Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Alleine, Joseph
ALLEINE, JOSEPH (1634–1668), author of ‘An Alarm to the Unconverted,’ was descended from the Alleines of Sibbes' county—Suffolk. As early as 1430 some of them, descending of Alan, lord of Buckenhall, settled in the neighbourhood of Calne and Devizes, whence came the immediate ancestry of ‘worthy Mr. Tobie Alleine of Devizes,’ father of Joseph Alleine. Fourth of a large family, he was born at Devizes early in 1634. The year 1645 is marked by an eye-witness on the title-page of a quaint old tractate accidentally preserved, as that of his ‘setting forth in the christian race.’ His eldest brother Edward had been a clergyman, but died in 1645 in his twenty-seventh year. This seems to have been the occasion of his ‘being born again,’ as the puritan phrasing put it. He entreated his father that he might be educated to succeed his brother in the work of the christian ministry. His father consented, and he was immediately sent to Poulshot, then under a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, named William Spinage. In April 1649 he was entered at Lincoln College, Oxford, the president being Dr. Paul Hood, with Dr. John Owen for vice-chancellor of the university.
A Wiltshire ‘place’ being vacated in Corpus Christi College, he was chosen scholar of that house on 3 Nov. 1651. Of his student life it was said by a contemporary, not given to enthusiasm, ‘he could toil terribly.’ On 6 July 1653 he took his degree of B.D., and thereupon became a tutor of his college. He also took the chaplaincy in preference to a fellowship.
In 1654 he had high and enticing offers to serve in the state. He resisted, and at last peremptorily declined. The Rev. George Newton, of the cathedral-like church of Taunton, now sought him for assistant, and putting from him all other things, he accepted the invitation, proceeded at once to Taunton, underwent the usual exercises and examinations, and was ‘ordained’ as the associate of this most revered of the later puritan fathers. Nearly coincident with his ordination came his marriage to Theodosia Alleine, daughter of Richard Alleine. Friendships among ‘gentle and simple’—of the former one may be named, viz. Lady Farewell, granddaughter of the Protector Somerset—witness to the attractiveness of his private life.
This activity was all the more remarkable, as the pastor was a pre-eminently bookish man, and still pursued his student-toil of Corpus Christi years. One lost monument of this, his ‘Theologia Philosophica’—a treatise that sought to establish the harmony between revelation and creation, and the learning and power of which drew forth the amazed praise of Richard Baxter—stole from him hours that ought to have been given to sleep. At the same time the intimate and equal of the original founders of the Royal Society, he was a thoughtful scientific experimentalist and observer.
The year 1662 found senior and junior pastors of Taunton like-minded. Both were of the two thousand ejected.
Joseph Alleine, with a Wesley—grand-father of John and Samuel—for fellow-labourer, who was also ejected, carried on a work of evangelising after the old model of Galilee. For this he was cast into prison, charged at sessions, fined and browbeaten and made to suffer. His ‘Letters’ written from prison formed an earlier ‘Cardiphonia’ than John Newton's. He was released on 26 May 1664, and, in spite of the Five Mile Act (or Conventicle Act), he returned to his work of preaching the Gospel, but he was again and again flung into prison. His evening years, spent often in hiding, were tempestuous and dark. He died 17 Nov. 1668, and the mourners, remembering their beloved minister's words while he was yet with them—‘If I should die fifty miles away, let me be buried at Taunton’—buried him in his old church's chancel. No puritan name save Richard Baxter's is so affectionately cherished by the English-speaking people of God as Joseph Alleine's. His ‘Remains’ (1674) are of the highest interest. 20,000 copies of his ‘Alarm to the Unconverted’ were sold under that title on its first appearance in 1672, and 50,000 three years later, when it was republished as the ‘Sure Guide to Heaven.’ It has since been frequently reprinted in England and America. He was also author of an ‘Explanation of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism’ (1656); a ‘Call to Archippus’ (1664); and ‘Divers Cases satisfactorily resolved’ (1672).
[Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial (1802), iii. 208; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iii. 819; Life and Death of … Joseph Allein, containing Narratives by Baxter, Alleine's widow, Theodosia, and others; Biog. Brit.; Joseph Alleine, his Companions and Times, by Charles Sanford (1861); Dr. Williams' MSS.; Article in the Encyc. Britannica by the present author, partly reproduced by permission of Messrs. A. & C. Black.]