Thursday, January 5, 2017

Errand in the Wilderness by Cotton Mather


[ follows the concluding passage of Chapter III of the first book of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana: Conamur Tenues Grandia*: Or, A Brief Account of the Difficulties, the Deliverances, and Other Occurrences, thro’ which the Plantation of New-Plymouth arrived unto the Consistency of a Colony. Mather’s history was written between 1693 and 1697]

 . . . there is a danger lest the enchantments of this World make forget  their Errand in the Wilderness: and some woeful villages in the skirts of their Colony, beginning to live without the means of grace among them, are still more Ominous Intimations of the danger. May the God of New-England preserve them from so great a death!



Going now to take my leave of this little Colony, that I may converse for a while with her younger sisters, which yet have outstripped her in growth exceedingly, and so will now draw all the streams of her affairs into their channels, I shall repeat the counsel  which their faithful John Robinson** gave the first planters of the Colony, at their parting from him in Holland. Said he, (to this purpose.)


Brethren, we are now quickly to part from one another; and whether I may ever live to see your faces on earth any more, the God of Heaven only knows. But whether the Lord have appointed that or no, I charge you before God, and before his blessed Angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready for verily I am persuaded, I am very confident the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of his Holy Word. For my part, I can not sufficiently bewail the condition of the Reformed Churches, who are come to a period in religion; and will go at present no further than the instruments of their first Reformation. The Lutherans can’t be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw: whatever part of his will out good God has imparted and revealed unto Calvin, they will rather die than Embrace it. And the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great Man of God, who yet saw not all things.

This is a misery much to be lamented; for tho’ they were burning and shining lights in their time, yet they penetrated not into the whole Counsel of God; but were they now living, they would be as willing to embrace further light, as that which they first received. I beseech you to remember it; it is an article of you Church-Covenant, that you will be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known unto you from the written word of God. Remember that, and every other article of your most sacred covenant. But I must herewithal exhort you to take heed what you receive as truth; examine it, consider it, compare it with the other scriptures of truth, before you do receive it. For it is not possible the Christian World should come so lately out of such antichristian darkness, that that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once. I also must advise you to abandon, avoid and shake off the name of Brownist: it is a mere Nick-Name, and a brand for the making of religion, and the professors of religion, odious unto the Christian World.*** For there will be no difference between the unconformable ministers in England and you, when they come to the practice of evangelical ordinances out of the kingdom. And I wish you by all means to close ties with the godly people of England; study union with them in all things, wherein you can have it without sin, rather than in the least measure to affect a division or separation from them. Neither would I have you loth to take another pastor besides myself; in as much as a flock that has two shepherds is not thereby endangered, but secure.

So adding some other things of great consequence, he concluded most affectionately, commending his departing flock unto the grace of God, which now I also do the offspring of that holy flock.




*Weak we attempt great things. 
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Robinson_(pastor)
*** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownist
Browne was only an active Separatist from 1579-1585. He returned to England and to the Church of England, being employed as a schoolmaster and, after 1591, a Church of England parish priest. He was much engaged in controversy with some of those who held his earlier separatist position and who then looked upon him as a renegade.

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