An Account of its Dedication
Together with a Brief Sketch of the Origin
And Progress of the
Congregational Society of
[Web Page Additions by Roger Hiemstra, MMUUS Archivist]
UNITARIANISM had believers
in Syracuse at a comparatively early day, but no measures for the dissemination
in a formal way of the liberal faith were adopted until about fifty years ago.
The new theology had then made little progress out of New England. A few
families residing here had been members of Unitarian congregations in the state
of Massachusetts, but they had not been able to secure the benefits of a stated
religious service. In 1836 or 1837 the Rev. Samuel Barrett of Boston and the
Rev. Mr. Green, a resident of that city or vicinity, preached (by invitation)
in the old Baptist church in West Genesee street, setting forth with clearness
and effect the distinctive theological views held by the Unitarians. Prior to
this time and afterwards other Unitarian ministers came and expounded the
Unitarian doctrine. Among them was the Rev. George Y. Hosmer of Buffalo, under
whose inspiration the "First Unitarian Congregational Society of
Syracuse" was formed. The meeting for this purpose was held in Dr. Mayo's
school house, in
in the Onondaga County
Immediately after the
organization of the society funds were raised by subscription for the building
of a chapel in
portance. In August of that
year Capt. Putnam, John Wilkinson, William Malcolm. Parley Bassett and Thomas
Spencer were, at a meeting of the society, appointed a committee to select and
purchase a lot “upon which to erect a new house of worship." Beneath the
roof of the small, rough structure in
On the 27th of
December, 1842, a meeting of the society was held at which David Cogswell,
Horatio N. White and Parley Bassett, together with the trustees, were appointed
a committee to "furnish a plan for a new church or house of worship and to
provide means for its execution." A subscription paper was at once put in
circulation to which the signatures of Unitarians as well as various members of
other denominations were obtained. A plan of the proposed building, with
specifications, presented by Mr. White was adopted and on
On the 23rd day of November, 1843, the church was dedicated. This occasion was noteworthy There were. present and assist-
ing at the ceremonies Rev
George W. Hosmer, Rev. T. W. Holland of
Mr. Hosmer. The sermon by the pastor was founded on 1st Peter, iii ch. 15th verse: 'Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you.' The sermon was a defence of Christianity as a religion which required investigation by reason, and the subject was treated with thought and learning, with calmness though with great strength and with charitableness unsurpassed." A dedicatory hymn, written by the venerable Ezekiel Bacon of Utica, was sung by the choir. In the evening Mr. Hosmer preached "with his usual ability of thought and clearness of expression."
Coming into the occupancy of the new church with the society free from debt and increasing in membership, and under a pastoral charge with which all were satisfied, there was everything in the situation to encourage the friends of the liberal faith in Syracuse. Soon, however, a drop of bitterness was found in their cup of joy. The duties which Mr. Storer had so faithfully discharged had overtaxed a constitution naturally frail, a mind always too active. This unremitting labor now began to affect his health. Soon after the completion of the new church Mr. Storer felt that he must have entire rest, and that it would be best for him to resign. But to such a step the society would not yield consent, urging with all the feeling of grateful, loving hearts that their pastor should accept a vacation. He at length assented to the proposal, and arrangements were made for supplying the pulpit during his absence, and the time of leaving was fixed for March 16th, 1844. The weather at that time proving unfavorable, he concluded to postpone his journey to another day. During the night the death summons came. "How or when no one can ever know; only from the peaceful expression of the dead face, on which the rays of the morning Sun streamed, those who came to awaken him felt that he had passed without a pang from earth to heaven."
Mr. Storer's death occurred on Sunday morning, and as the intelligence of the event spread through the town all hearts were saddened with grief. In all the pulpits of the city the announcement was made with feelings of emotion. "All differences were forgotten in the common sorrow." Everyone felt that a great public loss had been sustained. Of Mr. Storer's work and character the late Dudley P. Phelps said truthfully at the time: "Mr. Storer was an educated Christian gentleman as well as a Christian minister. Earnest and zealous in the work to which he felt himself called, in this, their missionary field, he strove by all proper means, to make that work a success; but the disease of which he finally died began to develop itself soon after he came to Syracuse. With the spirit almost of a martyr for five years, and indeed as long as it was possible for him so to do, he kept bravely to his work. When he died he left the impress of his noble Christian character and example, his talents and teachings, upon a community whose strong prejudices he had lived down and finally overcome – overcome purely by his life faithfully and earnestly devoted to his Master's service, from which he neither swerved nor faltered till the work was done."
During the year that followed Mr. Storer's death the Unitarian Society maintained its regular services, with such temporary and chance “supplies” as could be procured. Among the number who in this way visited and ministered unto the little flock with greater or less acceptance, were two particularly remembered, Rev. Henry Giles and Joshua Leonard; the former talented, eloquent and eccentric; the latter learned and patriarchal, who in his latter years had come to accept fully the doctrinal views held by Unitarians, and who enjoyed and always availed himself of opportunities to give his ideas of Christian doctrine and duty. During this time, however, efforts were being made to discover a successor to Mr. Storer who would be. fitted to carry on the work he had so successfully begun. We find, therefore, that on the 16th of September, 1844 the Rev. Samuel J. May, (who had been recently in charge of the State Normal School at Lexington, Mass.,) was formally invited to visit the society, preach for and examine its condition and
prospects with a view to
becoming its pastor, if such a relation should be decided to be mutually
agreeable. Mr. May had made a brief
visit in Syracuse the year before,
while on a journey to Niagara Falls, and had occupied Mr. Storer's
pulpit during two Sundays, making a few acquaintances and leaving a favorable
impression in the minds of all who heard him or met him socially. This invitation
was accepted and Mr. May came on and remained about two weeks. During this time
he gave as fully as he could, both in sermons, lectures and social
conversation, his theological views not only but also those which he held upon
the various reform movements with which he was connected or interested. A
somewhat lengthy correspondence was afterwards maintained between the trustees
of the society and Mr. May, which resulted in his acceptance of the invitation
on the 5th of February following to become their pastor; but on
certain conditions, which were acceded to by the society on the 11th
of March after. The correspondence between Mr. May and the trustees was of more
than ordinary interest and no one could peruse the letters written by Mr. May
without being impressed with his rare candor and his determination, (to use his
own language when referring to the matter afterwards,) "That they should
understand who they were calling if they called me." Through some
negligence and informality in the election of trustees, it was deemed advisable
to have a reorganization of the society to perfect its legal existence. To this
end due notices were given and a meeting held on
of April, 1845. These five years passed with all their mingled joys and sorrows, but they bound the hearts of pastor and people in yet closer bonds of affection, and at their termination Mr. May was unanimously invited to continue his ministry in this church as long as such mutual satisfaction and good feeling should exist. This second invitation so cordial and earnest, was accepted. and the relation of pastor and people remained unbroken either in outward form or in the mutually affectionate regard that ever characterized it until 1867. At that time Mr. May felt obliged to offer his resignation; his increasing feebleness warned him of the necessity of entire freedom from the arduous duties of the ministry. The society felt that such a step was unavoidable and, though with sincere regret, granted the request of dismissal. Nine years before, December, 1858, Mr. May had taken a vacation and visited Europe hoping to reestablish his health, seriously affected by his unceasing and exciting labor. He was absent nearly a year, returning in the following November, greatly improved in health, and meeting here a public reception from the members of the Unitarian society which he always regarded as one of the pleasantest events of his life. During his absence the church was well cared for by the Rev. Joseph Angier, since deceased.
Mr. May sent in his formal resignation on the 23rd of September, 1867, and it was accepted by the society on the 7th of October following, but was not put in force until the March of 1868, Mr. May consenting to remain until spring. Then was ended a ministry of twenty-three years, remarkable for its unusual length but even more for the never failing love and reverence borne by the people towards their pastor, and the unwavering zeal and faithful affection with which he watched over them. In accepting: his resignation, suitable tributes to him were paid by resolution, and placed in the church records and afterward provision for a life annuity was pledged.
Immediately steps were taken to supply the vacancy caused by Mr. May's resignation. A committee appointed for the purpose of considering the subject submitted a report to a full
meeting of the society on the 20th
of March following. It was proposed by them that the Rev. Samuel R.
Within a short period after its erection the Church of the Messiah was found to be too small for the accommodation of the increasing numbers of the society, and in the autumn of 1850 it was determined to lengthen the building twenty feet, and add twenty eight pews to its seating capacity. A spire was also built as a continuation of the original tower, the whole expense of these improvements being three thousand dollars. Two years afterward a calamitous accident occurred. On Sunday morning, February 29th, 1852, during a furious gale, the tower and spire of the building fell upon the roof pressing out the side and rear walls, and leaving the whole a mass of ruins. Many of the members of the congregation first learned of this great misfortune as they arrived at the church to attend the usual Sabbath services, and their consternation can be better imagined than described. It was, indeed, a crushing blow, for the Society was still in debt for the recent improvements, and they were obliged to do their work thrice over. As many members of the society as could be notified assembled in the afternoon of the same day, at the office of Dr. Clary, at which meeting a committee, consisting of John Wilkinson, David Cogswell, James L. Bagg and Charles B. Sedgwick was appointed to report upon the situation at an adjourned meeting to be held the next evening. Subsequent action resulted in the adoption of a plan, presented by H. N. White, for a new building to be erected mainly on the old foundation walls which were uninjured. This edifice was completed at a cost (including the new organ, valued at $1,100) of between ten and eleven thousand dollars, of which amount two thousand dollars was
contributed by friends in
New and Old England,
The new church was, on the 11th of April, 1853, dedicated "to the worship of God, to the inculcation of Religious Truth and Christian Duty." The services were of a pleasing character. The Rev. W. H. Channing, of Rochester, preached a sermon, based on the text: St. John xvii ch., 21st, 22nd and 23rd verses. The following original hymn, written for the occasion by Dudley P. Phelps, a member of the society, was sung:
With hearts depressed, but not cast down,
When crushing tempests raged,
In earnest faith new hopes to crown
Our zealous hands engaged.
‘Til on those broken walls once more
A fairer temple stands;
Accept, O God, whom we adore,
The offering of our hands.
Around this altar which we raise
Let thy felt presence be;
Here may our prayers and songs of praise
Acceptance find with Thee.
Within these walls Thy love proclaim;
Here let Thy truth be heard;
Honored forever be thy name –
Jehovah, Father, God.
Oppressed by sorrow, sin and ill,
As to a Father’s Home,
In meek submission to Thy will
Here let Thy children come
And from the treasurers of the word
Wisdom and grace bestow –
Thy Way, the Truth, the Life, O Lord,
Which Jesus was – to know.
So may our lives here turned to Thee
In righteous deeds be given,
That his fair House shall prove to be
A very gate of heaven
The consecrating prayer was by the Rev. John Pierpont, and
dedication sermon by the pastor, Mr. May. In the afternoon a collation was served in Empire Hall, and in the evening appropriate services were held in the church.
The foregoing sketch brings the history of the society down to the period when the question of building the May Memorial Church was first considered. But the relation should not close without further reference to the character and services of the man to whose memory the new church is erected. This cannot be done better than by quoting from a biographical sketch written at the time of Mr. May's death by Mr. Charles E. Fitch. Mr. Fitch says:
"To write of Mr. May as a citizen is a grateful task. He was a minister who came out of his pulpit to mingle with his fellow men, bringing the meditations of the closet and the soul of good will to bear upon the social problems which beset us all. He came to us when we were a village; he lived among us, to see our population quintupled, a fair and prosperous city. He was as public spirited as philanthropic. No improvement but had his sanction, no charity but had his encouragement. The Franklin Institute, the Historical Association, the Orphan Asylum, the Home, the Hospital, all called him their friend. No differing creed could deter him from giving his aid to a noble enterprise. * * * And now, as we write our last words, we would, if possible, have our pen touched as by an angel, to fitly note the gracious character itself, of which the record we have sketched is but, the outward expression; but words are cold and speech is lifeless here. There was no man of a nobler self-abandonment than he. His charities were as countless as the dew drops glistening on the meadows of morning; his sympathies as pervasive as the objects toward which they could be directed. A zealot, he had none of the zealot's bitterness; a reformer, he had not the reformer's caustic tongue; a theologian of pronounced views, he had none of the theologian's regard for sect. True to his own flesh and blood, he was yet everybody's friend. Simple in his habits, confiding in his nature, sometimes imposed upon through the very excess
of his philanthropy, no man but respected him for the possession of the most sterling qualities of head as well as of heart.
"Now that the asperities of the conflicts in which he was engaged are hushed in the triumph of nearly all the principles for which he contended, we believe there is no man living who will cherish an envious or a hostile feeling over this new-made grave. Utterly free from envy himself, he paid most generous tribute to the talents and the good works of his fellows,
"In the fullness of years, with intellect unimpaired, with affections undiminished, with a record lustrous for its accomplishment and beautiful in its spirit; with the regard of all who had heard him, he has been gathered to his fathers and taken his place among that goodly company who, ‘by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report,' have entered into the rest of the faithful.
"To use his own words, he had learned life's lesson, and had gladly turned the page to see what there was on the other side, Upon us his life falls like a benediction, gracious and gentle, from the hands of the Father Supreme. May it be given us to live as in its presence, and to assimilate in our characters something of its essence."
The Church of the Messiah, with the changes and improvements that from time to time had been made, had served its purpose for forty years, when the invasion of the neighborhood by the tracks of a railway, compelled the society to abandon the premises and seek elsewhere for a place of worship. On the 13th of March, 1883, the Board of Trustees, at a meeting held for the purpose, at which were present E. B, Judson, W. Brown Smith, Martin A. Knapp, Charles W. Snow, James L. Bagg and James Barnes, appointed E. B. Judson, Alfred Wilkinson, Horatio N. White, James Barnes, Charles W. Snow, W. Brown Smith, Alexander H. Davis, James L. Bagg, Martin A Knapp and Harvey Steward a committee "to inaugurate measures looking toward
a new church," to be styled "The May Memorial Church," and to be erected on a site to be selected by the representatives of two-thirds of the sum of money subscribed for the purpose. This being done, the form of a subscription was presented and approved. Another meeting of the Board was held May 30th following, when George Barnes was added to the committee.
At a meeting of the society held October 25th, 1883, it was on motion resolved, as the sense of the meeting; that "a new church should be built." On the 30th of October following the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution offered by Mr. Bagg, authorizing Mr. H. N. White to "receive proposals, by advertisement or otherwise, for furnishing the society with a lot for its new church," and also to circulate such subscriptions as he may select, so that "all members of the congregation may have the opportunity of subscribing to the building fund." Another meeting of the society was held on November 22nd.following, when resolutions were adopted declaring the progress made in obtaining subscriptions to be “eminently satisfactory," and that the subscribers to the building fund be called together at the church on the 30th of November, "for the purpose of considering the selection of a site for the new church edifice." A further resolution was adopted authorizing the trustees to offer the old church building for sale. This meeting was held, but adjourned without taking action on the question of a site. The adjourned meeting was accordingly held, but without taking action adjourned, to meet at the call of the president of the Board of Trustees. On the 16th day of February, 1884, pursuant to the order of the previous meeting, and on notice by the president of the Board of Trustees, the subscribers re-assembled at the church parlors, for the purpose of determining the question of location. On a vote being taken it was found that a majority had failed to designate either of several locations desired, and the meeting adjourned, after passing a resolution that "the whole matter be left with the trustees, with power to canvass among the subscribers not present, and if sufficient votes were obtained, to proceed with the purchase of the property voted
for" The trustees
acted promptly under this resolution, and at a meeting of the Board held a
short time afterwards found that the required vote had been cast for the
"Chase lot," situated in
At a meeting of the Board of Trustees, held April 3, 1884, it was resolved that the Building Committee, when appointed, be authorized and directed to procure at least three plans for the proposed building and submit the same to the Board of Trustees, and that the materia1 of the structure be "Onondaga lime stone, with the rough Ashler finish." The following-named committee on "plans" was also appointed: Alexander H. Davis, Daniel J. Francis, William H. Smith, A Clark Baum, George E. Dana, Mrs. George Barnes, Mrs. Alfred Wilkinson, Mrs. Maria Church, Mrs. D. F. Gott, Mrs. R. W. Pease, Mrs. H. W. Beardslee, Mrs. P. H. Agan, Mrs. S. R. Calthrop, Mrs. James L. Bagg, Mrs. E. S. Jenney, Mrs. T. J. Leach, Mrs. A. C. Baum, Mrs. H. M. Rowling, Mrs. C. W. Snow, Mrs. M. A. Knapp and Mrs. Alexander H. Davis. At the same time the following-named persons were appointed the Building Committee: George Barnes, Alfred Wilkinson, W. Brown Smith, Thomas J. Leach and Austin C. Wood. Mr. Barnes having declined the service, James Barnes was selected to fill the vacancy. At a meeting of the Board held April 15th, H. N. White was selected as the architect, and requested to submit a plan. The Board met on the 15th of May and adopted the following report from the Committee on Plans as follows:
1st That the committee approve the design presented by Mr. White, as originally drawn with spire.
2nd That the committee recommend the addition of a suitable stone porch to the front of the church, provided such addition
may be made without exceeding the financial limit of our church fund.
While the committee has no responsibility beyond the choice of design, they unanimously desire that the present elevation of the church lot be maintained as nearly as may be, conformably with the adopted design.
The report was accepted and a resolution passed that the plan of Mr. White, as submitted by him and approved by the Committee on Design, be adopted, and that the Building Committee be authorized to make necessary contracts for the execution of the work. Proposals were advertised for and received for the construction of the building, and on the 21st of May It was determined by a unanimous vote of the trustees to accept the bid of E. M. Allen. On June 7 the Building Committee was authorized by the Board to enter into contract with Mr. Allen, at the price of $29,800 for the building complete. Work on the foundations was immediately begun and prosecuted with diligence, and had so far advanced as to permit the laying of tile corner stone on the 11th of August thereafter. This ceremony was performed by the pastor, in the presence of a large concourse of people. His address was well suited to the occasion. In it he rapidly sketched the history of the society, referring especially to the origin and progress of the new church edifice and the encouraging signs of religious progress to which the structure testified. In the corner stone were deposited the following articles:
1. List of subscribers to May Memorial church.
2. List of subscribers to the Church of the Messiah for the last five years, with schedule of expenses.
3. List of trustees, church officers and employees, and building committee.
4. Plan of the Church of the Messiah, and list of pew-holders for 1884.
5. Photograph of the Church of the Messiah, 1884,
6. Photograph of Rev. S. R. Calthrop,
7. Life of the Rev; Samuel J. May,
8. In Memoriam, Rev. J. May, 1871.
9. Mementos contributed by C. F. Williston, trustee of the church, with Captain Hiram Putnam and John Wilkinson, Esq., from 1839 to 1856, as follows:
of exercises, consecration of the Church of the Messiah,
of services at the dedication of the Church of the Messiah,
c. Hymns for the funeral of Miss Amelia Bradbury.
d. Poem by Dudley P. Phelps, Esq., on the return from Europe of Samuel J. May.
10. Letter from Rev. Samuel J. May, introducing Mr. and Mrs. John Wilkinson to Harriet Martineau.
11. Common Council Manual, 1884.
12. Newspapers of the day: Daily Standard, Daily Courier, Daily Journal, Evening Herald, Northern Christian Advocate, Central Demokrat, Syracuse Union, Christian Register, Gospel Messenger, Farmer and Dairyman, Syracusan, University Herald.
13. Silver dollar coined in 1884.
of construction progressed in a satisfactory manner, and on
Believing that the welfare of the society would be promoted by the immediate extinguishment of this debt, a resolution was adopted that it be met by additional subscriptions to the building fund, and this was soon accomplished, leaving the society free from debt and the church without incumbrance.
On the 5th of October the Board adopted a resolution designating the 20th of October. at in the afternoon, as the time of dedication, and authorizing the committee to make the necessary arrangements for the occasion.
Order of Exercises.
Rev. Samuel May, of
Rev. F. Frothingham, of
Rev. Joseph May, of
By Rev. S. R. Calthrop, Pastor, and the Congregation of the Church; All Standing.
by Samuel May, Jr. of
“From All That Dwell Below the Skies,” Choir and Congregation.
O HAPPY CHURCH.
Sermon preached at the Dedication of the
Text, John xvi 131. “When he, the spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.”
At any epoch so interesting as is the present in the history of this society; in the face of a change outwardly so considerable, and amid the fresh delight of such beautiful condition, as are henceforth to surround its assemblings, it is impossible for one who has long known and loved the church to subdue the uprising of personal emotions. The past of every institution is a part of its living reality, and our sense of this is inevitably and healthfully quickened by circumstances such as the present. To those of you whose memory goes back with mine to its very early, perhaps to its earliest days, the tenderness of affectionate recollection gives to reminiscence a liveliness which almost overbears the hope and gladness of today. A child of this church, as I have approached this occasion such memories have welled up in my heart abundantly, and about me, almost visibly, have moved that circle of kindly, earnest, closely united men and women, in whose faith and devotion it sprang and lived, who stood by it in its day of struggle, and whose dignity, sobriety, rectitude of life and geniality of manners gave it a place so exceptional as that which it has occupied in this community. I seem to see them as I look into your faces now. They are here with us in the spirit, and
our joy is theirs; it would be incomplete without their sympathy and blessing, which I know we have today. Pastors and people of the past, they unite with us in the praises of this hour.
This church has had a happy history because it had a genuine origin. It was not the child of conventionality or mere convenience. It grew up out of conscientious principle and a real spiritual want. It cost somewhat too dear to have been founded except upon earnest convictions. To dissent from prevailing views has usually been trying; in those days it was a hardship, So uniform in this region was the popular religious belief; so strongly entrenched and so stern was the prevailing theology of fifty years ago; so little impression had divergent views made upon it; that the opposition encountered by that first group of Unitarians here was harsh and almost universal. There were some tokens of a disposition to inquire into their views; small audiences gathered in some of the neighboring villages, from time to time and heard the new gospel from the lips of the first, and afterwards, occasionally, from those of the second pastor. Instances of courtesy, too, were not wholly wanting; as when at the installation of their first minister, a neighboring church was thrown open for the sermon of Dr. Dewey, then at the zenith of his fame; but, for the most part, the liberal religionists were pariahs. Open denunciation was hurled at them from the pulpits. Their faith hurt them in popularity and in business. But this cost they met, quietly it would seem, but firmly, proceeding to consolidate the work they had in no light spirit begun. And through their fidelity they prospered.
They were marked men and women, always; independent, thoughtful, upright, plain-spoken, public-spirited. They lived together in a social union which almost renewed the facts of earliest Christian days. They were like a family, intimate and free in all the relations of social and business life. They used few titles, the Christian name was common among them. One, what a saint she was! what a halo always played about her face! was widely called "Mother" and more than one was known in every
home as "Aunt." It would be a joy to utter all their names and associate the syllables audibly with the echoes of these walls.
Let us, on this day, recall those staunch friends of the cause, fitly commemorated in one of these beautiful windows, that frank and cheery man, and his gifted, thoughtful wife, long active in all the public interests of the town. to whose hospitality the first meeting was indebted for its place at assembling.
One woman I may mention, a very early though not one of the earliest members, if only because her calling was so much respected as her friendship was valued, by your former pastor; plain of person and grave in manner, but wise, kindly and earnest, she not only rendered valuable service to our cause in this place but, as a teacher, left her mark so distinctly on the characters of a long line of pupils that it was said one could identify them among their contemporaries by the traits of practical good sense, moral earnestness and high womanliness which she impressed upon them.
Of others, I think two personalities among the men of those days, will always, for many of us, be peculiarly associated with all the interests and experiences of the church; men of firm convictions and active thought, both genial but positive, not indisposed to controversy, and often hotly but cordially contesting the questions of the time. That frank, kindly ex-mariner, who had found his Snug-Harbor in this inland community; a man most simple and unassuming, but self respecting, dignified and firm in all his ways; and that wise and beloved physician, whose cheerful voice and bright, kind eyes and pleasant smile carried healing almost better than that of his medicine, where it was needed, and everywhere spread gladness and good cheer.
I am quite unable to speak, except most generally of him who became the first pastor of the little flock. I know that his memory lingered as that of a refined and courteous gentleman, a sincere and earnest Christian, consecrated to his work, but of a physical delicacy which impaired his ability to cope with the stern conditions of his life here and made the unsparing assaults
upon his cause, which did not fail from neighboring preachers, a heavy burden to him. I am glad that another voice should speak of him today, as I cannot, and that this building contains a fresh and beautiful memorial of him. During the short term of his ministry here he endeared himself to his people, and if, as was thought, the trials of his position even shortened his life, it is true of him, as of his Master, that he gave himself that they might be saved.
Of him who became Mr. Storer's successor what may I say? He is not to be passed over from the accident which has chosen your present speaker, and we are all, alas, far enough from him now for even one who bears his name to refer to him freely. And yet I am able to do so chiefly because I feel that all that his child could say of him would find an echo in the hearts of you who knew him.
I think that to all of us he remains a sort of exception. Of all the men I have met in life he seems to me to have been, as his friend President White called him, the best. He was one of a very few to whom I would venture to apply the epithet holy. He was without taint of guile; yet not through a mere gentleness and unworldliness which might be called feminine, but through a clear-sighted manly love of all that is right and pure. He was, in fact, of a strongly marked masculinity of temperament, and his gentleness was virile, not womanly. He was sympathetic with every sorrow, pain, want, every hope and joy that made itself known to him; but his independence, firmness, energy, resolution, courage, were unqualified. He was peculiarly fixed in the positions he deliberately took, and if through Christian charity, he conceded every intellectual right to those from whom he differed, he never yielded a conscientious conviction of his own. He could dissent without asperity, and even strenuously condemn with a manifest Christ-like love toward the object of his censure. He had no dread of consequences, scorned expediency, and trusted wholly in the ideal right. Of selfishness he had none. There is one testimony which only a member of his family can
bear—that all that was ever seen as admirable in his public career was more than paralleled in his private life. Genial, gracious, loving; interested in every small concern of his smallest child; indulgent but never forgetting the right; effacing himself so far as his own ease and comfort were concerned, yet remaining the head of his family; he was in all things beautiful. Next, always, to his family, was his church. Alive to every interest of humanity and of the community where he lived, the ardent apostle of social reforms and of education, he remained characteristically the minister of the congregation he had undertaken to serve. That interest was always first, and its duties never suffered from an absorption on his part into wider concerns. How untiring a pastor he was many of you recall; intimate with every member of his flock, concerned in all that affected the wellbeing or happiness of each, the frequent guest and personal friend of all. Doubtless such pastoral activity is impracticable to one more of the temperament of a student, and yet there was in it a measure of scholarly self-denial. He often sighed over the little time he left himself for books. But as a preacher he was always prepared with care and punctual and fervid. Ethical in his religious emphasis, yet of a true and tender piety, what he most longed for in his people was an earnest religiousness. As life ebbed he said: "I may have hereafter a clearer vision, I can hardly have a surer faith." His prayers were as earnest and moving as his sermons and he poured himself into both. So genuine was each exercise that both were truly spontaneous. He never addressed his people without a profound sense of the importance of each occasion, but he wrote with ease and rapidity and with little revision. As to style, he was of the older school, and was careful that the form of his discourse should be balanced and elegant, as in his delivery he was always dignified and grave. In all his multifarious activities he was wonderfully supported by his perfect health. Till the very latest years of his life, I never saw him resting or seeming more than healthfully fatigued, although for many years he conducted his morning sermon on
Sunday, then spent the afternoon in that almost unique weekly meeting fur discussion in which, for so long, Christians of every sect, Protestant and Catholics, with men of every shade of outside thought and vagary, so amicably united; and then walked down yet a third time, from his somewhat distant home, to conduct the evening service which to him was an indispensable duty of the day. Through the week, every human interest engages him, as you well know—anti slavery, temperance, peace, education, the welfare of the Indians, the canal boys, the poor, the sick, the insane; and no applicant for his personal sympathy, advice or aid, ever seemed to him an intruder. He was more shrewd in his judgment of men than he was commonly thought, for even the professional vagabond or obvious impostor was to him a brother whom he loved as a fellow-child of God. Like Goldsmith's village preacher, "He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain."
It may be permitted to me to sketch, thus hastily, the likeness of him you loved; of the results of his incessant, fervid activities it is rather for others to speak. That his loving spirit did not fail to touch the responsive chord in other hearts, your remembrance of him, embodied in this monument, attests. At least, I think there was a certain liberalized and humanized condition of thought and sentiment in this community which he largely aided to give it. He made himself here a centre and nucleus for all who loved humanity to gather about. And .if his religion was largely the service of man, his service of man was always religion through his child-like love of God, the universal Father.
I turn with reluctance from these personal reminiscences. How many others, of that earlier generation of the society, it would be a pleasing task to delineate; but if you could recognize their portraits, it is because they live also in your memories and stir there as living presences in the rejoicings of this sacramental hour. In the quiet of our hearts let them enter here with us. Each faithful servant of the church, throughout its fortunate and useful history; each upright man, each earnest woman,
who went in and out those former doors, and stood for virtue, true religion, and the service of human kind; each dear friend of our private hearts. These, and not its walls and arches were our church. And it, with you, they still are and shall be; still a broad portion of its strength, still a deep fountain of its vitality. For their honorable lives, for their every act of fidelity and word of kindness, for their faith in God and their love to each other and to us, let us thank God today, and build in their pleasant, precious memories as living stones, into that spiritual church which not the mere words of this hour, but the same devotion to truth and duty, the same uprightness, the same kindliness and union, the same reverence for God and concern for his children and his kingdom, must consecrate.
my friends, is an illustration of one of the strongest forces that have united
And in the affectionate impulse which gives to this new religious home of yours its particular title, in this loving choice which associates the hallowed memory of an individual with your bright new church, is a true example of that instinct of canonization which, in Christianity, has "not willingly let die" those who in every age, have shed upon the church the lustre of consecrated lives.
It is especially this sentiment of personal affection, this instinctive appreciation of the traditional treasures of Christianity, which has held our own body, protesting against much that has been preached in his name, to the great Ideal Man of Christianity, in whose deep heart and exquisite mind the fountain of our religious thought arose and flowed out over the world, and to the true men
who, from the great Apostle to now, have spoken in his name and sought to speak his truth. The opinions of every follower of Jesus have been largely the product of his own time. Few, if any, of the first Christian generation could accept the simple religious principles which the Master taught as sufficient for the soul's life and health and growth. From almost its earliest organized days, the Church, —moving, as a body, on a plane much below the level of that mount on which Jesus preached the sermon which we know,—has invented or borrowed elaborate theologies, strange and often antagonistic to his thought. But in many an earnest, holy heart from the earliest days till now, there has lived richly the spirit of Jesus, and it has often made the preacher of a horrible creed a true saint in the spirit and issues of his life, and a safe and ample vehicle to us of that divine fire which burnt in the breast of the Christ.
Even from those near predecessors of ours, we find ourselves, in thought, departing much. How different, doubtless, the views of many important questions which prevail among you from those of the circle which built that first little chapel or either of the churches we have known and loved! How changed the aspect and emphasis, how mollified the spirit of the theology which prevails about us! So, consciously or unconsciously, each generation inherits only to change it, the thought of that which it succeeds. But a certain sacred spiritual reality, the spirit of truth, the spirit of love to God and man, has come down the ages making the Church still one.
This spiritual essence has been the reality of Christianity. And rejoicing in this spirit, desiring to share in it, loving the traditions of Christianity; believing herself, indeed, to stand in religious thought even more closely than others upon the express religious principles of Jesus, the Unitarian Church has claimed for itself an integral place in the Church Universal. How earnestly they felt in this respect, the title,* which your predecessors gave to their former church edifice distinctly shows. And though you,
*The Church of the Messiah.
no doubt, with the most of this generation, have moved upon a broader ground of thought than theirs, I am sure you continue to claim your right in the Christian heritage.
Not so much in any narrow self vindication, as in loyalty to the deepest meaning of the Christian movement, you and I assert that there is room within that august movement for unqualified intellectual freedom. The scope of true religion must be coterminous with the whole absolute truth of God. It is impossible that anything narrower should have been the aim of a soul like that of Jesus. The fourth and most spiritual of the gospels, (which, if less authentic in form than the others, represents profoundly the spirit of the early church, and which has that word "Truth," almost as its key-note) makes Jesus say that it was to the truth he came to bear witness, and that everyone that was of the truth was his follower. By the spirit of truth—that truth which makes us "free "—we are to be guided "into all truth."
In the history of any such institution as this, if it has been alive, might be read the history of its time. Nothing can disengage itself from its environment. All contemporaneous events and conditions enter it as factors to make it what it has been. Forty years ago this church was, in some sort, a microcosm of its era, reflecting the general condition of men's minds then, as modified by the special ideas, emotions and principles, which differentiated this group of persons from their neighbors. Such it has been at each period of its past and is today, its vitality being all along, so much of truth, and that phase of truth, which has been especially influential in the thought and lives of its members. The changes through which it has passed only answer to those through which the whole community has been passing.
How remarkable these have been! The last half century has been, at least in respect to progress, one seldom paralleled in the experience of a people. The physical and local changes have been great; the mental and spiritual changes have been not less great.
When that little company first gathered to organize the church,
the population of the
country was less than twenty millions. Here, where there is now this large
city, was only a group of little villages, of which this, the largest, had less
than four thousand inhabitants. There was no telegraph, no power press, no
sewing machine; photography was just discovered; railroads even had feebly
begun their now gigantic development. When your second pastor removed hither,
he and his family spent two nights on the way from
How quiet and uncomplex seems to us now the life of those days! How tranquil the days and nights of our village, active and thriving though it was! Still rough and unfinished, it was pretty in its way. The streets lined with their young trees, with mud or dust for a roadway and, at best, planks for sidewalks, except at the very centre of town; the modest houses, far apart and almost all of wood, with their gardens around them; hardly a dozen larger than the rest marking the leadership in business of certain men whose names we still recall. Social pride and the love of display had hardly begun to show themselves. General Grant, being asked what his crest was, answered "a pair of shirt sleeves." So one of the leading citizens of this town when asked as to his coat of arms said, "a little boy sweeping out a lawyer's office." The saying was characteristic of that time. Among our own congregation, as manners were plain, so habits were orderly, temperate and unpretentious. A few modest vehicles would drive up to the doors of our church on a Sunday, because their owners lived far away, but without and within the building all was simple, in a way one now sometimes sighs for, idealizing the past as it is so easy to do.
But looking abroad and more critically from this centre over the country at large, one discovered a state of things which he would now be less likely to envy. It is safe to say that the moral condition of our body politic was at no time worse than forty years ago. We were between the primitive rectitude, real or imaginary, of the nation's foundation period, and the revived vir-
tue of its recent period of reform. Out of the twenty million inhabitants in 1840, two million five-hundred thousand were slaves and never in the world had slavery been more cruel, sorrowful, hopeless or debasing. The flood of conscience about it had begun to rise, but it had risen just far enough to make its defenders opinionated and defiant. Politically the country was wholly under the control of the system and it was corrupting the church and society through the North as well as the South. In this town an exceptionally healthy feeling on the subject was to be developed, which gave it, for a time, a name throughout the North; and this church was largely the centre and its pastor the spring and source of it. But, the battle was only begun, the first reverberations of which were from such platforms as that of the old "Market Hall," and the last were stilled at Appomattox Court House.
the administration of the government corruption was organized. Another victory
was only won in the Presidential election of last year, which is to prove, in
the importance of its results, second to those alone which made the names of
Grant and Sherman illustrious. The
Intellectually, the change has not been less. And here again, losing possibly in some respects, the gain has been vast on the whole. In both spheres, we have exchanged something of simplicity, coupled with unconsciousness of deep-seated evil or error, for awakened intelligence and wide-spread, radical amelioration. The unpopularity of the movement this church stood for was only a token of the mental condition of two-score years ago. Conscientious, well-intentioned were then, as ever in an age on the
whole healthly, the majority of men; but the principle of intellectual freedom in religion was only beginning to be understood and vindicated; the rule was honest bigotry in religion and morals. The utmost that our early predecessors or even their bold and progressive, but reverent and conservative pastor, yet saw to be safe or desirable, in regard to the fundamentals of religion, was freedom to interpret that accepted revelation of truth of which the Bible was the substance, and to the masses, the form as well. The Hebrew cosmogony was the compend of science as to the genesis of the universe. To adapt and reconcile that to the determinations of recent geology was to take a broad and liberal position. To explain the scripture miracles on natural grounds was as bold as now to doubt them. The devout Parker was for his time, an iconoclast. The new science was to emerge and reach the popular consciousness much later.
Mark the outward and inward contrasts offered by the present hour! Our country redeemed from the blight of slavery, and even the people of the South, rejoicing that it is gone. The reformation of our civil administration, it would appear, firmly inaugurated. Freedom of thought established as a principle, at least so far that the extremest opinions are frankly avowed, and the only test really imposed on anyone, not indeed in church connection but in social estimation, coming fast to be sincerity and thoroughness. Finally a new science completely replacing former conceptions of the divine order with the majestic generalization which is summed up in the word "Evolution." In all this, my friends, how plainly has the spirit of truth been leading us into truth!
this general progress our
That the tendency of our Unitarian thought has been steady to this one sole end I rejoice to believe and hold to be clear.
Throughout the history of our movement, even as illustrated in the instance of a particular church like this, the student traces a substantial consistency and discovers that the phases it has passed through have been the stages of a natural development. Perhaps not more slowly than is inevitable for limited men, we have been coming to a consciousness of our essential principle, our vitalizing idea. The form in which it presented itself to our early predecessors was as the moral and practical principle of the right of private judgment, the right to individual intellectual liberty. But freedom is only a condition of an organism; there must be an end, an aim, or freedom is a futility, the organism itself superfluous. The gradually awakened sense of this led us surely to discern that the correlative of mental freedom is the sanctity of all truth, in all its departments. We saw that nothing short of the absolute truth could be an end to human souls. And thus the acceptance, in even so restricted an apprehension of it, of the practicable principle of intellectual liberty, actually planted our predecessors on the basis of a science so inclusive as to take in all the infinite, and infinitely various, truth of God as its sphere and object.
The distinctive condition of our denominational consciousness at this present propitious hour is, (as we may fitly note on this epochal occasion,) the recognition, becoming characteristic and almost universal among us, of this, our real foundation; of absolute truth as the only possible foundation the one sole end of a true church. We clearly see that the eternal condition of the human mind is that of seekers after truth.
But this is not to say by any means, that the mission of the church is science, as such. The determinations of many-sided science are the material on which the church, as the hand-maid of religion, works. However majestic, they are still phenomenal, only. The mission of the church is ever to seek out and bear witness to the spiritual, i. e., the absolute verities of which outward nature and the fact of human history are an expression in physical and practical terms; from the marvelous revelations of
divine thought evermore coming to view in the order of nature and in the discovered laws of human well-being, to determine the spiritual facts and the moral laws which are eternal.
In a word the church must be the spiritual interpreter of all the science, all the experience, the world attains. The results of scientific observation, the developments of self consciousness, the lessons of public and private experience, she is to interpret in spiritual and moral terms. Still more compendiously, the ever-progressive work of the church is to interpret all Fact into Truth.
And now let me ask, very earnestly and again as pertinent in the reflections of this occasion, is it not clear that on the fundamental topics of the present hour the age is demanding from the church science, requiring from religion new interpretations and new formulæ adapted to the consciousness of this modern day? Surely, the mental phenomena of society in this and all countries emphasize this, which is the perennial service of the church, as the exigent and peculiar duty of the present movement. Mind is bursting its bonds in every sect, in every country. It can no longer be controlled by authority or dominated by the ipse dixit [Editor’s note: An unsupported assertion, usually by a person of standing; a dictum] of the church. Old interpretations are not satisfying, are not nourishing the people. On every side myriads of awakened and anxious minds stand like sheep waiting for a shepherd, becoming often the prey of indolent, prosaic and callous skepticism, or of rash denial, or of hollow theatric formalism. The church must meet the wants of souls like these. She must with equal steps accompany science in its progress—of late so strikingly accelerated—and justify herself to the free, earnest and enquiring thought of our time by revelations of divine and human things such as shall accord with the marvelously expanded and profoundly altered conceptions of nature and life which are rising so high and so impressively above the horizon of modern thought. She must expand a religion, founded upon Genesis and Leviticus, into one clearly in harmony with the principle of evolution.
then, the position of our
as its foundation stone, and truth as its aim, and with freedom as its principle of organization;—happy, especially, the position of this church, led by a teacher in religious things whose qualifications for this philosophical-religious work parallel the ethical qualifications of his predecessor for the more practical demands of a former day. Our church, untrammelled by creed, joins hands fearlessly with a reverent science in approaching all the problems of divine and human being. She asks only what is the truth? What is God? What is man? Radical as her method may be, it is essentially conservative; and so far, her results are distinctly and positively constructive. Forms of statement, even of sentiment are changing; but her trust in the eternal verities, if enlightened, is undiminished. At the moment where we stand, indeed, there is remarked on every side a distinct recovery of religious confidence. In the just and happy words of a recent speaker,* "science, criticism and philosophical analysis have had their keenest work, and come at last to something like a halt in those inferences which seemed to overthrow religion." Even those inferences have been discounted. The utmost they have led to has been frankly faced, and left the deepest and holiest realities simply untouched. All the deep mysteries of being which have moved the heart to wonder, faith and worship, are left just where they were. If modern science can throw no new light upon them, at least it throws no new darkness, but leaves us still with the old light unimpaired, The essentials remain just where they were.
Where, then, do we stand? or rather, what point, do we find ourselves to have reached in that incessant onward march and quest after truth? What is the positive Unitarian utterance of today? Our principal points of thought it may be possible to condense into a comprehensive word, quite in harmony with the language I have just quoted.
*Rev. Brooke Herford, in his admirable sermon, "What is left after the questionings of our time?" Compare the still more recent declaration of an able witness, Mr. Francis E. Abbott, that "Modern science philosophically interpreted, leads not to atheism not to agnosticism, not to idealism, but to realistic spiritual theism."
Religion is the compend of the relations between God and man. The substance of all it has to say is in its account of these two factors of being. The questionings of science, we have just heard, leave them both untouched, mysteries ever, but realities abiding and eternal. Of them it is the function of every church to reach the securest conceptions it may. I will speak as well as I briefly can for our own. There is obviously no room here for originality, or even freshness of statement. I can but repeat what many have formulated, and none better than he who is in all our hearts today. And, remember, each speaks only as an individual observer, and not by authority.
I. Unitarianism discerns, believes in and preaches GOD, the infinite author and sustainer of all things, the parent and inspirer of humanity.
Our conceptions of Deity, (infantile forever in their scope, but essential furniture of our minds) are profoundly altered and altering. They are expanding, markedly. It will possibly be long before statements are reached which can fairly satisfy modern thought, be embalmed in symbol and illustrated in poetic expression. Never again, doubtless, will theology in the deeper awe of present and coming revelations, venture upon outlines and definitions of the Supreme Being so sharply drawn as those of a former day. But not less clear than in any former time is our recognition of an infinite power, immanent within nature and life, and making nature and life its media of self-expression. And the discerned modes of that power in its working reveal it, even more than of old, as BEING, with which the mind of man harmonizes and may sympathize and commune. The God who works in nature and life not as an artificer or governor from without but as a vital energy expressing itself from within, corresponds, in clearest analogy, to the spirit (as we name it) whose seat is our own personality, and which, if elusive to sense and logic, is the one reality of which human consciousness is sure.
This central, infinite, eternal power, the vital energy of the whole universe of things and men; the majesty of whose wisdom
we conceive as never an age conceived, or could conceive it, before; whose beneficence, revealed in ten thousand adaptations of nature, is now seen in immensely more impressive proportions; this power, working for truth, for righteousness, for beauty, for joy, whom we have called God, whom we have worshiped as our Father, Unitarianism proclaims in assured faith and reverent love. She finds herself compelled to part with no attribute of God's character on which in times past her consolation has been founded. His spiritual and moral personality is undimmed to her eyes; His providence is still her inheritance; His inspiration is her soul's life; spiritual prayer is the open avenue of her communion with Him.
Unitarianism believes in, and preaches man, the immortal child of God.
His heir of hope, progress, happiness. To define ourselves to ourselves has
never been possible, since manhood is, as I have just called it, a mystery, as
is divinity. But that great faith as to their essential nature which has upheld
men's honor of themselves: that faith in the essential reality of human nature;
its superiority to temporal conditions; its affinity with the divine soul of
things; that faith remains to us, its integrity nowise impaired. We. have
called it immortality,—an imperfect designation , conveying only a superficial
truth of its endowment. But the essential fact we are detecting, not with less,
but with more confidence every day, as the unity of all living being becomes
more clear. It is the latest word of science that there is no objection, on
that side, to this inspiring view of manhood. One of its ablest spokesmen in
this country,* but lately declares that the witness of science is
rather in its favor, and calls the materialistic theory “the most colossal
instance of baseless assumption known in philosophy.” The
And now, let me approach two points of a more practical character, but of which it seems suitable to this occasion to speak.
John Fiske, “Destiny of
III. What is our Unitarian relation to the Bible in this modern day?
I answer, Unitarianism reverences, rejoices in and gratefully uses the Bible.
The Bible, in its two great portions, has been to our fathers and ourselves, a repertory of religious suggestion and expression which have moulded the beginnings of our faith and thought, and given us our very vocabulary of religious utterance. We have before us now the religious scriptures of most people, and it appears safe to say that no similar literature equals this in fervor, or in practicality of spirit, or in eloquence and beauty. The Hebrew consciousness was moulded religiously, beyond that of any other race. Hebrew thought, in its palmy days, advanced in the direction of personal religion, wonderfully far. Its devotional literature is steeped in a living realization of divine things. This literature is our inheritance. We have made it our own. We have no disposition to abandon it. Probably our acquaintance with it is more intelligent and our study of it more thorough than at any other time.
We no longer look to the Bible for our science; we no longer regard it as infallible even in religion and morals. Its genesis is now known, and the thoroughly human character of its heterogeneous elements. But the very intelligence and freedom with which we approach it, protecting us from taking all its contents as of equal value and authority, enables us to appreciate as we could not otherwise, the real excellencies and beauties of the books of the two Testaments.
And something deeper than I thus express is to be permanently true of the Bible. The revelation of God to the human consciousness was, I have said, exceptionally clear in the case of the Hebrew people. Their literature exhibits to us the workings and the outcome of this revelation. It is the picture of a progress in mental and moral development extending through twenty centuries, and lifting a people from a primeval faith in a God of storm and fire, to a most exquisite conception of divine
spiritual paternity. Such a record is indispensable to him who would understand and justify religion, in whatever period.
And, surely, the fervid devotional spirit of the Hebrew prophets, psalmists and historians, their vivid consciousness of God, their simple direct entrance into divine things, will never cease to be a profoundly quickening influence to which to submit the minds of those who have advanced however far in religious thought and growth. The time shall not come when religion and literature can spare or lose the nineteenth and twenty-third Psalms, the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, the sixth chapter of St. Matthew, or the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians And so finally, friends, let us record and declare :--
IV. Unitarianism profoundly believes in, preaches and would humbly seek to follow Jesus, the Ideal Man of Christendom.
Not less but more profoundly than in the past, is the religious, moral and intellectual greatness of this imperial mind and soul to be apprehended and reverenced in the future. Spiritually he was the flower of that remarkable Hebrew race, and it would seem clear, of the whole race of. men, It would hardly be seriously questioned that in him the spiritual consciousness of mankind culminated. It was for a long time the unpleasing duty of our body to busy itself in stripping away from this unique character the false associations with which tradition and theology have overlaid and hidden and perverted it. Though these persist, with even the majority of Christians, we have reached a point where we seem set free for the more congenial task of studying and exhibiting its actual characteristics. And as the real facts about Jesus are laid open to us. the more we find ourselves free from a slavish obligation to him, and our attitude becomes one of independent manly sympathy and intelligent discipleship, the more we shall find, and are finding, his conceptions and suggestions of divine things answering to our own deepest spiritual consciousness and needs. We can have no other leader in religion. We cannot part with Jesus. On ordinary points he may have had limited ideas belonging to his age; but the personal
relations of the soul with God he has expressed in terms which religion can hardly outgrow. His representation of Deity as a spiritual Father, illustrated in the parable of the prodigal; his conception of the all-comprehensive nature of mutual human obligations condensed into the golden rule, and of which the parable of the Samaritan was the almost lyrical expression; his exquisite model of a prayer; all appear to be final, in their kind; it is not possible that they should be surpassed or superceded. And, above all, it was given him, attaining to that spiritual union with God which is implied in his title the Christ, to offer us a realized and luminous example of what a life at one with God should be, in a form of matchless grace and attractiveness.
To set forth this transcendent example of spiritual
manhood, to elucidate his incomparable teachings in religion, has always been
an integral and cherished part of the function of the
May something of the spirit of Jesus here steal into the bosom of every worshiper of coming days. May the benignant presence of him whom we all loved and whose life of love and service is especially commemorated in this Christian temple, abide here, in some spiritual way, forever. And may the love of God and the comfort of His holy spirit visit and redeem the hearts of all who here shall seek His face.
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Written by Samuel May, Jr. of
1. Builder of Heaven's mighty span,
Of countless worlds, unfathomed sea,--;
Created ere life's course began,
To last till ages cease to be,--
This house, the handiwork of man,
We humbly dedicate to Thee.
2. Unto the glory was it planned
Of Thee and Thy beloved Son;
And, Father, may it ever stand
In memory of that cherished one
Who came, apostle to our band,
To teach to us "Thy will be done."
3. Of Thee, who hast the whirlwinds wrought,
Whose feet are with the lightnings shod,
A lesson of sweet peace he taught;
Thy smile illumed the path he trod,
From Thee, love's blessed word he brought--
A chosen Samuel, heard of God.
4. He taught Thy patience to the weak,
Thy tenderness to hearts that bleed,
That Thou art just to them who seek,
That mercy is Thy chosen creed,
And to the lowly and the meek
To pastures green Thy hand doth lead.
5. To worshipers of mammon's hoard,
The frail, besotted and defiled,
He showed a vision of the Lord;--
With gentleness and accents mild
Pointed the path to heaven's reward,
And led them as a little child.
6. The poor, despised of the land,
Fleeing from bonds of slavery,
Drank freedom's water from his hand
And ate the crust of liberty :--
While he, amidst his dusky band,
Partook of Christ's
7. Thou who permitted Jesus' name
To snare Thy glories which we see
Didst send, to set our hearts aflame,
This sweet interpreter of Thee :--
And he, who in Thy image came
Hath made for us a trinity.
8. Then crown this temple with Thy love,--
Preserve to us these precious ties;--
O help our eyes to look above;--
The incense of our hearts to rise;--
So may this house a portal prove
To Thy blest mansions in the skies.
THE MIINISTRY OF
REV, JOHN PARKER BOYD STORER
JAMES A. DUPEE OF
In 1826, Mr. Morey had become so feeble that the Parish voted him a colleague.
Among the candidates was one who brought a letter of introduction to a prominent citizen of the town. The writer was a well-known layman, and for half a century afterwards an enthusiastic Unitarian. As the letter is of historical interest, I may be permitted to read it :
DEAR SIR ;-- The bearer of this will be the Rev. Mr. Storer. He comes to fulfill an engagement made with you a few weeks since, and from some conversation with him, I should be led to infer, that if the circumstances of the case should affect mutually, as to usefulness on his part, satisfaction and unanimity on yours, he may be induced to accept a call amongst you.
There is, undoubtedly, a great demand for talented preachers at the present time, and few candidates with so many fair claims as Mr. S.; and it becomes a matter of competition as to whom shall be the favored people. Mr. Higginson, I imagine, has destined him for some other sphere of usefulness than Walpole; but if your society are impressed with his merit as you anticipate, and give him an early call, I believe that Mr. S. will act with becoming independence, and accept it, provided he is satisfied with the prospect of his usefulness, and the harmony, Christian fellowship, and brotherly love of an united people.
My regards, if you please, to Mrs. C., and believe me to be your friend, sincerely.
(Signed) LEWIS G. PRAY.
HARVEY CLAPP, ESQ.,
An engagement of this candidate soon followed.
John Parker Boyd, son of Hon. Woodbury and
Margaret Boyd Storer, was born in
five brothers, only one of whom survives: David Humphreys Storer, a beloved
physician, and for sixty years a citizen of
Storer was graduated at
Twenty clergymen were present at the ordination. Many of their names have become famous, not in the history of the denomination alone, but in the records of all the great movements in the intellectual, social, and religious progress of this century. From Medway came Mr. Bailey; from Needham, Mr. Ritchie; from Sherborn, Mr. Townsend; from Mansfield, Mr. Briggs; from Dedham, Mr. White; from Dorchester, Dr. Richmond, and, from its historic first church, that "beloved disciple," Dr Thaddeus Mason Harris; from Dover, Mr. Sanger; from Medfield, Dr. Daniel Clarke Sanders, who had been settled a liberal minister in Vergennes, Vermont, in 1794 (the year that Channing entered Harvard College,) and who was the first President of the University of Vermont; from Norton, the much esteemed Pitt Clarke, an honored father of honorable sons in the professions of law and medicine; from Canton, the eloquent Mr. Huntoon, whose long and genial life gathered to him troops of friends; from Brookline, Dr. John Pierce, apostolic in manner and character, and warmly admired by the clergy of other denominations,--notably by the saintly Bishop, afterward Cardinal, Cheverus; from Providence, Dr. Edes; from New Bedford, Orville Dewey--venerated name! --from Roxbury, Dr. Porter, contemporary of the senior pastor of the church, and who had declined a call to Walpole in 1782; from Boston, the younger Henry Ware, whose life was eminently
and light;" Dr. Charles Lowell, Unitarian in theory, but, like Dr.
Channing, an advocate of individual in preference to denominational work; Ezra
Stiles Gannett, the colleague of Channing, and one of the saints of the
Unitarian calendar; and John Pierpont, whose great presence must have been a
prophecy of the stormy life, the centenary of which was celebrated recently,
with fitting eulogy, by the old Hollis Street Society. Finally, from
Dr. Porter was moderator and Mr. Ware scribe of the council. The opening prayer and reading of the Scriptures by Mr. Dewey; ordaining prayer, by Dr. Harris; sermon, by Dr. Nichols; charge, by Dr. Lowell; Right Hand of Fellowship, by Mr. Huntoon; concluding prayer, by Mr. White. For the occasion Mr. Pierpont wrote two hymns; one beginning with :
"To Thee, our Father and our King,
The wise, the gracious and the just," etc.
And the other, more familiar in later years,
"God of mercy, do thou never
From our offering turn away," etc.
Thus, in this once quiet old Orthodox town, the spirit of heresy had at last found lodgment. The aged Pastor had been suspected of Arminianism; [Editor’s note: Arminianism in Protestant theology holds to the following tenets: Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation; salvation is possible by grace alone; works of human effort can not cause or contribute to salvation; God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus; and Jesus' atonement was potentially for all people] the dreadful purport of which was only known, or cared for, but by a small minority, and Mr. Morey had long been too feeble for controversy.
The settlement of Mr. Storer was the signal for secession. Another parish was organized, and on an occasion, a year later, Doctor Beecher, himself, in after years, not quite "sound in his belief," came to Walpole, and, in his vigorous way, denounced the heretic who had come into the community to destroy the faith of the fathers. But the serenity of the heretic was not to be disturbed. The Orthodox clergyman, Rev. Asahel Bigelow, settled in 1827, proved to be more amiable than his creed. Very soon, the two ministers were joined, heart and hand, in doing good work for the town. In both societies, the Sunday-school
took the place of the periodical catechizing in the week-day schools. Then followed, in those times or few books, the still greater blessing of the Sunday-school library.
There was no limit to the activities of Mr. Storer. He promoted associations for social and intellectual improvement. He encouraged the planting of shade-trees; the venerable elms and lindens on the town's common are the monuments to his love of the beautiful. With a vigilant and untiring interest in the public schools, he introduced new text-books and new methods of teaching. He was the good genius of the community.
His ministrations in the pulpit, from their simplicity, earnestness, and tenderness, were highly acceptable. His sermons made little pretension to theological scholarship, but were devoted, mainly, to the every-day duties of life. His administrations of the ordinances of the church, full of the finest and deepest religious sentiment, were exceptionally impressive. But his deeds were greater than his professions. He seemed to have an almost intuitive knowledge of the sorrows and trials of his people, and to know how to comfort and to encourage the afflicted. To the children, above all, he was a guardian angel. He anticipated their needs. He shared their joys and their griefs. He was indeed their gentle providence.
man came in the Master's spirit to minister to all, whether of high or low
estate. In him there was, as
An inborn grace that nothing lacked of culture or appliance,
The warmth of genial courtesy, the calm of self-reliance.
None could fear him. There must have been something wrong in those who did not love and honor him.
There was not an action of his, so far as human eyes could see, that had not for its first object the good of others: a life of entire unselfishness.
With the highest culture of his time, requiring, one might suppose, a thousand comforts and luxuries of which his neighbors could know but little, his wants were always subordinate to the
needs of others. With his trifling salary, never exceeding seven hundred dollars, and with no other pecuniary resources, no one but the Omniscient will ever know the munificence--the word is not extravagant--the munificence of his charities.
Of noble and gracious presence, greeting everyone with the elegance and simplicity of the true noblesse, something of his manner and much of his spirit were communicated to those with whom he came in social contact.
You can imagine, then, the deep hold of this great and loving spirit on the hearts of his people. He himself was unaware of it, until they had read the following letter:
To the Members of the
My CHRISTIAN FRIENDS:--I address you with deeply agitated feelings. I ask your consent to dissolve the bonds, that, for more than twelve years, have so happily united us together, as pastor and people.
You cannot doubt my strong regard and attachment: so strong as to cause me no little solicitude and pain in coming to the decision.
I always intended to have passed my days and reposed in death among you. But. Providence seems to order it otherwise. A new field in the Vineyard of the Lord has, very unexpectedly and unsought for, been opened before me; a field that promises much greater usefulness than the one in which I am now laboring. Of this I have had the clearest proof. Many whose opinion I respect, and the clergy without a single exception, though feeling that such changes should not be made for slight reasons, are decided that it is my duty to go to the West.
I consult my own ease or comfort, or means of support, I should remain in
By this change, I expect to make pecuniary and personal sacrifice; yet, I believe, I may do more good, save more from sin, and guide more to happiness and heaven. My toils and trials will be
greater;--for which I expect no earthly reward, but the consciousness of having labored in the cause of my Master.
serious meditation and prayer, I have sought will of
And, should any doubt the sincerity of my motive in this matter, I can only say, that they will be undeceived in that day when the secrets of all hearts are made known.
Brethren, dearly beloved, I commend you to God, and the strength of His Grace, beseeching of Him to give you, in due time, a Pastor after His own heart, who shall feed you with knowledge, and break unto you the bread of life.
You will always be dear to me, and be remembered in my prayers. In the bonds of Christian truth and affection, I remain, your grateful friend and servant.
J. P. B. STORER
To the great sorrow of the society this decision could not be reversed--and their loss became your gain.
And now do you wonder that the few of us who knew Mr. Storer nearly two generations ago, regard his memory with so much reverence and affection?
In the name of that flock at Walpole,--the living and the dead, --from 1826 to 1839,--let me thank you, his later friends, for the suggestion, to put in this hallowed place, a Memorial* of their and your Good Shepherd.
The following letter from Rev. Timothy Tilden,
Was Read at the
DEAR FRIENDS:--As I cannot be with you tonight, in person, permit me to come in spirit and speak a word of the dear man you are all honoring, the dearest friend I ever knew, through the lips of his beloved son Joseph, who was a babe in his mother's arms when I first knew his father.
was well that all participating in the afternoon service should have May blood
in their veins. But I too claim near relationship, though not according to the flesh.
The dear man, like Paul had many spiritual children. I am his "Son Timothy
No. 2," as he used tenderly to call me. The Rev. Frederick T. Gray, for
years a minister at large in
four brief but blessed years I drank in Anti-slavery, Temperance, Peace, and Human Brotherhood, from his persuasive lips, and great loving heart. Then he preached my ordination sermon, and launched "Timothy No. 2" upon the broad waters of Christian service.
is now forty-three years since he left
You do well to make your new church a “May Memorial.” It is a beautiful tribute of honor, reverence and love. He was a true son of God. He lived in his Heavenly Father, for his earthly brother, "The spirit of the Lord was upon him. He was anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor; to heal the broken hearted; to preach deliverance to the captive, and the recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
But this beautiful edifice, fitting as it is as a local and material memorial, only typifies the larger and more enduring memorial already created in thousands of loving hearts. Scattered in space,
but united in honor and reverence for the noble soul who clasped the world in the arms of his love.
corner stone of this immaterial edifice is deeply laid in Windham county,
Connecticut, in the quiet little town of Brookline, where he began his work as
a Christian minister,--began the good fight of faith against the spirit of caste
in schools and homes, and saw visions and dreamed dreams of the great
battle to be waged against sin and wrong in which he was to take so noble a
part. Another corner stone is laid too deep ever to be moved in my own South
Scituate. The placid
other invisible corner stone is here in
Under the broad dome sprung from these corner stones, what a vast number of grateful hearts, come to pay the tribute of affectionate remembrance. Not only parish and personal friends, but fellow citizens and fellow workers for "truth and right, and suffering man." The poor and the needy, too, who have felt the
tough of his tender sympathy, the canal boy, and the remnant of red men, who always found him a wise counsellor and friend, and that long dark procession of flying fugitives, whom, in the face of jeers, reproaches, and personal peril, he helped on to freedom. These, all, and more than we can name, standing under the other dome of the invisible “May Memorial” join you today in rendering honor to one who made the earth fairer while he stayed and heaven more attractive when he rose. Yes, when he rose; He was always rising while here. What can death be to such an one but rising still. Rising and glorified, we greet him tonight. Where should he be but here, among the friends he loved so well? “I go away and come again,” the Master said. On the wings of affection and memory, as dear to him as to us, he comes to breathe upon us his benediction. Hail, dear, risen, loved one! The vision that sees thee is not less, but more real because spiritual. Grateful to God for the pure, brave, noble life, so deeply penetrated with the Christ spirit of love for God and man, we will look up, reverently, to catch thy prophet mantle as it falls.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BUILDING.
[From the Bulletin of the
beautiful Church, erected to the memory of Rev. Samuel J. May by the Unitarian
Congregational Church of Syracuse, was dedicated with appropriate and
impressive ceremonies on the afternoon and evening of
The Church is located in James Street, one of the principal streets of the city, is built of rock dressed gray limestone, with fine dressed trimmings and black slated roofs.
The front entrance is flanked by a high tower with slated cone on one side and a castellated sub-tower on the other side.
The auditorium is approached by a spacious octagonal vestibule and side porches, all of which, including auditorium and ceilings, are finished with western cherry lumber, high wainscotings and paneled ceilings. The pews are constructed with cherry, in a crescent form, the floor descending towards the pulpit thirty inches. The rental capacity is 450 sittings, with ample accommodation for 500.
The organ and choir are located in a high arched niche over the pulpit.
are five windows on each side of the auditorium, the middle ones being larger
than the rest and located high up in the gables. One of the latter is the
"Good Shepherd," donated by Mr. James A. Dupee, of
There are five other memorial windows, erected by relatives and friends, to Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Wallace, to Hiram Putnam and D. P. Phelps, to Miss A. Bradbury, by pupils to their teacher; to Dr. N. C. Powers, and to Mrs. Dana and Mrs. Cogswell.
On each side of the pulpit are large fire-places and mantels, with fire grates and large flues to assist ventilation.
In the rear of the auditorium, with the floor on a level with the pulpit platform, are the Sunday-school and class rooms, which will accommodate 150 pupils, over which are the parlor, kitchen and other needed conveniences for social gatherings. The cost of the church structure was $35,000--the lot, organ, and other furnishings costing $13,000--all of which is paid, and the society free from debt.
REV. SAMUEL R. CALTHROP.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
EDWARD B. JUDSON, Pres., WILLIAM BROWN SMITH
ALONZO N. WRIGHT, JAMES L. BAGG,
CLARANCE G. BROWN, CHARLES W. SNOW,
THOMAS J. LEACH.
C. W. SNOW, JAMES BARNES,
JAS. BARNES, WILLIAM B. SMITH,
C. G. BROWN, GEORGE B. KENT,
A. N. WRIGHT, T. J. LEACH,
H. N. WHITE, T. J. LEACH,
C. W. BARDEEN, C. W. SNOW,
MRS. JAMES L. BAGG, REUBEN FORD
HORATIO N. WHITE.