Online Text Sermon - Richard Baxter and his Gospel
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Richard Baxter and his Gospel (Date and time not certain. Preached in Kidderminster)|
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Richard Baxter was born on the 12th November 1615 at Rowton in Salop and he died at the age of seventy-six on the 8th December 1691. We meet here this evening to commemorate three hundred years since his death. This is one of several events being arranged here in Kidderminster. For instance in June of this year, Professor J. I. Packer lectured on the subject 'Richard Baxter - A Man for All Ministries'. I notice that still to come in this annual programme are a lecture - 'Who Was Richard Baxter?' - then an evening of readings from the writings of Baxter. Then again, a study day on Baxter and also commemorative services.
The name of Richard Baxter will be associated with Kidderminster as long as the world stands. Over a hundred years ago now, in 1875, when referring to the great Puritan Divine's statue in white marble which was then first erected on its pedestal of Aberdeen granite, the Illustrated London News put it in these terms - "Richard Baxter without Kidderminster would have been but part of himself. Kidderminster without him, would have been famous for nothing but its carpets." Even apart from this three hundredth anniversary, it is clear that interest in Richard Baxter is still strong. There have been a number of books, theses and writings over the previous number of months, which show that Baxter studies are still very much alive. I might mention one or two to illustrate this fact. In 1990, the Oxford Press brought out Dr. Alan C. Clifford's book entitled Atonement and Justification; this was written in warm approval of Baxter. Then secondly, Dr. Lloyd Jones's book entitled The Puritans - Their Origins and Successors came out by the Banner of Truth Trust in 1987, being a collection of his lectures over the years at the Puritan Studies and Westminster Conference on just this theme. Those who have perused this book will notice that there is considerable interest shown there in Richard Baxter. Then, just a few years before that in 1981 - Baker Book House, publishers in America - brought out quite a large volume entitled Select Practical Works of Baxter. In fact, that book runs into nine hundred and fifty six closely printed, double column pages of Baxter's select writings. Then again, James I. Packer has very recently had published a book entitled Among God's Giants and there are copious references there to Richard Baxter. I mention further a very worthy Life of Baxter, written by a friend of this congregation which has organised this present lecture. I refer to Mr. W Stuart-Owen's Life of Richard Baxter. And I may say that I have personally benefited from all of these writings.
So Baxter is very much still in the minds of this present generation. He has not been lost as so many figures in the past are quickly lost, but on the contrary Baxter is still regarded very highly as a man of thought and a man of action who, both by life and by his preaching, ought to be very much remembered. So then, surely we must be doing something here this evening which is fully justified. After all, Richard Baxter was a man of genius and a brilliant leader in his day; and yet - even more than these things - he was first of all a preacher. Perhaps we could say, the model Puritan preacher in many ways.
To the Puritan, of course, nothing mattered like the Gospel. So Baxter would certainly have approved, I believe, of our emphasis here tonight under the title of Richard Baxter and his Gospel. That is what I have come here to emphasise and to demonstrate to some extent from his own writings. But before we come to do that, it is first of all only fitting we should recall Richard Baxter as a great man, and that too, in an age of great men. He was a many-sided man: strongly independent and at times too much so, as also John Wesley was in the next century. They were both Englishmen, and very eminent ones at that. You will probably be aware that there is an inscription at the base of Richard Baxter's statue, which reads like this - "Between the year sixteen-forty and sixteen-sixty, this town was the scene of the labours of Richard Baxter; renowned equally for his Christian learning and his pastoral fidelity. In a stormy and divided age he advocated unity and comprehension, pointing the way to the eternal rest. (The reference obviously there to his famous book 'The Saint's Everlasting Rest') Churchmen and non-conformists united to raise this memorial in 1875." It was in those terms then that Baxter was commemorated when this inscription, attached to the statue, was erected in 1875.
Baxter was a polymath, an exceptional man, and he deserved to be remembered for many reasons. He was a pastor, of course, and wrote his classic book The Reformed Pastor, which first appeared in 1656. Baxter believed in catechising systematically and he did this from house to house, with his ministerial assistant, at the rate of fourteen families per week. The idea was to make sure that his parishioners not only heard sermons but understood them, absorbed the meaning of the Word of God and could give some competent account of what they heard. His ambition was to try to catechise all the eight hundred families within his parish per year. No mean task - no mean achievement!
This became in many ways, as I have said, a model in England and it did very great good. Almost a hundred years later, for instance, the great George Whitefield - in the course of preaching - came here to Kidderminster and said to a friend, "I was greatly refreshed to find what a sweet savour of good Mr Baxter's doctrine, works and discipline remain to this day."
Then secondly, Baxter was an author. Indeed he was an exceptional and extraordinary writer. To say that he wrote about sixty books conveys no just impression of the extent to which he laboured to take the Gospel to all parts, even of the world, through the printed page. Some of his great works are in print to this day: 'The Saints Everlasting Rest', 'A Call to the Unconverted' (we are to look at this in a little while), 'The Reformed Pastor' (we have mentioned it already); and then, still of great interest, his autobiography published posthumously under the title 'Reliquiae Baxterianae' - 'Baxter's Remains', which to some extent equals Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn's 'Diary of the Times'. His unique 'Christian Directory' - which appeared in 1673 - was a book which endeavoured to show the Christian how he should work out his salvation in every department of life. It ran to some thousand pages or more on the theme of the Christian life and the Christian's conduct.
Mr. W. Stuart-Owen writes like this: "Richard Baxter was the most prolific writer of his time. His total literary output would be equivalent to sixty octavo volumes or some thirty to forty thousand closely printed pages." I recall that Baxter is somewhere said to have written over twice as much as the great Puritan divine John Owen. Now Owen wrote sixteen volumes of collected works together with a volume of Latin orations and other works. On top of that, he wrote a large commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, running into various volumes, depending upon the edition. If you talk there about twenty-five volumes, you multiply that by two, you are talking about sixty very hefty volumes of the writings of Richard Baxter. No divine of his day wrote more and none wrote as much. So he is a great author.
Thirdly he was a man of affairs. As well as being a preacher, he was a chaplain in the Parliamentary Army in the years 1642-1647. He attended, not the Westminster Assembly, but certainly the Savoy Conference of 1661. He lived in London. He was known by the king, after the restoration, and by the courtiers. He was in prison for one week at Clarkenwell Jail in 1669, and for twenty-one months, later, he was in Southwark Jail 1685-1686. He was a famed leader of the non-conformists, especially the Presbyterians, and corresponded with a wide circle of men. He was looked up to by thousands. He was a controversial figure in many ways, especially as a theologian, and also as a strong advocate of unity and comprehension for forty years and more.
I ought to point out that too much is sometimes made of this by some modern ecumenicals. He was never slip-shod, though sometimes inexact in his doctrine, and he deeply lamented the division of the church in his day. He pleaded in this respect for what he called 'mere Christianity', and was an advocate of a minimal rather than a maximal creed. He would have been satisfied to have had a subscription to the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. But in this, I have to add - happily - he was virtually alone among Puritan leaders, and that is just as well.
He was ejected with many others in 1662 and suffered notoriously at the hands of Judge Jeffries in the days when the Puritans and Covenanters of this country were hounded from pillar to post.
Richard Baxter was a saint, often referred to after his death as 'Holy Baxter'. In the best sense, he was a mystic and - what is of great interest to us in our generation - he was an instrument we believe, of true spiritual revival in his parish. Surely this is so. Let me give you some evidence and some convincing comment to that effect. James I. Packer says this, "As vicar of Kidderminster between 1647 and 1661, Baxter converted just about the whole town." Note this: "Just about the whole town." Then Dr. Lloyd Jones could say this in his 'Puritans and Their Successors', "Surely we must agree, that in England, in the case of Rodgers of Dedham - another great preacher of the time - and Baxter of Kidderminster, we are entitled to speak of revival."
But then also, even apart from these recent writers, we have Baxter's own testimony. He tells us that his parish church held about a thousand persons and that this was overflowing when he preached. They had to add five galleries - no less - to the church, in order to accommodate the swelling crowd. He also added this, "On the Lord's Days", he says, "there was no disorder to be seen in the streets. You might hear an hundred families singing Psalms and repeating sermons as you passed through the streets." In a word, "I came thither (he means to Kidderminster) first, and there were about one family in a street that worshipped God and called on His name. When I came away, there were some streets where there was not one family in the side of a street that did not so."
But great as Baxter was in other respects, his most important gift was that of a Gospel preacher. This today is not always the primary emphasis but it is what is particularly being remembered here tonight in this centennial celebration. And I believe it is where he is most important and speaks most to our own generation and to all subsequent generations. So we turn now to this most vital part of his subject.
An embarrassment of riches exists on this subject of Baxter as a preacher. His books are a full exposition of this very question, "What was the content, and what were the characteristics of Baxter's preaching and of his Gospel?" However, it is possible for us to select one out of the many volumes he wrote, which epitomises what he characteristically preached as the Gospel of Christ. That is what I shall do this evening. I select what is the obvious choice in the field we are considering and that is his book, 'A Call to the Unconverted'. I wish to let Baxter speak for himself in a moment but recall that this is a most important book - and that for many reasons. I quote again Dr. Packer who says "This is the first evangelistic pocket book in English, which in its year of publication, sold twenty thousand copies and brought an unending stream of readers to faith during Baxter's lifetime." The book also - 'A Call to the Unconverted' - had an important influence on the life of George Whitefield and the great Victorian preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, was deeply influenced by the book as a young person. He says this, "I remember when I used to be awake in the mornings (as a child he means). The first thing I took up was 'Alleine's Alarm' or 'Baxter's Call to the Unconverted'. Oh, those books, those books! I read and devoured them." There is an interesting link with this book in the lives of those Christian leaders who came before and later. Let me give you this chain which is well known. I might first of all state that it is sometimes said that Baxter was converted through a book of Jesuit devotion. That is partly true - but not entirely.
There was a Jesuit by the name of Parsons who had written a book which was corrected by Edmund Bunny and had the remarkable title 'Bunny's Resolution'. It was this book evidently, which helped Baxter when he was very young. He said he was about the age of fifteen when he read it and was awakened by it. But later on the great Puritan Richard Sibbe's book 'The Bruised Reed' also later helped him very much. Baxter himself admits in his autobiography that he did not know the precise time when he was converted. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says that his own interest in the Puritans was begun in the year 1925 when, as he says, he happened to read a new biography of Richard Baxter. Therefore, what we are dealing with when we look at the book 'A Call to the Unconverted' is an evangelistic treatise of immense importance which has helped some of the greatest preachers who have ever lived since Baxter's day. You cannot find greater names in the history of preaching than Whitefield, Spurgeon and Dr. Lloyd- Jones.
So we come now to an analysis of 'Baxter's Call' in order to see what was the Gospel he preached and our method, as I have said, will be largely by quotation and with only minimal comment. Then we shall make after that some final assessment, which hopefully may illuminate a little the subject before us of Richard Baxter and his Gospel.
Let me put it first of all in his own words. He signed his name to this book in 1657, and he tells us that he wrote the 'Call to the Unconverted' very much as a consequence of a conversation with Archbishop Ussher, of Armagh. Ussher pressed Baxter to write this book but Baxter modestly said that he did not regard himself as fit or suited to do so, thinking others could do it better. However, he was prevailed upon and eventually he wrote this 'Call' and he says this about it: 'God blessed it with unexpected success beyond all the rest that he had written except for the "Saint's Rest"'.
"In a little more than a year there were about twenty thousand of them printed by my own consent, and ten thousand since, besides many thousand by stolen impressions. Through God's mercy", he says, "I have had 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 for me, God since I was silenced (after 1662), hath sent it over on His message to many beyond the seas. For when Mr Elliot (that is John Elliot, the famous missionary to the red Indians), had printed all the Bible in the Indian's language, he next translated this my 'Call to the Unconverted'". So that is the background to the book and also there is some indication of the amazing way in which God was to bless it in the months after its publication.
We come then to look at the preface. This is how it begins. "To all unsanctified persons that shall read this book, especially of my hearers in the Borough and Parish of Kidderminster. Men and Brethren, the Eternal God hath made you for a life everlasting and hath redeemed you by His only Son, when you had lost it unto yourselves, being mindful of you in your sin and misery, hath indited the Gospel and sealed it by His Spirit, and commanded His ministers to preach it to the world. That pardon being freely offered you, and heaven being set before you, He might call you up from your fleshly pleasures, and from following after this deceitful world, and acquaint you with the life that you were created and redeemed for, before you are dead and past remedy." That is how it begins. It goes on a little later - "In compassion to your miserable, sinful souls, the Lord that better knows your case that you can know it, hath made it our duty (he means as preachers) to speak to you in His name, Christ's name, and to tell you plainly of your sin and misery, and what will be your end and how sad a change you will shortly see if you go on a little longer. Oh foolish, miserable souls, who hath bewitched your minds into such madness, and your hearts into such deadness, that you should be such mortal enemies to yourselves, and go on so obstinately towards damnation? That neither the Word of God nor the persuasions of men can change your mind, or hold your hands or stop you till you are past remedy. Well sinners, this life will not last always. This patience of God will not wait upon you still." The text which Baxter based his treatise on was this - 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?" Baxter then comes to what is characteristic of Puritan preachers, he announces what are the main heads of doctrine; and he finds seven.
1) It is the unchangeable law of God that wicked men must turn or die.
2) It is the promise of God that the wicked shall live if they will but turn.
3) God takes pleasure in men's conversion and salvation but not in their death or damnation. He had rather they would turn and live than go on and die.
4) This is a most certain truth, which because God would not have men to question, He has confirmed it to them solemnly by His oath.
5) The Lord redoubles His commands and persuasion to the wicked to turn.
6) The Lord condescends to reason the case with them, and asks the wicked why they will die.
7) If after all this the wicked will not turn, it is not owing to God that they perish, but of themselves. Their own wilfulness is the cause of their damnation. They therefore die, because they will die.
Having laid before you his headings in these plain propositions, I shall next speak of each of them in order, though very briefly. And in order to confirm each of these doctrines his method is to give a catena or list of Biblical texts which substantiate the assertion contained in each doctrine. Let me give you a sample of these as they are connected with the first of the doctrines. "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of God." "Verily, verily I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." "Without holiness, none shall see God." "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." "Now if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His." "According to His abundant grace, He hath begotten us to a lively hope, being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." "The wicked shall be turned in to hell and all the nations that forget God." However, Baxter is not in any hurry to assert those doctrines, which are distinctly evangelical. He begins with creation. What is man and why is he here at all? 'Before I can tell you what either wickedness or conversion is, I must go to the bottom and fetch up the matter from the beginning'. That is how he begins. Let me summarise.
'It pleased the great Creator of the world to make three sorts of living creatures: angels, He made pure spirits without flesh, and therefore He made them only for heaven, and not to dwell on earth; brutes were made flesh without immortal souls, and therefore they were made only for earth, and not for heaven. Man is of a middle nature, between both as partaking of both flesh and spirit, and therefore he was made both for heaven and earth; but as his flesh is made to be but a servant of his spirit, so was he made for earth, but as a passage or way to heaven, and not that this should be his home or happiness. The blessed state which man was made for was to behold the Glorious Majesty of the Lord: this was the end which man was made for.'
Having stated why God created man, he next begins to announce the doctrine of the Holy Trinity - The Divine Purpose or Plan of Salvation as it is sometimes called. But because the Lord knows that the heart of man is grown so wicked, that men will not accept of the remedy if they be left to themselves, therefore the Holy Ghost has undertaken as is His office, to inspire the Apostles and seal up the Scriptures by miracles and wonders and to illuminate and convert the sons of the elect. So that, you see, as there are three Persons in the Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost - so these Persons have their several works which are eminently ascribed to them.
The Father's works were to create us - to rule us as His rational creatures by the law of nature and judge us thereby and in mercy to provide us a Redeemer when we were lost and to send His Son and accept His ransom. The works of the Son for us were these: to ransom and to redeem us by His sufferings and His righteousness; to give us a promise or law of grace and rule and to judge the world as their Redeemer on the terms of grace; to make intercession for us that the benefits of His death may be communicated and to send the Holy Ghost, which the Father also does, by the Son. The works of the Holy Ghost for us are these: to indite the Holy Scriptures by inspiring and guiding the prophets and apostles and sealing the Word by His miraculous gifts and works: illuminating and exciting the ordinary ministers of the Gospel and so enabling them to publish the Word, and by the same Word illuminating and converting the souls of men. So that as we could not have been reasonable creatures if the Father had not created us, nor had any access to God if the Son had not redeemed us, so neither can we have any part in Christ, or be saved, except the Holy Spirit sanctify us.
Now he turns to those who think that a mere notional or nominal faith is enough to bring them to heaven. The theory that simply to be a member of a church, or an attender of the church, or to go to the Lord's Supper, or merely to have Baptism or Confirmation, is enough to fit us for heaven. He addresses them in these words. "Oh sirs, conversion is another kind of word that most are aware of. It is not a small thing to bring an earthly mind to heaven, and to show man the amiable excellencies of God, till he be taken up with such love to Him as cannot easily be quenched: to break the heart for sin, and to make him fly for refuge to Christ, and thankfully embrace Him as the life of his soul; to have the very drift and bent of the heart and life changed, so that he renounces that which he took for his happiness, and places his happiness where he never did before, and lives not to the same end and drives not on the same design in the world as he formerly did." There is much to the same effect.
I have not time to give you more. But then, of course, amongst the many problems that every Gospel preacher confronts, is that of those who wish to procrastinate or to delay the day of their repentance and coming to Jesus Christ. How does Baxter deal with that? Well, here is a typical section where he is handling this problem. "And yet", he says, "art thou not ready? (He means, ready to come to Christ). "What, not ready to live, when thou hast been born, when thou hast been dead so long! Not ready to come to thy right understanding, when thou hast been beside thyself so long? Art thou not ready to lay hold on Christ, who would deliver thee? Then thou art even ready to drown and sink into damnation. Art thou not ready to be saved from hell, when thou wast ready to be cast into it? Alas man, dost thou not know what thou doest? If thou die unconverted, there is no doubt to be made of thy damnation, and thou art not sure to live an hour, and yet art thou not ready to turn and to come in? Oh miserable wretch!" Now the objection of the procrastinator is of course typical of many similar objections which the natural unconverted mind puts against the Gospel. Baxter is an expert at answering these difficulties and objections and sweeping away the refuge of lies. I take some as typical of many others which are to be found in his book - 'A Call to the Unconverted'.
Number one, someone says, "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." And then he points them to their need to come to Christ and to believe the truth. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. But wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat."
Objection two. "I am sure if such as I go to hell, we shall have store of company". (i.e. plenty of people with us in hell). 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?
Objection three. "But all men are sinners; even the best of you all". Answer. "But all are not unconverted sinners. The godly live not in gross sin. Sin has not dominion over them."
Objection four. "I do not see that professors of religion are any better than other men." Answer. "Whatever hypocrites are it is not so with those who are sanctified. God has thousands or ten thousands that are otherwise, though their malicious word accuses them of what they can never prove".
Objection five. "But I am no whoremonger, nor drunkard, nor oppressor; and therefore why should you call upon me to be converted? Answer. "As if you were not born after the flesh, and not lived after the flesh, as well as others? Is it not as great a sin as any of these for a man to have an earthly mind, and to love the world more than God?"
Objection six. "But I mean nobody any harm, nor do any harm. Why then should God condemn me?" Answer. "Is it no harm to neglect the laws of God and the work for which thou camest into the world, and to prefer the creature before the Creator; and to neglect grace which is daily offered to thee?"
Objection seven. "I think you would make men mad under pretence of converting them." Answer. "Can you be madder than you are already?"
Then, of course, Baxter has to be clear to define what conversion is. He does this more or less on every page and every paragraph but he leaves nothing to guesswork and takes plenty of time defining, clearing away difficulties, and setting in the clearest light possible the central elements in the Gospel of Christ. For instance, a question asked might be this. "For what must we turn?" Answer. "For these and following, which you may attain. You shall hereby be made living members of Christ and have an interest in Him, and be renewed after the image of God; quickened, or made alive with a new and heavenly life, and saved from the tyranny of Satan, and the dominion of sin; and be justified from the curse of the law; and have the pardon of all the sins of your whole lives; and be accepted by God, and made His sons; and have liberty with boldness to call Him Father; and to go to Him by prayer in all your wants, with the promise of acceptance. And at death your souls shall go to Christ and at the Day of Judgement both soul and body shall be justified and glorified, and enter into your Master's joy. All this the poorest beggar of you that is converted, shall certainly and endlessly enjoy." In that way of course, he shows how desirable a thing it is that a man should be truly converted to Christ.
How are we to know whether we are converted or not. Here then are some of the marks and evidences of having the grace of a sound convert in one's heart.
1. The true convert is brought to an unfeigned hatred of the whole body of sin and especially of those secret or beloved sins that did most powerfully captivate him before.
2. The sound convert does carry on the course of his obedience in the way of self-denial but the false convert still lives in his carnal self and therefore, secretly at least, seeks himself and lays hold on present things as a true convert lays hold on eternal life. The truths of God being received but in to his opinion, but they do not go deep enough to conquer self and to take down his great idol; nor make him go through fire and water and to serve God with the best and honour Him with his substance - much less with his sufferings and death.
3. The sound convert has taken God for his portion and heaven for that sure and full felicity, or happiness.
4. The sound convert has seen the vileness of himself in the sinfulness of his heart and life and secret strivings with his heart to work it into communion with God and into a spiritual, lively, fruitful frame.
5. The sound convert is so acquainted with the defects of the sins and necessities of his own soul that he is much taken up with it at home and in his studies and cares and censures and his daily work. The acting and strengthening of grace, the subduing of corruption and his daily walking with God are much of his employment. However, the false convert is most employed abroad and about mere notions and opinions, but he is little employed in such heart-searching or heart-observing work. His light does not pierce so deep as to show him his heart and the work that is there to be necessarily done.
6. The sound convert is most desirous to discourse, or talk about, those great and saving truths which his very heart has taken in and which he has found to be the seed of God for his regeneration and the instruments of that holy and happy change that is made upon him. And so on.
Well, these then are excerpts from that great book 'A Call to the Unconverted', and I do not in any way apologise for bringing these quotations before you. They show and illustrate, in a most convincing manner, what was the true character of Baxter's preaching and the nature of his message to mankind. Those were the doctrines, that was the spirit, which was thundering in the pulpit here in Kidderminster three hundred years or more ago. It is a message of course, which is timeless, and needs to be heard everywhere today.
So let us come finally to some concluding thoughts on Baxter and on the Gospel which he preached. I quote Dr. Packer again, as an expert on Baxter. He says, "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." And this raises the question, Why then was Baxter so successful? Why so effective? What was the source of his power? Well these surely are, under God, some of the reasons, and they are a deep lesson for us all in our own day.
1. First, the directness with which he addresses his hearers. He takes his hearer by storm. He talks to us as if he was at our side, or at our elbow. He almost takes us by the throat in his earnestness.
2. The reasons he brings forth are to be carefully noted. Baxter did not rant, he did not simply vociferate or shout; he did not make an assault on the will or on the emotions, but on the mind. Man, said the Puritan, is a rational being, and needs to know why he is to turn to God; and then how to do so. And that was what Baxter, in common with the men and preachers of his day, did.
3. He uses the ploughshare of exhortation to rip up the conscience of his hearers. Almost every word is a challenge to the conscience of sinful man, to drive him out of his refuge and conceit, and bring him worshipfully to the feet of Christ.
4. I mention the thoroughness with which Baxter worked. He said it and then said it again. He put it in different forms, different ways: arguing, reasoning, persuading, convincing.
5. There is clarity of method. I have tried to point that out, but let us notice it again. He begins with a text of Scripture - that was the universal Puritan method. You begin with the Word of God then you announce the doctrine or doctrines that derive from the text; these are proved and then they're explained and expounded and then there is relentless application to the conscience. In the light of what God has said, 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, and curses.
6. Notice, Baxter deals with primary truths. There is nothing abstruse, obscure or recondite. He deals with the great themes which are clear to the minds of all average hearers: of heaven and hell, of God and Christ, of faith and repentance, of Christ's cross, of the need to come at once.
7. We see 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.
8. He answers every objection that is conceivable and which man might at any time raise against the truth - we have seen this illustrated. The Puritan evangelist removes every piece of self-defence, self-righteousness from the sinner. He strips the sinner of his armour and leaves him naked before God's Judgement Throne; that was a conscious and deliberate method which he used.
9. We see how sin is unmasked and the heart is laid bare. Man is shown to be a sinner and sin to be exceeding sinful.
10. God in Christ is presented 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.
These then are some observations on Baxter's presentation of his Gospel and I must now come to my final comments.
Surely, we must conclude that we need another Richard Baxter today. We do not need another Gospel but we need someone who can preach to the masses like this. Picture Kidderminster again, in Baxter's time. He talks about the Sabbath days; the family worship and people conferring one with another; hardly a family in a street that did not come to worship God; the instruction of the children - heads of families leading their families, decency and respectability. But not only that, the love of God, the fear of God, the keeping of the Commandments of God, sanctified home life, sanctified diligence at work. It is a wonderful spectacle, an idyllic spectacle.
And the question arises, "Is Kidderminster like that today? Is anywhere in our beloved country like that today?" We have to admit that it is not so. Our country is troubled by ungodliness and a deep-seated spiritual ignorance and unrest. So I say, Oh, for more men like this Richard Baxter! Oh, for such another preacher! Oh, for such plain, straightforward, honest dealing with the soul. Oh, for thousands of men like this - to have this preaching in our pulpits everywhere and in the open air, to get it on radio, to hear it on television and in every corner of our land! I say, may God hasten the day when such things should be true and when men shall look to Richard Baxter and his Gospel. Better still, to the New Testament and that Gospel, inspired and taught there and therefore turn from the vanity of modern thought in all its insufficiency to cope with modern ills, to the living God, Whom to know is life eternal.
Richard Baxter and his Gospel. God help us to be thankful for this exemplary man. God make us more like him ourselves that we might live to the glory of God in this world and to enjoy Him eternally in the world where Richard Baxter now is, with God in Christ, amongst the myriad of redeemed sinners, at God's right hand. Amen.
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