Placeholder ImageAbout the Author

Richard Baxter (1615-91) was one of the greatest of the English Puritan pastors and authors, most associated with the church at Kidderminster which he pastored for twenty years until he and other “nonconformists” were forced from their official ministry by an act of Parliament.  Of his ministry there, it is said that “He found the place a desert and left it a garden,” and when George Whitefield came to Kidderminster 100 years later, he said to a friend, “I was greatly refreshed to find what a sweet savor of good Mr. Baxter's doctrine works and discipline remain to this day.”  Baxter was a passionate preacher, who “preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”  A man of extraordinary diligence despite his lifelong ill health, he was a prolific author, even more so than his contemporary John Owen, often writing while imprisoned for the faith.  He was especially concerned not with theory but with practical divinity.  In addition to his A Call to the Unconverted, which had a profound effect on both Spurgeon and Whitefield, he is most noted for his devotional work, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, and for his passionate call for the spiritual and moral reformation of ministers, The Reformed Pastor, which has remained a classic for over 300 years.

A Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live,

And accept of MERCY, while MERCY may be had;
as ever they will find MERCY, in the Day of their EXTREMITY
from the Living God.

Part 3

by Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

"Say to them, 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live.  Turn, Turn from your evil ways!  For why should you die, O house of Israel ."  Ezekiel 33:11


Table of Contents

Preface by the Author

Sermon 3:  God’s Condescension in His Offer of Forgiveness

Sermon 4:  Man’s Willfulness in His Own Damnation

Sermon 2
The Earnestness of God’s Offer of Forgiveness

Doctrine 2. It is the promise of God that the wicked shall live, if they will just turn; sincerely and thoroughly turn.

Doctrine 3.  God takes pleasure in man’s conversion and salvation, but not in their death or damnation.  He would rather that they would turn and live, than go on and die.

1. The very gracious nature of God, proclaimed, Exod. 34:6 and 20:6, and frequently elsewhere, may assure you of this, that he has no pleasure in your death.

2. If God had more pleasure in your death than in your conversion and life, He would not have so frequently commanded you in His Word to turn; He would not have made you such promises of life, if you would only turn; and He would not have reasoned with you with so many reasons. The nature of His gospel proves the point.
3.  His commission to the ministers of the gospel also fully proves it. If God had taken more pleasure in your damnation than in thy conversion and salvation, He would never have charged us to offer you mercy, and to teach you the way of life, both publicly and privately; and to entreat you to turn and live, and to acquaint you with your sins, and foretell you of your danger, and to do all we can possibly do for your conversion, and to continue patiently so doing, though you should hate or abuse us for our pains. Would God have done this, and appointed His ordinances for your good, if He had taken pleasure in your death?

4. It is proved also by the course of His providence. If God had rather you were damned than converted and saved, He would not reinforce His word with his works, and entice you to Himself with His daily kindnesses, and give you all the mercies of this life, which are His means to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4).  He would not bring you so often under his rod to force you to your wits. He would not set so many examples before your eyes, or wait on you so patiently as He does, from day to day, and year to year.

5. It is farther proved, by the suffering of His Son, that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Would He have ransomed them from death at so dear a rate? Would He have astonished angels and men by His condescension? Would God have dwelt in flesh, and have come in the form of a servant, and have assumed humanity into one person with the Godhead? And would Christ have lived a life of suffering, and died a cursed death for sinners, if He had rather taken pleasure in their death? Suppose you saw Him so busy in preaching and healing of them, such as you find him in Mark 3:21, or so long in fasting as in Matthew chapter 4, or all night in prayer, as in Luke 6:12, or praying with the drops of blood trickling from him instead of sweat, as in Luke 22:44, or suffering a cursed death upon the cross, and pouring out His soul as a sacrifice for our sins.  Would you have thought these the signs of one that delighted in the death of the wicked?

6. Take the Word of Him who best knows His own mind, if nothing else will satisfy you, or at least believe His oath.

Doctrine 4. The Lord has confirmed to us by His oath, that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he would turn and live.  By this, He leaves man no valid reason to question the truth of it.


1. The devil indeed takes pleasure in your sin and death, for this is the very purpose of all his temptations. For this, he watches night and day: you cannot devise to please him better than to go on in sin.  How glad he is when he sees you going into the barroom, or when he hears you curse, or swear, or be verbally abusive, or commit other wicked sins!   How glad he is when he hears you mock the minister who would draw you from your sin, and help to save you! These are his delight!

2. Other wicked people are also delighted in it; for it is agreeable to their sinful nature.

3. Your own flesh is also the enemy.  I know you do not purposely please the devil, even when you do please him; and you do not intend to please other wicked people, even though you do please them; but your own flesh you willingly please, even though it is your greatest and most dangerous enemy. It is the flesh that wants to be pampered, that demands to be pleased in food, and drink, and clothing; that demands to be pleased in the company you keep, and pleased in the applause and respect of the world, and pleased in sports, and lusts, and idleness: this is the gulf that devours all. This is the very god that you serve, for, the scripture says of such, "their god is their belly" (Philippians 3:19).

Question 2:  Your flesh is pleased with your sin; but is your conscience pleased? Does it not move within you and tell you sometimes that all is not well, and that your case is not as safe as you make it to be?  Shouldn't your soul and conscience be pleased before your corruptible flesh?

Question 3:  Is not your flesh hastening its own destruction also? It loves the bait, but does it love the hook? It loves the strong drink and sweet morsels; it loves its ease, and sport, and merriment; it loves to be rich, and well spoken of by other people, and to be somebody in the world: but does it love the curse of God? Does it love to stand trembling before His bar, and to be judged with everlasting fire? Does it love to be tormented with the fallen angels for ever?  Take it all together: for there is no separating sin and hell, but only by faith and true conversion; if you will keep one, you must have the other. If death and hell are pleasant to you, no wonder then if you go on in sin; but, if they are not (as I am sure they are not), then regardless of how pleasant sin is, is it worth the loss of eternal life?  Is a little drink, or ease, or the good word of sinners, or the riches of this world to be valued above the joys of heaven? Or are they worth the sufferings of eternal fire?

Consider again that the Lord here swears that He has no pleasure in your death, but rather that you would turn and live.  But if you will still go on and die rather than turn, remember that it was not to please God that you did it; it was to please the world, and to please yourselves. And, if people will damn themselves to please themselves, and go to endless torments for a few sinful delights, and do have not the wit, the heart, or the grace, to listen to God or people who would reclaim them, what remedy? They must take what they get by it, and repent when it is too late!

Doctrine 5:  God is so earnest for the conversion of sinners, that He fervently repeats His commands and exhortations: “Turn, turn, for  why will you die?”

1.  Consider first what preparations mercy has made for your salvation, and what a pity it is that anyone should be damned after all this.  There was a time when the flaming sword was in the way, and the curse of God’s law would have kept you back if you had been ever so willing to turn to God.  The time was when you, and all the friends you have in the world, could never have procured for yourself the pardon of your past sins, though you had lamented and reformed from them. But Christ has removed this impediment by the ransom of His blood! The time was when God was wholly unreconciled with man, as being not satisfied for the violation of His law: but now He is so far satisfied and reconciled that he has made you a free act of amnesty, and a free offer of Christ and life, and offered it to you, and pleaded with you to accept it; and it may be yours, if you will have it: “For God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). 

2. Consider also, what calls you have had to turn and live – how many, how loud, how earnest, how dreadful, and yet what encouraging, joyful calls.  For the one doing the inviting is God himself.  He who commands heaven and earth, commands you to turn – immediately, and without delay, to turn.  He commands the sun to run its course, and to rise upon you every morning, and though it is so glorious a creation, and many times bigger than the earth, yet it obeys him and does not fail one minute of its appointed time. He commands all the planets and orbs of heaven, and they obey.  He commands the sea to ebb and flow, and the whole creation to keep its course, and all obey Him. The angels of heaven obey His will, when he sends them to minister to such silly worms as we on earth (Hebrews 1:14).  And yet, if He merely commands a sinner to turn, he will not obey Him, for he thinks himself wiser than God, and he argues and pleads the cause of sin, and will not obey.  If the Lord Almighty says the word, the heavens and everything in them obey him; but if He calls a drunkard out of an alehouse, he will not obey; or if he call a worldly fleshly sinner to deny himself; and deny the flesh, and set his heart on a better inheritance, he will not obey him!

1. Every page in the blessed book of God has a voice that calls unto you, "Turn and live; turn, or you will die!"  How can you open it, and read a page, or hear a chapter, and not perceive that God commands you to turn?

2. It is the voice of every sermon you hear, for what else is the scope and drift of all of them but to call, and persuade, and entreat you to turn?

3. It is the voice of many a moving of the Spirit, which secretly repeats these words again, and urges you to turn.

4. It is sometimes the voice of your own conscience. Are you not sometimes convinced that all is not well with you? And does not your conscience often call you to turn, and tell you that you must be a new man, and take a new course?

5. It is the voice of the gracious examples of godly people. When you see them live a heavenly life, and flee from the sin which is your delight, this really calls on you to turn.

6. It is the voice of all the works of God, for they also are God’s books, that teach you this lesson by showing you His greatness, and wisdom, and goodness, and calling you to observe them, and admire the Creator, as is said in Psalm 19:1-2:  "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge."  Every time the sun rises upon you, it really calls you to turn; as if it should say, “What do I travel and compass the world for, if not to declare to humanity the glory of their Maker? 

9. The very frame of your nature and being pleads for your return. Why do you have reason, if not to rule your flesh, and to serve your Lord? Why do you have an understanding soul, if not to learn and know His will and do it? Why do you have a heart within you that can love, and fear, and desire, if not that you should fear him, and love him, and desire Him?

10. Perhaps your own dedications, by promise to the Lord, call upon you to turn and serve Him. Perhaps you have bound yourself to Him by baptism, and renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil, and have confirmed this by your profession of Christianity, and renewed it by participation in His sacraments, and in times of affliction.  And will you promise and vow, and never perform, and not turn to God?
Put all of these together, now, and see what should be the issue. The holy Scripture calls upon you to turn; the ministers of Christ call upon you to turn; the Spirit cries "turn"; your conscience cries "turn"; the godly, by their persuasions and example, cry "turn"; the whole world and all the creatures in it that are presented to your consideration, cry "turn"; the patience of God that you experienced unto this day, cries "turn"; all the mercies which you received cry "turn"; the rod of God’s chastisement cries "turn"; your reason and your very nature pleads your turning; and so do all your promises to God; and yet you have not resolved to turn?

11. Moreover, poor sinner! Did you ever consider upon what terms you stand all this time with Him who calls on you to turn? You are His own, and owe Him yourself and all you have, and may He not command His own? You are His absolute servant, and should serve no other master! You stand at His mercy, and your life is in His hand; and He has resolved to save you upon no other terms; you have many malicious spiritual enemies, who would be glad if God were to forsake you and leave them alone with you, and leave you to their will; how quickly would they deal with you in another manner? And you cannot be delivered from them except by turning to God. You are fallen under His wrath by your sin already; and you do not know how long His patience will wait. Perhaps this is the last year; perhaps the last day; His sword is even at your heart while His Word is in your ear; and if you do not turn, you are a dead and undone man. If only your eyes were open to see where you stand, even upon the brink of hell, and to see how many thousands are there already who did not turn, you would see that it is time to turn.

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