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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

Burning and shining lights, or, Memoirs of eminent ministers of Christ

by Robert Steel


MIDST the bright constellations which adorn the firmament of the Church, we are apt to overlook some of the minor stars. Especially is this so with reference to the lights of bygone times. They were men of eminence, whose memory posterity will not let die, and with whose names we associate all that was great and good during the epoch of their lives. But there mdved among them men of as saintly life, and as laborious in the Church, who are little remembered now. They had more limited orbits, loved retirement, and seldom appeared in the public places where historians find the famous. It is, therefore, a great service when any writer reproduces the story of forgotten lives, and renews an acquaintanceship with the witnesses of the truth, who have long since joined the noble army of the martyrs in the Church triumphant. One of the most happy republications will be found to be the life of Joseph Alleine of Taunton, whose piety was so rare, whose labours were so blessed, and whose writings have exercised great influence on many in the greatest crisis of their history.

Joseph Alleine was born in the beginning of 1634, at Devizes, Wiltshire. He was descended from a parentage honourable by lineage and by character. His father was a burgess, and a councillor, and a man of business in Devizes. He was also a zealous Puritan, and suffered great spoiling of his goods for the sake of his consistent Christian profession. His dying testimony was, "My life is hid with Christ in God," and while sitting in his chair he closed his eyes with his own hand, and passed through the valley of the shadow of death to the light of God in glory.

The boyhood of Joseph Alleine was a time of trouble in England. There was then a conflict between the king and the Parliament, and the town of Devizes shared the severe ordeal of sanguinary warfare. Soldiers and guns were familiar objects to the youthful Puritan, but his best training was at home, where he had the Christian counsel and pious example of Mr. Tobie Alleine. His early days were solemn, and his youthful heart received serious impressions. His eldest brother was a clergyman, who died early, to the great grief of his parents; but Joseph, who was then in his fifteenth year, and just awakened to a spiritual life, desired to be educated as his brother's successor in the ministry.

This request was not a little gratifying to his Christian parents, who readily gave their consent, and forthwith sent him to school to prepare. The times were stirring and often troublous, so that his education was broken, but for the most part of four years he pursued his classical studies, and obtained an excellent acquaintance with the Latin and Greek languages.

He went to Oxford in 1649, and entered Lincoln 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.

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