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John Allin

1638 - 1671

Biography

John Allin was born at Colby, Norfolk England in 1596, the eighth of Reginal Allin’s fifteen children. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Caius College, Cambridge in 1615 and Masters in 1619 after which he served as curate of the parish church at Wrentham where in 1622 he married Margaret Morse.  He was described by contemporaries as having been “a hard student, a good scholar,” and it is added he was ‘an excellent preacher, a grave and pious divine, and a man of a most humble, heavenly, and courteous behaviour, full of sweet Christian love to all.” However, he was forced to spend his early clerical career caught up in the Reformation disputes in England at that time. A Protestant reformer, he was dissatisfied with the limited extent of reforms in the practices of the Church of England and his critical sermons drew the censorious attention of church leaders who banned him from preaching. He voluntarily left his church and decamped London to avoid arrest for voicing theological concepts that were considered heretical by Anglican authorities.

Boarding the ship in 1637, in disguise in order to avoid detection, Allin set sailed with other self-exiled Puritans for New England. Upon landfall in Boston, he joined the original Dedham proprietors. The previous year these original Dedham landowners had created a community covenant for a town they initially intended to call Contentment, by which they had agreed to base their society on love, “to seek the good of each other”, and to settle all disputes by means of mediation. Allin signed the covenant in 1637 and after spending more than a year “in loving discourse” at the houses of potential church members, he was made minister of what was then called the 14th Church of Christ in the Bay Colony, presiding over a congregation of around 70 members.

In 1646 Allin led Massachusetts ministers in writing the “Paper marking the just limitations of colonial allegiance and imperial right” defending the Commonwealth from accusations of mismanagement by the English Parliament.  This document shielded the colonial government from an attempted imperial takeover “in a manly and decided tone” and ultimately thwarted Parliament’s plan to install a royal governor in Boston.

In 1648 Allin and other fellow New England Ministers wrote “The Defence of the Nine Positions” addressed to Puritan theologians back in England. This document argued for maintaining strict guidelines to determine eligibility for church membership. However, by 1662 falling numbers of so-called “Visible Saints’ in New England churches persuaded a synod of Massachusetts divines to relent in their insistence that would-be church members relate convincing conversion experiences. Under the auspices of the Halfway Covenant that Allin helped craft, church membership and privileges (except Communion) was offered to all who professed a desire to join.  Allin was chosen to defend this modification of church membership eligibility against critics, including the General Court representatives of Dedham, in a tract titled Animadversions on the Antisynodalia Americana. As it turned out, after Allin’s death, candidates were refused to take over his pulpit until Dedham church members officially recanted their opposition to the Halfway Covenant by avowing that “We acknowledge the fault to be ours and not our pastor (Allin) who brought us up properly and showed the way and the word clearly and long.” 

The same year Allin, along with John Eliot, was appointed by General Court to set aside land in Dedham for Christian Native Americans.  He and Eliot found a “praying Indian” town in an area of Dedham called Natick. Eliot translated the Bible into the Indian language, Algonquin, and with Allin’s help set up an Indian church and school in Natick.

Shortly after his wife Margaret’s death, Allin married a second wife, Katharine, widow of Governor Thomas Dudley. Allin died on 26 August, 1671, leaving three sons and was buried in the Old Village Cemetery. His bereaved congregation published his last two sermons: the one from Song of Solomon and the other from the book of John. In their preface the editors saluted Allin as “a constant, faithful, diligent steward in the house of God, a man of peace and truth, and a burning and shining light.” 

Bibliography

Burgess, Ebenezer (1840). Dedham Pulpit: Or, Sermons by the Pastors of the First Church in Dedham in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries. Perkins & Marvin.
Hanson, Robert Brand. Dedham, Massachusetts, 1635-1890. Dedham, MA: Dedham Historical Society, 1976.
Smith, Frank. A History of Dedham. Dedham; The Transcript Press, 1936.
Filing Cabinet: Ministers-1688-1897: First Church Papers- 1627-1965; Dedham Museum and Archive
Filing Cabinet: History: 1839-1900: History of First Church in Three Discourses by Alvan Lamson
Full text of "The History of Dedham: From the Beginning of Its Settlement, in September 1635, to May 1827" (archive.org)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Allin_(Puritan_minister)
I.—Notices of the Last Great Plague, 1665–6; from the Letters of John Allin to Philip Fryth and Samuel Jeake. In a Letter to Sir Henry Ellis, K.H., Director | Archaeologia | Cambridge Core
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_National_Biography,_1885-1900/Allen,_John_(1596-1671)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/363166?read-now=1&seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

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