Saturday, October 07, 2006

An Unlikely Marriage?

I said in my last post I would tell you about the coming together of Richard and Margaret Baxter. So here's their story:

Before marriage, Richard Baxter was a firm believer that he was better off staying single. He believed that in this way he could serve more diligently as a pastor, for there would be no time for the responsibilities of married life. As a sworn bachelor, and 24 years Margaret's senior, they could have been regarded as two of the most unlikely marriage candidates. As Margaret's pastor, Richard provided her with much spiritual counsel (mostly in the form of letters) as she struggled on the road to conversion. An increasing affection grew between them and upon the death of her mother, as Richard drew alongside, feelings developed. One source indicates that it was Margaret who took the initiative in their relationship, proposing to him. The following excerpt is from James Anderson’s book (not Catriona’s James I may add!), Memorable Women of the Puritan Times:

"The spark of love to his person was kindled in her heart. The attachment was ultimately reciprocal, but as may be inferred from allusions in several passages of his Breviate of her life, it began on her part. At first she closely concealed it from others…But the passion caused her an aching languishing of heart, and this acted so injuriously upon her feeble frame as even to endanger her life. At last she made it known to Baxter that while he was ministering to her soul, there had sprung up... an affection for his person, which she could not repress. ‘She being a pious and devout young lady, fell in love with him upon account of his holy life and fervency of preaching, and therefore sent a friend to acquaint him with her respects…His answer was, that since he had passed his youth in celibacy, it would be reputed madness in him to marry a young woman, while he could not discharge the duties of a husband in all respects. She at the door over-hearing entered the chamber and told him, “Dear Mr Baxter, I protest with a sincere and real heart, I do not make myself a tender of myself to you upon any worldly or carnal account, but to have more frequent converse with so holy and prudent a yoke-fellow, to assist me in my way to heaven, and to keep me steadfast in my perseverance, which I design for God’s glory and my own soul’s good.” Mr Baxter was at a stand, and convinced that with a good conscience he could not despise so zealous a proffer, springing from so pure a fountain of love.’

I admire Margaret today in a time when many do not seek, as a matter of priority, evidence of a holy and devout life in a prospective spouse. It certainly raises some questions: If you are unmarried, is marriage something you desire that you might more fully live for the glory of God? And if you are married, is your marriage relationship centred around glorifying God, keeping one another "steadfast in perseverence" and assisting one another on your "way to heaven"?

Stay posted for some final insights, this time from Margaret's life and ministry with Richard.

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