Thursday, January 16, 2014

What Else Baxter Said

Richard Baxter is famous for his couplet, “I preached, as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” This couplet is often quoted to press home the urgency of the task of preaching.

What you have probably never seen is what else Baxter said on either side of his couplet. It is well worth the effort it takes to read this older poetry. It is taken from Baxter’s Poetic Fragments which was published in 1821. Baxter apparently used no versification in his poetry, so the formatting here is his (or whoever typeset this edition of Baxter’s poetry).

The frequent sight of death's most awful face,
Rebuked my sloth, and bid me mend my pace!
Thou knew'st my dulness needed such a spur;
So prone was I to trifle and demur.
Who dare his soul for gain or pleasure sell,
That lives as in the sight of Heav'n and Hell ?
This call'd me out to work while it was day;
And warn poor souls to turn without delay:
Resolving speedily thy word to preach,
With Ambrose, I at once did learn and teach.
Still thinking I had little time to live,
My fervent heart to win men's souls did strive.
I preach'd, as never sure to preach again,
And as a dying man to dying men!
O how should preachers men's repenting crave,
Who see how near the church is to the grave!
And see that while we preach and hear, we die,
Rapt by swift time to vast eternity!
What statues, or what hypocrites are they,
Who between sleep and wake do preach and pray!
As if they feared wakening the dead I
Or were but lighting sinners to their bed!
Who speak of Heav'n and Hell as on a stage!
And make the pulpit but a parrot's cage?
Who teach as men that care not much who learns;
And preach in jest to men that sin in earns.
Surely God's messenger, if any man,
Should speak with all the seriousness he can;
Who treateth in the name of the most high,
About the matters of eternity!
Who must prevail with sinners now or never,
As those that must be saved now, if ever

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