"The Preacher’s Duty”[1]

Thomas Hill, Harvard College

Berry Street Essay, 1863


Read before the Ministerial Conference

Wednesday, May 27, 1863


[The original of this essay has apparently not survived.  To provide a brief summary of its content as well as the broader issues addressed by the conference, we are including the complete report on the Ministerial Conference of 1863 as reported in the Christian Inquirer.]


The annual Conference of the Unitarian clergy was held at the chapel of the Bedford-Street Church  at 9 o'clock this morning. By a rule of the Association, no person other than ministers are allowed to be present at the debates of the Conference, and reporters are specifically excluded from both address and debate. We learn, however, that the annual discourse was given by Rev. Dr. Hill, President of Harvard College, his subject being "The Preacher's Duty.” The points in the address were these.  Persons greatly mistake who forbid the pulpit to exercise its discretion in treating on the events of the age, and their relation to religion; while on the other hand, those still more truly err who would make these topics the main themes of pulpit discourse. The main work of the ministry is to convert sinners, and edify saints; to persuade men to be reconciled to God, and unfold the principles of morality and the doctrines of the Cross. The usual debate followed the delivery of the address.

The Conference and Prayer-meeting, this morning, was at the Chauncy-street Church, (Rev. Rufus Ellis's).

Rev E.H. SEARS presided. After prayer and hymn, he stated his thought for the morning's conference, the three stages of religious experience—the first, of abounding joy and peace; the second, of doubt and discouragement, when the trials and hard things of life come in to test the genuineness of our faith ; and the third, to which we ultimately attain, if faithful, of conscious victory over all obstacles, a point from which we can look back upon the second stage as one of needed and invaluable training.

Rev Mr. STACY followed, after which a prayer.

Rev. Rises Ellis next spoke of the needfulness of a constant and abiding sense of God with us, to sustain and aid us in each day's work and duty; to help us to bear the burden, otherwise too heavy for our hands.

Rev. F. W. Holland alluded feelingly to Rev. A. B. Fuller, who was with us a year ago.

Rev. N. A. Staples spoke in furtherance and illustration of the thought suggested by Mr. Sears, of the importance of those beginning and trying to live the Christian life remembering the varieties of experience indicated, and not to be discouraged when the seasons of darkness arrive.


[1] "BOSTON ANNIVERSARIES,” Christian Inquirer, June 6, 1863 17:3, p. 1