« AnteriorContinuar »
he wrote his work, 'The Saints' Everlasting Rest,' 1653. When Cromwell assumed the supreme power, Baxter openly expressed his dis:ipprobation, and, in a conference with the Protector, told him that the honest people of the land took their ancient monarchy to be a blessing, and not an evil.' He was always opposed to intolerance. We intended not,' he said, “to dig down the banks, or pull up the hedge, and lay all waste and common, when we desired the prelates' tyranny might cease.' After the Restoration, Baxter was appointed one of the royal chaplains, but, like Owen, refused a bishopric offered him by Clarendon. The Act of Uniformity, in 1662, drove him out of the Established Church, and he retired to Acton, in Middlesex, where he spent several years in peaceful study and literary labour. The Act of Indulgence, in 1672, enabled him to repair to London ; but the subsequent persecution of tbe Nonconformists interfered with his ministerial duties. In 1685, le published a * Paraphrase on the New Testament,' a plain practical treatise, but certain passages in which were held to be seditious, and Baxter was tried and condemned by the infamous Judge Jeffreys. When Baxter endeavoured to speak : ' Richard ! Richard !' ejaculated the Judge,
dost thou think we'll hear thee poison the court? Richard, thou art an old fellow, an old knave; thou hast written books enough to load a cart. Hadst thou been whipt out of thy writing trade forty years ago, it had been happy.'
He was sentenced to pay 500 marks, and in default to be imprisoned in the King's Bench until it was paid. Through the generous exertions of a Catholic peer, Lord Powis, the fine was remitted, and after eighteen months' imprisonment, Baxter was set at liberty. He had now five years of tranquillity, dying in great peace and joy,' December 8, 1691. Baxter is said to have written no less than 168 separate works or publications ! His practical treatises are still read and republished, especially bis ‘Saints' Rest' and 'Call to the Unconverted,' 1669. The latter was so popular, that 20,000 copies, it was said, were sold in one year. His Reasons of the Christian Religion,' 1697, Life of Faith,' 1670, Christian Directory,' 1675, are also much prized theological works. His Catholic Theology,' 1675, and ‘Metbolus Theologiæ Christianæ,' 1681, embody the views and opinions of Baxter on religious subjects. In 1696, appeared ‘Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, including an autobiography, entitled A Narrative of the most Memorable Passages of my Life and Times,' published by Baxter's friend, Matthew Sylvester, a Nonconformist divine. This work is highly instructive, and, like Baxter's writings generally, was a favourite bok of Dr. Johnson. In our own day, it met with no less warm an admirer in Mr. Coleridge, who terms it an inestimable work;' addig: 'I may not unfrequently doubt Baxter's memory, or even his competence, in consequence of his particular modes of thiriking; but I could almost as soon doubt the Gospel verity as his veracity.' It is this truthfulness which gives so deep and permanent an interest to Baxter's lise. We see what Mr. Carlyle would call the life of a real man, ever in action or in self-retrospection ; and as to what was passing around him, Baxter was an acute observer as well as profound thinker.
A complete edition of Baxter's works, with a Life of the Author, by the Rev. W. Orme, was published in 1827, in twenty-three volumes. Also, his Practical Works,' four volumes, 1838.
Baxter's Judgment of his Writings. Concerning almost all my writings, I must confess that my own judgmentis, that fewer, well studied and polished, had been better; but the reader who can safely censure the books, is not fit to censure the author, unless he had been upon the place, and acqnainted with all the occasions and circumstances. Indeed, for the *Saints' Rest,' I had four months' vacancy to write it, but in the midst of continual languishing and medicine; but, for the rest, I wrote them in the crowd of all my other employments, which would allow me no great leisure for polishing and exactness, or any ornament; so that I scarce ever wrote one sheet twice over, nor stayed to make any blots or interlinings, but was fain to let it go as it was first conceived ; and when my own desire was rather to stay upon one thing long than run over many, some sudden occasions or other extorted all my writings from me; and the apprehensions of present usefulness or necessity prevailed against all other motives; so that the divines which were at hand with me still put me on, and approved of what I did, becanse they were moved by present necessities as well as I ; but those that were far off, and felt not those nearer motives, did rather wish that I had taken the other way, and published a few elaborate writings; and I am ready myself to be of their mind, when I forgot the case that I then stood in, and have lost the sense of former motives.
Fruits of Experience of Human Character. I now see more good and more evil in all men than heretofore I did. I see that good men are not so good as I once thought they were, but have more imperfecfions; and that bearer approach and fuiler trial doth make the best appear more weak and faulty than their admirers at a distance think. And I find that few are so bad as either malicious enemies or censorious separating professors do imagine. In some, indeed, I find that human nature is corrupted into a greater likeness to devils than 1 once thought any on earth had been. But even in the wicked, usually there is more for grace to make advantage of, and more to testify for God and holiness, than I once believed there had been.
I less admire gifts of utterance, and bare profession of religion, than I once did; and have much more charity for many who, by the want of gifts, do make an obscurer profession than they. I once thought that almost all that could pray movingly and fluently, and talk well of religion, had been saints. But experience hath opened to me what odious crimes may consist with high profession; and I have met with divers obscure persons, pot noted for any extraordinary profession, or forwardness jp religion, but only to live a quiet blameless life, whom I have after found to have long lived, as far as I could discern, a truly godly and sanctified life; only, their prayers and duties were by accident kept secret from other men's observation. Yet he that upon this pretence would confound the godly and the ungodly, may as well go about to lay heaven and hell together.
Desire of Approbation. I am much less regardful of the approbation of man, and set much lighter by contempt or applause, than I did long ago. I am oft suspicious that this is not only from the increase of self-lenial and humility, but partly from my being glutted and sarfeited with human applause: and all worldly things appear most vain aud ullB.tisfactory when we have tried thein most. But though I feel that this hath some band in the effect, yet, as far as I can perceive, the knowledge of man's pothingDese, and God's truuscendent greatueza, with whom it is that I have most to do, and the sense of the brevity of human things, and the nearness of eternity, are the principal causes of this effect; which some have imputed to self-conceitedness and morosity.
Change in the Estimate of his own and Other Men's Knowledge.
Peretofore, I knew much less than now, and yet was not half so much acquainted with my ignorance. I had a great delight in the daily new discoveries which I made, and of the light which shined in upon me-like a man that cometh into a. country where he never was before-but I little knew either how imperfectly I understood those very points whose discovery, so much delighted me, nor how much might be said against them, nor how many things I was yet a stranger to: but now I find far greater darkness upon all things, and perceive how very little it is that we know, in comparison of that which we are ignorant of, and have far meaner thoughts of my own understanding, though I must needs know that it is better furnished than it was then.
Accordingly, I had then a far higher opinion of learned persons and books than I have now; for what I wanted myself, I thought every reverend divine had attained, and was familiarly acquainted with ; and what books I understood uot, by reason of the strangeness of the terms or matter, I the more admired, and thought that others understood their worth. But now experience hath constrained me against my will to know, that reverend learned men are imperfect, and know but little as well as I, especially those that think themselves the wisest; and the better I am acquainted with them, the more I perceive that we are all yet in the dark: and the more I am acquainted with holy men, that are all for heaven, and pretend not much to subtilities, the more I value and honour them. And when I have studied hard to understand some abstruse admired book-as De Scientia Dei,' 'De Providentia circa Malum,' •De Decretis, ' •De Prædeterminatione,' ' De Libertate Creaturæ,' &c. -I have but attained the knowledge of human inperfections, and to see that the author is but a man as well as I.
Aud at first I took more upon my author's credit than now I can do; and when an author was highly commended to ine by others, or pleased me in some part, I was ready to entertain the whole; whereas now I take and leave in the same author, and dissent in some things from him that I like best, as well as from others.
On the Credit due to History. I am much more cautelous [cautions or wary) in my belief of history than heretofore: not that I run into their extreme that will believe nothing because they cannot believe all things. But I am abundantly satisfied by the experience of this age that there is no believing two sorts of men, ungodly men and partial men : thongh an honest heathen, of no religion, may be believed, where enmity against religion biaseth him not; yet a debauched Christian, besides his enmity to the power and practice of his own religion, is seldom without some further bias of interest or faction; especially when these concur, and a man is both ungodly and ambitious, espousing an interest contrary to a holy heaveuly life, and also factious, embodying himself with a sect or party suited to his spirit and designs; there is no believiug his word or oath. If you read any man partially bitter against others, as differing from him in opinion, or as cross to his greatuess, interest, or designs, take heed how you believe any more than the historical evidence, distinct from his word, compelleth you to believe. The prodigions lies which have been published in this age in matters of fact, with unblushing confidence, even where thousands of nultitudes of eye and ear witnesses kuew all to be false, doth call men to take heed whai history they believe, especially where power and violence affordeth that privilege to the reporter, that no man dare answer him or detect his fraud; or if they do, their writings are all supprest. As long as men have liberty to examine and contradict one another, one may partly conjecture, by comparing their words, on which side the truth is like to lie. But when great men write history, or flatterers by their apJointment, which no man dare contradict, believe it but as you are constraineil. Yet, in these cases, I can freely believe history: 1. If the person shew that he is acquainted with what he saith. 2. And if he shew you the evidences of honesty and conscience, and the fear of God, which may be much perceived in the spirit of a writing. 3. If he appear to be impartial and charitable, and a lover of goodness and
of mankind, and not possessed of malignity or personal ill-will and malice, nor carried away by faction or personal interest. Conscionable men dare not lie: but faction and interest abate men's tenderness of conscience. And a charitable impartal heathen may speak truth in a love to truth, and hatred of a lie; but ambitious malice and false religion will not stick to serve themselves on anything. Sure I am, that as the lies of the Papists, of Luther, Zwinglius, Calvin, and Beza are visibly malicious and impudent, by the common plenary contradicting evidence, and yet the multitude of their seduced ones believe them all, in despite of truth and charity ; so in this age there have been such things written against parties and persons, whom the writers design to make odious, so notoriously false, as you would think that the sense of their honour, at least, should have made it impossible for such men to write. My own eyes have read such words and actions asserted with most vehement, iterated, unbluishing confidence, which abmdance of ear-witnesses, even of their own parties, inust needs know to have been altogether false ; and therefore having myself now written this history of myself, notwithstanding my protestation that I have not in anything wilfully gone against the truth, I expect no more credit from the reader than the self-evidencing light of the matter, with concurrent rational advantages from persons, and things, and other witnesses, shall constrain him to, if he be a person that is unacquainted with the author himself, and the other evidences of his veracity and credibility.
Character of Sir Matthew Hale. He was a man of no quick utterance, but spake with great reason. He was most precisely just; insomuch that, I believe, he would have lost all he had in the world rather than do an unjust act. Patient in hearing the inost tedious speech which any man had to make for himself. The pillar of justice, the refuge of the subject, who feared oppression, and one of the greatest honours of his majesty's government; for, with some other uprigiit judges, he upheld the honour of the English nation, that it fell not into the reproach of arbitrariness, cruelty, and utter confusion. Every man that had a just cause was almost past fear if he could but bring it to the court or assize where he was judge; for the other judges seldom contradicted him.
He was the great instrument for rebuilding London ; for when an act was made for deciding all controversies that hindered it, he was the constant judge, who for nothing followed the work, and, by his prudence ană justice, removed a multitude of great impediments.
His great advantage for innocency was, that he was no lover of riches or of grandeur. His garb was too plain; he studionsly avoided all unnecessary familiarity with great persons, and all that manner of living which signitieth wealth and greatness. He kept no greater a family than myself. I lived in a small house, which, for a pleasant back opening, he had a mind to; but caused a stranger, that he might not be suspected to be the man, to know of me whether I were willing to part with it, before he would meddle with it. In that house he lived contentedly, without any pomp, and without costly or troublesome retinue or visitors; but not without charity to the poor. He continued the study of physics and mathematics still, as his great delight. He had got but a very small estate, though he had long the greatest practice, because he wo take but little money, and undertak more business than he could well despatch. He ofien offered to the lord chancellor to resign his place, when he was blamed for doing that which he supposed was jus. tice. He had been the learned Selden's intimate friend, and one of his executors; and because the Hobbians and other infidels would have persuaded the world that Selden was of their mind, I desired him to tell me the truth therein. He assured me that Seiden was an earnest professor of the Christian faith, and so angry an adversary to Hobbes, that he hath rated him out of the room.
Obscrvance of the Sabbath in Baxter's Youth. I cannot forget that in my youth, in those late times, when we lost the labours of some of our conformable godly trachers, for not reading publicly the Book of Sports * and dancing on the Lord's Day, one of my father's owa tenants was the
James 1. published a declaration permitting recreations on Sunday-as dancing, archery, May-games, morris-dances, &c. This was ordered to be read in churches.
town-piper, hired by the year, for many years together, and the place of the dancing assembly was not a hundred yards from our door. We could not, on the Lord's Day, either read a chapter, or pray, or sing a pealm, or catechise, or instruct a servant, but with the noise of the pipe and tabor, and the shoutings in the street, continually in our ears. Even among a tractable people, we were the common scorn of all the rabble ju the streets, and called puritans, precisians, and hypocrites, because we rather chose to read the Scriptures than to do as they did ; though there was no savour of nonconformity in our family. And when the people by the book were allowed to play and dance out of public service-time, they could so hardly break off their sports, that many a time the reader was fain to stay till the piper and players would give over. Sometimes the morris-dancers would come into the church in all their linen and scarfs, and antic dresses, with morris-bells jingling at their legs; and as soon as common prayer was read, did haste out presenti to their play again.
Theological Controversies. My mivd being these many years immersed in studies of this nature, and having also long wearied myself in searching what fathers and schoolmen have said of such things before us, and my genius abhorring coufusion and equivocals, I came, by many years' longer study, to perceive that most of the doctrinal controversies among Protestants are far more about equivocal words than matter; and it wounded my soul to perceive what work both tyrannical and unskilful disputing clergymen had made these thirteen hundred years in the world ! Experience, since the year 1643, till this year, 1675, hath loudly called me to repent of my own prejudices, sidings, and censurings of causes and persons not understood, and of all the miscarriages of my ininistry and life which have been thereby caused; and to make it my chief work to call men that are within my hearing to more peaceable thoughts, affections, and practices. And my endeavours have not been in vain, in that the ministers of the county where I lived were very many of such a peaceable temper, and a great number more through the land, by God's grace, rather than any endeavours of mine, are so minded. But the sons of the cowl were exasperated the more against me, and accounted bim to be against every man that called all men to love and peace, and was for no man as in the coutrary way.
JOIN BUNYAN. Join BUNYAN (1628–1688), the son of a tinker residing at Elstow, in Bedfordshire, is one of the most remarkable of English authors. He was taught in childhood to read and write, and afterwards, having resolved to follow his father's occupation, travelled for many years about the country in the usual gipsy-life of his profession. At This time he is represented to have been sunk in profligacy and wick. edness; but, like many other religious enthusiasts, Bunyan exagge rated the depravity of his unregenerated condition, and his biographers have too literally taken him at his word. Ringing bells, dancing, and playing at hockey were included among his sinful propensities. He was also addicted to profane swearing; but on a woman remonstrating with him as to this vice, le at once abandoned it. His early marriage, at the age of nineteen, saved him from another species of wickedness. And as Macaulay has remarked, 'those horrible internal conflicts which Bunyan has described with so much power of linguage, prove, not that he was a worse man than his neighbours, but that his mind was constantly occupiert by religious considera
The act, however. was not enforced in the reigo of James. bnt it was renewed by Charles 1. The clergy who refused to read this edict or Book of Sports from the pulpit, were punished by suspension or expulsion.