Voices from the Past: Joseph Alleine (1634-1668)

VoicesFromThePastHistory speaks. Voices from the past in some cases are still as vibrant and applicable today as they were in their own day. In our day there are countless people who consider themselves to be Christians without submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They want to have the work of Christ to be applied to them without submitting to his authority over every aspect of their lives. Many wish to be left alone to live their lives the way they please and then in the end have Jesus as some sort of fire insurance policy. They want justification without sanctification.The problem with this is that this philosophy misses the nature of who God is in Jesus. He isn’t a possible lord that can be evaluated and chosen out of a group as one would do with different insurance companies. He is the Lord. See the great authority of Jesus in the words of the apostle Paul: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is Lord. No one makes Jesus Lord. This isn’t a choice. There is no option here. The Lordship of Jesus is the essence of who he is.

This dilemma is not unique to our modern pluralistic world, however. This same problem existed in the 1600’s. The Puritans struggled with this deceiving and deadly nominal Christianity in the same way we do. We would be wise to take counsel from those who have “been there, done that.” With that we turn to Puritan pastor Joseph Alleine. Joseph Alleine was a passionate pastor with a heart for the conversion of sinners by faith in the work of Jesus Christ. He lived a short, but fruitful 34 years suffering from the persecution that accompanied the Act of Uniformity of 1662. Imprisoned on two separate occasions, Alleine’s fuel for the gospel of Christ only increased and it was nearly impossible to keep him silent. Scottish missionary Alexander Duff gives the best description of him and no more words are needed or are to be desired to describe him:

What inextinguishable zeal! What unquenchable thirstings after the conversion of lost sinners! What unslumbering watchfulness in warning and edifying saints! What profound humility and self-abasement in the sight of God! What patience and forbearance, what meekness and generosity, what affability and moderation! What triumphant faith–what tranquil, yet rapturous joy!

Out of his many works, probably the one that spoke most directly to his evangelistic zeal was An Alarm to the Unconverted (1671, reprinted in 1995 by BTT). In this work he is very helpful to us as we battle the many distortions of the gospel that fill our culture today. Joseph Alleine is clear where we must be. In the words of Joel Beeke and Mark Jones reflecting on Alleine’s thinking: “The true convert is willing to receive Christ, both as Savior from sin and as Lord of one’s life” (Meet the Puritans, Reformation Heritage Books: 2012).

Heed the warning and danger of separating the work of Christ in justification from the work of Christ in sanctification from the voice of Joseph Alleine in his classic An Alarm to the Unconverted (p. 45):

All of Christ is accepted by the sincere convert. He loves not only the wages but the work of Christ, not only the benefits but the burden of Christ. He is willing not only to tread out the corn, but to draw under the yoke. He takes up the commands of Christ, yea, the cross of Christ. The unsound convert takes Christ by halves. He is all for the salvation of Christ, but he is not for sanctification. He is for the privileges, but does not appropriate the person of Christ. He divides the offices and benefits of Christ. This is an error in the foundation. Whoever loves life, let him beware here. It is an undoing mistake, of which you have often been warned, and yet none is more common.


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