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Reverend Henry C. Delong.

ON Monday morning, January 10, 1916, there passed away one of our members who had been interested in our work almost from its beginning, and whose contributions to our literature have been considerable and of much interest.

Henry C. DeLong (a clergyman's son) was born in Birmingham, New York, November 13, 1838, and educated for, and ordained to the Christian ministry in that state. He served several Universalist parishes during the five years preceding his acceptance of the call of Medford's First Parish.

He married, in 1864, Louise G. Williams (a clergyman's daughter), and came to Massachusetts, preaching at Haverhill and Danvers. His first sermon in the relation he here so long and happily sustained was on March 7, 1869, and he continued in active service for [p. 19] forty-five years, and as pastor emeritus since his resignation. The large company that gathered at the simple and impressive burial service in First Parish Church on Wednesday, January 12, is a testimony to the worth of the loved minister, and a mark of the esteem in which he was held throughout our city.

A brother minister gives the following appreciation:—

An appreciation.

When at a recent gathering of the ministers of Medford I was addressed as the ‘Dean,’ I found myself almost shocked at the fact that by reason of being the longest in residence of the active pastors of the city I was entitled to that honorable name and office. But for many years the subject of this sketch bore the name and filled the office with dignity and grace, and I can only suppose that it is because of the fact of my extended service that I have been asked to write an appreciation of the man who for nearly half a century ministered in this community. Yet I have felt honored by the invitation, and only too glad to write something as to my own feeling about him and the place which I think he filled among us. And may I be pardoned for first giving my personal appreciation, for he was both my friend and colleague for the now nearly twelve years of my residence in Medford. I well recall the very cordial and friendly way in which, after he had, I think, gotten assurance of my good will for a Unitarian minister (which he had not always experienced) he welcomed me to the religious life of the city and to his own esteem. This latter I was most glad to return.

Shortly after my settlement as the pastor of the Mystic Church, I took the opportunity of arranging an exchange of pulpits with Mr. DeLong, as I did also with the then minister of the Universalist Church, Rev. Clarence L. Eaton. This was the first time in the long history of these three churches that their respective ministers had thus exchanged. It was also the first time that Mr. De-[p. 20] Long had ever preached, at a regular service at least, in the Mystic Church, though for over thirty years then he had been a citizen and neighbor, and a worthy minister of the Christian religion. I recall how pleased he was about it, and more particularly how happy over the cordial welcome given him by his neighbors and friends and the officials of the orthodox Congregational Church. Had he been any other than a gentleman and Christian he might justly have shown a little wicked gleam of triumph in the matter! But nothing of the kind was manifest, only the quiet remark, ‘Things have changed, and we are all glad.’

Mr. DeLong was a man of different theological inheritance and training from myself, but his appeal to me at the first was quick, as that of one of scholarly tastes and the love of letters. For although I have never become the scholar I set out to be, in the midst of the practical industry of a modern minister I have always kept, or wanted to keep, the scholar's attitude, which was what Mr. DeLong had done through all the long years of his ministry. And as I came to know him better I knew how the departure from it on the part of many fellow ministers troubled him. He also had little sympathy with the modern hustling enterprise and ‘doings’ which seem to be in demand for the church of today. He regarded himself as a religious teacher and guide rather than the manager of a theological plant, built and carried on according to modern ‘efficiency.’ And in this we had much in common, though I was the greatly younger man and trained in the new age.

Another thing appealed to me and that was his spiritual quality. I had not thought of Unitarianism as developing the especially spiritual life, although always strong in its intellectual and ethical aspects, even though I knew the spiritual qualities of the great New England poets and philosophers who were largely of this faith. But here at least was a man, a Unitarian minister, of a distinctively spiritual, even also evangelical Christian [p. 21] temper, in the broad sense of the word evangelical. Some years ago, at the time of the Chapman revival meetings in Boston, I was very desirous that special union gospel meetings of all the Protestant churches of Medford might be held in this city. To do this, the basis of union would have to be simple and broad, and I thought that if we could just preach the gospel of discipleship to Jesus as the essential call of Christianity, leaving out the various merely theological notations, we could all get together with one accord in one place. And it seemed to me that the whole community must hear and heed this kind of an appeal. I voiced this thought of mine in the local papers, and I knew that Mr. DeLong was greatly interested in it and would have co-operated, as would have the Rev. Mr. Eaton of the Universalist Church. But alas it was not to be, and our evangelistic services, when they came, were of the old divisive kind. But I speak of this merely to show Mr. DeLong's broad Christian sympathy and his really evangelical feeling.

Closely akin to this spiritual quality of his life was his reverence for God and man. He approached Deity always in the spirit of vast awe, and was also respectful of the soul of a fellow-man. You could never think of him as trying to ram the gospel down the throat of a man, as I have often seen it done by ministers and others. I well recall his introductory address to God in prayer. How unusually filled with awe were his words! He would not even lead in public prayer on an instant's notice, as so many ministers are obliged to do, and which so often develops the easy pious phrases and formal, almost superficial speech. Mr. DeLong wanted to know beforehand, to be prepared in mood and word, as indeed every minister has the right to do, before addressing the Deity in public prayer. But in his case it was entirely in keeping with his reverent mind and sincere temper, without possible pretense or cant.

But I must pass from this more personal appreciation of my friend and colleague to speak of what I think he [p. 22] was to the community. As a church minister Mr. De-Long's term of office was comparable to that of two of the three ministers who served the old town of Medford from 1713 to 1822, when there was but the one colonial church. For Ebenezer Turell was pastor for fifty years and David Osgood for forty-eight years, with Mr. DeLong forty-five years. So also he inherited the traditions of a general ministry, which for over a century made his church the one religious center, with the whole community as its parish and with all the tax payers contributing to its support. And Mr. DeLong was earnest and intelligent in his community interest. First as a minister of religion, bringing the consolations of Christian faith to many people irrespective of any church connections, and second as a citizen, serving the public for many years on the Public Library Board and in other ways.

While not active in the political life of the city, as usually becomes the wisdom of a minister, yet he was always influencing that life by the preaching and the support of high political principles. As a descendant of French Huguenot stock, he inherited its independence. Sometimes this independence led him to a definiteness of mind and attitude that could be called stubborn. But one could but believe he tried ‘to see clear and think straight,’ to use his own descriptive words about the Puritans, in an address given at the two hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of Medford. He was bound to no rigid creed either of religion or politics. Nor did his age make him inflexible as to methods. During these later years, when younger and more physically vigorous men came into the pastorates of the various churches, he was yet interested with them in any proposed ways of bettering the community life. And he kept alive to this contemporary life up to the very last. It was characteristic of him that age did not relegate him to the past. Indeed, he seldom dwelt upon the past, his interest was in current events. And when men saw him at the polling place or in the civic meeting, they knew [p. 23] he was there as a citizen, not of fifty years back, but of the very day; not a resident of old Medford, but a dweller in the present city.

As to his work as the pastor of a given Christian church, others are more competent to speak than am I. But full testimony was given as to the quality of that ministry at the time of his resignation. It was essentially a ministry of the faithful and quiet and gentlemanly sort, unobtrusive and unsensational. I doubt not some felt it lacked certain aggressive qualities which make an institution ‘go’ with a swing. There is this ever incessant demand for a pusher in the ecclesiastical as in the business world. But here was a man who, as has been already said, kept to certain old ideals of the Christian ministry, being born and bred in the days before push became the keyword of all human enterprise, when men of the prophetic word took time to think and brood. And some of us are glad of it! For Mr. DeLong was made thereby a dignified and serious teacher of religion, a prophet of the Word of God, an interpreter of human faith, which after all is more needed than a first-class religious hustler.

It was rather characteristic of the man, moreover, that only a few hours before his death, when he felt a little brighter, he called for his glasses and the Atlantic Monthly. Here was the man of letters, the understanding and appreciative reader of the best in literature. And this was aways evidenced by the literary quality of his sermons and their solid output. Mr. DeLong was not what is called in these days a ‘popular preacher,’ and could not be. That kind of a preacher is made of different stuff, and sometimes behold what stuff! Our friend's sermons were products of mental industry, and required mental industry by the hearer in return, a thing, after all, greatly to be desired now, when the preacher's task seems to be to serve up his provender after the manner of the quicklunch counter, and even predigested.

So in these different ways, as minister of religion, as [p. 24] honorable citizen, and man of letters, this man's life and public influence for fifty years in a single community is noteworthy, and deserves the full meed of praise. And as for the more personal facts of friendship and kinship, and the precious ties embraced therein, there are many hearts that will cherish him in the silent chambers of love and grateful memory.

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