Part 7 of a Brief History of the Baptist Church in Foxborough, MA

You can read the previous posts here: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

In the Summer of 1854, Mr. Ripley announced his intention of leaving the first of September. He left behind him the warm regard of many, to whom his “able and faithful preaching, and his kind, Christian intercourse” had endeared him. He continued for some years longer in the active work of the ministry in various places; and finally, while residing at Hingham, he entered into rest, May 6, 1868, leaving but a few moments’ warning of his death.”

His successor, Rev. Isaac Smith, for twenty-three years pastor of the Baptist church in Stoughton, had long been favorably known to this church, and, indeed, had once before received a call to come here, which he had declined. This later call, however, he accepted October 2, 1854, and was enthusiastically received by admiring friends. He removed his family hither the first day of November, a tenement having been providentially vacated for them by the death of its occupant, at a time when no tenement could have been otherwise obtained for several months. Tokens of new life and prosperity soon appeared. A revival of unusual power was enjoyed during the following Winter. A debt of $1600, which had embarrassed the church for four years, was half paid off, and an unusual degree of liberality prevailed. It was a prosperous period in the history of the town. Improvements and enlargement were the order of the day. The Congregationalists had just built, in 1854, the handsome edifice in which they now worship. Rock-hill Cemetery had been set apart for its sacred use a year or two before. The Baptist church shared the spirit of improvement. In 1856, an organ was procured by dint of special exertions, the same instrument that we use today. Up to this time, the church had but one place for all its meetings, including those of the Sunday School, the place where we are now assembled. In the same year, 1856, a portion of the basement of the house was finished and fitted up as a vestry, the first of a series of improvements in that line, resulting in the pleasant accommodations now enjoyed by us on the floor below. In 1860, the need of better accommodations for prayer meetings led to the work of finishing the entire basement, thus giving a commodious room for the use of the Sunday School, and the social meetings of the church. This church shared in the great religious interest of 1857–58. The number of its members was increased to one hundred and ninety-nine.

The ministry of Dr. Smith in this place is of too recent date, and is too fresh in the minds of most of you, to require of me the attempt to set forth its character and results. Still I cannot be denied the pleasure of bearing testimony to the impression which his ability as a preacher, and his kindness as a friend and pastor, evidently made upon this church and community. During his pastorate of more than twelve years, the church acquired increasing power and influence. They had a leader inferior to none in this region, in ability to defend the truth. It caused them no little pain to lose his valued services. He was permitted to welcome to the membership of the church one hundred and six by baptism, thirty-two by letter and thirteen by experience, making a total of one hundred and fifty one.

He resigned the office of pastor January 3, 1867, and for about ten months, the pulpit was supplied by students from Newton, and other men. On Sunday, November 8, in the same year, you extended a call to Rev. Cyrus H. Carleton, who had for four years been pastor of the Baptist church in Buckfield, Maine. The call was accepted, and he immediately entered upon his labors among you. But they were destined to be brief. He gave himself earnestly to the work of a pastor, and was permitted, not only to sow good seed, but also to gather some fruit. But in less than a year from the time of his settlement here, consumption [tuberculosis] fastened upon him. “He preached his last sermon in August, and on Christmas night, he fell asleep in Jesus.” He is the only minister that ever died, in the service, in Foxboro. He sleeps in our beautiful cemetery, and, by his side, the child that was born to him in his Foxboro home.

Then, you turned to Newton students again for the supply of your pulpit. Mr. W. T. Chase, of the Senior class, might have been your pastor; but God had other work for him to do in Dover, N. H., and Lewiston, Maine.

My own acquaintance with you began in what may properly be called a providential way, with no special seeking on my part, or yours either. I well remember the pleasant Sabbath I first spent with you in March, 1869, little expecting that I should ever visit the place again, or that you would wish to have me do so. But the same Providence that brought me here as a temporary supply, ordered that this should be my home, and on September 2, in the same year, I began my pastoral labors with you.

And now, about this pastorate, of which I know the most, I shall say the least. I can do no less, however, than refer to the happy relations, which have always subsisted between us. If my pastorate here has been fruitful in any degree, it has been owing as much to your hearty and united cooperation with the pastor, as to anything in his words or methods of work. We have enjoyed special seasons of revival together, one especially, in the Winter of 1874, that will not soon be forgotten. It has been my privilege to give the hand of welcome and of fellowship to one hundred and seventy, of whom one hundred and twenty-one were received by baptism, thirty-five by letter, and fourteen by experience. We have for years looked forward with longing to the time when we might worship in a house refitted and beautified, and today we see the happy consummation of our hopes. We have passed through a year of strenuous endeavors and of anxiety, but we have come out at peace among ourselves. And now, with the blessing of the great Head of the church on our labors, we may reasonably hope to exert a greater influence and power for good than ever before.

As we- have seen, the history of this church presents little that is of striking interest. There has been nothing remarkable to record. Nor is there anything to regret in this fact. A quiet history is one of the results of harmony and discretion in the conduct of affairs. This church has never been given to hasty, impulsive counsels. On the contrary, it may justly be called somewhat slow and conservative. It does not take quickly to new methods. It clings to the things that have been tried and proved. It has always believed in the permanency of the pastoral office, as is shown by the fact that during the fifty one years in which it has had pastors, forty-nine years were consumed in five pastorates, a fact, which is, no doubt, as much to the credit of the church as to that of its pastors.

The Roll of all the members, who have been for any time connected with this church, comprises six hundred and seventy-four names, of whom four hundred and forty-nine were added by baptism. Of the whole number, one hundred and twenty-nine died in the fellowship of this church. What memories of faith and patience, of simple piety and tried fidelity, their names suggest! Some of you have known them all. You remember the devout and unassuming piety of Ezra Carpenter, the minute-man of the Revolution, and the ready follower of Christ as well. You will never forget Deacon Torrey, whose sturdy faith rose above all difficulties, and of whom his pastor, Mr. Ripley, once said, “It is my deliberate conviction that it is chiefly owing to his patient efforts from year to year, his unconquerable energy, and unsparing liberality, that the Baptist church in Foxboro has lived and prospered.”’ And with his name you couple that of Nehemiah Carpenter, whose reputation for sterling goodness and unselfish devotion to Christ and His cause is still fresh and fragrant. “Good as gold” is the universal comment on his character, in view of which our hearts echo the inspired saying: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” You remember Deacon Whittemore, whose little confidence in himself only rendered more conspicuous his confidence in Christ; and at his side that cheerful saint, mother Whittemore, affectionately zealous for souls and loving the church to the last. And what can I more say? For time would fail me to tell of Elijah Pratt and Timothy Morse, of Betsey Comey and Clarissa Comey, of Susan Allen and Patty Allen and other men and women, who labored in the gospel, whose names are in the Book of Life. Other names, still borne on earth by those who were long associated in labors with the sainted dead, leap to the lips, but propriety forbids me to utter them. We know them and love them, and rejoice that they are with us today to behold the fruit of their labors.

In closing this sketch, the imperfections of which no one knows better than I do, I would simply hold up before the church of today its past history, and point to its lessons and bright examples. Remember the patience of your elders, amid sore trials and discouragements, and their steadfast adherence to truths which were unpopular. Remember their reliance on the old and tried methods of Christian work, on the faithful preaching of the gospel, accompanied by the earnest prayers and labors of the church. Remember their self-sacrificing devotion to the church they loved. Remember the spirit of harmony that reigned among them, and kept them a united band, strong even when they were weakest. And with such memories filling the past, hope may well inspire us with fresh zeal to enter into the larger opportunities that open before us.

And now our labor of love is completed. The House of the Lord is ready for His gracious entrance. Now let the King of Glory come in, and let the cloud of the Divine Presence descend and fill the place. May He who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, whom the, heaven of heavens cannot contain, much less this house which we have builded, consent to dwell here with the poor and contrite heart, that trembleth at his word. And let us listen for the word of the Lord saying, “I will be the glory in the midst of her.”

To be concluded next week…

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