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Echoes of the Past

Although Richard Baxter lived in troublous times, amid “wars and rumors of wars,” and persecutions from which he himself was anything but exempt, his words still echo again and again above the jarring sounds of sectarian strife and religious intolerance. A man of sterling integrity of purity of life, Baxter was utterly unselfish, and it may be truly said of him as of Another, “He went about doing good.” Coleridge said he “would almost soon doubt the Gospel verity as Baxter’s veracity,” and Dr. Samuel Johnson classed Baxter with the most eminent theologians. Despite his bodily sufferings, which lasted barely the whole of his life, Baxter was a most voluminous writer. Our quotations must of necessity be few, and are somewhat desultory.

“In my younger years, my trouble for sin was must about my actual failings; but now I am much more troubled for inward defects and omissions, for want of the vital duties or graces of the soul."

“I less admire gifts of utterance and the 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. I once thought that almost all who 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; while I have met with divers obscure persons, not noted for any extraordinary profession or forwardness in religion, but only to live 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. I am not so narrow in my special love as heretofore. I can now distinguish between sincerity and profession."

"Many will study hard to preach exactly, and study little or none at all to live exactly. We must study as hard how to live well as how to preach well."

“To have sinned while I preached and wrote against sin, and had such abundant and great obligations from God, and made so many promises against it, doth lay me very low; not so much in fear of hell, as in great displeasure against myself; and such self—abhorrence as would cause revenge upon myself were it not forbidden. When God forgiveth me, I cannot forgive myself; especially for my rash words or deeds, by which I have seemed injurious, and less tender and kind than I should have been to my near and clear relations, whose love abundantly obliged me. When such are dead, though we never differed in point of interest, or any other matter, every sour or cross provoking word which I gave them, maketh me almost irreconcilable to myself, and tells me how repentance brought some of old to pray to the dead whom they had wronged, to forgive them, in the hurry of their passion."

Speaking of the severe persecution he suffered during the last years of the reign of Charles II, when all his goods and books were seized and sold, he said: "If they had taken my cloak, they should have had my coat also, and if they had smitten me on one cheek, I would have turned the other; for I knew the ease was such, that he that will not put up with one blow, one wrong, or slander, shall suffer two ; yea, many more."

“I am much less regardful of the approbation of man, and set much lighter by contempt or applause than I did long ago. All worldly things appear most vain and unsatisfactory when we have tried them most. I am more and more pleased with a solitary life, and though, in a way of self-denial, I could submit to the most public life for the service of God, when he requireth it, and would not be unprofitable that I might be private, yet I must confess it is much more pleasing to myself to be retired from the world, and to have very little to do with men, and to converse with God and conscience and good books. Though I was never much tempted to the sin of covetousness, yet my fear of dying was wont to tell me that I was not sufficiently loosened from the world; but I find that it is comparatively very easy to me to be loose from this world, but hard to live by faith above. I am much more apprehensive than long ago of the odiousness and danger of the sin of pride. I am much more sensible than heretofore of the breadth, and length, and depth of the radical, universal, odious sin of selfishness, and therefore have written so much against it; and of the excellency and necessity of self-denial, and of a public mind, and of loving our neighbors as ourselves."

“I can assure you that your whole life, be it never so long, is little enough to prepare for death."

The contentions between the Greek Church and the Roman, the Papists and the Protestants, the Lutherans and the Calvanists, have woefully hindered the kingdom of Christ. I am further than ever I was from expecting great matters of unity, splendor, or prosperity to the Church on earth, or that saints should dream of "a kingdom of this world, or flatter themselves with the hope of a golden age, or of reigning over the ungodly, till there be a. new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."

During his last days when in great suffering, he said to them who saw him in anguish; “Do not think the worse of religion for what you see me suffer. I bless God I have a well-grounded assurance of my eternal happiness, and great peace and comfort within."

Failure is only when we cease to try.
—Henry Newbolt

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Thomas W. Allen

  • Brother of author James Allen
  • Not much else is known about him. If you have information about this author to share, please contact me.

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