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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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rev. Horace Holley

Born in Salisbury, Connecticut on February 13, 1781 and, despite his father’s designs for him as a merchant, he graduated from Yale in 1803 and entered the study of Law. After only a few months, however, he returned to Yale to study theology with its President, Dr. Timothy Dwight. In 1806 he was ordained to a parish in Greenfield Hill, CT, where Dr. Dwight had once served. He received a salary of $560 per year.

Finding the salary too small for his family, Rev. Holley left Greenfield Hill and in March of 1809, was installed at the Hollis St. Church in Boston. Having adhered to Orthodox Calvinism while at Yale, in Boston his faith became more liberal as he listened to the debates of the age. From Charles Caldwell, M.D., a colleague of Rev. Holley at Transylvania University, we have this description of that shift:

“Arrived in Boston, where all subjects were freely discussed, where truth, not the interests of a sect, was sought for, mixing with the clergy of every denomination and mode of faith, learned and eloquent, and disposed to draw him into debate— a kind of warfare for which he had a taste as well as talent— his mind unfolded to a more extended view of Christianity. He saw that though one set of opinions might be right, another, in many respects different, need not of necessity be wholly wrong— they might agree in fundamentals—and that religion does not consist so much in thinking as in feeling and acting. He believed that men are the creatures of God; that he exercises a moral government over them; that they are bound to worship him; and that they will be happy or miserable in every stage of their existence, according to the state of their affections and conduct. He believed the scriptures to be the rule of faith, but allowed of a variety of interpretation. As they were written for all nations, all climates, and all circumstances, and adapted to each, they could not justly be circumscribed by the peculiar interpretation of any man, or set of men; of a single church, village, or state.”

Rev. Holley served at Hollis St. just 9 years before being called to become the President of the struggling Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. He and his family were stricken with yellow fever and died on July 31, 1827.

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