Lever, Thomas

, a celebrated divine of the sixteenth century, was born at Little Lever, in Lancashire, and educated at Cambridge, where after taking his degrees, he was chosen fellow, and then master of St. John’s college. He was ordained both deacon and priest in 1550, by bishop Ridley, and became a most eloquent and popular preacher in the reign of king Edward. He is, indeed, on his monument called by way of distinction, “preacher to king Edward.” Under his mastership St. John’s college greatly flourished, and in it the reformation gained so much ground, that on the commencement of the Marian persecution, he and twenty-four of the fellows resigned their preferments. Mr. Lever went abroad, and resided with the other exiles for religion at Francfort, where he in vain endeavoured to compose the differences which arose among them respecting church discipline and the habits. He resided also for some time in Switzerland, at a place called Arrow, where he was pastor to a congregation of English exiles. Here he became so much a favourer of Calvin’s opinions, as to be considered, on his return to England, as one of the chiefs of the party who opposed the English church-establishment. The indiscreet | conduct of some of them soon made the whole obnoxious to government; and uniformity being strictly pressed, Mr. Lever suffered among others, being convened before the archbishop of Ydrk, and deprived of his ecclesiastical preferments. Many of the cooler churchmen thought him hardly dealt with, as he was a moderate man, and not forward in opposing the received opinions, Bernard Gilpin, his intimate friend, was among those who pitied, and expressed his usual regard for him. His preferments were a prebend of Durham, and the mastership of Sherburn hospital; Strype mentions the archdeaconry of Coventry, but is not clear in his account of the matter. He appears to have been allowed to retain the mastership of the hospital, where he died in July 1577, and was buried in its chapel. Baker in his ms collections gives a very high character of him as a preacher. “In the days of king Edward, when others were striving for preferment, no man was more vehement, or more galling in his sermons, against the waste of church revenues, and other prevailing corruptions of the court; which occasioned bishop Ridley to rank him with Latimer and Knox. He was a man of as much natural probity and blunt native honesty as his college ever bred; a man without guile and artifice; who never made suit to any patron, or for any preferment; one that had the spirit of Hugh Latimer. No one can read his sermons without imagining he has something before him of Latimer or Luther. Though his sermons are bold and daring, and full of rebuke, it was his preaching that got him his preferment. His rebuking the courtiers made them afraid of him, and procured him reverence from the king. He was one of the best masters of feis college, as well as one of the best men the college ever bred.” He was succeeded in the mastership of his hospital by his brother Ralph, whom some rank as a puritan, although his title seems doubtful. He was however, of less reputation than his brother. Mr. Thomas Lever’s printed works are a few “Sermons,” which, like Latimer’s, contain many particulars of the manners of the times and three treatises “The right way from the danger of sin and vengeance in this wicked world,1575 a “Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer” and “The Path-way to Christ.1


Strype’s Cranmer, p. 163. 360. Parker, 211, 243, 275 and Grindal, 170. Gilpin’s Life of Gilpin, p. 142. Fuller’s Worthies. Brook’s Lives of the Puritans. Harwood’s Alumni Etoneuses, p. 173.