Sabbath in Puritan New England
Alice Morse Earle

Part 4 out of 4

Lists of arrests and fines for walking and travelling unnecessarily on the
Sabbath might be given in great numbers, and it was specially ordered
that none should "ride violently to and from meeting." Many a pious New
Englander, in olden days, was fined for his ungodly pride, and his desire
to "show off" his "new colt" as he "rode violently" up to the meeting-house
green on Sabbath morn. One offender explained in excuse of his unnecessary
driving on the Sabbath that he had been to visit a sick relative, but
his excuse was not accepted. A Maine man who was rebuked and fined for
"unseemly walking" on the Lord's Day protested that he ran to save a man
from drowning. The Court made him pay his fine, but ordered that the money
should be returned to him when he could prove by witnesses that he had
been on that errand of mercy and duty. As late as the year 1831, in
Lebanon, Connecticut, a lady journeying to her father's home was arrested
within sight of her father's house for unnecessary travelling on the
Sabbath; and a long and fiercely contested lawsuit was the result, and
damages were finally given for false imprisonment. In 1720 Samuel Sabin
complained of himself before a justice in Norwich that he visited on
Sabbath night some relatives at a neighbor's house. His morbidly tender
conscience smote him and made him "fear he had transgressed the law,"
though he felt sure no harm had been done thereby. In 1659 Sam Clarke, for
"Hankering about on men's gates on Sabbath evening to draw company out
to him," was reproved and warned not to "harden his neck" and be "wholly
destrojed." Poor stiff-necked, lonely, "hankering" Sam! to be so harshly
reproved for his harmlessly sociable intents. Perhaps he "hankered" after
the Puritan maids, and if so, deserved his reproof and the threat of

Sabbath-breaking by visiting abounded in staid Worcester town to a most
base extent, but was severely punished, as local records show. In Belfast,
Maine, in 1776, a meeting was held to get the "Towns Mind" with regard to
a plan to restrain visiting on the Sabbath. The time had passed when such
offences could be punished either by fine or imprisonment, so it was voted
"that if any person makes unnecessary Vizits on the Sabeth, They shall be
Look't on with Contempt." This was the universal expression throughout the
Puritan colonies; and looked on with contempt are Sabbath-breakers and
Sabbath-slighters in New England to the present day. Even if they committed
no active offence, the colonists could not passively neglect the Church
and its duties. As late as 1774 the First Church of Roxbury fined
non-attendance at public worship. In 1651 Thomas Scott "was fyned ten
shillings unless he have learned Mr. Norton's 'Chatacise' by the next
court" In 1760 the legislature of Massachusetts passed the law that "any
person able of Body who shall absent themselves from publick worship of God
on the Lord's Day shall pay ten shillings fine." By the Connecticut code
ten shillings was the fine, and the law was not suspended until the year
1770. By the New Haven code five shillings was the fine for non-attendance
at church, and the offender was often punished as well. Captain Dennison,
one of New Haven's most popular and respected citizens, was fined fifteen
shillings for absence from church. William Blagden, who lived in New Haven
in 1647, was "brought up" for absence from meeting. He pleaded that he had
fallen into the water late on Saturday, could light no fire on Sunday to
dry his clothes, and so had lain in bed to keep warm while his only suit of
garments was drying. In spite of this seemingly fair excuse, Blagden was
found guilty of "sloathefuluess" and sentenced to be "publiquely whipped."
Of course the Quakers contributed liberally to the support of the Court,
and were fined in great numbers for refusing to attend the church which
they hated, and which also warmly abhorred them; and they were zealously
set in the stocks, and whipped and caged and pilloried as well,--whipped
if they came and expressed any dissatisfaction, and whipped if they stayed

Severe and explicit were the orders with regard to the use of the "Creature
called Tobacko" on the Sabbath. In the very earliest days of the colony
means had been taken to present the planting of the pernicious weed
except in very small quantities "for meere necessitie, for phisick, for
preseruaceon of health, and that the same be taken privatly by auncient
men." In Connecticut a man could by permission of the law smoke once if
he went on a journey of ten miles (as some slight solace for the arduous
trip), but never more than once a day, and never in another man's house.
Let us hope that on their lonely journeys they conscientiously obeyed the
law, though we can but suspect that the one unsocial smoke may have been a
long one. In some communities the colonists could not plant tobacco, nor
buy it, nor sell it, but since they loved the fascinating weed then as men
love it now, they somehow invoked or spirited it into their pipes, though
they never could smoke it in public unfined and unpunished. The shrewd and
thrifty New Haven people permitted the raising of it for purposes of trade,
though not for use, thus supplying the "devil's weed" to others, chiefly
the godless Dutch, but piously spurning it themselves--in public. Its use
was absolutely forbidden under any circumstances on the Sabbath within two
miles of the meeting-house, which (since at that date all the homes were
clustered around the church-green) was equivalent to not smoking it at all
on the Lord's Day, if the lav were obeyed. But wicked backsliders existed,
poor slaves of habit, who were in Duxbury fined ten shillings for each
offence, and in Portsmouth, not only were fined, but to their shame be it
told, set as jail-birds in the Portsmouth cage. In Sandwich and in Boston
the fine for "drinking tobacco in the meeting-house" was five shillings for
each drink, which I take to mean chewing tobacco rather than smoking it;
many men were fined for thus drinking, and solacing the weary hours, though
doubtless they were as sly and kept themselves as unobserved as possible.
Four Yarmouth men--old sea-dogs, perhaps, who loved their pipe--were, in
1687, fined four shillings each for smoking tobacco around the end of the
meeting-house. Silly, ostrich-brained Yarmouth men! to fancy to escape
detection by hiding around the corner of the church; and to think that the
tithingman had no nose when he was so Argus-eyed. Some few of the ministers
used the "tobacco weed." Mr. Baily wrote with distress of mind and
abasement of soul in his diary of his "exceeding in tobacco." The hatred of
the public use of tobacco lingered long in New England, even in large towns
such as Providence, though chiefly on account of universal dread lest
sparks from the burning weed should start conflagrations in the towns.
Until within a few years, in small towns in western Massachusetts,
Easthampton and neighboring villages, tobacco-smoking on the street was not
permitted either on weekdays or Sundays.

Not content with strict observance of the Sabbathday alone, the Puritans
included Saturday evening in their holy day, and in the first colonial
years these instructions were given to Governor Endicott by the New England
Plantation Company: "And to the end that the Sabeth may be celebrated in
a religious man ner wee appoint that all may surcease their labor every
Satterday throughout the yeare at three of the clock in the afternoone, and
that they spend the rest of the day in chatechizing and preparacoon for
the Sabeth as the ministers shall direct." Cotton Mather wrote thus of his
grandfather, old John Cotton: "The Sabbath he begun the evening before, for
which keeping from evening to evening he wrote arguments before his coming
to New England, and I suppose 't was from his reason and practice that the
Christians of New England have generally done so too." He then tells of the
protracted religious services held in the Cotton household every Saturday
night,--services so long that the Sabbath-day exercises must have seemed in
comparison like a light interlude.

John Norton described these Cotton Sabbaths more briefly thus: "He [John
Cotton] began the Sabbath at evening; therefore then performed family-duty
after supper, being longer than ordinary in Exposition. After which he
catechized his children and servants and then returned unto his study. The
morning following, family-worship being ended, he retired into his study
until the bell called him away. Upon his return from meeting he returned
again into his study (the place of his labor and prayer) unto his private
devotion; where, having a small repast carried him up for his dinner, he
continued until the tolling of the bell. The public service being over, he
withdrew for a space to his pre-mentioned oratory for his sacred addresses
to God, as in the forenoon, then came down, _repeated the sermon in the
family_, prayed, after supper sang a Psalm, and towards bedtime betaking
himself again to his study he closed the day with prayer. Thus he spent the
Sabbath continually." Just fancy the Cotton children and servants listening
to his long afternoon sermon a second time!

All the New England clergymen were rigid in the prolonged observance of
Sunday. From sunset on Saturday until Sunday night they would not shave,
have rooms swept, nor beds made, have food prepared, nor cooking utensils
and table-ware washed. As soon as their Sabbath began they gathered their
families and servants around them, as did Cotton, and read the Bible and
exhorted and prayed and recited the catechism until nine o'clock, usually
by the light of one small "dip candle" only; on long winter Saturdays it
must have been gloomy and tedious indeed. Small wonder that one minister
wrote back to England that he found it difficult in the new colony to get a
servant who "_enjoyed catechizing and family duties_." Many clergymen
deplored sadly the custom which grew in later years of driving, and even
transacting business, on Saturday night. Mr. Bushnell used to call it
"stealing the time of the Sabbath," and refused to countenance it in any

It was very generally believed in the early days of New England that
special judgments befell those who worked on the eve of the Sabbath.
Winthrop gives the case of a man who, having hired help to repair a
milldam, worked an hour on Saturday after sunset to finish what he had
intended for the day's labor. The next day his little child, being left
alone for some hours, was drowned in an uncovered well in the cellar of his
house. "The father freely, in open congregation, did acknowledge it the
righteous hand of God for his profaning his holy day."

Visitors and travellers from other countries were forced to obey the rigid
laws with regard to Saturday-night observance. Archibald Henderson, the
master of a vessel which entered the port of Boston, complained to the
Council for Foreign Plantations in London that while he was in sober Boston
town, being ignorant of the laws of the land, and having walked half an
hour after sunset on Saturday night, as punishment for this unintentional
and trivial offence, a constable entered his lodgings, seized him by the
hair of his head, and dragged him to prison. Henderson claimed L800 damages
for the detention of his vessel during his prosecution. I have always
suspected that the gay captain may have misbehaved himself in Boston
on that Saturday night in some other way than simply by walking in
the streets, and that the Puritan law-enforcers took advantage of the
Sabbath-day laws in order to prosecute and punish him. We know of
Bradford's complaint of the times; that while sailors brought "a greate
deale" of money from foreign parts to New England to spend, they also
brought evil ways of spending it--"more sine I feare than money."

The Puritans found in Scripture support for this observance of Saturday
night, in these words, "The evening and the morning were the first day,"
and they had many followers in their belief. In New England country towns
to this day, descendants of the Puritans regard Saturday night, though in
a modified way, as almost Sunday, and that evening is never chosen for any
kind of gay gathering or visiting. As late as 1855 the shops in Hartford
were never open for customers upon Saturday night.

Much satire was directed against this Saturday night observance both by
English and by American authors. In the "American Museum" for February,
1787, appeared a poem entitled, "The Connecticut Sabbath." After saying at
some length that God had thought one day in seven sufficient for rest, but
New England Christians had improved his law by setting apart a day and a
half, the poet thus runs on derisively:--

"And let it be enacted further still
That all our people strict observe our will;
Five days and a half shall men, and women, too,
Attend their bus'ness and their mirth pursue,
But after that no man without a fine
Shall walk the streets or at a tavern dine.
One day and half 'tis requisite to rest
From toilsome labor and a tempting feast.
Henceforth let none on peril of their lives
Attempt a journey or embrace their wives;
No barber, foreign or domestic bred,
Shall e'er presume to dress a lady's head;
No shop shall spare (half the preceding day)
A yard of riband or an ounce of tea."

And many similar rhymes might be given.

Sunday night, being shut out of the Sabbath hours, became in the eighteenth
century a time of general cheerfulness and often merry-making. This sudden
transition from the religious calm and quiet of the afternoon to the noisy
gayety of the evening was very trying to many of the clergymen, especially
to Jonathan Edwards, who preached often and sadly against "Sabbath evening
dissipations and mirth-making." In some communities singing-schools were
held on Sunday nights, which afforded a comparatively decorous and orderly
manner of spending the close of the day.

Sweet to the Pilgrims and to their descendants was the hush of their calm
Saturday night, and their still, tranquil Sabbath,--sign and token to them,
not only of the weekly rest ordained in the creation, but of the eternal
rest to come. The universal quiet and peace of the community showed the
primitive instinct of a pure, simple devotion, the sincere religion which
knew no compromise in spiritual things, no half-way obedience to God's
Word, but rested absolutely on the Lord's Day--as was commanded. No work,
no play, no idle strolling was known; no sign of human life or motion was
seen except the necessary care of the patient cattle and other dumb beasts,
the orderly and quiet going to and from the meeting, and at the nooning,
a visit to the churchyard to stand by the side of the silent dead. This
absolute obedience to the letter as well as to the spirit of God's Word
was one of the most typical traits of the character of the Puritans, and
appeared to them to be one of the most vital points of their religion.


The Authority of the Church and the Ministers.

Severely were the early colonists punished if they ventured to criticise
or disparage either the ministers or their teachings, or indeed any of the
religious exercises of the church. In Sandwich a man was publicly whipped
for speaking deridingly of God's words and ordinances as taught by the
Sandwich minister. Mistress Oliver was forced to stand in public with a
cleft stick on her tongue for "reproaching the elders." A New Haven man was
severely whipped and fined for declaring that he received no profit from
the minister's sermons. We also know the terrible shock given the Windham
church in 1729 by the "vile and slanderous expressions" of one unregenerate
Windhamite who said, "I had rather hear my dog bark than Mr. Bellamy
preach." He was warned that he would be "shakenoff and givenup," and
terrified at the prospect of so dire a fate he read a confession of his
sorrow and repentance, and promised to "keep a guard over his tongue," and
also to listen to Mr. Bellamy's preaching, which may have been a still more
difficult task. Mr. Edward Tomlins, of Boston, upon retracting his opinion
which he had expressed openly against the singing in the churches, was
discharged without a fine. William Howes and his son were in 1744 fined
fifty shillings "apeece for deriding such as sing in the congregation,
tearming them fooles." The church music was as sacred to the Puritans as
were the prayers, but it must have been a sore trial to many to keep still
about the vile manner and method of singing. In 1631 Phillip Ratcliffe,
for "speaking against the churches," had his ears cut off, was whipped and
banished. We know also the consternation caused in New Haven in 1646 by
Madam Brewster's saying that the custom of carrying contributions to
the Deacons' table was popish--was "like going to the High Alter,"
and "savored of the Mass." She answered her accusers in such a bold,
highhanded, and defiant manner that her heinous offence was considered
worthy of trial in a higher court, whose decision is now lost.

The colonists could not let their affection and zeal for an individual
minister cause them to show any disrespect or indifference to the Puritan
Church in general. When the question of the settlement of the Reverend Mr.
Lenthal in the church of Weymouth, Massachusetts, was under discussion, the
tyranny of the Puritan Church over any who dared oppose or question it was
shown in a marked manner, and may be cited as a typical case. Mr. Lenthal
was suspected of being poisoned with the Anne Hutchinson heresies, and he
also "opposed the way of gathering churches." Hence his ordination over the
church in the new settlement was bitterly opposed by the Boston divines,
though apparently desired by the Weymouth congregation. One Britton, who
was friendly towards Lenthal and who spoke "reproachfully" and slurringly
of a book which defended the course of the Boston churches, was whipped
with eleven stripes, as he had no money to pay the imposed fine. John
Smythe, who "got hands to a blank" (which was either canvassing for
signatures to a proxy vote in favor of Lenthal or obtaining signatures
to an instrument declaring against the design of the churches), for thus
"combining to hinder the orderly gathering" of the Weymouth church at this
time, was fined L2. Edward Sylvester for the same offence was fined and
disfranchised. Ambrose Martin, another friend of Lenthal's, for calling
the church covenant of the Boston divines "a stinking carrion and a human
invention," was fined L10, while Thomas Makepeace, another Weymouth
malcontent, was informed by those in power that "they were weary of him,"
or, in modern slang, that "he made them tired." Parson Lenthal himself,
being sent for by the convention, weakened at once in a way his church
followers must have bitterly despised; he was "quickly convinced of his
error and evil." His conviction was followed with his confession, and in
open court he gave under his hand a laudable retraction, which retraction
he was ordered also to "utter in the assembly at Weymouth, and so no
further censure was passed on him." Thus the chief offender got the
lightest punishment, and thus did the omnipotent Church rule the whole

The names of loquacious, babbling Quakers and Baptists who spoke
disrespectfully of some or all of the ordinances of the Puritan church
might be given, and would swell the list indefinitely; they were fined and
punished without mercy or even toleration.

All profanity or blaspheming against God was severely punished. One very
wicked man in Hartford for his "fillthy and prophane expressions," namely,
that "hee hoped to meet some of the members of the Church in Hell before
long, and he did not question but hee should," was "committed to prison,
there to be kept in safe custody till the sermon, and then to stand the
time thereof in the pillory, and after sermon to be severely whipped." What
a severe punishment for so purely verbal an offence! New England ideas of
profanity were very rigid, and New England men had reason to guard well
their temper and tongue, else that latter member might be bored with a
hot iron; for such was the penalty for profanity. We know what horror Mr.
Tomlins's wicked profanity, "Curse ye woodchuck!" caused in Lynn meeting,
and Mr. Dexter was "putt in ye billboes ffor prophane saying dam ye cowe."
The Newbury doctor was sharply fined also for wickedly cursing. When
drinking at the tavern he raised his glass and said,--

"I'll pledge my friends, and for my foes
A plague for their heels, and a poxe for their toes."

He acknowledged his wickedness and foolishness in using the "olde proverb,"
and penitently promised to curse no more.

Sad to tell, Puritan women sometimes lost their temper and their
good-breeding and their godliness. Two wicked Wells women were punished in
1669 "for using profane speeches in their common talk; as in making answer
to several questions their answer is, The Devil a bit." In 1640, in
Springfield, Goody Gregory, being grievously angered, profanely abused an
annoying neighbor, saying, "Before God I coulde breake thy heade!" But she
acknowledged her "great sine and faulte" like a woman, and paid her fine
and sat in the stocks like a man, since she swore like the members of that
profane sex.

Sometimes the sins of the fathers were visited on the children in a most
extraordinary manner. One man, "for abusing N. Parker at the tavern," was
deprived of the privilege of bringing his children to be baptized, and was
thus spiritually punished for a very worldly offence. For some offences,
such as "speaking deridingly of the minister's powers," as was done in
Plymouth, "casting uncharitable reflexions on the minister," as did an
Andover man; and also for absenting one's self from church services; for
"sloathefulness," for "walking prophanely," for spoiling hides when tanning
and refusing explanation thereof; for selling short weight in grain,
for being "given too much to Jearings," for "Slanndering," for being a
"Makebayte," for "ronging naibors," for "being too Proude," for "suspitions
of stealing pinnes," for "pnishouse Squerilouse Odyouse wordes," and for
"lyeing," church-members were not only fined and punished but were deprived
of partaking of the sacrament. In the matter of lying great distinction was
made as to the character and effect of the offence. George Crispe's wife,
who "told a lie, not a pernicious lie, but unadvisedly," was simply
admonished and remonstrated with. Will Randall, who told a "plain lie," was
fined ten shillings. While Ralph Smith, who "lied about seeing a whale,"
was fined twenty shillings and excommunicated.

In some communities, of which Lechford tells us New Haven was one, these
unhouselled Puritans were allowed, if they so desired, to stand outside the
meeting-house door at the time of public worship and catch what few words
of the service they could. This humble waiting for crumbs of God's word was
doubtless regarded as a sign of repentance for past deeds, for it was often
followed by full forgiveness. As excommunicated persons were regarded with
high disfavor and even abhorrence by the entire pious and godly walking
community, this apparently spiritual punishment was more severe in its
temporal effects than at first sight appears. From the Cambridge Platform,
which was drawn up and adopted by the New England Synod in 1648, we learn
that "while the offender remains excommunicated the church is to refrain
from all communion with him in civil things," and the members were
specially "to forbear to eat and drink with him;" so his daily and even his
family life was made wretched. And as it was not necessary to wait for the
action of the church to pronounce excommunication, but the "pastor of a
church might by himself and authoritatively suspend from the Lord's table
a brother _suspected_ of scandal" until there was time for full
examination, we can see what an absolute power the church and even the
minister had over church-members in a New England community.

Nor could the poor excommunicate go to neighboring towns and settlements to
start afresh. No one wished him or would tolerate him. Lancaster, in 1653,
voted not to receive into its plantation "any excommunicat or notoriously
erring agt the Docktrin & Discipline of churches of this Commonwealth."
Other towns passed similar votes. Fortunately, Rhode Island--the island of
"Aquidnay" and the Providence Plantations--opened wide its arms as a place
of refuge for outcast Puritans. Universal freedom and religious toleration
were in Rhode Island the foundations of the State. Josiah Quincy said that
liberty of conscience would have produced anarchy if it had been permitted
in the New England Puritan settlements in the seventeenth century, but the
flourishing Narragansett, Providence, and Newport plantations seem to prove
the absurdity of that statement. Liberty of conscience was there allowed,
as Dr. MacSparran, the first clergyman of the Narragansett Church,
complained in his "America Dissected," "to the extent of no religion at
all." The Gortonians, the Foxians, and Hutchinsonians, the Anabaptists, the
Six Principle Baptists, the Church of England, apparently all the followers
of the eighty-two "pestilent heresies" so sadly enumerated and so bitterly
hated and "cast out to Satan" by the Massachusetts Puritan divines,--all
the excommunicants and exiles found in Rhode Island a home and
friends--other friends than the Devil to whom they had been consigned.

Though the early Puritan ministers had such powerful influence in every
other respect, they were not permitted to perform the marriage-service
nor to raise their voices in prayer or exhortation at a funeral. Sewall
jealously notes when the English burial-service began to be read at
burials, saying, "the office for Burial is a Lying very bad office makes no
difference between the precious and the vile." The office of marriage was
denied the parson, and was generally relegated to the magistrate. In this,
Governor Bradford states, they followed "ye laudable custome of ye Low
Countries." Not rulers and magistrates only were empowered to perform the
marriage ceremony; squires, tavern-keepers, captains, various authorized
persons might wed Puritan lovers; any man of dignity or prominence in the
community could apparently receive authority to perform that office except
the otherwise all-powerful parson.

As years rolled on, though the New Englanders still felt great reverence
and pride for their church and its ordinances, the minister was no longer
the just man made perfect, the oracle of divine will. The church-members
escaped somewhat from ecclesiastical power, and some of them found fault
with and openly disparaged their ministers in a way that would in early
days have caused them to be pilloried, whipped, caged, or fined; and often
the derogatory comments were elicited by the most trivial offences. One
parson was bitterly condemned because he managed to amass eight hundred
dollars by selling the produce of his farm. Another shocking and severely
criticised offence was a game of bowls which one minister played and
enjoyed. Still another minister, in Hanover, Massachusetts, was reproved
for his lack of dignity, which was shown in his wearing stockings "footed
up with another color;" that is, knit stockings in which the feet were
colored differently from the legs. He also was found guilty of having
jumped over the fence instead of decorously and clerically walking through
the gate when going to call on one of his parishioners. Rev. Joseph Metcalf
of the Old Colony was complained of in 1720 for wearing too worldly a wig.
He mildly reproved and shamed the meddlesome women of his church by asking
them to come to him and each cut off a lock of hair from the obnoxious
wig until all the complainers were satisfied that it had been rendered
sufficiently unworldly. Some Newbury church-members, in 1742, asserted that
their minister unclerically wore a colored kerchief instead of a band. This
he indignantly denied, saying that he "had never buried a babe even in most
tempestuous weather," when he rode several miles, but he always wore a
band, and he complained in turn that members of his congregation turned
away from him on the street, and "glowered" at him and "sneered at him."
Still more unseemly demonstrations of dislike were sometimes shown, as in
South Hadley, in 1741, when a committee of disaffected parishioners
pulled the Rev. Mr Rawsom out of the pulpit and marched him out of the
meeting-house because they did not fancy his preaching. But all such
actions were as offensive to the general community then as open expressions
of dissatisfaction and contempt are now.


The Ordination of the Minister.

The minister's ordination was, of course, an important social as well as
spiritual event in such a religious community as was a New England colonial
town. It was always celebrated by a great gathering of people from far and
near, including all the ministers from every town for many miles around;
and though a deeply serious service, was also an excuse for much
merriment. In Connecticut, and by tradition also in Massachusetts, an
"ordination-ball" was frequently given. It is popularly supposed that at
this ball the ministers did not dance, nor even appear, nor to it in any
way give their countenance; that it was only a ball given at the time of
the ordination because so many people would then be in the town to take
part in the festivity. That this was not always the case is proved by
a letter of invitation still in existence written by Reverend Timothy
Edwards, who was ordained in Windsor in 1694; it was written to Mr. and
Mrs. Stoughton, asking them to attend the ordination-ball which was to be
given in his, the minister's house. But whether the parsons approved and
attended, or whether they strongly discountenanced it, the ordination-ball
was always a great success. It is recorded that at one in Danvers a young
man danced so vigorously and long on the sanded floor that he entirely wore
out a new pair of shoes. The fashion of giving ordination-balls did not die
out with colonial times. In Federal days it still continued, a specially
gay ball being given in the town of Wolcott at an ordination in 1811.

There was always given an ordination supper,--a plentiful feast, at which
visiting ministers and the new pastor were always present and partook with
true clerical appetite. This ordination feast consisted of all kinds of New
England fare, all the mysterious compounds and concoctions of Indian corn
and "pompions," all sorts of roast meats, "turces" cooked in various ways,
gingerbread and "cacks," and--an inevitable feature at the time of every
gathering of people, from a corn-husking or apple-bee to a funeral--a
liberal amount of cider, punch, and grog was also supplied, which latter
compound beverages were often mixed on the meeting-house green or even in
punch-bowls on the very door-steps of the church. Beer, too, was specially
brewed to honor the feast. Rev. Mr. Thatcher, of Boston, wrote in his diary
on the twentieth of May, 1681, "This daye the Ordination Beare was brewed."
Portable bars were sometimes established at the church-door, and strong
drinks were distributed free of charge to the entire assemblage. As late
as 1825, at the installation of Dr. Leonard Bacon over the First
Congregational Church in New Haven, free drinks were furnished at an
adjacent bar to all who chose to order them, and were "settled for" by the
generous and hospitable society. In considering the extravagant amount of
moneys often recorded as having been paid out for liquor at ordinations,
one must not fail to remember that the seemingly large sums were often
spent in Revolutionary times during the great depreciation of Continental
money. Six hundred and sixty-six dollars were disbursed for the
entertainment of the council at the ordination of Mr. Kilbourn, of
Chesterfield; but the items were really few and the total amount of liquor
was not great,--thirty-eight mugs of flip at twelve dollars per mug; eleven
gills of rum bitters at six dollars per gill, and two mugs of sling at
twenty-four dollars per mug. The church in one town sent the Continental
money in payment for the drinks of the church-council in a wheelbarrow to
the tavern-keeper, and he was not very well paid either.

It gives one a strange sense of the customs and habits of the olden times
to read an "ordination-bill" from a tavern-keeper which is thus endorsed,
"This all Paid for exsept the Minister's Rum." To give some idea of the
expense of "keeping the ministers" at an ordination in Hartford in 1784,
let me give the items of the bill:--

L s. d.
To keeping Ministers 0 2 4
2 Mugs tody 0 5 10
5 Segars 0 3 0
1 Pint wine 0 0 9
3 lodgings 0 9 0
3 bitters 0 0 9
3 breakfasts 0 3 6
15 boles Punch 1 10 0
24 dinners 1 16 0
11 bottles wine 0 3 6
5 mugs flip 0 5 10
3 boles punch 0 6 0
3 boles tody 0 3 6

One might say with Falstaff, "O monstrous! but one half-pennyworth of bread
to this intolerable deal of sack!" I sadly fear me that at that Hartford
ordination our parson ancestors got grievsously "gilded," to use a choice
"red-lattice phrase."

Many accounts of gay ordination parties have been preserved in diaries for
us. Reverend Mr. Smith, who was settled in Portland in the early part of
the eighteenth century, wrote thus in his journal of an ordination which
he attended: "Mr. Foxcroft ordained at New Gloucester. We had a pleasant
journey home. Mr. L. was alert and kept us all merry. A _jolly ordination_.
We lost all sight of decorum." The Mr. L. referred to was Mr. Stephen
Longfellow, greatgrandfather of the poet.

Bills for ordination-expenses abound in items of barrels of rum and cider
and metheglin, of bowls of flip and punch and toddy, of boxes of lemons and
loaves of sugar, in punches, and sometimes broken punchbowls, and in one
case a large amount of Malaga and Canary wine, spices and "ross water,"
from which was brewed doubtless an appetizing ordination-cup which may have
rivalled Josselyn's New England nectar of "cyder, Maligo raisins, spices,
and sirup of clove-gillyflowers."

In Massachusetts, in January, 1759, the subject of the frequent disorders
and irregularities in connection with ordination-services, especially in
country towns, came before the council of the province, who referred
its consideration to a convention of ministers. The ministers at that
convention were recommended to each give instruction, exhortation, and
advice against excesses to the members of his congregation whenever an
ordination was about to take place in the vicinity of his church. In this
way it was hoped that the reformation would be aided, and temperance,
order, and decorum established. The newspapers were free in their
condemnation of the feasting and roistering at ordination-services. When
Dr. Cummings was ordained over the Old South Church of Boston in February,
1761, a feast took place at the Rev. Dr. Sewall's house which occasioned
much comment. A four-column letter of criticism appeared in the Boston
Gazette of March 9, 1761, over the signature of "Countryman," which
provoked several answers and much newspaper controversy. As Dr. Sewall had
been moderator of the meeting of ministers held only two years previously
with the hope, and for the purpose of abolishing ordination revelries, it
is not strange that the circumstance of the feast being given in his house
should cause public comment and criticism.

"Countryman" complained that "the price of provisions was raised a quarter
cart in Boston for several days before the instalment by reason of the
great preparations therefor, and the readiness of the ecclesiastical
caterers to give almost any price that was demanded. Many Boston people
complained the town had, by this means, in a few days lost a large sum of
money; which was, as it were, levied on and extorted from them. If the
poor were the _better for what remained of so plentiful and splendid a
feast_ I am very glad but yet think it is a pity the charity were not
better timed." He reprovingly enumerates, "There were six tables that held
one with another eighteen persons each, upon each table a good rich plumb
pudding, a dish of boil'd pork and fowls, and a corn'd leg of pork with
sauce proper for it, a leg of bacon, a piece of alamode beef, a leg of
mutton with caper sauce, a roast line of veal, a roast turkey, a venison
pastee, besides chess cakes and tarts, cheese and butter. Half a dozen
cooks were employed upon this occasion, upwards of twenty tenders to wait
upon the tables; they had the best of old cyder, one barrel of Lisbon wine,
punch in plenty before and after dinner, made of old Barbados spirit. The
cost of this moderate dinner was upwards of fifty pounds lawful money."
This special ordination-feast, even as detailed by the complaining
"Countryman," does not seem to me very reprehensible. The standing of the
church, the wealth of the congregation, the character of the guests (among
whom were the Governor and the judges of the Superior Court) all make
this repast appear neither ostentatious nor extravagant. Fifty pounds was
certainly not an enormous sum to spend for a dinner with wine for over one
hundred persons, and such a good dinner too. Nor is it probable that a city
as large as was Boston at that date could through that dinner have been
swept of provisions to such an extent that prices would be raised a quarter
part. I suspect some personal malice caused "Countryman's" attacks, for he
certainly could have found in other towns more flagrant cases to complain
of and condemn.

Though no record exists to prove that "the poor were the better for
what remained" after this Boston feast, in other towns letters
and church-entries show that any fragments remaining after the
ordination-dinner were well disposed of. Sometimes they furnished forth the
new minister's table. In one case they were given to "a widowed family"
("widowed" here being used in the old tender sense of bereaved). In
Killingly "the overplush of provisions" was sold to help pay the arrearages
of the salary of the outgoing minister, thus showing a laudable desire to
"settle up and start square."

If the church were dedicated at the time of the ordination, that would
naturally be cause for additional gayety. A very interesting and graphic
account of the feast at the dedication of the Old Tunnel Meeting-House of
Lynn in the year 1682 has been preserved. It thus describes the scene:--

"Ye Deddication Dinner was had in ye greate barne of Mr. Hoode which by
reason of its goodly size was deemed ye most fit place. It was neatly
adorned with green bows and other hangings and made very faire to look
upon, ye wreaths being mostly wrought by ye young folk, they meeting
together, both maides and young men, and having a merry time in doing ye
work. Ye rough stalls and unbowed posts being gaily begirt and all ye
corners and cubbies being clean swept and well aired, it truly did appear
a meet banquetting hall. Ye scaffolds too from which ye provinder had been
removed were swept cleane as broome could make them. Some seats were put up
on ye scaffoldes whereon might sitt such of ye antient women as would see &
ye maides and children. Ye greate floor was all held for ye company which
was to partake of ye feast of fat things, none others being admitted there
save them that were to wait upon ye same. Ye kine that were wont to be
there were forced to keep holiday in the field."

Then follows a minute account of how the fowls persisted in flying in
and roosting over the table, scattering feathers and hay on the parsons

"Mr. Shepard's face did turn very red and he catched up an apple and hurled
it at ye birds. But he thereby made a bad matter worse for ye fruit being
well aimed it hit ye legs of a fowl and brought him floundering and
flopping down on ye table, scattering gravy, sauce and divers things upon
our garments and in our faces. But this did not well please some, yet with
most it was a happening that made great merryment. Dainty meats were on ye
table in great plenty, bear-stake, deer-meat, rabbit, and fowle, both wild
and from ye barnyard. Luscious puddings we likewise had in abundance,
mostly apple and berry, but some of corn meal with small bits of sewet
baked therein; also pyes and tarts. We had some pleasant fruits, as apples,
nuts and wild grapes, and to crown all, we had plenty of good cider and ye
inspiring Barbadoes drink. Mr. Shepard and most of ye ministers were
grave and prudent at table, discoursing much upon ye great points of ye
deddication sermon and in silence laboring upon ye food before them. But I
will not risque to say on which they dwelt with most relish, ye discourse
or ye dinner. Most of ye young members of ye Council would fain make a
jolly time of it. Mr. Gerrish, ye Wenham minister, tho prudent in his
meat and drinks, was yet in right merry mood. And he did once grievously
scandalize Mr. Shepard, who on suddenly looking up from his dish did spy
him, as he thot, winking in an unbecoming way to one of ye pretty damsels
on ye scaffold. And thereupon bidding ye godly Mr. Rogers to labor with him
aside for his misbehavior, it turned out that ye winking was occasioned by
some of ye hay seeds that were blowing about, lodging in his eye; whereat
Mr. Shepard felt greatly releaved.

"Ye new Meeting house was much discoursed upon at ye table. And most thot
it as comely a house of worship as can be found in the whole Collony save
only three or four. Mr. Gerrish was in such merry mood that he kept ye end
of ye table whereby he sat in right jovial humour. Some did loudly laugh
and clap their hands. But in ye middest of ye merryment a strange disaster
did happen unto him. Not having his thots about him he endeavored ye
dangerous performance of gaping and laughing at the same time which he must
now feel is not so easy or safe a thing. In doing this he set his jaws open
in such wise that it was beyond all his power to bring them together again.
His agonie was very great, and his joyful laugh soon turned to grievous
gioaning. Ye women in ye scaffolds became much distressed for him. We did
our utmost to stay ye anguish of Mr. Gerrish, but could make out little
till Mr. Rogers who knoweth somewhat of anatomy did bid ye sufferer to sit
down on ye floor, which being done Mr. Rogers took ye head atween his legs,
turning ye face as much upward as possible and then gave a powerful blow
and then sudden press which brot ye jaws into working order. But Mr.
Geirish did not gape or laugh much more on that occasion, neither did he
talk much for that matter.

"No other weighty mishap occurred save that one of ye Salem delegates, in
boastfully essaying to crack a walnut atween his teeth did crack, instead
of ye nut, a most usefull double tooth and was thereby forced to appear at
ye evening with a bandaged face."

This ended this most amusing chapter of disasters to the ministers, though
the banquet was diversified by interrupting crows from invading roosters,
fierce and undignified counter-attacks with nuts and apples by the
clergymen, a few mortifyingly "mawdlin songs and much roistering laughter,"
and the account ends, "so noble and savoury a banquet was never before
spread in this noble town, God be praised." What a picture of the good old
times! Different times make different manners; the early Puritan ministers
did not, as a rule, drink to excess, any more than do our modern clergymen;
but it is not strange that though they were of Puritan blood and belief,
they should have fallen into the universal custom of the day, and should
have "gone to their graves full of years, honor, simplicity, and rum." The
only wonder is, when the ministers had the best places at every table, at
every feast, at every merry-making in New England, that stories of their
roistering excesses should not have come down to us as there have of the
intemperate clergy of Virginia.

The ordination services within the meeting-houses were not always decorous
and quiet scenes. In spite of the reverence which our forefathers had for
their church and their ministers, it did not prevent them from bitterly
opposing the settlement of an unwished-for clergyman over them, and many
towns were racked and divided, then as now, over the important question.
As years passed on the church members grew bold enough to dare to offer
personal and bodily opposition. At the ordination of the Rev. Peter
Thatcher in the New North Church in Boston, in 1720, there were two
parties. The members who did not wish him to be settled over the church
went into the meeting-house and made a great disorder and clamor. They
forbade the proceedings, and went into the gallery, and threw from thence
water and missiles on the friends of the clergymen who were gathered around
him at the altar. Perhaps they obtained courage for these sacrilegious acts
from the barrels of rum and the bowls of strong punch. And this was in
Puritanical Boston, in the year of the hundredth anniversary of the landing
of the Mayflower. Thus had one century changed the absolute reverence and
affectionate regard of the Pilgrims for their church, their ministers,
and their meeting-houses, to irreverent and obstinate desire for personal
satisfaction. No wonder that the ministers at that date preached and
believed that Satan was making fresh and increasing efforts to destroy the
Puritan church. The hour was ready for Whitefield, for Edwards, for any
new awakening; and was above all fast approaching for the sadly needed
temperance reform.

In the seventeenth century a minister was ordained and re-ordained at
each church over which he had charge; but after some years the name of
installation was given to each appointment after the first ordination, and
the ceremony was correspondingly changed.


The Ministers.

The picture which Colonel Higginson has drawn of the Puritan minister is so
well known and so graphic that any attempt to add to it would be futile.
All the succeeding New England parsons, as years rolled by, were not,
however, like the black-gowned, black-gloved, stately, and solemn man whom
he has so clearly shown us. Men of rigid decorum, and grave ceremony there
were, such as Dr. Emmons and Jonathan Edwards; but there were parsons also
of another type,--eccentric, unconventional, and undignified in demeanor
and dress. Parson Robinson, of Duxbury, persisted in wearing in the pulpit,
as part of his clerical attire, a round jacket instead of the suitable
gown or Geneva cloak, and he was known thereby as "Master Jack." With
astonishing inconsistency this Master Jack objected to the village
blacksmith's wearing his leathern apron into the church, and he assailed
the offender again and again with words and hints from his pulpit. He was
at last worsted by the grimaces of the victorious smith (where was the
Duxbury tithingman?), and indignantly left the pulpit, ejaculating, "I'll
not preach while that man sits before me." A remonstrating parishioner
said afterward to Master Jack, "I'd not have left if the Devil sat there."
"Neither would I", was the quick answer.

Another singular article of attire was worn in the pulpit by Father Mills,
of Torrington, though neither in irreverence nor indifference. When his
dearly loved wife died he pondered how he, who always wore black, could
express to the world that he was wearing mourning; and his simple heart hit
upon this grotesque device: he left off his full-flowing wig, and tied
up his head in a black silk handkerchief, which he wore thereafter as a
trapping of woe.

Parson Judson, of Taunton, was so lazy that he used to preach while sitting
down in the pulpit; and was so contemptibly fond of comfort that he would
on summer Sundays give out to the sweltering members of his congregation
the longest psalm in the psalm-book, and then desert them--piously
perspiring and fuguing--and lie under a tree enjoying the cool outdoor
breezes until the long psalm was ended, escaping thus not only the heat but
the singing; and when we consider the quantity and quality of both, and
that he condemned his good people to an extra amount of each, it seems
a piece of clerical inhumanity that would be hard to equal. Surely this
selfish Taunton sybarite was the prosaic ideal of Hamlet's words:--

"Some ungracious pastors do
Show me the steep and thorny way to Heaven,
Whilst like a puff'd and reckless libertine
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede."

But lazy and slothful ministers were fortunately rare in New England. No
primrose path of dalliance was theirs; industrious and hard-working were
nearly all the early parsons, preaching and praying twice on the Sabbath,
and preaching again on Lecture days; visiting the sick and often giving
medical and "chyrurgycal" advice; called upon for legal counsel and
adjudication; occupied in spare moments in teaching and preparing young
men for college; working on their farms; hearing the children say their
catechism; fasting and praying long, weary hours in their own study,--truly
they were "pious and painful preachers," as Colonel Higginson saw recorded
on a gravestone in Watertown. Though I suspect "painful" in the Puritan
vocabulary meant "painstaking," did it not? Cotton Mather called John
Fiske, of Chelmsford, a "plaine but able painful and useful preacher,"
while President Dunster, of Harvard College, was described by a
contemporary divine as "pious painful and fit to teach." Other curious
epithets and descriptions were applied to the parsons; they were called
"holy-heavenly," "sweet-affecting," "soul-ravishing," "heaven-piercing,"
"angel-rivalling," "subtil," "irrefragable," "angelical," "septemfluous,"
"holy-savoured," "princely," "soul-appetizing," "full of antic tastes"
(meaning having the tastes of an antiquary), "God-bearing." Of two of the
New England saints it was written:--

"Thier Temper far from Injucundity,
Thier tongues and pens from Infecundity."

Many other fulsome, turgid, and even whimsical expressious of praise might
be named, for the Puritans were rich in classic sesquipedalian adjectives,
and their active linguistic consciences made them equally fertile in
producing new ones.

Ready and unexpected were the solemn Puritans in repartee. A party of gay
young sparks, meeting austere old John Cotton, determined to guy him. One
of the young reprobates sent up to him and whispered in his ear, "Cotton,
thou art an old fool." "I am, I am," was the unexpected answer; "the Lord
make both thee and me wiser than we are." Two young men of like intent met
Mr. Haynes, of Vermont, and said with mock sad faces, "Have you heard the
news? the Devil is dead." Quick came the answer, "Oh, poor, fatherless
children! what will become of you?"

Gloomy and depressed of spirits they were often. The good Warham, who could
take faithful and brave charge of his flock in the uncivilized wilds
of Connecticut among ferocious savages, was tortured by doubts and
"blasphemous suggestions," and overwhelmed by unbelief, enduring specially
agonizing scruples about administering and partaking of the Lord's Supper,
and was thus perplexed and buffeted until the hour of his sad death. The
ministers went through various stages of uncertainty and gloom, from the
physical terror of Dr. Cogswell in a thunderstorm, through vacillating and
harassing convictions about the Half Way Covenant, through doubt of God,
of salvation, of heaven, of eternite, particularly distressing suspicions
about the reality of hell and the personality of the Devil, to the stage
of deep melancholy which was shown in its highest type in "Handkerchief
Moody," who preached and prayed and always appeared in public with a
handkerchief over his face, and gave to Hawthorne the inspiration for his
story of "The Black Veil." Rev. Mr. Bradstreet, of the First Church of
Charlestown, was so hypochondriacal that he was afraid to preach in the
pulpit, feeling sure that he would die if he entered therein; so he always
delivered his sermons to his patient congregation from the deacons' pew.
Mr. Bradstreet was unconventional in many other respects, and was far from
being a typical Puritan minister. He seldom wore a coat, but generally
appeared in a plaid gown, and was always seen with a pipe in his mouth,--a
most disreputable addition to the clerical toilet at that date, or, in
truth, at any date. He was a learned and pious man, however, and was thus
introduced to a fellow clergyman, "Here is a man who can whistle Greek."

Scarcely one of the early Puritan ministers was free from the sad shadow of
doubt and fear. No "rose-pink or dirty-drab views of humanity" were theirs;
all was inky-black. And it is impossible to express the gloom and the
depression of spirit which fall on one now, after these centuries of
prosperous and cheerful years, when one considers thoughtfully the deep and
despairing agony of mind endured by these good, brave, steadfast, godly
Puritan ministers. Read, for instance, the sentences from the diary of the
Rev. John Baily, or of Nathaniel Mather, as given by Cotton Mather in his
"Magnalia." Mather says that poor, sad, heart-sick Baily was filled with
"desponding jealousies," "disconsolate uneasinesses," gloomy fears, and
thinks the words from his diary "may be profitable to some discouraged
minds." Profitable! Ah, no; far from it! The overwhelming blackness
of despair, the woful doubts and fears about destruction and utter
annihilation which he felt so deeply and so continually, fall in a heavy,
impenetrable cloud upon us as we read, until we feel that we too are in the
"Suburbs of hell" and are "eternally damned."

But in succeeding years they were not always gloomy and not always staid,
as we know from the stories of the cheerful parties at ordination-times;
and I doubt not the reverend Assembly of Elders at Cambridge enjoyed to the
full degree the twelve gallons of sack and six gallons of white wine sent
to them by the Court as a testimony of deep respect. And the group of
clergymen who were painted over the mantelpiece of Parson Lowell, of
Newbury, must have been far from gloom, as the punch-bowl and drinking-cups
and tobacco and pipes would testify, and their cheerful motto likewise: "In
essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." And
the Rev. Mr. ---- no, I will not tell his name--kept an account with
one Jerome Ripley, a storekeeper, and on one page of this account-book,
containing thirty-nine entries, twenty-one were for New England rum.
It somewhat lessens in our notions the personal responsibility, or the
personal potatory capability of the parson, to discover that there was
an ordination in town during that rum-paged week, and that the visiting
ministers probably drank the greater portion of Jerome Ripley's liquor.
But I wish the store-keeper had--to save this parson's reputation among
succeeding generations--called and entered the rum as hay, or tea, or
nails, or anything innocent and virtuous and clerical. When we read of all
these doings and drinkings of the old New England ministers,--"if ancient
tales say true, nor wrong these ancient men"--we feel that we cannot so
fiercely resent nor wonder at the degrading coupling in Byron's sneering

"There's naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms,
As rum and true religion."

All the cider made by the New England elders did not tend to gloom,
and they were celebrated for their fine cider. The best cider in
Massachusetts--that which brought the highest price--was known as the
Arminian cider, because the minister who furnished it to the market was
suspected of having Arminian tendencies. A very telling compliment to the
cider of one of the first New England ministers is thus recorded: "Mr.
Whiting had a score of appill-trees from which he made delicious cyder.
And it hath been said yt an Indyan once coming to hys house and Mistress
Whiting giving him a drink of ye cyder, he did sett down ye pot and smaking
his lips say yt Adam and Eve were rightlie damned for eating ye appills in
ye garden of Eden, they should have made them into cyder." This perverse
application of good John Eliot's teaching would have vexed the apostle
sorely. Of so much account were the barrels of cider, and so highly were
they prized by the ministers, that one honest soul did not hesitate to
thank the Lord in the pulpit for the "many barrels of cider vouchsafed to
us this year."

Stronger liquors than cider were also manufactured by the ministers,--and
by God-fearing, pious ministers also. They did not hesitate to own and
operate distilleries. Rev. Nathan Strong, pastor of the First Church of
Hartford and author of the hymn "Swell the anthem, raise the song," was
engaged in the distilling business and did not make a success of it either.
Having become bankrupt, he did not dare show his head anywhere in public
for some time, except on Sunday, for fear of arrest. This disreputable and
most unclerical affair did not operate against him in the minds of the
contemporaneous public, for ten years later he received the degree of
Doctor of Divinity from Princeton College; and he did not hesitate to joke
about his liquor manufacturing, saying to two of his brother-clergymen,
"Oh, we are all three in the same boat together,--Brother Prime raises the
grain, I distil it, and Brother Flint drinks it."

Impostors there were--false parsons--in the early struggling days of New
England (since "the devil was never weary and never ceasing in disturbing
the peace of the new English church"), and they plagued the colonists
sorely. The very first shepherd of the wandering flock--Mr. Lyford, who
preached to the planters in 1624--was, as Bradford says, "most unsavory
salt," a most agonizing and unbearable thorn in the flesh and spirit of the
poor homesick Pilgrims; and he was finally banished to Virginia, where it
was supposed that he would find congenial and un-Puritanlike companions.
Another bold-faced cheat preached to the colonists a most impressive sermon
on the text, "Let him that stole steal no more," while his own pockets were
stuffed out with stolen money. "Out of the fulness of the heart the mouth

Dicky Swayn, "after a thousand rogueries," set up as a parson in Boston.
But, unfortunately for him, he prayed too loud and too long on one
occasion, and his prayer attracted the attention of a woman whose servant
he had formerly been. She promptly exposed his false pretensions and past
villanies, and he left Boston and an army of cheated creditors. In 1699
two other attractive and plausible scamps--Kingsbury and May--garbed and
curried themselves as ministers, and went through a course of unchecked
villany, building only on their agreeable presence. Cotton Mather wrote
pertinently of one of these charmers, "Fascination is a thing whereof
mankind has more Experience than Comprehension;" and he also wrote very
despitefully of the adventurer's scholarly attainments saying there were
"eighteen horrid false spells and not one point in one very short note I
received from him." As the population increased, so also did the list of
dishonest impostors, who made a cloak of religion most effectively to
aid them in deceiving the religious community; and sometimes, alas! the
ordained clergymen became sad backsliders.

Nor were the pious and godly Puritan divines above the follies and
frailties of other men in other places and in other times. It can be said
of them, as of the Jew, had they not "eyes, hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions?"--were they not as other men? It is recorded
of Rev. Samuel Whiting, of Lynn, that "once coming among a gay partie of
yong people he kist all ye maides and said yt he felt all ye better for
it." And who can doubt it? Even that extreme type, that highest pinnacle
of American Puritanical bigotry,--solemn and learned Cotton Mather,--had,
when he was a mourning widower, a most amusing amorous episode with a
rather doubtful, a decidedly shady, young Boston woman, whom he styled an
"Ingenious Child," but who was far from being an ingenuous child. "She," as
he proudly stated, "became charmed with my person to such a degree that she
could not but break in upon me with her most importunate requests." And a
very handsome and thoroughly attractive person does his portrait show
even to modern eyes. Poor Cotton resisted the wiles of the devil in this
alluring form, though he had to fast and pray three consecutive nights ere
the strong Puritan spirit conquered the weak flesh, and he could consent
and resolve to give up the thought of marrying the siren. His self-denial
and firmness deserved a better reward than the very trying matrimonial
"venture" that he afterwards made.

Many another Puritan parson has left record of his wooings that are warm
to read. And well did the parsons' wives deserve their ardent wooings and
their tender love-letters. Hard as was the minister's life, over-filled as
was his time, highly taxed as were his resources, all these hardships were
felt in double proportion by the minister's wife. The old Hebrew standard
of praise quoted by Cotton Mather, "A woman worthy to be the wife of a
priest," was keenly epigrammatic; and ample proof of the wise insight
of the standard of comparison may be found in the lives of "the pious,
prudent, and prayerful" wives of New England ministers. What wonder that
their praises were sung in many loving though halting threnodies, in
long-winded but tender eulogies, in labored anagrams, in quaintly spelled
epitaphs?--for the ministers' wives were the saints of the Puritan


The Ministers' Pay.

The salaries of New England clergymen were not large in early days, but the
L60 or L70 which they each were yearly voted was quite enough to suitably
support them in that new country of plain ways and plain living, if they
only received it, which was, alas! not always the case. The First Court of
Massachusetts, in 1630, set the amount of the minister's annual stipend
to be L20 or L30 according to the wealth of the community, and made it a
public charge. In 1659 the highest salary paid in Suffolk County was L100
to Mr. Thatcher, and the lowest was L40 to the clergyman at Hull. The
minister of the Andover church was voted a salary of L60, and "when he
shall have occacion to marry, L10 more." He was very glad, however, to take
L42 in hard cash instead of L60 in corn and labor, which were at that time
the most popular forms of ministerial remuneration; even though the "hard
cash" were in the form of wampum, beaver-skins, or leaden bullets.

Many congregations, though the members were so pious and godly, were pretty
sharp in bargaining with their preachers; for instance, the church in New
London made its new parson sign a contract that "in case he remove before
the year is out, he returneth the L80 paid him." Often clergymen would
"supply" (or "Sipploye," or "syploy" or "sipply," or "sciploy," as various
records have it) from month to mouth without "settling." As they got the
"keepe of a hors," and their own board for Saturday and Sunday, and on
Monday morning a cash payment for preaching (though often the amount was
only twelve shillings), they were richer than with a small yearly salary
that was irregularly and inconveniently paid. Often too they entered by
preference into a yearly contract with a church, without any wish for
regular settlement or ordination.

A large portion of the stipends in early parishes being paid in corn and
labor, the amounts were established by fixed rate upon the inhabitants;
and the amount of land owned and cultivated by each church-member was
considered in reckoning his assessment. These amounts were called voluntary
contributions. If, however, any citizen refused to "contribute," he
was taxed; and if he refused to pay his church-tax he could be fined,
imprisoned, or pilloried. For one hundred years the ministers' salaries
in Boston were paid by these so-called "voluntary contributions." In one
church it was voted that "the Deacons have liberty for a quarter of a yeare
to git in every mans sume either in a Church way or in a Christian way."
I would the process employed in the "Church way" were recorded, since it
differed so from the Christian way.

It is one of the Puritan paradoxes that abounded in New England, that the
community of New Haven, a "State whose Desire was Religion," and religion
alone, was particularly backward in paying the minister who had spiritual
charge there. After much trouble in deciding about the form and quality
of the currency which should be used in pay, since so much bad wampum was
thrust upon the deacons at the public contributions, it was in 1651 enacted
that "whereas it is taken notice of that Divers give not into the Treasury
at all on the Lords Day, it is decreed that all such if they give not
freely, of themselves be rated according to the Jurisdiction order for the
Ministers Maintaynance." The delinquents were ordered to bring their "rate"
to the Deacon's house at once. A presuming young man ventured to suggest
that the recreant members who would not pay in the face of the whole
congregation would hardly rush to the Deacon's door to give in their
"rate." He was severely ordered to keep silence in the company of wiser and
elder people; but time proved his simply wise supposition to be correct;
and many and various were the devices and forces which the deacons were
obliged to use to obtain the minister's rate in New Haven.

Some few bold Puritan souls dared to protest against being forced to pay
the church rate whether they wished to or not. Lieutenant Fuller, of
Barnstable, was fined fifty shillings for "prophanely" saying "that the law
enacted about the ministers maintenance was a wicked and devilish one, and
that the devil sat at the helm when the law was made." Such courageous
though profane expressions of revolt but little availed; for not only
were members and attendants of the Puritan churches taxed, but Quakers,
Baptists, and Church-of-England men were also "rated," and if they refused
to pay to help support the church that they abhorred, they were fined and
imprisoned. One man, of Watertown, named Briscoe, dared to write a book
against the violent enforcement of "voluntary" subscriptions. He was fined
L10 for his wickedness; and the printer of the book was also punished. A
virago in New London, more openly courageous, threw scalding water on the
head of the tithingman who came to collect the minister's rate. Old John
Cotton preached long and earnestly upon the necessity and propriety of
raising the money for the minister's salary, and for other expenses of the
church, wholly by voluntary and eagerly given contributions,--the "Lord
having directed him to make it clear by Scripture." He believed that tithes
and church-taxes were productive of "pride, contention and sloth," and
indicated a declining spiritual condition of the church. But it was a
strange voluntary gift he wished, that was forced by dread of the pillory
and cage!

Since, as Higginson said, "New England was a plantation of Religion, not a
plantation of Trade," the church and its support were of course the first
thought in laying out a new town-settlement, and some of the best town-lots
were always set aside for the "yuse of the minister." Sometimes these lots
were a gift outright to the first settled preacher, in other townships they
were set aside as glebes, or "ministry land" as it was called. It was a
universal custom to build at once a house for the minister, and some very
queer contracts and stipulations for the size, shape, and quality of the
parson's home-edifice may be read in church-records. To the construction
of this house all the town contributed, as also to the building of the
meeting-house; some gave work; some, the use of a horse or ox-team; some,
boards; some, stones or brick; some, logs; others, nails; and a few, a very
few, money. At the house-raising a good dinner was provided, and of course,
plenty of liquor. Some malcontents rebelled against being forced to work on
the minister's house. Entries of fines are common enough for "refusing
to dig on the Minister's Selor," for neglecting to send "the Minister's
Nayles," for refusing to "contribute clay-boards," etc. As with the
town-lot, the house sometimes was a gift outright to the clergyman, and
ofttimes the ownership was retained by the church, and the free use only
was given to each minister.

It was a universal custom to allow free pasturage for the minister's
horse, for which the village burial-ground was assigned as a favorite
feeding-ground. Sometimes this privilege of free pasturage was abused. In
Plymouth, in 1789, Rev. Chandler Robbins was requested "not to have more
horses than shall be necessary, for his many horses that had been pastured
on 'Burial Hill'" had sadly damaged and defaced the gravestones,--perhaps
the very headstones placed over the bones of our Pilgrim Fathers.

The "strangers' money," which was the money contributed by visitors who
chanced to attend the services, and which was sometimes specified as "all
the silver and black dogs given by strangers," was usually given to the
minister. A "black dog" was a "dog dollar."

Often a settlement or a sum of money was given outright to the clergyman
when he was first ordained or settled in the parish. At a town meeting in
Sharon, January 8, 1755, which was held with regard to procuring a new
minister, it was voted "that a committe confer with Mr. Smith, and know
which will be more acceptable to him, to have a larger settlement and a
smaller salary, or a larger salary and a smaller settlement, and make
report to this meeting." On Jan. 15th it was voted "that we give to said
Mr. Smith 420 ounces of silver or equivalent in old Tenor bills, for a
settlement, to be paid in three years after settlement. That we give to
said Mr. Smith 220 Spanish dollars or an equivalent in old Tenor bills for
his yearly salary." Mr. Smith was very generous to his new parish, for his
acceptance of its call contains this clause: "As it will come heavy upon
some perhaps to pay salary and settlement together I have thought of
releasing part of the payment of the salary for a time to be paid to me
again. The first year I shall allow you out of the salary you have voted me
40 dollars, the 2nd 30 dollars, the 3rd 15, the 4th year 20 to be repaid
to me again, the 5th year 20 more, the 6th year 20 more and the 25 dollars
that remain, I am willing that the town should keep 'em for its own use."
He was apparently "willing to live very low," as Parson Eliot humbly and
pathetically wrote in a petition to his church.

The Puritan ministers in New England in the eighteenth century were all
good Whigs; they hated the English kings, fully believing that those stupid
rulers, who really cared little for the Church of England, were burning
with pious zeal to make Episcopacy the established church of the colonies,
and knowing that were that deed accomplished they themselves would probably
lose their homes and means of livelihood. They were the most eager of
Republicans and patriots, and many of them were good and brave soldiers in
the Revolution.

When the minister acquired the independence he so longed and fought for,
it was not all his fancy painted it. He found himself poor
indeed,--practically penniless. He complained sadly that he was paid his
salary in the worthless continental paper money, and he refused to take it.
Often he cannily took merchandise of all kinds instead of the low-valued
paper money, and he became a good and sharp trader, exchanging his various
goods for whatever he needed--and could get. Merchandise was, indeed, far
preferable to money. The petition of Rev. Mr. Barnes to his Willsborough
people has been preserved, and he thus speaks of his salary: "In 1775 the
war comenced & Paper money was emitted which soon began to depreciate and
the depreciation was so rappid that in may 1777 your Pastor gave the whole
of his years Salary for one sucking Calf, the next year he gave the whole
for a small store pig. Your Pastor has not asked for any consideration
being willing to try to Scrabble along with the people while they are in
low circumstances." His neighbor, Rev. Mr. Sprague, of Dublin, formally
petitioned his church not to increase his salary, "as I am plagued to death
to get what is owing to me now," or to buy anything with it when he got it.
The minister in Scarborough had to be paid L5,400 in paper money to make
good his salary of L60 in gold which had been voted him.

"Living low" and "scrabbling along" seems to have been the normal and
universal condition of the New England minister for some time after the War
of Independence. He was obliged to go without his pay, or to take it in
whatever shape it might chance to be tendered. Indeed, from the earliest
colonial days it was true that of whatever they had, the church-members
gave; meal, maize, beans, cider, lumber, merchantable pork, apples,
"English grains," pumpkins,--all were paid to the parson. Part of the
stipend of a minister on Cape Cod was two hundred fish yearly from each
parishioner, with which to fertilize his sandy corn-land. In Plymouth,
in 1662, the following method of increasing the minister's income was
suggested: "The Court Proposeth it as a thing that they judge would be very
commendable and beneficiall to the townes where God's providence shall cast
any whales, if they should agree to set aparte some p'te of every such fish
or oyle for the Incouragement of an able and godly minister among them." In
Sandwich, also, the parson had a part of every whale that came ashore.

Various gifts, too, came to the preachers. In Newbury the first salmon
caught each year in the weir was left by will to the parson. Judge Sewall
records that he visited the minister and "carried him a Bushel of
Turnips, cost me five shillings, and a Cabbage cost half a Crown." Such a
high-priced cabbage!

That New England country institution--the "donation party" to the
minister--was evolved at a later date. At these donation parties the
unfortunate shepherd of the flock often received much that neither he
nor the wily donors could use, while more valuable and useful gifts were

A very material plenishing of the minister's house was often furnished in
the latter part of the eighteenth century by the annual "Spinning Bee." On
a given day the women of the parish, each bearing her own spinning-wheel
and flax, assembled at the minister's house and spun for his wife great
"runs" of linen thread, which were afterward woven into linen for the use
of the parson and his family. In Newbury, April 20,1768, "Young ladies met
at the house of the Rev. Mr. Parsons, who preached to them a sermon from
Proverbs 31-19. They spun and presented to Mrs. Parsons two hundred and
seventy skeins of good yarn." They drank "liberty tea." This makeshift of
a beverage was made of the four-leaved loosestrife. The herb was pulled
up like flax, its stalks were stripped of the leaves and were boiled. The
leaves were put in a kettle and basted with the liquor distilled from the
stalks. After this the leaves were dried in an oven to use in the same
manner as tea-leaves. Liberty tea sold readily for sixpence a pound. In
1787 these same Newbury women spun two hundred and thirty-six skeins
of thread and yarn for the wife of the Rev. Mr. Murray. Some were busy
spinning, some reeling and carding, and some combing the flax, while the
minister preached to them on the text from Exodus xxxv. 25: "And all
the women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands." These
spinning-bees were everywhere in vogue, and formed a source of much profit
to the parson, and of pleasure to the spinners, in spite of the sermons.

Pieced patchwork bed-quilts for the minister's family were also given by
the women of the congregation. Sometimes each woman furnished a neatly
pieced square, and all met at the parsonage and joined and quilted the
coverlet. At other times the minister's wife made the patchwork herself,
but the women assembled and transformed it into quilts for her. The parson
was helped also in his individual work. When the rye or wheat or grain on
the minister's land was full grown and ready for reaping and mowing, the
men in his parish gave him gladly a day's work in harvesting, and in turn
he furnished them plenty of good rum to drink, else there were "great
uneasyness." The New England men were not forced to drink liberty tea.

One universal contribution to the support of the minister all over New
England was cord-wood; and the "minister's wood" is an institution up to
the present day in the few thickly wooded districts that remain. A load of
wood was usually given by each male church-member, and he was expected to
deliver the gift at the door of the parsonage. Sixty loads a year were a
fair allowance, but the number sometimes ran up to one hundred, as was
furnished to Parson Chauncey, of Durham. Rev. Mr. Parsons, of East Hadley,
was the greatest wood-consumer among the old ministers of whom I have
chanced to read. Good, cheerful, roaring fires must the Parsons family have
kept; for in 1774 he had eighty loads of wood supplied to him; in 1751 he
was furnished with one hundred loads; in 1763 the amount had increased to
one hundred and twenty loads, when the parish was glad to make a compromise
with their extravagant shepherd and pay him instead L13 6s 8d annually
in addition to his regular salary, and let him buy or cut his own wood.
Firewood at that time in that town was worth only the expense of cutting
and hauling to the house. A "load" of wood contained about three quarters
of a cord, and until after the Revolutionary War was worth in the vicinity
of Hadley only three shillings a load. The minister's loads were expected
to be always of good "hard-wood." One thrifty parson, while watching a
farmer unload his yearly contribution, remarked, "Isn't that pretty soft
wood?" "And don't we sometimes have pretty soft preaching?" was the answer.
It was well that the witty retort was not made a century earlier; for the
speaker would have been punished by a fine, since they fined so sharply
anything that savored of "speaking against the minister." In some towns a
day was appointed which was called a "wood-spell," when it was ordered that
all the wood be delivered at the parson's door; and thus the farmers formed
a cheerful gathering, at which the minister furnished plentiful flip, or
grog, to the wood-givers. Rev. Stephen Williams, of Longmeadow, never
failed to make a note of the "wood-sleddings" in his diary. He wrote on
Jan. 25, 1757, "Neighbors sledded wood for me and shewed a Good Humour.
I rejoice at it. The Lord bless them that are out of humour and brot no
wood." In other towns the wood did not always come in when it was wanted or
needed, and winter found the parsonage woodshed empty. Rev. Mr. French, of
Andover, gave out this notice in his pulpit one Sunday in November: "I will
write two discourses and deliver them in this meeting-house on Thanksgiving
Day, _provided I can manage to write them without a fire_." We can be
sure that Monday morning saw several loads of good hard wood deposited at
the parson's door.

Other ministers did not hesitate to demand their cord-wood most openly,
while still others became adepts in hinting and begging, not only for wood,
but for other supplies. It is told of a Newbury parson that he rode from
house to house one winter afternoon, saying in each that he "wished he had
a slice of their good cheese, for his wife expected company." On his way
home his sleigh, unfortunately, upset, and the gathering darkness could not
conceal from the eyes of the astonished townspeople, who ran to "right the
minister," the nine great cheeses that rolled out into the snow.

Another source of income to New England preachers was the sale of the
gloves and rings which were given to them (and indeed to all persons of
any importance) at weddings, funerals, and christenings. In reading Judge
Sewall's diary one is amazed at the extraordinary number of gloves he thus
received, and can but wonder what became of them all, since, had he had
as many hands as Briareus, he could hardly have worn them. The manuscript
account-book of the Rev. Mr. Elliot, who was ordained pastor of the New
North Church of Boston in 1742, shows that he, having a frugal mind, sold
both gloves and rings. He kept a full list of the gloves he received, the
kid gloves, the lambswool gloves, and the long gloves,--which were for his
wife. It seems incredible, but in thirty-two years he received two thousand
and nine hundred and forty pairs of gloves. Of these, though dead men's
gloves did not have a very good market, he sold through various salesmen
and dealers about six hundred and forty dollars worth. One wonders that he
did not "combine" with the undertaker or sexton who furnished the gloves to
mourners, and thus do a very thrifty business.

The parson, especially in a low-salaried, rural district, had to practise a
thousand petty and great economies to eke out his income. He and his family
wore homespun and patched clothing, which his wife had spun and wove and
cut and made. She knitted woollen mittens and stockings by the score. She
unfortunately could not make shoes, and to keep the large family shod was a
serious drain on the clerical purse, one minister declaring vehemently
that he should have died a rich man if he and his family could have gone
barefoot. The pastors of seaboard and riverside parishes set nets, like the
Apostles of old, and caught fish with which they fed their families until
the over-phosphorized brains and stomachs rebelled. They set snares and
traps and caught birds and squirrels and hare, to replenish their tables,
and from the skins of the rabbits and woodchucks and squirrels, the
parsons' wives made fur caps for the husbands and for the children.

The whole family gathered in large quantities from roadsides and pastures
the oily bayberries, and from them the thrifty and capable wife made scores
of candles for winter use, patiently filling and refilling her few moulds,
or "dipping" the candles again and again until large enough to use. These
pale-green bayberry tallow candles, when lighted in the early winter
evening, sent forth a faint spicy fragrance--a true New England
incense--that fairly perfumed and Orientalized the atmosphere of the
parsonage kitchen. They were very saving, however, even of these home-made
candles, blowing them out during the long family prayers.

Some parsons could not afford always to use candles. In the home of one
well-known minister the wife always knitted, the children ciphered and
studied, and the husband wrote his sermon by the flickering fire-light (for
they always had wood in plenty), with his scraps of sermon paper placed on
the side of the great leathern bellows as it lay in his lap; a pretty home
scene that was more picturesque to behold than comfortable to take part in.

Country ministers could scarcely afford paper to write on, as it was taxed
and was high priced. They bought their sermon paper by the pound; but they
made the first drafts of their addresses, in a fine, closely written hand,
on wrapping-paper, on the backs of letters, on the margins of their few
newspapers, and copied them when finished in their sermon-books with a
keen regard for economy of space and paper. The manuscript sermons of New
England divines are models of careful penmanship, and may be examined with
interest by a student of chirography. The letters are cramped and crabbed,
like the lives of many of the writers, but the penmanship is methodical,
clear, and distinct, without wavering lines or uncertain touch.

As every parsonage had some glebe land, the parson could raise at least a
few vegetables to supply his table. One minister, prevented by illness from
planting his garden, complained with bitterness that, save for a few rare
gifts of vegetables from his parishioners, his family had no green thing
all summer save "messes of dandelion greens" which he had dug by the
roadside, and the summer's succession of wild berries and mushrooms. The
children had gathered the berries and had sold them when they could, but of
course no one would buy the mushrooms, hence they had been forced to eat
them at the parsonage; and he spoke despitefully and disdainfully of the
mean, unnourishing, and doubtfully healthful food.

In winter the parson's family fared worse; one minister declared that he
had had nothing but mush and milk with occasional "cracker johnny-cakes"
all winter, and that he had not once tasted meat in that space of time,
save at a funeral or ordination-supper, where I doubt not he gorged with
the composure and capacity of a Sioux brave at a war feast.

Often the low state of the parsonage larder was quite unknown to the
unthinking members of the congregation, who were not very luxuriously fed
themselves; and in the profession of preaching as in all other walks of
life much depended on the way the parson's money was spent,--economy and
good judgment in housekeeping worked wonders with the small salary. Dr.
Dwight, in eulogizing Abijah Weld, pastor at Attleborough, declared that
on a salary of two hundred and twenty dollars a year Mr. Weld brought up
eleven children, kept a hospitable house, and gave liberally in charity to
the poor. I fear if we were to ask some carnal-minded person, who knew not
the probity of Dr. Dwight, how Mr. Weld could possibly manage to accomplish
such wonderful results with so little money, that we should meet with
scepticism as to the correctness of the facts alleged. Such cases were,
however, too common to be doubted. My answer to the puzzling financial
question would be this: examine and study the story of the home life, the
work of _Mrs_. Weld, that unsalaried helper in clerical labor; therein
the secret lies.

In many cases, in spite of the never failing and never ceasing economy,
care, and assistance of the hard-working, thrifty wife, in spite of
tributes, tithes and windfalls--in country parishes especially--the
minister, unless he fortunately had some private wealth, felt it incumbent
upon him to follow some money-making vocation on week-days. Many were
farmers on week-days. Many took into their families young men who wished
to be taught, or fitted for college. Rev. Mr. Halleck in the course of his
useful and laborious life educated over three hundred young Puritans in his
own household. It is not recorded how Mrs. Halleck enjoyed the never ending
cooking for this regiment of hungry young men. Some parsons learned to draw
up wills and other legal documents, and thus became on a small scale the
lawyers of the town. Others studied the mystery of medicine, and bought a
small stock of the nauseous drugs of the times, which they retailed
with accompanying advice to their parishioners. Some were coopers, some
carpenters, rope-makers, millers, or cobblers. One cobbler clergyman in
Andover, Vermont, worked at his shoe-mending all the week with his Bible
open on his bench before him, and he marked the page containing any text
which bore on the subject of his coming sermon, with a marker of waxed
shoe-thread. Often the Bible, in his pulpit on Sunday, had thirty or forty
of these shoe-thread guides hanging down from it.

One minister, having been reproved for his worldliness in amassing a large
enough fortune to buy a good farm, answered his complaining congregation
thus: "I have obtained the money to buy this farm by neglecting to follow
the maxim to 'mind my own business.' My business was to study the word of
God and attend to my parish duties and preach good sermons. All this I
acknowledge I have not done, for I have been meddling with your business.
_That_ was to support me and my family; that _you_ have not done.
But remember this: while I have performed your duties, you have not done
mine, so I think you cannot complain."

Some of the early ministers, in addition to preaching in the meeting-house,
did not disdain to take care of the edifice. Parson Everitt of Sandwich was
paid three dollars a year for sweeping out the meeting-house in which he
preached; and after he resigned this position of profit, the duties were
performed by the town physician "as often as there shalbe ocation to keepe
it deesent." The thrifty Mr. Everitt had a pleasing variety of occupations;
he was also a successful farmer, a good fence-builder, and he ran a

So, altogether, as they were wholly exempt from taxation, the New England
parsons did not fare ill, though Mr. Cotton said that "ministers and milk
were the only cheap things in New England," and he deemed various ills,
such as attacks by fierce Indians, loss of cattle, earthquakes, and failure
of crops, to be divine judgments for the small ministerial pay; while
Cotton Mather, in one of his pompous and depressing jokes, called the
minister's stipend "Synecdotical Pay." A search in a treatise on rhetoric
or in a dictionary will discover the point of this witticism--if it be
worth searching for.


The Plain-Speaking Puritan Pulpit.

One thing which always interests and can but amuse every reader of the
old Puritan sermons is the astonishingly familiar way in which these New
England divines publicly shared their domestic joys and sorrows with
the members of their congregations; and we are equally surprised at the
ingenuity which they displayed in finding texts that were suitable for
the various occasions and events. The Reverend Mr. Turell was specially
ingenious. Of him Dr. Holmes wrote,--

"You've heard, no doubt, of Parson Turell;
Over at Medford he used to dwell,--
Married one of the Mathers' folks."

His wife, Jane Coleman, was a handsome brunette. The bridegroom preached
his first sermon after his wedding on this text, "I am black but comely, O
ye daughters of Jerusalem." When he married a second time he chose as his
text, "He is altogether lovely, this is my beloved, and this my friend, O
daughters of Jerusalem!" It is possible that each of Parson Turell's brides
may have chosen the text from which he preached her honeymoon sermon. It
was the universal custom for many years thoughout New England to allow a
bride the privilege of selecting for the parson who had solemnized her
marriage, or at whose church she first appeared after the wedding, the text
from which he should preach on the bridal Sabbath. Thus when John Physick
and Mary Prescott were married in Portland, on July 4, 1770, the bride gave
to Rev. Mr. Deane this text: "Mary hath chosen that good part;" and from it
Parson Deane preached the "wedding sermon." When Abby Smith, daughter of
Parson Smith, married 'Squire John Adams, whom her father disliked and
would not invite home to dinner, she chose this text for her wedding
sermon: "John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and ye say he
hath a devil." The high-spirited bride had the honor of living to be the
wife of one President of the United States, and mother of another.

Another ingenious clergyman gave out one morning as his text, "Unto us a
son is born;" and thus notified the surprised congregation of an event
which they had been awaiting for some weeks. Another preached on the text,
"My servant lieth at home sick," which was literally true. Another, a
bachelor, dared to announce this abbreviated text: "A wonder was seen in
heaven--a woman." Dr. Mather Byles, of Boston, being disappointed through
the non-appearance of a minister named Prince, who had been expected to
deliver the sermon, preached himself upon the text, "Put not your trust
in princes." But Dr. Byles was one who would always "court a grin when he
should win a soul."

One minister felt it necessary to reprove a money-making parishioner who
had stored and was holding in reserve (with the hope of higher prices) a
large quantity of corn which was sadly needed for consumption in the town.
The parson preached from this appropriate text, Proverbs xi. 26. "He that
withholdeth his corn, the people shall curse him; but blessings shall be
upon the head of him that selleth it." As the minister grew warmer in his
explanation and application of the text, the money-seeking corn-storer
defiantly and unregenerately sat up stiff and unmoved, until at last the
preacher, provoked out of prudence and patience, roared out, "Colonel
Ingraham, Colonel Ingraham! you know I mean you; why don't you hang down
your head?" In a similar case another stern parson employed the text,
"Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone;" though the personalities
of the sermon made unnecessary the open reference in the text to the
offender's name.

The ministers were such autocrats in the Puritan community that they never
hesitated to show their authority in any manner in the pulpit. Judge Sewall
records with much bitterness a libel which his pastor, Mr. Pemberton,
launched at him in the meeting through the medium of the psalm which
he gave out to be sung. They had differed over the adjustment of some
church-matter and on the following Sunday the clergyman assigned to be sung
the libellous and significant psalm. Such lines as these must have been
hard indeed for Judge Sewall to endure:--

"Speak, oh ye Judges of the Earth
if just your Sentence be
Or must not Innocence appeal
to Heav'n from your decree

"Your Wicked Hearts and Judgments are
alike by Malice sway'd
Your griping Hands by mighty Bribes
to violence betrayed.

"No Serpent of parch'd Afric's breed
doth Ranker poison bear
The drowsy Adder will as soon
unlock his Sullen Ear

"Unmov'd by good Advice, and dead
As Adders they remain
From whom the skilful Charmer's voice
can no attention gain."

Small wonder that Judge Sewall writhed under the infliction of these lines
as they were doubly thrust upon him by the deacon's "lining" and the
singing of the congregation; and the words, "The drowsy Adder will as soon
unlock his Sullen Ear" seemed to particularly irritate him; doubtless he
felt sure that no one could doubt his integrity, but feared that some might
think him stupid and obstinate.

Another arbitrary clergyman, having had an altercation with some unruly
singers in the choir, gave out with much vehemence on the following Sunday
the hymn beginning,--

"And are you wretches yet alive
And do you yet rebel?"

with a very significant glower towards the singers' gallery. In a similar
situation another minister gave out to the rebellious choir the hymn

"Let those refuse to sing
Who never knew our God."

A visiting clergyman, preaching in a small and shabby church built in a
parish of barren and stony farm-land, very spitefully and sneeringly read
out to be sung the hymn of Watts' beginning,--

"Lord, what a wretched land is this,
That yields us no supplies!"

But his malicious intent was frustrated and the tables were adroitly turned
by the quick-witted choir-master, who bawled out in a loud voice as if
in answer, "Northfield,"--the name of the minister's own home and
parish,--while he was really giving out to the choir, as was his wont, the
name of the tune to which the hymn was to be sung.

Nor did the parsons hesitate to be personal even in their prayers. Rev. Mr.
Moody, who was ordained pastor at York in the year 1700, reproved in an
extraordinary manner a young man who had called attention to some fine new
clothing which he wore by coming in during prayer time and thus attracting
the notice of the congregation. Mr. Moody, in an elevated tone of voice,
at once exclaimed, "And O Lord! we pray Thee, cure Ned Ingraham of that
ungodly strut," etc. Another time he prayed for a young lady in the
congregation and ended his invocation thus, "She asked me not to pray for
her in public, but I told her I would, and so I have, Amen."

Rev. Mr. Miles, while praying for rain, is said to have used this
extraordinary phraseology: "O Lord, Thou knowest we do not want Thee to
send us a rain which shall pour down in fury and swell our streams and
carry away our hay-cocks, fences, and bridges; but, Lord, we want it to
come drizzle-drozzle, drizzle-drozzle, for about a week, Amen."

They did not think it necessary always to give their congregations novel
thoughts and ideas nor fresh sermons. One minister, after being newly
ordained in his parish, preached the same sermon three Sundays in
succession; and a deacon was sent to him mildly to suggest a change. "Why,
no," he answered, "I can see no evidence yet that this one has produced any

Rev. Mr. Daggett, of Yale College, had an entire system of sermons which
took him four years to preach throughout. And for three successive years he
delivered once a year a sermon on the text, "Is Thy servant a dog that he
should do this thing?" And the fourth year he varied it with, "And the dog
did it."

Dr. Coggswell, of Canterbury, Connecticut, had a sermon which he thrust
upon his people every spring for many years as being suitable to the time
when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. In it he soberly
reproved the young church attendants for gazing so much at each other in
the meeting. This annual anti-amatory advice never failed to raise a smile
on the face of each father and son in the congregation as he listened to
the familiar and oft-repeated words.

The Puritan ministers gave advice in their sermons upon most personal and
worldly matters. Roger Williams instructed the women of his parish to wear
veils when they appeared in public; but John Cotton preached to them
one Sunday morning and proved to them that veils were a sign of undue
subjection to their husbands; and in the afternoon the fair Puritans
appeared with bare faces and showed that women had even at that early day

How the varieties of headgear did torment the parsons! They denounced
from many a pulpit the wearing of wigs. Mr. Noyes preached long and often
against the fashion. Eliot, the noble preacher and missionary to the
Indians, found time even in the midst of his arduous and incessant duties
to deliver many a blast against "prolix locks,"--"with boiling zeal," as
Cotton Mather said,--and he labelled them a "luxurious feminine protexity;"
but lamented late in life that "the lust for wigs is become insuperable."
He thought the horrors in King Philip's War were a direct punishment from
God for wig-wearing. Increase Mather preached warmly against wigs, saying
that "such Apparel is contrary to the light of Nature and to express
Scripture," and that "Monstrous Perriwigs such as some of our church
members indulge in make them resemble ye locusts that came out of ye
Bottomless Pit." To learn how these "Horrid Bushes of Vanity" were
despised by a real live Puritan wig-hater one needs only to read the
many disparaging, regretful, and bitter references to wig-wearing and
wig-wearers in Judge Sewall's diary, which reached a culmination when a
widow whom he was courting suggested most warmly that he ought to wear,
what his very soul abominated, a periwig.

Eliot had also a strong aversion to tobacco, and denounced its use in
severe terms; but his opposition in this case was as ineffectual as it was
against wigs. Allen said, "In contempt of all his admonitions the head
would be adorned with curls of foreign growth, and the pipe would send up
volumes of smoke."

Rev. Mr. Rogers preached against long natural hair,--the "disguisement of
long ruffianly hair,"--as did also President Chauncey of Harvard College;
while Mr. Wigglesworth's sermon on the subject has often been reprinted,
and is full of logical arguments. This offence was named on the list of
existing evils which was made by the General Court: that "the men wore long
hair like women's hair," while the women were complained of for "cutting
and curling and laying out of hair, especially among the younger sort."
Still, the Puritan magistrates, omnipotent as they were, did not dare to
force the be-curled citizens to cut their long love-locks, though they
instructed and bribed them to do so. A Salem man was, in 1687, fined ten
shillings for a misdemeanor, but "in case he shall cutt off his long har of
his head into a sevill (civil?) frame in the mean time shall have abated
five shillings of his fine." John Eliot hated long natural hair as well
as false hair. Cotton Mather said of him, in a very unpleasant figure of
speech, "The hair of them that professed religion grew too long for him to
swallow." Other fashions and habits brought forth denunciations from the
pulpit,--hooped petticoats, gold-laced coats (unless worn by gentlemen),
pointed shoes, chaise-owning, health-drinking, tavern-visiting, gossiping,
meddling, tale-bearing, and lying.

Political and business and even medical and sanitary subjects were popular
in the early New England pulpit. Mr. Peters preached many a long sermon
to urge the formation of a stock company for fishing, and canvassed all
through the commonwealth for the same purpose. Cotton Mather said plainly
that ministers ought to instruct themselves and their congregations in
politics; and in Connecticut it was ordered by law that each minister
should give sound and orthodox advice to his congregation at the time of
civil elections.

Every natural phenomenon, every unusual event called forth a sermon, and
the minister could find even in the common events of every-day life plain
manifestations of Divine wrath and judgment. He preached with solemn
delight upon comets, and earthquakes, and northern lights, and great storms
and droughts, on deaths and diseases, and wonders and scandals (for there
were scandals even in puritanical New England), on wars both at home and
abroad, on shipwrecks, on safe voyages, on distinguished visitors, on noted
criminals and crimes,--in fact, upon every subject that was of spiritual or
temporal interest to his congregation or himself. And his people looked
for his religious comment upon passing events just as now-a-days we read
articles upon like subjects in the newspaper. Thus was the Puritan minister
not only a preacher, but a teacher, adviser, and friend, and a pretty
plain-spoken one too.


The Early Congregations.

On Sunday morning in New England in the olden time, the country
church-members whose homes were near the meeting-house walked reverently
and slowly across the green meadows or the snowy fields to meeting.
Townspeople, at the sound of the bell or drum or horn, walked decorously
and soberly along the irregular streets to the house of God. Farmers who
lived at a greater distance were up betimes to leave their homes and ride
across the fields and through the narrow bridle-paths, which were then the
universal and almost the only country roads. These staid Puritan planters
were mounted on sturdy farmhorses, and a pillion was strapped on behind
each saddle, and on it was seated wife, daughter, or perhaps a young
child--I should like to have seen the church-going dames perched up proudly
in all their Sunday finery, masked in black velvet, a sober Puritan
travesty of a gay carnival fashion. Riding-habits were hardly known until
a century ago, and even after their introduction were never worn
a-pillion-riding, so the Puritan women rode in their best attire.
Sometimes, in unusually muddy or dusty weather, a very daintily dressed
"nugiperous" dame would don a linen "weather skirt" to protect her fine
silken petticoats.

The wealthier Puritans were mounted on fine pacing horses, "once so highly
prized, now so odious deemed;" for trotting horses were not in much demand
or repute in America until after the Revolutionary War. There were, until
that date, professional horse-trainers, whose duties were to teach horses
to pace; though by far the best saddle-horses were the natural-gaited
"Narragansett Pacers," the first distinctively American race of horses.
These remarkably easy-paced animals were in such demand in the West Indies
for the use of the wives and daughters of the wealthy sugar-planters, and
in Philadelphia and New York for rich Dutch and Quaker colonists, that
comparatively few of them were allowed to remain in New England, and they
were, indeed too high-priced for poor New England colonists. The natural
and singular pace of these Narragansett horses, which did not incline the
rider from side to side, nor jolt him up and down, and their remarkable
sureness of foot and their great endurance, rendered them of much value
in those days of travel in the saddle. They were also phenomenally
broad-backed,--shaped by nature for saddle and pillion.

When trotting-horses became fashionable, the trainers placed logs of wood
at regular intervals across the road, and by exercising the animals
over this obstructed path forced them to raise their feet at the proper
intervals, and thus learn to trot.

Long distances did many of the pre-revolutionary farmers of New England
have to ride to reach their churches, and long indeed must have been the
time occupied in these Sunday trips, for a horse was too well-burdened with
saddle and pillion and two riders to travel fast. The worshippers must
often have started at daybreak. When we see now an ancient pillion--a relic
of olden times--brought out in jest or curiosity, and strapped behind a
saddle on a horse's back, and when we see the poor steed mounted by two
riders, it seems impossible for the over-burdened animal to endure a long
journey, and certainly impossible for him to make a rapid one.

Horse-flesh, and human endurance also, was economized in early days by what
was called the "ride and tie" system. A man and his wife would mount saddle
and pillion, ride a couple of miles, dismount, tie the steed, and walk
on. A second couple, who had walked the first two miles, soon mounted the
rested horse, rode on past the riders for two or three miles, dismounted,
and tied the animal again. In that way four persons could ride very
comfortably and sociably half-way to meeting, though they must have had
to make an early start to allow for the slow gait and long halts. At the
church the disburdened horses were tied during the long services to palings
and to trees near the meeting-house (except the favored animals that found
shelter in the noon-houses) and the scene must have resembled the outskirts
of a gypsy camp or an English horse-fair. Such obedience did the Puritans
pay to the letter of the law that when the Newbury people were forbidden,
in tying their horses outside the church paling, to leave them near enough
to the footpath to be in the way of church pedestrians, it did not prevent
the stupid or obstinate Newburyites from painstakingly bringing their
steeds within the gates and tying them to the gate-posts where they were
much more seriously and annoyingly in the way.

It is usual to describe and to think of the Puritan congregations as like
assemblies of Quakers, solemn, staid, and uniform and dull of dress; but
I can discover in historical records nothing to indicate simplicity,
soberness, or even uniformity of apparel, except the uniformity of fashion,
which was powerful then as now. The forbidding rules and regulations
relating to the varied and elaborate forms of women's dress--and of men's
attire as well--would never have been issued unless such prohibited apparel
had been common and universally longed-for, and unless much diversity and
elegance of dress had abounded.

Indeed the daughters of the Pilgrims were true "daughters of Zion, walking
with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, and mincing as they go." Save
for the "nose jewels," the complaining and exhaustive list of the prophet
Isaiah might serve as well for New England as for Judah and Jerusalem:
"their cauls and their round tires like moons; the chains and the bracelets
and the mufflers; the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the head
bands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; the rings and nose jewels; the
changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the
crisping pins; the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods and the
veils." Nor has the day yet come to pass in the nineteenth century when the
bravery of the daughters has been taken away.

Pleasant it is to think of the church appearance of the Puritan goodmen and
goodwives. Priscilla Alden in a Quakeress' drab gown would doubtless have
been pleasant to behold, but Priscilla garbed in a "blew Mohere peticote,"
a "tabby bodeys with red livery cote," and an "immoderate great rayle" with
"Slashes," with a laced neckcloth or cross cloth around her fair neck, and
a scarlet "whittle" over all this motley finery; with a "outwork quoyf or
ciffer" (New England French for coiffure) with "long wings" at the side,
and a silk or tiffany hood on her drooping head,--Priscilla in this attire
were pretty indeed.

Nor did sober John Alden and doughty Miles Standish lack for variety in
their dress; besides their soldier's garb, their sentinel's armor, they
had a vast variety of other attire to choose from; they could select their
head-wear from "redd knitt capps" or "monmouth capps" or "black hats lyned
at the browes with leather." They could have a "sute" of "dublett and hose
of leather lyned with oyled-skin-leather," fastened with hooks and eyes
instead of buttons; or one of "hampshire kerseys lyned." They could have
"mandillions" (whatever they may have been) "lyned with cotton," and
"wast-coats of greene cotton bound about with red tape," and breeches of
oiled leather and leathern drawers (I do not know whether these leathern
drawers were under-garments or leathern draw-strings at the knees of the
breeches). They could wear "gloves of sheeps or calfs leather" or of kid,
and fine gold belts, and "points" at the knees. In fact, the invoices of
goods to the earliest settlers show that they had a choice of various
materials for garments, including "gilford and gedleyman, holland and
lockerum and buckerum, fustian, canvass, linsey-woolsey, red ppetuna,
cursey, cambrick, calico-stuff, loom-work, Dutch serges, and English
jeans"--enough for diversity, surely. Sad-colored mantles the goodmen wore,
but their doublets were scarlet, and with their green waistcoats and red
caps, surely the Puritan men were sufficiently gayly dressed to suit any
fancy save that of a cavalier. Later in the history of the colony, when
hooped petticoats and laced hoods and mantles, and long, embroidered gloves
fastened with horsehair "glove tightens," and when velvet coats and satin
breeches and embroidered waistcoats, gold lace, sparkling buckles, and
cocked hats with full bottomed wigs were worn, the gray, sombre old
meeting-house blossomed like a tropical forest, and vied with the worldly
Church of England in gay-garbed church attendants.

Stern and severe of face were many of the members of these early New
England congregations, else they had not been true Puritans in heart, and
above all, they had not been Pilgrims. Long and thin of feature were they,
rarely smiling, yet not devoid of humor. Some handsome countenances
were seen,--austere, bigoted Cotton Mather being, strangely enough, the
handsomest and most worldly looking of them all. What those brave, stern
men and women were, as well as what they looked, is known to us all, and
cannot be dwelt upon here, any more than can here be shown and explained
the details of their religious faith and creed. Patient, frugal,
God-fearing, and industrious, cruel and intolerant sometimes, but never
cowardly, sternly obeying the word of God in the spirit and the letter, but
erring sometimes in the interpretation thereof,--surely they had no traits
to shame us, to keep us from thrilling with pride at the drop of their
blood which runs in our backsliding veins. Nothing can more plainly show
their distinguishing characteristics, nothing is so fully typical of the
motive, the spirit of their lives, as their reverent observance of the
Lord's day.


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