Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lawrence, Edward

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1421970Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32 — Lawrence, Edward1892Bertha Porter

LAWRENCE or LAURENCE, EDWARD (1623–1695), nonconformist minister, son of William Laurence, was born in 1623 at Moston in Shropshire. He was educated first in the school at Whitchurch in the same county, and thence was admitted as a sizar of Magdalene College, Cambridge, 8 June 1644, matriculated in 1645, proceeded B.A. in 1647-8, and M.A. in 1654. In his college days he 'was studious, a promoter of serious godliness among the young scholars; and was so noted also for his parts and learning, that we would have made him a fellow' (1st letter appended to Vincent, Perfect man, p. 22). After preaching for some little time, 'and with much acceptance' (ib, p. 22), in 1648 he was made vicar of Baschurch in Shropshire, near his native place. Though he had offers of preferment (Lawrence, Christ's Power, dedication), he remained there till 1662, when he was ejected by the Act of Uniformity. At that time he had a wife and several children, and when asked how he intended to support them, his usual reply was that they must all live on Matthew vi. After his ejection he resided with a gentleman in the parish of Baschurch till March 1666, when the Five Miles Act necessitated his removal, and he settled at Tilstock, a village in Whitchurch parish in the same county (2nd letter, Vincent, Perfect Man, p. 23). In February 1667–8 he and his friend Philip Henry [q. v.] were invited to Betley in Staffordshire, where they ventured to preach in the church with the consent of all concerned. The incident, with much exaggeration, was reported in the House of Commons, and with some others of a similar nature was made the occasion of a petition to the king from the commons, for a proclamation against papists and nonconformists (18 Feb. 1667–8), which was issued accordingly. In May 1670, when living at Whitchurch, and preaching one Sunday afternoon at the house of a neighbour, to his family and four friends, he was arrested by Dr. Fowler, the minister of Whitchurch, under the Conventicle Act. Lawrence and four others were fined, and distress was levied upon their goods (see 2nd letter, ib., pp. 23–24). This affair caused the removal of Lawrence with his family to London in May 1671, where he remained till his death in November 1695, preaching in his meetinghouse near the Royal Exchange and elsewhere, and walking 'the streets with freedom' (Williams, Matthew Henry, p. 28).

The Baschurch parish register records the baptisms of eight children of Edward and Deborah Lawrence, between 1649 and 1661, and the burial of Lawrence's mother in 1663. His son Nathaniel, born 28 April 1670, became nonconformist minister at Banbury. The conduct of two of his children caused him great pain, and made him, as he himself expressed it, to be 'the Father of fools' (Lawrence, Parents' Groans, dedication). His nephew was Samuel Lawrence of Nantwich [q. v.]

He was much loved and respected. He is often mentioned in Philip Henry's diary. Nathaniel Vincent, who preached his funeral sermon, gives a beautiful character of him, to which Philip Henry bears testimony (M. Henry, Life of P. Henry, edit. 1765, p. 297). He was troubled at the divisions of the church, being 'stiffly for no party, very moderate towards all' (Vincent, Perfect Man, p. 19).

He published: 1. 'Christ's Power over Bodily Diseases,' preached in several sermons on Matt. viii. 5-13, London, 1662; 2nd edit. 1672. Richard Baxter wrote a preface in 1661 (Reliq. Bax. i. 122). 2. 'There is no Transubstantiation in the Lord's Supper,' delivered as a morning lecture at Southwark, and published as Sermon xxi. in 'The Morning Exercise against Popery' (cf. edition by James Nichols, 1845, vol. vi.), first issued by Nathaniel Vincent, London, 1675. An abstract of the sermon, with a notice of Lawrence, is in Dunn's 'Seventy-five Eminent Divines,' pp. 222-3. 3. 'Parents' Groans over their Wicked Children,' several sermons on Prov. xvii. 25, London, 1681. 4. Two funeral sermons on the 'Use and Happiness of Human Bodies,' London, 1690.

[Admission Registers of Magd. Coll. Cambr., communicated by the Hon. and Rev. Latimer Neville; Cambr. Univ. Reg. by the Rev. H. R. Luard, D.D.; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, iii. 139; Conformist's Plea for the Non-conformists, p. 11; Parl. Hist. iv. 413; Matthew Henry's Life of Philip Henry, p. 135; Lee's Diaries and Letters of Philip Henry, pp. 227-31; Sylvester's Reliquiae Baxterianæ, pt. iii. p. 94; Tong's Matthew Henry, p. 91; Hunter's Britannia Puritanica, Addit. MS. 24484, p. 325; Morrice MS. J. in Dr. Williams's Library; Palatine Notebook, ii. 96; Baschurch parish register, communicated by the Rev. T. J. Rider.]

B. P.