Rev. Charles Walker, Thanksgiving Sermon

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Rev. Charles Walker, D. D.

Publishing reports of sermons and of the doings of religious and ecclesiastical meetings, has become almost as much a part of the business of the secular press in the cities, as publishing the news of the day. We know not why we may not with propriety imitate their example.

The Thanksgiving Sermon of the Rev Mr Walker of this village, was characterized with more than ordinary ability, and was listened to with profound attention. The report we give is made entirely from memory, by one who had no idea of reporting it at the time, and has been delayed until this time by the press of matter consequent upon the opening of Congress.

Text, - Judges, 13th chap., 22d and 23d verses:

"And Manoah said unto his wife,
We shall surely die,
because we have seen God.

"But his wife said unto him,
If the Lord were pleased to kill us,
he would not have received a burnt-offering
and a meat-offering at our hands,
neither would he have shewed us
all these things, nor would as at this time
have told us such things as these."

Mr Walker said the conclusion deducible from the text was, that in apparent danger we should place full confidence in God; that his blessings to the Church in time past were proof that he would not desert it now, for He would not have done all these things for it, if He intended finally to leave it to destruction.

He adverted to the present low state of religion in this and other communities, of the deep wounds evangelical piety had received and was receiving from the senseless and absurd ravings of fanatical Millerites, under the assumed garb of religion --- by the judicious efforts of more sober people to promote religion by outward and mere human machinery, periodically brought to bear upon the popular mind, which, if it produced any effect at all was but a momentary one, like that produced by the galvanic battery upon the lifeless corpse, leaving the subject more hopelessly dead than before, --- and by the selfishness and worldliness of others.

Yet there was no cause for discouragement. God could have crushed this American Church in its germ, and have prevented the May-Flower with its precious cargo ever reaching Plymouth rock. He had not done it; He had here planted it, and for two hundred years had watered and nourished it and would not now desert it.

He illustrated the doctrine drawn from the text by various scripture and historical allusions and references. He spoke of the embarrassments and discouragements that for a while have hung like black and portentous clouds around Foreign Mission operations, arising partly from Popish and Prelatical opposition.

These clouds are not yet cleared away and embarrassments and disasters may continue for a while, but God will yet crown this work with success; else why should He have crowned it so far with such abundant blessings and signs of His favor. It is His work, and, carried on in His strength, will succeed. As soon will the pillars of his Throne tremble and fall, as the work of converting the world fail.

He then adverted with great effect to the cause of Temperance. The prospect, he said, may look gloomy and the result for a time appear doubtful, but God has blessed it hitherto and He will not desert it now.

Hitherto the efforts of the friends of Temperance have been aimed chiefly at two objects: one, to put an end to temperate drinking; the other, to redeem the inebriate. The success in both has been truly wonderful. A large portion of the community, including nearly all the female sex (who are ever foremost in every good work) and most of the children, have adopted the principle of total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks, while multitudes have been redeemed from a condition of deep debasement.

Another object is now to be gained before the success of the cause is complete. The traffic must be stopped. So long as men are allowed to deal in intoxicating drinks, and hold out temptations to weak humanity, intemperance will find numerous victims.

This point must be gained before we make much farther advance in the glorious reform. It is the Bridge of Lodi that stands in the way of triumph and victory. The contest may be long and at times doubtful, but ultimate success is certain. Truth, Humanity, Good men and God himself, are all with us. God has prospered us thus far, and he will continue his smiles and blessings.

Mr Walker then spoke of the political condition of our country. We have just passed through a Presidential contest of great and dangerous excitement. The most corrupting influences have been brought to bear upon the popular mind. Good men look forward with dread and dismay at the repetition of such scenes every four years, and feel that unless some new and better mode is devised for electing President, we shall soon have none to elect.

Another dangerous element in our political condition is the political influence of foreigners, who have poured themselves in ever swelling floods upon our shores. Brought up in ignorance and superstition, the devoted subjects of a foreign ecclesiastical tyranny, unacquainted with our laws and customs, they have been readily admitted to the powers and privileges of citizenship, till the political power of the country seems fast sliding into their hands.

Our dearest and most cherished liberties and institutions are in imminent danger, and unless the alarm be given and taken, and men, American-born and educated, come to the rescue, it will soon be too late, if it is not already, to save them from utter destruction.

A still greater evil threatens our country's peace and liberties --- the over-grown influence of the slave power. This power is selfish, jealous, rapacious and domineering. Its influence is every where felt, and felt only for evil. Rights the most sacred are trampled upon, and obligations the most solemn, despised and set at defiance. This power is wielded by few, and wielded only for its own aggrandizement, and with a despotic tyranny that scarcely has an equal in the annals of history. Unless this power shall be shorn of its strength, and slavery itself be put an end to, the future will indeed look dark and foreboding.

Yet notwithstanding all these causes of gloom, the Christian patriot should never despair. God's dealings with us in times past are evidences of his future intentions. In the language of an old writer: 'He sifted three kingdoms for seed with which to plant this nation," and He will not now suffer it to be uprooted after having protected it through 200 years of peril.

Our hope, our only hope, is in God --- Regnant, Omnipotent, All-controlling. Let us look to him with thankfullness for the past, and confiding hope for the future.

Vermont Phoenix, Friday, December 20, 1844.

This sermon was delivered on Sunday, November 24, 1844 at the Centre Congregational Church. The Vermont Phoenix editor William E. Ryther records his impressions in this article. This sermon was the second Thanksgiving sermon heard at the church building at its new location on Main Street.

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Centre Congregational Church In 1843

Steeple Inside Sanctuary, Four Pillars

Rev. Charles Walker's Sermon Allusions

Rev. Charles Walker refers to "the senseless and absurd ravings of fanatical Milllerites". William Miller and his "Millerites" following predicted that October 22, 1844 would bring the Second Coming.

The "Bridge of Lodi" capture and control in Italy cost Napoleon dearly at his May 10, 1796 victory over the retreating Austrian army. Rev. Walker compares this costly battle to the necessary struggle for temperance reform.

"He sifted three kingdoms for seed with which to plant this nation."

This quotation is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Courtship of Miles Standish". The precise verse is---

God had sifted three kingdoms to find the wheat for this planting,
Then had sifted the wheat, as the living seed of a nation


Church Architecture

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Historic Original 1816 Balcony Before Renovation Damaging

Pew Doors Placed As Panelling Under Windows In 1842


Original Pew Doors From Church On The Common

Pews and half-pews were rented to congregants---to individuals and to families. Prices varied primarily according to location within the church sanctuary. A pew for sale was advertised for open bidding. Doors were placed at the pew ends.

When the Church on the Common became the Centre Congregational Church in 1842, the pew rental procedures remained intact. But the doors were removed and became the panels below the windows in the balcony.


Church On The Common

Adze-Marked Original Timbers

Superficial Char From 1927 Centre Church Fire Smoke

The original Church on the Common's cupola was not restored to the new church location on Main Street. It is possible that this cupola is now atop the Brattleboro Retreat's Lawton Hall---a prominent member of the Church on the Common served as a trustee for the Vermont Asylum for the Insane.


John Birge Furniture Warehouse Cupola

From An Engraving On Stone By F. Fuchs 1856

Another possibility for the cupola is that it was placed atop the immense "Yellow Building" furniture warehouse owned by John Birge---seen in several photographs and engravings from 1856 at the foot of the Main Street hill on the west side.

The original weathervane which topped the 1816 Church on the Common now stands over the Centre Congregational Church on Main Street. It is possible that the directional letters N, S, E, W, cast in 1816 and welded to their iron frames, appear in this daguerreotype taken in 1856 atop the S. Gates Furniture Manufactory.

The Church on the Common cupola may also have been added in 1842 to the nine-year-old roof of the Central School---


Central School 1869


The four fluted pillars, which fronted the original Church On The Common, appear in the drawing above, after the church removed to Main Street in 1842.

The tall wooden plates which formed the low relief pillars on the original building were taken apart when the church was moved, and some long pieces were fitted together in the new steeple set into the interior of the newly-located Centre Congregational Church.


Church On The Common

Original Pilaster Boarding

In the steeple, these pilaster pieces were fashioned into a two-story high box which protected the oiled clock weight cables from gathering too much dust---which would throw off the accurate time of the clock.


Church On The Common

Old-Time Hand Wrought Iron Square-Headed Nail Hole

The four pillars were finally removed, and the steeple moved to the outside of the church following a destructive tempest in 1864. The steeple was originally set within the church in order to help ventilate the sanctuary.



Ladder Built Into The Inside Of The Steeple



Clock Face From Inside Steeple

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