Thus far he had been an unquestioning conformist.
His parents and relatives on both sides, and his second mother, were all conformists. His circle of friends and associates hitherto were also conformists. His reading, voracious though it was, ran in the same grooves. His theological tutor Garbet was a stout churchman, and supplied him with the great church defences of Hooker and Downham, Sprint and Burgess, and others who had opposed nonconformity Apology for Nonconformists , p.
It also happened that the only nonconformist minister known to him Barnell of Uppington , while a blameless and good man, was no scholar. But about his twentieth year he came to know two subsequently eminent nonconformists—Joseph Symonds, assistant to Gataker, at Rotherhithe, London, and Walter Cradock, one of the early silenced and ejected , and their associates.
These he met in and near Shrewsbury. Their fervent piety and faithful preaching greatly attracted him.
But what mainly determined his closer examination of their grounds for remaining out of the pale of the national church was the relentless 'silencing' and persecution as of personal enemies, to which the nonconformists were exposed by bishops who were themselves anything but apostolic. Still, he had no scruples about subscription when he thought of ordination. In Foley of Stourbridge recovered some lands at Dudley which had been left for charitable purposes, and adding something of his own, he built and endowed a new schoolhouse.
Thereupon he offered to make Baxter head master, with an usher under him. This offer he accepted. Accompanied by his friend Foley and another, James Berry, he repaired to Worcester and was ordained by Bishop Thornborough, and received a license to teach the school at Dudley. His first public sermon was preached in the Upper Church of Dudley. He also speedily went round about the neighbouring villages.
He does not claim that he made any very great impression on his hearers. His sickliness possibly weakened his 'pleasant and moving voice. While in Dudley the evangelical nonconformists of the place were his intimate and 'most inward' friends. They furnished him with a number of books and manuscripts on the matters in debate between them and the church, or of primitive episcopacy over against that of the national church. The result of his scrutiny of the literature of both sides was that, in part, Baxter was established in his conformity, and in part constrained to become a nonconformist.
Kneeling he thought lawful; wearing the surplice doubtful; the cross in baptism unlawful; a liturgy lawful, and might be lawfully imposed; but his own church's liturgy confused and defective.
What most of all offended his conscience was the want of discipline, as shown by the 'promiscuous giving of the Lord's Supper to drunkards, swearers, and all who had not been excommunicated by a bishop or his chancellor. Here he was acting as assistant minister to the Rev. William Madstard, whom he describes as 'a grave and severe divine, very honest and conscientious; an excellent preacher, but somewhat afficted with want of maintenance, but more with a dead-hearted unprofitable people.
He often read the Book of Common Prayer before he preached; but he never administered the Lord's supper, never baptised a child with the sign of the cross, never wore a surplice, and never appeared at any bishop's court.
The people were densely ignorant. Christopher Cartwright defended it; Baxter condemned it. The objections to the oath, as put and enforced by the assistant minister, were deemed more formidable than were the answers satisfactory. The meeting broke up in a state of consternation. And that, characteristically, sent him yet again to his books to examine what had been written on that episcopacy, whose yoke he was beginning to feel to be unbearable.
He enumerates a library of treatises, foreign and home, examined by him. The final result was a full and clear conviction that the episcopacy of the church of England was a totally different thing from primitive episcopacy Treatise of Episcopacy , preface, The Scotch troubles had now begun The Earl of Bridgewater, lord president of the marches of Wales, passing through Bridgnorth to join the king at Newcastle, was informed on Saturday evening that neither Madstard nor Baxter made the sign of the cross, that they neither wore a surplice, nor prayed against the Scots.
The earl told his informant that he would be in church on the morrow and see for himself. The aged senior minister took flight and left Baxter to face the peril.
But Bridgewater on the Sunday changed his purpose and proceeded to Lichfield, so that nothing came of it. A petition was sent from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, against their parson, named Dance. It reported him as an 'ignorant and weak man, who preached but once a quarter, was a frequenter of alehouses, and sometimes drunk;' whilst his curate was 'a common tippler and drunkard, a railler and trader in unlawful marriages.
He proposed to allow 60 l. This preacher he would allow to preach when he pleased, and he himself would read prayers and discharge any other parts of parish routine.
The town, having agreed to this, withdrew their intended petition. Hereupon, after trying a Mr.
Lapthorn, the committee of Kidderminster applied to Baxter to become their lecturer. The invitation was sent on 9 March , and the legal instrument appointing him is dated 5 April Affectionate and urgent letters accompanied the invitation Baxter's MSS. Baxter felt it to be his duty to go to Kidderminster. After preaching one day he was chosen by the electors nemine contradicente.
The work done by Richard Baxter in Kidderminster has passed into history. Whereas in the beginning the moral not to speak of the godly were to be counted on the ten fingers, ere very long a passing traveller along the streets at a given hour heard the sounds of praise and prayer in every household.
Richard Baxter (12 November – 8 December ) was an English Puritan church leader . From until the indulgence of , Baxter's life was constantly disturbed by .. William Orme (); The Practical Works of the Rev. Publication date: [?] Topics: Baxter, Richard, , Puritans -- England Clergy Biography. Publisher: New York: American Tract.
Baxter had only been two years at his post in Kidderminster when the civil war burst out. All Worcestershire in a sense sided with the king, whilst Richard Baxter, though loyal to the monarchy, sided with the parliament. He recommended the 'protestation. He temporarily retired to Gloucester. He was preaching at Alcester, on 23 Oct. He returned, but only to be driven out speedily again. There he found himself in association with no fewer than thirty fugitive ministers of the gospel, among whom were Richard Vines and Anthony Burgess, Drs.
Bryan and Grew. He officiated as chaplain to the garrison, preaching once each Sunday to the soldiers, and once to the townspeople and distinguished strangers, including Sir Richard Skeffington, Colonel Godfrey Bosville, George Abbot, the layman scholar [q.
For all his services he took only 'bed and board. His powers were never more strikingly exhibited than in Coventry. The anabaptists and others of the brood of fractions and sectaries swarmed in the parliamentary army, and, not exhausted by his official duties, the indefatigable Baxter opposed them with beneficent effectiveness. Cromwell and the army generally were doubtfully disposed towards Baxter.
The Lord Protector disliked his loquacity. He innocently informs us: 'He [Cromwell] would not dispute with me at all; but he would in good discourse very fluently pour out himself in the extolling of free grace, which was savoury to those that had right principles, though he had some misunderstandings of free grace himself. After Naseby, whose battle-field he visited, he became chaplain to Colonel Whalley's regiment by advice of the ministers assembled at Coventry. He was present at several sieges, but never in any actual engagement.
The latter fact did not save him from a preposterous story of his having killed a man in cold blood and robbed him of a medal Calamy , Life of Baxter , i. Peter Heylin , ; Petit Vision of Government , , p. Brit , , p. His attitude during the civil war is thus summarily stated by himself: 'I make no doubt that both parties were to blame, as it commonly falleth out in most wars and contentions, and I will not be he that will justify either of them.
Being thus disappointed he preached occasionally in the churches of London under license by Sheldon. Interpreting the kingdom of God in terms of Christ as Christus Victor and Rector of all men, Baxter explained Christ's death as an act of universal redemption penal and vicarious, though substitutionary in explication , in virtue of which God has made a new covenant offering pardon and amnesty to the penitent. He wrote The Reformed Pastor during his ministry in Kidderminster. The anabaptists and others of the brood of fractions and sectaries swarmed in the parliamentary army, and, not exhausted by his official duties, the indefatigable Baxter opposed them with beneficent effectiveness. A Shropshireman, Baxter was educated locally.
I doubt not but the headiness and rashness of the younger inexperienced sort of religious people made many parliament men and ministers overgo themselves to keep pace with these Hotspurs. No doubt but much indiscretion appeared, and worse than indiscretion in the tumultuous petitioners, and much sin was committed in the dishonouring of the king, and in the uncivil language against the bishops and liturgy of the church. But these things came chiefly from the sectarian, separating spirit, which blew the coals among foolish apprentices.
And as the sectaries increased, so the insolence increased.
One or two in the house and five or six ministers that came from Holland, and a few relicts of the Brownists that were scattered in the city, did drive on others, and sowed the seeds which afterwards spread over all the land.