Richard Baxter

1615-1691. Puritan divine. Born in Rowton, Shropshire, he attended the free school at Wroxeter, but attained his education largely through self-instruction, private study, and introspection. In his late teens he was in London under the tutelage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of Revels. Baxter left London, displeased with the quality of life. He then came under the influence of two Nonconformists, Joseph Symonde and Walter Craddock. By 1638 he was ordained by the bishop of Worcester, and the following year was nominated to the mastership of the Free Grammar School at Bridgnorth. The Et Cetera Oath (1640) brought about his rejection of episcopal polity. From 1641 to 1660 he served a parish in Kidderminster where his Latitudinarian* views became more evident as he tried to put them in practice in working with his parish and the other clergy in the area.

During the Civil War his sympathies were basically with the Parliamentarians, but he came to oppose the Solemn League and Covenant* and some of Cromwell's aims. He sought also to curb the views of sectarians and republicans. By 1647 he left the army and returned to Rouse Lench, where he wrote The Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650). He welcomed the Restoration and was made chaplain to Charles II and offered the bishopric of Bedford, which he rejected. At the Savoy Conference* (1661) he presented a revision of the Book of Common Prayer for Nonconformists and served as their leader. In 1662 the Act of Uniformity deprived him of an ecclesiastical living, but the wealth, position, and love of the bride he took that year sustained him until her death in 1681. Although excluded from the Church of England, Baxter continued to preach and was imprisoned as a result in 1685 and 1686. He took part in the overthrow of James II and welcomed the Toleration Act of William and Mary. His many other works include The Reformed Pastor (1656) and Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696).

Works (23 vols., ed. W. Orme, 1830); F.J. Powicke, A Life of the Reverend Richard Baxter (1924); G.F. Nuttall, Richard Baxter and Philip Doddridge (1951); H. Martin, Puritanism and Richard Baxter (1954); R. Schlatter (ed.), Richard Baxter and Puritan Politics (1957); G.F. Nuttall, Richard Baxter (1962).