While a chaplain at Oxford, Joseph Alleine often neglected his friends for his studies. “It is better they should wonder at my rudeness,” he explained, “than that I should lose time; for only a few will notice the rudeness, but many will feel my loss of time.” Though barely 21, he was already “infinitely and insatiably greedy for the conversion of souls,” devoting every moment to studying, preaching, and evangelizing.
In 1655 Joseph was called to a church in the west of England. He soon married, and his wife, Theodosia, later claimed his only fault was not spending more time with her. “Ah, my dear,” he would say, “I know thy soul is safe; but how many that are perishing have I to look after?”
Joseph habitually rose at 4:00 in the morning, praying and studying his Bible until 8:00. His afternoons were spent calling on the unconverted. He kept a list of the inhabitants of each street and knew the condition of each soul. “Give me a Christian that counts his time more precious than gold,” he said. At the beginning of the week, he would remark, “Another week is now before us, let us spend this week for God.” Each morning he said, “Now let us live this one day well!”
But his time was nonetheless cut short. The restoration of England’s monarchy in 1662 resulted in the Act of Uniformity, removing 2,000 preachers from their pulpits in a single day. Most preached their farewell sermons August 17, 1662. Joseph, however, continued preaching. The authorities descended, and on May 28, 1663 he was thrown into prison. His health soon declined.
“Now we have one day more,” he told Theodosia when he was finally released. “Let us live well, work hard for souls, lay up much treasure in heaven this day, for we have but a few to live.” He spoke truthfully. He died on November 17, 1668, at age 34. But he had spent his years well, outliving himself not only in the souls he saved, but in the book he left, a Puritan classic entitled Alleine’s Alarm.
Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count. Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 28.