Good Mr. Baxter (2)

In a preface to one of Baxter’s many volumes, an unnamed author writes the following:

Even Whitefield felt and owned the inspiration of Baxter at Kidderminster. “I was greatly refreshed,” he says, “to find what a sweet savour of good Mr. Baxter’s doctrine, works, and discipline, remained to this day.” And if the ” sweet savour” of him, retained and breathed by those who cherished his memory, made the warm heart of Whitefield warmer, what would be the effect of Baxter’s spirit-stirring works upon the public mind, were they as generally read as Bunyan’s “Pilgrim,” or as Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress of Religion,” or even as his own “Saints’ Rest?” Wilberforce also calls his Practical Works, “a treasury of christian wisdom;” and says, “it would be a most valuable service to mankind to revise them, and render them more suited to the taste of modern readers.” — Wilberforce’s Practical Piety.

True, it is a formidable undertaking, to go through his Practical Works only. Their bulk is forbidding, in these times of pocket-book literature; and their style is supposed to be uncouth and crabbed. It is not to the credit of the age, however, that the faults of Baxter’s style should be allowed to weigh against his real eloquence; for he is eloquent in the best sense, even if “Colleges and halls” be ignorant of the fact.

The underlining emphasis is mine in order to highlight that at least from this Whitefield quote, there is no qualification or reservation made concerning Baxter’s “neonomianism.” Apparently to Whitefield, both Baxter’s DOCTRINE and his PERSON smell quite good — “a sweet savour.” And, as the unnamed author writes, it “made the warm heart of Whitefield warmer.” Still, I grant that it is possible that Whitefield may have qualified any hearty recommendations of Baxter. Those who do so qualify, have done so in this manner (a modern day example):

“Given all the Latin phrases and the neonomianism that is mingled throughout the writing, I wouldn’t want to see his Universal Redemption of Mankind work reprinted today” (Tony Byrne).

I don’t remember exactly what Baxter’s alleged “neonomianism” looks like, by why is any “neonomianism” from Richard Baxter any worse than R.L Dabney’s and W.G.T. Shedd’s (to name just two) damnably heretical views that Jesus Christ made penal satisfaction to God’s Law (removing its “legal impediments”) and that He had the sins of the non-elect imputed to Him at the cross? Do Baxter’s detractors say his “neonomian” position perverts the Law of God? If so, would they say the same thing about Shedd’s and Dabney’s view of God’s Law that evidently its penal and prescriptive demands were fulfilled by Christ for everyone without exception? Not that this would matter, ultimately. For said detractors would never judge by righteous judgment by using the true gospel as their sole standard of determination.