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College, over which Dr. Paul Hood presided. Oxford then was Puritan. Cromwell was Chancellor, and Dr. John Owen Dean of Christ Church and Vice-Chancellor. The most learned Nonconformists were in the highest seats, and under them literature, science, philosophy, and theology flourished as much as they have ever done within these classic shades. Alleine got a vacant scholarship in Corpus Christi College in 1651, and made rapid progress in his studies. “One of his companions assures us, that it was common for him to work from four o'clock in the morning, and often until one of the next; and that it was as usual for him to give away his commons, at least once, as it was for others to take theirs twice a day." He graduated B.A. in June 1653.
He was then only nineteen years of age, but so precocious was his mind and so ripe his scholarship, that he was almost immediately urged to become tutor to his college. His pupils—most of whom afterwards rose to dignities in the Church of England-profited greatly from his instructions. He acted as chaplain also to his college, and had so much enjoyment in this service that he preferred it to a more lucrative fellowship. Offers of advancement were made to him, but he declined anything that would interfere with the cherished desire of his heart, and the earnest hope of his parents. “Strong solicitations,” he said, “I have had from several hands to accept very honourable preferment in several kinds, some friends making a journey on purpose to propound it; but I have not found the invitations (though I confess very honourable, and such as are or will be suddenly embraced by men of far greater worth and eminency) to suit with the inclinations of my own heart.”
He had much delight in spiritual exercises, and burned with the desire to save souls. He began a work in Oxford—most unusual and not very safe—to visit the prisoners in the county jail, where infectious diseases were wont to slay their victims. In 1655, an offer was made to him to become assistant to the Presbyterian vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, at Taunton in Somersetshire, and after visiting the place, and conferring with the aged incumbent, he agreed to accept the charge. The fellowships of his college were open to him, but he preferred the cure of souls to literary leisure and collegiate rewards. Mr. Alleine was examined by the “Triers” appointed by Parliament, and was then, upon the call of the people, ordained by the Presbytery.
Taunton in these days was a busy and influential town. It was the seat of manufacture. It was a focus of Puritanism, and had sent its missionary colony to America, to plant a pure and free gospel in a new Taunton. Such a place was likely to be the scene of conflict, and Royalists and Parliamentarians besieged and took it in turn. Where thought was stirring and opportunities great, Alleine found a congenial sphere, and entered upon his work with much energy. He was only twenty-one years of age; but his sanctified wisdom made him venerable, and his faithful preaching gave him influence. He added to both by his marriage with Theodosia Alleine, a lady of fervent piety and peculiar graces—the daughter of his friend and kinsman, Mr. Richard Alleine, parson of Batcombe. The young couple resided for two years in the vicarage with the venerable Mr. Newton. They then took
up house on their own account, and Mrs. Alleine added to the scanty stipend of her husband by keeping a boarding-school, where she had great success, and not a few conversions. As many as fifty and sixty attended the school, and often thirty of them were boarded in his house.
Mr. Alleine was very happy in his personal piety. He knew the joy and peace of believing. His sunny spirit scarcely ever had the shadow of a cloud. He was as happy in his ministry. His work was the delight of his heart. His whole soul was in it. His addresses "all breathed a winning tenderness, and all revealed an amazing power of rapid, homely, shattering appeal. The thoughts were all impetuous with a rush of fresh and glowing life; and though there was the prophet's rough mantle, there was also his chariot of fire. Every meaning was clear, every stroke told, every gesture seemed to speak-vividus Vultus, vividi occuli, vivide manus, denique omnia vivida." He was in earnest, and he made his zeal for souls be apparent in his sermons.
One of his hearers tells us that “he never preached without a long expostulation with the impenitent, vehemently urging them to come to some good resolve before he and they parted, and to make their choice for life or death, expressing his great unwillingness to leave the subject till he could have some assurance that he had not fought against sin as one that beateth the air; and that much of his power arose from the point and seasonableness of his words, spoken as they were with an intimate knowledge of the individual cases of those who formed his auditory."
One of the best witnesses to his power in the pulpit was his venerable colleague, who, as he survived him, left this testimony respecting his son and fellow-labourer in the Gospel. “ His ministerial studies were more than usually easy to him, being of a quick conceit, a ready, strong, and faithful memory, a free expression which was rather nervous and substantial, than soft and delicate, and, which was best of all, a holy heart that boiled and bubbled
up with good matter. This furnished him on all occasions, not with warm affections only, but with holy notions too. For his heart was an epistle, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. In the course of his ministry, he was a good man, and in his heart a good treasure; whence he was wont continually to bring forth good things, both in public and private.
“He was apt to preach and pray, most ready on all occasions to spend himself in such work; when my sudden distemper seized upon me, putting him at any time (as many times it did) upon very short and sudden preparations, he never refused; no, not so much as fluctuated in the undertaking ; but being called, he confidently cast himself upon the Lord and trusted perfectly to his assistance, who had never failed him; and so he readily and freely went about his work without distraction.
“He began upon a very considerable stock of learning, and gifts ministerial and personal, much beyond the proportion of his years; and grew exceedingly in his abilities and graces in a little time; so that his profiting appeared to all men. He waxed very rich in heaveniy treasure, by the blessing of God on a diligent hand, so that he was behind in no good gift. He found that pre. cious promise sensibly made good, “To him that hath (for use and employment) shall be given, and he shall have abundance. He had no talent for the napkin, but all for traffic, which he laid out so freely for his Master's use, that in a little time they multiplied so fast, that the napkin could not hold them. I heard a worthy minister say of him once (not without much admiration), 'Whence hath this man these things ?' He understood whence he had them well enough, and so did I,—even from above, whence every good and perfect gift proceedeth. God blessed him in all spiritual blessings in heavenly things, and he returned all to heaven again; he served God with all his might and with all his strength; he was abundant in the work of the Lord; he did not go, but ran the
ways of his commandments; he made haste and lingered not; "he did run, and was not weary; he did walk, and was not faint.' He pressed hard towards the mark, till he attained it; his race was short and swift, and his end glorious.
“He was infinitely and insatiably greedy of the conversion of souls, wherein he had no small success in the time of his ministry; and to this end he poured out his very heart in prayer and in preaching; he imparted not the Gospel only, but his own soul. His supplications, and his exhortations, many times were so affectionate, so full of holy zeal, life, and vigour, that they quite overcame his hearers; he melted over them, so that he thawed and mollified, and sometimes dissolved the hardest hearts. But while he melted thus, he wasted, and at last consuinal himself.”
This was a noble testimony from a man who was content to decrease that his assistant might increase, who had no ungenerous feeling with respect to the gifts and power and success of his younger brother. It is a testimony that will be all the more valued that it came from