Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ball, Nathanael

BALL, NATHANAEL (1623–1681), divine, assistant to Walton in his great 'Polyglot,' was born at Pitminster, near Taunton Dean, Somersetshire, in 1623. He carried all before him in his parish school, and proceeded early to the university of Cambridge, being entered of King's College. Here he speedily won a name as a classical, oriental, and biblical scholar. He also spoke French so idiomatically that he was sometimes mistaken for a native of France. While at the university he gained the friendship of Tillotson. Having taken the degrees of B.A. and M.A., he received orders, and was settled at Barley in Hertfordshire, this vicarage having been recently sequestered from Herbert Thorndike, according to Walker (Sufferings, ii. 160). In Barley he proved himself an active and pious clergyman (Calamy's Acc. 362; Palmer's Nonconf. Mem. ii. 309; Faldo's Epistle prefixed to Spiritual Bondage). He married there the daughter of a neighbouring clergyman named Parr, by whom he had ten sons and three daughters. The 'Register' records five children of 'Mr. Nathaniel Ball, minister, and Mary, his wife' (Davids, Annals of Evangelical Nonconformity in Essex, 1863, p. 597). Thorndike in 1658-9 recovered his living, and Ball was ejected. For some time subsequent he resided in his parish, and then removed to Royston, where 'the people … chose him as their publick minister.' But the Act of Uniformity came, and he resigned the office as one of the two thousand. He did not immediately quit Royston, but 'continued in the town for some time,' preaching in the neighbourhood and beyond, as opportunities offered. He afterwards retired to Little Chishill, of which parish his brother-in-law, Robert Parr, became the rector soon after the ejection of James Willett. While at Chishill he acted as an evangelist in the town and parish, and at Epping, Cambridge, Bayford, and other places. In 1668 he took part with Scandaret, Barnard, Havers, Coleman, and Billio in two public disputes with George Whitehead, an irrepressible and fluent quaker. In 1669 he was returned to Archbishop Sheldon as a 'teacher to a conventicle at Thaxted, in connection with Scambridge [Scandaret] and Billoway [Billio].' On the 'Declaration' of 1672 he was described as of Nether Chishill, and obtained a license (25 May 1672) to be a 'general presbyterian teacher in any allowed place.' In June 1672 his own house was licensed to be a presbyterian meeting-place, and he himself was licensed in August to be a 'presbyterian teacher in his own house' there. He lived 'in a small cottage of forty shillings a year rent,' and frequently suffered for nonconformity. Amid his multiplied labours and poverty he died on 8 Sept. 1681, aged 58. He left his manuscripts to his 'brother beloved,' the Rev. Thomas Gouge, of St. Sepulchre's, London, who died only a few weeks after him. They came into the possession of John Faldo, another of the ejected, who published a now extremely rare volume by Ball entitled 'Spiritual Bonndage and Freedom; or a Treatise containing the Substance of several Sermons preached on that subject from John viii. 36, 1683.' Ball also wrote 'Christ the Hope of Glory, several Sermons on Colossians i. 27, 1692.' The former is dedicated to 'the right honourable and truly virtuous the Lady Archer, of Coopersail, in Essex,' one of Ball's numerous friends. It is greatly to be deplored that his biblical and oriental manuscripts — the laborious occupation of a lifelong student — and his extensive correspondence are now lost. They are known to have been in existence in comparatively recent times.

[Brook's History of Religious Liberty, ii. 66; Entry Book and License Book in State Paper Office; Barley Parish Registers as quoted in Davids's Annals, pp. 596-9; Newcourt, i. 8.]

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