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A Letter to his Parishioners from Prison. [To lose the services of such a minister was, perhaps, the saddest calamity which ever befel the town of Taunton. But although deprived of his living, Mr Alleine did not feel that he was released from the care of souls. Unfortunately, howcver, in those days of intolerance, to secede from the National Church was an offence against the State, and for an outed minister to preach was a crime. Of this crime Mr Alleine was guilty. For addressing little companies of his former parishioners, he was once and again thrown into prison; and during his second term of confinement, his health, already shattered, received a final shock, and soon after his discharge his Heavenly Master released him from all his labours.
From various pastoral epistles to his former parishioners, which he wrote during these imprisonments, we extract the following :-)
To the most Endeared People, the Inhabitants of Taunton,
Salvation. Most DEARLY BELOVED AND LONGED-FOR, MY JOY AND Crown,-My heart's desire and prayer for you is that you may be saved. This is that which I have been praying, and studying, and preaching for these many years; and this is the end of my venturing, and suffering, and writing, at this present time. God that knoweth all things, He knoweth that this is my wish,—“ Oh, that I could but come at their souls!" And that this is the prize and the gain that I run for, that I might win souls. I seek no other gifts; give me your hearts, let me but part between
sins and you; suffer me but to save you; give me leave to carry you over to Jesus Christ, and I will not ask you any more. I will serve you gladly, I will suffer for you thankfully, so I may but save you. Do not wonder why I follow you so pressingly, why I call upon you so frequently;
let not my importunity be grievous to you; all this is but to save you. Christ did not bethink His blood, and shall I bethink my breath, or ink, too dear, in order to your salvation! What a pity is it that any of you should miscarry at last under the power of ignorance, or by a profane negligence, or a formal and lifeless profession of strict godliness !
Beloved, I am afraid of you, lest (as to many of you) I have run in vain. I cannot but most thankfully acknowledge that (considering the paucity of those that are saved) there are not a few of you who are the joy of your ministers, and the glory of Christ. But it cannot be dissembled that far the greater number give little ground to hope that they are in the state of salvation. And must not this be a pinching thought to a compassionate teacher, to think that he cannot for his heart persuade men but that the most of them will wilfully throw away themselves? Is it not a woful sight to behold the devils driving a great part of our miserable flocks (as they did once the herd of swine, the keepers themselves, amazed, looking on), I say, driving them violently down the hill, till they be choked in the water, and drowned irrecoverably in the gulf of endless perdition? Ah, miserable spectacle ! What through the wilful blindness of some, what through the looseness and sensuality of others, what through the halving, and cold and customary religion of others, how great a number of our poor flocks is Satan like to carry utterly away from us, after all that hath been done to save them!
Yet I cannot but call after them, “Hearken unto me, O ye children. How long will ye love vanity, and follow after leasing, and trust in lying words?" As the Lord liveth, you are lost except you turn. Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. Ah, how mercy wooeth you! How it waiteth to be gracious to you! Hear, O sinners, hear! See you not how the merciful Saviour of the world stretcheth forth His hands all the day long, and spreadeth forth His wings, and calleth you as a hen doth her chickens! He hath no need of you; yet how do His compassions melt over perishing sinners! His heart is turned within Him; and shall not this turn your hearts? His repentings are kindled together; and shall not this lead you to repentance? Behold He standeth at the door and knocketh. O man, wilt thou keep Jesus at the door, and lodge Barabbas in thy bosom, and prefer thy cruel lusts before thy compassionate Lord? O His melting love to sinners! He calleth after them (Isa. lv. 1). He weepeth over them (Luke xix. 41, 42). He cricth to them, "How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? Will you not be made clean? When shall it once be? Why will you die? Turn you at my reproof; behold I will pour out my Spirit upon you." Sinner, art thou not yet melted? Oh, come in at His loving calls, come out from thy sins; touch the sceptre of grace, and live. Why shouldest thou be dashed in pieces by His iron rod? Kiss the Son. Why shouldest thou perish in the way! Set up Jesus as thy King, lest He count thee for His enemy, because thou wouldest not that He should reign over thee, and so thou be called forth and slain before Him.
But I have been too long in prefacing to what I intended forthwith to have fallen upon; indeed I am apt to run out in matters that do so nearly touch upon your greatest concernments.
Beloved, I despair of ever bringing you to salvation without sanctification, or possessing you with happiness without persuading you to holiness. God knows, I have not the least hope ever to see one of your faces in heaven, except you be converted and sanctified, and exercise yourself unto godliness. This is that I drive at. I beseech you, study to further personal godliness and family godliness.
1. Personal godliness.--Let it be your first care to set up Christ in your hearts. See that you make all your worldly interests to stoop to Him, that you be entirely and unreservedly
devoted to Him. If you wilfully, and deliberately, and ordinarily, harbour any sin, you are undone. See that you unfeignedly take the laws of Christ as the rule of your words, thoughts, and actions, and subject your whole man, members and mind, faithfully to Him. If you have a true respect to all God's commandments, you are sound at heart. Oh, study to get the image and impress of Christ upon you within ! Begin with your hearts, else you build without a foundation. Labour to get a saving change within, or else all external performances will be to no purpose. And then study to shew forth the power of godliness in the life. Let piety be your first and great business. It is the highest point of justice to give God his due. Beware that none of you be a prayerless person, for that is a most certain discovery of a Christless and a graceless person, of one that is a very stranger to the fear of God. Suffer not your Bibles to gather dust. See that you converse daily with the Word. That man can never lay claim to blessedness whose delight is not in the law of the Lord. Let meditation and self-examination be your daily exercise, else the Papists, yea, the Pagans, will condemn us. That the short questions which I have given you as a help to self-examination may be daily perused by you, is the matter of my passionate request unto you. If ever you come to any growth in holiness without the constant use of this practice, I am grossly deceived. And therefore I would beseech, yea, even charge you, by the Lord, that you would daily examine yourselves by these questions, till you have found a better help to this duty.
But piety without charity is but the half of Christianity, or rather impious hypocrisy. We may not divide the tables. See therefore that you do justly, and love mercy, and let equity and charity run, like an even thread, throughout all your dealings. Be you temperate in all things, and let charity and sobriety be your undivided companions. Let truth and purity, seriousness and modesty, heavenliness and gravity, be the conVOL. II.
to all men.
stant ornaments of your speech. Let patience and humility, simplicity and sincerity, shine out in all the parts of your conversations. See that you forget and forgive wrongs, and requite them with kindness, as you would be found children of the Most High. Be merciful in your censures, and put the most favourable construction upon your brethren’s carriage that their actions will reasonably bear. Be slow in promising, punctual in fulfilling. Let meekness and innocency, affableness, yieldingness, and courtesy, commend your conversations
Let none of your relations want that love and loyalty, that reverence and duty, that tenderness, care, and vigilancy which their several places and capacities call for. This is throughout godliness. I charge you before the most high God, that none of you be found a swearer or a liar, a lover of evil company, or a scoffer, or malicious, or covetous, or a drunkard, or a glutton, unrighteous in his dealing, unclean in his living, or a quarreller, or a thief, or a backbiter, or a railer; for I denounce unto you from the living God, that destruction and damnation is the end of all such (Prov. xiii. 20; James v. 12; Rev. xxi. 8; 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10; Gal. vi. 19, 20, 21).
[Then, after an earnest exhortation to family worship, catechising, &c., he thus concludes :}
Oh, that your families might be a joy to me, as that twice noble lady's to John, who professes he had no greater joy than to find her children walking in the truth! Beloved, why should you not give the hand to one another, and mutually engage cach to other for more vigorous and diligent endeavours in promoting family godliness? I must tell you, God looks for more than ordinary from you in such a day as this. He expects that you should do, both in your hearts and in your houses, somewhat more than ever, under these His extraordinary dispensations. My most dearly beloved, miné own bowels in the Lord, will you satisfy the