Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Laurence, Roger

576165Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32 — Laurence, Roger1892Bertha Porter

LAURENCE, ROGER (1670–1736), nonjuror, 'son of Roger Laurence, cittizen and armorer,' was born 18 March 1670, and admitted on the royal mathematical foundation of Christ's Hospital in April 1679, from the ward of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, on the presentation of Sir John Laurence, merchant, of London. On 22 Nov. 1688 he was discharged and bound for seven years to a merchant vessel 'bound for the Streights' (Christ's Hospital Reg.). He was afterwards employed by the firm of Lethieullier, merchants, of London, and was sent by them to Spain, where he remained some years. He studied divinity, became dissatisfied with his baptism among dissenters (Laurence, Lay Baptism Invalid, 1709, p. 25), and was informally baptised in Christ Church, Newgate Street, on 31 March 1708, by John Bates, reader at the church. There is no entry of the baptism in the register of the church. Laurence's act attracted considerable attention, and was disapproved by the Bishop of London (White Kennett, Wisdom of Looking Backward, p. 228). Laurence then published his 'Lay Baptism Invalid,' which gave rise to a controversy. It was discussed at a dinner of thirteen bishops at Lambeth Palace on 22 April 1712 (Life of Sharp, Archbishop of York, i. 370), and a declaration was drawn up in favour of the validity of baptisms performed by non-episcopally ordained ministers. This was offered to convocation on 14 May 1712, but rejected by the lower house after some debate (Kennett, Wisdom, p. 237).

Through the influence of Charles Wheatly, then fellow of St. John's College, an honorary degree of M.A. was conferred upon Laurence by the university of Oxford on 16 July 1713 (ib. pp. 284–5). He was ordained deacon on 30 Nov., and priest on 19 Dec. 1714, by the nonjuring bishop, George Hickes. In 1716–18 nonjuring ordinations took place 'in Mr. Lawrence's chapell on College Hill within the city of London' (Rawlinson MSS. in Bodleian Library, D. 835, ff. 2, 4 a, 4 b). He was consecrated a bishop by Archibald Campbell [q. v.] in 1733, but his consecration was not recognised by the rest of the nonjurors on account of its having been performed by a single bishop (Perceval, Apostolical Succession, App. K, p. 226). A new party was thus started, of which Campbell and Laurence were the leaders, Brett being at the head of the original body of nonjurors. Laurence died on 6 March 1736 at Kent House, Beckenham, the country residence of the Lethieulliers, aged very nearly 66, and was buried at Beckenham on 11 March. In his will, made 29 Feb. 1736, he is described as 'of the parish of St. Saviours in Southwark.' He left all his property to his wife, Jane Laurence, whose maiden name was Holman.

Laurence was an able controversialist, though his style was not elegant. His collection of facts and references in support of his view on lay baptism is valuable. He published:

  1. 'Lay Baptism Invalid, or an Essay to prove that such Baptism is Null and Void when administer'd in opposition to the Divine Right of the Apostolical Succession. By a Lay Hand' (anon.), London, 1708. Editions, with various alterations, appeared in 1709, 1712, 1714, 1723, and 1725, and a reprint, edited by W. Scott, in 1841. The book was attacked by Burnet in a sermon (7 Nov. 1710); by Bishop Fleetwood [q.v.] in an anonymous pamphlet; by Bishop Talbot in a charge of 1712; and by Joseph Bingham [q.v.] in his 'Scholastical History of Lay Baptism,' (1712). Laurence was supported by Hickes and Brett.
  2. 'Sacerdotal Powers, or the Necessity of Confession, Penance, and Absolution. Together with the Nullity of Unauthoriz'd Lay Baptism asserted' (anon., in reply to the Bishop of Salisbury), London, 1711; 2nd edit. 1713; a reprint of the first four chapters was edited by Gresley in 1852.
  3. 'Dissenters' and other Unauthoriz'd Baptisms Null and Void, by the Articles, Canons, and Rubricks of the Church of England' (in answer to Fleetwood), London, 1712; 2nd edit. 1713; 3rd edit. 1810; reprint by W. Scott with 'Lay Baptism Invalid,' 1841.
  4. 'The Bishop of Oxford's Charge consider'd.'
  5. 'The Second Part of Lay Baptism Invalid,' in which he tries to prove his position from Bingham's 'Scholastical History,' London, 1713.

Bingham replied in a second part of his 'Scholastical History.' Laurence rejoined in:

  1. 'Supplement to the 1st and 2nd Parts of Lay Baptism Invalid' (assailing also White Kennett) (anon.), London, 1714.

Bingham again replied, but was not answered. An excellent bibliography of the controversy respecting lay baptism and Laurence's position is given in Elwin's 'Minister of Baptism,' pp. 258 et seq.

  1. 'Mr. Leslie's Defence from some … Principles Advanc'd in a Letter, said to have been written by him concerning the New Separation' (anon.), 1719.
  2. 'The Indispensible Obligation of Ministring the Great Necessaries of Publick Worship … By a Lover of Truth' (anon.), London, 1732–1734. (a) 'The Indispensible Obligation … with a Detection of the False Reasonings in Dr. B——t's Printed Letter to the Author of "Two Discourses,"' 1732. (b) 'A Supplement to the Indispensible Obligations,' &c., 1733. (c) 'The Supplement Continued,' 1734, in which Laurence quaintly comments on his own views and works in the third person.

[Registers of Christ's Hospital, communicated by W. Lempriere, esq.; Daily Post, 6 March 1736; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iv. 227; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time, vi. 117 seq. (Oxford edit. of 1823); Life of Archbishop Sharp, i. 369–77; Laurence's Lay Baptism Invalid, 1712, pp. xii, xiii; White Kennett's Wisdom of Looking Backward; Oxford Graduates, 1659–1850, p. 398; Post Boy, 25–8 July 1713; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. v. 475–7, 3rd ser. i. 225, iii. 243–4; Lathbury's Hist. of the Nonjurors, pp. 381–4; Elwin's Minister of Baptism, pp. 227–40; preface by W. Scott to his edition of Lay Baptism Invalid, 1841; Burnet's Two Sermons, 1710; will in Somerset House, Probate Derby, 60.]

B. P.