Vance Salisbury, in his biography of Baxter, writes:
Baxter, the scholar, was virtually self-taught, receiving little formal education. He became versed in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek and had an encyclopedic knowledge and recall of the writings of the church fathers. His manuscripts reveal that he rarely edited or corrected his writings, but published them from the first draft! The margins are crowded with hundreds of references to a wide variety of classical and religious scholars, spanning two thousand years. Ever the caring shepherd, he diligently pursued his studies until his death, considering them essential for the proper feeding of those under his care” (Vance Salisbury, Good Mr. Baxter).
Certain tolerant Calvinists (J-Wall; aka OPMOS; Orthodox Presbyterian Minister Of Satan) have attempted to marginalize those who preach the true gospel with disparaging remarks about their lack of “formal theological training, etc.” While they might “dare” to say something negative of Baxter, they would NEVER say anything even remotely negative about the unlearned and uneducated, John Bunyan. The stature of the idolized man determines whether or not someone like OPMOS (i.e., Jason Wallace) will use a lack of learning or formal theological training as “proof” of a given preacher’s “legitimacy.” Baxter, indeed, had SOME formal training, while Bunyan had not even a little.
Tim Challies (of Challies.com; cf. http://www.outsidethecamp.org/efl21.htm) writes:
“This short biography of only just over 100 pages does an excellent job of introducing the great Puritan pastor and writer Richard Baxter. As any short biography ought to do, this one led me hoping to find a much longer treatment of the life of this fascinating character.”
J.I. Packer is one who has found much in the biographies and writings of the Puritans worthy of imitation. He sums up the effect that Baxter, in particular, has had upon him in these words:
Few of us, I think, live daily on the edge of eternity in the conscious way that the Puritans did, and we lose out as a result….Reckoning with death brought appreciation of each day’s continued life, and the knowledge that God would eventually decide, without consulting them, when their work on earth was done brought energy for the work itself while they were still being given time to get on with it. As I move through my own seventh decade, in better health than can possibly last, I am more glad than I can say for what Puritans like Bunyan and Baxter have taught me about dying; I needed it, and the preachers I hear these days never get to it, and modern Christian writers seem quite clueless about it – save for C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams…(22)
22 J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL, 1990) 14
In spite of his great appetite for reading and learning, only one book was indispensable to Baxter. The Bible took first place and determined the value of all others:
Let all writers have their due esteem, but compare none of them with the Word of God. We will not refuse their service, but we must abhor them as rivals or competitors. It is the sign of a distempered heart that loseth the relish of Scripture excellency.
We show that we have not lost the “relish of Scripture excellency” when we, in striking contrast to tolerant heretics like Jason Wallace, judge by the standard of the gospel. How do the tolerant heretics make their judgments? Like this:
5. Those who refuse to judge by this standard alone, preferring instead to judge by reputation, appearance, religious zeal and dedication, or a false gospel, show that they place no value on the gospel and thus show themselves to be unregenerate. All who consider at least some believers in a false gospel (e.g., believers in universal atonement) to be their brothers in Jesus Christ are unregenerate. [Deu 29:19; Pro 17:15; Isa 5:20; Jer 8:10-12; 1Co 13:6; 1Th 5:3; 2Jo 11]