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Richard Allestree (1619-1681)

A fiery Puritan preacher and astute theological doctor of divinity.
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“Heavenly contemplation is applicable to the Beatifical Vision, where the angels behold the Face of the Almighty. Contemplate heaven. Such meditation is like fire kindling; and contemplation is like flaming it when its fully kindled. The one is like the Shulamite seeking Christ; and the other, like her enjoyment of him.” – Richard Allestree

His Works:

The Privileges of the University of Oxford in point of Visitation (1647) – a tract answered by Prynne in the University of Oxford’s Plea Rejected
18 sermons whereof 15 preached before the king, 1669.
40 sermons in 2 vols., 1684
Sermons published separately including A Sermon on Acts xiii. 2, 1660.
A Paraphrase and Annotations upon all the Epistles of St Paul (joint author with Abraham Woodhead and Obadiah Walker, 1675, see edition of 1853 and preface by W. Jacobson).
The Practice of Christian Graces, or The Whole Duty of Man Laid Down in a Plaine And Familiar Way for the Use of All, But Especially the Meanest Reader. 1658.
The Whole Duty of Prayer, Containing Devotions for Every Day in The Week, and for Several Occasions, Ordinary and Extraordinary. 1692.
The Whole Duty of Mourning, and the Great Concern of Preparing Our Selves For Death, Practically Considered. 1694.
The Whole Duty of Divine Meditation, Described in All Its Various Parts and Branches. With Meditations on Several Places of Scripture. 1694.
The Vanity of the Creature. 1684.
Private Devotions for Several Occasions, Ordinary and Extraordinary. 1660.
The Lively Oracles Given to Us. Or the Christians Birth-Right and Duty, in the Custody and Use of the Holy Scripture. 1678.
The Ladies Calling in Two Parts, The Causes of The Decay of Christian Piety, and The Gentlemans Calling. 1673.
The Government of the Tongue. 1667.
The Government of the Thoughts: 1694.
A Discourse Concerning the Beauty of Holiness. 1678.
A Discourse Concerning the Period of Humane Life: Whether Mutable Or Immutable. 1677.
The Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety. 1667.
The Art of Contentment. 1675.


Biography of Richard Allestree (1619-1681):

Richard Allestree (1619-1681) (also Allestry) was a royalist divine and provost of Eton College, son of Robert Allestree, and a descendant of an ancient Derbyshire family. He was born at Uppington in Shropshire and educated at Coventry, and later at Christ Church, Oxford, under Richard Busby. He entered as a commoner in 1636, was made student shortly afterwards, and earned the degree of B.A. in 1640 and of M.A. in 1643.

In 1642 he took up arms for the king under Sir John Biron. At the close of the Civil War, he returned to his theological studies, became ordained as a minister, and became a “noted tutor.” However, he still remained an ardent royalist. He voted for the university decree against the Covenant, and, refusing submission to the parliamentary visitors in 1648, he was expelled. He found a retreat as chaplain in the house of the Honorable Francis Newport, afterwards Viscount Newport, in whose interests he undertook a journey to France. On his return he joined two of his friends, Dolben and Fell, afterwards respectively archbishop of York and bishop of Oxford, then resident at Oxford, and later joined the household of Sir Antony Cope of Hanwell, near Banbury. He was now frequently employed in carrying dispatches between the king and the royalists in England.

In May 1659 he brought a command from Charles in Brussels, directing the bishop of Salisbury to summon all those bishops, who were then alive, to consecrate clergymen to various sees “to secure a continuation of the order in the Church of England,” then in danger of becoming extinct. While returning from one of these missions, in the winter before the Restoration, he was arrested at Dover and committed a prisoner to Lambeth Palace, then used as a jail for apprehended royalists, but was liberated after confinement of a few weeks at the instance, among others, of Lord Shaftesbury.

At the Restoration he became canon of Christ Church, as a Doctor of Divinity and city lecturer at Oxford. In 1663 he was made chaplain to the king and regius professor of divinity. In 1665 he was appointed provost of Eton College, and proved himself to be a capable administrator. He introduced order into the disorganized finances of the college and procured the confirmation of Laud’s decree, which reserved five of the Eton fellowships for members of King’s College. His additions to the college buildings were less successful; for the “Upper School,” constructed by him at his own expense, was falling into ruin almost in his lifetime, and was replaced by the present structure in 1689. Allestree died on the 28th of January 1681, and was buried in the chapel at Eton College, where there is a Latin inscription to his memory.

His lectures, with which he was dissatisfied, were not published. Allestree was a man of extensive learning, of moderate views and a fine preacher.

He was generous and charitable, of “a solid and masculine kindness,” and of a fiery temper, but completely under control.

Authorities. Wood’s Athenae Oxonienses (edited by Bliss), iii. 1269; Wood’s Fasti, i. 480, 514, ii. 57, 241, 370; Richard Allestree, 40 sermons, with biographical preface by Dr John Fell (2 vols., 1684); Sufferings of the Clergy, by John Walker; Architectural History of Eton and Cambridge, by R. Willis, i. 420; Hist. of Eton College, by Sir H. C. Maxwell-Lyte; Hist. of Eton College, by Lionel Cust (1899); Egerton MSS., Brit. Mus. 2807 f. 197 b. For Allestree’s authorship of the Whole Duty of Man, see Rev. F. Barham, Journal of Sacred Literature, July 1864, and C. E. Doble’s articles in the Academy, November 1884.

Taken in part from the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press, and the National Dictionary of Biography.

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