Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

deep impressien made generally upon the minds of the people, especially on the youth and those in early life—a surprising engagedness in all to attend public worship and occasional religious meetings. Considering the large additions to the church in a short time after, we can not doubt that God was pleased to accompany this awakening and alarming providence with special influences of his spirit and grace. By the church records it appears that from the last of November to about the middle of February there were admissions on every Sabbath except on one day. On some Sabbaths the number was exceedingly large for so small a society. On December 10th seven were admitted, on the 24th seventeen, on the next Sabbath eleven; on the following Sabbath there was only one; but on the two next there were four cach day; on the next there were eight, and on the next (4th February) there were fifteen. In four months there were eighty-seven, and in somewhat more than a year, one hundred, added to the church.

It is to be much regretted, that my worthy predecessor kept no record (or none to be found) after the year 1742, or beginning of 1743. To serious, reflecting people, it will be desirable to know the number of communicants, baptisms, and deaths for an hundred years, but it can not be accurately ascertained. Were the number of inhabitants, at the time of the incorporation, known, a tolerable calculation could be made by taking average numbers. It has been supposed that the number of people has been nearly stationary. Being mostly farmers, the emigration (consisting principally of young people) and the deaths have equaled the number of births. This appears probable, as the number of inhabitants by the last census (1810) was only 780, and as the number of baptisms seems to have varied very little for sixty or seventy years.

From the time the church was formed to the year 1742 (28 years) there were 326 members admitted, and 631 baptisms. Taking the average number for the following 26 years, there were, during the 54 years of my predecessor's ministry, 560 admitted to communion, and 1,203 baptisms. No record of deaths was found in the church book; but, taking the average of deaths for the 43 years of my ministry for data, being nearly 12 annually, the number of deaths in 54 years would be 618. In the interval between Mr. Wigglesworth's death and my ordination (three years) there were two communicants admitted, 75 baptized, and it is presumed 36 deaths. In the last 13 years there have been 122 admitted into the church, 988 baptisms, and 512 deaths. Agreeably to this computation, which can only give a probable idea of the numbers for the 54 years, there have been, by adding the number which first composed the church, 736 communicants, 2,266 baptisms, and 1,196 deaths in the hundred years.

Since the forming of the church, there have been seven officiating deacons. Of the first two elected, one lived to a great age, the other only a few years, but his successor died in old age. The next two in succession lived to an advanced period of life. They were succeeded by the two deacons who still survive.*

Agreeably to the preceding computations, one-third more people, in this period of time, have gone down to the silent grave than are now living. Your grand-parents, your fathers, your mothers, your brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors, where are they? Do they live forever? No; they are gone the way from which they will not return. What an assembly are now sleeping in yonder grave-yard! In a less period of time, every one of us—let it be remembered-every one of us must be added to this assembly.

Attention to these enumerations will convince us that there was more of a sense of religion among the people in the former than in the latter part of this century. Greater additions were made in the church from year to year. In looking over these records, I was surprised at the frequent instances of men and

* The first two deacons were Deacon Matthew Whipple and Deacon John Gilbert, chosen Nov. 9,1714. Deacon Matthew Whipple officiated 50) years, and was succeeded by Deacon Nathaniel Whipple, who officiated 45 yeurs, and deceased at the age of 89. His successor is the present Deacon Benjamin Appleton, who has been in oflice four years. Deacon Gilbert lived only nine years, and was succeeded by Deacon John Thorn, who continued in office 35 years. His successor was Deacon John Patch, who sustained the office 31 years, and died at 90 years of age. He was succeeded by the present Deacon Matthew Whipple, who has been in office 20 years.

their wives joining the church at the same time. Many young people were admitted, but it seems to have been rare that one of the heads of a family came forward and made a profession of religion without the other. It has not been so in latter times. Few instances have occurred for a number of years past. Was it not that the importance of gospel ordinances were more sensibly felt; that heads of families were more deeply convinced that they could not live religious lives without a profession of religion-a more impressive conviction of the duty of uniting in a public dedication of themselves to God in covenant, and setting before their children so desirable an example? Was it not that there was more family religion-family prayer-family instruction ? And was there not more of union and joint resolution, that, as for them and their houses, they would serve the Lord ?

During the time my predecessor kept a record, there were large numbers who recognized the baptismal covenant, and gave up their children to God in baptism. In the first ten years of his ministry, the number of baptisms were from twenty to thirty annually; and continued with little variation to the year 1742 ; so that there could not have been many children that were not baptized. In the first ten years of my ministry, the annual baptisms were from twenty-four to thirtyfive; and so continued, though with more variation in different years, until a few years past. It was considered by pious people thirty years ago to be exceedingly wrong for parents to withhold their children from this ordinance; and often they expressly enjoined it on their children, on their entering into the family state, not to neglect this duty. But, alas! my friends, how is it now? How greatly has this ordinance been disregarded for some years past! In the two last years, the number was only five in each year. How great the number of unbaptized persons now, compared with former years!

Is this to be imputed to our great declination in religion? Is our moral state so much worse than in years past? Are the people become so much more indifferent to gospel ordinances? It is not, I am persuaded, because the right of infant baptism is doubted; but from the want of a proper understanding, and just sense of this duty. If infants are the proper subjects, and may be brought within the privileges of the covenant, then it is the indispensable duty of parents, intelligently and upriyhtly, to devote them to God in baptism. Our Savior expressly required that children should be suffered to be brought to him. “Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingilom of God." Ile was much displeased with his disciples for rebuking those that brought them. Christian baptism was not then instituted ; vet the right and the duty of devoting children to God, after it was institutell, may be clearly inferred from these words of our Lord, and he might have intended a reference to it. Those who then brought them to Christ must have done it with desire and expectation of spiritual blessings. And is he not able to do as much for them now as he was then? Were he now on earth, where are the parents that would refuse to carry their chileiren to him? And why not carry them to him now he is in heaven, by a solemn dedication in the ordinance of baptism?

You believe children are the subjects of salvation, and you would tremble at the thought of excluding them from it; and can you exclude them from the right of baptism? When they are sick, do you not pray, and desire the prayers of others, for them, that they may recover; or, if removed by death, that their souls may be saved ? And yet, can you refuse to give them up to God in this ordinance? If you doubt your own right to give them up in this solemn mammer, how can you think of living in such a state of impiety and irreligion ? Can you refuse your consent to the terms of the gospel covenant? Have you no regard to the due regulation of your families? Family education and order are important means of grace, and, if suitably maintained, other means will be more likely to be successful. Can you then feel unwilling to lay yourselves under (voluntary) obligations to give your children a religious education, and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ?

Not long before the decease of the Rev. Mr. Wigglesworth (in August, 1768), the present Dr. Hopkins, of Salem, was invited to settle as his colleague, but declined the invitation. After his decease, the church continued destitute for three years. The candidates employed appear not to have been many. On the 6th of March, 1769, Mr. David Johnson was invited to settle, who gave a negative answer. On the 8th of January, 1770, Mr. Benjamin Brigham received a call, but did not accept it. On the 16th of October following, Mr. Jonathan Searle was invited to settle, who likewise declined the offer. The last was your present unworthy pastor, who received ordination on the 11th day of September, 1771, and whom God has been pleased to continue in the ministerial office 43 years.

At that time, the communicants of the church were 68, of whom 27 were males and 47 females. Of these communicants only two, a male inember and his wife, are now living. Additions in following years were gradual, and less frequent than in the earlier periods of the church. In some years there were a considerable number, and in some there were none. But, in the latter part of 1799 and beginning of 1800, we were favored, as we trust, with manifestations of the powerful influences of the IIoly Spirit, in calling up the attention of very considerable numbers. Many were awakened to inquire, with solicitude, what they should do to be saved, and numbers to make a public profession of their faith and hope. It seemed to be a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. The greater part were young people, but some in the middle and in advanced periods of life. Admissions into the chureh were, on several days, in considerable numbers. Before the communion service (24th of November), 15 were admitted; at the next communion, there were 3; the next, 9; and the next, there were 6; at others, there were smaller numbers. But, at four communions in succession, 33 were added to the church. Since about that time, we have relapsed into the former state of coldness and indifference. The ways of Zion have mourned because so few travel therein. At the present time, the church consists of 73 members, of whom 28 are males and 45 females. Of the females, several have removed into other towns, whose relation to the church has not been transferred.

The house, which at first was erected for public worship, having become inconvenient and much decayed, in the year

« VorigeDoorgaan »