What is a good Puritan Minister? Is Reverend Parris a good minster to his congregation?

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andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A good Puritan Minister is one who teaches Scripture to his congregants and inculcates in them their most important tenet - that of predestination. Such a minister focuses on the task of all men to serve God in everything they do and stresses God's sovereignty and righteousness. The Minister provides guidance in all religious matters and will intervene whenever a congregant is believed to be going astray. 

Such a Minister preaches moderation and condemns excess. The Minister should not deem himself above his congregants but be humble and see himself as a servant of God. A good Minister should have no interest in earthly belongings but has to work tirelessly in God's service. It is expected of such a Minister to encourage congregants to work hard and see their labor as tasks completed in God's favor. The Minister should encourage congregants to reject all earthly pleasures, attend the Sabbath, and be dutiful. 

Reverend Parris is, according to the terms outlined above, a failed Minister. We note, from the outset, that he is more interested in his own position than the salvation of those in his care. In Act 1, he, for example, asks his niece Abigail Williams:

There is a faction that is sworn to drive me from my pulpit. Do you understand that?

The Reverend discovered Abigail, his daughter Betty, and some other girls dancing in the forest. Abigail has just told him that there are rumors of witchcraft going around, and he is fearful of the repercussions. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, he seems to be more concerned about his reputation than anything else. His claim about a faction becomes a litany throughout the play.   

We also learn from John Proctor that the good Reverend is more interested in the salary he earns, the title deeds to the rectory, and having golden candlesticks on his pulpit than preaching Scripture, as the following excerpts indicate:

Parris: The salary is sixty-six pound, Mr. Proctor! I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College.

Parris: Mr. Corey, you will look far for a man of my kind at sixty pound a year! I am not used to this poverty; I left a thrifty business in the Barbados to serve the Lord.

Proctor: Mr. Parris, you are the first minister ever did demand the deed to this house -

Parris: Man! Don’t a minister deserve a house to live in?

Proctor: ...But Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothin’ but golden candlesticks until he had them.

Furthermore, Reverend Parris is so intent on getting those whom he believes are his enemies arrested for witchcraft that he goes out of his way to condemn them instead of fighting for their salvation. He goes as far as meddling in the court's affairs, much to Judge Danforth's annoyance, who at one point, tells him to stop meddling.

In the end, Reverend Parris loses everything he has when Abigail steals his life savings and disappears. He later leaves the village for an unknown destination.  

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teacherscribe | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Reverend Parris is not a good minister to his congregation in that he is more worried about himself than others. Notice how Proctor complains that Parris whined until he finally got his congregation to raise money to get golden candlesticks. Proctor also notes how he tends to dwell on the negative aspects of human nature, preaching a kind of fire and brimstone theology, which was not untypical for a Puritan minister.

Parris is more worried about his reputation than anything. The play opens with him praying, but we learn that it is not so much for his daughter's health as it is to repair his reputation. After all, what will it look like to his congregation if the minister cannot even keep the devil away from his own daughter. How is he supposed to protect his followers?

He also remarks that he has a university education and gave up a profitable business to become a minister. He never seems to take pleasure in helping his church members. Rather he spends his time brooding over what they think of him and how much money he isn't earning.

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