Richard Baxter on the Need for Personal Study

I’ve been reading J.I. Packer’s A Quest For Godliness (in Logos), his attempt to reacquaint the modern Christian world with the works of the Puritans who have been so influential and are yet so little known.

A Quest for Godliness

This morning’s readings included some discussion of how Richard Baxter put knowledge ahead of emotion in his teaching: “first light — then heat.” To the imagined objections of his working-class congregation that ‘We are not learned, and, therefore, God will not require much knowledge at our hands,’ Baxter answers with several arguments (whose language i’ve updated slightly: the selection is by Packer) as to why laypersons have as great a responsibility as scholars to increase their understanding of God and the Christian life.

  1. Every individual should know that they are created by God, and the purpose of their life, as well as the way to individual happiness, as well as a scholar does. Do you not have souls to save or lose, as scholars do?
  2. God has shown His will to you in the Bible; he has provided teachers and many other aids; so you have no excuse if you are ignorant. You must know how to be Christians even if you are not scholars. You may find the way to heaven in English, even if you have no skill in Hebrew or Greek: but in the darkness of ignorance you can never find it.
  3. … if you think, therefore, you can be excused from knowledge, you might as well think you can be excused from love and from all obedience: for there can be none of this without knowledge… If you were as interested in the knowledge of God and heavenly things as you are to know your career or profession, you would have started learning it before today, and you would have spared no cost or pains until you had it. You think seven years little enough to learn your trade, and won’t spend one day in seven diligently learning the matters of your salvation.

and one closing comment:

If heaven is too high for you to think on, and to provide (prepare) for, it will be too high for you ever to possess.

Packer, J. I. (1994). A quest for godliness : The Puritan vision of the Christian life (70). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.