This is my quick take on Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.
Everybody says it’s great. I’m not sure how many of those people have actually read it. Baxter was a Puritan who died in 1691. He spends most of the book explaining that you’re a failure and a loser if you don’t completely dedicate yourself to pastoral ministry. That’s fine so far as it goes, but Baxter likes to make sure you get his point.
He has this gem I’ll never forget (p. 127):
Consider that it is of your own voluntary undertaking and engagement that all this work is laid upon you. No man forced you to be overseers of the Church.
Thanks, Dick. I needed that.
Guilt trips make up perhaps 80% of the book. They’re helpful for the first 20%. Then, they get annoying. Then, they make you feel worthless. Then, you begin to REALLY dislike Baxter.
The last 15% of the book are detailed instructions about how to catechize a parish of mostly unregenerate people, which is largely inapplicable in a context where you believe the New Covenant is only for actual believers.
So, what do I think about Baxter? I think he’s a depressing guy. Comes across as self-righteous, but earnest. Book was a disappointment, and I’ll never read it again. Some guys know how to encourage. Baxter knew how to take a tomahawk to your skull and tell you he’s there to help.
This is the Cliff-Notes version of the 1,500 word review I’ll be writing for my DMin class. I’m gonna keep that line about Baxter’s tomahawk …