"What do you more than others?", A Letter from Prison, Joseph Alleine.
Most loving and entirely beloved,
You are a great joy to me. I know not what thanks to render to the Lord for you, when I hear of your constancy, and fidelity, and zeal, in adhering to him, and his ways, even in such a time as this, you are highly favoured, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, that he has regarded the low estates of his servants: That he should ever indulge you as he has, and hover over you, even as the eagle stirs up her nest, and flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings, for so has the Lord your God dealt with you: He has kept you as the apple of his eye, and since the streams of Cherith were dried up, yet to this day he has not suffered the handful of meal to waste, nor the oil in the cruse to fail, but (though you have no certainty to trust to) has continually provided for you to the full.
How should I love and bless the Lord for this his great grace towards you, while I live? Now I beseech you my brethren, that you consider the kindness of the Lord; for the Lord your God is he that cares for you, and that you love the Lord your God, and fear him for ever, for he is your life, and the length of your days. And as Job had a holy fear of his children, least they should have offended: So my most dearly beloved, I am jealous of you with a godly jealousy, lest any of you should receive this grace of God in vain. I must not cease to put you in mind, that God does look from no small matter from you. Remember my most endeared charge, that the Lord does look for singular things from you, that there be not a barren tree nor a dwarf Christian among you; where the Lord doth strow much, he looks to gather much; and where he soweth much, he expects to reap accordingly. Whose account my beloved, is like to be so great as yours? O look about you, and think of the Master coming to reckon with you for his talents; when he will expect no small increase. Beloved, what can you do? How much are you grown? What spoil have you made upon your corruptions? What progress in grace?
Suppose Christ should put the awakening question to you, What do you more than others? Beloved, God does expect more of his people, than of any others in the world besides: And well he may. For:
First, He hath bestowed more on them than on others. Now where much is given, much shall be required: Can you think of that without trembling? He hath bestowed on them singular love more than on others; Thou only have I known of all the families on earth. He has a distinguishing love and favour for his people, and he looks that his love should, be a constraining argument to obedience. Again he hath laid out a singular care on his people, more than on others. He cares for no man, for nothing in all the world, in comparison of them. He reproves Kings for their sakes. He will give Nations, and Kingdoms for their ransom. So precious are they in his sight, and so dearly beloved, that he will give men for them, and people for their life. He withdraws not his eyes from the righteous, he will not endure them out of his sight. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and first the eye of his more accurate observation: God can wink at others as it were, and overlook what they do with little notice, but he has a most curious eye upon his people, he marks their steps, and books their words, he weighs their actions, and ponders all their goings. And should they not walk more cautiously, and sparingly, than any alive, that are under so exact and curious an eye? Secondly, the eye of special care, and protection. Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him. I will guide thee with mine eye: And should not they be infinitely tender and careful how to please the Lord, who have his singular care laid out on them? In short, God has bestowed on them singular privileges, more than others. These are a peculiar treasure to him above all people, a Kingdom of Priests, an holy Nation, a singular separated people, they dwell alone, they are diverse from all people. When the whole world lies in wickedness, these are Called and Chosen, and Faithful, Washed, and Justified, and Sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. The rest are the refuse, these the jewels: these are taken, and they are left. Shall not God’s Priests be clothed with righteousness, and shall not princes live above the rate of peasants?
Secondly, He hath entrusted them with more than others; Not only with the talents of his grace (for the increase whereof they must give a strict account) but also with the jewel of his glory. How tenderly should they walk, that are entrusted with such a jewel? Remember, your maker’s glory is bound up in your fruitful walking.
Thirdly, He hath qualified them more than others. He hath put into them a principle of life, having quickened them together with Christ. He hath set up a light in their minds, when others lie in darkness. He hath given them other aids, than others have, even his Spirit to help their infirmities, when others lie like vessels that are windbound, and cannot stir.
Fourthly, He hath provided for them other manner of things than for others. These are the little flock to whom it is his good pleasure to give the Kingdom; great are the preparations for them. The Father hath prepared the Kingdom for them from the foundations of the World: the Son is gone to Heaven on purpose to prepare a place for them: The Spirit is preparing them, and making them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in Light: and should these be like other people?
Brethren beloved, God and Men do expect you should do more than others, see that that you be indeed singular. For
First, If you do no more for God than others, he will do more against you than others: You only have I known, therefore will I punish you. The barren tree in the vineyard must down, whereas had he been in the common he might have stood much longer. God looked for grapes from his vineyard, on which he had bestowed such care and cost more than ordinary, but when they bring forth wild grapes, he will lay them waste in a worse manner than the forest when Christ came to the fig-tree seeking fruit, and met with none, he cursed it from the root, whereas had it been a thorn or bramble, it might have stood as before.
Second, If you do no more than others, you must look for no more than others: If you should put off God with a common obedience, you must expect to be put off with common mercies.
Third, Except you do more than others, God will be dishonoured more by you than others.
I have been too long with you, but I am earnestly desirous you should be sensible of God’s extraordinary expectations from you. And truly, as God looks for more from his own than others, so he looks for more from you than others, even of his own, because that he hath done more: See that you be shining Christians, that you be strong in the grace of God, that you press towards the mark. But I must conclude; I give my loves among you all, being able to add no more, but that I am
Yours in fervent loves and longings,
From the Prison at Juelchester, Jan. 2. 1663.