Archive for November, 2015
Thursday 12th November 2015 saw the 400th anniversary of 17th century Puritan Theologian, hymn writer and minister Richard Baxter.
Richard Baxter was born on 12th November 1615 and died 8th December 1691. He is famed for being minister at Kidderminster. He was a towering figure in the nonconformist movement. He lived through the English Civil war.
He was a great Christian man and a true witness to the life of Christ. He wrote many books, which are still published even to this day and his work “the Saints everlasting rest” is one of my favoured works in all of Christianity.
Baxter interpreted Scripture that Christ died for ‘all mankind’ in the sense of Christ dying for sins, not only for the elect. The substitutionary atonement of Christ was available for all men in Adam, no one was excluded. The atonement was available for all who believe in Jesus Christ and that no man was excluded from believing in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Baxter’s Theological position on the universal offering of salvation was not favoured by the majority Calvinists of his day and he ran into conflict with John Owen, the author of ‘the death of death in the death of Christ’. Owen believed that the sacrifice of Christ granted nothing for the none-elect and the doctrine of ‘double predestination’ was a logical conclusion to the doctrines of predestination, election and reprobation.
Baxter believed the doctrine of ‘limited atonement’ in the 5 point Calvinist sense, was inconsistent with the Bible and I agree with Baxter that Christ is available as Saviour for all mankind and I believe the Scriptures affirm this explicitly.
If I had only four books to choose from, my first would obviously be the King James Bible, then the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, the third would be the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and my final would be “Saints everlasting rest” by Richard Baxter. My reason for these choices is that the Bible is the absolute measuring line and rule of faith and practice for any Christian: the ‘Imitation of Christ’ helps me with humility and devotion: The ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ offers remembrance of our own Christian history, showing us where we have come from proceeding the Apostolic era to the Reformation and the ‘Saints everlasting rest” shows me quite clearly where Christians are going.
When I read ‘Saints everlasting rest’ I look forward to heaven.
I am truly thankful to men like Richard Baxter who stood up for Biblical truth and fell out of favour with many for doing so and I am thankful to God for His outpouring of love upon His people, showing us time and time again the treasures and glorious future He has stored up for those who love Him.
Tonight being November 5th I attended a bonfire.
For those not familiar with English traditions; Bonfire Night is a tradition in Britain and cultural event where people gather around a large fire, eat toffee apples and treacle toffee and enjoy a display of fireworks.
Tonight I participated in this tradition at an even on the outskirts of Manchester. Walking toward the area I looked down over the bridge and the fire was lit and the people were all gathered around. Walking toward them and the fire, I looked around at everybody. People smiling, talking, drinking, eating.
When I arrived at the fire I felt myself moving toward the heat. I stood looking at the fire and I thought about the Christian martyrs from the earliest days of the Church to the Protestant Reformation. Suddenly my youngest son asked me ‘dad, is that what the fire was like when the burned George Marsh’. ‘Yes’ I replied, ‘and John Bradford’ Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Tyndall. And people flocked to see them burn. To some it was entertainment, others watched in terror, some with Religious zeal, others believing they were doing the will of God via the Pope.
In ancient times the execution of a man could be local entertainment. In the 16th century people sold religious items and even prayers during executions. Even in the 19th century, an execution could prove commercial. One such example can be found in the history associated with Beaumaris Gaol in Wales. Here, people often rented out highly elevated rooms and put on entertainment when a convicted man was to be put to death. It shows that man is not good, his depravity can be switched around based upon the mainstream culture of the times.
Many people back in ancient times would not consider it immoral to watch an execution and even to make a bit of money off the event. Today, it is difficult to believe that any person could do such things and yet when it is all said and done, people and their outlooks are all too often the result of culture and influence.
Today in some circles, the word ‘martyr’ has merely took on another form. It communicates ‘death cults’. But in the ancient Christian history, the meaning of the word martyr has a whole different connotation. The early Christian and Reformation martyrs did not want to die, they were merely willing to die rather than deny what they believed to be true. There is a difference.
Tonight I looked around me and tried not to judge people, but I couldn’t help but reflect upon the sheer ignorance of a society that gathers around fires eating toffee apples and drinking drinks together without any discussion or meaningful understanding of what Bonfire Night means. For too many people, Bonfire Night has nothing whatsoever to do with Guy Fawkes and his failed attempt to undo the Protestant Reformation and return Britain once again to the religious bondages and totality of Roman Catholicism? On the contrary, it is merely a social event and just something people do to have a good time. Yet a sad reflection indeed is that November 5th was once a time of thanksgiving and prayer, where Christians thanked God for the deliverance of the Church and the nation from the bondage of Rome.
Britain has come a long way since the glorious days of the 16th century, and in many ways both England and Britain are founded upon the principles of the Protestant reformation. Many ideals such as democracy, tolerance and human rights are rooted in the principles of the reformation and the people of Britain should never forget that.
It is a true saying ‘remember, remember, the 5th of November’.