Lavington, John (DNB00)

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LAVINGTON, JOHN (1690?–1759), presbyterian divine, born about 1690 or a little later, was probably educated for the ministry in London. In 1715 he was chosen colleague to John Withers in the pastorate of Bow Meeting, Exeter, and was ordained on 19 Oct. along with Joseph Hallett (1691?–1744) [q.v.] The two pastors of Bow Meeting preached also at the Little Meeting, in rotation with the two pastors of James' Meeting. Of all four, Lavington was the only one unaffected in his theology by the movement towards Arianism, initiated by the publication of the ‘Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity’ (1712), by Samuel Clarke (1675–1729) [q.v.] Hence, in the controversies which belong to the life of James Peirce [q.v.], he took, though a young man, a leading part on the orthodox side. Lavington drew up the formula of orthodoxy adopted (by a majority of more than two to one) in September 1718 by the Exeter assembly of divines (including the presbyterian and congregationalist ministers of Devon and Cornwall), viz.: 'that there is but one living and true God; and that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are the one God.' For thirty-five years an adhesion to this formulary, or its equivalent, was the condition of license or ordination by the Exeter assembly. Micaijah Towgood [q.v.], who became one of the pastors of James' Meeting in 1750, moved that it be set aside. Acting in concert with congregationalists, Lavington, in 1752, instituted a 'Western academy' at Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, for the training of an orthodox ministry; the principal tutor was his son John. The names of six students are preserved, the best known being John Punfield, a predecessor of John Angell James [q.v.] at Birmingham. In 1753 the assembly repealed the resolution of 1718, thus making belief in the doctrine of the Trinity an open question. By this time the ministers of Cornwall had left the assembly; the vote for repeal was 14 to 9, with three neutrals; among the majority was William Harris (1720–1770) [q.v.] the biographer. Lavington died in 1759. He published nothing with his name, but had a hand in several of the anonymous pamphlets issued during the Exeter controversy, 1719–20.

His son, John Lavington (d. 1764), ordained 29 Aug. 1739, died 20 Dec. 1764. He published several sermons, 1743–59; others were published in 1790.

[Murch's Hist. Presb. and Gen. Baptist Churches in West of England, 1835, pp. 386 sq.; Christian Moderator, September 1826, pp. 153 sq.; Christian Life, 16 and 23 June 1888; manuscript list of ordinations preserved with minutes of Exeter Assembly; Walter Wilson's manuscript account of Dissenting Academies, in Dr. Williams's Library.]

A. G.