Whether I die or live;
To love and serve thee is my share.
And this thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To soar to endless day?
Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than he went through before;
No one into his kingdom comes
But through his opened door.
Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
For if thy work on earth be sweet.
What will thy glory be!
My knowledge of that life is small;
The eye of faith is dim;
But 't is enough that Christ knows all.
And I shall be with him.
Rev. Richard Baxter
For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life. Psalms 31:13
From my very childhood, when I was first sensible of the concernments of men's souls, I was possessed with some admiration to find that everywhere the religious, godly sort of people, who did but exercise a serious care of their own and other men's salvation, were made the wonder and obloquy of the world, especially of the most vicious and flagitious men; so that they that professed the same articles of faith, the same commandments of God to be their law, and the same petitions of the Lord's prayer to be their desire, and so professed the same religion, did everywhere revile those that endeavoured to live in good earnest in what they said. I thought this was impudent hypocrisy in the ungodly, worldly sort of men to take those for the most intolerable persons in the land who are but serious in their own religion, and do but endeavour to perform what all their enemies also vow and promise. If religion be bad, and our faith be not true, why do these men profess it? If it be true and good, why do they hate and revile them that would live in the serious practice of it, if they will not practice it themselves? But we must not expect reason when sin and sensuality have made men unreasonable.
But I must profess that since I observed the course of the world, and the concord of the word and providence of God, I took it for a notable proof of man's fall, and of the truth of the Scripture, and of the supernatural original of true sanctification, to find such a universal enmity between the holy and the serpentine seed, and to find Cain and Abel's case so ordinarily exemplified, and he that is born after the flesh persecuting him that is born after the Spirit. And methinks to this day it is a great and visible help for the confirmation of our Christian faith.
Rev. Richard Baxter was an English clergyman, curate of Kidderminster, and afterward a Nonconformist in London, where he died, December 8, 1691. He was born at Rowton, in Shropshire, England, November 12, 1615. For ten years he lived with his maternal grandfather, then he was taken home to his parents. His father had been converted only recently, and was then in some measure of trouble; the manner in which he faced and conquered his enemies with the force of gentleness and faith made a deep impression on the boy's mind, and he became a decided and devoted Christian at the age of fifteen. From this time forward there was never any repose or tameness to his life. At first he took orders in the Church of England and, after some changes, in 1640 he assumed charge in Kidderminster. For a while, during the civil war, he was doing religious work in the army. But the triumph of his career was achieved in his parish as a godly and faithful pastor and preacher. It has been recorded of him that at the begining of his ministry in Kidderminster there "was scarcely a house in a street where there was family worship;" but when he left the parish there "was scarcely a family in the side of a street where it was not; and whoever walked through the town on the Lord's day evening heard everywhere the delightful sound of reading the Scriptures and prayer and praise."
After the restoration Baxter was one of the chaplains of Charles II; he was also offered the Bishopric of Hereford, but declined the honor. On Black Bartholomew's Day,1662, he was ejected from his charge, with two thousand more Non-conformists, and went forth to suffer persecution for conscience' sake. He was once imprisoned for a year and a half. In times of forced retirement this wonderful man wrote The Saint's Rest, Call to the Unconverted, and other religious books. In his last illness he was asked how he was, and, with an upward look, he answered, "Almost well.".....
He had been driven from place to place. Now in prison for preaching at Acton: now kept out of his pulpit by a military guard; now seized again, and his goods and books sold to pay the fine for preaching five sermons—he being so ill that he could not be imprisoned without danger of death, and now again in the king's bench under a warrant from the villainous Jeffreys for writing a paraphrase on the New Testament. His later life was often "in peril" for Christ's sake, and there must have been something deeply touching in that impress of dignified sorrow which brought tears into the eyes of Judge Hale when he saw the persecuted man standing before the bench. His presence must have been felt wherever he appeared. Everybody who knew him acknowledged his mental and moral grandeur.
Richard Baxter was one of the most prolific of religious writers. He issued at least sixty large volumes, and his treatises, if reckoned with them, would swell the number to a hundred and sixty-eight. It is plain from the history of his times that it was these books which kept getting him into trouble. That generation, so deficient in toleration, as well as in spirituality, refused to endure their pointedness and exhortational force. Every effort was put forth to check or suppress so perilous and pertinent a public censor. It is on record that once one of his friends bequeathed to the author twenty pounds for copies of his Call to the Unconverted to be distributed among the people. But North, then the Lord Keeper, decided that this legacy was for "superstitious uses," and therefore void. By this he meant, so interpreting an enigmatical expression in the statute, that the book was designed for the propagation of a faith not approved by the State, the Episcopal Church then being the establishment in England. Thus Baxter's friends were cheated and his enemies allowed to triumph, but his books still circulated.
written by Charles Seymour Robinson, D.D.
May 1662, the king set his seal of approval to the famous "Act of Conformity" by which every clergyman of the Church of England must, on the 24th of August following, "openly and publickly, before the congregation there assembled, declare his unfeigned assent and consent to the use of all things" in the "Book of Common Prayer."
Baxter was among the two thousand godly ministers who were willing to leave their weeping flocks, and their pecuniary support, to face poverty and persecution for conscience's sake. As many were not silenced by this, the "Conventical Act" was passed in 1664, by which "the meeting of more than four persons in any other manner than allowed by the liturgy and practice of the Church of England is forbidden," under a
penalty of a fine or imprisonment. To prevent the Non-conformist ministers being even among, their flocks, the "Five Mile Act" followed, which prevented them from coming or being within five miles of any city or town corporate, or any place where they had at any time exercised their ministry.
Although Baxter yielded obedience to the law so far as to abstain from public preaching, yet he kept up family worship, and as some, of their own accord, would drop in and swell the number beyond the legal limit of "four," a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was incarcerated for six months in Clerkenwell prison.
Some years later having dared to deliver five sermons, and to live in a corporate town, his enemies seized him again. His goods were taken from him and sold, "even to the bed that he lay sick on." "When they had taken and sold all" he says, "and I had borrowed some bedding and necessaries of the buyer, I was never the quieter.".....
.....when reminded on his deathbed of his good deeds, he replied: "I was but a pen in God's hand, and what praise is due to a pen." In triumphant peace and joy, he ended his days December 8, 1691.
written by Rev. Edwin M. Long