Grosvenor, Benjamin (DNB00)

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GROSVENOR, GRAVENOR, or GRAVENER, BENJAMIN, D.D. (1676–1758), dissenting divine, was born in London on 1 Jan. 1676. His father, Charles Gravener, a prosperous upholsterer, at the Black Swan, Watling Street, became embarrassed in later life, and was supported by his son, who altered the spelling of his name (in 1710) to Gravenor, and then to Grosvenor (first used 1712, but not finally adopted till 1716). He was early exercised on religious matters, and ascribes the removal of his difficulties to a sermon at Gravel Lane, Southwark, by a minister whose name he never knew. He was baptised at the age of fourteen by Benjamin Keach [q. v.], and admitted a member of his church (particular baptist) in Goat Yard Passage, Horselydown. Keach encouraged him to enter the ministry. In 1693 he was placed at the academy of Timothy Jollie (1660?–1714) [q. v.], an independent, at Attercliffe, near Sheffield. His tutor paid more attention to the cultivation of pulpit eloquence than to learning, excluding mathematics ‘as tending to scepticism.’ While at the academy, Grosvenor altered his views on baptism and became a presbyterian, especially as regards ordination. Returning to London in 1695 he studied under private tutors, and learned Hebrew from Cappel, a Huguenot refugee. Grosvenor's change of opinion led to much discussion with his baptist friends; he was at length dismissed from membership, with some harshness, according to Wilson. He was inclined to abandon the idea of entering the ministry. In 1699 he was examined and licensed by seven presbyterian ministers, including Robert Fleming (1660?–1716) [q. v.], and became assistant to Joshua Oldfield, D.D., at Globe Alley, Maid Lane, Southwark. In 1700 he was a candidate for the succession to Matthew Mead, in the independent congregation at Stepney, but it seems that his excommunication by the baptists stood in his way. In 1702 a Sunday evening lecture for young men was started at the Old Jewry, Grosvenor and Samuel Rosewell being appointed lecturers. His popularity as a preacher increased, and on the death of Samuel Slater (24 May 1704) he was chosen pastor of the large presbyterian congregation in Crosby Square. Here he was ordained on 11 July 1704. His congregation grew in importance, raising more money than any other presbyterian church in London. He had able assistants, the most distinguished being (1705–8) Samuel Wright, D.D.; (1708–14) John Barker (1682–1762) [q. v.]; (1715–26) Clerk Oldisworth, and lastly (1726–49) Edmund Calamy (1697?–1755) [q. v.] Grosvenor resigned the Old Jewry lectureship soon after his appointment at Crosby Square. He was for some years one of the preachers of the Friday evening lecture at the Weigh House, begun (1707) by Thomas Bradbury [q. v.] In 1716 he succeeded Robert Fleming as a preacher of the ‘merchants' lecture’ on Tuesday mornings at Salters' Hall.

In 1716 Grosvenor was concerned in the periodic issue of the ‘Occasional Papers,’ known as the ‘Bagweell’ papers [see Avery, Benjamin]. The first paper, on ‘Bigotry,’ was by Grosvenor. This serial, continued till 1719, had a marked effect in forming the ideas of dissenters on the subject of religious liberty, and to its influence may be largely ascribed the action of the non-subscribing majority at Salters' Hall in 1719 [see Bradbury, Thomas]. Only one of the eight members of the ‘Bagweell’ fraternity, Jabez Earle, D.D. [q. v.], was a subscriber at Salters' Hall, another, Joshua Bayes [q. v.], remaining neutral. Grosvenor is said to have drawn up the ‘Authentick Account’ (1719, 8vo) of the Salters' Hall proceedings, being the first of the many pamphlets issued by the non-subscribing divines, and giving a list of names. His position was one of mutual toleration; in his own theology he remained a moderate Calvinist to the last.

In 1723 Grosvenor was elected a trustee of Dr. Williams's foundations. On 29 May 1730 the university of Edinburgh made him D.D. At Salters' Hall he lectured against popery in 1735, taking persecution as his theme; and he was a coadjutor in the ‘Old Whig,’ conducted (1735–8) by Avery. In 1749 he resigned his congregation and his lectureship. His repute as a ‘polite practical preacher’ had suffered no diminution, and he retained his ‘tuneable voice,’ though an operation for the removal of the uvula in 1726 had somewhat affected his pronunciation. In his retirement he was a great reader of the newest books, and delighted his friends by his kindly temper and ‘a lively, brilliant wit.’ He died on 27 Aug. 1758, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. His funeral sermon was preached by John Barker. He left a bequest to the presbyterian fund, and his valuable library to the Warrington Academy. His portrait is in Dr. Williams's Library. An engraving by Hopwood is given in Wilson. He was of short stature and graceful bearing; his features indicate considerable strength of character. By his first marriage (1703) to Mary (d. November 1707), daughter of Captain Henry South of Bethnal Green, a lady of fortune, he had a son, Benjamin South Grosvenor, who died many years before his father, and a daughter, who died in infancy. By his second marriage (1712) to Elizabeth Prince he had four sons, who inherited neither his ‘prudence nor piety;’ only the youngest survived him.

Of his publications Wilson enumerates twenty-seven, most of them single sermons, including funeral sermons for Peter Huson (1712), Mary Franklyn (1713), Susanna Rudge (1716), John Deacle (1723), and William Harris, D.D. (1740). The following may be mentioned: 1. ‘A Confession of Faith,’ 1704, 8vo (at his ordination). 2. ‘The Temper of Jesus,’ &c., 1712, 8vo (sermon on Luke xxiv. 47). 3. ‘Observations on Sudden Death,’ &c., 1720, 8vo. 4. ‘The Mourner,’ &c., 1731, 8vo; 18th edition, 1804. 5. ‘Health, an Essay on its Nature,’ &c., 1716, 2nd edition, 1748, 8vo. His ‘Sermons, now first collected in a volume,’ &c., 1809, 8vo, were edited by John Davies, with preface by David Bogue [q. v., where the name is misprinted ‘Grasomer’].

[The London Directory of 1677 (1878 reprint); Williams's Funeral Sermon for Mrs. Mary Gravener, 1708; Crosby's Hist. English Baptists, 1740, iv. 203; Funeral Sermon by Barker, 1758; Protestant Dissenters' Mag., 1797 p. 201 sq., 1798 p. 276, 1799 p. 465 sq.; Wilson's Dissenting Churches of London, 1808 i. 344 sq., 1814 iv. 166; Memoir of Neal, prefixed to Hist. of the Puritans, 1822, i. p. xxv sq.; Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 363, 489, 514; Cat. of Edinburgh Graduates, 1858, p. 240; Halley's Lancashire Nonconformity, 1869, ii. 402; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, p. 124; Thompson's Manuscript Account of Dissenting Academies, in Dr. Williams's Library.]

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