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Early ministers of Medford.1

by Rev. Henry C. Delong.
WE are to trace the story of the early ministers of Medford. It is important to remember that religion was not, as now, dependent on the support of the individual citizen, but was a public requirement. A town or community was obliged to provide for the preaching of the Gospel, and if the duty was omitted for any reason the General Court punished the neglect with a fine. Medford at one time was summoned before this august body for its failure in this respect. The minister received his call from the town, his salary was fixed by the town, and, save in exceptional circumstances, was raised by a tax on the inhabitants. There is a tradition current that when Miss Mary Osgood was a little girl she fell out with one of her mates and revenged herself by saying: ‘Your father is nothing but a shoemaker;’ to which the instant retort came: ‘I don't care, your father is supported by the town.’

The town was founded in 1630, and as early as 1634 it is recorded there was preaching by Mr. James Noyes for nearly a year. He was born in England in 1608, educated at Oxford, came to Boston in 1634, and was immediately called to preach at Mistic, the name by which Medford was known. He was followed by Rev. Mr. Wilson and Rev. Mr. Phillips; in the tax for the support of these gentlemen Medford paid its share assessed by the General Court. These preachers were paid by six towns, Medford with the others being too poor to support the luxury of a minister by itself alone.

[p. 96]

John Hancock.

In 1692 Mr. John Hancock, grandfather of the patriot whose name is indelibly associated with our history, preached here for a short period. The town voted that ‘he shall be boarded at Mr. John Bradshaw's for the year ensuing if he shall continue his ministry so long among us.’ His ministry ceased in Nov., 1693. He was born at Cambridge, Mass., in 1671, and graduated at Harvard College in 1689. In 1697 he was called to Lexington, where he continued his ministry until his death in 1752, in the eighty-second year of his age and the fifty-fourth of his ministry.

Benjamin Colman.

The pulpit was supplied from Harvard College for a considerable period afterward. Among those whose names have come down to us is that of Mr. Benj. Colman. He was graduated at Harvard College in 1692. After supplying the pulpit for about six months he returned to Cambridge to prosecute further his theological studies, and remained there till he took the degree of M. A. in 1695. He went to England for a space of about three years, returning by invitation to become the pastor of the newly formed Brattle-street Church, in which office he continued until his death in 1747. He received the degree of D. D. from the University of Glasgow in 1731. He was chosen President of Harvard College to succeed President Leverett, who died in 1724, but the General Court refused to vote his salary until such time as he should accept the office, and his church should consent to release him from his pastoral charge; neither of these things being done, he never filled the office. He is said to have been a man of much ability, to which were added pulpit graces of a high order,—‘with a gifted and cultivated mind he possessed a naturally ardent temperament, a most expressive and benignant countenance, and an uncommon solemnity of [p. 97] manner that never failed to rivet the attention of his audience. In his style of composition he was regarded as quite a model; and he is said to have contributed more than any other clergyman of that day to elevate the literary character of the New England pulpit.’

The name of Mr. Colman deserves honorable mention as one of the earliest who led a movement against the oppressive ecclesiastical domination of the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay. A widespread delusion exists that liberty of conscience in the worship of God was the purpose for which our fathers left the Old World and braved the hardships of the New. In Plymouth Colony there was such liberty; but in that of Massachusetts Bay it did not exist, and the clergy at least were determined it should not exist. The persecution of Quakers and Baptists was wholly in accord with their purpose that there should be but one form of religion here—that which they held. To keep this pure it was required that every candidate for the ministry should pass a rigid theological examination by a council of the elders, and that every layman who would become a church member should make a confession of faith before the assembled church, prove his soundness in the essentials of Calvinism, and further, that he should relate his ‘experiences.’ But against these things there had arisen a small party of protest, among whom was the distinguished name of President Leverett of Harvard College. In furtherance of this it was proposed to form a new church in Boston, and in 1698 Thos. Brattle gave a piece of land in Brattle square for this purpose. From the outset there was no doubt who should be the minister. Rev. Benj. Colman sympathized with the liberal sentiment of the founders; indeed he had gone to England because he was unwilling to take up the ministry at the time he was preaching in the Medford church on such hard and fast terms as were then required. A call was extended to him while in Bath, England, to become pastor of the newly formed Brattle-square Church, and it being doubtful [p. 98] whether the elders of Boston would ordain him, precaution was taken to have him ordained in England so that on his arrival he should have the full legal rights of a Congregational minister. The innovations of this new church seem to us very mild. They consisted, first, in the admission of members to the church without the relation of experiences, upon their confession of the Westminster creed; second, the right of every baptized member who contributed to his maintenance to have a vote in the choice of a minister (previously only men were allowed this right); and third, this church relaxed the very strict baptismal regulations, and permitted the Bible to be read without the comment by the minister.

Mr. Colman is further connected with Medford in being the father of the first wife of Rev. Benj. Ebenezer Turell, whose acquaintance we shall make a little later.

Benjamin Woodbridge.

The minister who followed these in the Medford pulpit was the Rev. Benjamin Woodbridge. He was the son of the Rev. John Woodbridge, of Andover. He was not a graduate from college. He was first settled over a Presbyterian church in Windsor, Conn., which was formed as a second church on account of some difference as to the call of Rev. Nathaniel Chauncy. Much contention existed between the two churches, in which Mr. Woodbridge was involved, and finally he withdrew after two hundred acres of land had been granted him in payment for services that had been unrecompensed. This grant was by decree of the court to which he had appealed. The words of the grant are: ‘that this grant is made as a final issue of all strife since it may be hazardous to the peace of the town to enter particularly into the bowels of the case as matters are circumstanced.’

Next he appears at Bristol in Plymouth County, where he seems to have had a similar experience, and [p. 99] later at Kittery, Me. In 1698 he came to Medford as a candidate on probation. March 28 of this year the inhabitants, at a general town meeting properly adjourned from a meeting regularly called two weeks before, voted that, ‘when legally settled amongst us in the work of the ministry,’ Mr. Woodbridge ‘should have forty pounds in money, fifteen cords of wood, and strangers' money, for annuity,’ and he seems to have accepted this proposition as if it had been a regular and legal call to become the settled minister of the town. But that the town understood it otherwise is evident from the fact that in September, 1701, the town again voted that he should still continue as their minister, and two persons were chosen ‘to discourse Mr. Woodbridge, and know his mind concerning settling in the town in the work of the ministry.’ At the same meeting it was further voted that ‘the town would give him thirty pounds for his encouragement toward the building a house and settling as aforesaid; said money to be raised either by subscription or by way of rate; and further it is understood that the thirty pounds should be returned by Mr. Benj. Woodbridge to the town if he did not settle and continue with us in the work of the ministry, aforesaid.’ In 1703, while building his house, Mr. Woodbridge had a controversy with the workmen who were employed by him; the difference was referred to four prominent ministers of the province, who decided ‘that his contention was a serious impediment to his settling, and his treatment of the workmen pronounced contrary to a good conscience.’

In May of this year the selectmen assessed a rate of forty-five pounds and three shillings for the cash and the value of the firewood due Mr. Woodbridge, and apportioned the same among the tax-payers. He construed this act of the selectmen as evidence that he was the legally settled minister. But the town thought otherwise, and, as we shall see, was sustained by the [p. 100] court in its opinion, and in March, 1703-4, they voted not to settle him ‘until some things be better composed’ relating to him, and voted ‘to refer the difficulty to the elders at Boston.’ They were the Revs. Increase Mather and Samuel Willard, who said, ‘Our advice having been asked whether it be proper to proceed unto an immediate settlement of a church state whilst the present uneasiness and alienation of minds remain uncured, we cannot but declare that it seems to us not desirable. If it appears hopeless to the discerning Christians in the place (whereof we at this distance make not ourselves the judges) it seems better for them to study the methods of parting as lovingly and speedily as they can, than, by continuing longer together, and carrying on a controversy, to produce exasperations that may defeat all other attempts to come at a desirable settlement.’

This decision of the elders of Boston was given May 2, 1704, and on May 29, at a meeting adjourned from May 15, the town voted that ‘Ensign Francis and John Francis should inform Mr. Woodbridge that the meeting was adjourned to June the 19th ensuing that he might have a further opportunity to give satisfaction to the town and the other dissatisfied persons in the town, that the town might proceed either to a more full and complete settlement or a dismission.’ Whether Mr. Woodbridge appeared at this adjourned meeting, ‘to give satisfaction to the town and the other dissatisfied persons in the town,’ does not appear in the records of the meeting, but at this time the town voted that ‘the call to Mr. Woodbridge in March, 1698, was conditional upon his performing the whole work of an ordained minister, and though we invited Mr. Woodbridge to preach the word of God amongst us as abovesaid, the time that he hath continued with us since said invitation hath been the season of his probation amongst us, in which time of probation Mr. Woodbridge hath given such offence to the carpenters that erected his house, and to several of [p. 101] the inhabitants in said town, that it seems hopeless to us of gaining Mr. Woodbridge to give any competent satisfaction to the offended persons after long waiting and many means used; and whereas the obligation of the town to Mr. Woodbridge was conditional referring to his salary as abovesaid, and he not performing the condition on his part, therefore, put to vote whether they will thereupon make null and void and of none effect the votes relating to Mr. Woodbridge's salary so far as they had reference to a settled minister, notwithstanding any vote or votes to the contrary.’ This vote was in the affirmative, whereupon Mr. Woodbridge applied to the Governor and Council for their assistance. The Council advised Mr. Woodbridge and the town to become mutually reconciled to each other. It is likely that Mr. Woodbridge's appeal to the Governor and Council was to procure an order from them requiring the town to settle him in the ministry. Failing in this, the next step was to present the town to the grand jury in attendance upon the Superior Court at Charlestown, Jan. 30, 1704, for a breach of the law in not having a settled minister, the immediate issue of which was that the court ordered the town ‘to take effectual care to obtain a settled minister, and make report of their doings therein to the next Court of Sessions.’ Before the time expired for the town to report, in accordance with this order of the court, Mr. Woodbridge seems to have taken steps to gather an independent church and congregation, as he had done at Windsor, in defiance of Congregational usage and the laws of the province; for at a meeting of the town March 5, 1704, this charge is made against him, and it was voted ‘that the town do declare themselves highly dissatisfied at Mr. Woodbridge's late irregular attempts and actions about gathering a church, and do protest against his going on in the offensive way that he is in, and forbid his preaching any more in their public meeting house.’ This action of the town led to the calling of [p. 102] an ecclesiastical council to hear and decide upon the matter in dispute. The council said that Mr. Woodbridge was the chief blameable cause for the obstructions to a quiet and regular settlement and enjoyment of all Gospel ordinances in Medford; that the town acted blameably in their vote about silencing Mr. Woodbridge and taking away his salary; and concluded by recommending that Mr. Woodbridge should by suitable acknowledgments endeavor to ease the minds of those aggrieved; and that after such endeavors he should preach for a while in Medford, and the inhabitants should attend on his ministry; and if after some suitable time for trial they cannot agree, that they should part from one another as quietly as they can. Several suits at law were brought by Mr. Woodbridge before the quietness came, the Superior Court deciding that he was not the settled minister, and finally the contention ceased by the town's paying him in full for all demands and purchasing his real estate for two hundred and seventy pounds. The conclusion of the matter was reached in 1708, and Mr. Woodbridge continued to live in Medford till his death two years later, when the town promptly and generously voted ten pounds for the expenses of his funeral.

John Tufts.

After Mr. Woodbridge's death Mr. John Tufts, son of Mr. Peter Tufts, of Medford, was engaged to supply the pulpit, which he did for about six months. The town gave him a call to the pulpit in December, 1711, to settle on a salary of fifty pounds and strangers' money. In his reply he neither accepts nor declines the invitation. The reason seems to be that the feud left from Mr. Woodbridge's ministry had not wholly died out. His name appears again among the three candidates from whom the town made choice of a minister in 1712, when the lot fell to Mr. Aaron Porter. [p. 103] Mr. Tufts was afterward the honored minister of the church in Newbury.

Aaron Porter.

The last Wednesday of April, 1712, the town appointed as ‘a day of fasting and prayer to humble ourselves before God for those divisions and contentions that hath so long prevailed among us, and obstructed the peaceable enjoyment of Gospel ordinances.’ After the religious exercises they were to meet, and out of the three candidates who had the highest number they were to select one as their pastor. Mr. Aaron Porter was the choice, and in May, 1712, the town voted to invite him to become their minister. His salary was to be fifty-five pounds, and to be increased two pounds annually until it reached the sum of seventy pounds. To this was added the strangers' money and twenty cords of wood, or seven pounds. Mr. Porter, in accepting the invitation, demanded one hundred pounds as a settlement, as was the custom, which was cheerfully given to him.

He was born in Hadley, Mass., in 1689; graduated at Harvard in 1708; and was settled in Medford, where he was ordained to the ministry, in 1712, when a day of fasting and prayer was appointed, and the Church of Christ in Medford was gathered by a number of the brethren signing a covenant prepared for that purpose. In October, 1713, he was married to Miss Susan Sewell, of Salem, daughter of Stephen Sewell, and niece of Judge Samuel Sewell. Judge Sewell's entry in his diary, under date of October 22, is interesting: ‘I go to Salem; see Mr. Noyes marry Mr. Aaron Porter and Miss Susan Sewell at my brother's. Was a pretty deal of company present.’ After naming the more distinguished among the elders, he says: ‘Many young gentlemen and gentlewomen. Mr. Noyes made a speech: said, Love was the sugar to sweeten [p. 104] every condition in the married relation. After the sack-posset sung the forty-fifth Psalm from the eighth verse to the end, five staves. I set it to Windsor tune.’ After about nine years of ministry Mr. Porter died on Jan. 23, 1722, at the age of thirty-three. Very little is known of Mr. Porter's ministry. The town was small and feeble, and had been torn by dissensions over Mr. Woodbridge. He must have been a wise man and gentle to have healed the trouble. By his formal settlement the First Parish was formally instituted, the formation of a church being necessary to this. For seventy-eight years the town had been without a settled minister, but now with Mr. Porter's ministry it took on regular and stable ways.

Ebenezer Turell.

In June, 1724, after fasting and prayer, and a sermon by Rev. Benjamin Colman, of Boston, the town voted to call Rev. Ebenezer Turell to be their minister, a hundred pounds settlement, and ninety pounds salary and strangers' money, to be paid semi-annually. At his request, in his letter of acceptance, the salary was increased to one hundred pounds. It is worthy of note that money had even more instability of value in those days than in ours, so that at times it was necessary to vote the amount of the salary each year. In 1749, for instance, the salary was made five hundred pounds (old tenor).

There are traces of humor in Mr. Turell. He married Miss Jane Colman, daughter of Rev. Dr. Colman, of Boston, with whom he studied theology after leaving college, and evidently found something more interesting. The first Sunday after his marriage to her—she was a very handsome brunette—he preached from the text in the book of Canticles, ‘I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.’ He continued his ministry until 1778, dying of old age, it is said, in his seventy-seventh year and the fifty-fourth [p. 105] of his pastorate. The picture of him now in the possession of the First Parish represents him in his bands and wig at about middle life as a man of amiable nature, to whom the good things of this world were not wholly displeasing. But he was also possessed of much force of character, and of independent mind. A sermon of his in favor of inoculation for smallpox showed some courage in that day when it was thought that the use of this preventive agency was flying in the face of Providence. More important was the calmness of his judgment and his critical discrimination upon the subject of witchcraft. He published a pamphlet about this, making a careful analysis of a case of witchcraft which had occurred in Littleton, in which he exposed the tricks which two sisters had played upon the easy credulity of the community and equally upon that of their parents. I am struck too with the poise of his mind in the religious excitements, so-called, which were inaugurated by Rev. Geo. Whitefield. In 1742 he published a pamphlet called ‘A Direction to my People in relation to the Present Times,’ in which the excesses of emotional fervor are declaimed against and a religion founded on truth and soberness is commended.

During Mr. Turell's ministry, in 1759, the church voted to read the Scriptures in the congregation. Until this time the service had consisted of psalm-singing, the short and long prayers, and the sermon. In his time also the Tate and Brady version of the Psalms was substituted for that of the Dunster version, and singers' seats were built for the choir. The singers were chosen by the chorister, and the selectmen ‘approbated’ them,—for our fathers used that barbarous word.

During his ministry he baptized 1,037 persons, married 220 couples, and admitted to the church 323 communicants. But these bare statistics tell us little of the influence for good of a man who for more than half a [p. 106] century gave all that was in him to the helping and uplifting of his fellows, who represented the highest education of his time, and with sincerity and love gave himself to all good causes. His fine old house, which used to stand at what we are now taught to call Winthrop square, used to speak to me of him, and to have an air of quiet dignity and good breeding with which his presence had haunted it. I wish he had not been so much disturbed at the town's voting to build the new church in 1769, on the spot on which the First Parish Church now stands, as to revoke the clause of his will leaving it to the town.

David Osgood.

In March, 1774, Mr. David Osgood was invited to preach as a candidate for settlement as colleague to Rev. Mr. Turell, and on April 18, 1774, received an invitation from the church and town. Sixty gentlemen voted for him, and six against him. The opposition was on theological grounds, he being a Calvinist and they Arminians. These distinctions were better understood by our fathers than by us, and the names may not carry with them definite meanings. The point of difference, it may be well to state, touched chiefly the question of the freedom of the will—of man's ability by his own choice to become a subject of salvation. The pure Calvinist held that salvation was only by the election of God, that he had from all eternity chosen such as should be saved, and had passed over all others. The Arminian held that salvation was within the reach of all if they would choose it and comply with its terms. Because of the weight of the six votes against him Mr. Osgood declined the call to the Medford church. The town then chose a committee to consult with the opponents of Mr. Osgood, but nothing came of it. Finally, Mr. Osgood accepted the call. The salary was eighty pounds during Mr. Turell's life, [p. 107] and ninety pounds afterward. He was ordained Sept. 14, 1774, making a statement of his belief before the ecclesiastical council called from neighboring churches to ordain him. Three of the six opponents called upon him the morning after his ordination and said to him: ‘We opposed the giving you a call, and we opposed your ordination; we did this from our deepest convictions of duty to Christ and his church; but as we have failed in all our efforts, and you are now to begin your ministry among us, we have come to tell you that our opposition ceases, and that you will find us constant attendants on your ministrations, and ready to aid you in your holy work.’

Fortunately it is possible to describe Dr. Osgood by means of his contemporaries and friends.

Miss Lucy Osgood wrote of her father, May 6, 1848:

My father was born in Andover, October, 1747. I do not remember the day of the month, as he was never in the habit of observing anniversaries. His father, Mr. Isaac Osgood, a sensible, pious farmer, lived in the southwestern part of the town near the borders of Tewksbury, upon a farm originally purchased, I believe, by his grandfather. The picture of the ancient house is contained in the memoir of the patriot James Otis, who was boarding in my grandfather's family when a flash of lightning killed him in the doorway, partial insanity having caused his friends to seek the retirement of a country residence for him. My father was the eldest of four sons. After laboring on the farm until his nineteenth year he begged that he might receive his portion in a liberal education, the work of the ministry being the object of his highest ambition. Upon a Saturday evening, as he has often told us, he at length won his father's reluctant consent to his proposal, and at break of day on the following Monday morning he walked three or four miles in pursuit of a young schoolmaster with whom he was slightly acquainted, that he might consult him in regard to the books which it would be [p. 108] necessary for him to procure and study. From him he learned for the first time of the Latin Accidence, and obtained the loan of it. This he mastered in a short time, and in a few weeks afterward he placed himself under the care of the Rev. Mr. Emerson, of Hollis, who was in the habit of receiving youths into his family and fitting them for college. During these preparatory studies he was unremitting in his diligence, constantly spending from fourteen to sixteen hours every day over his books, so that he entered college in sixteen months from the time of his determining to be a scholar. After receiving his degree in 1771 he pursued his theological studies for a year in Cambridge. I am not aware that his professional studies were under the direction of any clergyman. Motives of economy compelled him to reside at his father's as soon as he commenced preaching, and this he did within two years after leaving college. He preached on probation both in the little town of Boxford, and in Charlestown before coming to Medford, and was very near being settled in each place, finally missing both of them, as he often amused himself with telling, on account of directly opposite allegations,—being suspected at Boxford of a perilous leaning to Arminianism, and at Charlestown of an undue bias in favor of high Calvinism.

It was at the close of the year 1773, or early in 1774, that he was first invited to supply the Medford pulpit, during the long infirmity of the pastor, Rev. Ebenezer Turell. In those days it was customary for the candidates to be invited about in the parish from house to house, instead of being sent to a boardingplace. My father used to ride down from Andover on horseback on Saturday, and return the following Monday. After being entertained in various families he at last received an invitation from one Mr. Richard Hall to lodge at his house on his next visit to the town. The result of this casual invitation was a friendship which formed the crowning blessing of both [p. 109] their lives. After partaking of the hospitality of this worthy man and his excellent wife he requested that their house might be his abiding-place. They joyfully consented, and he was their inmate during the ensuing twelve years. In this excellent couple my father was blessed with friends who felt for him more than he felt for himself. In innumerable instances the natural impetuosity of his temper was checked solely by unwillingness to occasion uneasiness to these everwatch-ful guardians of his happiness; while they, on the other part, always looked up to him as to a superior intelligence, without, however, losing their own independence, which was manifested on every proper occasation in all plainness of speech, by cautions as well as commendations. One of my earliest recollections is my father's often-expressed desire that he might not outlive these dear friends; and the wish was granted, as, several years after his decease, they dropped away in extreme old age. A little anecdote will show the estimation in which their mutual friendship was held in the town during their lifetime. Ten years or more before my father's death Deacon Hall had a dangerous fit of illness. A note was read upon his behalf on the Sabbath, with another, —for a very intemperate Irishman, who was also ill. They both recovered, and the first time the Irishman went abroad his next-door neighbor, a merry seacap-tain, accosted him with, “Well, Patrick, you may bless Heaven till your latest day for having been sick at the same time with the Deacon, for the Doctor prayed so hard to keep him here that he was obliged to beg a little for you.”

On the 14th day of September, 1774, my father was ordained as the colleague of the Rev. Mr. Turell, whose death did not take place until several years afterward. In November, 1786, he married Miss Hannah Breed, of Billerica. My father and mother were born within two months of one another, and were forty years old when they became parents. My mother died Jan. 4, 1818, [p. 110] in her seventy-first year. Her death was sudden, after a few hours' illness, though she had been an invalid for the preceding twelve years. It took place at one o'clock on the morning of the Sabbath, and my father preached on both parts of the following day, pleading, in opposition to the remonstrances of some of his friends, that as his preparation for the pulpit was completed, he should be more able to command his feelings there than anywhere else.

Few lives were ever less varied by outward events of a personal character than my father's, but he had within himself a perennial freshness of feeling which caused him always to be interested in his studies, in the stirring events of the time in which he lived, and the concerns of those around him. Books were his perpetual solace and delight. The hurried manner in which he received his literary education having allowed him no leisure for any thorough acquaintance with the Greek and Roman classics, they possessed all the charm of novelty for him in his more advanced age. In the latter years of his life he read the Greek historians, orators, and tragedians with the liveliest pleasure. As the hour immediately succeeding breakfast was always devoted by him to these studies, it was in his power, during a succession of years, to read all the most distinguished Greek and Roman authors—the whole of Plutarch's writings, and many of the volumes of Plato, while the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides received his delighted attention: and to these noble sources he was probably much indebted for the continued growth of his mind, as well as for the freshness and accuracy which were thought by many to distinguish his compositions. His habits of study differed from those of many clergymen. His preparation for the ensuing Sunday usually commenced early in the week, often on Monday, unless there were sick persons to be visited. His evenings were giving to general reading. He always wrote slowly and with fastidious care; but he never ceased [p. 111] from the labor of composition. Having commenced an exposition of the Scriptures many years before his decease, it was continued to the last week of his life, and he often rejoiced at feeling himself laid under a necessity, imposed by his task, of writing more or less every week. The few last years of his life were in one respect most happy, as he saw himself surrounded by a number of young friends just entering on the ministry, whom he could with reason regard as the fruits of his own labors. He expressed the highest satisfaction when in the forty-fifth year of his ministry he stood in the pulpit for the first time with one of his own parishioners. Two others in succession occupied that place with him previous to his death, and they were followed shortly afterward by three more.

Rev. John Pierce, D. D., of Brookline, Mass., writing of him in 1848, says:

The first thing which gave him great celebrity was a political sermon in 1794, occasioned by an appeal to the people from the decision of the American Government under Washington, by Genet, minister to the United States from the French Republic. This discourse passed through three editions within a few months, the last at Philadelphia. From this period he was greatly admired and caressed by many of our leading politicians of the Federal school, and both in public and in private he stood forth the earnest and powerful advocate of their principles. It is not a little remarkable that of his twenty-two published discourses just one-half should be on political subjects. Of these the most celebrated was his election sermon, preached in 1809. It was nearly two hours in delivery; was pronounced wholly memoriter, and with prodigious effect.

Dr. Osgood was of about middle height, inclining in the latter part of his life to corpulency. He was to the last erect in stature. His countenance was strongly marked, indicating great power of intellect and firmness of purpose. He ruled well his household; but whatever of austerity belonged to him, it never prevented a [p. 112] free intercourse between himself and his children. These he had instructed with great care, so that they are among our most distinguished proficients in the Greek and Latin languages.

I believe he wrote a much smaller number of sermons than is common during a long ministry. Most of them, however, were so thoroughly elaborated that they might very well have been sent to the press without revision. His favorite discourses he often repeated at home; and in his later years he delivered them wholly memoriter whenever he preached on exchange, so that they became generally celebrated in the neighboring parishes. He had a parishioner who, though simple enough in other respects, had a remarkably retentive memory; and when hearing the Doctor preach an old sermon he used to raise his arm and signify with his fingers how many times it had been preached before.

In the pulpit he certainly attained an eminence that was reached by few of his contemporaries. In the delivery of his sermons he was usually very deliberate; but when he became greatly excited his utterance waxed rapid and earnest, and he came down upon his audience with the overwhelming force of a torrent. To the discourses he committed to memory his stirring and impassioned delivery gave the effect in a great degree of extemporaneous efforts.

Under date of 1848, Rev. Convers Francis writes:

My early recollections of Dr. Osgood's pulpit services are strong, though of course I could not appreciate them as I did subsequently. But even when I was a child they seemed to me something extraordinary—different from those of any other minister. His prayers were evidently elaborated with devout care; they were always strong and earnest. There were a certain number of them which he so constantly repeated that when I was young I could easily rehearse large portions of them, and while he was praying could anticipate what was coming next. In pouring out his petitions his voice [p. 113] frequently took on a solemn or pathetic energy, and his countenance an expression of fervent entreaty,—his eye being sometimes suffused with a tear, which gave the deepest and most touching effect to the supplications. In these devotional exercises he made not a little use of strong and bold figures, both from the Scriptures and of his own construction. One of these was: “Ride forth, King Jesus, triumphant on the word of truth; make it like a sword to pierce and like a hammer to break in pieces, and dissolve the hard and stony heart into godly sorrow for sin.”

There were times when Dr. Osgood's preaching in boldness, vigor, and authoritative dignity surpassed that of any other man of his day in New England. I remember to have heard that when Daniel Webster removed to Boston and listened to Dr. Osgood for the first time in the Brattle-square Church he said it was the most impressive eloquence it had ever been his fortune to hear. My own early remembrance of his appearance and words in the pulpit is one of unmingled reverence. He seemed to me like an apostolic messenger from God. His whitening and at length silvered hair, his dignified look, and what I may call the whole presence of the man, enhanced the effect of the earnestness, and frequently the awful solemnity, with which he took our souls into the midst of the great truths of eternity. He sometimes committed to memory parts of his sermons with which he had taken peculiar pains, or which he thought peculiarly important. When he came to deliver these he would deliberately take off his spectacles, and either lay them on the pulpit cushion or hold them in one hand; then with an altered and subdued voice, and with a sort of gathering up of his whole person, he would say, “My brethren,” and then followed the earnest appeal, or the powerful statement, or the vivid description.

Everybody who has heard of Dr. Osgood at all has heard of his apparently harsh and rude sayings, and of [p. 114] his neglect or contempt of what the world calls politeness and decorum. The truth was, he was originally a man of strong and somewhat rough nature, who abhorred disguise, pretence, and quackery of all sorts,— open, bold, and uncompromising, thinking much of realities and little of conventional standards. He had rough impulses, and spoke blunt words; but I am sure that what might appear to be unkindness or rudeness was in reality the result of uncalculating, spontaneous honesty of soul. His heart was essentially and truly a kind, Christian, noble heart, and would sometimes melt into an unexpected tenderness, that was the more touching in a man of his strong qualities. For myself, I must say that from the earliest to the latest period I always found him kind, benevolent, and considerate toward me. I preached my first sermon in his pulpit; it was a trying day to me; but the sharpness of the trial was increased by his taking me into his study before meeting and saying: “Come, you must read your discourses to me before you preach, that I may give you my opinion of them.” With no little perturbation I complied, and as I read, he would say to some of my youthful crudities of thought or expression, “That won't do; you must alter that.” I passed through the ordeal with trembling on my spirit; and although the good man's manner was certainly not soft or flattering, yet he meant it in all kindness, and afterwards he encouraged, and comforted, and animated me not a little. I have often thought that what was often construed as severity or roughness in Dr. Osgood might have been simply the result of more fearlessness than other men possessed. Moral courage was one of the strong elements of his character—it never quailed; he would say what he thought he ought to say, or what the case required, let men think what they would of it. It is easy to see that a man of such feelings and principles might often be misconstrued or misrepresented. Nevertheless, the lion heart is often the kindest of hearts.

[p. 115]

Two volumes of his collected and printed sermons came to me from his daughter, Miss Lucy Osgood, a woman of rare learning and worth. Consequently I have a clearer and more definite opinion of him than of the others I have sketched. While one cannot get the same impression of a strong preacher from reading as from hearing him, and must miss his personal quality, still there was enough of this in Dr. Osgood to fill his words, and to breathe from the printed page though it has grown sere with age. His was a strong and virile mind, with a firm grasp of whatever subject he undertook to treat. Among them all there is but one controversial discourse, which was preached in Maiden to prevent, if possible, the formation of a Baptist church. The religious sermons are plain, well-reasoned, earnest discourses. The style is not the brightest, is rarely relieved by illustration or figures of speech. He was at his best in his political sermons, which were always preached on special occasions, such as Thanksgiving or Fast days. One of them has a rather striking title: ‘The Devil Let Loose,’ and has as its topic the danger and menace of the French Revolution. He exposes its godlessness with force and severity. Very likely he felt the evil of its contagion upon American life. He was himself a stanch Federalist, no lover of the democratic tendency of the nation, especially no lover of Jefferson; and his fear of democracy is not disguised. The sermon referred to by Rev. Dr. Pierce, preached on Thanksgiving Day, 1794, occasioned by the appeal from the decision of the United States Government to the people of the United States, by Genet, minister of the French Republic to the United States, who went to Charleston to fit out vessels of war against England, is able in its representation of the situation, and in the force with which it presents the fatal danger to the country if it does not stand loyally by the decisions of the General Government. But I have been even more impressed by a [p. 116] noble and eloquent discourse delivered after the death of George Washington.

Permit me to read a passage from it that you may test its quality: ‘At the head of armies, and at the helm of government, there have been some, who in the height of their elevation, amidst all the allurements of interest, pride, ambition, and sensuality, while covered with glory, invested with power, and abounding in wealth, have yet shown themselves able to control their passions, to moderate their desires, to forego all selfish views, and preserve a character for piety, benevolence, disinterestedness, justice, meekness, temperance, purity; in short for whatever is amiable, lovely, and praiseworthy in religion, morals, and manners. Undismayed at the most formidable prospects, and uncontaminated amidst the strongest temptations to corruption, no bribe could seduce them, no terror could overawe them. They were never melted by pleasure into effeminacy, nor sunk by misfortunes into despondency. In their private deportment and public conduct they displayed dignity and magnanimity without pride; humility without meanness; justice without partiality, harshness, or severity; courage without rashness or presumption. Wary and circumspect, though not artful or designing, they were wise and penetrating in discovering and eluding the snares of enemies and opponents; sagacious and prudent in foreseeing and guarding against dangers and accidents; never exposing themselves, or the cause with which they were entrusted, to any risk, detriment, or embarrassment which could be decently and honorably avoided. I do not remember to have read in any volume of profane history, whether ancient or modern, nor even in the fictions of romance, of a single character so exempt from every spot of vice, every shade of weakness or indiscretion; so complete in the abilities of a general, in the talents of a statesman, in the virtues of a citizen, equal to him who, at the call of his country, headed our armies through the [p. 117] long series of trying scenes which attended our Revolution; whose influence saved our all from being lost by division; held together, or, at least, was the most important tie in preventing the disjunction and dissolution of the first slender and ill-cemented union of these States; who presided on the great occasion when, by an ameliorated national compact, they were consolidated when the admirable machine of our present general government was constructed; who put the machine in motion, and through the course of eight years so guided its operations as to enable his fellow-citizens fully to enjoy all its signal advantages; and after having retired with the utmost dignity and honor from the cares of state to spend the short remains of life in preparation for its closing scenes, foreign violence and intrigue, combined with the turbulent, malignant spirit of domestic faction, rearing their Gorgon form and menacing the fair fabric which his labors had been so instrumental in raising, his patriotic ardor grew indignant; stepping back from his beloved retreat he again brandished his sword, and with all the majesty of heaven-inspired virtue frowned on the rebel-rout of demons let loose. At this awful juncture Divine Providence removed him from a world no longer worthy of such goodness.’

In bringing this study of our early ministers to a close I am deeply persuaded that Medford has no memories better worth preserving than those of the estimable, scholarly, and devoted men who in her ancient church were forces of good. Far beyond our power to measure, they contributed to the intelligent, faithful, and robust character which gave to New England a commanding place in our national history. During the Revolutionary struggle the pulpit of these colonies was one of the most powerful influences on behalf of liberty, strengthening the heroic spirit which carried the people through the sufferings and hardships of the time. However a later generation may regard some [p. 118] beliefs which these men held, this, at least, none will question, that their religion bred men and women of sturdy, self-denying character, and prepared the way for a nation based on freedom and the rights of man. It was most fortunate that the ecclesiastical polity was in harmony with the spirit of liberty, that democracy in the church went hand in hand with democracy in the state. It was good when the time came that church and state were separated here and when; in 1833, the last remains of the connection of the church with the civil power were removed, religion entered upon a freer and wider career.

The portrait of Rev. Ebenezer Turell, from which the frontispiece in this number of the Register is taken, was given to the First Church in Medford by Dudley Hall, Sen., father of the late Dudley C. Hall, to whom it came by inheritance from Turell Tufts, of Medford. It was loaned at one time to the Hon. Samuel Turell Armstrong, Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts, and a great-grand-nephew of Rev. Mr. Turell. The loan of the picture was continued to Mr. Armstrong's widow and on her death was returned to the church. The name of the painter of the portrait is not known, so far as can be learned.

1 read before the Medford Historical Society, Nov. 18, 1896.

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