Extended Biography of Vincent Alsop
REV. VINCENT ALSOP, A.M. One of the most acute, learned, and active of the nonconformist ministers was Vincent Alsop. He was born in Northamptonshire, and educated at St. John's College, Cambridge. He was for some time usher of the free school at Okeham, and was there in great danger of being corrupted by evil communications. But by conversing with Mr. King, the minister of the town, whose daughter he afterwards married, he became impressed with the importance of piety, of which he was all his life after, a diligent promoter. It is said that he was ordained by a bishop, but not being satisfied, he was afterwards ordained by presbyters. He was first settled as minister of Wilby, in Northamptonshire. After his ejectment, in 1662, he exercised his ministry occasionally at Wellingborough. For praying with a sick person, he was committed to Northampton jail, where he was confined six months. The first thing that brought him into notice was his writing, in 1675, with such smartness against Dr. Sherlock's book on The Knowledge of Christ. It was this publication that induced the learned Thomas Cawton, when on his death-bed, in 1677, to recommend Mr. Alsop to his congregation at Princes-street, Westminster, for his successor; and he was chosen accordingly. In 1679, he published his Sober Inquiry into the preaching and practices of the Nonconformists, who at that time were very severely treated. In his Epistle Dedicatory he says, “I am confident you commiserate our hard fate, and the unequal terms our puffing antagonists impose upon us. They challenge us to a paper duel, in the most provoking language, such as would set an edge upon the most obtuse coward. If modesty, and ambition for peace, or love of retiredness, tempt us to dislike the combat, we are then posted up for cowardice: but if we awaken so much spirit as to take up the gauntlet, and return the mildest answer, then trusty R. gets it in the wind, and immediately summons his hamlets, raises the whole posse ecclesiae and spiritual militia upon us, and strangles the helpless infant in the cradle. If it escape, and be written with becoming seriousness, they have one reply: This is nothing but whining or raving! If the style be brisk, they have one word ready to refute it: This is drollery, burlesque, buffoonery.”
In 1680, he opposed his Mischief of Impositions to Dr. Stillingfleet's Mischief of Separation. He briskly turns upon him his own words and phrases, and retorts his accusations. “The book," said the Doctor, “resembled the bird of Athens, for it seemed to be made up of face and feathers.” Mr. Alsop had his share of annoyances with the rest of his brethren. To these he was particularly exposed by living in the neighborhood of the court; but he escaped imprisonment and fines. This is attributed to the ignorance of the informers as to his Christian name, which he studiously concealed, and which they could not by any artifices discover. Wilson observes, “that Wood mentions him more than once, and supposed his name to be Benjamin, probably from the sameness of Ben and Vin in their sound.” More likely from the fact, that his books were " printed for Benj. Alsop, at the Angel and Bible, in the Poultry."
His son, who had been engaged in some treasonable practices, was freely pardoned by King James. After this event, Mr. Alsop was certainly very intimate with that monarch, and is generally supposed to have been the person who drew up the address to the king, for his general Indulgence. But no one rejoiced more than he in the Revolution of 1688. When liberty was legally granted, he preached on the Lord's Day, had a Thursday lecture, and was one of the six lecturers at Pinners' Hall; endeavoring, with all his might, to promote truth, and peace, and holiness. He died at Westminster, May 8, 1703. His funeral sermon was preached by Mr. Slater. He was succeeded by Dr. Calamy, who says, “I was very strictly examined by him before my ordination; at which time it falling to my lot to make and defend a Latin thesis upon this question, which he himself gave me: An Christus officio Sacerdotali fungatur in coelis tantum? he, for argument sake, as is the way of the schools, opposed me with all the vigor, smartness, and fluency of a young man, though he was then considerably advanced in years. This was in 1694, and the first public ordination among the Dissenters in London after the Act of Uniformity.” It took place at Dr. Annesley's meeting-house, in Little St. Helen's, Bishopsgate. Six other young men were ordained at the same time.
His works are:—Anti Sozzo;—Melius Inquirendum;—The Mischief of Impositions;—Warning to Protestants from the treachery and cruelty of the massacre in Paris;—Divine Meditations;—A Faithful Rebuke to a False Report;—Duty and Interest united in Prayer and Praise for Kings;—Practical Godliness;—God in the Mount;—A Sermon before the Society for Reformation of Manners;—A Sermon on the public fast;—The Life of Mr.Daniel Cawdry. In all his works he displays a vigorous and acute understanding, while his wit was brilliant and refined. Dr. South acknowledges that he thoroughly defeated his respectable antagonist, Dr. Sherlock. Had he written nothing but the sermon, he would deserve to be had in remembrance, as a preacher of no ordinary talents. His sermon on Ephesians 3:19, is also excellent. His sermons in the Morning Exercises are:—What distance ought we to keep in following the strange fashions of apparel, which come up in the days in which we live?—What is the fullness of God, which every true Christian ought to pray and strive to be filled with?
Source: Samuel Dunn. Memoirs of the Seventy-Five Eminent Divines whose Discourses form the Morning Exercises at Cripplegate, St. Giles in the Fields, and in Southwark. London: John Snow, 1844.