Page images
PDF
EPUB

thought lawful, and all mere circumstances determined by the magistrate, which God in nature or Scripture hath determined on, only in the general. The surplice he more doubted of, but was inclined to think it lawful: And though he intended to forbear it till under necessity, yet he could not see how he could have justified the forsaking his ministry merely on that account, though he never actually wore it. About the ring in marriage he had no scruple. The cross in baptism he thought Dr. Ames had proved unlawful; and though he was not without some doubting in the point, yet because he most inclined to judge it unlawful, he never once used it. A form of prayer and liturgy be judged to be lawful, and in some cases lawfully imposed. The old English liturgy in particular, he judged to have much disorder and defectiveness in it, but nothing which should make the use of it in the ordinary public worship to be unlawful to them who could not do better. He sought for discipline in the church, and saw the sad effects of its neglect ; but he was not then so persuaded as afterwards, that the very frame of diocesan prelacy excluded it, but thought it had been chargeable only on the personal neglects of the Bishops. Subscription he began to think unlawful, and repented his rashness in yielding to it so hastily. For though he could use the common prayer, and was not yet against diocesans, yet to subscribe ex animo, that there was nothing in the three books contrary to the word of God, was that which he durst not do, had it been to be done again. So that subscription, and the cross in baptism, and the promiscuous giving the Lord's Supper to all comers, though ever so unqualified, if they were not excommunicated by a Bishop or Chancellor who knows nothing of them, were the only things in which he as yet, in his judgment, inclined to nonconformity : And yet, even as to these things, he kept his thoughts to himself. He continued to argue with the nonconformists about the points they differed in, and particularly kneeling at the sacrament; about which he managed a dispute with some of them in writing, till they did not think fit to pursue it any farther: He freely reproved them for the bitterness of their language against the Bishops and their adherents, and exhorted them to endeavour for patience and charity, but found their spirits so exasperated by the hard measure they had met with, that they were deaf to his admonitions. Being settled at Dudley, he preached frequently in that town, and in the neighbouring villages, with the approbation of all his

hearers

hearers. In three quarters of a year he was removed to Bridgenorth, where he officiated as assistant to Mr. William Madstard, then minister of that place; who treated bim with great kindness and respect, and did not put him upon many things which he then began to scruple doing. When the et cætera oath came to be imposed, Mr Baxter applied himself to study the case of episcopacy, and it fared with him as with some others, the thing which was intended to fix them to the hierarchy, drove them into a dislike of it. In order to have a just idea of this matter, it is necessary to transcribe this famous oath åt large; whence it will appear why some very honest men scrupled it, and why some as honest men took it without scruple.

It runs thus: “I A. B. do swear, that I do approve the • doctrine and discipline, or government established in • the church of England, as containing all things necessary to salvation; And that I will not endeavour by myself or any other, directly or indirectly, to bring in any popish doctrine, contrary to that which is so established; • nor will I ever give my consent to alter the government of the church, by Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, and

Archdeacons, &c. as it stands now established, and as • by right it ought to stand, nor yet ever to subject it to

the usurpation and superstitions of the see of Rome. • And all these things I do plainly and sincerely acknow

ledge and swear, according to the plain and common sense and understanding of the same words, without any equivocation or mental evasion, or secret reservation whatsoever And this I do heartily, willingly and truly, upon the faith of a Christian. So help me God, in Jesus Christ.'

Men of tender consciences thought it hard to swear to the continuance of a church government, which many of them disliked; and yet these men for the church's quiet would willingly have concealed their thoughts, had not this oath, imposed under the penalty of expulsion, compelled them to speak. Others complained of the et cætera, which, they said, contained they knew not what, and might be extended to they knew not whom, but in all probability to the officers of ecclesiastical courts; and to swear to them they thought not only a little extraordinary, but very far from being lawful. Mr. Baxter seents to bave understood the oath to be a direct declaration in favour of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of prelates as then established, which, though it might be submitted to with little, he apprehended could not be sworn

to

to without much, consideration. This put him upon studying the best books he could meet with on this subject ; the consequence of which was, that he utterly disliked the oath, a thing which fell out to many others besides him, who, but for this accident, had never disturbed themselves about so knotty a question. In the year 1640 he was invited to Kidderminster by the bailiff and feoffees, to preach there for an allowance of sixty pounds a-year, which he accepted ; and applied himself with such diligence to his sacred calling, as had a very great effect, in a short time, upon a very dissolute people. He continued there about two years before the civil war broke out, and fourteen afterwards, with some interruption. He sided with the parliament, and recommended the protestation they directed to be taken, to the people. This exposed him to some inconveniences, which obliged him to retire to Gloucester, but he was soon invited back to Kidderminster, whither he returned. His stay there was not long, but beginning to consider with himself where he might remain in safety, he fixed upon Coventry, and accordingly went thither. There he lived peaceably and confortably, preached once every Lord's day to the garrison, and once to the town's people, for which he took nothing but his diet. After Naseby fight, when all things seemed to favour the parliament, he, by advice of the ministers at Coventry, became chaplain to Colonel Whalley's regiment, and in this quality he was present at several sieges, but never in any engagement, so that there was not the least grounds for that scandalous story, invented and trumpeted about by his enemies, viz. that he killed a man in cold blood, and robbed him of a medal. He took all imaginable pains to hinder the progress of the sectaries, and to keep men firm in just notions of religion and government, never deviating from what he judged in his conscience to be right, for the sake of making court to any, or from baser motives of fear. But he was separated from the army in the beginning of the year 1657, in a very critical juncture, just when they fell off from the parliament, Mr. Baxter being at that time seized with a bleeding at the nose, in so violent a manner, that he lost the quantity of a gallon at once, which obliged him to retire to Sir Thomas Rouse's, where he continued for a long time in a very languishing state of health, which hindered him from doing that service to his country, that otherwise, from a man of his principles and moderation, might have been expected.

He

He afterwards returned to Kidderminster, and resumed the work of his ministry. He hindered, as far as it was in his power, the taking of the covenant, he preached and spoke publicly against the engagement, and therefore it is very unjust to brand him, as some have done, as a trumpeter of rebellion *

When the arniy was marching to oppose King Charles II. at the head of the Scots, Mr. Baxter took pains, both by speaking and writing to remind the soldiers of their duty, and to dissuade them from fighting against their brethren and fellow-subjects. After this, when Cromwell assumed the supreme power, he was not afraid to express his disaffection to his tyranny, though he did not think himself obliged to preach politics from

the

* To enter into all the gross things that have been said of Mr. Baxter by his enemies, would take up more room than we have employed in writing his life. It is sufficient to note their vamen, and the pieces they bave wrote, viz. Mr. Crandon in his book against Mr. Baxter's Aphorisms; Mr. Young's l'indicia Anti- Baxteriana', 1696, 12mo; Mr. Long's Review of Mr. Baxter's Life, 1697, Sro. addior, as a specimen, the following speecb put into the mouth of President Bradshaw in hell, who, in deciding on the merits of Mr. Hobbs, Mr. Nevill, and Mr. Baxter, is made to speak of the last thus: . If he, whose • faith is faction, whose religion is rebellion, whose prayers are spells, • whose piety is magic, whose purity, is ihe gall of bitterness, who can cant and recant, and caut again; who can transform himself into • as many shapes as Lucifer, (who is never more a devil than when an • angel of light) and, like him, (who, proud of his perfections, first re« belled in heaven) proud of his imaginary graces, pretends to rule ' and govern, and consequently rebel on earth, be the greatest politie . cian; then make room for Mr. Baxter: Let him come in, and be • crowned with wreaths of serpents and chaplets of adders: Let his triumpbant chariot be a pulpit drawn on the wheels of cannon, by a • brace of wolves in sheeps' clothing: Let the ancient fathers of the • church, whom out of ignorance he has vilified; the reverend and learn

ed prelates, whom out of pride and malice he has abused, belied, and • persecuted; the most rigbteous king, whose murder, (I speak my own ' and bis sense) contrary to the light of all religion, laws, reason, and • conscience, he has justified, then denied, then again and again jus. 'tified: let thein all be bound in chains, to attend his infernal triumph ' to his Saints' Everlasting Rest. Then make room, scribes and phao risees, hypocrites, atheists, and politicians, for the greatest rebel on • earth, and next to hin that fell from heaven.' But, it is certain that no man made more warm pretensions to loyalty thau Mr. Buxter did, who had the courage to tell the Protector, Cromwell, to his face, that the old English monarchy was a blessing. He was at the desire of King Charles 11. appointed one of his chaplains, and had some share of royal favour as long as the king lived. But what seems to put this matter out of all question is this, that, after the severe treatment he met with in the reign of King James, which might easily have soured his spirit, and after the Revolution, when he was under no necessity of keeping terms, he disclaimed all such sentiments, declaring positively, that tbroughout the whole civil war he was always for the king and parlia. nent, and never against the king's person, power, or prerogative.

the pulpit. Once indeed he preached before Cromwell, but neither did he in that sermon flatter, nor, in a conference he had with him afterwards, did he express either affection to his person, or submission to his power, but quite the contrary.* He came to London a little before the deposition of Richard Cromwell. At that time Mr. Baxter was looked upon as a friend to monarchy, and with reason, for, being chosen to preach before the parliament on the 30th of April 1660, which was the day preceding that on which they voted the king's return, he maintained, that loyalty to their prince was a thing essential to all true protestants, of whatever persuasion. About the same time likewise he was chosen to preach a thanksgiving sermon at St. Paul's, for General Monk's success; and yet some have been so bold as to maintain, that he attempted to dissuade his excellency from concurring in, or rather from bringing about, that happy

change.

* The Earl of Warwick and the Lord Broghill were the persons who drew him to preach before the Protector, and the words be made choice of were these: Now I beseech you, brethren, by the nume of our Lord Jesus Christ, tha! ye all speak the same thing, and hat there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. He levelled bis discourse against the divisions and distractions of the church, shewing bow mischievous a thing it was for politicians to maintain such divisions for tbeir own ends, that they might fish in troubled waters, and keep the church by its divisions in a state of weakness, best it should be able to offend thein. A while after Cromwell sent to speak with him, and when he came he had only three of bis chief men with him. He began a long and tedious speech to him of God's providence in the change of the government, and how God had owned it, and what great things had been done at home and abroad, in the peace with Spain and Holland, &c. When he had continued speaking thus about an hour, Mr. Baxter told him, it was 100 great condescension to acquaint him so fully with all those maliers, which were above bim; but that the bonest people of the land took their ancient monarchy to be a blessing and not an evil, and humbly craved his patience, that he might ask him how they had for. feited that blessing, and unto whom this forfeiture was made? Upon that question he was awakened into some passion, and told him there was no forfeiture, but God had changed it as pleased him; and then he let fly at the parliament, which thwarted him, and especially, by name at four or tive members, which were Mr. Baxter's chief acquaintance, whom he presumed to defend against the Protector's passion. And thus were four or five hours spent, though to little purpose. Some time afterwards the Protector sent for him again, under pretence of asking bis judgment about liberty of conscience, at which time also he made a long tedious speech himself, which took up so much time, that Mr. Baxter desired to offer his seutiments in writing, which he did; but, he says, he questions whether Cromwell read them. We have also a cha. Tacier of Cromwell drawn by the pen of our Author, which, though too Jong to be inserted here, is one of the most just aud impartial that ne have of that very extraordinary man.

« PreviousContinue »