Robert Hawker (1753-1827)

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Puritan Board Doctor
Robert Hawker gets mentioned on the PB every now and again. Recently, I was curious about him, so I did a little research. His life was fairly interesting.

Born: Exeter, England, on April 13, 1753
Died: Plymouth, England, on April 6, 1827, at the age of 73 (exactly one week before his birthday)

He originally trained as a surgeon, and worked at that profession for six years (1772-1778), finishing up as an assistant surgeon in the Royal Marines.

He was ordained in the Church of England, and served as curate of St. Martin's, near Looe, England, in September, 1778. Just three months later, he became curate of Charles, near Plymouth (December, 1778), serving under the vicar, John Bedford. When the latter died in 1784, Hawker became vicar, and ministered there until his own death - a total of 43 years as vicar. He is buried in Plymouth.

He must have done a lot of writing, because his list of works in the British Catalogue of Printed Books takes up six columns. His collected Works was published in 10 volumes in 1831, four years after his death.

He is remembered today for the following:

The Poor Man's Morning Portion (1809)
The Poor Man's Evening Portion (1819)

These, of course are daily devotionals.


The Poor Man's Commentary on the New Testament, 4 volumes (1816)
The Poor Man's Commentary on the Old Testament, 6 volumes (1822)

The "poor man" in all these titles refers to the fact that he both wrote and priced these books so that they would be understandable and inexpensive to even the poorest members of his flock.

The Dictionary of National Biography describes his ministry thus:

"In doctrine, he was a high Calvinist, and he was one of the most popular extemporaneous preachers in the kingdom. His voice was powerful, yet harmonious and, as a pulpit orator, he was impressive and fascinating. For many years, he paid an annual visit to London, and preached to crowded congregations in the principal churches."

Spurgeon felt he had to warn his students about Hawker as a Bible commentator. Apparently, Hawker was one of those Jesus-is-behind-every-bush-and-under-every-rock guys:

"Dr. Hawker was the very least of commentators in the matter of criticism; he had no critical capacity, and no ability whatever as an interpreter of the letter...It is to be confessed that he occasionally sees Jesus where Jesus is not legitimately to be seen. He allows his reason to be mastered by his affections...He has the peculiar idea that Christ is in every Psalm, and this often leads him totally astray, because he attributes expressions to the Savior which really shock the holy mind to imagine our Lord's using. However, not as a substantial dish, but as a condiment, place the Plymouth vicar's work on the table. His writing is all sugar, and you will know how to use it, not devouring it in lumps, but using it to flavor other things." (Lectures to My Students, Banner of Truth edition, p. 672)

Sounds like a pious, conscientious, compassionate minister. Too bad about his lack of skills as a Bible commentator. Makes me wonder what his sermons were like.
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