Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Harriet Livermore

Harriet Livermore was born the daughter of a New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice and former Congressman. Her grandfather was a United States Senator and Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature. She was born an Episcopalian and later became a Congregationalist. She became one of the most well-known women preachers in America in the 1800s and is referred to in Whittier's poem Snow Bound. She travelled widely throughout America and four times to the Holy Land. Her message brought warmth and cheer to thousands.
During her travels she found great charm in the simple faith of the Brethren. She says, "I visited them and was pleased with their modest, humble appearance and behavior." In 1822 she says, "There was a whisper in my mind concerning baptism ..." The outcome was her immersion in the manner of the Brethren.

It is said that when Harriet came to Philadelphia, she was not welcomed by the more fashionable churches. Under the guise of hostility to women preachers she was refused admission to many pulpits. However Brother Peter Keyser of the Brethren Church in Philadelphia gave her the privilege to speak, her first sermon in that city. In the congregation was Sarah Righter (later to take on the married name of Sarah Major) whose heart was touched that day by the sermon. Sarah was converted, joined the church, and later became the first well-known Brethren female preacher.

By her own wish, Harriet Livermore was buried in the Brethren cemetary in Germantown in an unmarked grave with this caption: "All I crave is the pearly drop from Charity's meek eye to dim a little my numerous follies as I journey to my grave. And when laid there, let silence with my quiet dust reside, nor marble tell the passing traveller where the wandering pilgrim sleeps...."

Here among the Brethren of Germantown sleeps the body of Harriet Livermore "who abhorred evil more, loved righteousness more, journeyed more amid perils, suffered more, preached and prayed more, wrote more and wept more for Jesus than any other woman of whom we have a record." [Harriet Livermore, the Pilgrim Stanger].

Harriet Livermore, the wandering pilgrim, was influenced by the Brethren and touched the heart of one Sarah Righter Major who later would become a preacher to the Brethren in her own right.

Source: A History of the German Baptist Brethren by M.G. Brumbaugh