Saturday, March 17, 2012

1. What an old church this is!

It was originally called “The First Church of Christ at

Some of you may be familiar with the name of the first minister here; Mr. Samuel Fuller.

Although a member of the First Church of Plymouth and for a time one of its deacons, Mr. Fuller had come to Middleboro about 1660 and was one of the original owners in the Twenty-six Men’s Purchase,
his allotment being set off in 1664. He preached here until 1675 when King Philip’s War broke out and he fled to Plymouth. In 1678 when the war had ended he returned along with many other settlers.
According to Plymouth Colony Records at the October
1678 Court:

"In answare to the petition prefered to the Court by Francis Combe, and likewise the Court being informed that Sammuell Fuller is in a likelyhood to be procured to teach the word of God att
Middleberry [Middleborough] they doe approve therof; and in case hee be obtained, and be likely to settle amongst them, doe hereby signify, that they will indeavor that the propriators of the lands within that townshipp may be healpfull towards his maintenance."

So on January 16, 1679 “Mr Samuel Fuller being called to preach at Midlebury (Middleboro) did ask counsel of the church (at Plymouth), which motion they took into serious consideration till the next church-meeting, which was on January 16th 1679: & then the church did unanimously
advise & encourage him to attend preaching to them as often as he could, but not yet to remove his family, but wait a while to see what further encouragement God might give for his more settled attendance upon that service there.”

He was finally ordained the pastor and religious teacher on December 26, 1694. At that time he and 19 other members adopted the Articles of Faith and the Church Covenant.

Although 1694 appears to be ancient enough to us today, it was reported that before the official
organization, the church had been meeting starting sometime about 1660 !

2. What an old church this is!

To give you an idea of the age of this church, I will now attempt to take you back to the age in which it was organized.

In 1694, this place was remote from the centers of the old and new world.

The last survivor of the Pilgrims of the “Mayflower,” John Alden, had passed away only eight years before.

William and Mary were on the throne of England – that beloved queen dieing of the smallpox only two days after the church was organized.

Freedom of the Press was about to be established.

American Congregational clergyman and author Cotton Mather wrote his “Short History
of New England.”

Sir Isaac Newton had pointed out great laws which control the universe.

In the colonies, our own Plymouth Colony had just united her fortunes with those of the Bay Colony which was just recovering from that terrible delusion of witchcraft.

The horrors of the Indian war had ceased and our ancestors had rebuilt their houses and barns and redeemed their long-neglected farms.

The author and philosopher “Voltaire” was born in Paris.

3. What an old church this is!

According to one of her former ministers; There are 31 congregational churches older in the Bay

The list of churches in this portion of our State older than ours is only eleven and is as follows:

1) Edgartown at Martha’s Vineyard, 1632
2) Marshfield, 1632
3) Charlestown, 1632
4) West Taunton, 1634
5) Dedham, 1638
6) Sandwich, 1638
7) Scituate, 1639
8) Yarmouth, 1639
9) Newton Center, 1664
10) Old South, or Third church of Boston, 1669
11) Wrentham, 1692

There are few churches in Essex and Middlesex counties, and a sprinkling in central and western Massachusetts which antedate our church.

Our sister church at Plympton is only one year younger and at Acushnet a mere two years younger.

4. What an old church this is!

The town of Middleboro, with its present boundaries, was incorporated by Plymouth Colonial Government, June 1, 1669. By law, the whole town was one parish, and continued to be for about fifty years.

Eventually, because of the immense size of the parish or town, and the increasing population, requests were made to form new parishes around the countryside.

New churches, or break-offs of this church were formed from portions of this congregation and list as follows:

1) in 1719: West Precinct (today Lakeville)
2) in 1734: Halifax (Halifax Cong.)
3) in 1741: Titicut (North M’boro Cong.)
4) in 1794: North Rochester
5) in 1847: Central Cong. Ch (4-corners)
There is a commemorative quilt in the vestibule of the
meetinghouse that displays these churches.

5. What an old church this is?

Many men of note have worshipped here and few of these have even held membership.

Here worshipped Judge Peter Oliver, the last Chief Justice under the British King, and second only in importance to Governor of the Colony. He was the most eminent man in the colony prior to the breaking out of the Revolution, to whose stately residence, situated on the brow of Muttock
Hill, came the most distinguished men who visited the colonies. His family attended this church for thirty years and for most of that period he was a leader of the singing.

It was in this church that Benjamin Franklin, during his visit to Dr. Clark, worshipped, and during the intermission between the morning and afternoon services gave that interesting conversation filled with agricutural advice at the old Sproat Tavern across the road.

In 1746 the great revivalist George Whitefield of London, the most popular and influential preacher of the age, preached a powerful sermon here during his visit to America.
Here also came Lieut. Governor Andrew Oliver, and the Rev. Thomas Prince, who on 1 October, 1718, was ordained colleague of his classmate, Dr. Joseph Sewall, pastor of the Old South
church in Boston, where he continued until his death in 1758.

Here worshipped Governor Thomas Hutchinson and his family when they were passing their summers at Muttock. He was Governor of Massachusetts from 1771-1774.
Here also worshipped Governor James Bowdoin while he was a resident of our town. He was Governor of Massachusetts from 1785-1787.

Visitors and speakers also included Sir William Temple, the renowned English diplomat and author.

6. What an old church this is!

Although the present meetinghouse that you see across the parking-lot is the fourth edifice,
Although the old carriage-sheds have long disappeared,
Although the name is no longer the First Church of Christ, but now the First Congregational Church at the Green,
Although the building you sit in now may have, in a modern way, slightly tainted the unspoiled setting of this magnificent New England meetinghouse
Although there are fewer descendants that remain as worshippers here . . . . . . . . . .

I think that you can definitely see that the worship and devotion of the congregation continues and that God continues to bless this special First Church of Middleborough.

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