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A work of Baxter's needs no other introduction to the public, than the name of its author. Few, if any, of our religious writers, have been more generally and deservedly popular. But the very circumstance of Baxter's popularity as an author, and the consequent multiplicity of his writings, has caused some of his works, which were valuable enough to have given celebrity to other names, to remain partially overlooked. This has been the case, to a certain extent, with the Treatise which is here presented to the public. No new edition of it has appeared for many years ; and in consequence of the scarcity of copies, it has not been sufficiently known to be properly appreciated. It is one of a series of works which, as Baxter informs us, he was recommended to undertake by Archbishop Usher, the first of them being the “ Call to the Unconverted," and the others relating to the practical exercise of religion in the heart and life. The ministerial usefulness of Baxter, and his great experience as a shepherd of Christ's flock, qualified him beyond any man of his day to do justice to these subjects. Accordingly he wrote as one that had authority,” or as one standing on an eminence, from whence he could discern all the inequalities, the windings, the deceptions, and false appearances, of the human heart.
This work was dedicated to Baxter's flock at Kidderminster, amongst whom he had preached the word of life with the zeal of an apostle, both publicly and from house to house, during sixteen years. The substance of it had been delivered to them from the pulpit. After eight years of involuntary absence, he thus renews his religious instructions, and presses upon their notice the important truths which he had formerly taught amongst them being present, that now much more " in his absence they might work out their salvation with fear and trembling." He mournfully, but affectionately, recals to their remembrance the years which he had spent in their society ; speaks of the comfort he had enjoyed in ministering to them; and declares his sorrow
at not being permitted to continue his labours amongst them at a time when his greater experience would have rendered him more useful. Then he entreats them to receive the word of exhortation, that they might grow in grace, and be preserved unto the kingdom of their blessed Master.
The directions, though dedicated to Baxter's former flock, are not less applicable to Christians in general. The work is full of deep thought, wisdom, and experience. He unfolds the secret workings of the heart, as one who had long and accurately observed what had passed within himself, and describes all the forms and indications of spiritual disease, as a physician who has often and successfully prescribed for them. He speaks
So attached was he to his flock at Kidderminster, that he made every exertion to continue amongst them. Whilst he refused a bishopric, he entreated to be permitted to retain this cure; and when this was denied him, he offered to be the curate of the vicar, with or without any pecuniary allowance for his services, or to serve there on any terms.