A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Baxter, Richard

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Baxter, Richard (1615-1691). -- Divine scholar and controversialist, was b. of poor, but genteel, parents at Rowton in Shropshire, and although he became so eminent for learning, was not ed. at any university. Circumstances led to his turning his attention to a career at court under the patronage of the Master of the Revels, but a short experience of this sufficed; and giving himself to the Christian ministry, he was ordained in 1638, and, after being master of a school at Dudley, exercised his ministry successively at Bridgnorth and Kidderminster. His learning and capacity for business made him the leader of the Presbyterian party. He was one of the greatest preachers of his own day, and consistently endeavoured to exert a moderating influence, with the result that he became the object of attack by extremists of opposing views. Though siding with the Parliament in the Civil War, he opposed the execution of the King and the assumption of supreme power by Cromwell. During the war he served with the army as a chaplain. On the return of Charles II., B. was made one of his chaplains, and was offered the see of Hereford, which he declined, and his subsequent request to be allowed to return to Kidderminster was refused. He subsequently suffered persecution at the hands of Judge Jeffreys. After the Revolution he had a few years of peace and quiet. His literary activity was marvellous in spite of ill-health and outward disturbance. He is said to have written 168 works, the best known of which are The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650), and Call to the Unconverted (1657), manuals of practical religion; and, among his controversial writings, Methodus Theologiæ (1681), and Catholic Theology (1675), in which his theological standpoint -- a compromise between Arminianism and Calvinism -- is set forth. Dr. Isaac Barrow says that "his practical writings were never mended, and his controversial seldom confuted," and Dean Stanley calls him "the chief English Protestant schoolman." B. left an autobiography, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, which was a favourite book with both Johnson and Coleridge. Other works by him are The Life of Faith (1670), Reasons of the Christian Religion (1672), and Christian Directory (1675). Practical Works in 23 vols. (1830) edited with memoirs by W. Orme, also Lives by A.B. Grosart (1879), Dean Boyle (1883), and J.H. Davies (1886).