Martha Ballard's Story
Chapter 5

Foster's dismissal is debated

On September 9, 1788, Martha noted, "thee Town mett to hear Revd mr Fosters Proposals but did not axcept them." By the Fall of 1788, Foster's relations with the town had deteriorated so badly that he offered to sever his connections with the town if they would pay him 200 pounds. They refused.

Martha seemed to rally for the Rev. Foster, commenting more vocally than usual on the quality of his sermons. Take a look at the entry Martha wrote five days after the town refused Foster's proposal. Martha declared "Revd mr Foster Deliverd two Exelent Discorases from Psalm 90 & 12 vers." The psalm reads: "so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom..." Was this a pointed reference by the Rev. Mr. Foster to his own precarious situation? One can't help but think so.

And what about Martha's entry the following Sunday? Here, again, she enthusiastically endorses the Rev. Foster: "the revd mr Foster Delivd 2 fine Discoarses from Romans 10."

When the town decided to take action on October 30, Martha wrote, "mr Balard been to Town meeting. they have apointed a Counsel." The "Counsel" she was referring to was a church council empowered to judge Isaac Foster's fate.

Link to the October 30 town record on the appointing of a church council

When the church council met at Pollards Tavern in November, Martha was there. Her diary contains the only evidence of the grievances that were presented. "I went to mr Pollards to heare what was Laid before the Revd. Counsil Examined Evidences against Revd mr Foster," she recorded on November 20. And the next day, "I attended at Counsil to hear the Evidences Examind. Margarett Fox gave a very Contirary Evidence Concerning her working on the Sabath from what Shee Did when Calld in the Cause of Capt Sewalls Defameing the Revd mr Foster." Apparently one of the charges laid against Rev. Foster was Sabbath-breaking, and Rebecca's servant Margaret Fox testified differently before the council than she had during the Foster/Sewall slander case.

After the two-day hearing, the council recommended that the town dismiss Foster. One month later, we find Martha's record of Foster being officially dismissed at town meeting: "Clear & Cold. mr Ballard attended Town meeting. there was a vote passt that the revd mr Foster Should not preach in the meeting hous anymore."

Link to the December 18 town records, to find out about the vote against Foster and the conditions of his dismissal.

Martha looks after the Fosters
The town meeting gave special directions to the church sexton: he was to forbid Foster from ever setting foot in the meeting house.

Table of Contents

The Holy Bible, King James version
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 Title page     Psalm 90 



Psalm 90


[Annotations and cross-references ommitted]
A complaint of human frailty, &c. PSALMS. The security and happiness of the godly

kindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?
  50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
  51 Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.
  52 Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen


  1. The psalmist declareth God's providence over Israel; 3 he complaineth of human frailty, 7 divine chastisements, 10 and the shortness of life: 12 he prayeth for a due sense of this, and for the sensible experience of God's good providence.

  A Prayer of Moses the man of God. LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
  2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
  3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
  4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
  5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
  6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
  7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
  8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
  9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
  10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
  11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
  12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
  13 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.
  14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
  15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

  16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.
  17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

The security and happiness of the godly under the divine protection.

  HE that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
  2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
  3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
  4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
  5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
  6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
  7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
  8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
  9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
  10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
  11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
  12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
  13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
  14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
  15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
  16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.


  1. The prophet exhorteth to praise God, 4 for his great works, 6 for his judgments on the wicked, 10 and for his goodness to the godly.

A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day.