"Trust God and Be Sincere", A Letter From Prison, Joseph Alleine.
To my most endeared friends, the servants of Christ, Grace and Peace.
My heart's desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved. I know that you are the butt of men’s rage and malice: but you may satisfy yourselves as David in his patient sustaining of Shemei's fury and curses: It may be the Lord will look upon our affliction, and require good for their cursing this day. But however it be for that, be sure to hold on your way: your name indeed is cast forth as evil, and you are hated of all men for Christ’s sake, for your profession of his Gospel, and cleaving to his ways and servants: but let not this discourage you, for you are now more than ever blessed: only hold fast, that no man take your crown. Let not any that have begun in the Spirit, end in the flesh. Do not forsake God, till he forsake you; he that endures to the end shall be saved: The promise is to him that overcomes; therefore think not of looking back: Now you have set your hands to Christ's plough, though you labour hard, and suffer long, the crop will pay for all: now the Lord is trying what credit he has in the World, and who they be that will trust him. The unbelieving world are all for present pay; they must have ready money, something in hand, and will not follow the Lord when there is like to be any great hazard and hardship in his service. But now is the time for you, my Beloved, to prove yourselves Believers, when there is nothing visible but present hazard and expense, and difficulty in your Maker’s service. Now it will be seen who can trust the Lord, and who trusts him not: Now, my Brethren, bear you up, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong: now give glory to God by believing. If you can trust in his promises for your reward now, when nothing appears but the displeasure of rulers, and bonds, and losses, and tribulation on every side, this will be somewhat like Believers.
Brethren, I beseech you to reckon upon no other but crosses here. Let none of you dream of an earthly paradise, or flatter yourselves with dreams of sleeping in your ease, and temporal prosperity, and carrying Heaven too. Think not to keep your Estates, and liberties and consciences too: Count not upon rest till you come to the Land of Promise. Not that I would have any of you to run upon hazards uncalled: No, we shall meet them soon enough in the way of our duty, without we will balk it, and shamefully turn aside: but I would have you cast overboard your worldly hopes, and count not upon an earthly felicity, but be content to wait till you come on the other side the grave. Is it not enough to have a whole eternity of happiness yet behind? If God do throw in the comforts of this life too into the bargain; I would not have you throw them back again, or despise the goodness of the Lord: but I would, my Brethren, that you should use this world, as not abusing it, that you should be crucified to the world, and the world to you; that you should declare plainly that you seek a country, a better country, which is an heavenly. Ah! my dear Brethren, I beseech you carry it like pilgrims and strangers, I beseech you abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against your souls; for what have we to do with the customs and courses and fashions of this world, who are strangers in it! Be contented with travellers lots: know you not that you are in a strange land? all is well as long as it is well at home; I pray you, Brethren, daily and frequently to consider your condition and station: do you not remember that you are in an Inn; and what though your be but poorly attended, and meanly accommodated? though you are hard, and lie hard? Is this a strange thing? what should travellers look for else? will you set forth in a journey, and promise yourselves nothing but fair way and fair weather? Shall a man put forth to sea and reckon upon nothing but the calm? If you were of the world, the world would love his own. But now God has chosen you, and called you out of the world, therefore the world hates you: But remember, my Brethren, it is your duty to love them, even while they hate you; and to pray for mercy for them that will show no mercy, nor do no justice for us. This I desire you to observe as a great duty of the present times: And let not any so far forget their duty and pattern, as to wish evil to them that do evil to us, or to please themselves with the thoughts of being even with them. Let us commit ourselves to him that judges righteously, and show ourselves the children of the Most High, who does good to his enemies, and is kind to the unkind and unthankful: And what though they do hate us? Their love and good-will were much more to be feared, than their hatred, and a far worse sign.
Brethren, keep yourselves in the love of God; here is wisdom. O happy souls, that are his favourites! For the Lord’s sake look to this, make sure of something: look to your sincerity above all things in the world: let not any of you conclude, that because you are of the suffering party, therefore all is well: Look to the foundation, that your hearts be soundly taken off from every sin, and set upon God above as your blessedness: Beware that none of you have only a name to love, and be no more than almost Christians. For the love of your Souls, make a diligent search, and try upon what ground you stand, for it heartily pities me to think that any of you should be in so deep, and hazard so much as these must do that will now cleave to the hated ways of the people of God, and yet lose all at last for want of being thorough and sound in the main work, I mean conversion and regeneration. None so miserable in all the world as an unsound professor of religion now is, for he shall be hated and persecuted of the world, because he takes up a profession, and yet rejected of God too, because he sticks in a profession: but when once you bear the marks of God’s favour, you need not fear the world’s frowns: Cheer up therefore, Brethren, be strong in the Lord, and of good courage under the world’s usage: Fear not, in our Father’s House there is bread enough, and room enough; this is sufficient to comfort us under all the inconveniences of the way, that we have so happy a home, so worthy a portion, so ready a father, so goodly an heritage, so sure a tenure. Oh, comfort one another with these words: let God see that you can trust in his Word: let the world see that you can live upon a God. I shall share my prayers and loves among you all, and commit you to the Almighty God: the Keeper of Israel that never slumbers nor sleeps, be your Watchman and Keeper to the end, Farewell.
From the common Gaol at Juelchester,
July 24. 1663.