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Baxter, Richard


Puritan divine; b. Rowton, Shropshire, England, Nov. 12, 1615; d. London, Dec. 8, 1691. His crude education under incompetent curates was compensated for by J. Owen at the Wroxeter free school and by a lifetime of private study. Baxter developed his theological views through scrupulous introspection. He entered the ministry in 1638, accepting the establishment's tenets despite private tendencies toward moderate presbyterianism, which grew from his sympathy with nonconformists. He favored latitudinarian views that might fuse Protestant sects into one national church based on fundamental doctrines in the Creed, Lord's Prayer, the Decalogue, and the Bible as revelation. He favored tolerance of Romanists if they worshiped privately. Baxter avoided political controversy in the civil war and supported the parliamentarians.

After 1653, he criticized Oliver cromwell and lamented the demise of legally constituted monarchy. Baxter cheered the Restoration but questioned the episcopacy. The Act of Uniformity of 1662 turned him from the state Church to the persecuted nonconformists with whom he suffered until the Toleration Act of 1690. Baxter spent most of his life, after 1653, in extensive literary productivity, virtually unequaled then in quality or quantity. Prominent among his more than 200 works are Saints' Everlasting Rest (1650), The Reformed Pastor (1656), and the autobiographical Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696).

Bibliography: r. baxter, The Practical Works of the Late Reverend and Pious Mr. Richard Baxter, ed. w. orme, 23 v. (London 1830); The Autobiography of Richard Baxter, ed. j. m. lloyd thomas (New York 1931); Richard Baxter and Puritan Politics, ed. r. schlatter (New Brunswick, N.J. 1957). a. b. grosart, comp., Annotated List of the Writings of Richard Baxter (London 1868); The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 18851900) 1:134957. f. j. powicke, A Life of the Reverend Richard Baxter (London 1924).

[m. j. havran]

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