Richard Baxter


Baxter, Richard

(1615-1691)
Generally classified among the top rank of Puritan theologians, Baxter is known for his exemplary ministerial work as well as his approximately two hundred writings. Attaining his education largely through self-instruction, he was ordained in 1638 in the Church of England. His ministry at Kidderminster (1641–60) was marked by a dramatic transformation of the whole life of the community. He supported Parliament in its battle against the king, serving briefly as a military chaplain. He sided with the Nonconformist party and was eventually ejected from the Church of England along with two thousand other clergy in 1662. Throughout his ministry Baxter sought to increase cooperation and tolerance among the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Independents in church polity. Although forbidden to serve as pastor after 1662, he continued his ministry through writing and preaching.
Three of his writings have been reprinted frequently. The Saint’s Everlasting Rest (1650) expounds “the blessed state of the Saints in their enjoyment of God in glory.” It continues to be one of the classics of Christian devotional literature—although its one thousand pages are usually abridged. The Reformed Pastor (1656) describes the oversight pastors are to exercise over themselves first and then over their flock. It includes practical guidance for dealing with the pastor’s perennial problems of instructing and guiding the church. A Call to the Unconverted (1657) shows Baxter’s evangelistic concern. It consists of an earnest and reasoned appeal to the unconverted to turn to God and accept his mercy. Other important works of Baxter are his Methodus Theologiae Christianae (1681), written in Latin, which sets forth his theology most systematically, and his autobiography, Reliquiae Baxterianae (1695). These and his other writings are filled with evangelical zeal for the lost, genuine piety, and a desire to bring reconciliation to the warring divisions of Christians in his day.
Baxter’s theology was moderate. He attempted to avoid the acidity of polemical positions and to find truth in the theological center between the extremes. He always sought to isolate the element of truth in erroneous teachings. In theology no less than ecclesiology Baxter sought to be a peacemaker. Thus, his theology made him unpopular among many of his age. For example, Calvinists were offended by his acceptance of universal redemption, while Arminians were offended by his acceptance of personal election. Nevertheless, to his critics Baxter sought to vindicate his views by appeal to the Scriptures and to reason.
O. G. Oliver, Jr.
Bibliography. W. Orme, ed., Practical Works of Richard Baxter, 23 vols.; W. M. Lamont, Richard Baxter and the Millennium; G. Nuttall, Richard Baxter; F. J. Powicke, A Life of the Reverend Richard Baxter; R. Schlatter, ed., Richard Baxter and Puritan Politics; J. Stalker, Richard Baxter; H. Martin, Puritanism and Richard Baxter; W. B. T. Douglas, “Politics and Theology in the Thought of Richard Baxter,” AUSS 15:115–26, 16:305–12; R. S. Paul, “Ecclesiology in Richard Baxter’s Autobiography,” in From Faith to Faith, e
Walter A. Elwell and Walter A. Elwell, vol. 1, Biographical Entries from Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Biographical Entries from Evangelical Dictionary of Theology., electronic ed., Baker reference library; Logos Library System (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1997, c1984).

This Biographical Sketch comes from…

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Biographical Entries)

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Biographical Entries)
Author: Elwell, Walter A.
Publisher: Baker Book House | Publication Date: 1997, c1984.

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Biographical Entries)
– Walter A. Elwell, editor. The biographical articles from this classic
reference work are included in electronic form. They include
individuals from all eras of history and from many countries. Entries
are arranged alphabetically, from Peter Abelard to Ulrich Zwingli. Many
entries include bibliographical references and focus on the
individual’s theological dimension. More than two hundred contributors
represent a variety of diverse evangelical persuasions and national
backgrounds.
(ISBN 0-8010-0241-9)

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