Friday, June 18, 2010

Father of Fools

Edward Lawrence (1623-1695) was a well-respected Puritan minister. He was among those who contributed to the Morning Exercises at Cripplegate against Popery, his sermon being on the subject of transubstantiation. He was a close friend of Philip Henry and assisted at the ordination of Matthew Henry. When he died, Nathaniel Vincent preached his funeral sermon, The Perfect Man Described in His Life and End (1696), describing him thus: "I do believe there was not a man upon earth that better deserved to be, than our Mr. Edward Lawrence." Yet for all that, this father of nine, who suffered privation when he was ejected from his pulpit for nonconformity, considered himself to be, like Eli, a "father of fools," because of the conduct of two of children. He was lead in 1681 to publish his sermons on Prov. 17.25 entitled Parents' Groans Over Their Wicked Children, republished in 2003 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications as Parent's Concerns for their Unsaved Children. It begins with a heartfelt appeal to his children, that they might be reformed by the Word of God, "but if you hate to be reformed (God forbid) I shall mourn till I die for the loss of children, but you will be tormented forever for the loss of God." The treatise appeals to both godly parents to make use of right means and ungodly children to seek the Lord while he may be found.

I do not know what became of his wayward children, whether they ended up like Hophni and Phinehas or returned like prodigals to the Lord. Edward had a younger brother, William, who funeral sermon was preached by Philip Henry in 1695. William's son (Edward's nephew), Samuel Lawrence (1661-1712), was, like his father and uncle, a godly man. Matthew Henry preached his funeral sermon in 1712 and gave an account of his life, quoting also very movingly from Philip Henry's funeral sermon for his father. When it came to describing Edward, Matthew had this to say:

...his father's elder brother was Mr Edward Lawrence, an eminent minister in Shropshire first, and afterwards in London. A man of great integrity, and a substantial judicious preacher; who, to keep the peace of his conscience, left a good living, and threw himself and his numerous family upon divine Providence.

His book called 'Christ's Power over Bodily Diseases,' has been and will be of great use to many for their comfort in sickness, and their improvement of it. This nephew of his in many things resembled him much, and the comfort he had in him was the more valued by him, because of the great grief he had in some of his own children, which he let the world know something of in a book he published, called, 'Parents' Groans over Wicked Children.' He died in November, 1695.

Whether or not his erring children returned to the Lord, Edward Lawrence speaks a word even today to both parents and children that is a blessing to many, a comfort and encouragement to some, and a serious warning and reproof to others. His counsel is born of experience, and comes from loving the Lord above family relations, and thus speaking the truth to them in love, counting their souls as so very precious as to speak the truth and hide it not.

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