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RICHARD BAXTER ON CONVERSION #4 –
THE NATURE OF CONVERSION –
A CHANGE OF AFFECTIONS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, June 24, 2001


"They that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you…" (Romans 8:8-9).

In the last chapter we saw four changes that take place in the heart at conversion. In this chapter I will explain the fifth change in the heart, the change of affections, or feelings toward God. There can be no question that there is a change in the feelings, love, liking, and devotion of the one who experiences true conversion.

1. The first of the feelings that change are love and hatred. Before conversion the heart does not love spiritual things. It does not love inward holiness or a holy life. It does not love people who are holy. It does not love God Himself, since He is just and holy. Indeed, the unconverted heart has an inward hatred of God and His ways. However, the unconverted person is usually so self-deceived that he doesn't know this about himself.

The unconverted heart, instead of loving the things of God, on the contrary, loves pleasure and earthly profit, and the honor of the world, because it likes the taste of these things alone (Romans 8:5).

But conversion turns your love into hatred. It makes you love the holy God and His holy people and their way of living, which you could not love before, and makes you hate the sins which you loved so much in the past. Conversion changes your loves and hatreds.

The proof that this is true in all real conversions can be seen in the following verses:

"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37).

"In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord" (Psalm 15:4).

"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (I John 3:14).

They hated light before, because it was against their sins. But now they love it and come to it (John 3:19-20). On the other hand, the evil actions that they do, they hate (Romans 7:15). Yes, they hate even the garments spotted by the flesh (Jude 23). This means that they now hate anything that bears the marks of a sensual life.

2. The second two affections that change are desire and aversion, what you like and what you don't like. These are similar to love and hatred – so I don't need to say too much about them. Unconverted people desire sensual things, which they love. They can never have enough of these things. The covetous man can never have enough money. The ambitious man can never have enough prestige. The sensualist can never be satisfied. Their whole life thirsts for the things of the flesh (Romans 13:14), and fulfilling its desires (Ephesians 2:3).

But concerning God, and church, and Heaven they have no appetite. They are naturally against these things, and at best have only cold acceptance of them. This is why they reject all efforts to save them. If someone tries to make them think about spiritual things, there is something inside them that is against it, so they will not listen or be converted.

This is why our work as ministers does so little good. If they had as much desire for Christ as they have for worldly vanity, think how quickly and easily they would be converted!

But when converting grace comes, it will change your desires. When converting grace comes to you it leaves a secret thirst for Jesus in your soul. Then you will cry out with David, "My soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land" (Psalm 143:6). Then the desire of your soul will be for Christ. You will see that He is more to be desired than gold, yea, than fine gold (Psalm 19:10).

Before, you desired many things, and nothing satisfied you. Now you want only one thing – Jesus – and you will be fully satisfied in Him (Psalm 27:4; 73:25).

3. The next two affections changed in conversion are delight and sorrow. Unconverted people naturally find no pleasure in God or spiritual things. "A fool hath no delight in understanding" (Proverbs 18:2). It is sensual pleasure that they desire (Titus 3:3), and the pleasures "of sin for a season" that they wish for with the greatest delight (Hebrews 11:25). They live in pleasure on the earth, and fatten themselves for the day of slaughter (James 5:5). They not only do evil, but also enjoy being with those who do it (Romans 1:32). These "scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge" (Proverbs 1:22).

But when converting grace comes it gives you desires you never had before. Then the things that seemed uninteresting to you, and boring to you before, will become delightful and enjoyable. God Himself will be enjoyed by you (Psalm 40:8). On Sunday you will enjoy worshipping Him in church. This will be no hardship to you, because you will love it when you are converted.

The wicked think they will never have a day of enjoyment again if they become Christians, but they will actually enjoy themselves more after they are converted than they ever did before! The enjoyment that true Christians have in the things of God is more than everything they delighted in before.

The same is true of the sorrow of the converted. It is not the same as it was before conversion. It once caused them great pain to lose any pleasure, or to be wronged, or to suffer disgrace from people, or the loss of something, or bodily pain. They were truly the way Satan falsely accused Job of being. If you touched or took away anything from them they would have cursed God. But the lost state of their souls did not bother them at all. They were far more concerned about a small thing in this world than about their everlasting souls.

But it is completely different when conversion comes. They will now weep over their sins, and cry because of their wickedness in the sight of God. They were not in tears over their sins before, as they are now. They were not sorrowful over missing Heaven before, now they are so full of sorrow over sin that they shake off the world and sin. They do all they can to conquer their sins and stop them.

4. The next affections which are changed in conversion are hope and despair. Before conversion the minds of the lost are either lifted up by false hopes, or else they fall into despair. The hopes of an unconverted person are against the Bible; they show the self-delusion of the soul, and they lead to eternal destruction.

As a person imagining he is going to London, but is actually going in the opposite direction, so these people commonly hope to get to Heaven while they are travelling on the road to Hell. Although God has told them that they will not have peace if they travel this road (Isaiah 59:8), and has assured them that there is no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 57:21; 48:22), yet they do not believe God; they go on hoping to find peace by living a wicked life. These deceiving hopes are the cause of eternal damnation for millions, as the Bible frequently tells us.

But when converting grace comes, it batters down the false hopes of sinners, and makes them see how they have been deceived by Satan. It makes a person see that all the things he trusted in were false hopes that could not save him. You will then say, "I had hoped to go to Heaven without conversion, but now I see that it can't be. I had hoped to be good enough. But now I realize that I deceived myself. I had hoped to be saved by Christ, although I loved the world and my sins. But now I see that I was a blind fool. I once thought I would be saved if I died, but now I see that I would have been lost forever."

Now you will be brought into a condition of despair that you can never get to Heaven without conversion. You will realize that you could never be saved if you kept on thinking like you once did.

And then comes a new kind of hope that you never had before. Now you turn your hopes toward God and Christ. Now your hope is built on Scriptures and on Jesus Christ, Himself! Your hope will be built, then, on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness!

5. The next change in affections occurs with courage and fear. An unconverted person sins boldly but has no fear of the wrath of God and Hellfire. These poor blind people are so courageous in their wickedness that they dare to sin while those who are converted dare not. They dare to miss church, drink, tell dirty stories, have lost friends, and think little of God. They dare to risk the wrath of God and Hell itself. If you tell them these things it has no effect on them whatever. In their insane courage, they dare to destroy their own souls. Like a psychologically imbalanced lunatic, who dares to leap in the water and drown himself, or a blind man, who dares to go down a dangerous mine-shaft, because he cannot see the great danger, this is the kind of insane courage lost people have.

But in the way of doing what is right, they are well-known cowards. They will not go through the slightest suffering now to prevent eternal suffering later. They are not willing to have any person even slightly make fun of them for Christianity and church attendance. Yet they have no concern at all about whether God is displeased with them. If they have some thought about becoming Christians, a wicked man can easily tease and laugh them out of it. Unconverted people do not dare to stand up against the mocking of their lost relatives and lost friends, the weakest enemies of Christianity. Yet they boldly risk the flames of Hell on a daily basis. This is common among unconverted people.

But when converting grace comes, you will be affected in the exact opposite way. Then you will be afraid of God and His displeasure, and very courageous against the opposition of lost friends and relatives. You will think then that it is insanity, not courage, to be fearless of the wrath of God. No one can stand against the all-powerful God, if He is against you. Therefore, in conversion, a person lays himself at the feet of God and says, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). This is the reason that converts in Bible times used to come trembling to Christ (Acts 16:29; 9:6). The Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). Now, in conversion, you would not dare to do what you did before. You would have cursed and sworn, but now you don't dare. You would have secretly deceived and tricked other Christians, but now you don't dare. You would have committed other secret sins, because no one saw you, but now you don't dare do it, because you fear God who is greater than all. Now if you are tempted to sin, you think, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). By this "fear of the Lord, men depart from evil" (Proverbs 16:6). It is the work of conversion to bring hardened sinners to the fear of God.

When you are converted you will have little fear for the threats of men, worldly losses, or anything else that stands in the way of getting to Heaven! The truly converted have very little fear of these things. Here, where the lost are most cowardly, the converted soul is most courageous. (Dr. Hymers' note: I have often been asked where I got the courage to take various unpopular but Biblical stands. My answer is that I didn't feel courage at all. I just felt this was the right stand to take, and took it. I think when a person is converted God becomes real and man is seen for what he is – a little shadow – swiftly passing away. When these Bible truths are seen in conversion, little courage is needed to take the right stand. The reason so few pastors do this in our day of apostasy is that so few of them are converted today). The converted person will say, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?" (Psalm 118:6). "In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me" (Psalm 56:11). "Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation" (Isaiah 51:7,8).

When God changes people in conversion, He makes them soldiers under the flag of Christ, and sets them to fight against principalities and powers – the demons of this world. God therefore certainly gives courage to the converted. The reason we see so little courage among church people today is that only a few of them have been converted. Make sure you are one of that small number!

"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

6. The next passion which changes in conversion is anger. This is a single passion and has no opposite. Before conversion, people are angry with those who confront them with their sins. If you speak to those who are lost against their beloved sins, they become very angry with you, as if you did them some deadly harm. You cannot speak to them very softly about their sins, without them taking great offence, as if you were out to disgrace and destroy them! When we do only half our duty as ministers, those whom we tell are lost are highly offended at us, as if we did too much. When I consider what Heaven and Hell are, that one of them will be at the end of every person's life, my conscience tells me that I should be very earnest with lost sinners, and take no excuse from them, until they turn to Jesus Christ in full conversion. They will say you are too zealous and too narrow if you do that. But aren't those the same things the Pharisees thought about Jesus Christ? Christ Himself is an offence to the ungodly world (I Peter 2:8; Romans 9:33). No wonder then if we who are converted to Christ also offend them. They will bear a secret grudge in their minds against a Christian who troubles them in their sins. "Anger resteth in the bosom of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

If you came in with a light and caught a thief or an adulterer, he would be offended. So are most wicked people when a minister points out their sins.

But when converting grace comes you will have a change of heart. You will then thank the preacher you were angry with. You will not love anyone more than you love the person who cared for your soul. A special love to those who were the means of your conversion will remain in your heart forever. You will be like an insane man who fought with his doctor, and treats those who try to cure him as if they came to kill him. But when he returns to his right mind, he will thank the doctors with all his heart. A sinner, before his conversion, is angry with those who try to help him – but when God turns his heart he will deeply love the faithful reprover.

When you are converted, your anger will turn away from others and will be turned against yourself. You were never so angry at the preacher for reproving you as you are now at yourself, for sinning against God. There is in every converted person a great anger or indignation against himself because of his sin. Then you will say, "I have sinned greatly" (II Samuel 24:10). Paul himself says he was insane! "Exceedingly mad against" the Christians before his conversion (Acts 26:11). And of himself and some other people, he said, "We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" (Titus 3:3). So you see that converted people are angry with themselves for their sinfulness. Therefore every converted sinner hates himself for his iniquity. This is why a real convert easily denies himself, while a false convert will not. False converts fall back into nominal Christianity because they have never been brought to hate themselves and their sinfulness. They have been forgiven little, so they love little (Luke 7:47). They easily, therefore, fall back into sin and nominal Christianity, because their conversion was false in the first place (Luke 8:13-14).

7. The last change in the affections made by converting grace is in the area of man’s content and discontent.Before you are converted, you are discontented if you do not have worldly pleasure. It is the things of this world that lost people find satisfaction and happiness in. But as for spiritual and heavenly things – they can do just as well without them.

But conversion changes the heart also on these things. For when you are converted, you will be satisfied with any state of life as long as you can have communion with God. A lost person is troubled and restless if his friends, or his house, or his health or something else in this world is not just right. He is discontented because it is on this earth that he looks for contentment. Therefore he is troubled when he misses earthly joys.

A true convert, on the other hand, is troubled on this deep level more by spiritual things than physical. If God hides His face, if the Spirit appears to withdraw, if there is trouble between him and a brother in the church, he is deeply pained and troubled. Nothing will make him feel better until these things are resolved. He is like a child who will not be quieted by anything except that which it cries for. So, the true Christian is not content with anything in the world except Christ Himself. The true convert is content with what he has because God has promised that He will never leave him nor forsake him (Hebrews 13:5).

Now, the Bible says:

"Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

This does not mean that children are sinless, or free from the threat of Hell. This is what Christ means in the verse:

1. At conversion you begin anew, like a child. You begin your life anew – born again! You begin a new life when you are converted, as a child has a new life to live.

2. At conversion you become as a little child in humility and in seeking small things. Children do not think of heaping up wealth or of becoming independent and free of responsibility. Their minds are too simple for these things, and so will your mind be when you are converted. It is as impossible to become a true Christian without humility as it is for a house to stand without a foundation.



Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “Oh, What a Fountain”

by Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."



THE LIFE OF RICHARD BAXTER

“I preach as never sure to preach again,
  and as a dying man to dying men.”        

– Baxter.

The best known of the Puritan authors was Richard Baxter (1615-1691). He has been called “the most successful preacher, winner of souls, and nurturer of souls that England has ever had.” Edmund Calamy called him “The most voluminous theological writer in the English language.” Baxter wrote 160 books. George Whitefield, John Wesley, C. H. Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones regarded him highly.

Born in Shropshire into a somewhat poor family, he never attended a university and was always physically weak. Yet he was self-taught, acquiring great learning on his own. He became the pastor in Kidderminster, a town near Birmingham, in 1647. The people there were very wicked. The pastor he replaced was a drunkard who preached only once every three months! Hardly any of the church members were converted when he became the pastor. During his years at Kidderminster he visited all of the 800 families in his church every year, teaching each person individually. He put forth his method of ministry in his well-known book, The Reformed Pastor, the greatest book on pastoring that has ever been written.

The outstanding feature of Baxter’s preaching was his earnest zeal. In his writing and preaching he shows his belief that pastors need “the skill necessary to make plain the truth, to convince the hearers, to let in the irresistible light into their consciences, and to keep it there, and drive all home; to screw truth into their minds and work Christ into their affections.”

He had “no Calvinistic axe to grind,” and sought to mediate between Arminianism and Calvinism. He attempted to soften some points of Calvinism by advocating “free will.” Baxter’s method was a middle way, which he called “mere Christianity” (C. S. Lewis used this phrase from Baxter as the title of his famous book).

His great strength lay in his pastoral ability and in his evangelistic preaching. The main purpose of his sermons was to see the lost converted. His book, A Call to the Unconverted, is a hard-hitting plea for the lost to come to Christ.

Although he preached before the King, in Parliament, and in Westminster Abbey, his favorite pulpit was in his own church, speaking to the poor people of Kidderminster.

After the Act of Uniformity, he was put in prison in the Tower of London for eighteen months because he was unwilling to stay in the Church of England. While in prison, he was often visited by the great commentator Matthew Henry.

Written in 1657, Baxter’s Treatise on Conversion is a great book. But it is too lengthy, and the wording is too difficult, for most people today. I have condensed it and rearranged it, and have changed difficult words to simpler ones, to reach the less literate mind of modern man. I hope these sermons from Baxter are a blessing to you. They indeed correct the shallow “decisionism” of our day – which is damning millions to eternal torment.