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RICHARD BAXTER ON CONVERSION #5 –
AN APPEAL TO THE UNCONVERTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, July 1, 2001


"Why will ye die?” (Ezekiel 33:11).


I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ. My purpose is your salvation. I know that very soon we will be in another world, and we will all meet at the day of Judgment. My business is to prepare you for that day. I have not tried to please you. I have not given you funny stories or new doctrines. I hope you will pardon my bluntness when you realize that you are lost, and that my business as a pastor is to get you converted.

I hate preaching that only “tickles the ears” and leaves the hearer unconcerned and unconverted. If the town was on fire, it would not be right to play the violin and dance. The right thing to do would be to put out the fire! If I saw you sinking in a broken ship, ready to drown if you had no help, it would not be right for me to give you a great speech. I should, instead, be helping you out of danger!

I must tell you, therefore, that I come to help you out of the misery and suffering of your unconverted state. I see your destruction just a little in front of you – and I come in the name of God to call on you to take a stand now, and go on no farther in your wickedness.

Do not delay any longer. Turn from your sinful condition to Jesus Christ. If you do not believe on Christ, you will be ruined. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die” (Romans 8:13).

What do you say? Will you turn to Christ from the lusts of the flesh, the love of the world, and a careless, ungodly life – or will you refuse to do that? Let your answer be “yes” or “no.” Will you turn to Christ and be converted? – or will you refuse? Do any of you dare to say “no”? I hope not! But it is the same as saying “no” if your heart says nothing. Don’t tell me about your hope of being saved – with a cold look on your face! A thousand professions like this, without feeling, have left souls to perish in endless terror. It requires a very strong desire and purpose to be converted.

What do you say? Will you turn, or won’t you? Be careful what you say – because God is present and sees your heart! Do not stand still between two opinions! If Baal (Satan) be God, follow him – if your friends in the world be God – follow them – But if the Lord be God, follow Him! (I Kings 18:21).

Don’t tell me you are going to wait until tomorrow, or some time after that. This always means that you want to keep sinning a little longer. No promise that you will search for conversion is honest unless you mean to do it now! The person who will not come to Christ today will never do it! No one who loves God wants to put off being reconciled to God. Do it now – if you are serious! Stop fooling with God. A person who would keep his sins for one night will keep them a year, seven years, and forever – if he can. If you would not come to Christ now, you would never do it. To help you determine your answer, here are some serious questions.

1. What do you think would have happened to you if you had died before conversion? Where do you think you would be right now if you had died last week? If you had died unconverted a month ago, where would you be today? You say that you don’t know? Well, what does the Bible say? Do you know that? Concerning the unconverted, God says He will “cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42).

How easily God could have killed you last week. He could have killed you by choking you to death on your food. He could have killed you by letting your foot slip, by an automobile accident, besides many hundreds of diseases. You would have died, and your unconverted soul would have sunk down into the flames of another world.

You can’t really imagine how terrible it is for an unconverted soul to suddenly appear in front of God. Many people are alarmed when they think what a change death makes. But think further – what it will be like to suddenly be ejected from your body into a black world of fallen angels, undying worms, and burning fire, with demons screaming and gnawing on you – and no water to drink! It is everlasting torment, which should upset the unconverted wicked. Oh, friend, think of the horrible state you would have been in if you had died a few days ago without being converted! God says to you just what he said to Lot:

“Escape for thy life; look not behind thee…” (Genesis 19:17).

That is the warning I give you – “Escape for your life! Look not behind you! Do not stay in your sins any more, or you will perish, you will be cut off, by your negligence and delay.”

That is my first question: What would have happened to you if you had already died without being converted?

2. My next question is, Are you sure if you wait another day, that you will be kept out of Hell that day? If you refuse the salvation Christ offers you now, are you sure you will live another day? Are you certain that your body won’t be in a refrigerator at the morgue and your soul in Hell before you have another chance to be converted?

You are not sure of it. If you say you are sure, let’s see your evidence. Has God promised you another day of life anywhere in the Bible? Can you live a day without the help of God? You know you can’t. You know that many who were as strong as you are now dead. They didn’t fear death either. Now they are dead – their souls in Hell. You must die also. The thought should be constantly in your mind, “What will happen to me if I died tonight?” Christ said,

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

Every night when you lie down in bed you should think, “What if I died in an unconverted state before morning?” When you get up in the morning, you should think, “What if I died in an unconverted state before night?” The daily thoughts of dying without being converted should stop you from laughing and take away all enjoyment in the world from you. How can you stand to be in such danger?

You say, “Well, I have lived many days already, and I will most likely live another day.” I answer – but who would leave the issue of his eternal salvation to such a gamble? You are gambling with your soul! “The Bible says, “Boast not thyself of to morrow: for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).

3. My third question is, What do you think is best, Heaven or earth, a life in glory or the present pleasures of sin? Are you sure that it is better to be drunk than sober, better to live in sin than to live for God? Is this what you believe? If it is, you are a heathen and not a Christian. In fact, you are worse than most heathens in the world. If this is not what you believe, how dare you live as though it were? Will you act against your own knowledge? Won’t you do what you know is pleasing to God and best for yourself? Who can help you if you know that the way you are going leads to death, and yet you go on that way – and refuse to be converted? Who will pity you if you willingly destroy yourself?

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.

4. My fourth question is, Do you believe humans were made for this world only, or for a better world in Heaven? If you desire to go to Heaven aren’t you foolish not to do everything possible to get there? If Heaven can be reached, aren’t you foolish not to try to reach it? Do you think you were made only for this earth, and that when you die there is nothing else? If you think that, you are more ignorant than a heathen. God made three kinds of beings. One kind is completely spirit. Some are angels, and others sinned and became demons. Another kind is pure flesh, animals and birds, without immortal spirits. The third kind is the humans, which have spirits and flesh. Man, with his spirit, has a living soul which lives endlessly. Animals do not know there is another life. They do not live in hope or fear of eternity as we do. Experience shows that the unconverted fear only physical death. But those who are awakened fear the second death – eternal torment in Hell.

If mankind was made for Heaven, isn’t it right to seek Heaven and live for it? Remember that conversion causes you to think about the place you were made for – Heaven. Conversion makes you feel like a human rather than an animal. It makes you live like a human being instead of an animal. Sin makes us like animals. But conversion restores our humanity, and makes us live for Heaven – the place we were created for. If you believe that humans are more than animals, if you believe we were made for Heaven, away with worldly sins! Live as though you are just passing through this world on the way to everlasting life!

5. My next question to you is, have you ever thought about the gain and the loss that conversion will bring to you? Did you ever think about the peace and everlasting glory which comes to those who are converted, and the misery and horror that comes to those who neglect salvation? Surely if you had thought very much about the gain and the loss, you would have been much more interested in conversion than you have been until now. Sinner, when God and His preachers tell you to be converted, but year after year you are still the same, there is something wrong with you. You must be afraid of losing something in conversion. Otherwise, why do you put it off? I ask you, is there anything better than the salvation of your soul?

What are you afraid of losing by being converted? Is it anything worth keeping? What is it you are not willing to give up? Is it your sins, your sinful pleasures, your “freedom” – which of these? Isn’t it sad that you are not willing to come to Christ for fear of losing some passing pleasure? If you think this world is better than God, if you are afraid of turning to Christ for fear of being a loser, there is nothing I can do for you. You will have to wait for death before you see what a fool you were.

6. My next question to you is, have you got any good reason not to seek your conversion now? Do you have any reason for not searching for Christ and being converted? Don’t pass by this question thoughtlessly. Give me your answer. Have you got a reason for rejecting conversion or don’t you? If you have no reason, your own conscience tells you that you are not converted simply because of your lazy neglect. You do not turn to Christ simply because you will not turn to Him.

How do you dare to put off your conversion? If sin seems good to you, is not holiness better? Aren’t pardon, and hope, and peace, and Heaven better than sin? Will you be able to use the love of sin as an excuse for not being converted when you stand before God at the Judgment?

7. My next question is, have you ever thought about who is for your conversion and who is against it? You have already seen who is for it: God is for it, the angels of Heaven are for it, the preachers of the gospel are for it, and every real Christian is for it. God is so much for it that He sent His Son to die to purchase it for you (John 3:16). God pleads with you, and asks you, “Why will you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11). Jesus is so much for it that He made it His whole work. He became a man, suffered the curse of the Cross, sent His ministers to proclaim it, and prays for it now in Heaven. The Holy Spirit is for it. That is why He pricks your conscience. The angels of Heaven are for it. The preachers of the gospel are for it. That is why they preach to you!

But who is against your conversion? Satan is against it. The demons are against it. Other unconverted people, who are under the power of Satan, are against it. Your own wicked and depraved nature is against it.

I must say that there is no one in the world except Satan, demons, and wicked people who are against your conversion. If these are the ones you listen to, let your own conscience tell you that you are a fool.

8. I have a few more questions to ask you. My next one is this: Would you rather die in a converted or unconverted condition? In which of these two states would you rather die? Remember, you will either die converted or unconverted. Which would you rather have at the end of life? I hope you will take this question very seriously, and answer it seriously. I ask you, which of these two conditions would you rather be in at the time of your death? If you said, “I would rather be converted,” then why not now?If you would rather be converted at death, then become converted quickly. Otherwise death may come unexpectedly, without you being prepared. Also, remember that the Holy Spirit may leave you. If you commit the unpardonable sin, and the Holy Spirit leaves you, you are doomed while you live! Therefore, you are a fool not to seek conversion now!

9. My next question is this: If God should send an angel from Heaven to you to tell you to be converted, would you listen to him and obey him or not? If an angel came and appeared to you and told you to turn to Christ now, what would you do? What answer would you give the angel? Would you tell him, “I will not be converted. I would rather live my life in sin”? Would you say that to him? Surely you wouldn’t dare to do that, would you? Wouldn’t you say, “Yes, I am sorry for my sins. I will turn from them to Christ right now”? Wouldn’t you say that?

Yet the Bible is a better witness than any angel. And God has sent the Bible, which says,

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

If you say you would listen to an angel, shouldn’t you listen even more to the Word of God? Shouldn’t you listen to the preachers God has sent you? Shouldn’t you listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your heart? If conversion is a doctrine you would receive from an angel, tell me why you should not receive it from the Word of God, from His preachers, and from the Holy Spirit!

10. The last question that I will ask you is this: Will you have any excuse for not being converted when you stand before God at the Last Judgment? Will you have any excuse when you stand before God? Or will you be left speechless and under the condemnation of your own conscience for ever? Is it wrong for God to throw out the person who threw themselves away? Is it wrong for God to throw you out of Heaven when no sermon will move you, and no reasoning will satisfy you?

You will be the one who ruined yourself in that day. God will say, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” (Isaiah 5:4). What should I have said more to this sinner than I have said?

What excuse will you have at the Last Judgment for remaining unconverted?

Dear friend, I have been begging you to be converted so you can live. I have meant you no harm, unless salvation is a harm! The threatenings of the Bible, and the horrible state of unconverted souls were all true before I ever lived or preached to you.

Have I convinced you to be converted, or haven’t I? Do you intend to be converted or not?

Jesus says to you:

"Come unto me…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Will you come to Jesus or not?

In conclusion I say this: If you appear before God in Judgment in an unconverted state, after all the warnings you have received, I hope that God will not blame me, who faithfully tried to prevent it.



Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “Acres of Diamonds”

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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.