Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parsons, Edward (1762-1833)

945464Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43 — Parsons, Edward (1762-1833)1895Bertha Porter

PARSONS, EDWARD (1762–1833), congregational minister, descended from a good Irish family, was born in Stepney on 16 July 1762. Being brought under the notice of the Countess of Huntingdon, he became one of the earliest students of her college at Trevecca. On leaving the college he went to Tunbridge Wells to minister in Lady Huntingdon's connexion, and thence to Norwich, where his health gave way under stress of work. Subsequently, after a brief ministry at Bristol, he went to Wigan at the countess's request, and a good congregation was formed there. He spent 1781 at the chapel at St. Saviour's Gate, York. Early in 1784 he went to London to take charge of the chapel in Mulberry Gardens, Wapping, but he soon retired from Lady Huntingdon's connexion. Joining the congregationalists, he preached for some months at the independent church in Cannon Street, Manchester, and afterwards became assistant at the White Chapel, Leeds. On 17 Feb. 1785 the minister, John Edwards [q. v.], died, and Parsons succeeded him. The White Chapel, though several times enlarged, became too small for the congregation, and the present Salem Chapel was built in 1791. From 1786 he preached annually for forty years at Tottenham Court Chapel.

In 1795 Parsons took a very prominent part in the establishment of the London Missionary Society, of which he was a director for some years. In August 1813 he assisted in organising an auxiliary of the society at Leeds for the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was one of the trustees of the ‘Evangelical Magazine’ from its beginning, in 1793, till his death. In 1832 he resigned his post at Leeds, but still occasionally preached in London. He died at Douglas, Isle of Man, on 29 July 1833.

Parsons was twice married. By his second wife, a daughter of James Hamilton, M.D. (1740–1827), of Dunbar, and of Winterfield Hall, Belhaven, he had a large family, including Edward, noticed below, and James (1799–1877), separately noticed.

Parsons was justly popular as a preacher, and in that capacity proved himself both practical and eloquent. There are portraits of him in the ‘Evangelical Magazine’ for October 1797, and in Morrison's ‘Fathers and Founders of the London Missionary Society,’ 1844, p. 429. An engraving by J. Ogborne (after Singleton), representing Parsons in the act of preaching, was published in 1789. The face was afterwards altered to that of Timothy Priestley [q. v.]

He published many separate sermons, and of the numerous religious tracts which he issued between 1791 and 1832 the chief are: 1. Under the pseudonym ‘Vindex,’ ‘A Letter to the Author of a Candid Inquiry [into the Democratic Schemes of the Dissenters],’ Leeds, 1801; 2nd edit., entitled ‘A Vindication of the Dissenters against the Charge of Democratic Scheming.’ This was replied to by ‘The Inquirer’ in ‘The Guilt of Democratic Scheming fully proved against the Dissenters,’ Bradford, 1802, when Parsons retorted in an Appendix to his ‘Vindication,’ and proclaimed ‘The Inquirer’ to be William Atkinson, lecturer, of Bradford. 2. ‘On Self-Possession in Preaching,’ London, 1832. 3. ‘Tracts for Infant Churches,’ London, 1832. He also edited the works of Dr. Philip Doddridge [q. v.], Leeds, 1802–5, 1811, and of Jonathan Edwards, Leeds, 1806 (with Edward Williams); David Simpson's ‘A Plea for the Deity of Jesus,’ London, 1812, with a memoir of the author, and a preface entitled ‘The Spirit of Modern Socinianism exemplified;’ the works of Stephen Charnock [q. v.], London, 1815, and with Thomas Scales and Richard Winter Hamilton [q. v.], ‘A Selection of Hymns … for the Use of the Protestant Dissenting Congregations of the Independent Order,’ Leeds, 1822, 1835. He abridged Neal's ‘History of the Puritans,’ London, 1812.

Edward Parsons (1797–1844), the eldest son, born in 1797, entered the Homerton Academy about 1812, and left in December 1817. He was ordained to the ministry of Sion Chapel, Halifax, in 1818. From 1821 to 1846 he assisted John Clayton (1754–1843) [q. v.] at the Weigh House in London, and from 1826 to 1829 was minister there in succession to Clayton. From November 1836 to April 1839 he was minister at the newly formed church in Harley Street, Bow. Salem Chapel, Mile-end Road, was built for him in 1839, and he remained there till his death, on 18 Nov. 1844. The building is now used as a Roman catholic place of worship. He was a trustee of the ‘Evangelical Magazine’ in 1826 and 1827.

His published works include: 1. ‘Histories of St. Bartholomew's Day,’ Halifax, 1824. 2. ‘History in all Ages’ (anon.), London, 1830, 1839 (9th edit.), 1849 (17th edit.), 1853, 1857, 1861 (29th edit.). 3. ‘History of the Jews of all Ages’ (anon.), Leeds, 1832. 4. ‘History of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield,’ &c., Leeds, 1834. 5. ‘The Tourist's Companion … from Leeds and Selby to Hull,’ London, 1835. 8. ‘Geography in all Ages,’ London, 1858. Five sermons by him were published in the ‘Pulpit.’

[Miall's Congregationalism in Yorkshire, pp. 155–6, 163–4, 174–5, 177, 180, 268–9, 304–7, 388; Morison's Fathers and Founders of the London Missionary Society, pp. 345–54; Pike's Ancient Meeting Houses, p. 372; Memorials of the Clayton Family, pp. 347; information from Mrs. Francis, Crouch House, Colchester; church-book of Harley Street Chapel, communicated by Mr. Samuel Dean.]

B. P.