Wonder-Working Providence of Sions Saviour - 1654

by Captain Edward Johnson

 
 
Being a Relation of the First Planting in New England, in the Yeare, 1628.

[Abridged]

Book I.

Chap. I.

The Sad Condition of England, When this People Removed.

When England began to decline in Religion, like luke-warme Laodicea, and instead of purging out Popery, a farther compliance was sought not onely in vaine Idolatrous Ceremonies, but also in prophaning the Sabbath, and by Proclamation throughout Parish churches, exasperating lewd and prophane persons to celebrate a Sabbath like the Heathen to Venus, Baccus and Ceres; in so much that the multitude of irreligious lascivious and popish affected persons spred the whole land like Grashoppers, in this very time Christ the glorious King of his Churches, raises an Army out of our English Nation, for freeing his people from their long servitude under usurping Prelacy; and because every corner of England was filled with the fury of malignant adversaries, Christ creates a New England to muster up the first of his Forces in; Whose low condition, little number, and remotenesse of place made these adversaries triumph, despising this day of small things, but in this hight of their pride the Lord Christ brought sudden, and unexpected destruction upon them. Thus have you a touch of the time when this worke began.

Christ Jesus intending to manifest his Kingly Office toward his Churches more fully than ever yet the Sons of men saw, even to the uniting of Jew and Gentile Churches in one Faith, begins with our English Nation (whose former reformation being vere imperfect) doth now resolve to cast down their false foundation of Prelacy, even in the hight of their domineering dignity. And therefore in the yeere 1628, he stirres up his servants as the Heralds of a King to make this proclamation for Voluntiers, as followeth. Oh yes! oh yes! oh yes! All you the people of Christ that are here Oppressed, Imprisoned and scurrilously derided, gather yourselves together, your Wives and little ones, and answer to your severall Names as you shall be shipped for his service, in the Westerne World, and more especially for planting the united Collonies of new England; Where you are to attend the service of the King of Kings, upon the divulging of this Proclamation by his Herralds at Armes. Many (although otherwise willing for this service) began to object as followeth:

Can it possible be the mind of Christ, (who formerly inabled so many Souldiers of his to keepe their station unto the death here) that now so many brave Souldiers disciplined by Christ himselfe the Captaine of our salvation, should turne their backs to the disheartning of their Fellow- Souldiers, and losse of further opportunity in gaining a greater number of Subjects to Christs Kingdome?

Notwithstanding this Objection, It was further proclaimed as followeth: What Creature, wilt not know that Christ thy King crusheth with a rod of Iron, the Pompe and Pride of man, and must he like man cast and contrive to take his enemies at advantage? No, of Purpose hee causeth such instruments to retreate as hee hath made strong for himselfe: that so his adversaries glorying in the pride of their power, insulting over the little remnant remaining, Christ causeth them be cast downe suddenly forever, and wee find in stories reported, Earths Princes have passed their Armies at need over Seas and deepe Torrents. Could Csar so suddenly fetch over fresh forces from Europe to Asia, Pompy to foyle? How much more shall Christ who createth all power, call over this 900 league Ocean at his pleasure, such instruments as he thinks meete to make use of in this place, from whence you are now to depart, but further that you may not delay the Voyage intended, for your full satisfaction, know this is the place where the Lord will create a new Heaven, and a new Earth in, new Churches, and a new Common-wealth together; Wherefore,

Chap. II.

The Commission of the People of Christ Shipped for New England, and First of Their Gathering into Churches.

Attend to your Commission, all you that are or shall hereafter be shipped for this service, yee are with all possible speed to imbarque your selves, and as for all such Worthies who are hunted after as David was by Saul and his Courtiers, you may change your habit and ship you with what secrecy you can, carrying all things most needfull for the Voyage and service you are to be imployed in after your landing. But as soone as you shall be exposed to danger of tempestious Seas, you shall forthwith shew whose servants you are by calling on the Name of your God, sometimes by extraordinary seeking his pleasing Face in times of deepe distresse, and publishing your Masters will, and pleasure to all that Voyage with you, and that is his minde to have purity in Religion preferred above all dignity in the world; your Christ hath commanded the Seas they shall not swallow you, nor Pyrates imprison your persons, or possesse your goods. At your landing see you observe the Rule of his Word, for neither larger nor stricter Commission can hee give by any, and therefore at first filling the Land whither you are sent, with diligence, search out the mind of God both in planting and continuing Church and civill Government, but be sure they be distinct, yet agreeing and helping the one to the other; Let the matter and forme of your Churches be such as were in the Primitive Times (before Antichrists Kingdome prevailed) plainly poynted out by Christ and his Apostles, in most of their Epistles to be neither Nationall nor Provinciall, but gathered together in Covenant of such a number as might ordinarily meete together in one place, and built of such living stones as outwardly appeare Saints by calling. You are also to ordaine Elders in every Church, make you use of such as Christ hath indued with the best gifts for that end, their call to Office shall be mediate from you, but their authority and commission shall be immediate from Christ revealed in his word; which, if you shall slight, despise or contemne, hee will soone frustrate your call by taking the most able among you to honour with an everlasting Crown; whom you neglected to honour on Earth double as their due, or he will carry them remote from you to more infant Churches. You are not to them upon anxious Cares for their daily Bread, for assuredly (although it may now seeme strange) you shall be fed in this Wildernesse, whither you are to goe, with the flower of Wheate and Wine shall be plentifull among you (but be sure you abuse it not) these Doctrines delivered from the Word of God imbrace, and let not Satan delude you by perswading their learned skill is unnecessary. . . . * * *

Chap. XII.

Of the voluntary banishment, chosen by this People of Christ, and their last farewell taken of their Country and Friends.
And now behold the severall Regiments of these Souldiers of Christ, as they are shipped for his service in the Western World, part thereof being come to the Towne and Port of Southamptan in England, where they were to be shipped, that they might prosecute this designe to the full, one Ship called the Eagle, they wholy purchase, and many more they hire, filling them with the seede of man and beast to sow this yet untilled Wildernesse withall, making sale of such Land as they possesse, to the great admiration of their Friends and Acquaintance, who thus expostulate with them, What, will not the large income of your yearly revenue content you, which in all reason cannot chuse but be more advantagious both to you and yours, then all that Rocky Wildernesse, whither you are going, to run the hazard of your life? Have you not here your Tables filled with great variety of Foode, your Coffers filled with Coyne, your Houses beautifully built and filled with all rich Furniture? (or otherwise) have you not such a gainfull Trade as none the like in the Towne where you live? Are you not inriched daily? Are not your Children very well provided for as they come to years? (nay) may you not here as pithily practice the two chiefe Duties of a Christian (if Christ give strength) namely Mortification and Sanctification as in any place of the World? What helps can you have there that you must not carry from hence? With bold resolvednesse these stout Souldiers of Christ reply; as Death, the King of terror with all his dreadfull attendance inhumane and barbarous, tortures doubled and trebled by all the infernal furies have appeared but light and momentary to the Souldiers of Christ Iesus, so also the Pleasure, Profits and Honours of this World set forth in their most glorious splendor, and magnitude by the alluring Lady of Delight, proffering pleasant embraces, cannot intice with her Syren Songs, such Souldiers of Christ, whose aymes are elevated by him, many Millions above that brave Warrier Vlysses.

Now seeing all can be said will but barely set forth the immoveable Resolutions that Christ continued in these men; Passe on and attend with teares, if thou hast any, the following discourse, while these Men, Women and Children are taking their last farwell of their Native Country, Kindred, Friends and Acquaintance, while the Ships attend them; Many make choise of some solitary place to eccho out their bowellbreaking affections in bidding their Friends farwell, deare friends (sayes one) as neare as my owne soule doth thy love lodge in my brest, with thought of the heart-burning Ravishments, that thy Heavenly speeches have wrought: my melting soule is poured out at present with these words, both of them had their farther speech strangled from the depth of their inward dolor, with breast-breaking sobs, till leaning their heads each on others shoulders, they let fall the salt-dropping dews of vehement affection, striving to exceede one another, much like the departure of David and Jonathan: having a little eased their hearts with the still streames of Teares, they recovered speech againe. Ah! my much honoured friend, hath Christ given thee so great a charge as to be Leader of his People into that far remote, and vast Wildernesse, I, oh, and alas thou must die there and never shall I see thy Face in the flesh againe, wert thou called to so great a taske as to passe the pretious Ocean, and hazard thy person in Battell against thousands of Malignant Enemies there? there were hopes of thy return with triumph, but now after two three, or foure moneths spent with daily expectation of swallowing Waves, and quell Pirates, you are to be Landed among barbarous Indians, famous for nothing but cruelty, where you are like to spend your days in a famishing condition for a long space; Scarce had he uttered this, but presently hee lockes his friend fast in his armes, holding each other thus for some space of time, they weepe againe, But as Paul to his beloved flock: the other replies what doe you weeping and breaking my heart? I am now prest for the service of our Lord Christ, to re-build the most glorious Edifice of Mount Sion in a Wilderness, and as John Baptist, I must cry prepare yee the way of the Lord, make his paths strait, for behold hee is comming againe, hee is comming to destroy Antichrist, and give the whore double to drinke the very dregs of his wrath.

Then my deare friend unfold thy hands, for thou and I have much worke to doe, I and all Christian Souldiers the World throughout, then hand in hand they leade each other to the Sandy-banks of the brinish Ocean, when clenching their hands fast, they unloose not til inforced to wipe their watery-eyes, whose constant streames forced a watery-path upon their Cheekes, which to hide from the eyes of others they shun society for a time, but being called by occasion, whose bauld back-part none can lay hold one; They thrust in among the throng now ready to take Ship, where they beheld the like affections with their own among divers Relations, Husbands and Wives with mutuall consent are now purposed to part for a time 900 Leagues asunder, since some providence at present will not suffer them to goe together, they resolve their tender affections shall not hinder this worke of Christ, the new Married and betroth man, exempt by the Law of God from war, now will not claime their priviledge, but being constrained till the Lord shall be pleased to give them a meeting in this Westerne World, sweetly mixing it with spirituall love, in the meane time many Father snow take their yong Samuells, and give them to this serivice together with all Kindred of Bloud that binds the bowells of affection in a true Lovers knot, can now take their last farewell, each of other, although naturall affection will still claime her right, and manifest her selfe to bee in the body by looking out at the Windowes in a mournefull manner among this company, thus disposed doth many Reverend and godly Pastors of Christ present themselves, some in a Seamans Habit, and their scattered sheepe comming as a poore Convoy loftily take their leave of them as followeth, what dolefull dayes are these, when the best choise our Orthodox Ministers can make is to take up a perpetuall banishment form their native soile, together with their Wives and Children, wee their poore sheepe they may not feede, but by stoledred should they abide here. Lord Christ, here they are at thy command, they go, this is the doore thou hast opened upon our earnest request, and we hope it shall never be shut: for Englands sake they are going from England to pray without ceasing for England, O England! thou shalt finde New England prayers prevailing with their God for thee, but now woe alas, what great hardship must these our indeared Pastors indure for a long season, with these words they lift up their voyces and wept, adding many drops of salt liquor to the ebbing Ocean; Then shaking hands they bid adue with much cordiall affection to all their Brethren, and Sisters in Christ, yet now the Scorne and Derision of those times, and for this their great enterprise counted as so many crackt-braines, but Christ will make all the earth know the wisdome he hath indued them with, shall over-top all the humane policy in the World, as the sequell wee hope will shew. . . .

From Documents in North American Colonial History, History 247, Spring 1998. Prof. Daniel K. Richter, Dickinson College.

The following was written describing Edward Johnson (I'm trying to locate the source);
"Captain Edward JOHNSON was born in 1599, and before emigrating to New England, resided at Herne Hill, near Canterbury, County of Kent, England. His Will indicates that he was possessed of a comfortable estate consisting of a farm and two other pieces of property. On embarking from England with his family he is classed as a joiner. This may have been in part of evasion, as no one above the rank of mechanic or serving man was allowed to leave without special permission. As several of his sons and grandsons were shipwrights and carpenters, it is not improbable that he carried on the business of shipbuilding at Herne Bay. However, he did not engage in any mechanical occupation after his arrival in New England. Early in April, 1630, Capt. Johnson, without his family, embarked in one of the ships of the fleet which brought Governor Winthrop and his company to Massachusetts Bay. The records show him trading on the Merrimac River, and it is probable that he came for traffic and adventure and that he returned to England in the summer of 1631. He returned with his family, in 1636, a zealous Puritan and in full sympathy with the religious system of the Massachusetts Colony. His ruling motive was no longer business or pleasure but in building up a Puritan Commonwealth in this western world. Embarking this time at Sandwich, the nearest seaport at which there was foreign travel, he settled temporarily at Charleston. From that time to the day of his death the Records of Charlestown, of Woburn, and the Colony are filled with his name and deeds. He was of the committee of the Charlestown church "for the erecting of a church and town" at Woburn and was the first Recorder (town Clerk). He was generally known as the father of the town. May 10, 1643, he took his seat in the General Court as deputy from the town of Woburn, the first session of the court after the incorporation of the town. For thirty years he was not only town clerk and representative in the general court, but he usually was Chairman of the Selectmen and occupied some prominent place on commission and committees, especially legal and military committees. Captain Johnson had evidently given considerable attention to military matters in England, and there acquired the rank by which he has since been know. Soon after his second arrival we find his name in the Charlestown Records with the prefix of Captain, a title of honor which in those days was not given at random. On becoming a deputy to the General Court, he was placed on nearly every military committee. These were intrusted with most extraordinary powers such as inspecting fortifications, levying fines, collecting arrearages, etc. He gathered and drilled a squad of militia at Woburn soon after its settlement, and always held a command in the militia of the Colony. He was often sent out on expeditions to treat with or overawe the Indians and to deal with troublesome neighbors. His name scarcely ever appears in the Massachusetts Records without his military title. For more than two hundred years, tradition has ascribed to him the authorship of Wonder-Working Providence, a quaint and anthentic narrative of events connected with the settlement of Massachusetts Bay. It is acknowledged to be the most important book on the Massachusetts Colony that was printed during the first hundred years after the settlement. The fraudulent use made of this work in the collection known as the Gorges Tracts for a time robbed the author of the credit due him, but the true authorship has beyond a doubt has been established by Dr. Poole, the famous librarian. Captain Edward Johnson married Susan____ who was born in England in 1597 and who died at Woburn in 1690. He died in Woburn April 23, 1672, aged 73 years. At the session of the court following (15th May) it was ordered that a committee be appointed to gather and preserve such historical material as had been collected by him, John Winthrop, Sr., and others. Seven children were born to Capt. Edward Johnson and Susan his wife as follows, ___
1. Edward, born in England 1621-2; married Katherine Baker; died at Charlestown Sept. 15, 1692.
2. George, born in England; probably returned to England; had children named in their grandfather's will.
3. William, born in England 1629-30; married Esther Wiswall; died at Woburn May 22, 1704.
4. Martha, born in England; married John Eames.
5. Matthew, born in England 1634; married 1st Hannah Palfrey, 2nd Rebecca Wiswall; died at Woburn July 19, 1696.
6. John, born in England 1635-6; married Bethiah Reed; died at Canterbury, Conn.
7. Susan, born in England; married James Prentice.
 

 
 

 
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Updated May 10, 2014