Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

Our First Church

Not until the second year after Boston was settled, did we have a building devoted entirely to the worship of God. Then was built of logs, neatly hewn and set together with much care, so that both the outside and the inside were smooth and fair to look upon, that which we called our church.

The sides did not stand as tall as some of our dwellings; but the roof was much higher and sharper, so that inside it looked to be very large. There were four windows in each side, and all of them contained glass, if you please.


The pulpit, with a well fashioned sounding-board of odorous cedar above it, stood at the end of the building farthest from the door, and there were near about it eight pews made much after the same shape as those in the church at home. In these sit the magistrates, the elders and the deacons, with the men on one side, the women and girls on the other, and the boys in one corner, where the tithing-men may keep them in order.

Back of these pews were benches sufficient in number to give seats to all our people, and if it could have been that Master Winthrop and those in authority believed we might worship God quite as well while comfortable in body, so that we had a fireplace, it would have delighted me much.

It seems almost a sin to complain because of being cold while one is praising God, and yet during this long, dreary winter when the earth was piled high with snow, and the river imprisoned in ice, it was well nigh impossible, after having remained in the same position two or three hours, to prevent one's teeth from chattering so sharply that the noise might disturb others.

It seems to me that one could enjoy a sermon much better if one were not wishing for the warmth of the fireplace at home.

Many of our people have what is called a foot-stove to take with them to meeting, and it seems to me a most comfortable arrangement; but mother says that if our love of God be not strong enough to prevent discomfort simply because of the frost, when such a man as Master Wilson, or either of the preachers, or Governor Winthrop, is pleased to deliver a sermon, then are we utterly lost.


Susan declares that she was lost the first winter we came here, when her cheeks were frost-bitten during one of Master Winthrop's lectures, which took no more than two hours in the speaking.

These foot-stoves, which I wish most fervently my father would believe we might be permitted to use, are square boxes made of iron, pierced with many tiny holes, and having a handle by which they can be carried. One of these, filled with live coals, will keep warm a very long time, especially if it be covered with skins, and I envy Mistress Winthrop and her daughter, even while knowing how great is the sin, when they sit in the Governor's pew so comfortably warm that there is no fear their teeth will, by chattering, cause unseemly disturbance.

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