True Righteousness vs. The Counterfeits of Conversion, Including that of a False Regeneration.

Taken, adapted, condensed, and brought into modern English, from, “A Sure Guide to Heaven”
Written by, Joseph Alleine

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And truly my beloved, the Devil has made many counterfeits of this Conversion…

…and he cheats some with this, and another with that. Such is the craft and artifice he has, that in this mystery of deceits, if it were possible, he would deceive the very elect. Now if I may cure the damnable mistakes of some, –who think they are converted when they are not, as well as remove the troubles and fears of others, that think they are not converted when they are; I shall show you the nature of conversion, and we will begin with the Negative.

1    It is not the taking upon us the profession of Christianity.

Doubtless Christianity is more than a name. If we will hear Paul, it lies not in word, but in power, –1 Cor. 4:20. If it was to cease from being Jews and Pagans, and to put on the Christian Profession had been true conversion, (as this is all, that some would have us to understand) who better Christians than they of Sardis and Laodicea? These were all Christians by profession, and had a name to live, but because they had only a name, they are condemned by Christ, and are threatened to be spewed out, –Rev. 3:1, 16. 

And are there not many that name the name of the Lord Jesus, but are not yet departed from iniquity? –2 Tim. 2:19. And do they not profess that they know God, but in their works deny him? –Titus 1:16. And will God receive them as true converts, because they have merely turned to the Christian Religion?

What, kind of person converts from sin, and yet still lives in sin? This is a visible contradiction. Surely if the lamp of profession would have served the turn, the foolish Virgins had never been shut out, –Matthew 25: 3, 12.

We find not only professors but Preachers of Christ and Wonder-workers cast out, because of their evil works.  –Matthew 7:22, 23.

2    It is not the being washed in the Laver of Regeneration; as in putting on the badge of Christ in baptism.

Many take the money, and wear the Livery of Christ, yet never stand to those colors, nor follow their leader. Ananias and Sapphira were baptized as well as the rest. How fondly do many make that mistake here, –deceiving, and being deceived! They are dreaming that effectual grace is necessarily tied to the external administration of Baptism. (but what is it, except to revive the Popish tenant, of the Sacraments as a working grace, ex opera operato?)

Hence men do fancy, that by being regenerated already when baptized, they need no further work. But if this were so, then all that were baptized in their infancy must necessarily be saved: because the promise of pardon and salvation is made upon conversion and regeneration.  –Acts 3:19, 1 Peter 3:4. Mathew 19:28

Our Calling, and sanctification (or, the beginnings of it), or Conversion (which are but the same thing, under different conception and expression) is but a middle link in the golden chain, fastened to election at one end, and glorification at the other, –Romans 8:30, 2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2. The silver cord may not be broken, nor the connection between Sanctification and Salvation, between grace and glory, impiously violated, –Matthew 5:8. If we were indeed begotten again, it is to an inheritance incorruptible reserved in heaven for us, and the divine power is engaged to keep us for it, –1 Pet. 1:5. But if we say that the very regenerate may perish at last in their sins, then we can no more say, that he is born of God, his seed remains in him, and that he cannot sin, (1 John 3:9) i.e. unto death, nor that it is impossible to deceive the very elect, –Matthew 24:24.

But indeed if Baptismal Regeneration be true, then we need look no farther to see our names written in Heaven, than to only search the Register, and see whether we were baptized: then I would keep the certificate of my baptism, as my fairest evidence for Heaven, and as my assurance of my gracious state.

In short, if it is to be believed, that there is nothing more necessary to conversion or regeneration, than to be turned to the Christian Religion, or to be baptized in infancy, then this will fly directly in the face of that Scripture, (Matthew 7:14) as well as multitudes of others. For then we could no longer say, “strait is the gate and narrow is the way”; for if all that are baptized, and are of the true Religion, and are saved, then the door is become heavenly wide, and we will henceforth say, wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads unto life, for if this be true, then whole Parishes, yes, whole Countries, and whole Kingdoms may go in abreast, and we will no more need to teach, that the righteous shall scarcely be saved, or that there is need of such a stir in taking the Kingdom of Heaven by violence, and driving to enter in. Surely if the way be so easy that many make it, then there is little more that is necessary, than to be regenerated by our baptism, and then to cry God’s mercy, and be absolved by the Minister at our end; ’tis more ado than needs to be put ourselves to such running, and seeking, and knocking, and fighting, and wrestling, as the word of God requires as necessary to Salvation.

Secondly, if this be true, we will no more say, “few there be that find it; yea we will rather say, few there be that miss it: we will no more say, that of the many that are called, but few are chosen, –Mathew 22:14, and that and that even of the professing Israel, but a remnant shall be saved, –Romans 11:5. Indeed, if this Doctrine be true, we will not say any more with the Disciples, who then shall be saved? But rather, we shall say, who then shall not be saved? Or, that if a man be called a brother, that is a Christian and be baptized, though he be a fornicator, or a fighter, or covetous, or a drunkard, yet he shall inherit the Kingdom of God, –1 Cor. 5:11, 1 Cor. 6: 9, 10.

But the Arminians will reply; such as these though they did receive regenerating grace in Baptism, are since fallen away, and must be renewed again, or else they cannot be saved.

I answer,

  1. That there is an infallible connection between regeneration and salvation, as we have already showed, and I really itch to give farther evidence, –but that is against modest brevity.
  2. Then men must be born again, which carries a great deal of absurdity in its very face. And why may not men be twice born in nature, as well as in grace? Why is it not as great an absurdity to be twice regenerated as to be twice generated?

But 3. And above all, this grants the very thing I contend for, that whatever men do, or pretend to do, to receive in baptism, if they are found afterwards to be grossly ignorant, or profane, or formal, without the power of godliness, then they must be born again, or else be shut out of the kingdom of God. So then they must have more to plead for themselves, than their baptismal regeneration.

Well, in this all are agreed, that when men come to years and if they are evidently unsanctified, they must be renewed again by a through and powerful change, or else they cannot escape the damnation of Hell. Friends and Brethren, be not deceived, God is not mocked; Gal. 6:7. Whether it be your baptism, or whatever else that you pretend, I tell you from the living God, that if any of you be a prayer-less person, John 15:14, or unclean, or malicious, or covetous, or riotous, or a scoffer, or a lover of evil company, Prov. 13. 20, –in word, if you are not a holy, strict and self-denying Christian, Hebrews 12:14, Matthew 16:24, you cannot be saved, except you be transformed by a further work upon you, and you are renewed again by repentance.

Thus, as I have stated, it is not enough to show evidence that a man is regenerate, because he has been baptized, for because effectual grace does not necessarily accompany baptism, –as some have vainly asserted. But I must answer one objection before I pass.

Object. The Sacraments do certainly attain their ends, where man doth not ponere obicem, or lay some obstruction, which infants do not.

Solution. I answer, it is not the end of Baptism to regenerate,

  1. Because then there would be no reason as to why baptismal regeneration would be confined only to the seed of Believers. For both the Law of God and the nature of Charity, would require us to use this means of conversion for all, and for as far as we can have opportunity. Were Baptismal Regeneration true, would it not be love to catch the children of Turks and Heathens, and baptize them, and then dispatch them to Heaven out of hand, like the bloody wretches do to the poor Protestants, and then put them forthwith to death, saying. They would hang them while they are in a good mind.
  2. Because baptism presupposes regeneration, and therefore cannot be intended to confer it. “In all the instances in Scripture, we find that baptism presupposes their repenting, believing, receiving the Holy Ghost, -Acts 8:37, Acts. 2:38, Acts 10:47, Mark 16:16. And to imagine, that baptism was instituted for an end of which not one of the first subjects for which it was capable is no little absurdity. For the persons mentioned were adults, and supposedly were to have faith and repentance according as they had professed. But if the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration were true, baptism would make even little children disciples, but we do not find it spoken of as such. Because Baptism, being but an outward Seal of the Covenant cannot convey the benefits of the Covenant, but acts according to the tenor of the Covenant, to which it is set.

Now the Covenant is conditional, therefore the, Seal conveys conditionally. The Covenant requires faith and repentance, as the condition of the grand benefits which are pardon, and life, Acts 16:31, Acts 3:19.

And what the Covenant does not convey but upon these set conditions, the Seal cannot. So that Baptism actually presupposes faith and repentance in the person, and without this faith and repentance, baptism cannot convey the saving benefits; otherwise, as a seal it would convey benefits that are contrary to the Covenant of which it is affixed.

4    Baptismal Regeneration lies not in a moral righteousness. This righteousness exceeds not the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, and therefore cannot bring us to the Kingdom of God, Matthew 5:20. Paul, while unconverted, in touching the righteousness which is in the law, was blameless, Phil. 3:6. None could say anything was wrong with Paul. The self-judiciary could say, I am no extortioner, adulterer, or unjust, person. Luke 18:11. You must have something more than all this to show, or else God will condemn you. I condemn not morality, but warn you not to rest here. Piety includes morality, just as Christianity includes humanity, and Grace includes reason. But we must not divide the tables.

5    True righteousness consists not in an external conformity to the Rules of Piety. This is also manifest, men may have a form of godliness, without the power, 2 Timothy 3:5. Men may pray long, Mat. 13:14. and fast often, Luke 18:12. and hear gladly, Mark 6:20. and be very aggressive in the service of God, though costly and expensive, Isaiah 1:11, and yet be strangers to Conversion. They must have more to plead for themselves, then that they keep to their Church, and give alms, and make use of prayer to prove themselves found Converts. It is not an outward service for even a hypocrite can do that; even to the giving of all his goods to the poor, and his members to the fire, 1 Cor. 13:3.

6    True righteousness lies not in the chaining up of corruption, by education, or by humane laws or the force of incumbent affliction. It is all too common and easy, to mistake education for grace; but if this were enough, who a better man then Jehoash? While Jehoiada his uncle lived he was very forward in Gods service, and calls upon him to repair the house of the Lord, 2 kings 12:2, 7. But here was nothing more than good education for all this while: for when his good tutor was taken out of the way, he appears to have been but a wolf chained up; and falls into Idolatry.

7    In short, True righteousness consists not in illumination, or conviction, or in a superficial change or partial reformation. An apostate may be a man enlightened, Hebrews 6:4, and a Felix tremble under convictions, Acts 24:25, and a Herod amend many things, Mark 6:20. It is one thing to have sin frightened by convictions, and another to have it captivated and crucified by converting grace. Many, because they have been troubled and worried in conscience for their sins, may think well about their chances for salvation… but they are miserably mistaking conviction for conversion.

With this misunderstanding, Cain might have parted for a Convert, –because he ran up and down the world, like a man distracted under the rage of a guilty conscience, till with building and business he had worn it away, Genesis 4:13,14. Others think, that because they have left, off their riotous lifestyle, and are broken off from evil company, or some particular lust, and are now reduced to sobriety and civility, that somehow they are now nothing other than real Converts, forgetting that there is a vast difference between being sanctified, and civilized: For many seek to enter into the Kingdom of heaven, Luke 13:24, and are not far from it, Mark 12:34. These people almost arrive to Christianity, Acts 26:28. And yet fall short at the last. While their conscience holds the whip over them, many will pray, hear, read, and forbear their delightful sins: but no sooner is this Lyon asleep, but they are at their vomit again.

Who more religious than the Jews, when Gods hand was upon them? –Psalms 78: 34, 35. But no sooner was the affliction over, but they forgot God, and showed their Religion to be a sin, (verses 36, 37). You may have disgorged a troublesome sin, that will not fit in your stomach, and have escaped those gross pollutions of the world, and yet not have changed your swinish nature all the while, 2 Peter 2:20-22.

You may pour the lead out of the rude mass, into the comelier proportion of a plant, and then you may pour it into the shape of a beast, and from there into the form and features of a man, but all the while it is but lead still. So a man may pass through different transmutations from ignorance into knowledge, from profane to civility, and from there to a form of Religion; and all this while he is still but a carnal and unregenerate person, for his nature remains unchanged.

Application. Hear then O Sinners; hear as you would live; so come and hear; Isaiah 55:3. Why would you so willfully deceive yourselves, or build your hope upon the sand. I know he shall find hard work of it that goes to pluck away your hopes. It cannot but understand why you be ungrateful, and truly, it is not pleasing to me. I set about it as a surgeon, as when he cuts off a putrefied member from his well-beloved friend; which of force he must do, but with an aching heart, pitiful eye, and trembling hand. But understand me, Brethren, I am only taking down the ruinous house, (which will otherwise speedily fall of itself and bury you in the rubbish) that I may build fair and strong, and firm forever. The hope of the wicked shall perish, if God be true to his word, –Proverbs 11:7. And were you not better, O sinner, let the word convince you now, before it is too late; to let go your false and self-deluding hopes, or you will have death to open your eyes, and then you will find yourself left in hell, before you are even aware of it. I would be a false and faithless Shepherd, if I did not tell you that you who have built your hopes upon no better rounds, than these before mentioned, for you are yet in your sins. Let your confidence- speak, what is it that you have to plead for yourselves? Is it because you wear Christ’s livery? Is it that you bear his name as Christian? Or, is that you are part of the visible Church? Perhaps, it is that you think that you have knowledge in the points of Religion? Maybe, you feel that you are converted because you are civilized and perform religious duties, are just in your dealings; or, on the other hand, you have been troubled in conscience for your sins? I tell you from the Lord, these pleas’ will never be accepted at God’s Bar. All this, though good in themselves, will not make you, or prove you converted; and they will not be sufficient to your salvation. O, look about you, and bethink yourselves of turning speedily and soundly. Set to praying, and to reading, and studying your own hearts; rest not, till God has made thorough work within you; for you must, be as saved men, or else you are lost men.

But if the people who do these things be short of Conversion, what shall I say of the profane sinner? It may be, he will scarce cast his eyes, or lend his ears to this discourse. But if there be any such reading, or within hearing, he must know from the Lord that made him, that he is far from the Kingdom of God. If a man be civilized and not be converted; where then shall the Drunkard, and Glutton appear? May a person keep company with the wise Virgins, and still be shut out? Shall not a companion of fools much more be destroyed? –Prov. 13:20. May a man be true and just in his dealings, and yet not be justified by God? What then will become of you, O wretched man, whose conscience tells you, you are false in your trade, and false in your word, and take advantage of people by a lying tongue?

If men may be enlightened, and brought to the performance of holy duties, and yet go down to perdition, for resting in them, and sitting down on this side of conversion; what will become of you, O miserable person, that lives without God in the world? And of you, O wretched sinners, with whom God is scarce in all your thoughts: are that ignorant, that you cannot, or so careless, that you will not pray? O, repent and be converted; break off your sins by righteousness; and get away to Christ for pardoning and renewing grace: give up yourselves to him, to walk with him in holiness, or else you shall never see God.

Oh that you would take the warnings of God! In his name, I once more admonish you. Turn you at my reproof, Prov. 1:23. Forsake the foolish, and live, Prov. 9:6. Be sober, righteous and Godly. Titus 2:12. Wash your hands you sinners, purify your hearts ye double minded, James 4:8. Cease to do evil, learn to do well, Isaiah 1:16, 17. But if you will continue on in your way, you must die. Ezekiel 33:11.