Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Reformed Pastor


By Richard Baxter

As part of the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge ,my son is currently reading Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.

Available on line here.

Following are some introductory comments he passed on to me by way of an email:


I am 67 pages deep into reading Richard Baxter's Reformed Pastor. Wow, what a book! Very, very piercing.

J.I Packer says, "By 'reformed' he means, not Calvinistic doctrine, but renewed in practice." Regarding the book, Packer writes, "It's words have hands and feet... the book has reality... a model of rationality."

Baxter seems to be imminently practical. His goal is to seriously convict preaches, and work them towards renewal for their sake and the sakes of their flocks. And so he writes,

"How can you choose, when you are laying a corpse in the grave, but think with yourselves, 'here lieth the body; but where is the soul? and what have I done for it, before it departed? It was part of my charge; what account can I give of it?'"

Baxter puts more weight on follow-up one-on-one ministry, (the personal imparting of doctrine through catechisms and counseling) than preaching.

"I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner..."

"...I frequently meet with those that have been my hearers eight or ten years, who know not whether Christ be God or man, and wonder when I tell them the history of his birth and life and death as if they had never heard it before.... But most of them have an ungrounded trust in Christ, hoping that he will pardon, justify and save them, while the world hath their hearts, and they live to the flesh..."

According to Packer, "...he taught individuals through personal counseling and catechizing. Christians, he urged, should regularly come to their pastor with their problems and let him check their spiritual health, and ministers should regularly catechize their entire congregations."

Baxter urged other pastors to also do this, and so he writes, "The common cry is, 'Our people are not ready for it; they will not bear it' But is not the fact rather, that you will not bear the trouble and hatred which it will occasion?"

Baxter writes later on, "If you intend the end of the ministry in the pulpit only, it would seem you take yourselves for ministers no longer than you are there. And, if so, I think you are unworthy to be esteemed ministers at all."

Baxter gives the structure of his book at the end of his introduction;

First, To consider what it is to take heed to ourselves
Secondly, To show why we must take heed to ourselves
Thirdly, To inquire what it is to take heed to all the flock
Fourthly, To illustrate the manner in which we must take heed to all the flock.
Fifthly, To state some motives why we should take heed to all the flock
Lastly, to make some application of the whole

"Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing... preach to yourselves the sermons which you study, before you preach them to others."

It is very easy to read. Baxter writes in plain English, yet it is weighty, doctrinally solid, practical and convicting. It is a favorite already,

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Most excellent points. Makes me want to get the book! Especially like the point of the necessity of personal catechism and teaching of theology to believers rather than just from the pulpit. I have been most blessed when my dear brother has done this for me!