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ZACHARIAH 1. V.
“ Your Fathers, where are they—and the Prophets,
do they live forever.” The pleasures of anticipation are usually much greater, than those of actual experience. The human mind loves to penetrate into the future; and its scenes command a greater interest, than those through which we have actually passed. In the one case, full scope is given to imagination; while in the other, painful recollection may dictate the feelings.
But thus less pleasant to look backward, than forward; it by no means follows, that the latter is the preferable employment. In point of moral effect, the recollection of a departed, or the sight of a departing world, is, without fail, much more bencficial, than the contemplation of one permanently established and marked with progressive improvement.
It was under the strong influence of this impression, that the subject of the morning's discourse was selected. It comprised a general view of the fading character of every thing carthly, with the religious
improvement which should be made of so solemn and interesting a fact. The words chosen for a directory to our remarks this evening, though of the same general pointing, will give to them a much more restricted character.-The Fathers, where are they; and the Prophets, do they live forever.
The aged penman of these words, is here presented to our view, in a state closely approximating to that of astonishment, at the recollection of the fact, that his ancestors, whether by nature or in office, were all gone to the grave, and that he himself stood a long storm-beaten tree, which some near approaching blast should soon level with the dust. Feeling a most sensible interest in the Prophet's exclamation, I shall crave your indulgence, while I give to my remarks, this evening, a social, and indeed to many of them, a personal character. It is not a whole world, but a diminished speck upon that world, to which it is proposed our eye should be now directed. A sketch of this particular ecclesiastical society, is the whole which I shall now attempt. However uninteresting to others, the proposed detail may not be without benefit to ourselves. Most of the incidents which will be alluded to, are either those of your own observation, or of not far distant recollection.
The original settlement of Norwich partakes of a colonial character. Different from most of the towns in New-England, its original settlers were not a few
adventurous individuals or families, but an associated body, all of whose measures were the result of previous, well matured calculation. Saybrook was the place from which your fathers thus originally emigrated. Under the influence of imperious circumstances, the Rev. JAMES Fitch, who had been for a number of years the pastor of the Church in that place, removed here with the greater part of his church and congregation in the year 1660. By such a combined effort, only a few weeks were required, in order to witness a well established community, both on civil and ecclesiastical accounts. We learn from tradition, that Mr. Fitch was a man of unusual discretion, and that he commanded a high place in the affections of a large portion of his congregation. He was born in England, and came to this country when about fourteen years of age. After completing both his scholastic and theological education under those eminent fathers of the NewEngland church, Hooker and Stone of Hartford, he took upon himself the charge of the church in Saybrook, in the year 1646. The period of his active ministry there and in this place, must have been about half a century: though I have not been able to ascertain with precision how long he continued to perform the duties of his office. All at present known is, that his pastoral connection with this people was never dissolved; but owing to his advanced age, and accumulated bodily infirmities,
(being unable to perform ministerial labors) he removed to Lebanon, and there resided with his children till his death in the year 1702.
After Mr. Fitch became unable to preach, the church and congregation remained without the active services of a pastor for a number of years. Repeated efforts were made for the re-settlement of the gospel ministry, which proved unavailing; until at length, Mr. John WOODWARD, of Dedham, in the face of a very considerable opposition, accepted an invitation to settle, and was ordained in the year 1700. The same spirit of controversy, which had operated so unfavorably for a number of years previous to Mr. Woodward's settlement, continued to render his connexion with the people extremely unpleasant; and in 1716, he was dismissed. Soon after this he removed to New-Haven, where he spent the residue of his days in private life.
Within a few weeks after Mr. Woodward's dismisson, the Rev. BENJAMIN LORD, a native of Saybrook, came here, and proved the happy instrument, in God's hand, of extinguishing the embers of former animosty. He received the charge of the Church and Congregation on the 20th of November 1717.
During a life of almost ninety years, and a ministry of nearly sixty-six, he served his Lord and Master with great respectability and extended usefulness. It is true that about the middle period of his prolonged ministration, extensive separations
sprung up; but they were to be ascribed principally to the spirit of the times, and to local causes.The last days of that venerable man of God, were, by way of eminence, bis best days. He was able to minister at the altar until within six weeks of his death. About three year previous to this, his eye sight failed him, so that he was obliged to relinquish his former habit of reading his discourses, and to adopt the practice of delivering them from memory. He retained his powers both of mind and memory to a remarkable degree; and at no period, was his preaching more correct or more acceptable, than while trembling over the grave, he affectionately addressed his people and instructed them in those truths, so deeply impressed upon his heart. As he lived, so he died-with the blessing of
many ready to perish, resting upon him.
When Dr. Lord was cighty-four years old, your present pastor was united with him in the sacerdotal charge. It is one of the most pleasing recollections of my past life, that I was permitted to serve with him in the gospel, as a son with a father, almost six years. During that term the most entire cordiality subsisted between us; and when he died, the language of my soul was that of the young prophet of old—“My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horseman thereof."
Thus left to serve alone, the duties of office were felt to be doubly weighty; but thanks be to God,hith