Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tombes, John
TOMBES, JOHN (1603?–1676), baptist divine, was born of humble parentage at Bewdley, Worcestershire, in 1602 or 1603. He matriculated from Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on 23 Jan. 1617–18, aged 15. His tutor was William Pemble [q. v.] Among his college friends was John Geree [q. v.] He graduated B.A. on 12 June 1621. After Pemble's death he succeeded him in 1623 as catechism lecturer. His reputation as a tutor was considerable; among his pupils was John Wilkins [q. v.] He graduated M.A. on 16 April 1624, took orders, and quickly came into note as a preacher. From about 1624 to 1630 he was one of the lecturers of St. Martin Carfax. As early as 1627 he began to have doubts on the subject of infant baptism. Leaving the university in 1630, he was for a short time preacher at Worcester, but in November was instituted vicar of Leominster, Herefordshire, where his preaching was exceedingly popular, and won the admiration of so high an Anglican as John Scudamore, first viscount Scudamore [q. v.], who augmented the small income of his living. In June 1631 he commenced B.D. He left Leominster in 1643 (after February), having been appointed by Nathaniel Fiennes [q. v.] to supersede George Williamson as vicar of All Saints, Bristol. On the surrender of Bristol to the royalists (26 July), he removed to London (22 Sept.), where he became rector of St. Gabriel, Fenchurch, vacant by the sequestration of Ralph Cook, B.D. In church government his views were presbyterian. He laid his scruples on infant baptism before the Westminster assembly of divines, but got no satisfaction. Declining to baptise infants, he was removed from St. Gabriel's early in 1645, but appointed (before May) master of the Temple, on condition of not preaching on baptism. He published on this topic; for licensing one of his tracts, the parliamentary censor, John Bachiler, was attacked in the Westminster assembly (25 Dec. 1645) by William Gouge, D.D. [q. v.], and Stephen Marshall [q. v.] was appointed to answer the tract. As preacher at the Temple, Tombes directed his polemic against antinomianism. In 1646 he had an interview with Cromwell and gave him his books. His fellow-townsmen chose him to the perpetual curacy of Bewdley, then a chapelry in the parish of Ribbesford; his successor at the Temple, Richard Johnson, was approved by the Westminster assembly on 13 Oct. 1647.
At Bewdley Tombes organised a baptist church, which never exceeded twenty-two members (Baxter), of whom three became baptist preachers. He regularly attended Baxter's Thursday lecture at Kidderminster, and tried to draw Baxter, as he had already drawn Thomas Blake [q. v.], into a written discussion. Baxter would engage with him only in an oral debate, which took place before a crowded audience at Bewdley chapel on 1 Jan. 1649–50, and lasted from nine in the morning till five at night. Wood affirms that 'Tombes got the better of Baxter by far; ' Baxter himself says, 'How mean soever my own abilities were, yet I had still the advantage of a good cause.' The debate had the effect of causing Tombes to leave Bewdley, where he was succeeded in 1650 by Henry Oasland [q. v.] With Bewdley he had held for a time the rectory of Ross, Herefordshire; this he resigned on being appointed to the mastership of St. Catherine's Hospital, Ledbury, Herefordshire.
After his encounter with Baxter, Tombes's oral debates were numerous. In July 1652 he went to Oxford to dispute on baptism with Henry Savage, D.D. [q. v.] On the same topic he disputed at Abergavenny, on 5 Sept. 1653, with Henry Vaughan (1616?–1661?) and John Cragge. His pen was active against all opponents of his cause. He had not given up his claim to the vicarage of Leominster, and returned to it apparently in 1654, when he was appointed (20 March) one of Cromwell's 'triers.' Preaching at Leominster against quakers (26 Dec. 1656), one of his parishioners, Blashfield, a bookseller, retorted, 'If there were no anabaptist, there would be no quaker.' Against quakerism and popery he wrote tracts (1660), to which Baxter prefixed friendly letters.
At the Restoration Tombes came up to London, and wrote in favour of the royal supremacy in matters ecclesiastical as well as civil. Clarendon stood his friend. He conformed in a lay capacity, resigning his preferments and declining offers of promo- tion. After 1661 he lived chiefly at Salisbury, where his wife had property. Robert Sanderson (1587–1663) [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln, held him in esteem, as did a later occupant of the same see, Thomas Barlow [q. v.] Clarendon, in 1664, introduced him to Charles II, who accepted a copy of Tombes's 'Saints no Smiters.' In July 1664 he was at Oxford, and offered to dispute in favour of his baptist views, but the challenge was not taken up. With Seth Ward [q. v.], bishop of Salisbury, he was on friendly terms. He communicated as an Anglican. Firmly holding his special tenet, he was always a courteous disputant, and a man of exceptional capacity and attainments.
He died at Salisbury on 22 May 1676, and was buried on 25 May in St. Edmund's churchyard. He was a dapper little man, with a keen glance. By his first wife he had a son John, born at Leominster on 26 Nov. 1636. His second wife, whom he married about 1658, was Elizabeth, widow of Wolstan Abbot of Salisbury.
He published: 1. 'Væ Scandalizantium; or a Treatise of Scandalizing,' Oxford, 1641, 8vo; with title 'Christ's Commination against Scandalizers,' 1641, 8vo (dedicated to Viscount Scudamore). 2. 'Iehovah Iireh . . . two Sermons in the Citie of Bristoll . . . March 14, 1642, with a short Narration of that . . . Plot,' 1643, 4to (8 May, dedicated to Fiennes). 3. 'Fermentum Pharisæorvm, or ... Wil-Worship,' 1643, 4to (1 July). 4. 'Anthropolatria,' 1645, 4to (9 May). 5. 'Two Treatises and an Appendix . . . concerning Infant Baptisme,' 1645, 4to (16 Dec.; includes an 'Examen' of Marshall's sermon on baptism). 6. 'An Apology ... for the Two Treatises,' 1646, 4to; 'Addition,' 1652, 4to. 7. 'An Antidote against the Venome of ... Richard Baxter,' 1650, 4to (31 May). 8. 'Precursor . . . to a large view of ... Infant Baptism,' 1652, 4to. 9. 'Joannis Tombes Beudleiensis Refutatio positionis Dris. Henrici Savage,' 1652, 4to. 10. 'Antipædobaptism,' 1652, 4to (28 Nov., dedicated to Cromwell); 2nd pt. 1654, 4to; 3rd pt. 1657, 4to (replies to twenty-three contemporary writers). 11. 'A Publick Dispute . . . J. Cragge and H. Vaughan,' 1654, 8vo. 12. 'A Plea for Anti-Pædobaptists,' 1654, 4to (26 May). 13. 'Felo de Se. Or, Mr. Richard Baxter's Self-destroying,' 1659, 4to. 14. 'A Short Catechism about Baptism,' 1659, 8vo (14 May). 15. 'True Old Light exalted above pretended New Light,' 1660, 4to (against quakers; preface by Baxter). 16. 'Serious Consideration of the Oath of . . .Supremacy ' , 4to (22 Oct.) 17. 'Romanism Discussed, or, An Answer to ... H. T.,' 1660 4to (30 Nov.; preface by Baxter; replies to Henry Turbervile's 'Manual of Controversies,' Douay, 1654, 8vo). 18. 'A Supplement to the Serious Consideration' , 4to (2 March). 19. 'Sepher Sheba; or, The Oath Book,' 1662, 4to. 20. 'Saints no Smiters; or ... the Doctrine ... of ... Fifth-Mon- archy-Men . . . damnable,' 1664, 4to (dedicated to Clarendon). 21. 'Theodulia, or Defence of Hearing . . . the present Ministers of England,' 1667, 8vo (dedicated to Clarendon; licensed by the bishop of London's chaplain). 22. 'Emmanuel; or, God-Man,' 1669, 8vo (against Socinians; licensed by the archbishop of Canterbury's chaplain). 23. 'A Reply to ... Wills and ... Blinman,' 1675, 8vo. 24. 'Animadversiones in librum Georgii Bullii,' 1676, 8vo.[Tombes's Works; Anabaptists Anotamized (sic), 1654; Wood's Athenae Oxon., ed. Bliss, iii. 1062 sq.; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 397, 415, 461; Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1696, i. 88,96; Calamy's Account, 1713, pp. 353 sq.; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, ii. 4, 36; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, i. 521 sq.; Crosby's Hist, of English Baptists, 1738, i. 278 sq.; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, 1802, ii. 293 sq.; Ivimey's Hist. of English Baptists, 1814, ii. 588 sq.; Neal's Hist, of the Puritans, ed. Toulmin, 1822, iv. 440 sq.; Smith's Bibliotheca Antiquakeriana, 1873, pp. 427 sq. ; Mitchell and Struthers's Minutes of Westminster Assembly, 1874, pp. 172, 216; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1892, iv. 1492; information from the Rev. J. H. Charles, vicar of Leominster.]