Essex (Mass.). First Congregational Church.

Two centuries of church history; celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the organization of the Congregational church & parish in Essex, Mass., August 19-22, 1883 online

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Online LibraryEssex (Mass.). First Congregational ChurchTwo centuries of church history; celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the organization of the Congregational church & parish in Essex, Mass., August 19-22, 1883 → online text (page 1 of 18)
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WO Hundredtn Anniversary


















Present Church Edifice — Erected 1792, Remodeled 1842

'm/u ^eqimieH jj/ ^linuli ^isiorjg







August 19-22, 188,

J. H. Choate & Co., Printers.



At a meeting of the Congregational Church in Essex held
January 9th, 1883, it was voted — 'That this Church observe
the two hundredth anniversary of its organization by holding
services appropriate to the occasion."

At a subsequent meeting it was voted that the anniversary
have reference to the organization of the Parish as well as of
the Church and the parish were invited to join in the pro-
posed celebration.

A committee of the church was appointed and at the
Annual Parish meeting, held April i6th, a committee was
chosen to unite with the committee of the church in makinsf


all necessary arrangements for the occasion.
The following are the committees :

^ommiittz of tje CJitrcfj.

Dea. Caleb S. Gage, Rufus Choate, Reuben Morris,

And the Acting Pastor, Ex Officio.

Committxe of tfje Parisf).

Addison Cogswell, Dea. Caleb Cogswell,

Henry W. Mears.

©tt Entertainment.

Frank E. Burnham, Mrs. Hervey Burnham,

Henry W. Mears, Mrs. Mary C. Osgood,

Reuben Morris, Mrs. D. Webster Cogswell,

Joseph Procter, Jr., Mrs. Philip T. Adams,

D. Brainard Burnham, Mrs. Josiah Low,

Francis Haskell, Miss Lizzie M. Norton.

Congregational Church and Parish, Essex.
D. Brainard Burnham, Joseph Procter, Jr.

©n ©frorations.

Miss Ellen Boyd, Mrs. Albert L. Butler,

Mrs. George Procter, Mrs, George A. Fuller,

RuFus Choate.

©n Jlusic.

William C. Choate, Rufus Choate,

Mrs. Hervey Burnham, Miss Carrie O. Spofford.

(©n \\t Eent.

Henry W. Mears.

©n Printing.

Rev. F. H. Palmer. Rufus Choate.


Sunday, August igth, at 2 p.m.
MEMORIAL SERMON by Rev. F. H. Palmer, Acting Pastor.

Wednesday, August 22nd, a.m.


ANTHEM ....." Strike the Cymbal."

INVOCATION . . bv Rev. F. H. Palmer, Acting Pastor.

READING OF SCRIPTURE . by Ex Pastor Rev. J. L. Harris.

PRAYER . . . by ^x Pastor Rev. D. A. Morehouse.

ADDRESS OF WELCOME . . by the Acting Pastor.


by Rev. Prof. E. P. Crowell of Amherst College.
HYMN (Old Style) . . . Lined oft' by Bro. Rufus Choate.


by Rev. H. M. Dexter, D.D.. of Boston.


At the close of the morning services the congregation adjourned to the
neighboring cemetery where prayer was oftered at the grave of Rev, John
Wise bv Prof. E. A. Park, D.D., of Andover, Mass.

Tzvo HundrcdtJi Aiinivcrsary. 5

1-2.J0 p.m.


2. JO p.m.
ANTHEM • . . . . . . "Denmark."

GREETING from the Mother Church,

by Rev. E. B. Palmer of Ipswich.
GREETING from Sister Churches,

by Rev. F. G. Clark, of Gloucester.

by Rev. Jeremiah Taylor, D.D., of Providence, R.I.

REMARKS by Prof. Park of Andover.




Invitations were sent out to neighboring churches and
pastors, and to all old friends and members of the church so
far as their addresses could be learned. A mammoth tent
was erected on the grounds of Mr. Daniel W. Low, and the
weather proving auspicious, about a thousand persons assem-
bled to listen to the public exercises. The old pulpit used in
the latter part of the eighteenth century by Rev. John Cleave-
land, and afterwards during the ministry of Revs. Josiah
Webster, Thomas Holt, and Dr. Crowell was placed upon the
platform for the accommodation of the speakers.

Rev. Mr. Palmer, Acting Pastor, presided and in his address
of welcome extended a cordial greeting to all, indulged in
the thoughts which the lapse of two hundred years would
naturally suggest and concluded by saying that we glory in
these old names which cluster around our early history as we
rehearse their deeds.

At the close of the forenoon services an aged man who well
remembered the raising of the present meeting house, in 1 792,
was introduced to the congregation. This was Mr. Andrew
Burnham in his 99th year. He came forward and occupied
the platform during the singing of the last hymn.

6 Congregational CJultcJl and Parish, Essex.

The collation which was served by the ladies at noon was
one of the most bountiful ever known in Jhe history of the

The music of the day, which was most excellent, was under
the direction of the organist of the church Mr. William C.

The vestry and audience room were well filled during the
evening where a season of social intercourse was greatly en-
joyed. Brief but eloquent addresses were made by the Pres-
ident of the day Rev. Mr. Palmer, Ex Pastor Rev. J. L.
Harris, Rev. George L. Gleason of Byfield, John Howard
Burnham, Esq., of Bloomington, 111., and Rev. D. O. Mears,
D. D. of Worcester. An original Poem written for the occa-
sion by Mrs. Elizabeth Lane of Boston, formerly a member
of this society, was read by Miss Ida P. Howes.

The choir and band discoursed sweet music between the
addresses. The services of the day closed with prayer by
the acting pastor and the singing of the doxology.

The following account of the church decorations is taken
from the Boston Journal of the next day :

The church interior was handsomely decorated for the occasion, appar-
ently at much labor and expense. A large floral arch was over the altar,
and in the centre were the words :

This was flanked by the dates 1683 ^"^ 1883. Suspended from the arch
was a tablet inclosed in evergreen and scarlet geraniums, bearing the
words of Acts x, 33, which formed the text when the present church was
dedicated in 1793. A floral work suspended from the ceiling was attractive
from its composition of ferns and myrtle leaves. The pulpit was almost
hidden from view by gladioli and other flowers. The walls were decorated
at appropriate points with ornamental crosses, wreaths and flowers in va-
rious designs. The balcony front centre was arrayed in festoons of white
trimmed with trailing ivy, and the right and left of the balcony were fes-
tooned with the American colors. The balcony rail was surmounted with
pots of rare exotics, and also golden rod, ferns, oak leaves, etc. There
was much to please the eye in the general adornment.

The location of the first church building, raised in April
1679, was marked by flags; also that of the second house of

Tivo HtindrcdtJi Anniversary. y

worship raised in 1718. Some of the foundation stones of
this building still remain beneath the soil. A flag waving
rom each corner clearly revealed the exact location of the
building to many interested visitors.

The spot on which Rev. John Wise lived during the first
twenty years of his ministry, was also indicated by a flag.

A wreath of evergreen upon the tombstones of Revs.
Theophilus Pickering and John Cleaveland, in the old ceme-
tery, marked the last resting place of those divines.

The tablet of slate in the monument over Mr. Wise's grave
having been injured, was replaced by one of more durable
quality bearing, however, the same epitaph. This gift was
through the generosity of a parishioner Mr. Addison Cogswell.

Among the large company from abroad who manifested a
hearty interest in the occasion were many members of the
families of former pastors of the Church. The families of
Pickering, Cleaveland, Crowell, Bacon, Morehouse and Har-
ris were well represented.

The warm interest and sympathy of absent members who
had returned to their former spiritual home, the devotion of
the entire Parish to the duties of the hour, the presence and
congratulations of many families of the town, not now in
church relations with us, but whose ancestors for many gen-
erations worshipped at this altar, the delightful memories
revived by the various exercises, all combined to make this a
most interesting and long to be remembered Anniversary.

(DBMor^iAL Sei^mon


Preached on Sunday, August 19, 1883, in the First Con-
gregational Church.*

''For cnqiure, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare
thyself to the search of tJieir fatJicrs!' Job 8 : 8.

On the first day of January, 181 5, a sermon was preached
from these words by the Rev. Robert Crowell, who had been
ordained pastor of this church five months before. In the
printed copies of that sermon there is an explanatory note,
stating that *' the following discourse consists of a compila-
tion of facts the knowledge of which it was thought might
be useful to the rising generation of this parish;" and ex-
pressing the hope ''that it may serve to increase the knowl-
edge of their fathers, and lead them, through divine grace,
to imitate their pious and devout examples."

*In conducting the services Mr. Palmer used what is probably the oldest
Bible to be found in any family in this section. It is the property of Mrs.
Winthrop Low. Upon the fly-leaf it is written :

"The title page and several leaves at the beginning are missing. This
Bible was without doubt brought from England by the first settlers, bearing
the name of Low."

"The Old and New Testament, printed by Christopher Barker, in the
year 1579." (See fac simile.)

"The Whole Book of Psalms, by Sternhold, Hopkins and others, printed
as follows: 'At London, printed by John Days, dwelling over Addersgate.
An. 1578. Cum Privilegio Regiae Majestatis' '"

"Susanna Low, her Book, 1667, May 19. Thomas Low, his Book.
(Both names appear to have been written very nearly at the same time.)

"The names of Samuel Low and John Low, written probably near 200
years ago. also are found on the blank leaves."

lO Congregational Church and Parish, Essex.

In the providence of God we are again reminded, by the
occurrence of our two hundredth anniversary, of the appro-
priateness and profit of turning our glances backward and
observing the events of the past, in which the successes and
the failures of our forefathers have been wrought out. It is
necessary to pause occasionally, at appropriate periods, and
review the past. The events which make up our human
experience succeed each other so rapidly, — so swift is the
current that is sweeping us onward through our brief span of
life toward eternity, — that we hardly realize the meaning of
what is taking place around us. No age can truly estimate
its own power and significance. It is the part of the future
to rate the time that now is. Hence the propriety of these
anniversary seasons. We are to view the past as a written
page of instruction, which will teach us the meaning of God's
providence, and disclose to us the value of life, and lead us
to appreciate the blessings and opportunities which accrue to
us from the devout and self-denying labors of those who
have gone before.

More than sixty-eight years have passed away since Dr.
Crowell used these words of Job's friend to turn our fathers'
thoughts back to the earlier history of their then ancient
church. That which was new in that day has become old
now, and that which was old then has become very, very old.
"The fathers" upon whose ''pious and devout examples" our
fathers reflected, have become great-great-grandfathers to
those living at the present day. We have the pious examples
of many generations to reflect upon. We have the accu-
mulated experiences of a long line of godly ancestors. We
can study their deeds and their principles ; and profiting by
the dispassionate verdict of time upon their various doings
we can judge, with some degree of accuracy, of the wisdom and
earnestness of their lives, and of the quality of the institutions
which they founded for the promotion of human happiness and
for the glory of God. We can judge, too, of the progress of

Two HundrcdtJi Anniversary. 1 1

ideas, and of the advance that this world has been making in
attainments, physical, intellectual and spiritual, since their
day. We may thus find abundant cause for congratulation ;
we may thus learn many needed lessons, and gain many
valuable encouragements which will aid us in maintaining
the institutions which they have founded, and help us to
hand these down, in turn, to posterity, with new demonstra-
tions of their usefulness and power. If our present signifi-
cant anniversary shall do this for us, — if our rich past shall
thus instruct us, it will not be in vain that we "enquire," to-
day, **of the former age," and prepare ourselves "to the
search of their fathers."

It is not my purpose to review, on this occasion, the facts
in our history in the order of their occurrence. The story
of the founding of this church and the detailed history of its
twelve pastorates is an interesting narrative. The fullness
and accuracy with which it can and will be related, is due
almost wholly to the disinterested labors of that revered
pastor to whom I have already referred. And it is an espec-
ially felicitous circumstance that we may have for our
historian on this occasion, one who by nature and inheritance,
is so especially qualified for the task.

Without trespassing at all on the province of others who
are to review the events of these two centuries of church
and parish life in this community, I wish to direct your
attention, to-day, to some more general matters which have
a direct bearing upon the results of these fruitful years. The
first and proper business of the historian is to narrate facts,
to set forth events in the order of their occurrence. This is
the work that is to be done for us by others. But facts and
events are effects ; and every effect has and must have an
efficient cause behind it. It is the part of the philosopher
to trace the events of history to their causes, and to show
how and why things have happened as they have. As all
philosophy is but a search for causes, and as all causes

12 Congregational Church and Parish, Essex.

ultimately proceed from, or are merged into the one great
first cause, which is God himself, so the philosopher in the
highest exercise of his function becomes the theologian, as
he traces whatever is, and has been, to the overruling prov-
idence of God. Without arrogating for ourselves, to-day,
any too ambitious titles, let us nevertheless assume so far as
possible the philosophical and the religious attitude of mind ;
and in our inquiries of the former age let us seek for the
causes which produced the peculiar and wonderful forms of
life, both secular and spiritual, which we find originally in
New England, in such communities as this one, and which,
from these centres, have shaped the whole political and
religious development of our land. We shall thus inevitably
find ourselves assuming the attitude of mind most appro-
piate to such an occasion as this two hundredth anniversary,
the attitude of thanksgiving and praise to God for the won-
derful way in which he led our fathers, and for the wonderful
blessings and opportunities which he has bestowed upon us.

In the first place, then, we may thank God, to-day, that,
the great constructive idea in the minds of our forefathers,
as they came to the New England wilderness to establish for
themselves homes and a government, was a religions idea.

Driven out of England in consequence of the zeal which
they showed for a greater "scripture purity" in worship and
doctrine than could be found in the Established Church ;
finding only a short rest at Amsterdam, and in Leyden, Hol-
land, where they were '* grieved with the corrupt examples
around them, and fearing lest their children should be con-
taminated therewith," the Pilgrim Fathers set sail on August
5th, 1620, from Deft Haven, near Leyden, and in November
of the same year landed on our bleak and wintry Massachu-
setts coast. They had left their homes, and endured the
hardships of an uncertain and perilous sea-voyage to an un-
explored and unknown land, for a purpose; and that
purpose was that they might worship God according to the

Two Himdredth Anniversary. 13

dictates of their own consciences and serve Him according to
what seemed to them the scriptural and reasonable method,
wholly unhindered by any ecclesiastical authority and unfet-
tered by any popish forms.

The very foundations of our New England and national
civilization were thus, in the providence of God, laid in reli-
gion. Coming here with this definite purpose of enjoying
religious freedom, and of securing it, and its attendant bless-
ings, to their posterity, the meeting house was the first
thought and care of our fathers.

"In the settlements which grew up on the margin of the
greenwood" says the historian Bancroft, "the plain meeting
house of the congregation for public worship was every-
where the central point. Near it stood the public school by
the side of the very broad road, over which wheels did not
pass to do more than mark the path by ribbons in the sward.
The snug farm houses, owned as freeholders, without quit-
rents, were dotted along the way, and the village pastor
among his people, enjoying the calm raptures of devotion,
'appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the
spring of the year, low and humble on the ground, standing
peacefully and lovingly in the midst of the flowers round
about; all in like manner opening their bosoms to drink in
the light of the sun'. In every hand was the Bible ; every
home was a house of prayer ; in every village all had been
taught, many had comprehended a methodical theory of the
divine purpose in creation, and of the destiny of man."

It is not difficult to trace the influence of this religious
idea upon all departments of life in the growing communities
in which our forefathers lived. Thus we can see that here
was the starting point of that educational system, which has
had so much to do with the making of the New England
character, and which has given to New Englanders a world-
wide reputation for intelligence, shrewdness, and common
sense. The basis of the religion of our fathers was the

14 Co7igregational Church and Parish, Essex.

Bible. But to understand the Bible a certain amount of
education was essential. Hence they forthwith established
the necessary schools, that their children and the whole com-
munity might appreciate the arguments by which their reli-
gion was defended, and that an educated ministry might be
furnished to lead them in divine things. "The Pilgrim
Fathers well understood" says another, ''that Protestant Chris-
tianity demands intellectual culture. The preaching of the
gospel can only produce its best results when addressed to a
people enjoying the advantages of some good measure of
education." This they not only determined to furnish, but
to make obligatory upon all. Here is the germ of our com-
mon school system. And it had its origin in the religious

Again the whole political system, which secures freedom
and equality to all our citizens, and which has proved such a
stimulus to ambition, and such a conservator of justice and
of peace, strikes its roots into identically the same ground.
It was their profound conviction of the universal brotherhood
and the absolute equality of the human race in the sight of
God, that led our forefathers to remove from a land of tyranny
to a land where they might enjoy the blessings of that free-
dom in which they believed. Their political institutions were
the direct result of their religious ideas. The church and
the state were identical. The meetings of the parish were
the meetings of the town. To be entitled to a vote in politi-
cal matters each person was required to become a member of
some Congregational church. The historian, Bancroft, already
quoted, says again: '' All New England \N2,'i an aggregate of
organized democracies. But the complete development of
the institution was to be found in Connecticut and the Massa-
chusetts Bay. There each township was also substantially a
territorial parish ; the town was the religious congregation ;
the independent church was established by law; the minister
was elected by the people who annually made grants for his

Tivo HimdrcdtJi Anniversary. 15

support. * * He who will understand the political charac-
ter of New England in the eighteenth century must study
the constitution of its towns, its congregations, its schools
and its Militia."

Once more this strong and clearly-defined religious idea of
our ancestors made itself powerfully felt as a constructive
force, in the building up, in the several communities, of a
remarkably pure moral and social life. The influence of the
church and the minister was everywhere strongly felt. Public
sentiment was thus educated to condemn, almost harshly
sometimes, whatever was impure and unholy in thought, word
or deed. The transgressor was made to feel himself odious
to the whole community, a blot upon its fair name and a dis-
grace to himself and all his friends. This popular disapproval
thus became one of the very strongest possible deterrents from
crime. It was popular to be religious. Sabbath-keeping was
almost universal. Sabbath-breaking was scarcely known. In
social customs whatever seemed to make for piety and serious-
ness was viewed with approval, and whatever interfered with
a religious and devotional habit was sternly disapproved.
Thus public opinion drew the line sharply between good and
evil, and no one was left in doubt as to which he would be
expected to choose.

So in all the departments of life, the religious idea of our
forefathers made itself felt as a shaping and developing
power, and to it we own all that is noblest and best in both
the secular and religious institutions which have made our
own New England, and indeed our whole country, what they
are to day. We may well thank God that it was so grand a
purpose and so noble a sentiment that drove our ancestors,
so long ago, to this inhospitable coast, to found a State where
education, liberty, and a pure religion might forever be the
inalienable right of every citizen of the land.

I have dwelt thus far, dear friends, upon these general aspects
of life in the time of our fathers, and upon the forces at work

1 6 Congregational CJiurcJi and Parish, Essex.

in the formation of society in their day, because it is only by
knowing and recalhng these things that we shall be prepared
rightly to appreciate the part which this particular church
has had in the conservation and application of these forces
in this community in which we live.

I would mention then, in the second place, as a cause of
devout thanksgiving and praise to God to-day, the fact that in
His providence, this church has been permitted for two long
centuries to exert so beneficent an influence, and to do so
great a work in this town. What the religious idea of our
forefathers did for New England as a whole, that, preemi-
nently, this church, as the exponent of religion, has done in
this community, in building up the intellectual, moral and
political life of the place. I think we may say with perfect
truthfulness and without boasting, that for two centuries this
church has been the chief earthly means for securing the
best blessings of God to the people of this town. As its
meeting house stands conspicuous upon this hill, above the
other buildings, so its influence has been preeminent among
the good influences that have been working here. It has
truly been as "a city that is set on an hill," and its light has
not been hid.

It is not difficult to find illustrations of the beneficent and
wholesome effect of this church and of its ministers upon
the various departments of thought and life. Thus let us
see what has been its influence in matters of education in
this place.

"Our forefathers" says the historian of Essex*, "were in-
telligent and well educated men. They knew therefore how
to appreciate the importance of a good education for their
children. But while in a wilderness, few and far between,
and with scanty means of living, they could not build school
houses and hire teachers and if they could have done it, the
dangers from wild beasts would have rendered it hazardous

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryEssex (Mass.). First Congregational ChurchTwo centuries of church history; celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the organization of the Congregational church & parish in Essex, Mass., August 19-22, 1883 → online text (page 1 of 18)