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The journey to meeting was frequently an arduous undertaking for those living in the outlying parts of a township, as they sometimes were obliged to cross mountains and rivers in order to be present. From distant points the farmers drove to meeting, bringing their wives and children and prepared to spend the day. In summer they brought their own dinners with them; in winter they found refuge in the "Sabba' day" houses or were entertained at the fireside of friends who lived near the meetinghouse. The gathering of the towns people at meeting was a social as well as a religious event, for friends had an opportunity for greeting each other, and the farmers exchanged news and talked crops during the noon hour, in the shade of the building, under the wagon sheds where the horses were tied, or sitting on the tombstones in the burying ground near by, while their wives and daughters gossiped in the porch or even in the pews, for in New England no one looked upon the meetinghouse as merely a sacred place. One of the earliest steps taken in the formation of a new town in New England was the erection of a separate meetinghouse for the members who lived too far away for convenient and regular attendance.
The minister was truly the leader of his people. He comforted and reproved them, guided their spiritual footsteps, advised them in matters domestic and civil, and gave unity to their ecclesiastical life. He was the chief citizen of the town, reverenced by the old and regarded with something akin to awe by the young. When a stranger asked Parson Phillips of the South Church at Andover if he were “the parson who serves here,” he received the reply, “I am, Sir, the parson who rules here," and the external bearing of this colonial minister lent weight to his claim. It was the habit of Parson Phillips to walk with his household in a stately procession from the parsonage to the meetinghouse, with his wife on his right, his negro servant on his left, and his children following in the rear. When he entered the building, the congregation rose and stood until he had taken his place in the pulpit. Though he preached with an hourglass at his side, he never failed to run over the conventional sixty minutes. His sermons, like nearly all those preached in New England, were written out and read with solemnity and rarely with attempts at oratory. They were blunt and often terrify
ing; they laid down unpalatable ethical standards; | they emphasized rigid theological doctrines; and in
language which was plain, earnest, and uncom-T promising, they inveighed against such human
weaknesses as swearing, drunkenness, fornication, - and sleeping in church. Mather Byles of Boston, another colonial pastor, preached an hour and then turning over the hourglass said, “Now we will take a second glass.” Sermons of two hours were not unknown, and there were those who “in one lazy tone, through the long, heavy, painful
page” drawled on, making work for the tith? ingman, whose fur-tipped rod was often needed Ito waken the slumbering. The thrifty colonial
preacher numbered his sermons, stored them away
or bound them in volumes, and often repeated $them many times. # The hardships of the New England minister
were many Jonathan Lee of Salisbury, Connecticut, occupied, until his log house was finished, a room temporarily fitted up at the end of a blacksmith's shop with stools for chairs and slabs for tables. He even had at times to carry his own corn to the mill to be ground. As country parishes were large and rambling and the congregation was widely scattered, the minister often preached in different sections and was obliged to ride many miles to visit and comfort his parishioners. His
salary was small, fifty pounds and upwards, with more if he were married. Jonathan Edwards in 1744 wrote to his people in Northampton that he wanted a fixed salary and not one determined from year to year, as he had a growing family to provide for. Many a minister received a part of his stipend in provisions and firewood, and eked out his meager salary by earning a little money taking pupils.
Yet in spite of these hardships men stayed long in (the places to which they were called. Pastorates of sixty years are known; Eliphalet Williams of Glastonbury served fifty-five years, and his grandfather, father, and son each ministered half a century or longer. Three generations of Baptist clergymen in Groton served one church 125 years.
The New England ministers did not limit their preaching to the Sabbath day or their sermons to theological and ethical subjects. They officiated on many public occasions — at funerals, installations, and ordinations, on fast days, Thanksgiving days, and election days - and often forced the Governor and deputies to listen to a sermon two or three hours long. Many of these sermons were printed by the colony, by the church, by subscription, or in the case of funeral sermons by special provision in the will of the deceased. Parson