A Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live
If you will turn and live, do it determinedly, and do not stand still and deliberate as if it were a doubtful case. Do not stand around wavering as if you were uncertain whether God or the flesh is the better master, whether sin or holiness is the better way, or whether heaven or hell is the better result.
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Oh, careless sinners, I wish you only knew the love that you unthankfully neglect and the preciousness of the blood of Christ that you despise! Oh, that you only knew the riches of the gospel! Oh, that you only knew a little of the certainty, the glory, and the blessedness of that everlasting life that you will not now set your hearts upon or be persuaded to seek diligently now! If you only knew the endless life with God that you now neglect, you would quickly cast away your sin, change your mind and life, change your course and company, turn the direction of your devotion, and spend your energy and time another way.
If you will turn and live, do it determinedly, and do not stand still and deliberate as if it were a doubtful case. Do not stand around wavering as if you were uncertain whether God or the flesh is the better master, whether sin or holiness is the better way, or whether heaven or hell is the better result. Away with your former lusts, and immediately, unceasingly, and wholeheartedly resolve! Do not be of one mind one day and of another mind the next, but be done with the world, and resolvedly give up yourselves and all that you have to God. Before Satan has time to distract you or entice you to change your mind, take a stand for God! You will never truly turn until you resolve, and do so with a firm, unchangeable decision.
About the Author
Richard Baxter (1615–1691) preached “as a dying man to dying men.” He was devoted to God and was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Best known as the minister of Kidderminster in England, his love for God and others resulted in practically the entire town of Kidderminster turning to Jesus during Baxter’s ministry there. Richard Baxter desired unity among Christians, which often resulted in opposition from those who held to church loyalty or theological views rather than to Christ and God’s Word. Baxter had his share of persecution, even being imprisoned on several occasions.
“A Call to the Unconverted” interested me because author Richard Baxter was a Puritan preacher who was born in 1615. Yes, he was a contemporary of Shakespeare, Galileo, Elizabeth I, and Bach. No “woke” would be here, I was pretty sure.
And I was right. This book was Baxter’s effort to convince the unconverted. “With pardon being freely offered to you, and heaven being set before you, He calls you away from your fleshly pleasures, and away from following after this deceitful world, and desires to acquaint you with the life that you were created and redeemed for before you are dead and past remedy.” Now there’s some preaching I can appreciate! None of this “live your best life now” and “God wants you to be happy.”
No, Baxter pleads, “Oh, that the Lord would fill our hearts with more compassion to these wretched souls so that we might cast ourselves even at their feet, follow them to their houses, and speak to them with our bitter tears … Yet a little while, and your friend will say of you, ‘He is dead.’ Then you will see the things that you now despise, and you will feel that which now you will not believe. Death will bring such an argument that you cannot answer. It will be an argument that will powerfully discredit your arguments against the Word and ways of God.”
“Oh, deceived, wretched soul! There is nothing but a slender vile of flesh between you and that amazing sight that will quickly silence you, change your tone, and make you of another mind! As soon as death has drawn this curtain, you will see that which will quickly leave you speechless. How quickly that day and hour will come!”
Baxter goes on (and on and on) like this. Really, it’s motivating, and I can’t imagine anyone reading it who would not want to become a Christian. But I kept thinking, that’s the issue — how many of the unconverted would actually read a book like this? Precious few, I bet. Baxter knew that his efforts at leading the unconverted to Christ would be largely in vain, and his response: “…God the Father condescended to create them, and God the Son did not refuse to bear the penalty of their sins upon the cross and did not judge such sufferings vain (although He knew that by refusing the sanctification of the Holy Spirit they would finally destroy themselves), so we who are His ministers do not judge our labor completely lost, even though these people are not gathered.”
He goes on to elaborate on 7 principles:
* It is the unchangeable law of God that wicked people must turn or die.
* It is the promise of God that the wicked will live if they will simply turn.
* God takes pleasure in people’s conversion and salvation, but not in their death or damnation. He would rather have them return and live than continue in their ways and die.
* This is a most certain truth that God has confirmed to them by His oath because He does not want people to doubt this truth.
* The Lord reinforces His commands and exhortations to the wicked to turn.
* The Lord lowers Himself to reason the case with unconverted sinners and to ask them why they will die.
* If the wicked will not turn after all this, it is not God’s fault that they perish, but it is their own fault. Their own stubbornness and rebellion is the cause of their damnation. Therefore, they die because they choose to die. They refuse to turn.
“Hell would not be so full if people were only willing to know their situation and to hear and think of it.” One issue I had as I read this compelling book was considering its oft-repeated plea to “turn.” Many Sundays we attend a “reformed” church, and they seem to emphasize God’s will deciding who will be saved/converted/”turned.” If God decides who is “in,” is there even a point to tell people to convert? I struggle with this mindset because it’s not the way I was raised, and some Bible verses, like Matthew 23:37 seem to contradict it. Honestly, I can find Bible verses that seem to support each view. It’s confusing. Still, I guess if you are unsaved and feel convicted that you should be saved and want to be, you can be — so was that your will deciding it, or were you “in” all along and you just now realized it? I know, I’m getting way too deep here for a book review 🙂
I was really impressed with Baxter’s heart for the lost. “If we would plead with them with tears to turn, we still cannot persuade them. What more can we do?”
“Heaven will make up for the loss of anything that we can lose to obtain it, or for any labor that we expend for it, but nothing can pay for the loss of heaven.” Love this thought!
I have a few in my world who I wish would read this book — but again, those who need it would be unlikely to read it. “Now or later, you must come to this — either to be converted, or to wish you had been when it is too late.” I so wish pastors today would preach like this! I’m sure it would empty out some churches, but no doubt it would save some souls.
“The wisdom of God has thought proper to place people’s salvation or destruction exceedingly much upon the choice of their own will so that no one will go to heaven who did not choose the way to heaven, and no one will go to hell who will not be obligated to say, ‘I have what I chose. My own will brought me here.’”