(A letter by Joseph Alleine to his cousin)
The welcome tidings of your safe arrival at Barbados, is come to my ears; as also the news of your escape from a perilous sickness, for which I bless the Lord, and desire to be thankful with you. For I am not without a care for your wellbeing; but do look upon myself as really concerned in you. I have considered that God hath bereft you of a careful father, and that your mother takes but little care of you; so that you have none nearer than myself to watch for your soul, and to charge and admonish you in the Lord, and to take care of you.
But yet dear cousin, be not discouraged by these things, but look to heaven, fly unto Jesus, put away every known sin, set upon the conscientious performance of every known duty; make Christ your choice, embrace him upon his terms; deliver up yourself, body and soul, to him. See that you have no reserves, no limitations in your choice of him; give him your very heart; cast away your worldly hopes and expectations; make religion your very business. O cousin, these things do, and you shall be sure of a friend in heaven to take care of you; and, if I may be any comfort to you, you shall not fail, while I live, to have one friend on earth to care for you. You are gone far from me, even to the uttermost parts of the earth; but I have sent these letters to call even thither after you; yea, not only to call, but to cry in your ears, “O what is like to become of your soul? Where is that immortal soul of yours like to be lodged for ever? Amongst devils, or amongst angels? Upon a bed of flames, or in the joys of paradise?”
Dear Cousin, go aside by yourself in secret, retire from the noise of the world, and say to yourself, “Oh my soul! Whither art thou going? Do not I know in my very heart that I must be converted or condemned; that I must be sanctified or can never be saved? Oh my soul, what seekest thou? What designs do I drive at? What is my chief care? Which way do I bend my course? Is it for this world, or for the world to come? Do I first seek the kingdom of heaven, and the righteousness thereof? Do I think heaven will drop into my mouth; that glory and immortality will be gotten with a wet finger, with cold prayers, and heartless wishes, while the world carries the main of my heart? Do I think to be crowned, and yet never fight? To get the race, and never run? To enter at the strait gate, and never strive? To overcome principalities and powers, and never wrestle?” No, no; say within yourself, “Oh my soul, either lay by the hopes of heaven for ever, or else rouse up thyself, put forth thy strength in seeking after God and glory; either lay by worldly hopes, or thy hopes of immortality; away with thy sins, or thou must let Christ go forever; think not to have Christ and the world too, to serve God and mammon; - it cannot be. If thou follow the world as thy chief desire and delight, if thou live after the flesh thou shalt die; count upon it, the Lord hath spoken it; and all the world can never reverse it.” Thus reason the case with your own soul, and give not rest to yourself night nor day, till you have gotten off the world, broken off from the wilful practice of every known sin, and gotten safe into Christ.
Dear cousin, I charge you by the Lord, to observe these things; pray over them, weep over them, read them again and again; do not pass them over as slight and ordinary things: Your soul is at stake, it is your salvation which is concerned in them. Think not I am in jest with you. Ah cousin, I travail in birth with you, till Christ be formed in you. Why should you die? Oh repent and live, lay hold on eternal life; win Christ, and you win all. Oh be thankful to the Lord, that though now you are fatherless and friendless, yet you have one remembrancer to warn you to fly from the wrath to come. God forbid that I should find you at last in the place of torments, for your not embracing these godly counsels!
To conclude, in short, I charge you as a minister, as a friend, as a father
to you, take heed of these three things:
1. Lest the gain of the world prove the loss of your soul.
2. Lest the snares of evil company withdraw you from God, and so prove your final ruin.
3. Lest a lofty and worldly heart should thrust you out of the kingdom of heaven.
God abhors that the proud should come near to him. Oh labour, whatever you do, for a humble heart; be little, be vile in your own eyes; seek not after great things; be poor in spirit; without this, heaven will be no place for you, God will be no friend to you. Dear cousin, your lot is fallen, as I fear, in a place of great wickedness, where your soul is in much danger, where your temptations are many, and your helps for heaven but few; where godly examples are rare, and many will entice you to sin and vanity. O! If you love me, or love your soul, look about you, consider your danger, fear lest you should miscarry for ever by worldly loss and vain company, which proves to so many the fearful cause of their eternal perdition.
I can but warn you, and pray for you. But though you have none to oversee you, remember the strict and severe eye of God is upon you, to observe all your actions, and that he will surely bring all your practices into judgment. Your aunt and myself, commends our dear love to you; and I commend you to the Lord, and remain,
Your loving and careful uncle,
19th August, 1668.
Joseph Alleine (1633-1668), was a godly puritan who, “had unsurpassed zeal for the glory of God and the conversion of sinners”. Iain Murray says of him, “Never did the evangel of Jesus Christ burn more fervently in any English heart”. He is best known for his little treatise, ‘An Alarm to the Unconverted, or a Sure Guide to Heaven’, which has gone through numerous editions since 1671. It was this book that greatly influenced the preaching of men like George Whitfield and C.H. Spurgeon. Other puritans such as Richard Baxter and George Newton felt greatly humbled by his godliness and zeal in the Christian ministry. Alleine also suffered imprisonment several times for his faithful preaching of the Gospel, refusing to keep silence while sinners were plunging daily into hell. It is certain that his sufferings for King Jesus were the main cause of his early death, though a daily routine of four hours prayer and meditation, two sermons and many more hours of visiting, catechising and study also took its toll on his body. He was a good solider of Jesus Christ.