Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

bondage of an implicit faith. He adhered to the Scriptures, as the perfect rule of faith, and searched whether the doctrines, received and taught, were consonant to it. This is the duty of every Christian, according to his capacity, especially ministers, and the necessary means to open the mind for divine knowledge, and for the advancement of the truth. He published several books against the papists, with that clearness and strength, as will confound, if not convince them. He said, “ He “ only desired armies and antiquity against the papists :" Armies, because of their bloody religion so often exemplified in England, Ireland, France, and other countries. However they may appear on the stage, they are always the same persons in the tyring-room: Their religion binds them to extirpate heretics, and often over-rules the milder inclinations of their nature: Antiquity, because they are inveigled with a fond pretence to it, as if it were favourable to their cause. But it has been demonstrated by many learned Protestants, that the argument of antiquity is directly against the principal doctrines of popery, as that of the supremacy, of transubstantiation, of image-worship, and others.

He has wrote several excellent books against the impudent atheism of this loose age. In them he establishes the fundamental principle, upon which the whole fabric of Christianity is built ; that after this short uncertain life, there is a future state of happiness or misery equally eternal, and that death is the last irrevocable step into that unchangeable state. From hence it follows, by infallible consequence, that the reasonable creature should prefer the interest of the soul before that of the body, and secure eternal life. This being laid, he proved the Christian religion to be the only way of fallen man's being restored to the favour of God, and obtaining a blessed immortality. This great argument he manages

with that clearness and strength, that none can refuse assent unto it, without denying the infallible principles of faith, and the evident principles of nature.

He also published some warm discourses, to apologize for the preaching of dissenting ministers, and to excite them to do their duty. He did not think that the act of uniformity could disoblige them from the exercise of their office. It is true, magistrates are titular gods, by their deputation and vicegerency, but subordinate and accountable to God above. Their laws have no binding force upon the conscience, but from his command ; and if contrary to his laws, are to be disobeyed. The ministers

consecrated

consecrated to the service of God, are under a moral perpetual obligation of preaching the saving truths of the Gospel, as they have opportunity. There needs no miraculous testimony of their commission from heaven, to authorize the doing their ordinary duty.

In some points of modern controversy, he judiciously chose the middle way, and advised young divines to follow it. His reverence of the divine purity, made him very shy and jealous of any doctrine that seemed to reflect a blaim and stain upon it. He was a clear asserter of the sovereign freeness, and infallible efficacy of divine grace, in the conversion of souls. In a sermon reciting the words of the covenant of grace, I will put my fear into their hearts, and they shall not depart from me, Jer. xxxii. 40, he observes the tenor of it was, “ I will, and “ you shall.” Divine grace makes the rebellious will obedient, but does not make the will to be no will. * By the illumination of the mind, the will is inclined to obedience, according to the words of our Saviour, All that have heard, and learned of the Father, come unto me. He preached, that the death of Christ was certainly effectual for all the elect, to make them partakers of grace and glory; and that it was so far beneficial to all men, that they are not left in the same desperate state with the fallen angels, but are made capable of salvation by the grace of the Gospel: Not capable as efficients to convert themselves, but as subjects to receive saving grace. He did so honour the sincerity of God, as entirely to believe his will declared in his word: He would not interpret the promises of the gospel in a less gracious sense than God intended them : Therefore if men finally perish, it is not for want of mercy in God, nor merits in Christ, but for wilful refusing salvation.

His books of practical divinity have been effectual for more numerous conversions of sinners to God, than any printed in our time: And while the church remains

on

* If a meaner pen may be allowed to attempt an eclaircissement, this profound subject may be stated thus :-Divine grace gives freedom to the will, by taking off the weighty prejudices and oppressions of sin, which bore it down or carried it away from its own original liberty and happiness. When these fetters were removed, the illumination of grace presented to the will all the beauty of holiness, which could not but close with it both in admiration and desire. Thus sinners are saved freely by grace, and yet in their own free-will: not that which is corrupted and enslaved, but that which is liberated and renewed. Every reader will remember, bow analogous this is to the representation of the Scriptures, which describes natural men in a state of bondage under sin and Satan,

1

on earth, will be of continual efficacy to recover lost
souls, There is a vigorous pulse in them that keeps the
Reader awake and attentive. His book of The Saints'
“ Everlasting Rest,” was written by him when lan-
guishing in the suspense of life and death, but has the
signatures of his holy and vigorous mind. To allure our
desires, he unveils the sanctuary above, and discovers the
glory and joys of the blessed in the divine presence, by a
light so strong and lively, that all the glittering vanities
of this world vanish in that comparison, and a sincere
believer will despise them, as one of mature age does the
toys and baubles of children, To excite our fear, he
removes the screen, and makes the everlasting fire of
hell so visible, and represents the tormenting passions of
the damned in those dreadful colours, that if, duly con-
sidered, would check and controul the unbridled licen-
tious appetites of the most sensual wretches.

His “ Call to the Unconverted," * how small in bulk, but how powerful in virtue ! Truth speaks in it with that authority and efficacy, that it makes the reader lay his hand upon his heart, and find he has a soul and a conscience, though he lived before as if he had none. He told some friends, that six brothers were converted by reading that Call; and that every week he received letters of some converted by his books. This he spake with most humble thankfulness, that God was pleased to use him as an instrument for the salvation of souls.

He that was so solicitous for the salvation of others, was not negligent of his own; but as regular love requires, his first care was to prepare himself for heaven. In him the virtues of the active and contemplative life were eminently united. His time was spent in communion with God, and in charity to men. He lived above the sensible world, and in solitude and silence conversed with God. The frequent and serious meditation of eternal things, was the powerful means to make his heart holy and heavenly, and from thence his conversation. His life was a practical sermon, a drawing example. There was an air of humility and sanctity in his mortified countenance; and his deportment was becoming a stranger upon earth, and a citizen of heaven.

Though all divine graces, the fruit of the Spirit, were visible in his conversation, yet some were more eminent.

Humility * The eminent Mr. Eliot of New England; translated this tract inte the Jodian tongue : A young Indian prince was so taken with it, thac he read it with tears, and died with it in his band.

[ocr errors]

Humility is to other graces, as the morning star is to the sun, that goes before it, and follows it in the evening: Humility prepares us for the receiving of grace; GOD gives grace to the humble: And it follows the exercise of grace; not I, says the apostle, but the grace of God in me. In Mr. Baxter there was a rare union of sublime knowledge, and other spiritual excellencies, with the lowest opinion of himself.

He wrote to one that sent a letter to him full of expressions of honour and esteem : “ You “ do admire one you do not know; knowledge will cure " the error. The more we know of God, the more rea

son we see to admire him; but our knowledge of the "creature discovers its imperfections, and lessens our "esteem.” To the same person, expressing his veneration of him for his excellent gifts and graces, he replied with heat, “ I have the remainders of pride in me; “how dare you blow up the sparks of it ?" He desired some ministers, his chosen friends, to meet at his house, and spend a day in prayer, for his direction in a matter of moment: Before the duty was begun, he said, "I have desired your assistance at this time, because I " believe God will sooner hear your prayers than « mine." He imitated St. Austin both in his penitential confessions and retractations. In conjunction with humility he had great candour for others. He could willingly bear with persons of different sentiments: He would not prostitute his own judgment, nor ravish another's. He did not over-esteem himself, nor undervalue others. He would give liberal encomiums of many conforming divines.* He was severe to himself, but candid in excusiag the faults of others. Whereas, the busy enquirer, and censurer of the faults of others, is usually the easy neglecter of his own.

Self-denial, and contempt of the world, were shining graces in him. I never knew any person less indulgent to himself, and more indifferent to his temporal interest. The offer of a bishopric was no temptation to him: For his exalted soul despised the pleasure and profits which others so earnestly desire; he valued not an empty title upon his tomb.

His

* As be gare encomiums of others, he had much said to his honour by many. Sir Matthew Hale spake highly of his piety and learning, before all the judges at the table at Serjeant's Inn, at the time when he was in prison upon the Oxford act. And see the testimony of others at the close of the account of his life, prefixed to his practical works in

folie,

His patience was truly Christian. God does ofter try his children by afflictions to exercise their graces, to occasion their victory, and to entitle them to a triumphant felicity.

This Saint was tried by many afflictions. We are very tender of our reputation His name was obscured under a cloud of detraction. Many slanderous darts were thrown at him. He was charged with schism and sedition. He was accused for his paraphrase on the New Testament, as guilty of disloyal aspersions upon the government, and condemned, unheard, to a prison, where he remained for some years. But he was so far from being moved at the unrighteous prosecution, that he joyfully said to a constant friend, “ What could I de• sire more of God, than after having served him to my “ power, I should now be called to suffer for him ?" One, who had been a fierce dissenter, was afterward rankled with an opposite heat, and very contumeliously in his writings reflected upon Mr. Baxter, who calmly endured his contempt: And when the same person published a learned discourse in defence of Christianity, Mr. Baxter said, “I forgive him all for his writing that book.” Indeed he was so much the more truly honourable, as he was thought worthy of the hatred of (some) persons.

It is true, the censures and reproaches of others, whom he esteemed and loved, touched him in the tender part. But he, with the great Apostle, counted it a small thing to be judged by man's day. He was entire to his conscience, and independent upon the opinion of others.* But his patience was more eminently tried by his continual pains and languishing. Martyrdom is a more easy way of dying, when the combat and the victory are finished at once, than to die by degrees every day. His complaints were frequent; but who ever heard an unsubmissive word drop from his lips?. He was not put out of bis patience, nor out of the possession of himself. In his sharp pains he said, “ I have a rational patience, and

a believing patience, though sense would recoil.”

Ilis pacific spirit was a clear character of his being a child of God. How ardently he endeavoured to cer

ment * The honourable Mr. Boyle declared Mr. Baxter to be the fittest man of the age to be a casuist, because he feared no man's displeasure, nor boped for any man's preferment. Bishop Burnet, in his life of Sir Matthew Hale, records it, that

He beld great conversation with Mr. Baxter, who was his neigh• bour at Acton, on whom be looked as a person of gceat devotion and

piery, and of a very subtle and quick apprehension.' —Burnet's Life, &c. p. 75.

« PreviousContinue »