Theodore Parker, 1810-1860

An 1836 graduate of Harvard Divinity School, and ordained in 1837, Theodore Parker was introduced to the Transcendentalist club by his mentor Reverend Convers Francis of Watertown, Massachusetts. Like George Ripley several years earlier, Parker debated conservative Unitarian leader Andrews Norton (in 1840) over the significance of biblical miracles in a lengthy public letter written under the pseudonym "Levi Blodgett." Emerson credited Parker's frequent contributions to The Dial, such as "The Divine Presence in Nature and the Soul" in the first number (below), as a major reason for heavy sales of the journal. "It must be confessed, though with sorrow, that transient things form a great part of what is commonly taught as Religion," Parker stated in his eloquent sermon "A Discourse of the Transient and Permanent in Christianity" (1841). "An undue place has often been assigned to forms and doctrines, while too little stress has been laid on the divine life of the soul, love to God, and love to man. Religious forms may be useful and beautiful. They are so, whenever they speak to the soul, and answer a want thereof. In our present state some forms are perhaps necessary. But they are only the accident of Christianity; not its substance." The discourse has been considered a "Transcendentalist manifesto." His "Discourse of Matters Pertaining to Religion" (1842) was considered so radical that his fellow Unitarian ministers withdrew from him. Parker later founded his own magazine, the Massachusetts Quarterly Review (1847-1850). A passionate abolitionist, Parker assisted in the emigration of fugitive slaves to Canada and participated in the support of the activities of John Brown. Parker vigorously advocated social reform including women's rights and prison reform.

Fragment of "Ministry" by Theodore Parker
Letter from Theodore Parker to C. C. Little and J. Brown, November 6, 1844
Letter from Theodore Parker to Unknown, July 10, 1845



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