Richard Baxter’s, “The Reformed Pastor” published by, “The Banner of Truth” is just as relevant today as it was in 1651. It is a timeless classic of Christian writing and should be in every Pastor’s library and read by every Christian. This book was written to address problems Baxter saw with his contemporaries. He was going to address them with a speech, but fell ill. Instead, he wrote to them, the words recorded in this book. Some Pastors were unbelievers, some were, cold intellectuals with great educations, others were passionate, but not qualified to serve as Pastors, yet still others were just as crass and base as the carnal world they wallowed in. Baxter took them all to task, and not just them, but himself also.
Don’t be mistaken. This book is not a polemic, but a call to repent and be a loyal and true servant of God. The work is broken down into three chapters. Chapter one, “The oversight of ourselves” starts as a check up or a self-diagnostic per se. Baxter effectively brings to light the necessity of a Pastor being truly regenerated. Then, he warns Pastors about pitfalls of bad practices, as well encourages them. Chapter two, “The oversight of the flock” is just that. Instruction on how to perform the vocation dutifully for the Lord’s service and man’s benefit. If it weren’t full enough of good applicable information, then comes chapter three, “Application.” This Chapter is the largest of the book, and encompasses the most directly applicable information for Pastors. The book in its entirety, convicts, informs, and exhorts.
Some of you might be concerned that this book will be difficult to read due to it being in Modern English. (like the King James) I want to assure you that it was not a difficult read. Baxter put much emphasis on being comprehensible. He encourage the Pastors of the time to employ language and nomenclature that the common man would readily understand. With that in mind, Baxter wrote. This book, at times might slow you down, but not excessively or without easy remedy.
One of the points that grabbed my attention and seemed anachronistic was his preaching against Pastors using their positions as a means to easy and comfortable lives. It brought to mind many of the Television Pastors living in sixteen thousand square foot palatial homes, while owning fleets of private jets. I guess bilking the hurting and needy in the name of God has been around for a long time. That is why it, “seemed” anachronistic when it actually wasn’t.
There is so much in this book to like. I found myself underlining and highlighting entire sections. It is extremely relevant for today, just as I am sure it was for the time in which Baxter wrote. It reminds me of, “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, but only for Pastors and from the perspective of a Pastor. That being said, there are theological notions that Baxter held that I do not affirm. He held to a sort of middle way when it came to soteriology. He wasn’t Arminian and he wasn’t Reformed. While I may not hold to Baxter’s theological convictions, I did thoroughly enjoy this book and will probably read it again and again over the years to come. You can purchase your copy from the Banner of Truth here, or Amazon here, and finally Christianbook here.