Parker, Robert (1564?-1614) (DNB00)

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PARKER, ROBERT (1564?–1614), puritan divine, born about 1564, became a chorister of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1575, demy 1580-3, graduated B.A. 3 Nov. 1582, was elected fellow 1585-93, and proceeded M.A. 22 June 1587. On 9 April 1588 he and a certain Edmund Gilliland were 'again punished quod habitu sacro et scholastico in templo non uterentur' (Bloxam, Magd. Coll. Reg. II. lxxx). Parker was presented in 1591 to the rectory of Patney, Devizes, being instituted on 24 Jan. 1591-2, and resigning in 1593. From 1594 to 1605 he held the vicarage of Stanton St. Bernard. It appears from the preface to his treatise 'De Descensu Christi' that Parker was a protégé of Henry Herbert, second earl of Pembroke [q. v.] In 1607 he was forced to leave the country to avoid prosecution before the high commission, in consequence of his 'scholastic discourse against symbolizing.' The episcopal party 'got the king to put forth a proclamation with an offer of an award for taking him.' He lay 'hid for some time a little way out of London, where a treacherous servant in his family endeavoured to betray him, and brought officers to his house to search for him. He was then actually in the house, in the only room which they neglected to search ' (Peirce, Vindication, i. 170-1). He was assisted in his flight to Gravesend by a certain Richard Brown, a waterman, who subsequently became a separatist elder in the congregation of Watertown, New England (cf. Massachusetts Hist. Soc. 3rd ser. v. 187; Clarke, Lives, i. 22-3). Parker crossed to Holland, and subsequently settled in Leyden. Henry Jacob [q. v.] arrived there in 1610, and, according to Nethenus's 'Life of Ames' (preface), William Ames [q. v.] was sent, 'at the expense of some opulent English merchants, with Parker to Leyden, for the purpose of engaging in controversy with the supporters of the English Church.' At first Parker was entirely in agreement with Jacob on the question of church polity (see Cotton, Congregational Churches cleared, p. 13). He was always by later writers, especially American, reckoned among the moderates, and as puritan rather than separatist. He started with an opinion 'against particular councils, opining that the church of God can well subsist without them' (Best, Church's Plea for her Right; Hubbard, Gen. Hist, of New Engl. Massachusetts Hist. Soc. vols.iii. and v.)

It was to the influence of Ames and Parker that Horn attributes the moderating of Robinson's views at Leyden (Horn, Hist. Eccles. 1687, Massachusetts Hist. Soc. 3rd ser. ix. 52). In Governor Bradford's 'Dialogue' it is held that 'no comparison will hold from the separatists to them who were reproached with the name of puritans, those blessed and glorious lights, Cartwright, Parker, Dr. Ames.' Clifton, however, accuses Parker of identifying himself with Christopher Lawne's 'prophane schism of the Brownists, or separatists, with the impiety, dissensions, lewd and abominable vices of that impure sect discovered 1612,' 'which is as barren of warrant from the Scripture for the estate of the church of England called into question as Mr. Parker's former book is fruitful therein' (Clifton, Advertisement concerning a Book lately published by Christopher Lawne and others against the English Exiled Church, at Amsterdam). On the other hand, Baillie, in his letters, reckons Parker among the prime men 'who make use against us of the argument of the entire power of government in the hands of congregational presbyteries, except in cases of altercation and difficulty' (Hanbury, ii. 432; Allin and Shephard, Trial of the new Church Way in New England).

It was this eclectic constitution of Parker's mind which led to his unfavourable reception at the hands of the Amsterdam presbyterian congregation when he came from Leyden to join it. He professed, according to its chief minister, John Paget (d. 1640) [q. v.], 'at his first coming, that the use of synods was for counsel and advice only, but had no authority to give a definite sentence. After much conference he changed his opinion, and those of Jacob's opinion were offended at him and me. He was a member of the same family, and lived with me under the same roof, and we had daily conversations' ({sc|Paget}), Defence, p. 105). 'He was afterwards a member of the same eldership, and by office sat with us daily to judge and hear the causes of our church, and so became a member of our classical combination. Yet did he not testify against the undue power of the classis, or complain that we were not a free people, though the classis exercised the same authority then which it doth now. He was also for a time the scribe of our consistory, and the acts of our eldership and church were recorded in his own hand (ib.) Both Best and Davenport, however, charge Paget with jealousy of Parker, who could preach in Dutch, and with tyranny in depriving the Amsterdam church of her power of free election of pastors (Davenport, Just Complaint against an Unjust Doer). In reply, Paget asserts (Defence of Church Government) that Parker's widow 'hath of late years, before sufficient witnesses, protested the untruth thereof.' There was, however, 'some difference about the manner of his call,' and, although Paget protested that he did his best to end it in Parker's interest, Parker was compelled to leave Amsterdam after a two years' stay (Paget, Answer, pp. 74, 96-7). He removed in 1613 to Doesburg, Gelderland, to preach to the garrison there, and died there about eight months after, in 1614. Extracts from several of his letters written to Paget from Doesburg have been preserved by Paget in his 'Defence of Church Government.' They relate to Parker's evident wish to return to Amsterdam. Parker left a widow, Dorothy. A son Thomas (1595-1677) [q. v.] was teacher to the congregation at Newbury, New England. A daughter Sara was baptised at Patney on 15 April 1593 (Patney Registers).

His works are: 1. ' A scholasticall Discourse against symbolizing with Antichrist in ceremonies, especially in the Signe of the Crosse' [London], 1607, fol. 2 pts. (see Grey, Exam. i. 50). 2. 'De Descensu Domini nostri Jesu Christi ad inferos libri quatuor ab auctore doctissimo Hugone Sanfordo Coomflorio Anglo inchoati, opera vero et studio Roberti Parker ad umbilicum perducti ac jam tandem in lucem editi,' Amsterdam, 1611. In 1597 Henry Jacob [q. v.] heard Thomas Bilson, bishop of Winchester, preach at Paul's Cross on the article in the Apostle's creed relating to Christ's descent into hell. In the following year he published an answer. At Elizabeth's command, Bilson prepared his magnum opus in reply (1604). Bilson's doctrine was answered at home by Gabriel Powell, and abroad by Hugh Broughton and Parker (see Wood, Athenae Oxon. ii. 309). The latter's work was begun by Hugh Sanford, who, after labouring on it for two years, died, and Parker finished it after four years' work. In his epistle 'candido lectori' he claims that all Sanford's matter required rearranging. Parker derives Hades from Adam, and traces the whole Greek theogeny to Hebrew roots and derivations. 3. 'De politeia ecclesiastica Christi et hierarchica opposita libri tres, in quibus tam verse disciplinae fundamenta quam omnes fere de eadem controversiae summo cum judicio et doctrina methodice pertractantur' (Frankfort, 1616); a posthumous work, and incomplete. Paget claims the work as a portraiture of the presbyterian church organisation (Paget, Defence of Church Government, p. 105). 4. 'An Exposition of the pouring-out of the fourth Vial mentioned in the 16th of Revelation,' London, 1650 (2 July), a portion of which reappeared in 'The Mystery of the Vialls opened,' another posthumous tract by Parker, London, 1651 (21 Aug.)

Parker must be distinguished from Richard Parker, who was vicar of Bulbridge and Ditchampton, separate vicarages of the rectory of Wilton, from 1571 to his death in 1611 (Hoare, Wilts), rector of North Benfleet, 28 March 1571-12 Oct. 1572; removed to West Hanningfield, 14 Oct. 1572 till 1 584, and was presented to Dedham, Essex, 30 June 1582. At Dedham he 'was suspended for not subscribing Whitgift's articles, and, being restored again, hath now since the bishop's visitation a day set him for deprivation for not yielding to wear the surplice' (Part of a Register, p. 584). After his second persecution he left the county and removed to Wiltshire. It is certain from the manuscript records of the Essex puritan assembly of 1582-9, of which this Parker of Dedham was the scribe, that his name was Richard, and not Robert.

[Hanbury's Hist. Memorials ; Morse and Parish's Hist. of New Engl. p. 75 ; Forbes's Anatomy of Independency, 1644; Baillie's Letters; Wood's Athenae Oxon.; Bloxam's Magd. Coll. Reg.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Clark's Oxford Register; Watt's Bibl. Brit; Sumner's Memoirs of the Pilgrims at Leyden (Massachusetts Hist. Soc. 3rd ser.vol.ix.); Horn's Hist. Eccl. 1687; Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, pp. 436-9, quoting Governor Bradford's Dialogue, or the sum of a conference between some young men born in New England and sundry ancient men that came out of Holland and England; Lechford's Plain Dealing, or Newes from New England (Massachusetts Hist. Soc. 3rd ser. iii. 93); Hubbard's Gen. Hist. of New England (Massachusetts Hist. Soc. 3rd ser. v. 1 18, 187); Steven's Hist. of the Scottish Church at Rotterdam (makes Parker minister of Delft, 163G-41); Pierce's Vindication of the Dissenters, 1717, p. 170 ; Winthrop's Hist. of New Engl., ed. James Savage ; Hunter's Collection concerning the Separatist Church at Scrooby; Prince's Chronological Hist, of New Engl.; Brook's Puritans, ii. 237; Neal's Puritans; Best's Church's Plea for her Right, Amsterdam, 1635 ; Canne's Necessity of Separation; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 183a; information kindly supplied by the Rev. P. H. Jackson, rector of Patney, by the Rev. D. Olivier, rector of Wilton, and by the Rev. J. T. Dixon Stewart, rector of Stanton, Wiltshire.]

W. A. S.