Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bourn, Samuel (1714-1796)

BOURN, SAMUEL (1714–1796), dissenting minister, second son of Samuel Bourn the younger [q. v.], was born in 1714 at Crook near Kendal, and educated at Stand grammar school and Glasgow University, where he studied under Hutcheson and Simson. In 1742 he settled in the ministry at Rivington, Lancashire, where he enjoyed the friendship of Hugh, fifteenth Lord Willoughby of Parham, who lived at Shaw Place, near Rivington, and was the representative of the last of the presbyterian noble families. Bourn was not ordained till some years after his settlement. He then made a lengthy declaration (printed by Toulmin) dealing with the duties of the ministry and allowing no doctrine or duty except those taught in the New Testament. Bourn lived partly at Leicester Mills, a wooded vale near Rivington, and partly at Bolton. He does not seem to have taken very kindly to Rivington at the outset, for his father writes to his son Abraham at Chowbent on 13 Feb. 1742-43, 'I am afraid your brother Samuel is too impatient under his lot, and would have advancement before God sees he is fit for it, or it for him.' In 1752 the publication of his first sermon led to overtures from the presbyterian congregation at Norwich, and in 1754, apparently after the death of the senior minister, Peter Finch (1661-1754), Bourn became the colleague of John Taylor. The Norwich presbyterians had laid the first stone of a new meeting-house on 25 Feb. 1754. When Bourn came to them they were worshipping in Little St. Mary's, an ancient edifice, then and still held by trustees for the Walloon or French protestants. On 12 May 1756 was opened the new building, the Octagon Chapel, described in the following year by John Wesley (Journals, iii. 315). Not long after Bourn lost 1,000l., which he had risked in his brother Daniel's cotton mill, and in 1758 he travelled about to obtain subscriptions for two volumes of sermons. He placed the manuscript in the hands of Samuel Chandler, D.D., of the Old Jewry. In one of these sermons Bourn had espoused the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked, but being in London in 1759, he heard Chandler characterise in a sermon the annihilation doctrine as 'utterly inconsistent with the Christian scheme.' Deeming this a personal attack, he vainly sought to draw Chandler into a controversy by a published letter. His sermons, when published, produced a controversy with John Mason (1706-1763). The point in discussion was the resurrection of the flesh. Mason's (affirmative) part in the controversy will be found in his 'Christian Morals,' 2 vols. 1761. Bourn's opposite view is defended in an appendix to his sermons on the Parables. Bourn's reputation as a preacher was due to the force, and sometimes the solemn pathos, of his written style, and to the strength of his argumentative matter, Among those brought up under his ministry was Sir James Edward Smith, founder of the Linnean Society. Like his father, Bourn rested in the Christology of Dr. Clarke. He was no optimist; he devoted a powerful discourse to the theme that no great improvement in the moral state of mankind is practicable by any means whatsoever (vol. i. 1760, No. 14). When, in 1757, Dr. Taylor left Norwich to fill the divinity chair in Warrington Academy, Bourn obtained as colleagues first John Hoyle, and afterwards Robert Alderson, subsequently a lawyer, and father of Sir E. H. Alderson [q. v.], who, when Bourn became incapable of work, had to discharge the whole duty, and was accordingly ordained on 13 Sept. 1775. Bourn was a favourite with the local clergy of the establishment. Samuel Parr took him to Cambridge, and speaks of him as a masterly writer, a profound thinker, and the intimate friend of Dr. Parr at Norwich '(Bibl. Parr. p. 704). When his health failed, and he was retiring to Thorpe on a property of 60l. a year, it is said by Toulmin (and repeated by Field) that Dr. Mann, bishop of Cork, who was visiting Norwich, offered him a sinecure preferment of 300l. a year if he chose to conform. He declined, to the admiration of Parr, who did his best privately to assist his 'noncon. friend.' Bourn died in Norwich on 24 Sept. 1796, and was buried (27 Sept.) in the graveyard of the Octagon Chapel. Late in life he married, but left no family. He published:

  1. 'The Rise, Progress, Corruption, and Declension of the Christian Religion,' &c. (anon.), 1752, 4to (sermon from Mark iv. 30, before the Lancashire provincial assembly at Manchester, 12 May 1752).
  2. 'A Letter to the Rev. Samuel Chandler, D.D., concerning the Christian Doctrine of Future Punishment,' 1759, 8vo (afterwards added to the second edition of his sermons, and reprinted by Richard Baron [q. v.] in The Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy shaken,' 1768, vol. iii.)
  3. 'A Series of Discourses on the Principles and Evidences of Natural Religion and the Christian Revelation,' &c. 1760, 2 vols. 8vo (the 2nd vol. has a different title-page).
  4. 'Discourses on the Parables of our Saviour,' 1764, 2 vols. 8vo.
  5. 'Fifty Sermons on various Subjects, Critical, Philosophical, and Moral,' Norwich, 1777, 2 vols. 8vo. Toulmin mentions a manuscript 'History of the Hebrews,' which Bourn had partly prepared for the press.

[Toulmin's Mem. of Rev. Samuel Bourn, 1808; Field's Mem. of Parr, 1828, i. 139-141; Taylor's Hist, of Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1848; tombstone at Norwich.]

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