Monday, September 11, 2017

A Puritan Wife’s Testimony to Her Husband’s Ministry (Part 1)

Joseph Alleine is known for his book An Alarm to the Unconverted.  He had a fruitful ministry in the western town of Taunton, but suffered the fate of many in 1662, when his conscience would not allow him to accede to the wicked demands of the King and his bishops. After Alleine’s death, his wife recorded a remembrance for him. It is moving and convicting.

She wrote:

We lived together with Mr. Newton near two years, where we were most courteously entertained; and then, hoping to be more useful in our station, we took a house, and I having been always bred to work, undertook to teach a school, and had many tablers [boarders] and scholars, our family being seldom less than twenty, and many times thirty; my school usually fifty or sixty of the town and other places. And the Lord was pleased to bless us exceedingly in our endeavours: so that many were converted in a few years, that were before strangers to God. All our scholars called him “Father:” and indeed he had far more care of them than most of their natural parents, and was most tenderly affectionate to them, but especially to their souls.
His course in his family was prayer and reading the Scriptures, and singing twice a-day, except when he catechised, which was constantly once, if not twice a-week. Of every chapter that was read he expected an account, and of every sermon, either to himself or me. He dealt with them and his servants frequently, together and apart, about their spiritual states; pressing them to all their duties, both of first and second table, and calling them strictly to account, Whether they did not omit them. He also gave them books suitable to their capacities and condition, which they gave a weekly account of to him or me; but too often by public work was he diverted, as I am apt to think, who knew not so well what was to be preferred.
His Lord’s-day’s work was great, for though he preached but once in his own place, yet he was either desired by some of his brethren to supply theirs on any exigency, or would go where was no minister; and so was forced often to leave his family to me, to my great grief and loss. In his repetitions in public, as well as catechising, his own family came all in their turns to answer in the congregation, both scholars and servants.
When I have pleaded with him for more of his time with myself and family, he would answer me, “His ministerial work would not permit him to be so constant as he would; for if he had ten bodies and souls, he could employ them all in and about Taunton.” And would say, “Ah, my dear, I know thy soul is safe; but how many that are perishing have I to look after? O that I could do more for them!”
He was a holy, heavenly, tenderly-affectionate husband, and I know nothing I could complain of, but that he was so taken up, that I could have but very little converse with him.
His love was expressed to me in his great care for me, sick and well; in his provision for me; in his delight in my company; saying often, “He could not bear to be from me but when he was with God, or employed for Him; and that often it was hard for him to deny himself to be so long absent.” It was irksome to him to make a meal without me, nor would he manage any affair almost without conversing with me, concealing nothing from me that was fit for me to know; being far from the temper of those husbands who hide all their concerns from their wives, which he could not endure to hear of, especially in good men.
He was a faithful reprover of anything he saw amiss in me, which I took as a great evidence of his real goodwill to my soul; and if in anything he gave me offence, which was but seldom, so far would he deny himself as to acknowledge it, and desire me to pass it by, professing to me he could never rest till he had done so; and the like I was ready to do to him, as there was far more reason; by which course, if any difference did arise, it was soon over with us.
He was a very tender master to his servants, every way expressing it to their souls and bodies, giving them that encouragement in their places they could desire; expecting from his whole family that respect and obedience to his commands which their rule required; reproving them that were careless and negligent in observing them.
He was frequent in keeping solemn days of humiliation, especially against a sacrament.
He was a very strict observer of the Sabbath, the duties of which he did perform with such joy and alacrity of spirit as was most pleasant to join with him, both in public and in the family, when we could enjoy him: and this he did much press upon Christians, to spend their Sabbaths more in praises and thanksgivings, as days of holy rejoicing in our Redeemer.
All the time of his health he did rise constantly at or before four of the clock, and on the Sabbath sooner, if he did wake. He would be much troubled if he heard any smiths, or shoemakers, or such tradesmen, at work at their trades, before he was in his duties with God; saying to me often, “O how this noise shames me! Doth not my Master deserve more than theirs? From four till eight he spent in prayer, holy contemplations, and singing of psalms, which he much delighted in, and did daily practise alone as well as in his family. Having refreshed himself about half an hour, he would call to family duties, and after that to his studies, till eleven or twelve o’clock, cutting out his work for every hour in the day. Having refreshed himself a while after dinner, he used to retire to his study to prayer, and go abroad among the families he was to visit, to whom he always sent the day before; going out about two o’clock, and seldom returning till seven in the evening, sometimes later. He would often say, “Give me a Christian that counts his time more precious than gold.” His work in his public ministry in Taunton being to preach but once a Sabbath, and catechise, he devoted himself much to private work, and also catechised once a-week in public besides, and repeated the sermon he preached on the Sabbath-day on Tuesday, in the evening.

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