Monday, November 14, 2011

Timely, good, and heart-penetrating words concerning Richard Baxter:

Baxter's preaching was characterized by a passionate evangelistic appeal. The great reality which moulded his ministry was the fact that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Extreme bodily weakness increased his awareness that there was but a step between him and death, whom he called his 'neighbour'. Every duty was to be carried out, every sermon preached, in the light of the great day. 'I daily know and think of that approaching hour', he says. His congregation is described as 'a company of ignorant, carnal, miserable sinners... who must be changed or damned. Methinks I even see them entering upon their final woe! Methinks I hear them crying out for help, for speediest help!'

This awareness of eternity made Baxter an emotional preacher. 'If you want to know the art of pleading' said Spurgeon, 'read Baxter.' Yet his emotion was not undisciplined, but fuelled by his comprehension of truth, for he had no time for 'an affected fervency.' 'Light first, then heat' was his motto — first the exposition of the truth, then the words of piercing appeal springing from that truth. At the close of 'A Call to the Unconverted to turn and live' he appeals to his hearers with such tender earnestness that we can almost see the tears upon his cheeks. 'My heart is troubled to think how I shall leave you, lest... I should leave you as I found you, till you awake in hell... I am as hearty a beggar with you this day, for the saving of your souls, as I would be for my own supply, if I were forced to come a begging to your doors. And therefore if you would hear me then, hear me now. If you would pity me then, be entreated now to pity yourselves... 0 sirs, believe it, death and judgment, heaven and hell, are other matters when you come near them, than they seem to carnal eyes afar off. Then you will hear such a message as I bring you with more awakened, regardful hearts.'

The focus of his preaching was an urgent invitation to receive Christ. Baxter preached for a verdict, he sought to 'drive sinners to a stand and make them see... that they must unavoidably be either converted or condemned.' His words at the close of 'Making Light of Christ and Salvation' are powerful and pointed: 'When God hath shaken those careless souls out of their bodies, and you must answer for all your sins in your own name; Oh then what would you give for a saviour!...When you see the world hath left you, and your companions in sin have deceived themselves and you, and all your merry days are gone; then what would you give for that Christ and salvation that now you account not worth your labour!... You that cannot make light of a little sickness, or of want, or of natural death, no, not of a toothache, but groan as if you were undone; how will you then make light of the fury of the Lord, which will burn against the condenmers of His grace? I come now to know your resolution for the time to come. What say you? Do you mean to set as light by Christ and salvation as hitherto you have done and to be the same men after all this? I hope not.' The sharp edge was always present - a choice had to be made, a verdict given, an offer of mercy accepted or rejected.

Amen!

So preacher, I ask you: do you preach with evangelistic appeal? Emotions? Urgently invite sinners to repent and believe in Christ?

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