Skip to main content

Full text of "1700-1900. The story of a church for two centuries; a sermon at the First parish church, Framingham, June tenth, nineteen hundred"

See other formats

.F8 S8 

Copy 1 


1700 1900 







(published by 


i/oo 1900 








(published by request) 


■YYvtu. S a-t^-^-ey^ 


John Swift, H. U., 1697. 

Settled Oct. 8th, 1701 — Died April 24tli, 1745. 

Mathew Bridge, H. U., 1741. 

Settled Feb. 19th, 1745-46 — Died Sept. 2, 1775. 

David Kei,i.ogg, D. C, 1775. 

Settled Jan. 10th, 1781 to Jan. 20th 1830. 

A. B. MuzzEY, H.U., 1824. 

Settled June 10th, 1830 to May 18th, 1833. 

George Chapman, H.U., 1828. 

Settled Nov. 6, 1833— Died June 2, 1834. 

WII.LIAM Barry, B. U., 1822. 

Settled Dec. 16, 1835 to Dec. 16, 1845. 

John N. Bellows. 

Settled April 15, 1846 to Oct. 16, 1847. 

J. H. Phipps, Har. Div., 1848. 

Settled Nov 16, 1848 to 1853. 

Samuel L. Robbins, Har. Div., 1833. 

Settled 1854 to 1867. 

Henry G. Spaulding, H. U., 1860. 

Settled Feb. 19. 1868 to June 15, 1873. 

Charles A. Humphreys, H. U., 1860. 

•. ; ... ..^ ,.. ..; . ; ..; ; ; -^Nov. 2, 1873 to Nov. 1, 1891. 

Ernest 'C BMiiH'.' ..::•" • 

, , Settled Jan. 21, 1892 to Oct. 1, 1899. 


At a meeting of the members of the First Parish Church 
in Framingham held on April 8th, 1900, in consideration 
of the fact that the efforts for the incorporation of the 
town and the organization of the church were simulta- 
neous movements, it was voted to celebrate in some 
appropriate manner the inception of the latter. A com- 
mittee was appointed consisting of S. B. Bird, Franklin 
E. Gregory, William F. Gregory, Sidney A. Phillips, 
Joseph B. Cloyes, S. S. Woodbury, W. I. Brigham and 
Edward W. Kingsbury to make suitable arrangements. 
The committee invited the Rev. Calvin Stebbins to 
prepare an address for the occasion. The invitation was 
accepted and the address was spoken at the church on 
Sunday, June loth. Later he was asked to furnish a copy 
of it and it with the other services is now published. 


I. Organ Voluntary. 

II. Exhortation. 

We are gathered here today in the fullness of the Summer, 
and on an occasion crowded with memories of the past, to 
praise and worship the God of our fathers and our God. 
His voice was heard in the morning of the world from afar, 
and in the evening He speaketh at the door; He saw the end 
from the beginning and wove the ages as upon a loom ; He 
remembered the low estate of His children and bent to them 
His testimonies from of old ; He made a way in the sea and 
a path in the mighty waters for our fathers and brought them 
in a way they knew not, and led them in paths they did not 

L,et us rejoice and be exceeding glad. Let us sing unto 
the Lord a new song, and make known his deeds among all 
the people. Let us talk of all his wondrous works, and sing 
of the glories of his kingdom, which is an everlasting king- 
dom, which makes the darkness light and the night to shine 
as the day, and us able able to say with the men of old : — 
"Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be 
ignorant of us and Israel acknowledge us not ; Thou art our 
Father, our Redeemer ; Thy name is from everlasting." 

" Praise God, our Maker and our Friend ; 
Praise him through time, till time shall end ; 
Till psalm and song his name adore 
Through Heaven's great day of evermore." 

6 The Story of a Church 

III. Choir. 

IV. The 84TH Psalm. 

From " The/ Psalms,/ Hjunns,/ And/ Spiritual Songs/ of 
the, Old & New Testament./ Faithfully Translated into/ 
English Metre./ For the use, edification and comfort of the/ 
Saints in publick & private, especially in New England./ 

Cambridge,/ Printed for Hczekiah Usher, of Boston,/ 1665." 

lyined, and sung, by the Choir and the Congregation. 

To the chief Musician, upon Gittith,/ A Psalm for the 
Sons of Korah./ 

How Amiable Lord of hosts, 
thy Tabernacles be ? 

2. My soul longs for Jehovah's Courts, 

yea it ev'n faints in me : 
Unto the strong and living God, 
my heart and flesh do shout. 

3. Yea sparrow finds an house, her nest 

the swallow eke finds out : 
Wherein she may her young ones lay, 

thine altars near unto : 
O thou that art of armies Lord, 

my King, my God also. 

4. O blest are they within thy house 

who dwell, still they '11 thee praise : 

5. Blest is the man whose strength 's in thee, 

in whose heart are their wayes. 

6. Who as they pass through Baca's Vale, 

a fountain do it make ; 
Also the pools that are therein, 
their fill of rain do take. 

7. From strength to strength they go : to God, 

in Siou all appear. 

8. Lord God of hosts, O hear my 

O Jacob's God give ear. 

For Tivo Centuries. 7 

9. Behold, O God, our shield, the face 
of thine annointed see. 

10. For better 's in thy Courts a day, 

than elsewhere thousands be: 
I rather had a door-keeper 

be i' th' house of my God, 
Than in the tents of wickedness 

to settle mine abode. 

11. Because the Lord God is a Sun, 

he is a shield also : 
Jehovah on his people grace 

and glory will bestow : 
No good thing will be hold from them 

that do walk uprightly, 

12. O lyord of hosts, the man is blest 

that puts his trust in thee. 

V. Prayer. The Rev. Henry G. Spaulding. 
VI. Response. Solo by Mr. Howard Mason. 

VII. Hymn^ By Samuel Lo7ig fellow. 

• O Life that maketh all things new, — 

The blooming earth, the thoughts of men, — 
Our pilgrim feet, wet with thy dew, 
In gladness hither turn again. 

From hand to hand the greeting flows. 

From eye to eye the signals run. 
From heart to heart the bright hope glows. 

The seekers of the Light are one : 

One in the freedom of the truth, 

One in the joy of paths untrod. 
One in the soul's perennial youth, 

One in the larger thought of God. 

The freer step, the fuller breath, 

The wide horizon's grander view. 
The sense of life that knows no death, — 

The Life that maketh all things new. 

8 The Story of a Church 

VIII. Sermon. By the Rev. Calvin Stebbins. 

IX, Prayer. 

X. Hymn. By Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

Read by the Rev. Horatio Stebbins, D.D. 

of San Francisco, California. 

We love the venerable house 

Our fathers built to God ; — 
In heaven are kept their grateful vows, 

Their dust endears the sod. 

Here holy thoughts a light have shed 

From many a radiant face, 
And prayers of humble virtue made 

The perfume of the place. 

And anxious hearts have pondered here 

The mystery of life, 
And prayed the eternal Light to clear 

Their doubts, and aid their strife. 

From humble tenements around 

Came up the pensive train, 
And in the church a blessing found 

That filled their homes again ; 

They live with God ; their homes are dust ; 

Yet here their children pray, 
And in this fleeting lifetime trust 

To find the narro^v way. 

XI. Benediction. 
XII. Organ. 

W. E. Chenery, Organist. 
Howard Mason, Chorister. 

For Tivo Centuries. 


I stir up your pure minds b)' way of remembrance. 

2d Peter Hi, i . 

But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call 
heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers. 

T/ie Ads xxiv, 14. 

It has been suggested that there are two kinds of 
memory. One belongs to the individual and has to do 
with his life only; it connects his today with his 
yesterdays, and gives continuity to his existence in time. 
The other takes him out of himself and brings him in 
contact with immortal principles as illustrated in the lives 
of others, and associates his life with exalted feelings and 
heroic deeds. When his pure mind is stirred by way of 
this remembrance, he is taken out of his personal 
experience and made partaker of another and a higher 
spirit. In response to its suggestions, he sets apart days 
in which to commemorate the announcement of great 
principles in politics, morals and religion. He keeps the 
birthdays of men he has never seen, decorates public 
halls, squares and gardens with the representations of 
heroic and civic virtues; he keeps the centennial of the 
state, of the incorporation of the town and of the 
fonnation of the church. This is the principle that brings 
us together today that our pure minds may be stirred by 
way of remembrance. 

The incorporation of this town took place in the last 
year of the seventeenth century and about the same time 
the people went about the organization of a church. It 
was a period of great financial depression, accompanied 

lo The Story of a Church 

with spiritual dejection throughout all New England, and 
especially in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The old 
century went out in gloom, and the new came in with a 
joyless morn. The period has been rightly called "The 
dark days of New England." The first generation, the 
sturdy men who laid the foundations and built the 
basement story of our great structure of nationality, had 
gone, and the great generation which achieved our national 
independence was yet to come. 

In the meantime there was little, apparently, before the 
people but a hard struggle for life. The witchcraft mania 
had left a baleful trail behind it. The disastrous failure 
of Sir William Phipps's expedition against Quebec had 
broken the spirit of the people, carried mourning into 
hundreds of homes, left the borders open to the hostile 
incursions of French and Indians, had loaded the colony 
with debt, and an attempt to create money out of the 
public credit had resulted in great financial distress. 
Disasters on sea and land came thick and fast: hurricanes, 
hail-stonns, floods whose violence changed the channels of 
rivers, ministers' houses struck by lightning, and great 
loss of cattle :- 

To Horses, Swine, Net-Cattel, Sheep aud Deer, 
Ninety and seven proved a mortal year, 

a scarcity of food, high prices, the coldest weather in 
winter since the country was settled, all this did not fail 
to have its impression upon the minds of the people. 
The tone of social and moral life had deteriorated, and 
there was a marked change in manners for the worse, but 
theology was triumphant. It was under these circum- 
stances that the people of the new town laid another 
burden upon themselves and went about to build a church. 
Two hundred years is not a very long period in the 
history of English-speaking men in their old home, but 
it is a long period in the New World. It measures one 

For Tzvo Centuries. ii 

half the time since Cohimbus discovered America, and 
about all the time that his great discovery has been a 
blessing to mankind. 

This period of two hundred years has been a field for 
the action of occult and powerful forces, and through their 
agency amazing changes have been wrought in every 
department of human life. It seems impossible that the 
present should be the legitimate child of the past. Yet 
the men of old were the makers of today, but were 
unconscious of what they were doing. There are few 
more striking illustrations of the presence of a divine 
hand o;uidino; in the affairs of men than the fact that men 
are not allowed to be frightened by foreseeing the results 
of their labors. If the founders of this church could 
have foreseen the results of these two hundred years, 
they would have dismissed at once the thought of 
building a church for such an end. And this is true in 
regard to every church in Christendom. 

The Puritans brought with them to this country two 
institutions which were almost co-eval with the origin of 
man. Both had the same object in view — the realization 
of the moral law in hmnan conduct. One speaks in 
a command, and says to all for the good of all : "Thou 
shalt "; the other is voluntary, and speaks in a vow: "We 
will." The one is society in state, the other society in 

A great experiment was to be tried here with both these 
forms of society The experiment in state was no other 
than to see whether the social pyramid would stand more 
steadily on its base than as heretofore on its apex. The 
experiment in the church was equally bold ; it was no 
other than an attempt to organize a voluntary body, 
without priest and without ritual, which should be self- 
governing and be able to meet the moral and religious 
wants of human nature. 

We are here today to rejoice in the fact that the First 
Church in Framingham has weathered the storms and 

1 2 The Story of a Church 

vicisitudes of two centuries ; that it has adjusted itself to 
the changed conditions and wants that have occurred in 
that time ; that it has today no quarrel with civilization, 
science or reason, and that it brings to us the lesson, ever 
old and forever new, that is folded up in those four words 
of amazing import and exhaustless significence, — God, 
immortality, duty and liberty. 
It has been wittily said that : — 

Little of all we value here 

Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year 

Without both feeling and looking queer. 

In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth, 

So far as I know, but a tree and truth. 

The tree and truth have this in common, — they both 
grow, and truth grows forever ; it has perennial youth, 
and an institution that embodies it and grows with it, that 
can adjust itself to a fuller life and afford its tenant larger 
accomodations as the generations come and go, is here to 
stay while truth has need of it. 

It might seem pleasant to look in upon the fathers as 
they gather for the first time in the new meeting house on 
the hill in yonder cemetery. We should without doubt, 
find them all there, for, as John Adams said, — " Man is 
a church-going animal" ; at least he was in those days. 
But only the most tolerant, and the most gifted spirits of 
today, could enter into those services two hundred years 
ago and rejoice with them that do rejoice. 

The fathers of New England, as was natural, brought 
with them many old-world habits of thought and feeling 
and planted them here, but it is strange that the survival 
of the spirit of caste should have been fostered in the 
services of the church. "It is somewhat noticeable," 
says one of our historians, " that equality in the worship 
of a common Creator has been as little observed in 
democratic New England as in any country classed as 
civilized, if, indeed, it has not been less observed." 
{ Adams'' Three Epochs^ 11^ 7JP-) 

For Two Centuries. 13 

The assignment of the pews and sittings in the meeting 
house was a very important subject and one that had to be 
handled with great caution. This little church in the 
wilderness was keenly alive to social distinctions, especially 
in worship. In the town meeting all men were equal, 
The ballot-box swept away all distinctions. 

The spirit of caste took refuge in the Church in a form 
that had already an unenviable reputation on account of 
the fierce imprecations called down upon the heads of 
those who sought the chief seats in the synagogues. But 
our fathers were Old Testament Christians. 

In this church at first the most highly esteemed 
situations for worship were under the galleries, and the 
representatives of social position and wealth secured these, 
and with the permission of the town built pews for 
themselves and their families, and without permission cut 
doors and windows of all shapes and sizes in the walls. 
Our fathers had some strange notions on this subject of 
pews. At Braintree, the town gave William Rawson the 
privilege of building a pew, between or upon the two 
beams over the pulpit, but in such a way as not to 
obstruct the light. {Brainlree^ Toiu7i Records^ ^6.) 

The body of the church was filled with benches. The 
half of the floor and galleries to the left of the minister 
was assigned to the women and the right to the men, and 
the boys were put by themselves, and the tythingman 
was instructed to see to it that they did not neglect the 
means of grace. The town records show how the dignity 
of the sittings was adjusted. It was voted: "That in 
dignity the seats shall rank as follows : — the table ( the 
deacon's seat ) and the foreseats are the two highest ; the 
front gallery equals in dignity the second and third seats 
in the body of the house; the side galleries equal in 
dignity the fourth and fifth seats in the body of the 
house." The worshipers here were very jealous of their 
rights, and the deacons were requested to take special 

14 TJie Story of a Churcli 

notice ' ' that all persons do keep to their own seats 
appointed to them and keep out of the seats of others 
whereby the Sabbath is profaned." 

Wealth has wiped out most of these distinctions in the 
church, but one was especially tenacious of life and many 
of you may recollect it. Behind the men's seats, or up 
in the corner of their gallery, was the place of dignity for 
the colored population both slave and free , for the slave 
was here in early times. The Rev. John vSwift, the first 
minister of the church, owned live of his fellowmen. 
The parson does not seem to have been a hard master. 
After the first secession from the church, about the year 
1 735) Nero, one of his slaves followed those who left and 
joined the chiuxh in Hopkinton on the same conditions as 
the others. The rights of his mind at least were respected 
by his master. Mr. Swift however showed that he had a 
will of his own. He refused to give the seceders letters 
of dismissal from this church. They were however 
received into the church at Hopkinton and years of 
controversy made the case very celebrated in the history 
of ecclesiastical polity in New England. 

There is something like irony in the fate that lifts one 
of the humblest worshipers in a church to fame and leaves 
his betters to be forgotten. Just before the Revolution a 
slave belonging to Major Lawson Buckminster joined this 
church under the " half-way covenant," which indicates 
to us that he was a very sensible man. He joined the 
' ' Minutemen ' ' also and when the first alarm came he 
went to Lexington, Concord and Cambridge. He enlisted 
at once for three months, and, as his master was a patriotic 
man, he received without any doubt his liberty. He then 
enlisted for eight months, then for three years and at the 
expiration of the time enlisted again for three years and 
was honorably discharged at the close of the war. This 
man, Peter Salem, as he was called, was at Bunker Hill 
and Saratoga, as his tombstone in the cemetery testifies. 

/'};;■ Tzvo Centuries. 


111 the Trumbull Gallery at New Haven, hangs a 
picture of the Battle of Bunker Hill by our great histori- 
cal painter, John Trumbull. The thousands from all 
parts of this wide land who look in admiration at the 
noble work of the artist, will not fail to notice the colored 
man in the foreground behind the retreating Americans 
adjusting his firelock as for one more shot in defense of the 
half finished redoubt. 

One of the greatest orators of our country, and indeed 
of our century, said on Bunker Hill, as he pointed to the 
noble shaft : — "It is the monument of the day, of the 
event, of the battle of Bunker Hill ; of all the brave men 
who shared its perils, — alike Prescott and Putnam and 
Warren, — the chiefs of the day and the colored man 
Salem, who is reported to have shot the gallant Pitcairn 
as he mounted the parapet." 

Whatever our fathers may have done and whatever we 
may do, it is well to bear in mind this one fact: that there 
is a church of the living God on earth, the great church 
of history. In this church where the immortals are 
gathered no questions are asked about a man's social 
position, wealth, color, orthodoxy, or heterodoxy. The 
brave heart loyal to truth and liberty gives a man a place 
in the ranks of the just, and humanity is satisfied, for no 
one is ashamed to stand beside Peter Salem at Bunker Hill. 

Important as the meeting house of our fathers was in a 
religious point of view, as the meeting place with God, 
it was also the meeting place with men, and was the 
centre of their social and political life. They never 
allowed any superstitions to grow up around it. They 
had no such feelings towards it as the Catholic or the 
Episcopalian cherish for their places of worship, nor even 
the milder reverence that has grown up in the minds of 
their children in this irreverent generation. 

There was no sacred enclosure ; the ground in front of 
it was usually the training field, the stocks were in close 

1 6 The Story of a Church 

proximity to the door, and the whipping post was not far 
off. The ammunition and arms were stored in the loft 
over the auditorium, and the minister was allowed to 
store his corn there, but not in such quantities as to 
endanger the building; in one case the poor man was 
limited to two hundred and fifty bushels. In the audito- 
rium the town meetings were held, and they were of 
frequent occurence. 

The church and the town were virtually one until the 
charter of William and Mary, when a property qualifi- 
cation took the place of a theological. But the two 
continued to act together until the constitution in 1820 
which completed the separation of church and state. 
When the first minister of this church was settled, the 
town acted in its corporate capacity in calling him, and 
all the inhabitants were assessed to build the church, pay 
his salary and the running expenses. 

But the outward history of a church is of little conse- 
quence compared with the history of the progress of its 
thought. To understand this we must take a general 
survey of the religious thought of New England during 
these two hundred years, and then we shall be able to see 
more clearly the work done here. 

The discussions in the New England churches were not 
at first of a theological character, but were confined chiefly 
to matters pertaining to church polity or government. 
This was natural, as they were departing widely from the 
usages of the reformed churches. The first churches in 
New England were bound together by a covenant and not 
by a creed, and, while on friendly terms, were wholly 
independent of each other. There was nothing in the 
covenant of the First Church at Salem that an ordinary 
Unitarian would object to. Indeed it is inscribed on the 
walls of the church today and reads as follows : — " We 
Covenant with the Lord and one with another; and do 
bind ourselves in the presence of God, to walk together 

For 7 wo Centuries. 17 

in all his ways, according, as he is pleased to reveal him- 
self unto us in his Blessed word of Truth." 

These discussions finally culminated in the Synod of 
Cambridge in 1648. The churches were all but two 
represented and adopted with singular unanimity a plat- 
form prepared by Richard Mather. It laid down the 
doctrine that every candidate for church fellowship must 
satisfy the church as to his knowledge of Christian 
doctrines and the reasons therefor, and have experienced 
what was called regeneration. The standard of the West- 
minster Assembly of Divines was adopted and the 
churches of New England became hot-beds of dogmatism 
and intolerance. 

After the settlement of the question of church polity 
the people turned their attention to theology and became 
the most Calvanistic people in the world, with perhaps the 
exception of the Scots. The five points of Calvanism 
covered the whole field of their thoughts. 

It is a very striking illustration of the complete revolu- 
tion that has taken place in religious thought in New 
England that the themes which occupied the attention and 
thought of the fathers have lost all interest for the 
children. They have disappeared from the life of today 
and hardly left a wreck behind them. There are probably 
very few persons in this audience, if any, or in this town, 
whether orthodox or heterodox, who could name "the 
Five Points of Calvinism.'' We are not told by any 
high authority in spiritual things that: "The times of 
this ignorance God winked at but now commandeth all 
men everywhere to repent." "But brethren I would not 
have you ignorant ' ' of what the fathers thought vital to 
salvation. The Five Points are as follows: — 

I. Predestination, or particular election. 
II. Irresistible Grace. 

III. Original Sin, or Total Depravity. 

IV. Peculiar Redemption. 

V. The final perseverance of the Saints. 

i8 The Story of a Church 

It was a period of astonishing theological activity. In 
illustration of these frightful themes whole bodies of 
divinity were published, but they were first delivered as 
sennons. Samuel Willard left a work entitled "A 
complete Body of Divinity," which was published in a 
huge tome of nine hundred and fourteen pages, each page 
having two columns, in small and compact type. It was 
all delivered in two hundred and fifty sermons in the 
nineteen years, extending across the period of the organi- 
zation and early years of this church. 

But whatever we may think of the theology of John 
Calvin, we must acknowledge that Calvinism has produced 
a very remarkable race of men, and has left to us a royal 
inheritance of political institutions and liberties. It was 
not a bad mental stimulus and the child was early exer- 
cised and trained in it. He was not sent to a girls' school, 
but he was given the catechism of the Rev. John Cotton, — 
" Milk for New England Babes Drawn from the Breasts 
of both Testaments for their Spiritual Nourishment." 
You may think that there was little milk in it, but you 
may be assured of this one thing, — there was no water. 
The child had a rugged training and acquired a mental 
culture of inestimable value. He was taught to think 
clearly and deeply. Thus Calvinism nursed, educated 
and armed with invincible might an antagonist who by 
and by would question not its reasoning but its premises. 

But Calvinism as exhibited in Puritanism not only 
exercised the reason, it strengthened the domestic affec- 
tions, and through them brought into the field of church 
polity another factor. In the Puritan church everything 
culminated at the communion table, and no one could 
approach it but a member of the church who was sound 
in his belief and had had personal assurance of his own 
regeneration, and only such had a right to bring their 
children forward for baptism. But the younger generation, 
although good men living blameless lives and who had 

For Tzvo Centuries. 


themselves been baptised in infancy, did not join the 
church. The position of their children was pitiable 
enough ; they were little pagans who had strolled into the 
services of a Christian church, but were outside its guard- 
ianship and beyond ' ' the ecclesiastical inspection ' ' that 
goes with baptism. 

The parents were anxious to have their children 
baptised, and, on the ground that they were born into 
the church and entitled to its care and nurture, the church 
yielded and parental affection triumphed over orthodoxy. 
This is known in our history as " the Half-way Covenant. ' ' 
It met with little opposition, as the grandparents who had 
the matter in their hands wished to have their grand- 
children baptised and see them under the protection of the 
church . 

The half-way-covenant theory is usually looked upon 
as the mother of that brood of heresies known as Unitarian- 
ism. However this may be, it introduced into the polity 
of the church of that time a new principle, a principle 
that announced that the church was made for man and not 
man for the church. It was the beginning of a movement 
which in time changed the church from a little private 
party of "visible saints," who thought they had been 
elected from the foundation of the world to be the especial 
recipients of divine favor, and made it an organization 
of men and women whose object it was to succor, 
and cultivate all noble aspirations after the divine and 
quicken and energize all kindly feelings towards the 

It was the beginning of a great advance in thought, 
feeling and practice. Some of the bars were removed 
and not even Jonathan Edwards could put them back, and 
he lost his pulpit at Northampton for trying to do so. 
Let me quote on this point the words of an accomplished 
historian whose recent death we all have reason to lament. 

20 The Story of a Church 

The Rev. George Leon Walker, D.D., in a lecture deliv- 
ered to the students of a theological school has said : 

" It is no exageration to say that, though the Congregational 
churches of New England have rejected the Half-way-Cov- 
enant theory, they are today generally admiuing to iull 
communion a membership which exhibits less clearly under- 
stood and realized convictions of sin and of the necessity of 
atoning grace as the only hope of lost men than under that 
system were often expected of those who came only halfway 
within the covenant doors." — ( Some Religious Aspects, 174.) 

In the fourth decade of the eighteenth century it was 
noticed that a marked decadence of religion and morals 
had taken place and a thorough reform was called for. 

The man was at hand to organize the crusade and 
restore the old discipline and rigidity. The powerful 
genius of Jonathan Edwards now came to the front. He 
was unsurpassed as a dialectician, but his clear, calm, cold 
and merciless logic was reinforced by an imagination that 
the greatest poets might have envied, which gave to 
everything he said an intense realism. He appealed at 
once to the mind and heart, to the reason and to the 
feelings. The dogmas of Galvanism in his hands ceased 
to be mere theological abstractions that might lie dormant 
in the soul until the day of judgment, but dreadful reali- 
ties of imminent and supreme importance, and he 
introduced and emphasized with great skill a new feature, 
the personal responsibility of the sinner for his graceless 
state. "The Great Awakening" was the result of his 
preaching. Whitefield came from England with his 
blazing oratory to swell the influence until the country 
was in a whirl of religious excitement of the greatest 
intensity. "The dry bones of the prevailing orthodoxy 
rattled, and the people came to Christ in flocks," as 
Edwards said. 

The excesses of the movement were very great, and 
some questioned the spirit, whether it was of God or no. 

For Two Centuries. 2i 

Among these was Charles Channcy, one of the leading 
ministers of Boston. He opposed the whole movement, 
publicly denounced Whitefield, and entered into a discus- 
sion with Edwards himself. But the Lord's Supper was 
more strictly guarded and the road to church membership 
was made more difficult and thorny than before. The 
result, however, was not encouraging. When the excite- 
ment subsided and men began to think once more, a 
reaction set in which produced astonishing results. 

The reaction brought together scattered influences that 
had been working for a long time in silence. The clergy 
and the laity began to study in the spirit of real investi- 
gation, and heretical views ceased to be feared. At the 
close of the "Great Awakening," a Boston bookseller 
bought out an edition of Emlyn's "Humble Inquiry," 
in which was stated very cogent reasons for not believing 
the doctrine of the Trinity. The great teachers began to 
give reasons for the opinions they taught, and did not 
depend upon scriptural proof-texts. The War of the 
Revolution had a tremendous influence upon the religious 
thought of the people, for of religion it may be said, as 
Hosea Bigelow said of its great coadjutor: 

" civlyzation does git forrid 
Sometimes upon a powder-cart." 

The humanities began to come into the foreground and 
scholastic dogmas sank into the background. When the 
alarm was sounded it was too late ; the great majority of 
the people in the leading churches had ceased to be 

The legitimate result of these reactionary and advancing 
forces was American Unitarianism. As a movement it 
was open to the influences of all the ages, and has been so 
far open to the influences of the age that was present as 
time advanced. It allowed human nature its right to 
speak on the high problems of the soul, of time and 

22 The Story of a Church 

eternity, and it affirmed with all its strength the veracity 
of its intellectual, moral and spiritual convictions. It has 
drifted, rather than been guided by any human hand, 
through many stages of experiences and many phases of 
thought, and has been vexed by many sharp controversies, 
but its discussions have seldom descended to wrangling. 
At last it has taken a position upon which all can stand. 

The youngest church in Christendom, it has accepted 
the oldest and the simplest statement of faith and practice 
in the world. This statement is an affirmation of the aim 
of all the various manifestations of religion on earth. It 
is so broad that it takes in all the races of men and is 
good for all time and eternity. Its disciples may be 
denied the name of Christian, they may themselves think 
they are or they may think they are not ; it is not a 
matter worth disciissing. But it is well to remember that 
you have the only bond of union and liberty in Christen- 
dom that has the express and unequivocal sanction of 
Jesus of Nazareth. He said of the two great command- 
ments of the law which are inscribed on your banner : 
"Do this and thou shalt live." 

When we pass from the broad stream of the general 
history of the Church to the history of individual churches, 
we find ourselves very often, alas, in eddies, whirled about 
by angry waters that chafe and foam and fret and are 
dark with mud, and full of floating debris which has 
drifted in from all directions. Men are never absurd on 
purpose, but a church quarrel comes very near the line 
that divides the reasonable from the great inane. I have 
never heard one cited as an evidence of "total depravity." 
Perhaps it would prove too much and weaken the cause. 

It is not worth our while to rake the ashes of the past 
for the dying embers of old church quarrels. They are 
in their origin usually of a personal nature, and they try 
to invest themselves with ecclesiastical dignity by putting 
on a dress clumsily patched up oiit of so-called Christian 

For Two Centuries. 23 

doctrines. It is astonishing how pious and orthodox men 
will grow when they are like to get worsted in a church 
quarrel. They are then just in a condition to do an 
incalculable amount of harm, that does not die when the 
original actors are dead, buried and forgotten, but illus- 
trates the truth of Mark Anthony's saying: — " The evil 
that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with 
their bones." But the kingdom of God suffereth violence 
and violence taketh it by force. There is no better 
evidence of the vitality of the church than that it can 
stand a succession of these rackets. This churcli has 
great vitality. 

The original covenant of this chiirch, signed by 
eighteen persons (men) on the 8th of October, 1701, is a 
document of about two hundred words in one sentence. 
( Forty years later Jonathan Edwards proposed a covenant 
of one thousand five hundred and sixty-eight words. ) It 
began in the conventional form of the time with a 
confession: — "We do, under a soul-humbling and abasing 
sense of our utter unworthiness of so great and high a 
privilege as God is graciously putting into our hands, 
accept of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for our 
God in covenant with us," and so forth. 

The humility expressed in the early covenants, so 
foreign to our thought and feeling, was not of the Uriah 
Heep type. The familiar couplet of the New England 
Primer : — 

"In Adam's fall 
We sinned all," 

is very democratic in its spirit ; it puts kings and priests 
on a level with the lowest, poorest and weakest, and 
humility is the only becoming state of mind, for "all are 
made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, 
and the pains of hell forever." Humility is the only 

24 The Story of a Church 

possible state of mind for him who believes this and sees 
the everlasting glories on the one hand and the everlasting 
fires on the other. 

There was a time when men believed that they were 
born children of wrath, but that God had opened a way of 
escape and had given them assurance of it. We today, 
both orthodox and heterodox, are prone to forget that the 
infinite Originality is equal to any condition a human soul 
may be in and can give it the peace of heavenly places if 
it looks up to God. 

This covenanting with God is at best a matter of 
legality, and belonged to the thought of a people who 
clung to the idea of commercial relations in spiritual 
things. There is a vastly higher relationship folded up 
in the familiar words taught us at our mother's knee, 
"Our Father who art in Heaven." The simple question 
for us to settle is whether we feel the latter as strongly as 
our fathers did the fonner. 

It was without doubt understood that the creed of the 
Church was the Confession of Faith adopted at Boston in 
i6So. But the Church was not up in all respects to the 
requirements of organized Congregationalism. The office 
of Elder does not seem to have been provided for. The 
theory was that the will of Christ ought to govern in the 
Church. But who was to interpret that will? In the 
New England theocracy it was not revealed to the church 
members but to the elders. When the elder ordered 
business or administered admonition, every faithful soul 
was expected to assent, and if he did not he was held as 
"factious and obstinate." The elders have been rightly 
called "a speaking aristocracy in the face of a silent 
Democracy." With this class of ecclesiastical tyrants 
this church would have nothing to do. The church was 
right, for the office of elder has no foundation in either 
Scripture or reason, and was an invention of John Calvin. 
But the rejection of this functionary caused a great deal 

For Two Centuries. 35 

of trouble and was one of the causes of two secessions 
from the church. The spirit of dissension ran so high at 
one time that the Lord's Supper was omitted, and at 
another time that a day was set apart for humiliation and 
prayer on account of dissensions. 

It is a very significant fact that while the Great Awak- 
ening was in progress and the churches in the neighbor- 
hood were aroused, and Edwards himself preached in this 
immediate vicinity, he was not asked, so far as I can find, 
to occupy this pulpit ; Whitefield preached in town once 
but not by invitation of this church. The people seem 
to have objected to the methods pursued, and the name 
of their minister is not among those who signed the great 
declaration of approval. 

But quite as significant of the tone and temper of the 
people is their action at the ordination of their second 
minister, the Rev. Matthew Bridge. A committee was 
selected " to be the mouthpiece of the church at the coun- 
cil." They proposed to the candidate two questions; one 
of a general nature as to church government, and the second 
was, "if in important matters he was willing to take the 
vote of the church with uplifted hands." His answer 
was satisfactory to the great majority. But a protest was 
sent to the council against the ordination of the candidate 
on the ground that * * the scope and tenor of his preaching 
was unsatisfactory, that many such doctrines, as we 
esteem of greatest importance, are wholly omitted or at 
best slightly touched upon in his sermons, particularly the 
doctrine of original sin, the imputation of it ; the total 
loss of the image of God in the fall of Adam ; the wrath 
and curse of God consequent thereon," and six other 
doctrines that have the genuine ring of the faith once 
delivered to the saints by John Calvin. 

Mr. Bridge was, however, ordained, as he said, "on the 
old foundation." The dissenting brethren seceded and 
formed a new church which had a short history, and the 

26 The Story of a Church 

newly ordained minister was left to pursue his work in 
peace for years to come. After his death the church was 
without a settled minister for some years, but at the close 
of the Revolutionary War the people called the Rev. 
David Kellogg. He was a conservative man who held 
orthodox views, loved peace, and did what he could for 
union. He reinstated the reading of the Scriptures as a 
part of the church services, which was looked upon as 
"unedifying" in the churches of New England, and the 
town granted eight dollars to purchase a Bible for the 
pulpit. He was also instrumental in inducing the people 
to use Watts's Hymns and Psalms. 

This church as an organization, like many others at 
that time, was steadily declining in numbers and power, 
owing to a very gradual and silent change that was taking 
place in the minds of men. During Mr. Bridge's admin- 
istration, extending over twenty-nine years, from 1746 
to 1775, eighty-one men had joined the church on 
confession of faith. During the administration of Dr. 
Kellogg, extending over forty-eight years, from 1781 to 
1829, there were only sixty-nine. 

A crisis was approaching and its coming was accelerated 
by a meeting held on the 24th of April, 1826, at which a 
parish was duly organized according to law. From this 
time all connection between the town and the parish 
ceased, and the church became independent of civil 
authorities. This movement opened the way for the 
parish to take a hand in the management of affairs and 
have a voice in the proceedings, and the need of an assist- 
ant to the now aged Dr. Kellogg afforded an occasion. 

It was, however, soon apparent that the church and the 
parish were not likely to agree in the selection. They 
sought to bridge over the difficulty by employing preachers 
of the old and the new school to occupy the pulpit alter- 
nately. But the experiment was a failure, and nothing 
remained but a trial of strength, and the parish was 

For Two CentJiHcs. 27 

victorious. The minority seceded. This was the third 
secession from the church in its history. The first two 
were failures, but the third was a success. It took the 
name of the " HoUis Evangelical Society" — a name 
sacred to Unitarians, and we have to thank them for edu- 
cating the Rev. Minot J. Savage for our ranks. 

The people of the First Parish immediately erased the 
names of the second and third persons of the Trinity from 
their covenant and called a minister. Their intelligence 
and their theological position is clearly indicated by the 
character of the men they invited to take part in the ordi- 
nation of their new minister. They named for the sennon 
Dr. Channing or the Rev. James Walker, for the ordaining 
prayer Dr. Lowell, and for the concluding prayer the 
Rev. Raph Waldo Emerson. 

Now that the noise of the controversy has died away it 
is pleasant to note the undertones of kindly feeling that 
have come down to us. The First Parish put on record 
an expression of their sorrow that so many of their fellow- 
worshipers and their old minister had left them. Dr. 
Kellogg was invited to sit with the council at the ordina- 
tion of his successor, but declined on account of the 
infirmities of old age. He was invited to occupy his old 
pulpit afterwards and did. At his funeral the minister of 
this church, the Rev. William Barry, the conscientious 
and graceful historian of the town, took part in the 
services. It had been decided by the Supreme Court of 
the Commonwealth that a church separating for any cause 
from a parish loses its existence in the eye of the law, and, 
therfore, that the seceding body could have no right to 
either the name, furniture, records or property of the 
church. The First Parish appointed a committee to confer 
with a committee of the new church and instructed them 
to make this proposal : — That the records go to the First 
Parish and the communion service to the new church ; it 
was accepted. The time is coming when the proud and 

28 The Story of a Church 

opinionated with their egotism will vanish and only the 
bright side of these old stories will find a place in our 

It would be pleasant, did time permit, to look in upon the 
charities of the church, — and there are plenty of illustra- 
tions of the great human heart that was in it, — and to 
speak of private generosity that with wise foresight has 
blessed the present and the future. It would be pleasant 
to speak of those men of culture and deep moral convic- 
tions who have stood in this place and spoken for God and 
duty, and to remind you of those brave men whose hearts 
"on war's red touchstone rung true metal," — and among 
them stand two of your own ministers, Matthew Bridge 
and Charles A. Humphreys, who ventured their lives, one 
to throw off the yoke of an English king, the other to 
redeem the land from the more odious tyranny of a slave- 
holding oligarchy; it would be pleasant to speak of those 
men of affairs who have taken no unimportant part in the 
great business of the world, and of those who have been 
interested in the world of letters, one of whom has become 
the conscientious and painstaking historian of an unpop- 
ular cause, — the Loyalists of the Revolution. 

It is a pleasant duty to pause in the rush of affairs and 
commemorate the heroic virtues of the men and women 
who toiled in the past and made the summits of the present 
accessible to their children ; summits where the air is 
invigorating and bracing, and the outlook is wide, and 
where the native spiritual instincts of the soul, those 

"High instincts, before which our mortal nature 
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised ; 
Which be they what they may, are yet the fountain 
Light of all our day ; the master light of all our seeing," 

can act with greater freedom and power. 

It is indeed a blessed privilege, as well as a duty, to give 
thanks for the organization through which the fathers 

For Two Centuries. 


wrought with such beneficent results for us and those who 
come after us. We celebrate today the formation of that 
Organization two hundred years ago. What are its rela- 
tions to us now? Is it like "a Pine-tree Shillino- " 
valuable chiefly on account of its age, or is it about to 
enter upon a larger field of action and exert a greater 
influence than ever before with the coming in of another 

It has helped the fathers to deliver themselves and their 
children forever from the thrall of cruel creeds, and from 
those grim idols "graven by art and Man's device," called 
theological dogmas, some of which had a striking resem- 
blance to Moloch, "horrid king," who " made his grove 

The pleasant valley of Hinnon, Tophet thence 
And black Gehenna called, the type of Hell." 

Their efforts have left us an atmosphere unpointed by 
brimstone-fumes, and a sky without a trace of apocalyp- 
tical phantasmagoria. It was, indeed, a great work, but 
a greater remains to be done, and it is a work in sweet 
accord with the spirit of a Christian church ; a work not 
of destruction or of theological controversy, but of discus- 
sion and education, peace and union. 

Human nature as we have come to see it, is not a 
devilish anarchy, but a hierarchy of powers, rising one 
above another until the highest brings the human into 
communion with the divine. Each has rights in its own 
sphere, but the lower has no rights except to serve when 
the higher makes its demands. 

It is the high function of the Church today to remind 
us of the great possibilities of our nature , to encourage 
us to trust our spiritual intuitions as we trust the revela- 
tions of our sense ; to show us that ' ' the perennial foun- 
tains of religion lie in the primal essence of the reason and 
the moral conscienciousness," and that there we find " a 

30 The Story of a Church 

Spirit that beareth witness with our spirit that we are chil- 
dren of God ; " to so cultivate the devout trusts and habits of 
the soul as to enable us to read aright the moral significance 
of the past and separate with unerring instinct the truth of 
God from the egotism of man ; to so nourish the spirit of 
humility that we may ever be seekers and learners ; to so 
inspire our minds with the spirit of reverence that we may 
walk with uncovered heads, not only in the presence of the 
sublime manifestations of nature, but in the presence of 
sobbing grief and kneeling penitence; to so emphasize the 
power of the conscience as to make us sure ' ' our sins will 
find us out ; " to so encourage us to believe in the good and 
its final triumph over evil that the night will shine as the 
day, while we work or wait for the dawn ; and to impress 
upon us the all-consoling fact that, whatever may happen, 
the infinite Love and Care is so great that even ' * the hairs 
of the head are all numbered." 

On these grounds and for these causes the Church makes 
today its appeal to you all, both young and old. It is the 
noblest appeal that was ever made to man, for it makes 
possible a glorious state of society based on a reasonable 
and consecrated obedience of the tw^o great commandments 
of the law, — love to God, and love to man. 


014 069 778 3