John Allyn.

A sermon delivered at Plimouth, December 22, 1801, commemorative of the pious ancestry, who first imigrated [!] to that place, 1620 online

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Online LibraryJohn AllynA sermon delivered at Plimouth, December 22, 1801, commemorative of the pious ancestry, who first imigrated [!] to that place, 1620 → online text (page 14 of 18)
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guishable from those of unregenerate. Several hundreds of
new converts, in different towns, had such distinctive re-
ligious exercises, that they had not the least hesitation in
speaking of them, as matters of fact in their consciousness,
as much as any facts whatsoever. They could give a ra-
tional and most affecting account of their conviction of
sin, their struggle before submission to God, their accept-
ance of Christ as the Saviour of the lost, and their sub-
sequent trust or hope, peace or joy, as believers in Jesus.
Among these were many persons of such acknowledged
powers of intellect, and of such indisputable eminence,
that no man could class them among the ignorant and the

Ministers were now called to very solemn searchings of
heart, in regard to their own prospects of acceptance at
the judgment-seat of Christ. A new encouragement was
felt, in preaching the law and the gospel, from the expec-
tation that hearers would be converted, and would be able
to exhibit credible evidence of having passed from death
unto life. Church members, also, could not all escape
the question, so pungently asked by some in our own
days, ' What reason have I to think myself a Christian ? '

Intelligence of the revival in this country arrested the
attention of a multitude in England and Scotland. Ed-
wards wrote a narrative, under the title of " Surprising
Conversions," — which was published in London, " with
an Introduction by Drs. Watts and Guise." It was soon
reprinted in Boston, and was extensively read, and exerted
a powerful influence in both hemispheres.

In 1740, revivals commenced anew at Northampton,
Boston, and many other places, very nearly at the same
time, and spread within a year and a half throughout all
the English colonies. For some time, there was most evi-
dently a silent, powerful, and sublime work of the Spirit


of God. Whitefield came, and preached like Peter on
the day of Pentecost. Afterwards, the intemperate zeal
of some preachers, like Davenport, with excesses of vari-
ous kinds, gave occasion to open and violent contention
in some towns, and, perhaps, in none more unhappily
than in Boston.

Just in the hour of need, the great and good Edwards
applied his gigantic powers, in a searching and refining
operation, that all who would, might see the difference
between the precious and the vile. His work, entitled
" Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England,
and the way in which it ought to be acknowledged and
promoted," — begins and ends, as if his soul had been
bathing for years in the "pure river of water of life,
clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and
the Lamb."

Of the most respectable ministers in New England,
New York, and New Jersey, one hundred and sixty
united in a public attestation to the genuineness and
purity of the Revival, in most places ; while they joined
with Mr. Edwards, in censuring and deploring those
improprieties and excesses, which had given the enemies
of God much occasion to blaspheme. Among these, I
am grateful to know, was my honored father's godly
grand-parent, — the Rev. Francis Worcester, who was at
the time the pastor of the Second Church, in your neigh-
boring town of Sandwich. An intimate acquaintance,
and sometimes a fellow-traveller with Whitefield, he
afterwards was a very successful evangelist and home
missionary, in the more destitute parts of New England.

Those excellent men could not counteract, as they de-
sired, the untoward effect of the spirit of controversy,
which had been inflamed, and which has always proved
fatal to the progress of a revival. As the Holy Spirit
operates through the truth, as in Jesus, and the truth
must be kept distinctly before the mind, that the legiti-


mate effect may be produced, — it is obvious, that what-
ever serves to divert the attention of the anxious inquirer
from the truth itself in its manifestation to the conscience,
will inevitably be injurious, if not fatal, to the progress of
the work of grace. It is thus, that discussions on the
subject of baptism have sometimes put an immediate end
to a revival.

Hence, from the controversy which was occasioned,
the Great Awakening appeared, in 1743, to have come
to its close. It had wrought, however, a " great salva-
tion : " for " it was the Lord's doing." And well might
it be "marvellous " in the eyes of his people, notwith-
standing all which they had seen or heard of human
imperfections and extravagances. " Those who had the
best means of judging," says a learned and careful writer,
" estimated the number of true converts, as proved by
their subsequent lives, at 30,000, in New England alone,
at a time when the whole population was but 300,000 j
besides many thousands more among the Presbyterians of
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the more
southern settlements."

It was, then, as you may see, a result, which you will
the more vividly apprehend, if you just consider, that it
would be like adding to the churches in Massachusetts,
within the next three years, — 80,000 persons, young and
old, — and of such as would continue to sustain a Christian
character ; and to the churches throughout the Union,
not less than eighteen hundred thousand ! !

The more I reflect upon the subject, the more am I
persuaded, that no inconsiderable part of that which
makes the true glory of New England, and which to
human eye affords the brightest promise of the world's
hastening and approaching salvation, would never have
had an existence, but for those marvellous years of the
right hand of the Most High.

I do not wonder that Edwards was led to believe, that


the millennium was to begin in New England. Most
cordially did he respond to the proposal by the churches
of Scotland, in 1746, for a Concert of Prayer for the
Conversion of the World. And after being dismissed
from Northampton, it was in the true spirit of missions,
that he took charge of a church and school of Indians, at

There were of old mighty men and men of renown.
But who among " the fathers " was equal to him ? And
where now is his equal ? His work on "Original Sin,"
his unanswerable Treatise on the " Will," his " His-
tory of Redemption," his arialysis of the " Affections,"
are theological classics, of priceless value, and their
influence is incalculable, David Brainerd, the most
illustrious missionary in those times of extraordinary
reviving, has never had his superior upon the earth, in
all the essential qualities of an ambassador for God in
Christ's stead. The wonders of divine grace were no-
where more wonderful, in all the wide extent of the
memorable visitation of God's covenant love, than among
the Indian tribes to whom he ministered in New Jersey.
To pray for the conversion of the whole world, in the
concert of prayer recommended the year previous by the
churches of Scotland, was, in 1747, the farewell injunc-
tion of that lamented man of God, when he fell asleep in
Jesus. And who can tell how many, less known by their
memoirs, or by any other witness, than Henry Martyn
and Robert Murray McCheyne, have been awakened or
stimulated to a holier devotedness, by the refulgent and
inextinguishable lustre of David Brainerd's example in
imitation of Christ !

Much of missionary spirit was enkindled in the Revival
of 1740. Hence the Indian school of Rev. Eleazer
Wheelock, at Lebanon, Conn. ; designed to educate
preachers to the Indians. Hence ,other efforts which


cannot be specified. And if the French war and the
Revolutionary war had not so soon followed, and so
occupied all classes, very much more would undoubtedly
have been attempted and accomplished. Nothing can be
plainer, to my own view, than that the churches and
people of New England grew and prospered, according as
they enjoyed revivals of religion ; and that in proportion
as the spirituality of the churches was advanced or
retarded, the active interest in missionary toils and
sacrifices was evinced or suspended.

In 1745, Whitefield preached at Boston before the
New England army, — I had almost called them "a sacra-
mental host," — which was just embarking for Louisburg,
under command of Sir William Pepperell. The expedition
was undertaken as in "a war of the Lord," against the
"man of sin," and the power of mystical "Babylon."
For wherever France prevailed, there Romanism and
Jesuitism followed, — the Romanism and Jesuitism of the
bloody night of Saint Bartholomew's. Unnumbered
prayers, therefore, went up to the "Lord of Sabaoth."
The triumph was as when Jerusalem had deliverance
from Rabshakeh, and Sennacherib : — or as when the
Maccabees returned to the holy city, after the overthrow
'of the legions of the ferocious Antiochus of Syria, who
had sworn to exterminate the worshippers of Jehovah
from every foot of soil in the land of promise.

From the capture of Louisburg to the fall of (Quebec,
— thence to the Peace of 1783, — and thence to 1795,
when the volcano of the first French Revolution sent its
lurid glare and desolating lava over the civilized world, —
the Christian people of New England and of all the
Colonies, for more than half of the whole period, had no
rest from the alarms of war. Their patriotism was one
with their piety. Tens of thousands went forth to battle,
or suffered privations and hardships, with as pure a prin-


ciple of duty, and as firm a reliance upon the mighty
God of Jacob, as ever emboldened and sustained those
Hebrew worthies, " who through faith subdued king-
doms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped
the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were
made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the
armies of the aliens ! "

There were earthly and ungodly elements that min-
gled in the strife. But if it had not been for the religious
element ; if it had not been for the baptism, into which
the " children's children " had been baptized, — never,
never, could the materials have been furnished for such
volumes of history, — never have been known such unex-
ampled occasion for the gratitude of posterity and the
world, to them and to their fathers, and to their own and
their fathers' God.

It would not be difficult to draw a portraiture, with
some dark lines and shadows. Influences of evilj both in
opinion and practice, were powerfully at work, in secret
and in open day. Perhaps none were more decisive upon
a part of the clergy, than the imported publications of
Whitby, Taylor and Emlyn. The Socinian "Inquiries"
of the latter were reprinted in Boston, without any re-
sponsible editor ; — but not without a strong surmise of the
real patron, in an eloquent minister of the city. But with
all that was sadly incompatible with the " free course " of
the gospel ; with all that was positively demoralizing ; —
the foundations of the " fathers " remained, as unmoved
as the everlasting hills.

Although in the metropolis and some of the interior
towns, there was more of Arminius than of Calvin, both
in the study and in the pulpit, if not also as much of
Arius as of Arminius, or as much of Socinus and Taylor
as of Edwards and Athanasius ; yet a vast majority of the
New England churches would not endure any other than


" sound doctrine " as they understood it, and would not
support any other than liberally educated and strictly
evangelical pastors. The theological system of the elder
Edwards had most able advocates. His own son, a
greater reasoner with somewhat less of the native power
of reason than the father, vindicated New England divini-
ty with amazing force of moral demonstration. There
were others, like Bellamy, Smalley, Backus, West, Hop-
kins, Emmons, who were as the cedars of Lebanon to the
trees of the field.

During the period from 1745 to 1795, the state of re-
ligion, according to the standard of the fathers, was, per-
haps, nowhere more unpromising, than in the easterly
part of Massachusetts, and within the limits of a great
portion of the oldest churches. It may be accounted for,
by the more immediate and frequent intercourse with
foreigners, who had but little favor for experimental god-
liness ; by the encouragement which a few distinguished
names afforded to the open opposers of the "New Lights,"
as some chose to designate the friends of the " Great
Awakening ; " and by an ambiguous and indefinite mode
of preaching, which naturally resulted from a real, but
generally covert, hostility to the Trinitarian and Calvinis-
tic forms of belief. There was no revival of any note, in
any of the Congregational churches of the city of Boston,
from the period of the revival of 1740, almost to our own
day. With very inconsiderable exceptions, the same re-
mark may be made of Salem, and other towns on the sea-

It was far otherwise in many places. There was not
by any means such an apparent suspension of divine in-
fluence in reviving and enlarging the churches of New
England, as has sometimes been represented. In the fifty
years previous to the remarkable season of " refreshing,"
at the close of the last century, there were numerous in-
sulated revivals, — as has been abundantly attested by re-


cent investigations ; and also some that were contiguous
or nearly associated, throughout all that period. There
were no magazines or religious newspapers to report them ;
and hence mainly the mistake of some, who have sup-
posed that there were few or none to report. Besides,
many of the revivals were in towns which had but little
communication with the capital.

When, however, the eyes of the Christian world were
turned with consternation to the atheistical revokition in
France, the pious people of this country, and nowhere
more than in New England, gave themselves to prayer.
There was also a new searching of the Scriptures, that,
if possible, it might be known what God was about to re-
veal in his providence. From a concurrence or combina-
tion of causes, which cannot now be particularly described,
the delightful tokens of a brighter day cheered the anxious
and quivering hearts of the faithful in Christ Jesus. Re-
vivals began to increase in number and in power. And
soon it seemed as if the years of the former generation
were again to pass over the land.

From 1797 and onward, so many revivals were enjoyed
in the churches, that an eminent minister in Connecticut,
as he stood at his door, could count upwards of seventy
contiguous congregations, which all had participated in
the outpouring from the gracious presence of the Lord.
In different parts of New England, there were hundreds
of ministers, whose hearts were gladdened by this great
'^refreshing." Some of them had personal recollections
of the awakening of 1740, with which they gratefully
compared the present auspicious visitation. Many had
previously had, in some instances, a rich experience from
Him, who "giveth the increase." Some, who were in
the vigor of manhood, had seen the promise of the Spirit,
like " the small rain upon the tender herb," but never be-
fore as a " mighty rushing wind." Others knew of revi-
vals chiefly from records, which were fast growing old, and


going to decay. But when it is remembered, that there
were so many churches ready for the wondrous ministra-
tion of the Spirit, and so many pastors qualified to act as
co-workers with "the Lord of the harvest," he who writes
the history of the Puritan Pilgrims of New England and
their " children's children," may have ample evidence if
he will but find it, that, in the fifty or more years previous
to the close of the eighteenth century, by far the larger
part of churches and ministers were of one mind and
spirit with the " fathers," in their doctrinal and practical

In the midst of those revivals near the close of the
eighteenth century, the missionary spirit, as a legitimate
consequence, received a new impulse. Evangelical Chris-
tians, across the Atlantic, had sent missionaries to India,
Africa, and the islands of the South Pacific. Intelligence
of their operations was hailed in New England with a
lively gratitude. It is not strange that none went forth
from our churches, to other continents or to the distant
islands that were waiting for God's law. There was a
loud call for more service at home, than could be rendered.
The emigration to the wilderness of Maine, to Middle and
Western New York, to Ohio, and to other parts of the
Mississippi Valley, urged a powerful claim upon the be-
nevolent sympathies of those who remained at home, fast
by the old foundations. With many the thought was too
painful for endurance, that the new settlements should be
formed without the institutions of the gospel, and a com-
petent supply of the means of grace.

Hence arose such societies, as the Connecticut Mission-
ary Society, and the Massachusetts Missionary Society.
This latter society was not at the beginning, nor for
twenty years afterwards, what it now is, a domestic or
home missionary society, but was organized upon the
broad basis of a foreign missionary association. " The
object of this society,'''' says the constitution, adopted May^


1799, " is to diffuse the knowledge of the gospel among
the heathens, as well as other people in the rem,ote parts of
our country, where Christ is seldom or never preached.^''

" Where Christ is seldom or never preached ? " in-
quired the Rev. Joshua Spaulding, then pastor of the
Tabernacle Church : " if that is your object, you should
send missionaries to Boston ! " For two or three years,
he had been urging his ministerial and lay brethren to
form a society for missions at their very doors, as within
the limits of Marblehead, at Boston, and in other places,
where, as he believed, "Christ was seldom or never
preached," as hundreds needed to hear !

It is remarkable, that his idea of city missions has now
been adopted, with great interest and effect. But the
Massachusetts Missionary Society, which owed its origin
as much or more to him, than to any other single indi-
vidual, could never have been formed, but with the dis-
tinct contemplation of a much more extended circum-
ference for a field of labor.

The first address of the society breathes the genuine
spirit of the charge from Mount Olivet. Recognizing
" the glorious gospel of Christ as the adequate and only
medium of recovering lost sinners to God and happiness,"
and responding to " the grand commission which Christ
gave to his primitive disciples," the address " entreats "
all " Christian brethren, in view of their immense in-
debtedness to redeeming grace, their solemn covenant
vows, their accountability and their hopes, to cast the eye
of attentive observation upon the condition of thousands
and millions of our guilty race, in other countries and in
our own, particularly among the heathen tribes, and on
the frontiers of the United States, forming a vast line of
new settlements, peculiarly embarrassed with respect to
their religious interests and local, circumstances ; and ask
whether, when their danger is so great, when their spirit-
ual wants are so urgent, when there is so much zeal on


the part of wickedness, infidelity and atheism, counter-
acting the gospel — there be not reason to put forth every
exertion for the spread of that precious gospel, which is
the grand charter of our eternal inheritance."

The society was thus brought into the closest affinity
and fellowship with others in Great Britain, like the
Society for the Propagation of Christian knowledge in
Scotland, — under the auspices of which the missionaries
Sergeant and Kirkland were laboring among the Indian
tribes in Western Massachusetts and New York ; and part
of which were then as far from Boston, as are now the
tribes west of the Mississippi. If the means could have
been procured, establishments precisely similar to those
now sustained by the American Board of Commissioners
for Foreign Missions, might have been organized and
cherished, in the strictest accordance with the purpose of
the Massachusetts Missionary Society. And the simple
fact is, that it was not until long after the American Board
of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed, that
this society and others, which are now^ purely home socie-
ties, were understood to be such, in the present accepta-
tion of the term. By a missionary society, was meant an
association to spread the gospel through all the world, by
preaching it in any accessible region or place, where
" Christ is seldom or never preached." And the Massa-
chusetts Missionary Society, was a society of Massachu-
setts missionary men ; not a missionary society for Mas-
sachusetts !

In June, 1803, appeared the first number of the Massa-
chusetts Missionary Magazine, — in which there is the
same foreign missionary spirit and general character, as
you now see in the Missionary Herald. But what a
change in forty-five years ! If any one would see an
amazing contrast, and the thrilling demonstration of an
immense progress in the enterprise of the world's evan-
gelization, let him read some of the last numbers of the


Herald of the American Board, and some of the first of
the Magazine of the Massachusetts Missionary Society.

And let him compare also the Massachusetts Mission-
ary Society, in 1800, with its two or three missionaries,
a part of the year, with the present American Home
Missionary Society, with its more than one thousand
missionaries from the Aroostook to Oregon and Cali-
fornia !

So rapidly did the missionary spirit advance, after
intelligence of foreign and domestic operations was
brought before the churches, that in 1804, the constitu-
tion of the society was modified, so that the article
defining the object was made to read ; — " The object of
the society is, to diifuse the gospel among the people of
the newly settled and remote parts of our country, among
the Indians of the country, and through more distant
regions of the earth, as circumstances shall invite, and
the ability of the society shall admit." And if the men
could have been had, and the money could have been
obtained, missionaries could have been sent by the Massa-
chusetts Missionary Society to Bombay, Ceylon, or the
Sandwich Islands, just as constitutionally as they were
afterwards sent by the American Board of Commissioners
for Foreign Missions.

This great organization came into form and life, in the
year 1810. It was necessary to unite the friends of mis-
sion§ in all the land, and under the sign and seal of an
American, rather than a State designation, to solicit con-
tributions from all the churches of the Union, with
express reference to missions in Asia, and among the far-
distant Gentiles of other parts of the known world.
Other Societies followed, one after another, as the eyes of
God's people were opened and enlightened.

The first missionaries of the American Board of Com-
missioners for Foreign Missions, were from the Theologi-
cal Seminary at Andover, — an institution which owed its


origin, chiefly, to the alarm which was felt, after the suc-
cessor of Dr. Tappan was appointed at Harvard. The
oldest and most venerable college of the land, — which
was so early and so piously dedicated to "Christ and the
Church," — had received a Professor of Theology, who
taught a very different mode of doctrine from that of the
" fathers." Yet it has been said by those who ought to
be acknowledged as indisputable authority, that if at that
time he had avowed himself to be what he undoubtedly
was, and what afterwards he freely admitted, he could
not have been chosen to be the incumbent of a chair,
which, by the express provision of the pious Hollis, was
never to be filled, but by a man "0/ sound or orthodox
principles ^\f What was meant by such principles,
there is no more reason to doubt, than there is to deny
that there ever was any such man as Hollis. The pur-
pose of his donation should be sacredly regarded ; or the
trust should be relinquished.

Far be it from me to speak invidiously or any wise
reproachfully. It is but sober, candid history that I
would write of the past. But the truth, once denied
with no ordinary vehemence if not virulence, is now fully
conceded, viz : — that in all but one of the Congregational
churches in Boston, and in perhaps fifty others elsewhere,
there was a concealment of the real sentiments of the
pastors. It was not until 1815, and after a most exciting
controversy, that that " concealment,'''' which had been so
vigilantly and sagaciously maintained, for nearly or quite

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Online LibraryJohn AllynA sermon delivered at Plimouth, December 22, 1801, commemorative of the pious ancestry, who first imigrated [!] to that place, 1620 → online text (page 14 of 18)