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When the eminent servants of God depart hence, we instinctively fear that the ways of Zion will mourn, we tremble for the ark of God, we feel for the moment that the prosperity of the Church of Christ rests on a weaker basis ihan before. Earthly shepherds indeed dwell in dust. They utter forth for a few fleeting years the glories of divine truth and the riches of divine love, turn a few sinners to holiness, speed a few departing souls on their heavenward flight; and then dust returns to dust, and the spirit to its Father. But the Great Shepherd and Bishop of souls survives in plenitude of power and love. And the gospel too lives, though its preachers die. When the godly cease, when the faithful fail from among the children of men, it is amply able to replenish their ranks, and to make the humblest and meanest the lights and guides, the counsellors and exemplars of their brethren. It has never since its first promulgation left God without faithful servants; and we trust that the series of holy men which commenced with the Apostles will last, amid the ravages of time and death, while the world shall endure. As God calls his worthy children home, let us, whether pastors or people, earnestly strive, by welcoming to our hearts and obeying in our lives the instruetions of the gospel, to fill and more than fill the places of the departed. And, since God in his Providence often arrests in its prime the influence of living, active virtue, let us prize the more highly the example of departed worth, which he will not, and which nought else can, take from us.
Art IX. — The Shade of the Past. - For the Celebration
of the Close of the Second Century since the Establishment of the Thursday Lecture. By N. L. FROTHINGHAM, Pastor of the First Church. Printed at the request of the Boston Association of Congregational Ministers. Boston. Russell, Odiorne, & Metcalf. 1833. 8vo. pp. 16.
Though but a shadow of what it once was, the Thursday Lecture deserved this tribute to its ancient importance, this commemoration of its departed honor and glory. The successor of “the famous Mr. Cotton," who first established this lecture, was fitly appointed to preach at the celebration of its two hundredth anniversary, and the duty could not have fallen into better bands. The facts connected with the occasion are introduced with such a felicity of language, that they are divested of all dryness, and clothed with an interest which does not always belong intrinsically to the minute history of former times. No one, at least no Bostonian, or even New-Englander, can read this discourse without being entertained by it; and moral reflection is so interwoven with the tissue of the narrative, that instruction may be gathered from it as well as entertainment. Such is our own respect, however, for facts and dates, that we regret, and it is our only regret, that more were not given, as we presume that a few more might have been found. The author does not even let us know on his title-page, as is usual, on what day this discourse was preached. The reader is only left to infer from the following passage, that it must have been some time in the autumn of the year 1833.
“There is an obscurity hanging over the early years of the Thursday Lecture, or the Fifth-day Lecture as it was anciently called, which it is difficult to account for, and the most diligent search that I could make has been unable to clear away. It is well known that the institution of it is dated from the ordination of Mr. Cotton, just two centuries ago, as teacher over the church, that was then the only one in this town. The testimony to this point is of the most satisfactory kind. Governor Winthrop tells us in his Journal, that on the 17th of Sept. 1633, 'the Governor and Council met at Boston, and called the ministers and elders of all the Churches to consider about Mr. Cotton his sitting down. He was desired to divers places, and those who came with him desired he might sit down where they might keep store of cattle; but it was agreed, by full consent, that the fittest place for him was Boston ; and that (keeping a lecture) he should have some maintenance out of the treasury.' The fittest place was indeed Boston, that appears to have received its name out of compliment to him, - while he was yet preaching at Boston in Lincolnshire those doctrines, that brought him into question with the high commission court, and compelled him to fly for his safety, disguised and under a feigned name, to these ends of the earth. He was accounted the ablest man on this side of the sea, and his lecture rose at once into an object of deep and general concern,” – p. 5.
By looking into Snow's “ History of Boston,” we learn that Mr. Cotion was ordained teacher of the First Church, Oct. 10, 1633. Mr. Frothingham's discourse was preached just two centuries afterwards. Our love of dates, to which we have alluded above, leads us to give this statement, and supply the omission of the preacher.
It is a curious and interesting fact, with which we were first made acquainted by Mr. Frothingham, that his dis-tinguished predecessor was in the habit of preaching a * Thursday Lecture” in Boston, England, while he was a clergyman of the establishment there. It is thus recorded, in the author's own happy manner.
“ The Thursday Lecture does not only carry us back to the days of the first settlement of the country, but to the native land of our forefathers. It is connected with the old world as well as with old times. It was preached in the English Boston by the same fervent ministry that brought it to ours. We can follow it from the fens of the Witham to the New England coast. The grandson of Mr. Cotton assures us, that his famous ancestor kept his ordinary Lecture every Thursday, while he was under the directions of the Bishop of Lincoln, and in friendship with the noble Earl of the same title. One cannot bu be struck with the thought, that the eloquent voice might have been heard many and many a time rolling among the stately Gothic arches of St. Botolph's, which came here to fill a poor meetinghouse, having nothing better than mud for its walls and straw for its roof; and that under one of the loftiest cathedral towers in Europe, listing itself up as the pride of the surrounding country, and a landmark to them that are afar off on the
institution had its origin, which has long shown not even the vestiges of its ancient renown, but is dying under our eyes and hands a lingering death. I imagine it not only associating the present with a remote age, but bringing together the opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean. I hear the heavy bell calling John Cotton's hearers together in prelatical England; and the knell falls faintly around me of the intervening generations that have gone away one after another into silence."
After stating that a market, or, as it was more learnedly spelt by Gov. Winthrop, “a mercate,” was by order of court, on the 4th of March, 1634,“ erected at Boston, to be kept upon Thursday the 5th day of the week, being the lecture-day," and glancing at one or two more facts in the history of the lecture, a picture is drawn, which gives
pp. 6, 7,
so lively an impression of the scene delineated, that we must hold it up to the sight of our readers.
“ The curtain of nearly half a century now drops before the scene. We see nothing and hear nothing behind it. It was the period, when the Lecture was steadily advancing to its highest point of show and popularity, and yet precisely that which has left the least account of itself; like the true prosperities and well filled power, that love best to go on their way with a rejoicing quiet
I will but lift the screen, and exhibit to you as on a stage or in a picture the appearance that it presented during this period. The thatched meetinghouse has disappeared and given place to a more commodious and worthy structure; and towards this, on every fifth morning of the week, there is a flowing together of the people from many a mile round. The villages send their yeomen and Pastors. The walls of Harvard College, that have risen at Newtown, contribute of its few students and fellows to swell the train. All other instruction must cease, while the lips of the benignant old patriarch Wilson, of the eloquent and commanding Cotton, of the zealous Norton, of Oxenbridge the well beloved, who broke off his own preaching of this very Lecture to be carried to his death-bed, are dispensing diviner knowledge. The schools dismiss their pupils in the forenoon, and are kept no more that day, in order that no one may be deprived of so great a privilege.
The rough weather of a climate yet sterner than it has since been, scarcely thins the assembly that comes to warm itself with fervent words and the glow of a common interest and the breath of its own crowd, in a cold place. What an array is here of dignity, and sanctity, and comeliness! What squares of scarlet cloaks! What borders of white but artificial hair! What living complexions,- of a less shining whiteness, and less presumptuously red, - upon many fair but solemu faces, which the arguments of Cotton have divested of their veils ! And lest any thing should be wanting to so important an occasion, and lest a single interesting association of life should be overlooked or unconnected with it, I hear the list of names repeated with a loud voice, of those who intend,' as the good phrase still is, to make themselves the happiest of mortals. Thus the recreations of the young and the meditations of the old, the order of the churches and the guidance of the state, the market-place and the marriage-ring, have their remembrances bound together in this ancient service.
In 1679, the Lecture, which hitherto had been conducted by the pastors and teachers of the First Church only, was ordered to be preached by all the "elders” of
- pp. 9, 10.
the town jointly. “During the siege of Boston ” in the war of the revolution," it was for a few melancholy months suspended, and the deliverance of the town renewed it in the midst of universal acclamations.” On this occasion the officers of the army were present, and Washington himself gave his attendance.
of late years, attendance on the Thursday Lecture has dwindled down almost, as it were, to non-attendance, except on the part of the liberal clergy of Boston and its vicinity. The walls of the church on that day are almost bare, and consequently, in winter, extremely cold. Some desire its discontinuance; but, while others are attached to it by old associations, and the comforts and facilities of brotherly and ministerial intercourse which it affords, it is not likely that it will soon be given up. Whether it shall go on in its present, semi-animate mode of existence, or die a slow death, or be restored to something like its ancient consequence, who can tell ? At any rate, we are admonished by the preacher, and wisely, not to mistrust the present, or tremble for the future. « The world that has been changing hitherto, will change more. Forms will give place to forms; opinions will grow obsolete, usages be laid aside, and establisbments fall; but truth will gain, and improvement go on, and religion, that immortal one, healed of its hurts and released from all its thralls, draw freer and freer breath."
NOTICES AND INTELLIGENCE. (The Editors of the Christian Examiner intend to devote a few pages at the end of each number of their work, to short notices of such publications as may come under their observation, and to such a portion of religious intelligence as they may be able to collect, and as may be most interesting to liberal Christians both at home and abroad. In adopting, or rather returning to such an arrangement, they hope to increase the acceptableness of the Examiner to its readers.]
A Sermon preached in the Church in Brattle Square, December 1, 1833, the Lord's Day after the Decease of Miss Elizabeth Bond. By John G. PALFREY. Boston: Nathan Hale. 1833. 8vo. pp. 20. — A beautiful tribute, by the former minister of Brattle Square Church, to the memory of VOL. XVI. -N. S. VOL. XI. NO. I.