Robert Parker (minister)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Robert Parker (1569–1614) was an English Puritan clergyman and scholar. He became minister of a separatist congregation in Holland where he died while in exile for his heterodoxy. He was descended from the Spencer family of Althorp, Northamptonshire. The Reverend Cotton Mather wrote of Parker as "one of the greatest scholars in the English Nation, and in some sort the father of all Nonconformists of our day."


Parker was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he became a chorister in 1575. He was a demy there 1580-3, graduated B.A. 3 November 1582, was elected Fellow 1585–93 during which time he had got into trouble in 1588 for not donning the surplice, and proceeded M.A. 22 June 1587.[1]

In 1591 Parker was beneficed as minister to the rectory of Patney, Devizes, being instituted on 24 January 1592, 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, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. In 1607 he was forced to leave the country to avoid prosecution before the court of high commission, in consequence of his 'scholastic discourse against symbolising.' With a reward on his head he escaped through Gravesend.[1]

Parker settled in Leyden. Henry Jacob arrived there in 1610, and with the support of English merchants William Ames was also brought in to oppose the Church of England. In Leyden, Holland Parker comes into the influence and friendship of Reverend John Robinson, M.A. In the historiography of Congregationalism, it has been argued that Parker and Jacob largely agreed on church polity, taking a moderate ('semi-separatist') line; but Parker's place was certainly contested. Georg Horn, later in the 17th century, wrote that John Robinson's separatist views were softened by contact with Ames and Parker. William Bradford placed Ames and Parker in the tradition of Thomas Cartwright. Richard Clyfton, however, attacked Parker as identified with the Brownist Christopher Lawne.[1]

When Parker moved to Amsterdam around 1611, there was friction with the dominant presbyterian minister John Paget at the English Reformed Church. Paget later argued that Parker had adapted to and participated in the presbyterian discipline. Both William Best and John Davenport, however, charge Paget with jealousy of Parker, who could preach in Dutch.[1]

Parker left in 1613 for Doesburg, Gelderland, to preach to the garrison there, and died there about eight months after, in 1614, still in touch with Paget about returning.


Parker was born 1569 in Cholderton, Wiltshire, England, to Robert Parker, M.A. (1543–1591) and Mary Eydith Burge-Collins who had children Richard Parker, Anne Parker, Cuthert Parker, Marie Parker, William Parker and Edward Parker.

In 1589 Parker married Dorothy Stephens, daughter of Nicholas Stephens Esq. and Frances Brydges, and grand daughter of Lady Jane Spencer and Sir Richard Brydges, Kt. Dorothy's sister Anne Stephens was the wife of Rev. William Noyes and mother of Rev. James Noyes and Deacon Nicolas Noyes. Robert and Dorothy had children Reverend Thomas Parker, Sarah Parker Woodbridge and Elizabeth Parker Avery. Their son Reverend Thomas Parker along with his cousin Reverend James Noyes led a group of Wiltshire settlers aboard the Mary & John to New England in 1632 where they founded Newbury, Massachusetts. Of their daughters, Sarah (1593–1663) married John Woodbridge V (1582–1778), rector of Stanton-Fitzwarren, Wiltshire, and was mother of John Woodbridge and Benjamin Woodbridge; Elizabeth published under her married name Elizabeth Avery and was a Fifth Monarchist, in the Dublin congregation of John Rogers in 1653.[1][2][3][4][5]


His works are:

  • A scholasticall Discourse against symbolising with Antichrist in ceremonies, especially in the Signe of the Crosse [London], 1607, 2 pts.
  • 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 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. Parker'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 theogony to Hebrew roots and derivations.
  • 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.
  • An Exposition of the pouring-out of the fourth Vial mentioned in the 16th of Revelation, London, 1650, a portion of which reappeared in The Mystery of the Vialls opened, another posthumous tract by Parker, London, 1651.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f  "Parker, Robert (1564?–1614)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Francis J. Bremer, Tom Webster, Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia (2006), article on Noyes, pp. 183–4.
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^  "Woodbridge, Benjamin". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  5. ^ A Historical Dictionary of British Women (2003) p. 25. article on Elizabeth Avery.