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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Location: Newton Centre, MA, United States

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rev. John Pierce

John Pierce was born in Dorchester on July 14, 1773 and followed the path of so many other founders. He graduated from Harvard in 1793 (where his total college expense was $296.06!), taught for a bit, studied theology and then took a church. He accepted the call to Brookline (pictured here) in December of 1796 and was ordained there the following March, remaining in that charge for 50 years as the sole pastor, after which he consented to have a colleague join him.

A special love of Rev. Pierce was history and on the 50th anniversary of his ordination he preached a sermon rich with the history of church and town. That interest also drew him into many of the historical and genealogical societies of the day. At the Massachusetts Bible Society he served as secretary for 19 years and then took over as President upon the death of William Phillips, serving in that role for another 21 years.

He was also interested in the temperance movement and other social reform enterprises, aligning himself with related societies there as well. Rev. Pierce was secretary of Harvard’s board of Overseers for 33 years and used his strong singing voice to lead the singing of “St. Martin’s” at Harvard commencement dinners for 54 years.

While his published works consist mostly of sermons and addresses, he did leave eighteen volumes of memoir, principally a detailed accounting of the religious and theological turmoil of the day.

Like Francis Parkman, Rev. Pierce was grieved by the split in the Congregational Church. His eulogy says of this: “But he was only grieved, not alienated or embittered. He did not defy his former associates, or go into the opposite ranks to contend against them. He loved them just the same, — would not be driven from his familiar associations with them, — and, to the last, took as much interest in them and their institutions, their public occasions, and all their religious affairs, as he did in the affairs of those friends who were excluded with him, and who were ever ready to hail him as father, and reciprocate his confidence. And yet he was always true to his Liberal friends. When he found they were to be driven asunder from their old associations, be did not hesitate to go with them. And we know that to the end of his life he rejoiced that such had been his decision. It would have been violence to his whole nature to have joined what he always considered the illiberal side.”

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