Alexander Young.

The good parishioner, a discourse occasioned by the death of Benjamin Rich, Esq. : delivered in the Church on Church Green, June 8, 1851 online

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Online LibraryAlexander YoungThe good parishioner, a discourse occasioned by the death of Benjamin Rich, Esq. : delivered in the Church on Church Green, June 8, 1851 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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The subject on which I propose to speak to you this
morning is The Character of the Good Parishioner.
I shall endeavour, as far as may be, to portray him
from life, and describe his whole course of action, so
far as it relates to the parish to which he belongs,
and to the pastor on whose ministrations he attends.

The good parishioner, having connected himself
with a parish, or having taken part in the call and
settlement of a minister,' feels that these acts have a
definite purpose and meaning, and that there are
certain duties growing out of the relations into which
he has thus voluntarily entered. He joins a parish
to aid in the support of the institutions of religion in
that parish ; and he assists in the call and settlement
of a minister in a particular church, in order that the

Word of God may be regularly preached, and the
ordinances of the Gospel be statedly administered, in
that church. He is aware that a church is not a
self-subsisting institution, and that the minister can-
not fully discharge the various duties of his calling,
nor exert the highest and best influences of his sacred
office, without the sympathy and co-operation of those
who have called him to the work, and who attend
upon his ministrations. He feels, therefore, that he
has a part to perform, as well as the minister, in
sustaining the church, and in rendering the services
of the sanctuary edifying and effective. He knows
that a minister would be of no use without a congre-
gation to preach to, and that a congregation would
be of little use to the minister unless they attended
regularly upon his preaching, and were disposed to
profit by it, — unless they took an interest both in
the spiritual welfare and the temporal prosperity of the

The good parishioner, then, manifests the interest
which he takes in the parish, by his constant atten-
dance on the services of the sanctuary. The church
he regards as his religious home, the tabernacle of his
spiritual and devout affections. He is one who, in
the words of the text, " worships God ; " and whether
his "house joins hard to the synagogue," or is at a
distance from it, he is always in his pew, punctually

and early, on the Lord's day, and on both parts of the
day too. Illness is the only thing that keeps him
away; so that, if the minister misses him from his
accustomed seat, he is wont to call at his house on
Monday morning to inquire what ails his good pa-
rishioner. The rain or the storm that would not
prevent his going to his place of business on a week-
day, is not allowed to keep him at home on Sunday ;
and he would feel ashamed of pleading, as an excuse
for his absence from church, some frivolous pretext
that does not keep him from the concert-room or the
opera-house, even on a Saturday night.

He considers, too, that there is an implied compact
between him and his minister on this very point, and
a compact all the more binding for not being reduced
to writing. The minister engages, on his part, to be
always present in the pulpit on the Lord's day, either
in person or by proxy, to dispense the Word and lead
in the devotions of the sanctuary ; and the parishioner
engages, on his part, to be present in his pew, to hear
the Word, and join in the devotions. Without such
an implied compact, without some understanding of
this sort, no minister, worthy of the pulpit, would be
willing to accept a call and take the charge of a parish.
The church is always open on the sabbath ; and the
preacher is always there, whether it rains or shines,
whether it is fair weather or foul, whether he feels


well or not ; and the good parishioner, too, is always
there; for, if the preacher can be there, he sees no
reason why the hearers may not be there likewise.
He believes that his minister expects to see him, and
wants to see him, and that he may perhaps be grieved
and disheartened by his absence. If he has good rea-
son for believing that his minister has spent the best
part of the week in preparing for the services of the
sabbath, he does not think it right or just that this
preparation should be thrown away for lack of an
audience. At any rate, he is determined that it shall
not be by any fault or neglect of his, that the power of
the pulpit is enfeebled or abridged.

But the good parishioner not only attends con-
stantly himself at his parish church, — he is careful to
see that his family and his children likewise attend
constantly with him. He considers a regular atten-
dance at church one of the best habits that can be
formed in early life ; and whatever may be the fashion
of the day or the custom of the world, he has made
up his mind, that, as for himself and his house, they
will serve the Lord together. Accordingly, as he
never deserts his own church on the sabbath, he
allovvs no straggling in his family, no running after
the theological planets or meteors of the day. He
teaches them that the object of attending church is
not novelty, not entertainment, not excitement, but

demotion, religious instruction, spiritual improvement ;
and that these are more likely to be attained by a
regular attendance on the same ministrations, than
by a perpetual gadding from one church to another
to hear the latest discovery in theology, or the most
startling form of infidelity.

The good parishioner is not only a regular attendant
in the Lord's house, but he is a sincere and devout
worshipper there. He is personally interested and
engaged in all parts of the service, and does not har-
bour the thought that he has hired his minister at so
much a week, as his substitute, to perform his worship
for him. He does not believe in the efficacy of this
sort of vicarious devotion. He unites with the choir
in singing the praises of the Most High, and with the
minister in all the acts of worship. He joins, with
reverent demeanor and fervent piety, in all the ascrip-
tions of praise, in all the offerings of thanksgiving, in
all the confessions of sin, and in all the petitions for
spiritual guidance and help. He listens to the ser-
mon, not to criticize it as a work of art, a mere literary
composition, not to detect flaws in its logic or blem-
ishes in its rhetoric, not to be entertained or excited ;
but to be made better by it, to be seriously impressed,
to be incited to duty, to be weaned from the vain
pomp and glory of the world, to be fortified against its
manifold temptations and sins, and to be fitted for the

glories and felicities of heaven. He listens to the ser-
mon, as though it was addressed directly to himself;
and yet, at the same time, he is not so foolish as to
take offence at the preacher, and charge him with
personality, if perchance, at times, his own failings,
or even his besetting sins, are undesignedly portrayed,
and set in array before him. As an old writer says,
" It does not follow that the archer aimed, because
the arrow hit. Rather our good parishioner reasoneth
thus: If my sin be notorious, how could the min-
ister miss it ? if secret, how could he hit it without
God's direction ? "

Again. The good parishioner, taking it for granted
that his minister is a right-minded and conscientious
man, is not disposed to trammel him in the utterance
of his opinions. He supposes that these opinions will
be carefully and deliberately formed, after much study
and reflection; and he is modest enough to think,
that, on the great questions of theology and ethics, his
minister may be reasonably supposed to be better
informed than himself, — these being questions which
it is his office and duty to ponder and investigate.
"There is all the reason," says John Selden, "that
you should believe your minister, unless you have
studied divinity as well as he, or more than he."
The good parishioner stands up for the liberty of
preaching, as the good citizen does for the liberty

of speaking and of unlicensed printing ; and he would
feel ashamed of sitting under the ministrations of one
who dared not speak his mind on all subjects which
it was fitting for the pulpit to discuss.

The good parishioner takes a deep interest both
in the spiritual welfare and in the temporal prosperity
of the parish to which he belongs. Being a religious
man himself, he is desirous of seeing religion not only
respected and honored, but exercising its proper and
legitimate influence in the church and in the world.
He is a religious man inwardly ; he has the religious
spirit, the witness within himself; and he manifests
this spirit in his consistent character and in the recti-
tude of his daily life. He shows it in the transactions
of business, in his domestic relations, in his social
intercourse, in his deeds of beneficence, in his com-
prehensive charity, in his world-embracing philan-

He is also a religious man outwardly and visibly.
He is not afraid or ashamed of being considered and
called by the world a religious man. He confesses
Christ openly before men, acknowledging his obliga-
tions and avowing his allegiance to him. He uses
faithfully all the means of grace, and observes all the
ordinances and rites of religion; bringing his chil-
dren to the baptismal font, and commemorating the
Saviour's death in the aff"ecting service of the com-



munion. He is not deterred, from so doing by any
vague doubts about the importance or utility of these
observances. It is sufficient for him to know that
they are appointed, having been instituted by Christ,
or sanctioned by his use and example. He is desirous
of obtaining all the holy influences they can impart
to his soul ; and he therefore observes them reverently
and devoutly, nothing doubting.

But our good parishioner is interested not only in
the spiritual, but in the temporal, prosperity of the
church to which he belongs. He knows, that, in
order that a religious society may prosper, its tempo-
ralities, its finances, must be attended to and cared
for by some one. Accordingly he always consents to
serve in any office to which he may be called by his
fellow-worshippers, and is ever ready with his hand,
his tongue, and his purse, to promote the interests of
the parish. He contributes largely and cheerfully to
all subscriptions made in the society for religious and
benevolent purposes. He never grumbles about the
small tax-bill that is presented to him quarterly, nor
does he pay it grudgingly ; considering, as he does,
that the sum which he annually contributes to the
support of the institutions of religion, and for the reli-
gious instruction of his whole family in the church
and in the Sunday-school, may perhaps be less than
a half, or even a quarter, of what he pays for the


education of a single son or daughter at school or in
college. Considering, too, that the present mode of
assessing church-rates is very unequal, the assessment
not being made according to pecuniary ability, but
falling most disproportionately on persons in moder-
ate and humble circumstances, our good parishioner
thinks that, when there is any extraordinary expense
incurred in the parish, or any unusual contribution
required for special purposes, it is no more than right
and just, that, in order to compensate, as far as possi-
ble, for the above-mentioned inequality, the burden
should fall exclusively on the wealthier portion of
the parish ; and, if he happens to be one of that class,
he is ready to bear his part, and more than his part ;
and then he thinks that he has simply done his

The good parishioner likewise sympathizes with
his minister in the ardous and wearing duties of his
office, and is disposed to co-operate with him, and, as
far as he can, lighten the heavy load of his cares. He
is always ready, when called upon, to lend a helping
hand to carry forward any measures which the minis-
ter deems essential to the temporal or spiritual welfare
of the church. He has faith enough in his good sense
and sound judgment to believe, that he will devise and
recommend nothing that will not prove salutary
and beneficial. Accordingly, he does not hold back.


nor object, nor throw obstacles in the way, when any
thing of this sort is proposed. There are many things
to be done in a parish, which the minister may recom-
mend, but which he cannot execute himself. Accord-
ingly, there is wanted in every parish some one person,
at least, who will stand ready to be the executive of
the minister on these occasions. He must be a man
of sound judgment, of prudence, of energy, of perse-
verance, who will carry out whatever he undertakes,
will be disheartened by no rebuffs, chilled by no
coldness, and put down by no opposition. Such an
individual is invaluable in a parish ; and the fact of its
having such a one or not may be the turning-point
in its fortunes, — " articulus stantis aut cadentis ec-
clesise." Now, our good parishioner is precisely that
sort of man, always ready to act when called upon,
and always performing what he undertakes. The
minister requests him to have a certain thing done.
The good parishioner replies, " It shall be done."
And next week it is done.

Brethren, you must have perceived, long ere this,
that the subject of my Discourse has been suggested
by the recent death of one of the oldest and most
valuable members of this Society. You must have
felt, that, in describing the character of the Good
Parishioner, I have been insensibly sketching the por-


trait of that worthy man, whose animated countenance
and manly form we are no longer to behold in our
sabbath-meetings. My friends, you all feel that we
have sustained a great loss in the departure of our
lamented fellow-worshipper ; and you have a right to
expect that this long-tried and faithful friend of the
parish shall be suitably remembered here, in the
church which he loved, and which he did so much
to sustain and benefit. Whatever may be our defi-
ciences as a parish, the sin of insensibility to favors, or
of ingratitude to our benefactors, shall not be charged
upon us.

/ The late Benjamin Rich was born on the 12th of
December, 1775, in the town of Truro, near the ex-
tremity of Cape Cod, — that remarkable configuration
of land which is both literally and morally the right
arm of Massachusetts, and which, from its first dis-
covery and settlement down to the present day, has
been the nursery of hardy mariners and of intrepid and
enterprising men. From his earliest years, as is the
case with most of the youths who are born on the
Cape, he took to the sea, going cabin-boy at the age
of thirteen ; and at the age of nineteen, on his fourth
voyage, he had the command of a vessel. His voyages
were chiefly to the West Indies, the Mediterranean,
and the North of Europe. For twelve long years he
pursued this hard and perilous vocation, — perilous


certainly to him in more ways than one; for, on one
of his voyages, he was attacked, off Algiers, by two
French privateers, both of which, with his character-
istic intrepidity, he fought a whole summer's day;
and at last, when his shot was all expended, and he
had charged his cannon with whatever he could find
on board, he succeeded in beating them off. He thus
prepared himself, as many others of our eminent mer-
chants have done, by personal observation of various
parts of the world, and large intercourse with the
inhabitants of other climes, and intimate acquaintance
with the products of foreign lands, to engage under-
standingly in navigation and trade.

On retiring from sea in 1801, at the age of twenty-
six, he settled in this city, and embarked in commerce,
which he pursued uninterruptedly until some six
years ago ; when he retired, wisely and seasonably, to
enjoy that leisure and repose which his advancing age
required, and to which he had earned a fair and ample
title by the labors of a long and industrious life.
For nearly fifty years he was one of our most active
and enterprising merchants, an ornament and honor
to his calling, standing in this city among the fore-
most, if not at the very head, of that large and influ-
ential class of our citizens; and it was therefore a
fitting and deserved tribute of respect, when the flags
of the shipping were suspended at half-mast, on the


day after his death, in honor of one of the oldest ship-
masters and ship-owners in the porty'

In 1800, the year previous to his retiring from sea,
he married that excellent woman, who for forty-eight
years contributed so much to make his home a happy
one; and immediately joined this parish, then under
the charge of the Eev. Dr. Kirkland. Here he has
ever since continued for more than half a century, —

" Nor e'er has changed nor wished to change his place."

During all this time, and until he was disabled by
illness and infirmities, he has been one of the most
faithful and efficient members of the parish. He was
the model of the Good Parishioner described in the
former part of this discourse, feeling a deep solicitude
in the welfare of this church, and always ready to
promote its interests by all the means in his power.
/ Mr. Rich was a good parishioner, inasmuch as he
was a religious man — not formally or ostentatiously,
but humbly, sincerely, and earnestly. " He had not,"
as Jeremy Taylor says, " very much of the forms and
outsides of godliness, but he was hugely careful for
the power of it, for the moral, essential, and useful
parts ; such which would make him be, not seem to
be, religious." The spirit of reverence was prominent
in his nature, and the sentiment of piety was deeply
seated in his breast, and grew stronger and warmer


the longer he lived. His religious affections were of
the most tender, trustful, confiding nature. Religion
was with him a pleasure and a privilege, rather than
an obligation or a task. It touched his noble and
generous feelings ; it took hold of his warm and sus-
ceptible heart. He delighted in all its manifestations
and exercises, — in prayers, in sermons, in spiritual
songs, and in the solemn rites and ordinances of the
church. For more than fifty years he has worshipped
God in this place, — his house, as you remember, stand-
ing hard by the synagogue ; and for more than thirty
years he has been a communicant. He was a regular
and constant attendant on the evening as well as on
the morning service ; and, as you all can bear witness,
a most engaged worshipper, and, as I can testify, a
most attentive hearer of the preached Word. And
he came thus constantly to church, not from habit,
nor from any superstitious feeling, nor from a sense
of duty, nor to set an example, but because he loved
to come. He " loved the habitation of God's house,
and the place where his honor dwelleth." He loved
holy times and places. He loved the sabbath and
the sanctuary. He loved to hear the " bells knoll to
church." He loved to join with his brethren in social
worship ; he loved to sing the praises of the Lord in
solemn hymns and anthems ; he loved to hear the
great truths of religion expounded and enforced ; he


loved to commune at the table of the Redeemer.
This church was to him a hallowed and beloved spot,
his religious home ; and to be kept away from it by
illness or any necessity was to him a deprivation and

And he was religious, not only at church, but at
home. Religion was a subject on which he thought
much and felt deeply, and on which he loved to con-
verse with his minister and others ; and I can truly
say that there was no family in the parish in which
the subject of religion came up oftener, was more
easily and naturally introduced, or more gladly wel-
comed, than in his. He " showed piety at home."
/Mr. Rich was a good parishioner, inasmuch as he
took a lively interest in the prosperity of the parish,
and gave largely of his time and his substance in
superintending its aiFairs and promoting its welfare.
For fourteen years he was a member of the Standing
Committee of the Society, and, as his associates will
testify, a most active and energetic member. Time
would fail to tell all that he has done for this parish.
Dwelling hard by the synagogue, it was always in
his eye, and he watched over it with a religious care.
He took a pride in having the church kept in decent
order, in proper repair, and suitably embellished, —
thinking that the Lord's house should be as well
attended to as our private dwellings. He contributed


liberally to the purchase of that noble organ, which
has added so much to the music of the church, and
which is this day to chant his favorite anthem. To
his foresight and decision mainly, seventeen years ago,
we owe the preservation of our beautiful spire, which
is an ornament not only to the church but to the city,
and which was then tottering on its base ; and to
him solely are we indebted for raising the necessary
funds to erect the graceful iron fence by which our
church green is now protected and adorned. As
long as it stands, it will be his monument^

/But Mr. E-ich was not only a good parishioner, he
was also a good citizen. Whilst diligently pursuing
his private business, he was not unmindful of the
claims which the community had upon his time, his
services, and his means. He was a public-spirited
man, and was always disposed to serve the public to
the full extent of his ability. His singular energy,
decision, perseverance, were ever ready to be embarked
in the cause of humanity and philanthropy. Was
any good work of this sort devised or set on foot by
the merchants of Boston, — who have always been
willing to pour out their resources like water, — Mr.
Rich was usually the man called upon to take the
laboring oar, to carry the work forward, and see it
executed. And never, I believe, did he undertake a


work of this kind without carrying it through to its
completion. He was born to command ; he had, by
nature, an executive will. He had a way, too, of
appealing to the generous sympathies of his fellow-
men that was perfectly irresistible. There was no
escape, there was no retreat. You could not say No
to a man whose heart evidently was in the work, who
had himself already contributed to the full extent of
his means, and who was laboring from no selfish
motives, for no personal end. I doubt whether there
was ever an individual in this city that obtained more
by personal solicitation for objects of public and pri-
vate charity. Let me mention a few instances.

He hears that one of his old companions in business
has, by the reverses of trade, been stripped of his prop-
erty, and, in his old age, is reduced to penury, with
no home, and no means of support. Mr. Rich cannot
rest till he has gone round among his friends, and
raised a sum sufficient to purchase an annuity of six
hundred dollars for this decayed merchant, which was
sufficient to make his latter days comfortable. — A
young lieutenant in the navy, a most accomplished
and estimable man, connected with this parish, after
having successfully surveyed the Jordan and the Dead
Sea, dies on the slope of Mount Lebanon; and his
young wife soon droops and follows him to the grave,
leaving behind two interesting orphan boys, dependent


on the scanty pension granted to their mother. Mr.
Rich, with the tender sympathy that always charac-
terized him, immediately collected a fund, which, with
the subsequent generous donations of a thousand dol-
lars each from Lieutenant Lynch and Dr. Anderson,
the companions of Mr. Dale in the expedition, will be
sufficient, it is hoped, to provide for their education,
and fit them for useful and honorable stations in life.
— On the 3d of October, 1841, eight of the fishing-
vessels of his native town were lost in a storm, with
their crews, consisting of fifty-seven men ; and, by this


Online LibraryAlexander YoungThe good parishioner, a discourse occasioned by the death of Benjamin Rich, Esq. : delivered in the Church on Church Green, June 8, 1851 → online text (page 1 of 2)