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Commemorative services at the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the gathering of the First church in Dedham, Mass online

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Glass ._/

1638- i888-



Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary



Observed November 18 and 19, 1888.


Published by the Joint Committee
of the Two Churches,



] rz7





At the annual meeting of the First Parish, held March 19,
1 888, it was voted that the approaching two hundred and fiftieth
anniversary of the gathering of the church be suitably observed.
A committee was appointed to make provision for such an observ-
ance. The First Congregational Church at their annual meeting,
held April 18, took similar action. Prompted by a desire to
unite the two churches in commemorating an event of equal
interest to both, the committee of the First Parish passed the
following vote, July 2 :

" That, in behalf of the First Parish in Dedham, we cordially
invite the Allin Evangelical Society and the church connected
therewith to unite with this parish in celebrating the two hundred
and fiftieth anniversary of the gathering of the church from which
both of the present churches originated."

To this invitation the following reply was received :

" At a meeting of the committee appointed by the First Con-
gregational Church to arrange for the two hundred and fiftieth
anniversary of the gathering of the First Church in Dedham, it
was voted that we heartily accept the invitation of the First Parish
to unite with them in celebrating our common origin."

The two committees met for conference at an early day.
After some deliberation as to plans and methods, it was decided
to have an address in the First Parish meeting-house in the after-
noon of the anniversary day, November 19, and that several
representative speakers be invited to deliver addresses in the
First Congregational meeting-house in the evening. It was also
arranged that a social reunion should connect the two services.

With heart}- unanimity Rev. George E. Ellis, D.D., was chosen
to dt- liver the address. He subsequently accepted the invitation.

Although Monday, November 19, was selected as the day for
the joint celebration of the anniversary, each church early matured
its plans for an observance of the event in its respective house of
worship on Sunday, the 18th instant. It was the earnest desire
of all that these services should be held at different hours of the
day, that all might be permitted to attend them. A vote was
passed to that effect. Services were accordingly held in the
First Congregational meeting-house in the forenoon and in
the First Parish meeting-house in the afternoon, the pastor of
each church preaching an historical discourse in his own pulpit.
At these services each house of worship was crowded with
members of both parishes, former members of these churches,
invited guests from abroad, and representatives of other churches
in Dedham. A choir of forty voices, under the leadership of Mr.
Arthur W. Thayer, sang at all the services. Mr. Charles J.
Capen and Mr. William A. Morrell presided at the organ. A
pleasant feature of the service on Monday evening was the "lining
off" of the second hymn on the programme, conducted by Mr.
Thayer and accompanied by stringed instruments. The floral
decorations in each meeting-house were ample and elegant.

The programme, as arranged by the joint committee, was
carried out with very great success and to the apparent gratifica-
tion of all who attended the exercises. In spite of the rain on
Monday evening, a large audience gathered in the First Congre-
gational meeting-house to listen to the eloquent words of the



First Parish.
Rev. Seth C. Beach, Chairman. ALFRED Hewins.

Benjamin Weatherbee. Henry W. Richards.

Nathaniel Smith. Winslow Warren.

A. Ward Lamson.

First Congregational Church.
Rev. J. B. Seabury. Henry C. Bigelow.

Calvin Guild. Don Gleason Hill, Secretary.

Theo. L. Browne.* Elijah Howe, Jr.

Edward P. Burgess. E. Scott Morse.

George W. Humphrey.

* Deceased.


Rev. S. C. Beach. Elijah Howe, Jr.

Rev. J. B. Seabury. E. P. Burgess.

Alfred Hewins. Calvin Guild.

Don Gleason Hill.


For the First Parish.
Rev. S. C. Beach. Alfred Hewins.

A. Ward Lamson.

For the First Congregational Chinch.
Rev. J. B. Seabury. Elijah Howe, Jr.

Don Gleason Hill.

Winslow Warren. A. Ward Lamson.

E. P. Burgess.

Calvin Guild. C. W. Wolcott.

H. C. Bigelow. E. S. Morse.

M. G. Boyd.

Committee of Ladies on Collation.

5am UK] I '

f, BlRNIB Smi i H.

Mrs. Am • sa Guild.



.1 Marsh.


a. B. Whitman.
W. C. Weatherbke.
Harry Cole.
Russei lCo
Harris Fishi r.

i mi:

E. Louis Neal.

A. B. Pa


Edward < '. Paul,
i. ii. burdett.
Elmer I . M< >i sb.

At a meeting of the joint committee, held November 27, it was
voted to publish t he proceedings of the anniversary, together with
the sermons of the pastors. Rev. Mr. Seabury, Alfred He wins,
and Don Gleason Hill constituted the committee.

[Form of Invitation.]

1638. Z$i first £§utc0 in ©ebfam. 1888.


Sir :

The Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary

of the Gathering of the First Church in Dedham will be commemorated by the
First Parish and the First Congregational Church, November iq, 1888.

United services will be held in the First Parish meeting-house at 3 o'clock,
and in the First Congregational meeting-house at 7 d 'clock, P. M.

Addresses will be delivered by Rev. GEO. E. ELLIS, D.D., Rev. HENRY
M. DEXTER, D.D., and others. Between these services there will be a social
reunion. You are invited to be present.

S. C. Beach, J. B. Seabury,

Alfred Hewins, Elijah Howe, Jr.,

A. W. Lamson, Don Gleason Hill,

For the First Parish. For the First Congregational Church.

Dedham, Mass., Nov. 8, 1888.

Please reply to Don Gleason Hill, Esq., Secretary of Joint Committee.





First Congregational Meeting- House,

AT IO.30 A. M.,

November i8th, i



"See that thou make them after their pattern, which hath been


In hearty accord with the spirit of this command are the
words of our first pastor, Rev. John Allin : — " To walke by
his rule in building such an house to himselfe." They are
to be found in the earliest records of the church; they
are written in Mr. Allin's clear and precise handwriting,
upon paper now yellow with age, whose edges are ragged
and soiled. In that devout sentiment he represents his fellow
Puritans ; — to do all things after the will of God. The pattern
shown to them in their mount on English native soil was
"a spiritual house" raised to the glory of God westward,
"thousands of leagues by sea." To the undimmed sight
of Moses, the tabernacle stood forth a graphic structure with
very definite dimensions. On the bold summit of Sinai the
great Architect gave to the builder his exact plan for the
tabernacle. With a vision clarified and invigorated by faith,
our fathers saw, beyond the waves of 3,000 miles, a structure,
whose timbers were religious liberty, whose foundation was
truth, whose corner-stone was Christ. Their mountain was a
regnant conviction of divine law and authority. They knew
no scepter but God's. No man, be he king or archbishop,
could be conscience for them.

This spirit was in their fathers. To trace it up to its
fountain-head is to rest in the texture of the early Saxon
mind. It was a stronghold of resistant energy. In him was
born a love of liberty, coextensive with his sense of loyalty
and justice. He was constitutionally inhospitable to Romish
primacy. The Papacy leaned too heavily upon Saxon cre-
dulity ; it imposed too serious a demand upon Saxon cooper-
ation. It was too profuse in ceremony; too spectacular in
vesture. As a dense fog in mid-ocean decoys the sound of


the whistle and dissuades it from its true direction, so the
ceremonies of the Church of Rome bewildered the minds of
the people ; they could not tell whence came the warning
voice. The Pope met his match in the vigorous assertiveness
of the English will. Catholicism was far more congenial to
the people of the continent than of the isles.

Hope rose when, in the middle of the 14th century, John
Wyclif appeared, " the Morning Star of the Reformation." In
him the first potent attack upon the Church of Rome was
inaugurated. The public anathemas of Gregory VI could not
silence this voice that God had called to speak. Nor did it
affect the spread of the pure gospel of Christian liberty, that,
thirteen years after death, his body was exhumed, burned, and
the ashes cast into the Swift. Persecution, then so rife, was as
puerile to stay the movement toward reformation as the breath
of a child to blow out a fire once fairly kindled in the dry
grass of the prairie.

The accession of Henry VIII to the throne brought no
relief. By his opposition to Luther he won the title of
" Defender of the Faith " and became the head of the Church
in England. The people were bold in their denunciation of
priestly rites and vestments. They cried out for pure worship
and a pure priesthood. Therefore they were called " Puritans."

The crowning of Edward VI brought in an auspicious day
of gladness. Altars were removed, images cast down, candles
blown out; the preaching of God's Word was restored and the
Bible put into every church. Then came a sanguinary reac-
tion, in her whom Tennyson calls " the unhappiest of queens
and wives and women" — Mary, whose name and reign are
written in blood.

Under the iron scepter of Elizabeth the Puritan movement
gained in power ; it developed successive stages of progress.
As one has recently said, the " Puritans protested against
the Papal control and the men who would enforce it. Then
against Papal doctrines, also. Then against Papal usages.
Finally, against the Papal theory which made the church sub-
ordinate to the state and obliged to submit to its behests.


Liberty, Reform, Purity, Religion, were their conjoined and
successive words." r There is nothing so inexorable as logic.
But set logic on fire with God-given convictions and you have
a Puritan. He passed from under the persecution of Elizabeth
to the "cunning, covetous, wasteful" reign of James I, as
from hope depressed to hope in the gulf of despair. Appeal
went up to the throne for purer worship, a purer liturgy, purer
ecclesiastics ; out of the depths the people cried unto God to
justify to them his will ; to avenge the exile or death of 300
fellow-ministers. The monarch avowed his purpose to make
the Separatists conform, or " to harry them out of the land."
Out of that passionate pledge New England sprang. The
time had come to rise, if not in arms, at least in conscience,
and denounce by a general movement the accumulated tyran-
nies of the mother church.

A certain class believed in " reformation without tarrying."
They broke away from the church, became Separatists, the Pil-
grims of Scrooby, of Leyden ; the fathers of Plymouth Rock;
the men of 1620. They were akin to the " Privye Church in
London," which described itself as " a poor congregation
whom God hath separated from the churches of England,
and from the mingled and false worshiping therein used."
Others preferred to stay within the lines of the church ; their
course should be a protest against its abuses and its profanities.
They were the Independents of the Puritan party, our fathers
of 1630 and 1638. Before the winter of 1630, 17 vessels had
crossed the Atlantic bringing more than 1,000 persons. To the
last "they esteemed it their honor to call the Church of
England their dear mother, and could not part from their
native country, where she especially resideth, without much
sadness of heart and many tears." Although John Cotton
had preached for twenty years in Boston, Eng., an avowed
Puritan, had discarded vestments and liturgy, had denied the
authority of the bishops, although there were forty-five Puritan
ministers in London, not until they reached these shores did

1 Dr. Kenzie's address, 250th Anniversary of First Church in Cambridge, p. 34.


they adopt an independent form of church government and
worship. It was the natural expression of the new, free life
into which they had entered.

I have rapidly traced the current of Puritan feeling and
motive until it found its way to this land. These men had
before them one end; — to build after God's pattern. They
studied that pattern on the rugged Sinai of an unswerving

Under that mighty Puritan uprising, three hundred years
ago, our sires were born. They early caught its spirit, felt
its sway, and finally moved with the current towards the west.
Picture them as they first enter this wooded region ; Puritan
pioneers, seeking for "contentment" without resentment;
men who could easily coalesce under the impulse of great
motives, reinforced by persecution. The early records say
they were " come together by divine providence from severall
parts of England ; few of them known to one another before.
It was thought meete and agreed upon that all the inhabitants
that affected church communion or pleased to come should
meete every 5th day of the weeke, at severall houses, in order
lovingly to discourse and consult together such questions as
might further tend to establish a peaceable and comfortable
civill society and prepare for spirituall communion in a church
society." ' In these words witness the aim of our fathers ; —
to rest the arch of their Christian state on the two imposts,
the one civil, the other religions, liberty. Homogeneous in
the temper of their thought, they easily entered into binding
compacts. As Dr. Bacon says : " Our fathers formed a
church by the simple method of a covenant; it was natural
that they should use the same method in forming a state."

In the case of our Dedham fathers the state preceded the
church, but the spirit of the church was in the state; you
cannot divorce religious worship from a sense of civil account-
ability. No sooner had the people covenanted together to
form a bond of self-government, than they sought for some

1 Dedham Church Records.


shelter under which they might gather for the praise of Al-
mighty God.

The town was incorporated September 8th, 1636; the
"invisible and immortal" corporation are the words of an old
legal definition. ' The church was not organized for ten
years and two months. During this period the fathers
gathered for worship under the large trees that covered the
plain, especially, near the spot where the railroad bridge now
stands, in the vicinity of Dwight's Brook, now concealed
beneath the surface of the ground. In winter they assembled
in the limited structures in which they lived, which then
dotted the rural acres now covered by the large and more
comfortable homes of our people. Those were days of
cautious and yet cordial study of each other's characters, dis-
positions, qualifications — "the trial of the gifts and spirits of

As the winter of 1637-8 abated, two questions came before
our fathers : " Shall we build a house of worship ? Shall we
organize a church?" In February, 1638, a committee was
chosen to frame a meeting-house, " to be in length 36 feet, and
20 feet in breadth, and between the upper and the nether sill
in the sides to be 12 feet." It was built partly by joint labor
of the inhabitants and partly by rate. That little building,
with its rough pine timbers and its thatched roof, would
stand within the portion of this house approached by the
broad aisle, minus the two rear and the two front pews.
The height of the walls would reach a few inches above the
large moulding in the galleries. Mr. John Allin proposed to
the pastor of Watertown that, " seeing divers of their members
lived with us, and Mr. Carter, one of them, had exercised
some good time there, and knew the people better than I, that
therefore it would please their church to dismiss Mr. Carter,
and such others of their members as they judged meete to
prepare with us such as should be thought fitt for the laying
of the foundation of a church society amongst us." 2 The

1 Worthington's 250th Anniversary Address, page 42.

2 Dedham Church Records, page 5.


Watertown brethren declined to be identified with a church
that was not already " settled." The Dedham people there-
fore proceeded to found a church among themselves. Then
was instituted that system of church government and wor-
ship through which shines the noble and devout character
of our fathers. They began, interspersed, and ended, all
their deliberations with prayer. By such means they gained
access to the mind of Christ, and endeavored to build after
the pattern shown to them in the mount. How simple are the
steps ! John Allin presented the case to Ralph Wheelocke,
praying the Lord to open to each other their spiritual con-
dition and unite their hearts. They two chose a third, and
they a fourth, until the required number of ten was reached.
This was followed by " a day of solemn fasting and prayer, to
humble and prepare our hearts to draw nigh to the Lord and
seek direction from him." Another day was filled with the
examination into the spiritual condition by the brethren in
turn, "the manner of our conversion to God," and the manner
of God's dealing with them, " with present apprehension of
God's love or want thereof." In looking out suitable material
for the foundation of the church, "we should respect the
soundness of grace above all things."

Under a pledge to be "faithful and impartial," each one
"scanned the rest" and was scanned in turn, all submitting
themselves "to the judgment of the whole company to be
taken, or left, or ordered, by the rule of the gospell, or to the
call and voice of God." '

As a result, six were taken, but four were left. Concerning
one of them, there were some suspicions, " which the company
could not at present clear up." Another, " by his rash car-
riage and speeches, savored of self-confidence." A third was
" too much addicted to the world,"of whom a subsequent record
is made — "when we desired to know the mind of God about
him, the Lord left him without any provocation thereto, unto
such a distempered passionate flying out upon one of the

1 < liurch Records, page 6.


company, whom the Lord had used to follow home some
things close upon him, . . . that we gave him wholly over."
A fourth " was so dark and unsatisfying in respect of the work
of grace," that he was set aside. One of these, Edward Allin,
was subsequently restored. He, with John Hunting, who had
that summer come from England, made up the number of

Then followed numerous meetings for discussing as to how
they should proceed, what is the right constitution of the
church, what the nature of the covenant. Delay seemed
inevitable and yet perplexing. Rev. John Phillips, of Water-
town, declined to accept an invitation to cooperate with the
brethren here in building and shepherding a church. About
the beginning of October, 1638, " we came to resolutions to
cast ourselves upon the Lord, and venture, with such helpes
as he should afford, rather than to delay so great a work any

Accordingly these eight persons — "John Allin, Ralph
Wheelocke, Edward Allin, John Luson, Eleaser Lusher, John
Frayry, John Hunting, and Robert Hindsdall — were sett apart
by the Lord for this service." Each stated his belief upon " all
the heads of Christian religion; " all testified how they found
their hearts inclined by the Lord to the love of one another;
"one beginning to speake of one point of religion; every one
in order spoke their thoughts of the same, . . . wherein we
found a sweete consent of judgment."

There was an impression current that the "General Court
had ordained that no churches should be gathered without the
advice of other churches." Thinking this might be " prejudi-
ciall to the liberty of God's people, and some seeds of usurpa-
tion upon liberties of the gospell," they requested the
Governor to inform them of the true intent of the law. He
replied, that the law in no way intended to abridge the liberty
of gathering into church fellowship ; but the scope was this,
that "if any people of unsound judgment or erroneous ways
should privately set up churches amongst them, the common-
wealth would not so approve them as to communicate freedom,


. . . nor protect them in their government, if they saw their
way was dangerous to the publike peace." The record adds,
" which answer gave us satisfaction in that scruple."

In simple congregational order, letters were sent out to the
churches of Boston, Roxbury, and other places. The invi-
tation is full of devout and fraternal fervor, opening with this
sentence : " Reverend and dearely beloved in the Lord Jesus,
we, whos names are subscribed, desyring (in the feare of the
Lord and through the mercy of our God) to gather together
into the holy fellowship of a church, that we may obtaine fur-
ther communion with the Lord, and with the holy assemblies
of his saints about us, . . . doe humbly desyre your presence,
advice, and spirituall helpfulness therein, according to God." '
The letter expresses the hope that " neither the season of
the yeare nor the rawnes of the new plantation shall frustrate
our expectation of your desyred presence and counsell."
They sign themselves, " With all due respects and tender love,
we commend you to the Lord Jesus and rest." An unction
of prayer was concentrated on the auspicious event. When
all were assembled under their thatched roof, on that chill
November day, Ralph Wheelocke began with solemn prayer
and confession of sin. John Allin followed with prayer, " as
the Lord should guide and assist." Then he spoke to the
assembly from Rev. i : 20 : "And the seven candlesticks which
thou sawest are the seven churches." Then follows another
prayer ; all assent to the declaration of faith and testify to the
working of the grace of God in their hearts. Mr. Allin, in his
incisive discourse, describes the office of the church and the
claims of the covenant: their wish to enter into "loving and
brotherly communion " with all the churches. With a deep
desire that the work may be accomplished according to the
rule of the gospel, he tells the council they have been called
together that, with their approval, " the Lord shall be pleased
to sett up an house to himselfe in this place." They stood
before the council, imploring it to faithfully and plainly declare

1 Church Records, page 10.


unto them whatever they saw, that might justly hinder their
purpose in joining together in the covenant of the Lord, and
to live in spiritual communion. "We should be willing to
attend to the word and rule of the Lord Jesus, and accordingly
order ourselves." Mr. Mather, teacher of the church in Dor-
chester, said " that they had nothing to declare from the Lord
that should move us to desist from our purpose, only they
gave us some loving exhortation in respect of some passages
professed by some of the brethren." The questions related
to knowledge of the integrity of each one, and fellowship,
but these matters had been " considered and propounded "
and settled, before the council was called.

Another prayer follows ; (these men were a " pattern of
prayer" as truly as of "good works.") The eight men of
faith and of God agreed to the covenant, which was publicly

And again Mr. Allin prayed " that the Lord would accept
our desyres and purposes in Christ, confirme us therein, and
seale to our covenant and avouch us for his people." Then the
elders extended the right hand of fellowship in true, loving
acceptance of the new church into communion with them in
the Lord. Mr. Allin dismissed the assembly with a blessing.

Thus in the simplest possible manner this church was
formed. By such methods, Christ's kingdom obtained in
New England " a place prepared of God." As Mr. Robert C.
Winthrop says : " No other system of church government
than Congregationalism could have been successful in New
England in that day; no other system could have done so
much for religion ; no other system could have done so much
for liberty, religious and civil." " The meeting-house, the
school-house, and the training field," said John Adams, " are

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Online LibraryMass. First parish DedhamCommemorative services at the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the gathering of the First church in Dedham, Mass → online text (page 1 of 8)