Editors note: This is the third and final article in a series relating the founding of the first ministry in Packersfield. The first detailed the many efforts to acquire a minister for a small, remote community. Several ministers came for trial periods and several offers of employment were made before Jacob Foster accepted the call. The second discussed Foster’s contentious dismissal for reasons the records do not make clear. What is clear is that the parting was difficult. This final article deals with the start of Packersfield/Nelsons longest ministry, that of Gad Newell. Sensitive to the situation in the aftermath of the Foster mess, the young Newell took a healing approach.
In the aftermath of the Reverend Jacob Foster’s dismissal, Packersfield moved on.
A much more established community now, the town seemed to have little trouble finding a replacement. The process took two years, but there is no record of repeated trials of new ministers and rejected offers of employment. The town provided a settlement of 170 pounds (a sort of signing bonus) and offered the new preacher a salary of 70 pounds per year. The new minister was a twenty-nine-year-old Yale graduate named Gad Newell. The Reverend Newell was installed on June 11, 1794 and retired 43 years later. His letter to the people of Packersfield bespoke his faith in God and of the healing needed in the aftermath of Jacob Foster’s dismissal reproduced here in its full late eighteenth century eloquence:
“To the Church of Christ and the people of God in Packersfield in the State of New Hampshire – grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord be multiplied —
“It has pleased the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the father of glory with whom are the hearts of all men to unite this church and congregation in making choice of me for your Gospel Minister. Accordingly you presented your proposals to me for my consideration (bearing date October 22 A.D. 1793). As it is one of the greatest events of my life and unspeakably important consequences depend it has become me and I do endeavor to feel myself under the all seeing eye of God and I trust I am not actuated from motives of personal private interest or reward but with a view to the glory of God. And have endeavored humbly to look unto God for His direction in a serious consideration and enquiry respecting my duty in this important affair — Considering the extraordinary and singular unanimity of the church and congregation and how undesirable it is for a people to be scattered upon the hills without a spiritual instructor and guide. These things lead me to conclude and afford a prospect that my compliance will be for the glory of God the honor and interest of the cause of Christ and the God of the immortal Souls. From this view that it is for the Glory of God the interest of the Redeemer’s Kingdom and for the salvation of souls. I am as I trust induced cheerfully to comply with your invitations relying on the grace of God and the gracious promises of the Lord Jesus Christ made to his faithful ministers.
“And may I obtain mercy and grace of God to be a faithful minister on the new covenant to come unto you in the fullness of blessing of the Gospel of Christ seeking not yours but you and willing to spend and be spent in the cause of Christ and for the spiritual good of your immortal souls. How great arduous and important the work. How solemn that I must give account of the souls committed to my charge. Should I consult flesh and blood and look to my own ability and sufficiency in undertaking and performing this great work I might well shrink back from it.
“Who is sufficient for these things is the expresion [sic] even of the great apostle through Christ strengthening even the weak may be made strong and small means blessed for great good. And without His especial gracious assistance no one can be properly sufficient leaning not to our own understandings but heartily to the allisufficiancy [sic] and faithfulness of the Great Head of the Church we may go forward finding consolation and support.
“It becomes a minister of Christ to give himself wholly to the work in which he engages not for filthy lucres [sic] sake but have a ready mind. And as I expect and engage this to do to spend the principal part of my time to study and labor continually for the upholding of Christ’s cause and church among you and for the spiritual interest of your immortal souls. It is but proper as long as I thus do I should reap your carnal things receive from you a comfortable subsistence and this I trust I shall so long as the unanimity and friendship continues and there is a prospect of my being useful and doing good among you and when this is at an end it is best we should part. But may God of His mercy grant that no unhappy separation may take place, but that each of us may know what is proper for our several stations and to conduct as that we may further one another’s salvation.
“I shall stand in a near relation to this Church and in a very important one to you all both the aged the middle aged and the youth and even the children and all who attend on my ministry I am to watch for your souls as one that must give an account. Many will be the souls committed to my charge. The work is difficult arduous and unspeakably important. I need therefore to be much in prayer meditation and study and to be diligent and faithful, and need and do desire your prayers your watchfulness your friendly correction and council as well as that you will need mine. And the same forbearance being but a man shall I need from you that you will from me.
“As the upbuilding of Redeemer’s Kingdom and is infinitely important and the most glorious object and the welfare of your immortal souls of unspeakable concernment to you and as you invited me to labor among you in these things to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ it is my duty to be plain and faithful not to seek to please men but God. And it is important how you hear if may obtain mercy of God to be a faithful minister of the new covenant. What I deliver will be a savor of life unto life or a savor of death unto death to you all. But I would charge you not to hearken to what I deliver now follow my example any further than they shall be according to the word of God in your best judgment which you are to study daily to know what is the truth and practice according to it. For all men are fallible and imperfect.
“May God grant I so speak live and that you may so hear and practice that I and you may have occation [sic] to rejoice in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ that I have not run in vain nor labored in vain. And therefore let us keep near the throne of grace and continually bear each other and zion’s cause on our hearts in our addresses to the God of all mercies that we may finally rejoice together united by — forever with Christ in his Kingdom and glory. Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus that great shepard [sic] of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect in every good work to do His will working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever. Amen.
“I subscribe myself your affectionate friend and brother in the faith and fellowship of the gospel. Gad Newell
Dated Packersfield April 5th 1794”
The young Reverend Newell was mindful of the fate of his predecessor when he wrote that he would remain in Packersfield’s service “so long as the unanimity and friendship continues and there is a prospect of my being useful.” He even contemplated the end of his service: For when “doing good among you… is at an end it is best we should part. But may God of His mercy grant that no unhappy separation may take place, but that each of us may know what is proper for our several stations and to conduct as that we may further one another’s salvation.”
It had been a little over two years since Jacob Foster’s difficult dismissal.
Gad Newell served long and well. His life and service saw the financial separation of church and town and the building of the third place of worship, Nelson’s current Congregational Church. He died in 1859 at age 95 and was buried in the very spot where once his pulpit stood high on the hill.