Peter Thacher.

A sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 online

. (page 28 of 51)
Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 28 of 51)
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admirable social qualities, the frankness of his disposition, the
generosity of his sentiments, the largeness of his views ; his ex-
traordinary conversational powers, his perfect independence and
yet courtesy in differing from others, his richness and originality
of thought, and his remarkable talent of giving lightness and
variety to a discussion by passing " from grave to gay, from
lively to severe." Those who enjoyed his friendship will dwell
with deeper emotion on the warmth and constancy of his affec-
tions, the ready sympathy he extended to those around him in
their trials and sufferings, and the strength they derived from
his counsels and his prayers. All will unite in saying : " A great
man has this day fallen among us \"

He was born at New Milford, Conn., in the year 1786, and
graduated at Yale College in 1807. After residing for about
two years in the family of Dr. D wight, as his favorite amanuen-
sisj he entered on the ministry ; and was ordained pastor of tho



First Congregational Church in New Haven, in April, 1812.
How faithfully he discharged the duties of this office can be
testified by some who remain among us, and is witnessed by the
veneration and love with which he was regarded by the children
and the children's children of multitudes who once sat under
his ministry. His preaching was marked by extraordinary clear-
ness, force, and pungency of application. He had great confi-
dence, under divine grace, in the power of truth. Hence, he
dealt with the hearts of men chiefly through their understand-
ings ; he enforced the claims of the Gospel, not by mere
strength of assertion, but by vivid and luminous trains of rea-
soning ; he turned the whole at last into an appeal to con-
science ; and the leading characteristic of his preaching was
happily described by an eminent divine of Massachusetts : " He
makes everything appear great : God, man, time, eternity !"
His ministry was eminently successful. There were, in repeated
instances, powerful and long-continued revivals of religion
among his people ; and these seasons of extraordinary interest
were conducted with so much judgment, and care to avoid every
kind of excess, that the whole community around saw and
acknowledged that they were no mere ebullitions of excited
feeling, but were marked by the peculiar presence of the con-
verting grace of God.

When the Theological Department of Yale College was
founded, in the year 1822, he was appointed D wight Professor
of Didactic Thology. But in accepting this office, he never
thought for a moment of relinquishing the duties of the minis-
try. On the contrary, while preparing young men for the sacred
office, he continued to preach in the churches of our city or
neighborhood, with his accustomed fervor and success. For
nearly a year, in 1825-6, he acted as the regular supply of one
of the societies at Hartford, which was destitute of a pastor.
As new Congregational churches have branched out from the
two original societies on the Green, his counsels and aid have
been called in for the furtherance of each successive enterprise.
On some of them he bestowed an amount of labor which, if
reckoned in continuous order, would make months and even
years of pastoral duty. Hence, in all our Congregational
churches, his departure will be felt as the loss of one who had
endeared himself to the hearts of hundreds by his unwearied
efforts for their spiritual good.

As a teacher in theology, it was his great object to make his
pupils think for themselves. It required no ordinary effort to
follow him through one of his lectures. They abounded in pro*


found principles and far-reaching views, which, to a reflecting
mind, were eminently the "seeds of thought." A gentleman
who exchanged the bar for the pulpit, once remarked, that never
in the severest contests of the forum had he felt such a tension
of his faculties, such a bracing and invigorating effect upon his
mind, as in listening to the lectures of Dr. Taylor. Nearly
seven hundred young men have enjoyed the benefit of his in-
structions. They are scattered throughout every part of the
United States ; and they will all testify that the great end at
which he aimed in his theological system, was "to exalt God,
to humble man, and to bring all to the cross of Christ."

Dr. Taylor died of no specific disease. He was simply worn
out by hard study. About two months ago, he was no longer
able to meet his class ; and from that time he daily committed
to one of their number a lecture to be read and discussed at
their daily meetings. He told them his course was ended ; and
with a quiet and child-like submission to the will of God, he
resigned himself to the prospect of a speedy death. To one of
his friends he remarked, "My only hope is in the atonement of
Christ ; and my wish is to die with the words of the martyr
Stephen on my lips, ' Lord Jesus receive my spirit.' " His closing
hours were without struggle or suffering ; he rests from his la-
bors, and his works do follow him!



This pamphlet will he forwarded hy mail, pre-paid, to any part of the country,
on receipt of the price (25 cents) in stamps.


A Discourse, commemorative of the History of the Church of Christ in Yale
College, during the First Century of its existence. Preached in the College
Chapel, Nov. 22, 1857. With Notes and an Appendix. By GEORGE P. FISHER,
Livingston Professor of Divinity. 100 pages octavo. Price 25 cts. in paper; in
boards 38 cts.

The above Discourse will be sent by mail, according to direction, on receipt of
the price,— with the addition of a three cent stamp for the paper copies, and two
three cent stamps for the copies in boards.


Bookseller and Stationer,

New Haven, Conn.






Srinitj) 1\m\, fUto gate, fgtaw& J», 1858,
















Published by order of the Vestry, for the use of Trinity Parish.



At a meeting of the Wardens and Vestry of Trinity Church, March 18th,

Voted, That Messrs. Beriah Bradley, Henry E. Peck, and Charles K. Inger-
soll be a Committee to convey to the Kt. Rev. John Williams, D. D., Assistant
Bishop of this Diocese, our grateful thanks for his prompt and obliging attention
to our wishes, and the wishes of the Parish, in conducting the funeral service of
our late revered Rector, Rev. Harrt Croswell, D. D., and for his able, eloquent,
and most appropriate Sermon on that occasion ; and to request him to favor us
with a copy of his Sermon for publication.

Voted, That said Committee be directed to cause the Sermon to be printed in
an appropiate style, together with the Resolutions of the Clergy, of the Wardens
and Vestry of the Parish of the Advent, Boston, of the several Vestries of the
Episcopal Parishes of the City, and of such other Churches as may be commu-
nicated to us — with such notices of our late Rector as may seem to them appro-


S. D. PARDEE, Clerk.

New Haven, March 25, 1858.
Rt. Rev. John Williams, D. D.,

Assistant Bishop of Conn.

Rt. Rev. and Dear Sir: The undersigned, a Committee of the Wardens and
Vestry of Trinity Parish, New Haven, respectfully present to you the enclosed
votes of the Vestry. Heartily concurring in the general wishes of the Parish
expressed in these votes ; hoping for a favorable answer to the request for a copy
of your Sermon, we are,

Most respectfully, your obedient servants,




Middletown, March 27, 1858.

To Messrs. Beriah Bradley, Henry E. Peck, and Charles R. Ingersoll, a
Committee of the Vestry of Trinity Church, New Haven:

Gentlemen, — I beg to offer through you to the Wardens and Vestry of Trinity
Parish, my sincere thanks for their very kind Resolution of the 18th inst., and
also to acknowledge the equally kind manner in which you have done me the
favor to communicate it. If I have been able in any way to be of service in con-
nection with the solemn services at the interment of your late honored Rector,
it will be a source of melancholy yet real gratification to me.

Were it not that I suppose my Sermon may help in some degree to make up
the Memorial which you design to publish, 1 should be unwilling to see any
other printing of it, than the report which has already appeared. As it is, I do
not feel at liberty to withhold it, though you must pardon me for saying that I
accede to the request for its publication with very great reluctance.

With assurances of my respectful regard, I am,

Gentlemen, your servant in the Church,









An almost awful interest attaches to these words. They
occur in the last Epistle ever written by the great Apostle of
the Gentiles. Immured in a Eoman dungeon, in the days
of a tyranny when to be so immured was the almost certain
warrant of martyrdom, writing to a distant son in the Gos-
pel, he gives utterance to this sublime strain of glorious
hope: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my
departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight ; I
have finished my course ; I have kept the faith. Henceforth
there is laid up for me, a crown of righteousness, which
the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day."

Far beyond those prison walls his eye was fixed ; and
though as it glanced onward to the end, it rested for a
moment on the Roman magistrate, and the bloody sword,
and the gaping crowds, still it was only for a moment ;
there were things beyond from which it would not be de-
tained ; " the tribunal of Nero faded from his sight, and
the vista was closed by the judgment seat of Christ."

And, my brethren, even so, to each in his place and de-
gree, may it be granted to all the faithful disciples of the
Lord Jesus, thus to look forward, and thus to speak, as the
appointed end of life draws on. Not every one, indeed,

can look back on what St. Paul could. Not to the mem-
ory of every one, can there come in that last hour, the
thought of labor, and suffering, and achievement, such as
his. Still, if the life has been a service of the Lord, and
if the service has been living and faithful, then, no mat-
ter how limited the sphere, how humble the vocation,
though we may not look back on what St. Paul did, we
shall look forward to all which he beheld. The weakness
of our mortality, shall be upborne by the faith that nerved
his soul; the darkness of our death chamber shall be
lighted by the love that illumined his gloomy dungeon ;
and far beyond the death struggle and the mortal agony,
we shall behold with a joy that overpowers them both,
the vision of peace, the house of healing, the home of rest,
mother of cities, the Jerusalem of heaven.

It can hardly be regarded as pushing or straining be-
yond its natural import, that part of the Apostle's death
song, which I have selected as my text, to say that it had for
him, and has for us, a twofold import. He could give ut-
terance to it, both as a man and an Apostle. With us, it
may refer both to the people and the ministers of Christ.
And in either case, it presents the follower or the minister
of the Lord, first as the soldier in the Christian combat ;
next as the runner in the Christian race ; and thirdly, as
the trustee or depositary, to whom is committed the de-
posit of the Christian Faith.

To-day, in this presence, and beside these honored re-
mains, it is right that your thoughts should be called to
that view of the text, which connects it with the duties
and the labors of the Christian ministry ; and in which,
its application must be so obvious to every one of us.
Still, now and ever, it is true, that the personal and
the official application of the Apostle's words, must meet
and mingle with each other. Of no minister of Christ can
they be fitly spoken, of whom they could not be spoken as
an individual man. The pastoral warfare against sin

and evil, the pastoral labors in the fold, the pastoral teach-
ing of the Faith, however abundant and however zealous
to men's eyes, O ! how little comfort would they bring to
the dying hour of a minister of Christ, how few consoling
thoughts and memories could they give to those who stood
beside his bier, unless with them there had gone, the per-
sonal struggle in that minister's own heart, the personal
race in his individual life, the personal faith in his own in-
most soul ! But here in that aged soldier of his Master,
whose mortal remains we are about to commit to the se-
pulchre, we can feel that the} r do meet; and, therefore, to
us these words may come to day, in all their fullness of
consolation, of incitement and of solemn warning.

First in the enumeration, stands the pastoral warfare.
It is a common figure ; it presents appositely and in a
striking way, one phase of pastoral life. And that phase
involves its severest, and most wearing labors. For, it
is not in the public ministrations of the sanctuary, in the
public exhortations to the assembled flock, that this war-
fare against the corruptions and the temptations of hu-
manity is chiefly carried on. ISTo ! It is in the continuous
round of unseen labor, in the word spoken in the individual
ear, in the private counsel, in the silence of the chamber
of sickness and the gloom of the house of -mourning, by
the wayside, in the hovel of the poor and outcast, in the
house of misery and the haunt of sin, that this work
is done. It is in the personal communion, when the pas-
tor's heart meets the individual hearts of his people, when
the convictions, the struggles, the trials, the hopes and the
fears of their hearts are brought to his sympathies, his
counsels and his prayers, that his best victories for the
Lord are won. Nothing can be substituted for this ; no
human machinery can be made to take the place of this
divine arrangement, with safety to the souls of either priest
or people.

No doubt it is a wearisome and trying warfare. It

makes the ministry an easier thing to leave it out. And
jet, to do so, will almost ensure to him who does it, the
loss alike of his labor and his soul. Look at St. Paul,
standing on Mars Hill, at the very centre of the world's
intellectual life, and proclaiming with a sublimer elo-
quence than ever issued from lips untouched with the fire
of inspiration, the truth as it is in Jesus ; and then re-
member, that a whole century went by before there was a
Church in Athens, that had a " name to live." Look at
him again in Ephesus, laboring for three years in the hum-
blest and most secluded manner ; " disputing in the school
of one Tyrannus ;'.' going about " from house to house ;"
" warning every man and teaching every man ;" working,
meantime, with his own hands in the lowly occupation of
a tentmaker ; and then remember, that there, from these
labors, in his own life time, a Church arose, flourishing
and prosperous, over which his own hands placed Timo-
thy, his son, as its first Bishop, and for whose faith and
love he gave unceasing thanks to God.

The rule then, is the rule now. And if as the Apostle
of the Gentiles looked back upon his fight, he saw, not
here and there one great achievement, and all a blank
besides, but surveyed a long, continuous series of such con-
tests as I have described, so any of his successors, in any
of the " divers orders " of the Ministry, must, if he hopes to
die with visions of the victor's palm before him, be able to
look back, in his place and order, on the same good fight
for Christ.

But I turn to the second point, the pastoral race. And
here, much the same general line of thought applies, as
that which has just occupied us. For here, too, must be
exercised the same patience, the same watchfulness, the
same unceasing diligence, the same care in seizing oppor-
tunities, the same subduing of the spirit and forgetfulness
of self, that are involved in what has gone before. For, the
course, to be well finished, must not be now a furious,


headlong rushing, and then an indolent and careless
lagging, but a continuous, regular advance : with the
forgetting of the things behind, and a reaching forward to
the things that are before. It is here, if I may so speak,
as it is in an earthly battle field. It is not the personal
bravery of the soldier alone, that is of service then. Let
him work out of line, and out of rule, and the braver he
is, and the harder he labors, the more does he impede the
plans of contest, and endanger their result. And so, it is
not the occasional success of a brilliant effort, or the
chance achievement of a sudden impulse, that will most
advance the true interests of the Church of God. No !
it is the subdued and chastened spirit, which loves to sub-
mit its own will, and finds in such submission a higher
dignity and a truer independence than in yielding to that
will ; which works on patiently in the humble round of
daily labor ; which does not substitute lofty dreams about
grand results, for the patient discharge of lowly duties ;
which remembers how the race is made up of single steps ;
it is such a spirit that, wins the most solid and enduring
triumphs for the Cross.

How little is this understood and estimated ! Men see
Christ's ministers in their daily work, and to them it seems
a doing over and over again the same things ; a repetition
of the same acts and words, with few or no appreciable
results. Day after day, and year after year, the pastor is
beheld, receiving Christ's little ones into His fold, teaching
and training them for heaven, exhorting the sinful and the
careless, preaching the word, ministering the sacraments,
attending on the sick and dying, providing for the poor,
and burying the dead, and still the world, with its hurry
and its crash, speeds on ; and many who are borne along
in its mad whirl, are ready to ask what all this amounts to,
and what it means. It means that God's work is being
done by the side of man's work, and amid the hindrances
of Satan ! It means that Christ's Minister is finishing his


course, the fruits and issues of which will be known in
that day, when God shall make up his jewels !

We have reached the third point, the preservation of
the Faith ; the Faith ; that sacred deposit of divine
truth, that " form of sound words," which the Apostle
elsewhere commands Timothy to hold fast ; those things,
which received from him, are to be committed to faith-
ful men, who may be able to teach others. This holy
deposit is 'entrusted to the pastor, for its keeping, as well
as promulgation. It is given to him, not to speculate
about, not to exercise intellectual ingenuity upon, not to
modify, not to adapt to human fancies, not to mingle
with human philosophies, but to keep " whole and un-
dented," in all its divine completeness, and as he keeps
it, so also to promulgate it in the ears of men. If our
age, brethren, has one special danger for the Christian
minister, it lies here. When the inspired lips of Apostles
first gave utterance to the harmonies of the Faith amid
the discordant sounds of antagonistic human teachings,
when in the freshness of its youth, and the undimmed
beauty of its divine original, it stood amid the effete
and crumbling relics of human theories, it had for those
who heard and saw it, not alone its eternal, living power,
but also the charm of novelty. That age has long since
passed away ; and now it comes to men, as something to
which generations on generations have listened ; which is
anything but new ; which, however it may gather fresh
lights and shadows from the changes of the world's brief
day, still stands the same forever. It has, indeed, the
same divine life, the same undying youth; but to the
eyes of the world in a restless and changing period, it
seems to wear marks of age ; and those eyes readily turn
to other things. To be faithful here, then, is a great
thing. It demands nerve. It requires courage. It tasks
faith. It is easier to play with new fancies about the
head, than with this old truth to reach the heart.


And therefore it is, that here so many fail. " I have
kept the faith." What simple words, and yet what
meaning ones ! Words that comforted St. Paul in his
dungeon prison, on the eve of his departure from the
world! Words that tell of unflinching fidelity, where
faithlessness is easy ; of self-restraint, when there are
allurements abundant to let the mind wander at its will ;
of the simplicity of preaching, when the temper of the
age is calling for bold and unlicensed speculation ; in a
word, of the submission of mind and will to the law and
stewardship of the Gospel. O! what a contrast on their
deathbeds, between one who has kept and taught the
"Faith once given to the Saints," and one who has
wandered in his own fancies, and preached them, instead
of God's glorious truths ! What a more awful contrast
shall be seen, when, in the day of God, there shall gather
round the one, those who shall be His hope, His joy, and
His crown of rejoicing ; and on the other, the blood of
souls, deluded and driven far from Christ and His great
salvation, shall set its mark of endless condemnation !

And now, brethren, standing here to-day, in this holy house
and beside these mortal remains of a venerated brother — I
might rather say, a father — in the Church of God, it is my
duty and my privilege, before his kindred after the fiesh,
his brethren in the Ministry, and the people of his charge,
to bear him witness, that he has fought the good fight,
that he has finished his course, that he has kept the faith.

And there are no better words of eulogy that human lips
could speak, than these.

This is not the place nor time for mere biographical
details. Other hearts and other hands will care for them.
I speak of Christ's veteran Soldier, who has gone to his
welcome rest : of the Priest whom his brethren delighted
to honor : of the Pastor who will live in the memory of
his flock ; and to him I bear the witness, which he would
have shrank from bearing to himself.


His ministry was not only a long one, but he was per-
mitted to live and work in it to the very end. Only one
Sunday intervened, between the time when his mortal
presence left God's earthly temple, and that in which, we
trust, his spirit entered Paradise. And through all that
ministry of three and forty years, how' constantly did he
seem to labor on the model, and by the plan, which I
have just been sketching. It has been said of him, and
how truly, " he dwelt among his people." And he dwelt
among them, carrying on the pastoral warfare against
sin and evil, running the pastoral race for Christ, keeping
the faith, just in that patient, untiring self-sacrificing
way, which has just engaged our thoughts.

His previous life had proved, that had he chosen, he
might have seen what the world would have called a far
more brilliant career than this, leading to worldly wealth,
and influence, and honor. But he laid all this down at his
Master's feet, and took up the pastor's scrip and staff, with
a purpose and a singleness, in which he never wavered.
And then, through a ministry that brought him into con-
tact in its ministrations with four generations, he gave
himself up to the pastor's labors ; working in that one
only way which he knew or cared to know, the way which
the Church had taught him ; trusting it, loving it, and
therefore sure of the result. And the result was sure, as
it ever is, when in this spirit, and in this way, duty is made
the watchword. In the pulpit, as he faithfully kept, so he
truly preached the Faith ; not here a shred and there a
fragment, but the whole counsel of God ; that wondrous
scheme which brings together God and man ; which shows
us the eternal Son of God made very man for us, purchas-

Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 28 of 51)