« ZurückWeiter »
came as the garden of the Lord, and assumed the all, to answer the great ends of preaching—the confragrance of Carmel, and the fertility of Lebanon. viction and conversion of sinners, the nourishment,
The celebrated and eloquent Dr Bates, in his fune- stability, and practical godliness of the saints. His ral sermon on Baxter, gives an admirable epitome of reasoning is generally clear his arguments concluhis talents, genius, and character. He knew his sive, though sometimes redundant his style terse friend to the core; and in his fine chaste classic style, and nervous his remonstrances rousing--his warnhe has given the lineaments from the life, with the ings solemn as thunder-his reproofs piercing and hand of a master, who had dipped his pencil in the vivid as lightning- and his appeals to the heart so variegated and harmonious hues of the rainbow. He tender and melting, that it could not be easy for the says. In his sermons there was a rare union of ar- most obdurate to withstand them. His addresses guments and motives to convince the mind and gain are free as the vital air, and clear as the light of heache heart. All the fountains of reason and persua- ven. Nature, art, and eloquence, laid all their vasion were open to his discerning eye. There was ried stores at his feet, for immediate use, when "beno resisting the force of his discourses, without deny- seeching sinners to be reconciled to God. His ing reason and divine revelation. He had a marvel- mind was never fettered nor cramped with the molous felicity and copiousness in speaking. There dern question,' whether it was the duty of sinners, of was a noble negligence in his style, for his great mind every grade, without delay to repent and believe. could not stoop to the affected eloquence of words. the gospel.'His success was answerable to his efHe despised flashy oratory; but his expressions were forts. If he did not study preaching as a science, clear and powerful so convincing the understand as some have done, his love to the Saviour, the laing—so entering into the soulso engaging the af-bour, and the souls of inen, had enwrought it into fections, that those were deaf as adders who were not the very texture of his soul as an art. It was not charmed by such a charmer. He was animated with more bis duty than it was his delight, to warn the Holy Spirit, and breathed celestial fire to inspire every man, and teach every man, in all wisdom, that heart and life into dead sinners, and to melt the ob- he might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.' durate in their frozen tombs. And in the dedica- It is as a writer, however, that the vitality, the tion of the same sermon to Sir Henry Ashurst, Bax- | vigour, the variety, and versatility of Baxter's genius ter's steady and long-tried friend, who had not left chiefly appear. Very few writers, in any age, have off his kindness to the living and the dead,' Dr Bates traversed the fields of theology to a wider extent. goes on to say:
No corner of the vast continent seeins to have esI cannot omit the mentioning, that Mr Boyle and caped his eagle eye-no crevice is left unexplored. Mr Baxter, those incomparable persons in their seve- There were few authors of any note, foreign or doral studies, and dear friends, died within a short space mestic, who had written on theological subjects, with of one another. Mr Boyle was engaged in the con- whom he did not seem to have a familiar acquainttemplation of the design and architecture of the visi-ance. He could, and did, quote them without pable world, and made rare discoveries in the system rade. It was the order of the day, for the authors of nature, not for curiosity and barren speculation, of the seventeenth century to overload their margins but to admire and adore the perfections of the Deity, and columns with copious quotations from the Greek in the variety, order, beauty, and marvellous artifice and Latin fathers, and from continental divines. of the creatures that compose this great universe. Baxter, as a matter of course, went into the custom. Mr Baxter was conversant in the invisible world. It is now wisely discontinued. He was a man who His mind was constantly applied to understand the read the bible, prayed to the Father of lights, and harmonious agreement of the Divine attributes in the thought for himself; and the best parts of his varied economny of our salvation, and to restore men to the and voluminous productions, are those that seem to image and favour of God. They are now admitted have sprung from his own spontaneous contemplainto the enlightened and purified society above, where tions of the inspired volume, irrespective of any prethe immense volumes of the divine wisdoin are laid vious writer, any suspected sentiments, or jarring open, and by one glance of the eye they discover more system. When he ceased to think of the thorns and perfectly the glorious and wonderful works of God thickets of controversy got out of the smoke and in heaven and earth, than the most diligent inquirers dust of polemics--wrestled in secret prayer with God can do here in a thousand years' study, though they and took large and deep draughts from the founhad the sagacity of Solomon. By the light of glory tain of Israelhe pours out such a rich flood of vithey see the face of God, and are satisfied with his tal and varied thought, that, like the Jordan in har-, likeness for ever.' *
vest, he overflows his banks, and sweeps every As a preacher, Baxter has been styled “the Eng-thought and feeling, of his readers into the powerful lish Demosthenes. His pulpit powers were of a very current. high order. If he was not uniformly happy in his Baxter's active and vigorous mind delighted to divisions, logically clear and correct in his arrange- expatiate over the whole encyclopedia of religion, ment; if his style was sometimes rugged, his particu- natural and revealed; and his inquisitive soul, with a lars multiplied to an undue extent without a palpable wing that never wavered, loved to trace it out in all distinction, and some of his discourses had less of the its reasons and ramifications. He was master of himpruning knife, and the polish of a classical diction, than self and his subject. He seemed equally at home could have been desired; yet few sermons, in either with the histories, the facts, the principles, the preearlier or later times, have been more fitted, all in cepts, the promises, the consolations, and the evi* Middleton's Lives, vol. iv, pp. 47, 48.
dences of divine revelation. With the different de
: partments of doctrinal, vital, experimental, and prac- to ten volumes octavo; Lightfoot's extend to thirtical theology, he was quite familiar. From the teen; Jeremy Taylor's to fifteen; Dr Goodwin's first principles of the doctrine of Christ,' through all would make about twenty; Dr Owen's extend to the intermediate stages of divine truth, to the pro- twenty-eight; Richard Baxter's, if printed in a unifundity of the divine decrees, which set bounds to form edition, could not be comprised in less than created intellect, his sleepless, ceaseless inquiries were sixty volumes, making more than from thirty to directed. What was minute, and what was magni- forty thousand closely printed octavo pages!' ficent in the system of sacred truth, shared their pro- His biographer continues: On this mass of writportion in his attention. At one time we find him ing he was employed from 1649, when his first work
a teacher of babes, and an instructor of the foolish;' appeared, till near the time of his death, in 1691, a at another, breaking the bread of life in crumbs to period of forty-four years. Had he been chiefly en. the humble rural rustic, in his Poor Man's Book; gaged in writing, this space was amply sufficient to framing catechisms to the poor peasant; and unfold-have enabled him to produce all his works with ease. ing the principles of personal and domestic piety to But it must be recollected, that writing was but a the English farmer. At another time you find him small part of his occupation. His labours as a mincontending with the most cultivated minds of the ister, and his engagements in the public business of sceptical class and infidel school; again, detecting his times, formed his chief employment for many and exposing the sophistry of the Jesuits, and laying years, so that he speaks of writing but as a recreabare the arbitrary principles and abominations of tion from more severe duties. Nor is this all, his Popery. At one time we find him composing Com- state of health must be taken into consideration in passionate Counsels to Young Men; and at another, every estimate of his work. A man more diseased, contending with Stillingfleet, the archbishop of Can-or who had more to contend with in the frame of his terbury, or writing his Humble Advice to the Mem- body, probably never existed in the same circumbers of Parliament. At one time writing his Call to stances. He was a constant martyr to sickness and the Unconverted; and at another Directing Justices pain, so that how he found it practicable to write in corporations to discharge their duty to God; at with the composure that he generally did, is one of one time persuading the ignorant sinner to become the greatest mysteries in his history. The energy
a saint,' or submit to the shameful alternative of liv- of his mind was superior to any discouragement; for ing and dying a brute;' and at another, writing his though it often felt the burden and clog of the flesh, Reformed Pastor, and remonstrating with the sloth- it never gave way to its desire of ease, or succumbed ful and inert of his own profession with a searching under the pressure of its infirmities. He furnishes solemnity, that thrills through the secret recesses of an illustrious instance of what tnay be done by printhe heart. Prose, in all its doctrinal and didactic ciple, energy, and perseverance, in the most untoward forms, was his main forte; but sacred poetry was and discouraging circumstances.'* Numerous and sometimes resorted to as a kind of relaxation, and to various as have been the productions of the prolific feed and fan the flame of personal and domestic de- pen of the author of Waverley,' with a firm constivotion.
tution, flexible materials among his hands to take the The magnitude and variety of Baxter's works, as form of his fancy, like melted wax; enjoying perfect a writer, fill us with astonishment. Had he been freedom from the harpies of persecution; in the suna recluse, or a mere book-worm, all his life, the ex- shine of his study, or the tranquillity of his mantent of his mental productions would have been less sion; with every facility which books and leisure wonderful; but he was a man of public spirit, of could afford; if mere quantity alone_not to speak catholic feeling, and of active habits. It is astonishing of the very different character and qualities of the how he could husband time for such herculean la- themes which occupied these authors' time and tabours of the pen and the press. The late Mr Orme, lents—I suspect that the mental opulence and manual his last biographer, has given the titles, dates, and operations of our afflicted and emaciated Noncon. list of no less than one hundred and sixty-eight dis- formist, will leave the celebrated novelist, poet, and tinct treatises and sermons, from the folio and thick baronet, far in the rear. quarto, to his single sermons and minor pieces. Mr That Baxter would have written better had he Orme says: “The age in which he lived was an age written less, is highly probable. Had he taken more of voluminous authorship; and Baxter was, beyond time to form the plan of some of his treatiseshad comparison, the most voluminous of all his contem- he taken more pains to mature and assort his ample poraries. Those who have been acquainted only materials given a more simple and lucid form to with what are called his practical or spiritual writings, some of his discussions-had he dropped some extraform no correct estimate of the extent of his works. neous digressions, pruned some exuberances, and poThese forin twenty-two vols. octavo in the present lished soine parts of his style, it would have unquesedition; and yet they are but a small portion of what tionably added much to the value of some of his inhe wrote. The number of his books has been vari- comparable productions. It is also highly probable, ously estimated. As some of the volumes which he if not absolutely certain, that had Baxter's mind been published contained several distinct treatises, they less distracted with polemical discussions—had he have sometimes been counted as one, and sometimes allowed many of the vagaries and crudities then reckoned four or five. The best way of forming a broached and some of the violent attacks against correct opinion of Baxter's labours from the press, himself to pass unnoticed and unanswered, and, like is by comparing them with some of his brethren who the ephemera and weeds of summer, to die a natural wrote a good deal. The works of bishop Hall amount !
* Orme's Life of Baxter, pp. 785-6.
death and had he restricted the operations of his But Baxter, with all these occasional slips, minor mind, and the labours of his pen, more to the doc- defects, metaphysical obscurities, casual exuberances, trinal, devotional, and practical parts of theology, and inadvertent digressions, I love thee still! There which were so congenial to the high-toned spiritu- | is no lack of rich gold ore in the mine, though found ality of his mind, it would have added materially to amidst a few rough incrustations. The man who has their worth. A deep sense of duty, and an impres-patience to ponder your pages, and eyes to behold sion of the dangerous and deleterious influence of spiritual excellence, may dig diamonds from the error, with the urgency of the case, and the temper veins which you have opened in the inexhaustible of the times, however, all conspired to urge him to mine of divine revelation. Your defects are only write on those multifarious topics. It was, perhaps, like spots upon the disk of the sun. You have furone of the weaknesses of this great and good man, nished your table with ample variety of wholesome that, as a kind of inquisitor general, he considered well dressed provisions; if they are not set with all
all that he considered erroneous. His controversial stantial qualities that are befitting an English table. talents were of a superior order. His brethren knew All that your guests require is a healthful appetite, it, and sometimes urged him to engage in it. On to feel themselves at home, and happy in your sothese subjects he at times used too much acerbity of ciety. expression. He was apt to overdo the thing, and There is a cloud of witnesses who bear coneurrent overlay his opponent with arguments. Many of his and unequivocal testimony to the high character and controversial pieces were of a local and ephemeral useful tendency of Baxter's writings, especially his character. But none was ever more severe in sift- devotional and practical works. They were extening and searching out his own defects and faults than sively read, and highly appreciated, by many of his he was himself; and few have ever been so candid contemporaries. It was a reading as well as a writin confessing them, and conscientious in correcting ing age. Dr Barrow (who was no mean judge) said, them. He says himself:
His practical writings were never mended, and his Concerniog almost all my writings, I must con- controversial ones seldom confuted. The Hon. fess that my own judgment is, that fewer, well stu- Robert Boyle declared, that He was the fittest man died and polished, would have been better; but the of the age for a casuist, because he feared no man's reader who can safely censure the books, is not fit displeasure, nor hoped for any man's preferment.' to censure the author, unless he had been upon the Bishop Wilkins remarked of him, that he had culplace, and acquainted with all the occasions and cir- tivated every subject he had handled ; that if he had cumstances. Indeed, for the Saints' Rest, I had lived in the primitive times, he would have been one four months vacancy to write it, in the midst of con- of the fathers of the Church; and that it was enough tinual languishing and medicine; but for the rest, I for one age to produce such a man as Mr Baxter.' wrote them in the crowd of all my other employ- | Archbishop Usher entertained the highest opinion of ments, which would allow me no great leisure for his abilities; and it was by his persuasion he was inpolishing, and exactness, and ornament; so that I duced to write his treatises upon Conversion. Dr scarce ever wrote one sheet twice over, nor stayed Manton thought he came nearer to the apostolical to make any blots or interlinings, but was fain to let writings than any man of the age.' Dr Bates says, it go as it was first conceived, and when my own that his books, for their number and variety of matdesire was rather to stay upon one thing long, than ter, make a library. They contain a treasure of courun over many, some sudden occasion or other troversial, casuistical, and practical divinity. His extorted almost all my writings from me; and the books of practical divinity have been effectual for apprehensions of present usefulness, or necessity, more numerous conversions of sinners to God, than prevailed against all other motives; so that the di- any printed in our time; and while the church revines that were at hand with me, still put me on, and mains on earth, will be of continual efficacy to reapproved of what I did, because they were moved by cover lost souls. There is a vigorous pulse in prezent necessities as well as I. But those who were them that keeps the reader awake and attentive.' far off, and felt not those nearer motives, did rather | Addison says, “I once met with a page of Mr Baxwish that I had taken the other way, and published ter. Upon the perusal of it, I conceived so good an a few elaborate writings; and I am ready myself to idea of the author's piety, that I bought the whole be of their mind, when I forget the case that I then book. The celebrated Dr Johnson has quoted Baxstood in, and have lost the sense of former motives.' | ter more than once in his Rambler. When asked by This is a noble instance of Baxter's searching self- Boswell, what works of Richard Baxter he should discernment and ingenuous candour, in giving an im- read ? the doctor, in his sage epigrammatic style, partial verdict upon his own mental offspring, to replied, Read any of them, for they are all good.' which the most of authors are blind and partial to a Job Orton, who laboured some time in Kidderminproverb. In the document from which the above ster, and after many years had rolled by, had opporextract is taken, there is much to the same effect. tunity of witnessing the remote effects of his sucIndeed, no modern critic, sitting in his self-imaginary cessful labours, entertained the highest opinion of chair, hearing evidence, examining witnesses, sifting Baxter's piety, talents, and character. Dr Doddridge discrepancies, and seeking facts, and passing judg- styled him the English Demosthenes,' and called ment, could go through the process with more iin- Baxter his particular favourite;' and adds, It is partiality and severity than Baxter has done with the impossible to tell how much I am charmed with the productions of his own pen.
devotion, good sense, and pathos, which is every
where to be found in him. I cannot forbear look- | toned piety, which has given such an inimitable charm ing upon him as one of the greatest orators, both to the productions of his pen_his unflinching fidelity with regard to copiousness, acuteness, and energy, and inviolable integrity, which neither men normoney, that our nation has produced,' &c. &c. I shall only friends nor foes, frowns nor flatteries, could shakeadd the testiinony of the late William Wilberforce, his mortification to all the blandishments and fascinawho coines down to our own times, and whose fine tions of time, of the lust of the flesh, the lust of taste and sterling piety fully qualified him to mark the eye, and the pride of life,' and singular self-dethe beauties, and appreciate the excellencies, of Bax- nial—his gravity and Christian cheerfulness, so beauter, as an author, with whose writings he was long tifully blended and happily balanced in his character. familiar. In writing of him he says: . With his con- We might multiply paragraphs and pages in writing troversial pieces I am little acquainted; but his prac- of his quenchless ardour-his incessant diligencetical writings, in four massy folios, are a treasury of his herculean labours his child-like simplicity-his Christian wisdom. It would be a most valuable ser- love of peace and his fruitless and ill-judged atvice to mankind to revise them, and perhaps to tempts to effect union among materials that had no abridge them, to render them more suited to the common principle of affinity-the painful position in taste of modern readers.
which he sometimes placed himself between High In reference to the above suggestion of the de- Churchmen and decided Nonconformists_his want ceased Christian statesman, the writer of this article of sound judgment in some matters, even while ‘his takes leave to say, that it is extremely difficult to failings leaned to virtue's side.' Much might be menabridge such an author as Baxter, or materially to tioned of his active benevolence, which embraced the alter the arrangement of his treatises, without the necessities of the soul as well as those of the bodyspirit of the work evaporating; and the freshness, his zeal for ameliorating the miseries of fallen huthe fervour, the feeling, and the unction, stamped manity_some of his embryo schemes for circulating upon the original work, being dissipated, and a naked, the scriptures at home, and for sending the gospel to nerveless skeleton, under a misnomer, being put into some of the accessible parts of the heathen world, the reader's hands. The publishers of the present partly anticipating, by more than a century, some of edition of Baxter's Practical Works, therefore, have those excellent institutions of modern times, which wisely determined not to present the public with an have been an honour to our native country, and a abridgment. They have resolved minutely and blessing to the heathen world. In one word, though rigidly to revise, and select, and arrange the treatises he was not a perfect nor a faultless man, yet, with in consecutive order; but in absolute good faith to all his faults and infirmities, he was a very extraorgive Richard Baxter, in his own native cut and cos- dinary person. He possessed much largeness of tume, to the public, with only the antiquated dust soul. The sensibilities of his heart were warın. He decently brushed from his venerable vestments. The was a man of faith and prayer. He lived near to reader will bona fide find himself conversing with God, and walked with him. This was the secret of the mighty dead.'
| his support, the spring of his untiring activity, and This sketch has already far exceeded our intended the source of his success. What he was, he was by limits, yet a tenth has not been told of what is really the grace of God, and to him belongs all the glory. interesting in the fertile and eventful life and times « The righteous shall be held in everlasting rememof Richard Baxter. With the utmost cordiality we brance. The record' of Richard Baxter is on refer the inquisitive reader to Orme's Life of Baxter, high;' and his works will praise him in the gates' to which we have already frequently referred with un- while sound searching theology is valued in the qualified praise, and to which we have been not a little church of Christ, and respected within the boundaindebted in drawing up the preceding sketch. Much ries of the British Isles. remains yet to be said and seen of Baxter's deep
SAINTS' EVERLASTING RES T.
“ There remaineth therefore a Rest to the people of God."
HEBREWS IV. 9.
THE INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK, WITH SOME AC
COUNT OF THE NATURE OF THE SAINTS' REST.
Sect. 1. The important design of the Apostle in the text, to which
| all gospel promises and Christian privileges.
afflictions, tiring duties, successions of sufferings,
than rest ? It is not our comfort only, but our 1. It was not only our interest in God, and stability. Our liveliness in all duties, our enactual enjoyment of him, which was lost in Adam's during tribulation, our honouring of God, the fall, but all spiritual knowledge of him, and true vigour of our love, thankfulness, and all our disposition towards such a felicity. When the graces; yea, the very being of our religion and Son of God comes with recovering grace, and Christianity, depend on the believing serious discoveries of a spiritual and eternal happiness thoughts of our rest. And now, reader, what. and glory, he finds not faith in man to believe it. ever thou art, young or old, rich or poor, I enAs the poor man, that would not believe any one treat thee, and charge thee, in the name of thy had such a sum as a hundred pounds, it was so Lord, who will shortly call thee to a reckoning, far above what himself possessed: so men will and judge thee to thy everlasting unchangeable hardly now believe there is such a happiness as state, that thou give pot these things the reading once they had, much less as Christ hath now only, and so dismiss them with a bare approba. procured. When God would give the Israelitestion ; but that thou set upon this work, and take his sabbaths of rest, in a land of rest, he had God in Christ for thy only rest, and fix thy heart more ado to make them believe it, than to over- upon him above all. May the living God, who come their enemies, and procure it for them. I is the portion and rest of his saints, make these And when they had it, only as a small intimation our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly and earnest of an incomparably more glorious hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delightrest through Christ, they yet believe no more ing in him, may be the work of our lives; and than they possess, but say, with the glutton at that neither I that write, nor you that read this the feast, Sure there is no other heaven but this! | book, may ever be turned from this path of life; Or, if they expect more by the Messiah, it is only lest a promise being left us of entering into his the increase of their earthly felicity. The apos- rest, we should come short of it, through our own tle bestows most of this epistle against this dis- / unbelief or negligence !