Allen, Thomas (1608-1673) (DNB00)

ALLEN, THOMAS (1608–1673), a famous nonconformist divine, was born at Norwich in 1608, and was educated in his native city. He proceeded to the university of Cambridge, being entered of Caius College, where he took the degrees of B.A. and M.A. in ordinary course. Having received license and holy orders, he was appointed to the parish church of St. Edmund's of Norwich. But he was too pronouncedly evangelical and too outspoken for reformation doctrine as against popish to be long endured by the bishop of the diocese at the time. Bishop Wren ‘silenced’ him in 1636, together with the learned William Bridge and others, for refusing to read ‘The Book of Sports.’ In 1638 he passed over as a fugitive to New England. Cotton Mather testified that he ‘approved himself a pious and painful minister of the Gospel at Charlestown.’ He remained in New England until 1651, and Dr. W. B. Sprague, in his ‘Annals’ of the American pulpit, enrols his name among the worthies of New England. He returned in 1651–2 to Norwich, where he remained ‘in the exercise of his ministry’ until 1662. Curiously enough, his ministry was twofold—firstly, he became rector of St. George's, Norwich, yet, secondly, he was also chosen ‘pastor of the congregational church’ there (1657). The explanation is that Allen was ‘preacher of the city’ in St. George's parish rather than ‘rector,’ and as such was ejected among the two thousand. He died 21 Sept. 1673, His books are exceedingly rare, and of uncommon vigour and tenderness combined. His ‘Invitation to Thirsty Sinners to come to their Saviour,’ published in Boston, Massachusetts, has fetched fabulous prices. His ‘Glory of Christ set forth, with the Necessity of Faith,’ furnishes an excellent example of the average sermons of the ‘ejected’—strong, clear English, and full of ‘the Gospel’ as a honeycomb of honey. The work that won him most celebrity was his ‘Chain of Scripture Chronology from the Creation to the Death of Christ’ (1659). The renowned William Greenhill wrote the preface, and it immediately became famous at home and abroad. It is said that its author was glad to leave others to ‘dispute’ while he should ‘compute.’

[Palmer's Nonconf. Mem. iii. 11–12; Cotton Mather's Magnalia (1702), bk. iii. 215; Works, as cited.]

A. B. G.