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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. XI. 1779-1786

Ch. I. 1747-1752
Ch. II. 1752-1761
Ch. III. 1761-1765
Ch. IV. 1765-1766
Ch. V. 1767-1771
Ch. VI. 1771
Ch. VII. 1771-1776
Ch. VIII. 1771-1776
Ch. IX. 1776-1777
Ch. X. 1779-1786
‣ Ch. XI. 1779-1786
Ch. XII. 1779-1786
Ch. XIII. 1780-1782
Ch. XIV. 1786-1789
Ch. XV. 1786-1790
Ch. XVI. 1776-1790
Ch. XVII. 1787
Ch. XVIII. 1789
Ch. XIX. 1790-1792
Ch. XX. 1791-1792
Ch. XXI. 1791-1796
Ch. XXII. 1794-1795
Ch. XXIII. 1794
Ch. XXIV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXVI. 1800-1803
Ch. XXVII. 1801-1803
Ch. XXVIII. 1800-1807
Vol. II Contents
Ch I. 1800-1807
Ch II. 1807-1810
Ch III. 1809
Ch IV. 1809-1812
Ch V. 1810-1813
Ch VI. 1811-1815
Ch VII. 1812-1815
Ch VIII. 1816-1820
Ch IX. 1816-1820
Ch X. 1816-1820
Ch XI. 1816-1820
Ch XII. 1816-1820
Ch XIII. 1816-1820
Ch XIV. 1819
Ch XV. 1820-1821
Ch XVI. 1816-1820
Ch XVII. 1820-1824
Ch XVIII. 1820-1824
Ch XIX. 1820-1824
Ch XX. 1820-1825
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Dr. Parr at Norwich—His religious candour—His high opinion of Dr. Taylor, minister of the Octagon Chapel—Inscription to the memory of that eminent divine, written by Dr. Parr—His letter on that occasion—His friendly intercourse with Dr. Taylor’s successors, Mr. Bourn and Mr. Morgan—Application to Parliament for the relief of the dissenting clergy, in the matter of subscription—Relaxation of the penal-laws against the Catholics—Riots in consequence—Trial of Lord G. Gordon—Dr. Parr’s high opinion of his advocate, Mr. Erskine.

In the course of his narrative, it is now the pleasing task of the writer to hold up to the notice and admiration of his readers, one of the most distinguishing excellencies in the character of Dr. Parr, which began about this time to shine out in its full lustre. This was his great and amiable candour; a virtue, in the spirit and the practice of which, it may almost be said that he was perfect. Such was the warm breathing and such the wide extent of his charity, that, spurning the narrow bounds of mere tolerance, he felt exactly the same respectful regard for the sincere and virtuous of all other denominations, as for those of his own. He had the happiness, at Norwich, to be surrounded by a number of the clergy, possessed of the same enlightened views, who rose with a noble superiority, like himself, above the prejudices, which too often
divide men of real worth from each other; and who were disposed, and even eagerly desirous, to cultivate the good opinion, and, as opportunity offered, the acquaintance and friendship of those, whose religious creed differed from their own.

High, indeed, was the indignation which throbbed in his bosom, whenever he spoke of that unhappy spirit of censorious and intolerant bigotry which, in later years, has too much pervaded the clerical body, undoubtedly with many splendid exceptions; more especially, when he contrasted with it the wise moderation, the kind charity, the generous courtesy, towards those of differing opinions, which distinguished the clergy in the earlier part of his own life, and in the times immediately preceding. “Which of our dignitaries of those times,” he would often say to the present writer,—“our Herring, our Conybeare and Hoadley, our Butler, our Benson, our Waddington, and Law,—did not think themselves honoured by the esteem and the friendly regards of your Watts, your Doddridge, and your Lardner,—your Benson, your Chandler, and your Farmer?”—“But now,” thundering out with angry look and impassioned gesture, he would exclaim, “Oh! what a difference! to the good mind how distressful! to the right mind how disgustful!” Then softening a little, and speaking half-seriously and half-jocosely, “How I wish to be on the bench, were it only to show, to all about me, the example of a wiser and better spirit!”—“Aye,” pursuing the sudden suggestion of his imagination, he would continue, “to my very first public dinner, you, and all yours, whom I know, should be in-
vited; your clergy should be placed without the smallest distinction among mine: you should be treated all alike—all with the same kind and respectful consideration.”—“Yes!” fired with benevolent delight at the thought, he would exclaim, “your proud scorn should soon soften into kind esteem, and mutual hate change into mutual love!”—“Aye, aye! we should eat and drink together, laugh and joke together, and then you might go away, and snarl, and bite one another, if you could.”

“Alas!” said he on another occasion, “for our church!—formerly she was the mother of all sects, now she is sectarian herself; embittered with the same spite and animosity to the sects, which the sects feel towards one another.”—“Oh! it is a change,” he would mournfully say, “as degrading to our dignity as weakening to our strength.”—“We have thrown ourselves down from the proud and secure eminence on which we once stood.”—“We are no longer the rallying point, to which you all ran, from each other’s wrathful passions and bitter strife. We are become to you all the one common object of suspicion or aversion. Instead of love, we get your hatred; and instead of respect, we shall soon have, and deserve, your contempt.”

Without surprise, but not it is to be hoped without pleasure, the reader of these pages will now peruse the following account of Dr. Parr’s friendly intercourse, and indeed that also of many of his clerical brethren, with the Rev. Samuel Bourn, son of an eminent dissenting divine of Birmingham; who was at this time minister of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, first as the assistant, afterwards
as the successor, of the very learned and highly-distinguished
Dr. John Taylor.

Dr. Taylor is well known to the learned world, as the author of a valuable Hebrew Concordance, in two volumes, folio, published by subscription; and among the subscribers, it deserves to be stated, appear the names of twenty-two English and fifteen Irish bishops, besides those of many of the inferior clergy. Another important work of the same author is, “A Key to the Apostolic Writings,” prefixed to a “Paraphrase on the Romans:” and it is here particularly mentioned, because it was a book greatly approved and admired by Dr. Parr; who considered it as the best introduction to the epistolary writings, and the best account of the whole Christian scheme, that has ever yet been published. As such, he constantly read and consulted it himself; as such, he earnestly recommended it to all who wished to form just and reasonable ideas of Christianity, and to understand properly those views of it, which are held forth in the writings of the apostles. Nor was he, in this opinion, by any means singular among the clergy of his church. The same work was held in similar

1 Returning from Leamington one day, some years ago, and calling upon the writer, Dr. Parr said, “I have just been visiting a very intelligent and excellent lady, Lady A——, who reads much, and reflects much, upon religious subjects; and who requested me to recommend some book, as a guide to the careful and critical study of the New Testament, especially the epistolary parts of it; and I think you will allow that my choice could not have fixed on a better than that, which I have just put into her hands—‘Taylor’s Key.’”

estimation, by
Archbishop Newcome, Bishop Watson, Archdeacon Paley, and Dr. Hey; of whom the first describes it as “very instructive in explaining the phraseology of the apostolic writings;” the second not only praised it, but gave it a place in his “Collection of Theological Tracts;”—an honour which he conferred on another work of the same author, entitled “A Scheme of Scripture Divinity;” the third “recommends it to the careful perusal of all young clergymen, preparing for holy orders;” and the fourth refers to it, with approbation; and even adopts its general principles in his “Lectures,” delivered from the theological chair at Cambridge.1

After a residence of about twenty-four years at Norwich, in consequence of an invitation which he received and accepted, to take upon himself the office of divinity-tutor, in the newly-established academy at Warrington, Dr. Taylor removed to that town; where the course of a life, devoted to learning and religion and all the best interests of mankind, was terminated by a sudden death, in the night of March 1, 1761. The respect in which Dr. Parr held his talents, his acquirements, and his virtues, and the high approbation with which he regarded his theological opinions and writings, he has recorded in a Latin inscription,2 for a mural monument consecrated to his memory in the chapel

1 Newcome’sNew Testament,” vol. ii. App. Watson’sCollection of Tracts,” vol. iii. Paley’sAdvice to the Young Clergy.” Hey’sLectures on Divinity,” p. 267, &c.

2 See App. No. II.

at Norwich, by some of his descendants—to one of whom
Richard Taylor, Esq. of London,” was addressed the letter from which the following extracts are, by his obliging permission, here inserted:

“Dear Sir,—You fall into the same misconceptions, which I have often found in other men of very good sense, by wishing to introduce into an inscription, matter, which is more adapted to biography.”—“Excellent as may be the books which Dr. Taylor wrote in the retired situation, of which you speak, we must be content with what I have generally said of him, as a learned man.”—“Dr. Taylor was, I doubt not, a sincere and strenuous advocate for liberty, civil and religious. But he is not much known to the public, by his political tenets; and on looking at the epitaph, I find that the mention of those tenets would most offensively derange the order, in which I have enumerated his moral qualities, his literary performances, his pastoral labours, and that theology which made him a defender of simple and uncorrupted religion.”—“I hesitated a little about inserting the year, in which the chapel was founded; and a chapel it is called by those, who frequent it; and a chapel I shall continue to call it. You non-cons have done well to exchange the word meeting-house for chapel;

1 The writer had once the pleasure of introducing to the hospitalities of Hatton Parsonage another descendant of this learned divine, Edgar Taylor, Esq. of London. Dr. Parr was pleased with his guest, and talked to him much, in a high panegyrical strain, of his great ancestor; expatiating on the virtues of his character, the depth of his learning, and the value of his writings.

and as chapel is less dignified than church, we lofty and dignified ecclesiastics will permit you to make some approach to our holy phraseology. Improper it cannot be to specify the year. But why is it necessary? Let the naughty heretics put up a stone on the front of their chapel, with a date to perpetuate the memory of the time when it was built. This surely is a more proper way than slipping the date into the inscription.”—“My ears tingled, and the terrors of the spiritual court seized me, when I found myself describing the impugner of original sin as a vigorous defender of simple and uncorrupted religion.1 This may be very true; and if I had not thought so, I should not have said so. But the two houses of convocation might anathematise me for my rashness, heterodoxy, impiety, &c. &c.—I am, &c.
S. Parr.”

Mr. Bourn, Dr. Taylor’s successor at Norwich, acquired considerable distinction as the author of six volumes of sermons, which, for originality of thought, for fervour of feeling, and vigour of expression, deserve to be placed high in that class of compositions.2 Though the doctrines maintained in them are not always accordant with the doctrines of the church, yet their publication was encouraged by the subscription of more than thirty clergymen in Norwich and its vicinity, and more than sixty in other parts of the kingdom: a striking proof of

1Bell on the Lord’s Supper.” “On the sacrament, my serious opinions agree with those of Hoadley, Bell, and Taylor of Norwich.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 20.

2Samuel Bourn was a masterly writer, a profound thinker, and the intimate friend of Dr. Parr at Norwich. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 704.

the liberality of those times!—“the proud times of the church!”—as
Dr. Parr often exultingly called them:1 and it would be strange, indeed, if the candour and the kindness, which thus appeared on the one side, had not been answered in the same spirit, accompanied with all the respect and gratitude so deservedly due, on the other.

“When I lived at Norwich,” says Dr. Parr, “Mr. Bourn, a dissenting teacher, not less eminent for the boldness of his opinions than for the depth of his researches, was very well received by the worthiest and the most respectable clergymen of that city.” But even without the sanction of such authority, impelled by the strong convictions of his own mind, Dr. Parr would have courted—no one who knew him can doubt—the society of a man, whose character he could not but honour, though his opinions he might not approve. Speaking of friendly intercourse between persons of differing creeds, thus he remarks: “I have always found that when men of sense and virtue mingle in free conversation, the harsh and confused suspicions, which they may have entertained of each other, gradually give way to more just and more candid sentiments. In reality, the example of many great and good men averts every imputation of impro-

1Dr. Parr spoke to me of the latitudinarian divines with approbation: he agreed with me in thinking that the most brilliant era of the British church, since the Reformation, was when the church abounded with divines of that school. He observed to me that, while they respected antiquity, they were without bigotry; and that their liberality did not degenerate into indifference.”—Butler’s Letter to Mr. Barker, Reminis. vol. ii. p. 249.

priety from such intercourse; and the information which I have myself gained, by conversing with learned teachers of different sects, will always make me remember with satisfaction, and acknowledge with gratitude, the favour they have done to me, by their unreserved and judicious communications.”1

Impressed with these views, which were not, with him, slight or transient feelings, but deep-fixed principles, almost immediately on settling at Norwich, Dr. Parr sought the acquaintance, and afterwards cultivated the friendship of Mr. Bourn. For his talents and his attainments, he admired him; for the ardour of his inquiries and the freedom of his speculations, he applauded him; for the good qualities of his heart and the general rectitude of his conduct, he honoured and loved him. He rejoiced with him, in the time of his health and his prosperity; and consoled and relieved him, in the season of his sickness and his sorrow.

Once, Dr. Parr invited Mr. Bourn to accompany him to Cambridge; and there he introduced his “non-con friend,” so he familiarly called him, to the Fellows of his own college, and to some other distinguished members of the university. “They were delighted with him,” said Dr. Parr, “and he with them. They kept up a little sparring, but with perfect good humour on all sides; and I,” continued he, speaking jocosely, “now and then let off my crackers among them; just to give a hint that they must not quarrel. We had a most agreeable day.”

1 Sequel, p. 99.


In the later years of his life Mr. Bourn was very unfortunate. He had entrusted his little property to a brother, by whom the greater part of it was lost in unsuccessful trade: and the corroding anguish of disappointment was aggravated by the decline of health, which obliged him to resign his pastoral office, and to retire, in his 60th year, to meet, with a scanty provision, the infirmities of advancing age. His misfortunes called forth the benevolent sympathy of the clergy, with whose acquaintance he had been honoured; and by whom the most generous exertions were made for his relief. Among them, Dr. Parr, himself far from being in affluence, strained his means to benefit his friend. In consequence of his and of their favourable representations, Dr. Mant, Bishop of Cork, then visiting at Norwich, was induced to offer to Mr. Bourn immediate preferment in the church in Ireland, amounting to 300l. a year, with a promise of farther promotion. But these kindly-intended offers, from conscientious motives, he declined, thus gaining for himself the applause of all the wise and good, and of none more than Dr. Parr, who ever contemplated, with admiring delight, as a grand moral spectacle, integrity, brought to the severest test, and nobly approving itself true and genuine. Mr. Bourn survived this memorable event of his life nearly twenty years, and died, Nov. 10, 1796, at the advanced age of eighty-two.1

On his resignation, Mr. Bourn was succeeded

1 Toulmin’s Life of Bourn, p. 123 &c.

by the
Rev. Geo. Cadogan Morgan, nephew of the celebrated Dr. Price, distinguished rather as a man of science than of learning, who was the author of two ingenious volumes entitled, “Lectures on Electricity.”1 He had the happiness to be received with the same friendly regards, as his predecessor, into the same circle of enlightened clergymen; who have conferred, some by their learning, and all by their candour, so much honour upon the church. He had, especially, the high gratification to be admitted to a place in the esteem and confidence of Dr. Parr, who often spoke with pleasure to the present writer, and to others, of the many estimable qualities which adorned his character, and with deep regret for the lamentable accident which happened to him in conducting, without due caution, some chymical experiments, and which occasioned his death in the year 1798.

To turn from more private to public affairs—early in 1779, a measure was brought forward in the House of Commons, which could not fail to excite a deep interest in the mind of Dr. Parr, and in that of all the friends of religious freedom, and even of national justice. This was a bill for the

1 In the fly-leaf of this work in Dr. Parr’s Library is inserted the following note: “Morgan was a very acute and very enlightened man. He was a dissenting preacher at the Unitarian Chapel, Norwich. He married Miss Hurry of Yarmouth. He was nephew to Dr. Price, and brother of the celebrated calculator William Morgan. He was Dr. Parr’s intimate acquaintance at Norwich. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 705.

relief of the dissenting clergy; who were entitled to the benefit of the toleration act, only on the absurd and unjust condition of subscribing to the articles of a church, from which they derive no advantage, and with which they disclaim all connexion. But though the bill carried on the face of it the broad stamp of right and reason; and though it was twice almost unanimously approved in the lower house; yet, by the combined influence of the “king’s friends,” and the ecclesiastical lords, it was twice rejected in the upper. On a third attempt, however, the sense of shame, united with the claims of justice, bore down all opposition, and the bill passed into a law. The debate on this occasion was memorable for a most admirable speech, delivered by
Dr. Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph,1 avowing and maintaining principles, so large and so liberal, that the wise and excellent prelate may almost be said to have anticipated the enlightened views of those more improved times, when the very name and notion

1 “A great majority of these dissenting clergy, I am told, declare against all human authority in matters of religion. They hold, that no church has a right to impose an article of faith on any other religious community. I believe from my heart that they say true: at least, if they do not, he that can confute them is a much abler man than myself. Now, my Lords, these are men, who deserve our esteem for their science, their literature, their critical study of the Scriptures, and for their excellent writings, either in defending or teaching common Christianity; and, my Lords, they have of late stood forth, almost singly, in defence of the natural, civil, and religious rights of mankind,” &c.—Speech of the Bp. of St. Asaph, Works, vol. ii. p. 238.

of toleration is spurned at, as a wrong and an insult—and when into its place has succeeded a principle, more correct in its terms, as well as more just and generous in its meaning and spirit, viz. “the sacred and indefeasible rights of conscience.”

About the same period was exhibited another signal proof of the increasing liberality of the times, in the repeal of certain penalties, imposed by the act of William III. to prevent the growth of popery. What these penalties were can hardly be told, in the present day, without horror. Officiating priests were liable to be punished as felons or traitors; a popish heir, educated abroad, forfeited his inheritance; a son, or near relative, being Protestant, might possess himself of the estate belonging to his father, or his near relative, being Papist; and all who received the Catholic faith were deprived of the right of acquiring landed property by purchase. Laws of such extreme injustice and dreadful severity were not often suffered, indeed, by the lenient spirit of the age to be carried into effect; but proud and happy was the day for England when, by the unanimous consent of the king, the senate, and the people, these persecuting statutes were erased from the code of British legislation for ever. Dr. Parr, in the joy of his heart, hailed this as the first act, in the reign of George III., of that justice which had been so long and so deservedly due to the patience, the sincerity, and the loyalty of “his Catholic fellow Christians and fellow subjects”—
“sacred and venerable names”1—under which he ever delighted to consider them, and speak of them.2

In consequence of this relaxation of the laws against popery, it is well known that serious tumults took place in Scotland, followed, in June, 1780, by the dreadful riots in London, which seemed at one time to threaten destruction to the whole city. These, however, were never regarded as the result of any thing like general disapprobation, called forth by the late act, but merely as violent ebullitions of fanatic zeal, such as are always to be found in the lower and more ignorant classes of the community. The leader of these mad intolerants, Lord George Gordon—himself scarcely a man of sane mind—was afterwards brought to trial on a charge of high-treason; and it was on this occasion that the late Lord Erskine exhibited the genius and the eloquence, which were still more conspicuously displayed on several subsequent occasions, important, in a high degree, not only to the safety of individuals, but to the dearest interests of the nation. The present charge rested on the principle of constructive treason; and so effectually did the spirited and powerful advocate plead against that odious and dangerous principle, that the accused, guilty though he may have been of other crimes, was declared not guilty of this.—

1 Letter from Irenopolis, p. 1.

2 “Why do the Romanists and Protestants revile each other? My prayer is, that God may bless both. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 681.

From that time Lord Erskine became the object of
Dr. Parr’s high admiration: he was ever eager to cultivate his good opinion and his friendly regard; and never spoke of him but with almost enthusiastic love and veneration.

On the subject of the claims of Catholics, to a still more complete toleration, Dr. Parr thus explains his sentiments:

“In the present condition of the world, that restless and relentless temper, which once actuated the members of the Church of Rome, is visibly assuaged: a spirit of inquiry has imperceptibly in speculative points produced a spirit of moderation; and few, if any, of the practical mischiefs, which popery might formerly have brought down upon us, are any longer to be dreaded. Gladly therefore should I hail the day, in which the religious tenets of the Roman Catholics should not be permitted to obstruct the full recovery of their civil rights; and in which the Church of England, providing at once for its own interest and its own honour, should display to every other church a glorious example “of holding the faith, in the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace.”1

1 Fox’s Characters, vol. ii. p. 630.