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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. XIII. 1780-1782

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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A. D. 1780—1782.
Dr. Parr’s first publications—Sermon delivered in Norwich Cathedral, on Christmas-day—First Discourse on Education, preached in behalf of the Norwich Charity-schools—Second Discourse—A Fast Sermon.

The earliest, and, if the present writer might venture to give his opinion, he would almost venture to add, the best of Dr. Parr’s publications, were two sermons, which appeared in 1780. They were printed together, though the subjects are not connected. They are rather argumentative than declamatory. The style is clear, rich, and nervous; often ornamented, and sometimes rising into a high strain of fervid and impressive eloquence. Whilst, however, it displays the excellencies, it discovers also the faults of Dr. Parr’s composition; especially in the want of variety, and in the excessive use of antithesis.

Of these two discourses, the former, from Gal. iv. 4.—preached in the cathedral at Norwich, on Christmas-day, 1779—offers a full and forcible reply to the objection urged against Christianity, founded on the three following circumstances—its late appearance, its partial propagation, and its imperfect efficacy. The questions bearing on these several points are clearly stated; the argument is closely and ably conducted; and the conclusions are, in every instance, fairly drawn and powerfully enforced.


The discourse opens with some general observations, chiefly taken from Butler’s Analogy; tending to show that the partial dispensation of Christianity is a circumstance, exactly accordant to the unequal distribution of good and evil throughout the whole system of creation; and that it is, therefore, no more an objection to the truth of revelation in the one case, than it is to the doctrine of providence in the other.

Proceeding from general remarks to the more particular examination of the objections proposed, the preacher first considers that which is pointed against the late publication of Christianity. The objection would, indeed, be unanswerable upon the supposition, that this revelation is necessary to the salvation of those to whom it is not made known. But a supposition so strange and so revolting, the preacher is too wise and too pious for a moment to admit. “We do not say,” he observes, “for we are neither required nor authorised to say, that Christianity is indispensably necessary to the salvation of those to whom it is not communicated. They will assuredly be judged according to the use of one talent, to whom it was not the will of God to intrust more.”

Respecting man’s inability to judge of the time, or the degree, in which it may become the Supreme Being to interpose, either for the prevention or the removal of evil, it is observed:

“Why evil exists?—from what fountain it springs?—and through what channels it is conveyed? are questions, about which we are more forward to inquire, than able to decide. Yet, surely,
if the attributes of God can be vindicated, in the permission of vice; that vindication will extend to the gradual removal of it. Equally wise, no doubt, though most of them unknown to us, are the reasons, for which evil was suffered to enter into the world, or was checked in its course at one time rather than another.”

To show that, according to our best conceptions, there could not well have been a fitter time, than the time actually chosen for the first introduction of Christianity, the preacher takes a slight review of the state of the Jewish and Heathen nations; and, having supported his position by a variety of just and important considerations, he proceeds to the second objection, drawn from the circumstance of partial propagation. Here, he begins with observing, that both this and the former objection presuppose the excellence of the Christian scheme; for, if it be not calculated to correct the morals, and to promote the happiness of mankind, why should we be offended either that it was not more early published, or is not more widely disseminated?

The common way of stating the question respecting the partial distribution of Christian blessings is objected to. “It should not be asked—will God be kind to you, and unkind to another?—but, will he be more kind to you, than he has been to another?”1 To the objection thus brought forward, it is answered:—

1 Even this way of speaking seems liable to objection. There may be the same kind intention, and the same desire to promote happiness, both in granting and in withholding


“Has not the Deity made a difference between brutes and men? yet he is the wise Creator and Preserver of both. Has he not bestowed upon men the external materials of earthly good, and the internal capacity of using them in different degrees? yet he is the just Governor of all. If, then, intending some of his moral agents for less felicity in another life, he leave them to reason; and, at the same time, confer the aids of revelation upon those who are intended for greater felicity, he is still the righteous Judge of all. And shall our eye be evil, because the eye of our Maker is good?”

In reply to the third objection, taken from the imperfect efficacy of Christianity, it is observed:

“The premises admit that Christianity has been useful, in some degree; the conclusion affirms, that it ought to be rejected, because not so in the highest degree. Apply the same mode of reasoning to other cases. Civilisation has not reached its utmost perfection; and, therefore, we ought to return in haste to a state of barbarism. He that can leap from such premises to such a conclusion, has no right to complain of credulity in his opponents.”

The positive good effects of Christianity are

certain advantages, under different circumstances. Why should not the question be stated thus? “May not the Supreme Disposer, without any impeachment of his wisdom and goodness, place some of his creatures higher, and others lower, in the scale of being? and in like manner, may he not grant to some of his creatures, of the same order, more advantages, to others less?”

then distinctly and forcibly pointed out—in diminishing or removing some of the greatest evils in the social and the moral state of man—and in promoting the peace, the order, the improvement, and all the best interests of men and of nations. In this part of his discourse, the language of the preacher breathes the warmth and the energy, in a high degree, of religious gratitude and benevolent joy.

The following passage is quoted to show how early the mind of Dr. Parr was impressed with just and noble sentiments on that most important subject—toleration.

“That spirit must finally give new dignity and new stability to the cause of truth, as it fosters the freedom of inquiry; as it tempers the zeal which darkens knowledge; as it stimulates the industry which acquires it; and, above all, as it enlarges the sphere of charity—that celestial virtue which, in religious concerns, where it claims the pre-eminence, has been too long crampt and depressed, and of which every solitary instance, in times less enlightened, was lamented as a weakness, or condemned as a crime.”

The whole subject is summed up and concluded, with great force and great animation, in the following passages:—

“Though God had for many ages delayed the appearance of his Son, he, in the fulness of time, came forth. Though many obstacles have, in our apprehension, impeded the cause of revelation, it has spread itself over no inconsiderable part of the world. Though a variety of causes have ob-
scured its lustre and counteracted its influence, the effects of it have been sufficiently extensive and sufficiently beneficial to interest our attention, to excite our gratitude, and to warrant our faith. The tide of human affairs, which before and after the publication of the Gospel has been secretly controuled by the providence of God, and invariably directed to the known and unknown purposes which he had in view, is, in these later ages, apparently turning in favour of Christianity. Mutually assisting, and assisted by other causes—by the cultivation of polite learning, and the more profound sciences, by experiments in natural philosophy, and researches in moral—by the steady exercise and humane temper of laws—by the liberal and enlarged principles of civil government—the Gospel is making new progress. The expectation of every worthy man may be innocently employed upon the prospect of some happy period, when the belief of our holy religion shall be universal, and its efficacy shall be complete. His efforts may, at least, be laudably exerted in accelerating that momentous event; by which the cavils of unbelievers will be put to silence, and by which the knowledge and the love of God will be deeply fixed in the hearts of all Christians, through all ages, and in all nations.”

The other sermon, from Heb. xiii. 16, preached at St. Peter’s Mancroft, in behalf of the Norwich Charity Schools, on Good Friday, 1780, is a full and masterly discussion of the question—whether knowledge should be communicated in any consi-
derable degree, to the poor?—a question which has, of late years, so much and so deservedly engaged and fixed the public attention. By taking, in the present and in a succeeding discourse, the affirmative side of the question,
Dr. Parr has entitled himself to the honour of being ranked amongst the earliest advocates of popular education; and of those, who have since appeared in support of the same cause, few have stated more clearly the duty, or pressed more cogently the obligation, of opening the sources of knowledge in no scanty measure, to the lower classes of the community; few have anticipated with more benevolent delight, its important effects in the vast increase of individual and social order, virtue, and happiness.

With what sarcastic severity, at the outset of his discourse, does he meet the opposers of public instruction, in the following passage!—

“From what source do their objections rise? Do they spring from real pity to the poor, whom knowledge is said to quicken to a more poignant sense of their misery? or, from real concern for the welfare of the community? which, as some men affirm, is always injured, when the poor presume to feel their wants, and to exert the means of relieving them. No! they rather proceed from the vanity of some, who affect to startle at the difficulties which elude common observation; from the hypocrisy of others, who would disguise their own insensibility to the sufferings of individuals, under the mask of solicitude for the public welfare; and from the selfish pride of more, who wickedly resist every liberal plan of improvement for their infe-
riors, as an invasion of those privileges, which wealth is too apt to arrogate to itself.”

It may perhaps be thought difficult for its friends to decide to what extent popular education should be carried? On this point the preacher thus judiciously delivers his opinion:

“That degree of knowledge is far too little, we may say with confidence, when the poor are left in a state of profound ignorance concerning their civil rights, their social and religious duties, and their best interests both in this world and the next. It is too great, when their minds are swollen with insolence and vanity; when their curiosity is sent out upon the wing in quest of the very sublime or the very ornamental parts of learning; when their attention steals away from the occupations on which they depend for their livelihood, and is squandered upon points of trifling and unprofitable amusement. But from evils, so remotely consequential, so faintly probable, experience leaves us little to dread.”

The wisdom of communicating even political knowledge to the lower classes is thus maintained:

“Be the abilities of men naturally strong or weak, they are pushed on, by a kind of mechanical impulse, to form some judgment upon public questions, which yet they do not understand in their fullest extent. Unless, therefore, a decision, built upon scanty information be inferior to that which is built upon none, the assistance of education is not employed in vain, where it enables the poor to acquire some few materials for knowledge, and to arrange them with some little degree of ex-
actness. If the wishes of those, who would bar up every avenue to knowledge against the lower and the busier orders of the community, were realised, the greater part of our species would be degraded to the most abject and servile condition; where inquietude might prey upon the vitals of morality, or despondency crush every mental power, by which the man is distinguished from the brute.”

How just from any man! how generous from a learned man!—the following sentiments:—

“For my part, I have too much respect for the collective happiness of the human species, to wish for a monopoly of knowledge, in any one profession, or in any one rank of men. So anxious is my concern for the poor, that I would not, without the most urgent necessity, expose them even to the possibility of suffering in their faith, in their morals, and in their rights, from the artifices of men, who, if they did not mean to abuse knowledge, would hardly wish to engross it.”

With one extract more, on the necessity and importance of religious instruction, the account of this admirable discourse must close:—

“That religion, in which the young man should be educated, is in all respects accommodated to his situation in life. The doctrines of it will preserve him from the extravagances of fanaticism, and the terrors of superstition, to which the poor are particularly exposed. The precepts of it tend to convert that churlishness of disposition, so frequently imputed to the lower orders, into an instrument of every sterner virtue—of perseverance in labour, of
resolution amidst dangers, of hardiness under adversity. The promises of it will support him under the pressure of many secret afflictions, which the rich seldom discover, and sometimes cannot relieve. Taught by this religion to look up from his earthly benefactor, to a more gracious Benefactor in heaven, he is kept steady in the paths of virtue; and by that steadiness, the interests of the community, and the happiness of the individual, are, in the most effectual manner, secured and promoted.”

This first discourse on education was followed, in 1782, by a second and a still larger discourse on the same subject, which contains remarks on the best modes of instruction, with a view chiefly to the lower orders; but applicable, in a considerable degree, to the case of all. It is a discourse of no common excellence; and, if it cannot be said that the author has advanced much that is absolutely new, yet it must be acknowledged that he has pursued his subject into all its various ramifications, and entered into all its practical details, with great acuteness and great accuracy. Its undue length, as a pulpit-oration, cannot be urged as an objection to the perusal of it by the reader at his own leisure.

The discourse, of which the text is, Prov. xxii. 6, opens with some remarks on proverbial writings, in general, and on the Proverbs of Solomon in particular. They are just and ingenious; and the only objection to them is, that they are not necessary to the subject; and that they lengthen a discourse, which would be too long without them.


After having noticed and reprobated the opinions of Rousseau and Mandeville, who both assert, though for different reasons, that education is more injurious than beneficial; the preacher proposes the following division of his subject; 1st, The efficacy of education; 2d, The general objects of it; 3d, The particular case of charity schools.

Under the first head, among other important remarks, occur the following, in which it is easy to trace the principles of philosophical necessity, guiding and influencing the views of the writer:

“When persons have been trained up in a constant and sincere regard to their religious and social duties, sensibility in time anticipates the suggestions of reason, and passion faintly resists the dictate of conscience; the general course of life is almost mechanically exact; our best volitions are formed without anxious deliberations; and our best deeds are performed without painful effort.”

The following reflections, on the seeming inefficacy, but real advantage, of early education, are excellent:

“The good seed, though oppressed, is not totally destroyed. The blossoms are partially nipped, but the soundness of the soil yet remains. Even the first approaches, which persons virtuously educated, make to guilt, are attended with a shame and a compunction, to which men of gross ignorance are utterly callous; and when the heat of youth has, in some measure, spent itself, Reason gradually resumes her seat; and Religion, in a voice which cannot but be heard, reasserts her violated rights.”


The general advantages of education are admirably summed up in the following passage, in which the classical reader will recognise an imitation of a well-known and much-admired sentence of Cicero:1

“To our boyhood, wise and virtuous education gives that sweet simplicity and innocence, which melts every serious beholder into affection, and relieves even the savage heart with a momentary feeling of honest approbation. In our youth, it inspires us with such a fine sense of decorum, as makes us shrink from folly with scorn, and from vice with loathing; and it animates us, at the same time, with that unwearied activity of mind, which struggles with every difficulty, and triumphs over every danger. Our manhood it distinguishes by that firmness and dignity of thinking, which exalts us from one degree of excellence to another; which causes us to start at the smallest deviation from moral rectitude, and impels us to recover from the shock, by the instantaneous and determined exertion of our whole strength. To old age, which is itself the fruit of a well-spent life, it gives a serenity of mind, which the world can neither bestow, nor take away—a deep and sincere love of virtue, which finds a pure and perpetual source of pleasure in the effects it has wrought on the tempers and manners of our friends and our children—a comfortable remembrance of habitual well-doing, which alone can endear to us the days that are passed, and will return no more, or enable us to

1 Hæc studia adolescentiam alunt, &c.—Cic. Orat. pro Archia Poetæ.

look on to the approach of an unknown world, without solicitude and without dismay.”

Treating, under the second head, of the great objects of moral education, the preacher insists earnestly on the importance of inculcating the government of the passions—the sense of shame—the love of truth—habits of diligence—and a filial reverence of the Deity. On all these topics, many wise reflections are offered, to guide the judgment, and many useful rules are proposed, to direct the practice.

In stating, under the third head, his particular remarks, applicable to charity-schools, Dr. Parr again appears as the enlightened and zealous advocate of popular education; and recapitulates and urges anew many of the arguments, which he had before advanced in its favour. He maintains, by strong reasoning, clothed in forcible language, the importance of charity-schools in general, and bestows great praise upon those of Norwich in particular; in which some wise and well-considered plans seem to have been adopted, and vigorously and successfully pursued. Towards the close of his discourse, he enters, rather fully, into the consideration of female education, as it respects more especially the lower classes in the social order. Here he displays the same enlarged and enlightened views, as in every other part of his great subject; and warmly applauds the extended plans of mental and moral cultivation, which are adapted to a more improved state of human society, and which cannot fail, in their happy results, to give greater usefulness and consequence to the female charac-
ter in every condition of life, without impairing its amiable qualities, or diminishing its pleasing attractions.

The following is the solemn and dignified conclusion of the whole discourse:

“It remains for me to address you with the solemnity of a preacher, who is speaking in the presence of his God, upon measures of which that God approves, and with the earnestness of a fellow-creature, whose face upon any similar occasion you will hereafter see no more. I therefore appeal to your humanity, this last time, for the sake of those innocent children, who now stand before you; and I make that appeal in the name of Jesus Christ, who died to save both you and them. I exhort you, upon every principle of social utility and religious obligation, not to be weary in well-doing. I pour forth my unfeigned thanks to Almighty God for the charitable disposition, with which he has hitherto inspired you, and for the numerous benefits, which have already resulted from your pious endeavours. I conclude with my fervent prayer, that these children may never depart from the way, in which they should go; and that their successors, who in future ages shall be trained up by the followers of your venerable example, may ever continue in habits of diligence in their callings, of peace and sobriety in their families, and of gratitude to their benefactors; or, to speak in other and better words, that they may live in a state of constant preparation for the tribunal of that Being, who once appeared upon earth, “to preach his gospel to the poor;” and who will assuredly exalt
both them and their protectors to everlasting glory in the kingdom of his Father.”

To the second discourse on education a considerable number of notes is added, learned, elegant, and admirably adapted to the purposes of pleasing or useful illustration, for which they are intended.

A fourth sermon, published at Norwich, still remains to be noticed. It is entitled “A Discourse on the late Fast, by Phileleutheros Norfolciensis,” 1781. Of this, which the author himself pronounced to be his best composition, the present writer regrets that he has not been able to procure a sight. The whole impression, consisting of 450 copies, was sold within two months after its first appearance; and it is now a work of extraordinary rarity. On the writer’s application to the executors of Dr. Parr’s will, for permission to peruse their copy, it was instantly and kindly granted by Dr. J. Johnstone; but it was afterwards refused by his co-executor, the Rev. John Lines, rector of Elmley Lovett. To that refusal—in which it may be thought hard to discover the liberality of the scholar, or the courtesy of the gentleman—the reader of these pages must impute whatever disappointment he may feel in receiving, instead of a more full account, the following concise report from the Monthly Review:1

“This is by far the most masterly discourse, which has been published, on the late occasion. A vein of deep philosophical reasoning and political

1 Vol. lxv. p. 319. O. S.

speculation runs through it, and renders it more calculated for the closet than the pulpit; more fit to be read by the judicious, than to be heard by a common assembly. Sometimes, indeed, the author rises into declamation; that species of declamation which, while it rouses the imagination, does not offend the judgment; but, supported by good sense, and animated by elegant language, equally affects the heart and convinces the understanding.”

“The chief design of this discourse is, to correct false and delusive opinions respecting the nature and extent of divine judgments; to prove that government is the medium through which the Deity conveys punishment to a wicked and reward to a righteous people; and that between the misfortunes and the demerits of a nation there is always an intimate connexion, yea, ultimately, an exact proportion.”1

1 “‘Bishop Beadon’s Sermon before the Lords, 1793.’ I suspect that before writing this sermon he had been busy with ‘Phileleutheros Norfolciensis.’ S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 573.