Samuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) Worcester.

The life and Labors of Rev. Samuel Worcester, D.D.; former pastor of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass online

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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) WorcesterThe life and Labors of Rev. Samuel Worcester, D.D.; former pastor of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass → online text (page 3 of 42)
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a friend in need, whose fidelity was unchangeable.

* In the Salem Association, a candidate for membership was propostJcJ,
whose qualifications for the ministry were not very prominent. The indi-
vidual in question had then no pastoral charge, but taught school and
preached occasionally. His claims were warmly urged by one or two of
the members, and as warmly resisted by others. It was noticed, that Dr.
Worcester had said nothing ; but seemed to be rather absent in mind, or
absorbed in turning over the pages of a book. He was appealed to very
emphatically for his judgment, and by the member most interested for the
candidate. He gravely answered, — " I have been thinking, if I could find
that Mr. P. has the qualifications, which the New Testament prescribes for
a bishop. I can think of one : he is " the husband of one wife .'"


If particularly attentive to any, it was to those who
were ineligibly located, and whose salaries were inad-
equate to a comfortable support. From his own mod-
erate income, which was never so ample as not to de-
mand a rigid economy, and generally fell short of his
expenses, he used to draw freely, that his indigent
ministerial brethren might receive out of his comforts
for their necessities, and out of his necessities for their

He left nothing unattempted within his means, to
elevate the evangelical ministry in public estimation ;
and thus enlarge the sphere of its efficiency and use-
fulness. Never rude to any man, never uncourteous
under any provocation, he was most marked in his
kind and respectful treatment of those in his own call-
ing. Officially and in private, he showed himself so
truly a brother of every good minister of Jesus Christ,
that, in the wide circle of his ministerial fellowship,
there could not have been one, more sincerely respect-
ed, or more cordially loved. It was his felicity, as an
eminent clergyman, to be spared, in a very great de-
gree, those various annoyances and discomforts in min-
isterial intercourse, which have too often been expe-
rienced, from the visitations of envy and jealousy.
Some of these, however, he did not escape.

For mutual edification and for the furtherance of
the Gospel, he united with a few of his Calvinistic
or Hopkinsian brethren, who lived in Salem and vicin-
ity, in sustaining a " Ministerial Conference." In the
meetings of brethren, thus symbolizing and thus asso-
ciated, he could unbend without fear, revealing the
secrets of his inmost soul. It was there, that he could
unreservedly suggest and discuss any question of per-
sonal, local, or genera] interest. And while profiting


himself by the views of others, there were some sea-
sons when he made them realize, that indeed he had
" a grasp of mind," which needed more than a com-
mon impulse for its full manifestation ; and which, the
more they saw, impressed them with greater admira-
tion of his meekness and gentleness.

As a theologian and biblical expositor, he was an
oracle among them. Stimulated by his attainments,
they studied more earnestly to excel. Some of them,
who had enjoyed but limited means of education,
were indebted to him for their first ideas of the method
of planning and composing a sermon, with the unity
of a beginning, middle, and end. By his criticisms
and example, their style of preaching became more
elevated and yet more direct, more finished and yet
more impressive.

With himself and the others of the " Salem Minis-
terial Conference," it was a difficult question, how far
they could consistently extend their circle of exchanges.
Although he had suffered so much, in his former field
of labor, from the " Ario-Arminian " class of Congre-
gationalists, and had no question, that, among those
fraternizing with them in every part of Massachusetts,
there was a concealed Socinianism and Deism, he was
willing and glad to think favorably of all, who had not
given him unequivocal proofs of their departure from
" the foundation of the apostles and prophets." He
may have been influenced, unconsciously, by the
courtesies and respectful attentions of those clergy-
men of the reputedly Arminiaii school, whom he now
had occasion to meet, in the different modes of inter-
course. And hence for a few years, he admitted to
his pulpit one or two preachers, concerning whom he
hoped almost " against hope," and others in whom he



"rejoiced," but with great " trembling." — Of these, a
part went over to the Unitarian side, after his contro-
versy with Dr. Channing. There were others, whom
he never would acknowledge, as having any claim to
be recognized, as christian ministers. And in all
cases, he contended for the right of every pastor to
regulate his own exchanges, according to his pleasure,
and sense of propriety.

It was a cherished desire of his heart, that the or-
thodoxy of New England should lose no more, than
it was impossible to retain, of the old and venerable
churches of the " fathers." While not a few of these
in Massachusetts had pastors, who differed much from
many that had fallen asleep in Jesus ; yet these very
churches, or at least a part of them, might, as he
thought, be led to choose spiritual guides, "full of the
Holy Ghost and of faith," whenever a good oppor-
tunity should be offered. And if a formal separation,
or a rupture of the bonds of fellowship must come, it
was his desire, that the withdrawing or the seceding
members should be those, who could not justly claim
to be the churches^ while renouncing or denying the
faith of the " fathers." He wished, therefore, as far as
he could, to gain an influence with the members of
doubtful, yet hopeful churches ; to disabuse their minds
of opposing prejudices which might exist ; and con-
ciliate a candid consideration of acknowledged differ-
ences of sentiment and practice.*

With such desires and hopes, he joined the " Salem
Association," when a majority of the members were
not professedly Calvinistic ; and just at the time, also,
when his friend Dr. Morse, he himself, and others,

* Tn almost every case, the defection of the churches of the forefathers
began, apparently, in the pastors.


were so much disturbed, and so reasonably disaffected
by the appointment* of Dr. Ware to the Hollis Pro-
fessorship of Divinity in Harvard College. But as
was perfectly in character, when preaching before
them, at the first meeting which he attended as a
member. May 14, 1805, he delivered a discourse from
the words : For God hath chosen the foolish things
of the world to confouad the wise ; and God hath
chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
things which are mighty, &c.f

It was well understood, that he made no compro-
mise of his standing or his principles. The act of
joining the Association was a subject of various com-
ment ; some in his own church more than doubting
its propriety. But it was no less truthfully than face-
tiously remarked, " He does not say, ' I am as thou
art,' although he has come in to be one among us I"

He never regretted the movement. With similar
feelings and hopes, one of his brethren of the " Minis-
terial Conference " had preceded him, in joining the
" Association." Others followed. In a few years, the
majority had changed; and the small minority with-
drawing, the Association, with its original name, con-
sisted wholly of pastors, who, it is believed, could cor-
dially subscribe " the doctrine of faith " of the Higgin-
sons, father and son, Hugh Peters, and those " other
good men " of the same mind and heart, who were

* 14th of Feb. 1805. One of the writers in favor of Dr. Ware's election
ridiculed the charges against him, as not being "orthodox." " It is well
known," he said, " that an alarm has been raised. Beware ; he is an Ar-
minian ! he is an Arian I

' Foenum habet in cornu ; longe fuge.' "
Who now denies that he was an " Arminian " and an " Arian''''? Was he
not thenl Did not the writer of the above believe that he was ?

t Mem. " Oct. 21, 1804. Preached forenoon, at Dr. Barnard's, from
Rom. V. 20."


once pastors of the First Church, or of the neighboring

Meanwhile, the Salem and Vicinity Bible Society-
had been formed, of which Dr. Worcester was the Cor-
responding Secretary ; and, enlisting in its support,
both clergymen and laymen of different theological
affinities, was made instrumental of much good. It
still remains upon the same basis.

The Association of Salem and Vicinity became con-
nected with the "General Association of Massachu-
setts Proper," * and was first represented in this body,
by Dr. Cutler and Dr. Worcester, at the meeting in
Bradford, June 27, 1810 ; — a meeting of great historic
interest, in the progress of the foreign missionary en-

At this meeting, also, the Constitution was altered,
after much debate, in which Dr. Worcester had no
small share. It formerly read, " that the above doctrines"
viz., those of the Assembly's Catechism,-" &e considered
as the basis of the union of our churches." It was so
altered as to read, — " that the above doctrines, under-
stood by us to be distinctly those, ivhich from the begin-
ning- have been generally embraced by the churches of
New England as the doctrines of the Gospel, be consid-
ered as the basis of our union." f

It has been said of the celebrated William Tennent,
of Freehold, N. J., that " his greatest talent was that
of a peace-maker, which he possessed in so eminent a
degree, that probably none have exceeded, and very
few have equalled him in it. He was sent for, far and
near, to settle disputes, and heal difficulties, which

* Maine was then a " District " of Massachusetts.

t See Dr. Sriell's " History of the General Association of Massachusetts."'
— Quar.Jozir. Am. Ed. Soc. Vol. XI, pp. iCO. &c.


arose in congregations; and happily for those con-
cerned, he was generally successful. Indeed, he sel^
dom would relinquish his object till he accomplished

This memorial has had an exact parallel in Dr.
Worcester. Such was his reputation for practical
wisdom, and all the qualities of a successful counsel-
lor and peace-maker, that his services were more fre-
quently solicited, than he was able to give them.

But all that he could do, in suppressing divisions,
strengthening the bonds of union, and increasing the
efficiency of evangelical churches, whether near him or
remote, he was prompt to undertake. In the course
of seventeen years, beside declining many invitations,
he attended about eighty Ecclesiastical Councils ; in
many of which there were questions to be considered,
that required the utmost wisdom for a just and satis-
factory settlement.

In a Council at Dunstable, in 1806, one in Hollis in
1808, and another afterwards, and more than all, per-
haps, in that of Dorchester, in 1811, his powers as a
forensic debater attracted much attention. In some
cases, where the pacification of the existing strife ap-
peared to be wholly impossible, he was grateful to
know, that, with entire success he had applied his pow-
ers, to ascertain and exhibit the truth and the right.
And in general, his examination of a matter in dispute,
and his advice, were followed by results, in the re-
membrance of which he had great satisfaction. In
some parishes or towns, after the adjustment of diffi-
culties, as at Manchester, his name could hardly be
mentioned by brethren and sisters of the church, with-
out flowing tears of reverence and gratitude.

* Memoir ia Evangelical Magazine.
VOL. IL 3*


For all questions of an ecclesiastical nature, he was
as fully prepared, if not better than any pastor in New
England. He not only had his Fitchburg " Facts
and Documents," but by subsequent studies, he made
himself yet more familiar with authorities and prece-
dents, which he marked to be used as occasion might
demand. Before leaving home for a Council, like that,
for instance, at Sandwich, in 1817, he carefully inves-
tigated the question at issue, in all its relations ; and
carried with him the most ample means of reference to
*' the law,^' which he insisted should be administered
according to " the testimony."

No better view, in general, of his ability in " Public
Counsels " of various kinds, could now be presented
by any one, than was given by Mr. Evarts, in his
" Brief Memoir." (Miss. Her., Aug. 1821.)

" In a community where occasions of consultation
on great public objects are frequent, the man, who
unites practical wisdom with energy and benevolence,
will not long remain undiscovered ; and the hom-
age, which is paid to upright intentions under the
direction of a superior understanding, will not long
be withheld from him. Such a man will never lack
employment. Though the labors to which he will be
most invited, will offer no emolument, and will be at-
tended and followed by many cares and sacrifices ; yet
there are powerful reasons, why he should do what he
can for the peace and edification of the church, the ex-
tension of divine knowledge, and, in general, for the
removal of ignorance and sin, and the full establish-
ment of the Redeemer's kingdom.

To the numerous calls for advice and service, our
departed friend was never inattentive. It was very
painful for him to deny an application for his presence
and aid, where good was to be done, or labor to be
performed ; and he never did so, unless the perform-


ance of a paramount duty required him to spare his
health, or discharge a previous obligation.

For a number of years he was invited to ecclesiasti-
cal councils very extensively, and in cases of peculiar
difficulty. On such occasions the distinguishing traits
of his character appeared to great advantage. His
extraordinary judgment, moderation, and forecast, uni-
ted with a firm attachment to what he deemed right,
did not fail of securing to his advice the most entire
respect and confidence of those with whom he acted,
and of the churches generally. Early in his ministry,
he became thoroughly acquainted with the ecclesiasti-
cal usages of our country ; a species of knowledge,
which was exceedingly useful to him and to others,
throughout the subsequent course of his life. In all
deliberative bodies, of which he was a member, his ex-
perience and wisdom were called into action. For
several years past, it is believed he was appointed on
more committees in the General Convention of the
Congregational Clergy of Massachusetts than any
other member. Whenever he attended the General
Association a similar demand was made upon him.
In these cases, and in the deliberations of councils,
it will not be thought a rash conjecture to say,
that, after taking a large part in discussing, concerting,
and weighing the measures to be adopted, it devolved
upon him, in nine instances out of ten, to reduce these
measures to form, and to embody the reasons on which
they were founded. From this servive he was not ac-
customed to shrink ; and he always performed it with
a laborious diligence, which ensured the approbation
and thanks of his brethren.

From this representation it will be seen, that a very
large portion of his time and strength was expended
in consultations of a public nature; — in labors for the
benefit of particular churches, or of the Christian com-
munity extensively. The sacrifices which he made, in
these frequently repeated efforts, are not unknown.
Many times, when suffering from pain and debility, he
spent those hours, which should have been devoted to
relaxation or sleep, in serious deliberation, or an elabo-


rate arrangement of facts and arguments, or in com-
posing a summary of kind and brotherly exhortations
and admonitions. The churches, for whose peace and
edification these labors were patiently undertaken and
accomplished, will not forget, that they tended very
materially to weaken a constitution originally firm and
vigorous, and to shorten a life which all esteemed so
valuable. It is obvious, that when a person is selected
for the performance of difficult services, through a long
course of years, and by the more intelligent portion of
a well-informed community ; and when the heaviest
part of these services falls upon him, not only by com-
mon consent, but by the earnest desire of those, who
are most interested, and as if by a sort of moral gravi-
tation ; — such an exhibition of confidence is most
decisive proof of superior talents and extraordinary

So anxious was he to make the worship of the house
of God attractive and impressive, by the " psalms,
and hymns, and songs of praise," that, as before in
Fitchburg, he again volunteered his aid as a teacher of
sacred music. Members of the church, and society,
were thus instructed by him, for several years ; and a
great advance was made in the style of singing.* At
the same time, he stimulated attention to the subject
of psalmody, in the neighboring towns ; and made his
zeal for the improvement of the music of the songs of
the temple, to be sensibly felt at greater distances.

He delivered numerous addresses to his own people,
and to others, to enlist their exertions, and increase
their interest in measures, which were indispensable
to the advancement of sacred music. One of the best
of these, probably, was that before the Middlesex Mu-

* Mem. " Feb. 26, 1S05. Began sing-ing-shcool " Besides a school for
young- persons and others, held one evening in the week, during the fall and
winter, he sometimes met members of the choir, on Saturday evening, to as-
sist them in preparing for the Lord's day.


sical Society, and the Handel Society of Dartmouth
College, at a joint meeting, held at Concord, N. H.,
Sept. 19, 1810. It was evidently the work of much
labor and research, while embodying his own senti-
ments and the reflections of his personal experience.

" Brethren, —

The object of your present meeting is the advance-
ment of good psalmody ; an object highly worthy of
your zeal, and deeply interesting both to the lovers of
sacred song, and to the admirers of ' the beauties of
holiness.' The generous ardor, which, from distant
parts, has brought you together at this place, to ani-
mate each other's hearts, to strengthen each other's
hands, and to promote, by your joint influence, the
common cause for which your society was instituted,
is entitled to the most grateful respect, and should in-
spire the most noble emulation. By me, at least, a
profound impression is felt. Imperfectly versed as I
am in the theory, and in the practice of music, it is
with undissembled diflidence, that I here stand forth
to address you. Relying, however, on your indulgent
candor, I will respectfully submit a few hints on the
appropriate subject of the occasion.

Music is both a science and an art; the science
and the art of agreeable sounds. As a science^ com-
prising a knowledge both of the harmonical and
rhythmical proportions of sounds, or of musical in-
tervals, and musical measures, it is at once a pleas-
ing and arduous branch of philosophy, and fur-
nishes an excellent employment for the intellectual
faculties. As an art^ consisting in the actual dis-
play of the beauties of musical sounds, in the endless
combinations and varieties of melody and harmony,
it is an elegant and noble exercise, affording ample
scope for judgment and taste, and contributing to
the purest and highest pleasures of which the imagina-
tion and the heart are susceptible. Although, therefore,
music is well entitled to be ranked among the liberal


sciences and arts, and classed with the most laudable
studies and exercises of man ; and as such, it has been
deservedly encouraged and extolled, by the first philo-
sophers and moralists, as well as poets and orators, of
different ages and nations.

Music is coeval with the creation. When the foun-
dations of the earth were laid, ' the morning stars sang
together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.'
* The theory, indeed, of musical sounds, though ad-
justed and diversified by the artifice of man, is to be
numbered amongst the works of God; whose wisdom
originally established the natural measures of harmo-
ny, as it appointed the course of the winds and the
weight of the atmosphere.' Who that surveys the
wonderful symetry displayed throughout the system
of material and intelligent nature, can regard as abso-
lutely chimerical the doctrine of the ancient philoso-
phers, Pythagorean and Platonic, that the universe
itself was formed on the principles of harmony ? Who
that contemplates the admirable order, with which the
heavenly bodies wheel in their courses, through the
trackless regions of space, and sublimely proclaim the
grandeur and goodness of the universal Creator, can
be at a loss for what is meant by ' the music of the
spheres ? ' But if nature is constituted with harmoni-
cal proportions, is she not gifted also with melodious
sounds ? What are the untaught airs of the song-
sters of the grove ? Airs as sweet and enchanting as the
lyre of Orpheus, or the harp of David ; what are they
but the melodies of nature ? And what parent has
not felt the thrill of rapture from the melodious accents
of children ? — accents, expressing in the simplicity of
nature their delightful sensations, before they could
utter their little conceptions with articulate voice.

As the principles of music exist in nature, so never,
perhaps, on the globe, has there been a people, or a
family, without some kind of music. When the heart
is moved, untutored nature waits not for words to ut-
ter what is felt ; and mankind have always spontane-
ously expressed their various emotions both of joy and
sorrow, ' in lengthened tones and modulated sounds,'


partaking more or less of the properties of melody.
Beyond all doubt, vocal music preceded instrumental ;
yet of the very early use of musical instruments, we
have memorable evidence. ' The father of all such as
handle the harp and organ,' was Jubal, of the antedi-
luvian world. It was a complaint of Laban the Sy-
rian, that he had not an opportunity to send away
Jacob and his wives, ' with mirth and with songs, with
tabret and with pipe.' On the banks of the Red Sea,
Moses and the men of Israel, joined by Miriam and
her female chorus with timbrels, chanted the high
praises of Jehovah their Deliverer. In the earliest re-
cords of Egypt, we have distinct notices of their music,
both vocal and instrumental. It was in the first ages
of their history, that the clans.of Greece were charmed
into order and civilization, by the lyres of Orpheus,
Musaeus, and Amphion. Rome, either in her rudest
or her most splendid times, was never without music.

The bards of antiquity, lyric, elegiac, and even epic,
were all musicians, and chanted their poetical produc-
tions in their own melodies. The founders of states,
the legislators and sages, also, availed themselves of
the powers of music ; and the laws, both sacred and
civil, the instructions in religion and philosophy, and
the histories of gods, of heroes, and of nations, were
publicly sung to the lyre. Music, indeed, was held an
essential part of general education ; and even Plato,
strict as he was with youth in regard to the improve-
ment of their time, yet allowed them no less than three
years for learning the rudiments of this admired art.

How then has it been in modern times? Has not
the love of musical sounds been universally evinced?
Survey the world in its whole extent : where will you
find the people, civilized or savage, Christian or pagan,
among whom there is no kind of music ?

Universally known and admired, however, as music
has been, yet the kinds of it, which 'have obtained in
difierent ages and nations, have been different; vary-
ing from the rudest melodies with the oaten pipe, to
the most refined compositions with the majestic
organ. Various, also, have been the occasions, on which


music has been used, and the purposes to which it has
been applied. It has relieved the depressions of fune-
real grief, and heightened the transports of festival joy ;
it has cheered the retreat of peace, and roused the field
of war; it has animated the scenes of the theatre, and
aided the solemnities of the temple.

In all ages, however, and among all nations, a prin-
cipal use of music has been in religious worship ; nor
would it, perhaps, be hazardous to affirm that this was
its original use. The first poetical effusions of men,

Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) WorcesterThe life and Labors of Rev. Samuel Worcester, D.D.; former pastor of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass → online text (page 3 of 42)