Richard Baxter, 1615-1691, English Minister
Written by: Unknown Posted on: 03/17/2003
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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