Richard Baxter, profiled in the latest issue of Religion & Liberty, penned The Saints Everlasting Rest in 1647. In the book’s dedication, Baxter wrote that he had no intention of serving God other than preaching. But he recalled, “sentenced to death by the physicians, I began to contemplate more seriously on the everlasting rest which I apprehended myself to be just on the border of.”
Baxter noted that because he was so near death that it quickened his “sluggish heart to speak to sinners with some compassion, as a dying man to dying men.” Baxter survived the ordeal, not dying until 1691, but he continually faced debilitating sickness and suffering. He was even imprisoned for refusing to cease preaching. Baxter is perhaps the most prolific author of theology in English history. He wrote 140 books, many of them while serving as a pastor. Baxter was a monumental influence on C.S. Lewis, who borrowed the title ‘Mere Christianity’ directly from his work.
The Saints Everlasting Rest focuses on heavenly and holy pursuits, pushing us away from the fleeting priorities and agendas of our lives on earth. In an age of entertainment, with gadgets like smart phones, while great technology, cause many people to focus their gaze downward and not upward. With the myriad of distractions and moral chaos we face, Baxter’s writings easily retain their relevance. Below is an excerpt from The Saints Everlasting Rest on private meditation that is included in the book, From the Library of C.S. Lewis: Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey:
Concerning the fittest place for heavenly contemplation, it is sufficient to say, that the most convenient is some private retirement. Our spirits need every help, and to be freed from every hindrance in the work. If, in private prayer, Christ directs us to “enter into our closet, and shut the door, that our Father may see us in secret,” so should we do this in meditation. How often did Christ himself retire to some mountain, or wilderness, or other solitary place! I give not this advice for occasional meditation, but for that which is set and solemn. Therefore withdraw thyself from all society, even that of godly men, that you may for awhile enjoy the society of thy Lord. If a student cannot study in a crowd, who exercises only his invention and memory; much less should you be in a crowd, who are to exercise all the powers of your soul, and upon an object so far above nature. We are fled so far from superstitious solitude, that we have even cast off the solitude of contemplative devotion. We seldom read of God’s appearing by himself, or by his angels, to any of his prophets or saints, in a crowd: but frequently when they were alone.