Puritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers

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The life and death of Mr. Thomas Case.

MR. CASE was born in the county of Kent. His father was minister of Boxley in that county, and distinguished both for his parts and piety. His son Thomas was the object of his peculiar care, on whom he bestowed an excellent education in early life. He gave signal proofs of a pious disposition, and very considerable ingenuity, even in his childhood. We are informed, that he was an early convert, and that his conversion began with prayer when he was only six years of age. He was put to school first at Canterbury, and afterwards at Merchant Taylor’s in London; where he continued, till his father, meeting with troubles, was obliged to take him home, where he gave him all the instruction in the arts and languages which his circumstances would permit, and in due time had him entered student at Christ church in the university of Oxford, in the year 1616, being then seventeen years of age. Here his application and improvement were such, that he was elected unanimously, by the dean and canons, a student of that House, where he remained till about 1625, having, prior to this, taken his degree in arts. Being now in some measure fitted for the work of the ministry, he commenced preacher for some time in these parts, according to Wood, and afterward in Kent, at or near the place of his birth. By the pressing importunity of an intimate and very affectionate friend in Norfolk, he was prevailed upon to reside some time with him in that county. Soon after this he was called to the exercise of his ministry at Erphingham, a town also in the county of Norfolk, where he remained eight or ten years. Here he preached twice every Sabbath, and was indefatigable in catechizing the young people, and repeating in private what he had delivered in public, as numbers of the English divines were accustomed to do about that time. Thus, by his diligence in performing the respective duties of his office, and exhibiting before his flock a pious, peaceable, and exemplary walk and conversation, he obtained an excellent reputation, and was highly gratified to find that his labors had been blessed with singular success. But the unqualified severity exercised towards the puritans, by the rigid and whimsical measure of bishop Wren, drove him away from his charge. He was summoned before the court of high commission, and admitted to bail; but before he had time to make answer to the charges exhibited against him, that inquisitorial and tyrannical court was dissolved, by act of parliament, to the great joy of a large majority of the English nation.

Mr. Case’s Norfolk friend, above mentioned, having been appointed warden of Manchester, invited him into Lancashire, where, in a short time, he was presented to a place in the neighboring county; but great changes and confusions soon after prevailing in the kingdom, some persons of quality persuaded him to accompany them to London, where he was comfortably settled. Here he was first chosen lecturer, and afterwards pastor of Magdalen church in Milk Street, London, where, beside his labors in the congregation, and on the Lord’s day, he carried on a weekly lecture every Saturday; and here he first set up the morning exercise, which has been long continued in the city. The occasion of its introduction was this: Many of the citizens of London had friends and near relations along with the army of the earl of Essex, and so many bills were sent up to the pulpit every Lord’s day by their friends, requesting the prayers of the church for their protection, that the minister had neither time to read out their names, nor recommend them to the protection of heaven. Some divines therefore moved, that it might be advisable, under these circumstances, to set apart an hour for this purpose every morning, one half of which to be spent in prayer, the other devoted to exhortation. Mr. Case began it in his church at seven o’clock in the morning, and when it had continued there a month, it was removed, by rotation,. to other churches, for the convenience of the citizens. The service was performed by different ministers. When the heat of the war was over, it became a casuistical lecture and was carried on by the most learned divines of the time, and continued till the restoration. Their lectures were afterwards published, each of which contained the resolving of some case of conscience. But Mr. Case’s labors, were not confined to his parish of Milk Street. He likewise carried on a lecture at Martin’s in the Fields every Thursday for more than twenty years.

Being a zealous advocate for reformation, Mr. Case was nominated a member of the assembly of divines, where he displayed his talents with success in the service of the church. He ‘ was also appointed to preach before parliament, and on other public occasions. In his sermon, preached before the commissioners, for holding the court martial in 1664, Mr. Granger condemns the following sentence as sanguinary and reprehensible: “Noble sirs, imitate God, and be merciful t& none who have sinned out of malicious wickedness” (meaning the royalists). “It is painful to think, says he, that so venerable and amiable a man should suffer himself to be so far transported by the fury oft the times, an to have uttered, but especially to have printed, such an unchristian sentence.” In order that Mr. Case may have a hearing before he be condemned, I shall give the reader the whole sentence from the sermon unmutilated, that be may judge for himself. It was preached from 2 Chron. xix. 6. ‘ And he (Jehoshaphat) said to the judges, take heed what ye do, for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment.’ In the eighteenth page of this sermon, Mr. Case says, “Noble sirs, in your execution of judgment upon delinquents, imitate God, and be merciful to none who have sinned out of malicious wickedness, Psalm lix. 5. Let not any find mercy, who, in this bloody quarrel, have laid the foundation of their rebellion and massacres in irreconcilable hatred of religion and the government of Christ. Those his enemies, who would not have him reign over them, slay them before his face—Let not them find mercy in your eyes, in whose eyes a whole nation, and our posterity, could find no pity—Spare not, but where you think in your conscience God would spare if he himself were on the bench in person—Imitate God in your justice, and imitate him also in your mercy—Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” Granger makes the unqualified assertion, that he meant the royalists. Mr. Case says, that he meant delinquents, whether belonging to king or parliament; and notwithstanding that his expressions have a very unchristian aspect, they exhibit the precise sense of the psalmist in the passage quoted. He exhorts the judges to imitate God, both in the exercise of his justice and his mercy. It were surely difficult to conceive where he could have found a better pattern of imitation. His mode of expressing himself, however, I have no mind to vindicate; it is coarse and indelicate, however correct, and addressed to the passions of his auditory, upon an occasion when he ought more especially to have addressed their understanding and judgment; but the best of men have their peculiarities, their passions, and propensities. He, together with his brethren, bad suffered great and manifold severities under bishop Wren. He had seen the cruel treatment of the most zealous and useful, while those who were the most loose and careless in discharging their pastoral obligations, were caressed and encouraged in their indolence; all which were calculated to excite the burning indignation of men possessed of a colder temperament than that of Mr. Case.

He was a zealous covenanter, as appears from his sermons preached at taking the covenant. In his preface to these sermons, he says, “To every soul who shall enter into this holy league and covenant, my request is, that they would look around them, life and death is before them. If we break with God now we have just cause to fear that God will stand to covenant no more with us, but will avenge the quarrel with us to our utter destruction. If we be sincere and faithful, this covenant will be a foundation of much peace, joy, glory, and security, to us and our seed, till the coming of Christ. He was one of those ministers who subscribed the two papers against the proceedings of parliament in 1648 and the bringing the king to his trial, fie was turned out of his place in Milk Street, for refusing the engagement, vehemently urged, at this time, by Oliver Cromwell in name of the commonwealth. After the king’s death, the oaths of allegiance and supremacy were changed, and a new oath substituted in their place. In which oath, the swearers engaged themselves to be true and faithful to the government without a king or House of Lords. Such as refused were declared incapable of holding any place or office of trust in the commonwealth; but as many of the excluded members of the House of Commons as received it, were readmitted to their seats. With the view of bringing the Presbyterian ministers to the test, this oath, the engagement, was strongly urged upon all ministers, heads of colleges and halls, fellows of houses, graduates, and officers in the universities. No minister could be admitted to any ecclesiastical living, or capable of enjoying any preferment in the church, unless he qualified himself by taking the engagement in less than six months, and that publicly in the face of his congregation.

Mr. Baxter says, “That most of the sectarian party swallowed the engagement, and so did the king’s old cavaliers—very few of. them being troubled with the disease of a scrupulous conscience; but the moderate Episcopals and Presbyterians generally refused it, as did Mr. Case. It was not long, however, till providence opened another door, by which he was enabled to prosecute his ministerial labors. He was chosen lecturer at Aldermanbury and Cripplegate, where he remained till he was sent prisoner to the tower; where he was confined for about six months for being concerned in the affair for which Christopher Love suffered on Towerhill. The matter stands thus: Upon the death of Charles I., the prince of Wales was proclaimed king of Scotland by authority of that nation, who sent commissioners to the Hague to invite him into the kingdom, upon the terms of his renouncing popery and prelacy, and swearing the solemn league and covenant. The body of the English Presbyterians acted in concert with Scotland in this important business; in which several of their leading divines carried on a private correspondence with the Scottish chiefs; and in place of taking the, engagement to the present powers, called them usurpers. But a discovery of this confederacy caused the death of Mr. Love, and the imprisonment of Mr. Case, as above stated.

While confined in the tower, Mr. Case made the best use of his time and sufferings that circumstances would permit. Here he meditated the substance of what he afterwards preached, and published under the title, Correction, Instruction. After his release, he was invited to be lecturer at Giles in the Fields, near London, where he continued till the restoration, when the former incumbent was readmitted. On the 14th of March 1659, he was appointed, by parliament, one of the ministers for approving and admitting clergymen in the Presbyterian way; and in the following year, he was deputed,’ by his brethren in London, with others, to wait on the king, and congratulate him on his restoration to the throne of his ancestors. Mr. Baxter, one of the number, tells us, that Charles gave them very encouraging promises of peace, and raised some of them to high expectation. He never refused them a private audience when they desired it; and the better to amuse and deceive them, while they were once waiting in the antichamber, he said his prayers with such an audible voice, in the adjoining apartment, that the ministers might hear what he said. He thanked God that he was a covenanted king; and besought the Lord to give him an humble, meek, and forgiving spirit, that ho might have forbearance with his offending subjects, as he expected forbearance from offended heaven. On hearing which, old Mr. Case lifted up his hands to heaven, and blessed God who had given them a praying king. In 1661 he was one of the commissioners at the Savoy conference, and in 1662, ejected, with the rest of his brethren, by the act of uniformity; but Wood says, “That ever after, so long as he lived, he was not wanting, on his part, to carry on the beloved cause in conventicles, for which he sometimes suffered.”

St. Bartholomew’s day having arrived, he preached his farewell sermon from Rev. ii. 5. “Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” “Here (says he) Christ prescribes precious physic for the healing of this languishing church, compounded of three ingredients, self-reflection, holy contrition, and thorough reformation. Remember what you once were, repent of what you presently are, and return, by a course of thorough reformation, to that height of piety, purity, and zeal, from which you have fallen.’ These topics he urged on his audience with uncommon pathos; and, in concluding his remarks on the requisite reformation he had been inculcating, he says, “we should also do something, by way of extraordinary bounty and charity, to the relief of God’s indigent servants, in this period of extraordinary distress; and what I would exhort you all to do is, that you set apart some considerable proportion of your estates, and account it a loved thing dedicated to God; a thing, which to touch, or apply to any other purpose, were sacrilege, that you may be ready, on all necessary occasions, to contribute to the relief of the poor, whom you will find suffering in every corner of town and country.”

Notwithstanding the many trials and changes to which he was subjected in the course of his public ministry, Mr. Case enjoyed an uncommon share of domestic happiness, and died, in a good old age, on the 30th May, 1682, having been a sojourner through this region of tears, turmoil, and unceasing vicissitude, fourscore and four years.

His works are, 1. Two Sermons, preached at Westminster before sundry of the House of Commons.—2. God’s waiting to he gracious, preached at Milk Street.—3. The Root of Apostasy and Fountain of true Fortitude; a Sermon preached to the Commons.—4. Jehoshaphat’s Caveat to the Judges.—5. The Sethacks of Reformation; a Sermon preached before the Lords. —6. A Model of true Spiritual Thankfulness, preached to the Commons.—7. Spiritual Whoredom, preached also to the Commons.—8. Vanity of Vainglory; a funeral Sermon for Kinsmet Lucy, Esq.—9. Sensuality Dissected, a Sermon to divers citizens of London who were born in Kent.—10. Elijah’s Abatement, or Corruption in the Saints.—11. A Funeral Sermon for Mr. s Elizabeth Scott.—12. A Funeral Sermon for Darcy Wivil, Esq.—13. The First and Last Sermon in the morning exercise at St. Giles.—14. The Sanctification of the Sabbath.—15. His Farewell Sermon.—16. A Treatise of Affliction, or Correction, Instruction.—17. Mount Pisgah, or a View of Heaven.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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