William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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A "Jeremiad" -- Results of the General Court Synod


1679


The NECESSITY OF REFORMATION with the Expedients subservient thereunto, asserted;
in Answer to two QUESTIONS: 1. What are the Evils that have provoked the lord
to bring his Judgments on New England?, and 2. What is to be done that so those
Evils way be Reformed? . . .

The Ways of God towards this his People, have in many respects been like unto
his dealings with Israel of old: It was a great and high undertaking of our
Fathers, when they ventured themselves and their little ones upon the rude waves
of the vast Ocean, that so they might follow the Lord into this Land ; a
parallel instance not to be given, except that of our Father Abraham . . .

Question 1:

What are the Evils that have provoked the Lord to bring his judgements on
New-England?

Answ. That sometimes God hath had, and pleaded a Controversy with his People, is
clear from the Scripture, . . .

That God hath a Controversy with his New-England People is undeniable, the Lord
having written his displeasure in dismal Characters against us. Though personal
Afflictions doe oftentimes come only or chiefly for Probation, yet as to publick
judgements it is not wont to be so; especially when by a continued Series of
Providence, the Lord doth appear and plead against his People. 2 Sam. 21. 11. As
with us it hath been from year to year. Would the Lord have whetted his
glitterring Sword, and his hand have taken hold on judgement ? Would he have
sent such a mortal Contagion like a Beesom of Destruction in the midst of us ? .
. . In which respect, a deep and most serious enquiry into the Causes of his
Controversy ought to be attended. Nevertheless, it is sadly evident that there
are visible, manifest Evils, which without doubt the Lord is provoked by. For,
I. There is a great and visible decay of the power of Godliness amongst many
Professors in these Churches. It may be feared, that there is in too many
spiritual and heart Apostacy from God, whence Communion with him in the ways of
his Worship, especially in Secret, is much neglected, and whereby men cease to
know and fear, and love and trust in him; but take up their contentment and
satisfaction in something else. . . .

II. The Pride that doth abound in New-England testifies against us. . . . Whence
two great Evils and Provocations have proceeded and prevailed amongst us.
I. A refusing to be subject to Order according to divine appointment . . .
2. Contention. Prov. 13. 10. An evil that is most eminently against the solemn
Charge of the Lord Jesus, Joh. 13. 34, 35. And that for which God hath by severe
judgements punished his People , both in former and latter Ages. . . .
Yea, and Pride in respect to Apparel hath greatly abounded. Servants, and the
poorer sort of People are notoriously guilty in the matter, who (too generally)
(goe above their estates and degrees, thereby transgressing the Laws both of God
and man. Math. 11.8. . . .

IIII. The Holy and glorious Name of God hath been polluted and profaned amongst
us, More especially.

I. By Oaths, and Imprecations in ordinary Discourse; Yea, and it is too common a
thing for men in a more solemn way to Swear unnecessary Oaths; whenas it is a
breach of the third Commandment, so to use the blessed Name of God. . . .
2. There is great profaneness, in respect of irreverent behaviour in the solemn
Worship of God. It is a frequent thing for men (though. not necessitate d
thereunto by any infirmity) to sit in prayer time, and some with their heads
almost covered, and to give way to their own sloth and sleepiness, when they
should be serving God with attention and intention, . . .

V. There is much Sabbath-breaking; . . . Many that do not take care so to
dispatch their worldly businesses, that they may be free & fit for the duties of
the Sabbath, and that do (if not wholly neglect) after a careless, heartless
manner perform the duties that concern the sanctification of the Sabbath. This
brings wrath, Fires and other judgements upon a professing People, Neh. 3. 17,
18 Jer. 17. 27.

VI. As to what concerns Families and the Government thereof, there is much
amiss. There are many Families that doe not pray to God constantly morning and
evening, and many more wherein the Scriptures are not daily read, that so the
word of Christ might dwell richly with them. . . . Nay, children & Servants that
are not kept in due subjection; their Masters, and Parents especially, being
sinfully indulgent towards them. This is a sin which brings great judgements, as
we see in Eli's and David's Family. In this respect, Christians in this Land,
have become too like unto the Indians, and then we need not wonder if the Lord
hath afflicted us by them. Sometimes a Sin is discerned by the Instrument that
Providence doth punish with. Most of the Evils that abound amongst us, proceed
from defects as to Family Government.

VII. Inordinate Passions. Sinful Heats and Hatreds, and that amongst Church
Members themselves, who abound with evil Surmisings, uncharitable and
unrighteous Censures, Back-bitings, hearing and telling Tales, few that remember
and duely observe the Rule, with an angry countenance to drive away the Tale
bearer: Reproachfull and reviling Expressions, sometimes to or of one another.
Hence Law suits are frequent, Brother going to Law with Brother, and provoking
and abusing one another in publick Courts of judicature, to the Scandal of their
holy Profession, Isa. 58. 4. 1 Cor 6 6, 7. . . .

VIII. There is much Intemperance. The heathenish and .Idolatrous practice of
Health-drinking is too frequent. That shamefull iniquity of sinfull Drinking is
become too general a Provocation. . . .

And there are other hainous breaches of the seventh Commandment. Temptations
thereunto are become too common, viz. such as immodest Apparel, Prov. 7. 10
Laying out of hair, Borders, naked Necks and Arms, or, which is more abominable,
naked Breasts, and mixed Dancings, light behaviour and expressions, sinful
Company-keeping with light and vain persons, unlawfull Gaming, an abundance of
Idleness, which brought ruinating judgement upon Sodom, and much more upon
Jerusalem. . . .

X. Inordinate affection to the world. Idolatry is a God provoking,
judgement-procuring sin. And Covetousness is Idolatry. Eph. 5. 5. There hath
been in many professors an insatiable desire after Land, and worldly
Accommodations, yea, so as to forsake Churches and Ordinances, and to live like
Heathen, only that so they might have Elbow-room enough in the world. Farms and
merchandising have been preferred before the things of God. In this respect, the
Interest of New-England seemeth to be changed. We differ from other out-goings
of our Nation, in that it was not any worldly consideration that brought our
Fathers into this wilderness, but Religion, even that so they might build a
Sanctuary unto the Lords Name; Whenas now, Religion is made subservient unto
worldly Interests. Such iniquity causeth War to be in the Gates, and Cityes to
be burnt up. Judg. 8. 5. Math. 22. 5, 7.

(Source: Williston Walker, The Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism
(Boston, 1893), 423-31).

 

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