The Writings Of Richard Baxter -- By: George P. Fisher

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 009:34 (Apr 1852)
Article: The Writings Of Richard Baxter
Author: George P. Fisher

The Writings Of Richard Baxter1

George P. Fisher

It is a remark of Mr. Hume, that John Locke was the first person who ventured openly to assert that Christian Theology is a reasonable science.2 But the wary sceptic would not deny that the principle had often been tacitly assumed by the defenders of religion. Whether it had been announced before, in so formal and explicit propositions, we need not now inquire. Nor would one be competent to decide the question without a wider acquaintance with the literature of theology than Mr. Hume possessed. It is an interesting fact, however, that while Locke, a youthful scholar, was revolving the themes of those Essays, which have made his name forever dear to the lovers of knowledge and freedom, and soon after Chillingworth had built up his impregnable defence of the right and necessity of private judgment, against the Romish dogma of an infallible church, the Puritan divine, whose works we now review, wrote these words: “Is not faith a rational act of a rational creature? and so the understanding proceeds discursively in its production. And is not that the strongest faith, which hath the strongest reasons to prove the testimony to be valid, on which it resteth, and the clearest apprehension and use of those reasons? And the truest faith, which hath the truest reasons, truly apprehended and used?” 3 “The probability of most things, and the possibility of all things contained in the Scriptures, may well be discerned by reason itself, which makes their existence or futurity the more easy to be believed. Yet before the existence or futurity of anything beyond the reach of reason can be soundly believed, the testimony must be shown to be truly divine.”4

These are pregnant sentences. Who, among the recent writers, has more clearly described the relation of reason to faith? Who will now have the boldness to accuse Baxter of a sinister desire to degrade revelation, by exalting reason? He felt that he could best honor the Bible, by insisting on its agreement with an enlightened

intellect. And he realized the peril incurred by those who would place the Bible in antagonism to the fundamental laws of our belief. He saw that the infidel could wish for nothing better than the shortsighted concession, that the truth of Christianity cannot be established by evidence. His doctrine, which may now be familiar, had then a novel sound. The asperity with which it was assailed is indicated by the severity of his replies.

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