The Theology Of Richard Baxter -- By: George P. Fisher
BSac 9:33 (Jan 1852) p. 135
The Theology Of Richard Baxter
No one of the eminent English divines of the seventeenth century is more widely known than Richard Baxter. There are many who prize the accuracy and learning of Owen, and many who admire the calm strength and fertile imagination of John Howe; while dissenters as well as churchmen render homage to the genius of South, of Barrow and of Jeremy Taylor. But neither of these, and indeed few of the illustrious persons of that age, prolific of great men, can claim a reputation so extensive as that of the Pastor of Kidderminster. And yet it is not as a theologian that Baxter is chiefly known. He is least indebted for his reputation to those works on which he most relied for fame. The volumes which are the fruits of his most severe toil and were written “chiefly for posterity,” repose, in dust and
BSac 9:33 (Jan 1852) p. 136
silence, on the shelves of antiquaries; while the “Call to the Unconverted” and the “Saint’s Best” are found with the Pilgrim of Bunyan, wherever our language is spoken. The explanation of this fact must be sought both in the peculiar character of the man and of the times in which he lived.
The lot of Baxter was cast in a period when the English mind was roused to an unexampled activity, and the old institutions of church and state were shaken from their foundations, to be reconstructed according to the views of a new age. The contest of Prerogative and Privilege, of hereditary authority against individual rights, had come to the crisis to which it had been for centuries approaching, and men were leaving the halls of debate for the field of battle. The Reformation, by working out its natural results, had generated a spirit of earnest and fearless inquiry upon the subjects of religion. And the Puritans, with whom politics was a secondary interest, from small beginnings had grown into a powerful and organized party, which was endeavoring not only to resist the advance but to cripple the power of the hierarchal churches.
That Baxter was well fitted, in many respects, to mingle in the strifes of a troublous age, is sufficiently evinced by his life. The ardor and energy of his character, his courage, the acuteness and vigor of his mind, his stores of learning and ample knowledge of the various parties, gave him signal advantages. More than all, his piety, chastened by intense and protracted suffering and confirmed by prayer and self-denial, was fervid and constant. The number is small, in any communion, who have cherished more holy aims, or have proved their fidelity to the Redeemer under stronger temptations. At the same time, it will be readily allowed by all, who are familiar with the story of his life, that he wanted the practical wisdom which adapts...
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