So called from the learned and pious Mr. Richard Baxter, who was born in the year 1615. His design was to reconcile Calvin and Arminius: for this purpose he formed a middle scheme between their systems. He taught that God had elected some, whom he is determined to save, without any foresight of their good works; and that others to whom the Gospel is preached have common grace, which if they improve, they shall obtain saving grace, according to the doctrine of Arminius. This denomination own, with Calvin, that the merits of Christ’s death are to be applied to believers only; but they also assert that all men are in a state capable of salvation.
Mr. Baxter maintains that there may be a certainty of perseverance here, and yet he cannot tell whether a man may not have so weak a degree of saving grace as to lose it again.
In order to prove that the death of Christ has put all in a state capable of salvation, the following arguments are alleged by this learned author. 1. It was the nature of all mankind which Christ assumed at his incarnation, and the sins of all mankind were the occasion of his suffering.–2. It was to Adam, as the common father of lapsed mankind, that God made the promise, (Gen. 3:15.) The conditional new covenant does equally give Christ, pardon, and life to all mankind, on condition of acceptance. The conditional grant is universal: Whosoever believeth shall be saved.–3. It is not to the elect only, but to all mankind, that Christ has commanded his ministers to proclaim his Gospel, and offer the benefits of his procuring.
There are, Mr. Baxter allows, certain fruits of Christ’s death which are proper to the elect only: 1. Grace eventually worketh in them true faith, repentance, conversion, and union with Christ as his living members.–2. The actual forgiveness of sin as to the spiritual and eternal punishment.–3. Our reconciliation with God, and adoption and right to the heavenly inheritance.–4. The Spirit of Christ to dwell in us, and sanctify us, by a habit of divine love, Rom. 8:9-13. Gal. v. 6.–5. Employment in holy, acceptable service, and access in prayer, with a promise of being heard through Christ, Heb. 2:5,6. John 14:13.–6. Well grounded hopes of salvation, peace of conscience, and spiritual communion with the church mystical in heaven and earth, Rom. 5:12. Heb. 12:22.–7. A special interest in Christ, and intercession with the Father, Rom. 8:32,33.–8. Resurrection unto life, and justification in judgment; glorification of the soul at death, and of the body at the resurrection, Phil. 3:20,21. 2 Cor. 5:1,2,3.
Christ has made a conditional deed of gift of these benefits to all mankind; but the elect only accept and possess them. Hence he infers, that though Christ never absolutely intended or decreed that his death should eventually put all men in possession of those benefits, yet he did intend and decree that all men should have a conditional gift of them by his death.
Baxter, it is said, wrote 120 books, and had 60 written against him, 20,000 of his Call to the Unconverted were sold in one year. He told a friend, that six brothers were converted by reading that Call. The eminent Mr. Elliott, of New England, translated this tract into the Indian tongue. A young Indian prince was so taken with it, that he read it with tears, and died with it in his hand.
Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.