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JOHN PIPON c. 1770-1821


From Proceedings, Page 1873-211:

REV. JOHN PIPON, TAUNTON, Unitarian, 1805.

JOHN PIPON, the successor of John Foster, was descended from a family which emigrated from the Island of Jersey, in the British Channel, and was a native of Boston. He learned the trade of housewright, at which he wrought for a short time, and afterwards prepared himself for College, and was graduated at Cambridge in 1792. He was, for a time, butler of the University, then officiated as a reader at Christ Church, and resided, for a time, at Biddeford, in Maine. In 1798 he was at Cambridge pursuing his studies in theology, and preaching occasionally in different towns. He was a member of the Society of Phi Beta Kappa, once its Vice-President, and once its annual orator. In 1799 he came to Taunton, where he received a call the same year, and was ordained in January, 1800. President Kirkland, then a minister of Boston, preached the ordination sermon. The day on which he was ordained seemed ominous of the mildness of the career on which he was entering, and an emblem of the benignity of his character; for although it was in January it was the finest winter day that was ever experienced in New England.

His attention to his parochial duties was incessant and unremitting. Although his visits to his parishioners were frequent, yet he never entered into their affairs with the officiousness of a meddler, but with the cordiality of a friend and the interest of a father. He enjoyed the festivities with all the glee and gladness of a child; and in those dark spots, where sorrow wept and refused to be comforted, the consolations of this good man, administered with the tenderest sympathy, came like sunbeams through the gloom. Guile and envy had no place in his heart.

The increasing, thrift and comforts of his neighbors were to him a source of constant gratification. In this he was not disinterested, for the happiness of others increased his own. He would have banished want and woe and suffering from the whole human race.

When the Orthodox minister of Sandwich, harassed with perplexing and acrimonious lawsuits, was in attendance on the courts sitting here, our 'good Samaritan,' like him of old, did not 'pass by on the other side,' but attended him with the deepest solicitude for his welfare. His hospitality was not ceremonious. He took his clerical brother to his home and to his heart. 'Brother Burr,' said he, ' is in affliction, and it is my duty to comfort him.'

When solicited for relief or charity, he never shared the contents of his purse with the applicant, but if he had anything he gave the whole.

After some severe taunts and rebukes from the late Prof. Pearson, he expressed no resentment, but great commiseration, because the professor was afflicted with a bad temper. On another occasion, a person repeated to him some severe remarks upon his ministerial character, by a young clergyman of the vicinity. ' Oh,' said Mr. P., in his peculiar mild tone, 'Brother is only a colt yet.'

His general benevolence lost none of its strength by diffusion. He loved the whole human race, but he could concentrate his affection on individuals. While he loved some well, he loved others better. The good he reverenced, the bad he pitied. Like Goldsmith: —

"He quite forgot their voices in their woes,
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave, ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And e'en his feelings leaned to virtue's side;
But in his duty prompt at every call,
He watched and wept. He prayed and felt for all."

No monk was ever more devoted to the interests of his order than he was to the interests of Harvard College. He delighted to call up all the reminiscences connected with its history; to look into the dusky recess of the past; to rejoice in the present, and to exult in the prospects of the future. To him Cambridge was Rome, and President Kirkland the Pope, and he almost believed in his infallibility. He reverenced the ancient fathers of the New England churches, the Wilsons, the Cottons, the Chaunceys, and the Mayhews of former days. Within his own sphere of influence, he endeavored with all his soul, and with all his strength, to promote the interests of education; to improve the course of discipline and instruction in the schools, and to elevate the character of our academy.

In genuine simplicity, he was unrivalled; even the imaginary Vicar of Wakefield was no peer to the Taunton minister. It was estimated that he had lost more than one thousand dollars in the exchange of ordinary horses. His credulity was incurable, and his good nature, though often imposed upon, was rarely overcome. Sometimes, however, be found vexation in his path, and his equanimity was not proof against the teasing irritations of petty troubles. On one occasion trying to his patience, he 'wished that Gen. was present to swear for him' ; but correcting himself instantly, 'I don't mean profanely,' said he.

When in a hurry to be shaved that he might attend an ordination, and vexed by the interminable stories of Tim Ingraham, the barber; 'Timothy,' said the parson, 'Why don't you get a parrot, and hang him up in your shop? The parrot could talk to your customers, whilst you shaved them.'

His social qualities were of a high order, and his social affections highly cultivated. He delighted to witness the liveliness and cheerfulness of his friends. He delighted to sit at the festive board. He delighted in Commencement, Phi Beta Kappa, Ordination, Association, Court, Academy, and Fourth of July dinners, for then it was that a part at least of the human race were enjoying the bounties of God's providence with lively hearts. In these genial moments, he was exceedingly interesting, and his conversation was enlivened with humorous and original remarks. The late lamented Buckminster and President Kirkland desired no better companion than the country minister. All men of wit and humor loved his society. The late Mr. Sproat, Mr. Tillinghast and Mr. Holmes, of Rochester, found him no ordinary competitor in the warfare of wit. His humor, though quaint, was neither coarse nor offensive. He had a strong sense of the ridiculous, and a strong relish for every species of originality.

Speaking of some bombastic Fourth of July oration, he said 'he should be afraid to cross a ferry within hearing distance of the speaker, lest his hard words should knock him overboard. He hinted pleasantly to Mr. B , that he did not attend public worship so often as he ought. ' Why,'said Mr. B., ' I take cold in the meeting-house; and you know that a cold is a severe thing with me.' — 'Yes,' said he, ' I know that it is uncomfortable to sit in a meeting-house without a stove in cold weather, but in summer you surely might do it without exposure.' — ' But,' said Mr. B., 'what you get out of me, parson, is clear gain; I am not of your sect.' — ' Indeed,' said the parson; 'and pray, of what sect are you?' — ' B y hereditary descent,' said Mr. B., ' I am an Episcopalian.' — 'Now, Francis,' said the parson, 'you always wear a fashionable coat, why will you throw it off, and put on one that is out of fashion? '

A short time previous to delivering his oration before the Phi Beta Kappa, passing Julien's in Boston, he looked at the sign ' Restorator.' ' Good,' said he; 'Rest, Orator. I'll go in.' Some one advised him to marry. ' No,' says he, ' my salary can't carry double.'

His sermons were sound, and never doctrinal. The topics of dispute which divided the religious community were carefully avoided, and no offence given to tender consciences. His delivery and voice were bad. There was no exciting power in his elocution, and he was seldom animated. His simplicity sometimes bordered on the ludicrous. Once, after a long series of excellent and pious remarks, he closed by observing, 'All these truths you will find in your Bible1. When you go home, look. Now, do!'

In prayer he was affecting and pathetic. He poured forth the ardent emotions, the deep devotion of his soul, in language which sometimes approached the oriental simplicity of the Scriptures. The passages which he quoted from the Holy Writings were strikingly appropriate. His words came forth with a glow, a fervor and a freshness, which indicated a disposition to love the human race, and to reverence the Great Being whom he addressed. He entreated him as a father to pardon and to spare his erring children. Strangers, delighted with the eloquence of his prayers, were generally disappointed. His sermons did not answer the expectations which his prayers had raised, as they were generally dull and uninteresting.

His useful and quiet life was quietly terminated. After preaching on the Sabbath he retired to his bed early in the evening, apparently in good health. About midnight he died, after a labor in the ministry of twenty-one years. He was subject to the angina pectoris, and it is supposed that a sudden attack of that disease took him from a world which he loved, to one he loved better.

His death occurred in the month of January, 1821. His remains repose among his people. His age at the time of his death was upwards of sixty. He was never married. Nothing of his has issued from the press (which we have seen), excepting a charge delivered at an ordination in New Bedford.
— The Ministry of Taunton, etc., 1853.

Note on p. 134, Ministry of Taunton. — The generous impulse of Mr. Pipon is remembered with admiration, by all who knew him. On a recent visit to Easton, the excellent lady of Rev. Mr. Sheldon related an incident in the life of the Taunton minister, which much interested me. He was there on some religious occasion, when a very destitute child called at the door for charity. Few visitors in a strange place would have been attracted by such a case. But Mr. Pipon had learned of " the man of Uz," and the cause which he knew not he "searched out." He called the boy in, inquired into his condition, formed the plan at once of taking him upon his horse on his return to Taunton, and securing for him a home amongst some of his friends. He was, however, dissuaded from carrying out his plans; and Mrs. S. said she had often thought what a singular figure Mr. Pipon would have made riding into town, with that ragged boy at his back. I could wish that the humane purpose of the noble-hearted Pipon had prevailed; and who can tell what a bright future might have opened up before the lad, who, like many others, was perhaps left to himself—to lie down in rags and ruin. This notice of Rev. John Pipon is from the pen of Hon. Francis Baylies, who was elected Grand Master of Massachusetts, at the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge held on the 10th of December, 1834. He declined the office, and Dr. Joshua B. Flint was chosen in his stead.

Distinguished Brothers