Joseph Alleine was born into an English Puritan family in 1634. He studied for the ministry at Oxford under the great John Owen and Thomas Goodwin. Before he was 21 he had the reputation of being “infinitely and insatiably greedy for the conversion of souls, and to this end he poured out his very heart in prayer and preaching.”
He married Theodosia in 1655 and accepted a call to be assistant to George Newton of Taunton. The only “fault” his wife found in him was that he did not spend enough time with her. To which he would reply: “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!” If he could hear the noise of the tradesmen when he woke in the morning, he would say, “O how this noise shames me! Doth not my master deserve more than theirs?”
So, Theodosia tells us, “From four till eight he spent in prayer, holy contemplation, and singing of psalms, which he much delighted in, and did daily practice alone, as well as in his family.” She kept a school for children in their home, while Joseph spent five afternoons every week following up the urgent calls to the unconverted which sounded forth Sunday by Sunday from his pulpit.
In 1662 the Act of Uniformity evicted Alleine from his church. After meeting with his church in secret during the night of May 26, 1663, he was imprisoned for a year. After his release he continued his preaching until July 10, 1666, when he was again imprisoned. His health did not sustain this second attack, and after his release, he died on November 17, 1668, at the age of 34.
His little book (148 pages), An Alarm to the Unconverted, was published in 1671. It is a true model of Puritan evangelism. Charles Spurgeon tells how when he was a child his mother would often read a piece of Alleine's Alarm to them as they sat 'round the fire on a Sunday evening. “I remember,” he wrote, “when I used to wake in the morning, the first thing I took up was Alleine's Alarm, or Baxter's A Call to the Unconverted. Oh, those books, those books! I read and devoured them...”
The theme of Prayer Week will be “Heart's Desire...Prayer to God.” It comes from Romans 10:1, “My heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Our aim is to kindle those two things in all of us. A heart desire for the conversion of the unsaved. And earnest, persevering prayer to God that they would be converted.
When I tried to think of a book that would assist in these two goals, Alleine's Alarm was at the top of the list. I don't think you will be able to read it without the birth of desire and prayer in your heart.
Moved to alarm,