A Weak Christian
“The weak Christian also, hath a faith that is divine, as caused by God, and resting on his word and truth. And he so far liveth by this faith, as that it commandeth and guideth the scope and drift of his heart and life. But he believeth with a great deal of staggering and unbelief; and therefore his hopes are interrupted by his troublesome doubts and fears; and the dimness and languor of his faith is seen in the faintness of his desires, and the many blemishes of his heart and life. And sight and sensual objects are so much the more powerful with him, by how much the light and life of faith is dark and weak.”
Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 8 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 384.
A Christian Indeed
1. A Christian indeed (by which I still mean, a sound, confirmed Christian), is one that contents not himself to have a seed, or habit of faith, but he lives by faith, as the sensualist by sight or sense. Not putting out the eye of sense, nor living as if he had no body, or lived not in a world of sensible objects; but as he is a reasonable creature, which exalts him above the sensitive nature, so faith is the true information of his reason, about those high and excellent things, which must take him up above things sensible. He hath so firm a belief of the life to come, as procured by Christ, and promised in the Gospel, as that it serveth him for the government of his soul, as his bodily sight doth for the conduct of his body. I say not, that he is assaulted with no temptations, nor that his faith is perfect in degree, nor that believing moves him as passionately as sight or sense would do: but it doth effectually move him through the course and tenour of his life, to do those things for the life to come, which he would do if he saw the glory of heaven; and to shun those things for the avoiding of damnation, which he would shun if he saw the flames of hell. Whether he do these things so fervently or not, his belief is powerful, effectual, and victorious. Let sight and sense invite him to their objects, and entice him to sin, and forsake his God, the objects of faith shall prevail against them, in the bent of an even, a constant, and resolved life. It is things unseen which he takes for his treasure, and which have his heart and hope, and chiefest labours. All things else which he hath to do, are but subservient to his faith and heavenly interest, as his sensitive faculties are ruled by his reason. His faith is not only his opinion, which teaches him to choose what church or party he will be of; but it is his intellectual light, by which he lives, and in the confidence and comfort of which he dies. “For we walk by faith, not by sight. We groan to be clothed upon with our heavenly house. Wherefore we labour, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him;” 2 Cor. 5:7–9. “Now the just shall live by faith;” Heb. 10:3. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;” Heb. 11:1. Most of the examples in Heb. 11 do shew you this truth, that true Christians live and govern their actions, by the firm belief of the promise of God, and of another life when this is ended. “By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark, to the saving of his house, by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith;” ver. 7. “Abraham looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God;” ver. 10. “Moses feared not the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible;” ver. 27. So the three witnesses (Dan. 3.), and Daniel himself, (chap. 6.) and all believers have lived this life, as Abraham the father of the faithful did; who, as it is said of him, “Staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;” Rom. 4:20. The faith of a Christian is truly divine; and he knoweth that God’s truth is as certain as sight itself can be; however sight be apter to move the passions. Therefore, if you can judge but what a rational man would be, if he saw heaven and hell, and all that God had appointed us to believe, then you may conjecture what a confirmed Christian is; though sense do cause more sensible apprehensions.”
Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 8 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 382–384.
[Baxter, Richard (1615–91), *Puritan divine. Born at Rowton, Salop, he was largely self-educated. He studied first at the free school of Wroxeter, next under the nominal tutelage of Richard Wickstead, Chaplain at Ludlow Castle, and finally (1633) in London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels. In disgust at the frivolity of the Court he returned home to study divinity, in particular the Schoolmen. In 1634 he came into intimate contact with Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock, two devout Nonconformist divines, who awakened his sympathies for the positive elements in dissent. In 1638 he was ordained by John Thornborough, Bp. of *Worcester, and in 1639 nominated assistant minister at Bridgnorth, where he remained for two years, increasing his knowledge of the issues between Nonconformity and the C of E. After the promulgation of the ‘Et Cetera Oath’ (1640) he rejected belief in episcopacy in its current English form. In 1641 he became curate of the incumbent of Kidderminster, where among a population of hand-loom workers he continued to minister with remarkable success until 1660. So far as possible he ignored the differences between Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Independent, and secured co-operation among the local ministers in common pastoral work. In the early part of the Civil War he temporarily joined the Parliamentary Army, preaching at Alcester on the day of the Battle of Edgehill (23 Oct. 1642). A champion of moderation, he was opposed to the *Solemn League and Covenant (1643) and also disliked O. *Cromwell’s religious views. After the Battle of Naseby (14 June 1645) he became Chaplain to Colonel Edward Whalley’s regiment, seeking to counteract the sectaries and to curb republican tendencies. On leaving the army (1647) he retired for a time to Rous Lench, where he wrote his devotional classic, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650). In 1660 he played a prominent part in the recall of *Charles II; but his dissatisfaction with episcopacy led him to decline the bishopric of *Hereford. This refusal debarred him from ecclesiastical office and he was not permitted to return to Kidderminster or to hold any living. He took a prominent part at the *Savoy Conference (1661; q.v.), for which he had prepared a ‘Reformed Liturgy’; here he presented the *Exceptions to the BCP. Between 1662 and the *Declaration of Indulgence of 1687 he endured persecution, suffering at the hands of the notorious Judge Jeffreys on the questionable charge of having ‘libelled the Church’ in his Paraphrase on the New Testament (1685). He was in sympathy with those responsible for the overthrow of *James II and readily complied with the *Toleration Act of William and Mary. He died on 8 Dec. 1691.
Baxter left nearly 200 writings. They breathe a spirit of deep unaffected piety and reflect his love of moderation. Gildas Salvianus; The Reformed pastor; (1656) illustrates the great care he took in his pastoral organization, and the Reliquiae Baxterianae (ed. Matthew Sylvester, 1696) is a long and careful autobiography. He Jalso wrote several hymns, among them ‘Ye holy angels bright’ and ‘He wants not friends that hath Thy love’. In CW, feast day, 14 June.]
F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 173.