antly erected. The Convention decreed that there was no God, and declared the nation to be a nation of infidels. They held that there was no future state of existence-10 account to be rendered after this life-and death was only an eternal sleep. All forms of religion were suppressed, and houses of public worship shut up, or appropriated to other uses. The church of St. Genevieve was changed into a pagan temple. In this temple, with supercilious parade, they performed their heathen orgies. A common prostitute, personating the Goddess of Reason, received the worship of both the Convention and the infatuated multitude. So inveterate was the enmity against the very name of Jesus Christ, that he was styled the WRETCH ; and these are said to have been watchwords: Crush the wretch ! Banish his name from the face of the earth! Strike, but conceal your hand.

In the most gloomy seasons the church has often experienced the most signal interpositions. The great Ilead of the Church has been pleased to look down upon the languishing vine which his own right hand had planted, and to save it from the ravages of inveterate foes. While the faith of many was shaken, and believers were trembling for the ark, the friends of Zion were awakened to a fervent zeal in vindicating the religion of Jesus. An unusual spirit of inquiry into the divine authority and inspiration of the scriptures was excited. Of that large class of people who take the Bible on trust, without attending either to the external or internal evidences of its authenticity, great numbers became bewildered by the books and company of infidels; but, by candid, unprejudiced examination, found their doubts removed and faith established. Still, whatever may have been the happy effect of their researches (which has been believed by some to have been very great and extensive) the efficient means of counteracting infidel philosophy has been the extensive spread of the holy scriptures. The Bible carries its own evidence with it. Infidelity has been met, not merely with clear reasoning and strength of argument, which sophistry can always evade, but with the formidable weapon of the Bible itself-the Bible without note or comment. One of the most distinguishing interpositions of Providence in favor of the church, which, perhaps the world has ever witnessed, has been the establishment of Bible Societies. These invaluable benevolent institutions, designed for the purpose of distributing the scriptures, gratis, among the poor and destitute every-where, have been encouraged and supported with a zeal which excites astonishment. Emperors, kings and princes have become their patrons; Christians of all denominations, people of all grades and conditions in life, have cheerfully contributed to this noble purpose. As infidels had formed societies, collected funds, printed and distributed books, they have been met in the same way, by the establishment of societies, and collecting immense sums for printing the scriptures in different languages, for the accommodation of Christian and Heathen nations. The parent of these institutions, the British and Foreign Bible Society, embraces in its extensive plan every nation upon earth. Already, by its influence and operations, thousands and hundreds of thousands have had the Bible put into their hands. It has astonished, rejoiced and animated the Christian world. While Bible Societies, on a more limited scale, have been multiplying in Europe, the flame has caught in our own country. One, or more, has been established with the same benevolent views, in every State in the Union. These societies intermeddle with no wars but the Christian warfare-contend with no enemies but the enemies of Christ and his church. Amidst the angry conflicts of contending nations, their exertions and their charities are extended, without partiality, to all the human family. Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth, but let the friends of Zion, in faith and hope, look forward, by the light of prophetic scripture, to the approaching reign of the PRINCE OF PEACE. Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, there is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. The word of the Lord shall have free course, and shall be glorified.

The happy effects of these exertions must extend to future ages. That the Christian religion will be universally known, and its blessings felt in every part of the habitable world, we believe from the Bible; but the way and means by which it is to be accomplished, is beyond our comprehension. Yet the

pleasing hope presses into our minds that this glorious day begins to dawn—that the day when all nations shall enjoy the holy scriptures in their own language—and of the ingathering of the Jews, with the fullness of the Gentile world, is drawing near.

While infidelity was so rapidly spreading in Europe, its baneful influence was sensibly felt in our own country. In some parts of the United States its champions were bold and open. A small number of infidel societies were established. Its spread was much apprehended by many pious people, and their fears greatly excited. Yet, without any very apparent means, it pleased God to check its progress. Infidels there still are, and infidels there will be, in the ordinary age of the church; but while we have it to lament that so much irreligion and so many vices have prevailed during the past century, we have likewise cause for gratitude and thankfulness to God that there has been generally in our churches a respectful and serious attention to religion. In many places there have been hopeful revivals and reformations, and in some large ingatherings into the church of Christ. In all our churches there have been some of the wandering sheep of Christ's flock, one after another, gathered into his fold.

Within a century from this time new churches have been greatly multiplied in the United States. Since the establishment of this church there have been about six hundred new churches formed within this Commonwealth, and some of them consist of a very large number of communicants. But I will detain you no longer with general remarks. The principal purpose of our present meeting was to take a concise review of the most material concerns of this religious society, from its establishment to the present time.

So remarkably uniform have been the state and general concerns of this church and society, as far as has come to my knowledge, that there have been few very interesting occurrences for an hundred years. Yet there has been much, in the course of Providence, that may be brought into view, well worthy our attention and religious improvement. The town of Ipswich, on the 22d of May, 1712, voted their consent that “When their brethren in the Hamlet, so called, should have erected a meeting-house and call an orthodox minister to preach the gospel to them, they should be freed from further charge in the maintenance of their ministers, and be accounted a precinct.”

On the 14th on October, 1713, an act of incorporation from the General Court was obtained, allowing them to be a distinct and separate precinct. In the course of this year the first meeting-house was built; the dimensions of which were 50 feet in length, 28 in breadth, and 20 feet post. What the number of inhabitants were at this time can not be accurately ascertained, but most probably between seven and eight hundred.

In January, 1714, JIr. Samuel Wigglesworth was invited to preach as a candidate, and on the 12th of October following, a church covenant was agreed to and privately signed. At the same time Mr. Wigglesworth was elected their pastor. On the 27th of the same month an ecclesiastical council was convened, consisting of the Rev. Elders and delegates of the first and second churches in Ipswich, and of the churches in Wenham, Rowley and Topsfield. The church having been regularly embodied by the council, it was styled the third church of Christ in Ipswich. After reading the church covenant publicly to the assembly, the council proceeded to ordain their pastor-elect. The greater part of this newly gathered church were members dismissed and recommended from the first and second churches in Ipswich and the church in Wenham. When formed the number was 58, of whom 26 were males and 32 females.

Their pastor, the Rev. Samuel Wigglesworth, was possessed of very respectable talents-in his sentiments calvinisticalin the strain of his preaching, evangelical, instructive and practical. Solemn and unaffected in his manner, he commanded attention and supported the character of an able and sound divine. Amiable and exemplary, respected and beloved, he filled up a long, peaceable and useful ministry. He departed this life on the 3d of September, 1768, in the 80th year of his age, having almost completed the 54th year of his ministry. His public and parochial labors were continued nearly to the close of his life.

Under his ministration many made public profession of their religion and received admission into the church. Considerable numbers of communicants were added at different times. Very remarkable awakenings and hopeful conversions succeeded the great earthqnake in 1727. This memorable earthquake occurred on October 29th (being the Sabbath) a little before 11 in the evening.* Several small shocks were felt for

day of humiliation and prayer; and a solemn, well adapted sermon was preached by Mr. Wigglesworth, and, at the request of the people, was published. In his dedication, dated January 29, he observes that “the awful occasion of this discourse is not yet entirely removedl.” And he adds, “ Since the earthquake there has been a large adibition to the church, which I question not but many of them shall be saved. The spirit of reformation seems to be poured out, in plentiful measure, upon all sorts of persons among us; and especially a considerable number of our young persons seem disposed to flee froin youthful lusts and vanities, and to flee to Christ and his ordinances as a cloud, and as doves to their windows.” On my first coming to this town I recollect to have heard aged people relate, from their own knowledge, many interesting particulars respecting this reformation. They mentioned the solemn and

* It is said to have happened about forty minutes afier 10 P. M., the air clear, sky serene and perfectly cam. It approached with a a heavy rumbling-at first compared to the roar of a blazing chimney, at last to the rattling of carriages driven fiercely on pavements. It was observed, by those that were abroad, that as the shock passed under them, the surface of the earth sensibly rose up and then sunk down. The violence of the shock was such as to cause the houses to shake and rock, as if they were falling to pieces; doors, windows and movables made a fearful clattering; the pewier and china were thrown from the shelves; stone walls and the tops of some chimneys were shaken down; in some places the doors were unlatched and burst open, and the people in great danger of falling. Its duration was supposed to be about two minutes, and its couse from V. W to S. E. It was known to exiend to the river Delaware S. W. and to the Kennebeck N. E., but its greatest violence seems to have been at Newbury, where the parih opened and threw up several loads of a fine sand and ashes. Great changes took place in some wells, springs and streams of water. - l'ide Memoirs Amor. Acail.

« VorigeDoorgaan »