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I’ve said it before: the Puritans are without mercy when it comes to sinners. Joseph Alleine is no exception. He opens his with this:
The unconverted soul is a very cage of unclean birds (Rev xviii 2), a sepulchre full of corruption and rottenness (Mt xviii 27), a loathsome carcass full of crawling worms, and sending forth a most noxious stench in the nostrils of God (Ps xiv 3).
You can cut him some slack, however, since he is quoting Scripture. After a brief introduction, he wastes no time in dissecting biblical conversion in a neat and tidy fashion.
Mistakes about Conversion
That he starts with mistakes indicates only one thing: false converts abound.
So what should they know?
Conversion is not the taking upon us the profession of Christianity, putting on the badge of Christ in baptism, lying in moral righteousness.
It does not consist in an external conformity to the rules of piety nor is it the mere chaining up of corruption by education, human laws or the force of affliction.
It is something more.
Nature of Conversion
Of course, the subject of conversion is the elect sinner, whose mind and members are converted–every bias and bent is toward God.
He turns from sin, Satan, the world and his own righteousness to “God the Father, son and Holy Ghost.”
The Holy Spirit is the author of that conversion. And the end of conversion is not just man’s salvation, and God’s glory.
Necessity of Conversion
You will not hear this in an average evangelical church setting: “Without conversion your being is in vain.”
In other words, you are worthless.
To a degree.
As is all of creation, a redemptive notion we saw picked up by Matt Chandler in The Explicit Gospel.
To boot, your hopes and religion are also vain without conversion. And the ultimate necessity of conversion falls upon the fact that without it Christ’s suffering for you is in vain.
Then there was this line: “There is no remedy, but you must either turn or burn.”
Marks of the Unconverted
There are obvious marks of the unconverted: the unclean, covetous, drunkards, liar, swearers, railers, backbiters, thieves, scoffers of religion, , those who neglect worship of God and extortioners.
And then there are the not so obvious.
For example, willful ignorance or hatred of God’s laws, trusting in your own righteousness, unmortified pride, carnal security, love of the world and wrong motives when it comes to religious duties.
The second are perhaps more insidious:
A man may be free from open pollutions, and yet die at last by the hand of some unobserved iniquity; and there are these twelve hidden sins, through which souls go down by numbers into the chambers of eternal death.
Miseries of the Unconverted
The unconverted are dead souls in living bodies. And that condition is not good. The infinite God is against them as well as the whole creation of God.
Yes, unconverted soul, you are a burden to creation:
If inanimate creatures could but speak, your food would say, ‘Lord, must I nourish such a wretch as this, and yield forth my strength for him, to dishonour Thee? No, I will choke him rather, if Thou wilt give commission.’
In addition, Satan has his full power over you, the guilt of all your sins lies like a mountain upon you, you are enslaved by your raging lusts, the oven of eternal vengeance burns hot for you, you are cursed and threatened at every level by the law and you have the sentence of eternal damnation hanging over you.
This is the gospel. It is unrelenting. And exactly why Alleine screams, “Awake! awake! O sinner, arise and take your flight. There is but one door that you may flee by, and that is the narrow door of conversion and the new birth.”
Directions to the Unconverted
Now that you are sufficiently disturbed, we encourage you to “set your heart upon turning to God.”
He embarks on a list of fourteen steps to turning your heart to God. Included in these steps are belief that you will not get into heaven as the unconverted, you must choose the law of Christ to rule your words, thoughts and actions and forsake your evil company.
And all of this for your joy, as you’ll see in a minute.
The Motives to Conversion
If you are not sufficiently satisfied, regard the beauty of conversion: your Creator invites you by throwing open the doors of heaven and offering “unspeakable privileges” in this life.
And all the grace you need is before you, because he has stooped and lowered the terms of mercy to allow you in.
How quick-sighted is love! Mercy spies him a great way off; forgets his riotous course, unnatural rebellion, horrid unthankfulness – not a word of these – and receives him with open arms, clasps him about his neck, kisses him; calls for the fatted calf, the best robe, the ring, the shoes, the best cheer in heaven’s store, the best attire in heaven’s wardrobe.
This was an entirely splendid book to read. While not the linguistic richness of a Baxter and thankfully simple unlike Owen, the structure and the sequence built the argument logically.
Plus, the substance of the content worked over this believer. You are weary, no doubt, as you near the end–converted or unconverted–and you recognize you are wretched and in very bad shape if not for the cross of Christ, which makes a line like this sublime:
Now the Lord Jesus stretches wide His arms to receive you. He beseeches you by us. How movingly, how meltingly, how compassionately He calls. The church is put into a sudden ecstasy at the sound of His voice, `the voice of my beloved’.
This is a must read. Once a year.
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