Friday, July 26, 2013

A Dying Man to Dying Men - Richard Baxter (source)

I was in a conversation recently where a brother was seeking the first source of Richard Baxter's famous statement, "I preached, as never sure to preach again, And as a dying man to dying men!"

Thankfully, Dr. Haykin was in the room and he identified the source as Baxter's Poetical Fragments (1st ed.; 1681), p.40, lines 7-8.

I reprint that section of the poem here with most of the spellings and punctuation updated. I did not have much success finding it anywhere else. The exact quote is bolded below.


A Life still near to Death

1. A Life still near to Death, did me possess
With a deep sense of Time’s great preciousness.
To lose an hour I thought a greater loss,
Than much of sordid worldlings golden dross.
I thought them mad that cast their time away,
Being uncertain of another day.
That idly prate, and play, and feast, and drink,
So near Eternity’s most dreadful brink!
With filthy, guilty Souls, unjustifi’d;
Undone for evermore if thus they died.
O! thought I, where is these men’s brains and sense,
Who care no more wither they go from hence?
Pastime I thought worse than a Bediam word:
The Name and Thing my very Soul abhorred.

2.  This methodized my Studies to my gain;
Shamed the contending, jingling, formal vein:
The greatest matters it did first impose:
Necessity my Book and Lesson chose:
I studied first save myself and others;
What edified my own Soul and my Brothers:
Thence to the Branches I in order climb;
First Few and Great, next Many, Small, Sublime.
I nere preferred to Talk, before, to Eat,
Words, before Things, the Dish before the Meat:
And yet I love and value all the rest:
My curious mind would fain to have known the least:
But knowing Life’s too short to reach to all,
I left till last the needless things and small.

3.  The frequent fight 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 fell,
that lives as in the fight of Heaven and Hell?

4.  This called 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 mens Souls did strive.
I Preached, 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 to Preach and Pray?
As if they feared wakening the Dead!
Or were but lighting sinners to their Bed!
Who speak of Heaven 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:
When sinners endless Joy or Misery,
On the success of his endeavours lie!
Though God be free, he works by Instruments,
And wisely fitteth them to his intents,
A proud unhumbled Preacher is unmeet
To lay proud sinners humbled at Christ’s feet:
So are the Blind to tell man what god saith,
And faithless en to propagate the Faith.
The Dead are unfit means to raise the Dead;
And Enemies to give the Children Bread:
And utter strangers to the Life to come,
Are not the best Conductors to our home:
They that yet never learned to Live and Die,
Will scarcely teach it others feelingly:
Or if they should Preach others to Salvation,
Unhappy men that Preach their own Damnation.

How oft did I come down with shame and grief!
Not that I was so homely, or so brief;
But that my own Soul was no more awake,
And felt no more the things of which I spake!
That God was named with no more Reverence;
Nor sinners pitied with a deeper sense:
That closer warnings did not pierce men’s Ears,
Set home by greater fervency and tears:
And that my speeches were so cold and sleight,
About things of unutterable weight;
And that I spake with no more seriousness,
When Heaven or Hell attended the success:
As one that sees by Faith the Joys and Woes,
To which the godly and the wicked goes.
O my Dear God! how precious is thy Love?
How should we prize and seek the Joys above?

Thy Methods crossed my ways: my young desire,
To Academic Glory did aspire:
Fain I’d have sate in such a Nurses lap,
Where I might long have had a sluggard’s nap:
Or have been dandled on her Reverend Knees;
And know by honour’d Titles and Degrees;
And there have spend the flower of my days,
In soaring in the Air of human praise:
Yea and I thought in needful to thy Ends,
To make the prejudiced world my friends;
That so my praise might go before thy grace,
Preparing men the Message to embrace;
Also my work and Office to adorn,
And to avoid profane contempt and scorn.
There these were not thy thoughts; thou didst foresee,
That such a course would not be best for me:
Thou mad’st me know that men’s contempt and scorn
Is such a Cross as must be daily born:
Thy Mercy would not have me splendid dross;
A Minister of Pomp; but of the Cross:
That Cross which Hypocrites may Preach and Hear;
But all that fallow Christ must also bear.
No Honour must I have to bring to thee,
But what thou first communicates to me.
In founding of thy Church, thou didst declare
How well all worldly Honours thou couldst spare!
Both in the Chief most blessed Corner Stone,
And in the most of those that build thereon:
And what great, swelling Names have done since then,
Church-Rents and Ruins write without a Pen:
High Titles as the first enchanting Cup,
Cast down the Church by lifting of it up.
Titles reflect on Minds. These must be low:
By humble Love all must thy Servants know:
Yet I deny not but a perfect mind,
May more advantage here than danger find:
thy Soil is oft manured by such dung.
I’ll Honour give to whom it doth belong:
It may be safe to others; but to me
‘Twas best from such Temptations to be free:
Let my preferment lie in serving all:
While I sit low, I have not far to fall.
Keep me from the Temptations of the Devil!
For so thou doest deliver us from Evil.
My youthful Pride and Folly not I see,
That grudged for want of Titles and Degree.
That blushed with shame when this defect was known,
And an inglorious Name could hardly own,
Attempting to have hid it twice or thrice,
With vile equivocations next to lies.
And to thy Methods was unreconciled,
Because I was not Rabbi, Doctor, styled.
Forgive this Pride; and break the Serpent’s brain;
Pluck up the poisonous Root, till none remain.
Give me the Wisdom; Ill not bet the Fame:
Grant me the thing; let others take the name.
Give me the Learning, and it is no harm,
If thou shalt place me in the lowest Form.
Honours are shadows, which from seekers fly;
But follow after those who them deny.
I brought none with me to thy work; 
but there I found more than I easily could bear:
Although thou woulst not give me what I would, 

--Matthew 20v21, Matthew 19v29

Thou gavest me the promised hundred-fold.
O my Dear God! how precious is thy Love?

Thy ways, not ours, lead to the Joys above.