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1DIT1I) BT THE
REV. WILLIAM BROWN, M.D.,
"THE HISTORY OF THE PROPAGATION OF CHRISTIANITY AMONG
"The Reformed Pastor is a most extraordinary performance, and should be read by every young minister, before he takes a people under his stated care; and, I think, the practical part of it reviewed every three or four years; for nothing would have a greater tendency to awaken the spirit of a minister to that zeal in his work, for want of which many good men are but shadows of what (by the blessing of God) they might be, if the maxims and measures laid down in that incomparable Treatise were strenuously pursued."
PREFACE BY THE EDITOR
Of this work as published by the Author, the following was the title: "Gildas Salvianm: The Reformed Pastor, showing the nature of the Pastoral work; especially in Private Instruction and Catechising; with an open Confession of our too open Sins: Prepared for a Day of Humiliation kept at Worcester, December 4, 1655, by the Ministers of that County, who subscribed the Agreement for Catechising and Personal Instruction at their entrance upon that work, By their unworthy fellow Servant, Richard Baxter, Teacher of the Church at Kederminster."
Of the excellence of this work, it is scarcely possible to speak in too high terms. It is not a directory relative to the various parts of the Ministerial office, and in this respect it may, by some, be considered as defective; but, for powerful, pathetic, pungent, heart-piercing address, we know of no work on the Pastoral office to be compared with it. Could we suppose it to be read by an angel, or by some other being possessed of an unfallen nature, the reasonings and expostulations of our Author would be felt to be altogether irresistible; and hard must be the heart of that minister, who can read it without being moved, melted, and overwhelmed, under a sense of his own shortcomings; hard must be his heart, if he be not roused to greater faithfulness, diligence, and activity in winning souls to Christ. It is a work worthy of being printed in letters of gold: it deserves, at least, to be engraven on the heart of every minister.
But, with all its excellences, the "reformed Pastor," as originally published by our Author, labours under considerable defects, especially as regards its usefulness in the present day. With respect to his works in general, he makes the following candid, yet just acknowledgment:—" Concerning almost all my writings, I must confess that my own judgment is, that fewer, well studied and polished, had been better; but the reader, who can safely censure the books, is not fit to censure the author, unless he had been upon the place, and acquainted with all the occasions and circumstances. Indeed, for the Saints' Rest, I had four months' vacancy to write it (but in the midst of continual languishing and medicine); but, for the rest, I wrote them in the crowd of all my other employments, which would allow me no great leisure for polishing and exactness, or any ornament; so that I scarce ever wrote one sheet twice over, or stayed to make any blots or interlinings, but was fain to let it go as first conceived. And when my own desire was, rather to stay upon one thing long, than run over many, some sudden occasions or other extorted almost all my writings from me; and the apprehension of present usefulness or necessity prevailed against all other motives." *
• Baxter's Narrative of his Life and Times, p. 124.
The Reformed Pastor appears to have been written under the unfavourable circumstances here alluded to—amidst disease and languishment— and to have been hurried to the press, without that revision and correction which were of so much importance to its permanent usefulness. The arrangement is not always logical: the same topics, and even the same heads of discourse are repeated in different parts of the work. It is interlarded, according to the fashion of the age, with numerous Latin quotations from the fathers, and other writers; and the controversies and history of the day are the subject of frequent reference, and sometimes of lengthened discussion. To this it may be added, that the language, though powerful and impressive, is often remarkably careless and inaccurate.
With the view of remedying the imperfections of the original work, the Rev. Samuel Palmer, of Hackney, published, in 1766, an Abridgment of it; but though it was scarcely possible to present the work in any form, without furnishing powerful and impressive appeals to the consciences of ministers, he essentially failed in presenting it in an improved form. In fact, the work in its original state was, with all its faults, greatly to be preferred to Palmer's abridgment of it: if the latter was freed from some of its defects, it also lost much of its excellence. We may often, with advantage, throw out extraneous matter from th< writings of Baxter; but there are few men's works which less admit of abridgment. This sacrifices their fulness and richness of illustration,