BAXTER, 'RICHARD, one of the most eminent of the nonconformist divines, was h. Nov. 12, 1615, of poor but genteel parents, at Rowton, in Shropshire. His early educa tion was somewhat neglected. Instead of attending, as he wished, one of the universi ties, he was obliged to content himself with a course of private study, in the midst of which he was induced, singularly enongh, for he was habitually serious, to try his tune at court. Hither he accordingly hued, fortified with an introduction to the master of the revels. A month suffic«1 to convince him that he was out of his element at Whitehall, and a protracted illness after his return helped to deepen the earnestness of his religious convictions. Soon after, at the age of !:3, he was orth:bled, and entered on the mastership of Dudley rrnunmar-school, from which he removed to act as assistant to n clergyman at Bridgeuorili, where he resided nearly two years. In 1640. he was invited to betome parish clergyman of Kidderminster,'an offer which he accepted; and within a comparatively brief period, not only did he establish his reputation as one of the most remarkable preachers of the time, but what was better, succeeded in effecting a wonder ful improvement in the manners of the people. On the breaking out of the civil war. his position became somewhat peculiar. Sincerely attached to monarchy, his religious sympathies were almost wholly with the Puritans; and though a Presbyterian in principle, lie was far from admitting the unlawfulness of episcopacy. These view's, which, some time before the restoration, became extremely popular, were now too catholic for the general taste, and the open respect shown by h. to some leading Puritans exposed him to some danger from the mob. He accordingly retired to Coventry, where lie minis tered for two years to the garrison and inhabitants. He afterwards accepted the office of chaplain to col. Whalley's regiment, and was even present at the sieges of Bridge water, Ext/er, Bristol. and Worcester. His influence was at all times exerted to modify the intolerance of partisanship, and to promote "tie spirit of love and of a sound mind." On the urgent invitation of his parishioners, he returned to Kidderminster, when ill-health forced him to leave the army, and continued to labor there for some time. During this period, he greatly extended his fame by the publication of his saints Rest and Gill to the Unconrerted. Ile never dissembled his sentiments with regard to the execution of the king and the usurpation of Cromwell, even in the presence of the protector himself. who endeavored, without success, to enlarge his ideas on the subject of revolutions. On the return of Charles. B. was appointed one of his chaplains, and
took a leading part in the conference held at the Savoy to attempt a reconciliation between the ronfrnding church factions, a project defeated by the bigoted obstinacy of the bishops. B. was tempted with the offer of the see of Hereford, lint declined the honor, praying instead to he permitted to return to his beloved flock at Kidderminster. He asked no salary, but his request was refused. The act of uniformity at length drove him out of the English church. and in July. 1663. he retired to Afton, in Middlesex, he spent the greater -tart of "Dine years, chiefly occupied in the composition of some of the most important of his numerous works. These he produced with a rapidity unparalleled in modern &enerations, at least in this one respect, that the quality was not always in the inverse ratio of the quantity. The act of indulgence in 1672 permitted. him to return to London, where he divided his time between preaching and writing. At length, in 1685, lie fell into the brutal clutches of judge Jefferies, who condemned him, for alleged "sedition" in his Paraphrase if the i'Veto _testament, to pay a fine of 500 marks, and in default, to lie iu the king's bench prison till it was paid. The circum stances of the trial are graphically described by in the second volume of his history. After a confinement of nearly 18 months, B. was released and pardoned, on the mediation of lord Yowls. He lived after this to see better times, and died on the 8th Dec., 1691, in the 73th year of his age.
B. is said to have preached more sermons, engaged in more controversies, and written more books than any other nonconformist of his age; and Dr. Isaac Barrow has said of him, that " his practical writings were never 'vended, and his controversial seldom con futed." The total number of his publications exceeded 160. Of these, by far the most popular awl celebrated are his Saints' Rest, Dying Thoughts, and Call to the Uncon verted-20,000 copies of which last were sold in a twelvemonth, and it was translated into all European languages. More important, however, in a theological point of view, are his tIethodus Theologise and Catholic Theology, in which his peculiar system—a com promise between Arminius and Calvin—is embodied. His autobiographical narrative is historically valuable; the review of his religious opinions is spoken of by Coleridge as one of the most remarkable pieces of writing in religious literature. A complete edition of his works, in 25 vols., with a life by Orme, was published in 1830. His practical works, in 4 vols., were published in 1847.