Our Puritan in view today is one that I’m fairly certain you’ve never heard of. Why I am certain about that? Because I’ve never heard of him. Don’t hear me being arrogant here. I’m by no means a ‘Puritan scholar’ or anything close but I do usually have my hands deep into Puritan literature at any given time and until today I’ve never come across his name. I’m sure the same is true of you.
Vincent Alsop was born in 1630 in South Collingham, Nottinghamshire. His father George served as rector in South Collingham, and mother Judith was a homemaker. He attended local grammar schools growing up but eventually landed at St. John’s College in Cambridge in 1648. Becoming as assistant teacher at Oakham School in Rutland and then the pastor of the church in a neighboring city called Langham, Vincent would soon meet and marry the daughter of Benjamin King, a local minister in 1657. It was his father-in-law Benjamin King who brought young Vincent into Puritanism, and once he entered into it Vincent never looked back.
Vincent was ejected from his pulpit for nonconformity in 1662, but remained preaching in the area privately. He was seen praying with a sick person and sent to the Northampton jail for six months. But the tide would turn, and in 1672 Vincent was able to minister publicly again at his house in Geddington under the Declaration of Indulgence. He then pastored the church on Tothill Street, Westminster until his death in 1703.
Vincent was very polemical, always getting into debate with anyone who would give him an ear. Writing several short pieces attacking the errors of his day seemed to be his specialty until his son was imprisoned and charged with treason for participating in the Monmouth rebellion of 1685 (which no doubt, Vincent probably put him up to the task). Vincent worked for his sons freedom and obtained it two years later. Vincent’s reforms in the church at Tothill Street prepared the way for the greater reforms under Tothill’s next minister, Calamy.
The one remaining work by Vincent Alsop is Practical Godliness: The Ornament of All Religion. Based on the title alone, you can imagine what Vincent thought about holy living. First published in 1696, it is a collection of sermons based on Titus 2:10 which commands us to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” This stands today, being one of the most practical books on how to live according to the promises of the gospel and the precepts of the law. The main argument stems from the Christian’s growth in Sabbath keeping, on which Vincent said “all practical religion rises, ebbs, falls, and flows.” Vincent also treated the subject of the family quite heavily. Vincent believed if families were to be profane in living, one could not expect the church to be holy either, because the church was made up of families. Attached to the end of this book is a rare 67 page pamphlet calling for the proper use of clothing and fashion, which crazy enough, is still very practical today.
Of all we can learn about the Puritans, this one principle remains true in the life of Vincent Alsop. They lived holy lives. To such lives, we are called as well. Thus, the writings of the Puritans remain a mine of wealth to us today.