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R I ( IJ A R D B V X T E Ft

LIFE OF l tl I. \i THOR

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[Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1831, by Durrie & Peck,
i the Clerk's office, of the District Court of Connecticut.]



In making the following selections, I have, for ob-
vious reasons, omitted those works of this venerated
author which are familiar to the Christian public ;
and have been guided by a desire to provide a book
suited to the wants of private Christians, and of
Christian families. Had it been my object to afford
the theological scholar the means of judging respect-
ing Baxter's opinions and his modes of reasoning on
disputed subjects in divinity, these two volumes would
have been made up of very different materials.

The writings of Baxter are distinguished, even
above those of his cotemporaries, by the peculiarities
of the man and of the age in which he lived. Those
only who know what the author was, what were the
vicissitudes through which he passed, what were the
changes and commotions of the times in which he liv-
ed, and what were the men with whom he had to do, —
can enter fully into the spirit of his writings. It is
simply with a view of helping the unlearned reader to
a knowledge of the man and of the age, that the Life
of Baxter has been prefixed to this selection from his
works. Literary men and theologians will find tho


more extensive and labored work of the late Mr.
Orme on the same subject, much better adapted to
their use.

When I began the preparation of these volumes, I
expected to see the end of them much earlier. But
I thank God that while I was studying the writings
and the history of this eminent saint, and was seeking
to imbibe that spirit which made him so successful a
pastor, my studies were interrupted by a signal revi-
val of the work of God among the people of my charge.
Whatever delay has attended the publication, has
been caused by this happy interruption.

Now reader, let these devout and searching trea-
tises have that attention which they deserve. Read
to learn what truth is, and to receive the truth in
love ; to learn what duty is, and to do it.

New Haven, Oct. 28, 1831.




Part I. From his birth, to the beginning of the civil war in 1641, 9

Part II. From the beginning of the war, to the time of his leaving the army, 66
Part III. From his return to Kidderminster, to the year 1660, . 94

Part IV. From the year 1660, to the year 1665, ... 164

Part V. From the year 1665, to his death, .... 222

Epistle Dedicatory, ....... 267

To the Poor in Spirit, ....... 272

The Case to be Resolved, ...... 283

Direct. I. Discover the cause of your trouble, . . . 284

Direct. II. Discover well how much of your trouble is from melancholy or

from outward crosses, and apply the remedy accordingly, . . 286

Direct. III. Lay first in your understanding sound and deep apprehensions
of God's nature, ....... 291

Direct. IV. Get deep apprehensions of the gracious nature and office of the
Mediator, ........ 297

Direct. V. Believe and consider the full sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice and
ransom for all, . . . . . . . 299

Direct. VI. Apprehend the freeness, fullness and universality of the law of

grace, or conditional grant of pardon and salvation to all men, . 299

Direct. VII. Understand the difference between general grace and special ;
and between the posssibility, probability, conditional certainty, and abso-
solute certainty of your salvation ; and so between the several degrees of
comfort that these may afford, ..... 300

Direct. VIII. Understand the nature of saving faith, . 307

Direct. IX. Next, perform the condition, by actual believing, . 310

Direct. X. Next, review your own believing, and thence gather farther
assurance, ........ 316

Direct. XI. Make use, in trial, of none but infallible signs, . 326

Direct. XII. Know that assurance of justification cannot be gathered from
the least degree of saving grace, . . . . 345

Direct. XIII. The first time of our receiving or acting saving grace, cannot
ordinarily be known, ...... 354

Direct. XIV. Know that assurance is not the ordinary lot of true christians,

but only of a few of the strongest, most active, watchful and obedient, 358
Direct. XV. Know that even many of the stronger and more obedient, are
yet unassured of their salvation for want of assurance to'persevere, . 366


Direct. XVI. Thare are many grounds to discover a probability of saving
grace when we cannot yet discover a certainty : and you must learn, next
to the comforts s of general grace, to receive the comforts of the probability
of special grace, before you expect or are ripe for the comforts of assurance, 368

Direct. XVII. Improve your own and others experiences to strengthen your
probabilities, ...... 372

Direct. XVIII. Know that God hath not commanded you to believe that you
do believe, nor that you are justified, or shall be saved (but only conditionally,)
and therefore your assurance is not a certainty properly of Divine faith, 377

Direct. XIX. Know that those few that do attain to assurance, have it not
constantly, ........ 380

Direct. XX. Never expect so much assurance on earth as shall set you above
all possibility of the loss of heaven, and above all apprehensions of danger, 387

Direct. XXI. Be glad of a settled peace, and look not too much after raptures
and strong feelings of comfort ; and if you have such, expect not a constancy
of them, ........ 395

Direct. XXII. Spend more time and care about your duty than your comforts,
and to get, and exercise, and increase grace, than to discern the certainty of it, 398

Direct. XXIII. Think not that those doubts and troubles which are caused by
disobedience will be ever well healed but by the healing of that disobedience, 404

Direct. XXIV. Content not yourself with a cheap religiousness, and to serve
God with that which costs you little or nothing ; and take every call to
costly duty or suffering for Christ, as a prize put into your hand for advan-
cing your comforts, ....... 437

Direct. XXV. Study the great art of doing good ; and let it be your every day's
contrivance, care and business, how to lay out all your talents to the greatest
advantage, ........ 448

Direct. XXVI. Trouble not your soul with needless scruples, nor make
yourself more work than God has made you, . . . 455

Direct. XXVII. When God hath discovered your sincerity to you, fix it in
your memory; and leave not your soul open to new apprehensions, except
in case of notable declinings or gross sinning, . . . 471

Direct. XXVIII. Beware of perplexing misinterpretations of scriptures, pro-
vidences, or sermons, ...... 477

Direct. XXIX. Distinguish carefully between causes of doubting, and causes
of mere humiliation and amendment, .... 485

Direct. XXX. Discern whether your doubts are such as must be cured by the
consideration of general or of special grace; and be sure that, when you lose
the sight of certain evidences, you let not go probabilities; or at the worst,
when you are beaten from both, and judge yourself graceless, yet lose not
the comforts of general grace, ..... 528

Direct. XXXI. In all pressing necessities take advice from your pastors, 533

Direct. XXXII. Understand that the height of a christian life, and the great-
est part of your duty, lieth in a loving delight in God and a thankful and
cheerful obedience to his will, ..... 545












The life of Richard Baxter extends over a little more than
three quarters of a century. And perhaps in all the history of
England, no period of the same length can be selected more
abundant in memorable events, or more critical in its bearings on
the cause of true liberty and of pure Christianity, than the seventy-
six years between the birth of Baxter and his death.

The Reformation of the English Church had been begun about
the middle of the preceding century, by a wayward and arbitrary
monarch, to gratify his own passions. Henry VIII. renounced the
supremacy of the pope, only that he might be pope himself within
the limits of his own dominions. He dissolved the monasteries,
because their immense possessions made them worth plundering.
He made the hierarchy independent of Rome, and dependent on
himself, because he would admit no power co-ordinate with that
of the crown. And though in effecting these changes he was un-
der the necessity of employing the agency of some true reformers,
who shared in the spirit of Wickliffe and Luther and Calvin, nothing
was farther from his design than the intellectual or moral renovation
of the people.

On his death in 1547, an amiable prince, a boy in his tenth
year, became nominally king of England and head of the English

Vol. 1. 2


church. During the short reign of Edward VI. the reformation
was carried on with a hearty good will, by the good Cranmer and
his associates in the regency. The bible in the English language,
which, having been published by authority in the preceding reign,
had been soon afterwards, by the same authority, suppressed, was
now again placed by royal proclamation in the parish churches.
Worship was performed in a language " understanded of the peo-
ple." The liturgy, first translated and established in the second
year of this reign, was revised and purged from some of its imper-
fections three years afterwards, and then assumed nearly the form
under which it is now used in the churches of the English Estab-
lishment and in the Episcopal churches of America. The design
of the leading reformers in this reign was to carry the work of re-
formation as far as the circumstances in which they were placed
would permit. They had their eye on the more perfect refor-
mation of foreign churches ; they were in the full confidence of
foreign reformers ; and their aim was to bring back the Church of
England not only to the purity of scriptural doctrine, but to the sim-
plicity of scriptural worship, and the strictness of scriptural disci-
pline. In pursuance of this aim, foreign divines of eminence, hearty
disciples of the Swiss reformers, in discipline as well as in doctrine,
were made professors of theology in both the universities, and were
placed in other stations of honor and influence. The progress of
the work was hindered by the influence of a powerful popish party,
including the heir apparent to the throne, many of the bishops, the
mass of the clergy, and perhaps the numerical majority of the peo-
ple ; and its consummation was defeated by the premature death of
the king in the sixth year of his reign.

The crown and the ecclesiastical supremacy then devolved upon
the " bloody Mary," in the year ] 553. This princess inherited a
gloomy temper ; and the circumstances of her early life, while they
inspired her with a bigotted attachment to the religion of Rome,
co-operated with that religion to aggravate all that was unfortunate
in her native disposition. Under her government, a few months
was time enough to undo all that had been done towards a refor-
mation in the two preceding reigns. It was found that the king's
supremacy was as able to bring back the old doctrines and the


old worship, as it had been to bring in the new. All king Edward's
laws about religion were repealed by a single act of an obsequious
parliament. A solemn reconciliation was effected with the See of
Rome, and was ratified in the blood of an army of martyrs.
Many of the active friends of the reformation, forseeing the tem-
pest, saved their lives by a timely flight to foreign countries. But
God made the wrath of man to praise him ; for the six years of this
reign contributed more perhaps than all the labors of Cranmer and
his associates during the six years of Edward, to open the eyes and
quicken the sluggish minds of the people, and to inspire them at
once with a warm affection for the protestant faith, and with a hear-
ty detestation of popery.

The commencement of the reign of Elizabeth, in 1558, is the
era of the establishment of the reformation in England. This
queen, of all the children of Henry VIII. inherited most largely the
spirit of her father. She was against the pope, because the pope's
supremacy was at variance with her own. She was against the
spirit of protestantism, because she saw that its tendency was to
make the people think for themselves. It soon appeared that,
under her auspices, the reformation which during the reign of Ed-
ward had been progressive, and had been represented by its patrons
as only begun, was to be progressive no longer. Those who had
hoped that the new government would take up the work of reform
where Cranmer and his associates had left it, and would bring the
ecclesiastical affairs of the kingdom still nearer to a piimilive sim-
plicity in doctrine and in order, found that the queen's march of im-
provement was retrograde, and that the church, under her supre-
macy, was to be carried back towards the stately and ceremonious
superstition of Romanism. But the popular mind had begun to
take an interest in these matters. So many religious revolutions
treading on each other's heels, had wakened thought and inquiry,
even among those who were generally regarded as having only to
obey the dictation of their superiors. To have suffered under
Queen Mary for dissenting from the established faith and order,
was extolled under Queen Elizabeth as meritorious ; and the peo-
ple began to apprehend that religious truth and duty might be


something independent of the throne and the parliament, something
which law could not fix, nor revolution overturn. Those who had
seen so many burnt, and so many banished, for particular religious
opinions, and who understood that the opinions then proscribed
were now triumphant, were led to inquire what those opinions were,
and on what basis they rested. Thus the public mind was ripening
for a real reformation.

In these circumstances there sprung up a new party, the party of
the Puritans. Under King Edward, there had been dissension
among the reformers, some wishing to go faster and farther than
others. The question related chiefly to certain vestments of the
popish priesthood, and the controversy was whether they should be
retained or disused. By some it was deemed important to con-
tinue the use of those garments in the administration of public
worship, at least for a while, lest by too sudden and violent a de-
parture from all old usages and forms, the people might become
unnecessarily and inveterately prejudiced against the reformation.
By others those vestments were disapproved as relics of popish idol-
atry ; and the disuse of them was insisted on, inasmuch as the peo-
ple had been taught to regard them with a superstitious feeling, and
to believe that they were essential to the validity of all religious ad-
ministrations. What was at first little else than a question of expe-
diency, soon became a question of conscience. Dr. Hooper, one
of the most zealous and efficient leaders of the reformation, was
imprisoned several months by his brethren, for refusing to accept
the bishopric of Gloucester unless he might be consecrated without
putting on the popish habits. That difficulty was at last compro-
mised by the mediation of the Swiss reformers with Hooper on the
one hand, and of the king and council with the ruling prelates on
the other ; and Ridley and Hooper afterwards labored with the same
zeal for the truth, and at last suffered with the same patience
the pains of martyrdom. During the persecution in Queen Mary's
time, the controversy was revived in another form. Of the exiles
who fled to the protestant countries on the continent, many admired,
and were disposed to copy, the discipline and worship of the re-
formed churches ; while others insisted on adhering to the letter of


King Edward's service-book. At Frankfort, the congregation
at first agreed with entire unanimity on certain modes of worship
adapted as they thought to their necessities ; but afterwards, a new
company having arrived who brought with them a zealous attach-
ment to the liturgy, a schism arose, and a considerable portion of
the congregation, with the ministers, left the field to the new comers,
and took up their residence in Geneva. On returning to their na-
tive country, many of those who had approved the constitution of
the Swiss and French proteslant churches, exerted themselves to
promote a further reformation in England, or at least to secure
some liberty in regard to matters which were acknowledged to be
indifferent. Their influence as individuals, some of them personally
connected with men high in rankand authority, their influence in the
universities, where some of them occupied important stations, and
their influence by means of the press, was employed to promote,
by all lawful means, greater purity of doctrine and of discipline in
the Church of England. But, as has already been intimated,
unifcrmity, the imposing idea of a whole nation united in one church,
with one faith and one form of worship, and subjected to a splendid
hierarchy with the monarch at the head of it, — was the idol to which
the queen and her counsellors were willing to sacrifice both peace
and truth. Other matters besides habits and ceremonies were
soon brought into debate. The entire constitution of the English
church was called in question. Thus the breach grew wider. It
was evident that the Puritans were not to be put down at a word ;
for, to say nothing of the merits of their cause, they were the most
learned divines, the most powerful preachers, and the most able dis-
putants of the age, Thomas Cartwright, Margaret Professor of
Divinity in the University of Cambridge, of whom Beza said that
" there was not a more learned man under the sun," led the van in
the dispute against prelacy. The venerable Miles Coverdale who
having assisted Tindal in the translation of the bible, had been
bishop of Exeter under King Edward, and had hardly escaped
from death under Queen Mary, was a Puritan, and as such died
poor and neglected. John Fox whose history of the martyrs was
held in such veneration that it was ordered to be set up in the
churches, w^as a Puritan, and shared the lot of Coverdale. Many


church dignitaries, including some of the bishops, were known to
despise the habits and ceremonies, and to desire earnestly a more
complete reformation. Yet nothing was yielded; the terms of
uniformity were so defined as to be easier for papists than for those
who doubted the completeness of the established reformation.
Ministers convicted of non-conformity, though it were but the
omission of a sentence or a ceremony in the liturgy, or a neglect
to put on the popish surplice, were suspended, or deprived of their
livings, then forbidden to preach, then — in many instances — im-
prisoned. When such men were thus turned out of their employ-
ments, and prohibited the exercise of their gifts, they found refuge
and employment in the houses of many of the nobility and gentry,
as private chaplains and instructors. In this way their principles
were diffused among the highest classes of society. Meanwhile
few preachers could be found to occupy the places of the ejected
and silenced Puritans. Men without learning and without charac-
ter were made clergymen ; but neither the orders of the Queen in
council, nor the imposition of episcopal hands could qualify them
to be pastors. The people, especially the thinking and the sober
people of the middling classes, when they saw the difference be-
tween the pious and zealous preachers who were deprived for non-
conformity, and the ignorant and sometimes profligate readers who
were put in their places, called the latter " dumb dogs," (in allusion
to the language of scripture,) and were the more ready to follow
their persecuted teachers. And those, of every rank, who had
begun to experience any thing of the power of christian truth, and
to love the doctrines and duties of the gospel, and who desired to
see sinners converted by the preaching of God's word, sympathized
deeply with these suffering ministers, and, out of respect to their
evangelical character, were strongly disposed to favor and to adopt
the principles for which they suffered. Thus, while Puritanism
was making constant progress in the community, it was associated,
almost from its origin, with serious and practical piety ; and it soon
came to pass that every man who cared more for godliness than his
neighbors, or was more strict than fhey in his obedience to the pre-
cepts of the gospel, or who exhibited any faith in the principles of
experimental religion, was called, by way of reproach, a Puritan.


Elizabeth died after a reign of forty-four years, and was suc-
ceeded by James I. in 1G83. The Puritans, including both those
who had been voluntarily or forcibly separated from the establish-
ment, and those who by a partial or entire conformity still retained
their connection with the church, had entertained strong hopes
that a king who had reigned in Scotland from his infancy, who
had made ample and frequent professions of his attachment to the
ecclesiastical constitution of his native kingdom, and who had
openly declared respecting the church of England, that " their
service was an evil-said mass in English," would decidedly
favor a more complete reformation. Accordingly he was met on
his progress towards London, with numerous petitions, one of
which was signed by nearly eight hundred clergymen, " desiring
reformation of certain ceremonies and abuses of the church." But
the king whom they addressed was at once a vainglorious foolish
pedant, and an arbitrary treacherous prince ; and the first year of
his reign abundantly taught them the fallacy of all their hopes.
For the sake of first raising, and then disappointing and crushing,
the expectations of such as were dissatisfied with the existing sys-
tem, a conference was held by royal authority at Hampton Court,
to which were summoned, on one side four Puritan divines, with
a minister from Scotland, and on the other side seventeen digni-
taries of the church, nine of whom were bishops. At this meeting,
after the king had first determined all things in consultation
with the bishops and their associates, the Puritans were made to
feel that they were brought there not in the spirit of conciliation,
but to be made a spectacle to their enemies ; not to argue, or to be
argued with, before a king impartial and desiring to be led by rea-
son, but to be ridiculed and scorned, insulted and reproached by
a fool too elevated in station to be answered according to his folly.
As for their desire of liberty in things indifferent, his language
was, " I will have none of that ; I will have one doctrine, one dis-
cipline, one religion in substance and ceremony : never speak more
to that point, how far you are bound to obey." To their request
that ministers might have the liberty of meeting under the direc-
tion of their ecclesiastical superiors, for mutual assistance and im-
provement, he replied peremptorily, in language characteristically


coarse and profane, that their plans tended to the subversion of
monarchy, and charged them with desiring the overthrow of his
supremacy. And his majesty's conclusion of the whole matter
was, " I will make them conform, or I will harry them out of this
land, or else worse." Neal adds very truly, " and he was as good
as his word."

There were many things in the policy of the government, and
in the character of the times, which promoted, during all this reign,
the cause of Puritanism. The king, with nothing of the masculine
energy by which Elizabeth controled her parliaments, had the
most extravagant notions of his own divine right to govern without
limitation, and was evidently bent on setting his will above all laws.

Online LibraryUnknownSelect practical writings of Richard Baxter, with a life of the author (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 57)