Worcester, Samuel, Dd
Worcester, Samuel, D.D.
an eminent Congregational minister and author, was born at Hollis, N. H., Nov. 1, 1770. He was of pious ancestry, being a descendant in the sixth generation of Rev. William, and in the third of Rev. Francis, Worcester. Every opportunity for mental improvement was seized at the house of his father, who was a farmer, and at the age of twenty-one Samuel was possessed of an ardent desire for a thorough education. He therefore entered the New Ipswich Academy, working his own way, and afterwards Dartmouth College, graduating with the highest honors in 1795. He studied theology with Dr. Austin, of Worcester, taught school at Hollis, and was principal of the New Ipswich Academy, 1796. The following year he was ordained pastor of the Church at Fitchburg, a society which was cursed by all the evils of the Half-way Covenant-including among its members Deists, Arians, Universalists, and the openly immoral. With decision, inflexible integrity, and solemn faithfulness to truth and duty, Worcester opened the batteries of the Gospel upon the errors and sins that called for rebuke. As a result, in the ensuing spring, the covenant was revised and an orthodox creed adopted, and in 1799 an extensive revival occurred. A malignant spirit of opposition, however, was all the time developed, and finally, under the leading of the Universalists, was openly manifested. Under this influence, the town voted a dissolution of their contract with the pastor, but a council of the Church unanimously decided that he should remain. His opponents now conceived the design of organizing themselves into the First Church in Fitchburg, thus enabling them to take the place of the church of which Worcester was pastor, in the legal relations of the town to the minister. Several ex parte councils were called for this purpose, but they failed in accomplishing their designs. The point of contention ultimately arrived at was whether the town should control the Church with reference to the selection or dismission of her ministers, or whether the Church should do this with the concurrence of the town acting as the parish, "according to the uniform ecclesiastical usage of New England." This, the biographer of Dr. Worcester remarks, was the first organized attempt in Massachusetts at such a subjection of the Church. The fearlessness, ability, patience, and skill of the pastor foiled the efforts of the disaffected, and the Church was saved from civil bondage. A mutual council was at length chosen according to ecclesiastical usage, the Church and pastor were sustained, and — at his own request — he was regularly dismissed, Aug. 29, 1802. The following year he was installed over the Tabernacle Church, Salem, Mass., where he had an eminently happy, useful, and successful pastorate. In 1804 he declined a professorship of theology in Dartmouth College. In promoting the cause of missions and the circulation of the Scriptures, Dr. Worcester was very laborious. From 1803 to 1808, he was the editor of the Massachusetts Missionary Magazine, for five-years he was the secretary of, the Massachusetts Missionary Society, and on the death of Dr. Spring he was chosen its president. His duties were important and arduous. He aided in the formation of the Massachusetts Bible Society, its constitution and the Address to the Public having been prepared chiefly by him. It was on a ride in a chaise with Dr. Spring from Andover to Bradford to attend the General Association of Massachusetts that the first idea of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, in its form and administration, was suggested and developed. The Association (1810) instituted the Board, Dr. Worcester being appointed one of the nine, and at the first meeting thereof he was chosen corresponding secretary. He came into his new office with resources of intellect and of heart, which were equal to the great responsibilities and toils imposed upon him. "His plans of benevolent action were based upon fundamental principles, and would bear the most thorough analysis; and for the same reason, the measures of the American Board adopted in the early years of its existence are marked by pre-eminent wisdom; and the distinguished men who have followed him in office have found little occasion to alter them." Dr. Worcester's constitution at length began to give way under the load of his exertions as pastor and secretary. A colleague pastor was installed in 1819, thus relieving him of three fourths of his ministerial work. In 1821 he took a voyage to New Orleans, with the intention of visiting the Choctaw and Cherokee nations for tie double purpose of recruiting his health and promoting the Indian missions. The trip irritated rather than mitigated his disease. The weather during his stay in New Orleans and the journey northward was unpropitious. After much suffering, he reached Mayhew, in the Choctaw nation, and eighteen days after, Brainerd, Tenn. He was now so weak that he had to be carried into the mission-house. He lingered resignedly for a few days, and on June 7, 1821, passed peacefully away.
As a preacher, Dr. Worcester was doctrinal, faithful, and luminous, though his manner was neither easy nor graceful; as a pastor, he was diligent, sympathetic, the poor and the sick sharing his special care. He had considerable musical talent, instructed in sacred music, and gave lectures on church psalmody and music. His influence was felt much in ecclesiastical councils, and he was often called upon to adjudicate disputes and settle difficulties. He was a powerful debater, and some of his speeches were seldom rivaled even in judicial and legislative assemblies. Dr. Worcester ever sympathized with his ministerial brethren, and fraternized with those of other denominations. In spite of his catholicity of sentiment and peace-loving disposition, he was thrice drawn into controversy. The publications resulting there from are considered to class with the ablest ever written in the history of religious dispute.
Besides numerous Sermons, Orations, and Addresses, Dr. Worcester is the author of the following: Six Sermons on the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment (1800); Summary View of the Fitchburg Ecclesiastical Affairs (1802): — Discourses on the Covenant with Abraham (Salem, 1805, 8vo): — Letters on Baptism to the Rev. Thomas Baldwin (1807): — Christian Psalmody (1814, 4 pts.): — Three Letters to Dr. W. E. Channing (Boston, 1815, 8vo). In some respects these Letters are the greatest work of his life. They were occasioned by Channing's Reply to Jeremiah Evarts's Review of American Unitarianism in the Panoplist. The controversy eventuated in the doctrinal division of the Congregational churches of Massachusetts. The Panoplist and Drs. Morse, Spring, and Worcester saved American Congregationalism from the advancing Unitarian tide Watts's. Hymns and Selections (ibid. 1818). More than 300,000 have been circulated: — Sermons (posthumous, 1823, 8vo): — First Ten Reports of the American: Board Of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1810-20; repub. 1834). His Letters to Dr. Channing in connection with the Unitarian controversy, especially the last one, have been considered as almost unrivalled specimens of polemic theological discussion. His published Sermons are rich in evangelical thought, and logically and luminously presented by R. Anderson, D.D in the Memorial Volume of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1862), p. 114. Of his three ministerial brothers-Noah, Thomas, and Leonard-the two former were able writers on the Unitarian side. His son, the Rev. Samuel M., D.D., became an. author of some repute. See Cong. Quar. 1862, p. 131-160 (by Dr. Clark); Sprague, Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 2, 398 sq.; Allibone, Dict. of Brit and Amer. Authors, s.v.; also Missionary Herald, Aug. 1821 (by Evarts); Life and Labors of Dr. Worcester (Boston, 1852, 2 vols. 12mo), by his son; North Amer. Rev. April, 1862.