A Christian Directory, or, A Summ of Practical Theologie (Richard Baxter)
The post-Reformation period became a time of significant analysis, by Catholic and Protestant religious leaders alike, into the spiritual self-knowledge deemed necessary to spiritual healing. The Puritan minister Richard Baxter followed largely in Robert Bolton’s footsteps by publishing A Christian Directory (1653), although he differed from many of his contemporaries by identifying no spiritual consolation for melancholy whatsoever. Indeed, Baxter identified melancholy as a definitively medical ailment. In A Christian Directory, he cautions readers to: “[e]xpect not that Rational, Spiritual Remedies should suffice for this Cure: For you may as well expect that a good Sermon or comfortable words should cure the falling Sickness, or Palsie, or a broken head, as to be a sufficient Cure to your Melancholy fears. For this is as reall a bodily disease as the other.”
Baxter’s reflection offers insight into arguments surrounding melancholy and notions of humour in the period. Religious leaders, naturalists and physicians not only debated remedies for poor temperament, but also debated over which profession held the strongest responsibility for its recovery.
A Look Inside
To the left are the binding, and the frontispiece and title page for A Christian Directory. The title page engraving (shown in more detail above) depicts the way in which Baxter imagines Christian teaching and language were carried to followers.
The Directory is laid out like a Bible, split into two separate columns and offering detailed teachings. There are tables and charts interspersed throughout the book - this one, "God's Attributes to be Imprinted on the Heart" offer some of God's perceived characteristics, and suggestions for replicating those attributes.
FULL TITLE: A Christian Directory : Or, A Summ of PRACTICAL THEOLOGIE, AND CASES OF CONSCIENCE. Directing Christians, how to USE their Knowledge and Faith ; How to improve all Helps and Means, and to Perform all Duties; How to Overcome Temptations, and to escape or mortifie every Sin. In Four Parts.
PUBLISHER: Printed by Robert White, for Nevil Simmons, at the Sign of the Princes Arms in St. Paul's Church-yard. 1678.
ITEM TYPE: Book
CALL NUMBER: BV4500.B37 1678 LARGE
NOTE: ESTC records 37 copies.
TYPE: Roman; Gothic; Italic
LANGUAGES: English; Latin
DEDICATIONS: Dedications, in this volume, are replaced by Advertisements. In this section White attempts to give an account of the "quality and the reasons of this work."
TABLES AND INDEXES: The back of the volume includes an Alphabetical Table of all the Parts of this Book. There are also a couple charts throughout the text, including "A scheme showing the method of the Lord's Prayer" (pp. 97-98) and "God's attributes to be imprinted on the heart" (pp. 68-69).
ILLUSTRATIONS: Front matter contains a double-page spread with a woodcut portrait of Richard Baxter, and a woodcut visually depicting the proposed virtues of the potential reader.
PROVENANCE: 1. CRRS bookplate on inner front cover; 2. CRRS stamp on inner back cover.
Boards: The front board is detached from the volume. Pasteboards and spine have faded brown paint. Embellishments on front and back pasteboards include: embossed floral inner borders, and a gilt floral border around the outer edges of the boards. Spine has six compartments, five raised bands. Author and title are gilt into the board in compartment 2, and each of the other compartments includes a small gilt circle. Patterned floral embossing surrounds the circles in each compartment. Paper: Wove paper throughout volume (starts on page 15). Edges of the pages produce a marbled effect. Book: pages in good condition; minor tears visible and some small stains throughout the book.