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John Ball

John Ball, A. M.—This excellent person was bom at Cassenlon in Oxfordshire, in the month of October, 1585, and educated in Brazen-nose college, Oxford. Having finished his studies at the university, he became domestic tutor to the children of Lady Cholmlcy in Cheshire; about which time he became seriously thoughtful about the salvation of his soul. In the year 1610, having obtained

• Life of Mr. Mede, p. 37.

+ Sylvester's Life of Baiter, part iii. p. 96.—Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. iii. p. 233,350.

ordination without subscription, he entered upon the ministerial office, and became minister at Whitmore, near Newcastle, in Staffordshire. Here he resided for many years in the house of Edward Mainwaring, esq. a gentleman highly es'eemed for his piety, generosity, and usefulness. Mr. .Ball was exceedingly beloved by the ministers in those .parts. As he was particularly concerned for the prosperity of Zion, and da'ply impressed with the lamentable evils of the times, he frequently united with his brethren in the obs-rvance of days of fasting and prayer. For keeping a fast on Ascension-day, they were often convened before the Bishop of Chester, who greatly aggravated their crime, because it was observed on that holy day. These troubles, .however, did not move Mr. Ball. Amidst all the storms and tempests of the times, he remained firm in the truth. Indeed, previous to his entering into the ministry, he was determined to satisfy his own conscience, and not to receive •every thing in the established church, right or wrong: therefore, he impartially examined the controversy betwixt the conformists and nonconformists; and the result of his unbiassed inquiries was, a thorough dissatisfaction with the former, particularly with the subscription tyrannically imposed upon the clergy. During this period he looked upon a lord bishop as a very formidable creature; yet he had several contests with the Bishop of Chester, but came off unshaken, and more firmly established in the principles of nonconformity.*

Lady Bromley, of Sheriff-Hales in Shropshire, was many years famous for promoting, by her influence and practice, the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the genuine principles of the reformation. She was the great patroness of the persecuted nonconformists in that part of the country. Messrs. Ball, Nicolls, Pierson, Herring, and others, when they were harassed and deprived of their ministry, were kindly entertained by this worthy lady. These divines often preached in her neighbourhood, whom she sheltered from the oppressive measures of the prelates, as long as she

• Ball was often prosecuted in the ecclesiastical courts for refusing subscription and keeping conventicles, he was against separation.}'

• Clark's Lives annexed to Martyrologie, p. 147, 148.

i. Chronology, vol. ii. p. 395. (23.)
d. vol. iii. A. D. 1640.

This divine was thoroughly learned in the controversies of the day, particularly those of Bcllarmine, the Arminians, and conformity. He read and studied much upon these points; and it is almost incredible, says Mr. Clark, how he could speak on these topics, and lay open the weakness and fallacy of those arguments by which they were defended, even so as to avoid giving offence. He possessed an admirable talent for explaining difficult texts of scripture, comforting afflicted consciences, and for every duty of the ministerial office. He greatly excelled in prayer, administering the sacraments, and in conducting the exercises of family religion. He possessed an admirable command of his temper, and lived uncommonly abstemious. Though his income did not exceed twenty pounds a year, he was content in his situation, and remarkably liberal to the poor. He used to say, " I have enough, enough, enough." But he was richly ornamented with true christian humility. This was the richest jewel in his crown of moral excellencies. He invariably preferred others above himself, and would never speak reproachfully of any person.

Mr. Ball was uncommonly facetious in conversation. When the nonconformists were in danger of being driven out of the country, he used to say to his brethren, " If we be necessitated to leave our country, you shall preach and 3 I will teach school." To a friend, who was tired of teachi ing school, arid wished to enter into the ministry, he said, I "You will find it far more difficult to teach men than boys." When told that he was in great danger of being silenced by the bishop, he said, " If he should deal thus with me, I would pull off my hat and thank him." A friend relating his great danger by a fall from his horse, saying he never experienced so great a deliverance before, ." Yes," replied Mr. Ball, " a hundred times, even as often as you have ridden and not fallen." He zealously opposed all vanity and frowardness, and possessed an extraordinary talent in calming boisterous passions. To persons under the influence of unruly tempers, he used to say, " Put judgment into office. The affections are bad guides, but good followers. Look well to your hearts. Passion is the effect of pride. You ride an unruly horse, and therefore you stand in need of a strong bit and bridle." When the persecution of the nonconformists was the hottest, to a brother minister he said, " Though all the present race of nonconformists were dead and gone, be assured God would raise others out of our ashes, to protest against episcopacy and the ceremonies, rather than suffer that cause to perish."*

Being at length worn down by hard study and constant preaching, his spirit, during his last affliction, was calm, humble, and peaceable. He continued to preach as long as he was able, and prayed in his family till his strength utterly failed. Being asked whether he thought he should recover, he replied, " I do not trouble myself about it." He exercised a holy confidence in Christ, and thence derived substantial comfort. When his friends endeavoured to comfort him by the recollection of his extensive usefulness, he said, " If the Lord be not a God pardoning sins, I am in a miserable condition." And expressing their desires for his recovery, he said, " If the Lord pleased, I should be content to live longer, that I might be further useful, and bear my share of sufferings. For I expect a very sharp combat: the last combat we shall have with antichrist. As the agonies of death were upon him, being 0 asked how he did, he said, / am going to heaven. He died October 20, 1640, aged fifty-five years. " He lived by laifli,'" says Fuller, " was an excellent schoolman and schoolmaster, a painful preacher, and a profitable writer; and his 4 Treatise of Faith' cannot be sufficiently commended."+ Wood says, " he lived and died a nonconformist, in a poor house, a poor habit, with a poor maintenance of about twenty pounds a year, and in an obscure village, teaching school all the week for his further support; yet leaving the character of a learned, pious, and eminently useful man:" and we may add, in the words of Mr. Baxter, " he deserved as high esteem and honour as the best bishop in England."{

It is observed, that Mr. John Harrison, of Ashfon-underLyne in Lancashire, was exceedingly harassed by the intolerant proceedings of the bishops, and put to great expenses in the ecclesiastical courts; when he consulted Mr. Ball what he should do to be delivered from these troubles. Mr. Ball recommended him to reward the bishops well with money; " for it is that," said he, " which they look for." Mr. Harrison, it is added, tried the experiment, and afterwards enjoyed quietness.^

His Works.—1. A short Treatise containing all the principal Grounds of the Christian Religion, 1632.—This work was so much ~

• Clark's Lives, p. 148—158.

+ Fuller's Worlhies, part ii. p. 339.

1 Wood's Athenas Oxon. vol. i. p. 642,543.

S Calamy's Account, vol. ii. p. 396,397.

admired, that previous to this year, it passed through/otirteen editions, and wis trauslated'lnto TKe''Tu'rkish language.—3. A Treatise of , Faith, 1637.—3. Friendly Trial of the Grounds tending to Separation, 1640.—4. An Answer to two Treatises of Mr. John Can. the Leader of the English Brownists at Amsterdam, 1642.—5. Trial of the New V Church-way in New England and Old, 1644.—6. A Treatise of tho Covenant of Grace, 1645.—7. Of the Pow er of Godliness, doctrinally and practically handled, 1657.*—This includes several other articles. —8. A Treatise of Divine Meditation, 1660.—Several of the above pieces were published by Mr. Simeon Ashe, after Mr. Ball's death.