« PreviousContinue »
cise of his ministry, as assistant to Mr. Silvester, and though no man was better qualified than he, for managing the public affairs of his party, yet he never meddled with them, nor had the least to do with those addresses which were presented by some of that body to King James II. on his indulgence. After his settlement in Charter-House Yard, he continued about four years and a half in the exercise of public duties, till he became so very weak as
said, ' Baxter was an enemy to the name and thing, the office and
person of bishops.' Rotheram added, " that Baxter frequently at• tended divine service, went to the sacrament, and persuaded thers to
do so too, as was certainly and publicly known; and had, in the
very book so charged, spoken very moderately and bonourably of the bisbops of the church of England. Mr. Baxter added, “ My “ Lord, I have been so moderate with respect to the church of England, " that I have incurred the censure of many of the dissenters upon that “ account.” “Baxter for bishops, says Jefferies, that's a merry con• ceit indeed : Turu to it, turn to it.' l'pon this Rotheram turned to a place where it is said, “That great respect is due to those truly called • to be bishops among us, or to that purpose. Ay, saith Jefferies, • this is your Presbyterian cant; truly called to be bishops; that is • himself, and such rascals, called to be bishops of Kidderminster
and other such places : Bishops set apart by such factious, snivelling • Presbyterians as himself; a Kidderininster bishop be means : Ac. cording to the saying of a late learned author, and every parish shall
maintain a lithe pix metropolitan.' Mr. Baxter, beginning to speak again, says he to bim, " Pichard, Richard, dost thou think we will • bear thee poison the court, &c. Richard, thou art an old fellow,
an old knave; thou hast written books enough to load a cart, every
one as full of sedition (I might say treason) as an egg is full of meat. " Hadst thou been whipped out of thy writing trade forty years ago, • it had been happy. Thon pretendest to be a preacher of the gospel • of peace, and thou hast one foot in the grave; it is time for thee to · begin to think what accomt thou intendest to give. But leave thee . to thyself, and I see thou wilt go on as thou hast begun, but, by the
grace of God, I will look after thee. I know thou hast a mighty party, and I see a great many of the brotherhood in corners, waiting to see what will become of their mighty don, and a doctor of the party (looking to Dr. Bates) at your elbow; but, by the grace of
Almighty God, I'l! crush you all. Mr. Rotheram sitting down, Mr. Artwood bean to shew, that not one of the passages mentioned in the information ought to be strained to that sens, which was put upon them by the innnendos, they being more natural when taken in a milder sense, bor could any one of them be applied to the prelates of the church of England without a very forced construction. To evidence this he would have read some of the text: But Jefferies cried out, You shall not draw me into a conventicle with your ando• tations, nor your snivelling parson neither.' "My Lord, said Attwood, • I couceive this to be expressly within Roswell's case lately before
Pour Lordship.'. You conceive, says Jefieries, you conceive amiss ' it is not.' 'My Lord, says Mr. Attwood, that I may use the best í authority, permit me to repeat your Lordship's own words in that
to be forced to keep his chamber. Even then he ceased not to do good, so far as it was in his power: and as he spent his life in taking pains, so to the last moment of it he directed his Christian brethren by the light of a good example. He departed this life December 8, 1691. A few days after his corpse was interred in Christ Church, being attended to the grave by a large company of all ranks and qualities, especially ministers, and amongst
case.' 'No, you shall not,' says he. “You need not speak, for you are an author already, though you speak and write impertinently.' Says Attwood, ' I cannot heip that, my Lord, if my talent be no bettec; but • it is my duty to do my best for my client.' Jefferies thereupon went op, inveighing against what Attwood had published: And altwood justified it to be in defence of the English constitution, declaring that ie never disowned any thing that he had written. Jefferies several times ordered bim to sit down, but he still went.on: ‘My Lord,' says he, • I have matter of law to offer for my client;' and he proceeded to cite several cases, wherein it had been adjudged, that words ought to be taken in the milder sense, and not to be strained by innuendos.
"Well,' says Jefieries, when he had done, ' you have had your say.' Mr. Williams and Mr. Phipps said nothing, for they saw it was to no purpose. length says Nir. Baxter himself, “ My Lord, I think I can clearly an. " swer all that is laid to my charge, and I shall do it briefly. The “ sum is contained in these few papers, to which I shall add a little by " testimony :" But he would not hear a word. At length the Chief Justice summed up the matter in a long and fulsome harangue. “ It
is notoriously known (says he) there has been a design to ruin the • king and the nation. The old game has been renewed, and this has • been the main incendiary. He is as modest now as can be; but time
was, when no man was so ready to bind your kings in chains, and
your pobles in fetters of iron; and to your tents, ( Israel. Gen'tlernen, for God's sake, don't let us be gulled twice in an age,' &c. And when he concluded, he told the jury, ' That if ihey in their con' sciences believed he meant the bishops and clergy of the church of * England, in the passages which the information referred to, they must • find him guilty, and he could mean no med else; if not they must find him not guilty. When he had done, says Mr. Baxter to hin, " Does your Lordship think any jury will pretend to pass a verdict
upon me, upon such a trial?" I'll warrant you, Mr. Baxter.' says he, don't you trouble yourself about that.' The jury immediately laid their heads together at the bar, and found him guilty. As he was going from the bar, Mr. Baxter told my Lord Chief Justice, who had so loaded bim with reproaches, and yet continued them, that “ A
predecessor of his had had other thoughts of him :". Upon which he replied, “That there was not an honest man in England but what took • him for a great knave.' lle had subpa naed several clergymen), who appeared in court, but were of no use to him, through the violence of the Chief Justice. The trial being over, Sir Henry a churst led Mr. Baxter through the crowd, (I mention it to his honour) and conveyed him away in his coach. On June the 29tb following, he had judgment given against him. He was fined five hundred marks, to lie in prison till he paid it, and be bound to his good behaviour for seven years. Calanny's Abridgement, Vol. I. p. 368-372.
them not a few of the established church, who very prudently paid this last tribute of respect to the memory of a great and good man, whose labours deserved much from true Christians of all denominations. He was a man, to speak impartially from the consideration of his writings, who had as strong a head, and as sound a heart, as any of the age in which he lived. He was too conscientious to comply from temporal motives, and his charity was too extensive to think of recommending himself to popular applause by a rigid behaviour. These sentiments produced such a practice as inclined some to believe he had a religion of his own, which was the reason that when Sir John Gayer bequeathed a legacy by will to men of moderate notions, he could think of no better expression than this, that they should be of Mr. Baxter's religion. We need not wonder that a person so little addicted to any party should experience the bitterness of all, and in truth, no man was ever more severely treated in this respect than Mr. Baxter, against whom more books were written, than against any man in the age in which he lived. His friends, however, were such as the bare repetition of their names might well pass for a panegyric, since it is impossible they could have lived in terms of strict intimacy with any other than a wise and upright man.t But the best testimony of Mr. Baxter's worth may
* Sir John Gayer did, by his last will and testament, bequeath a considerable sum of money to persons lately entered into the ministry, and young students for the ministry, with this restriction, that they should be such as were neither for domination nor unnecessary separa. tion, but of Mr. Baxter's principles. His laily, being of the established church, inclined to pay the legacy to such as were within Sir John's description of her own community. Upon tbis a Chancery suit was commenced, wherein it was proved, to the satisfaction of the court, that Mr. Baxter was a nonconformist; whereupon a decree went in favour of the plaintiffs. This was certainly a very singular case, and much for the honour of Mr. Baxter, since it plainly appears that Sir John Gayer thought him a man of distinguished piety and uncominon moderation; and, on the other hapd, neither church nor dissenters could be prevailed on to part with their right in him, but actually tried it in a court of equity.
+ We have already mentioned many of his court friends, to whom we ought to add the famous Duke of Lauderdale, the Earl of Balcarras, a Scotch nobleman of the name of Lesley, and at the head of the Presbyterian interest in that kingdom. The great Chief Justice Hale, who honoured him with an intimate friendship, gave a high encomium of his piety and learning to all the judges, when he was in prison on the Oxford act, left him a legacy in his will, and several large books in his own hand-writing, on the matter of their conversations; Alderman As. hurst, Sir John Maynard, Sir James Langham, Sir Edward Harley, &c.
be drawn from his own writings, of which he left behind him a very large number.* Many indeed have censured them, though it is certain that some of his books met with as general a reception as any that ever were printed; and the judicious Dr. Barrow, whose opinion all competent judges will admit, gave this judgment upon them,
his practical writings were never mended, his controoversial seldom confuted.'
Thus far we are indebted to the authors of the Biographia Britannica, for what they have laboriously digested both from his own life written by Mr. Baxter himself, and from the abridgement of it, or additions to it, composed by others. His own life, published from his manuscripts by Mr. Matthew Sylvester, is not only a very necessary book to those who would know Mr. Baxter, but to all who would study and understand the history of the times in which Mr. Baxter lived. It seems the most abstracted from party-heat of any book of the kind that ever was written, which seems the more extraordinary, as few men have suffered greater inconveniences by party.
He was likewise honoured with the correspondence of many foreign di. vines, such as Mr. Brupsenius, chaplain to the Elector of Brandenbourg ; Dr. Spencer, chaplain to the Elector of Saxony; the celebrated Monsieur Amyrald, and many others: Among whom we ought not to forget Dr. Jolin Tillotson, then Dean of St. Paul's, and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.
* Dr. Bates tells us, that his books, which for number and variety of matter were sufficient to make a library, contain a treasure of controver. sial, casuistical, positive, and practical divinity. Bishop Wilkins aflirms, that he has cultivated every subject he has handled. Dr. Simon Patrick, Bishop of Ely, commends him as a useful and pious writer. But the Rev. Mr. Long of Exeter, whom we have quoted more than once, says, that it would be well for the world if they were all burned. Accord. ing to his computation, they were in number fourscore : Dr. Calamy says he wrote above one hundred and twenty. Neither of these computations are exact. The author of this note hath seen a hundred and forty-five distinct treatises of Mr. Baxter's, whereof four were folio's, seventy-three quarto's, forty-nine octavo's, and nineteen in twelves and twenty-four's, besides single sheets, separate sermons, and at least five and ewenty prefaces before other men's writings. The first book he published was his aphorisms of Justification, and the Covenants, printed 10 1649, and the last in his life time, The Certainty of the World of Spirits, printed in 1691, so that he was an author two and fifty years. Amongst his most famous pieces were his Saints Everlasting Resi; his Call to the Unconverted, of which twenty thousand were sold in one year; it was translated into all the European languages, and into the Indian tongue: His Reformed Liturgy, his Catholic Theology, his Poor Man's Family Book, his Dying Thoughts, and his Paraphrase on the New Testament. His practical works have been printed altogether, in fuur vo lumnes in folio.
It would, however, not be doing justice to the memory of Mr. Baxter, were we to pass over the account which his excellent friend Dr. Bates has given us of him. Nor would it be justice to our pious readers, for there is a vein of grace running through the detail of the eloquent author, which tends not only to inform the mind, but to warm and animate the heart by Mr. Baxter's example.
Speaking of his residence at Kidderminster, Dr. Bates proceeds to say, “That there Mr. Baxter's ministry, by the Divine iniluence, was of admirable eficacy. The harvest answered the seed that was sowed. Before his coming, the place was like a piece of dry and barren earth, only ignorance and profaneness, as natives of the soil, were rife among them; but by the blessing of heaven upon his labour and cultivating, the face of paradise appeared there in all the fruits of righteousness. Many were translated from the state of polluted nature to the state of grace, and many were advanced to higher degrees of holiness. The bad were changed to good, and the to better. Conversion is the excellent work of divine grace. The efficacy of the means is from the Supreme Mover. But God usually makes those ministers successful in that blesssd work, whose principal design and delight is to glorify him in the saving of souls. This was the reigning affection of his heart, and he was extraordinarily qualified to obtain his end.
• His prayers were an effusion of the most melting expressions, and his intimate ardent affections to God: From the abundance of the heart his lips spake. His soul took wing for heaven, and wrapped up the souls of others with him. Never did I see or hear a holy minister address himself to God with more reverence and humility; with more respect to his glorious greatness ; never with more zeal and fervency, correspondent to the infinite moment of his requests; nor with more filial affiance in the divine mercy.
• In his sermons there was a rare union of arguments and motives to convince the mind, and gain the heart: All the fountains of reason and persuasion were open to his discerning eye. There was no resisting the force of his discourses, without denying reason and divine revelation. Ile had a marvellous felicity and copiousness in speaking. There was a noble negligence in his style; for his great mind could not stoop to the affected eloquence of words. He despised flashy oratory: But his expressions were clear and powerful, so convincing the understand