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Thomas Case

Extended Biography of Thomas Case

THOMAS CASE (1598-1682), divine, son of George Case, vicar of Boxley, Kent, was born in that county in 1598. His first education was received at Canterbury, and he next entered Merchant Taylors' School in 1615, where the registrar set down his name only (Registers, i. 84). In 1616 he obtained a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, partly in recognition of his industry and proficiency, and partly by the favor of Archbishop Tobie Matthew, who had been of that foundation. Case's connection with Christ Church is recorded upon the title-pages of many of his books. His degree in arts was taken on 15 June 1620, and his master's degree on 26 June 1623. He is said to have remained a year or two longer at the university, preaching after ordination “for some time in those parts, and afterwards in Kent, at or near the place of his nativity.” His career was most intimately associated with that of Richard Heyrick (of the family of the poet Herrick), who was his associate at Oxford. "When Heyrick obtained from Charles I his first preferment at North Repps, Norfolk, Case became his curate. Soon after Case obtained the pastoral charge of Erpingham in the same neighborhood, remaining there eight or ten years. The latter part of his stay at this parish was marked by the severity of Bishop Wren towards him, and proceedings in the high commission court are said to have been still pending against him when that court was abolished. Meanwhile Heyrick, who some years before had received from the king a grant of the reversion of the wardenship of the collegiate church of Manchester, came into possession of that dignity in 1635, and thither Case accompanied or followed him. By the influence of the Booth family, of the adjoining town of Salford, Case frequently preached with much acceptance at their newly erected chapel in that place, and he also preached in the other Manchester chapelries, whither he was followed by numbers of admirers. On 8 Aug. 1637 he was married at Stockport, Cheshire, to Anne, daughter of Oswald Mosley of Ancoats, Manchester, the widow of Robert Booth of Salford (brother of Humphrey Booth, the founder of the chapel). By this union he became brother-in-law to the Rev. John Angier [q. v.] His popularity brought him into trouble, and he experienced, in a less degree, the same trials in the diocese of Chester as in that of Norwich. In 1638 articles were exhibited against him in Bishop Bridgeman's court for uttering opinions against the discipline of the church and for other irregularities, notwithstanding that he had signed the articles and was still “a beneficed man within the diocese of Norwich.” One of the charges was that he had given the sacrament to those who did not kneel; and his reply was that the congregations were so vast that there was no room to kneel. Falling in with the spirit of the Manchester burghers he supported the parliamentary party by his money and zeal (November 1642). His marriage introduced him to persons of influence. Jacomb disturbs a little the chronological sequence when he says that in a short while after coming to Manchester Case was presented to a place in the neighboring county—i.e. Stockport—where he may have been acting first as curate. He became actual rector of that rich benefice on 31 July 1645, when the committee of plundered ministers presented him, with the usual injunction to preach diligently. The presentation was confirmed by votes of the houses. The appointment of a man who at that time was an active minister in London was not a wise one. Nine months afterwards he resigned and a new rector was appointed, Case having “another place with cure of souls.” These dates and circumstances seem to lend point to Wood's insinuation that Case was anxious to get preferment and wealth, which he wanted before he went up to London. Invthe meanwhile, before the end of 1641, the “urgency of some persons of quality” in Lancashire—probably Sir William Brereton, a Cheshire baronet, and his associates—induced Case to accompany them to the capital. There his style of preaching amidst a multitude of preachers attracted notice, and he soon acquired fame. The first of his published discourses, two in number, were delivered at Westminster “before sundry of the House of Commons,” and issued by authority in 1641. A very severe and bitter spirit characterized them. The city churches were readily opened to him. First he was lecturer and then rector (in place of Mr. Jones, sequestrated) of St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, where, following a custom already established in Manchester, he began that seven o'clock “morning exercise” long afterwards kept up “to the benefit of multitudes.” Sir John Bramston refers in a characteristic passage (Autob. p. 92) to his appointment there. His sermons “at Milk Street in London,” called “God's Waiting to be Gracious,” were by the committee for printing ordered (27 June 1642) to be issued. This volume, which was dedicated to Major-general Skippon and Richard Aldworth, esq., is parishioners, abounds in that kind of oratory which had become popular. His resentment against the late episcopal government is shown to be very deep. He asserts that the Anglican church was the Babylon of Revelation 18:4; and he enumerates “her idolatrous bowings, cringings, altars, crosses, and cursed ceremonies, false worship, false doctrine” (p. 68). Walker (Sufferings, ii. 48) justly takes exception to some of his sentiments, which Calamy (Continuation, pp. 14-15) in part excuses. A work entitled “Evangelium Armatum,” 4to, 1663 (Kennet, Register, pp. 743, 865), quotes some reprehensible passages from Case's sermons; others are given in Zachary Grey's “Century of Presbyterian Preachers,” 1723, 8vo (App. pp. v-vi; and cf. Wood, Athenae, iv. 46–7). It is said to have been usual with Case at St. Maudlin's to invite his hearers to the Lord's Table with the words, “You that have freely and liberally contributed to the parliament for the defense of God's cause and the gospel, draw near.” On 15 Oct. 1641–2 the House of Commons recommended him to the parishioners to be lecturer of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, to preach there every Sunday afternoon and every Thursday, and Dr. William Bray, the vicar, was enjoined to give him liberty of the pulpit. Case was connected with this church for twenty years. He was also appointed lecturer at St. Mary Aldermanbury, where the Rev. Edmund Calamy the elder [q. v.] was rector. In these positions Case was a zealous advocate for the solemn league and covenant. He became one of the “confessors” of the Long parliament, and often preached before them. Wood, after closely perusing certain of these discourses, termed him “a great boutifieu and fire-brand in the church,” and Butler in “Hudibras” introduced him as a typical pulpit-character of the time:

Whence had they all their gifted phrases,
But from our Calamies and Cases?

There was a well-known peculiarity in Case's voice or manner, which Pepys, who used to hear him, has noticed (Diary, ed. Bright, i. 208). On 26 Oct. 1642 Case preached a fast-sermon before the commons, dedicated on publication to Sir William Brereton. This general was again prominently introduced into Case's sermon before the commons on 19 Feb. 1646, concerning his capture of Chester. In this discourse the senators, the enforcers of the league and covenant, are told what some had affirmed, that there were no less than one hundred and eighty several heresies propagated in London, insomach that the errors and innovations under which they had lately groaned were but tolerabiles ineptiae compared with those damnable doctrines (pp. 24–5; cf. Southey, Commonplace Book, in. 64: Patrick's Works, ed. Taylor, v. 444). Case had meanwhile become a member of the assembly of divines, and he took a prominent part in their discussions. On 8 Jan. 1644–5 he was one of those who petitioned for arrears of pay as members of the assembly. He favored the establishment of presbyterianism (Grey, Neal Examined, vol. ii. App. p. 89). His occasional abode in Lancashire, or at any rate his continued interest in that county, is shown by the fact that to his hands and to those of the Rev. Charles Herle of Winwick were entrusted the charitable collections for those distressed by famine and war in the district, September 1644. That a change in the course of years came over the political views of Case is shown by suggestive facts. In 1648 he begged to be excused from preaching before the commons when asked at their July fast. In the same year he subscribed the paper declaring against the proceedings; of the parliament and the bringing of the king to trial. Through refusing in 1649 the “engagement” “to be true and faithful to the government established without a king or house of peers,” he lost his place at Milk Street, and Anthony Faringdon succeeded him. In 1651, when the prince and the Scots were preparing to march through Lancashire, to the gratification of Case's friends there, Case was preaching against the proceedings of the parliament, and deeply implicating himself with the presbyterians in the London conspiracy for the restoration of the prince, known as Love's plot. On 10 May the privy council committed him close prisoner to the Tower under a charge of high treason, and his property was sequestrated. He was imprisoned for over six months, and his wife obtained permission to lodge with him. On 30 Sept. he and Heyrick (who had also been concerned in the plot with other Lancashire ministers) were ordered to be brought to trial; but in the following month they addressed a petition to the parliament which was deemed sufficiently submissive, and they were pardoned under the great seal, the speaker's warrant for their discharge being dated 16 Oct. During his imprisonment Case penned some appropriate thoughts which he preached at first in the course of his ministry at Aldermanbury, and afterwards published in 1653 under the title of “Correction Instruction,” 8vo, with a commendation from his friend Dr. Thomas Manton. This work reached a third edition the same year; there was another in 1671, and a reprint in 1802. Soon after his release he became lecturer at the large church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, beyond Holborn, and on the death of Mr. Abraham Molyne, the rector, Case obtained the rectory, retaining it until his ejection. In 1653 he was anxious to become one of Cromwell's body of “tryers,” but his wish was not gratified. During the Common wealth he published many sermons upon public and private occasions, the best list of which is given in Wood. A letter in Thurloe's “State Papers” (vi. 20), dated Westminster, 27 Jan. 1656–7, about a supply of ministers to Ireland, refers to Case: “A worthy person, of great learning, and an excellent preacher, having received letters from a son-in-law of his [Robert Booth, esq., a puisne judge in Ireland in 1660, and afterwards lord chief justice of the common pleas in that island], who has relation to Ld. . . . Ch. [Lord-chancellor Steele?], to come thither: to which his wife presses him: he has advised with Mr. Calamy about it.” The writer expresses hope of obtaining him. Case in 1659 was one of the committee for the appointment of ministers in the presbyterian way. In 1660 he contributed the introduction and first sermon to the “Morning Exercise methodized,” being a volume of discourses preached at St. Giles's. About this time he was closely watching events with leanings towards the restoration of monarchy. In February 1660 he was corresponding with his Manchester friends about Monck, the secluded members, and other current events. He was one of the deputation of presbyterian clergy sent to the Hague in May 1660 to congratulate the king upon his restoration. Pepys describes an amusing incident about the landing of Case, 15 May, whose boat was upset and he “sadly dipped.” A passage in the “Secret History of the Reign of Charles II,” 1690 (cf. the note in Wilson, Dissenting Churches of London, iv. 524), shows how Case was taken in by the king's hypocrisy. In the following month he, with Baxter and other prominent presbyterians, was admitted royal chaplain, though (as Baxter comments) they were never asked to preach. He was one of the members of the Savoy conference, and attended the meetings (April–July 1661). In the autumn he was visiting his relatives at Manchester and preaching in the neighborhood. Early in the following year he was writing letters from London to the Rev. Henry Newcome of Manchester, giving him “the sense of things,” and he makes him the offer of the living of Bunbury, Cheshire. His farewell sermon at St. Giles's (17 Aug.) was from the text Revelation 2:5, and is the fourth discourse in the London collection of 1662. After Case's ejection he remained in London, devoting his time to the ministry and to the writing of books. At dinner, 19 Jan. 1667–8, Pepys met Case, “who, Lord! do talk just as I remember he used to preach, and did tell a pretty story of a religious lady, queen of Navarre.” He also met Case on 8 May following at Lord Crewe's dining-table, and calls him “a dull fellow in his talk, and all in the presbyterian manner.” Of his numerous writings his “Mount Pisgah,” 4to, 1670, dedicated to his “much honored son-in-law, Sir Robert Booth,” and to Dr. William Hawes, is perhaps the most pleasing. An abridged edition was published by the Religious Tract Society in 1836, 12mo. Case contributed several commendatory prefaces to the books of his friends. Upon the death of Warden Heyrick, in August 1677, Case wrote the epitaph to his memory, still preserved upon a brass in the Collegiate Church, Manchester, the closing portion of which commemorates in warm language and with some detail a friendship of fifty years.

With one exception Case outlived all the members of the assembly of divines. He died on 30 May 1682, aged 84, and was buried on 3 June at Christ Church, Newgate Street, London, which must have been then still in ruins. Wood indicates the spot, viz. at the upper end of the church just before the steps going to the altar; and he gives the inscription, which does not err on the side of eulogy. The funeral sermon was preached by Dr. Thomas Jacomb on 14 June, and it was dedicated on publication to Mrs. Anne Case, the widow. It contains matter which has been of service in compiling this memoir. Dr. Calamy, grandson of his friend, describes Case as “one of a quick and warm spirit, an open plain-hearted man, a hearty lover of God, goodness, and all good men. He was a Scripture preacher, a great man in prayer, and one that brought home many souls to God.” Baxter, who was buried near him, called him “an old faithful servant of God.” There is an offensive sketch of him, based on Wood's account, in “The King Killers,” 1719, 8vo, terming him an “impenitent covenanting saint” (pt. ii. p. 31). His head is on the plate prefixed to the volume of farewell sermons, 1662, 8vo.

[Jacomb's Abraham's Death, 4to, 1682; Calamy's Account, p. 12, and Continuation, p. 13; Wood's Athense, iv. 45–8, and Fasti, i. 392, 411; Reliq. Baxterianae, ii. 229 seq.; Wilson's Merchant Taylors' School, p. 799; Commons' Journals, ii. 432, iv. 247, 250, vii. 28, 97, viii. 20; Lords' Journals, vii. 642–3, 548–9; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 74, 435 (where for Castle read Case); Dunn's Mem. of Seventy-Five Divines, 1844, pp. 90–2, 207; Newcome's Diary, (Chetham Soc. series), pp. 12 seq.,and Autobiog. pp. 1 seq.; Earwaker's Ea9t Cheshire, i. 388, ii. 664; Heginbotham's Hist. Stockport, i. 303–4; Palatine Note-book, iii. 45, 47; Bibl. Cantiana, pp. 155, 163; Heywood's Works (Life of Angier), 1. 554–5, 569; Hibbert- Ware's Foundations of Manchester, i. 372, ii. 303; Granger's Biog.Hist. (5th ed.), v. 70–1.] J. E. B

Source: Leslie Stephen, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 9. London: Macmillian and Co., 1887.