Baxter takes a bullet

October 17, 2007

For Tim, as promised.

In the seventeenth century, medicine was not what it is now. Richard Baxter was prepared to try what to us would seem ‘alternative’ remedies in the hope of easing an unhappy digestive system. He wrote,

Another time, having read in Dr. Gerhard the admirable Effects of the swallowing of a Gold Bullet upon his own Father in a Case like mine, I got a Gold Bullet and swallowed it (between 20 s. and 30 s. weight); and having taken it, I knew not how to be delivered of it again: I took Clysters and Purges for about three Weeks, but nothing stirred it; and a Gentleman having done the like, the Bullet never came from it till he died, and it was cut out: But at last my Neighbours set a Day apart to fast and pray for me, and I was freed from my Danger in the beginning of that day. (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1696, 1.81)

It seems that the words of Mark 9:29 (‘This kind can come out only by prayer’) had been taken to heart.

My favourite story from Baxter’s life is one of his providential deliverances from a sticky end. Something similar happened to me many years ago.

Another time, as I sat in my Study, the Weight of my greatest Folio Books brake down three or four of the highest Shelves, when I sat close under them, and they fell down on every side me, and not one of them hit me, save one upon the Arm; whereas the Place, the Weight, and greatness of the Books was such, and my Head just under them, that it was a Wonder they had not beaten out my Brains, one of the Shelves right over my Head having the six Volumes of Dr. Walton‘s Oriental Bible, and all Austin‘s Works, and the Bibliotheca Patrum, and Marlorate, &c. (Reliquiae, 1.82)

To me this represents in microcosm what Baxter himself had done to the publishing industry in late 17th-century England. He admitted that he had ‘loaded the world with books’ (Compassionate Counsel to All Young Men, 1681, 3). Mrs. Baxter thought so too!

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2 Responses to “Baxter takes a bullet”

  1. Tim Says:

    Thanks Richard – that’s very funny! I am going to follow in his footsteps and aim to have a library that is so big so as to be potentially life-threatening. Not so sure about the medicine though…I’ll stick to mortification as prescribed.

    P.S. Great to have you on the blogsphere, (esp. since those dudes over the pond don’t start blogging till mid-afternoon).

  2. RS Says:

    So, you’re planning to build a library that size? Does Emily know about that?? 🙂


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