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Section 21

Its People and Institutions as I knew them about Sixty Years ago.


Wednesday, August 4th, 1897


I now recall the well remembered days;
The hallowed days of simple prayer and praise,
When worship was the tribute of the heart
And not a gilded toy of form and art.

No consecrated gates were near at hand,
To welcome to their courts a praying band;
But humble homes were heavenly bethels made,
Where preacher and the people sung and prayed.

In place of pews and softly cushioned seat,
Footstools and costly carpets for the feet;
Extemp’re seats were made with boards and rocks.
And slabs and fencing rails on shingle blocks.

Upon the beds the maids and matrons sat,
Close by the preacher’s cloak and silken hat;
While over head on loose and speaking floor,
The boys did listen through the chamber door.

And for a pulpit by some inner door,
The preacher took his stand upon the floor,
And then to these and those, both here and there,
He gave to all their meet, an ample share.

The deacons, then, grave men with shaven face,
Close by the preacher filled an honored place;
And with glad hearts aflame with saintly love,
They spoke and prayed with unction from above.

The sermon done, ‘twas theirs in order then
The truth to witness, and to say, "amen."
And in those good old times which I revere
Glad praise in sweetness flowed from hearts sincere.

No organs then, with repetitions long,
Loud praised the Lord with operatic song;
But oft, "O may my heart in tune be found,"
They sang, "Like David’s harp of solemn sound."

With tuneful lips and hearts sincere,
Again, "When I can read my title clear;"
And I remember well, that other song,
How slowly moved its rapturous notes along.

That old "Cor’nation," born of heavenly flame,
So sweet! "All hail the power of Jesus’ name,"
It lingers still an echo in my heart,

A welcome guest, till time and I shall part.

Mid these privations, cares and toils, and tears,
There was a sweetness in those early years;
The Spirit’s unction and Skekinah there,
Inspired praise and gave a zest to prayer.

And I sincerely question in my heart,
With all our modern gifts of wealth and art,
If we possess one half the bliss of those,
Whose, lives no read like ancient books of prose.

NOTES. – A book might be written on the evolution of worship here from the primitive past to the fashionable present, embracing the place, time, and sermon. The people moved here from older and more refined districts, and were intelligent, sociable and religiously inclined. At first they went to meeting on foot, then on horseback, next in carts, and then in open wagons with wooden axles and without springs then with wagons hung on rockers, then came the steel springs, and now in covered cushioned buggies and with fast horses. The first worship was under a tree, then in a private cottage, the school house, the temperance hall, and then the meeting house with one tower, and next, that surmounted with a second tower, and then a renovated house put up nine feet nearer heaven, with vestry, furnace, baptistery, colored glass carpets and cushioned seats. This is the evolution of the oldest place of worship, the others may have a similar history. The music was made by a small company of men who stood near the preacher, the leader of whom after audibly humming fa, sol, la, led off in a slow and solemn "When I can read my title clear," etc. Next the tune was set with a pitch pipe constructed on the principle of a willow whistle, having an adjustable slide which regulated the pitch of the tune; this gave place to the tuning fork. The fourth stage was the bass viol in the Old Valley meeting house, and in the school house here played by T. H. Parker on an instrument of his own make. Special license was then given by their parents to the boys to gather close around this famous instrument. Though not musically made myself, but of a mechanical turn, as a child I thought it a grand idea to worship God with a machine, and to make wood, and wire, and horse hair, etc, worship God in the beauty of holiness. The end is not yet. The organ with a hundred pipes is in the future. The evolution of the sermon is no less traceable; but to keep pace with railroads and telephones, and everything else in this fast age, its evolution is in the reduction of its length. The old sermon of two hours, with patient worshippers in some places, is now reduced to twenty minutes with impatient sleepers. Rev. Wm. Chipman, the first pastor here, after preaching made a memorandum of the place, time, text, treatment, etc. Here is one of his entries:

"22nd Jan. 1832. At Deacon Wm Skinner’s. Text, Heb. 6:17, 18, 19.

"1st. Of the foundation of the Heirs of Promise. The immutability of the counsel and oat of God.

"2. Of the Heirs of Promise.

"3. Of the refuge and in what manner the Heirs of Promise fled there.

"4. Of the object of their fleeing – the Hope set before them, of the Hope and in what respect it was an anchor.

"5. Of the consolation inevitably secured to them and invariably enjoyed by them.

"Altho’ I spoke from these five leading points, - and I have reason to bless God, had freedom and comfort, - and occupied about 1 hour, yet I see now, and did then, many, very many important points not dwelt upon, the’ implied. O, what a rich subject. Blessed be God for the Scriptures."

All the other parts of the service were in like proportion. But Mr. Chipman’s sermons were reasonably short in comparison with those of his contemporary, Rev. Wm. Sommerville, who was one of the most learned and devoted divines that has ever graced the pulpit of West Cornwallis. In his church he sometimes held two services with only a short intermission between, and the people took their lunch with them for dinner. Some of the boys, who are no men, tell when they grew weary, as the sermon reached its third hour, how they slipped out, and going from wagon to wagon examined each basket to see what everyone had for dinner.