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From Proceedings, Page 1873-248:


The recent death of the REV. SAMUEL RIPLEY, of Concord, another of the good and useful men, who have ceased from the labors of the Christian ministry in the Unitarian faith, claims a record of respectful and grateful remembrance. This event, affecting as it must have been under any circumstances, was made more touchingly solemn by the suddenness with which it fell upon his friends. The life and the departure of one who did so much to create for himself a lasting memorial in the hearts of no small portion of our community, cannot soon be forgotten by any whose privilege it was to be acquainted with his unremitted labors and his Christian virtues.

Mr. Ripley was born at Concord, Mass., on the 11th of March, 1783. His childhood and youth were eminently blessed by the care of a father, whose praise is in all our churches, whoso name is hallowed by a wise and faithful ministry extended to a most unusual period, whose old age was a venerable spectacle, and whose memory is laid up among the best and holiest things in the hearts of those to whom he ministered. Mr. Ripley enjoyed the means of education common at that time; and, having passed through the preparatory studies in his native town, entered Harvard College, where his position was a highly respectable one, and became a graduate of that institution, in 1804. On leaving college he spent some time at the South as an instructor, pursuing meanwhile theological studies.

Having continued these studies to the usual extent, with much interest and fidelity, he became a candidate for the work of the Christian ministry. His preaching and services in several places gave ample evidence of his fitness for that work. In August, 1809, he received a call to the sacred office from the Congregational Church in Waltham, and was ordained there as successor to the venerable Dr. Cushing, November 22d, of that year. His ministry was a long, and, for the most part, a very happy one. Not many instances can be named of clerical duties discharged, year after year, with more uniform diligence, wisdom and faithfulness. To his other labors he was obliged to add those of a teacher of youth, and in connection with the distinguished and beloved lady, with whom it was his happiness to be united in marriage, prepared during a series of years a large number of students for Harvard College. On the 27th of October, 1841, he had the pleasure of receiving as a colleague, the Rev. George F. Simmons, who, after a short ministry, resigned his office, and was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Hill, ordained December 24, 1845. In the spring of 1846, Mr. Ripley, after retiring from the ministry in Waltham, removed to Concord, having previously taken charge of the Unitarian Society in the neighboring town of Lincoln, which he retained in a manner most acceptable and edifying to them till his death. In the ancient home of his youth, he purposed to spend what might remain of life; and his friends hoped he would find a lengthened and green old age on that spot of quiet beauty, the peculiarities of which have been so charmingly portrayed by the genius of Hawthorne. But the Wisdom which cannot err, had decreed otherwise. For some time he had been aware of the indications of a disease of the heart, which he had supposed might soon prove fatal. On the stormy evening of the 24th of November, he went to the depot of the railroad to take home some of his family, who were to meet at his house on the late Thanksgiving day. He had not gone far on his return, when he suddenly fell back in the carriage, and instantly died in the arms of his children. As a husband and a father, there had gathered around him that hearty affection, which devoted exertions and long-tried love naturally create in the domestic relations. On his energy, his untired labor, his loving care, a large household leaned for many years, as on a pillar of strength. In a moment it was struck down in the midst of them, even at the hour when the joyful associations of the old New England festival were gathering around their hearts. Bitter and dark was the grief which came over a family but just before so blessed and happy. Mr. Ripley was somewhat more than 64 years old when he died.

Those who were near him for many years received from him so much true kindness, and saw in him so much which was good, generous and excellent, that they may be tempted to speak of him in terms which might seem too exclusively the language of friendship. But no one could know him well, without being prepared to say that he was a man of large heart, of manly soul, of fearless devotedness to truth and right; that strong good sense, earnest feeling, and the most honest and honorable purposes were woven into the whole texture of his life.

Of few men could it be said that they were so thoroughly unselfish as he was. He felt for others, as a kind-hearted man and a Christian feels. He was generous, benevolent and true. In these qualities of his character there was a warmth, a spontaneousness, a forgetfulness of self, which gave them the form of an unbidden result of principles cherished so long and deeply that they worked with the quickness and naturalness of impulse. Those who were well acquainted with him knew so much of the pains he would take, the efforts and sacrifices he would make, for the good or the relief of others, that all this was identified, as a matter of course, with their thoughts of him. The instances of this were thick-strewn through the varying scenes of an earnest, hard-working, devoted life; for such his life was in no common degree. He had adopted as a practical principle, the beautiful maxim of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than receive"; and with peculiar pertinency could he have said to those among whom he labored, as Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, "I have coveted no man's silver or gold or apparel; yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me."

If it be a service of high moment to the interests of society to direct youthful minds in the paths of learning and virtuous discipline, then was he truly a benefactor to the community; for he gave with conscientious diligence and signal success to the work of education, what time could be spared from other duties for many laborious years; and not few are they who have looked back upon the tuition of his school as affording the best elements of whatever good they have been able to achieve. In that higher relation which Mr. Ripley sustained as a minister of the Christian church, the memorials of his activity and usefulness are many. None who knew him in this capacity will need to be reminded that he loved the duties of his profession with a love reaching from the freshness of youth to the last hour of his life, and that he discharged these duties with no common fidelity and devotedness.

He brought to his work an open and practical mind. His preaching was direct, earnest, plain, faithful; he never feared to rebuke sin; and he administered the rebuke with manly firmness, though never, it is believed, in any other spirit than that of love. He sought to make the pulpit an instrument of building up the kingdom of Christ among men. While he valued highly, and was always ready in due proportion and on fitting occasions to defend enlightened and evangelical views of doctrinal or speculative truth, yet his own taste led him to take more pleasure in those exhibitions of Christianity which move directly the deep springs of action, and bear at once upon the great realities of practical improvement. He loved better to quicken the conscience than to fortify a creed, to amend the life than to amuse the intellect, to cherish spiritual growth than controversial skill. There are testimonies enough to give the assurance that his sermons, if they were not of that class of questionable utility called brilliant sermons, yet frequently left the most salutary and long-remembered impressions. He never preached to exhibit himself, but with the single aim to give his word in aid of the great cause of truth and righteousness.

As a pastor, he was affectionate, prompt, and watchfully attentive to the wants and welfare of all committed to his care. The afflicted, the sick, the needy, they who were in sorrow or perplexity, felt his presence to be a blessing, and were cheered by his considerate kindness, his unwearied efforts for their good. The most gratifying testimony to its usefulness in this respect may be found among the congregation in Waltham, where for so many years he exercised a diligent ministry of truth and love; and the same testimony is repeated by the little flock in Lincoln, whom of late, for a briefer space, with a deep interest in their religious warfare, he was happy to serve in the Gospel of Christ. From the time of his ordination to his last hour on earth, it may justly be said, that the great objects of the Christian ministry lay nearest to his heart. It ought especially to be mentioned, that in the latter part of his life he felt a warmer and ever-increasing interest in the great questions of humanity, which have taken so deep a hold on the public mind among us, — the questions respecting the application of Christian principles to all forms of wrong, injustice and suffering.

By his brethren in his ministry, particularly by the association to which he belonged, and over which for several years he presided, Mr. Ripley was held in high respect. They knew he was a true, frank, honest-hearted man, always sincere, always without disguise, — for this indeed was what all knew him to be; and therefore he had their confidence and best regard, even when he used such plainness of speech as in some men, and under other circumstances, might have been unacceptable. His brethren can never forget the genial impression left by his presence among them, the pleasure he felt in meeting them as a brother, a fellowlaborer in their common cause of truth and holiness, the good sense and firm principle he always manifested, his just counsels, his ready and warm sympathy, the gratification he enjoyed in their prosperity, his hearty feeling for them in sufferings and trials. It will not be easy to make good to them the place which he occupied in their circle, and in their esteem. A good and faithful man has gone from us; and such men we feel that we can ill afford to lose. But we do not lose them. For well did an ancient sage say, " The memorial of virtue is immortal, because it is known with God and with men; when it is present, men take example at it; and when it is gone, they desire it; it weareth a crown and triumpeth forever, having gotten the victory, striving for undented rewards." The eye is quenched in darkness; the hand crumbles into dust; but that which made the individual what he was, remains and will always remain. Nothing is more true than what was said of a good man of the ancient days, "being dead, he yet speaketh, — speaketh of the spirit's work and the spirit's blessing. These are things which cannot die. Faith lifts her eye from the ministry on earth to the ministry above; from the service here, where sorrows sadden and perplexities oppress, to the upper service, which changes only by ascending from improvement to improvement, from lower to higher degrees of union with God. Shall not the appointed work be so performed, that we may rise to our Father's love through the tasks and trials of life ?

"Thus smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love;
For us they languish, and for us they die;
And shall they languish, shall they die in vain?"
— Christian Register, Dec. 4, 1847.

Bro. Samuel Ripley was the son of Rev. Ezra Ripley, D.D., a sketch of whose life has already been given, and was born in Concord, on the 11th of March, 1783. In the schools of this town, and under the care of his father, he was prepared to enter Harvard College, where he graduated in 1804. On leaving college, and while pursuing his studies in theology, he spent some years in teaching, chiefly at the South; and this occupation he afterwards resumed in connection with his parochial duties. In August, 1809, he was ordained as a clergyman at Waltham, where he remained until 1846, a period of nearly thirty-seven years, during the last five of which he was assisted by a colleague; at first by Rev. George F. Simmons, his son-in-law, since deceased, and afterwards by Rev. Thomas Hill, the present pastor. In the spring of 1846, he removed to his native town, taking up his residence in the parsonage house of his father, now known to the world through the pages of Hawthorne as "The Old Manse." While living in this familiar and picturesque seclusion, so admirably described by Hawthorne, he officiated as pastor of a small church in the adjoining town of Lincoln, and did his part as a citizen among the surviving friends of his youth and the numerous parishioners of his father, to whom the Old Manse had been a sort of bishop's palace. From these disinterested labors he was suddenly called away by death on the evening of the 24th November, 1847, while returning from the railroad station with some of his family who were coming to spend Thanksgiving under his roof. He died almost instantly in his carriage, of a disease of the heart which had long given him uneasiness, but which few regarded as serious. His age was 64.

He married Miss Sarah Bradford, the daughter and grand-daughter of revolutionary officers, and descended from William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony. The rare and varied learning of this accomplished lady made the school, in which they both taught at Waltham, eminently successful, and its pupils look back on their life there with grateful enthusiasm. With her children and grandchildren she still dwells in "The Old Manse."

He was initiated a Mason in our Lodge in 1804. In 1823 he was appointed Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. In 1817 he delivered an address before the Masons of Newton, which was printed with this title: "The Mutual Influence of Religion and Freemasonry upon the Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness of Mankind." The address shows the deep interest he took in our Institution; a feeling which, no doubt, descended to him from his father.

Such are the outlines of a life in which there was little to draw the public gaze, or give point to a biographer's period; yet the obscure duties of the country clergyman, who is faithful to his work, give a sphere large enough for all genius and for all the virtues, as Herbert and Oberlin bear witness; and seldom have these duties been better done—never more earnestly loved than by Bro. Ripley. It is the noble office of the New England minister especially to mediate between the quarrelsome orders in the social scale; to warm the coldness of wealth and soothe the fretfulness of poverty, as well as to meet the more tangible evils that infest our social life; and none knew better than our Brother how to meet the varying claims made upon him by a parish where more than the usual contrasts of society were found. He loved the poor without hating the rich, and did his best to open to all the culture which a few are always seeking to monopolize. In the offices of religion he was fervent without fanaticism, and earnest without bigotry; but it was not so much in the pulpit or the study that his fitness for his chosen work appeared, as in the untiring activity of his whole parochial work. With great generosity and an overflowing sympathy he made the joys and sorrows of others his own, while his own were quietly dropped from sight so long as they might interfere with his exertions for others; so that some of his friends might have said of him as the God Ocean addresses his brother in the Greek play: —

"Ever thou wert more wise for others' good
Than for thine own."

These qualities he inherited and transmitted, together with beauty of person, dignity of manner, and a rare union of gentleness and force, of refinement and abrupt plainness. If he was hasty, he forgave as readily as he censured; and who could refuse to forgive one who suffered remorse for the faults of others scarcely less than for his own?

In a long life of unselfish usefulness he satisfied the claims of all the positions in which he was placed; a dutiful son, an affectionate husband and father, a fast friend, a generous patron, a devoted pastor, a patient teacher, a good citizen, a Christian gentleman. Nor shall his virtues soon be forgotten; since they are traoed not only in the fading memories of men, but in the characters of his descendants, whose father's example is their best and most valued inheritance.
— History of Corinthian Lodge.

Distinguished Brothers

Universalist Association biography (Ripley Family)