Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Alleine, Richard

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605326Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01 — Alleine, Richard1885Alexander Balloch Grosart

ALLEINE, RICHARD (1611–1681), author of ‘Vindiciæ Pietatis,’ ‘Heaven Opened,’ ‘The World Conquered,’ ‘Instructions about Heart-work,’ and other practical books, was son of a clergyman of his own name, who was rector of Ditcheat, Somerset, for upwards of half a century. He was born at Ditcheat in 1611. His first education was under his father's eye. He then proceeded, in his sixteenth year, to the university, being entered at St. Alban's Hall, Oxford. He was elected a commoner in 1627. He there took his degree of B.A., and then transferred himself to New Inn, and remained there until he passed M.A.

Having completed a distinguished academic course, he was ordained, and became ‘assistant’ to his venerable father. In March 1641 he succeeded the many-sided Richard Bernard, B.D., as rector of Batcombe (Somerset). He sided with the puritans by subscribing the ‘Testimony of the Ministers in Somersetshire to the Truth of Jesus Christ’—a calm and statesman-like paper—and the ‘Solemn League and Covenant.’ In 1654 he and his father were appointed assistants to the commissioners of the parliament for ‘ejecting scandalous ministers.’

For twenty years Alleine remained at Batcombe, and was idolised by his parishioners. At the Restoration he showed a willingness to acquiesce in the government, being of the old-fashioned type of believer in monarchy, if not in any and every monarch; but the Act of Uniformity came, and he felt compelled by loyalty to conscience to cast in his lot with the ‘ejected.’ Because of the Five Mile Act, which hindered him opening his mouth at Batcombe, he removed to Frome Selwood, and preached there and in the neighbourhood semi-privately until his death on 22 Dec. 1681. As one proof of many of the regard in which he was held, it is to be recorded that the Rev. Richard Jenkins, M.A., vicar of Frome Selwood, preached his funeral sermon, and therein gave ‘full and fair testimony to his piety, meekness, and moderation.’ Even Anthony à Wood was constrained to admit, in the very act of sneering at the preacher, that Jenkins ‘was the better judge, from his long acquaintance with him and frequent visits to him in his last sickness.’

Alleine's works are distinguished more for their searching spiritual force than for display of intellectual ability. His ‘Vindiciæ Pietatis’ was refused license by Sheldon, and was published, as other nonconformist books had to be if published at all, without it. It was rapidly bought up, and ‘did much to mend this bad world.’ Roger Norton, the royal printer, caused a large portion of the first edition to be seized, on the ground of its not being licensed, and to be sent to the royal kitchen. But glancing over its pages he was arrested by what he read, and on second thoughts it seemed to him a sin that a book so holy and so saleable should be killed. He therefore bought back the sheets, says Calamy, for an old song, bound them, and sold them in his own shop. This in turn was complained of, and the shrewd publisher had to beg pardon on his knees at the council-table. The remaining copies were further sentenced to be ‘bisked’ or rubbed over with an inky brush, and sent back to the palace kitchen for lighting fires. Even in the palace there must have been worthy traitors, for ‘bisked’ copies occasionally turn up still.

The ‘Vindiciæ Pietatis, or a Vindication of Godliness … together with several Directions for a Godly Life,’ by R. A., was printed in 1663, and again in 1664, dedicated ‘to the inhabitants of B. in the county of S.’ The ‘Godly Man's Portion’ was also published in 1663, and joined to the former as a second part. ‘Heaven opened … being the third part’ of the ‘Vindiciæ,’ appeared in 1666 (and apparently as a separate work in 1665). ‘The World conquered, being the fourth part,’ appeared in 1668. These were collected as Alleine's Works in 1671. Alleine also published ‘Godly Fear,’ a collection of sermons, in 1664; a ‘Rebuke to Backsliders,’ 1677 and 1684; a ‘Companion for Prayer,’ 1680; ‘Instructions about Heart-work,’ 1681, 1684.

[Calamy and Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial, iii. 167; Biog. Brit. i. 143; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iv. 13; Scobell's Collections, pt. ii. p. 342; Dr. Williams' MSS.; Article in Encyc. Britannica by the present author, partly reproduced by permission of Messrs. A. & C. Black.]

A. B. G.