A Balanced View of Richard Baxter

“A man may preach and write of the most seraphick verities, and yet know but in part; Mr Baxter is to be honoured as far as he has laid himself out to preach the Gospel, and improve his Talent for the Conversion of souls in this evil day; But when he forgets himself, and instead of promoting practical holyness, fills the nation with notions as uncertain as they are numberless, puzzling such as arrive not to the subtility of his distinction, creating more doubts then ever he’l be able to resolve, making Christianity a meer riddle which no man understands but he, and liable to as many forms and interpretations as his wavering mind; Then I humbly conceive he may be very safely left.”

By Thomas DeLaune in a preface to Edward Hutchinson’s “A Treatise Concerning the Covenant and Baptism.”

The confessions on preaching the gospel

Isaac Watts, Orthodoxy and Charity United, 79-80

From Isaac Watts’ “Orthodoxy and Charity United.”

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All our Protestant Confessions of Faith, and I would perswade myself that our Ministers, at least among the Nonconformists, agree that, though Duties are required to be performed by us, yet the Grace that is necessary to perform them is given freely to us; that though Faith and Repentance, and sincere Obedience, are indispensably necessary, in order to our final Salvation, yet they are not the justifying Righteousness upon account of which our Sins are pardoned, and eternal Life is bestowed upon us: That the Obedience and Death and Intercession of Christ, as a proper High-Priest and Sacrifice, are the only Foundation of our Acceptance with God, and ground of all our hopes; and that from him, as a Head of Influence, we must receive all Grace, whereby we are conducted safe to Glory.

Even the Deists preached a better gospel than many today

Watts Deism, Orthodoxy and Charity, 9-10

Isaac Watts defends the purity and truth of the gospel against its corruptors. It is sad that what Watts calls a “Deist” gospel is the standard “Christian gospel” of American life today (if that). And it is also sad that what Watts deemed necessary to defend is often given up without a fight or unconsciously accepted as “a simpler message.” At least the Deists had some conception of sin and forgiveness.

As a side note, Watts’ concerns are a strong argument for the use of confessions. “I believe the Bible” and “The Bible is our creed” puts you in a category broad enough to fit the Deists described above. We need to declare what we believe, and why, based on the scriptures. We can’t allow agnostic deism to become “standard Christianity.”

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But there have been some Persons in the last and in the present Age (I chiefly intend the Socinian Writers, and those nominal Christians who are leaning toward Deism) who would impoverish and curtail the Gospel of Christ, and make it to consist in little more than mere natural Religion. Some of these Persons just make a Shift to persuade themselves to believe the Bible, or at least they profess to believe it, because it is the Religion of their Country, but they explain it in so poor, so narrow, so dry, and insipid a Manner as raises it very little above the Light of Nature, viz. “That if we follow the Dictates of our inward Reason and our Consciences, in worshipping God, and in loving our Neighbours, according to the Rules which Scripture hath given us to explain and confirm the Light of Nature, and herein imitate the holy Example of our Lord Jesus Christ, then our Sins shall be forgiven us by the meer Mercy of God, through the Supplication and Intercession of so good a Man as Jesus Christ, and we shall be accepted to eternal Life;” and this without any Dependance on the Death of Christ as a proper Atonement or Satisfaction for Sin, or any Regard to him as a true and real Sacrifice. And as for the Spirit of God, and his Almighty Operation on the Souls of Men, to enlighten and sanctify them, at least in our Age, this is almost banished out of their Gospel, and finds but little room in their Religion.