Page images
[ocr errors]


a cart.

he wrote his work, ‘The Saints' Everlasting Rest,' 1653. When Cromwell assumed the supreme power, Baxter openly expressed his disapprobation, and, in a conference with the Protector, told him that 'tue honest people of the land took their ancient monarchy to be a blessing, and not an evil.' He was always opposed to intoler

• We intended not,' he said, 'to dig down the banks, or pull up the hedge, and lay all waste and common, when we desired the prelates tyranny might cease.' After the Restoration, Baxter was appointed one of the royal chaplains, but, like Owen, refused a bishopric offered him by Clarendon. The Act of Uniformity, in 1662, drove him out of the Established Church, and he retired to Acton, in Middlesex, where le spent several years in peaceful study and literary labour. The Act of Indulgence, in 1672, enabled him to repair to London ; but the subsequent persecution of the Nonconformists interfered with his ministerial duties. In 1685, be published a • Paraphrase on the New Testament,' a plain practical ireatise, but certain passages in which were held to be seditious, and Baxter was tried and condemned by the infamous Judge Jeffreys. When Baxter endeavoured to speak: ‘Richari! Richard !' ejaculated the Judge, * dost thou think we'll hear thee poison the court? Richard, thou art an old fellow, an old knave; thou hast written books enough to load

Hadst thou been whipt out of thy writing trade forty years ago, it had been happy.'

He was sentenced to pay 500 marks, and in default to be imprisoned in the King's Bench until it was paid. Through the generous exertions of a Catholic peer, Lord Powis, the fine was remitted, and after eighteen months' imprisonment, Baxter was set at liberty. He had now five years of tranquillity, dying in great peace and joy,' December 8, 1691. Baxter is said to have written no less than 168 separate works or publications ! His practical treatises are still read and republished, especially his "Saints' Rest' and 'Call to the Unconverted,' 1669. The latter was so popular, that 20,000 copies, it was said, were sold in one year. His Reasons of the Christian Religion,' 1687, Life of Faitli, 1670, Christian Directory,' 1675, are also much prized theological works. His ' Catholic Theology,' 1675, and Methodus Theologiæ Christianæ,' 1681, embody the views and opinions of Baxter on religious subjects. In 1696, appeared “Reliquiæ Baxterianæ,' including an autobiography, entitled A Narrative of the most Memorable Passages of my Life and Times,' published by Baxter's friend, Matthew Sylvester, a Nunconformist divine. This work is highly instructive, ind, like Baxter's writings generally, was a favourite book of Dr. Jolinson. In our own day, it met with no less warm an admirer in Mr. Coleridge, who terms it 'an inestimablu work ;' addig: I may not unfrequently doubt Baxter's memory, or even his competence, in consequence of his particular modes of thir king; but I could almost as soon doubt the Gospel verity as his veracity. It is this truthfulness which gives so deep and permanent an interest to Baxter's life. We see what Mr. Carlyle would call the life of a real man, ever in action or in self-retrospection; and as to what was passing around him, Baxter was an acute observer as well as profound thinker.

A complete edition of Baxter's works, with a Life of the Author, by the Rev. W. Orme, was published in 1827, in twenty-three volumes. Also, his 'Practical Works, four volumes, 1838.

Baxter's Judgment of his Writings. Concerning almost all my writings, I must confess that my own judgment is, that fewer, well studied and polished, had been better; but the reader who can safely censure the books, is not fit to censure the author, uuless he had been npon the place, and acquainted with all the occasions and circumstances. Indeed, for the * Saints' Rest,' I had four months' vacancy to write it, but in the midst of coutimual Janguishing and medicine; but, for the rest, I wrote them in the crowd of all my other employments, wuich would allow me no great leisure for polishing and exactness, or any ornament; so that I scarce ever wrote oue sheet twice over. vor stayed to make any blots or interlinings, but was fain to let it go as it was first conceived ; and when my own desire was rather to stay upon one thing long than run over many, some sudden occasions or other extorted all my writings from me; and the apprehensious of present usefulness or necessity prevailed against all other motives ; so that the divines which were at hand with ine still put me on, and approved of what I did, because they were moved by present nécessities as well as i į but those that were far off, and felt pot those nearer motives, did rather wish that I had taken the other way, and published a few elaborate writings; and I am ready myself to be of their mind, when I forgot the case that I then stood in, and have lost the sense of former motives.

Fruits of Experience of Human Character. I now see more good and more evil in all men than heretofore I did. I see that good men are not so good as I once thunght they were, but have more imperfections; and that hearer approach and fuller trial doth make the best appear more weak and faulty than their admirers at a distance think. And I find that few are so bat as either malicious enemies or censorious separating professors do imagine. In Bome, indeed, I find that human nature is corrupted into a greater likeness

to devils than I once thought any on earth had been. But even in the wicked, usually there is more for grace to make advantage of, and more to testify for God and holiness, than I once believed there had been.

I less admire gifts of utterance, and 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 than they. I once thought that almost all that could pray movingly and fluently, and talk well of religion, had been saints. But experience bath opened to me what odious crimes may consist with high profession; and I have met with divers obscure persons, not voted for any extraordinary profession, or forwardness in religion, but only to live a 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. Yet he

that upon this pretence would confound the godly and the ungodly, may as well go about to lay heaven and hell together.

Desire of Approbation. I am much less regardful of the approbation of man, and set much lighter by contempt or upplause, than I did long ago. I am oft suspicious that this is not only from the increase of self-denial and lumility, but partly from my being glutted and surfeited with human applause: and all worldly things appear most vain und unfatisfactory when we have tried them most. But though I feel that this hath some hand in the effect, yet, as far as I can perceive, the kuowledge of mau's nothingDese, and God's transcendent greatuess, with whom it is that I have most to do, and the sense of the bravity of human things, and the nearness of eternity, are the principal causcs of this effect; which some have imputed to self-conceitedness and morosity.

Change in the Estimate of his own and Other Men's Knowledge.

Peretofore, I knew much less than pow, and yet was not half so much acquainted with my ignorance. I had a great delight in the daily new discoveries which I made, and of the light which shined in upou me-like a man that cometh into a country where he never was b'for-but I little knew either how imperfectly I understood those viry points whose discovery so much delighted me, nor how much might be said anainst them, vor how muy things I was yet a stranger to: but now I find far greater darkness apon all things, and perceive how very little it is that we know, in comparison of that which we are ignorant of, and have far meaner thoughts of my own uad rstanding, though I must needs know that it is better furnished than it was then.

Accordingly, I hind then a far higher opinion of learned persons and books than I have now ; for what I wanted myself, I thought every reverend divine had attained, and was familiariy acquainted with; and what books I understood not, by reason of the strangeness of the terms or matter, I the more admired, and thought that others undertoo ithir worth. But now expörience hath coustrained me against iny will to know, that reverènd learned meu are imperfect, and know but little as well as I, esp ciruly those that think themselves the wisest; and the better I am acquainted with them, the more I perceive that we are all yet in the dark: and the more I am acquaint :d with holy men, that are all for heaven, and pretend not much to subtilities, ine mor: I value and honour them. And when I have studied bard to und rstand some abatrue animired book-as · D. Scientia D'i,' 'De Providentia circa Malun.' *D: Decretis,'. De Prædeterminatione,! · De Libertate Creaturæ,' &c. -I hav: but attained the kuowledge of human imperfections, and to see that the author is but a man as well as I.

Aud at first I took more upon my author's credit than now I can do; and when an auther was hi-hily commend .d to ine by others, or pleased me in some part, I was rady to entertain the whole; whers now I take and leave in the same author, and disent in some things from him that I like best, as well as from others.

On the Credit due to History. I am much more cante!on [cautions o" Wary) in my h lief of history than heretofore: not that I run into their extrm that will blieve nothing because they cannot believe all things. But I am abundantly satisfied by the experience of this age that there is no believing two sorts of m'll, un zodly men and partial men : though an honest heathan, of no religion, may b. beneved, where enmity against religion biascth him not; yta debauche Christian, besid 8 his eumity to the power and practice of his own religion, is seldom without some further bias of interest or faction; ceperially when these concur, and a inun is both ugodly and ambitious, espousing an internt contrary to a holy heavenly life, and also factious, embodying hiinself with it sect or party suited to his spirit and designs; there is no nelieving his word or oath. If you read any man prilally bitter against others, as differing from him in opinion. or as cross to luis greatures, interest, or designs, take heed how you b:lievo uny mru than the historical evidence, distinct from his word, conpelleth you to bilieve. The prodigions lies which have been published in this age in imutters of fact, with unblushiny confidence, even where thousands of nultitudes of eye and ear witness knew all to be fals., doth call men to take heed whai history they believe, especially whore power and violence affordeth that privilege to the r. porter, that no mani daru auswer him or detect his fraud; or if they do, their writings are all supprest. As long as men have liberty to examine and contradict one another, one muy parily conjecturi, by comparing their words, on wbich side the truth is like to lie. But when great men writu history, or flut:crers by their appointment, which no man dire coutradici, believe it but as yon are constrained. Yet, in these casuh, I can freely believe history: 1. If the person shew that he is acquainted with what he saith. 2. And if he shew you the evidences of honesty and conscience, and the far of God, which may be much perceived in the spirit of a writing. 3. libappear to be impartial and charitable, and a lover ci goodness and

of mankind, and not possessed of malignity or personal ill-will and malice, nor carried away by faction or personal interest. Conscionable men dare pot lie: but faction and interext abate men's tenderness of couscience. Aud a charitable impurtial heathen may speak truth in a love to truth, and batred of a le; but ambitious malice and fais, religion will uot stick to serve themelves on anything Sure I am, that as the lies of the Papists, of Luther, Zwinglius, Calvin, und Beza are vis bly malic.ous and impudent, by the common plenary contradicting evidence and yet the inultiiude of thcir seduced ones believe them all, iu despite of truth and charity ; so in this age there have been such things written pga nst parties and persons, whom the writers design to make odious, Fo notoriously false, as you would think that the sense of their honour, at least, should have mind it impossine for such men to write. My own eyes have read such words and actions as seried with most vehemeni, it-rated, unblushing confidence, which abundance of ear-witve 8'8.

even of their own parties, must needs know to have buen altogether fusr.; and there• fore having myself now written this history of myself, notwithstanding my protestution that I have not in anything wilfully gone against the truth, I expect no more credit from the reader than the self-evidencing light of the matter, with concurrent rational advantages from persons, and things, and other witnesses, shall constrain him to, it he be a person that is unacquainted with the author himself, and the other evidences of bis veracity and credibiliiy.

Character of Sir Matthew Hale. He was a man of no quick utterance, but spake with great reason. He was most precisely just; ineomuch thut, I believe, he would have lost all he had in the world rather than do an unjust act. Patient in hearing the most tedious speech which any man had to make for himself. 'I he pillar of justice, the refuge of the subject, who feared oppression, and one of the greatest honours of his majesty's government; for, with some other uprigut judges, he upheld the honour of the English nation, that it fell pot into the reproach of arbitrariness, cruelty, and utter confusion. Every man that had a just cause wus almost past fear if he cone but bring it to the court or aseize where he was judge; for the other judges ecldom contradicted him.

He was the great instrument for rebuilding London ; for when an act was made for deciding all controversies that hindered it, he was the constant judge, who for pothing followed the work, and, by his prudence anc justice, removed a multitude of great impedimenis.

His great advantage for innocency was, that he was no lover of riches or of grandeur. His garb was too plain; he studiously avoided al unnecessary familiarity with great perrous, and all that manner of living which siguifiet wealth and greatness. He kept no greater a family than myelt. I lived in a fwall house, which, for a pleasant back opening, he bad a mind to; but cansed a strangei, that be might not be suspected to be the man, to know of me whether I were willing to part with it, before he would meddle with it. In that house he lived contentcally, without any pomp, and without costly or troublesome retinue or visitors; but not without charity to the poor. He continued the study of physics and mathematics still, as his great delight. He had got but a very small cetate, though he had long the greatest practice, because he would take but little money, and undertak no more business than he could well despatch. He ofien off-red to the lord chancellor to resiga bis place, when he was blamed for doing that which he suppose was justice. He had been the learned Seldeu's intimate friend, and one of his excutor: ; and becanse the Hobbians and other infidels would have persialled the world that Selden was of their mind, desir d him to tell me the truth therein. He assured me that Selden was an earnest professor of the Christian faith, and so angry will ac. versary to Hobbes, that he hath rated him out of the room.

Obsercance of the Sabbath in Baxter's Youth. I cannot forget that in my reuth, in th:cse latc tinte. when we lost the labours of some of our couformable rod!y 1sechers. fer not re: crg publicly th: book of Sports' aud dancing on the Lord's Day, ove cf my fith low tenants was the

• James 1. published a declaration permitting recreations on Sunday-as dancing, archery, May-games, morris-dances, &c. This was ordered to be read in churcues.

town-piper, hired by the year, for many years together, and the place of the dancing assembly was uot a hundred yards from our door. We could not, on the Lord's Day, either read a chapter, or pray, or sing a pealm, or catechise, or instruct a servant, but with the noise of the pipe and tabor, and the shoutings iu the street, continually in our ears. Even among a tractable people, we were the common scorn of all the rabble in the streets, and called puritans, precisians, and hypocrites, because we rather chose to read the Scriptures than to do as they did ; though there was no savour of nonconformity in our family. And when the people by the book were allowed to play and dance out of public service-time, they could so hardly break off their sports, that many a time the reader was fain to stay till the piper and players would give over. Sometimes the morris-dancers would come into the church in all their liven and scarfs, and antic dresses, with morris-bells jingling at their legs; and as soon as common prayer was read, did haste out presently to their play again.

Theological Controversies. My mind being these many years immersed in studies of this nature, and having also long wearied myself in searching what fathers and schoolinen have said of such things before us, and my genius abhorring confusion and equivocals, I caine, by many years' longer study, to perceive that most of the doctrinal controversies among Protestants are fur inore about equivocal words than matter; and it wounded my soul to perceive what work both tyrannical and unskilful disputing clergymen had made these thirteen hundred years in the world! Experience, since the year 1643, till this year, 1675, hath loudly called me to repent of my own prejudices, sidings, and censurings of causes and persons not understood, and of all the miscarriages of my ministry and life which have been thereby caused; and to make it my chief work to call men that are within my hearing to more peaceable thoughts, affections, and practices. And my endeavours have not been in vain, in that the ministers of the county where I lived were very many of such a peaceable temper, and a great number more through the land, by God's grace, rather than any endeavours of mine, are so minded. But the sons of the cowl were exasperated the more against me, and accounted him to be against every man that called all men to love and peace, and was for no man as in the contrary way.

JOHIN BUNYAN. John BUNYAN (1628–1688), the son of a tinker residing at Elstow. in Bedfordshire, is one of the most remarkable of English authors, He was taught in childhood to read and write, and afterwards, hay. ing resolved to follow his father's occupation, travelled for many years about the country in the usual gipsy-life of his profession. At ihis time he is represented to have been sunk in profligacy and wick. edness; but, like m:my other religious enthusiasts, Bunyan exagge rated the depravity of his unregenerated condition, and his biographers have too literally taken bim at his word. Ringing bells, dancing, and playing at hockey were included among his sinful propensities. Ile was also addicted to profane swearing; but on a woman remonstrating with bim as to this vice, le at once abandoned it. His early marriage, at the age of nineteen, saved lim from another species of wickedness. And as Macaulay has remarked, “ibose horrible internal conflicts which Bunyan bas described with so much power of linguage, prove, not that he was a worse man than his neighbours, but that lis mini was constintly ocrupied by religious considera

The act, however. was not enforced in the reign of James, but it was repewed by Charles 1. The clergy who refused to read this edict or Book of Sports from the pulpit, were punished by suspension or expulsiva.

« EelmineJätka »