a digital library of Unitarian Universalist biographies, history, books, and media

Donate to Harvard Square Library

Sign Up for Updates
Home » Cambridge & Harvard » Mr. Hilliard

Mr. Hilliard

The Reverend TIMOTHY HILLIARD was born in Kensington, New-Hampshire, in 1746; and, in 1760, entered Harvard College. “His natural abilities were such, as gave him a facility in acquiring knowledge; and, while he was a student, he made such advances in the various branches of useful learning, as laid the foundation for that eminence in his profession, to which he afterward attained.” (116) When he entered the desk, he was judged not only to have “just views of the doctrines and precepts of Christianity,” but to have “experienced their power and efficacy on his own heart.” “His pulpit performances, from the first, were very acceptable,” wherever he was providentially called to preach the gospel.

In 1768, he was appointed chaplain of Castle William; and, after officiating in that capacity a few months, he was elected a tutor in Harvard College. Having continued about two years and a half in the tutorship, “the duties of which he discharged with diligence and fidelity,” he was invited to settle in the ministry at Barnstable; where he was ordained, April 10, 1771. “He continued his ministry in that place about twelve years, and was in high esteem among his people, both for his preaching, and for all his parochial conduct; at the same time he was greatly valued in all that part of the country. He loved the work of the ministry, and was faithful in the discharge of all its duties.”

Finding his health materially injured by the sea air, he was, at length, constrained to remove from Barnstable. (117) On the confirmation of his health, by a change of air, he became capable of resuming the public services of the ministry; and, after preaching a short time at Cambridge, was invited to the pastoral charge, as a colleague with the aged and venerable Dr. Appleton. He accepted the invitation, and was installed, October 27, 1783. On this occasion, he preached a sermon from Titus, ii. 15; the Reverend Dr. Cooper, of Boston, gave the charge; and the Reverend Mr. Cushing, of Waltham, gave the right hand of fellowship.

Placed, by Providence, in this conspicuous station, his sphere of usefulness became much enlarged, his labours being now extended to the University. (118) For this new sphere he was peculiarly qualified. “His pulpit talents were excellent. He was pleasing in his elocution. In prayer he was exceeded by few, being ready in his utterance, pertinent on every occasion, and devotional in his manner. His discourses from the desk were never such as could be said to have cost him nothing, but were well studied, pure in the diction, replete with judicious sentiments, clearly and methodically arranged, instructive, serious, practical, and truly evangelical; so that his public services were useful and edifying to all ranks of men, both learned, and unlearned.” He was “ever viewed by the Governors of the University, as an excellent model for the youth under their care, who were designed for the desk; and they considered his introduction into this parish, a most happy event.”

Though he was diligent in acquiring useful knowledge, in its various branches; yet he principally devoted himself, as became his profession, to the study of theology. “In the treatment of difficult points in divinity, he was rational and perspicuous; but he was not frequent in handling subjects of doubtful disputation. To inculcate repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and a hearty conformity to the practical precepts of the gospel, he considered of the first importance; and such was the general tenor of his preaching.”

To the sick and afflicted he was tenderly attentive. “His mind was formed to sympathy and goodness; benevolence was in his heart; the law of kindness in his tongue; and he was always ready, by day and by night, to serve his flock.” He was amiable in his temper, prudent and conciliatory in his deportment.

Though firm in the maintenance of his own religious sentiments, he was “eminently candid, and ready to embrace all good men.” In public and in private life, he was exemplary for virtue and piety.

His ministrations were very acceptable to the churches in the vicinity of Cambridge. “His excellent talents and ministerial qualifications became more and more known; and his reputation was increasing,” till his death. He was “frequently employed in ecclesiastical councils, and had much weight and influence in them.” — His printed sermons did him “much honour” —.”There was no minister among us,” said President Willard, “of his standing, who, perhaps, had a fairer prospect of becoming extensively useful to the churches of Christ in this Commonwealth”.

“He was peculiarly engaged in promoting the interests of the University in this place, of which he was a watchful Governor. He was constantly seeking its utility and fame, and was an attentive and active member of that branch of its legislature to which he belonged; and his judgment was always of weight.

“Formed by nature with a delicate sensibility, kindness of heart and gentleness of manners, and endowed with a good understanding, a ready mind, respectable acquirements, an a facility and pertinency in conveying his sentiments upon every occasion, his company was pleasing, and his conversation improving. His social intercourse with his brethren in the ministry was always agreeable, and he gained their universal love and esteem.”

In his last illness, which was very short, he was supported by the Christian hope, which gave him a religious superiority to the fear of death. Just before he expired, “he expressed his full confidence in God, and said that he enjoyed those consolations, which he had endeavoured to administer to others. He mentioned his flock with affection, and observed, with grateful satisfaction, That he had not shunned to declare to them the whole counsel of God, having kept nothing back through fear, or any sinister views.” He died on the Lord’s-day morning, May 9, 1790, in the forty-fourth year of his age.

His publications are:

  • A Sermon at a Public Fast;
  • — at the Ordination of the Rev. Bezaleel Howard, at Springfield;
  • — at the Ordination of the Rev. John Andrews, at Newburyport;
  • — at the Execution of White and others, at Cambridge;
  • — at the Dudleian Lecture.

Mr. Hilliard’s Epitaph:

In Memory
For more than twelve years, was a gospel Minister
Of the first church of Christ In Barnstable,
And for more than six years,
Broke the bread of life to the Christian society
In this place.
Having been, in private life,
Cheerful, affable, courteous, amiable,
In his ministerial character,
Instructive, serious, solemn, faithful,
In full belief of the truths he preached to others,
He fell asleep in JESUS, May ix, MDCCXC,
In the XLIV year of his age,
In the Christian hope
Of rising again

This monument was erected by the bereaved affectionate flock

116 ^ President Willard’s Sermon, at the funeral of Mr. Hilliard; from which this character is selected. The President was contemporary with Mr. Hilliard as a student, and a tutor, and had “a peculiar intimacy with him, for many years.”

117 ^ “The air in the town is affected by the neighborhood of the sea on each side, from which it derives a dampness and frequently a chill which is disagreeable, if not unfriendly to tender nerves.” The Rev. Mr. Mellen’s description of Barnstable, in the collections of the Historical Society, III. 12.

118 ^ Ever since the foundation of Harvard College, its officers and students have attended public worship in the first church in Cambridge.

Series Navigation<< Mr. AppletonThe History of Cambridge: Additional Images >>
Categories: Cambridge & Harvard