Richard Baxter (1615-1691)


Baxter’s importance as a writer rests in ecclesiology and practical devotion. In the following excerpt he discusses the true nature of the church and defines the true Christian. He contrasts the Puritan concept of the church with the Catholic and Anabaptist concepts of a “pure church,” pointing out that the visible and invisible church are never in fact identical, but that this must remain the goal. Thus, one must never assume that all church members are true Christians simply because they are members, or have been baptized, or have responded to an altar call.


I Corinthians 12:12—For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

It is a pitiful case with the poor afflicted church of Christ, that almost all the members cry out against division, and yet cause and increase it, while they speak against it. And that all cry up unity, and yet very few do any thing that is very considerable to promote it; but multitudes are destroying unity, while they commend it: and those few that would heal and close the wounds, are not able by the clearest reasons, and most importunate requests, to hold the hands of others from opposing it; and to get leave of the rest to do that work, which they will not do themselves while they extol it. You would think this were rather the description of a bedlam, than of a Christian! to set all on fire, and furiously to rail at all that would quench it, and at the same time to rail as much at incendiaries, and cry out for concord, and against division, and call other men all that is naught, for doing that which they do themselves, and will not be persuaded from! But to the injurious dishonour of Christianity itself it is thus with millions of professed Christians! thus is the church used: the sin and shame is made so public, that no charity can much excuse it, and no shift can cover it from the reproachful observation of those that are without. Alas, our flames do rise so high, that Turks, and Jews, and Heathens stand looking on them, and ask, “What is the matter that these Christians thus irreconcileably worry one another?” Do we need any proof, when we feel the smart? When we see the blood? When we hear the noise of revilers at home, and see the scornful laughters of those abroad? When almost all Christendom is up in arms? When the churches are so many by-names, and broken into so many odious fractions; and so many volumes fly abroad, containing the reproaches and condemnations of each other? And (which is enough to break an honest heart to think or speak of) that all this hath continued so long a time! And they be not so wise as the passionate, or the drunken, that in time will come to themselves again; and that it hath continued notwithstanding the greatest means that are used for the cure: Mediation prevaileth not: pacificatory endeavours have done almost nothing: nay, sin gets advantage in point of reputation, and dividing is counted a work of zeal, and ministers themselves are the principal leaders of it; yea, and ministers of eminent parts and piety; and piety itself is pretended for this, which is the poison of piety; and pacification is become a suspected or derided work; and the peace-makers are presently suspected of some heresy; and perhaps called dividers for seeking reconciliation. It made my heart ache with grief, the other day, to read over the narrative of the endeavours of one man (Mr. John Dury), to heal the Protestant churches themselves, and to think that so much ado should be necessary to make even the leaders of the Christian flocks to be willing to cease so odious a sin, and come out of so long and doleful a misery; yea, and that all should do so little good, and get from men but a few good words, while they sit still and suffer the flames to consume the deplorable remnant: yea, such havock hath division made, and cut the church into so many pieces, that it is become one of the commonest questions among us, which of these pieces it is that is the Church; one saith, “We are the catholic church”; and another saith, “No, but it is we!” and a third contendeth that it is “only they”: and thus men seem to be at a loss; and when they believe the holy catholic church, they know not what it is, which they say, they believe. Though I dare not presume to hope of much success in any attempts against this distraction, after the frustration of the far greater endeavours of multitudes that have attempted it with far greater advantage, yet I have resolved by the help of Christ to bear witness against the sin of the dividers, and leave my testimony on record to posterity, that if it may not excite some others to the work, yet at least it may let them know, that all were not void of desires for peace in this contentious age.

To which purpose I intend, 1. To speak of the unity and concord of the catholic church. 2. Of the unity and concord of Christians in their particular churches, and in their individual state. And the first discourse I shall ground upon this text, which from the similitude of a natural body doth assert, 1. The multiplicity of the members: and 2. The unity of the body or church of Christ, notwithstanding the multiplicity of the members. The members are here said to be many for number, and it is intimated (which after is more fully expressed) that they are divers for office, and use, and gifts. The church here spoken of is the universal church, as it is both in its visible and mystical state: It is not only a particular church that is here meant; nor is it the catholic church only as mystical, or only as visible, but as it containeth professors and believers, the body and soul, which make up the man, having both ordinances and spirit in their possession. That it is the catholic church is apparent: 1. In that it is denominated in the text from Christ himself, “So also is Christ.” And the universal church is more fitly denominated from Christ as the Head, than a particular church. It is not easy to find any text of Scripture that calleth Christ the Head of a particular congregation (as we use not to call the king the head of this, or that corporation, but of the commonwealth), though he may be so called, as a head hath respect to the several members: but he is oft called the Head of the catholic church. (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; Col. 1: 18; 2:19; Eph. 5:23) The head of such a body is a commoner phrase than the head of the hand or foot. 2. Because it is expressly called “the body of Christ,” which title is not given to any particular church, it being but part of the body, verse 27. 3. It is such a church that is here spoken of, to which was given apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings, helps, governments, tongues, &c. verse 28, 8, 9, 10. But all particular churches had not all these; and it is doubtful whether Corinth had all that is here mentioned. 4. It is that church which all are baptized into, Jews and Gentiles, bond and free: but that is only into the universal church. The Spirit doth not baptize, or enter men first or directly into a particular church; no, nor the baptism of water neither always, nor primarily. The scope of the chapter, and of the like discourse of the same apostle (Eph. 4), do shew that it is the catholic church that is here spoken of.

The sense of the text then lyeth in this doctrine.

Doct. The universal church being the body of Christ is but one, and all true Christians are the members of which it doth consist.

Here are two propositions; first, that the catholic church is but one. Secondly, that all Christians are members of it, even all that by the one spirit are baptized into it. These are both so plain in the text, that were not men perverse or very blind, it were superfluous to say any more to prove them. And for the former propositions, that the catholic church is but one, we are all agreed in it. And therefore I will not needlessly trouble you with answering such objections as trouble not the church, which are fetched from the difference of the Jewish church, and the Gentile church, (or strictly catholic) or between the called (the true members) and the elect uncalled; or between the church militant and triumphant.

And as for the second proposition, that the catholic church consisteth of all Christians, as its members, it is plain in this text, and many more. It is all that (heartily) say “Jesus is the Lord” (verse 3), and all that “are baptized by one Spirit into the body” (verse 13), and all that Paul wrote to, and such as they: and yet some of them were guilty of division, or schism itself, and many errors and crimes, which Paul at large reprehendeth them for. The Galatians were members of this church (Gal. 3:26-29); for all their legal conceits and errors, and for all that they dealt with Paul as an enemy for telling them the truth. This church consisteth of all that have the “one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, &c.” and of all that “have so learned Christ, as to put off the old man, and to be renewed in the spirit of their minds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:4-6, 20-24) This church consisteth of all that “Christ is a Saviour of,” and that are “subject” unto Christ, and for “whom he gave himself, that he might sanctify and cleanse them by the washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:23-26) It containeth all such as the Romans then were to whom Paul wrote (Rom. 12:4, 5), however differing among themselves to the censuring of each other. It containeth in it all “such as shall be saved.” (Acts 2:47) These things are beyond all just dispute.

When I say, that all Christians are members of the catholic church, I must further tell you that men are called Christians, either because they are truly and heartily the disciples of Christ; or else because they seem so to be by their profession. The first are such Christians as are justified and sanctified, and these constitute the mystical body of Christ, or the church as invisible: professors of this inward true Christianity doth constitute the church as visible to men. Professors of some pieces only of Christianity, leaving out or denying any essential part of it, are not professors of Christianity truly, and therefore are no members of the visible church: and therefore we justly exclude the Mahometans.

And whereas it is a great question, Whether heretics are members of the catholic church? The answer is easy: contend not about a word. If by a heretic you mean a man that denieth or leaves out any essential part of Christianity, he is no member of the church: but if you extend the word so far as to apply it to those that deny not, or leave not out any essential part of Christianity, then such heretics are members of the church. It is but the perverseness of men’s spirits, exasperated by disputation, that makes the Papists so much oppose our distinction of the fundamentals of religion from the rest: when at other times they confess the thing in other words themselves. By the fundamentals we mean the essentials of the Christian faith, or religion: And do they think indeed that Christianity hath not its essential parts? Sure they dare not deny it, till they say, “it hath no essence, and so is nothing, which an infidel will not say?” Or do they think that every revealed truth, which we are bound to believe, is essential to our Christianity? Sure they dare not say so, till they either think that no Christian is bound to believe any more than he doth believe, or that he is a Christian that wants an essential part of Christianity, or that Christianity is as many several things, as there be persons that have several degrees of faith or knowledge in all the world. For shame therefore, lay by this senseless cavil, and quarrel not with the light by partial zeal, lest you prove your cause thereby to be darkness. But if you perceive a difficulty (as who doth not, though it be not so great as some would make it) in discerning the essential parts from the integrals, do not therefore deny the unquestionable distinction, but join with us for a more full discovery of the difference.

In a few words, every man that doth heartily believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by a faith that worketh by love, is a true Christian. Or every one that taketh God for his only God, that is his Creator, Lord, Ruler, and felicity, or end, and Jesus Christ for his only Redeemer, that is, God and man; that hath fulfilled all righteousness, and given up himself to death on the cross in sacrifice for our sins, and hath purchased and promised us pardon, and grace, and everlasting life; and hath risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, where he is Lord of the church, and intercessor with the Father, whose laws we must obey, and who will come again at last to raise and judge the world, the righteous to everlasting life, and the rest to everlasting punishment: and that taketh the Holy Ghost for his Sanctifier, and believeth the Scriptures given by his inspiration, and sealed by his work, to be the certain word of God. This man is a true Christian, and a member of the catholic church; which will be manifested when he adjoineth a holy, sober and righteous life, using all known means and duties, especially baptism at first, the Lord’s-supper afterward, prayer, confession, praise, meditation, and hearing the word of God, with a desire to know more, that his obedience may be full: living under Christ’s ministers, and in communion of saints, denying himself, mortifying the flesh and world, living in charity and justice to man; he that doth this is a true Christian, and shall be saved, and therefore a member of the catholic church as invisible; and he that professeth all this, doth profess himself a true Christian, and if he null not that profession, is a member of the catholic church as visible. These things are plain, and in better days were thought sufficient.

He that hath all that is contained but in the ancient Creed, the Lord’s-prayer and Ten Commandments, with baptism and the Lord’s-supper, in his head, and heart, and life, is certainly a member of the catholic church. In a word, it is no harder to know who is a member of this church, than it is to know who is a Christian. Tell me but what Christianity is, and I will soon tell you how a Church member may be known.

But because it will tend both to the further clearing of this, and the text itself, I shall next shew you in what respects the members of the church are divers, and then in what respects they are all one, or in what they are united.

The Diversity of the Church

And as the text tells you, that the members are many numerically, so they are divers in their respects.

1. They are not of the same age or standing in Christ. Some are babes, and some are young men, and some are fathers. (I John 2:12-14) Some are novices, or late converts, and raw Christians (I Tim. 3:6), and some are of longer standing, that have “borne the burden and heat of the day.” (Matt. 20:12)

2. The members are not all of the same degree of strength. Some are of small understanding, that reach little further than the principles of holy doctrine, and have need to be fed with milk, being unskilful in the word of righteousness: Yea, they have need to be taught the very principles again, not as being without a saving knowledge of them (for they are all taught of God, and these laws and principles are written in their hearts); but that they may have a clearer, more distinct and practical knowledge of them, who have but a darker, general, less effectual apprehension. (Heb. 5:11-13; 6:1) And some being at full age, are & for “stronger meat,” that is harder of digestion. (Heb. 5:14) Who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Some have faith and other graces but as a “grain of mustard-seed,” and some are thriven to a greater strength. (Matt 18:20; 12:31) Some grow in grace, and are able to resist a temptation, and do or suffer what they are called to (II Peter 3:18), being “strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man, according to the glorious power of grace” (Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:11), being “strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20), having accordingly “strong consolation.” (Heb. 6:18) And some are “weak in the faith,” apt to be offended, and their consciences to be wounded, and themselves in greater danger by temptations, whom the stronger must receive, and take heed of offending, and must support them, and bear their infirmities. (Rom. 14:1, 2, 21; 15:1; I Cor. 8:7, 10-12; 9:22; I Thess. 5:14; Acts 20:35)

3. Moreover the members have not all the same stature or degree of gifts; nor in all things the same sort of gifts; some excel in knowledge, and some in utterance; some in one sort of knowledge, and some in another; and some are weak in all. But of this the chapter speaks so fully, that I need say no more but refer you thither.

4. The members are not altogether of the same complexion. Though all God’s children be like the Father, being holy as he is holy, yet they may be known from one another. Some are naturally more mild, and some more passionate: some of colder and calmer temper, and some so hot, that they seem more zealous in all that they say or do: some of more orderly, exact apprehensions, and some of more confused: some of quick understanding, and some dull. (Heb. 5:11)

5. The members are not all of the same degree of spiritual health. Some have much quicker and sharper appetites to the bread of life than others have: some are fain to strive with their backward hearts before they can go to secret duties, or hold on in them, and before they can get down the food of their souls: and some go with cheerfulness, and find much sweetness in all that they receive: some are of sounder understandings, and others tainted with many errors and corrupt opinions: as appears in Paul’s writings to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and others. Some relish only the food that is wholesome, and some have a mind of novelties, and vain janglings, and contentions, needless disputes, like stomachs that desire coals and ashes, or hurtful things. Some in their conversations maintain their integrity, and walk blamelessly, and without offence. (Luke 1:6; Phil. 2:15) And some are overcome by temptations, and give offence to others and grievously wound themselves.

6. Hence also it follows, that the members are not all of the same usefulness and seviceableness to the church and cause of Christ. Some are as pillars to support the rest (Gal. 2:9; I Thess. 5:14), and some are a trouble to others, and can scarce go any further than they are guided and supported by others. Some lay out themselves in the helping of others: and some are as the sick, that cannot help themselves, but trouble the house with their complaints and necessities, which call for great and continual attendance. Some are fit to be teachers of others, and to be pastors of the flock, and guide the Lord’s people in the way of life, and give the children their meat in season, rightly dividing the word of truth. And some are still learning, and never come to much knowledge of the truth, and do no great service to God in their generations: yea, too many weary their teachers and brethren by their frowardness and unfruitfulness: and too many do abundance of wrong to the church, and Gospel, and the world by their offensive miscarriages: yea, too many prove as thorns in our sides, and by some error in their understandings, cherished and used by the too great remnant of pride, self-conceitedness, passion and carnality, are grievous afflicters of the church of Christ, and causes of dissention; one saying I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, and another I am of Christ, as if Christ were divided, or else appropriated to them, and Paul or Apollos had been their saviours. (I Cor. 3:1-5) Some live so as that the church hath much benefit by their lives, and much loss by their death: and some are such troublers of it, by their weakness and corrupt distempers, that their death is some ease to the places where they lived. And yet all these may be truly godly, and living members of the catholic church.

7. Moreover, the members are not all the same in regard of office. Some are appointed to be pastors, teachers, elders, overseers, to be stewards of God’s mysteries, and to feed the flock, taking heed to them all, as being over them in the Lord, as their rulers in spiritual things. (Eph. 4:11; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; I Cor. 4:1; Acts 20:17, 28; I Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:7, 17) And some are the flock, commanded to learn of them, to have them in “honour, and highly esteem them for their work sake, and to obey them.” (I Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:17; I Tim. 5: 17) In this chapter saith Paul, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” (I Cor. 12:17, 29) As there are diversity of gifts, so also of offices: for God hath designed men to use the gifts they have in such order and manner as may edify the church. All the body is not the bonds, or nerves, and ligaments, by which the parts are joined together. (Eph. 4:16) All are not “pastors and teachers, given for perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13) . . .

10. To conclude, from all this imparity it will follow, that the members will not have an equal degree of glory, as not having an equal preparation and capacity. All are not in Abraham’s bosom, as Lazarus was. “To sit on Christ’s right hand and left in his kingdom will not be the lot of all, but of those to whom the Father will give it.” (Matt. 20:23) All are not to sit on thrones, in full equality with the apostles. (Luke 20:30) There are of the first for time of coming in, that shall be last of dignity, and of the last that shall be first. (Matt. 19:30; 20:16) All shall not be rulers of five cities, but only they that have double five talents. (Matt. 25) And thus I have shewed you the disparity of the members, wherein they differ.

The Unity of the Church

Secondly, I am now to shew you the unity of them, and of the body which they constitute. The members of the catholic church are united in all these following respects:

1. They have all but one God, the fountain of their being and felicity, and are all related to him as children to one Father, reconciled to them, and adopting them in Jesus Christ. (John 1:12) “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26) “There is one God and Father of all,” &c. (Gal. 4:5, 6; Eph. 4:6)

2. The members of the church have all one Head, the Redeemer, Saviour, Mediator, Jesus Christ. (Eph. 4:5) As the commonwealth is denominated from the unity of the sovereign power that heads it; so the church is hence principally denominated one from Christ, who is the Head, the Sovereign, and the Centre of it. And therefore it is called frequently his body, and he the Head of it. (Eph. 4:15; 1:22; Col. 1:18; 2:19; Eph. 5:23; Col. 3:15; Rom. 12:4, 5; I Cor. 10:17; Eph. 2:16) He is the foundation, and the church is the building that is erected upon him, “and other foundation can no man lay.” (I Cor. 3:11, 12) “From this head the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working of the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:16) All therefore are members of the catholic church that are members of Christ. He is “the chief cornerstone that is laid in Zion, elect and precious, and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded; to whom coming as to a living stone, we also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house.” (I Peter 2:4-6) As this “One died for all” (II Cor. 5:14), because all were dead, so by the righteousness of this One, the free gift cometh on all to justification of life, and by the obedience of this One shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:18, 19) “And by one Jesus Christ we shall reign in life.” (Rom. 5:17) “In him the church of Jews and Gentiles are made one.” (Eph. 2:14, 15) “To this one Husband we are all espoused.” (II Cor. 11:2) So that we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) And “to us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we in him.” (I Cor. 8:6)

3. The whole catholic church (strictly taken, as comprehending only the living members) have only one Holy Ghost dwelling in them, illuminating, sanctifying and guiding them, and are animated as it were by this one Spirit. “By this one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:13) And “whoever hath not this Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his.” (Rom. 8:9) “By this one Spirit we have all access to the Father.” (Eph. 2: 18) And through this Spirit we are “one habitation of God.” (Eph. 2:22) And therefore, “he that is joined to the Lord is called one Spirit.” (I Cor. 6:17) And it is said of Christ, so may it be of the Spirit in a sort, “He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified are all one.” (Heb. 2: 11) This is the scope of the chapter that my text is in.

4. The church is one as to their principal, ultimate end. The same God is their end who is their beginning. The same eternal glory with him, is purchased and prepared for them, and intended by them through their Christian course. The wicked have a lower end, even flesh and self: but all the members of Christ are united in the true intention of this end. They are all the “heirs of life, and partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, and have all lain up their treasure in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20, 21; Col. 1:12; Gal. 4:7; Rom. 8:17; I Peter 3:7; Titus 3:7; Gal. 3:29; Heb. 1:14; Eph. 3:6) “All that are risen with Christ, do seek the things that are above” (Col. 3:1), “and have their conversation with him in heaven.” (Phil. 3:20, 21)

5. All the members of the catholic Gospel-church have one Gospel to teach them the knowledge of Christ. (Gal. 1:10, 11) And one word of promise to be the charter of their inheritance (I Tim. 4:8; Heb. 9:15; Gal. 3:22, 29), and one holy doctrine to be the instrument of their regeneration, and the “seed of God abiding in them.” (I Peter 1:23, 25; Luke 8:11) It is but one that God hath appointed for them; and it is one in the substance that is the instrument of their change.

6. It is one kind of faith, that by this one holy doctrine is wrought upon their souls. Though the degrees be various, yet all believe the same essential points of faith, with a belief of the same nature. There is “one faith” (Eph. 4:5); and in all these essentials the church is of “one mind” (John 17:21; Acts 4:32; I Peter 3:8; I Cor. 15:2-4), though in lesser things there be exceeding great diversity.

7. There is one new disposition, or holy nature wrought by the Spirit of God in every member of the catholic church. This is called their holiness, and the new creature, and the divine nature, and the image of God. (I Peter 1:16; II Peter 1:4; John 3:6) “That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” (Col. 3:10; II Cor. 5:17)

8. The affections which are predominant in all the members of the church, have one and the same object. Sin is the chiefest thing that all of them hate, and the displeasure of God the chief thing they fear, and God in Christ is the prime object of their love; and they have all the same object of their desires and hopes, even the favour of God, and everlasting life: and they all chiefly rejoice in the same hopes and felicity; as were easy to manifest and prove in the particulars, as to all the essentials of Christianity that are the objects of the will. (Phil. 1:27; 2:3; Eph. 4:4; Matt. 22:37, 38; Rom. 8:28; I Cor. 2:9) And thus they are all of one heart and soul, as uniting in the same objects.

9. They have also one rule or law to live by, which is the law of faith, of grace, of liberty, of Christ. (Rom. 3:27; 8:2; James 1:25; Gal. 6:2) And as one law is appointed for them all, so one law in the points of absolute necessity is received by them all; for “it is written in their hearts,” and put into “their inward parts.” (Jer. 31:32; Heb. 8:10, 16) Though in the other points of the law of Christ there be much diversity in their reception and obedience. All of them are sincerely obedient to what they know, and all of them know that which God hath made of necessity to life.

10. Every member of the church is devoted to God in one and the same covenant. As the covenant on Christ’s part is one to them all; so is it one on their part. They all renounce the world, the flesh and the devil, and give up themselves to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And this being used by God’s appointment, to be solemnly done in baptism, therefore baptism is called the principle or foundation. (Heb. 6:1) And there is said to be one baptism (Eph. 4:5), and baptism is said to save us; “Not the putting away the filth of the flesh (that is, not the outward washing), but the answer of a good conscience to God” (I Peter 3:21), that is, the sincere, internal covenant of the heart, and delivering up ourselves to Christ. So also the fathers, when they (usually) speak of the necessity of baptism, they mean principally our becoming Christians, and entering into the holy covenant, which was done by baptism. Though if any be so weak as to think that this outward baptism is to be delayed (as Constantine and many of the fathers did), if in the meantime he make and profess his covenant with Christ, he is to be taken as a Christian and church-member: but as a soldier without colours, or a king not crowned; he is a Christian not orderly admitted, which is his sin. . . .

13. Every member of the church hath an habitual love to each particular member of the same church. Though mistakes and infirmities may occasion fallings out, even as with Paul and Barnabas, to a parting; and there may be dislikes and bitterness against one another upon misunderstandings, and not discerning God’s graces in each other; yet still, as Christians, they are heartily loved by each other; and did they know more of the truth of each other’s Christianity, they would love each other more. Every member is united by love to the rest; for this is a lesson that is taught us inwardly of God: “And by this we know that we are translated from death to life” (I Peter 1:22; I John 3:11, 14, 23; 4:12, 20, 21, 8: I Thess. 4:9; John 13:34, 35). . . .

16. All members have an inward inclination to hold communion with fellow members, so far as they discern them to be members indeed. As fire would to fire, and water would to water, and earth to earth, and every thing to its like; so Christians would have actual communion with Christians, as delighting in each other, and loving Christ in each other, and finding benefit by each other’s communion. Though I know that this inclination may be much kept from execution, and communion much hindered, by mistakes about the nature, and manner, and requisites of it, and by infirmities and passions of our own. Brethren may fall out, but there is naturally in them a brotherly love, and when the mistake or passion is over, they will get together again (Acts 9:32, 33; 2:42, 44; Heb. 10:25; Ps. 16:3). . . .

19. And every member hath an inward enmity to that which is destructive to itself, or to the body, so far as he knoweth it, that is, 1. To sin in general. 2. To all known sin in particular. And, 3. Specially to divisions, distractions, and diminution of the church. These things their inward disposition is against; and when they are led to them, it is by temptation producing mistakes and passions against the bent of their hearts and lives. They abhor that which is destructive to the body, as such.

20. Lastly. They shall all at the end of their course obtain the same crown of glory, and see and enjoy the same blessed God and glorified Redeemer, and be members of the same celestial Jerusalem, and be employed everlastingly in the same holy love, and joy, and praise, and glorify and please the Lord in all, and centre, and be united perfectly in him. (John 17:21, 23, 24) “For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever, Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)

And thus I have shewed you in twenty particulars the unity of the saints; though it is not from every one of these that they are called one church, yet all these are inseparable as to possession from the true members, and as to profession from the seeming members that are adult. . . .

I beseech you therefore, poor, peevish, quarrelsome souls, give others leave to live in the same house with you: Do not disown your brethren, and say, they are bastards, because they somewhat differ from you in complexion, in age, in strength, in health, in stature, or any of the points wherein I told you a little before that the members of the church do usually differ in. Shew not yourselves so ignorant or froward as to make a wonder of it, that God should be the Father both of infants, and men at age, of weak and strong, and that the sick and sound should both be in his family. Doth such cruelty beseem the breast of a Christian, as to wish God to cast out all his children from his family that are weak and sick? Do not make it such a matter of wonder, that God’s house should have so many rooms in it; and think it not a reproach to it, that the kitchen or the coal-house is a part of the house. Wonder not at it as a strange thing, that all the body is not a hand or eye; and that some parts have less honour and comeliness than the rest. Hath God told you so plainly and fully of these matters, and yet will you not understand, but remain so perverse? I pray hereafter remember better that the catholic church is one, consisting of all true Christians as the members. . . .


Richard Baxter, the most voluminous writer of his era, had no formal university education. Born in Rowton (near Shrewsbury), England, he studied under a John Owen and Richard Wickstead. In his early years he was greatly influenced by Richard Sibbes’s Bruised Reed and William Perkins’s Repentance. After the death of his mother in 1634, Richard pursued four years of private study and was ordained to the Anglican ministry at the age of twenty-three.

In 1640 Baxter became vicar of Kidderminster. For fourteen years there he enjoyed a very fruitful ministry, which led to his writing The Reformed Pastor. When the Restoration came, he left Kidderminster and went to London, preaching at St. Dunstans, Pinners Hall, and Fetter Lane. His ministry flourished there after the Act of Uniformity of 1662.

At this point, he married Margaret Charlton and ministered at Acton until, after an imprisonment, he fled to Totteridge. When James II came to the throne in 1685, Baxter was charged with heresy and again imprisoned; he was released by pardon from the king. His final years were spent quietly at Charterhouse Square, preaching occasionally and finishing his literary works.

Baxter published 168 separate titles. His Practical Works were published in 1707 in four folio volumes and reprinted in 1830 in twenty-three regular volumes. He also wrote several controversial volumes in Latin. His main English works were The Saint’s Everlasting Rest (1650), The Reformed Pastor (1657), A Call to the Unconverted (1658), Reasons for the Christian Religion (1672), A Christian Directory (1673), Autobiography (1696), A Paraphrase on the New Testament (1685), and Dying Thoughts (1687).

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