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HIS eminently useful and pious Divine was born at Rowton, near High-Ercal, in Shropshire, on the twelfth of November 1615, in the bouse of his grandfather by the mother, Richard Adeney. His father, also named Richard Baxter, had a small freehold estate at Eaton-Constantine, about five miles from Shrewsbury; which, hy his own indiscretion when young and by that of his father, was much impaired, and occasioned many difficulties to him, before, in the course of frugality and prudence, he could free it from incumbrances.
Ile spent the infancy of his life at his grandfather's, and, even then, is said to have given strong indications of that piety and purity which appeared in his subsequent life and conversation. In 1625 he was taken from his grandfather's house where he had hitherto lived, and brought home to his father's at Eaton-Constantine, the village above-mentioned, where he passed the remainder of his childhood. He was far from being happy in respect to his schoolmasters, who were men no way distinguished either for learning or morals, and missed the advantages of an academical education, through a proposal made to his parents of placing him with Mr. Richard Wickstead, chaplain to the council at. Ludlow. The only advantage he reaped there was the use of an excellent library, which by his own great application proved of infinite service to him. In this situation he remained about a year and half, and then returned to his father's. At the request of the Lord Newport he went thence to Wroxiter, where he taught in the free-sehool for six months, while his old school-master Mr. John Owen lay in a languishing condition. In 1633, Mr. Wickstead prevailed on him to wave the studies in which he was then engaged, and to think of making his fortune at court. He accordingly came up to Whitehall with a recommendation to Sir Henry Herbert, then master of the revels, by whom he was very kindly received. But after a month's stay, discovering no charms in this sort of life, and having
besides a very strong propensity to undertake the ministerial function, he returned to his father's, and resumed his studies with fresh vigour, till Mr. Richard Foley of Stourbridge fixed him as master of the free-school at Dudley, with an usher under him. In the time he taught school there, he read several practical treatises, whereby he was brought to a due and deep sense of religion, his progress therein being not a little quickened by his great bodily weakness and ill state of health, which inclined him to think he should scarce survive above a year. We are told by Dr. Calamy, that, from the age of twenty-one to twenty-three, he lived constantly as it were in the shadow of death; and, finding his own soul under serious apprehensions of the matters of another world, he was very desirous to communicate those apprehensions to such ignorant, careless, presumptuous sinners, as the world abounds with. Although therefore he had his discouragements, through his sense of the greatness and awfulness of the work of the ministry, and his fear of exposing himself to the censure of many, on the account of his wanting academical education, honours, and dignities; yet, expecting to be so quickly in another world, the great concernments of miserable souls prevailed with him to engage in it; and finding in himself a thirsty desire of men's conversion and salvation, and a competent persuading faculty of expression, which fervent affections might help to actuate, he concluded, that if but one or two souls might by his means be won to God, it would easily recompense any treatment he might meet with in the world. However, having still an earnest desire to the ministry, he in 1638 addressed himself to Dr. Thornborough, Bishop of Winchester, for holy orders, which after examination he received, having at that time no scruples of conscience which hindered him from conforming to the church of England.
We have a very distinct detail of the means by which he first came to alter his opinions in these matters; and it will be very proper to take notice of them here, because they will serve to let the reader into the character of the man. Being settled at Dudley, he fell into the acquaintance of several nonconformists, whom, though he judged severe and splenetic, yet he found to be both godly and honest men. They supplied him with several writings on their own side, and amongst the rest, with Ames's · Fresh Suit against Ceremonies, which he read over very distinctly, comparing it with Dr. Burgess's • Rejoynder.' And, upon the whole, ke at that time came to these conclusions. Kneeling he VOL. IV.
thought lawful, and all mere circumstances determined by the magistrate, which Gop 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 actualiy 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 he 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 conimon prayer, and was not yet against diocesans, yet to subscribe er 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