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Walker, Samuel (DNB00)


WALKER, SAMUEL (1714–1761), divine, born at Exeter on 16 Dec. 1714, was the fourth son of Robert Walker of Withycombe Raleigh, Devonshire, by his wife Margaret, daughter of Richard Hall, rector of St. Edmund and All Hallows, Exeter. Robert Walker (1699–1789), his elder brother, made manuscript collections for the history of Cornwall and Devon, which at one time belonged to Sir Thomas Phillipps (Phillipps MSS. 13495, 13698–9).

Samuel was educated at Exeter grammar school from 1722 to 1731. He matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford, on 4 Nov. 1732, graduating B.A. on 25 June 1736. In 1737 he was appointed curate of Doddiscombe Leigh, near Exeter, but resigned his position in August 1738 to accompany Lord Rolle's youngest brother to France as tutor. Returning early in 1740, he became curate of Lanlivery in Cornwall. On the death of the vicar, Nicolas Kendall, a few weeks later, he succeeded him on 3 March 1739–1740. In 1746 he resigned the vicarage, which he had only held in trust, and was appointed rector of Truro and vicar of Talland. Although Walker had always been a man of exemplary moral character, he had hitherto shown little religious conviction. About a year after settling in Truro, however, he came under the influence of George Conon, the master of Truro grammar school, a man of saintly character. He gradually withdrew himself from the amusements of his parishioners, and devoted himself exclusively to the duties of his ministry. In his sermons he dwelt especially on the central facts of evangelical theology—repentance, faith, and the new birth, which were generally associated at that time with Wesley and his followers. Such crowds attended his preaching that the town seemed deserted during the hours of service, and the playhouse and cock-pit were permanently closed. In 1752 he resigned the vicarage of Talland on account of conscientious scruples respecting pluralities. In 1754 he endeavoured to consolidate the results of his labours by uniting his converts in a religious society or guild, bound to observe certain rules of conduct. In 1755 he also formed an association of the neighbouring clergy who met monthly ‘to consult upon the business of their calling.’ The methods by which he endeavoured to stimulate religious life resemble those employed by the Wesleys, who were much interested in the work accomplished by Walker, and frequently conferred with him on matters of doctrine and organisation. In 1755 and 1756, when the question of separation from the English church occupied their chief attention, John and Charles Wesley consulted Walker both personally and by letter. Walker failed to convince John Wesley of the unlawfulness of leaving the English church, but he helped to show him its inexpediency, and in 1758 persuaded him to suppress the larger part of a pamphlet which he had written, entitled ‘Reasons against a Separation from the Church of England,’ fearing that some of the reasons which convinced Wesley might have a contrary effect on others. Walker strongly disapproved of the influence exerted by the lay preachers in directing the course of the Wesleyan movement. ‘It has been a great fault all along,’ he wrote to Charles Wesley, ‘to have made the low people of your council.’

Walker died unmarried on 19 July 1761 at Blackheath, at the house of William Legge, second earl of Dartmouth [q. v.], who had a great affection for him. He was buried in Lewisham churchyard.

Walker was the author of: 1. ‘The Christian: a Course of eleven practical Sermons,’ London, 1755, 12mo; 12th ed. 1879, 8vo. 2. ‘Fifty-two Sermons on the Baptismal Covenant, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and other important Subjects of Practical Religion,’ London, 1763, 2 vols. 8vo; new edition by John Lawson, with a memoir by Edward Bickersteth [q. v.], 1836. 3. ‘Practical Christianity illustrated in Nine Tracts,’ London, 1765, 12mo; new edition, 1812. 4. ‘The Covenant of Grace, in Nine Sermons,’ Hull, 1788, 12mo, reprinted from the ‘Theological Miscellany;’ new edition, Edinburgh, 1873, 12mo. 5. Ten sermons, entitled ‘The Refiner, or God's Method of Purifying his People,’ Hull, 1790, 12mo, reprinted from the ‘Theological Miscellany;’ reissued in a new arrangement as ‘Christ the Purifier,’ London, 1794, 12mo; new edition, 1824, 12mo. 6. ‘The Christian Armour: ten Sermons, now first published from the Author's Remains,’ London, 1841, 18mo; new edition, Chichester, 1878, 8vo.

[Sidney's Life and Ministry of Samuel Walker, 2nd ed. 1838; Samuel Walker of Truro (Religious Tract Soc.); Ryle's Christian Leaders of the Last Century, 1869, pp. 306–27; Bennett's Risdon Darracott, 1815; Tyerman's Life of John Wesley, 1870, ii. 207, 211, 244, 250, 279, 317, 414, 585; Polwhele's Biogr. Sketches, 1831, i. 75; Hervey's Letters, 1837, p. 718; Life of Countess of Huntingdon, ii. 54, 414–15; Penrose's Christian Sincerity, 1829, pp. 179–81; Elizabeth Smith's Life Reviewed, 1780, pp. 17, 36; Middleton's Biogr. Evangelica, 1786, iv. 350–74; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 122; Bibliotheca Cornub. ii. 846, iii. 1358; Notes and Queries, 9th ser. iv. 162.]

E. I. C.