Samuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) Worcester.

New England's glory and crown : a discourse delivered at Plymouth, Mass., December 22, 1848 online

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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) WorcesterNew England's glory and crown : a discourse delivered at Plymouth, Mass., December 22, 1848 → online text (page 4 of 5)
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if possible, it might be known what God was about to re-
veal in his providence. From a concurrence or combina-
tion of causes, which cannot now be particularly described,
the delightful tokens of a brighter day cheered the anxious
and quivering hearts of the faithful in Christ Jesus. Re-
vivals began to increase in number and in power. And
soon it seemed as if the years of the former generation
were again to pass over the land.

From 1797 and onward, so many revivals were enjoyed
in the churches, that an eminent minister in Connecticut,
as he stood at his door, could count upwards of seventy
contiguous congregations, which all had participated in
the outpouring from the gracious presence of the Lord.
In different parts of New England, there were hundreds
of ministers, whose hearts were gladdened by this great
'' refreshing." Some of them had personal recollections
of the awakening of 1740, with which they gratefully
compared the present auspicious visitation. Many had
previously had, in some instances, a rich experience from
Him, who "giveth the increase." Some, who. were in
the vigor of manhood, had seen the promise of the Spirit,
like "the small rain upon the tender herb," but never be-
fore as a " mighty rushing wind." Others knew of revi-
vals chiefly from records, which were fast growing old, and


going to decay. But when it is remembered, that there
were so many churches ready for the wondrous ministra-
tion of the Spirit, and so many pastors qualified to act as
co-workers with "the Lord of the harvest," he who writes
the history of the Puritan Pilgrims of New England and
their " children's children," may have ample evidence if
he will but find it, that, in the fifty or more years previous
to the close of the eighteenth century, by far the larger
part of churches and ministers were of one mind and
spirit with the " fathers," in their doctrinal and practical

In the midst of those revivals near the close of the
eighteenth century, the missionary spirit, as a legitimate
consequence; received a new impulse. Evangelical Chris-
tians, across the Atlantic, had sent missionaries to India,
Africa, and the islands of the South Pacific. Intelligence
of their operations was hailed in New England with a
lively gratitude. It is not strange that none went forth
from our churches, to other continents or to the distant
islands that were waiting for God's law. There was a
loud call for more service at home, than could be rendered.
The emigration to the wilderness of Maine, to Middle and
Western New York, to Ohio, and to other parts of the
Mississippi Valley, urged a powerful claim upon the be-
nevolent sympathies of those who remained at home, fast
by the old foundations. With many the thought was too
painful for endurance, that the new settlements should be
fqrmed without the institutions of the gospel, and a com-
petent supply of the means of grace.

Hence arose such societies, as the Connecticut Mission-
ary Society, and the Massachusetts Missionary Society.
This latter society was not at the beginning, nor for
twenty years afterwards, what it now is, a domestic or
home missionary society, but was organized upon the
broad basis of a foreign missionary association. " The
object of this society,^^ says the constitution, adopted May)


1799, " is to diffuse the knowledge of the gospel among
the heathens, as well as other people in the remote parts of
our country, where Christ is seldom or never preached.^'

" Where Christ is seldom, or never preached ? " in-
quired the Rev. Joshua Spaulding, then pastor of the
Tabernacle Church : " if that is your object, you should
send missionaries to Boston ! " For two or three years,
he had been urging his ministerial and lay brethren to
form a society for missions at their very doors, as within
the limits of Marblehead, at Boston, and in other places,
where, as he believed, "Christ was seldom or never
preached," as hundreds needed to hear !

It is remarkable, that his idea of city m,issions has now
been adopted, with great interest and effect. But the
Massachusetts Missionary Society, which owed its origin
as much or more to him, than to any other single indi-r
vidual, could never have been formed, but with the dis-
tinct contemplation of a much more extended circum-
ference for a field of labor.

The first address of the society breathes the genuine
spirit of the charge from Mount Olivet. Recognizing
" the glorious gospel of Christ as the adequate and only
medium of recovering lost sinners to God and happiness,"
and responding to " the grand commission which Christ
gave to his primitive disciples," the address " entreats "
all " Christian brethren, in view of their immense in-
debtedness to redeeming grace, their solemn covenant
vows, their accountability and their hopes, to cast the eye
of attentive observation upon the condition of thousands
and millions of our guilty race, in other countries and in
our own, particularly among the heathen tribes, and on
the frontiers of the United States, forming a vast line of
new settlements, peculiarly embarrassed with respect to
their religious interests and local circumstances ; and ask
whether, when their danger is so great, when their spirit-
ual wants are so urgent, \yhen there is so much zeal on

the part of wickedness, infidelity and atheism, counter-
acting the gospel — there be not reason to put forth every
exertion for the spread of that precious gospel, which is
the grand charter of our eternal inheritance."

The society was thus brought into the closest affinity
and fellowship with others in Great Britain, like the
Society for the Propagation of Christian knowledge in
Scotland, — under the auspices of which the missionaries
Sergeant and Kirkland were laboring among the Indian
tribes in Western Massachusetts and New York ; and part
of which were then as far from Boston, as are now the
tribes west of the Mississippi. If the means could have
been procured, establishments precisely similar to those
now sustained by the American Board of Commissioners
for Foreign Missions, might have been organized and
cherished, in the strictest accordance with the purpose of
the Massachusetts Missionary Society. And the simple
fact is, that it was not until long after the American Board
of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed, that
this society and others, which are now purely home socie-
ties, were understood to be such, in the present accepta-
tion of the term. By a missionary society, was meant an
association to spread the gospel through all the world, by
preaching it in any accessible region or place, where
" Christ is seldom or never preached." And the Massa-
chusetts Missionary Society, was a society of Massachu-
setts missionary tnen ; not a missionary society for Mas-
sachusetts !

In June, 1803, appeared the first number of the Massa-
chusetts Missionary Magazine, — in which there is the
same foreign missionary spirit and general character, as
you now see in the Missionary Herald. But what a
change in forty-five years ! If any one would see an
amazing contrast, and the thrilling demonstration of an
immense progress in the enterprise of the world's evan-
gelization, let him read some of the last numbers of the


Herald of the American Board, and some of the first of
the Magazine of the Massachusetts Missionary Society.

And let him compare also the Massachusetts Mission-
ary Society, in 1800, with its two or three missionaries,
a part of the year, with the present American Home
Missionary Society, with its more than one thousand
missionaries from the Aroostook to Oregon and Cali-
fornia !

So rapidly did the missionary spirit advance, after
intelligence of foreign and domestic operations was
brought before the churches, that in 1804, the constitu-
tion of the society was modified, so that the article
defining the object was made to read ; — " The object of
the society is, to ditfuse the gospel among the people of
the newly settled and remote parts of our country, among
the Indians of the country, and through more distant
regions of the earthy as circumstances shall invite, and
the ability of the society shall admit." And if the men
could have been had, and the money could have been
obtained, missionaries could have been sent by the Massa-
chusetts Missionary Society to Bombay, Ceylon, or the
Sandwich Islands, just as constitutionally as they were
afterwards sent by the American Board of Commissioners
for Foreign Missions.

This great organization came into form and life, in the
year 1810. It was necessary to unite the friends of mis-
sions in all the land, and under the sign and seal of an
American, rather than a State designation, to solicit con-
tributions from all the churches of the Union, with
express reference to missions in Asia, and among the far-
distant Gentiles of other parts of the known world.
Other Societies followed, one after another, as the eyes of
God's people were opened and enlightened.

The first missionaries of the American Board of Com-
missioners for Foreign Missions, were from the Theologi-
cal Seminary at Andover, — an institution which owed its


origin, chiefly, to the alarm which was felt, after the suc-
cessor of Dr. Tappan was appointed at Harvard. The
oldest and most venerable college of the land, — which
was so early and so piously dedicated to " Christ and the
Church," — had received a Professor of Theology, who
taught a very different mode of doctrine from that of the
" fathers." Yet it has been said by those who ought to
be acknowledged as indisputable authority, that if at that
time he had avowed himself to be what he undoubtedly
was, and what afterwards he freely admitted, he could
not have been chosen to be the incumbent of a chair,
whicli, by the express provision of the pious Hollis, was
never to be filled, but by a man '■^ of sound or orthodox
sentiments^' ! What was meant by such sentiments,
there is no more reason to doubt, than there is to deny
that there ever was any such man as Hollis. The pur-
pose of his donation should be sacredly regarded ; or the
trust should be relinquished.

Far be it from me to speak invidiously or any wise
reproachfully. It is but sober, candid history that I
would write of the past. But the truth, once denied
with no ordinary vehemence if not virulence, is now fully
conceded, viz : — that in all but one of the Congregational
churches in Boston, and in perhaps fifty others elsewhere,
there was a concealment of the real sentiments of the
pastors. It was not until 1815, and after a most exciting
controversy, that that ^'concealment,^' which had been so
vigilantly and sagaciously maintained, for nearly or quite
a whole generation, was no longer possible. And it cer-
tainly is a consideration, of some historical interest, if not
theological importance, that the same mode of religious
doctrine which was thus introduced and fostered in New
England, had a similar introduction and development in
Old England, in Scotland, in Holland, in Switzerland,
and in Germany.

More than thirty years have now passed, since what


those most interested prefer to call " Liberal Christianity "
has been openly and eloquently defended in this country.
Talents, wealth, literature, refinement, with other power-
ful auxiliaries, have not been wanting. And now what
is the prospect, that in any of its modes or forms, it will
ever supplant the faith of the " fathers " among the
" children's children " ? And if this will not supplant
that faith, what form of doctrine will ?

According to returns and estimates,* a few years since,
there were in the United States, nearly fifty thousand
churches, Congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Meth-
odist, and Baptist. But according to the best authorities,
the whole number of Unitarian churches or congrega-
tions,! throughout the country, at the present time, is
about two hundred and forty ! Three-fifths of these are
in Massachusetts alone ; and quite a proportion of them
are very small. Not one half of the number were gath-
ered and organized, as Unitarian. Ninety of them exist
within the limits of the old evangelical organizations.

Of more than seven hundred Congregational churches
in Massachusetts, at the present time, nearly five hundred
and fifty are orthodox. And of these, full two hundred
and twenty-five have been gathered within the last twen-
ty-five years ! The number of other Congregational
churches has, in the same period, remained nearly station-
ary ! And the proportion of communicants in the ortho-
dox Congregational churches, is very much greater ; be-
ing, at a moderate calculation, as ten to one !

In general, also, the eiSciency of the evangelical Con-
gregational churches has been vastly augmented. It is as
yet susceptible of a ten fold, if not a hundred fold aug-
mentation. Upon all the great points of doctrinal dis-
pute, there is a feeling that the work of public controversy
is finished. We have a far more congenial work to do, —

* Baird's Religion in America. t Unitarian Almanac, &c.


in carrying forward the numerous enterprises of true
evangelical charity.

There is no antidote to error, like the truth as in Jesus,
when it comes upon the conscience, in demonstration of
the Spirit. Hence there is no available power, like a
genuine revival, to give the advantage and the victory to
the friends of the Saviour. Most abundant and most
striking has been the witness of this, in the progress
which evangelical religion has made in our Common-
wealth, within twenty-five years.

Look at Boston, and see what it is, as compared with
what it was forty and thirty years since. Look over all
New England, and see what mode of religious sentiment
has the sway over the masses. Make the most that you
can out of all the various sects and names, which are
antagonistical to the faith, or at variance with the eccle-
siastical order of the founders of New England. You
will find a most decided preponderance of the intellectual
and the moral strength of their descendants, where they
would wish, above all things, that it should be ; — uphold-
ing and advancing the institutions of " the glorious
gospel," and " the glorious liberty of the children of

An hour more would scarcely suffice, that I should only
name our largest associations of Christian philanthropy, —
which every day are adding new gems or a brighter
effulgence to the " crown " of the rejoicing of " the
fathers," at the coming of the Lord.

And, my brethren, as we now look back upon the past,
and around upon the present, how can we despair of the
Religion of the " fathers ? " Can we with such semina-
ries of learning and theology, — more than forty of the
latter existing, where we had but one, forty years ago ;
with such increasing advantages of popular education ;
with such an immense distribution of the Bible and of
books illustrative of the Bible ; with so many thousand


evangelical churches, and so many hundred thousand chil-
dren, taught the "words" which are "spirit and life," —
every Sabbath day ? What Religion, what Doctrine is
it, which more than twenty-five thousand ministers are
preaching in the thirty States of this Union ? Radically
and essentially the Religion of faith in the atoning blood
of an All-sufficient, because Almighty Redeemer; and
the Doctrine, that " God so loved the loorld, that he gave
his ofily-begotten Son, that whosoever helieveth in him,
should not perish, but have everlasting life.''''

I have no time to enlarge. My limits are more than
occupied already. But from the review now presented of
our New England history, you will not, I trust, think of me,
as uttering more than the words of truth and soberness,
when I proclaim the sentiment, that of all people in the
world, we are under the highest obligations to support
munificently, and communicate to the ends of the earth,
the knowledge and the institutions of the " everlasting

The period during which our country has so amazingly
developed our resources of every description, most need^
ful and important, for the sustenance, protection, and
exaltation of a more intelligent, more benevolent, more
powerful, because more Christian people, than has ever
existed, — has been the period since the great battle of
Waterloo. Peace has blessed our land, and so far other
nations also, that a vastly greater proportion of well-
educated or of aspiring mind, than ever before, since the
world began, has been employed in devising ways and
means, by which labor shall have the largest ratio of
product with the least amount of physical or mental
exhaustion ; and by which all the powers of nature shall
be constrained to pay their richest and noblest tribute to
him, who was " made " but " a little lower than the
angels " ; and thus the world receive the fullest demon-


stration, that he who fell with " the first man," rises by
" the second " — " the Lord from heaven," — higher and
higher in the original dignity and grandeur of his immor-
tal nature, — recovering and re-assuming one measure after
another of his lost dominion over the whole inferior

When before were such opportunities, facilities, and
incitements to mental and moral activity, afforded to so
large a number, as now constitute the substantial and
reliable portions of our community ? Since Europe has
been brought within less than twelve days from our
greatest cities ; and the magnetic telegraph outstrips the
sun, by thousands of miles per hour, — what next may we
not expect to see, among the merely ^^ incidental benefits,''
as they were termed by Robert Hall, — " which Christian-
ity scatters along her way in her sublime march to
immortality ? " What a spectacle are we now as a
nation ? And what is yet to be ?

When Calvin was dying, he reached his emaciated
hand towards an open Bible ; — " there is the safety of the
Church and the State ! " So felt the " fathers " of New
England, to their inmost soul. In the Bible — Old Testa-
ment and New — one and inseparable, — they found the
Rock or Ages. They lived and they died, triumphantly
" looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing
of the GREAT God and our Saviour Jesus Christ ; who
gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all
iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zeal-
ous of good works."

Let us, therefore, as their children's children, cherish
like precious faith ; and with them give God the glory of
all that we have, and all that we hope. Let us send the
gospel to the farthest bounds of the globe. It is the
greatest gift, which man can impart to his brother man.


It is God's appointed method for the intellectual, moral,
civil, and political regeneration of all the various nations
and tribes of the earth ; as well as for the personal salva-
tion of each individual, whatever his honor or dishonor,
his wealth or poverty, his virtue or his corruption, his
enjoyment or his wretchedness.

In fulfilling the grand commission of our ascending
Saviour and Lord, we would begin at our own Jerusalem.
We would remember those who are like sheep in the wil-
derness, without a shepherd ; and as we the more remem-
ber them^ would still the less forget the famishing and the
perishing upon the dark mountains of far-distant idolatries
and cruel sorrows. We would publish the adorable name
of Jesus to every creature. And that the children who
will take our places may have our exalted and priceless
privileges unimpaired ; that those thousands, those mil-
lions who are following " the star of empire " westward
to the Pacific shores, may never lose sight of the " Bright
and Morning Star"; that the mighty people that now
are, and all that may arise from them, or be added to
them, may be mightier far in the eyes of all the world,
and in the sight of the Supreme Lawgiver and the Judge
of all, be " a wise and understanding people " ; — may
we all most gratefully honor the memory of our fathers,
and with the same love of Christ and of souls, the same
faith and hope, may we enter into their labors. And the
greater the number, the unanimity, the energy, and the
unfaltering resolution and perseverance of those who thus
enter into their labors, — the greater is the moral certainty,
that, for all ages to come, the Scripture will here have a
most magnificent and sublime witness, — that " chil-


" I


It has been designed in the foregoing pages, to exhibit " The Pilgrims "
and " The Fathers," in their true evangelical spu-it ; and to present a rapidp
yet distinct outline of the ecclesiastical history of New England, in some-
what more of a missionary point of view, than has been common. Some
passages of the Discourse were omitted, at the time it was delivered.

The day was verj - unfavorable for a large gathering, and but a small
number assembled in the house of God. There were just about as many
present, as the whole number of the emigrants, who came in the May-
flower ; which, some may forget, was one hundred and one. But there
was a grandeur in the scene, as the storm sounded from the ocean and
above the summits of the hills, which few would venture to describe. All
nature around seemed to unite in the celebration of the " Landing of the
Pilgrims." No one who joined in the religious exercises, could have
needed much aid to his imagination and sensibilities, as he silently remem-
bered those, whom he had come to honor, — when.

Amidst the storm they sang,

And the stars heard and the sea !
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang

To the anthem of the free '.

[p. 9.]

The Pilgrims, before they landed, made a civil compact, as follows :

" In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are vnder- written, the
loyall Subiects of our dread soveraigne Lord King Iames, by the grace
of God of Great Britaine, France, and Irelaiid King, Defender of the
Faith, &c.

" Having vnder-taken for the glory of God, and advancement of the
Christian Faith, and honour of our King and Countrey, a Voyage to plant
the fii-st Colony in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these jDresents
solemnly & mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant,
and combine our selues together into a civill body politike, for our better
ordering and preservation, and fui-therance of the ends aforesaid ; and by
vertue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such iust and equall Lawes,
Ordinances, acts, constitutions, offices from time to time, as shall be
thought most meet and convenient for the generall good of the Colony ;
vnto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnesse
whereof we haue here-vnder subscribed our names. Cape Cod, 11th of
November, in the yeare of the raigne of our sovraigne Lord King Iames, of
England, France, and Ireland, i 8. and of Scotland 54. Aii-tio Domino 1620."

" The elder President Adams," says Dr. Pierce in his recent Election
Sermon, " was in the habit of referring to this compact, as the germ of our
republican institutions."

It does not appear, that the Pilgrims had any very definite idea of the
manner in which they should attempt to manage civil affairs, until they
were on the very point of disembarking.

" This day before we came to harbour, obseruing some not well affected
to vnitie and concord, but gaue some appearance of faction, it was thought
good there should be an association and agreement, that we should combine
together in one body, and to submit to such government and governours,
as we should by common consent agree to make and choose, and set our
hands to this that followes word for word."

But in their ecclesiastical action, as church-members upon the basis of
equality and fraternity, and in their " Town-Meetings," we cannot fail to


I'ccognize wliat Mr. Bancroft lias called "the seminal principles of republi-
can freedom and national independence." If, however, they had found
the river Hudson, for which they had searched, they would have been so
near the limits of the Virginia Company, that they might not have formed
the Compact, " which," as Dr. Cheever justly remarks in his recent
work, — " whatever may have been their original intention or foresight,
constituted them a self-governing republic, although named 'loyal subjects
of our dread sovereign lord, King James.' "

Yet it is to be remembered, that the real purpose of the founders of our
civil and political institutions was religious, in the strictest sense of the

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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) WorcesterNew England's glory and crown : a discourse delivered at Plymouth, Mass., December 22, 1848 → online text (page 4 of 5)