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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr

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
‣ Ch XXI.
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Review of Dr. Parr’s character—His person—His intellectual powers—His learning—His Latin epitaphs—His English composition—His theological, metaphysical, ethical studies—His attachment to his church—His religious sentiments—His spirit of candour—His character as a member of the state—His domestic character.

If, in these volumes, a fair and faithful representation of the life, the writings and the opinions of Dr. Parr is placed before the reader, nothing more can be necessary to enable him to form a just estimate of his character as a man, a scholar, an author, and a member of the church and the state. But a few particulars, drawn together in the present chapter, which may assist a little to guide that judgment, will not perhaps displease; and it is for this part of the work that the writer has reserved a fuller account than has yet been given of Dr. Parr’s theological studies and religious sentiments.

In his person—of which those who have never seen him may desire to be told something—he was about the middle height, squarely built, of strong athletic frame, not much inclined to corpulency. His head was large and somewhat cumbrous: his hind-head remarkably capacious: his forehead full and firm: his eyes, of a fine grey colour, possessed uncommon animation even in
his old age, and were finely overhung with large bushy eye-brows. His features, though somewhat coarse, were not irregular, and upon the whole pleasing; strongly indicating the mental energy, and still more the benevolent spirit, which breathed and stirred within him. When thoughtful and silent, the general expression of his countenance was that of serene satisfaction; and when conversing, his looks were those of benignity and goodhumour. His smile was peculiarly fascinating. In his whole air and manner there was much of the dignity which commands respect, and still more of the kindness and condescension which conciliates affection. His voice was remarkably powerful: he managed it with singular judgment and effect; and, in spite of his lisp, he might have been an orator.

The powers of his mind were of a high order. Few surpassed him in quickness of perception; and still fewer have equalled him in the wonderful faculty of a memory, so retentive as to be pronounced almost “miraculous.”1 What he once knew seemed never to be erased from his remembrance. His recollection even of names and dates, and the minuter circumstances of facts, rarely failed him. His imagination, vigorous and excursive, was united with a judgment strong and penetrating, though not always sound or correct; and all his intellectual powers were diligently cultivated by deep meditation and constant and careful reading.

As a scholar—in the opinion of the most com-

1 Dr. Butler’s Funeral Sermon for Dr. Parr, p. 8.

petent judges, his learning was vast and various, accurate and profound. He explored the most hidden recesses of ancient erudition; and knew what few even of the learned knew besides himself: nor should it ever cease to be remembered, that all his literary stores were collected together, not in a state of ease and affluence, but amidst want and privation—not under the warm sunshine of patronage, but beneath the chill shade of obscurity and neglect.

Of the Greek and Roman languages he was a consummate master; and wrote and spoke both, with ease and elegance. His Latin epitaphs are universally admired; some for the conciseness and simplicity, others for the richness and magnificence, and all for the classic purity of their style. All the great writers of antiquity he not only read but studied; and with the most learned commentators and critics, both of earlier and later ages, he was familiarly acquainted. Of the oriental languages, he knew only the Hebrew; and of the modern, only the French.1

Among the celebrated writers of Greece, he read, with enthusiasm, Demosthenes; and often talked of “the matchless beauties,” and “inconceivable perfection,” of his style. The tragic poets, “as high actions, and high passions, best describing,” were the constant theme of his enraptured praises; and over their fine passages he hung, with exquisite delight. His knowledge of Greek and Latin metre was exact and profound. Of the great fathers

1Guarini Il Pastor Fido, con note.—I began this year, 1807, to learn Italian: but I made little progress, having other literary pursuits in other languages.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 532.

of ancient philosophy, there was no one an object of higher admiration to Dr. Parr than the founder of the academic school; and he prided himself much on the close and careful attention, with which he had read his works. He often observed that there is a great deal of irony in
Plato; and that he had never met with more than three or four persons in England who well understood him.

Of these persons, the first he named was Floyd Sydenham; who translated several of Plato’s dialogues; and whom he described, as a man worthy not only to be reverenced for his learning, but to be loved for the candour and modesty of his disposition, and for the simplicity and gentleness of his manners. He mentioned that he once met him at a coffee-house in London, where he lodged: that he used to take breakfast, and sometimes a slight supper; but had no means of procuring for himself a dinner; and that he would have perished with hunger, if he had not, when almost expiring, been found and relieved by a friend.1 The second person, who, in Dr. Parr’s opinion, well understood Plato, was the poet Gray; whose commentary upon the writings of that great philosopher was published some years ago by Mr. Matthias. “When I read his observations,” said Dr. Parr, “my first impulse was to exclaim, Why did not I write this?”—“Gray alone,” he remarked, “possessed the merit of avoiding the errors into

1 This great scholar, it is well known, died in prison for debt: and it was public sympathy with his deplorable case, which gave rise to that benevolent institution called “The Literary Fund.”

which other commentators have fallen: there are no fine-spun observations; no metaphysical absurdities in Gray.” A third person, whom Dr. Parr mentioned as an incessant reader of Plato, who entered deeply into his meaning, and caught and reflected in his own writings something of the playfulness of his style, was
Tucker, the author of the “Light of Nature pursued.”

Of Roman writers, Cicero seems to have been Dr. Parr’s favourite. There was none whose works he studied more; and he sometimes spoke with almost awful reverence of his “divine mind.” The three books “De Officiis” he thought one of the most perfect works transmitted down to us from antiquity. Among his reputed works, however, he agreed with Markland that there were some not his, nor in any respect worthy to be his;1 but there were others which, though from internal evidence he was convinced they are not genuine, he yet thought possessed great merit. He doubted the authenticity of the treatise “De Republica,” of which considerable fragments have lately been discovered in the Vatican, and published by the Abbé Mai; who, in his opinion, was not a critic equal to the task of deciding upon the genuineness of an ancient classic author.

His native language Dr. Parr studied, with the nicest care; and he wrote it in a style clear, correct, often elegant, sometimes highly ornamented, especially with classical allusions, and always fervid and energetic. But with all its excellencies his style has great faults. It is too laboured and arti-

1 See vol. i. p. 129.

ficial. There is too much measuring of clauses, and balancing of periods. It abounds too much with antithesis; is deficient in native idiom; and there is in it too little variety. Occasionally it is overcharged with epithets, sometimes not very happily chosen. The thought is now and then constrained to shape itself, as it were, to the form and structure of the sentence, rather than the sentence permitted naturally and freely to express the thought. But with all these blemishes, few, even of our great writers, have written the language with more purity and perspicuity, with more vigour and dignity.

He disliked the task of composition, and was generally glad to escape from it; and yet, when once engaged in it, the rapidity with which he conceived and dictated, would be almost incredible to those who had no opportunity of witnessing the fact. On a subject which he had previously meditated, he would pour out his sentences, for many hours together, almost without intermission; and the composition thus produced was so perfect, as to need little or no correction. It was, however, a great misfortune that from the extreme defects of his hand-writing, he was thrown into a state of irksome dependence upon the precarious, and sometimes reluctant, aid of his visitors and friends; and to this cause may be ascribed much of that disinclination, which he felt, for the labour of composing, especially with a view to publication.

Though it is certain that by the care, with which he studied the works of men of learning and ge-
nius of all times and countries, his intellectual powers must have been wonderfully invigorated and expanded; yet, on the other hand, it may be questioned whether they were not impeded, in their free and full operation, by the immensity of learning which he acquired. His memory, full fraught with all that he had collected from books, was so faithful in preserving, and so prompt in producing, its treasures, that when he sat down to compose, it seemed as if the sentiments and the language of others rushed, like a resistless torrent, upon him, and overpowered, or at least greatly obstructed, all his attempts at original thinking. He found it easier to adopt the ideas and combinations of ideas, so deeply imprinted by frequent reading on his mind, than to strike out new trains of reflection for himself. But whether this will account for it or not, it is certain that, in his published writings, we are too often presented with the thoughts of others, when we should have been glad to receive his own; and that we perceive in his works the extent and variety of his learning, rather than the native powers or vigorous operations of his own mind.

Dr. Parr was rather a man of learning than a man of science. During his short residence at Cambridge, he had seriously determined to apply himself to the study of mathematics and natural philosophy. But, when unhappily obliged to retire precipitately from that university, the strong motive for engaging in the favourite studies of the place was withdrawn; the resolution he had formed was suspended, and never afterwards resumed.
Of natural science, therefore, he knew little; and his notions, on almost all its various branches were crude and imperfect. Yet, when his curiosity was excited by hints in conversation, or by reports of any of the great scientific discoveries of the day, he would eagerly seek the means of forming some just ideas respecting them. The little knowledge of those subjects, which the writer possesses, was often put in requisition for that purpose. Frequently, during his visits at Leam, proposing some question of natural or experimental philosophy, he would desire the writer to give him the same familiar explanation which he gave to his own pupils, and to exhibit before him the same simple experiments, which he was accustomed to show to them. Once he remembers being sent for, with great urgency, to Hatton, for no other purpose but to explain to him, scientifically, the nature and structure of a common refracting telescope, which he had just received as a present from a friend; and to show him the manner of using it. So ardent was his thirst for information on all subjects, that he would not disdain to accept it from any one, qualified, in the slightest degree, to impart it.

Theology, his proper study, as a divine, was one of his favourite pursuits; and his inquiries embraced the whole range of that extensive and important science. He read, of course in their original languages, the Scriptures; and compared with them the various versions, ancient and modern. To the perusal of the sacred volume he brought all his learning, all his critical skill, and all his most devoted attention. Every important passage, even
almost every word, he examined with scrupulous accuracy, and endeavoured to ascertain its true meaning with conscientious care. Critical remarks on difficult or disputed passages of Scripture abound in the notes to his sermons: they occur sometimes in the sermons themselves, and in one or two of his other published works.

Though the Apocalypse or “Revelation of John” is one of those sacred books, the authenticity of which was called in question, so early as the age of Eusebius; yet, in modern times, it appears to have been almost universally received, even by those who have most attentively examined its evidence and its contents, as the learned Joseph Mede, the illustrious Sir I. Newton, and the judicious Dr. Lardner. But Dr. Parr held a different opinion, which he thus boldly states in a letter to Mr. Charles Butler:—“The Apocalypse is in the canon of your church and mine: but I have no belief in its authenticity. The writer was a man of genius and an enthusiast: and his mind was heated with the writings of Zachariah and Ezekiel.”1 It must be owned, indeed, that of those who admitted its genuineness, some, as Calvin and Whitby, have confessed themselves unable, after the most careful perusal, to penetrate into its meaning; and others, as Daubez, Lowman, and Bishop Newton, who have attempted to explain it, have succeeded so little to the general satisfaction, that the Apocalypse, whether authentic or not, must still be regarded as a “sealed book.” Dr. Priestley, however, thought it “impossible for any intel-

1 Butler’s Reminiscences, vol. ii. p. 210.

ligent and candid person to peruse it, without being convinced that, considering the age in which it appeared, none but a person divinely inspired could have written it.”

Next to the sacred writings, he read carefully and extensively the works of all the most learned commentators and divines, both of his own and of preceding ages. If he was not deeply versed in the writings of the Christian fathers, he often perused them with much attention. Among these, Origen was his favourite; and his great talents, his vast learning, his high spirit, and his noble conduct, were ever the objects of his fervent praise. Lactantius, for his pure and elegant Latinity, so often styled the Christian Cicero, could not fail strongly to attract his notice. He acknowledged in Jerome profound and extensive erudition; and often spoke with delight of the extraordinary eloquence, united with the learning of Chrysostom. He professed to have read attentively the works of Athanasius; and said that he found much to commend in his acuteness and his occasional eloquence; and much also to condemn in his dogmatical spirit, and in his bitter censures against those whom he undertook to confute. He admired the genius and the attainments, more than the judgment or the temper, of Augustin; and probably would not have much dissented from the opinion of Erasmus. “Plus me docet,” says he, “Christianas philosophise unica Origenis pagina, quam decem Augustini.”

Of the modern theologians, those whom Dr. Parr held in highest estimation were Grotius,
Clark, Waterland, Bishop Butler, Patrick, Lowth, and Pearce, and more especially Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and Barrow.1 His approbation of Dr. Taylor’sKey” to the apostolic writings has been already noticed: and, with Bishop Newton,2 he thought that Mr. Locke “has done more towards clearing and fixing the sense of Paul’s epistles than any or all of the commentators before him.”2 He was a great admirer of the “Latitudinarians,” as they are called; of whom some of the principal were the ever-memorable Hales, Chillingworth, Cudworth, and Tillotson; and in later times, Hoadley, Jortin, and Shipley. “I like your account of the Latitudinarian divines,” says he, in a letter to Mr. Butler, “and you may put me down in the number.”3

With theology Dr. Parr united deep researches into the kindred subjects of ethics, and the more useful parts of metaphysics; and he read, with profound attention, all that has been written on these subjects, from the days of the academic and peripatetic philosophers to those of Locke, Hartley, Reid, and Stewart. He held in much esteem the two latter of these writers, and in still more the two former; and he approved and adopted to their full extent the doctrine of association, and even that of philosophical necessity, as applied, by the second of these illustrious philosophers, to the

1 Ωκηρον μεν σεβω, θαυμαζω δε Βαρροωον, και ϕιλω Ταιλωρον.—Parr.

2 Bishop Newton’s Works, vol. iii. p. 446.

3 Butler’s Reminiscences, vol. ii. p. 229.

explanation of the phænomena of the human mind.

It is stated by one of his friends and pupils, that Dr. Parr held that philosophy, which teaches that the human soul is a “spirit that must be immortal, because it is exempted from the common qualities which generate corruption: because, being an uncompounded essence, and having no parts which admit of separation, it cannot be dissolved.”1 Probably this account refers to an early period of Dr. Parr’s life. During his later years, it is well known to his more intimate friends, that his views of the human mind assimilated much with those of Locke and Hartley; and that, with Bishop Law and Archdeacon Blackburne, he considered the inference from immateriality to indiscerptibility, and from indiscerptibility to immortality, as incoherent and inconclusive reasoning; and therefore he founded his hopes of futurity chiefly on the Christian doctrine of a resurrection from death to life. On this last point Dr. Parr thus expresses his opinion:—“We investigate the evidence which natural religion supplies, for the probability of a future state; and, at the same time, distinguishing between that evidence and the animating prospects which revelation opens to us, we hold up to the admiration and the gratitude of mankind, the doctrine of eternal life, as especially and solely the unmerited and covenanted κάρισμα του θεου εν Ίησου Χριστω.”2

1 New Monthly Mag. Nov. 1826, p. 437.

2 Characters of Fox, p. 821.


It is not to be supposed that a man, of so powerful and reflecting a mind, would adopt any opinion, either in philosophy or theology, upon the mere authority of others. On the contrary, he inquired and judged for himself. His attention was, at one time, particularly engaged by the important controversy concerning the divine origin of Christianity, which, a century ago, was agitated with more than usual earnestness, in the literary and religious world. All the arguments advanced against the truth of revelation, as well as those adduced in its favour, he weighed carefully and impartially. It is no disparagement to Dr. Parr to say, that he was strongly impressed with the force of some considerations, urged in disproof of revealed religion. But if he felt and acknowledged difficulties, where difficulties there are, yet he often declared, as the result of all his inquiries, that “the various, consistent, stupendous evidence in support of revelation, on the one side, is such as to bear down all objections, weighty as they sometimes are, on the other.”1 But whilst satisfied and thankful in his own conviction of the truth of Christianity, yet, in some of the preceding pages, it appears how large and liberal was his candour towards those who, after honest inquiry, are unable to attain the same conviction.2

As a member and a minister of the Church of England, he was always deeply solicitous for its honour and interests. Of national establishments, in general, and his own in particular, he

1 His own words to the writer. 2 See p. 301.

approved; not, indeed, on the old exploded principle of divine appointment, but on the plain and intelligible ground of public utility. Though his attachment to the church was sincere, it was not blind or indiscriminate. He knew and admired its excellencies. He knew, also, and lamented its defects. He was perfectly aware that, in all human institutions, the changes of time, without adverting to other obvious causes, introduce many abuses, which will require the hand of correction: or if not, yet that modification and improvement will become necessary, from the altered or advanced state of the community, for whose wants, and whose welfare, they are intended to provide.

Dr. Parr carried his views of ecclesiastical reforms to the full extent of the plans, proposed by Bishop Watson, as noticed in a former page.1 Such plans, if they had been adopted, would have satisfied all the reasonable men of those times; and would have left little ground for any great or formidable objection, which the more active spirit of inquiry, now rising and spreading, could easily discover. Too long delay in rectifying abuses, palpable to all the world, not only endangers sometimes the very existence of useful institutions, but is attended with this farther mischief, that, when the day of reform comes at last, the reformation is usually pushed beyond the safe limits of palliatives and correctives, into great and essential changes, producing much present inconvenience, and perhaps threatening more. “This may be no argument to the bold and daring speculatist,”

1 Vol. ii. p. 209.

Dr. Parr used to say; “but I am one of the cool and cautious reformers, who dread all sudden and sweeping innovations, of which I can neither perceive the immediate necessity, nor calculate the distant consequences.”

He was strict, even scrupulous, in his observance of all the forms of the church: and, perhaps, his love of pomp and ceremony in religious worship, was carried farther, than accords with the general sentiment of the present enlightened age. But in the reverence, which he expressed for the English liturgy, most persons of the best critical taste and judgment would entirely concur with him. Much, however, as he admired it, yet he felt serious objections to some of its parts; and would have received, with joy, any proposal from authority for its revision, with a view to alteration and improvement. He greatly commended Dr. Clarke’s proposed corrections, in his “Common Prayer Book reformed,” of which several editions, with farther emendations, have since been published. A few years ago, one of these later editions was, by the liberal donation of an eminent barrister, and one of his Majesty’s counsel, introduced into the High-street Chapel, Warwick; of which a copy at his own request, a short time before his death, was presented to Dr. Parr. After repeated perusals, he expressed, to the writer, his opinion, in the following terms:—“I have read your prayer book with delight. Oh! it is a holy and a rational book! Sound sedate reason, and true sublime devotion in beautiful harmony! It is, in most respects, such as approves itself to my best judgment;
and ardently do I wish it were admitted into all our churches!”

Indeed, whatever opinions may be entertained on abstruse questions of speculative theology, yet all reasonable men must acknowledge the strong claims to preference of that form of prayer, which recognises all the great leading doctrines of Christianity; and which leaves untouched points of doubtful disputation; which entirely rejects the jargon of the schools, and the scarcely less reprehensible language of polemics; and which employs, as much as possible, especially in stating controverted propositions, the simple language of Scripture. These were the principles, in composing a public liturgy, which were approved by Archbishop Herring, Bishop Watson, Dr. Paley, and Dr. Parr: and surely the substitution of such a liturgy, in place of the present, in many instances most objectionable, because most unscriptural form, would be a wise and needful change in the celebration of national worship.

Dr. Parr studied, with the closest attention, the whole history of the English church, and especially of its liturgy and its articles; and marked, with the exactest care, every successive change, which had been introduced, from the period of their first adoption to that of their last revisal. Between these two periods, the Common Prayer Book was revised and amended, as he often observed, not less than eight or ten times: and he always strongly protested against the notion that, when revised the last time, one hundred and sixty years ago, that revision was, on any account, to be
considered as final. The preface to the book;1 the circumstances of the times, unfavourable to such a calm review as might, with any show of reason, preclude the necessity of farther revision; the great, though abortive, attempt of
Archbishop Tillotson in 1689; and the decided opinion of many of the most eminent divines and dignitaries of the church;—all concur to expose the absurdity of a supposition, so monstrous in itself, as that the judgment of the revisers, in 1661, ought to bind down, to their formularies of faith and worship, the present and future generations. But every attempt since that time to procure an amended liturgy,—painful to tell!—has hitherto proved unavailing: though supported by the “hints”2 and “the arguments” of the great,3 by the reasonings and remonstrances of the wise and the learned, and by the ardent wishes of a large proportion of the clerical body.4

In a Ms. sermon, now lying before the writer, delivered in Hatton Church, September 25, 1812,2

1 “It has been the wisdom of the Church of England, ever since the first compiling of her liturgy, to keep the mean between two extremes, of too much stiffness in refusing, and too much easiness in admitting any variation from it.”—And again, “The particular forms of worship, being things in their own nature indifferent, and alterable, and so acknowledged,” &c.—Preface to the Common Prayer.

2Hints recommending a Revisal of the Liturgy,” by the Duke of Grafton.

3Proposals for a reform of the Liturgy,” by a late Under Secretary of State.

4 See “Free and Candid Enquiry:” also, “The Confessional;” and Bishop Watson’sConsiderations on Revising the Liturgy and the Articles,” &c.

Dr. Parr states his opinions, on the two Christian rites, baptism and the Lord’s supper. Separating from the former all such ideas, too commonly associated with it, as “regeneration,” a “new birth,” “washing from guilt,” “remission of sin,” he considers it merely as a mode of professing Christian faith—in the case of adults, for themselves—in the case of infants, by parents, in behalf of their children, implying and acknowledging a solemn obligation to communicate to them the benefits of Christian education. On the second of these rites, the preacher expatiates much at large; tracing its history from its first institution; pointing out the sources of the many astonishing abuses, successively introduced into it; reprobating, in the strongest terms, all such notions connected with it as “altar,”1 “sacrifice,”2 “holy mystery,”3 “awful ceremony and protesting against attributing to

1Altars.—Such works as Companions to the Altar are deceitful in their title. I tell you plainly that the Lord’s table is not an altar; that it ought never to be so denominated; and that from the unauthorised and injudicious use of the word, many fierce contentions, and many strange corruptions have taken their rise.”—Parr’s Ms. Serm.

2Sacrifice.—When Christians come to the Lord’s table they do not sacrifice, nor partake of a sacrifice, but merely profess their belief in the death of their Lord, in obedience to their Lord’s injunction.”—Ms. Serm.

3Holy mystery.—The term is not applied to the Lord’s supper in the Scriptures; but was borrowed from the Heathen mysteries in order to disguise the native simplicity of the Christian rite.”—Ms. Serm.

4Awful ceremony.—When I call you to this service, I do not summon you to any fanatical extravagancies, to any superstitious mummery, to any mystical charm, to any perplexing, confounding, overwhelming scenery, where the mercies of the

it any other efficacy, besides its own moral influence. From the whole of this discussion, the preacher arrives at this rational conclusion, that the Lord’s supper is merely a commemorative rite,1 in the Christian church; simply a memorial of the sufferings and death of its great Founder, considered as a part of the divine plan, formed for the illumination, reformation, and ultimate salvation of men: and he contends that its use and benefit consist entirely in its tendency to excite and cherish pious feelings, benevolent sentiments, and virtuous desires and resolutions in the minds of all, who engage in it.2

On the subject of controversial divinity, it has been charged against Dr. Parr, that he threw over his opinions a veil of mystery; so as to leave it doubtful what they really were, and that even the most proper and becoming appeals to him were met with evasive reply, or determined silence. For this the writer praises him not. But he must say, for himself, that he has no cause to complain of the slightest reserve, in that respect. During many hours of private conversation with Dr. Parr, questions of religious controversy were fully and

Deity are veiled to your sight, under the clouds and the darkness, which surround the throne of his offended justice, armed with the thunder of his omnipotence.”—Ms. Serm.

1Object of this institution.—It is something done in remembrance of Christ’s death:—it is to show forth that Jesus poured out his righteous soul on the cross, that he has set the sacred seal of his blood to the truth of his mission.”—Ms. Serm.

2 “On the sacrament my serious opinions agree with those of Hoadley, Bell, and John Taylor of Norwich.”—“Every serious

freely discussed between them. Sometimes, on these occasions, with an affectation of secrecy, with an air of overstrained solemnity, which some may reckon among his foibles, he would desire the writer to lock the door of the apartment, in which they were sitting, that no sudden intruder might overhear their conversation, on these deep subjects, as he termed them, and, perhaps, misconceive, or misrepresent it.

Without attempting to enter into a full detail, the writer proposes to touch upon some of the great leading points; and to show, by a few slight sketches, the general form and complexion of that religious system, which most approved itself to Dr. Parr’s mind, especially in the later years of his life.

First—with respect to the Supreme Being: he held the divine unity in the strictest sense, though under the modification, or, as some would term it, the disguise of Sabellianism, or nominalism. According to this doctrine, the three distinctions in the divine nature are merely three different names of one and the same being, expressive of the three great and important relations, which he bears to his human offspring as their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Many divines both within and without the church, it is well known, have adopted

and intelligent Christian ought to read attentively this learned and argumentative work of Waterland on ‘The Christian Sacrifice.’”—Bibl. Parr. p. 20 and 593.—If a person approves of opinions maintained by one author, and recommends a serious attention to the arguments urged against them by another, where is the inconsistency, of which so much has been said?

the same doctrine, as
Hooker, Burnet, Wallis,1 South, Baxter, and even Calvin. But what may be thought still more extraordinary is, that this very doctrine of nominalism, or, as it has been sometimes called, philosophical unitarianism, was declared, by a public decree of the University of Oxford, towards the end of the 17th century, to be the true doctrine of Christianity and of the church, whilst the opposite doctrine of the realists, and now the prevailing orthodoxy, was condemned!

Next—as to the moral condition of man: with the strongest convictions of his mind, Dr. Parr repulsed from him all the strange and astounding representations, held forth by the Calvinists—expressed by the terms, original sin, hereditary depravity, arbitrary election, eternal reprobation. With Bishop Burnet, he always contended that the ninth and tenth articles of the church were purposely worded, with such a latitude of expression, as to admit of being interpreted consistently with the doctrine of Armenius, as well as of Calvin. Be that as it may, it is certain that the former, and not the latter, has, for a long time, been the prevailing doctrine among the English clergy. “Our divines,” says one of Dr. Parr’s favourite writers, “have bidden adieu to Calvinism; and have left the fatalists to follow their own opinions; and to rejoice, if they can rejoice, in a religious system, consisting of human creatures without liberty, doc-

1 Dr. Parr thought most highly of the work of Wallis, and often advised the writer to reprint it as a most able defence of the divine unity.

trines without sense, faith without reason, and a God without mercy.”1

Closely connected with the nature and moral condition of man, is the next important inquiry—respecting the terms, on which, though frail and offending, he may yet hope to obtain Divine forgiveness, and to be received into Divine favour: an inquiry which involves the question of what is called the doctrine of atonement. But this word, Dr. Parr often observed, in its modern acceptation, is not a scriptural term; and, therefore, he declined the use of it altogether. It occurs in four places only in the New Testament; and, in every one, signifies nothing more than reconciliation: at-one-ment, or being at one—i. e. bringing together on friendly terms, those who were, before at variance. That word is now, however, adopted, in the very different sense of expiatory sufferings, which on the part of the great Mediator, it is said, were necessary, in order to appease Divine wrath, on account of human guilt, and to satisfy the claims of Divine justice. But though this is the popular doctrine of the times, yet there are many wise and good men, who have taken a different view of the subject; and who conceive that the true scripture doctrine of reconciliation consists entirely in a moral change, produced in the temper and conduct of the offending creature. On the part of the great Creator, no disposition to be reconciled, to the truly repentant, can be wanting. He is placable in his own nature; and no effort of another, no foreign

1 Jortin.

consideration whatever, can be necessary to induce him to impart forgiveness, whensoever sincerely and fervently implored. All that is wanted, therefore, to effect the desired reconciliation, is repentance and reformation in every guilty offender; and this is the end and design of the Christian scheme, and of the death of its great Author, as an essential and important part of it.

It was the second of these representations which appeared to Dr. Parr as the more reasonable and scriptural: the first he considered as utterly irreconcilable with any tolerable notions of the divine perfections, and with the clear doctrine of the Christian revelation. On this subject he felt strongly; and both in his public discourses, and in his private communications, he expressed his sentiments with all the warmth and energy natural to him. He often declared that the common doctrine in question seemed, to his view, nothing less than “a libel upon the just and benevolent Deity”—“a gross impeachment of the divine character”—“placing it in that light, in which no good man would wish his own to appear.” Several of Dr. Parr’s friends well recollect a long, learned and elaborate sermon, delivered by him, in Hatton Church, on Good Friday, April 5, 1822; in which he traversed the whole field of theological controversy, and decided almost all the great leading points against the dicta of modern orthodoxy. He particularly discussed the doctrine of Christian reconciliation; stated and asserted his own view of it; and exposed and impugned the “high satisfaction-scheme,” with all the
strange notions connected with it—such as, infinite offences committed by finite creatures, inexorable justice, vicarious punishment, imputed guilt and imputed righteousness. It is to be hoped that this important discourse will be found amongst the number of those, announced in the edition of Dr. Parr’s collected works, which has been so long expected by the public.

The statement of one more, and that a very momentous point, will complete the view proposed to be given of Dr. Parr’s religious opinions. It relates to the future state of man. With most divines, he held the doctrine of different degrees of future rewards and punishments, proportioned to the merits or demerits of every individual character. But in opposition to the prevailing notions, he contended, with Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus, among the ancients, and with Dr. Thomas Burnett, Bishop Newton, Dr. Hartley and his commentator Pistorius, and many others, among the moderns, that future punishments are properly corrections; intended and fitted to produce moral reformation in the sufferer; and to prepare, ultimately, for the gradual attainment of greater or less degrees of happiness. All must acknowledge that, if true, this is a glorious doctrine, calculated to fill the benevolent mind with high and unutterable satisfaction and joy. But what must be said of the opposite doctrine of never-ending misery? “Imagine such a doctrine,” says Bishop Newton, “you may; but seriously believe it you never can. The thought is too shocking, even to human nature: how much more abhorrent, then, must it be from
divine perfection.”—“The Creator must have made all his creatures finally to be happy; and could never form any one, whose end he foreknew would be misery everlasting.”—“We can be sure of nothing,” as the excellent bishop afterwards adds, “if we are not sure of this.”1

Since, in consequence of his own impartial inquiries, Dr. Parr was led to reject, in so many instances, the doctrines of the church: the question has been sometimes asked, whether moral honour and rectitude did not impose upon him the obligation of withdrawing from it? But such a question who has a right to decide? The firmness, the integrity, the intrepidity, we must ever admire, of those who, in obedience to the dictates of their conscience, resigned their preferments, and dissolved their connexion with a religious community, whose leading principles they could not approve. But, on the other hand, how many are there, men of high and unimpeachable characters, who, with the same objections pressing on their minds, have not thought themselves obliged to pursue the same course? Of these, some have satisfied themselves, by determining never to renew their subscription to articles of faith no longer believed; and others, by resolving to omit, in reading the prescribed form of worship, every thing which they deemed seriously objectionable; whilst others have taken refuge from present uneasiness, in the hope of a revision, followed by such alterations, of the Common Prayer Book, as will bring it nearer to their views of Christian truth. For reasons, then, satisfactory, no doubt,

1 Bishop Newton’s Works, vol. vi. p. 369.

to their own minds, all these excellent persons have continued members of a church, of which, with many serious objections to it, they still upon the whole approved. And who shall dare to censure or condemn? “Who art thou that judgeth the servant of another? To his own master he standeth or falleth?”1 The propriety of continuing in the church, “when conscientious scruples exist in the mind,” says Dr. Parr, speaking of a case similar to his own, “will depend upon personal circumstances, which must be different with different men, and upon general principles, about which the best scholars, and the best Christians, are not wholly agreed.”2

There are few readers, it is to be hoped, who, in perusing the preceding pages, have not been pleasingly and powerfully struck with the fine example of religious candour, which, in these “Memoirs,” is attempted to be presented to their view. Seldom, or never, perhaps, has this celestial virtue appeared upon earth in a purer spirit, or under a more engaging form. There was here, not only the absence, but the utter abhorrence of bigotry: there was not only the presence, but the glowing warmth, the stirring and active life, of Christian charity. With the strongest conviction of his understanding, Dr. Parr adopted it as a first and a great principle—that the sincere and virtuous of all religious creeds are equally the objects of divine favour,3 and

1 Rom. xiv. 4. 2 Answer to Combe’s Statement, p. 26.

3Bagshaw’s Dissertationes Anti-Socinianæ.

‘Et gens quæ infausti placitis addicta Socini
Christiados inter vix meritura locum est.’

Dr. Parr directed these verses to be transcribed from the poems of Adrian Reland. But in defiance of the poet, who was inge-

have equally a right to challenge approbation from men.1 Far from resting, therefore, in the mere negative merit of thinking no ill of those of different persuasions, he felt for them the same kind and respectful regards, as for those of his own: and disdaining to admit coldly the good intentions, or to acknowledge faintly or reluctantly the talents or the merits, of those opposed to him in opinion; his generous and ardent mind sprang forward, with eager delight, to claim for them all the justice, or

nious, and of Bagshaw, who was dull, Dr. Parr will not erase the Socinians out of his catalogue of Christians.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 17.

1 “In the exoteric and esoteric doctrines of the English church, I have met with no rule by which I am pledged to entertain any hatred whatsoever to Dissenters, whether Protestant or Catholic; and, therefore, ‘as much as lieth in me I would live,’ and exhort others to live, ‘peaceably with’ the Lutheran, Greek, Roman,and Genevan churches, and all other Christian societies. With the light of natural religion, and in the spirit of revealed, I think it my duty to be kindly-affectioned towards all Jews, Turks, infidels, schismatics, ‘and heretics,’ as belonging to ‘one’ great ‘fold under’ the care of ‘one’ good ‘shepherd!’ How does the sacred and indispensable duty of doing good, especially unto those of the household of faith, absolve me from the obligation to do good, if it be possible, to all other men? Are they not endowed, like myself, with rational faculties, capable of physical happiness and social union; and placed, or at least believed by me to be placed, in a state of discipline, as subjects of reward or punishment in a life to come? Why then should I ‘judge them,’ or ‘set them at nought;’ or, by my intolerance, ‘throw stumbling-blocks in their way,’ to the adoption of that religion which I have embraced as true? ‘To their own master,’ as they are ‘fully persuaded in their own mind, every one of them standeth or falleth.’ ‘Yea,’ I trust, ‘they will be holden up;’ for, by methods, and for purposes quite unknown to me, the moral Governor of the universe ‘is able to make them stand.’”—Characters of Fox, vol. ii. p. 740.

to demand for them all the praise, to which they might seem to him fairly entitled.

He read and admired greatly the writings of those scholars and divines, in times past, whose tolerant and conciliatory spirit reflected so much lustre on the far less liberal and enlightened age, to which they belonged. As one of the finest specimens of the Christian charity, which he so much loved, he often pointed to a passage in Bishop Montague’s preface to his “Apparatus ad Origines Ecclesiasticas;” and to another in Bishop Bramhall’s answer to Mr. Baxter. Alluding to the first of these, in a letter to his friend, Mr. Butler, thus he writes:—“Read it, say I, to Protestants and to Romanists.”1 But of all the writings on that subject, which lay so near his heart, there were none which he read with more perfect satisfaction than those of Jeremy Taylor, Grotius, and George Cassander. Speaking of the last two, thus he gives vent to the ardent feelings of a benevolent mind. “With what attention, and oh! with what delight, have I read the Consultatio Cassandri, the Votum pro pace Ecclesiastica, and the noble work of Grotius, Rivetiani Apologetici Discussio. I differed often in opinion, but I always harmonized in spirit, with the Præfatio of Cassander ad Cæsarem Carolum V., and the Confessio Fidei Augustani.”2

Though Dr. Parr was an advocate for a wealthy and a powerful church-establishment, yet it was always with the express reserve that not only the religious, but also the civil rights of those, who dissent should be most sacredly regarded. He objected, as others have objected, to the very term

1 Butler’s Reminiscences, vol. ii. p. 205. 2 Ibid. p. 206.

toleration; because it involves in it both error and insult. It imports a right to prescribe articles of faith and forms of worship, to others; and implies violated obligation in those, who refuse to submit. Here is gross error. Then, as if waving a right where there is none, and granting a pure favour instead of yielding a just claim, the language of the tolerator is—“I am entitled to forbid, yet as a mere act of grace I consent to permit others to think and act in religious matters, as conscience dictates.”—“What an outrage,” Dr. Parr would exclaim, “to all common sense and decency!”—“Surely,” he would conclude, “it is high time that a word which denotes falsehood, should be exchanged for one, that speaks truth; and that the abject spirit, which implores or accepts toleration, should give place to the nobler spirit which claims and demands, as a just, sacred, unalienable right, in all religious concerns, ‘absolute liberty—just and true liberty—equal and impartial liberty!’“1

These may be called Dr. Parr’s last and most matured opinions, on the rights of conscience and the claims of religious liberty; and it is pleasing to observe, that, with these, his first and his earliest thoughts are in exact accordance. With heartfelt satisfaction, the writer takes leave to offer, to the attention of his readers, the following passage, from Dr. Parr’s first printed book, a fast sermon, published almost half a century ago: and the admirer of liberal principles will acknowledge with delight, that, in the testimony which he bore to the private character, in the praise which he bestowed upon

1 Locke’s words in the Preface to his Letter on Toleration.

the public services, in the joy which he expresses at the rising importance, and the zeal with which he asserts the just claims of those, not belonging to his own church, the preacher displayed, even in that day, a spirit of candour and liberality, which would have done high honour even to the present far more improved and enlightened times.

“It will not, I hope, be thought paradoxical, if, in recounting the happy effects of our admirable constitution, I should mention the present condition of those numerous and respectable citizens, who are not included within the pale of our ecclesiastical establishment. Their condition, indeed, does the highest honour to our country, and to our age. By the most vigorous efforts of the understanding, they have delivered themselves from the galling bondage of bigotry and superstition, with which their forefathers were unfortunately shackled. They have made many valuable improvements in literature, in science, and in rational theology. They have acquired a degree of literary importance, which, so long as it is controlled by the supreme power of the laws, must eventually contribute to the general stability of our freedom, and the general dignity of our empire. It has, I know, been asserted, that their zeal in the defence of liberty is turbulent, and their ideas of it romantic. I will not enter into the invidious discussion of the charge, which no man who adduces it means, I trust, to extend beyond individuals; but I should be guilty of the meanest dissimulation, if I did not acknowledge that the greater part of them have the merit of acting consistently with their solemn professions,
and noblest interests. Whether it be owing, to the steady principles in which they are educated, or to the advantageous circumstances in which they are placed, few of them have hitherto learned to barter away their most important rights for those splendid but treacherous bribes, the influence of which has been unfavourable among persons, to whom I stand in a nearer and more sacred relation. Undoubtedly we have reason to thank God, that the illiberal and pernicious distinctions, which divide them and ourselves, are gradually wearing away; and the day, perhaps, will at last come, when a system of perfect equality shall be thought at once consistent with the public safety, and conducive to the public welfare. The spirit of our benevolent religion requires this auspicious change: the principles of our free constitution warrant it; the tendency of external events seems to favour it; and the exertions of all good and wise men should be employed to accomplish it. At all events, the capacity of a state to admit such a change is no inconsiderable part of our national glory; and every approach that has been actually made towards it, should be considered as a national advantage.”

The whole discourse, from which this extract is taken, possesses extraordinary merit, such as may seem to justify the opinion conceived of it by its author; who always regarded it as his best, as it is his first publication. And here the writer eagerly embraces the opportunity of acknowledging the obligation, for the pleasure of perusing it, which
he owes to the favour of a learned, liberal and enlightened divine of the Church of England, personally unknown to him, whose name, if he were permitted to introduce it, would do honour to these pages. Kindly concerned for the disappointment which the writer expressed, when he was denied a sight of this very scarce sermon—by a refusal, which certainly he was not prepared to expect—the excellent clergyman just alluded to, who happened to possess a copy, was pleased, in the most gratifying manner, to offer him the loan of it, with permission to keep it as long as it might be wanted. The offer was gratefully accepted; and the book instantly sent. The writer afterwards received a second copy of the same work, from a divine of his own religious community, whose obliging attention he begs also to acknowledge with the sincere and grateful thanks, to which it is so justly entitled.

If the reader—pardoning this short digression—turn from the view of Dr. Parr’s character, as a member of the church, to consider him as a member of the state, he will, without hesitation, acknowledge in him, emphatically, an English patriot. He admired and revered the British constitution, as settled in 1688; because it recognised and established the principles of a free government, and gave us a beautiful theory, even if to after ages was left the task of reducing it completely into practice. Though favourable to “a solid substance and a magnificent form of monarchy,” he well knew the tendency of all power to enlarge itself. He was fully aware that the regal prero-
gative has, in fact, dangerously encroached on popular rights; and he felt, therefore, with all the wiser and more independent part of the nation, the necessity of “a well considered and comprehensive reform in the Commons House.” That one reform, he thought, would draw after it all other needful reforms; and give the best chance for such farther improvements as the advancing state of society might suggest or demand. In the great science of legislation, he thought it not absurd to pursue perfection, nor undesirable to advance more and more towards it, though to reach it may be impossible. He was not of opinion that any form of government could be so contrived as to be equally adapted to the circumstances of a nation for ages to come; and he conceived it to be the duty of a wise legislator to accommodate his plans to the progressive changes, which growing intelligence, improving morals, more refined manners, more extended commerce, and other causes, must necessarily introduce, with advancing time, into the state of every country.

Patriotism, in the well-regulated mind of Dr. Parr, held its place in due subordination to the principle of general benevolence. “By ancient learning, he was warmed into the enlightened love of ancient freedom.” But the freedom he loved was for all: and was, therefore, more expanded and generous in its spirit, than that of ancient freedom, which seldom stretched the views of men beyond the country of their birth. In liberty, under the protection of wise and good laws, he saw the main-springs of individual improve-
ment and happiness, and of national prosperity and glory: and it was exulting to him to witness the principles of it, extending and prevailing among other nations, as well as his own. Looking abroad, and auguring from some favourable appearances, the rapid advancement of the human species, “What auspicious times are approaching!” he would rapturously exclaim. “The spirit of inquiry, of freedom, and of improvement, starting into life, and pressing forward into action, in almost every part of the old and new world! Who can calculate or conceive the glorious effects, in the vast accumulation of knowledge, virtue and happiness among mankind?”

Descending from the more public to the private life of Dr. Parr, the reader has remarked, no doubt, the care and the fidelity with which he discharged all his duties, as a village-pastor. It has been seen with what unwearied attention he devoted himself to the great object of promoting the religious and moral improvement of his flock: and that the duties of the minister were accompanied with all the kind offices which, by his advice, his encouragement, and his bounty, he could administer to his parishioners on the little daily occasions of common life. The poorest man in Hatton, it has been noticed, even the poorest wanderer through it, never made known to him his necessities in vain. It deserves to be added that his humanity extended to the inferior creatures; and it was ever pleasing to him to witness their enjoyment of the happiness, for which their Creator designed them. He was fond of his domestic animals; and thought
that some degree of gratitude is owing to those which do us service. Like
Cowper, he gave protection to the hares, which sometimes resorted to his garden. With Montaigne, he considered it a reflection upon our common nature that so few take pleasure in seeing animals peaceful and sportive, whilst multitudes run to see them worry and tear one another. He was severe in his censures of those barbarous amusements in which Englishmen too much delight—though, be it to their credit said, less now than formerly—and he was bitter in his reproaches of Mr. Wyndham, when, by his witty speech, he had driven Lord Erskine’s bill for the suppression of cruelty to animals, which had been sent down from the Upper House, with peals of laughter, out of the Lower.

Followed into the family circle—as (except in some of his later years) he was not equally happy, it must be owned that Dr. Parr did not appear equally amiable. Exposed, in a degree, to the same domestic evils as Socrates, he did not meet them, with the same command of temper, or patience of spirit. When displeased from trifling causes, he was too angry; and sometimes resented smaller offences, with too much passionate severity. He was wanting in that wise discretion, which knows when it is good to be firm, and when it is better to yield. If faithful to all the higher duties of the conjugal and parental relations; he was not, however, sufficiently regardful of those little nameless offices of obliging attention and civility, which are of the more importance, as the occasions for them
recur every day and every hour of the day. To his servants he was always kind, but not always judiciously kind. At one time, he assumed too much in the exercise of his authority: at another, sunk, in his condescension, too low. He had not that happy medium, which he ascribed to his friend,
Mr. Fox, “inter abruptam contumaciam, et deforme obsequium.”

Even beyond the domestic circle, his faults of temper were sometimes too apparent. Though the farthest possible removed from spite and malice, he was too often irritable, petulant, and capricious. He was sometimes too easily offended; and when offended, not always easily reconciled. Though possessing the wonderful power of reading a character, as it is said, at a glance: yet, when his own prejudices, or the artful insinuations of others, interposed, he very often strangely misjudged of men. He sometimes withdrew his confidence from those, who had not ceased to deserve it; and bestowed it upon those, who were not worthy to receive it. He was sometimes the dupe of the ill-designing; and sometimes the unconscious instrument of promoting the ends of the evil-minded. It has been said, and it cannot be denied, that his manners even to his friends were sometimes rude and offensive; and that his conversation, even before the young and inexperienced, was occasionally, though not often, loose and indecorous. Even his notions of some points of morals were not so strict, unbending, and uncompromising, as in a divine and a moralist might have been expected.


But what are these and some other little defects which might be pointed out, in the subject of these “Memoirs?” They are like a few light clouds, passing over a serene and majestic sky: and they are lost in the splendour of excellence, which will for ever encircle his name, and claim for him an honourable place among the wise, the great, and the good of mankind.