First, a little history with respect to this book: I operated a small Christian bookstore in the early 80's, and I was careful about what books I stocked. I earned some scorn from those who thought that I had no right to exercise this "censorship" even within my own business. Nevertheless, I looked with a reasonably cautious eye on those items that filled the shelves. Baker Book House a few years earlier had published a paperback entitled "An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners." I had trusted their standards and ordered a few copies. That edition reflected the English of the mid 1600's, and so in places it was a little difficult to read--but it was so very powerful. The plight of the unconverted and the absolute necessity of conversion were preached with power and conviction from a man who knew truth and who knew God. This wasn't a pointy cold finger jabbing at you from a cruel and aloof man bent on scolding you, but rather the desperate and earnest plea from a friend for the souls of those still content in their godlessness.
Joseph Alleine conveys a powerful message. I was so convinced of the necessity of the message getting out that I ordered 100 copies (I seldom sold more than 20 copies of any book except the Bible itself). And, I provided these copies without charge. It took several weeks (months?) for the stack to disappear, and to be honest I did not receive the feedback that I thought would follow. I continued to stock the book for selling after the initial free distribution, yet sales were minimal. But I offer no apologies for Alleine's writing--it needs none.
Now, Sovereign Grace Publishers (Indiana) has put out more of a contemporary version, so the language barriers aren't quite as significant. I am a little concerned that "An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners" has been shortened to "An Alarm to the Unconverted" (perhaps to not offend), but as a former bookseller I can tell you that a cover and title can (unfortunately) make or break a book as far as sales go. However, it would not be possible to effectively water down the message inside unless the original intent and manuscript were both fully abandoned-and they have not been. I suspect that God Himself has had a hand in this volume never disappearing in 350 years. How many of the latest bestsellers of today will be around in another 350 years?
And so I now find myself some 20 years later re-reading my yellowed copy and ordering again a few for sharing with others. Conviction of sin is only properly accomplished by the Holy Spirit, and it is no one's calling to be self-righteous and judgmental. Alleine is tough, but he is simply reaffirming Biblical truth.
I could offer countless quotes, but a quick glance in my dated copy has left me with two: "Poor sinner, thou hast fallen off from God, and hast engaged His power and wrath against thee; yet know, that of His abundant grace He doth offer to be thy God again in Christ." And the dreadful alternative: "Wilt thou make light of all the terrors of the law, of all its curses and thunders, as if they were but the threatenings of a child? Dost thou laugh at hell and destruction, or canst thou drink the envenomed cup of the Almighty's fury, as if it were but a common potion?"
Joseph Alleine died at the age of thirty-four, after much persecution for the cause of Christ. You would do well to learn what drove and empowered this man.