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George Lewis.

Address delivered by Rev. George Lewis, D. D. online

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DRESS Given at
the Tijvo Hundredth
Anniversary of the
Founding' of the First
Church of Christ in Ber-
wicK. j^ j^ jS^ J^



ADDRESS



DELIVERED BY REV. GEORGE LEWIS, D. D.

WEDNESDJiY, JVME 4th, I902

AT the:

TWO HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY

OF the: founding of the:

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH

IN SOUTH BERWICn

MAINE



SOUTH DER"WICR

The Independent Press

1902






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ODERN church life in our own State has
roots that run back into a somewhat
complex, and certainly a very curious
condition of things in the seventeenth
century. The early history of Maine
reads very differently from the early history of Massa-
chusetts. They were Pilgrims and staunch Congre-
gational christians who came over in the Mayflower and
formed the Plymouth colony. They were Puritans
from England, who were driven thence by the exactions
and the petty persecutions of Eaud, who came to Boston
and vicinit}^ and formed the Massachusetts colony.
They were organized churches which came across the
water, and they came to Massachusetts Bay as both
Church and State in one. They meant to be and they
were a Theocracy as truly as were the Israelites in the
days of David. It was a kingdom of God they came to
America on purpose to establish. No bauble of wealth
dangled before the imagination of these Puritans to lure
them from their homes on the other side to the bleak
shores, the dark woods and the deep snows of Massa-
chusetts. They came to worship God in their own way
and to make others worship him in their way too so far
as they were able. But religion played no part in the
early settlement of Maine. Here it was the prospedts
of trade that were opened and the hope of large gains
that drew the brilliant and hardy adventurers to the

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region of country lying between the Piscataqua and the
Kennebec. Capt. John Smith had been here and he
had stirred the hearts of his countrymen and set many
of them on edge with a longing for the Piscataqua
valley and the rich furs and fish and fields of the
region. Men came here to trade and grow rich and
then to go back home again, as many of them did. But
some came and stayed and the little settlements along
the river and along the seacoast grew and prospered.
By and by Sir Ferdinando Gorges got the consent of
King Charles the First to the control and to a large
part of the emoluments of this whole tract of country
between us and the Kennebec river. He certainly
meant to grow rich out of this new land, and the King
was willing he should. This grant was given Gorges
in 1639. Gorges, as well as the King, was a loyal
church of England man. and the intention of all these
contracting parties was to establish that church here,
so as to offset if possible the influence of the Puritan
church in Massachusetts. But at the time this charter
to Gorges was confirmed the church of England was in
a very squall}' condition at home. King Charles and
Archbishop Laud were getting into deep waters of
difficulty. Pym and Fairfax and Cromwell were com-
ing, and were already above the horizon. Within two
years Strafford was beheaded; five years after this date
Laud was beheaded, and within ten years the King
himself was brought to the block. Of course during
these years of trouble and of disaster to the English
church there was neither time nor power to develop any
of the interests of Episcopacy over here. There was

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therefore no organized church life at all on this
territory, though there was quite a population here.
Gorges's charter was a dead letter from the beginning
so far as any ecclesiastical development went. After the
death of Charles, Cromwell was the power in England.
Then as a matter of course Gorges's charter died, and
we were given up to Massachusetts that the Massa-
chusetts idea of church and of religion might be put in
here and made to grow. I can not help thinking that it
was a most fortunate and blessed thing for the Province
of Maine that she passed that early into the jurisdi(5lion
of Massachusetts, for to that transference we clearly
owe the organization of all the earlier churches of the
State. The question was not then as to which of the
two systems, the Congregational or the Episcopal,
should be born and should grow here. There was no
choice. It was the church of the Massachusetts type,
or it was no church at all. And I do not believe that
there is any one either then or now, not even Arch-
bishop Laud himself, who would not say that a Puritan
church was better than none. For one I do not believe
that any other form of organized church life was so well
adapted to the free and strong development of the early
and at that time quite uncouth republican institutions
as was the Congregational church. It was a great
blessing to the Province of Maine in every respedl that
Massachusetts took it under her own control. So soon
as this transference was made the religious interests of
Maine began to be looked after.

The government of this province was assumed by
Massachusetts in 165 1 or 1652. As the government

[5]



Historical JiddreMM,



changed, so to some extent did the names of places and
the customs of people. Gorgianna then became
York, and the old region of Piscataqua became Kittery.
This latter included the present towns of Kittery, Eliot
and the three Bervvicks. The very names York and
Kittery testify to that historic, and for us momentous,
change of jurisdi(5lion. Very soon ministers appeared
all through the region and along the coast eastward
preaching the gospel according to Massachusetts Bay.
Harvard College, organized originally for the sake of
an educated ministry, sent her graduates to do this
work. Each military fort, wherever it was, was sup-
plied at once with a pious and learned chaplain. Court
sitting in this county issued its edicfl that all the
English children born in the distri<5l should be bap-
tized. It was indeed a great thing for the coming
State. It gave both diredlion and color to her de-
velopment. Matters here began to keep time and step
not with the thought of London but with the thought of
Boston, not with the bishops of old England but with
the bishops of New England, the Cottons, the Mathers,
etc. Under the earlier (the Gorges) regime John
Wheelwright, a near relative of Ann Hutchinson of
famous memory, a classmate and friend of Oliver
Cromwell, driven away from Boston, lighting at Exeter
and then driven away from there, had himself with his
friends and (judged by the Boston standard) with his
heresies found lodgment a few miles east of us in the
present town of Wells. There his form of faith had
flourished well for a time, but now the Massachusetts
authorities stepped in, dissolved the organization with

[6]



Historical Address.



a word, and then publicly proclaimed it to be dead.
The present church in Wells therefore is not in any
sense the John Wheelwright church. But another
church was gathered there and duly organized and
started on its mission to the future in October, 1701.
Maine may well claim to be a puritan State then, not
because of the charadter of her early settlements, but
because Massachusetts legislated and preached her into
Puritanism; not because of the churches that were
transported here in bulk from the mother land, but
because of the godly and learned men from the rising
halls of Harvard who on horseback or on foot travelled
from here to Fort Popham preaching the gospel to the
farmers, fishers and trappers alike and baptising their
children. All honor to Massachusetts that thus made
Maine as good as herself, and perhaps a little better,
for while we had her puritanism, yet taking it as we
did by the way of inoculation, we had no doubt a
larger breadth of vision and greater charity of spirit.

Now out of this condition, out of this soil that had
been prepared for the growth of churches, churches
began to grow. The church is not always the breaking
up plow in civilization. It is sometimes the plant that
springs up from an already prepared soil, and ripens
the seed for other churches yet to be. A church was
formed in York quite a number of years before one was
formed here. Perhaps this was because the people who
lived in York were better affedled toward the ordinances
of faith than were those who lived on the Newichi-
wannock. I hardly think it, however. I suspecft it was
because York was on the coast and was much more

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Historical Address.



easily reached by preachers from Boston and Salem and
Newburyport than the inland villages were. That was
the old Gorgianna too and would therefore quite
naturally be regarded by the missionary as, what we
would call today, a strategic point for a church,
planting a church in the very capital of a province so to
speak. But if to be on the coast was such an advan-
tage, why not then let the next church be organized at
Kittery Point? Why, because Kittery lay right be-
tween Portsmouth and York, and the people of Kittery
were in reachable distance of either for an attendance
at meeting and for a minister to baptize their children
and to bury their dead. The next move therefore was
in this direction. Here at Quamphegan, on the New-
ichiwannock, and up the Great Works for three-quarters
of a century men had been living and working. They
were men of brawn ; the}' were men of brain ; they were
men of dauntless courage ; they were men of vigorous
enterprize and thrift. They had come into the wilder-
ness to subdue it. They feared neither the gloomy
woods, nor the prowling savages, nor the wild beasts,
nor the tumbling cataradls of the rivers. These things
should all be their servants and not their masters.
The Indians should bring them furs. The beasts
should be their food. The river falls should turn the
wheels and drive the saws that should convert the
woods into lumber. This was both skill and enter-
prise. I am sure if any place on the continent has
reason to be proud of its forefathers, South Berwick
has. Those men knew what they wanted, and they
knew how to bring it to pass. Their story is one of



Historical Jt d d re s s .

thrilling interest for it shows the rare charadler and
quality of the men. The simple story of the old saw
mill built on the Great Works river, that gave its name
to the river and to the surrounding region (and may
that name never be displaced) the first mill of the sort
in the whole country so far as I know, is a story to
rouse in every soul an ardent admiration for the men of
those times. The men of this region were men of
strong charadler and of great enterprise. They had a
large amount of what we would call native force.
Energy always attradls energy. Strong and capable
men, without effort, almost unconsciously draw or drift
together into association. They were a fine stock that
in the seventeenth century lived and labored and
prospered at Quamphegan and Old Fields, or as it had
then come to be called, the parish of Unity. They
were men of executive power, and were ready and
willing to assume large responsibilities whether of
church or state.

In the year 1674 a boy was born in what is now
Ipswich, Mass., whose father's name was Wade, and
the baby was christened John. He bore the name of an
Apostle, and he somehow soon felt that to be an
Apostle was his own mission. He was a boy of quick
parts intelle(5lually, and graduated from Harvard Col-
lege at the age of nineteen. There was no Theological
Seminary standing in his way and he passed speedily
from recitations in the college to exhortations in the
woods. He early attradled the notice of the Governor
and Council of Massachusetts, and was by them sent to
the East. Though hardly more in years than a boy he

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Historical Address.



had gained standing as a doctor of medicine as well as
preacher, and he was sent to the military fortress at
Pejepscott, now Brunswick, as chaplain and physician
to the garrison. We wish we could have seen John
Wade as in 1699 or 1700, he a youth of twenty-five,
enthusiastic and glowing because he was young, grave
and dignified because he was a puritan clergyman,
came here to preach and to crystallize the religious
sentiment of the place into an organic form. Mr. Wade
must have been a man not only of rich mental attain-
ments but of great strength and unusual balance of
charadler. I have already spoken of that principle of
attraction that always draws into association men of
like quality and charadler. I have no doubt it was the
rare charadler of the people here that brought so rare a
man into their company. He was welcomed and loved
at once. In 1701 the question of a church organization
was freely canvassed. Mr. Wade in his record saj's he
discoursed to the people very plainly about the advan-
tage and significance of church ordinances. Rev. Mr.
Greenleaf, who some eighty years ago published an
Ecclesiastical History of Maine, in his comments upon
the organization of this church, speaks of the remark-
able prudence and wisdom of Mr. Wade, holds him up
as an example to ministers of modern daj's and says
that if his course were imitated many church strifes and
schisms might be prevented. Mr. Wade was young in
years but evidently ripe in judgment. His own
account of the formation of this church is very brief,
very simple, and very touching, and I think I can not
do better than to quote it entire. After the record of

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Historical Address.

meetings holden during the preceeding months, where-
in a creed which was rather a catechism had been
taught and learned, he proceeds — "March 2, 1702, was
our meeting when after thanksgiving to God for such a
prospe(fl of his favor as was before us and imploring his
assisting and succeeding grace in our enterprise, I gave
an account of the satisfaction I had received of them
severally. Repeating over the above said questions to
them and the sum of their answers amounting to an
entire confession of faith in the fundamental articles of
Christianity. Telling them that they were severally
conscious of my dealing with them as above said, and
as eac/i had expressed his answer, so all had as to the
substance thereof, so that they were all professedly of
one faith. I then propounded whether they were
satisfied as to the conversation of one another? They
signified that they were. Upon which I read to them a
confession-of-faith-church covenant to which they joy-
fully assented. Then after renewing a word of warning
and exhortation to them, we agreed to keep a day of
public Fasting and Prayer on June 4th and so dis-
missed them with prayer." "June 4, 1702. Being Fast
Day the Rev. Mr. Pike Pastor of the church of Christ at
Dover, Mr. Saml. Emery Pastor of the church of Wells
and Mr. Saml. Moody Pastor of the church of Christ at
York coming to our assistance : after prayer and a
sermon (Mr. Pike preached) then for our dire(5lion Mr.
Pike etc. taking cognizance of our proceedings and
seeing all their assent to the articles of faith and form
of covenant — then publicly read — and their satisfaction
one with another, pronounced them a church of Jesus

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Christ, upon which they signified their choice of J.
Wade as their Pastor." The next record is "Nov. i8,
1702, Mr. John Wade was ordained Pastor," and the
next record, by another hand, "Nov. 13, 1703, Died the
Rev. Mr. John Wade." It is pathetic. One can
hardly keep back the tears as he reads these brief
notices and tries to realize how much of history they
mean. God be thanked for that young man who had
so devotedly and so wisely done his work and had gone
home to his reward before he had reached the age of
thirty.

The church was organized, and the men, who at
this meeting signed their names to the covenant which
had been prepared by Mr. Wade, were these: Daniel
Goodin, Peter Grant, Maj. Jos. Hammond, Ichabod
Plaisted, Chas. Frost, Jos. Hammond, Jr., Henry
Nock, John Fernald, Peter Staple, Danl. Emery,
Nathan Lord, Benoni Hodsdon, Job Emery, Abram
Lord, Richard Tozer, Saml. Small, John Gowen.
Seventeen men they were. Men of character and
repute they were. Men of social standing they were.
They were men who had just been publicly acknow-
ledged by the assembled citizens as worthy to take this
place by reason of their high christian characfler, and
also by reason of their social influence. They were in
every respect fit men. It was not the vote alone of a
small church committee either that pronounced them fit
to be members of Christ's bod^^ but it was the sen-
timent of the Town. These men were held in high
esteem all the way from Kittery Point to Baunabeag.
The formation of the church was a momentous matter,

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and was so judged. It deeply interested every man,
woman and child in Ancient Piscataqua, and especially
those who dwelt in the parish of Unity. After the
faithful house to house labors of Mr. Wade no one
could be ignorant of the vital significance of the
movement, or indifferent to it. After his thorough
teaching there was no one who did not have some
intelligent idea of how that church was going to
ennoble, was going to build into a finer charadler, and
shape to higher issues the whole municipal strudlure of
the future. They felt that that was largely what the
coming church was for. The whole region had come to
feel that as there was in nature a law of crystallization
that built the diamond, so there was a moral force to be
exerted through this new church upon society at large
which should almost resistlessly draw it into harmony,
and shape it into a great glory, and the popular verdidl
was, "These seventeen men are fit to do this. These
seventeen men are fit to hold from God, and to adminis-
ter for the general good, this mighty power to shape
and build society." Not a dissenting voice was heard.
These men were considered fit by unanimous consent.
It was a great tribute to the moral standing and worth
of these men that nobody had aught to say against
them, that they took a position manifestly so onerous
with the unbroken amen of a town in their favor. Had
they lived in our own day they would have been called
charter members of the church. But two hundred years
ago they were christened by that infinitely richer and
more pregnant name Fouridation Brethren. That name
is a perpetual witness to the high esteem in which these

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men were held. They were men of such characler that
together they formed an association promising great
things for the future. If you see the foundation of a
building laid by a wise architecfl you may know from
that foundation what is the general characler of the
proposed struclure. Flimsy foundations are not put
under great temples or beneath great capitols. These
seventeen men and the faith they professed were
regarded by the public sentiment of Ancient Piscataqua
as a foundation promising a future strucflure of charac-
ter and life that would be both solid and high. The
phrase no doubt was Mr. Wade's, and it is another
token of his fine perception that he saw the difference
between a mere charter member which means little, and
a foundation brother which means the ages yet to be.
Mr. Wade was a rare prophet. Within less than a year
from the church's birth fifteen women had united with
it making the church membership thirty-two at the time
of the pastor's death. The church chose as its first
deacons Daniel Emery and Nathan Lord. They were
chosen May 20, and at that time two silver cups, a table
cloth and napkins were given to the church by Capt.
Ichabod Plaisted to furnish the Communion Table.
The other cups of the old and dearly loved service were
given not long after, each piece inscribed with the
donor's name. As we look today at that service we feel
that our fathers gave of their best to the Lord, for out
of their poverty they gave the solid silver.

Four years now came and went without a pastor
and without any additions. As a matter of course
there were services holden in the church with greater

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or less regularity during that time. We are not
told so in the record, neither are we told that peo-
ple ate their breakfasts and dinners, but all the
same we know they did. We can not help being
impressed with the beauty of the tribute the church
paid to Mr. Wade by their non-adlion for four years
as well as by their adlion. They must have loved
that man with no common love, for after his burial they
would ask no other man to take his place as pastor
unless it were one who had been born in the same
village with him and educated in the same school.
Those conditions were met in the person of Mr.
Jeremiah Wise who was ordained here in 1707, and the
first name added to the church roll after his advent is
the honored name of Timothy Wentworth. Mr. Wise
remained and wrought faithfully and well for almost
half a century, when full of years and honors he fell
asleep. He left the rare and radiant beauty of our own
Old Fields for the more beautiful city on high where
there is no night. That Mr. Wise was a man peaceful
and quiet in his disposition is proven by the fact of his
long and prosperous pastorate. That he was a man of
decision of charadler and eminently wise in council is
proven by the fadl that he was so often sought as a
helper and adviser in church difficulties, and that his
counsel was so apt to be followed ; and that he was a
learned preacher is evident from the many great
occasions in different parts of the country when he gave
the sermon. During this man's pastorate here the
churches at Kittery Point, Eliot and Blackberry Hill
were formed. These were the immediate children of

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this church, and each one took a goodly number of
members from this organization. When Mr. Wise
came here there were three churches in what is now the
State of Maine, when he died there were at least sixteen
churches, and with the creation of almost all of them
Mr. Wise had something to do, being especially prom-
inent in the organization of those in Scarborough and
in Portland. One of the leading Massachusetts clergy-
men at the time of his death left a list containing the
names of those men of very superior wisdom whom he
had known, and the name of Mr. Wise of Berwick is in
that list.

At this point occurs a very significant passage in
the story of the church. From the beginning the
pastor has adled as the clerk. It ought not to be so,
but so it is. Mr. Wise died on the 20th of January.
On the 25th, which was probably the day after the
funeral, the church met and voted that the record
should be put into the hands of the deacons, and the
next day we have this minute :

"Received of John Wise the Records of
the ist church of Berwick kept by his father
the Revd. Mr. Jereh. Wise."

Signed by the deacons of said church,

Benjn Libby,
Daniel Hmery,
Ichabod Goodwin,
Humphrey Chadbourne, Jr.

I say it is significant for it shows with what
scrupulous care these records were kept. Had records

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generally been guarded with equal care, history that is
written today would be far less the result of imagina-
tion than it now is.

Early in the following autumn Mr. Jacob Foster,
another Harvard graduate, was ordained. Mr. Foster
seems to have been a very good and faithful man, a
man certainly of ability and earnest in his ministra-
tions. But the times were evil. There were wars and
rumors of wars on every hand, and the children of God
must either fight or flee. Here they preferred to fight.
The seven years war was on in Europe — England and
France, Protestant and Catholic were wrestling with all
their might to see which would fling the other. Per-
haps no part of the world suffered from that war more
keenly than we did here. We did not call it the seven
years war, we called it the French and Indian war.
Louisburg had been taken not long before this, taken
under the lead of a Piscataqua man. Sir William
Pepperell, accompanied by a goodly number of men
from Berwick, and this had made our valley a marked
spot for the Frenchman's venom a little later. It was a
time when savages in their war paint were lurking in
the woods to kill the passer by, when families could not
retire at night with any assurance of being alive the
next morning, when men plowing in their fields might
expedl at any moment to see their houses in flames and
their children scalped. It was a time when at one
extreme of our territory Braddock and Washington


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Online LibraryGeorge LewisAddress delivered by Rev. George Lewis, D. D. → online text (page 1 of 2)