John Brown on Richard Baxter

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Puritan Board Freshman
I thought it's a interesting and instructive story and worth to be posted.

Dr. Colquhoun of Leith was in practice of appointing a day in the week on which any of his people might call for religious conversation, the solving of cases of conscience, or the explaining of passages of Scripture. Mr. Brown (*) having had occasion to call on the Doctor, it happened to be on one of these audience days. Mr. Brown was asked to be seated, and the exercises went on. Among others, an old woman called with the following Scripture passage from 1 Cor. 3:15, to explain: “But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” Turning to Mr. Brown, the Doctor said, “You’ll explain the passage to us, Mr. Brown; be good enough to say away.” “Deed, Doctor, I would rather you would explain the passage; just say away yourself”. “No,no,” said the Doctor, “I’ve been explaining passages half the day; you’ll explain the passage, Mr. Brown.” After a good deal of mutual banter, Mr. Brown said “Weel, Doctor, I would rather explain anither passage: I’m no sure if I can explain the passage; but, since you will have it, I’ll tell you a story. A person having read or heard of the death-bed experiences of Dr. Owen and Mr. Richard Baxter, applied to a minister to explain how he could account for the wonderful difference they manifested as to their hopes for eternity. In the case of Owen, his spiritual frame was not obscured by a single cloud of doubt, he suffered little or no bodily pain, and departed triumphing in the glory of the person of his Redeemer; while Mr. Baxter endured severe bodily pain and suffering, and confessed that he never experienced the sensible consolations of the gospel which many Christians had enjoyed in the prospect of death. The minister explained: Dr. Owen was a great, good, and godly minister; he built on the foundation, Christ, and he built gold, and silver, and precious stones, and when he was cast into the furnace his work stood the fire. Richard Baxter was also a great, good, and godly minister, and built on the sure foundation, gold, and silver, and precious stones; but he also built wood, hay, and stubble. The consuming of these latter in the furnace clouded his mind and hindered his joy; ‘but he himself was saved, yet so as by fire.’”

(*) John Brown, the son of the famous John Brown of Haddington.

Extracted from The Original Secession Magazine for 1863-1864, Volume VI - Reminiscences of the Early Times of the Secession , pages 136-137.


Puritanboard Librarian
Consider that Richard Baxter that wrote The Saints' Everlasting Rest, that heavenly meditation upon death and beyond, while he thought he was sick unto death.

William Orme's biography of Baxter quotes Matthew Sylster's refutation of this charge against Baxter which is worth reading. The kidney stone from which he suffered, according to Orme, was deposited in the British Museum.

William Orme, The Life and Times of the Rev. Richard Baxter, Vol. 1, pp. 355-356:

"As to himself, even to the last, I never could perceive his peace and heavenly hopes assaulted or disturbed. I have often heard him greatly lament, that he felt no greater liveliness in what appeared so great and clear to him, and so very much desired by him. As to the influence thereof upon his spirit, in order to the sensible refreshments of it, he clearly saw what ground he had to rejoice in God; he doubted not of his right to heaven. He told me, he knew it should be well with him when he was gone. He wondered to hear others speak of their sensible, and passionately strong desires to die, and of their transports of spirit, when sensible of their approaching death; when, though he thought he knew as much as they, and had as rational satisfaction as they could have that his soul was safe, he could never feel their sensible consolations. I asked him, whether much of this was not to be resolved into bodily constitution, he told me that he thought it might be so.
A wicked and groundless report appears to have been circulated shortly after his death, that his mind had been greatly troubled with skeptical doubts before he died. It was brought to Sylvester on such authority that he found it necessary to give it a formal refutation. After quoting a letter from Worcestershire, referring to it, he thus replies to it:

"Audax facinus!" says Sylvester; "What will degenerate man stick at! We know nothing there that could, in the least, minister to such a report as this. I that was with him all along, have ever heard him triumphing in his heavenly expectation, and ever speaking like one that could never have thought it worth a man's while to be, were it not for the great interest and ends of godliness. He told me that he doubted not, but that it would be best for him when he had left this life and was translated to the heavenly regions.

"He owned what he had written, with reference to the things of God, to the very last. He advised thsoe that came near him carefully to mind their souls' concerns. The shortness of time, the instancy of eternity, the worth of souls, the greatness of God, the riches of the grace of Christ, the excellency and import of an heavenly mind and life, and the great usefulness of the word and means of grace pursuant to eternal purposes, ever lay pressingly upon his heart, and extorted from him very useful directions and encouragements to all that came near him, even to the last; insomuch that if a polemical or casuistical point, or any speculation in philosophy or divinty, had been but offered to him for his resolution, after the clearest and briefest representation of his mind, which the proposer's satisfaction called for, he presently and most delightfully fell into conversation about what related to our Christian hope and work."
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