Monday, October 09, 2006

Marriage & Ministry

I've now come to my final post on the life and marriage of Richard and Margaret Baxter. I trust you have found their story (and these posts are only a glimpse) as a challenge, yet full of inspiring example as you follow Christ. So far, we've considered Margaret's conversion and courtship with Richard. Now a snapshot of their marriage and ministry together:

A few months prior to their marriage, Richard Baxter was removed from his position as pastor, as the established church became more rigid following the Act of Uniformity. As a Nonconformist, now without a parish, Richard married Margaret who was to be a tremendous comfort to him while he grieved as a preacher without a pulpit. Richard redirected his desire to preach into writing, where he wrote around 128 books.

Richard's continuing belief in his calling, with Margaret's support, led them to open their homes to those who continued to see Richard as 'their' pastor. This would eventually lead to Richard's imprisonment under the 1664 Conventicle Act, which banned all religious meetings which did not use the Prayer Book. Margaret chose to join him. After their release, a prohibition prevented Richard preaching within 5 miles of any place in which he lived.

In 1672 a Declaration of Indulgence meant that the penal laws against the Nonconformists were lifted. Now they could preach without fear of being arrested and Richard resumed preaching. However, this was all to revert back after one year. From then on, Richard and Margaret were continually the object of persecution and harassment for their Nonconforming beliefs. Margaret and Richard never had children, yet their lives were just as full as they engaged in ministry together. There is much to learn from this godly couple and in my opinion, from Margaret in particular. Sharon James sums up some valuable lessons in her book, In Trouble & In Joy, a book well worth investing in.

"Margaret lived in cruel times. She loved her husband dearly, and she urged him on in his ministry whatever the cost. She admired him greatly, but was ready to risk telling him his faults if she thought it was for his good. She was fiercely loyal to Richard, but always her highest loyalty was to God. She did not complain at the hardships of being the wife of a Nonconformist minister: insecurity, frequent moves, uncomfortable accommodation, the lack of privacy and the loss of status. Rather, she revelled in the opportunity her marriage gave her to minister; organizing and supporting Richard's preaching, and engaging in philanthropy and educational work. She is especially an inspiring example to ministers' wives. She is also an example to all Christians. For despite natural fearfulness she put Christ first. It did not come easily, and there was often a high price to pay. Margaret exemplified those words that are so easy to sing, but so difficult to live: Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."

No comments: