In his autobiography the Reliquiae Baxterianae: or, Mr. Richard Baxter’s Narrative of The most Memorable Passages of His Life and Times (1696) Richard Baxter has left us a vivid picture of an incident in his life as a young Puritan clergyman in the obscure corner of provincial England where he lived when war was beginning in 1642. Parliament had ordered the destruction of popish statues and images in churches or on churchyard crosses. The churchwarden of Baxter’s church in Kidderminster, “an honest, sober, quiet Man,” set about to remove a crucifix from the cross in the churchyard. Finding his ladder too short, he went in search of another, and in his absence “a Crew of the drunken riotous Party of the Town (poor Journey-men and Servants)” formed to defend this and other threatened artifacts. Baxter was then walking almost a mile out of the town. Otherwise, he supposes, “I had there ended my days,” for the mob, thinking him responsible for the churchwarden’s activities, was soon in hot pursuit of Baxter. Whether the threat was as great as Baxter imagined is at this distance of time an unanswerable question. Certainly Baxter, who throughout his life was courageous in resisting unjust authority, was nervous and timid in facing dangers of a more conjectural sort. When he saw a danger clearly, he was not afraid, but his imagination constantly made a coward of him. But perhaps in this case the danger was real enough.


Religious Matter Vivid Picture Religious Opinion Religious Party Memorable Passage 
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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Royce MacGillivray

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