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The name of BAXTER is too well known, to require any thing to be said, by way of introduetion, to such a work as the following. It is one of the best of his invaluable practical treatises.
In the whole compass of divinity there is scarcely any thing superior to it, in close, pathetic appeals to the conscience of the minister of Christ, upon the primary duties of his office. The main object is, to press the necessity of his bringing home the truths of the Gospel to every individual of his flock, by affectionate, catechetical instruction. Some account of the work will be found in the Preface to the present edition, from the pen of the excellent writer, who has, with extraordinary success, prepared it for the public eye. The Treatise is now adapted for the clergy of every confession. The passing controversies, the digressions, the long Latin quotations, the local matters, are omitted; but all that is native and vigorous, all that is spiritual and holy, all that is of general use, and belongs to every age, is retained, and placed in a better light. A few phrases and sentiments, indeed, will still be found, which partake of Baxter's particular character, or arise
from his habits of thinking on controverted matters. These are inseparable from human infirmity; and he is unworthy the name of a Christian, who can allow such trifling considerations to lessen the full effect of the general truths of the Work, on his own heart and conscience. The writer of these lines rejoices, for his own part, to bear his testimony to the high value of this powerful book. It is peculiarly gratifying to him, as an Episcopal clergyman, to introduce the manly and eloquent pages of this great Nonconformist divine. The ministers of every church should desire to have their errors boldly exposed, and the standard of the apostolic and primitive ages placed full before their eyes.
Till we can bear this, we are not likely to see any considerable revival of religion amongst us. To be firm in our own conviction of duty, and act consistently with our vows to our several divisions of Christ's church, is, indeed, a paramount obligation. But to rise above the mere details of a particular discipline, and enter into the high and spiritual designs of the ministry generally, as founded on the authority, and governed by the Spirit, and dedicated to the glory of Christ, is the only method of really promoting our several interests. We best advance the prosperity of our various bodies, when we seek the honour of our great Master, and the salvation of souls; and make our ecclesiastical platforms entirely subservient to these high ends.
To the ministers, then, of all churches, and especially the Protestant churches of Europe and America, the writer now ventures to appeal. Wherever, indeed, the name of Christ is preached, in every part of the world, by the clergy of every confession,
there would he direct his voice. Being called on to recommend “ THE REFORMED PASTOR" by some introductory observations, he would endeavour to make it the occasion of exciting the most pungent grief, and the most entire reformation; and would thus urge his brother ministers to follow up, in the present day, what Baxter began amongst his contemporaries nearly two centuries since. What is done in one period, must be repeated in another ;every age needs to be stirred up afresh. Baxter was preceded, and has been followed, by writers on the same argument. Gildas and Salvian, * the names on his original title-page, were two distinguished writers, who, in the fifth and sixth centuries, alarmed a careless church by the thunders of their denunciations. Immediately before our Author's own time, the divine Herbert, as he is called, delineated his “ Country Parson," with a tenderness and skill peculiar to himself.t Sixty years afterwards, the mild and persuasive exhortations of the “ Pastoral Care' were addressed, by Bishop Burnet, to the whole body of the English clergy. But for much more than a century since that time, no first-rate book on this subject has appeared. The publisher of the present edition has therefore done well, in bringing forward this incomparable Treatise of Baxter, in his series of “ Select Christian Authors,"—this is to make the energy and pathos of the seventeenth century bear on the feeble Christianity of the nineteenth.
* The first title of Baxter's “ Reformed Pastor," was “ Gildas Salvianus.”
+ “ Herbert's Country Parson” was first published in 1632. I“ Burnet's Pastoral Care,”—a work in every one's hand.
Such is the opportunity on which the writer of these introductory pages seizes, for addressing his appeal to his honoured brethren of every name, and more especially to the clergy of his own church, with the view of carrying on Baxter's great design, and reviving the power of true religion amongst them.
. May he open his heart in all simplicity ? May be at least, after thirty or forty years' observation, suggest to his younger brethren something which
may tend, under the blessing of God, to promote a return to primitive zeal and love amongst the clergy? May he be permitted to admonish and rouse his own conscience, whilst he attempts to excite others ? And O, blessed Spirit of Christ ! descend Thou
upon the writer and the readers of these pages !
! Fulfil thy gracious office, as the COMFORTER of the Church, by touching our hearts, and reviving thy work effectually amongst us ! Let thy ministers be open to thy reproofs, and “ hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches !"
In the first place, then, your attention, honoured and beloved brethren in Christ, shall be directed to some topics of humiliation; in the next, to some grounds of hope; and, lastly, to several points of duty, as subservient to a revival of pure Christianity amongst us.
I. In the first place, permit me to ask, Have we not great cause for HUMILIATION BEFORE OUR GOD, when we look back on our ministry ? This is the first topic. If Baxter had occasion to lament the worldly-mindedness, the party spirit, the time-serving,
the cowardice, the neglect of individual catechizing, the pride, formality, and lukewarmness of the ministers of his own day, and in his own order; have we not cause to lament these, and the like evils, amongst ourselves ! Look, brethren, into the apostolical epistles, and read the remonstrances and reproofs which were required in the first age; and say if they are not even more necessary now.
Call to mind the state of the seven churches of Asia, at the close of the Inspired Canon; weigh every sentence of our Lord's rebukes; and
whether we are not now in the condition of those churches-whether the Laodicean lukewarmness, especially, has not crept
Reflect only on the corruption of our nature; the artifices of Satan, as illustrated by the whole stream of ecelesiastical history; and the uniform operation of long external peace upon the purity of the faith ; and say whether, from the necessary course of things, we are not in danger of a declining state in a day like the present.
But let us come to facts. Let us look back to our first entrance, each of us, upon the sacred ministry, and examine what were our motives.
Were we duly sensible of the importance of the office ? Had we any competent understanding of the doctrine of Christ? Did we feel as we ought the value of souls? Alas! how many of us rushed into the vineyard, without any of the views and feelings most essentially required! And those of us who hope we were movedo in some measure, by the Holy Spirit, how faint was our love to Christ! how narrow the limits of our knowledge, and faith, and zeal! how imperfect our devotedness of heart to the one object, the salvation of souls!