Burying The Lead On Baxter

Richard_BaxterThere is a phrase in journalism called “burying the lead” (or, since about 1979, the cloying variant lede). The lead (lede) is the paragraph in which the most important, salient facts are contained. In the old days (c. 1975), the writer was supposed to tell the reader the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the story in the first paragraph. Burying the lead has become commonplace as the line between journalism and analysis has been first blurred and then obliterated. Those who write about the history of Reformed theology also sometimes bury the lead. A great example of this phenomenon appeared just today. In a post celebrating the birthday of Richard Baxter (1615–91) an author waits until the 11th paragraph to tell us the following:

Despite his well-intentioned desires for a unified church, however, some of Baxter’s theological positions were unhelpful and divisive. His views on justification and atonement were not in step with the Reformed tradition. (Theologian Paul Helm has found similarities between Baxter and N. T. Wright in their views of justification.) Moreover, in trying to walk a middle path Baxter leaned toward Arminian sentiments in several major areas, though he was Calvinistic in others. This assorted theology annoyed contemporaries in both camps, and it can annoy us too.

According to many, Baxter was a model Reformed pastor, a tireless advocate for Christian piety, and evangelist except that the subdued concessions revealed in the 11th paragraph should give us pause to anyone proposing Baxter as a model for 21st-century Reformed theology, piety, and practice. Let us change the subject of the paragraph to Arminius. He too was a well-intentioned advocate of Christian unity. Some of his theological positions were unhelpful and divisive. By changing the subject of the paragraph we see the importance of not burying the lead. We may write all we will about how pious Arminius was, about his tireless service, and about how he presented himself to the world. He was, remember, was a minister in the Reformed churches. He died in good standing. He was even made “Rector Magnificus” of the University of Leiden and it could be said that the first and only great ecumenical synod of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, Great Britain, the Palatinate, France (in absentia), Zürich, et al was dedicated to his memory. Of course, such a narrative about Arminius would be rightly regarded as grossly misleading.

I suppose that most who identify with the Reformed theology, piety, and practice do not realize that Baxter effectively scuttled the Reformation doctrine of justification by God’s unconditional favor alone (sola gratia), through faith resting, receiving, and trusting alone (sola fide). To put this error in context, J. H. Alsted (1618) said: “the article of justification is said to be the article of the standing or falling of the church.” As I wrote in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, Richard Baxter sponsored a great crisis in the doctrine of justification in the Reformed churches. His 1649 Aphorisms on justification taught quite clearly that faith justifies because it obeys. Where the orthodox (e.g., Westminster Larger Catechism, 70–73) had been explicit that only Christ’s obedience is the ground and that, in the act of justification, faith’s only virtue is Christ’s finished work. Baxter’s revision of the doctrine of justification prompted sharp responses from John Owen, whose 1677 treatise On the Doctrine of Justification By Faith was an extended repudiation of Baxter.

As he damaged the Reformed cause by signing Evangelicals and Catholics Together, which document was the original impetus for organizations such as the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, sponsor of the Ref21 blog, so too J. I. Packer did not help the cause of Reformed and (truly) evangelical theology by downplaying, in his DPhil thesis (published in 2003), Baxter’s errors on justification. Even Packer, however, has called Baxter a neonomian. In 1992, he compared the theology of Norman Shepherd to Baxter’s:

Shepherd in effect reinvented the neonomianism of Richard Baxter in the 17th century—and from the same motive—recoil from the practical antinomianism that surrounded him, and a desire to state the gospel as to make perfectly obvious that persevering holiness is enjoined on all who hope to be welcomed by Christ the Lord on the day of judgment. Like Baxter, he never understood why was constantly being accused of reintroducing legalism into Reformed soteriology when his purpose of promoting holiness among Reformed people was so demonstrably right….

C. F. Allison, in The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter (1966), offered a much more accurate assessment of Baxter’s doctrine of justification as a virtual return Tridentine Romanism. In 1998, Carl Trueman noted the need for interpreters of Baxter’s theology to account for its medieval roots. See his essay “A Small Step Toward Rationalism: The Impact of the Metaphysics of Tommaso Campanella on the Theology of Richard Baxter,” in Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment. See also his comments in The Claims of Truth: John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology (1998), 200–05. Even Hans Boersma concedes that Baxter made evangelical obedience “a secondary part of the condition of the continuation of justification.” He also says that Baxter’s denial that faith receives Christ’s righteousness directly, made room for human fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant by the “pepper corn” of evangelical obedience for justification. We are declared righteous partly because we are intrinsically righteous. Our works are “a condition of continued and consummate justification.” Even according to Boersma’s sympathetic analysis of Baxter, there is enough evidence to sustain Allison’s judgment. Joel Beeke and Randall Peterson conclude about Baxter’s doctrine of salvation:

Baxter’s writings are a strange theological mix. He was one of a few Puritans whose doctrines of God’s decrees, atonement, and justification were anything but Reformed. Though he generally structured his theology along Reformed lines of thought, he frequently leaned towards Arminian thinking. He developed his own notion of universal redemption, which offended Calvinists, but retained a form of personal election, which offended Arminians. He rejected reprobation. He was greatly influenced by the Amyraldians and incorporated much of their thinking, including hypothetical universalism, which teaches that Christ hypothetically died for all men, but His death only has real benefit to those who believe. For Baxter, Christ’s death was more of a legal satisfaction of the law than a personal substitutionary death on behalf of elect sinners.

As with this morning’s memoir one must read quite a bit before finding that Baxter’s soteriology was as damaging as Arminius’ and Amyraut’s. Yet Reformed folk continue to write about Baxter in a way they would never write about Arminius.

The real question here is this: how does this lead get buried? Judging by past experience, when readers new to the HB find this post many of them will be shocked to read that Baxter denied the Protestant doctrine of justification. How could they not know it? That fact has been known since the 17th century, when John Owen refuted him. The first part of the answer is that Baxter was never condemned by an international Reformed synod as Arminius was. In this respect we have roughly the same problem with Baxter that we have with Moises Amyraut (1596–1664). Amyraut’s fairly radical revisions to the doctrines of election and the atonement (as well as his rationalism) were never formally condemned—the French Reformed Churches were unable to reach a judgment—even though, over time, a strong consensus developed among the confessional Reformed that Amyraut’s revisions constituted a significant threat to orthodoxy. J. H. Heidegger (1633–98) and Francis Turretin (1623–87)  condemned Amyraut’s revisions and the Swiss Reformed Churches confessed in the Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675) against Amyraut until the broad, non-confessional evangelicals rejected the confession in the early 18th century in Geneva.  To be sure, there is no way to square the doctrine we confess in the Westminster Standards with Baxter’s doctrine of justification. The inference is clear to anyone willing to pull the lever but many do not draw the correct inference.

This leads us to the second part of the problem. Not all of us who identify as Reformed either understand or agree that the doctrine of justification is, as Calvin wrote, the “axis” around which the Christian faith spins nor do we agree with Luther and Alsted that it is the article of the standing or falling of the church. Today’s remembrance of Baxter is a perfect example of the marginalization of the doctrine of justification. Its corruption is not presented as fatal to the church but as a source of irritation. An ill-fitting shirt is irritating but arsenic is fatal. Baxter’s doctrine of justification was theological arsenic.

The third part of the problem is the adjective puritan. Baxter is always labelled a puritan the moment that happens the read assumes what Baxter’s soteriology must have been. In philosophy the way we often use the adjective puritan is called a universal. A universal has certain qualities. Those qualities are imputed to everything that fall under that category. The problem with this category, however, is that there are too many discrepancies between the residents in this house. They are not really a family. The adjective puritan is about as useful as the adjective evangelical is today. Do self-described evangelicals (e.g., those who attend the Evangelical Theological Society) agree about much? No. There is no common doctrine of Scripture, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, or last things. The only thing about which self-described evangelicals agree is that they love Jesus (even though they vary wildly about who and what he was and what he did). Roughly the same sorts of discrepancies are true of the adjective puritan. Baxter and Owen shared an ecclesiology but little else. Owen was an orthodox, evangelical (in the old sense), Protestant, Reformed congregational minister and theologian who was as passionate for Reformed orthodoxy as he was for Reformed piety. Yet both are called puritans. We can hardly posit the adjective puritan of William Perkins (1558–1602), who was a resolutely Reformed minister and theologian, who did not separate from the Church of England, and Baxter without equivocating on the meaning of the word. We could continue this exercise but I trust that the reader takes my point. So long as we continue to use the word puritan to describe Baxter and the orthodox confusion will continue to reign.

The last part of the part of the problem is that which ostensibly united “the puritans,” despite all their many differences: piety. By leading with piety we create a misleading picture about Reformed theology, piety, and practice. Our piety is the product of our theology. When we lead with piety we unintentionally give the impression that so long as a fellow was pious the rest of what he did and said is less important. That is simply false. Arius was pious. Pelagius was famous for his ascetic piety. Arminius was pious but they were all condemned for gross theological errors that ultimately overshadowed their piety. It’s past time that we stopped giving Richard Baxter a pass because of his piety. At the very least doing so is unfair to Arminius and the many others condemned by the church. Logically it is special pleading. Further, does the evidence really support our assessment of his piety? What were the fruits of his theology for the piety of Kidderminster? Within less than a century after Baxter’s death, the Kidderminster congregation he served was split and it became formally Unitarian. The congregation traces its roots to Baxter. Is that fair? It is insofar as Baxter was a rationalist. It was rationalism that drove his revision of the evangelical Protestant soteriology. That rationalism first manifested itself in his soteriology but rationalism, like water, always seeks its lowest level. The Remonstrants, with whom Baxter shared so much, were also rationalists and they became Unitarians even more quickly than Kidderminster did. The same rationalism that has us accepted with God because of our sanctity cannot tolerate a God who is mysteriously one in three persons nor a Christ who is one person with two natures.

I understand that there is great concern today about the rise of a new antinomianism but Richard Baxter is not our model any more than Jacob Arminius is our model. We admire the aspects of the piety of Ignatius of Loyola (c.1491–1556). Baxter’s identification with congregationalists, or the dissenters in 17th century England and his quest for godliness does not qualify him as a pattern for Reformed ministry and preaching any more than Loyola’s does. Baxter disqualified himself as a model of Reformed ministry the moment he abandoned and corrupted the heart of our ministry and the source of true Christian piety: the message of God’s free grace in Christ and salvation sola gratia, sola fide. The lead of any story about Richard Baxter must be that he compromised the article of the standing or falling of the church. Everything else we say about him must follow that lead.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. Amen! Some things need to be said first. I am reminded of preparing to give my list of reasons for not going on a trip with a friend. Number one, I said, I have no money. Stop right there, he said, no more reasons needed.

    it makes no sense to talk about fruit for God until we begin with a good tree. It does no good to debate how many good works are necessary with a person who is not yet justified.

    Norman Shepherd asserted—The Pauline affirmation in Romans 2:13 that the doers of the Law will be justified is not to be understood hypothetically in the sense that there are no persons who fall into that class, but in the sense that faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will be justified (Compare Luke 8:21; James 1:22-25). The exclusive ground of the justification of the believer is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, BUT OUR OBEDIENCE, which is simply the perseverance of the saints, is necessary to our continuing in a state of justification (Heb. 3:6, 14)


    Baxter’s neonomianism makes it worse for the sinner, not better. Baxter claims to offer a “new plan of salvation”, an easier way. Baxter says that God no longer commands to “do and live”. Baxter says that God has transferred His right to punish over to Christ, who has new terms of mercy, not the old law which condemns “in rigor of justice” Universal Redemption, 1694, p 26

    But in reality Baxter has not relaxed terms but made everything worse. The satisfaction of the old law by Christ’s death is NOT ENOUGH FOR BAXTER. Baxter also has a new law (which he calls a gospel plan, and this plan will accept no obedience by a “substitute”, but will only take obedience from the sinner himself who needs to be saved. What Baxter calls the “obedience of faith” is more about not sinning (too much) than it is about faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. No salvation for the ungodly. No salvation for the disobedient.

    Baxter warns that Christ did not and cannot deliver us from the punishment of the new law for disbelief. “Christ died not for any Man’s non-performance of the conditions of the law of grace.” (p 33) Arguing from Hebrews 10, Baxter concludes that “Christ by His law has made a far sorer punishment than before belonged to them, to be due to all those that believe not on Him. Only for refusing their Redeemer shall they be condemned” (p 44)

    If any of us appears before God relying– no matter how little– on ourselves or on what God has done in us, then, alas, we will be swallowed up.

    Belgic 24—Although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and worthy of punishment

  2. Probably also contributing to this confusion is that his best known work (The Reformed Pastor) has been found to be very helpful and edifying by many, yet his greatest error (if memory serves) is not prominent there.

    It has been years since I read through The Reformed Pastor, but I don’t remember reading anything that was very objectionable (although I hadn’t even heard of neonomianism at that time). To your knowledge, is that teaching found there at all? If not, that’s a good thing, but it probably also adds to the confusion, IMO. It’s like saying that N.T. Wright is helpful on some things (e.g. the resurrection of Christ), while he is way off on justification.

    As soon as I saw the blog post on TGC about Baxter, my first thought was that I wondered how lng it would take you to post a reply of sorts. 🙂

  3. Thank you, brother, for your good thoughts. The issues are well-known. For the record I do want to clarify that my story does lead in with the theological concerns surrounding Baxter. In the *second* paragraph of the introduction (broken up by an indented quotation), I clarify that “reformed pastor” is not to be taken as a reference to Calvinism, but in the generic sense of “renewed”. I carefully did not say, as you claim I did in your second paragraph, that he is “the model of a Reformed pastor.” I said he’s a model pastor in how he shepherded his flock. I then in that same paragraph warned that Baxter had “big faults” and made “big errors,” which is no one disputes. And it’s after that point where the body of the article begins.

    Most Reformed folks (like Packer and Beeke, Andy Schreiber above, et al) are able to recognize that his errors do not come into play in his devotional and practical writings like Reformed Pastor and Saints Rest. Must we be in lockstep with everyone on everything in order to benefit from something they’ve contributed? Do we disagree with the directions Baxter gives to pastors, which I highlighted in the article? Are they unbiblical? Surely the church fathers, for example, had faults, as did Luther, and all the “Puritans” (whatever that word means). I’m a Bostonian who loves the Mathers, for instance, but my goodness they were far from perfect. I think we can be grateful for the work of saints when it does not conflict with the gospel, while not embracing wholesale their every belief across the board. Do we write off N.T. Wright’s insights into biblical theology that are unrelated to justification just because we disagree with his view on justification?

    I agree with you that we must read critically for sure, holding Scripture as ultimate authority. I appreciate your faithful service.

    • Andrew,

      Thanks for this response. I appreciate the qualifications. I’ve revised my characterization of the quotation from your piece.

      I suppose that is the question: should we appreciate desire for godliness without leading with the most important thing? Any confessional Protestant who wrote an essay appreciating Ignatius of Loyola would certainly begin by warning his readers that there were more than “big problems” in Loyola’s theology. It would begin with a caveat to the effect that Loyola was devout Papist who rejected the the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. My great concern about the laudatory way we Reformed folk often speak about Baxter is that we never lead with the most important thing. My students and readers are consistently surprised to find that Baxter was, as Beeke and Peterson concede not really Reformed in any significant way. After all, if he wasn’t Reformed in his doctrines of the decree, atonement, justification (and I hasten to add salvation, including sanctification and deliverance from the wrath to come) then he was no more Reformed than Arminius and possibly less so than Amyraut. The Baxter that appears in your post this morning and in the Beeke/Peterson piece is the Baxterus Receptus. That story needs to change. We need to stop holding him up as someone to be emulated even as we inform them 11 paragraphs in about some of the problems in Baxter’s theology. Denying the gospel is more than “unhelpful” and “divisive.” It’s a denial of the axis and articlus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae.

      How can his errors not come into play in his devotional writings? Would confessional Reformed folk recommend medieval devotional writers or the devotional work of Loyola? No. Why not? Because we know that the lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing). Our piety follows from our theology. There is, however, a reciprocal relationship between our piety and theology. They are not hermetically sealed from one another. I don’t think Baxter’s works come shrink wrapped or filtered so that only the good piety comes through and the bad theology is strained out.

      There is, it seems to me, a considerable difference between recommending a Patristic author and recommending an ostensibly Reformed author. I benefitted from Gregory I’s Regula Pastoralis, in part because I read him as an early medieval who despite his several errors, had something to say. I think we should read liberally and broadly but we read Irenaeus rather differently from the way we read one who is ostensibly, reputedly one of our own. If we could all agree that Baxter was not one of us, if we could all agree that his gross errors put him beyond the Reformed confession (they did) and were we to regard him as a hostile witness to the faith, who posed as a Reformed pastor, then perhaps we could talk about how to profit from his practical work.

      I am first of all a pastor. Let’s say that one of the Richard Baxter’s of our age (e.g., Norman Shepherd or one of his followers) wrote a manual on piety. Would I commend that to one of my congregants? No. Why not? Because most of them will not make the sorts of distinctions they need to make in order to stay out of the trouble into which a Baxterite might lead. Baxter’s works do not come with a warning label (though they should)—

      Warning: the contents of this volume may be both spiritually useful and harmful. Use only under the supervision of your minister.

      Baxter’s works are sprinkled with arsenic and we find ourselves asking how much is safe to read? Which parts may I read without risk? That doesn’t seem like much of a commendation. There are so many thoroughly orthodox writers in our tradition who present no threat to our theology nor to the souls of Christ’s lambs. Why don’t we commend them instead? Thus, I’m so glad for Joel Beeke’s great work at RHB in making available our better sources. My strong advice is to read Luther, Calvin, Perkins, Ames, Sibbes, Ursinus, Olevianus, Rollock, Witsius, Fisher/The Marrow of Modern Divinity, Brakel, Watson, or any of the other many helpful orthodox writers who lead us through the Scriptures to Christ, to the pure gospel, and to true piety flowing from the sweet waters of the good news.

  4. Are you sure men like Perkins and Sibbes cannot be called Puritans? The issues re the Church of England weren’t as clear cut in the reign of Elizabeth I as they became under the Stuarts. And then, what do you say about Archbishop Leighton?

    • John,

      My point is that if we’re going to use the adjective puritan to describe Perkins and Sibbes then we shouldn’t use it of Baxter. We cannot put those three in the same box. Baxter was a moralist who desired piety in himself, other ministers, and his people but he did so at the expense of the gospel.

    • Thanks, I did not grasp that.
      It might amuse you to read that the first person to give me any inkling that Richard Baxter might have been heretical was a visiting baptist minister … named Baxter (not Sidlow nor Stanley) – I had asked him whether he was a descendant.
      In my much earlier days, I had no idea why, I had found “A Call To The Unconverted” as ungripping as I had found “An Alarm To The Unconverted”, and, later, “The Christian’s Great Interest” and “The Almost Christian Discovered” gripping – Mind you, prior to that, I had found Finney’s “Means to be used with Sinners” (Revival Lectures) gripping, so I couldn’t have been THAT sound (though it may be that Finney’s grasp of human responsibility was what was chiefly needed in that particular field – and, furthermore, he derived quite a bit from Edwards, even though his theology was totally different)!

  5. Dr. Clark,

    Great piece here, well done and needed to be said. Probably needs to be said of many leaders in the modern Reformed camp too. What I am noticing in Modern Reformed circles is language like the following ……
    “”Our fruit is not what saves us, but it is THE PROOF of our being believers.””

    Now I certainly at first glance can agree with this statement. The problem I am seeing in much of the Reformed world is that while justification/Christ’s work is affirmed, what is given with the right hand (justification) is then taken away with the left hand (over emphasis on our works/performance) by in point of fact giving the lead headline, top billing and spotlight to our faithfulness/works. Christ and His person and work on our behalf should always get top billing, but I’m just not seeing that among the Hyper- Anti-Antinomian crowd or the “I’m more committed than you” Pious crowd. Is fruit evidence of our Salvation? Yes! Is that what should get top billing? No Way! Christ Alone deserves that spot.

    The Puritains were a mixed bag. Many of which had a great tendency to be overly introspective and focusing the eyes gaze on our fruit production. I’m afraid there is still a huge hangover from them in the traditions of men found in much of Reformed Presbyterian thought. Our assurance should not rest in our fruit, (even if we are saying that fruit is a grace) the eyes should be fixed on Christ as our assurance.

    Nothing new under the sun. Sinful nature loves the control, lead story & spotlight right back where it wants it, in our own hands. And the tradition of men love to set up all kinds of procedures to make that happen. All this focus on our faithfulness being the key litmus test becomes justification for the Neo-Nomian sanctification police to go on patrol checking up on everyone else’s fruit….. are we doing enough, selling out enough, dedicated enough, pious enough and the like. As I read the whole of scripture I certainly see imperative calls, but as I read the whole of scripture I don’t see this perspective as the emphasis or what should get top billing.

    Now I am inclined to stop right there as I don’t believe anything else needs to be said making my statements die the death of 1000 qualifications. After all the imperative driven hyper drivers get to lead and end with imperatives all the time and no one seems to say a word. But you give grace the last word and just watch yourself get accused of being an Antinomian or a Lutheran. So just to clarify or qualify, I’m not suggesting that we have an excuse to be at ease in Zion or sloppy and lazy but I am boldly saying, based on the word of God, that Christ and his work should indeed get top billing and the last word.

    By Christ Alone

  6. Refreshing my dear Dr. Scott. Candidly, to see an academic of your stature stand fast in our liberty in Christ,is edifying and encouraging kind sir. Thank you. Soli Deo Gloria!

  7. Dr Clark, thanks for your post. Probably what keeps Baxter so popular among us Reformed is “The Reformed Pastor”. But don’t agree that it is “sprinkled with arsenic”! If I follow your reasoning, should we stop reading Luther because he wrote “On the Jews and Their Lies”, which was blatantly un-Christian and (I believe) a violation of the Ninth Commandment? Just wanted to ask, thanks.

    • Christopher,

      Distinguo. Not all errors are equally grievous. Ethics are not the article of the standing or falling of the church. This is my argument: Baxter’s are so serious that they disqualify him as a safe guide to Reformed theology. Further, though we stand on Luther’s theology we don’t ordinarily include him in the ranks of Reformed pastors. Unfortunately, Baxter is often classed as a Reformed pastor and people take him as an orthodox guide to Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

  8. Baxter was one of those “diversity” guys. Like those today who would welcome certain versions of “hypothetical universalism” into the “Reformed mainline”, Baxter created a lot of division with his “anti-division” ideas. The anti-denomination folks tend to be the very most sectarian, because what they subtract from the gospel adds up to a false gospel. When they exclude various antitheses, they thereby include the idea of salvation conditioned on the sinner.

    Baxter had a situation specific “gospel”. Believing that he lived in a day when not legalism but antinomianism was the problem, Baxter concluded that any assurance based on Christ’s death alone was presumption. For Baxter, “did you hear and agree” is not the question, because for Baxter the only “real” assurance depends on “what did you do”?

    To say that gospel depends on the situation tends to men that the gospel depends on those who hear it. In that situation, moralists need the gospel to be the law, and they even need the “gospel” to be what condemns people. Thus the moralists think even of the “conditions which can condemn” as “grace”.


  9. It was not difficult for me to find several passages in either Reformed Pastor or Christian Directory like this:

    “Give up thyself entirely and unreservedly to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as thy happiness, thy Savior, and thy Sanctifier, in a hearty consent to the covenant of grace. This is they Christianity; thy espousals with Christ.” Etc. at length
    Christian Directory, Directions to unconverted, graceless sinners for the attaining of true saving grace

    First, could you please supply some of these deadly arsenic quotes that demonstrate how this man does not even deserve to be in the Reformed camp?

    Secondly, were you to write as many pages as he without an editor or 500 years of Reformation history behind you, do you think that someone might come after you and find some lines of uneven quality? Isn’t there somewhat of controversy about Calvin’s views of assurance and the extent of the atonement for the same reason?

    Thirdly, on the supposition that Baxter is a dangerous guide who should not even be recommended to church members, can you think of another Presbyterian guide who leads us to evangelize as he did? I am a Reformed Baptist church planter in an African village who longs to be found in communion with the great evangelists of history rather than those who as Trueman did in From Heaven He Came (page 209) take a swing at Baxter because he “was not university educated.”

    For my part, I have recommended Reformed Pastor to the man I am training to be the pastor at our village church because I want him to love election and evangelism since our world is overrun with sinners who need the gospel, and a Christ who is rich with mercy. Where are the blogposts here that trumpet evangelism like Call to the Unconverted? At least Baxter got that right. If we cut him out of our ranks, we’re losing a vital model for pastoral, persuasive, Christ-centered, Biblical evangelism to say nothing of his wisdom for sanctification.

    • Seth,

      1. In the post I provided links to published resources. I hope you will follow up those leads.

      2. Read his Aphorisms on justification. They go sideways, as the cops say, very quickly (e.g., 4.8, where he repudiates the imputation of Christ’s active obedience).

      3. Why do you suppose that Owen and others responded to Baxter as they did?

      4. Baxter had opportunity to correct himself but he refused. His problem was not merely editorial. It was theological. He rejected the Biblical and Reformation doctrine of salvation.

      5. Baxter wasn’t Presbyterian. He was a congregationaalist in polity. Any good gospel writer or preacher is a good guide to evangelism. The question isn’t whether Baxter was zealous for evangelism but what he taught to be the evangel. As I wrote, in the end, the fruit of his “evangel” was not healthy. Why won’t Owen or Perkins or Ames or any of the older orthodox writers do?

      6. It is, in part, because we have not cut him out of our ranks that we continue to have repeated crises in the doctrines of justification and sanctification. I understand that many have found Baxter helpful and the old (Dutch?) proverb is true, that God strikes straight blows with crooked sticks, but when we learn that the crooked stick has also given rise to noxious weeds, why would we keep using it.

      7. May the Lord bless your service.

  10. I think a lot of Reformed folks need to read this one again, for starters.

    Then maybe dig Into “The marrow of modern divinity”

    Why is guilt ,Grace and gratitude not enough? The above linked blog by Dr. Clark asked a great question and the answer is more than interesting, it is telling.

    For those who view sanctification as a color by numbers approach, focusing on “what we do” rather than on “in whom do we rest”, it will be no surprise that those theological bents will at the end of the day make assurance rest on their own works, their own righteousness. Once upon time I used to think “Reformed” was pretty Monolithic, it is far from it. Mixed bag at best.

    Resting in Christ is much better and more joyful.

  11. …..is it not enough for the same reasons that Reformed is not enough? Or that being believer is not enough, got to take it to that Neo-Nomian next Level to be super sanctified??

  12. Thank you, Scott. I have not yet read Aphorisms, but I do love the apostolic, confessional, Reformed, evangelistic, 5-Solas gospel, so I’ll look into it.

    God bless.

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