BAXTER, RICHARD (1615-1691), English Puritan di vine, called by Dean Stanley "the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen," was born at Rowton, in Shropshire, at the house of his maternal grandfather, in November (probably the 12th) 1615. Educated at the free school of Wroxeter and under Richard Wickstead, chaplain at Ludlow Castle, he went to London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, master of the revels, to follow that course, but he soon went home to study divinity. After three months' schoolmastering for Owen at Wroxeter he read theology, and especially the schoolmen, with Francis Garbet, the local clergyman. About this time (1634) he met Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock, two famous Nonconformists, whose fervour in fluenced him. In 1638 he was nominated to the mastership of the free grammar school, Dudley, being ordained and licensed by John Thornborough, bishop of Worcester. His success as a preacher was at first not great ; but he was soon transferred to Bridgnorth where, as assistant to a Mr. Madstard, he established a reputation.
He remained there nearly two years, studying deeply the con troversy relating to Nonconformity and the Church of England. He soon, on some points, especially of discipline, became alien ated from the Church ; and after the requirement of what is called "the et cetera oath," he rejected Episcopacy in its English form. He was, however, a moderate Nonconformist; and such he always continued to be. Classed as a Presbyterian, he had no ex clusive attachment to Presbyterianism, and would have accepted a modified Episcopalianism. But all forms of Church government were regarded by him as indifferent. He was unanimously elected minister of Kidderminster in April 1641, when he was but 26 years of age.
His ministry lasted with interruptions about Ig years; he ac complished a work of reformation in Kidderminster and the neighbourhood, as notable as any upon record. Civilized behaviour succeeded to brutality of manners; and, whereas the religious had been but few, the irreligious became in their turn rare. He formed the ministers in the country round about him into an association for the better fulfilment of their duties, uniting them together irrespective of their differences as Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Independents. The spirit in which he acted may be judged of from his The Reformed Pastor. During the Civil War he was ex posed to annoyance and danger at Kidderminster, and therefore removed for a time to Gloucester and afterwards (1643-45) set tled in Coventry, where he preached regularly both to the garri son and the citizens. After the battle of Naseby he became chap lain to Colonel Whalley's regiment, and continued so till Feb. 1647. During these stormy years he wrote his Aphorisms of Justi fication (1649), which excited great controversy.
Baxter's connection with the parliamentary army was character istic of him ; he joined it that he might, if possible, counteract the sectaries, and maintain the cause of constitutional government against republican tendencies. He regretted that he had not accepted an offer of Cromwell to become chaplain to the Iron sides, being confident in his power of persuasion under the most difficult circumstances. His success in converting the soldiery to his views was not great, but he kept his consistency remarkably. By disputation and conference, as well as by preaching, he en forced his doctrines, both ecclesiastical and political, and shrank as little from urging what he conceived to be the truth upon the most powerful officers as from instructing the meanest followers of the camp. Cromwell disliked his loquacity and shunned his soci ety ; but Baxter having to preach before him after he had assumed the Protectorship chose for his topic the divisions of the Church, and in interviews not only opposed him about liberty of con science, but spoke in favour of the monarchy. In 1647 at the home of Lady Rouse of Rouse-Lench, in much physical weakness, he wrote a great part of his famous work, The Saints' Everlasting Rest (165o). On his recovery he returned to Kidderminster, where he also became a prominent leader, his sensitive conscience lead ing him into conflict with almost all the contending parties. His conduct always did "credit to his conscientiousness rather than to his wisdom." After the Restoration Baxter, who had helped to bring it about, settled in London. He preached there till the Act of Uniformity took effect in 1662, and was employed in seeking for such terms of comprehension as would have permitted the moderate dissent ers with whom he acted to remain in the Church of England. In this hope he was disappointed. There was at that time on the part of the rulers of the Church no wish for comprehension, and their aim was to excuse the breach of faith which their rejection of all reasonable methods of concession involved. The chief good that resulted from the Savoy conference was the production of Baxter's Reformed Liturgy. He gained in the larger and more important circle of the metropolis the same vogue that he had gained in the country. The power of his preaching was universally felt, and his capacity for business placed him at the head of his party. He had been made a king's chaplain, and was offered the bishopric of Hereford, but he could not accept the offer without sacrifice of principle. After his refusal he was not allowed to be a curate in Kidderminster, though he was willing to serve un paid. Bishop Morley prohibited him from preaching. Baxter, however, found much consolation in his marriage on Sept. 24, 1662, with Margaret Charlton, a woman like-minded with him self. She died in 1681.
From the ejectment of 1662 to the indulgence of 1687, Baxter's life was disturbed by persecution of one kind or another. He retired to Acton in Middlesex, for quiet study, and was dragged thence to prison for keeping a conventicle. The mittimus was pronounced illegal and Baxter procured a habeas corpus. He was taken up for preaching in London after the licences granted in 1672 were recalled by the king. He was barred from the meeting house which he had built for himself in Oxenden Street after he had preached there but once. He was, in 168o, seized in his house, and conveyed away at the risk of his life, and though he was released that he might die at home, his books and goods were distrained. He was, in 1684, carried three times to the sessions house, being scarcely able to stand, and made to enter into a bond of £400 for his good behaviour.
But his worst encounter was with the chief justice, Sir George Jeffreys, in May 1685. He had been committed to the king's bench prison on the ridiculous charge of libelling the Church in his Paraphrase on the New Testament, and was tried before Jeffreys on this accusation. The trial is well known as among the most brutal perversions of justice which have occurred in England, though it must be remembered that no authoritative report of the trial exists. (See JEFFREYS, SIR GEORGE.) Baxter was sentenced to pay 50o marks, to lie in prison till the money was paid, and to be bound over for seven years. It was even asserted at the time that Jeffreys proposed he should be whipped at the cart's tail through London. The old man, for he was now 7o, remained in prison for 18 months, when the. Government, vainly hoping to win him to their side, remitted the fine and released him.
The long time of oppression from 1662 with bodily affliction, was the period of his greatest activity as a writer. He was a most voluminous author, his separate works, it is said, amounting to 168. They are as learned as they are elaborate and varied in their subjects. Such treatises as the Christian Directory, the Methodus Theologiae Christianae, and the Catholic Theology, might each have occupied the principal part of the life of an ordinary man. His Breviate of the Life of Mrs. Margaret Baxter records the virtues of his wife, and reveals his tenderness of heart.
The remainder of Baxter's life, from 1687 onwards, was passed in peace and honour. He preached and wrote almost to the end. He was surrounded by attached friends, and reverenced by the religious world. His saintly behaviour, his great talents, and his wide influence, added to his extended age, raised him to a position of unequalled reputation. He helped to bring about the downfall of James II. and complied with the Toleration Act under William and Mary. He died in London on Dec. 8, 1691, and his funeral was attended by churchmen as well as dissenters. A similar tribute of general esteem was paid to him nearly two centuries later, when a statue was erected to his memory at Kidderminster in July 1875.
Baxter was possessed by an unconquerable belief in the power of persuasive argument. He thought everyone was amenable to reason—bishops and levellers included. He was at once a man of fixed belief and large appreciation, so that his dogmatism and his liberality sometimes came into collision. His popularity as a preacher was pre-eminent ; but he was a real student and in an age when it was the fashion even with the learned to deride the schoolmen he honoured the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was well equipped for intellectual debate, but his devotional tend ency was as strong as his logical aptitude. Some of his writings from their metaphysical subtility, will always puzzle the learned; but he could write to the level of the common heart without loss of dignity or pointedness. His Reasons for the Christian Religion is better than most work of its kind. His Poor Man's Family Book is a manual that continues to be worthy of its title. His Saints' Everlasting Rest will always command the grateful ad miration of pious readers. It is also charged with a robust and manly eloquence and a rare and unsought felicity of language that make it a masterpiece of style. Perhaps no thinker has exerted so great an influence upon Nonconformity as Baxter has done, and that not in one direction only, but in every form of development, doctrinal, ecclesiastical and practical. He is the type of a distinct class of the Christian ministry—that class which aspires after scholarly training, prefers a broad to a sectarian theology, and adheres to rational methods of religious investiga tion and appeal. He hated fanaticism. Even Quakerism he could scarcely endure. Religion was with him all and in all—that by which all besides was measured, and to whose interests all else was subordinated. Isaac Barrow said that "his practical writings were never mended, and his controversial ones seldom confuted," and John Wilkins, bishop of Chester, asserted that "if he had lived in the primitive time he had been one of the fathers of the Church." BIBLIOGRAPHY.---Our most valuable source is Baxter's autobiography Bibliography.---Our most valuable source is Baxter's autobiography called Reliquiae Baxterianae or Mr. Richard Baxter's Narrative of the most memorable Passages of his Life and Times (published by Mat thew Sylvester in 1696) . Edmund Calamy abridged this work (17oz) . The abridgment forms the first volume of the account of the ejected ministers, but whoever refers to it should also acquaint himself with the reply to the accusations which had been brought against Baxter, and which will be found in the second volume of Calamy's Continua tion. William Orme's Life and Times of Richard Baxter appeared in 183o; it also forms the first volume of "Practical Works" (183o, re printed 1868) . Sir James Stephen's interesting paper on Baxter, con tributed originally to the Edinburgh Review, is reprinted in the second volume of his Essays. For more recent estimates of Baxter see F. J. Powicke, Life of Richard Baxter, 16r5-1691 (1924) and A. R. Ladell, Richard Baxter: Puritan and Mystic (1925) . See also John T. Wil kinson, ed., Richard Baxter and Margaret Baxter, a Puritan Love Story, being the Breviate of the Life of Margaret Baxter by Richard Baxter, 168z (1928) .