Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

Tobias Crisp

Tobias Crisp, D. D.—This zealous minister was born in Bread-street, London, in the year 1600, and educated first at Eton school, then in the university of Cambridge, and afterwards at Oxford, where he was incorporated member of Baliol college, in 1626. He was descended from a most wealthy family. His father was Ellis Crisp, a rich merchant, and sometimes alderman and sheriff of the city of London. Sir Nicholas Crisp was his elder brother. In the year 1627 he became rector of Brinkworth in Wiltshire, and in a few years after took his doctor's degree. He continued at Brinkworth till the commencement pf the civil wars, and was much followed for his edifying way of preaching, and his great hospitality to all persons who resorted to his housed His doctrine being spiritual, evangelical, and particularly suited to the case of awakened sinners, greatly promoted their peace and comfort; and his method being plain, familiar, and easy to be understood by persons of the meanest capacity, was particularly adapted to the condition of his hearers. And, as he had a plentiful estate of his own, he was uncommonly liberal and hospitable to strangers who came from a distance to attend upon his ministry; and, according to the information of some of his

* Baxter't Second Plea, p. 193.
+ Calamy't Account, vol. II. p. 779.
t Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. ii. p. 217.
S Wood's Athena Oxon. vol. ii. p. 13.

descendants, upwards of an hundred persons have been received and entertained in bis house at the same time, when ample provision was made for them and their horses.

" Dr. Crisp set out," it is said, " in the legal way of preaching, in which he was exceedingly zealous, and had an earnest desire to glorify God in his life and ministry. He did not seek, but refused all that worldly advancement, to which his way was open through his parentage and friends; but gave himself up wholly to the preaching of the word, and a conscientious practice of it, being unblamable in his life and conversation. ' None were more constant in preaching, praying, and repeating sermons, performing public, family, and private exercises, and in the strict observation of the Lord's day. His zeal for glorifying God in this way, did not abate, but increase, after he had a clearer knowledge of Christ, and of the doctrines of grace; working from better principles, and with better views, being willing to spend and be spent, for the service of the meanest of God's people. He was far from pride, vanity, and selfconceit; and full of meekness, lowliness, and tender affection. Hereby it appeared that the gospel of Christ had a very great influence upon his soul, which engaged him to preach it freely without any expectation of worldly advantage, and in a way which was sure to bring upon him not the favour and esteem of men, but reproach and persecution. His doctrine," our author adds, " was falsely charged with antinomianism; but the innocency and harmlessness of his life, and his fervency in goodness, was a manifest practical argument to confute the slanders of Satan, against the most holy faith which he preached."* Mr. Neal says, " that the doctor, in his younger days, had been a favourer of aiminianism; but, changing his opinions, he ran into the contrary extreme of antinomianism." Though the former part of the charge will be admitted by most persons, the latter some will deny; and observe, that his sermons upon " Free Grace the Teacher of Good Works," and " The Use of the Law," with some others, contain an abundant refutation of the charge. But the above writer observes, " that he was certainly a learned and religious

Esrson, modest and humble in his behaviour, fervent and borious in his ministerial work, and exact in his morals." Mr. Lancaster, the publisher of his works, says, " that his

• Life of Dr. Crisp, prefixed to bit Sennoni, p. 7,8. Edit. 1791.

life was so innocent and harmless from all evil, and so zealous and fervent in all good, that it seemed 10 be designed as a practical refutation of the slander of those who would insinuate that his doctrine tended to licentiousness."* The celebrated Dr. Twisse observes, " that be had read Dr. Crisp's sermons, and could give no reason why they were opposed; but," said he, " because so many were converted by his ministry, and so few by ours." Mr. Cole, the excellent author of a treatise on " Regeneration," declared, that if he had only one hundred pounds in the world, and Dr. Crisp's book could not be procured for less than fifty, he would give that sum rather than be without it; saying, " I have found more satisfaction in it, than in all the books in the world, except the Bib!e."t

Persons who have embraced sentiments which afterwards appear to them erroneous, often think they can never remove too far from them; and the more remote they go from their former opinions, the nearer they come to the truth. This was unhappily the case with Dr. Crisp. His ideas of the grace of Christ had been exceedingly low, and he h;id imbibed sentiments which produced in bim a legal and self-righteous spirit. Shocked at the recollection of his former views and conduct, he seems to have imagined that he could never go far enough from them; and that he could never speak too highly of the grace and love of the Redeemer, nor in too degrading terms of legality and selfrighteousness. But many were of opinion, that he went to such an excess in magnifying the grace of God, as to turn it into wantonness: and that he was so severe against all legality and self-righteousness, that true holiness and obedience to the divine will were in danger of being discarded. He was fond of expressions which alarm, and paradoxes which astonish. Many of these, a person skilled in theology will perceive to be capable of a good meaning: but readers uninstructed, who compose the most numerous class, are in danger of misapprehending them, and of being led into pernicious errors. This good man, it is said, perplexed and puzzled himself about the divine purposes. He did not distinguish, as he ought to have done, between God's secret will in his decrees, and his revealed will in his covenant and promises; and in his views of the decrees, he frequently speaks as if he had forgotten that they have respect to the means as well as the end. He also discovered

• Neal's PorKani, vol. lit. p. 18. t Life of Dr. Crisp, p. 9.

a great degree of inaccuracy in his ideas of the substitution of Christ in the place of the redeemed, and of our Lord's mediatorial office, both in procuring and applying the blessings of redemption.* " His writings," says Dr. Williams, " have in them a singular mixture of excellencies and faults. What is exceptionable arises chiefly from unqualified expressions, rather than from the author's main design."+

Upon the commencement of the civil wars, Dr. Crisp, being puritanically inclined, was driven from his rectory by the king's soldiers, and, to avoid their insolence, obliged to flee to London; where, on account of his peculiar sentiments about the doctrines of grace, he met with a most vigorous opposition from the divines of the city. Here he engaged in a grand dispute, having no less than fifty-two opponents; by which encounter, eagerly managed on his part, he contracted a disease which presently brought him to his grave. He died, it is said, of the small-pox, February 27, 1643, aged forty-three years. His remains were interred in the family vault in St. Mildred's church, Bread-street, London.t In his last sickness, he was in a resigned and most comfortable state of mind, and declared to those about him his firm adherence to the doctrines which he had preached; also, that as he had lived in the belief of the free grace of God through Christ, so he did now, with confidence and joy, even as much as his present condition was able to sustain, resign his life and soul into the hands of his heavenly Father.^ His wife was the daughter of Rowland Wilson, alderman and sheriff of London, a member of the long parliament, and one of the council of state. By him she had thirteen children, eleven of whom survived him.

Dr. Crisp published nothing himself; but, after his death, in 1643,1644, and 1646, his friends published three volumes of sermons from his notes, entitled, " Christ alone Exalted, in the Perfection and Encouragement of his Saints, notwithstanding their Sins and Trials." When they came from the press, it is said that the assembly of divines talked pf having them burnt, as a just punishment of the heresy which they contained.! Mr. Flavel and other nonconformists exposed his errors, and expressed a lively sense of

• Bsgne and Bennett's Hist, of Dissenters, Voi. i. p. 400,401. Edit. 1808,

t Christian Preacher, p. 456.

j Wood's Athens Oxon. vol. ii. p. 13.

4 Neal's Puritans, vol. iii. p. 19.

| Bogue and Bennett's Dissenters, vol. i. p. 401.

the dangerous opinions which the doctor held. The controversy, however, was at rest till the year 1690, when his son, Samuel Crisp, esq. published a new edition of the above sermons, with the addition of ten more, making in all fifty-two; and procured to the work the attestation of several ministers, that the discourses were the doctor's own productions, and copied from his manuscripts. This occasioned a new controversy, which, for seven years, was carried on with great warmth and intemperate zeal. Many eminent divines engaged in this controversy. Amongthosc who took a leading part in the dispute was Dr. Daniel Williams. He considered many of Crisp's assertions as exceedingly dangerous. And concerning the commutation of persons between Christ and the sinner, he could not but look upon it to be " not only false, absurd, and impossible, but also an impious and blasphemous opinion, as being dishonourable to our Saviour, repugnant to the wisdom and justice of God, and leading plainly to subvert the whole design of Christianity.",

Here, says our author, lay the root of Dr. Crisp's error, which shot its fibres into almost every subject. He viewed the union between Christ and believers to be of such a kind as actually to make a Saviour of the sinner, and a sinner of the Saviour. He speaks as if God considered the sinner as doing and suffering what Christ did and suffered; and Christ as having committed their sins, and as being actually guilty of them. The confusion and dreadful mistakes arising hence can scarcely be described. If we add, as already intimated, that his mind was perplexed about the divine decrees, and that he confounded them with God's revealed will, and strangely blended the divine purpose and the execution of it, as if they were one and the same thing, the reader will perceive the cause of his mistakes. The unhallowed influence of these opinions, the doctor appears not to have felt; but, scattering them among the multitude, he was like a man throwing fire-brands, arrows, and death. This unhappy controversy produced a separation among two respectable parties of the dissenters, which continues to this day.*

* For a more ample account of thii controrersy, see Bogne and Bennett'a Dissenters, vol. i. p. 401—409.—Wilson's Hist, of Dissenting Cbnrcac!. Vol. ii. p. 8OI—204.