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Richard Baxter, 1615-1691, English Minister

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 03/17/2003

Category: Biographies

Source: CCN

Richard Baxter 1615-1691 English minister. Richard Baxter was born in Rowton, England. His parents were very poor. Therefore, his early education was limited. He later attended school at Wroxeter and read with Richard Wixted at Ludlow Castle. His eager mind found abundant nourishment in the large library of the Castle. Some time after, he was persuaded to enter court life in London, but he felt the divine call to the ministry and returned home to study divinity.         While reading theology with the local clergymen, he met Joseph Simonds and Walter Cradock, two famous nonconformists whose piety and fervor influenced him consid- erably. In 1638 he was appointed master of the Free Grammar School, Dudley, in which place he commenced his ministry, having been ordained and licensed by John Thornborough, bishop of Worcester.         His early ministry was not very successful, but dur- ing these years he took a special interest in the controversy relating to nonconformity and the Church of England. He soon became alienated from the Church, rejecting episcopacy in its English form, and became a moderate nonconformist, which he remained his entire life. In April of 1641, at the age of 26, he became pastor in the village of Kidderminster, and re- mained there for 19 years, accomplishing an unusual work of reformation in that place. His ministry there was interrupted often by the conditions that resulted from the English Civil War. At one time he served as chaplain of the army.         After the Restoration in 1660, Baxter went to London, and ministered there as chaplain to King Charles II, until Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity, which required all clergymen to agree to everything in the Anglican Book of Com- mon Prayer. Baxter, being a nonconformist, refused, and, with that refusal, lost not only his position as chaplain, but also the Bishopric of Hereford. In addition, he was prohib- ited from preaching in his parish of Kidderminster, and from 1662 to 1687 was continually persecuted.         He retired to Acton in Middlesex for the purpose of quiet study and writing. While there, he was arrested and im- prisoned for conducting a "conventicle." Again, in 1685, he was accused of libeling the Church of England in one of his books, and although his trial is regarded by many historians as one of the most brutal perversions of English justice in history, he was imprisoned again.         During the long years of oppression and afflictions, his health grew worse, yet these were his most productive as a writer. His books and articles flooded England. Finally, in 1691, ill health, aggravated by the 18 years he had spent in prison, caused his death. He had preached before the king, the House of Commons, and the Lord Mayor of London, and his prolific pen had produced 168 theological and devotional works. His saintly behavior, his great talents, and his wide influence, added to his extended age, had raised him to a po- sition of unequaled reputation and respect in the conflict for liberty of conscience.

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