Baxter - Houston-Packer Collection BX5200 .B352 1835 v1

LIFE OF RICHARD BAXTER. 41 earnest dispute throughout the kingdom; and many who had sub- mitted, without scruple, to every previousexaetion ofthe hierarchy, were roused to resistance by the attempt to force upon them an oath so sweeping in what it did express, and with an et cetera in the middle that might be made to mean any thing or every thing that had been left unexpressed. It was not long after Baxter's settlement at Bridgenorth, that these canons were published. He speaks of the oath as having threatened his expulsion. It occasioned much debate among the ministers of that county, though, as has been already stated, they were generally satisfied with conformity. Ameetingof theseminis- ters was held at Bridgenorth for consultation. The greater number were against the oath, and were resolved not to take it. Baxter was led by this debate to a new investigation of the whole subject of episcopacy,and of the government ofthe English church. He read several important works, on both sides of the question, which he had not seenbefore. The result ofhis inquiries was, that "though he found not sufficient evidence to prove all episcopacy unlawful, yet he was much satisfied that the Englishdiocesan frame was guilty of the corruption of churches and ministry, and of the ruin of the true church discipline." A similar effect was produced on many other minds. Indeed, so evidently unfavorable to the cause ofpre- lacy, was the imposition of this oath, that though the archbishop was disposed to press it to theutmost, the king soon gave order that there should be "no prosecution thereof till the next meeting of the convocation." Thus the matter was dropped ; and Baxter, and a multitude of others similarly situated, were permitted still to preach thegospel. He had hardly escaped from this danger, when another incident seemed likely to deprive him of the privilege of laboring as a minis- ter of Christ. The earl of Bridgewater, lord president of the marches of Wales, passed through Bridgenorth on his way to join the king in his expedition against the Scots ; and, arriving there on Saturday at evening, he was informed by some malicious per- sons, that both Mr. Baxter and Mr. Madstard, his colleague, were guilty of non-conformity in respect to the sign of the cross and wearing the surplice, and that neither of them prayed against the Scots. The lord president was a man having authority, and these were charges of no trivial guilt. He told the accusers he would himself attend church the next day, and see whether the ministers would do these things or not. Nothing was expected but that both would be deprived. But suddenly the lord president changed his purpose, and proceeded on his journey ; and the result was, themalice of the accusers was baffled. VOL. I. 6