break out your badges for
12.11.1615 – 8.12.1691
“I preached as never sure to preach again,
and as a dying man to dying men.”
He had a sense of urgency about his preaching and his witnessing, realising with clarity the reality of eternity and that this opportunity to the person in front of him might be the last one afforded to both of them.
When one knows one is going to be hanged, said Dr Johnson,
it concentrates the mind wonderfully; and when; like Baxter from
the time of his majority, one lives with one foot in the grave, it
imparts an overwhelming clarity both to one’s sense of proportion
(what matters, and what does not), and also to one’s perception of
what is and is not consistent with what one professes to believe.
‘O sirs,’ cried the vicar of Kidderminster to his ministerial brethren,
‘surely if you had all conversed with neighbour Death as oft as I
have done, and as often received the sentence in yourselves, you
would have an unquiet conscience, if not a reformed life….
Author and hymn writer, his most famous book is “The Reformed Pastor” published in 1656. It was, and is, dynamite, made its mark at once, and has held its place as a classic. It is primarily an appeal to pastors as to the basis for their ministry and obligation to their people, but is important for anyone who is seeking to do God’s will. By ‘reformed’ he meant, not Calvinistic in doctrine, but renewed in practice (quote from J.I.Packer).
Despite his ability to preach, he really emphasised the importance of individual persuasion –
I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent
means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far
more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner….
Therefore personal catechizing and counselling, over and above
preaching, is every minister’s duty: for this is the most rational
course, the best means to the desire end. So it was in Baxter’s day.
Is it not so now?
His achievement at Kidderminster was amazing and England had not before seen a ministry like it. The 2000 people were ‘ignorant, rude and revelling’ but changed dramatically under Baxter’s ministry, the church swelling to a congregation of 1000.
‘…the most outstanding pastor, evangelist and writer on practical and devotional themes that Puritanism produced.’
Sources: J I Packer in introduction to 1974 edition of The Reformed Pastor and Simcox Quotations.