The Christian Directory stands out among later Puritan literature, Dr. Timothy Keller calls this “the greatest manual on biblical counseling ever produced.” Dr. J.I. Packer says that,” next to the Bible, this is the greatest Christian book ever written. ” No Puritan work on applied theology has approached the popularity, scope, or depth of this treatise. With widespread interest in counseling and practical, biblical living in today’s church, this of all Baxter’s works should be welcome to anyone who wishes to give solid scriptural answers to man’s most important questions. In the Christian Directory Baxter emphasizes the “heart work” involved in doing everything to the glory of God.
539d Baxter, Richard. 1615-1691
A Christian Directory: or a summ of the practical theologie, and cases of conscience. Directing christians, how to use their knowledge and faith; how to improve all helps and means, and to preform all duties; how to overcome temptations, and to escape or mortify every sin.
London: Robert White, for Nevil Simmons, at the sign of the Princes Arms in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1678 $1,500
Folio, 14 x 9 inches. Second edition. The first edition appeared in 1673.
Part 1 (leaf B1r) and Part 3 (leaf ³A1r) each have separate title page, dated 1677, pagination and register. Part 2 (²A1r) has separate title page, with imprint “printed by W.R. for Nevill Simmons, … 1677”, pagination and register. Part 4 has separate title page, with imprint “printed by William Rawlins for Nevill Simmons, …. 1677” and pagination; register begins with quire 7A. Leaf 7A2 missigned 4A2. “Cases of conscience about matters ecclesiastical,” has separate title page, dated 1677 on leaf ³L3r.
A⁴ (a)-(c)⁴ B-3C⁴ 3D⁶ ²A-U⁴ ³A-2A⁴ 2B⁶ 7A-7L⁴ ⁴M-Y⁴ *-2*⁴
This copy is bound in early boards which have been rebacked in modern calf the boards remain un covered.. It is a good solid copy of a large book, with only some slight intermittent browning. Baxter was a nonconformist theologian and prolific writer of devotional literature. Ordained as a Presbyterian divine in 1633, he had no formal education but taught at Worcestershire; he went on to serve as chaplain to both Cromwell and Charles II. His cardinal theme was always that of reconciliation, humility, and reason. In 1660 he refused to sign the king’s Uniformity Act, and was subsequently jailed for several months and banned from teaching.
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Richard Baxter had an amazing and difficult life, There are too many biographies of him and they vary greatly in slant and reliability. The excerpt I give here I think fits well what I read in Baxter.
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson
Richard Baxter was born in 1615, in Rowton, near Shrewsbury, in Shropshire. He was the only
son of Beatrice Adeney and Richard Baxter, Sr. Because of his father’s gambling habit and inherited debts, and his mother’s poor health, Richard lived with his maternal grandparents for the first ten years of his life. When his father was converted through “the bare reading of the Scriptures in private,” Richard returned to his parental home, and later acknowledged that God used his father’s serious talks about God and eternity as “the Instrument of my first Convictions, and Approbation of a Holy Life” (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:2-4).
Baxter’s education was largely informal; he later wrote that he had four teachers in six years, all of whom were ignorant and two led immoral lives. Nevertheless, he had a fertile mind, and enjoyed reading and studying. A prolonged illness and various books—particularly William Perkins’s Works—were the means God used to “resolve me for himself,” Baxter wrote (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:3-4). When he was fifteen, he was deeply affected by Richard Sibbes’s The Bruised Reed: “Sibbes opened more the love of God to me, and gave me a livelier apprehension of the mystery of redemption and how much I was beholden to Jesus Christ.” Subsequently, Ezekiel Culverwell’s Treatise of Faith (1623) “did me much good” (ibid., 1:4-5).
Baxter’s education took a turn for the better when he transferred to the Wroxeter grammar school, where he received some tuition support from a schoolmaster named John Owen. His best teacher there was an erudite minister, Francis Garbet, who took a real interest in Baxter. At the age of sixteen, under Owen’s persuasion, Baxter decided to forego university in favor of placing himself under the instruction of Owen’s friend, Richard Wickstead, chaplain at Ludlow Castle, who tutored him rather half-heartedly for eighteen months.
In 1633, Baxter went to London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, in the court of Charles I. Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock, two godly Puritan ministers in London, roused his sympathy for nonconformity, but he stayed in London only four weeks. Having become dissatisfied with the worldly court life in London and desiring to care for his ailing mother, he returned home in 1634; his mother died in May of 1635. He spent the next four years privately studying theology, particularly that of the scholastics, including Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham.
At age twenty-three, having as yet “no scruple at all against subscription,” and thinking “the Conformists had the better cause” (ibid., 1:13), Baxter was ordained deacon by John Thornborough, the elderly bishop of Worcester. For nine months he served as master of the school founded at Dudley, a center of nonconformity. In 1639, he became an assistant minister at Bridgnorth, Shropshire, where he developed a deeper appreciation for nonconformity.
In 1641, Baxter became curate at Kidderminster. Though many among a rather corrupt and crude population of handloom workers were initially offended by his forceful preaching and stress on a controlled Lord’s Supper and on church discipline, his seventeen-year ministry there (1641-42, 1647-61) bore substantial fruit. He preached as “a dying man to dying men,” which, with the Spirit’s blessing, resulted in numerous conversions. His praying was no less intense: “His soul tookwing for heaven and rapt up the souls of others with him” (Leonard Bacon, Select Practical Writings of Richard Baxter [New Haven, 1831], 1:262).
During the early days of the Civil War, Baxter supported, and on occasion accompanied, the Parliamentary Army. He preached before Cromwell, but he was uncomfortable with the Protector’s toleration of separatists. Though he was only an occasional “conformer,” Baxter favored being part of an established church and opposed the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. He also believed that the antinomian tendencies of some of the soldiers and preachers, such as Tobias Crisp and John Saltmarsh, were antithetical to practical Christian living. Their teaching prompted him to write Aphorisms of Justification (1649), in which he argued for a combination of divine grace and human cooperation in justification.
In 1647, Baxter’s prolonged illnesses compelled him to leave the army. He recuperated at the Worcestershire home of Sir Thomas and Lady Rous, where he wrote the first part of The Saints’ Everlasting Rest. He later said he wrote it as a labor of love while “looking death full in the face and yet experiencing the sufficient grace of God.”
After he recovered, Baxter returned to Kidderminster, where he concentrated on writing. “My writings were my chiefest daily labor,” he wrote, whereas “preaching and preparing for it, were but my recreation” (Reliquae, p. 85). He also catechized church members two days each week. He went from home to home with an assistant, speaking with each family for one hour and providing each family with an edifying book or two, usually written by himself. He said of these visits, “Few families went from me without some tears, or seemingly serious promises [to strive] for a godly life.” He added, “Some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse of conscience in half an hour’s close disclosure, than they did from ten year’s public preaching” (ibid., 1:83ff.).
The home visits bore fruit. The congregation kept overflowing its meeting place so that five galleries had to be added. When Baxter came to Kidderminster, scarcely one family on each street among the 800 families honored God in family worship. By the end of his ministry in 1661, there were streets on which every family did so. On the Sabbath, he writes, “you might hear an hundred families singing Psalms and repeating sermons, as you passed through the streets.” Of the approximately six hundred people who became full communicants under his ministry, he adds, “There was not twelve that I had not good hopes of, as to their sincerity” (ibid., 1:84-85).
Baxter worked hard, despite chronic pain from the age of twenty-one until the end of his life. He suffered from tuberculosis and feared consumption. In the years following the Restoration, he left Kidderminster for London, where he often preached at St. Dunstan’s and lectured at Pinner’s Hall and Fetters Lane. He pleaded in vain, however, at the Savoy Conference (1661) for the non-prelatical, synodical form of episcopacy devised by Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) and for a Puritan revision of the Prayer Book.
In 1662, Baxter was ejected from the Church of England by the Act of Uniformity. He continued to preach for the rest of his life where he could, but never gathered a congregation of his own. J. I. Packer writes, “Miscalled a Presbyterian, Baxter was a reluctant Nonconformist who favored monarchy, national churches, liturgy and episcopacy, and could accept the unsympathetically revised 1662 Prayer Book. But the 1662 Act of Uniformity required renunciation on oath of Puritan ideals of reformation as a condition of incumbency in the restored Church of England, and Baxter balked at that” (New Dictionary of Theology, p. 83).
After his ejection, when he was almost fifty, Baxter married one of his converts, Margaret Charlton, who was in her early twenties. The disparity of their ages caused some consternation for a time, but the excellence of their marriage in Christ silenced the rumors. Margaret proved to be a devout Christian and faithful wife who earnestly yearned for the salvation of souls. Baxter’s tenderness toward her, and her godliness, are described in Breviate of the Life of Mrs. Margaret Baxter (1681). There Baxter writes that he “never knew her equal” in practical divinity, for she was “better at resolving a case of conscience than most Divines that ever I knew.” Consequently, Baxter habitually shared all cases with her except for those that compelled confidentiality (Breviate, pp. 67-68).
The Baxters settled in London. Prelates and magistrates hounded Baxter for most of his remaining years. He was imprisoned at least three times for preaching and never again resumed a pastoral charge; even his books were taken from him. His response was, “I found I was near the end of both that work and that life which needeth books, and so I easily let go all.” Once, even the bed on which he was lying sick was confiscated.
After James II took the throne in 1685, Baxter was charged with attacking episcopacy in Paraphrase on the New Testament and was brought before Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys. Jeffreys charged Baxter with seditious behavior, calling him “an old rogue who poisoned the world with his Kidderminster doctrine.” Jeffreys went on to exclaim, “This conceited, stubborn, fanatical dog—that did not conform when he might have been preferred; hang him!” The bishop of London intervened, and Baxter was spared a public whipping, though he was still imprisoned
for five more months.
Baxter eventually benefited from the Toleration Act of 1689, introduced by William and Mary to protect nonconformists. His last days were spent in the pleasant surroundings of Charterhouse Square. He occasionally preached to large crowds there, but he spent most of his time writing. When he was dying and a friend reminded him of the benefits many had received from his writings, Baxter replied, “I was but a pen in God’s hand, and what praise is due to a pen?” By the time he died on December 8, 1691, Baxter had written about 150 treatises, as well as hundreds of unpublished letters and papers.
Baxter’s writings are a strange theological mix. He was one of a few Puritans whose doctrines of God’s decrees, atonement, and justification were anything but Reformed. Though he generally structured his theology along Reformed lines of thought, he frequently leaned towards Arminian thinking. He developed his own notion of universal redemption, which offended Calvinists, but retained a form of personal election, which offended Arminians. He rejected reprobation. He was greatly influenced by the Amyraldians and incorporated much of their thinking, including hypothetical universalism, which teaches that Christ hypothetically died for all men, but His death only has real benefit to those who believe. For Baxter, Christ’s death was more of a legal satisfaction of the law than a personal substitutionary death on behalf of elect sinners.
Baxter’s approach to justification has been called neonomianism (that is, “new law”); he said that God has made a new law offering forgiveness to repentant breakers of the old law. Faith and repentance—the new laws that must be obeyed—become the believer’s personal, saving righteousness that is sustained by preserving grace. Baxter’s soteriology, then, is Amyraldian with the addition of Arminian “new law” teaching. Happily, these erroneous doctrines do not surface much in Baxter’s devotional writings, which are geared mainly to encourage one’s sanctification rather than to teach theology.
Baxter professed to resent having to write polemical treatises: “Controversies I have written of, but only to end them, not to make them.” Hans Boersma has shown, however, that though irenic in some respects, Baxter could be provocative as well (see A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification in its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy [Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 1993]).