Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


2 Comments

Dr JI Packer & Richard Baxter

Click to read the Light Magazine article about two of God’s essential workers.

We hear a lot about essential workers and essential services in these COVID-19 times.  At 7 pm each night, many of us have been cheering for them, as we bang on our pots and pans.  The late Dr. JI Packer, God’s essential worker, helps us rediscover Richard Baxter’s essential writings, not just for mortal life but more importantly for eternal life.  What might it be like to cheer for God’s essential workers, including our theologians, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries?[1]  Both Baxter and Packer knew from personal experience that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to us.  Both faced sickness and possible death early in life, but fixed their gaze on Jesus Christ in those difficult times.  Packer, who did his Oxford doctorate on Baxter, helped us rediscover Baxter’s brilliant emphasis, derived from Rupertus Meledenius: “In Essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; and in all things charity.”  

Many believe that J.I. Packer, born in 1926 and passed on July 17th 2020, will be remembered as the principal theologian of the 21st Century.  Packer and Baxter each had the same puritan passion for knowing truth, seeing it as our first duty.[2] Both represent the best of Puritanism without being ‘puritanical’.[3]  Baxter in the 17th century commented: “I never discover a Truth in my studies, but it is as sweet to my mind as a feast to my body…I spend my time, and strength and spirits in almost nothing but studying after Truth.”[4]  Many people nowadays dismiss theology as non-essential ivory-tower speculation. We live in an anti-rationalist culture that worships one’s feelings and denies any objective truth.  Both men believed that the mind actually mattered, that reason and thinking were gifts from God that helped us discern truth.  Their love for truth gave them a respect for the arts, sciences, history[5], as well as theology.[6]  In Baxter’s day, theology was seen as the Queen of the sciences.[7] 

For both men, knowing God with our head and heart was essential.[8] It is not enough to just know about God academically.  Baxter held that “he is the best scholar who hath the readiest passage from the ear to the brain, but he is the best Christian who hath the readiest passage from the brain to the heart.”   Dr J.I. Packer also warned against “hardness of heart and cynicism of the head.”  Being heavenly-minded for Baxter and Packer was the key to making the most lasting impact on planet Earth. 

Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals, Dr Packer is best known remembered for his most popular book Knowing God.  In reading Dr Packer’s doctoral thesis, I discovered that Packer’s Knowing God classic is an unpacking of the wisdom of Richard Baxter. 

Jesus prayed in John 17:21 that we would be one as the Father and Son are one that the world may believe.  While Baxter and Packer were both ordained Anglican clergy, they had a deep love for the wider body of Christ.  That is part of the reason that Packer has served since 1979 at Regent College, a interdenominational college. Baxter called himself ‘a mere Christian’, expressing the truth that God’s people go beyond the bounds of any one denomination.[9]  Both showed us that unity in the Essentials of the Gospel is essential to reach the world for Christ, such as the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.  Are we willing to repent over our division and arguments over non-essentials?  We can all agree to the full deity and humanity of Jesus, his virgin birth, his death for our sins, his physically rising from the grave.  By contrast, the precise way that we baptize, celebrate communion, organize our church leadership, or sing worship songs are not essentials worth splitting over.  Both men knew that not every Christian congregation has to be exactly the same, as sameness crushes creativity and spiritual intimacy.

After the heart-rending English civil war of 1647, Baxter felt called to be a peacemaker. [10] All his writings sought to promote “in all things, charity (love).”   As Packer put it, Baxter “meddled much with Controversies…to end them.” It was Baxter’s respect for truth that kept him from ‘undignified wrangling’.[11]  Even though he was often banned from preaching and forced out of town, Baxter stayed gracious and Christ-centered.  Both Packer and Baxter were deeply charitable and humble in times of great controversy.[12] While neither liked controversy, both had the courage to take a stand for gospel truth when waves of conflict occurred. Even when recently needing to say no to false teachers, Packer spoke the truth in love.  He never became vindictive and negative. At age 93, he is finishing well, staying focused on the goodness of the gospel essentials.

Our prayer is that in this COVID-19 pandemic, that we like these brave Christian men, Baxter and Packer, might rediscover what is essential, how to celebrate diversity, and the urgency of charitable love in all circumstances.

Rev.  Dr. Ed and Janice Hird

Co-author, Blue Sky novel

-published in the June 2020 Light Magazine

-Readers are invited to read the first two Academia.edu articles of the JI Packer & Richard Baxter Trilogy:

1) Analyzing the Global Impact of Dr. J.I. Packer

2) An Evaluation of Richard & Margaret Baxter’s Lasting Contribution in 17th Century England


[1] The Gospel and church are deemed in our COVID culture as a nonessential service, unlike pot stores.

Peace Arch News April 23rd 2020, Tom Zillich, A33 “…now would be the worst time to curtail people’s access to those substances which have helped them deal with their anxiety.”

[2] JI Packer, The Restoration and Redemption of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter, Oxford Doctoral Thesis 1954 (Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, 2002), 96,  Packer commented regarding Baxter, “To the end of his life, he could never understand how his fellow Christians could love truth do little and seek it so half-heartedly.”

[3] Packer, Thesis, 95 (Baxter)…was anima naturaliter Puritana, the incarnation of Puritanism at its purest.”; Thesis, 98 Packer “…a Puritan thoroughbred…Baxter was the most consistent Puritan of them all.”

[4] Packer, Thesis, 95.

[5] Thesis, 68 Baxter “History is a very profitable study, if it be used for the right ends, and be rightly chosen. It is a very great help to understand the Scriptures, and to know the former and present state of the church; and to see the wonderful works of Providence, that otherwise would be lost to us.” XI:213

[6] Thesis, 95 (Baxter) “…to take all arts and sciences for his province so that he might himself construct the hierarchy of truth and show, according to the Puritan blueprint, how all this comes from God and leads to God.”

[7] Thesis,64 Packer: “Fundamental to all Puritan thought was the seventeenth-century version of the Medieval doctrine that all knowledge is a unity and all sciences, physical and moral, form a hierarchy at the head of which stands theology.”

[8] Packer, Thesis, 86,  ‘Baxter never tired of reminding his readers that “Heaven-work and Heart-work are the chiefest parts of Christian duty”; “true religion…consists in heaven-work and heart-work, in the love of God and man…” Cure of Christian Divisions (1670) 209, 408, et al.

[9] The title of CS Lewis’ best-selling book Mere Christianity is taken directly from Richard Baxter.  

[10] Thesis, 96.

[11] Thesis, 97 Packer: “He was exact in definition and accurate in usage; and his respect for truth and sense of responsibility for it kept him from undignified wrangling.”

[12] “What a gracious man”, I (Ed) thought as Dr J.I. Packer spoke.   In the midst of a raging North Carolina snowstorm, he was giving a morning devotion at the Anglican Mission Winter Conference on John 21, in which he identified with Simon Peter’s growing through failure.   The first time we ever spent time with Dr Packer was in 1979 in a student residence on the University of BC campus where we literally chased noises in the heating system.  Dr Packer came across so humbly and natural, despite his worldwide reputation. 

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you. 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


Leave a comment

Cheering for God’s Essential Workers: Dr JI Packer & Richard Baxter

Dr JI Packer, God’s Essential Worker
Richard Baxter, another of God’s Essential Workers

I would encourage you to cheer and give thanks for God’s Essential Workers…Dr JI Packer & his mentor Richard Baxter

Click to read about Dr JI Packer: Firestarter in Knowing God in the Light Magazine.

Click to read about Richard and Margaret Baxter: The Fire of Love in Difficult Times in the Light Magazine.

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you. 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


1 Comment

Richard & Margaret Baxter

Check out this unlikely Puritan love story about Richard & Margaret Baxter in the Light Magazine.

In 1665, Richard and Margaret Baxter survived the Black Plague in London where 15% of Londoners perished that summer.[1]  King Charles II and most wealthy people fled London.  The poor people were not allowed to leave.  Only a small number of London pastors and doctors remained to cope with the overwhelming onslaught.  Plague houses, quarantined by guards for 40 days, were marked with a red cross on the door with the words ‘Lord Have Mercy Upon Us”. Richard commented: “The sense of approaching death so awakened both preachers and hearers, that multitudes of young men and others were converted to true repentance.”

Richard and Margaret, who had only been married three years earlier, were a powerful team caring for the sick and leading many to Christ.[2]  She was criticized by her upper-class family and friends “that she busied her head so much about churches and works of charity and was not content to live privately and quietly.”[3] Richard defended her involvement in ministry, saying “Does not Paul call some women his helps in the gospel?”[4]

As a confirmed bachelor, 47-year-old Richard had surprised many by marrying Margaret who was twenty years younger than him.[5]  Their unlikely marriage was a genuine puritan romance that we can still learn from over three centuries later. Richard wrote:

When we were married, her sadness and melancholy vanished: counsel did something to it, and contentment something; and being taken up in our household affairs did somewhat. And we lived in inviolated love and mutual complacency sensible of the benefit of mutual help.[6] 

Because of his dedication to renewing the Anglican Church, he, along with 2000 other Anglican clergy, were ejected from their churches and forbidden to preach within ten miles of a local town. [7] He was often hated by the establishment and the jealous bureaucrats.[8]  As the 17th Century’ most visible pastor, Richard had been leading a spiritual revival in Kidderminster with his 800-strong congregation of weavers.[9]  Packer comments:

In 1681, when Richard wrote this ‘Breviate’ (meaning ‘short account’) of Margaret’s life, he was probably the best known, and certainly the most prolific of England’s Christian authors.  Already in the 1650s, when despite chronic ill health, he masterminded a tremendous spiritual surge in his small-town parish of Kidderminster, he had become a best-selling author and had produced enough volumes of doctrine, devotion, and debate to earn himself the nickname ‘scribbling Dick’.[10]

Baxter was a proponent of what he called ‘mere Christianity’.[11]  He represented the often-ignored human side of Puritanism, how to be a Puritan without being puritanical.[12]  Packer comments:

The Puritanism of history was not the barbarous, sourpuss mentality of time-honoured caricature, still less the heretical Manicheism (denial of the goodness and worth of created things and everyday pleasures) with which some scholars have identified it. It was rather a wholistic renewal movement within English-speaking Protestantism, which aimed to bring all life – personal, ecclesiastical, political, social, commercial; family life, business life, professional life –under the didactic authority and the purging and regenerating power of God in the gospel in the fullest extent possible.[13]

As a pastor/scholar, Baxter had the common touch, being able to connect at both a heart and head level with the humblest and the best educated.[14]  Baxter held that “he is the best scholar who hath the readiest passage from the ear to the brain, but he is the best Christian who hath the readiest passage from the brain to the heart.”[15]   Packer comments:

The Baxter writing style is loose but lucid; it is intimate, informal, repetitive, and schoolmasterly, yet always pointed and weighty, coming hot from both head and heart.  …His zeal for God’s glory, the church’s purity, and the health of souls made it constantly ardent and arresting.[16]

Margaret, as an upper-class dilletante, was an unlikely convert.[17]  Richard observed that she had in her youth been tempted to doubt the life to come and the truth of the Scripture.[18]  Margaret didn’t think much of Baxter or the people of Kidderminster, merely attending church to humour her godly mother.[19]  But God reached her and changed her life.  As a new Christian, she almost died from tuberculosis, but the humble weavers prayed and fasted for her.  God heard their prayers, giving her a miraculous recovery.[20]  Richard commented:

And while we were all rejoicing in her change, she fell into a cough and seeming consumption [a wasting disease, such as tuberculosis] in which we almost despaired of her life( )…I and my praying neighbours were so sorry that such a changed person should be presently taken away before she had time to manifest her sincerity and do God any service in the world, that in grief they resolved to fast and pray for her.  For former experience had lately much raised their belief in the success of prayer( )…But I was with them at prayer for this woman; and compassion made us all extraordinary fervent, and God heard us and speedily delivered her as it were by nothing or by an altogether undersigned means…the next morning her nose bled (which scarce ever did before or since) and the lungs seemed cleared, and her pulse suddenly amended, her cough abated, and her strength returned in a short time. [21]

Choosing to marry Richard was to choose a life of being persecuted.  Richard commented:

Another trial of her wealth and honor was when I and all such others were cast out of all possession and hope of all ecclesiastical maintenance; she was not ignorant of the scorn and the jealousies and wrath and persecutions that I was likely to be exposed to; …To choose a participation of such a life that had no encouragement from any worldly wealth or honor, yea, that was exposed to such certain suffering which had no end in prospect on this side of death, did show that she was far from covetousness.[22]

As a wealthy heiress, Margaret loved to serve the poor and invest in her husband’s ministry to the lost.  She was full of love and forgiveness for all, including her sometimes awkward husband.[23]  Richard, in mutual submission, wrote to  Margaret:

The Lord forgive my great unprofitableness and the sin that brought me under any disabilities to answer your earnest and honest desires of greater helps than I afford you, and help me yet to amend it toward you.[24]

In a neglected part of London, she founded a free school where poor children were taught and learned (catechized) about Jesus.[25]  In one rented facility, over 800 gathered to hear Richard preach. Suddenly the building began to collapse. Margaret ran outside, immediately hiring a carpenter to put an extra support in the building so that the congregants would not die.  It worked.[26]  The memory of this near disaster left Margaret with nightmares.[27]  She was both very fearful and very courageous simultaneously.[28]  Her father, Francis Charlton, Esquire, was a wealthy leading justice of the peace.  One of the traumas of her early childhood was the demolition of her home Apley Castle by Royalist troops in 1644, during the Civil War.[29]  Men were killed right in front of five year old Margaret.[30] Three times more, Margaret faced death, leaving her with PTSD symptoms for the rest of her life.[31]

Her husband, Richard, was often fined and then sent to jail for preaching the gospel.  To keep the authorities from stealing her husband’s many books, she gave them away to budding theologians,  including those in New England.[32] When Richard was thrown in prison, she cheerfully joined him there, bringing her own bedding.[33]  After building a church building for her husband, jealous neighbours had the visiting minister arrested, thinking that they had captured her husband.  After being forced ten miles out of town in 1669 for preaching the gospel, the Baxters had to live in a dilapidated farm where “the coal smoke so filled the room that we were even suffocated with the stink. And she had ever a great constriction of the lungs that could not bear smoke or closeness.”[34]

The Baxters entered marriage with their eyes open.[35]  Packer commented: “Vividly aware of each other’s faults, they loved each other just the same, ever thankful for having each other and ever eager to give to each other.”[36]  Margaret was always trying to improve her husband for his own good.[37] Packer commented that she was reserved, intense, highly strung, restless, ardent, fearful, passionate and perfectionist, sad and self-condemning.[38]

 Initially Richard saw his wife as too fussy about cleanliness. Why waste your time cleaning the house when you and your servants can read a good book?[39]   But marriage for them was more about spiritually maturing than getting their own way. Richard commented “If God calls you to a married life, expect…trouble…and make particular preparation for each temptation, cross, and duty which you must expect.  Think not that you are entering into a state of mere [pure and unmixed] delight, lest it prove but a fool’s paradise to them.”[40]

Richard wrote 168 books, many after his ejection from the Kidderminster pulpit.[41] Even though Baxter’s books were largely forgotten after the Great Eviction of 1662, they were later rediscovered by John Wesley, William Wilberforce[42], and most recently by Dr. JI Packer.[43]  Margaret, who spoke her mind, informed her husband that he should have written less books, spending more time writing each book.[44]  She also told him that because of his prolific writing and extensive ministry, he was not spending enough time in secret prayer with her.[45]  Margaret was a passionate prayer warrior who often out-prayed her academic husband.[46] Richard commented that Margaret was very desirous that we should all have lived in a constancy of devotion and a blameless innocency.[47]  One of their marital joys was singing a psalm together each morning and evening.[48]  Packer comments that “…Richard was a public man, a preacher and a tireless writer, constantly in the home but not available to Margaret.”[49] 

Richard, who suffered from chronic pain in his later years, regretted how it sometimes affected his temper and communicativeness around Margaret.[50]  Her high-strung nature often clashed with his intensity.[51] Margaret was so afraid of getting cancer that she harmed her own health in the process.[52] Packer comments:

…they were both of fragile health, though in different ways, Margaret being a martyr to migraines and chest congestion and Richard being a veritable museum of diseases, which meant that he lived in some degree of pain most of the time.  He was forthright and hasty, and could be strident; she was gentle and circumspect, and could not bear an angry voice.[53]

  He was convinced from age 20 that he would not be long for this life.[54] Baxter’s physical ailments included “a tubercular cough; frequent nosebleeds and bleeding from his finger-ends; migraine headaches; inflamed eyes; all kinds of digestive disorders; kidney stones and gallstones.” So, he preached and wrote “as a dying man to dying men.”  Like J.I. Packer, his first drafts were often his final drafts.  Packer comments:

Sure that his time was short and that there was a vast amount of work still waiting for him to do, he wrote at top speed and published with little or no revision, so that everything is brisk, frank, rough, and pungent, the literary legacy of a good man in a hurry.[55]

Because Margaret was very sensitive to loud noise, Richard worked hard to modify his sometimes, hasty way of speaking.[56] Calmness was very important for her sense of peace.[57]  He greatly loved and admired Margaret, saying that she was “a woman of extraordinary acuteness of wit, solidity, and judgment, incredible prudence and sagacity and sincere devotedness to God, and unusual strict obedience to him…”[58] Richard was so secure in his own skin that he honoured his wife as a better pastoral counsellor than himself.[59]

In their nineteenth year of marriage, Margaret took a turn for the worse and died.  The bloodletting by doctors had only hastened her demise.[60]  Richard was heartbroken.[61]  As part of his grieving process, he wrote “under the power of melting grief” a book Breviate about his dear wife:

Richard was devastated at his loss and mourned by writing her memoirs – memoirs that have been described as ‘exquisite’, ‘incomparable’, ‘beautiful’.  …With great passion and tenderness, beloved author J.I. Packer illuminates this timeless lovestory, and from it teaches us the qualities of an enduring marriage and about the process of grief.[62]

J.I. Packer believed that Baxter’s book (renamed Grief Sanctified) can transform our marriages in the 21st century.[63]  Packer described this book as “an utterly fascinating pen-portrait, humble, factual, discerning, and affectionate throughout, of the complex, brilliant, highly strung, delicate, secretive, passionate, restless, loyal, managing woman that Margaret was.”[64]  He saw it as a lifeline to the bereaved.[65]  The denial of death in our current culture makes us vulnerable to great emotional dysfunction.[66] The Baxter’s marriage represented a commitment to covenant relationship that brings a course-correction to our self-indulgent culture.[67]  Marriage for Baxter was more about character development into Christ-likeness, than prioritizing one’s own happiness and personal fulfilment.[68]

Packer comments:

Richard and Margaret were what we would call ‘difficult’ people, individual to the point of stubbornness, temperamentally at opposite extremes, and with a twenty-year age gap between them; moreover they were both frequently ill, and were living through a nightmarishly difficult time for person of their convictions.  For Richard, who was officially regarded as the leader and pacesetter of the nonconformists, legal harassment, spying, and peronal sniping were constant, making it an invidious thing to be his wife.  Yet cheerful patience, fostered by constant mutual encouragement drawn from the Word of God, sustained them throughout, and their relationship prospered and blossomed.[69]

Richard, in grieving the loss of Margaret, focused on the goodness of God in time of tragedy.[70] Rather than being resentful and bitter he was grateful for the time that God graciously gave him with his wife.[71] They show us how to make it till death do us part.[72]  God used the fire of the Baxters’ love to transform many lives for eternity.[73] May we too, in this difficult time of COVID-19, trust that the fire of God’s love will strengthen and revive our families and marriages.

Rev. Dr. Ed and Janice Hird

Co-authors, Blue Sky novel


[1] The Black Plague started slowly at first but by May of 1665, 43 had died, in June 6,137 people died, in July 17,036 people died, and at its peak in August, 31,159 people died.

[2] Packer, A Grief Sanctified: Passing through Grief to Peace and Joy (Vine Books, Servant Publications, Ann Arbour, Michigan, 1997), 22. Margaret and her mother Mrs Hanmer followed Pastor Richard Baxter in April 1660 to London where he was involved in the forthcoming restoration of the Church of England.  In 1661, Mrs Hanmer died of fever.  On April 29th 1662, after Richard’s ejection from the Church of England, he received a license to marry Margaret. After ‘many changes…stoppages…and long delays’, they married on Sept 10th 1662.

[3] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 115.

[4] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 116.

[5] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 100. Baxter commented that “the unsuitableness of our age, and my former known purposes against marriage, and against the conveniency of minister’s marriage, who have no sort of necessity, made our marriage the matter of much public talk and wonder.”

[6] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 43.

[7] Hugh Martin, Puritanism and Richard Baxter, 1954, SCM Press, London, p. 55: “On Sunday August 17th 1662, some 2,000 ministers took farewell of their parishes, often in the presence of overflowing and weeping congregations.   One in five of the clergy were ejected.”; Martin, p. 125, “Richard Baxter is usually credited with 168 books”

[8] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 44 . “…wherever Richard was and whatever he was doing, he was the object of continual spying and sniping; he was the tall poppy among Puritan nonconformists…”

[9] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 20. “Kidderminster was an artisan community of some eighteen hundred adults, with weaving as its cottage industry.  Half the town crowded into church every Sunday, and many hundreds had professed conversion.”

[10] J.I. Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 13.

[11] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 15 “Mere Christianity” –meaning historic mainstream Bible-based discipleship to Jesus Christ, without extras, omissions, diminutions, disproportions, or distortions –was Baxter’s own phrase for the faith he held and sought to spread. Three centuries after his time, C.S. Lewis used the same phrase as a title for the 1952 book in which he put together three sets of broadcast talks on Christian basics.  Probably Lewis got the phrase from Baxter… Lewis and Baxter belong together as men with a common purpose as well as a common faith. Now Lewis, like Baxter, also lost his wife in his sixties, and while in the grip of grief, turned to writing –the end product being his justly admired A Grief Observed.”

[12] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 19 “That means they were gloomy, censorious English Pharisees, who wore black clothes and steeple hats, condemned all cheerfulness, hated the British monarchy, and wanted the Church of England and its Book of Common Prayer abolished – right?  Wrong – off track on every point!”

[13] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 23.

[14] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 53. “Richard Baxter was a communicative man, the kind of magnetic, commanding person who makes you feel that he is taking you into his confidence every time he opens his mouth or puts pen to paper.  Augustine, CS Lewis, and Billy Graham are four more instances of this human type – all of them, incidentally, persons with whom in different ways, Baxter is comparable.”

[15] This integration of heart and head in knowing God is a strong emphasis by Dr J.I. Packer as he warns against “hardness of heart and cynicism of the head.” Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, 1652, 153 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/baxter/saints_rest.html;  Dr JI Packer, Morning Devotions talk, AMiA Winter Conference 2010, Greensboro, North Carolina.

[16] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 53.

[17] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, back cover “A True Love Story. Richard and Margaret Baxter came from landowning families who formed England’s aristocracy in the 1600s.  Richard was a Puritan evangelist, pastor and tireless author.  When Richard met Margaret, she was a frivolous, world-minded teenager.” 

[18] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 119.

[19] https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/bedes-wall/margaret-charlton-baxter-puritan-wife/

Initially, when Margaret heard Baxter’s preaching, she had little liking for either him or the people of the town. She had, Baxter tells us in his life of Margaret—A Breviate of the Life of Margaret…Charlton—a “great aversion to the poverty and strictness of the people” of the town. Frivolous and held by the gaieties of this world, she was far more interested in “glittering herself in costly apparel.” (accessed 4/13/2020)

[20] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 22. “…she sickened, and for months seemed to be mortally ill with lung problems that nothing would relieve.  Special intercession with fasting for her life by Baxter and his inner circle of prayer warriors resulted, however, in a sudden cure ‘as if it were nothing’ – a healing which today would be called miraculous, and was one of several such in Kidderminster in Baxter’s time.”

[21] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 64-65.

[22] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 102.

[23] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 119. Baxter commented that “she was for universal love of all true Christians, and against appropriating the Church to a party, and against censoriousness and partiality in religion.”; Packer, Grief Sanctified,124. Baxter said: “But no one was ever readier (than Margaret) to forgive a fault confessed, and which weakness and religious differences caused.” 

[24] Packer, A Grief Sanctified,187. Baxter wrote: “…For though she often said that before she married me, she expected more sourness and unsuitableness than she found; yet I am sure that she found less zeal and holiness and strictness in all words and looks and duties, and less help for her soul, than she expected.”

[25] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 110 Baxter commented that “so much was her heart set on the helping the ignorant, untaught poor about St. James’ that she set up a school there to teach some poor children to read, and the catechism, freely…”

[26] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 106, 108. Baxter commented that “the place being greatly crowded, the beam gave so great a crack as put all the people in a fear.  But a second crack set them all on running and crying out at the windows for ladders…After the first crack, she got down the stairs through the crowd, where others could not get that were stronger. The first man she met, she asked him what profession he was of? He said, a carpenter.  Saith she, “Can you suddenly put a prop under the middle of this beam?”  The man dwelt close by and had a meet prop ready.  He suddenly put it under, while all we above knew nothing of it; but the man’s knocking increased the people’s fears and cry.”

[27] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 108. Baxter commented: “But this fright increased my wife’s diseased frightfulness…  And if eight hundred persons had been buried in the ruins, as the Papists were in Blackfriars, O what a dreadful thing it would have been in the heavy loss, the many dolorous families, and the public scandal!”

[28] Packer, Grief, 126, Baxter wrote that “…she could not bear the clapping of a door or anything that had suddenness, noise or fierceness in it.  (She )…was more fearless of persecution, imprisonment, or losses and poverty thereby, than I or any that I remember to have known.”

[29] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 19.

[30]Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 97. Baxter commented: “…her mother’s house, being a garrison, it was stormed when she was in it, and part of the housing about it burnt, and men lay killed before her face.  And all of them were threatened and stripped of their clothing so that they were obliged to borrow clothes.”

[31] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 126. Baxter wrote about “…four times in danger of death, and the storming of her mother’s house by soldiers, firing part, killing, plundering, and threatening the rest…”

[32]  Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 113. : Baxter commented: “When warrants were out (from Sir Thomas Davis) to distrain of [ie confiscate and sell] my goods for fines for my preaching, she did without any repining encourage me to undergo the loss and did herself take the trouble of removing and hiding my library awhile (many score books being so lost), and after she encouraged me to give it away, bona fide, some to New England, and the most at home to avoid distraining on them.  And the danger of imprisonment and of paying a fine of 40 pounds for every sermon…”

[33] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 47. On the occasion when Baxter’s home preaching landed him in Clerkenwell jail with a six-month sentence, she “cheerfully went with me into prison; she brought her best bed thither…I think she scarce ever had a pleasanter time in her life.”:   https://mylordkatie.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/margaret-baxter-a-high-calling/ “So completely loyal was Margaret that she insisted on joining him in prison! A friendly jailor allowed her to make the prison room comfortable for Richard and herself. (accessed 4/13/2020)

[34] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 47, 104.

[35] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 186. “Richard and Margaret, the workaholic pastor and the willful rich girl, started with the Puritan idea of marriage and built their relationship on that basis with spectacular success. As we can now see, they loved each other realistically, neither idolizing nor idealizing each other.”

[36] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 186.

[37] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 44, 146. Baxter commented: “The pleasing of a wife is usually no easy task.  There is an unsuitableness in the best and wisest and most alike…Those who agree in religion, in love and interest, yet may have different apprehensions about occasional occurrences, persons, things, words. That will seem the best way to one that seems the worst to the other.  And passions are apt to succeed and serve these differences.  Very good people are hard to be pleased.  My own dear wife had high desires of my doing and speaking better than I did, but my badness made it hard for me to do better.” “My dear wife did look for more good in me than she found, especially lately in my weakness and decay. We are all like pictures that must not be looked up too near. Those that come near us find more faults and badness in us than others at a distance know.”

[38] Packer A Grief Sanctified, 97.; Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 117. “Richard celebrates Margaret’s quick intelligence, competence in business, brilliance with moral dilemmas, joy in the gospel, in God, in godliness and in being a despised nonconformist, excellence as a homemaker, gentle patience with people of all sorts, faithfulness in chiding her husband as necessary, desire for fullest spiritual intimacy with him at all times. And great love for her mother, despite battles with nightmarish fears that threatened her sanity.”

[39] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 60: “I had been bred among plain, lower-class people, and I thought that so much washing of stairs and rooms, to keep them as clean as possible their trenches and dishes, and so much ado about cleanliness and trifles, was a sinful eccentricity and expense of servants’ time, while have been spent reading a good book.  But she that had otherwise been bred had somewhat other thoughts.”

[40] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 31. “See that you be furnished with marriage strength and patience, for the duties and sufferings of a married state, before you venture on it…”

[41] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 13. “Debarred in 1662 from parochial ministry by the unacceptable terms on which the Act of Uniformity reestablished the Church of England, he made writing his main business, and by 1680, he made writing his main business…”

[42] Hugh Martin, 176, 180 Baxter inspired Wilberforce by his fearless stand against the slave trade, saying: “To go as pirates and catch up poor negroes or people of another land, that never forfeited life or liberty, and to make them slaves, and sell them, is one of the worse kinds of thievery in the world. “Richard Boyce the scientist said that Richard Baxter feared no man’s displeasure, nor hoped for any man’s preferment.”

[43] Hugh Martin, 125 “Baxter’s influence of the ‘Clapham Sect’ is just one part of the story of his speaking after death.”; 131 “(Baxter’s) ‘Reformed Pastor’ influenced Spener, the founder of German Pietism; 146 “Spurgeon (was a) close student of the Puritan preachers, including Baxter.”; JI Packer,  A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, Publisher: Crossway Books, 1994.

[44] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 123.

[45] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 45, 121. Baxter commented: “She was very desirous that we should all have lived in a constancy of devotion and a blameless innocency.  And in this respect, she was the meetest helper that I could have had in the world;…for I was apt to be over-careless in my speech and too backward to my duty, and she was always endeavoring to bring me to greater wariness and strictness in both.  If I spoke rashly or sharply, it offended her; if I behaved (as I was apt) with too much neglect of ceremony or humble compliment to any, she would modestly tell me of it; if my very looks seemed not pleasant, she would have me amend them (which my weak, pained state of body undisposed me to do); if I forgot any week to catechize my servants and familiarly instruct them personally (beside my ordinary family duties [i.e. household prayers twice daily]), she was troubled at my remissiveness.”

[46] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 99. Baxter commented that “…her fervent, secret prayers; for, living in a great house of which the middle part was ruined by the [Civil] wars, she chose a closet in the further end, where she thought none heard it. But some who overheard her said they never heard so fervent prayers from any person.”

[47] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 120.

[48] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 46. “It was not the least comfort that I had in the converse of my late dear wife, that our first in the morning and last in bed at night was a psalm of praise.” 

[49] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 44.

[50] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 123. Baxter commented: “She could not well bear to hear one speak loud or hastily or eagerly or angrily, even to those who deserved it.  My temper in this she blamed as too quick and earnest.”

[51] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 44. “Moreover, neither of them had a really easy temperament.  Margaret was highly strung and a bundle of fears inside, which she made worse by bottling them up; Richard was hasty and frequently offhand, as persons who live in pain often are, and was inclined to be downcast and irritable when things did not go his way.”

[52] Packer, Grief, 47 “She was obsessive about her health, too, spending much of her adult life in fear of mental collapse, starving herself for years for fear that overeating would bring on cancer, and thereby as it seems undermining her own constitution.”

[53] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 43, 103. Baxter commented that “…she could not endure to hear one give another any sour, rough, or hasty word. Her speech was always kind and civil, whether she had anything to give or not.”

[54] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 171 “Richard, who had thought of himself from the age of twenty as living with one foot in the grave…”; Packer, 149. Baxter finished his book on Margaret with these words: “I am waiting to be next. The door is open. Death will quickly draw the veil and make us see how near we were to God and one another, and did not sufficiently know it.  Farewell vain world, and welcome true everlasting life.  Finis.”

[55] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 53.

[56] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 97. Baxter commented: “She was of an extraordinary sharp and piercing wit. She had a natural reservedness and secrecy, increased by thinking it necessary prudence not to be open…she had a natural tenderness and troubledness of mind upon the crossing of her just desires…she had a diseased, unresistable fearfulness; her quick and too sensitive nature was over-timorous.”;   Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 120. Baxter commented, “If I spoke rashly or sharply, it offended her.”;

[57] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 127. Baxter  commented: “Indeed, she was so much for calmness, deliberation, and doing nothing rashly and in haste,  and my condition and business as well as temper made me do and speak much so suddenly, that she principally differed from me and blamed me in this: Every considerable case and business she would have me take time to think much of before I did it or spoke or resolved of anything.”;   Packer, 127-128 Baxter commented: “…not withstanding her over-quick and feeling temper, was all for mildness, calmness, gentleness, pleasingness, and serenity.” 

[58] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 45, 170; Lloyd-Thomas, 249.

[59] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 118. Baxter commented: “Yes, I will say that, except in cases that required learning and skill in theological difficulties, she was better at resolving a case of conscience than most divines that ever I knew in all my life.”

[60] https://mylordkatie.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/margaret-baxter-a-high-calling/

Finally, the doctors followed the common practice of bleeding her and she lost the last of her strength. After severe illness for twelve days, she died on June 14, 1681, aged only forty-two. (accessed 4/13/2020)

[61] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 13.

[62] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, back cover.; Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 14 “…the writer’s discipline of getting things into shape  is always therapeutic at times of emotional strain.”; Packer, Grief, 56, 169 “…composing the Breviate was perhaps the most therapeutic thing Richard could have done for the managing of his grief process in his life.”

[63] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 15 “…Baxter’s Breviate, though low-key and matter-of-fact in style, is Puritan spiritual storytelling at its best: story telling that is made more poignant by Richard’s intermittent unveiling of his grief as he goes along.

[64] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 177.

[65] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 162 “…Richard and Lewis each gave the world a small book forged in the furnace of grief that is frank, poignant, profound, and a lifeline for the bereaved.” 

[66] Packer, Grief, 164 Packer commented that “In our death-denying, live-forever-down-here culture, we do not know how to cope with the emotional effect of our loved one’s death.”

[67] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 181. “Popular culture today treats structure in relationships as restrictive rather than liberating, and impoverishing than enriching.”;  Packer, 193 “For Richard and Margaret, as for the whole Bible-based Puritan movement, marriage was a covenant partnership meant to be God-centered and lifelong, a privilege, a calling, and a task.”  

[68] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 31 “…Richard brings all this down to earth, stressing that what makes for God-honoring marriage is not euphoria but character, consideration, and commitment: in other words, personal formation, reflection, and resolution.”

[69] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 30.

[70] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 181, Baxter commented, “You see here that suitableness in religious judgement and disposition preserveth faster love and concord (as it did with us) than suitableness in age, education, and wealth…Nothing causest so near and fast and comfortable a union as to be united in one God, one Christ, one Spirit, one church, one hope of heavenly glory.”; Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 189 “…the experiential emotional fruit of the bereavement event, is, as we have seen, a state of desolation and isolation, of alternating apathy and agony, of inner emptiness and exhaustion.  …Do not let your grief loosen your grip on the goodness and grace of your loving Lord.”

[71] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 167 …Richard, whose memoir praises God for Margaret, and Margaret herself for her godliness, throughout.”; Packer, 171 “…Richard’s sense of deserving none of the good gifts of earthly marriage…”

[72] Packer, A Grief Sanctified, 177. “Richard’s purpose of writing ‘true history’ led him to recount Margaret’s weaknesses, flaws, and struggles alongside her strengths, virtues, and achievements. He does not present as a plaster saint but as a born-again servant of God with a heart of gold, feet of clay, and huge natural vulnerabilities.” 

[73] Packer, A Grief Transformed, 193. “Why did I put this book together?  …First I wanted you to meet Richard Baxter.  Through his writings, he has been a close personal friend of mine for over half a century, and I wanted to share him.  An outstanding pastoral evangelist, a gifted and prolific devotional writer, and a major prophet (unheeded, unfortunately) to the Anglican Church in the second half of the seventeenth century, he is endlessly interesting; for beyond his public roles he was a great and communicative human being who lets you hear his heart beat as he writes.  …I wanted to introduce you to him as a husband working at his Puritan marriage, and as a widower grieving for the lively lady who had been his life-partner for almost twenty years.  …They were two memorable Christian people with whom I would have loved to spend time…They enrich my life; I should like them to enrich yours too.”

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you. 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


Leave a comment

Light Magazine online

The Light Magazine, published by Steve Almond and team, is available at http://www.lightmagazine.ca.  You can view the April 2020 digital version.

In this season of COVID-19 isolation, you are encouraged to repost this on your page, and send it to your friends.

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


Leave a comment

William Wilberforce: Erring on the Side of Graciousness

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird William Wilberforce had two main goals: the abolition of slavery and the reform of morals.

Abraham Lincoln once said that every school child should know about William Wilberforce.[i]  Preston Manning, former Parliamentary Opposition Leader, recently gave a talk in Abbotsford on the gracious political persistence of Wilberforce.  For twenty long years from 1787 to 1807, Wilberforce campaigned relentlessly for the abolition of the slave trade.  It was incredibly painful and often deeply discouraging.  What kept him from giving up as he faced defeat after defeat?  Wilberforce had previously lived a self-indulgent life as a very wealthy upper class Englishman.  What motivated him to stopped wasting his life in drinking, gambling and endless parties?  Wilberforce was a popular Member of Parliament who wowed crowds with his remarkable singing and wit.  Prime Minister William Pitt said that Wilberforce had the greatest natural eloquence of all the men he had ever known.[ii]  What caused Wilberforce to choose the unpopular path of putting principle above politics, and conscience over ambition?

With the death of Wilberforce’s father at just age 40, William’s comfortable world was radically shaken.  At only eight, after his mother’s serious illness, he was shipped off to his Uncle William and Aunt Hannah in Wimbledon.  Unbeknownst to his mother, he became exposed to a deep faith, even becoming mentored by Rev. John Newton, the former slave-ship captain and author of the song Amazing Grace.  Some trace Wilberforce’s hatred of slavery back to this earliest encounter.  When Wilberforce’s wealthy grandfather got wind of his new spirituality, he threatened to disinherit him.  So Wilberforce’s mother promptly rescued him and did her best to cure him through endless parties and upper class distractions.  For a while, the cure was effective.  After his grandfather’s death, Wilberforce inherited the family fortune which funded his election as a very young English MP.  His good friend William Pitt Jr, at the age of only 24, became the youngest prime minister in English history.

While spending the winter at the fashionable French and Italian Rivieras, he was suddenly called back to London in support of William Pitt’s Parliamentary Reform Bill. While crossing the Swiss Alps, Wilberforce read The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul by Philip Doddridge.  Both Doddridge and John Wesley were instrumental in reintroducing the forgotten teachings of Richard Baxter about self-examination, solitude, devotions, and diligence.[iii]  In discussing Doddridge’s book with his former tutor Isaac Milner, Wilberforce’s life was never the same.  He rediscovered his childhood faith at an adult level.  Wilberforce, with Milner’s assistance, began reading the bible in the original Greek.  He wanted to find out for himself what the Christian faith was actually about.  He discovered that it was not about a system of gloomy prohibitions.  True faith is about peace and hope and joy.  The Amazing Grace movie, which Preston Manning often shows to young leaders, vividly portrays that when Wilberforce fell in love with Jesus, he also fell in love with God’s creation.  As a 18th-century flower child, he saw flowers as the smiles of God’s goodness.[iv]

Rather than drop out of politics as he was tempted to do, Wilberforce turned his new-found faith into practical action.  Prime Minister Pitt wrote him, saying: “Surely the principles as well as the practice of Christianity are simple, and lead not to meditation only but to action.”  We are called by Jesus to be salt and light in the public arena.  Reconnecting with his old mentor John Newton, Wilberforce realized that God could use him to end the slave trade: “God almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners.”  Eighteenth-century England was rife with epidemic alcohol abuse, child prostitution, child labour, and animal exploitation.  There were over 14,000 slaves in England alone, but hundreds of thousands more in the rich Caribbean colonies where it was out of sight and out of mind.[v]  The future King of England George IV was famous for his immorality and gambling debts, keeping lockets of hair from all 7,000 women that he had seduced.[vi]  He and his brothers dismissed abolitionists like Wilberforce as fanatics and hypocrites.[vii]

Preston Manning has for years encouraged Christians who want to make a difference in society to follow the example of William Wilberforce.Preston Manning, President and CEO for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, told me that Wilberforce, in abolishing slavery, conducted a classic campaign integrating moral, economic and political issues.  As a committed Christian, Wilberforce followed Jesus’ teaching to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  He was careful how he introduced this taboo subject of abolition.  Rather than politically discrediting others, said Manning, it is better like Wilberforce to err on the side of graciousness.  Because England was the foremost slave-trading nation on earth, it was initially unthinkable to give it up, let alone discuss it.[viii]  Such moral reform appeared to many like commercial suicide.  One merchant accurately put it, the African slave trade was “the foundation of our commerce,…the life of our navigation, and first cause of our national industry and riches.”[ix]  Eighty per cent of overseas British income came from the Caribbean slave plantations.[x]  In Bristol, after the initial defeat of Wilberforce’s bill, bells were rung, a bonfire was lit, and a half-day holiday was awarded to sailors and workers.[xi]  The passion for slave-produced sugar had killed their conscience.  Trinidadian Prime Minister Eric Williams said that it was strange that an article like sugar, so sweet and necessary to human existence, should have occasioned such crimes and bloodshed![xii]

While fighting the slave trade, Wilberforce also invested in improving the life of England’s poor, giving one quarter of his income, representing the equivalent of $300,000 away each year.  He started cancer hospitals, eye clinics and many faith-based schools for the poor.[xiii]  One civic leader begged them to not bring ‘any religion into the country, it was the worst thing in the world for the poor, for it made them lazy and useless.’[xiv]  Wilberforce knew that without prayer, all his anti-slavery work would be in vain: “Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer.”[xv]

While the slave trade was abolished in 1807, the slaves were not liberated until just before Wilberforce’s death.  800,000 Afro-Caribbeans were set free on July 31st 1834. Some abandoned slavery because of changes in the industrial free market.  Wilberforce however opposed slavery for godly, humanitarian reasons.  While moving a motion for abolition, Wilberforce said “Africa! Africa! Your sufferings have been the theme that has arrested and engages my heart – your sufferings no tongue can express; no language impart.”[xvi]

Sadly there are still today twenty-seven million people trapped in slavery and human trafficking.  May Wilberforce’s godly example cause us to choose to make a lasting global difference.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, D.Min

-published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News, the Light Magazine, Academia.edu, and Church for Vancouver

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you. 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


[i] Ted Baehr, Susan Wales and Ken Wales, The Amazing Grace of Freedom: the Inspiring Faith of William Wilberforce. (New Leaf Press, Green Forest, AR, 2007), p. 23.

[ii] Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace (Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2007), p. 41.

[iii] William Hague, William Wilberforce: the Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner,(HarperCollins Publishers, London, UK, 2007), p. 74.

[iv] Hague, p. 205.

[v] Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace (Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2007), p. 94.

[vi] Metaxas, p. 72.

[vii] Metaxas, p. 158

[viii] Eric Williams, Slavery and Capitalism, (Andre Deutsch Limited, London, UK, 1964), p. 34.

[ix] Hague, p. 119.

[x] Hague, p. 119.

[xi] Hague, p. 225.

[xii] Williams, p. 27.

[xiii] Hague, p. 221.

[xiv] Hague, p. 213.

[xv] Baehr, Wales, and Wales, p. 110.

[xvi] Metaxas, p. 151.