John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

An address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi online

. (page 9 of 31)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottAn address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi → online text (page 9 of 31)
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done; that on this subject the Roman adage would be true, "Vox
populi, vox Dei." 'Come,' said Mills, 'let us make it a subject of
prayer, under this haystack, while the dark clouds are going, and the
clear sky is coming.'

We all prayed, and made Foreign Missions a subject in our prayers,
except Loomis. Mills made the last prayer, and was in some degree
enthusiastic ; he prayed that God would strike down the arm with the
red artillery of heaven that should be raised against a herald of the
cross. We then sang one stanza. It was as follows :

Let all the heathen writers join

To form one perfect book ;
Great God, if once compared with thine,

How mean their writings look !

The prayer meetings were continued during the warm season of
that year, in the groves somewhere between the village and the Hoo-
sick,f and the subject of Foreign Missions was remembered in our
prayers. The following is a list of names that usually attended, to
wit : John Nelson, Calvin Bushnell, Byram Green, Rufus Pomeroy,

* Rev. Harvey Loomis, notwithstanding this, was a man of eminent
piety, and died with his armor on, in a pulpit in Bangor, Maine, the first
Sabbath of the year 1825. Though in feeble health, he had walked some
distance to preach, but died in the midst of the exercises, having a sermon
with him which he was about to deliver, upon the text, " This year thou
shalt die." — Jeremiah xxviii. 16.

t We add. the following upon the authority of Rev. Ozro French, of
Harpersfield, N. Y.

When the weather became cold, Mills and his friends obtained, from
a pious lady, leave to meet on Saturday evenings, in her kitchen, for
prayer. Soon the good lady asked the privilege of having the door, which
opened into her sitting-room, ajar, so that she might enjoy the devotion
which pervaded their prayers. This was granted, and she soon gave them
an invitation to meet in her sitting-room, which was accepted, and she
allowed to invite a few of her neighbors. This was the origin of the
Saturday night prayer meeting, at ' old Mrs. Bardwell's,' which has been
continued till the present time, being now held at the house of Mrs.


Francis L. Robbins, Samuel Ware, Edwin W. D wight, Ezra Fisk,
Harvey Loomis, Samuel J. Mills, and James Richards. Others
attended occasionally.

The next summer, 1807, the prayer meetings were again held in the
grove ; two were added to our rmmbey,Ao wit : Luther Rice and John
Whittlesey. I have several times seeii the names of Hall and Rice
numbered among those who were at the prayer meeting under the
haystack. That is an error. Rice was not a member of College
until October7~r8D6. Hall was not a professor of religion at that
time, and did not attend our religious meetings. He was made a sub-
ject of grace in the year 1808, about six or eight months before he
graduated. After that he Was active in the cause.

B. Green.

The rest is known. Nothing can be more certain and direct
than the connection between this prayer meeting and the subsequent
movements in this country respecting Foreign Missions. They con-
tinued to be the subject of prayer, of conversation and discussion,
until, two years after, the first Foreign Missionary Society in this
country was formed in this College, — a Society for the purpose, not
of sending others, but of going to the heathen. The following
was the Constitution of that Society.

"The object of this Society shall be to effect, in the person of its
members, a mission to the heathen.

" No person shall be admitted who is under an engagement of any
kind which shall be incompatible with going on a mission to the

" Each member shall keep absolutely free from every engagement,
which, after his prayerful attention and after consultation with the
brethren, shall be deemed incompatible with the objects of this
Society ; and shall hold himself ready to go on a mission when and
where duty may call."

This Society, with a modified constitution, has been continued
herefrom that time. From it emissaries were sent to other Colleges,
to stir up a similar spirit in them. One took a dismission for that
purpose. A similar Society, still flourishing, was founded by Mills
and those who went with him, at Andover ; and from that the
proposition was made to the General Association of Massachusetts,
which resulted in the formation of the American Board.

In view of these facts, the foregoing Eesolution was passed by the
Alumni ; and after visiting the ground, they voted to purchase
twenty acres, leaving the matter, however, in the hands of a Com-
mittee of five. That Committee, for reasons which they hope will
satisfy the Alumni, have thought it best to purchase but ten acres*


This seems to them adequate, and less than this would put the
place of the haystack in a corner, and would not sufficiently in-
clude the grove where most of the prayer meetings were held.

Shall then this ground he purchased? We think the great
heart of the Christian public of all denominations will say, Yes.
Shall patriotism and genius have their monuments and consecrated
grounds, and shall not religion ? Shall a love wider than that of
patriotism, a consecration nobler than genius, have no memorial ?
Do any contend that the sentiments of the race, natural and deep-
seated, should not find expression in connection with religion ? We
would point them to the commendation by our Saviour of the woman
who brought the box of ointment very precious, and poured it
forth, though it might have been sold for an hundred pence, and
given to the poor.

It is not supposed that there was, at that time, no missionary
spirit elsewhere in the country — no general preparation for such a
movement ; but the fact that there was patriotism in the country at
large, only renders it the more fit that there should be a monument
at Lexington and Bunker Hill.

The account by Mr. Green modifies the conception usually enter-
tained of the origin of the missionary enterprise in two respects }
and, as it seems to us, renders it more valuable.

1st. The prayer meeting was a stated one ; and we here see honor
put by God upon a uniform course of Christian duty. It is a fact
of great intere'st, that so many young men could be found at that
day, who were willing to devote the leisure of Saturday afternoon,
for two successive seasons, to prayer ; and it was fitting that, in
connection with such devotion, and under the broad canopy of
heaven, this great and all-embracing idea should start into life.

2d. It was stated by Mr. Green, in conversation, that Geogi'aphy
was at that time a College study, and that it was from impressions
received in studying the Geography of Asia, that Mills was led to
make the proposal he did. This shows the assimilative power of an
ardent piety, and what may be the connection between ordinary
studies and Christian enterprise.

In raising the funds to purchase these grounds, which are highly
beautiful, the Committee have presumed that they might apply with


success, to wealthy individuals ; but they know that many would
prefer to share in the purchase, and they would choose that it might
be felt to be the property of the Christian public. The sum
required to purchase the ten acres, is $2,500, or $250 per acre.
Of these ten acres, the students now in College have agreed to pur-
chase one ; and it is hoped the same may be done by individual
States, or Cities, or Churches, or Institutions. There will be
required, in addition, a fund to enclose and ornament the grounds,
and to keep them in order.

The above statement is sent tt» you, dear Sir, in the hope that
you will approve of the object proposed, and will cause it to be laid
before Chi-istians in your community, either at the monthly concert,
or at such time, and in such manner, as you may judge best.

It is suggested that the names of contributors should, so far as
possible, be preserved. Communications may be addressed to
Prof. Albert Hopkins.

In behalf of the Committee,

Very truly yours,

Mark Hopkins.

Williams College, February 5, 1855.

At the Commencement in August, 1855, the
necessary funds having been pledged, and the
grounds purchased, the Society of the Alumni of
Williams College held a meeting in ' Mission Park,'
August 15, 1855, and, on motion of David Dudley
Field, passed the following Resolutions :

" Resolved, That, inasmuch as the year 1856 wiU complete the
period of fifty years since the first meeting of Mills and his asso-
ciates on this hallowed ground, it appears to us proper that there
should be held a general Missionary Jubilee in this Park on the day
preceding the next College Commencement.

" Eesolved, That a Committee of five be appomted by the
Chair, to make arrangements for this Jubilee, and that there be
invited not only all the Alumni of this College, but all friends of
missions, and representatives from every American Mission."

David Dudley Field, LL. D., of New York City,


Martiii I. Townseud, Esq., of Troy, N. Y., George
N. Briggs, LL. D., of Pittsfield, Mass., Professor
Albert Hopkins, of Williams College, and Henry
L. Sabin, M. D., of Williamstown, Mass., were
appointed the Committee.

The Committee made preparations for the Jubilee
exercises in the Park, where seats were arranged
in the grove, a bungaloAV for missionaries, and a
haystack, were prepared ; but a severe and almost
unprecedented storm, (the most severe that had
been known at Commencement-time since 1806,^ —
the year of the prayer meeting, as Prof Chester
Dewey said, — forcibly reminding us of the storm
that drove Mills and his associates to the haystack,)
rendered it necessary to take shelter in the church,
where the exercises were held.

Hon. David Dudley Field presided, and contrib-
uted much to the interest of the occasion, and won
golden opinions, by the dignity, tact and felicity
with which he directed the exercises ; which were
six hours in length, and concluded while all would
gladly have heard more, but time forbade.


Hon. David Dudley Field, LL. D., of New
York, made the Introductory Address, as foUows :

Ladies anp Gentlemen :

Fifty years ago, five students of this College, Samuel
J. Mills, James Richards, Francis L. Robbins, Harvey
Loomis and Byram Green, met for meditation and prayer


in the grove where we were to have assembled this morning,
and within sight of this sacred house. While they were
there, a thunder-storm arose, which drove them to the better
shelter of a haystack in the adjoining field. Underneath
this haystack, the conversation turned upon the moral con^
dition of Asia, whose geography they were then studying.
The thought then occurred to Mills, and was mentioned by
him to his associates, that they might themselves carry the
gospel to the people of that most ancient quarter of the
world. All, or all but one, agreed to the suggestion ; they
joined in prayer, and sung a hymn ; and as the storm cleared
away, and the rainbow of God appeared in the heavens, they
separated, filled with this great idea.

These men were young and poor. They had small re-
sources of their own for the accomplishment of their design,
and little means of influencing the actions or opinions of
others. The times, moreover, were unpropitious. The earth
was filled with war and carnage. Europe was covered with
armed battalions from Gibraltar to Archangel. In that year
the battle of Jena had prostrated Prussia at the feet of the
French Emperor, whose beams thence " culminated from the
Equator," portending an universal military and irreligious
domination. Our own country was about to be swept into
the vortex of war. The British orders in council, and the
Berlin and Milan decrees of Napoleon, were involving us in
an angry controversy with both the belligerents, which re-
sulted in hostilities with one of them. There was but one
propitious sign in all the horizon, the abolition of the slave-
trade by America and England.

But nothing daunted by the unpropitious signs, these
young men went forth to a conquest more glorious than the
conquests of Alexander. They saw their object, not as we
see yonder Greylock, with its summit shrouded in cloud, but
as it will appear when the cloud has passed away, and the
whole mountain shines beneath an imclouded sun. They
formed in this College the first Foreign Missionary Society


ever formed in this land. They sent delegates from their little
Society to other Colleges^ there to excite a kindred spirit ; and
in four years afterwards, the time was ripe for the establish-
ment in this Commonwealth of the American Board of Com-
missioners for Foreign Missions.

Mills and Richards perished as martyrs to the cause which
they had undertaken. The former went down in the waters
of the Atlantic, and the latter sleeps in the groves of India.
But the cause in which they perished did not perish with
them. The missionary spirit survived, and has been con-
tinued, projecting and executing new enterprises, until the
great missionary Corporation of which I have spoken has now
more than a hundred stations under its control in different
parts of the world. I have myself seen them in the heart
of Greece, on the banks of the Meles, and upon the slopes
of Lebanon. They are in the torrid zone, and under the
Southern Cross, m the South Sea Islands, and upon the
headlands of the Chinese seas. Time, which winnows all
things, has winnowed the names of the men of 1806.
Chieftains and statesmen have been blown away as chaff j
but the names of these early founders of missions are gar-
nered up as precious grains, to become more precious as the
world grows older and wiser.

The place where this haystack stood, though there was a
tradition respecting it, was not precisely known, until two
years ago, when the only survivor of those five students re-
visited this valley, and pointed out the spot. The Alumni of
our College have purchased it, together with the adjoining
grove, ten acres m all, and now dedicate them as a Mission
Park for all time to come. They intend to plant here every
tree which will grow in this soil, and beneath this sky ; and
I would also have, if by any means it be possible, a tree from
every missionary station on the globe. You have been
invited here this day to join in the solemnities of the dedi-

We welcome you, Friends of Missions, from whatever sect.


or State^ or land you come ; we welcome you in the name of
the Alumni, and of the Officers of this College ; we welcome
you to this beautiful valley, to these everlasting hills, to this
excellent seat of learning, to this hallowed Mission Ground.

We dedicate this Park to the memory of the Founders of
American Missions, and to the missionary cause and spirit.
We hope that in all future time, the students of this College
■vyill come here for exercise and meditation ; that the officers
of the College will seek here refreshment from their anxieties
and toils ; we hope that the young missionary, about to de-
part with a brave heart upon his glorious errand, will walk
upon this ground to strengthen himself with the spirit of the
place ; and that the returned missionary, wearied with labor,
exposure and privation, will find here rest and consolation for
the body and the spirit. May this grove be more sacred, if
less famous, than the Academia of Plato ; may its trees
flourish like the Cedars of Lebanon, and its turf ever be
green as the pastures *^ beside the still waters."

The following stanza, which, was sung at the
close of the prayer meeting under the haystack,
fifty years ago, was then sung to the tune of St.
Martin's, all the congregation joining :

Let all the heathen writers join

To form one perfect book ;
Great God, if once compared with thine,

How mean their writings look !

E,ev. Isaac Feuris, D. D., Chancellor of the
University of the city of New York, then read the
following passage of Scripture, which was the text
from which Hev. Dr. Woods preached the ordina-
tion sermon of Samuel Newell, Adoniram Judson,
Samuel Nott, Gordon Hall, and Luther E,ice, the


first missionaries of the American Board, at Salem,
February 6, 1811.

God be merciful imto us, and bless us ; and cause bis face to
sbine upon us. Selah. Tbat tby way may be known upon eartb,
tby saving bealth among all nations. Let tbe people praise tbee,
O God ; let all tbe people praise tbee. let tbe nations be glad
and sing for joy : for tbou sbalt judge tbe people rigbteously, and
govern tbe nations upon eartb. Selab. Let tbe people praise tbeft,
God ; let all tbe people praise thee. Tben sball tbe eartb yield
ber increase ; and God, even our own God, sball bless us. God
sball bless us, and all tbe ends of tbe eartb sball fear bun. — Psalm

Hev. Timothy Woodbridge, D. D., of Spencer-
town, N. Y., offered prayer, as follows :

Almighty and Eveklastinq God, — Tbou art terrible in majesty,
and infinite in tender mercy. Tby kingdom is an everlasting king-
dom, and tby dominion enduretb tbi-ougbout all generations ; and
yet, amid tbis magnificence of unlimited empire, so assiduous is tby
tenderness, tbat tbou upboldest tbem tbat are fallen, and raisest up
tbem tbat be bowed down. Glory to tby name, tbat tbou bast
stooped to our fallen race, and given us a Saviour to lift us up out
of tbe ruins of tbe apostasy. ' Tbanks be unto God for tbis
unspeakable gift.' Wben we bad broken off from our allegiance
to God, and gone down into a land of exile, and involved ourselves
in tbe bonds and fetters of a long nigbt, tbou didst not abandon tbis
rebellious province of tby empire, but didst send down tby Son to
seek and save tbe lost. We are penetrated witb wonder and grati-
tude at tbat love wbicb constrained tby Son to speed bis way out of
tbe sanctuary of beaven, and descend into our world, every mountain
and valley of wbicb were smoking witb tbe abominations of sacri-
fices offered to idols. We are filled witb wonder, tbat be sbould
have pitched bis tabernacle among men, that be should have gone
in and out among us, tbat he sbould have opened his inouth wide to
teach us tbe way to heaven, and that he should have at last breasted
himself up to the agonies of tbe cross, to expiate human guilt and
make reconciliation for sin, and bring in an everlasting righteous-


ness. We adore thee for this stupendous transaction of grace and
truth, which has taken place for our salvation. We adore thee that
thou hast had a church in the world from the earliest period in the
history of sin, and we rejoice that thy church has been a righteous
church, and that even in the darkest seasons she has been enabled,
by strength derived from her living Head in heaven, to shed around
her the light of her holy life and her holy doctrines far into the veil
of the surroundiug night.

We bless thee that thou hast brou.ght thy church into this land,
and planted here a noble vine. Thou hast defended and watered
this vine, and prospered it so that its boughs extend to the sea, and
its branches to the rivers ; the hills are covered with the goodly
shade thereof, and the whole land filled with its fruit. We thank
thee that our pious ancestors brought hither the ark of Grod, and
guarded it with their tears and prayers ; and though they were not
permitted, in thy providence, to lift up their mighty voices in the
wilderness of the heathen world, they were guided to lay here, deep
and strong, the foundations of many generations. Thanks to thy
name, that when thy church had long slumbered over the miseries
of the heathen world, thou wast graciously pleased to raise up a
youthful band connected with this seat of learning, who pondered
deeply on the command of their ascending Saviour, ' Gro and preach
the Gospel to all nations,' and grasped by faith his gracious promise,
' Lo ! I am with you alway, to the end of the world.'

We thank thee that thou didst give to these young men gTeat
enlargedness of heart, and great comprehension of purpose, and
that with all their fervor of spirit, they combined soundness of judg-
ment ; and we recognize God's good Spirit in inclining them to come
to these grounds which we to-day dedicate, and commune with each
other and with the God of Missions in earnest prayer for the spread
of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We thank thee that here,
with God's help and blessing, they prayed into existence the great
cause of Missions to the Heathen. We thank thee for the holy
associations and reminiscences which linger about these grounds
which have been consecrated by the tears and prayers of men who
would not let thee go except thou turned and blessed them. These
grounds we set apart as a memorial of these men, and we consecrate
them to the high interests of Missions. We glorify thee that thou
didst endow these young men with indomitable resolution and perse-


verance, and inclined them to communicate their views and their
feelings to others, and especially to their fathers in the ministry, so
that, with thy blessing, the missionary fire spread from heart to
heart, and was kindled in many a bosom.

We render unto thee our earnest thanksgiving, that this youthful
band found favor in the eyes of their fathers in the ministry, who, in
solemn convocation, instituted an efficient organization to carry the
Gospel to the ends of the earth ; and we adore thee for the smile of
thy providence which has rested on this great association. Thou
hast greatly blessed it, by enlarging its resources and crowning its
efforts with success. Thou hast furnished able and faithful mission-
aries to go forth into benighted lands, and enabled them to move up
and down in the dark places of the world as living columns of liv-
ing light, and many a desert spot has been made verdant by their
coming, and the wilderness and sohtary place have budded and
blossomed like the rose. We pray Grod to continue to bless this
missionary institution, and its missionaries, who are now belting the
globe. "WHaerever they tread, let light spring up in their footsteps ;
and wherever they are seen, may they be eminent examples of the
excellence of Christianity, and living epistles of the living G-od,
plainly read of every man. Cheer and sustain every missionary in
all his privations. Shield him from every danger and deliver him
out of every trouble.

Bless this hterary institution which thou hast so often honored
by the descent of thy Spirit, and made a school for training so many
devoted ministers of the Gospel. Let it be glorious while the sun
and moon shall endure, and let thy selectest influences visit and rest
upon it.

Again we commend to thee these hallowed grounds, which were
long ago consecrated by prayers and tears. Make them a lasting
blessing to thy Church by the memories and associations which
linger around them ; and when, in coming time, pilgrims shall visit
them to refresh their hearts with the hallowed reminiscences which
here throng around the mind, then sanctify to all such visitors these
sacred recollections ; and wlion they go down from these heights in
Ziou, may their faces shine like the face of Moses when he descended
from the mount of God.

And now, Almighty Father, we pray thee to bless every associa-
tion that exists in any department of the Church for the diffusion of


the Gospel. Let them all preach Christ and hun crucified, mighty
through Grod to the pulling down of strongholds. Bless every effort
to make known the Lord Jesus among men. Let all who hold
Christ as their living head in all things, join their hands in an ever-
lasting league of love and friendship, against the empire of sin and
darkness ; and with God's blessing upon their combined pressure,
may every fabric of superstition and idolatry fall to the ground.

Will God graciously smile on the occasion and purpose for which
we are to-day assembled. Let a new impulse be given to the cause
of Missions, and let this Jubilee constitute a new era in the progress
of the Christian faith ; and when the pale and thoughtful mission-
ary, tending his watch-fire upon the dark frontiers, or down in the
deep recesses of the heathen world, shall look back to this place and
this day, may he be cheered and invigorated in his labor of love,
and inspired with new confidence and energy by what God has done
from the small beginnings on this hallowed scene, remembering how
the handful of corn in the earth on the top of the mountains is made
to shake like Lebanon.

Oh ! bring around that blessed time, which we know is coming,
and which we believe by the lights of prophecy and the indications
of thy providence is not afar off, when none shall have need to say

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottAn address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi → online text (page 9 of 31)