Parker, Thomas (1595-1677) (DNB00)

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PARKER, THOMAS (1595–1677), New England divine, born probably at Stanton St. Bernard, Wiltshire, 8 June 1595 (New England Hist. and Gen. Register, October 1852, p. 352), was the only son of Robert Parker (1564?–1614) [q. v.], 'one of the greatest scholars in the English nation . . . who was driven out . . . for his nonconformity to its unhappy ceremonies' (Mather, Magnalia Christi, Hartf. 1853, i. 480). He was admitted into Magdalen College, Oxford, but left when his father was obliged to remove to Dublin, where he studied under Archbishop Ussher. He went to Leyden University, became acquainted with William Ames (1571-1633) [q. v.], and received the degree of M.A. in 1617. The series of seventy theses defended by him may be found appended to some editions of Ames's answer to Grevinchovius. The theses were published in London in 1657 as 'Methodus Divinae Gratiae in traductione hominis peccatoris ad viam,' sm. 8vo. They were objected to at the synod of Dort, and by the theological faculty at Heidelberg, and were criticised in 'Parkerus Illustratus, authore Philo-Tileno,' London, 1660, sm. 8vo, and 'The Examination of Tilenus before the Triers, by N. H.,' London, 1658, sm. 8vo.

Parker returned to England and settled at Newbury in Berkshire, where he applied himself to 'school divinity,' taught in the free school, and was assistant preacher to Dr. Twisse. His puritan opinions caused him to embark for New England, with a number of Wiltshire men, in the Mary and John of London, 26 March 1634, and they landed in the course of the following May (New England Hist. and Gen. Register, July 1855, p. 267). About a hundred settled at Agawam, afterwards Ipswich, Massachusetts (Winthrop, Hist. of New England, 1853, i. 158), where Parker remained a year as assistant to Mr. Ward (Hubbard, Gen. Hist. of New England, 1848, p. 193). Parker, together with his cousin James Noyes, his nephew John Woodbridge, and some others, obtained leave of the general court to remove to Quascacunquen at the mouth of the Merrimac, and the settlement was incorporated as a township under the name of Newbury or Newberry in the spring of 1635 (Coffin, Sketch of Newbury, Boston, 1845, pp. 14-15). Noyes was chosen teacher and Parker first pastor of the church, the tenth established in the colony (Morse and Parish, Hist. of New England, 1808, p. 44). The river was named after Parker in 1697 (Coffin, Sketch, p. 166). He remained at Newbury till his death, 'by the holiness, the humbleness, the charity of his life, giving his people a perpetual and most lively commentary upon his doctrine. . . . He was a person of a most extensive charity, which grain of his temper might contribute to that largeness of his principles about church government which exposed him into many temptations among his neighbours' (Mather, Magnalia Christi, pp. 482, 483). His views on ecclesiastical discipline are partly explained in the 'True Copy of a Letter written by T. Parker unto a Member of the Assembly of divines now at Westminster, declaring his judgement touching the Government practised in the churches of New England,' London, 1644, 4to (issued 19 Feb. 1643, as noted by Thomason). The 'Letter' was the subject of remarks in a pamphlet entitled ' M.S. to A[dam] S[tuart], with a plea for Libertie of Conscience in a Church way,' London, 1644, 4to, of which a second edition appeared in the same year as 'Reply of two of the Brethren to A. S.' Parker's opinions were shared by Noyes, but were opposed by other members of the church, and a warm controversy raged between 1645 and 1672 (Coffin, pp. 43, 72-112).

He devoted himself to the study of prophecy and wrote several works, of which only one was published: 'The Visions and Prophecies of Daniel expounded, wherein the mistakes of former interpreters are modestly discovered and the true meaning of the text made plain,' London, 1646, 4to (noted by Thomason as 3 Feb. 1645). The book was dedicated to Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, by Thomas Bayly, who states that the author sent the manuscript over to England 'without a title, without a dedication.' In November 1648 he addressed to his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Avery, author of 'Scripture Prophecies opened' (1647), a 'Letter . . . touching sundry opinions by her professed and maintained,' printed at London, 1650, 4to. On the return of John Woodbridge from England in 1663 he was made assistant to Parker, his uncle. Two years later the town 'voted that Mr. Parker shall have eighty pounds a year' (Coffin, p. 69). He complained of failing eyesight in 1643, and towards the end of his life became quite blind. This did not prevent him teaching, and he usually had twelve or fourteen pupils; 'he took no pay for his pains unless any present were freely sent him . . . and seldom corrected a scholar, unless for lying and fighting' (Noyes in Cotton's Marginalia, i. 486). 'Mr. Parker excelled in liberty of speech, in praying, preaching, and singing, having a most delicate sweet voice. . . . He scarcely called anything his own but his books and his cloaths' (ib pp. 486, 487). Chief-justice Samuel Sewall, who was one of his scholars, makes frequent reference to Parker in his 'Diary' (Mass. Hist. Soc. Boston, 1878, &c.); and in writing to Woodbridge, 25 March 1720, says: 'To see the invitation of your excellent unkle, the Rev. Mr. T. Parker, was very delightful; in that you avoided taking anything of the children lest you should discourage the parents from sending them to school. This was the guise of my ever honoured master ' (Letter-Book, Boston, 1888, ii. 113). Parker died unmarried on 24 April 1677, in his eighty-second year (New England Hist. and Gen. Register, October 1852, p. 352; Sewall, Diary, 1878, i. 41, 43).

[Information from Mr. John Ward Dean and Mr. Thomas W. Silloway of Boston, U.S.; see Allen's American Biogr. Diet. 1857, p. 635; Drake's Dict. of American Biogr. 1872, p. 690; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, iii. 469-70; Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, 1857, i. 41-3; Allibone's Dict, of Engl. Lit. ii. 1506; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xii. 108; Hist. Mag. Morrisania, N. Y., September 1867, pp. 144-5; Alex. Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, 1844.]

H. R. T.