Joseph Alleine’s ‘A Sure Guide to Heaven': A Puritan Book for the Lost

by on March 25th, 2015
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“A Sure Guide to Heaven” is Joseph Alleine’s thorough work on conversion. This Puritan book is the product of disciplined, systematic studies about conversion. However, it is not meant to be a textbook. The insights from this reflection are merged with Joseph Alleine’s pastoral heart, one whose chief aim is to see sinners converted. The work begins with, “An earnest invitation to sinners to turn to God” (p.7).

A Puritan Book on Conversion

In his attempt to see unconverted souls repent, Joseph Alleine carefully dissects conversion into several sections: what it is, the necessity of it, the marks of unconverted people, the misery of unconverted people, the means of conversion and the motives of conversion (p.7-8). Each section contains great detail.

In one section of this Puritan book, Joseph Alleine details five specific reasons why conversion is necessary. In the fifth reason, Joseph Alleine explains how the salvation of “men in their sins” would violate five attributes of God and go against five statements of Christ (p.27-29). This is just one example from “A Sure Guide to Heaven” of the rigorous study found throughout each section of Joseph Alleine’s study on conversion.

A Practical Puritan Book

While being very studious, Joseph Alleine’s approach to his study of conversion is also a deeply practical one. Joseph Alliene consistently applies his teachings to the reader. Time and again, Joseph Alleine appeals directly to the reader with statements similar to, “Reader, do you read this without asking yourself whether it be thus with you? Pause a while, and examine yourself” ( p.14-18,21,30,35). Joseph Alleine is extremely concerned, as the direct appeals evidence, about the state of his readers’ souls. In fact, the Conclusion begins, “And now, beloved, let me know your mind. What do you intend to do” (p.62)?

A Puritan Book Written through Prayer

This Puritan book explains conversion in an attempt to see the unregenerate “repent and turn” (p.7). It is worth noting that in order to accomplish this, Joseph Alleine, one can assume, relied heavily on prayer. There are numerous prayers throughout the Puritan book.

A Puritan Book on Salvation

As mentioned above, Joseph Alleine goes into great detail explaining why God cannot save men while in their sins. He details several of God’s attributes that would be violated by sin: his justice, his holiness, his veracity, his wisdom and his immutability. Sin is often contrasted to God’s justice and holiness, but this Puritan book brings insight to the other three attributes mentioned. God’s veracity would be violated, because he has previously said he would not allow the unclean and impure to enter his holy hill (Prov. 24:3,4). Sinners must turn to Christ to become clean, prior to entering. Men saved in their sin would not value God’s great mercy, as there would be no price paid. This would violate the wisdom of God, through which he has decided to show mercy. If men with sin were to enter heaven, thus violating the divine decree that only the pure in heart shall see God (Matt. 5:8), then Christ would either be hiding them from the Father, overpowering the Father or changing the Father’s will. In the first case, the Father would lose his omniscience. In the second, he would lose his omnipotence. In the third, he would no longer be immutable. These reflections show a deeper understanding of sin’s violations against God, which must be overcome in conversion to Christ, than many Christians have considered (p.27-28).

A Puritan Book for Today

Contemporary ministry is often divided into the academic and practical. This is evident from the highest levels of PhDs and DMins, down to the smallest Bible study that transitions with, “Now for the practical part.” Today, there is a dichotomy between serious study and practical application. In Joseph Alleine’s serious study of conversion, he consistently applies it directly to the reader. Often Christians today, individually and corporately, are guilty of venerating either the theological study at the expense of practical application or practical ministry at the expense of theological understanding. While Joseph Alleine initially intended this work to be applied to non-Christians, the Church today could benefit from seeking to marry abstract theology with applicable ministry, as Joseph Alleine does in this work.

Alleine, Joseph. A Sure Guide to Heaven.

Scott Brodie is an MDiv. student at Redeemer Seminary. He enjoys reading Puritan books, while studying to be a pastor.

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