Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Sermon

One of my ancestors is the Rev. Nathan Ward who preached in Plymouth, New Hampshire at the Congregational Church. He was the son of Joseph Ward and Esther Kenrick and was born in Newton, Massachusetts 11 April 1781. (Martyn, p. 94) This same source mentions that he was heavily influenced by George Whitefield's preaching and that he became a part of the "New Light" sect. (p. 95) It also states that he was ordained 11 July 1765 and then went to preach in Plymouth. (p. 95) There seems to be a discrepancy in the date of his arrival in Plymouth. One source states that he was hired 16 April 1764. (Town Register, p. 25) I have seen at least one which implied (although not expressly stating) that he arrived in 1766. Ward did hold other pastorates (in Newton, Massachusetts and in Maine) before going to Plymouth. (Manual, p. 6) The Manual gives his ordination date as 10 July 1765 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. It also says that he was hired on a trial basis at first and was officially called as pastor 9 July 1764. (p. 6)

I have to confess that I am one of those people who wished that they had some of today's modern technologies which would have preserved his sermons so I could hear what he had to say to his congregation. It would be nice if we could just "click to listen." However, that type of technology just didn't exist back then. We are fortunate that we are able to read sermons that were penned back in this country's earlier years. Jonathan Edwards' famed "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" gets re-read by me every once in awhile just so that I can get a feel for what my ancestors were hearing from their religious leaders. While I don't have the sermon he preached on his first Sunday in the pulpit, I do know the texts from which he preached his first couple of sermons. They were supposedly preached 19 May 1764 in Plymouth. The texts were Isaiah 1:19 and Luke 15:24. (Town Register, p. 25)

I decided to look up the verses in the New King James Version, a fairly modern translation.

Isaiah 1:19 - If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;

Luke 15:24 - "for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.

I find it strange that the first text stopped before the sentence began and that the second text started after the sentence began. I do wonder what his applications were for the first text. When I look at Isaiah 1:19 in its context, it is talking about the wickedness of Judah. He is urging them to forsake their sins and become obedient to God. Verse 19 tells what will happen if they are obedient. Verse 20 tells what will happen if they continue in their wickedness. It's a pretty interesting text, and it makes you wonder what direction he took with the sermon. Manual of the Congregational Church, Plymouth, N.H. states that verse 20 was included in this first sermon. (p.6)

Luke 15 is the familiar parable of the prodigal son. It is usually preached to describe how God rejoices when a sinner returns to Him.

The Manual makes a curious comment about the construction of the first church building (meeting-house) in 1767:

A meeting-house was erected in 1767. It was of logs, 40 feet by 50, and stood facing south, a few rods south of the present road, at the foot of Meeting-house hill, having the stocks and whipping-post in the rear. (p. 6)

I can't help but wonder how church attendance would be affected today if  stocks and whipping posts were on the church grounds.


Manual of the Congregational Church, Plymouth, N.H. Concord, N.H.: Republican Press, 1892.

Martyn, Charles. The William Ward Genealogy: The History of the Descendents of William Ward of Sudbury, Mass., 1638-1925. New York: Artemus Ward, 1925.

The Town Register: Ashland, Plymouth, Sandwich, Campton, Holderness, Center Harbor, Moultonboro, 1908. Augusta, Me.: Mitchell-Cony, 1908; available online at; accessed 13 August 2012.

No comments: