University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

The Reverend Nathan Stone Sermons


Manuscript Collection Number: 380
Accessioned: Purchased, December 1986.
Extent: 31 items.
Content: Sermons.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1998 by Arthur Siegel

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

The Reverend Nathan Stone was born in Harwich, Massachusetts, on February 18, 1708 to Nathaniel (1667-1755) and Reliance [Hinkley] Stone (d.1759). Nathan Stone's paternal grandfather, Simon Stone, was the first of his family to come to America from England -- sometime between 1653 and 1667 -- and his son Nathaniel was the first minister of Harwich. Nathan's maternal grandfather was Thomas Hinkley, governor of the Plymouth colony from 1680 to 1692. Nathan attended Harvard College, leaving in 1726 after participating in a student riot, but returned to continue his studies in 1729. In 1730, Nathan was ordained reverend for the newly created town of Southborough, Massachusetts, and soon became an influential and highly respected member of the community.

He was elected secretary to the "Marlborough Association," a post he held for many years. This association comprised a collection of ministries from local towns which met for the purposes of mutual assistance, and to guide the spiritual direction of the area's inhabitants. In an age when there was still no clear-cut division between Church and State, this body wielded a great deal of power. Nathan also contributed to Ezra Stiles' book, The Ecclesiastical History of British North America, with an account of the history of Southborough. On October 21, 1734, Nathan married Judith Fox, daughter of Reverend Jabez Fox of Woburn. She died in childbirth, however, in February 1748, leaving him a widower with several children. Three years later he married again, this time to Mary Thacher, daughter of Middleborough Reverend Peter Thacher.

Nathan Stone, like his father, was religiously conservative, holding fast to traditional Puritan ideals, and was firmly opposed to the radical revivalism of the Great Awakening that was occurring around him in the late 1730s and early 1740s. Though he managed to keep the majority of his congregation from succumbing to these influences, he could not stem the tide of social and religious "laxness" that began to overtake the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. By the 1760s, the tightly-knit religious community of his youth was rapidly coming apart, the Puritan ethics he so revered were disappearing, and New England colonists were quickly becoming radicalized in their opposition to the Crown. Nathan Stone was horrified by the Boston Tea Party, and watched with disapproval as Southborough and other local communities began to organize their own militias. Indeed, by the 1770s Nathan Stone had become so frustrated with his congregation's reactionary tendencies towards Britain that he would openly berate them from the pulpit, even naming those individuals whose activities did not meet his strict ethical standards.

As the inevitability of open conflict became apparent, Stone continued to urge reconciliation and caution to his parishioners. Yet, by the late 1770s his attitude had changed, and he came to accept the war for independence as a just one. Nathan Stone died on May 31, 1781, and several weeks later the town held a day of prayer and fasting in his honor.


Noble, Richard E. Fences of Stone: A History of Southborough, Massachusetts. Portsmouth, NH: P.E. Randall, 1990.

Savage, James. Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. vol 4. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1994.

Scope and Content Note

The collection comprises twenty-five sermons and several sermon fragments which span the period 1705 to 1774. Most of the sermons were preached at the Meeting House in Southborough, Massachusetts, and the dates and locations preached are generally provided. A few even record whether they were given in the morning or the afternoon, and almost every sermon includes the scriptural passage upon which the sermon was based. All but a few of these sermons were written by Nathan Stone. Two of them are dated 1705 and were given at Harwich, suggesting that they were written by his father, Nathaniel Stone. Several of the remaining sermons were delivered in other locations, such as Marlborough and Westborough. Stone's conservatism and deep concern for the state of his parishioners' souls is very evident in his sermons, which frequently speak of sin and redemption. The sermons themselves were written on small sheets of paper, many of which had been stitched together. Some bear signs of water damage, though none are illegible. It is also interesting to note the deterioration of Stone's handwriting, quite evident in the later sermons.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

F1   "[T]hy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. " 
     Exodus 15:6
     Given by Nathaniel Stone Sr. at Harwich, 29 Jan 1705 on a "Thanksgiving Day on ye
     account of another victory obtained by ye D[uke] of Malborough over the french forces." 
     This sermon was given again on 12 Apr 1705  (17pp.)

     "Know ye not that there is -- a great man fallen this day in Israel?" 
     Samuel 3:38
     Given at the Meeting House in Southborough, 17 Jan 1731 upon the death of Mr. Breck 

F2   "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord."  
     Lamentations 3:40
     Given in Southborough on 1 Mar 1733, and again in Framington on 8 Sep 1734  (2pp.)

     "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me " 
     Psalms 66:18
     Given in Southborough, the morning and afternoon of 9 Apr 1732  (8pp.)

F3   No title  
     Given in Southborough 19 Feb 1736, and again in Harwich 12 Jun 1737  (2pp.)

     "[W]hich is Christ in you, the hope of glory;"  
     Colossians 1:27
     Fragment of a sermon given on 16 Oct 1737  (2pp.)

F4   "Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus
     Ephesians 6:23
     Given in Southborough 25 Feb 1739.  On the last page is an addendum entitled
     "Improvement."  (2pp.)

     "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with
     thanksgiving. " 
     Timothy 4:4
     Given on a Thanksgiving Day in Southborough 29 Nov 1739  (6pp.)

F5   "For without me ye can do nothing."  
     John 15:5
     Given in Southborough 23 Dec 1739, and again on 7 Feb 1740  (12pp.)

     "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and
     doeth his will, him he heareth." 
     John 9:31
     Given at Marlborough 16 Mar 1742/3, and again at Westborough Feb 1746  (16pp.)

F6   "[L]et us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run
     with patience the race that is set before us."  
     Hebrews 12:1
     Given in Southborough 23 Dec 1744  (15pp.)

     "[B]ut the greatest of these is charity. "  
     Corinthians 13:13
     Given in Southborough 27 Jan 1745  (8pp.)

F7   "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth,
     neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into
     James 5:12
     Given in Southborough 22 Feb 1747  (8pp.)

     "Whom have I in heaven but thee?  and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." 
     Psalms 73:25
     Given in Southborough 2 Aug 1747  (16pp.)

F8   "I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his
     wickedness, saying, What have I done?"  
     Jeremiah 8:6
     Given in Southborough February 1754  (17pp.)

     "[A]nd he said, Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any
     2 Kings 6:33
     Given in Southborough January 1759.  Pages 3-16 are missing from the text  (24pp.)

F9   "And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him,
     Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God." 
     Luke 14:15
     Given in Southborough 22 Jun 1760  (12pp.)

     "[B]ut sin is a reproach to any people."  
     Proverbs 14:34
     Given in Southborough 3 May 1761 (12pp.)

F10  "If ye know these thing, happy are ye if ye do them." 
     John 13:17
     Given in Southborough February 1765  (40pp.)

     "But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?"  
     Job 14:10
     Given in Southborough 3 Jan 1773  (8pp.)

F11  "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. "  
     Romans 3:24
     Given in Southborough October 1774  (40pp.)

     "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." 
     Psalms 103:8
     Given on September 14 & 21, though the year is unrecorded  (10pp.)

F12  "And the way of peace they have not known." 
     Romans 3:17
     n.d.  Though this and the following sermon focus on the same passage, they are two
     completely different works  (4pp.)

     "And the way of peace have they not known."  
     Romans 3:17
     n.d.  (8pp.)

F13  "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and
     James 2:19
     n.d.  (5pp.)
     Unidentified fragments  (6 items)
     Includes small fragments of sermons, with no reference to date or location, as well as two
     undated fragments of notes that were sent to Nathan Stone.

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