I was reminded by a friend that today the Church of England honours Richard Baxter, that tireless puritan of the 17th century. He's mostly known for his book "The Reformed Pastor."
But how reformational is The Reformed Pastor?
One of the ways of framing the reformation debate is this: the Roman Catholic church had essentially substituted the church for Christ. Against this the reformers trumpeted Christ alone, etc. But listen to this excerpt from The Reformed Pastor which my friend read out. How reformed do you think it is?
‘The ministerial work must be carried on diligently and laboriously, as being of such unspeakable consequence to ourselves and others. We are seeking to uphold the world, to save it from the curse of God, to perfect the creation, to attain the ends of Christ’s death, to save ourselves and others from damnation, to overcome the devil, and demolish his kingdom, to set up the kingdom of Christ, and to attain and help others to the kingdom of glory. And are these works to be done with a careless mind, or a lazy hand? O see, then, that this work be done with all your might!' (p112)
Altogether now: AND THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON OUR SHO-O-O-O-O-OULDERS...
Interestingly Baxter quotes Paul on the same page:
"Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:16)
But it seems to me that Paul is speaking about something with a very different feel to Baxter. Paul's talking about a completed salvation that has been accomplished upstream which then flows down of its own outgoing nature. Paul is simply caught up in it. Like Peter, he cannot help but speak of what he has seen and heard (Acts 3:20). But it's not the MUST of one who really ought to speak. It's the MUST of someone who can't help but speak. And it's not the saving of the world which Paul attempts. It's simply the witness to it.
I know Baxter did a lot of good. Thank God for him. But The Reformed Pastor needs a bit more reformation methinks.