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A Powerful Appeal from a Dead Puritan

This is a small excerpt from Richard Baxter’s classic book, The Reformed Pastor, appealing to non-Christians on behalf of the gospel of Christ (slightly modernized by Linda Bell to make it more understandable).

‘Truly, my friends, the Lord knows I have no mind to make your condition worse than it is, nor to bring you any unnecessary fear or trouble, however, you would call me a treacherous enemy, and not a faithful minister, if I should flatter you, and not tell you the truth. If you see a physician when you’re sick, you expect him to tell you the truth, even when the diagnosis is grim. Much more here! For there the knowledge of your disease may be increased by your fears; but here you must know it, or else you can never recover from it. I’m concerned that you are still a stranger to the Christian life. For if you were a Christian indeed, and truly converted, your very heart would be set on God and the life to come. You would make it your chief concern to prepare for everlasting happiness. You would not live in any willful sin, or neglect any known duty.

‘Oh! What have you done? How have you spent your time till now? Didn’t you know that you had a soul to be saved or lost; and that you must live in heaven or in hell forever; and that you had your life and time in this world mainly for the purpose of preparing for another? What have you been doing all your life that you are so ignorant, or so unprepared for death, if your time has come? If you had as much thought of heaven as of earth, you would have known more about it, and done more for it, and inquired of it more diligently, than you have. You can learn how to transact business in the world; so why couldn’t you learn more of the will of God, if you had paid attention to it? You have neighbors that could learn more, who have been as busy as you, and who have had as little time. Do you think heaven is not worth your labor? Or that you can obtain it without any concern or hard work, when you can’t even have the trivial things of this world without them, and when God told you to seek first His kingdom and the righteousness it contains? My friends, what if you had died before now, unconverted? What would have become of you, and where would you be now? Oh! That you cared so little for yourselves as to jeopardize your eternity as recklessly as you have! What were you thinking of? Surely you must have known that you would eventually die, and be judged in your present state? Was there any greater work to do, or any greater business to attend, than your everlasting salvation? Do you think that material things will comfort you as you lay dying, or purchase your salvation, or ease the pains of hell?

‘My friend, I am truly sorry to find you in such a bad way, but to leave you in it would be worse, so therefore I beg of you, for the Lord’s sake, and for your own sake, to listen to what I say to you regarding the time to come. It is of the Lord’s great mercy that he did not cut you off in your unconverted state, and that you still have life and time, and that Christ has provided a remedy for you in His blood, and that He offers pardon, sanctification and everlasting life to you as well as to others. God did not leave sinful man to utter destruction, as he did the devils; nor has He made any exception in the offer of pardon and eternal life for you or anyone else.

‘If you realized the sin in your heart, and came to Christ in true repentance, and submitted yourself to Him as your Savior and Lord, and would be a new man for the remainder of your life, the Lord would have mercy on you in the pardon of your sins, and the everlasting salvation of your soul. And I must tell you that, it must be the great work of God’s grace to give you such a heart, so if He intends to pardon and save you, He will make this change in you; He will make you feel your sin as the heaviest burden in the world, most odious in and of itself, and rendering you deserving of His wrath and curse; He will make you see that you are a lost man, and that there is nothing for you but eternal damnation, unless you are pardoned by the blood of Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit; He will make you see your need of Christ, and how all your hope and life is in Him; he will make you see the vanity of this world and all that it yields, and that all your happiness is with God, in that everlasting life in heaven. Where you may behold His glory along with the saints and angels, and live in His love, content in praise of Him. Let me tell you that, till this work is done in you, you are a miserable man; and if you die before it’s done, you are lost forever. Now you have hope and help before you, but then there will be none.

‘Therefore, if you love your soul I ask you, first, not to rest in your present condition. Do not allow your mind to be at ease until a saving change is wrought in your heart. Think, when you rise in the morning, Oh, what if this day was my last, and I died before my salvation was confirmed? Think, as you are working, Oh, how much more there is to do, to get my soul reconciled to God, and sanctified by his Spirit! Think, when you are eating, or drinking, or looking at your possessions, what good will all this do me, if I live and die an enemy to God, and a stranger to Christ and His Spirit, and so perish forever? Let these thoughts be on your mind day and night until your soul is changed. Secondly, I entreat you to seriously consider what a vain world this is, and how shortly it will leave you to a cold grave, and to everlasting misery, if you continue to treasure it. And imagine what it is to live in the presence of God, and to reign with Christ, and be like the angels; and that this is the life that Christ purchased for you, and is preparing for you, and offers you, if you will only accept it; and think, wouldn’t it be madness to disregard such an endless glory, and to prefer things of the flesh and earthly pleasures? When you are alone, give yourself over to these thoughts, and let them occupy your mind. Thirdly, I ask, that you will accept this gift without any more delay, and this Savior. Close with the Lord Jesus who offers you this eternal life: joyfully and thankfully accepting His offer as the only way to happiness: in the belief that all your sins will be forgiven by Him. Fourthly, reject your former sins; find out what has corrupted your heart and life, and cast it from you, as you would cast out poison from your stomach, detesting the thought of taking it again.

‘My last request to you is, that you will diligently make use of the means of grace till this change has come about, and then continue the use of these means till you are confirmed, and finally made perfect. (1) Since you are unable, of yourself, to bring about this change upon your heart and life, take yourself daily to God in prayer, and earnestly beg, as for your life, that He will pardon all your sins, and change your heart, and show you the riches of His grace in Christ, and the glory of His kingdom. Follow God day and night with these requests. (2) Run from temptations and occasions of sin, and give up your former evil company, seeking instead the company of those that fear God, and will help you in the way to heaven. (3) Be especially careful to keep the Lord’s day holy, both publicly and privately, losing not even a quarter of an hour of that most precious time which God has given you purposely, that you may meditate on Him, and be instructed by him, preparing yourself for eternal life with Him. What do you say to these things? Will you do this presently, or at least as much of it as you can? Will you give me a promise to this effect, and from now on try to keep that promise?

‘In speaking freely to you, I pray I haven’t turned you away. It is no more pleasure to me than to you. If I didn’t know these things to be true and necessary, I would have spared us both this trouble; but I know our time together is short: We are almost at the world to come already, therefore it is urgent for us all to search our hearts, and make sure we are ready when God calls.’