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Behmen. Blunden was then apprentice to a bookseller, and possessed of considerable knowledge and piety; to his letters,conversation respecting books, and christian consolation, Baxter was much indebted. On his way home, about Christmas, he met with a remarkable deliverance. There was a violent storm of snow succeeding a severe frost; on the road he met a loaded waggon, which he could pass only by riding on the side of a bank; his horse slipped, the girths broke, and he was thrown immediately before the wheel. Without any discernible cause, the horses stopped when he was on the verge of destruction, and thus his life was marvellously preserved! How inexplicable to us are the ways and arrangements of Providence! In some cases, the snapping of a hair occasions death; in other, life is preserved by an almost miraculous interference.
On reaching home, he found his mother in the greatest extremity of pain, and after uttering heart-piercing groans the whole winter and spring, she took her departure on the 10th of May, 1634. Of her religious character he says nothing, except when noticing the religion of the family; from which we have reason to believe that there was hope in her end. His father, about a year afterwards, married Mary, the daughter of Sir Thomas Hunks, a woman who proved an eminent blessing to the family. She reached the advanced age of ninety-six; and her holiness, mortification, contempt of the world, and fervency of prayer, rendered her an honour to religion, and a pattern to all who knew her.
Baxter's mind was now more than ever impressed with the importance of the christian ministry. He did not expect to live long, and having the eternal world, as it were, immediately before him, he was exceedingly desirous of communicating to the careless and ignorant the things which so deeply impressed himself. He was very conscious of his own insufficiency for the work, arising from defective learning and experience; and he knew that his want of academical honours and degrees would affect his estimation and usefulness with many. Believing, however, that he would soon be in another world; that he possessed a measure of aptness to teach and persuade men; and satisfied that, if only a few souls should be converted by his instrumentality, he would be abundantly rewarded; he got the better of all his fears and discouragements, and resolved to devote himself to the work of Christ. So powerful, indeed, were his own convictions of the madness and wretchedness of presumptuous sinners, and of the clearness and force of those reasons which ought to persuade men to embrace a godly life, that he thought the man who was properly dealt with, and yet capable of resisting them, and persevering in wickedness, fitter for Bedlam than entitled to the character of sober rationality He was simple enough to think, he had so much to say on these subjects, that men would not be able to withstand him; forgetting the experience of the celebrated reformer, who found, " that old Adam was too strong for young Melancthon."
Till this time, he was a Conformist in principle and practice. His family, though serious, had always conformed. His acquaintances were almost all of the same description; and, as Nonconformist books were not easily procured, his reading was mostly on the other side. Mr. Garbet, his chief tutor, of whose learning and piety he had a high opinion, was a strict churchman; he supplied him with the works of Downham, Sprint, Burgess, Hooker, and others, who had written strongly against the Nonconformists.m One of that party also, Mr. Barnel, of Uppington, though a worthy, blameless man, was but an inferior scholar, while the Conformists around him were men of learning. These things increased his prejudices at the cause which he afterwards embraced. By such means he was led to think the principles of churchmen strong, and the reasonings of the Nonconformists weak.
With the exception of Hooker, the other episcopal writers here mentioned are now little known or attended to. The 'Ecclesiastical Polity' of that distinguished man both superseded and anticipated all other defences of the church of England. In it the strength of the episcopal'cause is to be found, and, from the almost superstitious veneration with which his name is invariably mentioned, by the highest, as well as the more ordinary, members of the church, it is evident how much importance they attach to his labours. Of the man whom popes have praised, and kings commended, and bishops, without number, extolled, it may appear presumptuous in me to express a qualified opinion. But truth ought to be spoken. The praise of profound erudition, laborious research, and gigantic powers of eloquence, no man will deny to be due to Hooker. But, had his celebrated work been written in defence of the Popish hierarchy, and Popish ceremonies, the greater part of it would have required little alteration. Hence we need not wonder at the praise bestowed on it by Clement VIII,
» Apology for Nonconformists, p, »y.
or that James II. should have referred to it as one of two books which promoted his conversion to the church of Rome. His views of the authority of the church, and the insufficiency of Scripture, are much more Popish than Protestant; and the greatest trial to which the judiciousness of Hooker could have been subjected, would have been to attempt a defence of the Reformation on his own principles. His work abounds with sophisms, with assumptions, and with a show of proof when the true state of the case has not been given, and the strength of the argument never met. The quantity of learned and ingenious reasoning which it contains, and the seeming candour and mildness which it displays, have imposed upon many, and procured for Hooker the name of "judicious," to which the solidity of his reasonings, and the services he has rendered to Christianity, by no means entitle him.m
About his twentieth year, he became acquainted with Mr. Symonds," Mr. Cradock,° and some other zealous Nonconformist
"A very important 'and curious note respecting the Ecclesiastical Polity the reader will find in M'Crie's ' Life of Melville,' vol. ii. p. 461. The edition of Hooker's Works, which has lately issued from the press of Holdsworth and Ball, is the only correct edition which has appeared for many years; while the curious notes of the editor furnish much important illustration of Hooker's meaning, as well as supply some of the arguments of his adversaries, to which he often replies very unfairly.
It There were several Nonconformist ministers of the name of Symonds; so that it is difficult to determine to which of them Baxter refers. One of them was originally beneficed at Sandwich, in Kent, and went to London during the civil wars, where he became an Independent, and a Baptist, if we may believe Edward.. According to that abusive writer, he preached strange things " for toleration and liberty for all men to worship God according to their consciences!" He appears, also, to have been one of Sir Thomas Fairfax's chaplains; and was afterwards appointed one of the itinerant ministers of Wales, by the House of Commons.—Edwards's Gangrena, part iii. passim. Another Mr. Joseph Symonds was sometime assistant to Mr. Thomas Gataker, at Rotherhithe, near London, and Rector of St. Martin's, Ironmongerlane. He afterwards became an Independent, and went to Holland, where he was chosen pastor of the church at Rotterdam, in the place of Mr. Sydrach Sympson. He preached before Parliament in 1641.—Brook's Puritans, vol. iii. pp. 39, 40. It is probable that one of these two respectable men was Baxter's acquaintance at Shrewsbury.
"Mr. Walter Cradock, a Welshman, on account of his Puritanical sentiments, was driven from the church in 1634, shortly before Baxter became acquainted with him. He formed an Independent church at Llanfaches, in Wales, in the year 1639. He was one of the most active labourers in the principality during the Commonwealth, and procured the New Testament to be printed in Welsh, for the use of the common people. He died about 1660, leaving some sermons and expositions, which were collected and printed in two vols. two, in 1800.—Brook's Lives, vol. iii. pp.382—386. VOL. I, C
ministers, in Shrewsbury and the neighbourhood. Their fervent piety and excellent conversation profited him exceedingly; and discovering that these were the people persecuted by the bishops, he began to imbibe a prejudice against the hierarchy on that account; and felt persuaded that those who silenced and troubled such men could not be followers of the Lord of love. Still, when he thought of ordination he had no scruple about subscription. And why should he? for he tells us himself "that he never once read over the book of ordination; nor the half of the book of homilies; nor weighed Carefully the liturgy; nor sufficiently understood some of the controverted points in the thirty-nine articles. His teachers and his books made him think, in general, that the Conformists had the better cause; so that he kept out all particular scruples by that opinion." It is very easy to keep free from doubts on ally subject, by restraining the freedom of inquiry, and giving full credit to the statements and reasohings of one side.
About this time, 1628, Mr. Thomas Foley, of Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, recovered some lands at Dudley, which had been left for charitable purposes; and adding something of his own, built and endowed it new school-house. The situation of head master he offered to Baxter. This he was willing to accept, as it would also afford him the opportunity of preaching in some destitute places, without being himself in any pastoral relation, which office he was then indisposed to occupy. Accordingly, accompanied by Mr. Foley, and his friend Mr. James Berry, he repaired to Worcester, where he was ordained by Bishop Thornborough ',P, and received a licence to teach the school at Dudley. Thus was he introduced to that ministry, the duties of which he discharged with so much diligence and success for many years; which proved to him a source of incessant solicitude, and of many trials; but its blessedness he richly experienced on earth, and now reaps the reward in heaven.
» Of Thoruhnruugli, I hate nut observed that Baxter has said any thing. He lived to a great age, dying in the year 1641, in his ninety- fourth year, lie was the author of a few pamphlets of a philosophical and political nature. What he was, as a religious man, I cannot tell. - Woods Alhen. (Jjrmt. (Edit. Uli»s#) vol. iii. p. 3.
Baxter preaches his First Sermon—Examines the Nonconformist Controversy —Adopts some of the principles of Nonconformity—Progress of his mind —Residence in Bridgnorth—The Et-caUera Oath—Examines the subject of Episcopacy—In danger from not conforming—The Long Parliament— Petition from Kidderminster—Application to Baxter—His Compliance— Commences his Labours—General View of the State of Religion in the Country at this time—Causes of the Civil War—Character of the Parties engaged in it—Baxter blames both—A decided Friend to the Parliament —Retires for a time from Kidderminster.
Baxter preached his first public sermon in the upper church of Dudley, and while in that parish began to study with greater attention than he had formerly done the subject of Nonconformity. From some of the Nonconformists in the place, he received books and manuscripts which he had not before seen; and though all his predilections were in favour of the church as it was, he determined to examine impartially the whole controversy.
On the subject of episcopacy, Bishop Downham had satisfied him before; but he did not then understand the distinction between the primitive episcopacy, and that of the church of England. He next studied the debate about kneeling at the sacrament, and was satisfied, by Mr. Paybody, of the lawfulness of conformity to that mode. He turned over Cartwright and Whitgift; but, having procured Dr. Ames' 'Fresh Suit against Human Ceremonies in God's Worship,'q and the work of Dr.
'Ames'' Fresh Suit,' 4to, 1633, is one of the most able works of the period, on the subject on which it treats. Its author was a man of profound learning, great acuteness, and eminent piety. This work enters very fully into all the great points relating to the exercise of human authority in the things of God, and the introduction of human customs and ceremonies into divine worship; and though not professedly an answer to Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, embraces every thing of importance in that noted work. It has also the advantage of the Polity, in the dis respect it everywhere discovers for the Word of God, and the decided appeal it uniformly makes to it. In a sentence or two of the Preface, he gives the turning point of the whole controversy:—" The state of this war is this: we, as it becometh Christians, stand upon the sufficiency of Christ's institutions for all kind of worship. The uord, say we, and