It is with the greatest humility I write this article today. I’m overcome by God’s grace as I reflect on the person I was before He did the converting work in my life. I was a wreck and by all appearances to most seemed to be together. If you ask anyone that knows me personally I can almost be certain they will say that I’m “nice”. I know lots of nice people in this world and just like many who are nice, that doesn’t get you to Heaven. In fact so many are deceived in their “niceness” it’s an opiate that can condemn them to hell. It matters little what people think of your demeanor, it matters eternally what God’s Word says about your heart.
That is why this chapter is so important. I was the nicest guy you ever knew that was on a crash course with an eternity of misery, and the church I was attending was holding my hand as they walked me down the wide road that was leading to my destruction. If you will humbly evaluate your life by the truth of scripture and overlay the words of Joseph Alleine God may show you the “christianity” you think you have may not be the Christianity the Lord Jesus Christ calls us to.
Please join me in this study of “The marks of the unconverted”. I really appreciate how simply Alleine makes his case. He is clearly a man that God has blessed to show truth and exposing the hearts of the deceived.
Few will, in words, deny the necessity of the new birth; but they have a self-deluding confidence that the work is not to be done now. And because they know themselves to be free from that gross hypocrisy which takes up religion merely for a colour to deceive others and for covering wicked designs, they are confident of their sincerity, and do not suspect that more close hypocrisy, in which the greatest danger lies and by which a man deceives his own soul. But man’s deceitful heart is such a matchless cheat, and self-delusion so reigning and so fatal a disease, that I do not know which is the greater, the difficulty or the necessity of the undeceiving work that I am now upon. Page 68
This must be premised before we proceed, that it is most certain that men may have a confident persuasion that their hearts and states are good while ye they are unsound.
Who better persuaded of his state than Paul, while he yet remained unconverted? (Rom vii 9).
They that have no better proof than barely a strong persuasion that they are converted, are certainly as yet strangers to conversion. Page 69
Can you prove your conversion? Do you know when it happened and your testimony? Are you certain God did a work in you? Not your strong persuasions.
Alleine argues there are two types of unconverted, one he says carry the marks on their foreheads and some in their hands, more covertly. I really like this analogy. I didn’t have, open in your face, sin leading up to my salvation; I was a sneaky kind of heathen. I could fool nearly anybody but under that surface of deceit and niceness was anger, bitterness, backbiting and on and on and on…
Those with the marks on their foreheads include what many in the days of this writing were pretty obviously sins. Alleine is pointing to Ephesians 5:5-6, Revelation 21:8 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
Today these aren’t even considered sins that would exclude you from God’s kingdom.
I want to focus my attention on those that sit in churches today and are deceived about their eternal destination. I think this should be a primary mission field for the 21st Century. Those, just like me, that are deceived thinking they have it all figured out but lack true conversion. This chapter is so rich and so heavy with biblical truth I cannot fit it all into this one post, so I will condense them to primarily Alleine’s (12) points and urge you to read this chapter if you read none other in this book.
But I must tell you that there is another sort of unsanctified persons, who carry their mark not in their foreheads but more secretly and covertly. These frequently deceive themselves and others, and pass for good Christians, when they are all the while unsound at heart. Many pass undiscovered till death and judgment bring all to light. These self-deceivers seem to come to heaven’s gate with confidence for their admission, and yet are turned away at last (Mt vii 22). I beseech you deeply to lay to heart and firmly retain this awakening consideration, that multitudes perish by the hand of some secret sin, that is not only hidden from others, but from want of observing their own hearts, is hidden even from themselves. A man may be free from open pollutions, and yet die at last by the hand of some unobserved iniquity; and there are these twelve hidden sins, through which should go down by the numbers into the chambers of eternal death. Page 72
1. Gross willful ignorance (Hos iv 6)
… when they suspect nothing, and do not see the hand that destroys them. You shall find, whatever excuses you make for ignorance, that it is a soul-ruining evil (Is xxvii 11, 2 Thess I 8; 2 Cor iv 3) Page 73
2. Secret reserves in closing with Christ
They never come to be entirely devoted to Christ, nor to be fully resigned to Him. Many take Christ thus, and never consider His self-denying terms,nor count the cost; and this error in the foundation mars all, and ruins them forever (Lk xiv 28-33) Page 73
3. Formality in religion
Many rest in the outside of religion and in the external performance of holy duties. Page 73
4. The prevalence of wrong motives in holy duties
Oh how many a poor soul is undone by this, and drops into hell before he discerns his mistake! He performs his ‘good duties’ and so thinks all is well, but does not perceive that he is actuated by carnal motives all the while. Page 73
5. Trusting in their own righteousness
This is a soul-ruining mischief. When men trust in their own righteousness they do indeed reject Christ’s
… when a man trusts to these as his righteousness before God, for satisfying His justice, appeasing His wrath, procuring His favour, and obtaining His pardon. This is to put Christ out of office, and make a Saviour of our own duties and graces. Page 74 & 75
6. A secret enmity against the strictness of religion
Many moral persons, punctilious in their formal devotions, have yet a bitter enmity against strictness and zeal, and hate the life and power of religion. They do not like forwardness, nor that men should make such a stir in religion. They condemn the strictness of religion as singularity, indiscretion, and intemperate zeal, and with them a zealous preacher or fervent Christian is but a wild enthusiast. These men do not love holiness as holiness (for then they would love the height of holiness), and therefore are undoubtedly rotten at heart, whatever good opinion they have of themselves. Page 75
7. The resting in a certain degree of religion
When they have so much as will save them, as they suppose, they look no farther, and so show themselves short of true grace, which always sets men aspiring to perfection (Phil iii 13; Prov iv 18). Page 75
8. The predominant love of the world
Yea, such a power of deceit is there in this sin that many times, when everybody else can see the man’s worldliness and covetousness, he cannot see it himself, but has so many excuses and pretences for his eagerness after the world, that he blinds his own eyes and perishes in self-deceit. How many professing Christians are there with whom the world has more of their hearts and affections than Christ, ‘who mind earthly thing’, and thereby are evidently after the flesh, and likely to end in destruction (Rom viii 5; Phil iii 19). Yet ask these men, and they will tell you confidently they prize Christ above all; for they do not see their own earthly-mindedness… Page 74
… their greatest care and main endeavor are to get and secure the world, which are the certain signs of an unconverted sinner. Page 74 & 75
9. Reigning malice and envy against those that disrespect them, and are injurious to them
Doubtless, where this evil is kept boiling in the heart, and is not hated, resisted, and mortified, but habitually prevails, that person is in the very gall of bitterness, and in a state of death (Mt xviii 32-35, 1 Jn iii 14-15). Page 76
10. Unmortified pride
Oh how secretly does this live and reign in many hearts, and they know it not, but are very strangers to themselves (Jn ix 40). Page 76
11. The prevailing love of pleasure
When men give the flesh the liberty that it craves and pamper and please it, and do not deny and restrain it; when their great delight is in gratifying their bellies and pleasing their sense; whatever appearances they may have of religion, all is unsound. Page 76
12. Carnal security
Or a presumptuous confidence that their condition is already good. Many cry, ‘Peace and safety’, when sudden destruction is coming upon them.
Are you at peace? Show me upon what grounds your peace is maintained. Is it Scripture peace? Can you show the distinguishing marks of a sound believer? Can you evidence that you have something more than any hypocrite in the world ever had? Page 77
By this time I think I hear my readers crying out, with the disciples, ‘Who then shall be saved?’
How few will be the sheep that shall be left, when all these shall be separated and set among the goats
And now, conscience, do your work. Speak out, and speak home to him that hears or reads these lines. If you find any of these marks upon him, you must pronounce him utterly unclean. Do not take a lie into your mouth. Do not speak peace to him to whom God speaks no peace. Page 78
Make a mistake here, and you perish.
Go to God to search you and try you, to examine you and prove your reins. If other helps do not suffice to bring all to an issue, but you are still at a loss, consult some godly and faithful minister or Christian friend. Do not rest till you have put the business of our eternal welfare out of doubt. ‘O Searcher of hearts, set this soul searching, and help him in his search.’ Page 79
My dear friends and readers, I couldn’t possibly say this better than Alleine, but I beg you to be honest with yourself. Repent, fall on the finished work of Christ and be saved if you are under conviction this day. Do it now while you can.