Check out the online collections at the Princeton Seminary Library. They have digitised the ‘Studies in Reformed Theology and History’ series, a collection of short monographs. Pick of the bunch would be Tony Lane on John Calvin and Bernard of Clairvaux. There are also interesting studies by Torrance Kirby on Richard Hooker and Boersma on Richard Baxter and infant baptism. Barth, Edwards, John McLeod Campbell – it’s all there!

There are also digitised manuscripts of Charles Hodge’s European journal and some sermons.

Tim Cooper, author of Fear and Polemic in Seventeenth-Century England: Richard Baxter and Antinomianism (Ashgate, 2001) will be in London later this month and is leading a seminar at the Institute of Historical Research entitled ‘Why Did Richard Baxter And John Owen Diverge? The Impact of the First Civil War’ on the 25th November. Details here . I gather that he will be looking at how Owen’s and Baxter’s very different experiences of the Civil War coloured their outlook on a number of issues. I’m pretty sure there will be no talk of kung-fu.

Reformation Day

October 29, 2007

So, 31 October approaches, the day when Martin Luther may or may not have nailed his 95 theses to a wooden door in Wittenberg. In some traditions this is a day that is celebrated, but here in England it doesn’t get much attention in many churches, mine included, so I will celebrate it in my own quiet way. Actually, celebrate would not be the best word. Remember and give thanks, yes. Celebrate in any triumphalistic sense, no.

The words of Richard Baxter, whatever one might think of his theology, are sobering:

I can well remember the time when I was earnest for the reformation of matters of ceremony; and, if I should be cold in such substantial matter as this, how disorderly and disproportionable would my zeal appear! Alas! can we think that the reformation is wrought, when we cast out a few ceremonies, and changed some vestures, and gestures, and forms! Oh no, sirs! it is the converting and saving of souls that is our business. That is the chiefest part of reformation, that doth most good, and tendeth most to the salvation of the people. (The Reformed Pastor)

Let’s remember our Reformation heritage. But let’s remember too the millions in this country who walk in darkness, and remember the churches that have fallen back into error and the prevalence of false teaching.

Semper reformanda.

RS.

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!