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his people; and that they have not, as he would humbly hope, been wholly useless and unsuccessful; though it is a painful consideration, that the evidences of their success have been so few. It is matter of pleasing and grateful reflection, that friendship and harmony among the people of his charge, and between him and them, have so generally prevailed. He fervently prays, that "brotherly love may continue." He rejoices with his flock that they have been, and now are, so free from those religious disputes, and contentions, which prevail in some societies; occasioned by different and militating sentiments, and by the prevalence of various sects and denominations of Christians.*
Many events in this society have taken place within the term of forty years past. The inhabitants of the precinct, and the members of the church, are, in a great measure, changed. But five males, and ten females, who were, so long ago, members of the church, continue alive among us. The church then consisted of fifty-five male members, and eighty-seven females, resident in the parish. It now consists of forty-two males, and ninety-nine females. The whole number is one less now than it was then. The disproportion between males and females is increased. The number of the former is thirteen less, and of the latter, twelve
The number of persons admitted, who were not in communion with any church before, is two hundred and ninety-six, seven have been received by recommendation from other churches. Thirtytwo have been dismissed from this to other churches. The number of children which have been baptized, with us, in the above-mentioned period, is nine hundred and four. Ten adult persons have been admitted to the ordinance of baptism.
The number of couples, who have been joined in marriage, by your pastor, one or both of which belonged to this town, is twohundred and seventy-nine. A few have been married by magistrates, in the town.
The number of deaths in this society, within the term of forty years past, according to the most authentic records, is five hundred and twenty-nine. I have formerly mentioned, that the yearly average number of deaths was between nine and ten.. It was so during the first nineteen years of my ministry. In the last twenty-one years, in which the small-pox hath several times prevailed among us; the dysentery, and some other epidemic distempers, the average number has been considerably greater.
*There is not, in the first precinct in Dedham, a family of professed Baptists, Quakers, Methodists, or Universalists, known to the writer of this discourse.
There are now, and have been for more than half a century past, a few families of the Episcopal denomination. The Rev. William Montague is their minister or
Of the five hundred and twenty-nine persons who have died, nine have arrived to the age of ninety years, or upwards, which is nearly in the proportion of one to sixty. Forty-two have lived to be eighty years old and upwards, besides the nine who survived ninety years. This shows about one in twelve to arrive to the age of eighty years.
Seventy-four persons have died between seventy and eighty years of age, which, in connection with the calculations above, shows that as great a proportion as one in five, of those who have died, in the term aforesaid, have lived to see threescore years and ten, or more. I cannot ascertain the number of births in this society, during the term of forty years past. It may be about eleven hundred.
The above calculations show, that a greater proportion of persons, among us, than has been generally supposed, has lived to what we may call old age. If a regular, sober, and virtuous mode of living may be assigned, as the natural cause, it reflects honor on the society. A presumptive argument is hereby suggested, in favor of the situation, air and climate, as being friendly to health, and long life. We are bound however ultimately to ascribe it, to His kind providence, who is the "God of our life and the length of our days."
The number of females, who have lived to old age, is a little larger than that of males. There is not one man, now in the society, quite eighty years old. There is one woman, in her ninety-fourth year; and several between eighty and ninety years old. There are eleven women, and seven men, whose age is between seventy and eighty years, there are seven men and thirtyfour women in a state of widowhood.
The deaths, in the society, have mostly taken place by the common laws of mortality, or have been what we call natural deaths. None in the way of murder, or by the magistrate, "holding the sword, as a terror to evil-doers." The lives of several have been brought to an end, in the way of drowning, and by some other melancholy accidents. Two only have been lost at sea. A small number have died in the army either by sword or sickness.
The three worthy personst who sustained the office of deacons, when your present pastor entered on his labors among you, all lived to a good old age; but have, for many years, been num
William Ames, and William Avery, Jr.
Deacons Joseph Wight, Ephraim Willson, and Nathaniel Kingsbury. The first of these died July 14, 1756, in the 75th year of his age, and 27th of his office. The second died July 19, 1769, in the 86th year of his age, and 34th of his office. The third died Aug. 20, 1775, in the 78th year of his age, and 29th of his deaconship.
bered among the dead. Two others,* chosen into that office, within forty years past, after faithfully discharging the duties of it, for a length of time, are now by bodily infirmities, rendered unable to attend to them. We pray God to brighten the evening of their day, by the consolations of that religion which they have long professed, and endeavored to promote. Our brethren,† who now perform the benevolent services of that office, we wish may long continue to perform them, to their own reputation, and to the satisfaction of the church.
Very precious to you, no doubt, is the memory of many in the catalogue of more than five hundred persons, deceased from among you, within forty years past. Their memory is dear to your pastor. In the number were included all the men, except five or six, who invited him into the office, which he now sustains among you. Not a few of them were his intimate and confidential friends, whom he often met, with great delight, in the house of God, and at the table of Christ, mingling hearts and affections, in the exercises of piety and devotion. The proofs of their sincere regard to him were so strong, and so multiplied, as to preclude all doubt of it. And he sometimes entertains the pleasing hope, that he may have been the feeble, unworthy instrument of good to their souls, in helping them forward to the heavenly world.
If the names of those who have died, from among us, within the term often mentioned above, should be called over, most of us should hear some which designated our nearest and dearest connexions. Tender parents; beloved partners in life; dear children; affectionate brethren and sisters. Calling them to mind may afford a melancholy kind of pleasure. A care to be followers of them, so far as they were of Christ, excited and strengthened, will be essentially beneficial to us. We cannot see them again, in the flesh,"till the heavens be no more." How happy if we may then meet them, at the right hand of Christ, to unite, in tracing the mysterious steps of divine Providence; and in celebrating the wonders of redeeming love! Soon our bodies, like theirs, will be laid in the grave, and be mouldering in the dust. A successor to your present pastor, may perhaps, half a century hence, make remarks on our deaths, memory, and character, as we do now, on those of our friends, who are gone before us. It is earnestly to be wished, that these commemorative anecdotes, may not only afford transient amusement, but useful instruction, respecting the passing nature of time;, the shortness of human life; and the importance of improving well every day as it passes.
* Deacon William Avery, now in the 80th year of his age, and 37th of his office. Deacon Ebenezer Richards, in the 78th year of his age, and 27th of his office.
+ Deacons Joseph Whiting, Aaron Fuller, and Isaac Bullard.
This particular society in which we dwell, is not exclusively the school, in which we may receive instruction of this serious and universally interesting kind. In neighboring churches and societies, particularly in those which originated from this,* Providence teaches the saine things, by similar changes and events. "He that is wise, will observe these things." And if we extend our view to a larger circle, to mark the footsteps of divine Providence, in the vicissitudes which have taken place, within no very long
At the beginning of the term which this discourse reviews, Rev. Jonathan Townsend was pastor of the church in Medfield. He was dismissed from his office, Oct. 9, 1769. Rev. Thomas Prentiss was inducted into the pastoral office in that town, Oct. 31, 1770; and continues to minister to that people in holy things. A small Baptist society has, for a number of years, existed in that town. The late Rev. Thomas Gair, was for several years the pastor. Since his removal, a Mr. Clarke resides there, and frequently preaches to them.
In Wrentham, Rev. Joseph Bean was minister. On the 12th of Dec., 1784, his life, and his very faithful labors were terminated, in the 66th year of his age, and 34th of his ministry. Rev. David Avery was installed his successor, May 25, 1786, and his dismission voted by the town, agreeably to advice of council, April 21, 1794. It is painful to add, that that church and town, which for more than a century enjoyed great peace, harmony, and prosperity, are now in a very unhappy, divided, broken state. May they be led to know and pursue the things which are promotive of peace, and Christian edification! A small Baptist society is in the westerly part of that town. A Rev. Mr. Williams is their minister.
The second parish in Wrentham continued vacant, after the death of Rev. Elias Haven, till June 4, 1760, when the Rev. Caleb Barnum was ordained their pastor. He obtained a dismission from the pastoral office after about nine years' service among them, and was, soon after, installed pastor of the church in Taunton. He went chaplain into the western army, in 1776, and died abroad. The Rev. Nathanael Emmons was ordained his successor, in Wrentham, April 21, 1773, and continues the beloved pastor of that flock. This second parish in Wrentham was, in the year 1778, made a town, by an act of incorporation, and the name Franklin given to it.
In Needham, the Rev. Mr. Townsend continued his faithful labors till Sept. 30, 1762, when his Lord called him away by death, in the 65th year of his age, and 43d of his ministry. Rev. Samuel West was ordained his successor, April 25, 1764. He left Needham in Nov., 1788; and was soon installed pastor of a church in 'Boston, where he now officiates. The Rev. Stephen Palmer was ordained to the pastoral office, in Needham, Nov. 7, 1792, and there continues his ministrations. A number of the inhabitants of Needham got incorporated into a distinct precinct, about the year 1773. They were led to seek this, on account of some disagreement in the town, respecting the place of building a meeting-house. This second precinct has not yet settled a minister.
In Walpole, their first minister, Rey. Phillips Payson, died Jan. 22, 1778, in the 74th year of his age, and 50th of his ministry. The Rev. George Morey, his successor, was ordained Nov. 19, 1783, and continues the guide and overseer of that people.
In the second parish in Dedham, the Rey. Thomas Balch continued his acceptable labors till Jan. 8, 1774, when he was removed by death, in the 63d year of his age, and 38th of his ministry, and was succeeded in office, by Rev. Jabez Chickering, the present pastor, who was ordained July 3, 1776.
In the third parish in Dedham, of which the Rev. Andrew Tyler was pastor, some unhappy dissensions took place, about the year 1764. Attempts to restore peace and harmony not succeeding, Mr. Tyler was dismissed from office, about the close of the year 1772. He died in Boston in 1775. The Rev. Thomas Thacher was ordained his successor, June 7, 1780.
The fourth parish in Dedham, had the Rev. Benjamin Caryl set over them in the Lord, as their first pastor, Nov. 10, 1762. He still labors among them in word and doctrine. That parish was incorporated, as a district, by the general court, July 7, 1784, and had the name Dover given to it.
period of past time, more useful information will arise to our minds. Within the easy recollection of many of us, the grand American revolution hath been brought about, which has given our country a station among the sovereign and independent nations of the earth. This forms an important era, and hath given, or confirmed to us, civil and religious privileges, equal, perhaps superior, to those enjoyed in any part of the world; especially taken in connection with those wise constitutions of government, which have been formed, in our country, and carried into operation, during, and since the revolution. The faithful page of history, it is hoped, will convey the knowledge of these great events to the latest generations.
Do not the private events which relate more immediately to this society bear evident signatures of a kind Providence, rendering its condition prosperous? "Instead of the fathers are the children." Many respectable persons have finished their course. Many respectable ones have risen up in their stead. The number of births hath been more than double the number of deaths.
The education of youth has had some share of attention paid to it; and a conviction of its importance appears to be increasing.* Fourteen young men,† within the period we are retrospecting, received an education at the University in Cambridge. All of them, except one, are now living. Twelve of them entered into one or other of the three learned professions.
Many improvements have been made in the society, tending to convenience and ornament. This decent house for public
A gentleman of respectable learning and abilities, Ebenezer Wight, Esq., hath opened an academy, in the parish, and hath devoted his time to the instruction of youths, of both sexes, in various branches of science. The institution, though new, and of a private kind, bids fair to be useful.
† Their names, time of being graduated, and profession, are in the following table :
Graduated. Profession. 1775 Trade. 1776 Divinity. 1776 Civil Line.
Sam. Shuttlesworth, 1777 Divinity.
George Daman, Nathaniel Ames, Nathaniel Fisher, *Seth Ames, Ebenezer Starr, Joseph Avery, Fisher Ames,
The first meeting-house, tradition says, was built 1638, where the present house stands. The people assembled in it for religious worship about thirty-four years. In the year 1672 they took it down, and erected another, in the same place, the first being too small to accommodate them. The second, which many of you remember, stood ninety years. In the year 1762 it was taken down, and this, in which we now assemble, was erected, in the same place. The spot fixed upon, by the proprietors, for the first, seems, by general consent, to have been deemed the most suitable, ever since. Soon after the present meeting-house was finished, the handsome clock now in it, was given to the parish, by Samuel Dexter, Esq. In the year 1775, Mr. Joshua Bracket, late of Boston, deceased, gave to the society, the christening bason, now in use, and the frame in which it stands. The aged and venerable Madam Catharina Barnard, (formerly Dexter,) March 16, 1789, presented to the society a large folio Bible, desiring a portion of it might be read, in public, on Lord's days. Her donation was gratefully received, and her desire complied with.
1789 Law. 1792 Divinity.