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“At a time when infidelity and irreligion are sapping the foundations of civil society and overspreading the world with misery, and when the remains of Christianity among ourselves are confessedly our strongest barrier against the general inundation, is it not astonishing that any good citizen, especially after he has professed himself a Christian, should become indifferent about preserving these precious remains ? The Searcher of hearts knows with what concern and grief I behold the defection of a friend whom I have so highly esteemed, and in whom I acknowledge there are many virtues and estimable qualities.”
To silence heretics by burning them, was as repugnant to Dr. Osgood's judgment as it was abhorrent to his feelings; yet his catholicism was discriminating. He had no taste for human appendages and fanciful theories in religion. Less sympathy still had he with those who philologize Jesus Christ out of the Old Testament, and philosophize him out of the New. He was a steady advocate of the doctrines of grace. He was neither for Aristotle nor Plato, neither for Paul nor Apollos, but for Christ. His faith in the divine authority of the Bible was peculiarly strong ; and he preached “ Christ crucified, yea, RISEN AGAIN," with all the power he possessed. To state exactly the latitude and longitude of his theological opinions is perhaps impossible. The nearest approach to any exactness may be found in a conversation he had with a friend in 1819. He asked, “How far is it from here to Andover Institution?” and was answered, “ About seventeen miles.” “How far is it from here to the Cambridge Theological Institution?” “About four miles.” “Well,” said he, “I have been thinking that is just about my theological position with regard to the two schools.” It had always been our impression that he was nearer to Andover than his remark implied. He emphatically forbade the publication of any of his controversial sermons; and in the later part of his life he had so modified his views of the doctrine of total depravity, that he used, in private conversation, to relate a dream, the meaning of which may be summed up thus : “Men are wicked enough, but not totally depraved. Devils only are totally evil. In hell there are no barbers' shops; no devil there dare trust his throat with another; whereas men on earth do so trust each other safely.” His principles of Christian toleration cannot be so well expressed as in his own words. They are as follows:
“Far be it from me to censure any of my brethren, who, after an equally honest and impartial inquiry, think in some respects different from me. Conscious of my liability to err, — from the infirmities of nature, the prejudices of education, and the acknowledged difficulty, on various questions, of ascertaining the true sense of Scripture, — I hope never to withhold that charity from others which I claim for myself. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind,' clearly implies the right of every man to read and understand the Scriptures for himself, with no other responsibility than to God and his own conscience. Each of us ought to think and judge for himself, using the reason which God has given us in searching and studying his revealed will. A mind thus independent, an understanding thus unfettered and unawed by uninspired names, is honorary to a Christian, especially to a minister of Christ.”
While the subject of this notice was a granite man, not caring for “those soft parts of speech ” which give a needed charm to social courtesy, we find him honest and expansive in his theological creed. “The elevation of his character, and the unconquerable force of his will, gave him, in all councils and conventions of clergymen, an authority which few ventured to resist. The strongest sympathies of his heart, and the most intimate of his ministerial relations, were with the more liberal of his clerical brethren.”
Pastor, — As a pastor, Dr. Osgood was less among his flock than some others; but his labors, prayers, and life were for the spiritual good of his people. There are those yet living who remember his kindness in seasons of sorrow; who have seen him enter their dwelling with looks of sympathy, and with words that showed the wish, if not the power, to comfort; yes, they have seen one, who to strangers appeared stern and unbending, melt into tenderness of look, of voice, and of manner, in the presence of bereavement.
Dr. Osgood suffered less from illness than most men; and never was a pulpit more uninterruptedly supplied by its occupant than his. He labored to the last week of his life. His dread of death was unaccountably great; and through life he seemed subject to the bondage of this fear. But the angel came during a season of apparent insensibility, and life ceased Dec. 12, 1822. Thus, at the age of seventy-six, closed his ministry of more than forty-eight years. He baptized 853 persons; married 359 couples ; admitted to the church 304 communicants; and officiated at 990 funerals.
Every arrangement for a public funeral which respect for their venerable pastor could suggest was made by the town;
and their Committee for the occasion were Messrs. Abner Bartlett, Jonathan Brooks, Thatcher Magoun, Turell Tufts, and Dudley Hall. The funeral services were on Saturday, Dec. 14. The prayer was offered by President Kirkland; and the sermon preached by Dr. Abiel Holmes, from 2 Tim. iv. 6,7. The pall-bearers were the Rev. Drs. Kirkland and Holmes, of Cambridge ; Ripley, of Concord ; Foster, of Brighton; Fiske, of West Cambridge; and Homer, of Newton.
The wife of Dr. Osgood died Jan. 7, 1818, aged seventy, and left behind the memorial of an amiable, intelligent, and pious woman. “ The memory of the just is blessed.”
The incidents in the history of Dr. Osgood, not mentioned in the memoir, are few and unimportant. Among those of historic interest are the following:
“ March 15, 1782: At a meeting of the brethren of the church this day, the pastor proposed an alteration in the form of the covenant used at the admission of members; to which they gave their unanimous consent. The form adopted is as follows:
“ You do, in presence of the great God and this Christian assembly, profess your belief of the Holy Scriptures; that they were given by the inspiration of God, and are the only sufficient rule of faith and practice.
“ You believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be the only Mediator between God and man, and Lord and Head of his church. Convinced that you are a guilty, condemned sinner, you desire to receive and submit to him in all those characters and offices with which he is invested for the benefit of the children of men.
“ You believe the Holy Spirit of God to be the Author of every spiritual and gracious disposition in the minds of men; the Leader, Sanctifier, and Comforter of his people. Sensible of the depravity of the human heart, your own proneness to sin and inability to that which is good, you promise to seek his divine influence to form you to the temper of the gospel, and to make you meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
“You desire to give yourself up to God in an everlasting covenant never to be forgotten; to be for him, and none other; to love, serve, and obey him for ever.
“ You acknowledge this to be a true church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and promise to walk with us in a due submission to and attendance upon all the ordinances of the gospel; and that, relying upon divine aid, you will, in your whole conversation, make it your serious endeavor to conduct agreeably to the rules of our holy religion and the profession you now make. Do you thus profess and promise?”
“ April 2, 1792: Voted to give ten pounds for the encou
ragement of singing for the year ensuing." This is the first vote of the kind found in our records. It was to pay a teacher. No one received money for singing. It was deemed a privilege to aid in this part of public worship; and is it not a privilege ?
Nov. 24, 1793: “ The church agreed, that, for the future, after the candidates for full communion had stood propounded a fortnight without any objections against them, the pastor might then admit them without calling for a vote.”
The salary paid to Mr. Osgood at first was not increased for many years, except by the annual grant of twenty cords of wood.
Sept. 19, 1796 : “ Voted not to make him any grant, on account of the high prices of the necessaries of life.”
May 5, 1804, the town made the first grant of two hun. dred dollars, under the head of “wood money ;” which sum was afterwards voted annually. The utmost, therefore, which he ever received was $533.33. This strangely contrasts with the sum of $5,500 paid for ministers' salaries in 1855. He made no complaint ; although the number of taxable persons in his parish had more than doubled during his ministry, and their means of payment more than quadrupled.
May 9, 1808: Voted "eighty dollars for the encouragement of the singing.”
April 7, 1817: “ Voted to grant seventy-five dollars to the · Medford Amicable Singing Society,' to promote the objects of said society.”
Dr. Osgood kept a diary, beginning Jan 1, 1777, and ending Dec. 5, 1822. Through this long period he recorded, with marvellous brevity, the salient events of each day. The manuscript is preserved in his family.
From its first settlement to 1823, Medford had been but one parish ; and, for the last hundred years, its two ministers experienced neither popular opposition nor social neglect ; and the people experienced neither sectarian strife nor clerical domination. Claiming free thought for himself, and encouraging it in his people, Dr. Osgood brought his parish quite up to his standard of liberality and progress. At his death, a large majority of the native inhabitants had quietly taken side with the Unitarians; while many citizens, not born in the town, had as quietly taken side with the Trinitarians. That any creed could be written, or any minister elected, to suit these opposing parties, was the mis
taken conclusion drawn at the time. Both parties were well instructed, both were equally sincere, and both had corresponding rights. By a law of the Commonwealth, any portion of a parish that seceded from the old society, resigned and sacrificed its legal rights in that parish by that act. As we shall have several streams of ecclesiastical history to trace after this date, we will begin with that of the First Parish
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY (CONTINUED).
After the death of Dr. Osgood, the eyes of so many were turned upon the Rev. Andrew Bigelow, that the Committee engaged him, March 25, 1823, to preach as a candidate. On the 5th of May in that year, the town voted to invite him to become their minister. Yeas, 95 ; nays, 70. Salary, eight hundred dollars.
May 7, the church met; his Excellency John Brooks, Chairman. Voted “ to concur with the town in giving the Rev. Andrew Bigelow a call to settle over them in the gospel ministry.” Yeas, 20; nays, 3. Committee of conference: Nathaniel Hall, Jonathan Brooks, and Nathan Adams, Esqs.
June 14, 1823, Mr. Bigelow accepted this invitation by a long and able letter, properly noticing a condition which, at a subsequent meeting, had been coupled with the first vote of the town. The condition was, that either party may dissolve the connection by giving six months' notice to that effect. Mr. Bigelow, in his letter, says, “After a painful view of the subject, and a strong internal conflict, my conclusion is to accept the invitation.”
July 9, 1823, the ecclesiastical council, invited by the town and church to install the pastor elect, was composed of the following clergymen, with delegates : President Kirkland,