The history of religious exercises at Harvard is entertaining and instructive. The change from the compulsion of the past to the long-wished for, and no less valuable freedom of the present, is only the outcome of years of striving and endeavor.
When the college was founded daily services were held morning and evening in the tutor's room, where "that Freshman class of one," of which Dr. Holmes tells us, recited its little lessons and also was made to bend beneath the birch. But as the college grew, and more ample accommodations were given, the building known as Common Hall, where the books of the library were stored, was made the place of religious worship.
Old Harvard Hall afterwards was used until Holden Chapel was completed in 1744. Morning and evening prayers were held here until 1766, when the New Harvard Hall was built upon the charred ruins of its predecessor. From Harvard Hall, the chapel was removed to University Hall in 1814, which was a new building at that time. In 1858, Appleton Chapel was finished, and with the exception of a few months has been ever since the chapel of Harvard College.
Under President Dunster daily prayers were held at 7 a.m. and 5 p. m. Between the years 1642-6, one cut a week was allowed. At morning prayers, the undergraduates were required to read the Scriptures, translating from Hebrew into Greek; at the service in the afternoon passages from the Bible were translated from English into Greek.
The diary of President Leverett furnishes us with the following curiousee ord: "November 4, 1712. A. - was publickly admonish'd in the College Hall, and there confessed his Sinfull Excess, and his enormous profanation of the Holy Name of Almighty God. And he demeaned himself so that the Presid't and Fellows conceived great hopes that he will not be lost."
The system of exacting fines for misdemeanors of various sorts, came into high favor about 1750, when (1) an absence from prayers cost the delinquent the sum of two pence; (2), tardiness at prayers, one penny; (3), absence from public worship, nine pence; (4), illbehaviour at public worship, a sum not exceeding one shilling, six pence; (5), "going to meeting before bell ringing," six pence, - in 1800, increased to sixty cents; (6), neglecting to repeat the sermon - given up in 1773 - nine pence; (7), irreverent behaviour at prayers or public divinity lectures, one shilling, six pence - in 1800, increased to one dollar. These penalties were made heavier in later years, until the whole system of punishing by means of fines was abolished in 1825.
At the end of each week the absences were announced in Latin, and excuses had to be made in Latin also. The announcement would be given, - Terabfuisti," and the boy addressed would answer, "Semel aegrotavi et bis invalui." or "Detentus ob anucis;" but it is related that a certain unlearned Freshman once made reply. "Non ter, sed semel abfui; Carolus frater locked me up in the buttery."