“Less than a month from his retirement he was taken ill and lingered in much bodily suffering until called to higher service on January 21st 1896. The funeral took place on the Saturday following when nearly the whole of the village seemed to go into mourning. The coffin was borne in and out of the chapel and to the grave by members of the Fire Brigade. Hundreds attended the Marylebone Cemetery (notwithstanding the rain) to show their love and respect to one who had for so many years been their friend, and who had loved and served them to his utmost.
“Thus closed upon earth the life of one who was faithful to his God. May we who serve the same Lord and Master be equally as faithful. ‘Blessed are the dead which die I the Lord from henceforth. Yes, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours and their works do follow them.’
When developing this stretch of the line, it became necessary to demolish 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, which were part of an up market street of terraced housing, forming a break in the long string of houses, so it was decided to build a false facade which matched the houses either side of the break, and use the gap behind the facade as a steam venting point.
'If you want to know the art of pleading' said Spurgeon 'read Baxter.' This book is certainly a lesson in that art. At the close of a paper on Baxter some years ago Maurice Roberts quotes Jim Packer saying that "The content of Baxter's Gospel is not in any way distinctive. It was the historic, Puritan, evangelical, New Testament message of ruin, redemption and regeneration." He then asks what made Baxter so successful. He suggests a number of things to which we have added some points taken from Timothy Beougher. We say
1. The seriousness with which he goes about his task.
2. The directness with which he addresses his hearers. He takes his hearer by storm. He almost takes us by the throat in his earnestness.
3. The eagerness with which he seeks to be effective in his presentation.
4. The reasonable way he presents his case. Baxter did not rant; he did not make an assault on the will or on the emotions but on the mind. He deals with man as a rational being.
5. The way he uses the ploughshare of exhortation to rip up his hearers' conscience. Almost every word is a challenge to the conscience of sinful man, to drive him from his refuge to Christ.
6. The thoroughness that he shows. He said it and then said it again. He put it in different forms, different ways: arguing, reasoning, persuading, convincing. There is relentless application to the conscience. In light of what God says, you must do this and this, if you do you will be blessed in such and such ways; if you refuse then you will inherit such and such a curse.
7. The clarity of his method. He follows the Puritan plan and begins with a text, drawing out the doctrines then proving them, explaining and expounding them. .
8. The focus on primary truths. He does not get side-tracked but deals with the great themes: heaven and hell, God and Christ, faith and repentance, Christ's cross, the need to come at once.
9. His deep pastoral compassion and concern. He cared profoundly for the lost state of man. He had a burning heart of love to Christless sinners and his motive is to move men to God.
10. His determination to answer every conceivable objection anyone might at any time raise against the truth. He strips the sinner of his armour and leaves him naked before God's Judgement Throne.
11. His unmasking of sin and laying bare of the heart. Man is shown to be a sinner; sin to be very sinful.
12. His presentation of God in Christ as supremely delightful, desirable and to be attained to, no matter what the cost or difficulty, the sacrifice or the apparent loss in this life.
13. The urgency with which he spoke. He demands a response. There is no better time than now.
14. His constant looking to the Lord to do the work, not to his own efforts.
In the original Baxter began with a fairly lengthy preface headed “To all unsanctified persons that shall read this book; especially of my hearers in the Borough and Parish of Kidderminster” and signed “Your serious Monitor, Richard Baxter”!
He is especially concerned to counter the idea that if God saves, we can do nothing. He wants people to seriously read the book, to then get alone with God and not delay to close with Christ as soon as possible. The preface itself is a powerful sermon and sets the tone for the rest. It is important to remember that, as he states elsewhere, his intention here is “to speak to the impenitent, unconverted sinners, who are not yet so much as purposing to turn; or at least are not setting about the work.” Despite Ussher he felt
a winning persuasive was a more necessary means than mere directions; for directions suppose men willing to obey them. ... the persons that we have first to deal with, are wilful and asleep in sin, and as men that are past feeling, having given themselves over to sin with greediness. My next work must be for those that have some purposes to turn, and are about the work, to direct them for a thorough and a true conversion, that they miscarry not in the birth.
The book itself, in good Puritan fashion begins with the text of the original sermon the book has grown out of, Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them. As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
He briefly expounds the text, saying that it is surprising to see what the Bible says about how few will be saved and how many will go to hell. By nature we think that the one who does evil should be the one to pay, so when we hear that so many will go to hell we must ask why. Of course, the devil is involved but then whose fault is it beyond that, God's or man's? That, he says, is the text's subject. He notes that God clears himself by saying that he is not to blame but wants them to repent. He then exhorts the wicked to return to him. He not only commands this but seeks to persuade them to it. He is willing to reason with them. Why will they die ? He wants them to turn and live. He wants to convince them that it is not God's fault if they are miserable and convince them of their obvious willfulness in rejecting all his commands and arguments that it is their fault if they die.
Having 'opened' the text he announces seven doctrines from the text, which he then works through.
1. It is the unchangeable law of God, that wicked men must turn or die.
You see then, though this be a rough and unwelcome doctrine, it is such as we must preach, and you must hear. It is easier to hear of hell than feel it. If your necessities did not require it, we would not gall your tender ears with truths that seem so harsh and grievous.
He clarifies what is meant by wicked and conversion and how we may know whether we are wicked or converted. He says
O sirs, conversion is another kind of work than most are aware of. It is not a small matter to bring an earthly mind to heaven, and to show man the amiable excellences of God, till he be taken up in such love to him that can never be quenched; to break the heart for sin, and make him fly for refuge to Christ, and thankfully embrace him as the life of his soul, etc.
2. It is the promise of God, that the wicked shall live, if they will but turn; unfeignedly and thoroughly turn.
It is life, not death, that is the first part of our message to you; our commission is to offer salvation, certain salvation; a speedy, glorious, everlasting salvation, to every one of you
Again he quotes a whole series of Scriptures to support his commission.
3. God taketh pleasure in men's conversion and salvation, but not in their death or damnation.
Here he pleads the gracious nature of God, his frequents commands to turn, his commission to his ministers, his providence , the sufferings of his Son.
4. The Lord hath confirmed it to us by his oath, That he hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn and live; that he may leave man no pretence to doubt of it.
5. So earnest is God for the conversion of sinners, that he doubleth his commands and exhortations with vehemency, "Turn ye, Turn ye".
Lay all these together now, and see what should be the issue. The holy Scriptures call upon thee to turn; the ministers of Christ call upon thee to turn; the Spirit cries, Turn ; thy conscience cries, Turn; the godly, by persuasions and examples cry, Turn; the whole world, and all the creatures therein that are presented to thy consideration cry, Turn; the patient forbearance of God cries, Turn; all the mercies which thou receivest cry, Turn; the rod of God's chastisement cries Turn; thy reason and the frame of thy nature bespeaks thy turning; and so do all thy promises to God; and yet art thou not resolved to turn?
6. The Lord condescendeth to reason the case with unconverted sinners, and to ask them, Why they will die?
He shows how unreasonable sinners are and shows how wrong are their apparent reasons. He deals with 12 specific objections
1. If none shall be saved, but such sanctified ones as you talk of, heaven will be but empty. God help a great many."
Answer, "What! It seems you think that God does not know, or else that He is not to be believed. Measure not all by yourselves. God has thousands and millions of his sanctified ones." Etc.
2. "I am sure if such as I go to hell, we shall have store of company"
Answer. "And will that be any ease or comfort to you, or do you think you may not have company enough in heaven? Will you be without company, or will you not believe that God will execute his threatenings because there are so many that are guilty? All these are silly unreasonable conceits.”
Other objections dealt with are
3. "But all men are sinners; even the best of you all"
4. "I do not see that professors of religion are any better than other men."
5. "But I am no whoremonger, nor drunkard, nor oppressor; and therefore why should you call upon me to be converted?"
6. "But I mean nobody any harm, nor do any harm. Why then should God condemn me?"
7. "I think you would make men mad under pretence of converting them." Answer. "Can you be madder than you are already?" etc
Etc. He also explains why men are unreasonable and so unwilling to turn
7. If after all this, men will not turn, it is not God's fault that they are condemned, but their own, even their own willfulness. They die because they will; that is, because they will not turn.
He speaks of how unfit the wicked are to charge God with their damnation. It is not because God is unmerciful, but because they are cruel and merciless to themselves. He then answers the objection he had considered in the preface “We cannot convert ourselves, nor have we free-will”. He also speaks of subtlety of Satan, the deceitfulness of sin and the folly of sinners and how it is little wonder that the wicked hinder the conversion and salvation of others. Man is his own worst enemy.
Ted Donnelly has noted how at the close of the book Baxter “appeals to his hearers with such tender earnestness that we can almost see the tears upon his cheeks”. Baxter says
My heart is troubled to think how I shall leave you, lest ... I should leave you as I found you, till you awake in hell ... I am as hearty a beggar with you this day, for the saving of your souls, as I would be for my own supply, if I were forced to come a begging to your doors. And therefore if you would hear me then, hear me now. If you would pity me then, be entreated now to pity yourselves ... O sirs, believe it, death and judgement, heaven and hell, are other matters when you come near them, than they seem to carnal eyes afar off. Then you will hear such a message as I bring you with more awakened, regardful hearts.
Finally he gives 10 directions as to what those seeking conversion should do. We summarise
1. Labour to understand the necessity and nature of true conversion. He deals then with for what they must turn, from what they must turn, to what end they must turn and by what they must turn.
2. Be much in secret, serious consideration
3. Attend upon the Word of God
4. Pray to God earnestly and constantly
5. Give up all known and wilful sins
6. Change your company if necessary
7. Deliver yourself up to Jesus the physician of souls
8. Act speedily, without delay
9. Do it unreservedly, absolutely and universally
10. Do it resolvedly. Do not waver. He says
Now, while you are reading, or hearing this, resolve; before you sleep another night, resolve; before you stir from the place, resolve; before Satan have time to take you off, resolve. You never turn indeed till you do resolve, and that with a firm unchangeable resolution.
1,000 — a one followed by three zeros, in the general notation;
1 × 103 — in engineering notation
After the Restoration of 1660 Baxter, who had helped bring it about, settled in London, where he preached until the 1662 Act of Uniformity took effect. In response to the Savoy Conference of 1661 he produced his Reformed Liturgy, which was cast aside unconsidered. Baxter established a strong reputation in London as he had elsewhere. The power of his preaching was universally felt and his capacity for business placed him at the head of the Nonconformist party. He had been made a king's chaplain and was offered a bishopric, but could not in conscience accept it. He found consolation in his marriage in September 1662 to Margaret Charlton. (She died in 1681). Baxter wrote "Ye Holy Angels Bright" in that same year.
From 1662 until the indulgence of 1687, Baxter's life was constantly disturbed by persecution of one kind or another. He retired to Acton for the purpose of quiet study but was imprisoned for keeping a conventicle. He was taken up for preaching in London after the licences granted in 1672 were recalled by the king. The meeting house which he had built for himself in Oxendon Street was closed to him after he had preached there only once. In 1680, he was taken from his house and though released so that he might die at home, his books and goods were seized. In 1684, he was carried three times to the sessions house, being scarcely able to stand and without any apparent cause was made to enter into a bond for £400 in security for his good behaviour. In 1685 he had been imprisoned on the charge of libelling the Church in his Paraphrase on the New Testament, and was tried before the notorious Judge Jeffreys. The trial is well known as among the most brutal perversions of justice ever to have occurred in England. Jeffreys is even said to have proposed he should be whipped behind a cart. Baxter was now 70 and remained in prison for 18 months, until the government, vainly hoping to win him over, remitted the fine and released him.
Baxter's health had grown steadily worse, yet this was the period of his greatest activity as a writer. Edmund Calamy called him “The most voluminous theological writer in the English language.” He wrote 168 or so separate works altogether including his huge Christian Directory, Methodus Theologiae Christianae and Catholic Theology, each of which might have been the life's work of an ordinary man. The remainder of his life, from 1687 onwards, was passed peacefully. He died in London, and his funeral was attended by many churchmen as well as dissenters.
As for his theology, Baxter was quite distinct and held to a theology best described as Baxterian. His method was unique - one obvious feature being his desire to subdivide material into three parts where possible. He also saw the kingdom of God as a key to understanding Scripture. Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was an important influence. Baxter rejected his Arminianism but admired his political approach. Beougher points out that Baxter also gave a high place to reason, was quite eclectic and believed that holiness was the essence of Christianity. Baxter first came across antinomianism in the army. It so horrified him that he spent the rest of his life opposing it.
Baxter's understanding of atonement can be described as a form of Amyraldianism, though he did not get it from Amyraut, or 'hypothetical universalism'. This moderate form of Calvinism rejected the doctrine of particular redemption in favour of Grotius' universal redemption. He sought to tread an eclectic middle path between Beza's Reformed understanding and Grotius's Arminian one. “Instead of saying that Christ satisfied the law in the sinner's place through substitution; Baxter asserted that Christ satisfied the Lawgiver and so obtained a change in the law”. God has now made a 'new law' offering pardon and amnesty to the penitent. Repentance and faith, being obedience to this law are the believer’s personal saving righteousness. As for justification, Baxter insisted, that this required at least some degree of faith and works. He also spoke, confusingly, of present and final justification.
Baxter's theology made him very unpopular in his own day and split Dissenters in the following century. As summarised by Thomas W Jenkyn, it differed from the Calvinism of Baxter's day on four points:
1. Christ's atonement did not consist in his suffering the identical but the equivalent punishment (ie one which would have the same effect in moral government) as that deserved by mankind because of offended law. Christ died for sins, not persons. While the benefits of substitutionary atonement are accessible and available to all men for their salvation; they have in the divine appointment a special reference to the subjects of personal election.
2. The elect were a certain fixed number determined by the decree without any reference to their faith as the ground of their election; which decree contemplates no reprobation but rather the redemption of all who will accept Christ as Saviour.
3. What is imputed to the sinner in the work of justification is not Christ's righteousness but the faith of the sinner himself in the righteousness of Christ.
4. Every sinner has a distinct agency of his own to exert in the process of his conversion.
Much disagreement exists concerning not only the propriety of Baxter's views but also their precise nature. These differences probably arise from a combination of factors. Baxter's discussions are often extremely intricate. He is very much a scholastic theologian. His constant use of distinctions is nearly proverbial among critics as well as students. To understand his theological positions one must go through the arduous process of analysing his numerous distinctions. Neglect of various nuances in these distinctions can lead to a misunderstanding of certain aspects of his theology. Further, his theological system is a tightly knit one and a failure to grasp it all may result in an inaccurate portrayal.
Such facts need to be borne in mind when considering his Call. To what extent they impinge on its contents is open to debate. (in their book on Meet the Puritans Beeke and Pederson say on the Call "Discernment is necessary in reading this book, since Baxter’s unsound views do occasionally surface." See here).
Richard Baxter was born November 12, 1615 in Rowton, a village in Shropshire. He lived through most of the tumultuous 17th Century, dying December 8, 1691 in London. He has been dubbed “the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen” and “the most successful preacher, winner of souls and nurturer of souls that England has ever had.”
Forced to live with his maternal grandmother until he was 10 because of his father's gambling debts, his beginnings were inauspicious and his early education was poor. In six years he had four different teachers, all ignorant and two of them immoral. After his father's conversion he returned to the parental home in Eaton Constantine but things did not improve in every way. The parish church was no help at all. However, chiefly through his father's influence and through good books that he read, he was converted at some point in his teenage years.
Baxter would have loved a university education but instead studied at a preparatory school in Wroxeter and at Ludlow Castle with Richard Wickstead. Wickstead was not much help but Baxter made good use of the library. After a brief dalliance with court life in London he set himself to study theology with a local clergyman in Wroxeter. In about 1634, he met Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock who both had a strong nonconformist influence on him.
From the ages of 21-23 Baxter was constantly sick and did not expect to live. He continued to labour with such sicknesses from time to time for the rest of his life. Meanwhile he had a growing desire to enter the ministry of the Church of England and in 1638 became master of the free grammar school in Dudley for nine months, having been ordained and licensed by the Bishop of Worcester.
He then went to Bridgnorth, where, as curate to a Mr Madstard, he established a reputation for conscientiousness. He was at Bridgnorth nearly two years, during which time he took a special interest in the controversy relating to nonconformity. He soon became alienated from the Church on several matters and after the requirement of what is called "the etcetera oath" in 1640, he rejected episcopacy in its English form and became a moderate Nonconformist, which he remained. Generally regarded as a Presbyterian, he was an unconventional one, often prepared to accept a modified Episcopalianism. He regarded all forms of church government as subservient to the true purposes of religion.
One of the first measures of the Long Parliament was to reform the clergy. They appointed a committee to receive complaints and among the complainants were the inhabitants of Kidderminster whose minister was a drunkard who preached only once every three months! Moves were made that led to Baxter being invited to deliver a sermon before the people and his unanimous election as minister followed in 1641. He was 26.
Some 15 months after this his ministry was interrupted for five years due to the Civil Wars. While loyal to the Royalists, Baxter had spoken in favour of the Parliamentarians and so he moved first to Gloucester then (1643-1645) to Coventry, where he preached regularly both to the garrison and citizens. After the Battle of Naseby he became chaplain to Colonel Edward Whalley's regiment, and continued as chaplain until February 1647. During these stormy years he wrote his Aphorisms of Justification, which on its appearance in 1649 excited great controversy.
Baxter attempted to counteract the growth of the sectaries in the Parliamentary Army and maintain the cause of constitutional government in opposition to the republican tendencies of the time. He regretted that he had not previously accepted Cromwell's offer to become chaplain, being confident in his power of persuasion under the most difficult circumstances. His success in converting the soldiery to his views was in fact limited but he preserved his own consistency and fidelity. He did not hesitate to urge what he saw to be true on the most powerful officers, any more than he hesitated to instruct the camp followers.
In 1647, Baxter languished for five months at death's door at the home of Lady Rouse. It was at this time that he wrote most of his famous work, The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650). On his recovery, he returned to Kidderminster, where he ministered for the next 14 years. During that time he accomplished many reforms in the town and its neighbourhood. He formed the ministers of the area into an association, uniting them irrespective of ecclesiastical differences. He visited all 800 families in the parish every year, teaching each person individually. His Reformed Pastor, a book describing his pastoral approach became a classic and is still read and admired today. The outstanding feature of his preaching was his earnest zeal. In his writing and preaching he shows his belief that pastors need “the skill necessary to make plain the truth, to convince the hearers, to let in the irresistible light into their consciences, and to keep it there, and drive all home; to screw truth into their minds and work Christ into their affections.”
He was eager to give glory to God for his great success and pointed to factors such as his youthful vigour, his singleness, his moving voice, his diligent assistants, his long service, the town's size, the fact they had not been exposed to an awakening ministry before and the fact that as the people were mostly carpet weavers they were able to read the books he gave them at the loom.
[Dr Lloyd-Jones preached for the last time as minister of Westminster Chapel on Friday, March 1, 1968. Illness (from which he recovered after surgery) then led to his retirement from that pastoral charge. But among the labours that he continued thereafter was his chairmanship of the Westminster Fellowship of ministers, and, on resuming public ministry one of his first engagements was at the Fellowship, meeting at Westminster Chapel on October 9, 1968. In the intervening months he had heard preachers in different places and of different denominations, some of them no doubt men who attended the Fellowship. As with a number of ML-J’s addresses no record of this one was taken, by tape or shorthand, and what follows are only my hurried notes as a hearer. Even in this fragmentary form I believe they are worthy of preservation. The meeting was packed; love and thankfulness for the speaker were the paramount feelings, and his rousing words were long to be remembered by all who were there. The title above is my own and no subject was given in advance of the meeting.]
Before that he had enjoyed remarkable health, and he had found it difficult to visualise what one would be like when taken ill. ‘I think I now know “the peace of God that passeth all understanding” as a very real thing. Something that cannot be put into words was given me in a way I shall never forget as long as I live. On the negative side, I have to confess, I wondered afterwards why I did not feel as Paul a “desire to depart and to be with Christ”. It wasn’t that I was craving to live, but looking back on it, there was a lack there. I knew I was going to get well. It seems to me I should have known something of that other aspect in facing death – a spirit of expectation. I regard the absence of that as a deficiency. Our relation to our Lord should make it otherwise. We should not be waiting for things to happen, for death to come; we should be preparing.’
He endorsed the words of a minister dying from tuberculosis who urged those around him to love God with all their strength, for when illness comes strength is gone. ‘We become too weak to read, even the Scriptures. We must use our strength, and lay up reserves for the day of trial.
‘Our danger is to be victims of our routine, to get carried away by the momentum of the work. We need reminders of the words of Edmund Burke. In the midst of a parliamentary election campaign at Bristol, Burke was about to rise and speak when he was told that his opponent in the election had suddenly died: “What phantoms we are, and what phantoms we pursue!”
‘Another thing has concerned me in these last months. The point at which my ministry was interrupted had a message for me. I was preaching on Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is
not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” I had dealt with “righteousness, and peace” [the latter on March 1], and there I was stopped. I was not allowed
to deal with “joy in the Holy Ghost”. I have a feeling it was not accidental. God intervened and I could suggest a reason why. I was able to deal with “righteousness, and peace” (I had a fleeting
experience of it), but the third thing is the profoundest of all. Why was I not allowed to deal with “joy in the Holy Ghost”? Because I knew something, but not enough about it. As though God said, “I want you to speak with greater authority on this.” ‘I am convinced this is the most important thing of all and it leads me to what I want to put before you. For six months, until
September, I did not preach at all. I have been a listener and it has been a most valuable experience. As a listener, through four of those months, my general impression is that for people outside our churches most of our services are terribly depressing! I am amazed people still go. Most who do go are females, over the age of 40, and I feel they go out of duty; some, perhaps, have the opportunity to be important in their little spheres. There is nothing to make a stranger feel he is missing something – instead he finds this awful weight! And the minister, feeling this, thinks he must be short; thus people come together in order to depart. I am speaking generally
about the churches, but in this respect there is very little difference in evangelical churches.
‘It is a great thing to be a listener. You want something for your soul, you want help. I don’t want a great sermon. I want to feel the presence of God – that I am worshipping him, and considering
something great and glorious. If I do get that I do not care how poor the sermon is.
‘I suggest to you that our greatest danger is the danger of professionalism. We do not stop sufficiently frequently to ask ourselves what we are really doing. The danger is of just facing a text, and treating it as an end in itself, with a strange detachment. Far away from London, and in an Anglican church, we heard a vicar preach on the words of Jeremiah 20:9 “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” The preacher had taken great trouble preparing the sermon; it was well arranged, there was form to it; the one thing that was not there was fire. It was a cold douche. No-one could possibly go out of that service on fire! The preacher could not have asked himself, “What is this fire and is it for me?” Instead of asking such a question, he had just prepared a sermon and the vital thing was not there. ‘You may think I was listening as a critic, I was not. At another location I heard a sermon on Galatians 3:1: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” We were told a lot about “bewitching”, and the sermon was about things that could and do side-track us; but I was astounded that the preacher did not see the main thing in the text – these Galatians turned from this glorious thing, Jesus Christ who had been placarded before them. This is what we must be talking about!
‘We can miss the wood because of the trees and lose the glory of the gospel. Our business is to send people away with the most glorious thing in the universe. This applies to people who come
regularly. There is no hope of attracting outsiders while those inside are as they are. Those outside are already depressed, and, if not, they will soon be.
‘Here is a wonderful opportunity for us. Well, what is wrong with us? Our approach is wrong. They [liberals] start with what people are interested in; our danger is to forget people altogether. Our ideas, and the results of our preaching, suggest we haven’t thought about the people at all. We are too objective. (I am tired of hearing sermons about ‘the church’, denouncing the World Council of Churches, etc). Once evangelical preaching was too subjective; now it is too objective. This leads to a mechanical approach to preaching.
‘I believe in a series [of sermons] but it can be done in the wrong way – not taking into account the state of the people listening, so that although we may deal with a passage excellently, there
is no message for them. There is a difference between a running commentary on a passage and a sermon. I believe in expository sermons, not a running commentary. What is the difference? etc, etc.
My chief reason for writing this book has been to restate some of the main lessons of the ministry of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, beginning with the preaching of the Word of God. Preaching is a gift from heaven. Revelation is necessary to understand the vital importance of preaching, and why its absence is a disaster worse than the lack of bread and water. The advance of the church is ever preceded by a recovery of preaching, and in that recovery the memory of those who have spoken ‘with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven’ (1 Pet. 1:12) has often played an important part. Eminent examples give light to later centuries ... Of first importance to Lloyd-Jones were not church issues but the recovery of true spiritual power amid the decline of Christianity in Britain. The current weakness was directly connected, he believed, to the lack of a stronger assurance of salvation among Christians. That need lay at the heart of his concern for the churches. On the way such assurance is received he disagreed in one respect with the Puritan school to which he belonged, and differed still more with the burgeoning charismatic movement. He feared adherents to the former gave too little place to the experimental, while the latter too readily confused experience of the Holy Spirit with emotionalism. Further serious thought on this subject is surely a contemporary need. The reader will see that I do not agree with my friend in all he says on this subject; but I do repudiate the idea, falsely attributed to him, of disengagement from present endeavour in order to wait for a future revival. It is true he believed the decline in the churches was so serious that nothing but a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit would arrest it; but he also believed that Christians have warrant to rejoice in Christ every day they live, for God is never thwarted in his great redemptive purposes. He saw no conflict between expectancy and a believing thankfulness for present victory. Whatever the times, he exemplified the Pauline call to be ‘always abounding in the work of the Lord’ ...
Though Baxter's lips have long in silence hung,
And death long hush'd that sinner-wakening tongue
Yet still, though dead, he speaks aloud to all,
And from the grave still issues forth his "Call,"
Like some loud angel-voice from Zion Hill,
The mighty echo rolls and rumbles still,
O grant that we, when sleeping in the dust,
May thus speak forth the wisdom of the just.
When I was seeking the Lord I read a great deal in Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul and Baxter's Call to the Unconverted. I would wake up as soon as the sun was up in the morning that I might read these books.
“Oh, those books, those books!” he would exclaim “I read and devoured them”. He thanked God for Baxter's Call and remembered his mother using it. “There was a little piece of Alleine's Alarm, or of Baxter's Call to the Unconverted,” he says
and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat round the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord. Then came a mother's prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey.
Spurgeon's contemporary, Thomas De Witt Talmage (1832-1902) was also brought up on Baxter in America. As he got older, he says, he read Doddridge's Rise and Progress and Baxter's Call as well as other books. He once spoke about the power of the printed page noting how Baxter himself had been affected by the printed page as a young man and then how
Richard Baxter wrote a book entitled A Call to the Unconverted, which brought thousands into the kingdom, among others Philip Doddridge. He wrote a book entitled The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. Its harvest is uncounted multitudes for the kingdom of heaven, among others the great Wilberforce. Wilberforce in turn wrote a book on The Practical View of Christianity. It has done good beyond all earthly computation, and brought many into the kingdom, among others Leigh Richmond. Leigh Richmond wrote a book called The Dairyman's Daughter. It has brought tens of thousands to the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
One final thing worth mentioning here is that in 1991 the evangelist John Blanchard produced an updated version of the book entitled Invitation to live, which has also no doubt been used to bring some to the Lord.
His books of practical divinity have been effectual for more 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 attentive .... 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 to lay his hand upon his heart, and find that he hath 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 humbled thankfulness, that God was pleased to use him as an instrument for the salvation of souls.
Edmund Calamy added that it was “a book blessed by God with marvellous success, in reclaiming persons from their impieties” and adds that
Cotton Mather, in his life, gives an account of an Indian (ie native American) prince, who was so well affected with this book, that he sat reading it, with tears in his eyes, till he died.
English editions regularly appeared down the years. By 1659 the fifth edition had appeared, by 1660 the ninth. Further editions in Baxter's lifetime include those of 1663, 67, 69 (13th edition), 71 (15th) 75 (18th) 78 (20th) 82 (21st). After his death it continued to be printed. Another edition was published in 1692 and by 1704 the 29th (carefully corrected) edition had appeared. There were further editions in 1746 and 47. The latter was printed in Edinburgh rather than London and led to a Gaelic edition, printed in Glasgow, in 1750 (reprinted 1845 and 94). English editions kept coming too – at least two editions in the 1760s, four in the 1780s, another four in the 1790s.
Maurice Roberts has noted its influence on George Whitefield prior to his conversion. Doddridge is another who was helped by Baxter's book. A perhaps more unusual example of someone affected by it in this period is the freed slave and autobiographer, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c 1705-1775). In his autobiography he tells how having come under conviction of sin his master gave him Baxter's book. He says at first
This was no relief to me neither; on the contrary it occasioned as much distress in me as the other (Bunyan's Holy War) had before done, as it invited all to come to Christ; and I found myself so wicked and miserable that I could not come.
He was ready to commit suicide and was unwell for some few days. However, in a while he became more encouraged and soon writes “I now began to relish the book my master gave me, Baxter's call to the unconverted, and took great delight in it.” He so delighted in Baxter that he came to the point where “above all places in the world” he “wish'd to see Kidderminster, for” he says “I could not but think that on the spot where Mr Baxter had lived, and preach'd, the people must be all righteous.”
There was no let up in the 19th Century with editions regularly appearing in different forms throughout the period. Several times in the early years of the century an abridged version by Benjamin Fawcett appeared (1806, 20, 35) as well as other editions (1811, 15, 16, 17, 18, 25). From 1829 several editions appeared with an essay by Dr Thomas Chalmers (1829, 31, 50) and with additional material from Baxter including his Now or never and 50 reasons why a sinner ought to turn to God this day without delay.
It is worth noting here that Baxter's Call was not his only book on conversion. A few months before he had published a larger Treatise on conversion and just after Directions and persuasions to a sound conversion. Now or never appeared in 1663. Beougher says that the theme of conversion appears regularly throughout his writings.
Timothy Beougher (2) says that “Puritan religious experience centred around conversion”. Baxter's book is one of two books from the Puritan era (the other is Joseph Alleine's Alarm to the unconverted published 15 years later and partly based on Baxter) widely considered to be “outstanding classics on the subject”.
In 1829 a writer in Boston wrote of the great energy of style and fervent zeal for the salvation of sinners found in Baxter. He went on to say of Baxter's Call
A more recent writer says of Baxter that without doubt
According to Jim Packer the Puritans invented evangelistic literature. He called Baxter's Call “the first evangelistic pocket book in English” (3). Orme suggests that until Baxter
Conversion in all its important aspects, and unutterably important claims, had not before been discussed, at least in our language; nor had any man previously employed so boundless a range of topics, in conjunction with such an energetic and awakening style of addressing sinners.
The book has remained in print down the years and has been greatly used by God many times. Packer speaks of how it “brought an unending stream of readers to faith during Baxter's lifetime”. In a note found after his death Baxter himself tells us that the occasion for his book was the urging of Archbishop Ussher “to write directions suited to the various states of Christians, and also against particular sins”. Baxter felt incompetent but later, after Ussher's death, he set about it, he says,
sake. Through God's mercy, I have information of almost whole households converted by this small book which I set so light by: and, as if all this in England, Scotland, and Ireland, were not mercy enough to me, God, since I was silenced, hath sent it over in his message to many beyond the seas; for when Mr Elliot had printed all the Bible in the Indian language, he next translated this my Call to the Unconverted, as he wrote to us here. And yet God would make some farther use of it; for Mr Stoop, the pastor of the French Church in London, being driven hence by the displeasure of his superiors, was pleased to translate it into French. I hope it will not be unprofitable there; nor in Germany, where it is printed in Dutch.
We had our second day of Holiday Bible Club today. Numbers were up on yesterday with around 35 attending. We again started with games so that everyone had arrived when we got down to business. We came today to S/Paul's conversion. They also wove paper baskets and played games and we got going on with our mural. The nice weather is helping. (The video is meant to be blurred - in case of any safety fears).