Richard Baxter’s, “The Reformed Pastor” published by, “The Banner of Truth” is just as relevant today as it was in 1651.

richard baxter
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.

Richard Baxter, Oversight of the Flock, Motives to this Oversight. Feed my Sheep.

richard baxter

Pastors have a duty to Christ, and His bride.

John 21:15-17 NASB So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.” (16) He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” (17) He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.

When we are healthy and well trained, we will go out and preach the gospel, each and every one of us.  If we are malnourished and uneducated, we will be ill equipped to engage in the great commission.  The Church will grow when we go out and evangelize.  The cross will always be offensive to the lost.  There is no way to make such a brutal thing, that denies self-righteousness appealing to the lost.  They must hear it and see it in all of its gory detail, and be humbled.  Those who have been saved see the beauty and love of their Saviour through this.

Here is what Richard Baxter had to say about the oversight of the flock in his book, “The Reformed Pastor.”

3. The third motive in the text is drawn from the dignity of the object which is committed to our charge. It is the Church of GOD which we must oversee – that Church for which the world is chiefly upheld, which is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, which is the mystical body of Christ, that Church with which angels are present, and on which they attend as ministering spirits, whose little ones have their angels beholding the face of God in heaven (Heb. 1:14, Mt. 18:10). Oh what a charge is it that we have undertaken! And shall we be unfaithful to it? Have we the stewardship of God’s own family, and shall we neglect it? Have we the conduct of those saints that shall live for ever with God in glory, and shall we neglect them? God forbid! I beseech you, brethren, let this thought awaken the negligent. You that draw back from painful, displeasing, suffering duties, and put off men’s souls with ineffectual formalities, do you think this is honorable treatment of Christ’s spouse? Are the souls of men thought meet by God to see his face, and live forever in heaven, and are they not worthy of your utmost cost and labor on earth? Do you think so basely of the Church of God, as if it deserved not the best of your care and help? Were you the keepers of sheep or swine, you would scarcely let them go, and say, They are not worth the looking after; especially if they were your own. And dare you say so of the souls of men, of the Church of God? Christ walks among them: remember his presence, and see that you are diligent in your work. They are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to show forth the praises of him that has called them (I Peter 2:8-9).” And yet will you neglect them? What a high honor is it to be but one of them yes, but a door–keeper in the house of God! But to be the priest of these priests, and the ruler of these kings – this is such an honor as multiplies your obligations to diligence and fidelity in so noble an employment.
4. The last motive that is mentioned in my text, is drawn from the price that was paid for the Church which we oversee: “Which God,” says the apostle, “has purchased with his own blood.” Oh what an argument is this to quicken the negligent, and to condemn those who will not be quickened to their duty by it! “Oh,” says one of the ancient doctors, “if Christ had but committed to my keeping one spoonful of his blood in a fragile glass, how curiously would I preserve it, and how tender would I be of that glass! If then he have committed to me the purchase of his blood, should I not as carefully look to my charge?” What! sirs, shall we despise the blood of Christ? Shall we think it was shed for them who are not worthy of our utmost care? You may see here, it is not a little fault that negligent pastors are guilty of. As much as in them lies, the blood of Christ would be shed in vain. They would lose him those souls which he has so dearly purchased.
Oh, then, let us hear these arguments of Christ, whenever we feel ourselves grow dull and careless: “Did I die for these souls, and will not you look after them? Were they worth my blood, and are they not worth your labor? Did I come down from heaven to earth, to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10);” and will you not go to the next door, or street, or village, to seek them? “How small is your condescension and labor compared to mine. I debased myself to this, but it is your honor to be so employed. Have I done and suffered so much for their salvation, and was I willing to make you a fellow–worker with me, and will you refuse to do that little which lies upon your hands?” Every time we look upon our congregations, let us believingly remember that they are the purchase of Christ’s blood, and therefore should be regarded by us with the deepest interest and the most tender affection. Oh, think what a confusion it will be to a negligent minister, at the last day, to have this blood of the Son of God pleaded against him; and for Christ to say, ” It was the purchase of my blood of which you did make so light, and do you think to be saved by it yourself?” O brethren, seeing Christ will bring his blood to plead with us, let it plead us to our duty, lest it plead us to damnation.
I have now done with the motives which I find in the text itself. There are many more that might be gathered from the rest of this exhortation of the apostle, but we must not stay to take in all. If the Lord set home but these few upon our hearts, I doubt not we shall see reason to mend our pace; and the change will be such on our hearts and in our ministry, that ourselves and our congregations will have cause to bless God for it. I know myself to be unworthy to be your monitor, but a monitor you must have; and it is better for us to hear of our sin and duty from anybody than from nobody. Receive the admonition, and you will see no cause in the monitor’s unworthiness to repent of it. But if you reject it, the unworthiest messenger may bear that witness against you another day which will then confound you.

Richard Baxter, “The Reformed Pastor” Chapter 2, Section 2, #13, “With earnest desires and expectations of success.”

13. If you would prosper in your work, be sure to keep up earnest desires and expectations of success. If your hearts be not set on the end of your labors, and you long not to see the conversion and edification of your hearers, and do not study and preach in hope, you are not likely to see much success. As it is a sign of a false, self–seeking heart, that can be content to be still doing, and yet see no fruit of his labor; so I have observed that God seldom blesses any man’s work so much as his, whose heart is set upon the success of it. Let it be the property of a Judas to have more regard to the bag than to his work, and not to care much for what they pretend to care; and to think, if they have their salaries, and the love and commendations of their people, they have enough to satisfy them: but, let all who preach for Christ and men’s salvation, be unsatisfied until they have the thing they preach for. He never had the right ends of a preacher, who is indifferent whether he obtain them, and is not grieved when he misses them, and rejoiced when he can see the desired issue. When a man does only study what to say, and how, with commendation, to spend the hour, and looks no more after it, unless it be to know what people think of his abilities, and thus holds on from year to year, I must needs think that this man does preach for himself, and not for Christ, even when he preaches Christ, how excellency whatever he may seem to do it. No wise or charitable physician is content to be always giving physic, and to see no amendment among his patients, but to have them all die upon his hands. Nor will any wise and honest schoolmaster be content to be still teaching, though his scholars profit not by his instructions, but both of them would rather be weary of the employment.
I know that a faithful minister may have comfort when he wants success; and “though Israel be not gathered, our reward is with the Lord (Isa. 49:5);” and our acceptance is not according to the fruit, but according to our labor: but then, he who longs not for the success of his labors can have none of this comfort, because he was not a faithful laborer. What I say is only for them that are set upon the end, and grieved if they miss it. Nor is this the full comfort that we must desire, but only such a part as may quiet us, though we miss the rest. What if God will accept a physician, though the patient die? He must, notwithstanding that, work in compassion, and long for a better issue, and be sorry if he miss it. For it is not merely our own reward that we labor for, but other men’s salvation. I confess, for my part, I marvel at some ancient reverend men, that have lived twenty, thirty, or forty years with an unprofitable people, among whom they have scarcely been able to discern any fruits of their labors, how they can, with so much patience, continue among them. Were it my case, though I dare not leave the vineyard, nor quit my calling, yet I should suspect that it was God’s will I should go somewhere else, and another come in my place that might be fitter for them; and I should not be easily satisfied to spend my days in such a manner.

The Puritan, Richard Baxter Was Blunt, and Correct. Chapter 1, Section 2, Subsection 8, from the Book, “The Reformed Pastor.”

The success of your labours materially depends on your taking heed to yourselves. pg 80

(3) Do you think it is a likely thing, that he will fight against Satan with all his might, who is himself a servant to Satan? Will he do any great harm to the kingdom of the devil, who is himself a member and a subject of that kingdom? Will he be true to Christ who is in covenant with his enemy? Now, this is the case of all unsanctified men, of whatever rank or profession they be. They are the servants of Satan, and the subjects of his kingdom; it is he that rules in their hearts; and are they like to be true to Christ that are ruled by the devil? What prince will choose the friends and servants of his enemy to lead his armies in war against him?
This is it that has made so many preachers of the gospel to be enemies to the work of the gospel which they preach. No wonder if such deride the holy obedience of the faithful; and if while they take on them to preach a holy life, they cast reproaches, on them that practice it! O how many such traitors have been in the Church of Christ in all ages, who have done more against him, under his colors, than they could have done in the open field! They speak well of Christ and of godliness in the general, and yet slyly do what they can to bring them into disgrace, and make men believe that those who set themselves to seek God with all their hearts are a company of enthusiasts or hypocrites. And when they cannot for shame speak that way in the pulpit, they will do it in private among their acquaintance. Alas! how many such wolves have been set over the sheep! If there was a traitor among the twelve in Christ’s family, no wonder if there be many now. It cannot be expected that a slave of Satan, “whose god is his belly, and who minds earthly things,” should be any better than “an enemy to the cross of Christ (Php_3:18).” What though he live civilly, and preach plausibly, and maintain outwardly a profession of religion? He may be as fast in the devil’s snares, by worldliness, pride, a secret distaste of diligent godliness, or by an unsound heart that is not rooted in the faith, nor unreservedly devoted to Christ, as others are by drunkenness, uncleanness, and similar disgraceful sins. Publicans and harlots do sooner enter heaven than Pharisees, because they are sooner convinced of their sin and misery (Mat_21:31).
And, though many of these men may seem excellent preachers, and may cry down sin as loudly as others, yet it is all but an affected fervency, and too commonly but a mere useless bawling; for he who cherishes sin in his own heart does never fall upon it in good earnest in others. I know, indeed, that a wicked man may be more willing of the reformation of others than of his own, and hence may show a kind of earnestness in dissuading them from their evil ways; because he can preach against sin at an easier rate than he can forsake it, and another man’s reformation may consist with his own enjoyment of his lusts. And, therefore, many a wicked minister or parent may be earnest with their people or children to amend, because they lose not their own sinful profits or pleasures by another’s reformation, nor does it call them to that self–denial which their own does. But yet for all this, there is none of that zeal, resolution, and diligence, which are found in all that are true to Christ. They set not against sin as the enemy of Christ, and as that which endangers their people’s souls. A traitorous commander, that shoots nothing against the enemy but powder, may cause his guns to make as great a sound or report as those that are loaded with bullets; but he does no hurt to the enemy. So one of these men may speak as loudly, and mouth it with an affected fervency, but he seldom does any great execution against sin and Satan.
No man can fight well, but where he hates, or is very angry; much less against them whom he loves, and loves above all. Every unrenewed man is so far from hating sin to purpose, that it is his dearest treasure. Hence you may see, that an unsanctified man, who loves the enemy, is very unfit to be a leader in Christ’s army; and to draw others to renounce the world and the flesh, seeing he cleaves to them himself as his chief good.