Philippians and Richard Baxter

This week my church begins preaching through the book of Philippians for the rest of the summer. The opening section gives a glimpse into the heart of Paul for the believers in Philippi. While the beginning of Philippians shows us more of the Apostle Paul it also shows us what hearts united in the gospel feel for one another. The love for Jesus and “partnership in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5) lead to holding one another in our hearts (1:7) and yearning for one another with the affection of Christ Jesus (1:9). As I read Geoffrey Nuttall’s The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience I stumbled upon a letter from Richard Baxter. This short snippet from Baxter’s letter (1658) to Barbara Lambe demonstrates how Baxter, maybe the most pastoral of Puritan pastors, also shared a love for other believers he never met that is created by a mutual partnership in the gospel and common bond in Jesus Christ. After Baxter received a letter from Mrs. Lambe he responded with the following.

“Dear Mrs. Lambe,
How true did I feel it in the reading of your Husband’s Lines and yours…that unacquaintedness with the face is no hindrance to the Communion of the Saints. So much of Christ and his Spirit appeared to me in both your writings, that my soul in the reading of them was drawn out into as strong a stream of love, and closing unity of Spirit, as almost ever I felt in my life. There is a connaturality [relationship created because of the same origin] of Spirit in the Saints that will work by sympathy, and by closing uniting inclinations…as a load-stone will exercise its attractive force through a stone wall. I have an inward sense in my soul, that told me so feelingly in the reading of your lines, that your husband and you and I are one in our dear Lord…”

[1] Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), 143.

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