I’ve mentioned before the importance of reading “old dead guys.” Too many Christians today are snacking on trendy preachers when they should be feasting on the proven preachers of history. Some who are popular and entertaining today are demonstrably heretics tomorrow. A good place to jumpstart your reading is here.
A Call to the Unconverted is a deeply passionate, time-tested appeal to those who do not believe in Christ to thoughtfully consider turning to Him. It was written by English pastor Richard Baxter (1615-1691). It’s the second book of his that I’ve read (see review on The Reformed Pastor).
Baxter has been called the “Prince of Preachers,” and this book (one of his more than 168 works!) is a demonstration of his deep burden for the beauty of the bride of Christ, his careful articulation of theology, and his extremely practical approach to Christian living and leading.
I can’t recommend this book enough for two classes of people:
- Those who believe in Jesus Christ as the loving and living Lord
- Those who have not surrendered their life in faith to Jesus Christ in sorrow for sin for the joy of salvation
That should cover everyone, basically.
Christians should read this book to stir or restore their hearts for a deeply passionate desire to see their family and friends, their neighbors and the nations surrender in faith to Jesus Christ. Baxter presents a convicting appeal to Christians to live like they belong to Christ. How else will those who have not yet trusted in Jesus hear the good news?
Not-yet Christians should read this book and consider deeply the rational appeals of Baxter. He is penetrating in his logic and stirring in his love for those who do not believe (yet) in Christ. The not-yet Christian should not fear being brow-beaten into faith in this book. Rather, one will find themselves coaxed, urged and pleaded with to consider the offer of Jesus of forgiveness.
If you are a not-yet Christian, and you’ve gotten this far in this post, first of all, thank you! Second of all, you may wonder why people like me (and Baxter) are so persistent in telling you about Jesus. Our culture tells you (and maybe you have chosen to believe it) that whatever religion makes a person “happy” is fine. That if a person finds happiness in Christianity, Buddhism, agnosticism, whatever, that’s fine. Just be happy and leave the world alone. However, what if there is truth? What if one is right and the others are all misguided at best or evil machinations to keep you from the truth at worst?
Real followers of Jesus believe that only faith in Him saves ultimately and eternally. That’s why we persist.
Hear Baxter explain our motivation and effort:
To see how near you are to hell, and we cannot make you believe it or consider it. To see how easily, how certainly you might escape, if we knew but how to make you willing… We study day and night what to say to you that may convince and persuade you, and yet it is undone: we lay before you the Word of God. And show you the very chapter and verse where it is written, that you cannot be saved except you be converted; and yet we leave the most of you as we find you. We hope you will believe the Word of God, though you believe not us, and regard it when we show the plain scripture for it; but we hope in vain, and labor in vain as to any saving change upon your hearts! And do you think that this is a pleasant thing to us?
I appreciate Baxter’s humility throughout the book. Even as he portrays the difference between “us” and “them” in regards to Christians and not-yet Christians, it’s important for the reader and Christians to remember that the “us” was just recently a “them.” We are not “in” because of our own merit. We are saved and forgiven because of the love of Christ. Christianity is not a country club of snobbish religious people. In its true form, its a movement of people away from sin and brokenness toward salvation and wholeness through a love relationship with Jesus Christ.
Baxter’s book throughout blends gentle pleading with urgent demands upon both groups: Christians and not-yet Christians. What for him was normal Christianity in his passion to reach those apart from Christ might be considered “radical” today. The American church in particular needs to recover the loving and gentle heart of Baxter that unswervingly and clearly pleads with people to give their lives to Christ. His book conjures the image of a desperate man in the fog, waving a lantern on a road just before a washed-out bridge, pleading and warning travelers to turn back.