Richard Baxter: Heretic (1)

This is from the archive.org site. The following comes from Volume 12 of Richard Baxter’s Practical Works with the misnomer, “the life of faith”:

“And as true faith or trust may consist with doubts and uncertainty in the subject; so may it with much anxiety, care, disquietment and sinful fear ; which sheweth the imperfection of our faith. ‘Shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith’…’Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?’…Peter had a faith that could venture his life on the waters to come to Christ, as confident of a miracle upon a command; but yet it was not without fear, (ver.30.)’when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid;’ which caused Christ to say, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?'”

In Baxter’s estimate “true faith” consists of the exact opposite of what Hebrews 11:1 and Romans 4:20-21 teaches.

“And you cannot say that this is only a hindrance in the applying act, and not in the direct and principal act of faith: for we find some disciples at this pass; ‘But we trusted that it had been he, who should have redeemed Israel;’ Luke xxiv. 21. Christ saith unto them, ‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken; ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?’…The words of them who told the apostles, that Christ was risen, ‘seemed but tales to them, and they believed them not;'”

According to Richard Baxter it is possible for “true faith” to believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ seems but a tale, a mere figment of the talebearers’ imaginations. Baxter appeals to Luke 24:13-26, assuming that these travelers on the road to Emmaus were regenerate persons. The Emmaus travelers did NOT understand nor believe that which the prophets spoke concerning the Person and Work of Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 24:25-27). They had thought that Christ was to “redeem Israel,” but obviously they had in mind an altogether different kind of “redemption” than the prophets which is one reason why Christ rebuked them as “fools” and “slow of heart to believe.” Does Christ’s strong rebuke somehow imply that they had true faith or even “weak” or “imperfect faith”? Evidently Baxter thinks it does.

One may wonder whether or not Baxter could judge anyone lost (an atheist for instance) since he believes “true faith” is able to confess that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a tale. I surmise Baxter might reason something like this:

The difference between an atheist who believes the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fable (or tale) and the “confused disciple” who does is that one is sincerely seeking to hope and understand rightly while the other is not. All wonderfully muddled and ignorant notions concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ are trumped by sincere yet mistaken zeal.

More from Baxter:

“And here I desire all doubting Christians, to lay by the common mistake in the trying of their faith or trust in Christ, and to go hereafter upon surer grounds. Many say, ‘I cannot believe or trust Christ for salvation, for I am full of doubts, and fears, and troubles; and surely this is not trusting God.

Answer. I. The question is not, whether you trust him perfectly, so as to have no fears, no troubles, no doubts; but whether you trust him sincerely, so far as to venture all upon him in his way. If you can venture all on Jesus and let go all to follow him, your faith is true and saving.”

How convenient, Baxter. A self-righteous unbelief of Christ’s atoning blood and imputed righteousness as the sole grounds of acceptance before God is not, well, unbelief. Rather, it is an “imperfect trust.”

“Brothers, truly my heart’s pleasure and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for it to be saved. For I testify to them that they have zeal to God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Romans 10:1-4).

Richard Baxter would have to violently wrest the Scripture and misinterpret thusly:

Regarding those who are said to be ignorant of (and thus not submitted to) the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel: The question is not, whether they submit to His righteousness perfectly or have perfect knowledge of it; but whether they trust him sincerely and zealously, so far as to venture all upon Him in His way. If they can venture all on Jesus and let go all to follow him, their faith is true and saving.”

More from Baxter:

“Take not all doubts and fears of your salvation, to be the proper effects and signs of unbelief; seeing that in many they arise from the misunderstanding of the meaning of God’s promise, and in more from the doubtfulness of their own qualifications, rather than from any unbelief of the promise, or distrust of Christ.”

“Doubtfulness of their own qualifications” to be saved by Christ? It’s quite clear that they’ve misunderstood the meaning of God’s promise. God’s promise is to save His people conditioned on the penal and preceptive efforts of Jesus Christ ALONE (Romans 10:1-5; Galatians 3:10-14, 24). But they misunderstood the promise to be salvation conditioned on their own ignorant and self-righteous efforts. They’ve misunderstood the SOLE ground of acceptance before God to be their own righteousness rather than the righteousness of Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:3).

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