Pierce, Samuel Eyles (DNB00)

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PIERCE, SAMUEL EYLES (1746–1829), Calvinist divine, born at Up-Ottery vicarage, near Honiton, Devonshire, on 23 June 1746, was son of Adam Pierce, a cabinet-maker of Honiton, and Susannah, daughter of Joseph Chilcott, vicar of Up-Ottery. His mother destined him for the ministry of the church of England. Of retiring disposition as a boy, he was first ‘brought under divine influence’ by reading a book by Dr. Anthony Horneck, and he was impressed by the views of Toplady, whom he heard preach at Broad Hembury. Between February 1772 and August 1775 he spent much time in London, and attended the sermons of Romaine, with whose opinions he was in thorough sympathy. During the same period he applied for guidance to John Wesley, who ‘immediately sent one to see and inquire into my case and circumstances;’ but Pierce was not ‘of Wesley's opinion’ in theological matters. During 1775 he was admitted to Lady Huntingdon's College at Trevecca. Lady Huntingdon thought highly of his abilities and fervour, and soon offered him a four years' engagement as a preacher of her connexion. In January 1776 he began his ministry at the Hay, Brecknock, and afterwards visited Lincolnshire, Sussex, and Cornwall. He was ‘all for preaching a finished salvation.’ In 1780, when his four years' engagement with Lady Huntingdon expired, she commissioned Pierce to preach at Maidstone. He remained there nearly a year, after which his connection with Lady Huntingdon ceased.

In August 1783 he was called to the pastorate of an independent church at Truro. About 1789 disputes arose, and Pierce was charged with antinomianism and ‘preaching above the capacities of the people.’ His wife kept a school in the town, but, taking the part of his enemies, drove him from the house. He retired to the residence of a friend at Boskenna in Cornwall, where he educated the sons of his host, and occasionally preached in the neighbourhood. Towards the close of 1796 he was in London, where he published ‘Discourses designed as preparatory to the administration of the Lord's Supper’ (2nd edit. 1827), and thereby gained some reputation. In 1802 he was appointed to a Tuesday-evening lectureship at the ‘Good Samaritan's,’ Shoe Lane. He gradually became a popular London preacher among confirmed Calvinists. In September 1809 his hearers at Eagle and Child Alley (leading from Fleet Market into Shoe Lane) formed themselves into a church, and appointed him minister. The chapel was afterwards known as Printer's Court Chapel, and was pulled down in 1825. From 1804 Pierce also preached on Sundays at Bailey's Chapel, Brixton. He still spent about half the year on preaching tours in the west of England, and for some time again held a pastorate at Truro. In his absence from London his sermons were read out by one of his congregants, his regular hearers being unable to ‘endure any other preacher’ (WILSON). Pierce died on 10 May 1829 in Acre Lane, Clapham. He was twice married. His first wife, a woman older than himself, died at Truro in 1807; the second, Elizabeth Turquand, daughter of a sugar-baker, and his junior by twenty-seven years, he married on 5 Nov. 1819.

Pierce's chief works were: 1. ‘An Essay towards an Unfolding of the Glory of Christ,’ in several sermons, with preface by Rev. R. Hawker, D.D., 2 vols. 1803–11. 2. ‘A Treatise upon Growth in Grace,’ 1st edit. 1804, with preface by Rev. J. Nicholson; 2nd edit. 1809. 3. ‘A Brief Scriptural Testimony of the Divinity … Personality Work, &c., of the Holy Spirit … with recommendatory preface by J. Nicholson,’ 1805; 2nd edit. 1810. 4. ‘Letters on Scriptural Subjects,’ 1817; 4th edit. 1862, 2 vols. 5. ‘Miscellaneous Expositions, Paraphrases, Sermons, and Letters,’ 1818. 6. ‘Paul's Apostolic Curse,’ 1820. 7. ‘Death and Dying,’ 1822; 4th edit. 1856. 8. ‘A true Outline and Sketch of the Life of Samuel Eyles Pierce, Minister of the Everlasting Gospel. Written by himself in the year 1822 in six sections. Printed in 1824 … with an appendix … together with a Funeral Sermon written by himself, and a Catalogue of all his Writings, whether published or in manuscript;’ privately printed. 9. ‘Exposition of the Epistle General of St. John’ (posthumous), 1835, 2 vols.

A portrait of the author was issued by the printers of the autobiography.

[Pierce's Autobiography, 1824; Gent. Mag. 1829, i. 475; Wilson's Hist. of Dissenting Churches, iii. 416–17; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornubiensis, pp. 496–7, 1314; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit. ii. 1592; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Hawker's Some Particulars relating to the Ministry and Disciples of Rev. S. E. Pierce of London (1822), in Plymouth Institution Library.]

G. Le G. N.