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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. XIX. 1790-1792

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
A.D. 1790—1792.
Dr. Parr’s friendship with the Writer—Ordination-service in Warwick Chapel—attended by Dr. Parr—The public dinner honoured by his presence—His friendly intercourse with Dr. Priestley—His sympathy with the sufferings—his testimonies to the merits—his inscription to the memory of Dr. Priestley—His opinion of Bishop Horsley—Mr. Belsham—Bishop Burgess.

In the course of his narration, he, who writes these pages, now approaches a period peculiarly interesting to himself, because it was the period of his first acquaintance with the highly distinguished person, to whose memory they are, with mingled reverence and affection, dedicated. Thirty-six years ago, that acquaintance began; and it soon ripened into a friendship, kind and condescending, the writer is sensible, on the one part, grateful and respectful, he is sure, on the other. He thinks he may here adopt and apply the language of a favourite author: “Ego admiratione quadam virtutis ejus; ille vicissim opinione fortasse nonnulla, quam de meis moribus habebat, me dilexit: auxit benevolentiam consuetude”1

Through the long space of time just mentioned, living within the distance of four miles, his intercourse with Dr. Parr was frequent, and always

1 Cic. de Am.

to himself improving and delightful.1 Their conversation on the various subjects of literature, morals, religion, and politics, when alone, was checked by no reserve, and fettered by no restraint. Their opinions sometimes differed; yet rarely did that difference create, even for a moment, one unpleasant thought, and never one unkindly feeling. When literary advice or literary aid was sought from Dr. Parr, it was always cheerfully afforded. In every joy and sorrow of life, to no friendly bosom was it possible to turn, the grateful recollection of the writer testifies, which beat more fervently with sympathetic pleasure, or throbbed more acutely with sympathetic pain.

Others have complained, and apparently not without just reason, of the loss of Dr. Parr’s friendly regards from slight or insufficient causes. But it has been the fortune of the writer to possess and enjoy all the pleasures and advantages of that friendship, without interruption, from the day of its first commencing to the hour which closes, in this world, all human friendships. He boldly adds, that though a sincere and profound admirer, he was no flatterer of Dr. Parr; and that the firmness, and sometimes even the warmth with which he opposed in him whatever appeared to his own honest judgment erroneous in opinion, or wrong in action, instead of diminishing the kind and

1 Artificemque tuo ducit sub pollice vultum:
Tecum etenira longos mem in i consumere soles.—Pers.

affectionate regard with which he was honoured, confirmed and increased it.1

In July, 1790, the writer was ordained minister of the High-street Chapel, in Warwick; when the sermon,2 usually addressed at such a time to the congregation, was delivered by Dr. Priestley; and the charge, usually addressed to the minister, by Mr. Belsham. “On that occasion,” as Dr. Parr himself relates, “having never witnessed the ceremony of ordination among the dissenters, he was present.”3 On the preceding Sunday, too, as he also relates, “knowing that, in the city of Dublin, churchmen, dissenters, and catholics, lay aside all distinctions to attend sermons for charity-schools, he was present, when Dr. Priestley delivered a sermon of that kind in the same chapel.”—“He thought it no disgrace,” are his own words, “to go and hear a sensible discourse, delivered by a distinguished preacher, however he might differ from him upon abstruse points of speculation.”—“Very few and very simple,” said he, on another occasion, “are the truths, which we have any of us a right to pronounce necessary to salvation. It is extremely unsafe to bewilder the judgment, or to inflame the passions of men, upon those abstruse subjects of controversy, about which bigots indeed may dogmatise with fierce and imperious confidence; whilst they, who are scholars with

1 See App. No. V.

2 This sermon was afterwards published. Dr. Parr notes it, in his Catalogue of Books, as “a very judicious sermon.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 549.

3 Sequel, p. 100.

out pedantry, and believers without superstition, are content to differ from each other, with sentiments of mutual respect and mutual forbearance.”1

The ordination-services of the chapel, just mentioned, were followed, as usual upon such occasions, by a public dinner, to which Dr. Parr had been previously invited. In the most obliging manner, he accepted the invitation; and nothing could exceed the greeting of joyful welcome, with which he was received, on entering, the room where the company was assembled. The present writer, young as he then was, may be pardoned, when he confesses the pride mingled with the pleasure which he felt, on being placed at the head of the table, to see himself supported on his right by Dr. Parr, and on his left by Dr. Priestley, two of the most celebrated divines—one of his own, and the other of the national church,—honoured, too, with the presence of a third divine, Mr. Belsham, scarcely less distinguished than the former, and of several other ministers of great respectability; and surrounded by a large company of friends and well-wishers. To him it was, indeed, an interesting and important day; and he still looks back to the honours of it, with delighted recollection, not unmingled, he hopes, with sentiments of a higher and more serious nature. “Unus ille dies sibi quidem immortalitatis instar fuit.”

The conversation, as might be supposed, was

1 Discourse on Education, p. 25.

animated and instructive; and amidst other subjects, turned much on the good old times of
William III. and the two first Georges: when churchmen and dissenters met together, in friendly intercourse; and when the points about which they differ were forgotten and disregarded, in consideration of the great points, in which all are agreed. Dr. Parr expressed his sentiments on this pleasing topic, with all his usual energy and eloquence, much in the manner, and entirely in the spirit of the following passage, from one of his own published discourses: “I would have our young men educated in the sentiments of the warmest affection, and the highest reverence, for the established religion of this free and enlightened country. I would at the same time endeavour to convince them, that, in all the various modes of Christian faith, a serious observer may discover some sound principles, and many worthy men. I would tell them that the wise and the good cherish within their own bosom a religion, yet more pure and perfect than any formulary of speculation they externally profess; that their agreements upon points of supreme and indisputable moment is greater, perhaps, than they may themselves suspect; and that upon subjects, the evidence of which is doubtful, and the importance of which is secondary, their difference is nominal rather than real, and often deserves to be imputed to the excess of vanity or zeal in the controversialist, more than to any defects of sagacity or integrity in the inquirer.”1

1 Discourse on Education, p. 27.


It was on the above occasion, that Dr. Parr was introduced to a personal acquaintance with Dr. Priestley. But it appears from one of his earliest publications, that he had long entertained for him all the sentiments expressed in the following words: “The man lives not, who has a more sincere veneration for his talents and his virtues, than I have.”1 In another publication, he remarks: “Having had occasion, in one of my works, to censure Dr. Priestley, when he had replied with equal firmness and equal politeness, I was so graceless, as neither to despise nor hate him.”2

In the same publication he relates, that when “he preached for the charity-schools at Birmingham, he earnestly recommended to the attention of his audience two admirable sermons, written by Dr. Priestley, one of which is on Habitual Devotion, and the other on The duty of not living to ourselves.”2 But though he stated that he bestowed, upon these sermons, the praise which they deserve, yet he has not stated the high and energetic terms, worthy of himself, in which that praise was conveyed. “Of the two sermons, now mentioned,” said the eloquent preacher, “I confidently affirm, that the wisest man cannot read them without being wiser, nor the best man without being better.” All, who have perused the excellent sermons, here referred to, must acknowledge, that great and generous as the praise is, it is not more than equal to their merits.

1 Discourse on Education, notes, p. 15.

2 Sequel, p. 98, 99.


With such strong prepossessions in favour of Dr. Priestley, none will be surprised to hear, that Dr. Parr was eager to embrace the opportunity of forming an acquaintance with him; and that the acquaintance, thus begun, was the commencement of a friendship, which was terminated only by death. From this time, their intercourse was not unfrequent; and yet, says Dr. Parr, “living as I have done, for the space of more than five years, within the distance of sixteen miles from Dr. Priestley, I have seen him far less often, than one man of letters would wish to see another, under the same circumstances.”1

But even this degree of personal intercourse, too scanty for their mutual wishes, was of short continuance; for, beginning in July 1790, it was closed by the hand of violence, for ever, on the dreadful fourteenth of July 1791. Deep is the blot of shame, with which that period is marked in the annals of English history! Blind and infatuated bigotry broke loose from all the restraints of law, and even of common justice and humanity; and its rage, artfully excited and fomented by interested men, was basely directed against one obnoxious, but most virtuous and illustrious individual. His house, his library, his philosophical apparatus, the most truly valuable and useful that any individual ever possessed; his manuscripts, the labours of many years of his life, were all consumed in one tremendous conflagration; and his life itself was saved only by flight. Nor did his persecution end here.

1 Sequel, p. 105.

Followed by the same unrelenting bigotry whithersoever he went—his peace incessantly annoyed—his name perpetually insulted—he was at length obliged to fly from a country, of which he ought to have been the pride and the joy, and to take refuge on a foreign shore, whence he never returned.—“O quam indigna perpeteris!”

Such was the barbarous persecution—reviving, at the end of the eighteenth century, all the bad spirit of the dark ages—which the great and excellent man was fated to endure, with whom Dr. Parr had so lately entered into pleasing and friendly intercourse; and whom, far from slighting and deserting him under these trying circumstances, he drew closer to his heart. The high estimation in which he had ever held his talents, and his moral worth, was raised still higher, by commiseration for sufferings, so great and unmerited, and by admiration of the calm composure, so worthy the philosopher, and of the magnanimous forgiveness, so becoming the Christian, with which they were endured. After Dr. Priestley’s flight from Birmingham, during the short interval of his continuance in England, when few opportunities of personal communication occurred, Dr. Parr wrote to him frequent letters either of advice or condolence; and when far removed from his native land, Dr. Parr still followed him, with kind and friendly sympathy; and never shrunk from the task, invidious and even dangerous as it then was, of standing forth, in attestation of his merits, or in vindication of his honourable fame, against all his ignorant or malignant opposers.


It would be unjust to withhold the following encomium, written, it must be remembered, at a time, when the great name, on which its praises are so liberally bestowed, was, more than usually, the object of the boldest and the bitterest calumnies.

“Let Dr. Priestley be confuted, where he is mistaken. Let him be exposed, where he is superficial. Let him be repressed, where he is dogmatical. Let him be rebuked, where he is censorious. But let not his attainments be depreciated, because they are numerous, almost without a parallel. Let not his talents be ridiculed, because they are superlatively great. Let not his morals be vilified, because they are correct without austerity, and exemplary without ostentation; because they present, even to common observers, the innocence of a hermit and the simplicity of a patriarch; and because a philosophic eye will at once discover in them the deep-fixed root of virtuous principle, and the solid trunk of virtuous habit.”1

Who can decide—whether the sentiments in the following passage are more honourable to him, by whom they were uttered, or to him on whose behalf they were so generously expressed—especially “the evil days” and “the evil tongues” considered, on which they had then so unhappily fallen?

“I have visited him, as I hope to visit him again, because he is an unaffected, unassuming, and very interesting companion. I will not, in

1 Letter from Irenopolis, p. 18.

consequence of our different opinions, either impute to him the evil which he does not, or depreciate in him the good which he is allowed to do. I will not debase my understanding, or prostitute my honour, by encouraging the clamours which have been raised against him, in vulgar minds, by certain persons, who would have done well to read before they wrote—to understand, before they dogmatised—to examine, before they condemned. I cannot think his religion insincere, because he worships one Deity, in the name of one Saviour; and I know that his virtues, in private life, are acknowledged by his neighbours, admired by his congregation, and regarded almost by the unanimous suffrage of his most powerful and most distinguished antagonists. Upon every subject of literature which comes within my reach, I will talk, and I will write to him, without reserve; and, in proportion as his opinions may appear to me to approach truth, and to recede from it, I shall assent without reluctance, or dissent without dissimulation.”1

Early in 1804 death deprived the world of the great philosopher and divine, of whom blind and remorseless bigotry had, ten years before, bereaved his country; and when his former congregation, at Birmingham, did honour to themselves by erecting a monument to his memory, from the pen of Dr. Parr proceeded the inscription,2 which conveys to posterity the admiration of his virtues and the

1 Sequel to a printed Paper, p. 106

2 App. No. III.

gratitude for his services, excited in the minds of those who had the best opportunities of estimating the true excellence of the one, and appreciating the full value of the other. Attached to the mention of “Codex Theodori Beza Cantabrigiensis Evangelia et Apostolorum Acta complectens,” in the catalogue of Dr. Parr’s library, is the following note:—“This beautiful edition of
Beza’s Text was given to me spontaneously and politely, by order of the vestry of the Unitarians of Birmingham, soon after I had written an English inscription for Dr. Priestley, whose monument is erected in the Unitarian Chapel. He was an eminently great and truly good man; and Dr. Parr’s most respected, most injured and calumniated friend. S. P.” Excellent and admirable, indeed, is the example, of what is most generous and noble in human character, presented to the view—when Parr is beheld—defending the calumniated name of Priestley, whilst living—and recording his just praises, in a monumental inscription, when no more!

A bold polemic, like Dr. Priestley, fearlessly attacking the main articles of the popular creed, and publicly challenging its advocates to stand forth in its defence, soon found himself assailed, as might have been expected, by a whole host of adversaries. Amongst these came forward, with proud look and menacing air, that celebrated champion of high orthodoxy and high episcopacy, Dr. Horsley; who was richly rewarded for his exertions, by being promoted successively to the see of St. David’s, Rochester, and St. Asaph. He was a man endued with great powers of mind, and possessed of vast stores of erudition; of that kind,
especially, which is usually denominated recondite. His writings are numerous; some valuable, and all bearing the stamp of his superior genius and learning. But, as a controversialist, he was extremely unfair and illiberal; never hesitating to resort, when argument failed, to disingenuous artifice, or contemptuous reproach. His avowed purpose of vilifying or destroying the honourable fame of his illustrious opponent, in order to diminish the authority of his name, and the influence of his writings, was a project worthy the darkest times of popish ignorance and superstition; when to falsify and deceive, for the honour and the interest of the church, was regarded as virtuous. Never was censure more just, or more deserved, than that which was cast upon him by
Dr. Parr, in the following passage: “In too many instances such modes of defence have been used by him against this formidable heresiarch, as would hardly be justifiable against the arrogance of a Bolingbroke, the buffoonery of a Mandeville, and the levity of a Voltaire.”

But if the censorious spirit of Bishop Horsley’s religion was an object of abhorrence to Dr. Parr, equally so was the arbitrary spirit of his politics. It is impossible ever to forget, and it will be difficult even to forgive, the treasonable offence, committed against the sacred rights of men and of Britons, by that amazing and monstrous declaration, uttered in his place in parliament, “that the people have nothing to do with the laws but to obey them.” The strong indignation excited in the mind of Dr. Parr, by so extreme an outrage against all the natural feelings, and constitutional
principles of Englishmen, burst forth in a keen and cutting remonstrance, addressed to the mitred pleader for Ottoman law on British soil. It was armed with a threefold sting, such as the bitterest terms from the three languages, most sacred to freedom could supply; and was composed in the triple form of English blank verse, Latin iambics, and Greek hexameters.1

Among the divines engaged in the ordination-service, as above related, was the Rev. Thomas Belsham, formerly tutor in the academy at Daventry, and afterwards in the college at Hackney; and subsequently, the successor of the excellent and venerable Theophilus Lindsey, as minister of Essex-street Chapel, in London. He was then first introduced to the personal acquaintance of Dr. Parr; and from that time a friendly intimacy commenced, which proved the unfailing source of mutual pleasure. Dr. Parr always spoke of Mr. Belsham in terms of high regard; and often expressed admiration of his talents as a man, of his attainments as a scholar, and his powers as a writer.

One of the latest of the numerous publications, with which Mr. Belsham has favoured the world, is “A Translation and Exposition of the Epistles of Paul the Apostle, with notes.” This work, Dr. Parr considered as one of the most important theological works, that have appeared for a century past. Of the preliminary dissertation in particular, as a clear, reasonable and judicious exposition of

1 New Monthly Mag. Aug. 1826. He denominated Horsley, in the Greek verse, Ίππώτης.

the principles, which ought to guide every translator of the apostolic writings, Dr. Parr declared the most unqualified approbation. “With the author of that dissertation,” said he on one occasion to the present writer, “I go along smoothly and delightfully from the beginning to the end, with perfect accordance of sentiment, and the most complete satisfaction of mind.” As an expositor, too, he thought Mr. Belsham, in exploring the sense of the author, acute, profound, and above all conscientious; and in explaining it, learned, ingenious, and eminently successful. “Yes!” said he, upon another occasion to the writer, “this is, indeed, a work, of which those of your church may well be proud, and with which the reasonable of every church might well be pleased.” If, as a grateful pupil, penetrated with a deep sense of obligations long ago contracted, but never to be forgotten, the writer feels some elation of mind in recording this high encomium on the great work of a revered and beloved tutor, he is sure he will easily be pardoned.1

As the great public advocate for the Unitarian faith, it might almost be said that Mr. Belsham succeeded into the place of the zealous, the active, the intrepid Priestley; and many are the contro-

1The Epistles of Paul translated, &c. This excellent work of Belsham was given to me by the writer. I do not entirely agree with him upon some doctrinal points; but I ought to commend the matter, style, and spirit of the preface; and, in my opinion, the translation does great credit to the diligence, judgment, erudition, and piety of my much respected friend. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 21.

versies, in which he has been summoned, by the call of friends, or the challenge of adversaries, to engage. In all these controversies,
Dr. Parr felt no inconsiderable interest: those, especially, in which the opponents were Bishop Howley, Bishop Burgess, and Dr. Moysey. The “Letters,” addressed by Mr. Belsham, to the first of these prelates, Dr. Parr thought were to be commended, equally for the fairness of the reasoning, the courteousness of the manner, and the vigour and vivacity of the style. The answer to the Bampton lecturer, Dr. Parr pronounced “a most able reply indeed;”1 and though severe and caustic, yet not more so than the bad temper of the lecturer, the rude strain of his invectives, and the calumnious nature of his charges, justly merited. Of the learning, the virtue and the piety of Bishop Burgess, Dr. Parr entertained a high opinion; but he estimated, at a lower rate, the strength of his understanding, the soundness of his judgment, and the correctness of his opinions.2 “It was grievous,” he

1 Bibl. Parr. p. 21.

2The Divinity of Christ proved from his own declarations, &c. by Bp. Burgess. From the eminently learned and truly pious author.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 567.—And so, as the reader probably knows, “the little secret” is told—told by one of the high orthodox party—told with all the indignation, which all honest men of all parties must feel! See Gent. Mag. Oct. 1827. There it will be seen, proved by credible testimony, that, after the above note, stands in the original Ms. of the Catalogue the following words—He does not convince me. “Few but significant words!” exclaims the detecter of the artifice; on the omission of which he has justly fixed the broad mark of “disingenuousness.”—“To my mind,” adds he, “on the subject of Dr. Parr’s religious opinions, these few words

often exclaimed with a sigh, “to find a man and a prelate of so much real worth and dignity of character, among the feeblest of reasoners, and the boldest of railers against those sectaries—of whom—erroneous though they may be in opinion—what
Archbishop Tillotson once said, all fair judging men will still say—‘that they are entitled to respect for their learning and their talent, and no less so for their sincerity and their exemplariness.’”1

It was the unhappiness of the present writer to be embroiled, very early in life, in a contest with some of the high churchmen of Warwick; who were urged on by two or three of their clergy, certainly, not the most distinguished among their brethren for understanding, learning, or character. On the first establishment of their own Sunday-

speak volumes.” It is reported that other omissions, equally important, have been discovered by means of printed copies of cancelled sheets, which have found their way into the hands of several persons; by some of whom, it is hoped, they will be given to the public. But there is another and a better hope, which the writer ventures to express, namely, that by immediately publishing the omitted parts, the editor of the Catalogue will make his own amende honorable for conduct so unfair to the public, and so discreditable to himself. The apology set up by the editor of the Gent. Mag., if it justify the omission of what would hurt the feelings of any living person—which, indeed, is as far as the apologist carries it, and which, even to that extent, might be questioned—yet beyond that point, certainly, the apology cannot for a moment be admitted. The opinions on important subjects which Dr. Parr has recorded, with a view to publication, most surely cannot be suppressed, without at once defrauding the public of their right, and doing violence to those wishes of the dead, which all are accustomed to regard with reverence as sacred.

1 Birch’s Life of Tillotson, p. 321.

schools, by an express rule, non-parishioners were excluded; when another school, principally though not solely for the benefit of the excluded children, was instituted; and it was this school, superintended by the writer himself, which became the object of the vehement and angry contention just alluded to. The jealousy, or, as they said, “the alarm”1 of the good friends of the church being excited—after much private altercation, and several public meetings, held in due form at the court-house, his worshipful the mayor presiding—an order was issued to the supporters of the obnoxious school, requiring them to dismiss the scholars, and shut up the school! Resistance to this order was followed by threats of ruined trade to those who were traders—and to others, threats of a visit from the church and king rioters of Birmingham, who were then in the full possession and the uncontrolled exercise of their tremendous power.2 The former threat was accomplished, but the latter failed; whether to the disappointment of those who had used it, can only be matter of conjecture. It is but justice to add, that the littleness and the iniquity of the whole transaction were the objects of scorn and reprobation to
Dr. Parr, and to the best friends of the church in the town and the neighbourhood; and that the kind support which the writer and his friends received from him and from them, at that period of distress and dismay, were such as must ever remain fixed in grateful recollection, as long as the powers of memory shall last.

1 Words of a handbill publicly circulated.

2 See a list of the pamphlets published on this occasion, Bibl. Parr. p. 84.