Jospeh Alleine (1634-1668) was an English Puritan that earnestly sought to convince the unconverted of their need for Christ. He plead with obvious sinners and also those who might “pass for good Christians” but who had not yet been truly converted.
1. Gross Ignorance
Ah how many poor souls doth this sin kill in the dark (Hos. 4:6) while they think verily they have good hearts, and are in the ready way to Heaven!
This is the murderer that dispatches thousands in a silent manner, when (poor hearts!) they suspect nothing, and see not the hand that mischiefs them. You shall find whatever excuses you have for ignorance, that ’tis a soul-undoing, evil (Isa. 27:11. 2 Thes. 1:8. 2 Cor. 4:3).
Ah! Would it not have pitted a man’s heart to have seen that woeful spectacle, when the poor Protestants were shut up a multitude together in a Barn, and a Butcher comes with his inhumane hands warm in human blood, and leads them one by one blind-fold to a Block, where he slew them (poor innocents!) one after another by the scores in cold blood?
But how much more should our hearts bleed, to think of the hundreds in great Congregations, that ignorance doth butcher in secret, and lead them blind-folded to the Block?
Beware this be none of your case. Make no pleas for ignorance. If you spare that sin, know that that will not spare you. Will a man keep a Murderer in his Bosom?
2. Secret Reservations in Closing with Christ
To forsake all for Christ, to hate father and mother, yea, and a mans own life for him, this is a hard saying (Luke 14:26). Some will do much, but they will not be of the Religion that will undo them; they never come to be entirely devoted to Christ, nor fully to resign to him: They must have the sweet sin. They mean to do themselves no harm. They have secret exceptions, for Life, Liberty, or Estate.
Many take Christ thus hand over head, and never consider his self denying terms, nor cast up the cost; and this error in the foundation mars all, and secretly ruins them for ever (Luke 14:28. Mat. 13:21).
3. Formality in Religion
Many stick in the bark of the tree, and rest in the outside of Religion, and in the external performances of holy duties (Mat. 23:25) and this oft-times doth most effectually deceive men, and doth more certainly undo them, than open looseness; as it was in the Pharisees case (Matt. 23:31).
They hear, they fast, they pray, they give alms, and therefore will not believe but their Case is good (Luke 18:11). Whereas resting in the work done, and coming short of the heart-work, and the inward power and vitals of Religion, they fall at last into the burning, from the flattering hopes, and confident persuasions of their being in the ready way to Heaven (Mat. 7:22-23).
Oh dreadful case; when a man’s Religion shall serve only to harden him, and effectually to delude and deceive his own Soul!
4. The Prevalency of False Ends in Holy Duties
This was the bane of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:25). Oh how many a poor soul is undone by this, and drops into Hell, before he discerns his mistake! He performs good duties, and so thinks all is well, and perceives not that he is actuated by carnal Motives all the while.
It is too true that even with the truly sanctified, many carnal ends will oft-times creep in; but they are the matter of his hatred and humiliation, and never come to be habitually prevalent with him, and to bear the greatest sway (Rom. 14:7).
But now when the main thing that doth ordinarily carry a man out to religious duties, shall be some carnal end, as to satisfy his conscience, to get the repute of being religious, to be seen of men, to shew his own gifts and parts, to avoid the reproach of a profane and irreligious person, or the like; this discovers an unsound heart (Hos. 10:1, Zech. 7:5-6).
O Christians, if you would avoid self-deceit, see that you mind, not only your acts, but withal, yea, above all, your ends.
5. Trusting in Their Own Righteousness
This is a soul undoing mischief (Luk. 18:9, Rom. 10:3). When men do trust in their own righteousness, they do indeed reject Christ’s.
Beloved, you had need be watchful on every hand, for, not only your sins, but your duties, may undo you. It may be you never thought of this, but so it is, that a man may as certainly miscarry by his seeming righteousness, and supposed graces, as by gross sins; and that is when a man doth trust to these as his righteousness before God, for the satisfying his justice, appeasing his wrath, procuring his favour, and obtaining of his own pardon: for this is to put Christ out of office, and make a Saviour of our own duties and graces.
Beware of this, O professors; you are much in duties, but this one fly will spoil all the Ointment. When you have done most, and best, be sure to go out of your selves to Christ, reckon your own righteousness but rags (Psalm 143:2, Phil. 3:8, Isa. 64:6, Neh. 13:22).
6. A Secret Enmity Against the Strictness of Religion
Many moral persons, punctual in their formal devotion, have yet a bitter enmity against preciseness, and hate the life and power of Religion (Phil. 3:6, cf. Acts 9:1).
They like not this frowardness, nor that men should keep such a stir in Religion. They condemn the strictness of Religion, as singularity, indiscretion, and intemperate zeal, and with them a lively Preacher, or lively Christian, is but a heady fellow.
These men love not holiness, as holiness, (for then they would love the height of holiness) and therefore are undoubtedly rotten at heart, whatever good opinion they have of themselves.
7. The Resting in a Certain Pitch of Religion
When they have so much as will save them (as they suppose) they look no further, and so shew themselves short of true Grace, which will ever put men upon aspiring to further perfection (Phil. 3:13, Pro. 4:18).
8. The Predominant Love of the World
This is the sure evidence of an unsanctified heart (Mark 10:37, 1 John 2:15). But how close doth this sin lurk oft-times under a fair covert of forward profession (Luke 8:14)?
Yea such a power of deceit is there in this sin, that many times when every body else can see the man’s worldliness, and covetousness, he cannot see it himself, but hath so many colours, and excuses, and pretences for his eagerness, on the world, that he doth blind his own eyes, and perish in his self-deceit.
How many professors be here, with whom the world hath more of their hearts and affections than Christ? Who mind earthly things, and thereby are evidently after the flesh, and like to end in destruction (Rom. 8:5, Phil. 3:19)?
Yet ask these men; and they will tell you confidently, they prize Christ above all, God forbid else! and see not their own earthly mindedness for want of a narrow observation of the workings of their own hearts.
Did they but carefully search, they would quickly find that their greatest content is in the world (Luke 12:19) and their greatest care and main endeavour to get and secure the world, which are the certain discovery of an unconverted sinner.
May the professing part of the world take earnest heed, that they perish not by the hand of this sin unobserved. Men may be, and often are kept off from Christ, as effectually, by the inordinate love of lawful comforts, as by the most unlawful courses (Mat. 22:5; Luke 14:18-24).
9. Reigning Malice and Envy
i.e., against those that disrespect them, or are injurious to them (1 John 2:9-11).
O, how do many that seem to be religious remember injuries, and carry grudges, and will return men as good as they bring, rendering evil for evil, loving to take revenge, wishing evil to them that wrong them, directly against the rule of the Gospel, the pattern of Christ, and the nature of God (Rom. 12:14-17, 1 Pet. 2:21-23, Neh. 9:17).
Doubtless where this evil is kept boiling in the heart, and is not hated, resisted, mortified, but doth habitually prevail, that person is in the very gall of bitterness, and in a state of death (Mat. 18:34-35, 1 John 3:14-15).
Reader, doth nothing of this touch thee? Art thou in none of the forementioned Ranks? O search and search again; take thy heart solemnly to task.
Woe unto thee, if after all thy profession thou shouldst be found under the power of ignorance, lost in formality, drowned in earthly mindedness, envenomed with malice, exalted in an opinion of thine own righteousness, leavened with hypocrisy, and carnal ends in Gods service, embittered against strictness: this would be a sad discovery that all thy Religion were in vain. But I must proceed.
10. Unmortified Pride
When men love the praise of men, more than the praise of God; and set their hearts upon mens esteem, applause, and approbation, it is most certain they are yet in their sins, and strangers to true conversion (John 12:43, Gal. 1:10).
When men see not, nor complain of, nor groan under the pride of their own hearts, it’s a sign they are stark dead in sin. O how secretly doth this sin live and reign in many hearts, and they know it not, but are very strangers to themselves (John 9:40).
11. The Prevailing Love of Pleasure
This is a black mark (2 Tim. 3:4). When men give the flesh the liberty that it craves, and pamper, and please it, and do not deny and restrain it: when their great delight is in gratifying their bellies, and pleasing their senses; whatever appearance they may have of Religion, all is unsound (Rom. 16:18, Tit. 3:3).
A flesh-pleasing life, cannot be pleasing to God, They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, and are careful to cross it, and keep it under, as their enemy (Gal. 5:24, 1 Cor. 9:25-27).
12. Carnal Security
Or, a presumptuous and ungrounded confidence, that their condition is already good (Rev. 3:17). Many cry, “Peace and safety” when sudden destruction is coming upon them (1. Thess. 5:3).
This was that which kept the foolish Virgins sleeping, when they should have been working; upon their Beds, when they should have been at the Markets (Matt. 25:5-10, Prov. 10:5). They perceived not their want of oil, till the Bridegroom was come; and while they went to buy, the door was shut. And O that these foolish Virgins had no successors! Where is the place, yea where is the house almost, where these do not dwell?
Men are willing to cherish in themselves, upon never so slight grounds, a hope that their condition is good, and so look not out after a change, and by this means perish in their sins.
Are you at peace? Shew me upon what grounds your peace is maintained. Is it a Scripture peace? Can you shew the distinguishing marks of a sound Believer? Can you evidence that you have something more than any Hypocrite in the world ever had? If not, fear this peace more than any trouble; and know that a carnal peace doth commonly prove the most mortal enemy of the poor soul; and while it smiles and kisses, and speaks it fair, doth fatally smite it, as it were under the fifth rib.
By this time methinks I hear my Reader crying out with the Disciples, “Who then shall be saved?”
Set out from among our Congregations… these twelve sorts of close and self-deceiving Hypocrites… and tell me then, whether it be not a remnant that shall be saved. How few will be the Sheep that shall be left, when all these shall be separated, and set among the Goats?
For my part, of all my numerous hearers, I have no hope to see any of them in Heaven, that are to be found among… sorts that are here mentioned, except by sound conversion they be brought into another condition.