Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reasons for Success in the Work of the Gospel

While recognizing that the Spirit blows where he will, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) reflected on the factors that had supported his spiritually successful ministry in Kidderminster. J. I. Packer summarizes it this way.

What was the secret of Baxter's success (so far, at least, as this can be analyzed in terms of the means to ends)? He notes, as significant factors in the situation, that his people had not been gospel-hardened, that he had good helpers, both assistant clergy and members of the flock, that his converts' holy living was winsome while the town's black sheep made sin appear most repulsive, that Kidderminster was free of rival congregations and sectarian bickerings, that most of the families were at home most of the time, working as weavers, so that they had "time enough to read or talk of holy Things...as they stand in their Loom they can set a Book before them or edify one another." Also, it was helpful (Baxter continues) that he fulfilled a long ministry, that he practiced church discipline, that being unmarried he could concentrate on serving his people, that he gave out Bibles and books (he received every fifteenth copy of each of his own books in lieu of royalties for free distribution), that he gave money to the needy, and that he fulfilled for a time the role of amateur physician-effectively, it seems, and without charge-until he could persuade a qualified doctor to move to the town. He held that all these factors helped the gospel forward, and no doubt he was right. But the key element in his success, humanly speaking, was undoubtedly the clarity, force, and skill with which he communicated the gospel itself. ("A Man for All Ministries" Reformation & Revival 1.1 (Winter 1992), 66)

There is much to be learned from this godly ministry and its good fruit.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

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