Pearson, Edward (DNB00)

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PEARSON, EDWARD (1756–1811), theologian, was born at St. George's Tombland in Norwich on 25 Oct. 1756. His father, Edward Pearson (d. 1786), who was descended from a collateral branch of the family of Dr. John Pearson [q. v.], bishop of Chester, followed the business of a wool-stapler at Norwich, but shortly after 1756 he removed to Tattingstone, Suffolk, where he obtained the post of governor of the local poorhouse. Edward, the eldest son, was educated at home, and entered as sizar at Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, on 7 May 1778. He attracted the favourable notice of Dr. William Elliston, the master; and the Rev. John Hey, the college tutor, who held the rectory of Passenham, Northamptonshire, soon appointed him his curate (26 April 1781). Pearson was ordained by the bishop of Peterborough on 26 June 1781. He came out sixth senior optime in the mathematical tripos for 1782, proceeded to the degree of B.A. (M.A. 1785, B.D. 1792), and was elected fellow of his college. In 1786 he obtained the Norrisian prize for an essay on ‘The Goodness of God as manifested in the Mission of Jesus Christ.’ Early in 1788 he became tutor of Sidney-Sussex College, and at the same time undertook the curacy of Pampisford, about seven miles from Cambridge. He had previously held curacies successively not only at Passenham, but also at Cosgrove and at Strutton. He obtained fame as a preacher, and published in 1798 ‘Thirteen Discourses to Academic Youth, delivered at St. Mary's, Cambridge.’ In 1796 he left Cambridge to become vicar of Rempstone, Nottinghamshire, and thenceforth took a prominent position as a controversialist. In 1800 he published a searching criticism of Dr. Paley's system, entitled ‘Remarks on the Theory of Morals,’ which was followed in 1801 by ‘Annotations on the Practical Part of Dr. Paley's Work.’ He next attacked the writings in defence of justification by faith published by John Overton (1763–1838) [q. v.] Of his tracts on this subject the most important is ‘Remarks on the Controversy subsisting, or supposed to subsist, between the Arminian and Calvinistic Ministers of the Church of England’ (June 1802).

In May 1806 Pearson proposed, in the ‘Orthodox Churchman's Magazine,’ the foundation of ‘a ritual professorship in divinity’ at Cambridge. Spencer Perceval, then chancellor of the exchequer, approved the scheme, and offered to guarantee the expenses for five years; but the academic authorities refused to adopt it. Pearson was a strong advocate of Perceval's conservative policy in church matters, and issued, among other tracts in this connection, ‘Remarks on the Dangers which threaten the Established Religion, and the Means of Averting Them’ (1808).

In 1807 Pearson was appointed by Perceval's interest Warburtonian lecturer at Lincoln's Inn. In 1808, after the death of Dr. Elliston, he was elected master of Sidney-Sussex College, and received by royal mandate the degree of D.D. In the same year he was appointed vice-chancellor, and in 1810 he was elected Christian advocate on the Hulsean foundation; his ‘Hulsean Defence, consisting of an Essay on the Pre-existence of Christ, a Sermon on the Trinity, and a Proposal respecting the Athanasian Creed,’ was published the same year. During the later years of his life Pearson engaged in frequent discussions with Charles Simeon, whose views he attacked in ‘Cautions to the Hearers and Readers of the Rev. Mr. Simeon's Sermon entitled “Evangelical and Pharisaical Righteousness compared”’ (1810). Pearson died of an apoplectic fit at his parsonage at Rempstone on 17 Aug. 1811. Besides the above-mentioned works, his publications include numerous tracts, sermons, and ‘Prayers for Families,’ which went through four editions. In 1797 he married Susan, daughter of Richard Johnson of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London.

[Green's Biographical Memoir, 1819, reprinted in Nichols's Literary Illustr. v. 86–91; Hunt's Brief Memoir, 1845 (containing full bibliography); Records of Sidney-Sussex College; Graduati Cantabr.; Gent. Mag. 1811, pt. ii. p. 198; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

G. P. M-y.