Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Parker, Thomas (clergyman)

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PARKER, Thomas, clergyman, b. in Wiltshire, England, 8 June, 1595; d. in Newbury, Mass., 24 April, 1677. His father, Robert, was an eminent Puritan divine, who was exiled for his religious opinions. Thomas, who was a student at Oxford at that time, joined him in Holland, and was graduated at the University of Leyden in 1614. He subsequently returned to England, taught in Newbury for a time, and in 1634 sailed for New England with his relatives, James and Nicholas Noyes (q. v.), with whom he founded the town of Newbury, Mass., was installed its first pastor, and continued in that charge until his death, “the beauty, holiness, charity, and humbleness of his life,” says Cotton Mather, “giving his people a perpetual and most lively commentary on his doctrine.” With James Noyes he also prepared students for Harvard, refusing all compensation for his services. During his pastorate a bitter controversy on the subject of church government divided his parish. During his later life he was totally blind, but could teach the languages with ease from memory. A contemporary writer says: “On one occasion certain clergymen, who were dissatisfied with his opinions, came to reason with him. They addressed him in English, he replied in Latin; they followed him in Latin, he responded in Greek; they managed a reply; he then spoke Arabic, whither they durst not go.” The river on whose banks he first landed is named in his honor. He published “A Letter on Church Government” (1644); “The Prophecies of Daniel Expounded” (1646); and “Methodus Gratis Divinte” (1657), all extremely rare.