13 January, 2006

The Christian Directory

My dear and loving wife Lydia was reading a great paper on the ethics behind Christian marriage. The article dealt especially with the ways in which two people, who are both tainted by sin, are to live in harmonious unity.

The article was one that she printed, but had never seen the original source called "The Christian Directory". The book was a ten year enterprise by the Pastor Richard Baxter (1615-1691). Richard Baxter was a Puritan minister of great ability and love for the people to whom he ministered. He had some errors that were not excusable (he was known to be a neonomian in his view of justification), but we are to follow him as he follows Christ.

The Directory had come to be known as a great source of practical counsel and application for many Christians around England and even in the Colonies at that time. When a Christian had a question on how to apply a doctrine or how to behave in a certain moral situation they would look to the Directory for biblical counsel. It is much like having a counselor on hand at all times to walk you through difficulties of life and faith.

The Directory was written at the request of the Bishop Hall from the Church of England. Hall knew that this was something that Protestantism needed and knew of no other man as pastoral and practical as Richard Baxter.

There had been other directories written, but this one takes a special place as being thorough and complete. (More complete than Perkins or Ames 'Cases of Conscience' that were predecessors in this type of counseling manual.) In this time period there were also directories written by the Jesuits (a religious and militant order of priests that were set up to destroy the Reformed faith) and as the non-Protestant manual popularity grew, the need for a Reformed and evangelical directory grew alongside of it.

This is the result of this work.

"It is possible to see clearly the difference between the 'how-to' books of today's evangelicals and the 'how-to' teaching of the Directory, which is so much wiser and digs so much deeper. The sheer brilliance of Baxter's achievements in crystallizing a proper form for the life of faith, at a high level of intelligent, Bible-based, theologically-integrated wisdom, and with unfailing compressed clarity, is dazzling to the mind." - J.I. Packer


Lyd said...

Thank you for buying this for me...or at least pretending you bought it for me. You just wanted an excuse to add another book to your collection!

I am looking forward to reading it. :)

Droll Flood said...

"He had some errors that were not excusable (he was known to be a neonomian in his view of justification)..."
-I have heard this before you just mentioning it. What exactly is neo-nomianism in light of justification? Where is it deviant from the Biblical standard?

-How would a wrong view of justification disfigure/maim/annihilate one's life in regards to good works?

-One pastor I know wants S.D.G. to publish R.B.'s theological works, for history's sake. He is a big theological history buff, not one wanting his ears tickled. He also loves to READ German Liberals in the same vein.

-For those interested, I no longer am keeping a blog on account of reciprocal/causal lack of interest. I however am keeping my profile going.

Nate said...

From what I have gathered Baxter thought that the law that Christ fulfilled was that of "evangelical law". He uses this to show a theoretical universal atonement. (Theoretical, not applied mind you.) This led to him becoming a 4 to 4.5 point Calvinist.

tam said...

Gotta love Baxter. I picked up my bro-in-law Mark's copy about 8 years ago. He had some really odd/funny things to say along with the good. I recall his advice with respect to women wearing makeup. It was something like "It depends on what reason she's wearing it, if she's wearing it to get a husband, it is the same as if one were selling a lame horse as sound (not lame), but if she has a defect and wants only to appear like everyone else, and not better, then its ok to paint her face."

Droll Flood said...

"He uses this to show a theoretical universal atonement. (Theoretical, not applied mind you.) This led to him becoming a 4 to 4.5 point Calvinist."
-If I'm not mistaken that is Amyraldianism, Davenants(?), School of Saumur contraversy, thus the Helvetic Consensus Formula in reaction against Amyraut and others...

"Theoretical, not applied mind you"
-At least from Amyraut's point of view/ beliefs, the reasoning and implications behind that distinction just cited by you are SCARY.

-Brett Schut gave me a copy of the Directory, and I found it interesting. I must say that in thinking about the Bible, casuistry certainly is a helpful thing ...that one would have their approach to life well thought out before hand and constantly thinking about these things.
"O, how love I Thy Law it is the constant meditation all of my days"

-I hope were not digressing too much here. I wanted to know with whom we're dealing. Theology compels us to act a certain way...

ellie said...

The concern that persists for me is what is the truth according to the Gospels? While it is of an historical interest,perhaps of journalistic interest how would I know if it speaks the truth as told in the Gospels?

Per Larry D. Harper THE ADVENT OF CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST. "From the time of Hippolytus, there were thirteen centuries of uninhibited dalliance with the world before Martin Luther and John Calvin came to restore to the Church just the basics of the Truth of the Gospel

Droll...I hope you will continue to share your inspirations and aspirations if need be...the ongoing dialogue is a great tool as we search for the Truth of the Gospels
and what it means to us as Followers and Lovers of the Truth.

Growing up with in my "less than beloved" Christian Reformed Home, we also had a directory. It was a pictoral directory of the Church families. Which leads me to another question.What is a Christian and how will I know when I am in the presence of one?

Ellie said...

I'm searching for the TRUTH. You are students of Theology and very intelligent ones!! I appreciate all the shared knowledge as I journey.

I just want to make it clear that I never intend to be offensive or critical in any of my comments.

Nate said...


We appreciate you being in the discussions here as well.
-The Directory is able to be seen as Biblical (as well as LOTS of Puritan work) becasue they fill every page with numerous prooftexts and examples from the scriptures. It is amazing how these men (in the days before search engines and even before a basic concordance) could site 10 or more biblical examples from scripture that dealt with any area of life! It is altogether lovely.

-BUT, it is our job to hold these books against the light of scripture so that we can see that which is biblical and that which may be of good practice, but not biblical. We are to be like the Bareans who searched the scriptures to prove Paul's words.
The Psalmist says "in thy light shall we see light". We need to hold things against that light.

-The Puritans had a little saying that they all loved to use, and I love it as well. "We want to love all that which God loves, and we want to hate all that which God hates." This is how seriously they took bible study. (Not quite the same mentality in today's church).

Droll Flood said...

"BUT, it is our job to hold these books against the light of scripture so that we can see that which is biblical..."
-Nate, I love that expression 'hate what God hates, love what God loves' and learning that by the word of God. What God finds disgusting, I am morally required to find disgusting on GOD'S terms, not my own..."Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength." This only is possible by a God endowed ever-increasing knowledge of His Word.

"...and that which may be of good practice, but not biblical."
-You lost me there, Nate. What do you mean by that?

Penumbra said...

That Baxter guy is wearing a bonnet, isn't he?

James w. Lanning said...

don't tell my dad that you are reading baxter or propagating his stuff, nate. you know what my dad thinks about baxter.

Droll Flood said...

"don't tell my dad that you are reading baxter or propagating his stuff, nate. you know what my dad thinks about baxter."
-What does he think about Baxter?
-What's his reason?

James w. Lanning said...

-What does he think about Baxter?
-What's his reason?

Ask him sometime :)