourselves, and to do good to all, even our 



1 68 RICHARD BAXTER. 

enemies ; to live in such union and communion, and 
peace, as is caused by this vital grace of love, and not 
like a heap of sand that every spurn or blast of cross in- 
terest will separate ? What book so teaches man to love 
God above all, and to pray to Him, praise Him, and 
absolutely obey Him with constant pleasure, and to 
trust Him absolutely with soul and body and estate, and 
cast all our care upon Him ; and, in a word, to converse 
in heaven while we are on earth ; and to live as saints 
that we may live as angels ? " Many admirable illustra- 
tions could be given from this work of what has been 
well called Baxter's strange combination of theological 
moderation with real unction. 

Side by side with the opinion of Dr. Wordsworth 
might be placed the account of " Baxteriana," com- 
piled in his blind old age by the celebrated Arthur 
Young, given by a Nonconformist minister to the late 
Dean Stanley: "Young's introduction always struck 
me as singularly touching and beautiful. The chief 
defect in his selection is, that arranging his extracts 
under practical heads, he has no reference to the dates 
of the works whence they are taken. As Baxter's mind 
was pre-eminently a progressive one, growing in free- 
dom and insight, and expanding in love to the very last, 
this total disregard to chronology in his compiler may 
have occasioned here and there an apparent, in some 
cases even a real, inconsistency between the tone and 
tendency of the different extracts. Nevertheless, with 
all the defects with which it can be reasonably charged, 



THE REAL PLACE OF BAXTER. 169 

this little volume ever seemed to me full of spiritual 
wealth." The little volume spoken of here might well 
be reprinted with the addition of the " Breviate," the 
Review of his own life, and the sermon or rather treatise 
on the death of Mrs Charlton. It would give to another 
generation sufficient reason for the admiration excited 
by Baxter in the minds of such men as Sir Matthew Hale, 
Lord William Russell, Burnet, Usher, Eliot, the apostle 
of the Indians, Arthur Young, and Christopher Words- 
worth. 

Surely the claim of Baxter to be remembered has been 
maintained. Time has dealt in its usual fashion with 
many of the men of his generation. Very few readers 
are now found who take delight in Owen, or Howe, or 
even in Baxter. But there will still be found some, of 
special tastes, who find in the devotional writings and 
personal reminiscences of Baxter a most peculiar charm. 
" These," says the present Bishop of Peterborough at the 
close of an eloquent lecture, " were precious things that 
Baxter had given to Christendom ; and looking back to 
those stormy times in which he lived, we might see, 
rising above the dust and tumult of the conflict, that 
ensign of truth which men still carry forth in their wars 
of good against bad, right against wrong, righteousness 
against sin and misery. And, looking back over the 
raging sea of contention, its great waves seemed to 
dwindle into little more than ripples ; and we should 
earnestly desire that when our time came for departing 
this life, we might be enabled to look back on a life as 



1 70 RICHARD BAXTER. 

holy and blessed as was his, and that our souls might be 
with the soul of Richard Baxter." 

It is after all a somewhat sad reflection that the life 
and labour of such a man as Baxter does very little' 
in the way of real restoration. " Good men work and 
suffer, and bad men enjoy their labours and spoil 
them : a step is made in advance evil rolled back 
and kept in check for a while, only to return, per- 
haps the stronger. But thus, and thus only, is truth 
passed on, and the world preserved from utter corrup- 
tion." These are the words of an eloquent living writer, 
suggested by the career of one who has been in these 
pages in the opinion of some, doubtless, too fancifully 
compared with Richard Baxter. There is one like- 
ness, however, between the life of Anselm and the life ot 
Baxter which cannot deceive and cannot escape the 
attention of the most careless reader. They were lovers 
of peace in ages of turbulence and discord. Faith in 
the final victory of truth, faith in the perfect comfort and 
enduring solace derived from a personal union with a 
personal Christ, brought to both consolation in trouble, 
and gave enduring beauty and true dignity to lives of 
trial, hardship, and humiliation. 



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