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 4 of 42)
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it can hardly be doubted, were hymns or sacred songs,
in honor of the Supreme Being; and the first musical
essays were the simple melodies in which those divine
effusions were chanted or sung. When the tribes of
men renounced the worship of Jehovah, and made to
themselves 'lords many and gods many,' their first
songs, and their first melodies were in honor of their
respective divinities. It was thus in Egypt, in Phe-
necia, in Greece, in every nation of the pagan world.
Certainly, also, among the worshippers of the true
God, a very principal use of music has always been in
honor of his name."

The " decided pre-eminence of religious music," is
intelligently and beautifully illustrated ; and in oppo-
sition to the views of some, he vindicated the exalted
nature of sacred song.

" No less a man, indeed, than the celebrated Johnson,*
has said, that 'poetical devotion can not often please.'
But if Johnson was not often pleased with poetical
devotion, he was not often pleased with the devotion
of the ancient and inspired saints. He was not pleased
with the devotion of Moses, and the children of Israel,
on the banks of the Red Sea ; nor with the devotions
of David and those who united with him, on the hill
of Zion : for those devotions were ' poetical.' Nor
would he have been pleased with the devotions recom-
mended by the Apostle of the Gentiles : for those were

* Lives of the Poels — Waller and Watts.


to be ' in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.' ' But,'
replies Johnson, 'man admitted to implore the mercy
of his Creator, and plead the merits of the Redeemer, is
already in a higher state, than poetry can confer.' Was
Johnson then, himself, often ' in a higher state,' than
were Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Habakkuk,
when they poured forth the devotions of their souls in
the sweetest, the most pathetic, and the sublimest
strains, to which poetry has ever attained ? If, indeed,
Johnson's ' contemplative piety ' could not be poetical,
must it not have been a contemplative piety, resembling
more that of the Stoic, than that of the prophets, and
kings, and righteous men, whose devotions glow on
the pages of holy writ, and have kindled the hearts of
the pious in every succeeding age?

Are not the subjects of devotion the noblest and
most inspiring in the universe ; and the sentiments of
devotion, the most delightful, the most tender, and the
most elevated, which the mind of man ever feels ? Do
not these subjects, and these sentiments then admit,
nay, do they not demand all the beauty, pathos, and
sublimity of expression, of which poetry is capable ?
And is it not for this reason that poetry, as well as
music, has attained its highest excellence, when it has
been employed on sacred objects ?

If the emotions of piety are sometimes unutterable,
there surely can be no occasion to prove, that devo-
tional compositions must always be impassioned ; nor
is it less clear, that compositions, when highly impas-
sioned, naturally become poetical. If they have not
the numbers, they will at least have the spirit and the
imagery of poetry. Such, in all ages and among all
nations, has been the character of devotional composi-

The various sentiments of the pious heart, then, may
be expressed, though not always to the extent to which
they are felt, in appropriate words; and compositions,
whether in prose or verse, in which they are properly
expressed, either spoken or read, are naturally condu-
cive to the purposes of devotion. They tend to excite,

VOL. II. 4


and to prolong devotional emotions in the speaker or
reader, and to enkindle and heighten the holy flame
in those who hear. But if such is their effect, when
only spoken or read, how much more when sung ?
When good devotional compositions are suitably sung,
appropriate words and appropriate musical sounds
unite their powers ; and if both the one and the other
of them, separately, assist devotion, how great and ex-
cellent must be their united effect ? this effect was felt
by Augustine, when, on entering the church of Milan,
he heard the ' Ambrosian chant/ ' The sounds,' says
he, ' flowed in at my ears ; truth was distilled into my
heart ; the flame of piety was kindled, and my tears
flowed for joy/*

The natural tendency, indeed, of good music, in
general, is to assuage and allay every disagreeable
sensation and passion ; and to put the mind into a
frame, the most favorable to its best affections, and to
the best impressions. By the harp of David even the
soul of Saul was soothed and softened ; and Elisha,
that he might be susceptible of divine inspiration,
' called for a minstrel.' And who that has felt good
psalmody in the house of God, can doubt whether its
influence is conducive to devotion, and to divine im-
pressions of the gospel.

No wonder then, that sacred music has always been
in use. No wonder it was instituted by God ; no
wonder it has always been the delight of his people.
God is pleased with the pious emotions of the soul ;
he is pleased with the proper expression of those
emotions ; and he is pleased with that which excites
and assists them, and causes them to catch from breast
to breast. He who made the ear and the soul, and
ordained the charms of musical proportions, perfectly
well knew the natural effect of music. And was it not
for the purposes of devotion, especially, that he gave
the principles of harmony and melody a place in his
creation ? — How ungrateful then, that music, like other
gifts of his infinite beneficence, should be prostituted

* Confess. Lib. ix. Cap. 6.


to purposes, equally debasing to his creatures, and dis-
honorable to his own most holy Name !

For reasons similar to those, why he who inhabits
the praises of Israel has been pleased to institute sa-
cred music, this divine art has always been the delight
of his people. They love to feel the emotions of piety ;
they love to express these emotions ; and they love
that which tends to awaken, to prolong, and to impart
them. The language of the royal psalmist, therefore,
is but the natural language of the pious heart : ' Sing
praises unto God, sing praises ; sing praises unto our
King, sing praises. I will sing unto the Lord as long
as I live ; I will sing praise unto my God, while I have
my being.'

J 5)

After some critical remarks upon the tunes, then
most common, and suggestions in regard to the modes
of reform or improvement, which the lovers of sacred
music, and all friends of pure religion should encour-
age and promote ; the Address closes with a most sin-
cere and touching tribute to the memory of his former
instructor, in the Academy at New Ipswich.

" K from these principles and facts it results, that
the tunes to be used in our churches should not be the
most complicated and difficult, but such, of a good
style, as are simple and easy; it also results that, in
order to bring good music into use, pains must be taken
to engage attention to it, and to promote improvement
in musical taste and skill. Hence the obvious utility
and importance of Musical Societies ; especially since
so little encouragement is given in our country to good
musical instructors. By associating together, the
friends of good psalmody not only improve themselves,
but also, at the same time, quicken each other's zeal,
and aid each other's exertions for promoting improve-
ment around them. And by their musical exhibitions
attention is awakened to their laudable design, and
opportunity is given for the public to know some-


thing of the superior excellencies of genuine sacred

Such, Brethren, is the object, and such, we trust,
will be the effect of the present meeting. — But ah! how
uncertain are all human things !— How precarious are
all human prospects ! — Where this day is he, whose
benevolent and ardent mind first projected this meet-
ing, and anticipated the purest and most exalted plea-
sure on this occasion ? — Hubbard, the amiable, the ex-
cellent Hubbard, the lover of sacred song, the friend of
man, the friend of God, is not in his expected place.
That countenance, which was life and joy, and would
have imparted animation and delight to all our hearts,
we do not see ; that voice which was music itself, and
would have led our united voices to emulate the sym-
phonies of angels, we do not hear ! — Come, brothers,
let us join in the funereal dirge — ^let us consecrate the
urn with our tears ; for he, whom we all loved — our
friend, our musical chief — is dead ! — Dead, did I say ?
— Yes : — but he lives — he lives and he sings : — lives,
we believe, in a more congenial world, and sings with
a nobler choir. — Transporting thought! — With what
raptures, above all which can be felt, or known here
below, does he join the seraphic songs of heaven ! —
And does it not heighten his sainted ecstasy, that
while here with us, he exerted his influence for the im-
provement of the sacred songs of earth ; and that in
pursuance of his proposal, vje are this day met for this
divine purpose ? Nay, does he not, from amidst the
united choirs, the myriads of angels and saints, before
the throne of God and of the Lamb, bend down upon
us a look of ineffable complacency, to inspire us with
ardor in the great design in which he was so generously
engaged ? — We loved him while he was here ; — and
who that knew him did not? — Let us sacredly em-
balm his memory in our breasts, and love him still.
And, oh! may the adorable Spirit, who inspired his
heart, and who has inspired the hearts of all the saints
with divine love, richly impart to us the same holy
flame ; that we too may severally be admitted, ere long,
to bear a part with unnumbered millions in the sub-


lime and immortal praises of the celestial temple of
our God."*

Two or three " Circles/' as they were called, with
some more definite or descriptive appellation, as " So-
cial " or *' Berean," the first consisting of females, and
the second of males, received his attention. In the
" Social Circle," which met once a fortnight, for several
yearsj divers questions were submitted to him. These
were sometimes dropped into a basket in the entry, sO
that he might not know with whom they originated.
The very instructive work of Pike and Hayward, en-
titled " Cases of Conscience," will give a good idea of
the questions and his answers at such meetings.

Meetings of " inquiry " were at times held at his
house. He was airways devoutly animated, when he
found persons newly awakened. Beside the repeated
seasons of general revival, there was no year, it is be-
lieved, in which he was not gladdened by the tokens,
that " the Lord opened the hearts " of some, " that
they attended unto the things spoken."

It will be obvious from such statements, that he
could have had but little time, for that

*' indolent vacuity of thought,"

by which, it has been said,

" the understanding is refreshed."

He found new labors and avocations, every week. He
could not often have known a single hour, when he

* In a note to this Address, as published, it is said : " The Hon. John
Hubbard, A. M., the late worthy and beloved Professor of Mathematics and
Natural Philosophy in Dartmouth University, and President of the Handel
Society, died Aug. 14, ISIO. In a letter to the Author, about a month be-
fore, referring to the appointed meeting at Concord, he said, ' I trust nothing
will prevent your being present. — The meeting I have long desired ; the ob-
ject of it is most dear to my heart, as it must be to yours ; and I anticipate
the day as one of the happiest of my life.' "
VOL. II. 4*


had not the consciousness of a month's hard work
upon his hands, no part of which he could quietly de-
fer to a " convenient season." No person, who is at
all conversant with the nature of professional toils,
could read his daily memoranda, from the beginning
to the end of his ministry in Salem, without frequent
exclamations of surprise and wonder. He never had
any thought of the ministry as merely a pleasant or
useful occupation.

It is truly amazing, that he could have redeemed so
much time, for parochial calls and visits, as by some
means he did, for ten or twelve years. In one year,
these exceeded a thousand ; but still he had the com-
mon experience of pastors, and failed of satisfying the
demand. Some of those who saw him the least,
complained of him for seeing others more ; not that
thev themselves so much desired to see him, for their
" furtherance and joy of faith." Some of those, who,
from any cause or circumstance, had most of his at-
tentions, were no less urgent in their demands for
more ; and were even, perhaps, more given to com-
plaining, than the majority of such, as but seldom en-
joyed his conversation, counsels, and prayers, in his
niinistrations from house to house.

On Mondays, for a long period, he almost always
had a most exhausting labor, in " visiting notes." The
practice was common of asking prayers for the sick
and for persons going to sea, as well as for the bereav-
ed; and thanks were returned, for divers mercies, of
which no such personal publication is now deemed
(expedient. From " five " to " fifteen " visits would
thus be required of him, as absolutely indispensable, in
completing the unfinished work of the Sabbath. And
in these, he would generally be expected to offer prayer.


It was not his custom always to preachy or to make
his visits strictly pastoral^ when he entered the dwel-
lings of his parishioners. He endeavored to make
himseJf useful, at all times ; and when most free and
unrestrained in the indulgence of his friendly or social
sympathies, was careful, as has already been intimat-
ed, that his familiar intercourse with his people,
should not diminish, but, on the contrary, should aug-
ment his influence over them, as a " preacher of right-

Many of his visits were but short calls, which, in
most cases, answered as good a purpose, as if he had
tarried much longer. But one of his characteristics
in visiting was peculiar. If he was in ever so great a
hurry, he took care not to let it be known, until the
instant he rose to leave. Although he had but five
minutes or less, which he could possibly afford in a
given place, he would sit down and converse as quiet-
ly, as if an hour were at his disposal. Thus his peo-
ple enjoyed the whole of the time, and found three
minutes as good as thirty would have been, if all the
while he had seemed, as in the haste of going imme-

A portion of his own people considered him rather re-
served and distant, as others had regarded him at an
earlier period ; but it was from their own feelings and
manner, more than from any thing in himself. Those
who were disposed, in a suitable way, to make his
acquaintance very intimately, never met with the
least repulse, but with prompt and most congenial en-
couragement. Intimate friends there were, who knew
of the warmth of his heart, and could not imagine how
any one could think of him, as otherwise than com-
municative, affable, and unreserved. None could treat


him as an equal, while yet they might be so much at
home in his presence, that they could freely tell him
their whole hearts.

Fitted as he was to dignify the chair of a theologi-
cal Lecture-room, or preside with honor in any assem-
bly of divines, few have exceeded him in successful
attention to the humblest details of pastoral duty. If
any class of his people were the objects of his peculiar
care, they were the poor, the aged, the widow, and the
fatherless. In visiting these, he remembered their
temporal privations ; and not seldom would they find,
after his departure, some substantial token of his visit,
which, unobserved, he had delicately left for their re*
lief and comfort.

He had no more confidence, than his brethren gen-
erally, in death-bed repentance. But he still felt, that
God had eminently favored him, in his labors among
the sick. He discriminated the confidence or the
hope of one professing conversion in sickness, accord-
ing to the nature of the disease, and other circum-
stances affecting the common operations of the mind.
If, for instance, the disease were a fever, he placed far
less dependence upon the profession of a recent chris-
tian experience, than he would feel warranted to do,
in the ordinary states of consumption.

By relationship, or other connections, some of his
parishioners were intermingled with those, who pre-
ferred a very different kind of preaching from that at
the Tabernacle. Afflictions would bring him nearer
to them, than he was allowed to come, in the days of
their health and prosperity. There were persons, who
would gladly have seen him, if they could have been
certain, .that the visit would be unknown to a particu-
lar class of relatives or acquaintances. Some who did



consent to see him, struggled hard to repress those
emotions, which revealed and proved to them their
wretchedness, without a " good hope through grace ;"
and they dreaded another interview, while holding
fast, and pressing deeper still " the arrows of the Al-
mighty." Some of these he could reach by such coun-
sels, as could be communicated by letter only, and of
which an example is subjoined. The circumstances
in this case were very peculiar, and the apparent ef-
fect afforded the greater joy to his own heart and the
hearts of many.

To Miss M**** i)f******.

" April 26, 1814.
My afflicted Friend, —

By your note of last week, I was deeply affected,
and not a little perplexed : affected with the unhappy
state of mind which it indicated, and perplexed to
know w^hat duty or propriety would require of me. I
must have been destitute of sensibility, not to have
been touched and gratefully impressed by your exqui-
site delicacy of feeling and expression. My time in-
deed is important, my calls of duty are many, and my
profession is sacred : but never is my time more pro-
perly occupied, never am I performing a more inter-
esting duty, never am I acting more agreeably to the
sacredness of my profession, than when affectionately
endeavoring to open the consolations of the Gospel to
one oppressed with the languors and pains of disease,
and the solicitudes and agonies of a wounded spirit.
Think not then, I entreat you, that I can feel, that the
time or attention which I have bestowed upon you,
has been misapplied ; or that I can ever regard it in
any other light, than as a duty, as pleasing as it is
sacred, to render you every kind office, which, as the
minister of Him who went about doing good, it is in
my power to render you.


When I saw you last, I observed the tears which
you endeavored to conceal, I perceived the anguish of
spirit which you labored to repress, and I left your
chamber with great heaviness of heart. When I called
afterwards, and in a very kind manner was informed,
that you could not then see me, though the reason as-
signed was quite sufficient, yet I had strong persua-
sion, that some other reason — some reason such as
your note to me disclosed, — existed in your mind;
and my tender concern for you was increased.

Yes, my dear afflicted friend, I have been distressed
for you, and am still distressed. God forbid that I
should ever 'forget, that I have seen you;' that I
should be unmindful of your unhappy situation, or
cease to pray for you. Permit me, then, to improve
this opportunity, the last perhaps I shall ever have, to
drop one word of aflectionate counsel and earnest en-
treaty. If I do not altogether mistake the state of
your mind, it is not a singular one ; it is such as I
have repeatedly witnessed in others. It is a state by
no means hopeless ; yet such as cannot fail to excite
in a discerning and benevolent mind very great solici-
tude. Be not offended or depressed, when I say, it is
undoubtedly attended with danger; and it requires
the very particular attention of some kind, judicious,
and faithful friend. You are reluctant to disclose
your feelings ; you wish to have them known only to
yourself; you might even think it intrusive, should
any friend appear solicitous to know them. This I
conclude, not so much from what I have observed in
your own case, as from what I have found in other
similar cases. It naturally indeed results from the
particular state of mind, into which you are brought ;
and in this very thing, as I anxiously apprehend, no
inconsiderable part of the danger lies. The heart, my
amiable friend, is deceitful ; the Adversary of your
soul is subtle and malignant ; and both the one and
the other would fain make you believe, that you
ought not to impart your feelings, — that you ought
not to give opportunity for any friendly attempt to
dissipate your gloom, to relieve your despondency, or


draw you from the horrible pit and the miry clay.
But believe me, all this is delusive and dangerous ;
and let me entreat you firmly to resist the temptation ;
to summon up your resolution ; and make an open
and free disclosure of your feelings to some christian
friend in whom you can confide, and from whom you
may receive such counsel and assistance as your case

I have said, that your case is by no means hopeless.
Of this I am fully persuaded, and that you should be
persuaded of it, I am earnestly desirous. I have
known persons, whose despondency had assumed a
much more alarming aspect, than I have ever discov-
ered in yours ; who were not only reluctant to disclose
their feelings or to have any thing said to them re-
specting their spiritual state, but who felt such enmity
of heart, as hardly to endure the sight or the thoughts
of a christian friend, who would converse with them,
or even of the Bible or any thing pertaining to the
Gospel or to God; but who afterwards have been
brought to a peace of mind which passeth under-
standing, and to rejoice in God, with a joy unspeak-
able and full of glory. But those persons have ex-
pressed to me, that the advice which I gave them, to
strive against their feelings and to open their minds
freely, though painful to them at the time, was of the
utmost importance to them, and appeared to have
been the means, by the blessing of God, of their de-
liverance from their distressful bondage into the glo-
rious liberty of the Gospel. With others, whom I
have known, who have refused this advice, the issue
has been very different.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and
forever. His love and grace are the same now, as
when he died for you and for me, and for the millions
of our sinful race. There is full redemption through
his blood ; he is full of grace ; he is mighty to save.
Read, I beseech you, the 55th chapter of Isaiah, and
the 61st chapter, particularly the first three verses.
Look tenderly to that glorious Savior — believe in him
— trust in him — and you shall find peace. To Him,


with prayers and tears, I commend you ; and sub-
scribe your ever affectionate friend,

Samuel Worcester."

His exquisite tenderness in sympathizing with the
afflicted, " in any trouble," was partly the spontaneous
expression of his natural amiableness ; but, in no
small degree, must be ascribed to the discipline of his
own domestic griefs and sorrows. When one of his
children had just expired, after a distressing sickness,
he said to his physician and friend, the eminent Dr.
Mussey ; — " How just and righteous are the ways of
God I I am called to sympathize with others. None
hut a parent can feelP

Let an incident of that affliction be recorded here.
The child was in great distress ; his disease, dropsy in
the head, which was much swollen. At one time,
the father took him, as in the hour of his baptism, and
lifted up his voice in agonizing prayer. The distress
of the little sufferer suddenly ceased. He looked up
and smiled. " I felt," said the comforted parent, "that
tliat was the moment of change .'" And when the dying
hour had come, the father wept with "joy of grief"
unspeakable. Just as the spirit was departing, he
gently raised the drooping body from the cradle to his
arms and his bosom ; and his "joy of grief" was yet
more unspeakable, when the dear boy lifted his head,
and, with the sweetest smile of loveliest, consecrated
infancy, pressed his lips to his father's, and the next
moment expired !

This was on Sabbath morning, Aug. 16, 1812 : and
not soon will memory forget the father's tears and

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 4 of 42)