Patient, Thomas (d. 1666), particular baptist minister, theologian, and writer, was born in England; his date of birth is unknown, as is much of the detail of his early life. Patient was initially a practising anglican, but grew dissatisfied and abandoned anglicanism. He went to the New England colonies during the 1630s, where he associated himself with the congregationalist religious communities. He gradually became unhappy with this, however, and became a baptist. His refusal to baptise his child led the authorities in Massachusetts to issue a warrant for his arrest which prompted him to return to England in 1643.
He resided in London and became assistant to William Kiffin, a particular (Calvinist) baptist minister at the Devonshire Square church. During this period he worked variously as a glover, a tailor, and a bodice-maker. Patient soon moved to the centre of the baptist world, signing the 1644 confession of faith, along with Kiffin and representatives of six other London churches. He also carried out missionary work in southern England, though not without opposition from other religious groups. Most notably, presbyterian leaders accused Patient and Kiffin of impropriety. In particular, they were accused (December 1645) of anointing a sick female member of their church with oil, in order to assist her recovery. Patient continued his activities, nonetheless, signing the second confession of faith in 1646, and defending himself before the English house of commons against charges of lay preaching (February 1647) by claiming that he had been previously ordained in Coleman St., London. He also was quick to defend baptists from being associated with the doctrines of other sects. In 1649 his congregation joined in the anti-leveller The humble petition and representation of several churches of God in London, commonly (though falsly) called anabaptists, and in 1650 he subscribed to Heart-bleedings for professors abominations: or, A faithful general epistle, which condemned quakers and ranters.
Following a call from John Owen for missionaries to Ireland, Patient was chosen by parliament in April 1649 as one of six ministers to be sent to Dublin, for which he was to receive an annual salary of £200. He appears in Kilkenny in April 1650, soon after this city fell to protestant forces. By 1651 he was serving as chaplain to Col. John Jones (d. 1660), one of the commissioners appointed by parliament to govern Ireland, and had established a congregation at Waterford, where he based himself. During this period he converted a number of powerful army officers based in the south of Ireland to the baptist faith, the most important of whom were Richard Lawrence (qv) and Daniel Axtell (qv), military governors of Waterford and Kilkenny respectively, and Col. Hierome Sankey (qv). On 14 January 1652 Patient's church condemned, in a letter, John Rogers's Dublin congregation, to which it had originally been affiliated, for including members who had not been baptised as adults, and who advocated infant baptisms. This led many convinced baptists to desist from attending Rogers's services, and (more broadly) dashed hopes that baptists and independents might be accommodated within the same communion. In the end Rogers withdrew into England, from where he published (1653) Challah, the heavenly nymph, in which he condemned Patient and his supporters. In 1652 Patient settled in Dublin, where he was favoured by the authorities, who appointed him preacher at Christ Church cathedral in Rogers's stead and appointed him (December 1652) to a committee intended to regulate preaching in Ireland and to find qualified preachers for service in Ireland. From November 1652 until at least November 1654, he served as preacher to the general army officers and chaplain to the governor of Ireland, Charles Fleetwood (qv). He also became pastor to a settled congregation in Dublin, presided over the construction in Swift's Alley of the first baptist meeting house in Ireland (1653), and was a preacher at St Michael's church in High St. for a time. In July 1653 he represented the Dublin baptists at a gathering of the baptist congregations in Ireland at Waterford, in which they wrote to their London brethren to advocate greater cooperation between members of their communion in both countries.
His radical views, and the manner in which he and his brethren benefited from government patronage, were resented by his spiritual rivals. In 1653 he and his followers had been cursed and stoned by a mob, and in April 1654 it was reported that his congregation was drifting away. As a member of the Dublin-based committee appointed to examine preachers who wished to receive a state salary, he clashed with his more conservative colleagues and expressed his dissatisfaction that preachers who supported infant baptism should appear on the state's roster. His authority as a minister was not destroyed, however, and he was appointed a Monday lecturer in Dublin by Fleetwood and his council that year. In the same year he published The doctrine of baptism and the distinction of the covenants, a work which was acknowledged as the leading Calvinistic defence of believers’ baptism. His views were not above criticism, however. Edward Warren attacked them in his book Caleb's inheritance in Canaan by grace, not works (1656), though he still acknowledged Patient as being one of the leading preachers in Ireland. George Pressick also condemned his arguments during the later 1650s.
In summer 1655 Henry Cromwell (qv) arrived in Dublin to replace his patron Fleetwood as governor of Ireland. That autumn, Patient left Dublin to go on a preaching tour of the south of Ireland in order to rally his brethren against a governor who was unsympathetic to their religious views. Back in Dublin in December, he annoyed Cromwell, who was present, by devoting most of a funeral sermon to condemning child baptism. However, it soon became apparent that Cromwell would remain as governor for the foreseeable future, and that he would not persecute baptists if they stayed out of political affairs. Thus, in October 1656 Patient and other baptist ministers visited him in his residence and expressed their satisfaction with his government. In 1657, after Oliver Cromwell (qv) had rejected the offer of the crown, Patient joined in an address to the lord protector in which he expressed his loyalty. From 1657 to at least 8 July 1659 he was reappointed as paid chaplain to the general officers.
The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 proved problematic for Patient. He had returned to England sometime that year, where he became pastoral assistant to one Henry Hynam in Bristol. He continued his sermonising and was imprisoned in 1663 for attending a conventicle. Three years later he returned to London and again began to work with William Kiffin in the Devonshire Square church. Here Kiffin and Hanserd Knollys ordained him a cleric in June 1666.
Patient died the following month, on 29 July 1666, of bubonic plague, being buried in London the next day. His will appointed his widow, Sarah, as his sole legatee.