Scholar and Theologian

J. Sidlow Baxter

J. Sidlow Baxter (1903-1999) was born in Australia but grew up in England. He barely survived numerous childhood illnesses, climaxing in pneumonia. Doctors even despaired of his life in those years before modern drugs and vaccinations have made such diseases comparatively rare. At the height of his illness, however, his godly mother fervently prayed, and Baxter miraculously recovered in short order.

His mother, a police court missionary, distributed tracts while witnessing faithfully and fervently through slum areas. When Baxter was 16, she handed him a Bible inscribed, "Whatever He saith unto you, do it" (John 2:5).

In spite of these spiritual roots, Baxter spent years pursuing the godless pleasures of the world. Reading a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon, however, brought such conviction that he immediately gave his life to Christ.

A lifelong musician, Baxter also enjoyed reading and writing poetry. Music, his first love, would prove to be a springboard into ministry for him and played a large role throughout his life. He became a pianist for the National Young Life Campaign (a non-denominational outreach organization) in England and traveled around the country playing for conferences and events.

Then, at the tender age of 19, he sensed the Lord calling him to "preach the glad tidings of salvation to a hungry world." He attended Spurgeon's College in London, where he was a diligent and dedicated student, always near "the top of his batch." He loved to read about the giants of the faith from the past, especially John and Charles Wesley. He was also good with languages, especially Greek, and enjoyed studying Church history.

After this time, Baxter married Ethel Smith, and they welcomed a daughter, Miriam, into the world. He went on to pastorates in the British Isles, including Edinburgh's Charlotte Chapel, the largest Baptist Church in Scotland, for nearly 20 years. Later, he traveled widely in the U.S., Canada, Africa, and Australia, visiting many mission fields. He spent much of his later ministry as a speaker, author, and evangelist rather than in pastoral work.

At age 63, Baxter developed acute diabetes and a crisis occurred. He was rushed to the hospital and it seemed that any further travel to preach the Word was "a forlorn hope." During this time he had a remarkable vision of a large-print Bible open to Psalm 103:3, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities." He later testified, "I knew as definitely as if a voice had shouted from heaven, Sid! God is going to heal you.'"

He found that he had been laid low by the Lord in order to be humbled, "to teach me more complete dependence upon Himself, more prayerful yieldedness to Him so that He might lift me up to reconditioned service." Soon the signs of healing appeared and he was able to resume his ministry.

In the following years, he "travelled, preached, lectured and wrote books, put more time in than ever, and had more tokens of blessing than ever before." He learned what it was to "mount up with wings as eagles," and enjoyed better health even than before his illness.

Of Baxter's 26 published books, he is especially remembered for his epic Explore the Book, commended by Adrian Rogers as a "comprehensive overview of the Biblewithout parallelstudied in Bible schools and seminaries around the world." Other noteworthy titles include Our High Calling (1967), Does God Still Guide? (1971), and Christian Holiness: Restudied and Restated (1977).

To be around Baxter was "to be enriched," Rogers declared. This giant went to be with the Lord at the end of 1999, his life almost completely spanning the 20th century.

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

Reference: This article based on information from the Moody Bible Institute Library.

 

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