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of Divine mercy and favor. O for a heart full of gratitude and praise and resolution to live thankful, humble, and faithful, being laid under the greatest obligations thereto."
Rev. COTTON MATHER Smith, born Suffield, Conn., 1731 ; descendant of Rev. Henry Smith, first minister of Wethersfield; Yale College, 1751; settled in Sharon, Conn., from Aug. 28, 1755, to his death, Nov. 27, 1806. Father of Gov. John Cotton Smith.
After he had been twenty years in the pastoral office, that great event, the American Revolution, occurred. It found Mr. Smith in the maturity of his powers, wielding within his sphere a great influence. He had dedicated himself to the Christian ministry; this did not make him too sacred to give himself to his country. His brethren, the Congregational clergymen of New England, were at large, distinguished patriots in the struggle of the states for their independence and free government. None among them, in the incipient movements of the Revolution, or in providing for the hardships and conflicts of the war, brought the people and their charges up to a higher tone of action than did the pastor of Sharon. His sermons, his prayers, the hymns which he gave to the choir, were impulsive to patriotism. When the news of a battle, such as that of Lexington, or the news of victory, such as Burgoyne's surrender, reached Mr. Smith, by an echo of the tidings from the pulpit, he electrified his congregation. Anxiety for the issue of the war inflamed his bosom to such a heat that this domestic action did not satisfy him. Into the memorable campaign of 1775, he entered as chaplain to a regiment in the northern army. His influence in producing order and good morals in the camp, in consoling the sick, and inspiring the army with firmness and intrepidity, attracted the attention of General Schuyler, the commander-in-chief, and secured from this worthy officer a respectful friendship for Mr. Smith the residue of life. (Copied from Dr. McEwen's Discourse.)
The following sprightly and interesting remarks were furnished me by Charles F. Sedgwick, Esq., of Sharon:
“ The religious element in New England entered largely into the causes which forced the separation of the colonies from the mother country, and in the public religious teachings of Mr. Smith before the actual breaking out of the conflict, there was mingled much of the stirring patriotism of the times. The public mind in Sharon, therefore, was well prepared to meet the realities of the great struggle at its first breaking out, and Mr. Smith was a leading spirit in the town during all the scenes of the war.
“The intelligence of the battle of Lexington was brought to Sharon on the Sabbath, and at the close of the morning exercises Mr. Smith announced it to the congregation, accompanied with remarks tending to rouse their spirits to firmness and resistance. Immediately after the congregation was dismissed, the militia and volunteers, to the number of one hundred men, were paraded on the green, prepared to march to the scene of conflict, but intelligence came from Litchfield, intimating that their services were not then needed, as the British had returned to Boston, and they were dismissed until another call should be made for their services."
Mr. Smith was on duty as chaplain of Colonel Hinman's regiment at Ticonderoga for several months during the campaign of 1775, and while there was brought very low by a severe attack of sickness; and at one time his recovery was thought to be very doubtful, but he returned to his people, and in the darkest hour of the conflict his firmness and his faith never forsook him. When Burgoyne was approaching with a large army
from Canada, in 1777, threatening the disruption of the colonies and the early subduing of the rebellion, terror and despondency pervaded the public mind; but Mr. Smith insisted that better days would soon shine upon the country, and was very active in persuading the men of the town to rally and join the army, which was to stop the progress of Burgoyne.
During a period of intense excitement and anxiety, Mr. Smith preached a sermon from Isaiah, xxi, II : “Watchman what of the night?” “Watchman what of the night?” The discourse was adapted to the condition of public affairs. He dwelt much on the indications which the dealings of Providence afforded, that a bright morning was about to dawn upon a long night of disaster. He told the people that he believed they would soon hear that a great victory had crowned the arms of America, and exhorted them to trust, with unshaken and fearless confidence, in that God who, he doubted not, would very soon appear for the salvation and deliverance of his people, and crown with success the efforts of the friends of liberty in this country. Before the congregation was dismissed, a messenger arrived bringing intelligence of the surrender of Burgoyne and his army, and joy and gratitude took possession of minds which had been so lately filled with fear and despondency. The favorable issue of the campaign of 1777, put an end to the struggle in this part of the country; but the patriotic activities of Parson Smith were the theme of comment and commendation through the succession of many years.
JUDAH CHAMPION was graduated at Yale College in 1751; ordained in Litchfield, July 4, 1753 ; died in 1810.
One pleasant Sabbath morning the congregation had gathered together, and had just commenced the morning hymn, when, through the still streets there came the sharp clatter of a horse's hoofs—always so ominous, at that time, of tidings from the army. As usual, when the courier arrived in any town on the Sabbath, he made straight for the “meetinghouse." Reaching the door, he dismounted, and, flinging the bridle over the horse's neck, entered the building. The singing ceased, and every eye was turned on the stranger as he walked up the broad aisle and ascended the pulpit stairs. He handed Mr. Champion a paper, who, with a smile of triumph on his face, arose and read : “Sr. JOHNS IS TAKEN." It must be remembered that this place had been besieged six weeks, till people began almost to despair of its ever being taken. The noble pastor, the moment he had finished the sentence, lifted his eyes to heaven and exclaimed: “Thank God for the victory." The chorister, sitting opposite the pulpit, in the gallery, clapped his hands and shouted : “AMEN AND AMEN!” For a while the joy was unrestrained, but the pastor soon checked it by saying : “ There is something more to be heard.” He then read a lengthy communication, stating that the army was in a suffering condition. It was now the latter part of November, and there, on the borders of Canada, the winter was already setting in, and yet the troops were about to march for Quebec to undergo the rigors of a winter campaign. It described in vivid language their suffering condition. They were destitute of clothing, without shoes or stockings, and yet were ordered to traverse the frozen fields of the north.
The touching description lost none of its pathos as read by the pastor and commented on by him at its close. When he had finished, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Especially the women were overcome with emotion. As soon as the congregation was dismissed, a few prominent ladies were seen to gather round the young pastor with eager countenances. They were evidently asking him some questions, and it was equally evident, from his benevolent smile and nodding head, that he was answering them satisfactorily. Soon they began to move rapidly among the other women that, in turn, gathered into groups in earnest conversation. After a little while they all dispersed to their homes. When the congregation assembled for the afternoon service, not a woman was in the church. The wives, mothers, and maidens had laid aside their Sabbath apparel and drawn forth their spinning-wheels, set in motion their looms, and brought out their knitting-needles and hand-cards, and the village suddenly became a hive of industry. On that usually still Puritan Sabbath afternoon, there now rung out on every side the hum of the wheel and the click of the shuttle-sounds never before heard in Litchfield on the Sabbath day, and which contrasted strangely with those of prayer and praise in the adjoining sanctuary. Yet both believed that they were serving God. The women were working for those brave patriots who were about to march, destitute and barefoot, over the frozen ground to strike for freedom. Many years after, when a venerable old man, Mr. Champion was asked by his granddaughter how he could approve such a desecration of the Sabbath. He turned on her a solemn look, and replied simply: “MERCY BEFORE SACRIFICE.”
Oh, what a flood of light does such a scene as this, on a Sabbath afternoon in those strict times, throw on the state of feeling that existed. Is it wonderful that a revolution which had its springs so deep down in the human heart, and was sustained by such prayers and such faith, should succeed? Its true history is not to be found on the battle-field, but in these secluded villages and country parishes.
Not long after this, Mr. Champion received, one morning, several quarters of veal from different parishioners, who were ignorant of each other's intentions. His wife was in dismay at this inundation of veal, and asked him what she should do with it, as it would be impossible to use it all before it spoiled. “Never mind,” said this man of faith, “Providence has a meaning in it. There will be occasion to use it in some way we do not think of.” Within two hours he received a letter from a nephew, who was a quartermaster in the army, saying that a regiment of soldiers would pass through Litchfield that day, and would need a dinner. He immediately sent word round to the inhabitants, who hastily gathered together and set tables through the main street and loaded them down with provisions. The good man was right—there was “occasion” for the veal.
When the news of Burgoyne's invasion filled the land with excitement and alarm, Mr. Champion could remain at home no longer, a mere idle spectator, while he urged with such earnestness his parishioners to hasten to the battle-field, and offering his services, he went to Ticonderoga as chaplain. He was there with the brave Allen, and saw with dismay the army abandon the fortress and take up its line of retreat through the wilderness. It was with feelings of unbounded joy he saw the army at last make a determined stand at Saratoga. His attention to the wounded after the first battle was unwearied. After the surrender of Burgoyne, he showed the same devotion to the sick and wounded of the British. So ceaseless and kind were his efforts that both the American