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.

Mistakes About Conversion

Taken and adapted from, “An Alarm to the Unconverted”
Written by Joseph Alleine

[Joseph Alleine, (1634-1668) was a cherished Puritan nonconformist whose chief literary work was An Alarm to the Unconverted (1672), otherwise known as The Sure Guide to Heaven, which had an enormous circulation. His work Remains appeared in 1674. Joseph was born in 1634 in England. In 1645, his brother Edward, a member of the clergy, died and Joseph asked his father that he be educated to replace his deceased brother. In 1649, Joseph entered Lincoln College and in 1651 entered Corpus Christi College. In 1653, he received his B.D. and in 1655 became the associate pastor at St Mary Magdalene, Taunton.

Joseph Alleine was ejected from the church in 1662 along with 2,000 other ministers. He was jailed several times for violating the Five Mile Act. Finally, in September of 1668, he passed on at the early age of 34.]

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Introduction

Dearly Beloved,

I gladly acknowledge myself a debtor to you, and am concerned, as I would be found a good steward of the household of God, to give to everyone his portion. But the physician is most concerned for those patients whose case is most doubtful and hazardous; and the father’s pity is especially turned towards his dying child. So unconverted souls call for earnest compassion and prompt diligence to pluck them as brands from the burning (Jude 23). Therefore it is to them I shall first apply myself in these pages.

But from where shall I fetch my argument? With what shall I win them? O that I could tell! I would write to them in tears, I would weep out every argument, I would empty my veins for ink, I would petition them on my knees. O how thankful should I be if they would be prevailed with to repent and turn. How long have I labored for you! How often would I have gathered you! This is what I have prayed for and studied for these many years, that I might bring you to God. O that I might now do it! Will you yet be entreated?

But, O Lord, how insufficient I am for this work. Alas, with what shall I pierce the scales of Leviathan, or make the heart feel that is hard as the nether millstone? Shall I go and speak to the grave, and expect the dead will obey me and come forth? Shall I make an oration to the rocks, or declaim to the mountains, and think to move them with arguments? Shall I make the blind to see? From the beginning of the world was it not heard that a man opened the eyes of the blind (John 9:32). But, O Lord, Thou canst pierce the heart of the sinner. I can only draw the bow at a venture, but do Thou direct the arrow between the joints of the harness. Slay the sin, and save the soul of the sinner that casts his eyes on these pages.

There is no entering into heaven but by the strait passage of the second birth; without holiness you shall never see God (Hebrews 12:14). Therefore give yourselves unto the Lord now. Set yourselves to seek Him now. Set up the Lord Jesus in your hearts, and set Him in your houses. Kiss the Son (Psalms 2:12), and embrace the tenders of mercy; touch His scepter and live; for why will you die? I do not beg for myself, but would have you happy: this is the prize I run for. My soul’s desire and prayer for you is, that you may be saved (Romans 10:1).

I beseech you to permit a friendly plainness and freedom with you in your deepest concern. I am not playing the orator to make a learned speech to you, nor dressing the dish with eloquence in order to please you. These lines are upon a weighty errand indeed? To convince, and convert, and save you. I am not baiting my hook with rhetoric, nor fishing for your applause, but for your souls. My work is not to please you, but to save you; nor is my business with your fancies, but with your hearts. If I have not your hearts, I have nothing. If I were to please your ears, I would sing another song. If I were to preach myself, I would steer another course. I could then tell you a smoother tale; I would make pillows for you and speak peace, for how can Ahab love this Micaiah, that always prophesies evil concerning him? (1 Kings 22:8). But how much better are the wounds of a friend, than the fair speeches of the harlot, who flatters with her lips, till the dart strike through the liver? (Proverbs 7:21-23 and vi 26). If I were to quiet a crying infant, I might sing him into a happier mood, or rock him asleep; but when the child is fallen into the fire, the parent takes another course; he will not try to still him with a song or trifle. I know, if we succeed not with you, you are lost; if we cannot get your consent to arise and come away, you will perish forever. No conversion? No salvation! I must get your good-will, or leave you miserable.

But here the difficulty of my work again occurs to me. ‘O Lord, choose my stones out of the brook (1 Samuel 17:40, 45). I come in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. I come forth, like the stripling David against Goliath, to wrestle, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12). This day let the Lord smite the Philistines, spoil the strong man of his armor, and give me the captives out of his hand. Lord, choose my words, and choose my weapons for me; and when I put my hand into the bag, and take out a stone and sling it, do Thou carry it to the mark, and make it sink, not into the forehead, but into the heart of the unconverted sinner, and smite him to the ground like Saul of Tarsus.’ (Acts 9:4).’

Some of you do not know what I mean by conversion, and in vain shall I attempt to persuade you to that which you do not understand. Therefore for your sakes I will show what conversion is. Others are likely to harden themselves with a vain conceit that they are converted already. To them I must show the marks of the unconverted. Others, because they feel no harm, fear none, and so sleep as upon the top of a mast. To them I shall show the misery of the unconverted. Others sit still, because they do not see the way of escape. To them I shall show the means of conversion. And finally, for the quickening of all, I shall close with the motives to conversion.

The devil has made many counterfeits of conversion, and cheats one with this, and another with that. He has such craft and artifice in his mystery of deceits that, if it were possible, he would deceive the very elect. Now, that I may cure the ruinous mistake of some who think they are converted when they are not, as well as remove the troubles and fears of others who think they are not converted when they are, I shall show you the nature of conversion, both what it is not, and what it is. We will begin with the negative.

Conversion is not the taking upon us the profession of Christianity. Christianity is more than a name.

If we will hear Paul, it does not lie in word, but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20). If to cease to be Jews and pagans, and to put on the Christian profession, had been true conversion — as this is all that some would have to be understood by it — who better Christians than they of Sardis and Laodicea? These were all Christians by profession, and had a name to live only; but because they had a name, they are condemned by Christ, and threatened to be rejected (Revelation 3:14-16). Are there not many that name the name of Lord Jesus, that do not depart from iniquity (2 Tim 2:19), and profess they know God, but in works deny Him? (Titus 1:16). And will God receive these for true converts? What! Converts from sin, when they still live in sin? It is a visible contradiction. Surely, if the lamp of profession would have served the turn, the foolish virgins had never been shut out (Matthew 25:12). We find not only professing Christians, but preachers of Christ, and wonder-workers, rejected, because they are evil-workers (Matthew 7:22-23).

Conversion is not putting on the badge of Christ in baptism.

Ananias and Sapphira, and Simon Magus were baptized as well as the rest. How many make a mistake here, deceiving and being deceived; dreaming that effectual grace is necessarily tied to the external administration of baptism, so that every baptized person is regenerated, not only sacramentally, but really and properly. Hence men fancy that because they were regenerated when baptized, they need no farther work. But if this were so, then all that have been baptized must necessarily be saved, because the promise of pardon and salvation is made to conversion and regeneration (Acts 3:19; Matthew 19:28). And indeed, were conversion and baptism the same, then men would do well to carry but a certificate of their baptism when they died, and upon sight of this there were no doubt of their admission into heaven.

In short, if there is nothing more to conversion, or regeneration, than to be baptized, this will fly directly in the face of that Scripture, Matthew 7:13-14, as well as multitudes of others. If this is true, we shall no more say, ‘Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way’ for if all that are baptized are saved, the door is exceeding wide, and we shall henceforth say, ‘Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth unto life.’ If this is true, thousands may go in abreast; and we will no more teach that the righteous are scarcely saved, or that there is need of such a stir in taking the kingdom of heaven by violence, and striving to enter in (1 Peter 4:18; Matthew 11:12; Luke 13:24). Surely, if the way be so easy as many suppose, that little more is necessary than to be baptized and to cry out, ‘Lord, have mercy’, we need not put ourselves to such seeking, and knocking, and wrestling, as the Word requires in order to salvation. Again, if this is true, we shall no more say, ‘Few there be that find it’; we will rather say, ‘Few there be that miss it.’ We shall no more say, that of many that are called, only ‘few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14), and that even of the professing Israel but a remnant shall be saved (Romans 9:27). If this doctrine is true, we shall no more say with the disciples, ‘Who then shall be saved?’ but rather, ‘Who then shall not be saved?’ Then, if a man be baptized, though he is a fornicator, or a railer or covetous, or a drunkard, yet he shall inherit the kingdom of God! (1 Corinthians 5:11 and 6:9, 10).

But some will reply,

‘Such as these, though they received regenerating grace in baptism, are since fallen away, and must be renewed again, or else they cannot be saved.’

I answer,

1   There is an infallible connection between regeneration and salvation, as we have already shown.

2    Then man must be again born again, which carries a great deal of absurdity in its face. We might as well expect men to be twice born in nature as twice born in grace!

3.  Above all, this grants the thing I contend for, that whatever men do or pretend to receive in baptism, if they are found afterwards to be grossly ignorant, or profane, or formal, without the power of godliness, they ‘must be born again’ (John 3:7) 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 you see all are agreed, that, be it more or less that is received in baptism, if men are evidently unsanctified, they must be renewed by a thorough and powerful change, or else they cannot escape the damnation of hell.

‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked.’ Whether it be your baptism, or whatever else you pretend, I tell you from the living God, that if any of you be a prayerless person, or a scoffer, or a lover of evil company (Proverbs 13:20), in a word, if you are not a holy, strict, and self-denying Christian, you cannot be saved (Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 15:14).

Conversion does not lie in moral righteousness.

This does not exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, and therefore cannot bring us to the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20). Paul, while unconverted, touching the righteousness which is in the law was blameless (Philippians 3:6). The Pharisee could say, ‘I am no extortioner, adulterer, unjust’, etc. (Luke 18:111). You must have something more than all this to show, or else, however you may justify yourself, God will condemn you. I do not condemn morality, but I warn you not to rest in it. Piety includes morality, as Christianity does humanity, and as grace does reason; but we must not divide the tables.

Conversion does not consist in an external conformity to the rules of piety.

It is manifest that men may have a form of godliness, without the power (2 Timothy 3:5). Men may pray long (Matthew 23:14), and fast often (Luke 18:12), and hear gladly (Mark 6:20), and be very forward 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 than that they go to church, give alms, and make use of prayer, to prove themselves sound converts. There is no outward service but a hypocrite may do it, even to the giving of all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Conversion is not the mere chaining up of corruption by education, human laws or the force of affliction.

It is too common and easy to mistake education for grace; but if this were enough, who a better man than Jehoash? While Jehoiada, his uncle, lived, he was very forward in God’s 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 all this while; for when his good tutor was taken away he appears to have been but a wolf chained up, and falls into idolatry.

In short, conversion does not consist in illumination or conviction or in a superficial change or partial reformation.

An apostate may be an enlightened man (Hebrews 6:4), and a Felix tremble under conviction (Acts 24:25), and a Herod do many things (Mark 6:20). It is one thing to have sin alarmed only by convictions, and another to have it crucified by converting grace. Many, because they have been troubled in conscience for their sins, think well of their case, miserably mistaking conviction for conversion. With these, Cain might have passed for a convert, who ran up and down the world like a man distracted, under the rage of a guilty conscience, till he stifled it with building and business. Others think that because they have given up their riotous ways, and are broken off from evil company or some particular lust, and are reduced to sobriety and civility, they are now real converts. They forget that there is a vast difference between being sanctified and civilized. They forget that many seek to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and are not far from it, and arrive to the almost of Christianity, and yet fall short at last. While conscience holds the whip over them, many will pray, hear, read, and forbear their delightful sins; but no sooner is the lion asleep than they are at their sins again. Who more religious than the Jews when God’s hand was upon them? Yet no sooner was the affliction over, than they forgot God. You may have forsaken a troublesome sin, and have escaped the gross pollutions of the world, and yet in all this not have changed your carnal nature. You may take a crude mass of lead and mold it into the more comely proportion of a plant, and then into the shape of an animal, and then into the form and features of a man; but all the time it is still lead. So a man may pass through various transmutations, from ignorance to knowledge, from profanity to civility, then to a form of religion, and all this time he is still carnal and unregenerate, his nature remains unchanged.

Hear then, O sinners, hear as you would live. Why should you willfully deceive yourselves, or build your hopes upon the sand?

I know that he will find hard work that goes to pluck away your hopes. It cannot but be unpleasant to you, and truly it is not pleasing to me. I set about it as a surgeon when about to cut off a mortified limb from his beloved friend, which of necessity he must do, though with an aching heart. But understand me, beloved I am only taking down the ruinous house, which otherwise will speedily fall of itself and bury you in the ruins, that I may build it fair, strong, and firm forever. The hope of the wicked shall perish (Proverbs 11:7). And had you not better, O sinner, let the Word convince you now in time, and let go your false and self-deluding hopes, than have death open your eyes too late, and find yourself in hell before you are aware? I should be a false and faithless shepherd if I should not tell you, that you who have built your hopes upon no better grounds than these before mentioned, are yet in your sins. Let conscience speak. What have you to plead for yourselves? Is it that you wear Christ’s livery; that you bear His name; that you are a member of the visible church; that you have knowledge in the points of religion, are civilized, perform religious duties, are just in your dealings, 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 itself, will not prove you converted, and so will not suffice to your salvation. O look to it, and resolve to turn speedily and entirely. Study your own hearts; do not rest till God has made thorough work with you; for you must be other men, or else you are lost men.

But if these persons come short of conversion, what shall I say of the profane person?

It may be he will scarcely cast his eyes on, or lend his ear 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. May a man keep company with the wise virgins, and yet be shut out; and shall not a companion of fools much more be destroyed? May a man be true in his dealings, and yet not be justified before God? What then will become of you, O wretched man, whose conscience tells you that you are false in your trade and false to your word? If men may be enlightened and brought to the external 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 families that live without God in the world? What will become of you, O wretched sinners, with whom God is scarcely in all your thoughts; that are so ignorant that you cannot pray, or so careless that you will not? O repent and be converted, break off your sins by righteousness. Away to Christ for pardoning and renewing grace. Give up yourselves to Him, to walk with Him in holiness, or you shall never see God. O that you would heed the warnings of God! In His name I once more admonish you.

Turn you at my reproof. Forsake the foolish, and live. Be sober, righteous, and godly. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cease to do evil, learn to do well (Proverbs 1:23 and 9:6; Titus 2:12; James 4:8; Isaiah 1:16-17). But if you will go on, you must die.

CONVERSION: And those things from which we turn

Taken and adapted from, “An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners”
Written by Joseph Alleine (1634-1668), An English Nonconformist Pastor

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The objects from which we turn in conversion are, sin, Satan, the world, and our own righteousness.

We turn from sin. When a man is converted, he is forever at enmity with sin; yes, with all sin, but most of all with his own sins, and especially with his bosom sin. Sin is now the object of his indignation. His sins swell his sorrows. It is sin that pierces him and wounds him; he feels it like a thorn in his side, like a prick in his eyes: he groans and struggles under it, and not formally, but feelingly cries out, “0 wretched man!” He is not impatient of any burden so much as of his sin. If God should give him his choice, he would choose any affliction so he might be rid of sin; he feels it like the cutting gravel in his shoes, pricking and paining him as he goes.

Before conversion, he had light thoughts of sin; he cherished it in his bosom, as Uriah his lamb; he nourished it up, and it grew up together with him; it did eat, as it were, of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was to him as a daughter. But when God opens his eyes by conversion, he throws it away with abhorrence, as a man would a loathsome toad, which in the dark he had hugged fast in his bosom, and thought it had been some pretty and harmless bird. When a man is savingly changed, he is deeply convinced not only of the danger but the defilement of sin; and O, how earnest is he with God to be purified! He loathes himself for his sins. He runs to Christ, and casts himself into the fountain set open for sin and for uncleanness. If he fall, he has no rest till he flees to the word, and washes in the infinite fountain, laboring to cleanse himself from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit.

The sound convert is heartily engaged against sin; he struggles with it, he wars against it; he is too often foiled, but he will never yield the cause, nor lay down the weapons, while he has breath in his body; he will make no peace; he will give no quarter. He can forgive his other enemies; he can pity them, and pray for them; but here he is implacable, here he is set upon extermination; he hunts as it were for the precious life; his eye shall not pity, his hand shall not spare, though it be a right hand or a right eye. Be it a gainful sin, most delightful to his nature or the support of his esteem with worldly friends, yet he will rather throw his gain down the kennel, see his credit fail, or the flower of pleasure wither in his hand, than he will allow himself in any known way of sin. He will grant no indulgence, he will give no toleration; he draws upon sin wherever he meets it, and frowns upon it with this unwelcome salute, “Have I found you, 0 mine enemy?”

Have you pondered these things in thy heart? Hast you searched the book within you, to see if these things be so? If not, read it again, and make thy conscience speak, whether or not it be thus with you.

Hast you crucified thy flesh with its affections and lusts; and not only confessed, but forsaken thy sins, all sin in thy fervent desires, and the ordinary practice of every deliberate and willful sin in thy life? If not, you art yet unconverted. Does not conscience fly in your face as you read, and tell you that you livest in a way of lying for thy advantage; that you used deceit in your calling; that there is some way of secret wantonness that you live in? Why then, do not deceive thyself; you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.

Does not your unbridled tongue, your indulgence of appetite, your wicked company, your neglect of prayer, of reading and hearing the word, now witness against you, and say, ” We are your works, and we will follow you;” or, if I have not hit you right, does not the monitor within tell you, there is such or such a way that you know to be evil, that yet for some carnal respect you do tolerate yourself in? If this be your case, you are to this day unregenerate, and must be changed or condemned.

We turn from Satan.

Conversion binds the strong man, spoils his armor, casts out his goods, turns men from the power of Satan unto God. Before, the devil could no sooner hold up his finger to the sinner to call him to his wicked company, sinful games, and filthy delights, but presently he followed, like an ox to the slaughter, and a fool to the correction of the stocks; as the bird that hastens to the prey, and knows not that it is for his life. No sooner could Satan bid him lie, but presently he had it on his tongue. No sooner could Satan offer a wanton object, but he was stung with lust. If the devil says, “Away with these family duties,” be sure they shall be rarely enough performed in his house. If the devil says, “Away with this strictness, this preciseness,” he will keep far enough from it: if he tells him, “There is no need of these closet-duties,” he will go from day-to-day and scarcely perform them. But since he is converted he serves another Master, and takes quite another course: he goes and comes at Christ’s bidding. Satan may sometimes catch his foot in a trap, but he will no longer be a willing captive; he watches against the snares and baits of Satan, and studies to be acquainted with his devices; he is very suspicious of his plots, and is very jealous in what comes across him, lest Satan should have some design upon him; he ” wrestles against principalities and powers;” he entertains the messenger of Satan as men do the messenger of death; he keeps his eye upon his enemy, and watches in his duties, lest Satan should get an advantage.

We turn from the world.

Before a man has true faith, he is overcome of the world; either he bows down to mammon, or idolizes his reputation, or is a “lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.” Here is the root of man’s misery by the fall; he is turned aside to the creature, and gives that esteem, confidence, and affection to the creature, that is due to God alone,

0 miserable man, what a deformed monster has sin made you! God made you “little lower than the angels;” sin, little better than the devils. The world, that was formed to serve you, is come to rule you—the deceitful harlot has bewitched you with her enchantments, and made you bow down and serve her.

But converting grace sets all in order again, and puts God on the throne, and the world at his footstool; Christ in the heart, and the world under the feet. So Paul, “I am crucified to the world, and the world to me,” Before this change, all the cry-was, “Who will show us any worldly good?” but now he prays, ” Lord, lift you up the light of thy countenance upon me,” and take the corn and wine whoso will. Before, his heart’s delight and content were in the world; then the song was, “Soul, take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry; you hast much goods laid up for many years;” but now all this is withered, and there is no comeliness, that we should desire it; and he tunes up with the sweet Psalmist of Israel: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; the lines are fallen to me in a fair place, and I have a goodly heritage.” He blesses himself, and boasts himself in God. Nothing else can give him content. He has written vanity and vexation upon all his worldly enjoyments, and loss and dung upon all human excellencies. He has life and immortality now in pursuit. He pants for grace and glory, and has a crown incorruptible in view. His heart is set in him to seek the Lord. He first seeks the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness thereof, and religion is no longer a matter by the by with him, but his main care.

Before, the world had the sway with him; he would do more for gain than godliness—more to please his friend, or his flesh, than the God that made him; and God must stand by till the world was first served. But now all must stand by; he hates father and mother, and life, and all, in comparison of Christ. Well, then, pause a little, and look within. Doth not this nearly concern you? You pretend for Christ, but does not the world sway you? Do you not take more real delight and content in the world than in him? Do you not find thyself better at ease when the world goes to thy mind, and you art compassed with carnal delights, than when retired to prayer and meditation in thy closet, or attending upon God’s word and worship? No surer evidence of an unconverted state, than to have the things of the world uppermost in our aim, love, and estimation.

With the sound convert, Christ has the supremacy. How dear is his name to him! How precious is his favor! The name of Jesus is engraven on his heart. Gal. 4: 19. Honor is but air, and laughter is but madness, and mammon is fallen like Dagon before the ark, with hands and head broken off on the threshold, when once Christ is savingly revealed. Here is the pearl of great price to the true convert; here is his treasure; here is his hope. This is his glory, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” 0, it is sweeter to him to be able to say, Christ is mine, than if he could say, the kingdom is mine.

We turn from our own righteousness.

Before conversion, man seeks to cover himself with his own fig-leaves, and to make himself whole with his own duties. He is apt to trust in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and to reckon his counters for gold, and not submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. He casts it off, as a man would the dirty tatters of a beggar. Now he is brought to poverty of spirit, complains of and condemns himself, and all his inventory is, “poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked.” He sees a world of iniquity in his holy things, and calls his once-idolized righteousness but filth and loss; and would not for a thousand worlds be found in it. Now he begins to set a high price upon Christ’s righteousness: he sees the need of Christ in every duty, to justify his person, and sanctify his performances; he cannot live without him; he cannot pray without him. Christ must go with him, or else he cannot come into the presence of God; he leans upon Christ, and so bows. Himself in the house of his God; he sets himself down for a lost undone man without him; his life is hid in Christ, as the root of a tree spreads in the earth for stability and nutriment. Before, the news of Christ was a stale and tasteless thing; but now, how sweet is Christ. Augustine could not relish his before so much admired Cicero, because he could not find in his writings the name of Christ. How emphatically cries he, “0 most sweet, most loving, most kind, most dear, most precious, most desired, most lovely, most fair!”

In a word, the voice of the convert is with the martyr, “None but Christ.”

 

…What do you really want?

 by Joseph Alleine

brain_on_fireThat night God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” 2 Chron. 1:7
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If God should give you your choice, as He did to Solomon, what would you ask for?
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Go into the gardens of pleasure, and gather all the fragrant flowers there—would these satisfy you? Go to the treasures of mammon; suppose you may carry away as much as you desire. Go to the towers, to the trophies of honor—and become a man of renown. Would any of these, would all of these satisfy you, and make you to count yourself happy? If so, then certainly you are carnal and unconverted.

Converting grace turns the heart from its idols—to the living God. Before conversion, the man minded his farm, friends, pleasures—more than Christ. He found more sweetness in his merry company, wicked games, earthly delights—than in Christ. Now he says, ‘But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ!’ Phil. 3:7-8

. . .

Meet the Author and your heritage:  Joseph Alleine (baptised 8 April 1634 – died 17 November 1668) was an English Puritan Nonconformist pastor and author of many religious works.1645 is marked in the title-page of a quaint old tractate, by an eye-witness, as the year of his setting forth in the Christian race. His elder brother Edward, who was a clergyman, died in that year; and Joseph entreated his father that he might be educated to succeed his brother in the ministry.

Joseph-Alleine2In April 1649 he entered Lincoln College, Oxford, and on 3 November 1651, he became scholar of Corpus Christi College.  He found time to continue his studies, one part of which was his Theologia Philosophica (a lost manuscript), a learned attempt to harmonize revelation and nature, which was admired by Richard Baxter. He associated on equal terms with founders of the Royal Society. These scientific studies were, however, kept in subordination to his religious work.

After the Uniformity Act 1662 Alleine was among the ejected ministers. With John Westley, also ejected, he then travelled about preaching . For this he was put into prison, indicted at sessions, bullied and fined. His Letters from Prison were an earlier Cardiphonia than John Newton’s. He was released on 26 May 1664; and in spite of the Five Mile Act, he resumed his preaching. He found himself again in prison..

Worn out by the continued persecution, he died in November 1668; and the mourners, remembering their beloved minister’s words while yet with them, “If I should die fifty miles away, let me be buried at Taunton,” found a grave for him in St Mary’s chancel. No Puritan nonconformist name is so affectionately cherished as is that of Joseph Alleine. His chief literary work was An Alarm to the Unconverted (1672), otherwise known as The Sure Guide to Heaven, which had an enormous circulation.

Excerpts taken from Wikipedia