John Ball (1585–1640) was born at Cassington, Oxfordshire, in October 1585. He was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he was entered in 1602, and proceeded B.A. and M.A. at St. Mary’s Hall. Having completed his academic course, he entered the family of Lady Cholmondeley, in Cheshire, as tutor. It was there that he bethought him of “spiritual things,” and was “converted.” He obtained ordination without subscription in 1610. He was then presented to the living of Whitmore, near Newcastle, in Staffordshire. There having been apparently no residence, he was the guest of Edward Mainwaring, Esq.
Ball was a nonconformist wherever the relics of popery left in the national church touched his conscience. He was overwhelmed by the evils of the time, and used to associate himself with near brethren in long fast-days and prayer-days. For keeping Ascension Day, he and his little circle were summoned by John Bridgman, the high-church bishop of Chester, who was specially indignant that the “prayers, with fasting,” were kept on that “holy day.” Thenceforward Ball was “deprived” and imprisoned, released and re-confined—alike arbitrarily, finding always a refuge, when at liberty, with Lady Bromley, of Sheriff-Hales, in Shropshire. Calamy tells us that John Harrison, of Ashton-under-Lyne, in Lancashire, was exceedingly harassed by the intolerant proceedings of the bishop, and put to great expenses in the ecclesiastical courts; and 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.” Harrison tried the experiment, and afterwards enjoyed quietness.
Ball was an eminent scholar. He was specially learned in the whole literature of the controversy with the church of Rome as represented by Bellarmine. He died on October 20, 1640, aged fifty-five. Fuller says of him: “He lived by faith; was an excellent schoolman and schoolmaster, a powerful preacher, and a profitable writer, and his Treatise of Faith cannot be sufficiently commended.” Wood writes: “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.” Richard Baxter pronounced him as deserving “of as high esteem and honour as the best bishop in England.” [from Benjamin Brook’s Lives of the Puritans. Read more here.]
The Works of John Ball:
An Answer to Two Treatises of Mr. John Can, the Leader of the English Brownists in Amsterdam. (268 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
An answer to the question, ‘Is it lawful for the Nonconformists to separate themselves from the Church of England?’
A Friendly Trial of The Grounds Tending to Separation.
[web via EEBO]
A Trial of The New Church-Way in New England and Old.
[web via EEBO]