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From Proceedings, Page 1873-273:

REV. SAMUEL BARRETT, D.D., BOSTON, Unitarian. 1827-1838, 1840-1842.

REV. SAMUEL BARRETT, D.D., died in Roxbury, Mass., June, 1866, aged 70 years. He was son of Benjamin and Betsey (Gerrish) Barrett, and was born in Royalston, Mass., 16 August, 1795. While he was quite young, his parents removed to Springfield, New York, and from there he was sent to Wilton, New Hampshire, where he was fitted for College by Rev. Thomas Beede (H. C, 1798).

After graduating, he studied divinity at the Theological School in Cambridge. At the close of his professional studies he preached in several pulpits, and made a marked and favorable impression by his ability, earnestness and Christian bearing. When the Twelfth Congregational Society was gathered, in 1824, he accepted an invitation to become its minister, and was ordained 9 February, 1825. His ministry was remarkably successful and happy. He was a strong Unitarian, and entered heartily into the public labors of the denomination; served on various important committees, and for a time edited the Christian Register. In 1850 he went to Europe, where he passed four months; and on his return resumed his labors with renewed vigor, and all his old activity. In 1856 the society began to decline, owing to the removal of American residents from the north-western section of the city. Hoping that a younger occupant of the pulpit might preserve the place of worship, he retired in 1860. But the dissolution of the society and the sale of its edifice soon followed upon his retirement. From that time he resided in Roxbury, frequently preaching for his brother clergymen. His genial manner, joyous spirit, great candor and cheerful piety, made him a great favorite among his professional brethren. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Harvard College, in 1847. He married, 11 September, 1832, Mary Susan Greenwood, of Boston. They had eight children, —four sons and four daughters, — all of whom, with their mother, survive him. — Christian Register, July 21,1866. Alumni of the Divinity School of Harvard University.


It is with very tender and respectful emotions of sorrow,that we write the name of this honored and beloved Brother as now numbered among the departed of earth. Not but that he has been taken in God's good time, with preparation of spirit, and after a full measure of years consecrated to life's best ends "and cheered by a fair share of earthly happiness. We can give him up to the fruition of the hope which he held so strongly in his heart, and in which he found the law for the foundation of his character and the method of serving his fellow-men in the work of the Christian ministry. But he was one among the narrowing circle of the wise and good, the constant and the experienced, the friendly and the judicious, of our elder brethren, on whom we feel that we are depending, with an affectionate confidence, amid changes which take away more than they supply of enthusiasm and courage of heart. So admirably poised in him was the balance between a love for the old and a hospitality towards the new elements of the working religious forces of our age, that there is hardly another of the elders among us who may more fairly represent the creed and the spirit of our fellowship. We know not, indeed, that in his personal convictions, or in the sum and substance of his Christian opinions, he had yielded to any essential modification of the views with which he entered upon his ministry. But he doubtless had learned to adjust his early creed to the expanding influences of modern criticism and speculation.

Samuel Barrett was born of an excellent yeoman stock, in Royalston, Mass., August 16, 1795. His early years and his chief preparatory education for college were associated with Wilton, N. H., and led him almost to regard that pleasant town — fruitful of good and honored men among us — as his home. The class at Harvard in which he graduated in 1818, contained several of the associates of his professional life, among them Professor Noyes and Rev. Dr. Farley, with the patriarch of the Swedenborgian fellowship, Rev. Dr. Worcester. He pursued the study of theology with the means then afforded at Cambridge; and that they were good and efficient means, the many excellent and honored men, contemporaneous with him, have abundantly certified to us. After spending four years in the work of teaching and the transient supply of pulpits, he was ordained the first Pastor of the Twelfth Congregational Church and Society in this city, February 9, 1825.

That society had been but recently gathered, and had called to its service the late Rev. Dr. Alexander Young, who had also been invited to succeed Mr. Greenwood in the New South Church. Mr. Barrett, who received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from Harvard, in 1847, may be said to have covered, with his sole pastorate extending into the year 1860, nearly the whole period of the existence of this Society. The changes in the character and composition of the population in the neighborhood of their place of worship, the death of a large proportion of the original members, and the removal from the city, from first to last, of more than six hundred families who had been parishioners there, had caused a decline which the excellent pastor beheld with but too sure presage of the inevitable result. Though exceedingly beloved by the remnant around him, he chose to entertain the hope that possibly a young presence, with a fresh voice and the zeal of a newly-kindled interest, might revive a failing enterprise. Therefore he resigned his charge, stating, with admirable candor, his reasons for the step, and expressing the most grateful sense of the kindness and co-operation as well as of the ready spirit of sacrifice manifested by those who remained with him as the successors of those who had been around him in the prosperous days. The Society, rather under the inspiration of his counsel than with any well-grounded hopefulness for their effort, called a young and worthy laborer to succeed him, and tried the methods which are themselves in such cases the poor alternatives for surrender to the inevitable. The event proved that the Society could not live at all when the servant who had so long ministered to it had snapped the last bond of its lingering fellowship. Their place of worship was sold for the use of the Roman communion. It was for their old, beloved pastor to exercise among them the last prerogative of the esteem which his wise and just and high-toned course had secured for him, in advising those most willing to heed his suggestions about a dignified and consistent disposal of their church property.

The processes of decline to which we have referred, though beginning to operate slowly from an early period in Dr. Barrett's ministry, were felt in their most rapid work only in the last ten or fifteen years of his term of service. Even while they were going on, the Society retained and well deserved the honor won in its first years, of being, proportionately to the means and abilities of its members, second to no other of any denomination in the city for vitality, zeal and generosity in all becoming enterprises. The pastor was most assiduous and single-hearted; he wrought faithfully in routine and systematic methods, and was ready to vary, according to new conditions, the stereotyped course of the ministry. He kept abreast of the times, and, though he loved quiet, did not shun the peaceful agitation of novelties. His own sterling qualities of character, right-heartedness, sound judgment, and gentle-kindness of spirit, secured him willing helpers. He was the head and heart of his own parish, not as pope or manager, but as adviser and guide, with deep sympathies and earnest and pure aims. His advice was sought by those who intended to follow it, if they could get it. He had no petty jealousies; no pestering suspicions; no side self-seekings. He was not always among the readiest to speak, nor did he ever weaken his own power over others by parting with his power over himself, in yielding to heat or temper. He united the dignities of a philosophic calm with the graces of a Christian humility and serenity.

As a preacher, Dr. Barrett was regarded by his own people as having but few if any superiors in the effectiveness of his pulpit ministrations. By that kindly law of accommodation and adaptation, through which habit and affection and influence, won by sterling qualities of character, make hearers unconscious of those peculiarities in their minister which are most obvious to strangers, Dr. Barrett's parishioners grew to admire such very marked peculiarities in him. And, indeed, he had in him the spirit of eloquence, with unfeigned earnestness and fervor. He felt deeply the truth and the importance of the views which he presented; and he chose his themes with reference to the seriousness and the practical power which they ought to have for intelligent and well-disposed persons. In uttering himself upon them he would sometimes be moved to a warmth and glow of manner, in which his vocal apparatus and the command of his organs and tones would fail him. But a look into his face, sympathy with his high aim, and a knowledge of the full sincerity and the sound wisdom of the speaker, left the spoken lesson to have its full effect but little impaired by the excess or the lack of breath which was its medium. Good sense, moderation, substantial matter, and the simple desire for edification, characterized his compositions. He spoke from a full mind, as he continued to be a diligent reader. He was also a sagacious observer of men, and his eyes and mind were always open to the teaching of the living world, Among his brethren Dr. Barrett held a high place of respect and confidence. His modesty and unobtrusiveness of spirit made him rather a listener than a frequent speaker in their meetings. He would be seen in some sheltered nook or corner of the parlor or the chapel, observant of the group around him, intent to hear those more ready with their gifts, and finding his own satisfaction in the digestion of what he saw fit to appropriate. He was a kindly critic. We doubt whether any one among us has more frequently expressed satisfaction or charitable tolerance for the variety of utterances which have gone forth from us in the score or two of years last past, than did he, in the formula so peculiar to his lips, "Those were good words."

He has been missed by us during the last few months, at the gatherings from which nothing but a constraining inability would have withheld him. A painful malady has closed his course. The three brethren nearest to him in the ministerial work in this city, Drs. Gannett, Lothrop and Bartol, united in the funeral services over his remains. Now we trust he is among the forgiven and the glorified. Pleasantly and lovingly shall we cherish the image and memory which he has left to us.

Dr. Barrett's society had for many years one of the most flourishing Sunday schools in the city, and it was administered with fidelity, in consistency with the modest but paramount objects of such an institution, by superintendents and a body of teachers who gladly co-operated in the aims of their pastor. We need mention only the names of the late esteemed Mayor Seaver and of Lewis G. Pray, both also deacons of the church, to remind many of our readers of the good repute of the Sunday school of the Twelfth Congregational Society.

Nor did Dr. Barrett confine his interest in the cause of Christian truth to his well-served work in his own parish. He was one of the early members of the American Unitarian Association. To his wisdom and discreet judgment that association was indebted from its very beginning, and it retained his interest in the new promise of its activity and accomplishments. When he entered upon his ministry, the need of controversy and the championship of contested Christian liberty required of him and his brethren a kind of zeal which is not so much needed, — not to say so well appreciated, in these days. He wrote tracts, he preached occasional sermons on maintenance, as he believed, of pure Christian truths in opposition to false and injurious views current in the community, and was at one time a regular contributor to the columns of the Christian Register. He dealt some hard blows, but followed them with his mild looks and kind wishes, with the hope that they would injure only the errors, and not those who held them; for he was not a man of stern or severe spirit.
— Christian Register, June 30, 1866.

The following record of the writings of Dr. Barrett is taken from the Appendix of the History of the Twelfth Congregational Society in Boston, by Lewis G. Pray, 1863 : —

  • Sermons.
  1. Ordination Sermon, Rev. M. G. Thomas, 1829.
  2. Our Obligations and Privileges as Christians, Liberal Preacher, Vol. I.
  3. Artillery-Election Sermon, June, 1831.
  4. Sermon on the Cholera, August, 1832.
  5. Sermon, "Kingdom of God within You," Liberal Preacher, Vol. III.
  6. Installation Sermon, Rev. George R. Noyes, 1834.
  7. On Duelling, Twelfth Congregational Society, 1838.
  8. "What thinkest Thou?" Twelfth Congregational Society, 1843.
  9. On the Completion of the Twenty-fifth Year of his Ministry, 1850. Two Discourses, Twelfth Congregational Society.
  10. "Youths Void of Understanding," Twelfth Congregational Society, 1857.
  • Addresses.
  1. On the Character of St. John the Evangelist, before the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, December, 1835.
  2. Before the Ministerial Conference, May, 1847: " Relations of Liberal Christianity to our Age and Country." Christian Examiner, Vol. VIII, 4th series.
  3. Address, Centennial Celebration, Wilton, N. H., September, 1839.
  • Tracts.
  1. One Hundred Scriptural Arguments for the Unitarian Faith. A. U. A., No. 2.
  2. Excuses for the Neglect of the Communion. A. U. A., No. 22.
  3. Doctrine of Religious Experience. A. U. A., No. 28.
  4. The Apostle Peter a Unitarian. A. U. A., No. 55.
  5. Apologies for Indifference to Religion and its Institutions. A. U. A., No. 90.
  6. What Thinkest Thou ? or, Ten Questions Answered. A. U. A., No. 190.
  7. What Becomes Me ? or, The Liberal View of Man's Nature considered as a Motive in the Formation of Character. A. U. A., No. 246.
  8. Reflections in a Sunday School. 1845.

Distinguished Brothers

Unitarian Association biography