TASTY MORSELS FROM THE AMERICAN PURITANS
Difficulty arose in Massachusetts Bay as more people immigrated. The laws were strict, and even punished those who broke the Sabbath in any way, such as not attending the church. In effect, unregenerate people were expected to behave as Christians, or find themselves in jail, or worse. One Puritan who opposed this way of thinking was Roger Williams. He believed it was not the job of civil government to enforce the first table of the Law. He also believed that a man or woman could not be forced to be a Christian, or believe a certain thing. He believed in religious freedom for all. Eventually he had to leave the Massachusetts Bay colony, and went on to start Providence, eventually to become the capitol of Rhode Island. So ironically, the Puritans who were persecuted in England sometimes became persecutors in the New World. In Providence, Williams is said to have started the first Baptist church in America. He certainly was an influence on the Puritans regarding freedom of conscience, which became a way of life in America. Yet among these godly, but fallible, men were some Bible teachers and preachers of the first order. They published, but not as prolifically as their English and Scotch brethren. Yet a number of great works and sermons were published up to the time of Jonathon Edwards, arguably the most brilliant American theologian, and often called “The Last Puritan“. Let us examine a morsel or two of these other great writers’ work.
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
(By Cotton Mather-1663-1728; grandson of John Cotton, and the son of Increase Mather).
MAGNALIA CHRISTI AMERICANA
(or Great Works of Christ in America), Cotton Mather’s massive work of over 1200 pages. This is from the introduction where it was stated “The object of the first planters of New England was to form a CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH”. Very interesting indeed, when so many both in the churches and the world, tell us that America was never designed to be a Christian nation but a strictly secular society. If you really like to read early historical accounts you can view the entire “Magnalia” in PDF at the excellent Monergism site which has literally thousands of Puritan and Reformed books and articles online. http://www.monergism.com/directory/search.php?action=search_links_simple&search_kind=and&phrase=cotton+mather&B1=Go
(By Increase Mather- 1639-1723; father of Cotton Mather and a renowned preacher as well).
“The royal pen of the prophet David hath most truly affirmed, ‘that they who go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.’ And, in special, they see wonders of Divine goodness in respect of eminent deliverances wrought by the hand of the Most High, who stills the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves. lt is meet that such providences should be ever had in remembrance, as most of all by the persons concerned in them, so by others, that the God of Salvation, who is the confidence of them that are afar off upon the sea, may have eternal praise....
Remarkable was that deliverance mentioned both by Mr. Janeway and Mr. Burton, wherein that gallant commander, Major Edward Gibbons, of Boston, in New England, and others were concerned. The substance of the story is this:–A New England vessel going from Boston to some other parts of America, was, through the continuance of contrary winds, kept long at sea, so that they were in very great straits for want of provision; and seeing they could not hope for any relief from earth or sea, they apply themselves to heaven in humble and hearty prayers; but no calm ensuing, one of them made this sorrowful motion, that they should cast lots, which of them should die first, to satisfy the ravenous hunger of the rest. After many a sad debate, they come to a result, the lot is cast, and one of the company is taken, but where is the executioner to be found to act this office upon a poor innocent? It is death now to think who shall act this bloody part in the tragedy. But before they fall upon this involuntary execution, they once more went unto their prayers; and while they were calling upon God, he answered them, for there leaped a mighty fish into the boat, which was a double joy to them, not only in relieving their miserable hunger, which, no doubt, made them quick cooks, but because they looked upon it to be sent from God, and to be a token of their deliverance. But alas! the fish is soon eaten, and their former exigencies come upon them, which sink their spirits into despair, for they know not of another morsel. To lot they go again the second time, which falleth upon another person; but still none can be found to sacrifice him: they again send their prayers to heaven with all manner of fervency, when, behold a second answer from above! a great bird alights, and fixes itself upon the mast, which one of the company espies, and he goes, and there she stands till he took her with his hand by the wing. This was life from the dead the second time, and they feasted themselves herewith, as hoping that second providence was a forerunner of their complete deliverance. But they have still the same disappointments; they can see no land; they know not where they are. Hunger increaseth again upon them, and they have no hopes to be saved but by a third miracle. They are reduced to the former course of casting lots; when they were going to the heart-breaking work, to put him to death whom the lot fell upon, they go to God, their former friend in adversity, by humble and hearty prayers; and now they look and look again; but there is nothing. Their prayers are concluded, and nothing appears, yet still they hoped and stayed; till at last one of them espies a ship, which put new life into all their spirits. They bear up with their vessel, they man their boat, and desire and beg like perishing, humble supplicants to board them, which they are admitted. The vessel proves a French vessel–yea, a French pirate. Major Gibbons petitions them for a little bread, and offers ship and cargo for it. But the commander knows the Major (from whom he had received some signal kindnesses formerly at Boston), and replied readily and cheerfully–‘Major Gibbons, not a hair of you or your company shall perish, if it lie in my power to preserve you.’ And accordingly he relieveth them, and sets them safe on shore.”
THE DANGER OF DESERTION
(By Thomas Hooker-1586-1647; In July of 1633 he left England. He boarded the ship Griffin at the Downs to sail for Massachusetts. Hooker arrived in Boston in September, 1633.Also aboard the same ship were Samuel Stone and John Cotton, two other Puritan ministers. Samuel Stone(1602-1663), was co-founder of the colony of Connecticut with Thomas Hooker).
The date of Hooker's final sermon in Essex, England is not known, but its contents have largely survived, being published subsequently under the title, The Danger of Desertion. The text was Jeremiah 14.9, 'And we are called by thy Name, leave us not'. Even in the imperfect notes (taken by two of his hearers) which have survived we can sense something of what this farewell meant to both preacher and hearers. From the application of the sermon we take the following:
“I am an importunate suitor for Christ. Oh, send me not sad away I What are you resolved of ? Are you willing to enjoy God still, and to have him dwell with you? Well, look to it, for God is going, and if he do go, then our glory goes also. And then we may say with Phinehas' wife, II Samuel 4.22 'Glory is departed from Israel'. So glory is departed from England; for England hath seen her best days and the reward of sin is coming on apace, for God is packing up of his gospel because none will buy his wares. God begins to ship away his Noahs which prophesied and foretold that destruction was near; and God makes account that New England shall be a refuge for his Noahs and his Lots, a rock and a shelter for his righteous ones to ran unto; and those that were vexed to see the ungodly lives of the people in this wicked land shall there be safe. Oh, therefore my brethren, lay hold on God, and let him not go out of your coasts! He is going! Look about you, I say, and stop him at the town's-end, and let not thy God depart! Oh, England, lay siege about him by humble and hearty closing with him, and although he be going, he is not yet gone! Suffer him not to go far, suffer him not to say, 'Farewell, or rather fare-ill, England!'“
CAUTIONS AGAINST SPIRITUAL DRUNKENNESS
(Thomas Shepard-1605-1649; known as the “soul melting Puritan”. He came over to Boston in 1635 and pastored the church in Cambridge, Mass until his death in 1649).
“What is meant by a spirit of drunkenness? Sometimes it means the drunkenness of men's
bodies. Other times it speaks of soul-calamities so drastic that men do not know what to do
(Lamentations 3:15). Sometimes it means spiritual judgments because of sin and therefore refers
not so much to misery in general as to spiritual misery, when the Lord gives men up to a
reprobate spirit. ‘They are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger but not with strong
drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your
eyes’ (Isaiah 29:9,10). Jeremiah speaks of the calamity of the people in their being dashed one
against another. Drunkenness prepares them for this misery.
Spiritual drunkenness is a forerunner of a people's merciless destruction. ‘I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them ’ says the Lord.in Jeremiah 13:14.
Belshazzar had been drinking through the evening and that same night the handwriting of the Lord appeared on the wall: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN... God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it... Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.’ (Daniel 5:25-28). ‘While drunken...they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry’ (Nahum 1:10).”