Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Crisp, Tobias

CRISP, TOBIAS, D.D. (1600–1643), antinomian, third son of Ellis Crisp, once sheriff of London, who died in 1625, was born in 1600 in Bread Street, London. His elder brother was Sir Nicholas Crisp [q. v.] After leaving Eton he matriculated at Cambridge, where he remained until he had taken his B.A., when he removed to Balliol College, Oxford, graduating M.A. in 1626. About this time he married Mary, daughter of Rowland Wilson, a London merchant, an M.P. and member of the council of state in 1648-9, by whom he had thirteen children. In 1627 he was presented to the rectory of Newington Butts, from which he was removed a few months later on account of having been a party to a simoniacal contract (see Bogue, Hist. of the Dissenters). Later in the same year he was presented to the rectory of Brinkworth in Wiltshire, where he became very popular, both on account of his preaching and the lavish hospitality which his ample fortune permitted him to exercise. It is said that 'an hundred persons, yea, and many more have been received and entertained at his house at one and the same time, and ample provision made for man and horse' (see R. Lancaster's preface to the 1643 edition of Crisp's Works). The same authority states that Crisp refused 'preferment or advancement.' When he obtained the degree of D.D. is not known, but certainly prior to 1642, in which year he was compelled to leave his rectory in consequence of the petty persecution he met with from the royalist soldiers on account of his inclination to puritanism, and retired to London in August 1642. While at Brinkworth he had been suspected of antinomianism, and as soon as his opinions became known from his preaching in London, his theories on the doctrine of free grace were bitterly attacked. Towards the close of this year he held a controversy on this subject with fifty-two opponents, a full account of which is given in Nelson's 'Life of Bishop Bull' (pp. 260, 270). He died of small-pox on 27 Feb. 1642-3, and was buried in St. Mildred's Church, Bread Street. Several authorities state that he contracted the disease from the eagerness with which he conducted his part in the debate. Although Crisp is regarded as one of the champions of antinomianism, he was during the earlier part of his ministry a rigid Arminian. He was extremely unguarded in his expressions, and his writings certainly do not show that he had any intention of defending licentiousness. After his death his discourses were published by R. Lancaster as: 1. 'Christ alone Exalted,' in fourteen sermons, 1643. 2. 'Christ alone Exalted,' in seventeen sermons on Phil. iii. 8, 9, 1644. 3. 'Christ alone Exalted in the Perfection and Encouragement of his Saints, notwithstanding Sins and Tryals,' in eleven sermons, 1646. 4. 'Christ alone Exalted,' in two sermons, 1683. When the first of these volumes appeared the Westminster Assembly proposed to have it burnt as heretical, which, however, does not appear to have been done. In 1690 his 'Works,' prefaced by a portrait, were republished with additions by one of his sons. This excited a new controversy, chiefly among dissenters, which was carried on with much asperity for seven years (see Bogue, Hist. Dissenters, i. 399). His 'Works' were also republished by Dr. John Gill, minister of Carter Lane Baptist Chapel, near Tooley Street, in 1791, with notes and a brief prefatory memoir. Lancaster says that Crisps 'life was innocent and harmless of all evil . . . zealous and fervent of all good.'

[Granger, iv. 179 ; Lysons's Environs of London, vol. i. ; Biog. Brit. art. 'Toland,' note B; Crisp's Works (Lancaster's edition), 1643; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 50; Bogue's Hist. Dissenters, i. 399 ; Wilson's Hist. of Dissenting Churches, ii. 201, iii. 443 ; Memoir in Gill's edition of Crisp's Works, 1791 ; Neal's Hist. Puritans, iii. 18, ed. 1736. A curious account of Crisp's death is given in Last Moments and Triumphant Deaths, &c., 1857.]

A. C. B.