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: www.massbible.org.

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Location: Newton Centre, MA, United States

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rev. John Codman


The son of a successful merchant, John Codman was born in Boston on August 3, 1782. Like so many others he graduated from Harvard in 1802 and turned to the study of law. Upon his father’s deathbed, however, the man asked his son to take up the study of theology instead, and young John obliged, turning to study with fellow MBS founder Henry Ware, then pastoring the church in Hingham.


Although he studied with a liberal, through his reading he came to be attracted to the more evangelical form of Congregationalism and in 1805 he traveled to Scotland to better understand that brand of Calvinism through study at Edinburgh. He remained there a year, during which time he came to know Amazing Grace writer John Newton amongst others.


Upon his return to the United States, he accepted a December, 1808 call to the Second Church in Dorchester, where both Daniel Webster and John Adams frequented services. Just a few months into his ministry, his pastorate was challenged, not for any lack of duty or doctrine but because “he disclaimed ministerial fellowship with men who ‘brought another doctrine’ to the ears of the people than that which he believed to symbolize with the inculcations of Christ and the Apostles.”


Rev. Codman kept both his pulpit and his evangelical faith through the conflict and, like so many others, still managed to join the avowed liberal Rev. Dr. Henry Ware, as a founder of the Massachusetts Bible Society. He might have “disclaimed ministerial fellowship” with his erstwhile tutor, now Harvard professor, but they came together for the sake of the Bible.


Rev. John Codman died on December 23, 1847, just a few short weeks after leaving the pulpit.

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