Friday, October 06, 2006

Margaret Baxter (1639 - 1681)

I mentioned in my last post that I would introduce you to some exemplary godly women of the past. Today I'd like you to meet Margaret Baxter, and although I have learnt much from her life, I'd like to briefly post about her conversion, as it reveals much about the need for continuing self-examination and our unworthiness before God without Christ. Margaret's mother, Mary Hanmer, was a religiously upright woman, but Margaret on the other hand was a somewhat rebellious teenager, concerned with socializing, romance, fashion and generally, 'worldly.' Now that might not seem too extreme, yet truth be told, her life was far from living as God would intend. Such frivolity disturbed Mary Hanmer, and in an attempt to instill some godly character and teaching into her daughter, she appointed a religious governess, yet this only served to be counterproductive as the strictness of this woman only drove Margaret further from God.

After a move to Kidderminster to sit under the ministry of a young preacher named Richard Baxter (Margaret's future husband), we see the stark contrast between their lives. Sharon James decribes them in her book (see previous post): "If Richard was a sworn bachelor, then Margaret was a confirmed flirt, and vain with it. She was disgusted at the poverty and dreariness of the humble inhabitants of Kidderminster. In rebellion against the move she reacted by dressing as splendidly and ostentatiously as possible. Yet outward behaviour concealed an inner turmoil." Shortly, we find the prayers of her mother answered as Margaret soon thrived under the ministry of Richard Baxter as she was confronted with her selfishness and pride. She became convicted of her sin and rebellion towards God. Her feelings of guilt were written down in her Self-Judging Papers and at the age of twenty she professed conversion. I'll leave you with some of Margaret's own words, extracts from ten marks which reveal her sinfulness before God and what conversion would mean in her life:

Mark 1: "The Spirit of Christ is the Author of the scriptures, and therefore suiteth your disposition to it, and guideth you by it. I fear then I have not the Spirit of Christ; for I yet feel no love to God's word."

Mark 2: "The Spirit of Christ is from heaven, from God our Father, and leadeth us upward unto him. Its work is spiritual, of heavenly tendency, making us cry, Abba, Father, and working the heart by uniting love to God. It is not so with me; for I have a spirit tending only to selfishness and sin."

Mark 3: "The Spirit of Christ uniteth us to Christ, and one another by love, and is against hatred, division, and abusing others. Mine, then, is the spirit of Cain, for I cannot endure any that are not of my opinion and way."

Mark 4: "The Spirit of Christ is a spirit of holiness, and doth not favour licentiousness in doctrine, or in life. Though I am for strict principles, I am loose in practice."

Mark 5: "Christ's Spirit inclineth to love, humility and meekness, and makes men stoop to each other for their good. None more uncharitable, proud and censorious than I."

Mark 6: "The Spirit of Christ makes men little, low and vile in their own eyes: it is pride that puffeth up. My self-conceitedness shows that I am unhumbled."

Mark 7: "The Spirit of Christ doth work to the mortifying of the flesh, even all its inordinate desires, and to self-denial. I am a stranger to the work of mortification and self-denial. I can deny myself nothing but the comfort of well-doing."

Mark 8: "The Spirit of Christ is a prevailing Spirit, and doth not only wish and strive, but overcome the flesh. The flesh prevaileth with me against the Spirit."

Mark 9: "Christ's Spirit is the Author of his worship and ordinances, and suits the souls of believers to them, the word, sacraments etc. They seem not suitable to my soul; I am against them, and had rather not use them, if I durst."

Mark 10: "Christ's Spirit is in all the saints, and inclineth them to holy communion with each other in love, especially to those in whom this Spirit most eminently worketh. It is not thus with me. I desire not the communion of the saints; my affections are most to those who are best to me."

"To go no further, it is now evident that I am a graceless person."

If you like a good romance, stay posted to find out how Richard and Margaret finally got married...

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