Laurence, Thomas (DNB00)

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LAURENCE, THOMAS (1598–1657), master of Balliol College, Oxford, born in 1598 in Dorset, was the son of a clergyman. According to Wood he obtained a scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford, in 1614, when only sixteen, and matriculated 11 May 1615. Before 1618 he was elected a fellow of All Souls, and graduated B.A. on 9 June 1618, M.A. on 16 May 1621, B.D. 1629, and D.D. 1633. He incorporated M.A. at Cambridge in 1627. On 31 Jan. 1629 he was made treasurer of Lichfield Cathedral, and held the post of private chaplain to the Earl of Pembroke. At Oxford, where he chiefly resided, he seems to have been much esteemed as a preacher and man of learning, being specially notable for his scholastical divinity. Wood calls him 'a profound theologian.' By Laud's influence he became chaplain to Charles I, and was elected on 11 Nov. 1637 master of his old college, Balliol. John Evelyn, one of his undergraduates, described him as 'an acute and learned person' and a severe disciplinarian, who tried to counteract the effects of 'the extraordinary remissness' of his predecessor Parkhurst (Evelyn, Diary, sub 10 May 1637). On 20 March following he received, in succession to Dr. Fell, the Margaret professorship of divinity, to which chair a Worcester canonry was then attached. Laud, writing on the occasion, advised him to be 'mindful of the waspishness of these times.' With his other preferments Laurence also held the living of Bemerton with Fugglestone in Wiltshire, worth about 140l. a year. On 6 Dec. 1639 Laud wrote that as Laurence had been almost every week at death's door, he had better be dispensed from lecturing at Oxford for the next term. On the seventeenth day of Laud's trial Laurence was instanced as one popishly affected whom Laud had promoted. The parliamentary visitors compelled him in 1648 to resign his mastership and professorship in order to avoid expulsion, but he afterwards submitted to them, and received a certificate, dated 3 Aug. 1648, attesting that he engaged to preach only practical divinity, and to forbear from expressing any opinions condemned by the reformed church. His Wiltshire benefice was sequestrated before 1653. Dismissed from Oxford with the loss of everything, he was fortunate enough to be appointed chaplain of Colne, Huntingdonshire, by the parliamentarian, Colonel Valentine Walker, whose release Laurence had brought about when the colonel was imprisoned by the royalists at Oxford. Charles II appointed him to an Irish bishopric, but he was never consecrated, for he died on 10 Dec. 1657. During his latter days at Colne, Laurence is said to have grown degenerate and careless both in his life and conversation. He left a widow and children in very poor circumstances.

He published three sermons: 1. 'The Duty of the Laity and Privilege of the Clergy, preached at St. Mary's in Oxon. on 13 July 1634,' Oxford, 1635, 4to (Bodleian). 2. 'Of Schism in the Church of God, preached in the Cathedral Church at Sarum, at the visitation of Will. Archbishop of Canterbury, on 23 May 1634, on 1 Cor. i. 12,' Oxford, 1630, 4to (Wood). 3. 'Sermon before the King's Majesty at Whitehall on 7 Feb. 1636, on Exod. iii. 5' (Bodleian), in which, according to Wood, 'he moderately stated the real presence, and suffered trouble for it.'

Laurence is said to have left much manuscript ready for the press. A collection of his manuscripts, called 'Index Materiarum et Authorum,' is in the Bodleian Library (E. Musaeo Collection. C. Mus. 40).

[Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, iii. 438; Wood's Hist. of Univ. of Oxford (Gutch), i. 84, ii. 215; Oxf. Univ. Reg. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), ii. ii. 338, iii. 364; Abingdon's Antiquities of the Catholic Church of Worcester, 1723, p. 148; Willis's Survey of Cathedrals, ii. 411; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 583, iii. 85, 519, 541; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, p. 100; Laud's Works, iv. 295, v. 186, 194, 244, 289, 398; Lloyd's Memoirs, ed. 1777, pp. 544, 545. A curious rhyming epitaph on Laurence is given by Lloyd.]

E. T. B.