Parker, Samuel (1640-1688) (DNB00)
PARKER, SAMUEL (1640–1688), bishop of Oxford, born at Northampton in 1640, was second son of John Parker (fl. 1655) [q. v.] the judge (see Masson, Life of Milton, vi. 453, 699, 708; Noble, House of Cromwell, i. 433; Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, new ser. ii. 451). After being 'puritanically educated' at Northampton grammar school, he entered Wadham College, Oxford, 30 Sept. 1656, and was matriculated at Michaelmas term 1657 (Gardiner, Register of Wadham College, i. 221). Being committed by his parents to the charge of 'a presbyterian tutor, he did, according to his former breeding, lead a strict and religious life, fasted, prayed with other students weekly together, and for their refection feeding on thin broth made of oatmeal and water only, they were commonly called "grewellers." He and they did also usually go every week or oftener to an house in the parish of Holywell, near their college, possessed by Bess Hampton, an old and crooked maid that drove the trade of laundry; who, being from her youth very much given to the presbyterian religion, had frequent meetings for the godly party, especially for those that were her customers' (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. iii. 226). He was then 'esteemed one of the preciousest young men in the university.' He graduated B.A. 28 Feb. 1659. After the Restoration, his puritan views being discountenanced by the warden of Wadham, Dr. Blandford, he migrated to Trinity College, whence he proceeded M.A. 9 July 1663. By the influence of Dr. Bathurst, senior fellow of Trinity, he abandoned his violent opinions, and 'became as warm a member of the church of England as any.' In the following year he was ordained, and he then left Oxford for London, where he became chaplain to a nobleman, into whose favour, says Marvell (Works, iii. 48), 'he wrought himself dexterously … by short graces and sermons, and a mimical way of drolling upon the Puritans, which he knew would take both at chapel and table.' He had already, says the satirist, acquired a considerable experience of life, and was a great haunter of plays. He did not, however, neglect more serious matters. In 1665 he published an important theological essay, 'Tentamina de Deo,' and in the same year became F.R.S. He dedicated his book to Archbishop Sheldon, who, about Michaelmas 1667, made him his chaplain, when he left Oxford and came to reside at Lambeth. In the same year he received the rectory of Chartham, Kent, and was incorporated M.A. at Cambridge. In June 1670 he was made archdeacon of Canterbury, in the room of William Sancroft. He was installed a prebendary of Canterbury 18 Nov. 1670. On 26 Nov. 1671 he received the degree of D.D. at Cambridge per literas regias. In 1672 he received the rectory of Ickham in Kent. He was made master of Edenbridge Hospital in 1673.
For the next fourteen years he wrote constantly and voluminously. He criticised Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Hobbes; attacked the puritans, and wrote on ecclesiastical history and political science. He strongly supported the absolute power of the crown, and desired to restrict church authority to purely spiritual questions. His 'Ecclesiastical Polity' became a popular book (Marvell, as above), and led to a vigorous controversy with Marvell, in which severe blows were exchanged, but Parker held his own. His advocacy of Erastian views attracted the notice of James II, and in 1686 he was elected bishop of Oxford. He was consecrated at Lambeth on 17 Oct. with Dr. Thomas Cartwright, bishop of Chester. The appointment was regarded as purely political, and the two new bishops 'were pitched on' (according to Burnet) 'as the fittest instruments that could be found among all the clergy to betray and ruin the church.' Burnet adds that some of the bishops protested against their consecration on the score of character, and that Sancroft only yielded from fear of the penalties of præmunire. Parker had the reputation of being a 'covetous and ambitious man,' who 'seemed to have no other sense of religion but as a political interest and a subject of party and faction. He seldom came to prayers or to any exercises of devotion, and was so lifted up with pride that he was become insufferable to all that came near him' (Burnet, History of his Own Times, iii. 211).
He was allowed to hold the archdeaconry of Canterbury in commendam with his bishopric. His prebend he had resigned in 1685. He at once began to work actively on the king's side. He published 'Reasons for abrogating the Test,' which, though sensible enough in themselves, were regarded, in the excited state of public feeling, as a direct encouragement of the Roman projects against the English church. The book aroused a violent literary controversy ; and the suspicions of Parker's treachery were not allayed by his attempt to induce the clergy of his diocese to address the king with expressions of gratitude and loyalty after his declaration of his intention to secure to the clergy of the church of England the free exercise of their religion and the enjoyment of their possessions. It was pointed out that such an address would compromise the constitutional position of the English church, and when Parker assembled his clergy to ask their subscription to the address, 'they all unanimously refused' (Biographia Britannica, v. 3304; cf. Somers Tracts, 1748, ii. 373).
He was early apprised of the king's intention to use the appointments to office in the universities for the furtherance of the Roman catholic religion, and thus when, after the death of Dr. Clerke, president of Magdalen College, Oxford, Dr. Thomas Smith called upon him to ask his interest, he replied that 'the king expected that the person he recommended should be favourable to his religion.' Six months later, after the failure of his attempt to force Anthony Farmer upon the fellows, the king nominated Parker as president of Magdalen College (14 Aug. 1687). Parker was ill, and desired to be admitted by proxy; but the fellows refused to elect him, having already elected Hough. The king's visit to Oxford did not advance matters, and finally the ecclesiastical commission visited the college and, after inquiry, installed Parker as president by the king's mandate, and, forcibly entering the lodgings, placed him in possession (25 Oct.) On 2 Nov. he came into residence, and was occupied for the next four months in admitting Roman catholic fellows and demies, including several Jesuits, on successive mandates from the king (Bloxam, Magdalen College and James II, Oxford Hist. Soc.; Vice-President's Register, 2, 5, and 16 March 1678). He made futile endeavours to induce the members of the foundation to recognise him as president, and expelled refractory demies. He was regarded by many as an almost avowed Romanist. 'A Third Collection of Papers relating to the present juncture of Affairs in England ' (London, 1689) gives a letter from a Jesuit at Liège to a Jesuit at Fribourg, dated 2 Feb. 1688, which stated that Parker proposed in council that one college at Oxford should be given to the Romanists, and that he publicly drank the king's health, 'wishing him success in all his undertakings ' (p. 10).
But such statements must be received with scepticism. When the king's mandate ordered him to admit nine more Roman catholics as fellows, Parker's patience was exhausted, and a burst of anger followed, which led to a convulsive fit. He had long been in failing health, and, worn out by the anxieties and contentions of the last year, he died on 21 March 1688. During his sickness he was visited by Roman catholic priests, but he told them that he neither was nor would be of their communion. He received the sacrament according to the English rite, and made a declaration to the fellows of his adherence to the national church. The room in which he died, on the first floor of the president's house, was afterwards used as a study. It was pulled down during the recent reconstruction of the president's lodging.
He was buried by torchlight on 24 March on the south side of the ante-chapel, without memorial. An epitaph, said to have been written by himself, is given by Dr. Bliss (note to Wood's Athenae Oxon. iv. 872), in which he says: 'Omnes simultates et privatas inimicitias, non modo non fovi sed contempsi, sola integritate fretus.' His will was proved at Oxford 5 April 1688. His younger son, Samuel (1681-1730), is separately noticed. Burnet, a prejudiced witness, says Parker was 'full of satirical vivacity, and was considerably learned, but was a man of no judgment and of as little virtue; and, as to religion, rather impious' (History of his Own Times, i. 382). Two satirical epitaphs preserved by Hearne very happily express contemporary opinion. One of them runs : 'Hac alieni Raptor honoris, Usque librorum. Vana minantum Futilis autor, Ore bilinguis Fronte bicornis, Conditur urna, Samuel Oxon.' (Collectanea, ed. Doble, ii. 258).
When asked 'What was the best body of divinity?' Parker is said to have answered, 'That which would help a man to keep a coach and six horses was certainly the best ' (Somers Tracts, ii. 507); and the facts of his life show that the character for flexibility of conscience and self-seeking which he obtained among contemporaries was not undeserved. But a close examination of his writings leads to the further conclusion that his conduct was, in part at least, inspired by a practical theory of toleration in matters of religion, and that he honestly held opinions on the subject which were in advance of his age.
His chief work was 'A Discourse of Ecclesiastical Politie, wherein the authority of the Civil Magistrate over the Consciences of Subjects in matters of Religion is asserted; the Mischiefs and Inconveniences of Toleration are represented, and all Pretenses pleaded in behalf of Liberty of Conscience are fully answered,' London, 1670. The aim of the book was, 'by representing the palpable inconsistency of fanatique tempers and principles with the welfare and security of government, to awaken Authority to beware of its worst and most dangerous enemies, and to force them to that modesty and obedience by severity of Laws to which all the strength of Reason in the world can never persuade them.' Hobbes's doctrine of sovereignty is fully accepted (p. 27), and the absolute supremacy of the civil power is unhesitatingly asserted. Religion, it is asserted, is so far from being at liberty from the authority of the civil power that 'nothing in the world will be found to require more of its care and influence' (p. 15). Other points of the 'Leviathan,' however, are sharply criticised. The position of dissenters is declared to be untenable and ridiculous, and the author discourses with much spirit upon 'the Pretense of a Tender and Unsatisfied Conscience; the Absurdity of Pleading it in opposition to the commands of Publick Authority.' This book was answered at once in a pamphlet ' Insolence and Impudence Triumphant,' and by Dr. John Owen (1616- 1683) [q. v.] in 'Truth and Innocence vindicated.' To this Parker replied in 'A Defence and Continuation of Ecclesiastical Politie [against Dr. Owen], together with a Letter from the Author of "The Friendly Debate," ' London, 1671. Parker further defended his position in 'A Reproof to the "Rehearsal Transpos'd," in a Discourse to its Authour, by the Authour of "The Ecclesiastical Politie,"' ' London, 1673.
Parker's other works are: 1. 'Tentamina Physico-theologica de Deo: sive Theologia Scholastica ad norniam Novse et Reformats Philosophise concinnata, et duobus Libris coinprehensa,' &c., London, 1665. 2. 'A free and impartial Censure of the Platonick Philosophie, being a Letter written to his much honoured friend Mr. Nath. Bisbie,' Oxford, 1666; 2nd edit, 1667. 3. 'An Account of the Nature and Extent of the Divine Dominion and Goodness especially as they refer to the Origenian Hypothesis concerning the Pre-existence of Souls, together with a special Account of the Vanity and Groundlessness of the Hypothesis itself; being a second Letter written to his much honoured friend and kinsman Mr. Nath. Bisbie,' Oxford, 1667, both 8vo. 4. 'Bishop Bramhall's Vindication of Himself and the Episcopal Clergy from the Presbyterian Charge of Popery, as it is managed by Mr. Baxter in his Treatise of the Grotian Religion ; together with a Preface showing what grounds there are of Fears and Jealousies of Popery,' London, 1672 (see Wood). 5. 'Disputationes de Deo et Providentia Divina,' London, 1678. A philosophic treatise criticising Epicurus among ancient philosophers and Descartes among moderns. 6. ' A Demonstration of the Divine Authority of the Law of Nature and of the Christian Religion,' in two parts, London, 1681. An apologetic treatise designed as a continuation of the 'Disputationes de Deo,' and dedicated to Dr. Bathurst of Trinity College. Occasioned by the author's observation that 'the plebeians and mechanicks have philosophised themselves into principles of impiety and read their Lectures of Atheism in the streets and the highways.' It proves the existence of the 'law of nature' from the 'nature of things,' and is to some extent an anticipation of Bishop Butler. 7. 'The Case of the Church of England briefly and truly stated, in the three first and fundamental Principles of a Christian Church: i. The Obligation of Christianity by Divine Right; ii. The Jurisdiction of the Church by Divine Right; iii. The Institution of Episcopal Superiority by Divine Right; by S. P., a Presbyter of the Church of England,' London, 1681 (a manuscript note in the Bodleian copy states that it is Parker's ; so also Wood, Athenae Oxon. iii. 231, 234). 8. 'An Account of the Government of the Christian Church for the first Six Hundred Years,' London, 1683; a statement of the orthodox doctrine concerning episcopacy, combined with an attack upon the usurpation of Patriarchs, and concluding with a challenge to Baronius on the Roman supremacy. 9. 'Religion and Loyalty, or a Demonstration of the Power of the Christian Church within itself. The supremacy of Sovereign Power over it,' London, 1684. Parker declares that any one who at any time, on any pretence, should offer any resistance to the sovereign's commands' must for ever renounce his Saviour, the four Evangelists, and the twelve Apostles, to join with Mahomet, Hildebrand, and the Kirk, set up the pigeon against the dove, the scimeter against the Cross, and turn a Judas to his Saviour, as well as a Cromwell to his prince.' 10. 'Religion and Loyalty, the second part, or the History of the Concurrence of the Imperial and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction in the Government of the Church, from the beginning of the Reign of Jovian to the end of the Reign of Justinian,' London, 1685, including a long and elaborate argument against the genuineness of the 'Anecdota' of Procopius. 11. 'Reasons for abrogating the Test imposed upon all Members of Parliament, Anno 1678, Octob. 30. First written for the Author's own Satisfaction, and now published for the benefit of all others whom it may concern,' London, 1688. This was met by a sharp retort: 'Samuel, Lord Bishop of Oxon . . . answered by Samuel, Archdeacon of Canterbury,' written by John Philipps, 1688, in which an endeavour was made to convict Parker of gross inconsistency. After his death were published: 12. 'A Letter sent by Sir Leolyn Jenkins to the late King James, to bring him over to the Communion of the Church of England, written by the late Samuel Parker, D.D., Lord Bishop of Oxford; printed from the original Manuscript,' London, 1714. 13. 'Reverendi admodum in Christo patris Samuelis Parkeri Episcopi non ita pridem Oxoniensis de Rebus sui Temporis Commentariorum libri quatuor. E codice MS. ipsius authoris manu castigate, nunc primum in lucem editi,' London, 1727. Of little interest; chiefly dealing with general foreign history before the critical period of the author's life. It was twice translated: as Bishop Parker's ' History of his own Time, in four Books. Faithfully translated by Thomas Newlin, M.A.,' London, 1727; and also as ' Bp. Parker's History of his own Time, in four Books, with Remarks upon each,' &c., London, 1728. This edition contains some notes, but the biography is drawn almost entirely from Wood.[Wood's Athenae Oxon. vol. iii.; Hearne's Collections; Biogr. Brit. vol. v. ; Gardiner's Register of Wadham College; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Marvell's Rehearsal Transpos'd (in vol. iii. of Works, ed. Grosart) ; Burnet's History of his own Time; Gutch, i. 349 ; Bloxam's Magdalen College Re- gister, i. 121, vol. ii. preface, iii. 217, v. 146, 294-5, vi. 21, vii. 3, 28, 30-1, 32, 56. Bloxam's Magdalen College and James II (Oxford Hist. Soc. 1886) contains a full account of the whole of the proceedings of the famous contest, and gives a complete bibliography, and a list of manu- scripts bearing on the subject. Since the publi- cation of this volume the Buckley MS., a folio volume referred to therein, has been purchased by Magdalen College. Parker's own works contain several autobiographical references. Many of the answers to his books also give valuable information. Among these should be noticed: An Answer to the Bishop of Oxford's Reasons for Abrogating the Test imposed on all members of Parliament, by a Person of Quality, London, 1688 ; A Treatise of the Bulk and Selvedge of the World, wherein the Greatness, Littleness, and Lastingness of Bodies are freely handled, with an Answer to Tentamina de Deo by N. Fairfax, M.D., London, 1674; Insolence and Impudence Triumphant, Envy and Fury enthroned, the Mirrour of Malice and Madness, in a late Treatise entitled A Discourse of Ecclesiastical Polity, 1669 (no place of publication given); Deus Justificatus, Oxford, 1667, London, 1668.]