Founders of the Massachusetts Bible Society - 1809

The Massachusetts Bible Society began on July 6, 1809 and is an ecumenical, Christian organization dedicated to promoting Biblical literacy, understanding, and dialogue. This blog lists brief biographies of our founders who gathered in the Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber on that historic day to sign the Charter founding MBS. Please visit our website:

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Rev. Henry Ware

Born in Sherburne, Mass. on April 1, 1764, Rev. Ware could hardly have been aware of the church conflicts his life would foment. He graduated from Harvard in 1785, studied theology under Rev. Hilliard, and was settled at the Parish in Hingham on October 24, 1787. Diligent in his work, it was said that he could not go to sleep on Sunday night until he had made preparations for the following Sunday’s sermon. Ironically, his sermons often spoke against factionalism and dissent.

He became known for his liberal views while at Hingham and when in 1805 he was invited to become the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, the battle for the soul of Congregationalism was engaged. As is obvious from these biographies, the vast majority of clergymen in Massachusetts and beyond received their training at Harvard. Would they thus be swayed away from orthodoxy? Since there would be no formal seminary at Harvard until 1811, scarce would be the young man who did not learn something of faith from Rev. Ware.

Objections and support poured into Harvard’s offices, with raging debates over whether the Mr. Hollis for whom the professorship was named was truly a Calvinist or not. In the end, Rev. Ware was given the post. Fellow founder Eliphalet Pearson resigned his post in protest and worked to found Andover Seminary to teach orthodox principles. The debate surrounding Rev. Ware’s appointment led to the eventual split of the Unitarians from the Congregationalists, a painful rupture in New England Church life that would continue to split churches and collegial bonds throughout his lifetime.

Henry Ware remained in his post until 1840, when failing eyesight urged his resignation, although he continued for two more years in the chair of pulpit eloquence. He died in Cambridge on July 12, 1845.

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