"Motives to Set Ourselves to Please God." A Letter from Prison, Joseph Alleine.
Ejected from his pulpit following the Act of Uniformity (1662) and imprisoned under the Five Mile Act Joseph Alleine continued to pastorally care for his flock through his prison epistles.
In this missive he encourages the people of the town of Taunton unto godliness, to endeavour to live that life of authentic Christianity. Ever the pastor of the heart Rev Alleine sets out in his letter six motives to set ourselves to the pleasing of God that we may walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing.
Most Dear Christians,
Your prisoner in the Lord salutes you with all dearness: you are the care of my heart, the desire of my eyes, the joy of my bonds, and the sweet of my liberty. I am much satisfied in the wise disposal of our heavenly Father, whether he see it good for me to be a bond-man, or a freeman, so I may but serve your souls to the greatest advantage. Methinks I begin to feel in myself, more than ever the benefit of your prayers; the influences of heaven, through the riches of free-grace (to which alone be the praise) being more fully sensible, and sweet upon me. I hope the Lord will restore us one to another in his time, much better than we parted; in the mean time, see that you stand fast in the hope of the Gospel. The Lord takes infinite care for you, see that it be your care, the care of your very hearts, to please the Lord: Set your hearts to it as the business of your lives, and the very end of your beings, to walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing. Set home on yourselves such considerations as these.
First, It is the very business you were made for, and sent into the world for, to please your Maker. For his pleasure you are, and were created. Why should the Lord repent that he had made you? Gen. 6. 6. What treacherous and damnable falsehood is this, that when the Lord has given us breath and being, and sent us into the world on purpose on his service, we should like false and wicked servants, set up for ourselves? Why should your creator say, he has made you in vain?
Secondly, If you set your hearts to please the Lord, you are sure you shall please him. It is not so with men, all the care in the world will not suffice to please some men. How often do princes forsake their greatest favourites? So that if you set to please men, you are not sure to attain your end at last; yea, rather you are sure not to attain it. But if the Lord does see your very hearts be set to please him, he will accept you, though you come short, 2 Cor. 8. 12.
Thirdly, It will be a certain sign of your sincerity, when the pleasing of the Lord is your greatest business, Phil. 1. 20. To such the promise runs, Isa. 56. 4. 5. It is a distinguishing evidence truly to seek and prize God’s favour, more than corn and wine, Psal. 4. 6-7.
Fourthly, This will set all in order, and bring all your business to a head, when you have set down this as the one thing necessary, that you are resolved to please the Lord, this will regulate your whole lives, and bring all your business into a little compass. A Christian has but one thing to do in all conditions, and that is to carry it so in his present state, as that he may please God. A man-pleaser: O how many has he to please! what an endless work has such an one to do?
Fifthly, Consider but how careful the man-pleasing parasite, and time serving hypocrite is to please men: and shall not we take as much care to please our God? oh how does the flattering courtier study the humour of his prince? be you as careful to study, and to be acquainted with the mind of God. What will not men do to screw themselves into the favour of the Mighty? Oh that you were but as diligent, and urwearied, and punctual in your endeavours, to get and to keep the favour of the Almighty?
Sixthly, Consider whose favour or displeasure is of that consequence to you, as the Lord’s is of. What if men should be angry with you, have they the keys of hell, and of death? no, no, fear them not. Can they undo your souls? Can they send you to hell? Alas they cannot. See that you dread his displeasure that can. Alas what will their favour avail you? If they be pleased, can they stand between the wrath of God and you? Can they pardon your sins? Save your souls? Secure your eternal concernments? Where is all their favour or good will, when they or you come to die? It will not be worth a rush when most needed.
Therefore beloved brethren, whatever you do keep in with God. Resolve upon it, He must be pleased, though all the world be displeased. Let it be enough to you to have his good will: let this be the one thing that you bend yourselves to seek, and if you set to seek it, you may be sure to find it. Ye beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Unto his grace I commend you all, and shall add nothing but to share my loves among, and so rest,
Your Ambassador in Bonds,
Juelchester, November 22. 1663.