Ball, Thomas (DNB00)

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BALL, THOMAS (1590–1659), divine, was born at Aberbury in Shropshire, in 1590. His parents were of 'good and honest repute,' having neither 'superfluity nor want.' His education was liberal; and having a natural prepossession to learning, he was noted for his 'constant and unconstrained industry about his books.' While still a youth he was appointed usher in the then famous school of Mr. Puller, at Epping, in Essex, 'where he was two years.' Thence he proceeded to Cambridge, entering at Queens' College in 1615. He proceeded M.A. in 1625. He was received by the Rev. Dr. John Preston as a pupil 'through the pleasing violence of a friendly letter which Mr. Puller writt in his high commendation.' Preaching on the 'Trinity,' Preston found his pupil very much 'troubled' over some of his statements and arguments. Ball put his questions and difficulties so modestly and ingenuously that the preacher was deeply interested in him. From that time they were devoted to each other. Dr. Preston, having become master of Emmanuel College, took Ball along with him from Queens', 'perceiving his growing parts.' Ever after the master of the great puritan college 'esteemed him not only as his beloved pupil but as his bosom friend and most intimately private familiar.' He obtained a fellowship, and had an 'almost incredible multitude of pupils.' His 'exercises' and sermons at St. Mary's gained him much distinction as a preacher. He accepted with some hesitation a 'call' to the great church of Northampton about 1630, and conducted the 'weekly lecture' there for about twenty-seven years. When the plague came to the town, he remained and ministered. He printed only one book apparently, namely, ‘Ποιμηνόπυργος — Pastorum Propugnaculum, or the Pulpit's Patronage against the Force of Unordained Usurpation and Invasion. By Thomas Ball, sometime Fellow of Emmanuel College in Cambridge, now Minister of the Gospel in Northampton, at the request and by the advice of very many of his Neighbour-Ministers: London, 1656' [in British Museum, marked 22 Jan. 1655] pp. viii. and 344. This is a noticeable book, full of out-of-the-way learning, like Burton's 'Anatomy of Melancholy,' and it has quaint sayings and stories equal to Fuller at his best.

So far as this treatise, 'Pastorum Propugnaculum,' is a defence of the church of England, it takes comparatively humble ground. It vindicates the reasonableness and scripturalness of 'ordination' and of adequate learning; he states with candour the objections of his opponents.

Ball, in association with Dr. Goodwin, edited and published the numerous posthumous works of his friend Dr. John Preston.

He was thrice married, and had a large family. He died, aged sixty-nine, in 1659, and was buried 21 June. His funeral sermon was preached by his neighbour, John Howes. It was published under the title of 'Real Comforts,' and included notes of his life. This sermon is very rare.

[Howes's Real Comforts, dedicated to Mrs. Susanna Griffith, wife of Mr. Thomas Griffith, of London, merchant, and daughter of Thomas Ball, 1660 (but really 30 June 1659); Brook's Lives of the Puritans; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 756; Cole MSS., Cantab. Athenæ and Miscel., in British Museum.]

A. B. G.