Richard Baxter (1615-1691) is chiefly remembered for the transformation his pastoral ministry effected on the town of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, during two periods of pastoral ministry there (interrupted by the English Civil War, in which he served as chaplain to the Parliamentary forces) between 1641 and 1661.
Born in Rowton, Shropshire, Baxter attended Wroxeter Grammar School but most of his study was done through his own private reading. He was ordained by John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester, in 1638, and after a short time as a school-master in Dudley, became an assistant minister in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, before moving to Kidderminster in 1641. After leaving there in 1661, he preached in London, but was ejected from the Church of England the following year.
When almost fifty, Baxter married Margaret Charlton, one of his converts, who was in her early twenties. In spite of the difference in ages, they had an excellent marriage, and Margaret shared her husband’s passion for Christ and the salvation of souls. Baxter suffered much ill-health, and the last twenty-nine years of his life were further ’embittered by repeated prosecutions, fines, imprisonment, and harassing controversies’ (Ryle), but there was some respite with the accession of William and Mary in 1689, just two years before his death.[See also the Biographical Study of Baxter in Marcus L. Loane’s Makers of Puritan History (Banner of Truth, 2009).]