Thomas Vincent: A Hero Almost Forgotten

8 Mini Biographies 8 Comments

The Great Plague of London, 1665, was a dark and horrific event. However, the darkness formed a background that set off the beautiful light of many wonderful stars. Sadly these stars, men who served God faithfully under terrible circumstances, are being hidden by the clouds of time. In this post I want to show you just one of these almost-forgotten heroes: Thomas Vincent.

Setting the Scene

In 1634, the infamous King Charles I was on the throne. Believing that as king he was above the law, he misused his power and created great upheaval in his country. One of the things he did was to try to force all the English people to conform to the traditions of the Anglican Church even though many of the people in Parliament were Puritans who wanted to worship differently. Eventually, Parliament became desperate. Civil war broke out and Charles I was defeated. In 1649 he was beheaded and his son Charles fled to France.

Into these turbulent times Thomas Vincent, the son of a minister, was born. After the overthrow of the king, Oliver Cromwell became the next ruler, setting up a republic instead of a monarchy. While Cromwell was in power Vincent entered university and graduated from Oxford in 1654 with a Master of Arts degree and was appointed to be a catechist, a teacher of the principles of Christianity. After serving the Earl of Leicester as a chaplain, he served as a minister at St. Mary’s Church in London.

During Cromwell’s reign life was easier for Puritans and other ‘Nonconformists’ but when Cromwell died, his weak son Richard could not maintain the republic. About two years after Cromwell’s death, in 1660, Charles II returned from France and was restored to the throne.

Charles II, like his father, tried to force all people to conform to the traditions of the Church of England. Thomas Vincent was a Presbyterian and he did not agree with many of the Anglican traditions. As a result, when King Charles passed a law called the Act of Uniformity which commanded all ministers to teach and worship in the Anglican way, Thomas Vincent had to leave St. Mary’s Church.

 

Plague Strikes

Vincent assisted Thomas Doolittle at his school in Bunhill Fields, which was just north of London, until 1665 when Black Death struck. Beginning in April, the plague lasted for about ten months and over one hundred thousand English people lost their lives. At first people were not really worried about it as it was usual for some people to die of plague every year. But when the number of plague victims per weak rose until literally hundreds and then thousands of people were dying every week, panic reigned. Wealthy people, including some ministers, fled the city. To stay in London was to risk one’s life in the face of a disease that had no known cure.

However, in the midst of the fear and horror some men remained fearless. Thomas Vincent, who was only in his early thirties at the time, actually moved into the City of London to be closer to the suffering people. Although he knew how infectious the disease was and witnessed the terrible suffering  it caused, he courageously visited sick people in their homes.

Besides the dangers of the disease there was also the danger of the law but in spite of this Vincent preached in one of the parish churches every week. As he said in ‘God’s Terrible Voice in the City’, a book he wrote later, “some ministers…seeing the people crowd so fast into the grave and eternity…judged that the law of God and nature now did command their preaching in public places, though the law of man did forbid them to do it.” In the midst of the crisis the law was not enforced as rigorously as it had been and the Nonconformists were left alone.

 

The Faithful Follower

In spite of Thomas Vincent’s constant exposure to the plague, God kept him from becoming ill and he lived to write several books including ‘God’s Terrible Voice in the City’ which has become a valuable historical record which describes the plague and the Great Fire of London that occurred a few months later in 1666. After the Great Fire the building where Vincent had been preaching was violently taken from him for another congregation who had lost their church in the fire. When their church had been rebuilt, the meeting-house was restored to Vincent who worked there for the rest of his life.

Thomas Vincent died in 1678 of an unknown illness when he was forty-four. At Vincent’s funeral Reverend Samuel Slater preached on this verse: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” (Hebrews 13:7)

Although this hero has almost been forgotten by man, God has used him to touch the lives of many people. His book ‘The True Christians Love to the Unseen Christ’ is still read today. In it the reader can hear the voice of a man who loved his Saviour so much that he was willing to give up everything for the sake of Christ.  Vincent says  “if they (Christians) love Him (Christ) they will not think much of denying themselves, taking up His cross, and following Him wherever He leads them.”

 

Bibliography:

Dunn, Samuel Memoirs of Seventy-Five Eminent Divines, John Snow, 1844 (found at https://books.google.com.au)

Moes, Garry J. Streams of Civilization Volume 2, Christian Liberty Press, USA, 1995

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Plague_of_London

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Vincent_(minister)

Vincent, Thomas God’s Terrible Voice in the City!, Ebook, original published in 1667

Vincent, Thomas The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ, Ebook

 

Have you had any thoughts on this post? Click the comment icon in the top right-hand corner of the post to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Frances Ullrich - September 30, 2017

    I really enjoyed that Amy, Mr. Vincent is a true hero! When I first learned about King Charles and the Act of Uniformity I never really got a clear picture. :s Your first paragraph made the whole issue clear. Thanks! 🙂 ……. and yes, a few commas missing. 🙂

  2. I’ve actually never heard about Thomas Vincent, so thanks for sharing about him! I recently learned about this time period in my history class. 🙂

    https://tizziestidbits.wordpress.com

    • Amy Ullrich - September 30, 2017

      I’m so glad you could learn something new Grace! I only found out about Thomas Vincent a couple of months ago and since then he’s been one of my heroes. 🙂

  3. I’ll admit: I was a little skeptical of the whole history blog idea. It could get pretty boring, especially since I don’t usually like learning about history. But, you proved me wrong!

    This post was just the right length, and it had the perfect balance between historical and spiritual. I learned something about who was ruling during the Great Plague, and I was challenged, thinking, what would I have done if I were him? Would I have fled? And what does that mean for my life today? So often we’re tempted to stay away from the broken people, whether physically ill or mentally ill or poor or what-not, but those are the very people we should be showing the love of Christ.

    There were a few places where you had a long dependent clause before an independent clause and it could have used a comma, but other than that, great job, Amy!

    • Amy Ullrich - September 30, 2017

      Thanks so much for your feedback Olivia. It’s really encouraging! 🙂 Yes, I sometimes forget my commas… :S I’m working on it! 🙂

  4. Great mini biography, Amy! It’s awesome to see how his life weaves around the big events of his day, and his courage in facing those difficulties head on is amazing. I’ll have to find his books sometime.

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