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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch XIX. 1820-1824

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. 1820—1824.
Dr. Parr as a parish priest—His care to perform all the offices of the church—His manner of reading the liturgy—His mode of commenting on the Scriptures—His critical remarks inserted in the margin of the Hatton prayer-book—His manner of preaching—The subject-matter of his discourses—His opinion of the evangelical party—His religious instruction of the young—His support of popular education.

The faithful care, with which Dr. Parr discharged all the duties of a parish priest, has been already noticed; and it must now be added, that this care continued unabated to the close of life. It was rarely that he sought or accepted assistance in the usual services of the church; and the baptismal, the communion, the matrimonial, and the burial services, he still less rarely resigned to others. His death was hastened by a resolution, which he could not be persuaded by any entreaties to relinquish, of performing the last solemn offices over the grave of one of his parishioners, on a cold and windy day.

Nothing could be more solemn and impressive than Dr. Parr’s manner of reading the liturgic forms of the church; with the exception, indeed, of those parts, of which he did not approve. Many of his clerical brethren, it is well known, alter or omit those expressions, or portions of the service, which do not accord with their own opinions. But Dr. Parr always considered himself bound to read
the whole prescribed form, without the least diminution or variation; though it may well bear a question, whether his careless or hurried manner of reading what he seriously disapproved, did not seem to pour upon it more contempt, than silent omission would have done.

Some years ago, it was stated by a correspondent, in a periodical work,1 who had attended the services of Hatton church, on the previous Christmas day, that, in reciting the Athanasian creed, Dr. Parr read it, with a haste and a levity, which many would deem indecorous or irreverent. It was also stated, that in his address to his audience, he denounced the creed as a forgery, imposed upon the Christian world, under the name of a bishop, by whom it was never written: or even if it were, he said, he should never be deterred from rejecting absurdities so gross, even by the sanction of a name so great.

“This letter-writer,” says Dr. Parr, in his reply, published in the same work,1 “is correct, when he describes me as not pronouncing all the sentences of the Athanasian creed, with the same slowness, or the same solemnity, and as professing not to look upon Athanasius as the author of the creed. I cannot, at this distance of time, take upon me to say precisely what terms I used about the contents of the creed. I was not, indeed, likely to express any marked approbation of it. But I am inclined to believe, that your correspondent has inadvertently imputed to me stronger language of disapprobation than I really employed. While the Athanasian

1 Christian Reformer, Feb. 1818. 2 Ibid. Aug. 1818.

creed is retained in the service of our venerable church, I hold it my duty not to omit it. But while I read it faithfully and audibly, I think myself authorised to lay more or less stress upon particular parts, according to my own discretion.”

With the exception of what few persons, in the present day, will deny to be really objectionable parts of a most rational and sublime service, it may be said, with truth, that never was the liturgy of the church read with more exact propriety, or with more impressive energy, than by the officiating minister of Hatton. The most careless hearer could scarcely fail to be roused to attention, and struck with awe, when, with his majestic air, his devout looks, his deep and solemn tones, he repeated such admirable prayers as the confession, the general supplication, and the general thanksgiving; or when he recited that beautiful and animated, though not wholly unexceptionable form, the litany; or when, from the communion table, he delivered the decalogue, with a voice which seemed to speak his sense of that high and holy authority, under which it was originally promulgated.

It was his custom to comment on the lesson, or the collect, of the day; and his explanatory remarks were always instructive to the highest, and usually intelligible to the lowest, of his hearers. If, indeed, a clerical friend happened to be present, he would occasionally introduce critical observations, with this notice, that they were intended, not for the congregation generally, but for his learned brother in particular, by whom only, he would add, they could be fully understood. He often took with
him into the reading-desk a volume, and sometimes two or three, consisting of different translations or expositions of the Scriptures; and from these he read passages, previously selected, for the information of his hearers. No teacher of religion was ever penetrated with a more earnest desire to enlighten ignorance, and to correct error; to guide the honest inquirer after truth, and to aid his judgment in forming just and reasonable sentiments on all subjects connected with the religious principles, the moral conduct, and the future expectations, of man.

The following may serve as a specimen of his manner of commenting on the Scriptures. Reading, on Christmas day, the appointed lesson, from Isaiah ix. 1—8, in which occurs that memorable passage—“To us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,” &c.—he said that a great part of this lesson was not correctly translated; and that he had long wished to see it, either more correctly given, or entirely expunged from the church service. He added that he was obliged to read it as it there stands; but that he would give them another translation of the same passage, which he thought much nearer to the original. The translation which he accordingly gave seems to have been partly that of Bishop Lowth, and still more nearly that of Grotius, the Septuagint, and Mr. Dodson.

Reading, on the same occasion, as the second lesson of the day, the proem to John’s Gospel, he
observed that the term there employed, “the word,” did not well express the meaning of the original; and that if the term “wisdom” were substituted for it, the translation would be more literal and just. He referred to the well-known passage, Prov. viii. 23, &c., in which similar expressions are found; and which he doubted not the evangelist had in view, when he wrote these introductory sentences. Further remarks, on the same passage, given by
Dr. Parr, on other occasions, are as follows: “In the beginning,” i. e. “at the creation.”—“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made,” &c.—“In him was life,” &c.—“For him read it.”—“The darkness comprehendeth it not,” read “receiveth it not.”—“He came unto his own,” i. e. land; “and his own,”i.e. “countrymen, received him not.”—“The word was made flesh;” i. e. “tabernacled, dwelt for a time in a fleshly tabernacle.”—“Only-begotten of the Father.”—“Christ is so called six times in the Scriptures; it means peculiarly beloved, like an only child.”—“For of in the same clause, read from the Father, i. e. who came from him.”—“Full of grace and truth.”—“Grace means favour; and truth means solid substantial doctrines, opposed to the figures and shadows of the law. But the better interpretation would be true real favour.

These last remarks are extracted from the margin of the prayer-book belonging to Hatton Church; and it deserves to be mentioned, as a proof of Dr. Parr’s careful attention to the instruction of his parishioners, that, in the margin of the same prayer-book are inserted a considerable
number of explanatory or emendatory notes, on other passages of the English Bible, and on various parts of the church-service. These notes, though not often original, are useful and important. It is much to be regretted that the prayer-book, by an act scarcely warrantable, and certainly not respectful or grateful to the memory of its late minister, was, soon after his death, removed from the church, and even from the parish!

Except on particular occasions, Dr. Parr seldom wrote sermons, or delivered those of his own composition from the pulpit. His usual method of preaching was, to read select passages from the printed sermons of eminent divines; of whom his favourites were Barrow, Clark, Balguy, Pierce, Jortin, among those of the English church; and Fawcett, Rees, G. Walker, and Zollikoffer, members of other churches. But, in the course of his reading, he always introduced his own observations; which not unfrequently, indeed, formed the largest portion of the whole: and from the justness and value of the thought, from the felicity and energy of the expression, and from the solemn earnestness of the delivery, these unpremeditated observations never failed to fix on the hearers the most powerful impressions. Sometimes, after reading no more than a single page or two from his borrowed sermon, he would expatiate on the subject of it, or on some other connected subject, so freely and so copiously, as to occupy the whole of the allotted time: when closing his book, he would promise to finish, at a future opportunity, the discourse which he had then only begun.


On one occasion, as Dr. Parr related in the hearing of the present writer, he was preaching in his church at Hatton, and had just entered on his discourse, when he observed among his audience one whom he knew, and whom he characterized as a “Brom-wych-am bigot.” Instantly changing his subject, and slightly, apologizing for the change, he proceeded to deliver, as he expressed it, “a wholesome lesson” on the meanness and the misery of an intolerant spirit, and the duty, the reasonableness and happiness of cultivating sentiments of esteem and kind regard towards honest men of all religious sects. On these topics he spoke for the greater part of an hour; and, according to the report of several competent judges, a discourse more forcible in its remonstrances, more persuasive in its reasonings, or more fervid, flowing, and impressive in its language, has rarely been heard from the pulpit, or read from the press.

On another occasion, of much earlier date, his talents, as a pulpit improvvisatore, were put to a very severe test. He had engaged to preach at St. Laurence’s Church, Norwich, of which his cousin, the Rev. Robert Parr, was at that time the minister; and, as a trial of his extemporaneous powers, it was agreed that the text, on which he was to comment, should be chosen by his cousin, who was to read prayers, and should be given to him, as he passed the desk, to ascend the pulpit. The result, it is said, was, that no premeditated discourse could have been more conspicuously arranged, more elegantly expressed, or more fluently delivered.

The subjects of Dr. Parr’s sermons, whether
composed by himself, or borrowed from others, were not often controversial; although, on particular occasions, he thought proper to state explicitly his opinions on some of the most important subjects in dispute among Christians, and to defend them with all the force which argument and eloquence could supply. But the general strain of his preaching was moral and devotional. Thus, on one occasion, he speaks of himself: “Upon abstruse and controverted points of theology, I very rarely introduce any observations of my own. My talents, such as they are, seem to me much better employed in reasoning of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come.”1—On another occasion, he thus explains his sentiments: “I have chosen to speak of that sympathy, which arises from the participation of religious duties in the sanctuary, rather than that, which proceeds from similarity of opinion upon abstruse and polemical questions of divinity. The moral effects of the latter are often unfavourable to benevolence; and, with the highest respect for the talents and erudition of those persons, who are most capable of examining such Questions, I shall venture to express my most fixed and solemn judgment, that they ought to be very rarely introduced, and very temperately discussed, in discourses from the pulpit.”2

It was a singular and unfortunate circumstance that the rector and the perpetual curate of Hatton, on the great controverted questions of theology, held opinions diametrically opposite: the one

1 Christian Reformer, Aug. 1818. 2 Spital Sermon, p. 87.

zealously adopting the more simple and rational views of Christianity, maintained by
Tillotson, Clark, Hoadley, Jortin, and Newcome; the other as zealously embracing the strange and mystical system, so boldly asserted by Romaine, Hawker, Hawes, Rowland Hill, and other “nameless rhapsodists.” What a striking instance among a thousand others to show that, in aiming to establish uniformity, even on important points, the Church of England attempts an impossibility!

The annual visitations to Hatton, which the rules of ecclesiastical discipline required from the incumbent of the living, and the sermons delivered by him for three or four successive Sundays, were, it may easily be supposed, the source of much uneasiness, and sometimes of extreme vexation, to the resident minister. On these occasions Dr. Parr generally contrived to be absent; or, if at home, he never attended the services of the church. On resuming his public duties, he has frequently been known to address his congregation to the following effect: “My dear parishioners! if, during my absence, any dark, abstruse, unintelligible notions of religion have been held up to your view—think of them no more—forget them—reject them!”

It must be owned that Dr. Parr thought too unfavourably, and expressed himself too acrimoniously, of that class of religionists to which Dr. Bridges, himself a most amiable and excellent man, belongs; and which, without all doubt, includes a large number of pious and virtuous men, and of useful and exemplary ministers,
both within and without the pale of the church. But absurd in themselves, and dangerous in their moral tendency, as their peculiar doctrines appeared to him, he was aware that, for this evil, there are counteracting influences to be found in the great common principles of Christianity; and it was, therefore, against their assuming an intolerant spirit that his censures were chiefly directed. In his zeal to oppose and repress that spirit, he might almost be said to have forgotten, or renounced, his own principles of toleration, when, in one of his publications he hints at the necessity “of some well-considered and well-applied regulations,”1 under civil authority, to restrain them, “as men who may be ready to do evil, that good, according to their own views of their own interests, may come; and who actually do hold language, not only insulting to a learned priesthood, but also most inflammatory to illiterate hearers.” These expressions refer to the Calvinistic and other methodists, out of the church: but afterwards in the same publication, he mentions, with much regret, the great number of “evangelicals,” as they are called, within it; and speaks, with evident alarm, “of their rage for proselytism, their ample funds for the purchase of advowsons and presentations, their spiritual alliances with two most powerful classes of the sectaries, and their uncharitableness of feeling towards all others.”2

But whatever errors of opinion or conduct may be imputed to the evangelical party, a tribute of

1 Characters of Fox, p. 819. 2 Ibid. p. 827.

high praise is due to their sincerity, their zeal, their active and useful services, directed to the good of their fellow-men, especially among the lower orders. It is gratifying to add, that some of their more objectionable and revolting tenets have been greatly modified; and that more enlarged sentiments of charity have been introduced into their minds, by the powerful influence of the increasing knowledge and the growing liberality, which constitute the honour and the happiness of the present age and of this nation.

It once happened that an itinerant preacher of the evangelical cast came into the village of Hatton; and attempted, not wholly without success, to draw an audience round him. Dr. Parr was anxious that the peace of his neighbourhood should not be interrupted by the contention and the animosity, which religious disputes too often create. He waited, therefore, upon the preacher, and stated to him the order, the harmony, and the general attention to religious and social duty, which prevailed throughout his parish; and then, in a mild and respectful manner, urged his request that nothing should be said or done, as far as conscientious feelings would permit, calculated to produce strife or dissension among his parishioners. This conciliatory address was well received by the zealous missionary; and produced, upon his subsequent conduct, all the effect that was desired.

When, on another occasion, he had received some accounts of the great popularity, which an evangelical preacher of considerable name had ac-
quired in his native village of Harrow,—“Ah!” said he, “I grieve that the splendour of the old hill, which, to my imagination, shone with the united glories of Zion and Parnassus, should be outblazed and obscured by the glare of these new lights!”

But though he disliked extremely the system of doctrine which has assumed the name of evangelical, yet he was not slow to perceive, nor reluctant to acknowledge, the good intentions and the moral excellencies of those, by whom that system is received. Even in the moment of uttering bitter invectives against them, he would always concede, that, false and disfigured as their representation of Christianity, in many respects, may be, yet that there is in it much more of valuable truth than of pernicious error; and that, inconsiderate and mischievous as their proselyting zeal may, in many instances, have proved, yet that the harm done is far more than counterbalanced by the real good effected.

Speaking of John Wesley, Dr. Parr once said that he had seen him, and heard him preach; that he admired him greatly; that, in his public and private character, he was truly apostolical; and that if he could have quitted the church, it would have been to follow him. In the pleasing and spirited sketch of “Two Days with Dr. Parr,” it is related that, when the name of a friend, whom he had not seen for many years, was mentioned by some one present, he immediately exclaimed, “Sir, he is a methodist! But his methodism is
founded upon good principles, a fervid imagination, and an affectionate heart. He is a most excellent, and, besides, a most scientific man.”1

Of the pastoral office, one important, yet too much neglected duty, though expressly enjoined by the canons of the church, is, the religious instruction of the young: and to this duty Dr. Parr devoted much attention. It was of course incumbent upon him to teach the catechism of the church, though to some parts of it he felt strong objections; particularly to the unqualified, incautious manner in which the doctrine of a threefold Deity is stated, without the least hint of the unity: so that it is scarcely possible for the young scholar, learning and repeating this statement, to form any other notion but that of three distinct divine beings. The writer is, however, assured, that Dr. Parr was careful to furnish his catechumens with proper explanations of whatever may be thought difficult or dubious; and to instruct them in the doctrine of the church, according to the most rational interpretation of which it admits. He took pains also to teach them, in repeating the required answers, to speak with that propriety of manner, which produces a clearer understanding and a stronger impression of the sense. A friend of the writer, who was present, well recollects the air of satisfaction, and the tone of encouragement, with which he addressed a little boy about seven or eight years old; praising him for his attention to former admonitions, and for the intelligent and correct manner, in which

1 Blackwood’s Mag. Oct. 1825.

he had then delivered his answers. The thrilling pleasure which such commendation conveys to the youthful mind, none but those, who have long been watchful observers of its feelings and operations, can well imagine.

It is one of the high honours, which belong to Dr. Parr, as noticed in a former page, that he was one of the first, who in modern times have asserted publicly the right of the poor to the benefit of wise and good education; comprehending the means of acquiring their proper and reasonable share of the knowledge and intellectual improvement, of the age and country in which they live. These enlightened views, which he adopted at the earliest, he held with confirmed and increasing conviction to the latest, period of life. As the charity-schools, established in so many parts of the kingdom, had been found insufficient, for the dissemination of elementary learning, throughout a vast and growing population, he marked with much satisfaction, the rise and progress of the first attempt to supply that great want by the institution of Sunday schools. He was, indeed, no friend to the gloomy or rigid observance of the Sunday; and he was not without apprehension that the confinement required, and the tasks imposed, in those schools, would encroach too much upon the season for innocent relaxation, which the day so happily affords to the more laborious classes of society. But though he thought this objection had not been sufficiently adverted to, and guarded against, yet he entirely concurred in the general opinion of the extensive good, which Sunday schools have effected,
in the mental and moral improvement of the lower orders of the community.

This first great and successful plan for the communication of knowledge, throughout the great mass of the people, was soon followed by another, still more complete and efficient, in the establishment of Lancasterian schools. So evident an advance towards the accomplishment of his own early and ardent wishes, was a new source of gratification to Dr. Parr. He admired the cheap, simple, rational mode of teaching adopted in these schools; and was delighted to witness, as opportunity offered, the decent appearance and orderly arrangement of the youthful crowds, assembled together; and the ease and the regularity, with which the vast machine of discipline and education moves on. When, after visiting one of the schools, the common objection, taken from the supposed want of religious instruction, was urged against them, he replied—“I see that sufficient care is taken to inculcate, in religion, great principles, and, in morals, good maxims; and I am satisfied.” He often smiled with pity or contempt at the weak and unreasonable apprehensions, which so many of his clerical brethren entertained, lest the increasing knowledge of the people should be followed by a decreasing attachment to the church. Such apprehensions he stigmatised, as no less dishonourable to that church, than groundless in themselves; and even if not wholly without foundation, still it was impossible to look, he would frequently observe, but with amazement and scorn, upon those, who have the folly to expect, or the littleness to desire, that the
interests of any human establishments, civil or ecclesiastical, should finally prevail over the greater interests of the society, for whose good alone they exist.

The signal success of the Lancasterian schools, working on the fears of the high-church clergy, soon roused them into action; and it was speedily determined, not as a matter of choice, but as a measure of self-defence, to establish schools of their own, which they had the address to call “national schools.” But against that appellation Dr. Parr always vehemently protested, as a false assumption; “because,” said he, “from whatever benefits these schools may offer, one-half of the nation, at least, by an express law of exclusion, are shut out.” Speaking one day on the subject to the writer—“I am afraid,” said he, with a significant smile, “it will not do to pry too closely into the motives, in which this great scheme of national education has originated. No doubt, its intended purpose is, to inculcate what some would call ‘wholesome prejudice,’ quite as much as to communicate useful knowledge.”—“But never mind,” continued he, “here is knowledge, and there is prejudice; and depend upon it the first will, in the end, be too strong for the last.”—“Yes,” resumed he, after a short pause, “these schools, you will say, without, are hedged round by exclusions, and within, fettered by restrictions; and yet, in spite of all, the sure effect will be to put the key of knowledge into the hands of the common people: and trust me, when once they have it, they will make a proper use of it.”—“Upon the whole,” added he,
“I am satisfied that the result of these two rival institutions will be a balance of good, though perhaps not equal good; and therefore I shall give my support to both.” Accordingly, besides his contributions during life, he has left, by his will, 10l. to the Lancasterian school of Birmingham, and 10l. to that which he scrupulously calls “the school conducted upon
Dr. Bell’s plan,” in the same place. Upon a similar principle, he has left sums to the support of two very different societies; which have sometimes been placed in almost hostile array against each other—the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge: to the former, ten guineas; and to the latter, probably because of its greater need, the larger sum of nineteen guineas.