Beacon Street Diary blog
New NEHH collections - notes on sermons preached in Boston
These new additions to our New England Hidden Histories program are provided in partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society. They consist of extensive notes on sermons heard by three lay individuals living in Boston in the 17th and 18th centuries. Two of the authors are identified and one is anonymous. Judging from the names of preachers mentioned in the texts it is probable that the anonymous author was attending Boston's Old South Church in 1723, and that Boston merchant Joshua Green (1731-1806) heard most of his sermons at Brattle Street Church. Each notebook is fairly standardized in form, consisting of sermon summaries with headers identifying the preacher, date, and citations for the bible verse upon which the sermon is based.
John Lake's memoranda
In John Lake's single memoranda booklet he records sermons heard during 1687-1688 in Boston, Massachusetts. Lake's notes include the name of the minister, the date, and abstracts of sermons preached by such dignitaries as Rev. Cotton Mather, Rev. Increase Mather, Rev. Samuel Willard, Rev. Samuel Phillips, Rev. John Higginson, Rev. Joshua Moody, Rev. Israel Chauncy, and a "Mr. Leverett" and "Mr. Baly", among others.
In this booklet, the anonymous author records a diverse array of sermons and preachers heard in Boston in 1723. Their handwritten notes include the names of the preachers, date of delivery, the verse text, and a detailed summary of each sermon. The sermons were likely delivered at Boston's Old South Church, due to the predominance of those preached by resident ministers Rev. Joseph Sewall and Rev. Thomas Prince. A number of other ministers are also included, however, including Revs. Colman, Scivall, Cooper, Thatcher, Wordsworth, Webb, and Gee.
Joshua Green (1731-1806) was a merchant in Boston, and kept extensive records on sermons he attended, which are contained in several volumes spanning the years 1768 to 1775. The location of the preaching is not specified, but it is likely that most were delivered at Brattle Street Church in Boston, the pastorate of the most frequently cited preacher, Rev. Samuel Cooper (1724-1783). Green's summaries consist of a short series of annotations on each sermon, and a header with the date, the name of the preacher, and citations for the relevant bible verses. There are also occasional notes about local deaths and other noteworthy events. At the end of the booklet Green cites the total number of sermons he heard, how many were preached by each minister, and the liturgical occasion of each.
Special ThanksCouncil on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.