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Of this work as published by the Author, the following was the title: ‘Gildas Salvianus : The Reformed Pastor, showing the nature of the Pastoral work; especially in Private Instruction and Catechizing; with an open CONFESSION of our too open SINS: Prepared for a Day of Humiliation kept at Worcester, December 4, 1655, by the Ministers of that County, who subscribed the Agreement for Catechizing and Personal Instruction at their entrance upon that work, By their unworthy fellow Servant, Richard Baxter, Teacher of the Church at Kederminster.’
Of the excellence of this work, it is scarcely possible to speak in too high terms. It is not a directory relative to the various parts of the ministerial office, and in this respect it may, by some, be considered as defective; but, for powerful, pathetic, pungent, heartpiercing address, we know of no work on the pastoral office to be compared with it. Could we suppose it to be read by an angel, or by some other being possessed of an unfallen nature, the reasonings and expostulations of our author would be felt to be altogether irresistible; and hard must be the heart of that minister, who can read it without being moved, melted, and overwhelmed, under a sense of his own shortcomings; hard must he his heart, if he be not mused to greater faithfulness, diligence, and activity in winning souls to Christ. It is a work worthy of being printed in letters of gold: it deserves, at least, to be engraven on the heart of every minister.
But, with all its excellencies, the ‘Reformed Pastor’, as originally published by our author, labors under considerable defects, especially as regards its usefulness in the present day. With the view of remedying the imperfections of the original work, the Rev Samuel Palmer, of Hackney, published, in 1766, an Abridgement of it; but though it was scarcely possible to present the work in any form, without furnishing powerful and impressive appeals to the consciences of ministers, he essentially failed in presenting it in an improved form. In fact, the work in its original state was, with all its faults, greatly to be preferred to Palmer’s abridgement of it: if the latter was freed from some of its defects, it also lost much of its excellence. We may often, with advantage, throw out extraneous matter from the writings of Baxter; but there are few men’s works which less admit of abridgement. This sacrifices their fullness and richness of illustration, enervates their energy, and evaporates their power and pathos.
The work which is now presented to the public, is not, strictly speaking, an abridgement. Though considerably less than the original, it has been reduced in size, chiefly by the omission of extraneous and controversial matter, which, however useful it might be when the work was originally published, is for the most part inapplicable to the circumstances of the present age. I have also in some instances changed the order of particular parts. The ‘Motives to the Oversight of the Flock,’ which our author had placed in his Application, I have introduced in that part of the discourse to which they refer, just as we have ‘Motives to the Oversight of Ourselves,’ in the preceding part of the treatise. Some of the particulars which he has under the head of Motives, I have introduced in other parts of the body of the discourse, to which they appeared more naturally to belong. But though I have used some freedom in the way of transposition, I have been anxious not to sacrifice the force and fullness of our author’s illustrations to mere logical arrangement. Many of the same topics, for instance, are still retained in the Application, which had occurred in the body of the discourse, and are there touched with a master’s hand, but which would have lost much of their appropriateness and energy, had I separated them from that particular connection in which they stand, and introduced them in a different part of the work. I have also corrected the language of our author; but I have been solicitous not to modernise it. Though to adopt the phraseology and forms of speech employed by the writers of that age, would be a piece of silly affectation in an author of the present day, yet there is something simple, venerable, and impressive in it, as used by the writers themselves.
While, however, I have made these changes from the original, I trust I have not injured, but on the contrary, improved the work; that the spirit of its great author is so much preserved, that those who are most familiar with his writings would scarcely be sensible of the alterations I have made, had I not stated them in this place.
Before I conclude, I cannot help suggesting to the friends of religion, that they could not perhaps do more good at less expense, than by presenting copies of this work to the ministers of Christ throughout the country.
There is no class of the community on whom the prosperity of the church of Christ so much depends as on its ministers. If their zeal and activity languish,, the interests of religion are likely to languish in proportion; while, on the other hand, whatever is calculated to stimulate their zeal and activity, is likely to promote, in a proportional degree, the interests of religion. They are the chief instruments through whom good is to be effected in any country. How important, then, must it be to stir them up to holy zeal and activity in the cause of the Redeemer! A tract given to a poor man may be the means of his conversion; but a work such as this, presented to a minister, may, through his increased faithfulness and energy, prove the conversion of multitudes. Ministers themselves are not perhaps sufficiently disposed to purchase works of this kind: they are more ready to purchase books which will assist them, than such as will stimulate them in their work. If, therefore, any plan could be devised for presenting a copy of it to every minister of the various denominations throughout the United Kingdom, what incalculable good might be effected!
There are many individuals to whom it would be no great burden to purchase twenty, fifty, or a hundred copies of such a work as this, and to send it to ministers in different parts of the country; or several individuals might unite together for this purpose. I can scarcely conceive any way in which they would be likely to be more useful. To the different Missionary Societies, I trust I may be allowed to make a similar suggestion. To furnish every missionary, or at least every Missionary Station, with a copy of the Reformed Pastor , would, I doubt not, he a powerful mean of promoting the grand object of Christian Missions. Sure I am of this, there is no work so much calculated to stimulate a missionary to holy zeal and activity in his evangelistic labors.
Edinburgh 12 March 1829