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 41 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 41 of 51)
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In his diary, which lie kept for forty years, he often
speaks of defects, and urges himself up to an entire con-
secration — a fuller trust in God — greater diligence in his
Master's service, and more of the gentleness and forbear-
ance of Christ. His careful eye detected what others saw
not ; for his life was remarkably free from those excres-
cences which deform the characters of many even good

His ministry was in conformity with such a character
and life. His people never felt that the week and the
Sabbath clashed ; that the pulpit and the street widely sep-
arated, the one doing violence to the other. His most in-
timate friends never placed the home and the prayer-meet-
ing in unhappy contrast.

Those but slightly acquainted with Mr. Savage might
have supposed that indifference to passing events and opin-
ions of others was the occasion of his equanimity. Not
so ; he possessed a most sensitive nature. It was insepa-
rable from his constitution. He was keenly alive to the
treatment which he received from others, and in some in-
stances he regarded himself as greatly wronged. Yet who
ever heard a word of ill-will escape his lips, or the name
of another used in a disparaging manner ? And what is
more remarkable, no such allusion deforms the pages of
his diary. He seemed anxious to forget as well as forgive.
He was a worthy example of that " charity which seeketh
not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil."

One long acquainted with him says, " I have especially
noted and admired his leaning toward young ministers.
It was most kind and fatherly. They were sure of his


sympathy. No candidate for licensure or ordination could
ever forget it. He felt that he was only an elder brother.

Mr. Savage was truly catholic. No narrow bands of
sect or party could shut in the feelings of his large heart.
He loved all good men. He delighted to dwell on the vir-
tues of others, — on the faults of none. Who ever heard
him expatiate on the defects of other men ? No mean
jealousies rankled in his heart."

Another remarks, " In several respects Brother Savage
was a remarkable man, especially so in his ardent and well
balanced temperament. Grace and nature united to make
a rare combination of all the virtues belonging to a chris-
tian gentleman. He had the courtesy of manner and of
the heart.

" Man universal he had a natural love for, and this led to
that marked attention which he always gave to friends and
to strangers. He was likewise unselfish, and had a cheer-
ful readiness to do anything which would help the cause of
humanity or of Christ. He was unambitious, and thought
much less of his reputation and his position than of the
great interests of his Master's cause. With a trustful and
confiding faith in the arrangements of Providence, he was
willing to labor where God had appointed his mission. He
was ready to take his part on all public occasions without
inquiring whether his was a position of honor.

" He was trustful and a firm believer in the doctrine that
God would take care of his own children and supply their
needful wants."

In these respects he was a model for the young — a pat-
tern for the christian, and an example to be imitated by
that profession to which he was an ornament.

2. Mr. Savage was discriminating in his judgment of
men. He read human nature more accurately than most


supposed. He was so careful of his words that some im-
agined he had no thoughts. But the reverse was true .
He has left on record his opinion of Southern men and in-

In 1824 he wrote in his diary, " The population at the
South are totally indifferent to the subject of religion, and
many who profess it are very poor examples of its power.
If I were to state what appeared to me the prominent fail-
ure of professing christians at the South, I should say it
was an extreme attention to the things in themselves indif-
ferent, and neglect of the weightier matters of the law, —
the broad principles of christian charity and love. Conse-
quently the cut of a coat or the trimming of a bonnet are
viewed as important as a christian grace or virtue.

" Of the morals of the people, generally speaking, there
is a want of punctuality in the transactions of business and
a disregard of the sacredness of a promise.

" The great cause of this laxity of morals in that country
is slavery. This destroys industry, hardens the heart, em-
bitters domestic life, and is the scourge of society."

The fact that this was written more than forty years ago,
before the subject of slavery had been agitated, shows a
power of discrimination in advance of that day, but which
subsequent events have abundantly confirmed.

3. Mr. Savage was a very accurate scholar. He com-
menced in childhood, aud gave to the pursuit of learning
his undivided attention. He excelled, perhaps, in the
classics, but was familiar with the best models of his na-
tive tongue. His habits thus early formed, shaped his
whole life. He wrote in a style at once clear, beautiful and
impressive. There was no redundancy of words and never
an inelegant expression ; even in extemporaneous address,
his language was select. He frequently enriched his ser-


mons from the best English authors. His library, not
large, was well read.

Still, though he regarded a thorough education of such
high importance, yet, in his judgment, there was another
still more so. After listening to a sermon from a brother
who had not enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education
he wrote, " I wish to feel more deeply that it is not learn-
ing nor great talents that God uses to do good, so much as
humble piety. ' The excellency of the power is of God and
not of man.'" It is a happy thought that these brethren,
we trust, have now met in that presence where the ine-
qualities of human learning are lost in the knowledge of
Christ Jesus.

4. As a preacher, Brother Savage was practical and im-
pressive. He did not dwell so much on the distinctive
doctrines of the gospel as many preachers. He did not
preach theology as a system. Yet he preached salvation
only by the cross. But its doctrines were mingled with
precept as the leaven pervades the mass in which it is hid-
den. They appeared not as the veins penetrate the marble,
but as the painter's color shades the whole.

In the early part of his ministry he wrote his sermons
and read them. I think he seldom extemporized. But
the manner of his reading was so free, so unlike reading, so
far removed from monotony and uttered with a voice of
so wide compass, and which even in a whisper would fill
the house, that he was always interesting and impressive.

I attended his ministry for years, but never knew him
dull in the utterance of his sermon. He felt an interest
in it himself, and threw that interest into the hearts of his
hearers. Indeed, I have long regarded him as one of the
most eloquent speakers to whom I ever listened.

One already quoted, says, "My earliest recollections of


Mr. Savage go back to the first years of his ministry in
Bedford. The impression that he made on my young heart
in his exchanges with my pastor was that he was a power-
ful and pathetic preacher. He lodged his texts, subjects
and manner firmly in my memory. They are as fresh as
the things of yesterday. In the revivals of thirty years
ago I remember him as one of the most active of laborers.
He never seemed more at home, and joyous, than in the
enquiry room. So earnest, affectionate and persuasive
was he that lie drew all our hearts towards himself and his
Savior=" He farther adds, "He strongly preferred to
dwell on the bright side of things. He was no complainer,
no misanthrope. Under God he was ever hopeful. His
spirit and experience were sunny. Who can ever forget
his interest in the Psalms of David, in the glowing words
of Paul and John, and the profound emotion with which
he read them?"

Another clergyman whose acquaintance ran back more
than a quarter of a century, in summing up his character
both as a christian and a minister, says, " He was one of
the brightest examples of christian cheerfulness, hopeful-
ness, buoyancy, courtesy and kindness that it was ever my
privilege to know.

" It was these natural virtues and depth of sensibility,
refined by his education and piety, that gave to his public
utterances, at times, a most tender and melting pathos. I
have often listened to Brother Savage when he seemed
to have lifted the floodgates of his heart and poured upon
his audience the whole tide of his own refined sensibili-
ties, without one particle of reserve, carrying us along
with the strong current of his emotions.

" It was here that his strength as a preacher lay. It was
this fullness of experience that gave a freshness and rhe-
torical force to all he said.


" He was well versed in all that kind of literature which
dealt with the sensibilities of the heart. His expressions
were therefore often choice and touching. He breathed out
his own emotions in the most classic language of the ages."

Another speaking of Mr. Savage, both as a christian and
minister, remarks, " As pastor of a neighboring church
and co-Presbyter, I knew him well, and knew but to love
him. His great kindness of heart, uniform urbanity and
complete transparency of character, I appreciated highly.
■" An Israelite indeed in whom is no guile," may emphati-
cally be said of him. " Thinketh no evil," was one of his
prominent characteristics. Diffusing sunshine around
him, he was ever welcome in the private study, social cir-
cle, and ecclesiastical body. Rejoicing in the happiness of
others, he was forgetful of self.

" With nice discrimination and memory faithful, he was
accustomed, both in and out of the pulpit, to draw at will
from a wide range of learned authors, and in this it may
be truly said :

' He all his peers in beauty did surpass.' "

It may be proper to add that although Mr. Savage ex-
celled as a classical scholar, and though he quoted freely,
yet in public, it was always from English authors.

5. Brother Savage loved the work of the ministry. He
often speaks, in his diary of finding increasing delight in
the service, and of the great importance of being prepared,
both by study and the discipline of the heart, for the pul-
pit. And most certainly in one very important respect,
he gave himself wholly to it. He knew nothing but what
was essential to the office. And after he became a pastor
he did nothing else.

Indeed, it was a matter of surprise how a man could
live seventy years, and be pastor of a country church forty,
and know so little about the affairs of common life.


It was this love to the ministry, the importance which
he attached to the work and his singleness of aim in its
prosecution, together with his varied learning and reten-
tive memory, which summoned at the moment the best
thoughts of our best authors, which often gave peculiar
adaptedness to his sermons, and frequently made him most
happy in extemporaneous address. A startling thought —
a terse sentence — the line of a hymn — or a text of scrip-
ture, would often drop in a manner both to surprise and
delight the hearer.

As an example .of this power, take the following fact :
Near the close of his ministry, when on an exchange with
a neighboring pastor, he spent the season between the ser-
vices with an old friend. The great changes which had
occurred in the church and the ministry was the subject
of remark. The fading nature of all things earthly in-
pressed him. Eternity was brought near. The sermon
for the afternoon received its shade from this train of re-
flection. He took for his text, " We all do fade as a leaf."
From these words he discoursed upon the law of change —
its certainty — its silence — its progress — its results.

" Change is the divine law, the only earthly permanence ;
the pencil that paints the autumn leaf is silent as the dew
of evening. The seasons move on, — the furrow which
mars the cheek of beauty completes its work." His eye
then swept around the field where his companions bad
lived, labored and died. " The fervid Merrill — the decided
Cutler — laborious Parker — earnest Smith — the strong-
minded Burgess — logical Whiton — and the urbane Brad-
ford — with others of like devotion, had all faded like the
leaf, at the touch of the frost king."

Then with a power and a pathos peculiarly his own, he
said —


"I feel like one who trends alone

Some banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead,

And all but he departed."

I will not attempt to reproduce the scene which occurred
at Milford, at the meeting of County Conference, when
Brother Savage officiated at the communion table ; none,
who were present, can ever forget it. Nor will I attempt
to repeat the prayer offered by him in the Franklin Street
church, Manchester, during the meeting of General Asso-
ciation, when he quoted with such thrilling effect, in
thanksgiving for the recent outpouring of the spirit, the
words of David :

"Thou visitest the earth and waterest it — Thou greatly
enrichest it with the river of God which is full of water —
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths
drop fatness — They drop upon the pastures of the wilder,
ness, and the little hills rejoice on every side."

We have now noticed some of those more prominent
traits of character which endeared our departed brother to
a wide circle of friends, and gave him his peculiar power
in the pulpit.

Those familiar with Mr. Savage have not failed to notice
as his sun was sinking in the West, that his piety became
more tender and deep. His fervency in prayer increased.
While his health remained good, and he was still about his
Master's work, — while he was cheerful as ever, yet the au-
tumnal tinge gathered upon his spirit — beautiful, but it
told of winter.

He often spoke upon the changes of life, — of himself as
the last of his early ministerial circle, — of the certainty of
a not distant departure.

His sermons and prayers partook of this spirit. The


poetry which he quoted possessed a similar mellow tinge ;
but all was cheerful.

Indeed, I never saw him otherwise. During the forty
years of our acquaintance, I never saw the shadow of a
cloud resting upon his sunny spirit.

The closing period of his life seemed like the evening of
a summer's day, when all is calm and quiet ; when the sun
painting in beauty and brightness the hillside, the horizon,
the cloud lingerng near, forming a golden pathway in which
to sink to rest.

It was painful to him to lay aside the work of the min-
istry. But as his fortieth anniversary drew near, he be-
came convinced that the same Master who called him to
the work, bade him retire. He prepared a sermon for the
occasion on the text, " And thou shalt remember all the
ways which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years."

In this sermon he reviewed his long pastorate, recounted
the dealings of (rod with him and his people, ascribing all
honor to sovereign grace for the success which had at-
tended his ministry. This was his last written sermon.
He closed with some lines which, for beauty and adapted-
uess, are seldom surpassed :

" Let me go, the day is breaking,

Earthly scenes are fading - fast ;
Joys that were my heart's awaking,

Hopes and fears are with the past.
Earthly visions now are darkling,

And the city's golden glow
Gleams before me, pare and sparkling

In the distance. Let me go."

He now resigned his pastorate, to take effect when a suc-
cessor might be obtained. The occasion was observed a
few weeks later by the people of his charge, when a purse
of twelve hundred dollars was presented to him. It was
a fitting tribute fittingly received. He rendered every as-
sistance in procuring a successor, and took part in the in-

stallation services. Indeed, he continued to preach most
of the time up to the period of his death. Only a single
Sabbath intervened between his labor and his rest.

His health remained as usual until Wednesday, the se-
cond of May ; though fifteen months previous |iis vigorous
constitution received a shock from which he never fully
recovered. The progress of the disease was rapid. One
week closed the scene. During his sickness he spoke
freely of his departure, and always with' the same calm
trust which had marked his whole christian life. He died
early Tuesday morning. During the night previous, which
was one of great suffering, he often exclaimed : " Oh, the
goodness of God ;" " My trust is in the Savior." His wife
repeated to him the twenty-third Fslam, which afforded
great consolation. On the Thursday following his remains
were committed to the dust in the hope of a blessed resur-

Thus closed the earthly career of one whose life was
without a stain, and whose memory is treasured with n©
regret. And truly the memory of such a life is blessed.
Blessed as a source of heavenly consolation to his afflicted
companion, — blessed as an inheritance richer than gold to
his children, — blessed as a teacher both by precept and
christian manhood to his people, — blessed as an example
worthy of imitation to his ministerial brethren, and blessed
as a power of lasting good to a wide circle of friends.

Nothing sliort of the records of eternity can unfold the
influence of such a pastorate. For forty years its gentle
pressure rested upon thousands of hearts. It was inter-
woveu with the threads of thousands of lives. It shaped
destinies for time and eternity. It has passed into his-
tory, — God only can read it.

Brethren in Christ, lor the gift of such a minister, render
praise to Almighty God. Most of you have known no


other pastor excepting the few months of his worthy suc-
cessor. Your childhood, youth, manhood, have received
the impress of his instructions and example. Many of
you he has baptized, both parents and children, and re-
ceived you to the fold of the church.

Brethren, cherish the memory of your late pastor as a
precious gift from God, and follow him so far as he fol-
lowed the Lord Jesus.

It is possible that some who have sat these many years
under the instructions of our deceased brother have not
accepted the offers of grace. My friends, the sound of
that voice to which you so long listened is hushed in the
6ilence of the grave. Its soft echo, however, lingers within
these walls. Oh, ere that echo dies, accept the offer of

Dr. Payson, as he lay dying, directed this label to be
placed on his breast at his funeral : " Remember the
words which I spake unto you, while I was yet present with
you." All who came to look upon the face of that holy
man, received this admonition from his silent lips ; so would
I have you remember the words of your departed friend.
Remember them as you think of his example, — as you re-
call his tenderness in this sanctuary. Remember them as
you visit his grave, — as you look forward to meeting him
at the judgment.

On yonder hill-side sleep the remains of your late pastor.
Around his grave is a great company to whom he preached
the gospel. Did any of them hear in vain ? Suppose the
pastor could meet them once more in a world of proba-
tion, how would he preach and how would they hear? So
let his memory proclaim the words of eternal life, and so
listen that your soul may live.

The Reverend Thomas Savage is dead. That name so
long associated with this church and this town is blotted


from the records of the living. But though dead, he lives.
Lives in the hearts of his afflicted companion and father-
less children. Livesm the memory of this people. Lives
in the recollection of hundreds who received at this altar
their first religious impressions, and have gone forth to
perform life's work in other parts of our land.

' ' He is not lost ; he is within the door

That shuts out loss, and every hurtful thing,
With angels bright and loved ones gone before,
In their Redeemer's presence evermore
And God himself, their Lord and Judge and King."





n SBemori) of




December 20th, 1868.

JANUARY 17, 1869.


Eev. p. d. yak cleef, d.d




186 9.


Jersey City, December 21, 1868.
Rev. P. D. Van Cleep, D. D.

Dear Sir : — Many of the friends and professional associates of the late
Hon. J. R. Wortendyke, having expressed an earnest wish for the publi-
cation of the Memorial Discourse delivered by you on Sunday the 20th
inst., will you kindly furnish a copy to the undersigned for that purpose,
at your earliest convenience.

Very respectfully yours,


Jersey City, January 28, 1869.
Hon. A. O. Zabriskie and others :

Gentlemen : — Your favor of December 21st has just been received,
having been withheld, as I am informed, until a subsequent request for
a repetition of the discourse could be complied with. The manuscript
is now placed at your disposal in the hope that its publication may
prove useful. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the kindness of
friends, and especially of Jacob Weart, Esq., in furnishing me with dates,
facts, and suggestions of value in preparing this memorial.

With great respect, yours truly,



" For none of us . liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself.
For whether we live we live unto the Lord, and whether we die we die
unto the Lord ; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
—Romans 14: 7, 8.

Philosophers tell us that in the world of matter all
bodies are subject to the laws of mutual attraction
and repulsion. The stars that till the vault of heaven,
the drops that make the ocean, the atoms that form
the universe, are all controlled by a simple but mys-
terious power that renders the perfect isolation of even
a grain of sand impossible. That the same law pre-
vails in the world of mind seems to be taught in the
words of our text : " No man liveth unto himself, and
no man dieth unto himself." Every individual of the
race possesses an unconscious influence, which he is
constantly exerting for good or evil. His daily life
sheds around him the wholesome fragrance of the pine,
or the deadly poison of the Upas. Some one, it may
be but a little child, will be affected by our example,
or our words, and we know how often that prophecy
has been fulfilled, "a little child shall lead them."
We cannot, if we would, live unto ourselves.

Neither can any human being die unto himself. He
may fall unseen, "unwept, unhonored, and unsung/'
but when he drops like a pebble into the ocean of
eternity, a little ripple is created which must forever
widen toward the limitless shore. Some, wrapped up

in the chrysalis of their own selfishness, never become
conscious of this truth, and therefore fail to recognize
their responsibility to God and their fellow-men. The
ApostJe in the text speaks of regenerated men who
have come to realize that they are not their own, and
who feel the generous power of an unselfish principle.
That principle is the religion of the Gospel, which
shows us the true relations which we sustain to God,
and to our fellow men ; awakens a sense of personal
accountability for our influence ; restores the bonds of
universal brotherhood among men which sin has bro-
ken asunder; banishes selfishness from the heart
and teaches us that we can never be truly happy, or
secure the grand object of our being, until we begin to
live for the welfare of our fellow men, and the glory
of God. When the mind has been enlightened by the
truths of revelation, and the heart has been renewed
by the Holy Spirit, a man cannot live unto himself.
The love of Christ constrains him. He must do some-
thing for others, and his influence will be directed into
useful and beneficent channels by the power of a con-
secrated will.

The religion of Christ, then, is necessarily unselfish.
The first element of this unselfishness is the grutuitous
nature of the plan of salvation as it regards the sinner.

The great central doctrine of the Gospel is, "By
grace are ye saved, through faith ; and that not of your-

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 41 of 51)