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MR. RICHARD Baxter, the anthor of the Saint's Rest, so well known to the world by this, and many other excellent and useful writings, was a learned, laborious, and eminently holy divine, of the 17th century. He was born near Shrewsbury, in 1615, and died at London, in 1691.
His ministry, in an unsettled state, was for many years employed with great and extensive success, both in London, and in several parts of the country; but he was nowhere fixed so long, or with such entire satisfaction to himself, and apparent advantage to others, as at Kidderminster.His abode there was indeed interrupted partly by his bad health, but chiefly by the calamities of a civil war, yet in the whole it amounted to sixteen years; nor was it by any means the result of his own choice, or that of the inhabitants of Kidderminster, that he never settled there again, after his going from thence in 1660. Before bis coming thither, the place was over-run with ignorance and profaneness; but, by the divine blessing on his wise and faithful cultivation, the fruits of righteousness sprung up in rich abundance. He at first found but a single instance or two of daily family prayer in a whole street, and, at his going away, but one family or two could be found in some streets that continued to neglect it. And on Lord's days, instead of the open profanation to which they had been so long accustomed, a person, in passing through the town, in the intervals of public worship, might overhear hundreds of families engaged in singing psalms, reading the scriptures, and other good books, or such sermons as they had wrote down, while they heard them from the pulpit. His care of the souls committed to his charge, and the success of his labours among them, were truly remarkable; for the number of his stated communicants rose to six hundred, of whom he himself declared, there were not twelve concerning whose sincere piety he had not reason to entertain good hopes. Blessed be God, the religious spirit which was thus happily introduced, is yet to be traced in the town and neighbourhood in some degree: (O that it were in a greater!) and in proportion as that spirit remains, the name of Mr. BAXTER continues in the most honourable and affectionate remembrance.
As a writer, he has the approbation of some of his greatest contemporaries, who best knew him, and were under no temptations to be partial in his favour.Dr. Barrow said, “Ris practical writings were never mend
ed, and his controversial ones seldom confuted.”— With a view to his casuistical writings, the honourable Robert Boyle, esq. declared, “He was the fittest man “ of his age for a casuist, because he feared no man's
displeasure, nor hoped for any man's preferment.” - Bishop Wilkins observed of him, “ That he had “ cultivated every subject he had handled; that if he “ had lived in the primitive times, he would have “ been one of the fathers of the church, and that it
was enough for one age to produce such a person as “ Mr. Baxter.” Archbishop Usher had such high thoughts of him, that by his earnest importunity he put him upon writing several of his practical discourses, particularly that celebrated piece, his Call to the Unconverted. Mr. Manton, as he freely expressed it,
thought Mr. Baxter came nearer the apostolical
writings than any man in the age.”—And it is both as a preacher, and a writer, that Dr. Bates considers him, when in his funeral sermon for him he says, “ 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 the discerning eye. There was no resisting the “ force of his discourses, without denying reason and “ divine revelation. He had a marvellous facility “ 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
ing, so entering into the soul, so engaging the affec“tions, that those were as deaf as adders who were “not charmed by so wise a charmer. He was aniinat“ed with the Holy Spirit, and breathed celestial fire,
to inspire heat and life into dead sinners, and to “ melt the obdurate in their frozen tombs. His
books, for their number, (which it seems were more " than one hundred and twenty,) and variety of mat“ ter in them, make a library. They contain a trea
sure of controversial, casuistical, and practical divi
nity. 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 earth, will be of continual
efficacy to recover lost souls. There is a vigorous pulse in them, that keeps the reader awake and at
tentive.” To these testimonies may not be improperly added that of the editors of his Practical Works, in four folio volumes; in the Preface to which they say, Perhaps there are no writings among us that “ have more of a true Christian spirit, a greater mix“ture of judgment and affection, a greater tendency “ to revive pure and undefiled religion, that have “ been more esteemed abroad, or more blessed at home “ for the awakening the secure, instructing the igno
rant, confirming the wavering, comforting the de"jected, recovering the profane, or improving such “as are truly serious, than the practical works of this “author.” Such were the apprehensions of eminent persons, who were well acquainted with Mr. Baxter
and his writings. It is therefore the less remarkable that Mr. Addison, from an accidental and very imperfect acquaintance, but with his usual pleasantness and candour, should mention the following incident: “I once met with a page of Mr. Baxter.
Upon the perusal of it I conceived so good an idea “ of the author's piety, that I bought the whole « book.”
Whatever other causes might concur, it must chiefly be ascribed to Mr. Baxter's distinguished reputation as a preacher and a writer, that presently after the Restoration he was appointed one of the chaplains in ordinary to King Charles II. and preached once before him in that capacity; as also he had an offer made him by the Lord Chancellor Clarendon, of the bishopric of Hereford, which, in a respectful letter to his lordship, he saw proper to decline.
The Saint's Rest is deservedly esteemed one of the most valuable parts of his practical works. He wrote it when he was far from home, without any book to consult but his Bible, and in such an ill state of health, as to be in continual expectation of death for many months; and therefore, merely for his own use, he fixt his thoughts on this heavenly subject, " which (says he) hath more benefited me than all the studies of my life.” At this time he could be little more than thirty years old. He afterwards preached over the subject in his weekly lecture at Kidderminster, and in 1656 he published it; and indeed it appears to have been the first that ever he published of all his practical writings. Of this book Dr. Bates says, “ It
was written by him when languishing in the suspence of life and death, but has the signatures of his
holy vigorous mind. To allure our desires, he un“ vails the sanctuary above, and discovers the glories " and joys of the blessed in the divine presence, by a
light so strong and lively, that all the glittering va“nities 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 ex“ cite our fears, he removes the screen, and makes the