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RICHARD VINES 1600-1656

Extract from “Dictionary Of National Biography”, Oxford University Press. 1917. Volume XX, pp 369-371

VINES, RICHARD, 1600-1656, puritan divine, was born at Blaston, Leicestershire about 1600. He was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. 1622, M.A. 1627. He was an excellent Greek scholar. About 1624 he became schoolmaster at Hinkley, Leicestershire, where John Cleveland the cavalier poet was among his scholars, and owed much to his training. On the death of James Cranford (1627) he was presented to the rectory of Weddington, Warwickshire, and instituted on 11th March 1627-28. 

In 1630 he was presented by William Purefoy to the neighbouring rectory of Caldecote, was instituted 10th June, and held both livings worth together £801 a year; but the parish register at Hinkley shows that he was still living there in 1640. Having gifts as a preacher he conducted a weekly lecture at Nuneaton, which was largely attended and attracted hearers from distant places, among them being Samuel Clarke (1593-1683) afterwards his intimate friend. 

In 1642 he was presented for Warwickshire as one of the “orthodox divines” to be consulted by Parliament “touching the reformation of church government and liturgie”. He preached a fast sermon before the House of Commons 30th November 1642 which made a great impression. Owing to the disturbed nature of his county, he took refuge in Coventry early in 1643, with other puritans, and took part in the daily lecture there. Nominated a member of the Westminster assembly by the ordinance of 12th June 1643, he went up to London, and was placed in the rectory of St Clement Danes, vacant by the sequestration of Richard Dukeson, D.D. (died 17 September 1678 aged 77). Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex was his parishioner. On 18th March 1643-44 he was made, against his wishes, Master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, by the Earl of Manchester, on the ejection of Benjamin Laney. He kept his place in the assembly, but did good work in the College. He found it, according to Clarke, “very empty of scholars and the buildings much out of order”, having been used as military quarters; his reputation “quickly drew scholars” and he proved himself a capable administrator and promoter of learning. In June 1644 he was invited by the civic authorities to the vicarage of St Michaels, Coventry, but declined. He was placed on the parliamentary “committee of accommodation” (13th September 1644) and chosen chairman (20th September) of the acting sub-committee; his defence of the validity of ordination by presbyters (though he himself was episcopally ordained was much applauded by his own party (Fuller). At the Uxbridge conference (30th January to 18th February 1645 he was one of the assisting divines. On 22nd May 1645 Essex presented him to the rectory of Watton Hertfordshire when he resigned St Clements Danes. He preached at Essex’s funeral 22nd October 1646.

In the Westminster assembly Vines was placed on the committee (12th May 1645) for drafting the confession of faith. He writes to Baxter that he “would not have much time spent in a formula of doctrine or worship”, but was anxious for an accommodation in church government. With Baxter he believed that the benefit of Christ’s death extended to all mankind. He agreed with Baxter in objecting to lay elders as church governors. He was one of the divines who took part in the written discussion of episcopacy (September to November 1648) in the Isle of Wight, intended to influence Charles I, and would have gone further in concession to “the conscience of the king”, but that, as he explained to Baxter, “parliament tied them up”. With Charles religious character and ability in argument he was much impressed; the king for his part showed that he thought highly of Vines’ powers. On the morning of Charles execution he was one of the puritan divines who proffered services to the king.
Refusing the “engagement” of 1649 of allegiance to the existing government “without a king or House of Lords”, he was ejected (October 1650) from the mastership of Pembroke and from the rectory of Watton. The parishioners of St Lawrence Jewry immediately called him to be their minister and he was allowed to hold the living; the parishioners rebuilt the vicarage house for him at a cost of £500. He was chosen also as one of the weekday lecturers at St Michaels, Cornhill. Appointed on the committee to draw up (March 1654) “fundamentals in religion” as a test for toleration, he seldom attended but supported Baxter in rejecting Owens contention that knowledge of scriptures was essential to salvation, as “neither a fundamental nor a truth”. A little later he was appointed one of the local assistants for London to Cromwells “triers”. 

Fuller describes him as a workmanlike preacher, using “strong stitches”. His style is turgid. When William Sancroft heard him at Cambridge in 1646, he read his sermon. His preaching dealt little in polemics, except against the Baptists.

About a year before his death he suffered acute pain in the head, and his sight suddenly failed him. Almost blind his health gave way and his spirits drooped; but he persevered in preaching, though “his speech grew very low”. He died on February 4th 1655-56. He was buried on 7th February in the church of St Lawrence Jewry, Thomas Jacombe, preaching  the funeral sermon; his monument perished in the fire of 1666 (Great Fire of London). 

Clarke prints (from Jacombe) a selection of seven elegies and an anagram to his memory; the title “our English Luther” was given him by Robert Wild/e; Matthew Poole, a competent judge, testifies to his command of learning, unrivalled among divines of his school, which made him a “vast library”. Though ranking as a presbyterian, his own views were in accord with Usshers scheme for a “modified episcopacy”. “Such who charged him with covetousness”, says Fuller, “are confuted with the small estate he left to his wife and children”. He married, while at Hinkley, Katherine, daughter of Humphrey Adderley of Weddington, patron of the living. 

Vines published only single sermons on state or civic occasions, including the funeral sermon for Essex, but after his death many of his works were printed.

Note: The will of Katherine Vines dated 11th October 1661, mentions her brother John Adderley, sisters Mary, Hanna and Abigail, son-in-law John (Walter, Walton ...?), cousins Elizabeth White? and Edward White?, grandchildren and others. The will appointed son-in-law Richard (Walter, Walton ...?) as sole executor.
The will is quite difficult to read but no sons seem to be mentioned, so it appears that this line of Vines ended with the Rev Richard.

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See St Lawrence Jewry church where Richard Vines was buried. This famous and 
historical church was damaged by the Great Fire of London 1666 and rebuilt by Christopher Wren. It was also damaged by a German bomb in 1940. Now noted for its
bell ringing recitals.