Samuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) Worcester.

A discourse, delivered on the first centennial anniversary of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass., April 26, 1835 online

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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) WorcesterA discourse, delivered on the first centennial anniversary of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass., April 26, 1835 → online text (page 5 of 6)
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course may fall.

" That, in the choice of a Pastor, the church must obtain satisfaction respecting
the person's qualifications for the office, agreeably to the Apostle's directions to
Timothy and Titus ; respecting his experimental acquaintance with Christianity,
as well as competent gifts, abilities, knowledge, and wisdom, for the office, agreea-
ble to chap, viii, sect. 4, of Platform.

" To prevent as much as possible any unconverted minister ever having the
charge of this church, we think it necessary, that such persons as may be set over
us in the Lord, should give the church a particular account of what God has done
for them, by a work of grace upon their hearts, and sign the articles of the church,
before ordination to the pastoral office over it." — Articles XV and XVI, of the
Tabernacle Church.

U. Page 38.

Extracts from the Covenant of the First Church, as adopted April 15th, 1680— •
which was subscribed by Mr. Leavitt and twenty-one brethren of his Church on
the day of his ordination, 24th of October, 1745.

" We, who (through the mercy of God) are members of this Church of Salem,
being now assembled in the presence of God, and in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, after humble confession of our manifold breaches of covenant with the Lord
our God, and earnest supplication for his pardoning mercy through the blood of
Christ, and deep acknowledgement of our own unworthiness to be owned as the
Lord's covenant people ; also acknowledging our inability to keep covenant with
God, or to perform any spiritual duty unless the Lord enable us thereunto by the
grace of his Spirit, and yet being awfully sensible that in these times by the loud
voice of his judgments both felt and feared, the Lord is calling us all to repentance
and reformation : we do, therefore, in humble confidence of his gracious assistance
through Christ, renew our covenant with God, and one with another in the manner
following : —

1. We do give up ourselves to that God whose name alone is Jehovah, Father,
Son, and Spirit, as the only true and living God, and unto our Lord Jesus Christ

8



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as our only Redeemer and Saviour, as the only Prophet, Priest, and King over
our souls, and only Mediator of the Covenant of Grace, engaging our hearts unto
this God in Christ by the help of his Spirit of grace, to cleave unto him as our God
and chief good, and unto Jesus Christ as our Mediator by faith, in a way of Gospel
obedience, as becometh his covenant people forever.

2. We do also give up our offspring unto God in Jesus Christ, avouching the
Lord to be our God and the God of our children, and ourselves with our children
to be his people, humbly adoring the grace of God in Christ Jesus, that we and our
children may be looked upon as the Lord's.

3. We do also give up ourselves one to another in the Lord according to the
will of God, to walk together as a Church of Christ in all the ways of his worship
and service ; according to the rules of the word of God, promising in brotherly love,
faithfully to watch over one another's souls, and to submit ourselves to the disci-
pline and government of Christ in his Church, and duly to attend the Seals and
Censures, and whatever ordinances Christ hath commanded to be observed by his
people according to the order of the Gospel, so far as the Lord hath or shall reveal
unto us."

These extracts, although from a Covenant, are sufficient to show what kind of
doctrine the Church believed, at the time of Mr. L.'s ordination. It was about
seven years afterwards, that Dr. Watts' Version of the Psalms, &c. was introduc-
ed into their worship. It is not probable, that this work could have gained admis-
sion into any of the other churches in town.

I would here take occasion to notice an error, which has long been entertained,
concerning the Covenants of the First Church.

In the Letter of Messrs. Dimond, Barnard, and Holt, (Appendix I,) it is stated
that the First Church in Salem were accustomed formerly, from time to time, to
renew their original Covenant. The language would seem to refer to the first
covenant of the Church; that is, the covenant adopted in 1629. In the Records
of the Tabernacle Church, there is a Transcript of a Pamphlet entitled, " A Copy
of the Church Covenants which have been used in the Church of Salem, formerly,
and in their late reviewing of the Covenant on the day of the Public Fast, April
15th, 1680. * * * Boston, printed at the desire and for the use of
many in Salem, for themselves and children, by J. F., 1680." It begins as fol-
lows : — " There was a Church Covenant agreed upon and consented to by the
Church of Salem at their first beginning in the year 1629, Aug. 6th."

" The following Covenant was propounded by the Pastor, was agreed upon and
consented to by the brethren of the Church, in the year 1636.

" We whose names are here underwritten, members of the present Church of
Christ in Salem, having found by sad experience how dangerous it is to sit loose
from the covenant we make with our God, and how apt we are to wander into by-
paths, even unto the loosing (losing?) of our first aims in entering into church fel-
lowship ; do therefore solemnly in the presence of the eternal God, both for our
own comforts, and those who shall or may be joined unto us, renew the Church
Covenant we find this Church bound unto at their first beginning, viz : ' That we
covenant with the Lord, and one with another, and do bind ourselves in the pre-
sence of God, to walk together in all his ways, according as he is pleased to reveal
himself unto us in his blessed word of truth -J and do more explicitly, in the name
and fear of God, profess and protest to walk as followeth, through the power and
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. We avouch the Lord to be our God, and ourselves to be his people, in the
truth and simplicity of our spirits.



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2. We give ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the word of his grace, for
the teaching, ruling, and sanctifying of us in matters of worship and conversation,
resolving to cleave unto him alone for life and glory, and to reject all contrary
ways, canons, and institutions of men in his worship.

3. We promise to walk with our brethren, with all watchfulness and tenderness,
avoiding jealousies and suspicions, back-bitings, censurings, provokings, secret ris-
ings of spirit against them ; but in all offences to follow the rule of our Lord Jesus,
and to bear and forbear, give and forgive, as he hath taught us.

4. Tn public or private, we will willingly do nothing to the offence of the Church ;
but will be~willing to take advice for ourselves and ours, as occasion shall be pre-
sented.

5. We will not in the congregation be forward either to show our own gifts and
parts in speaking or scrupling, or there discover the weakness or failings of our
brethren ; but attend an orderly call thereunto, knowing how much the Lord may
be dishonored, and his gospel, and the profession of it, slighted by our distempers
and weaknesses in public.

6. We bind ourselves to study the advancement of the gospel in all truth and
peace ; both in regard to those that are within or without ; no way slighting our sis-
ter churches, but using their counsel, as need shall be ; not laying a stumbling-block
before any, no, not the Indians, whose good we desire to promote'; and so to con-
verse, as we may avoid the very appearance of evil.

7. We do hereby promise to carry ourselves in all lawful obedience to those that
are over us, in Church or Commonwealth, knowing how well pleasing it will be to
the Lord, that they should have encouragement in their places, by our not grieving
their spirits through our irregularities.

8. We resolve to approve ourselves to the Lord in our particular callings ; shun-
ning idleness as the bane of any State ; nor will we deal hardly or oppressingly
with any, wherein we are the Lord's stewards.

9. Promising also unto our best ability to teach our children and servants the
knowledge of God, and of His Will, that they may serve him also ; and all this not
by any strength of our own, but by the Lord Christ ; whose blood we desire may
sprinkle this our Covenant made in His name."

I have seen fit to throw into the form of a quotation that part of the Preamble of
the foregoing Covenant, which I suspect was, in substance at least, the Covenant
" which the Church was bound unto at their first beginning." And I have italicis-
ed the sentences immediately preceding and following, so that the sense of the
whole may be more obvious. It was the Jirst covenant which was renewed. Not
satisfied, I suppose, with this brief formula, and wishing to notice some points sug-
gested by the circumstances of the times, the members of the Church in 1636, " did
more explicitly profess and protest to walk as followeth ;" that is, according to the
more detailed expression of their obligations and engagements. Any one who is
acquainted with the history of the town from 1630 to 1637, will perceive that this
" more explicit profession and protestation," contains divers local allusions which
would be utterly inexplicable upon the supposition, that it was prepared for the
Church at its beginning. In fact, almost the whole of it implies that the Church
had been for some years in existence, had had " sad experience of the danger of
sitting loose" from their covenant, and had suffered grievously from "jealousies,"
etc. from unwillingness " to take advice," etc. from " forwardness to show gifts or
parts in speaking," etc. etc. The dissensions which were occasioned by Roger
Williams, shed light upon the 6th and 7th Articles. It would not have been so na-
tural, in August 1629, as in 1636, to speak of the duty of " not laying a stumbling-
block before any, no, not the Indians." The conclusion is to my mind irresistible,



60

from the internal evidence alone, that the Covenant, printed in the Magnalia of Ma-
ther, and often cited as the Covenant of the First Church at its beginning, could not
have been the Jirst Covenant of that Church. It was, as is stated in the Tran-
script alluded to above, " the Covenant propounded by the Pastor, agreed upon,
and consented to, by the brethren in 1636." Hugh Peters was at this time the
Pastor.

Not apprehending, perhaps, the limitation of the term " renewed" to the brief or
condensed Covenant of 1629, and overlooking the import of several qualifying or
discriminating words, the, learned author of the Magnalia, or some one before him,
may have been led into a mistake, which all subsequent writers have adopted, and
from which some have deduced inferences entirely at variance with historical fact.

The Rev. Mr. Fisk, or some other person, who copied the Covenant of 1636 into
the existing Records of the First Church, has a marginal note to this effect : " Sixth
of 6th month, 1629, this Covenant was publicly signed and declared." Hence the
" Copy from the Salem Church Book," as published in the Appendix to Dr. Bent-
ley's " Description of Salem,"— His. Col. Vol. VI. How these gentlemen and
others ever interpreted the Preamble, in consistency with the date thus assigned to
the whole, I am at a loss to conjecture.

Si quid novisti rectius istis,
Candide imperti. Si non, his utere mecum.

Some further remarks upon this subject may be found in a subsequent Note.
See Appendix W.

V. Page 39.

Of the sons of the Tabernacle now in the ministry, are Rev. Robert Crowell, of
Essex; Rev. William Gould, of Fairhaven ; Rev. Joseph B. Felt, of Boston ; Rev.
John Foote, of Beverly ; Rev. Nehemiah Adams, of Boston ; Rev. George Pun-
chard, of Plymouth, N. H. ; Rev. Stephen C. Millet, of Salem; Rev. Benjamin
Obear, of Newbury. There are also several young gentlemen, who have recently
been licensed to preach, or are in a course of preparatory studies.

W. Page 41.

In the settlement of New England, Creeds or Confessions of Faith were of much
less importance than they now are. There was a delightful harmony among the
colonists, in regard to their views of the doctrines of grace.

Tlie First Church of this town, however, had a Confession of Faith, as well as a
Covenant. I have already stated (Appendix U.) what I suppose that Covenant
was. The Confession of Faith has not been discovered. From the subjoined au-
thorities, it will be seen, that there teas a Confession of Faith — a document not to
be identified with the Covenant of 1629 or that of 1636 — and that those who united
with the Church gave their assent to the Confession of Faith as well as to the Cove-
nant. It will also be seen what respect was shown to the brethren at Plymouth.

" Mr. Higginson and Mr. Skelton, and other good people that arrived at Salem,
in the year 1629, resolved, like their father Abraham, to begin their plantation with
calling upon the name of the Lord. The great Mr. Hildersham had advised our
first planters to agree fully upon their form of Church Government, before their
coming into New England ; but they indeed agreed little further than in this gene-
ral principle, that the reformation of the Church was to be endeavored according to
the written word of God. Accordingly ours, now arrived at Salem, consulted with
their brethren at Plymouth, what steps to take for the more exact acquainting of
themselves with, and conforming themselves to, that written word : and the Plymo-



61

theans, to their great satisfaction, laid before them what warrant, they judged, that
they had in the laws of Jesus Christ, for every particular in their Church order.

Whereupon, having the concurrence and countenance of their deputy governor,
the worshipful John Endicott, Esq., and the approving presence of the messengers
from the Church of Plymouth, they set apart the sixth day of August, after their ar-
rival, for fasting and -prayer, for the settling of a Church State among them, and
for their making a confession of their Faith, and entering into an holy Covenant,
whereby that Church State was formed."— Magnolia, vol. i, pp. 66, 67.

" The religious people at Salem, designing to settle in a church state, as near as
they can to the rules of the gospel, apprehend it needful for the thirty who begin the
church to enter solemnly into covenant, one with another, in the presence of God,
to walk together before him according to his holy word, and then ordain their min-
isters to the several offices to which they had been chosen. Mr. Higginson being
desired, draws up a confession of faith and church covenant according to Scripture ;
thirty copies are written, one delivered to every member; and the church at Ply-
mouth invited to the solemnity, that the church at Salem may have the approbation
and concurrence, if not the direction and assistance of the other.

August 6th, being Thursday, the appointed day being come, after the prayers
and sermons of the two ministers, in the end of the day, the said confession and
covenant being read in the public assembly, are solemnly consented to ; and they
immediately proceed to ordain their ministers." — Prince's New England Chrono-
logy. See also Magnolia, vol. i, pp. 328, 329.

" It was desired of Mr. Higginson, to draw up a Confession of Faith and Cove-
nant in Scripture language ; which being done, was agreed upon. \£f And be-
cause they foresaw that this wilderness might be looked upon as a place of liberty,
and therefore might be troubled with erroneous spirits, therefore they did put in one
article into the Confession of Faith, on purpose, about the duty and power of the
magistrate in matters of religion. Thirty copies," etc.— Morton's Ne%o England
Memorial, Boston Edition, 1826, pp. 145, 146.

It is to be regretted that the Confession of Faith is not now to be found. We
can, however, have no question upon its general character. As the Pastors and
the Members of the Church were Trinitarians and Calvinists, they would of course
have a Trinitarian and Cal vinistic Confession of Faith. From their whole proceed-
ings it is indisputable, that the fathers of the First Church and of this town were not
less rigorous and uncompromising than any of their descendants or successors have
been, in respect to the terms of Church Membership and admission to the Table of
the Lord. It would be great injustice to their memories, to represent them as dis-
posed to make the Lord's Supper accessible to those who differed from them in
what they considered the substantial and essential doctrines of grace.

In the citations which I have made, we have the true explanation of the absence
of the doctrine of the Trinity, etc. from the Covenant of 1636 ; that is, the Cove-
nant, which, as I believe, has been erroneously called the first Covenant of the
First Church. That document was not intended to answer any other purpose than
that of a Covenant.

The Covenant, of 1680, has an indirect recognition of the Trinity. And the
whole spirit of it is very decidedly evangelical.

When the separation took place in 1735, it is probable, that there was no Con-
fession of Faith in the Records of the Church. It was not, perhaps, thought neces-
sary. The main object of a Confession of Faith was secured by the course which
was taken with candidates for admission to the Church.

The present Covenant of the Tabernacle Church was so constructed or modified,
as to be both a Confession of Faith and Covenant.



62

" We, whose names are underwritten, apprehending ourselves called of God into
a gospel church state, deeply sensible how unworthy we are of so high a privilege,
cannot but admire that rich and free grace which triumphs over so great unworthi-
ness. But with humble reliance on the aids of that grace, which is promised to all,
who, with a true sense of their guilt and ruin, return to God for pardon and help,
we thankfully lay hold on his covenant. Avouching, this day, the Lord Jehovah,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be our God, our Father, our Savior, and our
Leader, we humbly give up ourselves to him, and receive him as our portion for-
ever. We give up ourselves and our all to the blessed Jesus, whom we acknowl-
edge as Almighty God, and, in the covenant of grace, engage to adhere to him, as
head over all things to his church and people, relying upon him as our Prophet,
Priest, and King, to bring us to eternal blessedness. We acknowledge our ever-
lasting and indispensable obligations to glorify our God, in all the duties of a holy,
sober, and religious life. Depending, therefore, on his powerful grace, we engage
to walk together, particularly in a church state, in the faith and order of the gospel,
as far as we shall have the same revealed to us by the word and Spirit of God ;
conscientiously attending the worship of God in all its parts, in secret, in the fami-
ly, and in public, upon the sacraments of the New Testament, baptism, and the
Lord's supper, upon the discipline of his kingdom, and upon all his holy institutions.
Declaring our firm belief of the Christian religion, as revealed in the Scriptures of
the Old and New Testaments, and of such a view of it, substantially, as the West-
minster Catechism exhibits, we heartily resolve to conform ourselves to it as long
as we shall live in the world. Affectionately giving up ourselves to one another in
the Lord, we solemnly covenant faithfully to watch over each other, to seek the
promotion of each other's spiritual good, to submit ourselves to the discipline and
government of Christ in his church, and watchfully to avoid all sinful stumbling-
blocks and contentions, as become a people, whom the Lord hath bound up to-
gether in the same bundle of life. At the same time, we also dedicate our off-
spring with us to the Lord, purposing with his help faithfully to perform our duty
to them in the methods of a religious education, that the Lord may be their God.

" All this we do, relying on the blood of the everlasting covenant for the pardon
of our many transgressions, and praying that the glorious Lord, who is the great
Shepherd, would prepare and strengthen us in every good work to do his will,
working in us that which is well pleasing in his sight ; to whom be glory forever
and ever. Amen." — See Articles, fyc. Tabernacle, pp. 8, 9.

The present Covenant of the First Church is also a Confession of Faith as well
as a Covenant.

" We believe in Jesus Christ, as the Messiah ; and we receive his religion as the
rule of our lives, and as a revelation from God.

" We have a deep sense of the imperfection of our past services, and of our need
of improvement ; and we are desirous of performing all our religious duties, and of
using all the means of grace provided for us.

" With such views and feelings, we enter into the Communion of Disciples of
Christ, as members of his visible Church.

" It is our earnest wish and prayer, that we may imitate his example, imbibe his
spirit, and obey his precepts; and that by walking together in the fellowship of the
Gospel here, we may become prepared for admission hereafter into the Church of
the redeemed in Heaven."— Rev. Mr. Upham's Second Century Lectur-e, pp. 69, 70.

X. Page 42.

" However, such was the hold which the grace of God now took of him, that he
became an eminent Christian, and a worthy and useful person, and not only after-



63

wards joined unto the Church in Boston, but also made a great figure in the Com-
monwealth of New England, as the major-general of all the forces in the colony :
it was Major-General Gibbons."— Magnolia, vol. i,p. 329.

" As for the circumstances of admission into this church, they left it very much
unto the discretion and faithfulness of their elders, together with the condition of
the persons to be admitted. Some were admitted by expressing their consent unto
their confession and covenant ; some were admitted after their first answering to
questions about religion, propounded unto them ; some were admitted, when they
had presented in writing such things as might give satisfaction unto the people of
God concerning them ; and some that were admitted, orally addressed the people
of God in such terms as they thought proper to ask their communion with ; which
diversity was perhaps more beautiful, than would have been a more punctilious
uniformity : but none were admitted without regard unto a blameless and holy
conversation."— Magnalia, vol. i, p. 67.

It was by means of a personal and particular examination, or by some equiva-
lent method, that the Brethren satisfied themselves in regard to the doctrinal and
experimental views of candidates for admission to the Church. Their successors
doubtless continued the practice, and thus always endeavored to ascertain what
were the sentiments and feelings of those whom they permitted to subscribe or ac-
knowledge their Covenant. Such, I suppose, was the practice at the time of the
separation in 1735 ; and such is still the practice in the Tabernacle Church. We
do not confine any one to that " form of words" which we hold fast, " but only to
the substance, end, and scope of the matter contained therein." This, Morton
says (see N. E. Memorial) was true of the First Church at its beginning. We,
however, as did they, satisfy ourselves respecting the sense, in which Scripture
language or canonical language is interpreted by those, who would be admitted to
our communion and fellowship. If we do not "see eye to eye," we cannot "walk
together," because we are not " agreed."

Y. Page 44.

" If God reveal any thing to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to
receive it, as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily
persuaded, I am very confident, the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out
of his holy Word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the
Reformed Churches, who are come to a period in religion ; and will go at present
no further than the instruments of their Reformation.. The Lutherans cannot be
drawn to go beyond what Luther saw : whatever part of his will our good God
has imparted and revealed unto Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it. And
the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God,
who yet saw not all things.

This is a misery much to be lamented ; for though they were burning and shin-
ing lights in their time, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God ; but
were they now living, they would be as willing to embrace further light, as that
which they first received. I beseech you to remember it ; it is an article of your
Church Covenant, That you will be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made
known unto you from the written word of God. Remember that, and every other
article of your most sacred covenant. But I must herewithal exhort you to take


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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) WorcesterA discourse, delivered on the first centennial anniversary of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass., April 26, 1835 → online text (page 5 of 6)