Grantham, Thomas (1634-1692) (DNB00)

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GRANTHAM, THOMAS (1634–1692), general baptist divine, was born at Halton-Holegate, near Spilsby, Lincolnshire, in 1634. He belonged, he says, to the ‘poor kindred’ of the ‘ancient family of the Granthams, in the county of Lincoln’ (‘Epist. Dedic.’ to Christ. Prim.) Tradition makes him a tailor by trade, and afterwards a farmer. He early took an interest in religious movements. In 1644 a nonconformist congregation had been formed in the South Marsh district, between Spilsby and Boston. One of its tenets was the rejection of sponsors in baptism. Four persons seceded from this congregation in 1651, having become baptists. Grantham joined them, was baptised at Boston in 1653, and in 1656 was chosen their pastor. He gathered a congregation which met in private houses at Halton and elsewhere, but after considerable opposition he obtained a grant of Northolme Chapel, at Thorpe Northolme, near Wainfleet. Grantham's most important convert was John Watts, a man of some property, who had received a university education, and became pastor of a baptist congregation meeting in his own house. By the efforts of Grantham and his evangelists a number of small congregations were formed in the south of Lincolnshire, holding Arminian sentiments, and distinct from the particular or Calvinistic baptists.

It is not clear that Grantham had any direct hand in preparing the ‘brief confession’ of the general baptists drawn up in London (March 1660). His name is not appended to the original edition (1660). But he seems to have drawn up shortly after the ‘narrative and complaint,’ which was signed by thirty-five general baptists in Lincolnshire (Kennett mistakes them for quakers). Grantham and Joseph Wright of Westby were admitted (26 July 1660) to present this ‘narrative’ to Charles II, with a copy of the ‘brief confession’ and a petition for toleration, which were ‘courteously received’ (Christ. Prim. bk. ii. pt. 2, p. 61). The insurrection of fifth-monarchy men under Venner in January 1661 excited apprehensions of ‘anabaptist’ outbreaks. Two addresses to the throne were drawn up by Lincolnshire baptists. The second of these was presented (23 Feb.) by Grantham to Charles, who expressed himself as well disposed towards Lincolnshire baptists (Kennett). But Grantham's zeal soon brought him into conflict with the authorities. Twice in 1662 he was arrested. The first time he was bound over to appear at the next assize at Lincoln; he was again arrested at Boston, his Arminian preaching having led to the rumour of his being a papist and a jesuit. He was thrown into Lincoln gaol, and kept there some fifteen months, till at the spring assize of 1663 he and others were released, pursuant to a petition drawn up by him and presented to the king on 26 Dec. In 1666 he became an ‘apostle’ or ‘messenger,’ an office originally created by the older baptists for the supervision of congregations in a district (cf. Robert Everard [q. v.], Faith and Order, 1649). Grantham developed the office into an itinerant ministry-at-large to ‘plant churches.’ The title of messenger is still retained in the ‘old connection’ of general baptists, and has been by other baptists revived in a somewhat different sense.

On 7 March 1670 he issued proposals for a public disputation with Robert Wright, formerly a baptist preacher, who had conformed at Lincoln; but neither Wright nor William Silverton, chaplain to Bishop Fuller, would respond. Under the Conventicle Act of 1670 Grantham was imprisoned again for six months at Louth. Soon after his release he baptised a married woman. The husband threatened him with an action for damages for 100l. in having thereby assaulted her. The indulgence of 15 March 1672 did not meet the case of the Lincolnshire baptists; accordingly Grantham had another interview with the king on their behalf, and obtained an ineffectual promise of redress. He suffered several imprisonments during the remaining years of Charles's reign.

In 1685 or 1686 Grantham removed to Norwich, where he founded a general baptist congregation in White Friars Yard. In 1686 he founded a similar congregation in King Street, Yarmouth; in 1688 he baptised persons at Warboys, Huntingdonshire; in 1689 he was allowed to preach in the town hall of King's Lynn, and founded a congregation there. His closing years were full of controversies with other dissenters in Norwich, especially John Collinges, D.D. [q. v.], and Martin Fynch [q. v.] With the established clergy of the city he was on better terms; John Connould, vicar of St. Stephen's, was his warm friend, their intimacy having begun in a theological correspondence. By dint of self-education Grantham had acquired much literary capacity. He is credited with the knowledge of eight or nine languages; his writings show acquaintance with the Greek and Latin fathers. He seems to have had access to the manuscript copy of the ‘Christianismi Restitutio’ of Servetus, in the library (now at Cambridge) of John Moore [q. v.], prebendary of Norwich, and bishop from 1691. His somewhat remarkable verses (1691) constitute the earliest favourable notice of Servetus in English. His later theology was of a Sabellian type, with a strong leaning to the quaker doctrine of the inner light. He advocated the imposition of hands on the newly baptised, believed in the permanence of miraculous power of healing by unction, and disapproved of psalmody (except by single voices) as a part of public worship.

On 6 Oct. 1691 John Willet, rector of Tattershall, Lincolnshire, was brought up before the mayor of Norwich, Thomas Blofield, for slandering Grantham at Yarmouth and Norwich. Willet admitted that there was no foundation for his statement that Grantham had been pilloried at Louth for sheep-stealing. Grantham paid Willet's costs, and saved him from gaol. He died on Sunday, 17 Oct. 1692, aged 58 years, and was buried just within the west door of St. Stephen's Church. A great crowd attended the funeral; the service was read by his friend Connould, who added, ‘This day has a very great man fallen in Israel.’ Connould was buried in the same grave in May 1703. A long memorial inscription on canvas (given by Richard) was afterwards placed in his meeting-house, probably by his grandson, Grantham Killingworth [q. v.]

Grantham published: 1. ‘The Prisoner against the Prelate, or a Dialogue between the Common Gaol at Lincoln and the Baptist,’ &c., n.d. (1662, in verse; has rude cut of gaol and cathedral). 2. ‘The Baptist against the Papist,’ &c., 1663, 4to (dated Lincoln Castle, 10 Jan. 1662, i.e. 1663; reprinted in ‘Christ. Prim.,’ bk. iv.). 3. ‘The Seventh Day Sabbath Ceased,’ &c., 1667, 4to (embodied in ‘Christ. Prim.,’ bk. ii. pt. 2, chaps. 12, 13). 4. ‘A Sigh for Peace: or the Cause of Division Discovered,’ &c., 1671, 4to (in answer to ‘A Search for Schism’). 5. ‘The Baptist against the Quaker,’ &c. (1673? against Robert Ruckhill and John Whitehead; reprinted in ‘Christ. Prim.,’ bk. iv.). 6. ‘A Religious Contention … a Dispute at Blyton,’ &c., 1674, 4to. 7. ‘The Loyal Baptist; or an Apology for the Baptised Believers,’ &c., 1674, fol.; 2nd part, 1684, fol. (answer to Nathaniel Taylor). 8. ‘The Fourth Principle of Christ's Doctrine Vindicated,’ &c., 1674, 4to (reprinted in ‘Christ. Prim.,’ bk. iv.). 9. ‘The Successors of the Apostles, or a Discourse of the Messengers,’ &c., 1674, 4to (reprinted in ‘Christ. Prim.,’ bk. iv.). 10. ‘The Paedobaptists Apology for the Baptised Churches,’ &c. (1674? reprinted in ‘Christ. Prim.,’ bk. iv.). 11. ‘Christianismus Primitivus,’ &c., 1678, fol. (four books, each book and each part of bk. ii. separately paged; bk. iv. has separate title-page; it is a collection of treatises rather than a distinct work). 12. ‘An Epistle for Plain Truth and Peace,’ &c., 1680, 8vo. 13. ‘A Friendly Epistle to the Bishops and Ministers of the Church of England,’ &c., 1680, 4to. 14. ‘Presumption, No Proof,’ &c. (1687? in reply to Samuel Petto). 15. ‘St. Paul's Catechism,’ &c., 1687, 4to; 2nd ed. 1693, 4to. 16. ‘Hear the Church, an Appeal to the Mother of us all,’ &c., 1688, 4to. 17. ‘The Infants' Advocate,’ &c., 1688, 4to; 2nd part, 1689, 4to (against Firmin and Whiston). 18. ‘Truth and Peace: a Friendly Debate concerning Infant Baptism,’ &c., 1689, 4to. 19. ‘A Dialogue between the Baptist and the Presbyterian,’ &c., 1691, 4to (against Collinges; answered by Fynch; contains the lines on Servetus). 20. ‘The Forerunner to a Further Answer to Two Books,’ &c. (1691?). 21. ‘The Grand Imposter caught in his own Snare,’ &c., 1691, 4to. 22. ‘The Dying Words of … Grantham,’ &c., 1691, 4to.

Among his unpublished manuscripts were ‘The Baptist's Complaints against the Persecuting Priests,’ 1685, and ‘Christianitas Restaurata,’ of which the title seems borrowed from Servetus; both are quoted by Crosby for their biographical matter. Richard in 1805 could not gain access to Grantham's manuscripts; their owner had lent them to ‘a minister in London.’

[Sketch of the Life of Grantham by W. R. (William Richard), with additions by Isaac James, in Universal Theological Magazine, January to April 1805; Kennett's Register, 1728; Crosby's Hist. of the Baptists, 1738–40, vols. ii. iii. iv.; Wood's Hist. of the General Baptists, 1847; Confessions of Faith, ed. Underhill (Hanserd Knollys Soc.) 1854, xxi. 107 sq.; Records of Fenstanton, Warboys, &c., ed. Underhill (Hanserd Knollys Soc.), 1854, p. 282; Barclay's Inner Life of Rel. Societies of the Commonwealth, 1876, p. 353; Christian Life, 12 Aug. 1876, p. 163 sq., 19 Aug. p. 178 (reprints the lines on Servetus); Browne's History of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, 1877, p. 556 sq.; information supplied by the Rev. Dr. Angus.]

A. G.