Continuing with the testimony of Joseph Alleine’s wife. Here, she speaks about his pastoral ministry. What an amazing man!
He found much difficulty in going from house to house, because it had not been practised for a long time by any minister in Taunton, nor by any others of his brethren; and he being but a young man, to be looked upon as singular, was that which called for much self-denial, which the Lord enabled him to exercise. For after he had preached up in public the ministers’ duty to their people, and theirs to receive them when they came to them for their spiritual advantage, he set speedily upon the work.
In this work his course was to draw a catalogue of the names of the families in each street, and so to send a day or two before he intended to visit them, that they might not be absent, and that he might understand who was willing to receive him. Those that sent slight excuses, or did obstinately refuse his message, he would notwithstanding go to them, and if (as some would) they did shut their doors against him, he would speak some few affectionate words to them; or, if he saw cause, denounce the threatenings of God against them that despise His ministers, and so departed; and after would send affectionate letters to them, so full of love and expressions of his great desire to do their souls good, as did overcome their hearts; and they did many of them afterwards readily receive him into their houses. Herein was his compassion shewed to all sorts, both poor and rich, not disdaining to go into such houses amongst the poor as were often very offensive to him to sit in, he being of an exact and curious temper. Yet would he, with joy and freedom, deny himself for the good of their souls, and that he might fulfill his ministry among those the Lord had given him the oversight of.
I, perceiving this work, with what he did otherwise, to be too hard for him, fearing often he would bring himself to distempers and diseases, as he did soon after, besought him not to go so frequently. His answer would be, “What have I strength for, but to spend for God? What is a candle for, but to be burnt?” And he would say, “I was like Peter, still crying, O spare thyself! But I must not hearken to thee, no more than my Master did to him.” Though his labours were so abundant, I never knew him, for nine years together, under the least distemper one quarter of an hour.
He was exceeding temperate in his diet, though he had a very sharp appetite; yet he did at every meal deny himself, being persuaded that it did much conduce to his health. His converse at his table was very profitable, and yet pleasant, never rising, either at home or abroad, without dropping something of God, according to the rule he laid down to others. He was very much in commending and admiring the mercies of God in every meal, and still so pleased with his provision for him, that he would often say, “he fared deliciously every day, and lived far better than the great ones of the world who had their tables far better furnished.” For he enjoyed God in all, and saw His love and bounty in what he received at every meal: so that he would say, “O wife, I live a voluptuous life! but, blessed be God, it is upon spiritual dainties such as the world know not, and taste not of.”
He was much in minding the poor that were in want of all things, often wondering that God should make such a difference between him and them, both for this world and that to come; and his charity was ever beyond his estate, as myself and many other friends did conceive, but he would not be dissuaded, always saying, “If he were prodigal, it was for God, and not for himself, nor sin.”
There were but few, if any, poor families, especially of the godly, in Taunton, but he knew their necessities, and did by himself or friends relieve them; so that our homes were seldom free of such as came to make complaints to him. After the times grew dead for trade, many of our godly men decaying, he would give much beyond his ability to recover them. He would buy pease and flitches of bacon, and distribute twice a-year in the cold and hard seasons. He kept several children at school at his own cost, bought many books and catechisms, and had many thousands of prayers printed and distributed among them. And after his brethren were turned out, he gave four pounds a-year himself to a public stock for them, by which he excited many others to do the same and much more, which else would never have done it. And on any other occasions, as did frequently fall in, he would give even to the offence of his friends; so that many would grudge, in the town, to give him what they had agreed for, because he would give so much. Besides all this, the necessities of his own father, and many other relations, were still calling upon him, and he was open-handed to them all; so that it hath been sometimes even incredible to ourselves to consider how much he did out of a little estate, and therefore may seem strange to others. Moreover, when he had received any more than ordinary mercy at the hand of God, his manner was to set apart some considerable portion out of his estate, and dedicate it to the Lord as a thank-offering, to be laid out for His glory in pious and charitable uses.
When I have begged him to consider himself and me, he would answer me, “He was laying up, and God would repay him; that by liberal things he should stand, when others might fall that censured him; that if he sowed sparingly, he should reap so; if bountifully, he should reap bountifully.”
And, I must confess, I did often see so much of God in His dealings with us according to His promises, that I have been convinced and silenced; God having often so strangely and unexpectedly provided for us; and, notwithstanding all he had done, he had at last somewhat to dispose of to his relations and to his brethren, besides comfortable provision for me.
Thus his whole life was a continual sermon, holding forth evidently the doctrines he preached — humility, self-denial, patience, meekness, contentation, faith, and holy confidence shining in him, with most dear love to God and His Church and people; and where he longed and panted to be, he is now shining, in heaven, singing praises to God and to the Lamb; which work he much delighted in, whilst here on earth.