February 20, 2012

Sears: the solemn vows we pay

Not every minister wrote the hymn for their own ordination, but Edmund Hamilton Sears did just that. After some college in Schenectady, New York, he taught for a time in Brattleboro, Vermont, and attempted the study of law. On the side, he dabbled in theology, which convinced him to enroll at the Harvard Divinity School. After graduating from there in 1837, he spent a year "out west" in Ohio, then returned to Massachusetts. He was ordained at a church in Wayland on February 20, 1839. His "Ordination Hymn":

Our fathers, where are they,
   Who here in ancient time
Came with the faltering steps of age,
   Or manhood's glorious prime?
Oh! some in yonder peaceful tombs
   Their long, last sabbath keep,
Where from the idle, hurrying throng
   The mourner turns to weep.

Along these solemn aisles
   Where floats the song of praise,
Do not their lingering spirits hear
   Their old and cherished lays?
And when the fervent voice of prayer
   To God for favor calls,
Oh! blend they not their spirit tones
   That "talk along the walls"?

Their children, where are they,
   Who now their footsteps tread?
Walk they in bonds of love and peace,
   To join the pious dead?
Come blooming youth, come reverend age,
   While yet your years revolve,
And take, within this holy fane,
   The high and pure resolve.

God of our fathers, hear
   The solemn vows we pay,
And let celestial breathings move
   Upon our souls to-day!
Oh, may the tie we consecrate,
   Thy pledge of favor prove!
Shed here thy warm, benignant beams
   Of everlasting love.

Sears married later that year, left the Wayland church, then returned and spent seventeen years there. He eventually went into semi-retirement to focus on his writing and editorial work. He returned to the pulpit after the Civil War, this time in nearby Weston, Massachusetts, and there remained until his death.

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