HISTORY becomes interesting and instructive, warm and living, when we see in the events recorded the ends of Divine Providence which they were designed to accomplish. This seems to me to be the case in a very remarkable degree in those events which prepared the way for the establishment of the New Church in Boston, in the man who was chosen to lead them and who filled his office so wisely and successfully for nearly half a century, and in the men and women who were his co-workers. If, in looking back, we can see the hand of Providence in the way in which we have been led, it cannot fail to give us joy and assurance for the past, and strength and confidence for the future.
I find the earliest link in the chain of events which led directly to the institution of the Boston Society of the New Church in the person of the Rev. Jacob Duche, who appears to be the first New Churchman of whom we have any knowledge in this country. He was in Philadelphia in 1774, ten years previous to the visit of Mr. James Glenn.
"When the Congress first met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay, of New York, and Mr. Rutledge, of South Carolina, because we were so divided in religious sentiments, some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists, that we could not join in the same act of worship. Mr. Samuel Adams rose and said he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue, who was at the same time a friend to his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia, but he had heard that Mr. Duche deserved that character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to the Congress to-morrow morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative. Mr. Randolph, our president, waited on Mr. Duche, and received for answer, that if his health would permit, he certainly would. Accordingly, next morning, he appeared with his clerk, and in his pontificals, and read several prayers in the established form; and then read the Collect for the seventh day of September, which was the thirty-fifth Psalm. You must remember this was the next morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that psalm to be read on that morning.
"After this, Mr. Duche, unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present.
Washington Irving describes the same scene, quoting a part of the foregoing letter, in his "Life of Washington." He speaks of Mr. Duche as "an eminent Episcopalian clergyman," and says, "It has been remarked that Washington was especially devout on this occasion, kneeling while others stood up. In this, however, each no doubt observed the attitude in prayer to which he was accustomed. Washington knelt, being an Episcopalian."
It was not accidental that a New Churchman, almost, if not quite, the only one in the country,* was called in to officiate as chaplain.
* It is difficult to determine at what precise period Mr. Duche came into the full reception of the doctrines of the New Church. He does not appear to have been known as a New Churchman till after a visit to England in 1777, when he became acquainted with Mr. Clowes and others; but previous to that time, he had in his possession a complete set of Swedenborg's works in Latin; and extracts from his writings convey the strong impression that he could not have been unacquainted with their contents.
Is it too much to suppose that the heavens, then new indeed, may have been opened, and the minds of those present made receptive of their influence, by which the conflicting elements were harmonized, and the Divine benediction given to the work which was then commenced, and that this was the birthday of a nation?
He prayed for Boston, and his prayer was answered many years afterwards in a way of which he had then not any conception.
It was through him that the Rev. William Hill first became acquainted with the works of Swedenborg. As Mr. Hill was the principal instrument, under Divine Providence, through whom a knowledge of the doctrines of the church and the works of Swedenborg were first introduced into Massachusetts, which led to the institution of the Boston society, it may be interesting, and lead to a better understanding of the preparation which had been made for this event, to have some account of him. This is given in a very pleasant and graphic manner by Miss Cary, in her "Early Recollections of the New Church in Boston," published in the "New Jerusalem Magazine," vol. xxx.
It is as follows -
"Mr. Hill had been educated for a merchant; but he became acquainted with Mr. Duche, who was residing in England with his family, having left Philadelphia on account of politics, not being willing to go all lengths with the Revolutionists. From him Mr. Hill received a volume of Swedenborg, but I am not sure which.
"Mr. Hill was intimately acquainted with Mr. Colburn Barrell, a merchant in London, who had gone there from Boston; and, in his eager desire to make known the doctrines, was probably influenced by him to look this way. He came to Boston, and brought a letter of introduction from his friend to a sister, Mrs. John Andrews. His agreeable manners soon won him friends. His personal appearance was striking, - tall and elegant, with the clear complexion and bright blue eyes which so often denote a consumptive habit, and which, though not then apparent, probably lurked within, and finally cut short the remainder of his days. He was a general favorite, and everywhere made himself welcome as a guest. But he did not gain much ground where he principally desired it, by making acquisition of members to the New Church. He had quite a numerous acquaintance, and was invited into several pulpits."
Miss Cary first met with him at the residence of Mr. Andrew Craigie, it being the house where Professor Longfellow now resides, and at one time the headquarters of Washington. She writes as follows
"It was his chief object to become acquainted with the college, and to introduce the works of Swedenborg there. For that purpose he boarded in Cambridge; became well acquainted with Dr. Kirkland, who always spoke of him with great respect, and with Mr. Craigie, who gradually received the doctrines, and was a firm believer in them at his death, many years afterwards. It was at Mr. Craigie's house that I saw Mr. Hill for the first time, at a ball, where a large number of persons belonging to Cambridge and Boston were assembled. Mr. Hill had come unexpectedly to so large a party, and emptied his coat-pocket of a number of notes in short-hand, which was the way he wrote his sermons, and a Bible, which he always carried about him, on to a window-seat, and then joined the dance. He was an object of general attention, partly because it was so uncommon to see a clergyman dance; and some light and frivolous remarks were made, -such as that he had come to America to find his partner, etc. This was in the winter of 1794-95; and he returned to England not so much discouraged but that he came back to Boston again in 1797, partly induced by a letter from Mrs. Andrews, who kept up a correspondence with her brother and always felt an interest in Mr. Hill, though she never received the doctrines.
"From Boston he went to Philadelphia, where there were already some receivers. Mr. and Mrs. Duche, with their two daughters, had returned home. Mrs. Duche died suddenly that autumn, and Mr. Duche languished, and died a few weeks after. Mr. Hill married Esther, the eldest daughter, the following spring.
"Mr. Hill's partiality was strong towards Massachusetts, and he had always great hopes from Harvard University.
It thus appears that he left his business, and devoted his life and fortunes to the dissemination of the doctrines of the church, and came to this country for that express purpose. He seems to have been disappointed at the small results which were accomplished, but as seen from the present point of view, their importance can hardly be overestimated. It seems probable that all the original twelve members of the society in Boston, except Mr. Roby, with others who joined directly after its formation, received the doctrines, directly or indirectly, through his influence.
Thomas Worcester was born in Thornton, N. H., April 15, 1795. He was the youngest son of Noah Worcester, D. D., who was settled as pastor of the Congregational church in that place. His mother died when he was only two years old, and his father was subsequently married a second time. He belonged to a ministerial family. Two of his paternal ancestors were ministers, the Rev. Francis Worcester, who was minister at Sandwich, Mass., and the Rev. William Worcester, who was the first minister of Salisbury, Mass.
Born in New Hampshire, he always remembered his native hills, and loved nothing better than to climb a mountain and enjoy its air and scenery as long as his health and strength permitted him to do so.
Noah Worcester was a very remarkable man from his youth upwards, and I doubt whether any other person in the country exercised a greater or more salutary influence on the religious thought of his day and generation, or did more to prepare the public mind for the coming of the New Church. Always of a thoughtful and serious turn of mind, at the age of twelve years he led in family worship when his father was absent from home. At the age of sixteen his opportunities for going to school ceased altogether, and he did not see a dictionary till a year later. He was at the battle of Bunker Hill, where he narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. Two years later he was again in the army for a short time, and during this period was in the battle of Bennington. At the age of eighteen we find him a successful school-teacher, a vocation which he followed for nine successive winters. At the age of twenty-eight he was settled over the Congregational society in Thornton, having, during the previous five years and a half in which he had resided in the place, been schoolmaster, selectman, town clerk, justice of the peace, and representative to the General Court.
Having officiated in Thornton about fourteen years, in 1810 he was invited to go to Salisbury, N. H., as assistant minister to his brother, Rev. Thomas Worcester, who was in infirm health. At this time he was engaged in the publication of his work entitled "Bible News of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." This work, as soon as it appeared, produced a strong sensation, not only in Mr. Worcester's immediate circle, but in almost every part of New England, and it soon became the subject of severe animadversion and of earnest controversy. The Hopkinton association, of which he was a member, passed a formal sentence of condemnation against the book.
About this time Unitarianism was beginning to be prominent and somewhat demonstrative in Boston and vicinity, but Trinitarianism then was very different from Unitarianism now. Views in regard to the Lord which are now frequently heard from our pulpits would have been regarded sixty years ago as little short of blasphemy. Dr. Worcester, while rejecting the Calvinistic views of the Trinity, then held so universally in the churches of New England, and exposing their absurdity and inconsistency, took very high ground in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The leading Unitarians in Boston thought that they saw in him a new and most able advocate of their cause, and took measures to induce him to leave Salisbury and settle in their vicinity. He accordingly removed to Brighton in 1813, and a new periodical was established, called "The Christian Disciple," of which he was made the editor, and which was continued for five successive years. In 1814 he published his tract entitled "A Solemn Review of the Custom of War," which passed through many editions, and was translated into several languages. This led to the establishment of the Massachusetts Peace Society, of which he was the secretary, and, in 1819, to the publication of a new periodical, "The Friend of Peace," a quarterly, of which he was editor, and which continued for a period of ten years. The friend of peace in civil affairs was also the friend of peace in those that occupied the higher ground of religion.
Differences in religious belief have given rise to wars which did not, indeed, kill or harm the bodies of men, but did much to destroy those kind and gentle affections which constitute the real life of the soul. One of the most gratifying signs of the times is the great improvement in this respect during the last fifty years.
"The old gentleman looked like a patriarch. He was six feet or more in height, with a large frame. His hair was rather long behind, hanging a little over the collar of his coat, and when he walked in the street he usually had a large surtout or gown; and bore a staff rather than a cane, with a pretty large brimmed hat. When any one who loved what was antique and venerable saw him thus, he could not fail to be greatly impressed by his appearance, and to feel that he was in the presence of a dignified yet entirely unassuming man. His habits of living were very simple, partly, I have no doubt, from taste, and partly also from necessity;
Dr. Channing says of him: -
"As one came from a visit to him in his neat and humble abode, and returned into a city like Boston, he could not but think, as he looked upon the abodes of many of the wealthy there, how little was needful, after all, to insure to a man whose heart and whose mind were superior to things seen and sensual, the purest and highest earthly happiness of which, in this state of trial, we are usually permitted to be the subjects."
There is a letter to Dr. Sprague, printed in the "Annals of the American Pulpit," written by Mr. Thomas Worcester in regard to his father, which contains the following interesting statement: -
"You doubtless remember the war which was carried on in this State between the Trinitarians and Unitarians, about fifty years ago;
"One circumstance interested us a good deal. Not long after the battle was over, my uncle visited my father, and while they were conversing on the subject, the latter expressed his regret that the former had said some things which appeared to him unduly severe. My uncle replied that he did not intend to say any such things, and was sorry if he had; and added that he should have been glad to have my father revise his manuscript before it was printed, and should have requested him to do it, if he had had an opportunity. It would have been pleasant to see both parties resorting to the same person for that purpose; and the tone of the controversy might have been the better for it."
The influence of his father must have been of the most salutary kind, and contributed much to prepare his son for the work which Providence had in store for him. It is not, perhaps, surprising that two of the twelve original members of the Boston Society of the New Church should have been the sons of such a father. It is not difficult to see marks of resemblance between the father and the son. The latter was remarkable for his promptness and punctuality, if by punctuality be understood at or before the appointed time.
* I am mainly indebted for the foregoing facts in regard to Dr. Noah Worcester, to Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit.
My acquaintance with Mr. Worcester began in the year 1814, this being the year in which we both entered Harvard College as freshmen. We occupied rooms in the same building, it being a private residence near to that of Dr. Kirkland, then president of the university.
Mr. Worcester, for some time previous to his entering college, had been under the instruction of the Rev. Pitt Clark, and resided in his family in Norton. Mr. Clark and my father were intimate friends, and being ministers in neighboring towns sometimes exchanged with each other, and Mr. Worcester had met my father at Mr. Clark's house. This was the occasion of our being first brought together.
It happened that neither of us had a congenial chum the first year, and it was arranged that we should occupy a room together in one of the college buildings the second; and this was continued during the rest of our college life. This arrangement was very satisfactory to my father, who had been favorably impressed with his short acquaintance with Mr. Worcester, and who had great respect for his father;
Mr. Worcester was then nineteen years old, and I was five years his junior, and, as I look back, I cannot well see why he should have chosen me for a room-mate, as I could hardly have been a companion for him at that time; but I can see in this, very clearly, the hand of Divine Providence; certainly so far as I was concerned. All my life has been shaped differently from what it might have been under other circumstances, for which I can never be sufficiently thankful to my Heavenly Father.
Mr. Worcester is remembered at that time as tall and slender, but possessed of a good degree of physical strength. He, as well as myself, was poor, and our expenses were very largely paid by waiting on the tables, which was then the custom in college for those who needed assistance; and by keeping school during the long winter vacation, which was somewhat extended for that purpose. He was a good scholar, and might, I doubt not, have taken high rank in his class, had he made this his special object, but he did not confine himself to his college studies.
I remember his being engaged in reading some standard English works, and, after his college course was about half finished, he became so much interested in the works of Swedenborg that for the last two years, to use his own words,
Mr. Samuel Worcester, elder brother of Thomas, met with the works of Swedenborg when teaching school in Dedham as early as the year 1814. He became deeply interested in them, and was not a man to be idle. He was the first to seek out the very few persons in Boston and vicinity who had some knowledge of these works; and those who had been readers by themselves for years were now for the first time made acquainted with each other. Principally through his influence, there was a gathering of them in the spring of 1817 at the house where Mrs. Prescott was boarding, No. 12 Cornhill, now Washington Street. There appears to have been only ten persons present, Mr. Thomas Worcester being one of the number.
I think that he continued to attend these meetings, as they were afterwards held fortnightly, on Thursday at the house of Dr. James Mann, on the spot where the Globe Theatre is now located, till the society was instituted, August 15, 1818. At this time there were probably not thirty persons in Massachusetts who were at all interested in the doctrines of the Church; and all others who had ever heard of the name of Swedenborg seemed to have heard of it only in connection with some foolish story which had no foundation in truth.
Mr. Hill, of whom I have already spoken, is said to have had great hopes of Harvard University. Following the example of Swedenborg, he presented to the college library a set of the "Arcana Coelestia" of the original edition in Latin, and perhaps some few of the other works. Mr. Worcester had heard that these works were in the library and went to obtain them. His experience was so remarkable that I give it in his own words
"Upon my return to college, after I had begun to read Swedenborg, I went to the library the second time to see if I could find any of his works. The librarian looked into the catalogue again, and found the alcove and shelves where they ought to have been; but they were not there. Then we began a thorough search. We looked through the whole library, in place and out of place, but could not find them. Then we began to think of other rooms. At that time the library was in the second story of the west end of Harvard Hall. In the east end was a large room, called the 'Philosophical Room.' And between this room and the library was a small room, which for the want of a proper name was called the 'Museum.' It was filled with rubbish, old curiosities, cast off, superseded, and obsolete philosophical apparatus, and so forth, all covered with dust. We could see no reason for hunting here, except that we had hunted everywhere else, without finding what we wanted.
"By what means or for what purpose these 'Heavenly Doctrines' were cast out of the library of Harvard College must be left to conjecture. Of the 50,000 or 60,000 volumes then belonging to the library, these were the only ones that were treated in this manner. The fact seems to represent the state of the New Church at that time."
These books must have then been in the college library for a long time, possibly for twenty years, as Mr. Hill first visited Cambridge as early as 1794, and died in Philadelphia in 1804. Such was the utter neglect which these works met with in this oldest of our universities, dedicated by our Puritan fathers "Christo et Ecclesiae (to Christ and the Church); where, if anywhere, it might have been expected that they would have found some interested readers. But Harvard has since made some amends for this bad beginning. In the year 1856 she conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon him who thus, by his persistent efforts, rescued the works of Swedenborg from the oblivion to which she had apparently consigned them, and by his faithful use of them afterwards well merited and won the honor, it being the first time this degree had been conferred upon a New Church minister by any university.
It was said that the Boston Society of the New Jerusalem was instituted in the year 1818, and that Mr. Thomas Worcester was one of the number. The estimation in which he was held by his associates appears from the fact that he was at once chosen as their leader. The consequences of the organization of the society cannot be overestimated. As I look back over a period of sixty years, their magnitude and importance do not seem to be less, but greater.
At the head of the list stands the name of Mr. Joseph Roby. He became acquainted with the doctrines of the New Church in the year 1784, through Mr. James Glenn, who visited Boston and gave some lectures on these doctrines in that year. He made the prayer at the first gathering at Mrs. Prescott's. Miss Gary, in her "Early Recollections of the New Church," speaks of him as a bookseller, - partner in the concern of White and Co., - and says that he procured the "Arcana Coelestia" for her, as the volumes were published in English, in London.
Dr. James Mann was a gentleman of very decided character, and of good reputation, an excellent physician, and an earnest New Churchman. He was about seventy years old, had been a surgeon in the war of the Revolution, and afterwards in the war of 1812, and was at this time in the employment of the government, as surgeon for the soldiers stationed at Fort Independence. He had been a Deist before meeting with the works of Swedenborg. He was a widower, with several daughters and one son, and his New Church friends met with a welcome reception at his house. He had been personally acquainted with Mr. Hill, through whom he had received a knowledge of the doctrines of the church.
Nathaniel Balch was the grandson of the Rev. Dr. Stillman, an eminent Baptist clergyman of Boston. He was about thirty years old, and so deaf that it was difficult to converse with him. He was a journeyman printer, a man of excellent character, and highly esteemed by all who knew him.
Mr. Davies was a converted Jew, a respectable mechanic, and about thirty years of age. He was an enthusiastic receiver of the doctrines, though not highly intelligent in them.
Mr. Samuel Worcester, whom I have already mentioned, was an elder brother of Mr. Thomas Worcester, a very decided and highly intelligent receiver of the doctrines, and a great student of them. He was the chief mover in getting the receivers together for meetings, the strongest advocate for coming out, and the principal agent in procuring the institution of the society. He was soon after licensed to preach, and was long a minister of the New Church. He died many years ago; but his wife is still living.
Mrs. Abigail Cowell, whom Miss Cary speaks of as "dear old Madame Cowell," had been acquainted with Mr. Hill, and from him had received a knowledge of the doctrines. She resided with her son-in-law, Dr. Dunn, - a respectable druggist in Washington Street, who was a widower, - and had the charge of his family. Miss Cary says of her, "Her heart was deeply interested in the welfare of the society, and she was ready to promote any use in the church. She had the judgment and experience so useful in regulating young and ardent minds; and many looked to her for advice, for she was in the life of the doctrines." She was about seventy years old when the church was organized, and died at the age of seventy-seven.
Miss Eliza Cowell was a daughter of Mrs. Abigail Cowell. She was a lady of strong natural affections, full of domestic good works, a cordial receiver of the doctrines, and much devoted to the reading of them. She was about forty years of age.
Mrs. Margaret H. Prescott was the daughter of Mr. Joseph Hiller, and the mother of the Rev. Mr. Hiller who died a few years since in Glasgow, Scotland, where he had officiated as a New Church minister. Mr. Joseph Hiller was one of the earliest receivers of the doctrines in the country, and his daughter had been brought up under their influence. She was a very intelligent lady, an ardent and enthusiastic receiver of the doctrines, and always ready to advance and advocate them. She was cousin to Mr. Henry G. Foster.
Mrs. Thomazine E. Minot, the late Mrs. Wilkins, will be remembered by many at the present time as a woman of a highly cultivated mind, a very decided character, and a very intelligent and affectionate receiver of the doctrines of the church. She was a diligent reader of Swedenborg, and had been a great reader of other books. She was one of the most useful members of the society. In conversation and in writing, she expressed herself with great simplicity and clearness. She published a small volume called "Lessons for Children," of which I think there were several editions, although it may now be out of print. These Lessons were first read to the children of the Sunday-school soon after that school was begun. They were full of New Church truths, presented in a very simple and affectionate way, well adapted to the purpose for which they were intended. Mrs. Wilkins died in 1864.
Miss Cary's experience was very remarkable.
"In England I remained till I was fourteen. My instruction was as good as was generally given at that time; but I was a very dull scholar, and was just beginning to understand the advantages of my situation when I was recalled to the West Indies. My discipline had been strict and severe; and probably that was of more benefit to me than the learning I acquired. I was a year and a half in Granada, and then accompanied the family to Boston in 1791.
"I had always a religious disposition. 'The Whole Duty of Man' was a book I chose for reading by myself during the intervals of worship, on Sabbath days, while at school, and I was early convinced of the evil of my nature. My home was at Chelsea, on a farm. I visited Boston frequently, and enjoyed society for a year or two; but in my eighteenth year I was very desirous of joining the church, - the only one at Chelsea at that time, Dr. Payson's. I underwent a great deal in my mind, and some ridicule from my young friends, - one asking me if I thought myself good enough. 'No; but I joined in the hope of being made so.'
"After some months partaking of the Holy Supper, which was always a season of deep repentance, followed by a feeling of happiness, at the time of communing beyond what anything on this earth had ever bestowed, - in visiting a friend in Boston, she conversed with me on religious subjects, and recommended lending to me books by Voltaire and English skeptics, which affected my faith grievously. I felt much alarmed, and applied to all the religious books (of which there were many) in my father's library, without any real benefit; and finally determined to keep to the Bible alone, to read it steadily through, and cling to it with my whole soul. I did so. When I came to the commandments given on Mount Sinai, the first, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' struck me as it had never done before. I had been brought up in the Episcopal Church, though I had joined the Congregational, and had always an idea of three Persons. I paused in great terror; and came to the conclusion that even in asking through the name of the Saviour, there was an interference with the worship of one God. This affected the form of my prayers afterwards; and I had an awful idea of having offended God. I read on till I came, of course, to the New Testament; then, as if a door was opened in my soul into heaven, an inexpressible happiness flowed into me. Jesus the all-sufficient Saviour! 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Texts of this description took possession of me; all the clouds and doubts and anxieties fled away. I went to my chamber repeatedly in the course of the day, to read a chapter; while a consciousness that I had for a time disregarded the Saviour humbled me to the dust; but He was all-merciful, and I transported.
"In this state I went to make a visit in Boston, and went to church with my friends the first Sunday in June, 1796. The Holy Supper was administered; and I partook, looking entirely to Jesus Christ, and imploring Him, if I was mistaken, that I might be enlightened; if right, that I might be confirmed.
"The next morning I took my work, and went to sit with Mrs. Andrews. In those years of my life, I was apt to be in either very low spirits, or the reverse. 'You are in fine spirits to-day' says Mrs. Andrews. 'Yes, I never mean to be unhappy again. I have found my Saviour.' To her inquiries I gave an account of the various states I had passed through for the last year. 'Why, you will be a Swedenborgian!' 'Oh, never I' I said; 'for they do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and that I am determined to hold to.' 'You are quite mistaken,' was the reply; 'that is what they do believe.' And she immediately brought from her closet some of the books which had been left under her care by Mr. Hill, when he returned to England after his first visit.
"Oh! never can I forget the rapture of that hour. Admittance into heaven could not produce a more powerful sensation. I read and imbibed I know not how much, but it was of the doctrine of the Lord. I took home to Chelsea 'Conjugial Love,' kept it as a precious treasure, and read it when quite alone.
"This was the commencement of my reading, sixty years ago. I anticipated nothing but delight. I mistook the seed-time for the harvest. I had no idea of the regenerating process which was necessary. But in this I was not mistaken, - that my prayer was heard and answered;
In 1797, after Mr. Hill's return to Boston on his second visit, Miss Cary had been reading Swedenborg for something more than a year. She says the)' did not meet as strangers, as Mrs. Andrews had written of her to her brother, and she had heard much of Mr. Hill's first visit through her. It appears to have been about this time that Mr. Hill told her that there were only three persons that he could depend upon as receivers, Mr. Roby, Mr. Samuel Brown, and herself. From this time till the year 1817, when the receivers in Boston and vicinity were made acquainted with each other, she seems to have been almost entirely alone. She had heard of Mrs. Prescott through Mr. Roby, and in 1816 called and introduced herself to her. She does not speak of having become acquainted with any other receivers. When the society was to be instituted, there was no hesitation on her part. She writes as follows
"It was a very hot afternoon; the horse wanted to be shod; there was no alternative but to walk all the way over two bridges; for, though there was at that time a sail-boat in the ferry, it was always uncertain, on account of wind and tide. I got there in time, and made a proposal; for at the beginning, when we were so small in numbers, each one expressed himself or herself freely;
This proposal was not adopted. All the ladies were in favor of it, but there was decided opposition to it, especially on the part of one of the gentlemen. This opposition entirely disappeared afterwards, and the sacrament was approved and adopted.
Miss Cary's early discipline in childhood, which she speaks of as "strict and severe," seems to have prepared her for her experience in after life. Always erect, mind and body, swerving neither to the right hand nor to the left, she moved straight forward, faithful to her convictions of right and duty. She boarded for a long time in the family of her pastor, and afterwards in that of Mr. Caleb Reed. The church occupied the first place in her affections and thoughts. She was a constant reader of Swedenborg. Mr. Hayward, in his notice, at the semi-centennial celebration, of his associates when the society was instituted, speaks of her as follows: -
"Miss Cary's reception of the doctrines was most devout, sincere, and heartfelt, and their heavenly influence was so manifest in her whole character, life, conversation, and deportment, that she was looked up to by the other receivers as almost saintly. Her acquaintance was very extensive, and her excellence of character equally widely acknowledged by all. She was of highly polished, refined, and lady-like manners, yet of an amiableness and kindness that won all hearts; possessed of a dignity that attracted a readily accorded deference, she was gentle and affable to all;
She lived from the time when she herself constituted one third part of all the receivers of the doctrines of the New Church in Massachusetts, till, at the administration of the Holy Supper at the session of the General Convention, in 1866, she had been one of more than six hundred communicants. She died at the advanced age of ninety-three years.
At the time that the society was instituted, Mr. Worcester found no one of the college students at all prepared to unite with himself and others, with the exception of Mr. T. B. Hayward.
Mr. Hayward had been reading Swedenborg about a year, and the circumstances which led to the commencement of his reading are very interesting. About the close of Mr. Worcester's junior and of Mr. Hayward's freshman year, dysentery of a malignant type prevailed in Cambridge, and many students left the place on account of it, among the number Mr. Worcester, who went to his father's in Brighton. There was in the class to which Mr. Worcester belonged, a young man by the name of McCulloch. He was a fine scholar, much beloved and respected in the class, and one of the few with whom Mr. Worcester had been on terms of much intimacy. He was, as Mr. Worcester afterwards learned on inquiry of Hon. Hugh McCulloch, lately secretary of the treasury, a brother of that gentleman, and said by him to have been the flower of the family.
Such an opportunity soon occurred. Mr. Worcester came in from Brighton with his father to attend McCulloch's funeral, and there met Mr. Hayward, who had remained at Cambridge.
The following account was furnished by Mr. Francis Phelps, as he received it from Mr. Worcester and recorded it at the time, slightly modified by Mr. Hayward's account a few weeks before he died: -
"At the close of the funeral service Mr. Worcester asked Mr. Hayward if he would like to take a walk. Mr. Hayward assented. Almost immediately Mr. Worcester began to speak of McCulloch, and expressed considerable interest in his present condition; wondering what he was then doing, and other things of a similar nature. Mr. H. says, 'I turned and looked at him and said, "What strange things you are talking about, Mr. Worcester. I never heard of any such talk before. Where do you get such singular thoughts?"' Mr. Worcester then told him about the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and that a new system of religion was revealed them.
"Soon after this the president told Mr. Hayward it was not safe for him to stay in Cambridge, and he prepared to leave, but first went to see Mr. Worcester.
"When he left Mr. Worcester, he took with him a copy of 'Heaven and Hell,' and began his walk to Sudbury.
"'On the way,' he says, 'I came into a very peculiar state of mind about the new religion. I was about to engage in the examination of an entirely new system of religion, and my mind was much exercised in thinking by what test I should try its truth. I recalled the doctrines of the various denominations I was acquainted with, but found nothing in any of them upon which I could depend. At length I said to myself, "And is there really no test by which I shall certainly know whether it is true or false?" At that moment I seemed to hear a voice saying to me, "There is such a test. If it has the tendency to make you a better man; to make you love the Scriptures; to bring you nearer to the Lord, it is true, not otherwise." ' He then began to read the book, and soon became an avowed receiver of the doctrines of the New Church."
Mr. Hayward was the youngest of the twelve, being only twenty-one years old at the time, and Mr. Worcester was next to him, being three years his elder.
It will be remembered that Mr. Hayward soon followed Mr. Worcester into the spiritual world, having been the last survivor of the original twelve members of the society. The number of those in the church who have known him intimately is now comparatively small. He has, for many years, been oppressed by bodily infirmities, and spent much of the time at the South; and those who have known him only as he has appeared of late, can form no adequate conception of what he was in his younger days, -full of life, activity, and good humor.
After leaving college he devoted himself for many years to the occupation of teacher of boys and young men in a private school; and his ability in this work was very remarkable. He was an educator in the true sense of the word, developing and strengthening the faculties of his pupils, and thus enabling them to acquire for themselves, rather than filling their memories with superfluous knowledge. Some of our most distinguished men were at one time under his instruction. At a later period he was for some time at the head of the New Church day-school, established by the Boston society.
He was from a very early date, if not from the beginning, and for a long time, the secretary of the Boston society, which may have led to his filling the same office in the Massachusetts Association, and also in the General Convention for a long term of years. It was a place of much labor and responsibility; and its duties were faithfully and satisfactorily performed. He was for many years a member of the church committee of the Boston society, and an able assistant and adviser to his pastor in this capacity, as well as in other ways.
In his early years he was a great lover of music, especially church music, to which he paid much attention In 1829 he was chairman of a committee of the Boston society, under whose auspices the first Book of Worship was prepared, which led to and became the basis of the Book of Worship, or Liturgy, published under the direction of a committee of the General Convention in 1836.
Somewhat late in life, he devoted himself to the ministry, and preached for a considerable time to several of the societies of the New Church in Massachusetts, always very acceptably. The pulpit in Boston was mostly supplied by him during the absence of Mr. Worcester in Europe. The New Church Society in Salem was instituted by him. As a diligent and careful reader of Swedenborg, and for the thoroughness of his understanding of the doctrines of the Church, he had few equals. He had probably given more attention to the study of Swedenborg's works in the original Latin, and to ascertaining the precise meaning in which the words were used by him, than any other man living. Several of Swedenborg's works published in Boston were translated by him, and he has left a large amount of manuscript translation of other works in the hands of his executors. He was made professor of Latin and Greek in the theological school at Waltham, and gave instruction in Swedenborg's Latin and in the Greek Testament -
In his remarks at the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of this society, Mr. Hayward describes its institution as follows:* -
"The ceremony was very simple. We stood in a circle around the room; Mr. Carll read some suitable forms, including some passages from the Word; we kneeled, and united in repeating the Lord's Prayer; the proper questions were asked and answered. Mr. Carll then declared us to be a duly instituted church;
* I am indebted to Mr. Hayward for a considerable part of the information concerning the first twelve members contained in the foregoing pages.
The ends of Providence are the soul of history. Kingdoms may rise and fall, and be buried out of sight, but the Divine purposes which they were made to promote, or accomplish, live on, and can never be destroyed. These purposes, as it seems to me, will be more apparent to the New Church than ever before; for the laws of Providence, hitherto hidden, are now revealed. From these laws we learn that the inmost end of all is a heaven for the human race, and that all other things are of value in proportion as they tend more or less directly to promote this end of ends. At the head of the list stands the church, which is the Lord's kingdom on earth, whose office it is to cooperate with the heavens in the salvation of men; and I cannot doubt that, when the "Mayflower" was guided by an unerring hand to the shores of Plymouth, where our forefathers found a home in what was then a wilderness, the way was being prepared by the Lord for the institution of his New Church in another kind of wilderness, two hundred years afterwards.
It seems proper to speak in this place of Henry G. Foster, who, though not one of the original members, had been one of the most active and useful workers with them up to that time, and with his two sisters, Nancy and Susan, and their aunt Mary Hiller, joined the society three weeks after it was instituted. The persons here mentioned, with the father and mother of Mr. Foster, made up the family which occupied the house at the corner of Pinckney and Belknap (now Joy) streets.
Mr. Foster had been a reader of Swedenborg from the year 1808, and must have been, in some respects, more helpful to Mr. Worcester at this early period than any other person. Mr. Worcester was not then ready or prepared to write sermons, and selections were made from the best materials which could be found. This was not an easy task. A few sermons, etc., by Mr. Clowes, and perhaps one or two other New Church ministers in England, made up the stock of collateral works, so called, at this time, and an attempt was made to use some discourses from the best English writers, especially Jeremy Taylor, with such alterations as were necessary to make them unobjectionable. But little, however, was done in this direction, and the reading was largely from Swedenborg. Mr. Foster, being an older man, and more mature in the doctrines, was able to afford valuable assistance in making the selections.
Mr. Wilkins has given an obituary notice of Mr. Foster in the "New Jerusalem Magazine," April, 1861. It is interesting, as being his last communication to the magazine; He soon followed him to the spiritual world. He writes as follows: -
"The decease of Mr. Foster calls up many agreeable and useful reminiscences in relation to the early history of the Boston society. He was an ardent and intelligent receiver of the doctrines before the organization of the society was thought of. He was of frank manners, imbued with scholarly tastes and habits, a cordial receiver of the Heavenly Doctrines, and well qualified to hold the position of counsellor and guide in all matters pertaining to the church, - a position freely accorded to him by his associates. Besides exerting an extensive influence in matters purely ecclesiastical, he was in what was then regarded a favorable position in worldly matters. Of the firm of Walley and Foster, - the late Samuel H. Walley being his partner, - his firm was in remarkably good standing and credit; and, indeed, he was almost the only one in the society who could be said to have any position or standing at all in the business world. Of course much of the pecuniary responsibility of the society rested on his shoulders; and, being liberal almost to a fault, he was accustomed to assume a large proportion of the balances that were frequently accumulating against the society.
"It is pleasant to have these reminiscences revived. They exhibit the human means by which the Divine Providence took care of the church in its days of small things. They exhibit the means by which apparently insurmountable obstacles were removed, and the way made plain before us.
"We have alluded to the scholarly habits and tastes of Mr. Foster. He was a recipient of the Franklin medal in 1796.
He died in 1861, at the age of seventy-five years.
Immediately after having graduated, Mr. Worcester joined the theological school at Cambridge, and I joined the school at the same time. I did so on the advice of my father, with the probable expectation on his part that I should become a minister of the Unitarian denomination, and with a somewhat vague expectation of the same thing myself. But I had been somewhat interested in the works of Swedenborg while in college, and now commenced reading them in earnest; and became a member of the church two years later at the age of twenty years. Mr. Wilkins, who joined the church the same month with myself, having taught the Taunton Academy one year, joined the theological school the year following, he remaining in the school two years, and Mr. Worcester and myself three. Our position was well understood by the professors; and we expressed our views with the utmost freedom. We were active in bringing the doctrines to the attention of all who were ready to listen to them, and in corresponding with our friends at a distance on the subject. We were treated with great kindness by the government of the college, receiving as much as others from funds which could be applied to the payment of our expenses.
Little did we think, as we attended the exercises of the Rev. Henry Ware, D. D., the oldest professor in the theological school, that several of his grandchildren would become members of the New Church society, then just instituted, and that their father, Dr. John Ware, who had preceded us by a few years as a graduate of the college, after having become an eminent physician in Boston, and professor in the medical department of the university, would himself be about to unite with the same society, when he was called into the spiritual world.
Although we attended the prescribed exercises under the direction of the professors, our attention was mainly devoted to the works of Swedenborg. The difficulty of obtaining these works, and the want of means for their publication, may be realized by the fact that at this time a little work, the "New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines," was published by subscription at forty cents a copy, and subscriptions were solicited from the professors and others. The ladies of the society at this, or some subsequent period, raised the sum of fifty dollars, which was devoted to Mr. Worcester's use. With it he purchased a copy of the "Arcana." Miss Cary, in her "Early Recollections," thought the sum none too great for the purpose. We could hardly have expected to live to see the time when the works of Swedenborg would be sent broadcast over the land almost without money and without price.
During our residence at Cambridge an incident occurred which was of much interest at the time, and which was calculated to bring the New Church into notice. The Rev. Holland Weeks, pastor of a church in Abington, became an interested reader and receiver of the doctrines. He had been highly esteemed by his brethren of the Congregational Church, and was regarded as authority on religious subjects. As he read Swedenborg, the character of his sermons was changed, and he preached what he received without telling the source from which it came, and his popularity was in no way diminished, but rather increased. He opened a communication with us at Cambridge, before it was known to his congregation that he was a reader of Swedenborg. I accompanied Mr. Worcester on a visit to him at his house in Abington. During our visit, one of the most wealthy and influential members of the church called on Mr. Weeks, and in response to his questions, expressed his belief that the Bible had a spiritual and also a celestial sense; but when the source from which Mr. Weeks had derived his new light was made known to his congregation, it awakened the most decided opposition, and this man was one of his strongest opponents. It was agreed to have a mutual council, consisting of three on each side, the six to select a seventh, who was to be moderator. The church made their selection of ministers from those of the Calvinistic faith.
One of the charges brought against Mr. Weeks was that he believed that the world would not come to an end.
Mr. Weeks had purchased some real estate in Henderson, N. Y., in exchange for a horse, of a man who had found his way to Abington; and he removed to that place, where he was instrumental in building up a New Church society. Would it not then have seemed marvelous to Mr. Worcester if he could have foreseen the fact that he should live to see his great-grandchildren, the fruit of a marriage between his granddaughter and the grandson of Mr. Weeks, who had been born, and received their early instruction, in New Church societies a thousand miles apart?
Mr. Worcester was invited to become the pastor of the society March 10, 1821. At this time he was employed in teaching school in Brookline, a situation which had been obtained not without difficulty. In speaking of the change which had taken place in the public mind in regard to the New Church, he writes as follows, fifty years afterwards
"The New Church is in all respects regarded very differently from what it was fifty years ago. This some of us know by experience; for some of us were then quite dependent, and in want of employment. We had been struggling to get our education, and had exhausted, and more than exhausted, our means. We had expected to become ministers, but now all prospect of this was cut off. We therefore seemed to be qualified for nothing but school-teaching; but such was the prejudice against our religion, that this occupation was not open to us. For example, Mr. Wilkins wished to obtain a public school at the North End, but was opposed and prevented from obtaining it by Dr. Charles Lowell, one of the best ministers among those who delight in calling themselves Liberal Christians. Mr. Hayward also had, I believe, engaged a school in Concord, Mass.; but this could not be allowed to go into effect; for Dr. Ripley, another venerable minister of the same denomination, interposed, and broke up the contract. As for myself, I had been extensively known, and had been treated with a good deal of favor among the Unitarian ministers of that day on account of my father, who was much visited, and much esteemed by them.
Mr. Worcester was married on the 8th of May to Miss Alice Clark. Mrs. Minot, afterwards Mrs. Wilkins, had taken a large boarding-house in Cambridge - the property of Mr. Craigie, and near his residence - with special reference to the accommodation of the New Church students. Mr. Joseph E. Worcester and several of the professors were at one time among her boarders. She now gave up this establishment, and took a large house in Boston, in what is now known as Hayward Place, with a garden attached, it having been the residence of the elder Dr. Hayward, who had recently died This was for the purpose of accommodating the pastor of the society and his wife, and other New Church boarders;
The history of Mr. Worcester, of his early connection with the society, and of the society itself, would be very imperfect, if special mention were not made of Mrs. Alice Worcester.
From a memorandum left by Mr. Worcester himself, which I have kindly been permitted to make use of, I copy the following: -
"Her mind was full of religious sentiment, and of a desire to live a good life, and she needed only the truth to direct her. So, when I became convinced that she would receive the doctrines of the New Church, I proposed that we should unite in our efforts to live according to them. The proposal was favorably received, but not accepted till after long, careful consideration, and consultation with her parents.
"She was a very good wife and mother; and being very open-hearted and kind, she came into intimate relations with all, or nearly all, the wives and mothers in our society. Almost daily did they come to her for advice and encouragement. This would lead us to study the subjects (they presented) together. The studies were very useful to us, and I think they were the means of enabling her to be very useful to others."
She is remembered as a beautiful bride; and it was a happy circumstance for the society that their pastor commenced his married life and his pastorate at the same time.
It has sometimes seemed to me that the use performed by a good minister's wife was second in importance only to that of the minister himself. Mrs. Worcester filled this place to the entire acceptance of the society. She was its recognized head in her department, as much as her husband was in his. She took a most lively interest in all that concerned its welfare and in her husband's work; being helpful as only a wife could be. Her advice was sought by the ladies of the society in difficult matters, and was freely and judiciously given. At her house, New Church people, whether of our own society or from a distance, always found a welcome reception. Her household affairs were most carefully attended to; and, though the means at her command were necessarily limited, they were managed with such prudence and economy that what in other hands might have afforded a scanty subsistence was in hers converted into thrift. Miss Cary, who boarded in the family many years, and knew her most intimately, says of her, "How faithfully, how zealously, and how entirely she filled her sphere, many hearts can testify." She died in 1848, having been the mother of eight children, two of whom died in child hood, one in early womanhood, and five are still with us, too well known in the church and in the community to be particularly mentioned in this notice.
The future growth and character of the church in Boston, and indeed in Massachusetts and New England, seem to me to have depended much, very much, on the characteristic qualities of the mind of him who was at this early period and onwards its acknowledged head and leader. There was need of all the decision and firmness for which Mr. Worcester's life was so remarkable. The New Church was regarded by him as a New Dispensation, in the most distinct and emphatic manner, differing from the former church as that differed from the Jewish. It would appear as though there never was a body of men and women thrown more completely on their own resources. They could not look to the former church for the development of New Church life and principles. Societies had been instituted in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and perhaps a few other places; but these were feeble and distant, and the means of communication were then very different from what they now are. In addition to this, a difference had arisen between Mr. Worcester and members of the Boston society on the one hand; and some of the leading members of the church elsewhere on the other. I think this difference arose principally from the opinion expressed by Mr. Worcester in the year 1819, and received by the members of this society, that the relation of pastor and church was, as to its reciprocal uses of teaching and receiving, one of the many likenesses of the conjugial relation.
It was doubtless the case that there was more or less that was crude and immature at that time in the opinions entertained in Boston on this and other kindred subjects. The young men so actively engaged were only in the twilight of the New Dispensation. On the subject of baptism, the perceptive faculties of Miss Cary and other good women outran the slow and doubting reasoning powers of the other sex. But it is also true that the opinions entertained in regard to the relation between pastor and church were much misunderstood and misrepresented elsewhere, and were the occasion of much trouble in the church for a considerable time afterwards.
It was a slow process to correct and remove the wrong impression which had gone abroad as to what was regarded as a Boston heresy.
Mr. Worcester was invited to become the pastor of the society March 10, 1821; but was not ordained till August 17, 1828, by reason of opposition to his ordination on the part of some of the leading members of the Convention. When ordained, he was introduced at once into the highest grade of the ministry, - that of an ordaining minister,-which seemed very important for the society and the church at large.
In the mean time, his license authorized him to baptize and to officiate at funerals; but he had no authority to officiate at the administration of the Lord's Supper, or at weddings. During this period I do not remember - that there was any complaint, or impatience, still less any thought of taking the matter into his own hands, or in any way disregarding the rules or the authority of the Convention.
Prior to the time of his ordination, he would have had little occasion for performing the marriage service, but there was one case in which it would have been pleasant, if he had been authorized to officiate. In the spring of 1824, Mr. B. T. Loring was married to Miss Elizabeth J. Head. Mr. Loring had not been an accepted visitor at the residence of the bride's father, and the marriage was performed at a house in Sullivan Place, recently taken by Mr. Worcester, with a view to the accommodation of the newly married couple, where they at once took up their residence. The minister first applied to, to perform the marriage ceremony, declined under the circumstances, and the Rev. Henry Ware, Jr., officiated on the occasion. . . It is pleasant to be able to add that the unpleasant differences which had existed entirely disappeared at a subsequent period, and Mr. Loring was much beloved and respected by Mr. Head, as he richly deserved to be. Other members of the family became interested in the doctrines and members of the society. Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, from whom we derive the legacy known as the Smith Fund, was an aunt of Mrs. Loring, being a sister of her father; and Miss Caroline L. Head was a sister.
The members of a society thus situated were compelled, as it were, to draw near each other.
It was determined at a very early period to have only one public service on the Sabbath. This decision was reached upon principle. It was thought that the morning service could not be repeated on the same day, and that the worship at that time would be likely to prove more deep and real, if the afternoon were employed in some other way. This left the afternoon free for church meetings, which were held at the pastor's house for the study of the doctrines, and for other purposes.
The afternoon meetings were subsequently opened to those who had been baptized in the church, and at a still later period were made free to all who wished to attend. This course of things seemed to some to be exclusive; but was it not an exclusiveness which saved the life of the society? Had the efforts of the pastor been primarily to make proselytes, and not to build up a the society itself, might not its life have been smothered by outside influences? Its growth was slow but healthy.
We learn from Swedenborg that it is of Divine Providence that the New Church should begin with few, and increase by slow degrees. Not of permission, but of Providence. What could be the reason for this, unless it be that its foundation would be thus more deeply and securely laid?
Swedenborg and Wesley were contemporaries. Methodism began with many, increased rapidly, and has overrun a large part of the Christian world. The New Church began with few, has increased very slowly, but has moved the Christian world from its very foundation, while they knew it not.
The kingdom of heaven is said by the Lord to be like to a grain of mustard-seed, which is the least of all seeds. Within this minute substance there is a living power which is not of this world, the secrets of which no human eye can penetrate, and no human mind fully comprehend, which draws from the surrounding substances whatever is homogeneous and needful for its own use, and moulds it into its own form and likeness, "and it becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." So will it be with the church, which is the Lord's kingdom on the earth. If He be acknowledged in his Divine Humanity and is in the midst of it, how can it be otherwise? If He is not in the midst of it, it is not a church at all.
The early members of the Boston society in joining it had, with few exceptions, left their most intimate friends and relatives, and this at a time when such a disruption was far more serious than it would now be.
They had learned from Swedenborg* "that dinners and suppers of charity are with those only who are in mutual love from a similar faith," -that such parties prevailed in the primitive Christian church, but had ceased to exist at its consummation, when the Lord was no longer acknowledged and directly approached, there being then parties of friendship, but no longer parties of charity, and that, as the New Church was established, and the causes which had brought these parties to an end was removed, they should be restored; and there was some effort to this end which seemed to be not entirely unsuccessful.
* T. C. R., n. 433.
In furtherance of this same object, this society was - the first to see the propriety and importance of providing amusements for the young under its own auspices and direction. In the community around them, cheerfulness and religion were largely strangers to each other.
Every new-comer was hailed with delight, and joyfully received into the little band, with no thought or inquiry as to his position in life. The doors of the pastor's house, and of other New Church families, were freely opened, and a welcome reception was given to every member of the church and interested receiver of the doctrines of Swedenborg; and social gatherings were held at different houses, especially at the house of the pastor.
It was not until the year 1836 that the members had so far increased that the society, as such, began to hold social meetings in a place provided for the purpose. At the close of the social meetings held in that year a lecture was delivered, giving some account of the early history of the society. This lecture was subsequently published in the "New Jerusalem Magazine." I find by a manuscript copy of it, in the handwriting of Miss Cary, that from some cause which I cannot now understand, the following paragraph was omitted in the published lecture: -
"The perception of the want of the cultivation of the social feelings, of the mutual interchange of affections and thought, of kind regard and kind treatment of each other, of conversations in which we might enjoy some innocent relaxation from the pressure of higher duties, and, if possible, be relieved for a while from the painful task of watching and guarding ourselves, by a feeling of mutual confidence in one another, seems to have been the original cause of these meetings. In the earlier stages of the society, being very few in number, and in a measure cast off from the world, our social intercourse with each other was kept up by a necessity which does not now exist. The want which has latterly been felt was also for some years in a measure supplied by one who will always be affectionately remembered by us, whose peculiar character eminently qualified him for such a use; and whose pleasure it was, while he was permitted to remain in this world, to make his house the home of the friends of the church."
I should not have known to whom allusion was made in the closing sentence of the foregoing extract, had not the name of B. T. Loring been inserted in pencil. Mr. Loring, of whose marriage I have spoken above, occupied a house in Mount Vernon Street, adjoining that on the east corner of Temple Street, near the opening which leads to Bowdoin Street. Mrs. Loring long survived her husband, and will be remembered by many members of this society.
The number of the members of this society who have passed into the spiritual world, and were ready to greet their former pastor, is quite large;
At first, the number of the society was so small, and the meetings so frequent, that there was no occasion for a church committee, with whom the pastor might confer on subjects of importance, before they were brought before the whole body. The need of such committee was not felt seriously till the year 1830, when the society numbered eighty members, and a committee of three was chosen for the purpose. It was first known as the church committee in 1833. Caleb Reed, John H. Wilkins, and Theophilus Parsons were chosen as this committee, the number of which was increased in subsequent years. Mr. Reed was chairman of the committee from the commencement till the time of his death, with the exception of a single year, when Mr. Wilkins was elected to that office, and when, as I may add in passing, they both seemed to feel out of place; and Mr. Wilkins was chairman from the time of the death of Mr. Reed to that of his own. Mr. Parsons continued to be a member till he felt obliged to withdraw from its duties a few years since. He is still with us, making his own history.
Caleb Reed first became interested in the doctrines of the New Church in or about the year 1819. He commenced reading for the purpose of convincing me, who was his brother, and by three years his junior, of my errors; and that being a good object was duly rewarded. He found a treasure which he little expected; and when he found it, he did not lay it up in a napkin, but used it to the best of his ability.
At first he had difficulty with Swedenborg's "Memorable Relations," but this was afterwards so completely removed, that not a vestige of it remained. He wrote to me that "if Swedenborg did not see the things of which he spoke in the other world, it must have been because his spiritual senses were not opened, for he was satisfied that they existed."
He was the fourth son of Rev. John Reed, D. D., for fifty years the pastor of a religious society in West Bridgewater. He was born in that place April 22, 1797, and died in Boston, October 14, 1854, at the age of fifty-seven years.
His father was very highly esteemed and respected, having represented the Plymouth district in Congress for six years during parts of the administration of Washington and John Adams.
Mr. Caleb Reed was fitted for college by his father, and entered Harvard University in 1813, graduating four years afterwards. After spending a year as teacher in Medford, he entered the law office of his brother in Yarmouth, the late Hon. John Reed, for many years member of congress, and Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts during the administration of Governor Briggs. Three years later he was admitted to the bar, and commenced the practice of law in that place in connection with his brother.
He became a member of the Boston society in March, 1821. He pursued his profession in connection with his brother till the year 1827, when he re moved to Boston, and became connected with Cyrus Alger and Co., in their large iron-foundry business at South Boston. He had been engaged to be married to a sister of Mr. Alger, who died some time previous to his removal. His worldly prospects in Yarmouth were altogether promising and satisfactory, and his principal object in his change of residence was, that he might be with the New Church society in Boston, in which he took the deepest interest. The foremost place in the direction of its affairs seemed to be at once conceded to him. He boarded for a long time in the family of his pastor, and they were brought very near to each other spiritually and naturally. I think Mr. Worcester looked to him as a helper in carrying on his work, for many years, more than to any other person. He was always called upon to represent the society at the meetings of the Association and Convention, whenever he could attend to that duty.
It has been already stated that Mr. Worcester was the editor of the "New Jerusalem Magazine" for the first five years of its publication. At the end of that time, Mr. Reed took charge of that important work, and continued to edit it for twenty-one successive years. There are some few persons still living who will remember the signal ability with which the Magazine was then conducted; and those who are in possession of these early volumes will find them replete with most interesting and valuable New Church matter. During this long period, to use the words of Professor Parsons, in a notice of him after his death, "he sustained the Magazine, sometimes with but little of the aid which might have been rendered, always While pressed by the urgent cares and duties of a very extensive business, and always without pecuniary profit or compensation."
In the year 1853, at the session of the General Convention in Chicago, the subject of Mr. Worcester's annual address was "the appropriate uses of that body." In this address he says: -
"One of the duties of the Convention is to publish a periodical magazine. This is an important means by which the different parts of the church can be united together, be useful to one another, and by which the whole can be useful to the world. This duty ought not, therefore, to be neglected by the Convention, and left to individuals."
Up to this time, for a period of twenty-six years, the Magazine had been the property of members of the Boston society, and under their control and management. Steps were now taken by which it passed at once into the hands of the Convention, and became the property of that body. Caleb Reed was continued as its principal editor, and Theophilus Parsons and myself were appointed as his assistants. There was an interruption to the publication of the Magazine for six months, from January, 1854, to July of that year, when it was commenced under the new management; and in the following October Caleb Reed died.
The following is an extract from a notice of him by Mr. Parsons (already referred to), in the November number: -
"As most of those for whom we are writing this notice have long known Mr. Reed in his relation to the church, it would seem unnecessary that we should do more than to allude to his eminent utility there.
"Of his character we must speak; although it will not be expected that we should enlarge upon this topic. Suffice it, then, to say that its prominent and governing elements were exceeding kindness and benevolence, integrity, deliberate caution, sound judgment, a steadfast and undisturbed look at the precise use to be accomplished, and the most inflexible adherence to the principles which he thought should govern the question before him. Perhaps it was this sincerity and singleness of purpose, and the quiet firmness that avoided all violence or unnecessary conflict, but was never to be shaken, which, more than anything else, explains his influence and his utility. This firmness was adherence to principle, and not to mere opinion; an important distinction which few persons make. Always conciliatory in manner, he listened, not in silence only, but in good faith, to whatever was said, and impressed those who conversed with him with a conviction that he was able and disposed to do them full justice;
"He has gone from among us. Externally we shall see him no more, and hear him no more. But it is our hope, and our belief, that we shall still feel his influence, and be the better for it. From the new home to which he has gone, he may help us more than ever. For the doctrines which he loved so well permit us to think of him as trained by the life of uses he led here and its varied discipline, and by the devoting so large a part of his time, his thought, and his affections to the good of the church on earth, to enter upon corresponding uses, but with far wider scope and far ampler means of active usefulness, in the church in heaven.
The Rev. J. P. Perry, in his address at the semi-centennial celebration of the Boston society in 1868, speaks particularly of Mr. Reed. On making himself known -~ in Boston twenty years previously, as an interested reader of Swedenborg, he was at once introduced to Mr. Reed, and brought into intimate relations with him, having been much in his family, and having enjoyed - his hospitality whenever he was in the city, during his - lifetime.
"Mr. Reed is remembered in Yarmouth with great respect by all the older people of every religious denomination in the place who knew him. There are several little anecdotes still current about him which illustrate some of his traits of character; as, for example, his peculiarly clear and penetrating sense and judgment, and his peculiarly pithy and good-humored way of bringing others to see as he did.
"One of these runs thus: Twenty years after Mr. Reed left Yarmouth, he met with an acquaintance from that neighborhood whom he had not seen before for that length of time. 'They were both glad to see each other, and after some inquiries and some information on both sides, 'Why,' says the friend to Mr. Reed, 'you look just as young as you did twenty years ago. I don't see as you grow old any.' 'Well,' said Mr. Reed, 'I don't expect I shall.' 'Don't you?' said the friend; 'don't you? but you don't expect to live forever, do you?' 'Why, yes,' said Mr. Reed, 'to be sure I do. Don't you?' Another runs thus: While residing in Yarmouth, he was frequently led into conversation on the New Church doctrine, with people of the prevailing Orthodox church, by whom his views were strongly opposed. On one of these occasions, his opponent objected especially to dancing, and thought the practice of it by New Church people a great sin. What the arguments were in the main is not reported, but the objector closed his by saying, 'Well, Mr. Reed, if you knew you were going to die to-morrow, I think you would find something more important to do than dancing to-night.
"This was when Mr. Reed was a young man. When I knew him, some twenty years or so later, and onward, his manner was more chastened, but still vivacious, pleasant, and at times humorous. But his wit was never frivolous or malicious; and was, indeed, of such a character as to increase, and never to diminish, the impression made by his more serious discourse, as the utterances of an eminently good and wise man. His manner impressed me from the first as that of a person who might be trusted to the utmost. I did not hesitate to speak freely to him on all subjects in which I felt an interest, or found difficulty, and always found him ready in sympathy, wise in counsel, and a true friend and helper in time of need. Many others, I doubt not, would be able to testify to the same things, from their different and varied experience, and from his fit and timely appreciation of their states and conditions, and readiness always to say and do the right thing at the right time.
"I was impressed greatly by what may be called his practical wisdom. He regarded use far more than most men in everything he said, as well as in everything he did. And the scope of his vision as to what ought to be thought of and provided for in promoting any object of use was very broad and comprehensive, while the vision itself was clear and discriminating. I think I never knew his superior in ability to clear a subject at once of all irrelevant and useless matter, and simplify and render available what was relevant and. useful, and apply it to the purpose in hand with precision and effect.
"Others, who knew Mr. Reed earlier, longer, and more intimately than I did, can tell more of what he did for the church generally, and of its known or apparent usefulness, than I can. Few men, I suppose, have done as much or with so good effect. But that one man in the church, at least, is very greatly indebted to him for what he has been enabled to learn and to do in the uses of the church, I can testify with certainty."
The Harvard class of 1817 bears the names of George Bancroft, Caleb Cushing, and other distinguished men. When it shall be seen in what true glory or honor consists - not according to the poor standard of this world, but in the light of spiritual truth - the name of Caleb Reed will stand conspicuous among all the rest.
He was twice married: first, to Miss Mary C. Minot, who lived only four years after their marriage, and left a daughter and son, who are still living; and afterwards to Miss Ruth Cobb, who survived him more than twenty years.
John H. Wilkins was born in Amherst, N. H., December 10, 1794, and died in Boston December 5, 1861, lacking five days of being sixty-seven years old. He was the youngest son of Deacon Samuel Wilkins, and the grandson of Rev. Daniel Wilkins, the first settled minister of his native town.
It seems to have been the intention of Deacon Wilkins that his youngest son should become a merchant, and measures were taken to this end; but in 1812 he conceived the idea of obtaining an education. He was a poor boy, like most of the early members of the Boston society, and his father attempted to discourage him, supposing the expense an insuperable objection. But he persevered in his determination, and entered Harvard College in 1814, meeting his expenses by waiting upon table, and by teaching school during the winter vacations. He graduated one of the best scholars in his class.
While teaching school in Hollis, in his senior year, he found himself in the midst of a religious revival. He returned to Cambridge quite changed in his appearance and manners, with his feelings much softened and his religious sentiments awakened, but without having confirmed or accepted any doctrinal tenets. Finding the Unitarian views which prevailed at college insufficient for his wants, he seemed verging towards Calvinism;
Having taught the Taunton Academy very successfully for one year after graduating, and spent two years in the theological school at Cambridge, he followed Mrs. Minot, as already stated, to her large boardinghouse in Boston, which was the home of no inconsiderable part of the little society at that time. He had no plans nor prospects for the future. His first undertaking was the preparation of an elementary work on astronomy, for the use of schools, etc. This proved quite successful, and was the source of considerable profit.
In the year 1822, through the influence of Mr. T. H. Carter, who had been from a boy connected with the establishment, and was now its principal manager and one of the firm, Mr. Wilkins entered the well- known book-store of Cummings, Hilliard and Co., and in 1826 was admitted a partner in this long-established publishing-house.
Having done a very successful business, in 1832 he withdrew from the firm, of which he had been an active member, and spent about six months travelling in Europe, where he became acquainted with some prominent members of the New Church. On his return from Europe he formed a copartnership the following year with Mr. Charles Bolles, in the wholesale paper business.
In 1853 the National Bank of Boston was chartered, and Mr. Wilkins was with great unanimity elected its president, which office he held till the annual meeting of the stockholders for the choice of directors in November, 1861, when, on account of his health, he declined being a candidate for reelection.
On motion of Hon. Alexander H. Rice, the following preamble and resolution were unanimously passed: -
Whereas, The Hon. John H. Wilkins, president of this bank from its organization, has, in consequence of ill health, resigned his office, therefore - "Resolved, That the stockholders of the National Bank here present, entertaining a grateful appreciation of the integrity, diligence, and ability with which its late president, the Hon. John H. Wilkins, has discharged the duties of his office, unanimously tender to him their cordial thanks for his services, the renewal of their respect for his character, and their warmest sympathy in his present illness."
Mr. Wilkins had been much in public life, having been repeatedly elected to the House of Representatives and Senate of Massachusetts, where he was always an active and influential member. In the year 1853, when a convention was called to revise the Constitution of the State, Mr. Wilkins was chosen as one of the delegates from Boston. But his public services were still more devoted to the municipal affairs of the city of Boston. He served four years as a member of the Common Council, and three in the Board of Aldermen, and in the year 1852 was the Whig candidate for mayor, but lacked a few votes of being chosen, no one having a majority of all the votes. Had he consented to have his name used on a second trial, there was every reason to believe that he would have been elected, but this he declined to do.
He took much interest in the introduction of pure water into the city, and wrote some able pamphlets on the best method of accomplishing this object.
But although Mr. Wilkins was much in public life, the interests and uses of the church always commanded the first and highest place in his affections and thoughts. From the time that he became a member of the Boston society, in 1820, during the whole period of his life, it would be difficult to name any important work or use in which it has been engaged, in which he was not an active participator.
He was equally active in the larger organizations of the church, including the Massachusetts Association and the General Convention, having been put on the most important committees, and rendering the most efficient aid. Having served the General Convention eighteen years as its treasurer, in the year 1856 he declined a reelection, when a vote of thanks was unanimously passed, expressing its high appreciation of his services.
Mr. Wilkins was a careful reader of the works of Swedenborg, and one of the most intelligent receivers of the doctrines they contain, and a welcome contributor to the pages of the "New Jerusalem Magazine." He was also a frequent and always an acceptable contributor to the daily papers of the city, on matters pertaining to the public good.
When the principle of paving tithes was adopted, in 1822, Mr. Wilkins, in common with others, was deeply impressed with a sense of its importance. His annual income at that time was only three hundred dollars, about enough, with great economy, to cover his necessary expenses; but one tenth part of it, thirty dollars, was religiously devoted to the uses of the church. He was thus early imbued with the feeling and the acknowledgment that his property was given him as a sacred trust, and with a deep sense of religious duty to it rightly in the service of others, and especially of the church, which he had learned to regard as his neighbor in a higher sense than the individual, or than any merely civil body collectively. These feelings and principles were impressed on his mind while he was yet poor; and all his worldly means were acquired under their influence. We might expect that property thus obtained would be wisely and judiciously expended. He was frugal as regarded his own personal expenses; but his heart and hand were ever open with proper discrimination to public and private charities, and above all, to the uses of the church. When Rev. James Reed was invited to become assistant minister, Mr. Wilkins presented to the society the parsonage house in Pinckney Street, valued at ten thousand dollars, on condition that it should be occupied by Mr. Reed.
But he always regarded the church as having the first claim on his means, as it had on his affections, and he contributed regularly and largely towards the expenses of public worship. His last will and testament bears evidence of the same discriminating charity. Having provided for his family, and for those who otherwise had claims upon him, sixteen charitable societies of the city are carefully enumerated and kindly remembered, in sums of five hundred dollars or one thousand dollars each, twelve thousand dollars in all. But the church, as usual, comes in for the largest share of his property, as it shared most largely in his affections. I think that the amount left in his will for New Church uses, mostly for educational and charitable purposes, could not have fallen short of sixty thousand dollars.
Mr. Wilkins married, November 19, 1826, Mrs. Thomazine E. Minot, of whom I have already spoken as one of the original twelve members of this society. Mrs. Wilkins survived him, having died, as I have mentioned, in the year 864.
It is a remarkable fact, that among those who became members of the Boston society, nine were students in Harvard College at the same time, though not in the same class as Mr. Worcester.
Four of the number are still living (1879), at an average age of eighty years, namely, Theophilus Parsons, Warren Goddard, T. G. Worcester,* and myself.
* Since deceased.
Some time after the decease of his first wife, Mr. Worcester was led by esteem, affection, and a sense of the needs of his office, to ask in marriage the hand of Mrs. Lydia Dean, an honored member of the society; and she, having accepted his proposal in the same spirit, has shown her earnest desire to be useful to him, to his family, and to the church, in such way as to gain the love and respect of all to this day.
Not long after their marriage in the year 1850, they visited Europe, where they spent a year, mostly in Italy. He left his home and his use in the society with great reluctance, and only on the advice of his physician and of the society itself; and there was no time during his absence in which he would not have gladly returned to his ministerial duties.
"Every step of the journey was taken unwillingly; and there was no time in which I should not have preferred coming backward to going forward. I asked myself the question many times, and always received the same answer. There was one occasion which I distinctly remember, because I was surprised at my own state of mind. We had come to the gates of Rome, and being obliged to stop there a while, I asked myself whether I should then prefer to go forward into the city, or to turn right about and go home. The answer was that I should rather go directly home. I suppose this must seem incredible. It did seem so to me, and I therefore repeated the question over and over, but I could get no other answer. I also saw many beautiful places - cities and towns. And the question often came to me whether I should not like to live there? and the answer was always No; unless the Boston society should come and live there too.'
"I mention these things, because after all the manifestations of attachment which I have received and am still receiving from the Boston society, I feel bound to let them know what my feelings are and have been."
During his stay in Florence, a marble bust of him - was executed by the well-known sculptor, Hiram Powers, which is a beautiful work of art, and the delineation of the head and features is very exact and true to the life. It is in possession of his wife at Waltham. Mr. Powers and members of his family were baptized by him during this visit.
The history of this society, and of Mr. Worcester's relation to it, would be very Imperfect without speaking of its finances and financial management. It began in poverty; the pastor receiving for the first year of his pastorate, for the support of his wife and himself, the sum of four hundred and fifty dollars only, this sum to be raised by subscription, and any deficiency having been guaranteed by two of the members. For the second year he received five hundred dollars. An attempt to raise the necessary sum by taxation, after the first year, proved; entirely unsatisfactory, and directly afterwards the subject of tithing was considered, and the principle generally adopted. The importance of this principle, and of the influence it exerted on the spiritual and temporal prosperity of the society, cannot be overestimated.
I find on the church records, under date of September 25, 1822, as follows: -
"It was not long after this period when tithing began to be a frequent subject of conversation. This operated deeply among the members, and finally they united in its adoption; so that it went into operation from the 5th of October, 1822."
Perhaps no one thing has had a more important influence on the character and history of this society than the early introduction of this principle of tithing, and the deep sense of religious obligation which. it engendered in the minds of the members, to give to the church an affectionate and substantial support, each according to his ability.
It gave to the sense of duty to the church a depth and a reality, which, it seems to me, could have been derived from no other source. Those who did not adopt the principle still felt its power and influence. When we were few in number and feeble in means, it carried us safely along, providing a support for our pastor and convenient accommodations for our public worship; and, what was of more importance than this, it tended strongly to give to the church the first and highest place in the affections of its members.
In 1837 a full and able report was made to the society by the church committee, on the subject of tithing, and was unanimously adopted. Tithes and contributions were paid directly to the pastor; and he paid a tithe of what he received by devoting it to some general use of the church. It was not until the year 1831, when we were provided with our place of worship in Phillips Place, that a part of the current expenses of the society was raised by a tax on the pews. In the year 1839, a new organization was adopted, in the corporation the office of treasurer was established, who was authorized to receive all moneys, though tithes and contributions might still be paid to the pastor.
It was not until the year 1844 that a stated salary was voted to the pastor. This was voted annually afterwards, till he resigned his office in 1867. The salary he was at that time receiving was continued for the following year; and after that, the sum of one thousand dollars was annually paid him till the time of his death.
After the great fire in Boston in 1872, by which members of this society suffered heavy losses, Mr. Worcester proposed that the annual payment to him should be discontinued. The subject was brought before the New Jerusalem Society (the corporation consisting of the pew-holders), and it was voted that he should be requested to continue to receive the same annual remittance which he had been receiving. This vote was communicated to him by the treasurer, and I copy the following extract from his reply. It will be observed that it was written just fifty-two years after he was married and moved into the city to take charge of the society as its pastor: -
"The New Jerusalem Society by its vote requests me to continue to receive the same annual remittance from them, which I have received for several years past. This request I shall comply with, and it will give me great pleasure to do so, as I know the feeling from which it proceeds, and as I intend to use it - the gift - for a purpose in which they have as great an interest as I have.
"When we are making progress it is pleasant to look back and compare the present with the past. Fifty-two years ago the Boston society wished me to become its minister, to be married, and to live with them. The members were few, all poor, and could not promise me anything; but they gave me to understand that I should fare as well as they did. I was poor, too, and a little worse; for I owed about a hundred and fifty dollars. But they assumed my debts, and we concluded to go forward. So fifty-two years ago to-day I was married, and moved into Boston, and I began my work as a minister.
"The first year the society gave me four hundred and fifty dollars. It was all they could do, but they did it cheerfully. Upon this sum we lived, frugally, but happily. We had the same object in view that the society had. We believed that they did all that they could to make us comfortable, and we were entirely satisfied. So well satisfied were we, that no amount of salary would have induced us to change our place or occupation.
"The next year we received five hundred dollars; and this was the last year that we depended entirely upon the society for means of subsistence;
"Our boarders were always members of the church, and by living together we became intimately acquainted and interiorly associated. Several of us were born into the church about the same time, and consequently were in close sympathy by being in similar states. Our public meetings were in halls, but in addition to these, we had meetings in parlors; for our number was so small that a parlor would hold us. Thus we were brought near together naturally, and this gave us an opportunity to come near as to our spirits.
"I feel very much indebted to the Boston society for giving me a natural home, and also a spiritual home, while I have lived in this world. It is a home with which I have always been entirely satisfied; a home which I never had a desire to leave for any other; a home from which I never desired to wander for any purpose whatever."
In a New Church society two objects must present themselves to the mind of the pastor. The one is, to build up the church in the minds of its members, and in his own, by the faithful teaching of its truths and doctrines, and by leading in the way of life;
I think that it was on this ground that Mr. Worcester took his stand; and though no one felt more delight and satisfaction than himself in meeting new receivers of the doctrines and in helping them into the church, he was not anxious in this regard. It seems to me that the result proved the wisdom of his choice. The society had a slow and gradual, but a regular and healthy growth. New members seem to have come along no faster than they could be assimilated and make one with the common body. A society of the New Church, if it be truly such, is not a mere aggregation of individuals, but an organized body: not organized upon) merely external grounds, like a civil body or political party;
The report of the society to the General Convention in 1835 closes with the following words: -
"This society has never taken any special pains to swell the number of nominal receivers, nor to attract public attention to the doctrines by means of evening lectures, or discourses addressed particularly to those unacquainted with them'; but they have the satisfaction of witnessing an increasing attention to the subject, and trust that more just views in regard to the character of the doctrines are beginning to prevail in the vicinity."
I would not express the opinion that lectures addressed to those who are ignorant of the doctrines of the church are without their use, when a society is strong enough to attend to these without neglecting more important matters; but it seems to me that there can be no power and influence so great in building up the church in the community at large, as that of a well-ordered society, where the members are faithful in the application of the truths they have received to their own lives, and one and all are ready to communicate these truths to others as opportunity may offer, and Providence may lead the way.
The fact that Mr. Worcester was able to grasp the idea, in all its length and breadth, that the New Church is a new dispensation, could not fail to lead him to feel the great importance of distinct organizations. One society after another sprung up in Massachusetts, and some in Maine, all of which were encouraged, and with hardly an exception were instituted, by him; but his influence in this respect was not limited to New England. It was felt throughout the country.
The meetings of the Convention commenced in the year 1818. For many years it was a very loose gathering. Till the year 1830 it consisted of such receivers of the doctrines as chose to attend, without regard to their being appointed as delegates from societies. After this time none were allowed to vote in Convention, except ministers and licentiates, and delegates not exceeding three from each society. The organization of societies was distinctly brought before the Convention in a report of a committee on that subject.
In 1836, the subject of the ministry, and also the form of admission of members into a society, and of the institution of societies, was committed to the Ordaining Ministers, to report at the next meeting of the General Convention. In this report the hand of Mr. Worcester seems clearly visible in the forms prescribed. They are the same that we have, continued to use in Boston to the present time, and were probably then using. But in some places gatherings which had no distinct, well defined organization had been regarded as societies; and it being understood that the Convention desired the opinions of societies in regard to the report of the Ordaining Ministers, the subject was carefully considered in the Boston society, and a long and able report was made, which was adopted as a part of their report to the Convention. In this report they say: "That measures should be adopted to ascertain if the societies borne on the list are regularly instituted societies of the New Church, united together in a common profession of the doctrines as contained in the articles of charity and faith; that is, it seems to us that the several societies borne on the Convention list should first be organized as churches, before any further steps are taken to organize the Convention itself, as a society of churches, or a church in a larger form."
The report recommended the adoption of the following rules to the consideration of the Convention, namely: -
"That no society can be considered a member of Convention and entitled to appear there and act by its delegates, unless, -
"1. It is so organized as to know distinctly who are and who are not its members; and unless,
"2: It holds regular meetings on the Sabbath for worship and instruction.
"3. No society shall hereafter become a member of Convention, unless it be formed and organized in the manner prescribed by the Convention.
"4. That the Convention should recommend that all the societies (now members of the Convention) which are not so organized that their members have signed a constitution, or articles of charity and faith, substantially the same as those prescribed by the Convention for future societies, - should, without unnecessary delay, become so organized, and have a record, which may show who are its members.
"5. That the Convention should declare it to be its present opinion that no one of the societies, now its members, which shall neglect to become organized according to the rule of the Convention, until after the meeting of the Convention in the year 1840, ought thereafter to regard itself, or to be regarded, as a member of Convention."
Previous to the meeting of the Convention in 1838, - its proceedings were governed by what were called - "Standing Rules," twenty-one in number. At this time the recommendations contained in the report of the Ordaining Ministers were adopted under the name of" Rules of Order."
At the meeting of the Convention the year following, a resolution offered by Mr. Caleb Reed was adopted: "That the secretary be directed to address a notice to each society on the Convention list which has not made a report to this Convention, and inquire into the reason of the neglect."
The early opposition to Mr. Worcester in the Convention gradually subsided and became confined to limits more and more narrow, while his influence increased and his usefulness was more clearly seen and generally acknowledged. In the year 1839 he was first chosen its president, and from that time forward he was so elected, with the exception of the year 1850, when he was in Europe, and the years when the Convention had no session, until 1875, when by reason of the infirmities of age he declined to serve longer in that capacity. As, year after year, be was called to that important office, it seemed more like the simple recognition of the fact that that was his proper place, than an election.
In the year 1875, when he declined a re-election, appropriate resolutions were passed in recognition of his long and valuable services.
In the spring of 1835, there was a meeting of delegates from the different societies in Massachusetts, with a view to being organized into an association; and a committee on "the duties of societies in relation to one another," of which Mr. Worcester was chairman, rendered a very valuable report on the subject at a subsequent meeting, in August of the same year. In this report it is said: -
"The same law that applies to the regeneration of individuals applies to the formation of societies, and to the formation of a society of societies; the same law that brings an individual into the human form, brings a society into the human form and brings a society of societies into the human form. That law is the Ten Commandments. By obedience to these commandments an individual is brought into the human form and prepared for use: by obedience to these commandments all the members of a society are brought into one human form and prepared for use, and it is by the same means that a society of societies is brought into the human form and prepared for use.
"Hence we conclude that the leading duties of societies in relation to one another are to shun the evils which are forbidden by the commandments as sins against God, and to perform the uses which are by this means gradually revealed to them."
The views set forth in this report, giving the interior grounds and uses of association, undoubtedly led the Boston society to take the active measures of which I have already spoken, for the institution and organization of societies, and of societies of societies, or of associations in the General Convention.
The following is from a report by the Rev. Joseph Pettee, presiding minister of the Association, at its meeting in Providence, October, 1878:-
"There is no reason to doubt that the most efficient earthly agent in bringing about the rules, and our organization under them, was Dr. Worcester, who was unanimously elected presiding minister of our body immediately after its institution; and it is a fact not to be forgotten here, that upon the declaration of his election, requesting the delegates to join with him, he kneeled, and offered a short prayer of consecration to the office. There is no reason to doubt that the measure of growth and of prosperity which this body of the church has enjoyed is due in an eminent sense to the heartfelt recognition of the true order of human society brought out from the doctrines, and to submitting practically to be led by Him in whom this order originated."
He held his office as presiding minister in perpetuity, not by annual election; and at the meeting of the Association in North Bridgewater, in October, 1867, the following resolution, offered by Mr. Parsons, was unanimously adopted: -
"Resolved, That it is the sense of this Association that the presiding minister of this Association holds his office by a tenure similar to that of a pastor of a society."
At a meeting of the Association at Abington, in the year 1874, Mr. Worcester felt compelled, by reason of the infirmities of age, to withdraw from his duties as presiding officer, and Rev. Joseph Pettee was chosen in his stead. His resignation was received with deep regret, and the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted: -
"Whereas, The Rev. Thomas Worcester, D. D., has seen fit, on account of his advancing years, and the growing infirmities of age, to resign the office of presiding minister of this Association, which he has held from its commencement to the present time, therefore,
"Resolved, That while the Association has heard of this decision with regret, and acts upon it with reluctance, it can do no otherwise than accede to a request which has evidently been made only after mature consideration, and with unselfish regard for the best interests of the church.
"Resolved, That the resignation be and is hereby accepted.
"Resolved, That the severance of an official relation so long continued, of such abundant usefulness, and so rich in spiritual memories and associations, cannot but be regarded by this body as an important era in its history.
"Resolved, That we extend to Dr. Worcester, in his retirement from active service, the assurance of our affection and esteem, with the sincere hope that he will be abundantly blessed with all good things, but chiefly with those it has been his life's work to impart to others, - the peace and joy which are not of this world.
"Resolved That we hope often to see him at the meetings of this Association; that we desire him, so far as his health will permit, to take part in the deliberations of its committees, and in all ways which seem fitting to him to aid us with his counsels.
"Resolved, that a copy of these Resolutions be sent to Dr. Worcester by the Secretary."
Mr. Worcester, in his sermons, addressed himself primarily and directly to the interior spiritual affections of his hearers. He was never hortatory, neither was he argumentative. His sermons were eminently of the "yea, yea, nay, nay" character. He never introduced matter of a doubtful nature, or matter of the truth of which he had the least possible doubt himself. No minister ever kept more closely to his text, or confined himself more entirely or exclusively to the endeavor to receive, and to impart to others, as far as he was able, its life-giving power and influence. He published his discourses under the title of "Illustrations of Scripture," not meaning, as I understand, that he had been able of himself to throw light on the Scriptures, but that the Scriptures shone with their own light into the minds of all who were prepared to receive it.
It has seemed to me that one of the most important qualifications of a New Church minister is that of being a good reader of the Word. The essential part of this qualification is a sincere love of the Word, and a deep sense of its holiness, so that the reader himself is affected by it, and thus becomes a willing medium of its light and influence. Rhetorical instruction may be useful, but without this essential element all else is mere sham and tinsel. Mr. Worcester had this element in an uncommon degree. The doctrine that the Word is a means of conjunction with the Lord, and of consociation with the angels, seems to have been with him not merely a matter of intellectual belief, but a part of his living experience. His reading of the Word was simple and natural, but filled with reverential feeling calculated to make him a medium to his hearers not only of its truth, but of its good also.
When the present church was being built, there was no provision made for a repository of the Holy Scriptures till it approached its completion; and there were some on the building committee who did not seem at once to realize its significance and importance. Mr. Worcester felt these very deeply, and was much relieved when the architect was made to understand and appreciate what was wanted, and a design was made and adopted for carrying it into effect.
The same love and reverence for the Word, and a realizing sense of its power and influence beyond that of any human composition, led at a very early period to the discontinuance of all prayers of human composition, and the adoption of the Lord's Prayer alone in public worship. It also led to the exclusive use of the words of Scripture in our music on the Sabbath. Mr. Worcester was an ardent lover of good music, and regarded it as a most important part of public worship. One of the last papers which he read to the society, previous to resigning his place as pastor, was upon this subject, in which he gave a history of our experience in regard to it. In this paper he says: -
"From nearly the beginning of our society we have been in the practice of singing the words of Scripture in our meetings, and of singing nothing else. The reason of this practice has been the instruction which we have received concerning the nature of the Word in the doctrines of the New Church. We thus learn 'that by the literal sense of the Word man has conjunction with the Lord and consociation with the angels.' These words are the head of a chapter in the work concerning the Sacred Scripture, and the whole chapter is an explanation and confirmation of that doctrine. Now we have believed this doctrine, and we have thought that we have perceived the truth of it in our experience while we have been hearing the music of our society.
He afterwards gives a description of the process by which the choir had at one time been instructed and prepared to lead in their department of worship as the minister led in his. An essential part of this process was to understand and appreciate the meaning of the words which were sung, and to become imbued with their spirit.
I quote as follows: -
"At the commencement of our society we sung what we had been accustomed to sing before we came into the church - the same psalm tunes and anthems; but as we learned to understand the value of the Word, and to feel its power, we began to seek for music that was adapted to the Word. Some anthems we could continue to use, and some new ones we could find, the words of which were from the Scriptures; and the music was in some degree adapted to the words.
"About this time we became acquainted with chants. At first they had very few attractions for us. But this was on account of the common mode of singing them - crowding many words upon the first note, and uttering them as fast as possible, without any regard to the meaning. Our reverence for the Word would not allow us to use it in this manner, and at length we found that there was no need of using it so. We found that we need not sing the words so rapidly, but might sing them as slowly as we would read them; and that in this way we could have a regard for the meaning, - could express our understanding of it, and our affection for it. We found the chant to be exceedingly flexible, plastic, and capable of being adapted to the words. It has in itself little or no character, - little or no expression; but for this very reason it is capable of receiving and embodying the feelings and sentiments of the singers. There was nothing in the chant that was incompatible with what they wished to put into it; for it is not made for any particular words, but is made in such a manner that it may be adapted to a great variety of words. In our mode of singing chants we had entire freedom as to time, emphasis, accent, and force, and we had also much freedom as to the expression of affection by the tones of the voice.
"And while we were engaged in this object, the Lord, in His providence, sent us a person who was distinguished for his knowledge of music, for his taste in it, for his ability as a composer, and for his skill as a performer. When he had become acquainted with the doctrines of the church, he adopted our views, and then, by his musical knowledge, afforded us much assistance in carrying them out. He was made our director, teacher, and organist. In these days I could attend the choir meetings, and there I saw the whole process by which good church music was produced. Our teacher was a good reader, and he in the first place read the words which were to be sung, and he read them in such a manner as to bring out the meaning and feeling that were in them. He would call the attention of the singers to the time in which the words should be read, and the places where the emphasis should be laid. He would get them to read the words together, so as to be filled with the meaning and to be familiar with the time, and thus be able to move together. He would then tell them to sing, and when he had enabled them to sing a line correctly, he added other instruction concerning the crescendos and diminuendos, which gave animation to the movement. He united example with instruction. He told them what should be done, and how to do it, and then, by repeated efforts in which we could see constant improvement, he finally succeeded in enabling them to do what he desired.
"And what was the consequence of all this? The consequence was that on the next Sabbath we had music that was good to hear. It did all of us good who heard it. It was an important part of our public worship. We did not value it so much because it was pleasant to our ears, but because it called forth and expressed the feelings of our hearts.
"Our director had been accustomed to good music, was a good judge of it, and had aided in making much of it, and of various kinds, and yet he often said that he never heard any music that gave him as much spiritual satisfaction as ours did, - or words to that effect. And musical stars, when they came to our city and attended our religious services, were delighted with our music, and sometimes they have been known to sink down upon their seats and weep. For myself I will say that the performances of our choir afforded me one of the greatest satisfactions of my life. All other kinds of music were, in comparison, only as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. I was absent from the country for a year, and during that time I heard much good music in England, France, Germany, and Italy. In some respects it was incomparably above ours; but as church music it was, in my estimation, as far below ours as it was in other respects above. And there was nothing in America that I longed for so much as to hear our choir. No, these effects of our music were not owing to the excellence of it, as music is commonly estimated, but because our singers believed that the words which they were singing were the words of the Lord, because they understood the words and loved them, and because they had learned to bring forth their affections and thoughts by their voices.
There appears to have been nothing for which Mr. Worcester was more remarkable from the start, and during his whole life, than for his daily reading and study of Swedenborg, his thorough understanding of his teachings, and his exact and strict adherence to them in all his ministrations. It seems to me to have been of Providence that the New Church in this place was permitted to grow in its own way, and to develop its own life, and to do much in giving tone and character to the church in other parts of the country.
This seems to have been effected largely by the establishment of the "New Jerusalem Magazine," to which frequent allusion has been made in previous pages. This work was commenced in the Boston society in 1827, when there were only about fifty members, some of them pledging themselves to meet any pecuniary loss in case it became necessary. Mr. Worcester was its first editor, and continued so for five years, long enough to give the key-note to its character. There were then seven members of the society, who had been with him in college, who were prepared to assist him, and who proved to be among the largest contributors to its pages.
In the year 1854 Mr. Worcester was elected an over-seer of Harvard College. The overseers were at this time elected by the Legislature, and the New Church stood very differently in the estimation of the public from what it had done thirty years previously. Some of its members were men of influence in civil and political affairs. The Whigs were the dominant party, and a nomination by them was equivalent to an election. In the nominating committee, when different religious sects were claiming to be represented on the board, the claims of the New Church were presented and readily conceded; and the name of Mr. Worcester was presented as one of the candidates.
Mr. Worcester published but little during his lifetime. In the year 1824 he published a small volume consisting of seven sermons, and in the year 1859 he published a volume consisting of nineteen sermons, entitled, "Illustrations of Scripture for the Children of the New Church." I think that the title of the latter may have had a tendency to limit its sale and usefulness for though written with great clearness and simplicity, and made quite intelligible to the young, there are none too old to profit by its perusal. I find in the September and also in the November number of the first volume of the "New Jerusalem Magazine," a sermon from him under the title of "Illustrations of Scripture," and in the December number he commenced a series of discourses under the same title, beginning with the Apocalypse, and continued through each successive number of this and the following volumes, till the explanation of the whole of Revelation was reached, in March, 1832, a period of nearly five years. In the sixth volume there are six of his sermons.
When the Magazine was commenced, and for a considerable time afterwards, he was the only New Church minister in New England;
He rarely published anything except sermons, and subsequent to this time he does not appear to have been a large or frequent contributor to the Magazine. A discourse published March, 1833, from Matthew xviii. 18, "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," was the occasion of much misrepresentation of his meaning, and of hard and unjust criticism, by a few individuals. It was twice published in the Magazine, at considerable intervals, after its first appearance, - the last, time as late as the year 1856, - being regarded by the editors of that work as in itself the best refutation of the charges brought against it. I have good reason to suppose that the treatment of this discourse may have led him to be reluctant to publish sermons afterwards. His sermons were for many years regularly copied by Miss Cary, who took great pleasure in doing it, and loaned by her to individuals, or societies that had no pastor, and were made very useful in this way. The addresses delivered by Mr. Worcester as President of the Convention, as found in the "New Jerusalem Magazine," are replete with spiritual intelligence. I remember with special interest the address delivered before the Convention in the year 1859, and found in the thirty-second volume of the "New Jerusalem Magazine," in which he draws from the spiritual sense of the twelfth chapter of Exodus, which treats of the observance of the Passover, most valuable instruction on the subject of the Lord's Supper.
He must have left a large number of sermons in manuscript, which, it is to be hoped, will hereafter be given to the public, in such time and manner as may seem best to those to whose custody they are committed.
The Sacred Scripture, and the works of Swedenborg were Mr. Worcester's daily reading, and were never lost sight of or forgotten. It was here that he took his stand, and all other subjects were regarded from this vantage ground. He did not, however, love his country the less, but more, on this account, and he took a deep interest in all that concerned its welfare, and in civil and political affairs, and in the current events and literature of the times.
He was by nature, and on principle, a law-abiding citizen, and not an agitator. In his early youth he was a resident of Salisbury, N. H., the birth-place and home of Daniel Webster, then a young man, whom he ever afterwards remembered with much interest, and to whom, I think, he looked, more than to any other public man, as a safe leader in political and civil affairs For many years he regarded slavery as a great evil, permitted for some wise and beneficent end, and was waiting the indications of Providence as to the time and means of its removal.
April 23, 1865, a meeting of the society and those worshipping with it was held in the vestry, agreeably to a previous vote, to consider "the times and their teachings." At this meeting an address was delivered by the pastor, Mr. Worcester, in which he gave a history of the formation of the government of this country, and considered the origin of the present troubles. The address showed how thoroughly he had studied and understood the subject upon which he spoke, and how deeply he was interested in the struggles through which the country had been passing. It was followed by remarks from several members, among them Professor Parsons, who expressed himself very forcibly on the evil results of slavery, especially the spiritual effects. The meeting was well attended, and lasted about two hours.
Mr. Worcester's health was at no time very firm during the period of his ministry; and though he never took a vacation except by reason of sickness, his services were not unfrequently interrupted on this account.
Seven years later, at the age of seventy-two years, Mr. Worcester concluded to resign his duties as pastor of the society; and a letter was written, addressed to the chairman of the church committee, to this effect. It was read at a meeting of the church, April 7, 1867, and the following resolutions offered by Mr. Parsons were unanimously adopted: -
"Resolved, That this church receives, with profound sensibility, the resignation of our beloved pastor.
"Resolved, That we acknowledge, with earnest gratitude, his devotion to the service of this church, and of the church at large, during nearly half a century. Whatever be our pain at the separation, we submit to his judgment of its necessity. We hope that his usefulness on earth will belong continued; and we pray that the blessing of the Lord may be upon it and upon him."
Soon after the resignation of Mr. Worcester, Rev. James Reed was unanimously chosen to succeed him as pastor of the society. The committee, in their request to Mr. Worcester to officiate at the induction of his successor into office, say: -
"We should make this request from your position as the pastoral head of the Association of which our society is a member.
"We should make it from a due regard to your age, character, and personal position in the church in this country.
"We are, however, moved to make this request yet more for other reasons: -
"Some of us remember the feeble beginnings from which you have led us on the way to our present prosperity.
"Your own instruction would lead us to give our gratitude and thanks first and most to Him, from whom are all good gifts. But we are not forbidden to offer to you, as we do, and with the certainty of the concurrence of the church and society which we represent, our grateful acknowledgments for the willingness with which you have acted as this instrument; for your unfailing love for the high use to which He called you; for your fidelity to duty; for your constant and earnest desire to guide and lead us upward."
Agreeably to the above invitation, Mr. Worcester officiated at the induction of Mr. Reed into the office of pastor, at the quarterly meeting, the 5th of January 1868. The attendance was large, and the services were of the most impressive character.
At a meeting of the church on the evening of the same day, the following resolutions were passed by a unanimous rising vote: -
"Resolved, That, in offering to Dr. Worcester the thanks of this church for the service he has this day rendered us, we would say that his own profound acknowledgment of Him who stood in our midst, his deep devotion to duty, his warm and tender care over the society which he has so long taught and led, imparted to the words of wisdom which he uttered a life and force which have helped them to sink deep into our hearts, have given new strength to our gratitude for all he has done, and new force and endurance to the ties which in our altered condition still bind us together.
"Resolved, That the Rev. Dr. Worcester be requested to furnish a copy of his discourse and installation service for publication, under the direction of the church committee, and that a copy be sent, with these resolutions, to each member of the society, and to each minister of the Massachusetts Association of the New Church."
These resolutions were carried into effect, and a pamphlet was published containing the discourse and installation service, with a preface giving an interesting account of the events of the day.
Soon after this time Mr. Worcester disposed of his house in Boston and removed to his residence in Waltham, where he had spent his summers for several years previous. Here he devoted himself to those studies which had occupied his mind for so many years, preaching occasionally to the Boston society, where he always received a most cordial welcome, and attending to other official duties, as his health permitted. The visits of the members of the Boston society were most cordially welcomed by him, in his retirement.
The 8th of May, 1871, being the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. Worcester's removal to Boston to take charge of the society, the subject was brought to the attention of the church by the pastor, and it was voted that notice should be taken of the day, with the understanding that as many of the society and congregation as could make it convenient, would call on Mr. Worcester at his residence in Waltham;
Mr. Worcester's relation to the Boston society as a member was continued, and he retained the most lively interest in its welfare and prosperity to the end of his life. It was a favorite thought with him that his connection with those with whom he had been so long and intimately associated would not cease with this world, but that they would meet and be mutually useful to each other in the other.
He concludes his last letter to the society, from which I have already quoted, as follows: -
"But there is another ground for my attachment to the Boston society, which I must not omit to mention. I have repeatedly spoken and written about it heretofore; and if I have any occasion hereafter I shall do so again, for it is the greatest blessing that I have ever received through men.
"That society gave me an opportunity for acquiring, and aided me in acquiring, a love of performing spiritual uses. They gave me the opportunity, by inviting me to perform those uses for them; and they aided me in acquiring a love for that work, by the manner in which they received my services.
"There are many things which I should like to say in this, which is probably my farewell letter. There are mans' acknowledgments which I should be glad to make for favors received, and many apologies and explanations which I should like to make for my own faults and shortcomings: but I should be tedious. I should be speaking of things which for the present have passed away from their minds; but they are all written in my book of life, and in the book of the Boston society. Our books are bound up together, a page of one facing a page of the other. Whenever it will be good for us, those books will be opened; and perhaps that time will soon come. If then and thenceforth any of us can be useful to one another, I shall be happy and thankful.'
At the session of the General Convention in Boston in 1866, the needs of a New Church theological school were brought to its notice, and measures were taken for its immediate establishment by the appointment of a committee, consisting of seven members, of which Mr. Worcester was chairman, who should have the subject in charge and carry it into effect.
"The relation between teachers and learners will be very different from what it formerly was; for the teachers will know that the Lord is in the learners, and the learners will know that the Lord is in the teachers; and it will be the effort and the delight of the teacher to prepare the way of the Lord, and to meet the Lord in the learner; and it will be the delight and the effort of the learner to meet the Lord in the teacher. When teachers and learners are in this state, and are employed in this manner, the Lord brings them nearer and nearer together and blesses them."
From this time to that of his death he was employed a portion of each year in presiding over the school at Waltham, and giving instruction to the students, especially in the works of Swedenborg. This was a use which the state of his health allowed him to perform;
I copy the following account of his last days from the Waltham Free Press: -
"Dr. Worcester was spared a long and painful illness at the end of his life. Indeed, his latter days have been peaceful and quiet beyond the lot of most of his fellow-men, and in perfect harmony with his dignified and unostentatious life. For the last few years he had been growing more and more feeble, but until within two or three weeks of his passing away, was able to enjoy the company of his books, the society of his family and friends, and to fulfil many uses in the church. All who visited him in his pleasant home found a cordial greeting and cheerful entertainment, and went away wondering at the child-like simplicity and far-reaching sympathies of the man. As he grew older, his interest in human affairs seemed to widen and grow tender, while at the same time his thoughts reached forward with increasing eagerness toward the other world.
"For twenty years past he has suffered more or less from heart disease. This summer it has been more severe than usual, until for three or four weeks previous to his decease, he needed the kindly attendance of his family, more or less, night and day.
From his early reading of the works of Swedenborg, perhaps from the time when he "read for his life,"* Mr. Worcester was subject to occasional seasons of spiritual temptation, of the nature and use of which Swedenborg has much to say and of which he evidently had much experience.
"Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
"When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?
"Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?"
* See the Memorial Address, in the following pages.
Surrounded by those who were bound to him in the strongest ties of both spiritual and natural affection, who had no desire to hold him back, but were rather ready to go with him in spirit as far as it was their privilege to do so, to the boundary where loving friends on this side and the more loving angels on the other seem almost to meet each other face to face, with much humility and a deep sense of his own unworthiness, and a still deeper sense of the presence, the power, and the goodness of the Lord, he gassed onward to his future home.
[The following estimate of Mr. Worcester's character seems to me quite just. It was written by one who might not feel free to publish it over his own name, but who has kindly permitted me to adopt his words as my own.]
As the groundwork of his useful labors for the church, my father seems to me to have had a sort of Websterian clearness of grasp of general principles.
The fact that my father took all his views from Swedenborg, or through him from the Word, added perhaps to a constitutional inability to see well from another's point of view, made him habitually shy of accepting ideas from others, when they did not at once coincide' with what he had gained himself. For the same reason he was in the habit of laying down his opinions with confidence and decision, regarding them, not as derived from himself, but as from the doctrines of the church. When to this was added some natural impatience and self-confidence, there was occasionally an appearance of want of consideration for others, deplored by no one more than by himself. Inwardly he had a great aversion to anything like domineering over others. From his first acceptance of the leadership of the Boston society, it was his earnest desire to protect the society and its members from anything of this sort.
As a pastor my father was fully conscious of but a partial performance of his duties.
As I look back on my father's life, it seems to me to have been singularly free from worldly care and trouble, and so remarkably well situated for the study of spiritual things and for the effort to lead a spiritual life. If this was in part owing to absence of strong worldly desires, it was not the less providential.
A MEMORIAL ADDRESS
A MEMORIAL ADDRESS
DELIVERED BEFORE THE BOSTON SOCIETY OF THE NEW JERUSALEM, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13, 1878.
WE have assembled at this time to pay a debt of gratitude. As a society of the New Church, which has been remarkably prospered during the sixty years of its existence, we desire to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for His manifold blessings toward us, and especially for what He has done on our behalf through the instrumentality of our first pastor, Thomas Worcester. In order to do this intelligently, we must go back in thought to the early part of the century, and consider, as well as we may, the circumstances in which those were placed who undertook, at that time, to give form and expression to the New Church faith which was in them.
The atmosphere by which they were surrounded was that of intense and bitter hostility. At the present day, when spiritual freedom and religious tolerance so largely abound, it is difficult to conceive of the unfriendliness, the contempt, and the persecution, which were encountered by those who openly allied themselves to the New Church.
It was under these circumstances that our society was formally organized, on the fifteenth day of August, 1818. Private and informal meetings had been held, from time to time, for somewhat more than a year. The number of persons attending them was very small - hardly exceeding twenty, all told. When the proposal was made to form a society, and come out openly before the world, only fourteen of the number were ready. Twelve of these were enrolled as members August 15th, which was Saturday; and two others were added on the following day, - when public services were held in Boylston Hall. Rev. Mr. Carll, of Philadelphia, who was on a visit to New York, came to Boston for the purpose of organizing the society, and conducted the services on the Sabbath.
Mr. Henry G. Foster, who was received into the society within a month of the date of its formation, wrote concerning the event, in an article published twenty years ago, in the "New Jerusalem Magazine," from which I quote: -
"The meeting at which the church was organized, August 15, 1818, was held at the house of Dr. Mann. I did not attend it, nor did my sisters, or my Aunt Hiller, as we were not fully satisfied, at that time, of the expediency of separation. We met again, at the same place, on the Sabbath morning following, where, I think, two children were baptized. We then went over in a body to Boylston Hall.
Miss Margaret G. Cary, one of the original twelve members, in "Some Early Recollections of the New Church in Boston," published in the Magazine of 1858, gives a brief account of the same events, quaintly adding, with regard to Dr. Jackson: "He was a teacher of music, a very large man, and so delighted with the occasion that he kept on playing voluntaries till it was necessary to give him a hint to stop." (New Jerusalem Magazine, vol. xxx., p. 538.) Elsewhere, speaking in general terms of the doings of those days, she says: "There was always something interesting going on:
With regard to the general condition of affairs in the church at that time, I quote Mr. Foster again, and shall presently give Dr. Worcester's own testimony. Mr. Foster says: -
"The early readers, so Car as my knowledge extended, were generally quiet and unobtrusive; not disposed, perhaps, to conceal their sentiments, yet not ostentatiously to display them. Those who made any efforts to impart the truths they had received were in general soon led to relinquish the attempt by the incredulity or disdain with which they were repelled. They were acknowledged, by the condescending liberality of their contemporaries, to be good people, though weak to a degree little short of fatuity. The depth and strength of their convictions, however, derived from solitary reading and reflection, independently of the religious communities with which they were in external association, rendered them in a great degree indifferent to the judgment of others. . . . The change which has taken place during the last half century is nearly unimaginable to the present generation.
The growth of the church, after its first establishment, was far from rapid, but its foundations had been deeply laid, and its progress was steady and sure. In 1828, ten years after the formation of the society, the names of sixty-three persons had been entered on the list of members, - an average of six and three tenths annually. The next decade shows an increase of one hundred and twenty-five, or twelve and a half annually. In 1848, thirty years from the commencement, the whole number of members was four hundred and eleven. The rate of increase had swelled to more than twenty-eight and a half per annum, and the society had numbered just half its days, reckoned to the, present time. The whole number of persons taken into the society during the period of its existence is eleven hundred and twenty-two, of whom eight hundred and seventy-six were received by Dr. Worcester, before resigning his pastorate, in April, 1867.
After the organization of the society, says Miss Cary-
"We continued to meet in public, on the Sabbath, first in Boylston Hall, then in a small wooden building which was used as a school-room, in what was then called Pond Street, now Bedford Street. There we met for more than a year, and returned to Boylston Hall. Then we met at the Pantheon Hall, afterwards at the Athenum Lecture Room, in Pearl Street. It was there that Mr. Worcester was ordained by Rev. Mr. Carll, on the 17th of August, 1828,-ten years after we had first received the benefit of his instruction. In 1831 the society removed to the hail in Phillips Place, built purposely for us by Mr. T. H. Carter, where we remained until June, 1845, when, at a meeting of the General Convention in Boston, the New Jerusalem Church was dedicated,- our seventh dwelling-place, it may be called." (New Jerusalem Magazine, vol. xxx., pp. 538, 539.)
During all the time covered by this summary, and in all the transactions embraced in it, Thomas Worcester was the central figure. He was present at the first meeting of New Churchmen ever held in this vicinity, which was in April, 1817. He was a regular attendant at all the subsequent meetings which were gathered at the houses of members for the purpose of reading the doctrines and conversing upon them.
The memory of but few of us can go back to the time when this society was not blessed with a goodly measure of prosperity. For this reason I have endeavored to recall the days of its early struggles with adverse circumstances. The knowledge of them helps us to a correct understanding of Dr. Worcester's character and services. He was remarkably fitted by nature and by his habit of mind to be the leader of those who were to take a positive stand on behalf of their religious convictions in the midst of a hostile community. Those of us who remember him chiefly as he was in his later years, surrounded by the abundant fruits of his successful labors, can form but a poor conception of the tall, slender college stripling, who, to all appearance, gave up every prospect of worldly position, that he might devote himself to the dissemination of doctrines which, in the general estimation, were worthy only of ridicule and contempt. We little know how much, from an external point of view, he renounced, in order to minister to the fifteen or twenty humble persons who formed the nucleus of this society. His father was a well-known clergyman, of the school of thought represented by Channing, Tuckerman, and Ware, and numbered these and other distinguished men among his intimate associates. The son of a man so circumstanced might easily, as it would appear, have entered, with good hope of success, on any field of labor for which his talents fitted him. But the truth of the New Church was of more account to him than all things beside.
We discover no signs that he ever hesitated with regard to his course. He was not a man to waver or vacillate. Firmness and decision were cardinal points in his character. If his mind were made up on any question it was no easy matter to change it. This strong and positive nature was eminently needed in those early days. It kept not only himself, but others who looked to him for guidance, steadfast in the path on which they had entered. A weaker man would have shrunk from the task which he willingly undertook, or would have abandoned it before it was half finished. But he kept straight forward, in one consistent course, from the beginning to the end of his career.
And yet that it must have been hard, and often discouraging, work which he had to do, cannot be questioned. In a paper recounting his early New Church experiences, prepared by him some years ago to be read at a meeting of this society, and now kindly loaned me for this occasion, he speaks of some of the obstacles which he had to encounter in his efforts to present the truth to the minds of men. Referring to his entrance on his duties as leader of the society in 1818, and to his officiating in public worship, he writes as follows: -
"And here I wish to say a few words in relation to the difference between the state of reception then and now. Then, I seemed to be speaking to a dense mass of opposition. It seemed as if all the powers of darkness combined could not have made the minds of men more inaccessible or impenetrable.
It would have been strange if a man of so much force and determination had wholly escaped the opposition of his contemporaries. Many, no doubt, even among those who esteemed him most, wished at times that he was somewhat less inflexible in matters which they could not help regarding as of secondary consequence. Those who differed from him in opinion would have been glad to feel that this difference did not cause the degree of personal estrangement which sometimes appeared to result from it. But we must remember that if he had been of a yielding and pliable nature, - if he had been disposed to qualify his views of truth and right by considerations of comfort or expediency growing out of his relations to individual friends and acquaintances, - he would not have been so well suited to the rime in which he lived, or to the work which was given him to do.
These reflections lead us to consider what I think we must all regard as his leading and governing trait of character, and that is, loyalty to truth. Whatever strength and firmness he possessed he always intended to hold in subjection to the things which the Lord taught and commanded. The question with him was not what he or his friends might wish, but what the truth required. If this rule of action made him sometimes appear rigid and severe in counselling others, we may be sure that he had first applied it to himself. He was a great lover of order. The doctrines of the church taught him to be orderly; and we know that he carried his habits of regularity and punctuality almost to an extreme. But, if he erred at all in this particular, it was certainly on the right side; and there are few of us who cannot learn from his example a salutary lesson. In church matters, he seemed to some to carry his ideas of order too far, and to insist on them too strongly. Whether he did so or not we need not now undertake to judge; but there can be no doubt that he acted sincerely and consistently, and that the church has prospered under his guidance. He believed in obeying the powers that be, and in conforming to established regulations, in any body of men with which he was connected.
His loyalty to truth was connected with a very intense love and clear perception of it. He appears to have had from infancy a deep interest in religion, although he modestly disclaims the idea that there was anything unusual in his boyish states and experiences. The manuscript heretofore alluded to begins as follows: -
"In my early childhood I was often brought into states of strong religious feeling, concerning which I could not say much, if I tried; and it is not necessary to say much, because I suppose such states are common with children, and because my present purpose is to give a history of the New Church in myself."
Then he goes on to say:-
"The beginning is very distinct in my mind. The first idea that was given me was a very important one, and it had a great effect upon me. It was in the twilight of an evening, and I was sitting upon a cricket, listening to the conversation of two ministers.
"This idea, that there was another sense in the Bible besides the literal, was afterwards of great importance to me, because it enabled me to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, notwithstanding some outward appearances. I do not know how old I was when I heard that conversation, but I think I was about eight."
After mentioning some books and periodicals which at a later period produced a marked impression on his mind, Dr. Worcester comes to the time when the writings of Swedenborg were brought directly to his notice. This was during his nineteenth year, while he was a student in Harvard College; and the person who thus introduced him to a knowledge of the doctrines was his older brother SamueL On this subject be writes in a manner so interesting and characteristic, that I quote his remarks at considerable length: -
"In the summer vacation of 1816, I began to read Swedenborg for myself. I was spending the time at my father's, in Brighton. My brother was there with his books; and one day he read to me a description of Swedenborg's works. I was particularly interested with what was said about 'Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Divine Wisdom,' for it was called a profound metaphysical work. I was interested in that particularly, because I had read several metaphysical works, and I thought I could understand such things as well as other people, and because I had been somewhat annoyed by my brother's telling me so much about the other world, and about other planets in this world. What he said might be true, and it might not. I could not tell, and I had no means of deciding. But metaphysics treat upon subjects which are near as well as far off, - in this world as well as in other worlds. So I made up my mind that the 'Angelic Wisdom' was the right book for me to read, and with much curiosity and self-confidence I began it the next morning, and read all the forenoon. I read about fifty pages, and then concluded to go back the next day and begin again, because I had understood it so imperfectly. I also came to another conclusion, which was, that the writings of Swedenborg produced a better effect on my mind than anything else that I had ever read. They 'satisfied the longing soul, and filled the hungry soul with goodness.' I made up my mind that thenceforth I must go to them for religious instruction.
"My vacation lasted several weeks, and I read as much every day as I had strength for. I was constantly raised up into an interior state. I constantly admired the good effects of the doctrines. They lifted me up out of myself and made a new man of me. But at length my vacation came to an end, and I returned to Cambridge.
"But when I was obliged to return to my college duties, I sunk down into a natural state again, and was miserable. Thus I was, for many months, alternately in one state or the other, or was passing from one to the other. By this means I became acquainted with both states, with the difference between them, and with the way from one to the other.
"Two years I passed in this manner. During this time I attended to my college studies no more than I was obliged to; but I read Swedenborg diligently, and for my life. I used to read a hundred pages a day, or a volume a week, for a part of the time. I remember this, because I borrowed the 'Arcana' of Mr. Foster in Boston, and I used to go in every Saturday and exchange one volume for another.
"I did not read from curiosity, nor for the sake of laying anything up in my memory, but for the effect which the Heavenly Doctrines produced on my mind. They brought me into as heavenly a state as I was then capable of coming into. I loved the truth because it did me good and I took delight in exercising and cherishing the good affections that were then given me."
These reminiscences, so simply and unaffectedly told more than fifty years after the occurrences to which they relate, seem in a most remarkable degree to sound the key-note of the life and character of our late venerated pastor. They show not only his invincible determination in overcoming obstacles, but his deep-seated love of spiritual truth, - and not of truth merely, but, better far, of truth as bearing on his own spiritual states and needs. When that young student was, as he said, reading for his life, - putting forth every effort to regain the sense of heavenly bliss which he had lost, - may we not say that he was likewise unconsciously reading for the lives of many beside himself, who should in after years be brought under his influence, and thus profit, in no very remote or indirect manner, by his lonely, hard-fought battles?
He has gone, as we believe, to a happier home, and to a wider field of usefulness. The change, to which he has long looked forward with cheerful, yet humble, anticipations, has come at last, and brought him into the conscious presence of those who had previously passed over to the other side. Any record of his life is in complete which fails to make particular mention of, at least, some of his intimate friends and associates But I must leave this part of my task unperformed.
The doctrines of the New Church teach us that a collective body of men organized for a common purpose is as a larger man in the Lord's sight. A religious society like our own is a true unit of humanity, and is in a genuine human form, so far as it fulfils its mission of turning all hearts to the Lord, and bringing down the influences of heaven to earth. The life of this greater man embraces that of many individuals, and extends through generations and centuries. Happy is that society which preserves the continuity of its life unbroken, - which has no violent changes, no sudden disruptions, but keeps right on in its peaceful work, gathering into the storehouse of each succeeding generation the fruits of previous experience!
Do we not see him now with the mind's eye, as he last stood before us in this place, on that memorable day of the Convention; administering the holiest of sacraments to the largest number of New Churchmen who had ever partaken of it together? Feeble, yet erect, dignified and majestic as ever in personal presence, his long white locks surrounding a countenance full of gentleness and benignity, - he seemed like one of the patriarchs of old giving his farewell blessing to his children; How can we more fittingly remember him than as uttering those final words of benediction, - the last which in his official capacity he was ever to speak in this world, - "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."