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youngest child, still too young to sit nlone. All boy* are held too young to sit alone also; for, though the emigrants left in Holland the aged deaconess who there presided, birch in hand, to control the rising generation in Sunday meetings, yet the urchins are now herded on the pulpit and gallery stairs, with four constables to guard them from the allurements of sin. And there sits Sin itself embodied in the shrinking form of some humiliated man or woman, placed on a high stool in the principal aisle, bearing the name of some dark crime written on paper and pinned to the garments, or perhaps a Scarlet Letter on the breast.
Ob, the silence of this place of worship, after the solemn service sets in !" People do not sneeze or cough here in public assemblies," says one writer, triumphantly, "so much as in England." The. warning caution, "Be short," which the minister has inscribed above his studydoor, claims no authority over his pulpit. He may pray his hour, unpausing, and no one thinks it long; for, indeed, at prayer-meetings four persons will sometimes pray an hour each,— one with confession, one with private petitions, a third with petitions for church and kingdom, and a fourth with thanksgiving,—neither part of the quartette being for an instant confused with the other. Then he may preach his hour, and, turning his hour-glass, may eay—but that he will not anticipate the levity to be born in a later century with Mather Byles—"Now, my hearers, we will take another glass."
In short, this is the pomp and circumstance of glorious preaching. Woe to any one who shall disturb its proprieties! It is written in the statute, "If any one interrupt or oppose a preacher in season of worship, they shall be reproved by the magistrate, and on repetition shall pay £5, or stand two hours on a block four feet high, with this inscription in capitals, 'A Wanton Gospeller.'" Nor this alone, but the law stands, by the minister's doctrine, even out of the meeting-house. It is but a few days since Nathaniel Hadlock was sentenced to be severely whipped for declaring that he could receive no profit from Mr. H—'s preaching; since Thomas Maule was mauled to the extent of ten stripes for declaringthat Mr. H— preached lies, and that his instruction was the doctrine of devils; since even the wife of Nicholas Phelps was sentenced to pay five pounds or be whipped, for asserting that this same Mr. H— sent abroad his wolves and bloodhounds among the sheep and lambs. Truly, it is a perilous thing to attend public worship in such reverential days. However, it is equally dangerous to stay at home; there are tithing-men to look after the absentees, and any one unnecessarily absent must pay five shillings. He may be put in the stock* or in the wooden cage, if delinquent for a month together.
But we must give our attention to the sermon. It is what the congregation will pronounce "a large, nervous, and golden discourse," a Scriptural discourse,—like the skeleton of the seaserpent, all backbone and a great deal of that.
It may be some very special and famous effort. Perhaps Increase Mather is preaching on "The Morning Star," or on "Snow," or on "The Voice of God in Stormy Winds;" or it may be his sermon entitled "Burnings Bewailed," to improve the lesson of some great conflagration, which he attributes partly to Sabbath-breaking and partly to the new fashion of monstrous periwigs. Or it may be Cotton Mather, his son, rolling forth his resounding discourse during a thunder-storm, entitled "Brantologia Sacra,"— consisting of seven separate divisions or thunderbolts, and filled with sharp lightning from Scripture and the Rabbinical lore, and Cartesian natural philosophy. Just as he has proclaimed, "In the thunder there is the voice of the glorious God," a messenger comes hastening in, as in the Book of Job, to tell him that his own house has just been struck, and though no person 1* hurt, yet the house hath been much torn and filled with the lightnings. With what joy and power he instantly wields above his audience this providential surplus of excitement, reminding one irresistibly of some scientific lecturer who has nearly blown himself up by his own experiments, and proceeds beaming with fresh confidence, the full power of his compound being incontestably shown. Rising with the emergency, he tells them grandly, that, as he once had in his house a magnet which the thunder changed instantly from north to south, so it were well if the next bolt could change their stubborn souls from Satan to God. But afterward he is compelled to own that Satan also is sometimes permitted to have a hand in the thunder, which is the reason why it breaks oftener on churches than on any other buildings; and again he admits, pensively, at last, that churches and ministers' houses have undoubtedly ths larger share.
The sermon is over. The more demoralized among the little boys, whose sleepy eyes havebeen more than once admonished by the hare's-foot wand of the constables—the sharp paw is used for the boys, the soft fur is kept for the smooth foreheads of drowsy maidens—look up thoroughly awakened now. Bright eyes glance from beneath silk or tiffany hoods, for a little interlude is coming. Many things may happen in this pause after the sermon. Questions may be asked of the elders now, which the elders may answer,—if they can. Some lay brother may "exercise" on a text of Scripture,—rather severe exercise, it sometimes turns out. Candidates for the church may be proposed. A baptism may take place. If it be the proper month, the laws against profaning ths Sabbath may be read. The last town-regulations may be read; or, far more exciting, a new marriage may be published. Or a darker scene may follow, and some offending magistrate may be required to stand upon a bench, in his worst garments, with a foul linen cap drawn close to his eyes, and acknowledge his sins before the pious people, who reverenced him so lately.
These things done, a deacon says impressively, "Brethren, now there is time for contribution; wherefore, as God hath prospered you, so freely offer." Then the people in the naileries come down and march two abreast, "up one aisle and down the other," passing before the desk, where in a long "pew" sit the elders and deacons. One of these holds a moneybox, into which the worshippers put their offerings, usually varying from one to five shillings, according to their ability and good-will. Some give paper pledges instead; and others give other valuables, such as "a fair gilt cup, with a cover," for the communion-service. Then comes a psalm, read, line after line, by some one appointed, out of the "Bay Psalm-Book," and sung by the people. These Psalms are sung regularly through, lour every Sunday, and some ten tunes compose the whole vocal range of the congregation. Then come the words, "Blessed are they who hear the word of the Lord and keep it," and then the benediction.
And then the reverend divine descends from his desk and walks down the aisle, bowing gravely right and left to his people, not one of whom stirs till the minister has gone out; and then the assembly disperses, each to his own home, unless it be some who have come from a distance, and stay to eat their cold pork and peas in the meeting-house.
Roll aside the panorama of the three-hours' Sunday service of two centuries ago, lest that which was not called wearisome in the passing prove wearisome in the delineation now. It needed all this accumulation of small details to show how widely the externals of New-England church-going have changed since those early days. But what must have been the daily life of that Puritan minister for whom this exhausting service was but one portion of the task of life! Truly, they were "pious and painful preachers" then, as I have read upon a stone in the old Watertown graveyard ;—" princely preachers" Cotton Mather calls them. He relates that Mr. Cotton, in addition to preaching on Sunday and holding his ordinary lecture every Thursday, preached thrice a week besides, on Wednesday and Thursday early in the morning, and on Saturday afternoon. He also held a daily lecture in his house, which was at last abandoned as being too much thronged, and frequent occasional days occurred, when he would spend six hours "in the word and in prayer." On his voyage to America he being accompanied by two other ministers, they commonly had three sermons a day—one after every meal. He was "a universal scholar and a walking library;" he studied twelve hours a day, and said he liked to sweeten his mouth with a piece of Calvin before be went to sleep.
A fearful rate of labour; a Btrange, grave, quaint, ascetic, rigorous life. It seems a mystery how the Reverend Joshua Moody could have survived to write four thousand sermons, but it is no mystery why the Reverend John Mitchell was called "a truly aged young man" at thirty, especially when we consider that he was successor at Cambridge to "the holy, heavenly, sweet-affecting, and soul-ravishing Mr.
Shepard," in continuance of whose labours he kept a monthly lecture, "wherein he largely handled man's misery by sin and made a most entertaining exposition of the Book of Genesis."
For the minister's week-days were more arduous than his Sundays, and to have for each parish both pastor and teacher still left a formidable duly for each. He must visit families during several afternoons in every week, sending previous notice, so that children and domestics might be ready for catechizing. He was "much visited for counsel" in his own home, and must set apart one day in the week for cases of conscience, ranging from the most fine-drawn self-tormentings up to the most unnatural secret crimes. He must often go to lectures in neigh* bouring towns, a kind of religious dissipation which increased so fast that the Legislature at last interfered to restrict it. He must have five or six separate seasons for private prayer daily, devoting each day in the week to special meditations and intercessions,—as Monday to his family, Tuesday to enemies, Wednesday to the churches, Thursday to other societies, Friday to persons afflicted, and Saturday to his own soul. He must have private fasts, spending whole days locked in his study and whole nights prostrate on the floor. Cotton Mather " thought himself starved," unless he fasted once a month at farthest, while he often did it twice in a week.
Then there were public fasts quite frequently, "because of sirs, blastings, mildews, drought, grasshoppers, caterpillars, small pox," "loss of cattle by cold and frowns of Providence." Perhaps a mouse and a snake had a battle in the neighbourhood, and the minister must expound it as "symbolizing the conflict betwixt Satan and God's poor people," the latter being the mouse triumphant. Then if there were a military expedition, the minister might think it needful to accompany it. If there were even a muster, he must open and close it with prayer, or, in his absence, the captain must officiate instead.
One would naturally add to this record of labours the attendance on weddings and funerals. It is strange how few years are required to make a usage seem ancestral, or to reunite a traditional broken one. Who now remembers that our progenitors for more than a century disused religious services on both these solemn occasions? Magistrates alone could perform the marriage ceremony; though it was thought to be carrying the monopoly quite too far, when Governor Bellingham, in 1641, officiated at his own. Prayer was absolutely forbidden at funerals, as was done also by Calvin at Geneva, by John Knox in Scotland, by the English Palitans in the Westminster Assembly, and by the French Huguenots. The bell might ring, the friends might walk, two and two, to the grave; but there must be no prayer uttered. The secret was, that the traditions of the English and Romish Churches must be avoided at all sacrifices. "Doctor," said King James to a Puritan divine, "do you go barefoot because the Papists wear shoes and stockings i" Even the origin of the frequent New-England habit of eating salt fish on Saturday is supposed to have been the fact that Roman Catholics eat it on Friday. But if there were no prayers said on these occasions, there were sermons. Mr. John Calf, of Newbury, described one specimen of funeral sermon in immortal verse :—
"On Sabbath day he went his way,
As he was used to do,
What he had for to show j
God's holy will he must fulfil,
For it was his desire
Concerning Madam Fryer."
The practice of wedding discourses was handed down into the last century, and sometimes beguiled the persons concerned into rather startling levities. For instance, when Parson Smith's daughter Mary was to marry young Mr. Crancb, —(what graceful productions of pen and pencil have come to this generation from the posterity of that union!)—the father permitted the saintly maiden to decide on her own text for the sermon, and she meekly selected, "Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her," and the discourse was duly pronounced. But when her wild young sister Abby was bent on marrying a certain Squire Adams, called John, whom her father disliked and would not even invite to dinner, she boldly suggested for her text, "John came, neither eating bread nor drinking -wine, and ye say he hath a devil." But no sermon stands recorded under this prefix, though Abby lived to be the wife of one President of the United States and mother of another.
The Puritan minister had public duties also upon him. Indeed, for many years they virtually controlled the franchise, inasmuch as only male church-members could vote or hold office, at least in the Massachusetts Colony. Those malecontenta who petitioned to enlarge the suffrage were fined and imprisoned in 1646, and even in 1664 the only amendment was by permitting non-church-members to vote on a formal certificate to their orthodoxy from the minister. The government they aimed at was not democracy, but theocracy: "God never did ordain democracy as a fit government," said Cotton. Accordingly, when Cotton and Ward framed their first code, Ward's portion was rejected by the colony as heathen, —that is, based on Greek and Roman models, not Mosaic,—and Cotton's was afterwards rebuked in England as "fanatical and absurd." But the government finally established was an ecclesiastical despotism, tempered by theological controversy. In Connecticut it was first the custom, and then the order, lasting as late as 1708, that "the ministers of the gospel should preach a sermon, on the day appointed by law for the choice of civil rulers, proper for the direction of
the town in the work before them." They wrote state-papers, went on embassies, and look the lead at town-meetings. At the exciting gubernatorial election in 1637, Rev. John Wilson, minister of the First Church in Boston, not satisfied with "taking the stump" for his candidate, took to a full-grown tree and harangued the people from among the boughs. Perhaps the tree may have been the Great Elm which still ornaments the Common; but one sees no chips of that other old block among its branches now.
One would expect that the effect of this predominant clerical influence would have been to make the aim of the Puritan codes lofty, their consistency unflinching, their range narrow, and their penalties severe,—and it certainly was so. Looking at their educational provisions, they seem all noble; looking at their schedule of sins and retributions, one wonders how any rational being could endure them for a day. Communities, like individuals, furnish virtues piecemeal. Roger Williams, with all his wise toleration, bequeathed to Rhode Island no such system of schools as his persecutors framed for Massachusetts. But the children who were watched and trained thus carefully might be put to death, if they "cursed their orderly parents" after the age of sixteen;—not that the penalty ever was inflicted, but it was on the statute-book. Sabbath-breaking was placed on a level with murder,—though Calvin himself allowed the old men to play at bowls and the young men to practise military training, after afternoon service, at Geneva. Down to 1769 not even a funeral could take place on Sunday in Massachusetts, without licence from a magistrate. Then the stocks and the wooden cage were in frequent use, though "barbarous and cruel" punishments were forbidden in 1641. Scolds and railers were set on a ducking-stool and dipped over head and ears three times, in running water if possible. Mrs. Oliver, a troublesome theologian, was silenced with a cleft stick applied to her tongue. Thomas Scott, in 1649, was sentenced for some offence to learn "the catachise,'' or be fined ten shillings, and, after due consideration, paid the fine. Sometimes offenders, with a refinement of cruelty, were obliged to "go and talk to the elders." And if any youth made matrimonial overtures to a young female without the consent of her parents, or, in their absence, of the County Court, he was first fined and then imprisoned. A new etymology for the word '• courting."
An exhibition of this mingled influence was in the relation of the ministers to the Indian wars. Roger Williams, even when banished and powerless, could keep the peace with the natives. But when the brave Miantonimo was to be dealt with for suspected treason, and the civil authorities decided, that, though it was unsafe to set him at liberty, they yet had no ground to put him to death, the matter being finally referred to five "elders," Uncas was straightway authorized to slay him in cold blood. The Pequots were first defeated and then exterminated, and their heroic King Philip, a patriot according to his own standard, was hunted like a wild beast, bis body quartered and set on poles, his head exposed as a trophy for twenty years on a gibbet in Plymouth, and one of his hands sent to Boston: then the ministers returned thanks, and one said that they had prayed the bullet into Philip's heart. Nay, it seems that in 1677, on a Sunday in Marblehead, "the women, as they came out of the meeting-house, fell upon two Indians, that had been brought in as captives, and in a tumultous way very barbarously murdered them," in revenge for the death of some fishermen: a moral application which certainly gives a singular impression of the style of gospel prevailing inside the meetinghouse that day.
These were some of the labours of the clergy. But no human being lives without relaxation, and they may have had theirs. True, "ministers have little to joy in, in this world," wrote old Norton; and one would think so, to read the dismal diaries, printed or manuscript, of those days. "I can compare with any man living for fears," said Hooker. "I have sinned myself into darkness," said Bailey. "Many times have I been ready to lay down my ministry, thinking God had forsaken me." "I was almost in the suburbs of hell all day." Yet who can say that this habit of agonizing introspection wholly shut out the trival enjoyments of daily life? Who drank, for instance, that twelve gallons of sack and that six gallons of white wine which the General Court thought it convenient that the Auditor should send, "as a small testimony of the Court's respect, to the reverend assembly of Elders at Cambridge," in 1644? Did the famous Cambridge Platform rest, like the earth in the Hebrew cosmology, upon the waters—strong waters? Was it only the Derry Presbyterians who would never give up a pint of doctrine nor a pint of rum? It is startling to remember that in 1685 it was voted, on occasion of a public funeral, that "some person be appointed to look after the burning of the wine and the heating of the cider," and to hear that on this occasion there were thirtytwo gallons of wine and still more of cider, with one hundred and four pounds of that ensnaring accessory, sugar. Francis Higginson, in writing back to the mother-country that one sup of New England's air was better than a whole draught of Old England's ale, gave convincing proof that he had tasted both beverages. But, after all, the very relaxations of the Puritan minister were more spiritual than spirituous, and to send forth a good Nineteenthly from his own lips was more relishing than to have the best Double X go in.
In spite of the dignity of this influential class, they were called only Elders for a long time. Titles were carefully adjusted in those days. The commonalty bore the appellations of Goodman and Goodwife, and one of Roger Williams's offences was his wishing to limit these terms
to those who gave some signs of deserving them. The name "Mr." was allowed to those who had taken the degree of Master of Arts at College, and also to professional men, eminent merchants, military officers, and mates of vessels ; and their wives and daughters monopolized the epithet "Mrs." Mr. Josiah Plastow, when he had stolen four baskets of corn from the Indians, was degraded into plain Josiah. "Mr." seems to have meant simply "My Sir," and the clergy were often called "Sir" merely, a title given also to college graduates, on Commencement programmes, down to the time of the Revolution. And so strong was the Puritan dislike to the idolatry of saints' names, that the Christian Apostles were sometimes designated as Sir Paul, Sir Peter, and Sir James.
In coming to the private affairs of the Puritan divines, it is humiliating to find that anxietiei about salary are of no modern origin. The highest compensation I can find recorded is that of John Higginson in 1671, who had £160 voted him "in country produce," which he was glad, however, to exchange for £120 in solid cash. Solid cash included beaver-skins, black and white wampum, beads, and musket-balli, value one farthing. Mr. Woodbridge in Newbury at this same time had £60, and Mr. Epes preached in Salem for twenty shillings a Sunday, half in money and half in proviaiona. Holy Mr. Cotton used to say that nothing was cheap in New England but milk and ministers. Down to 1700, Increase Mather says, most salaries were less than £100, which he thinks "might account for the scanty harvests enjoyed by our farmers." He and his son Cotton both tell the story of a town where "two very eminent ministers were only allowed £30 per annum" and "the God who will not be mocked made them lose £300 worth of cattle that year." The latter also complains that the people were very willing to consider the ministers the atari, rather than the mere lamps, of the churches, provided they, like the stars, would shine without earthly contributions.
He also calls the terms of payment, in one of his long words, "Synecdotical Pay,"—in allusion to that rhetorical figure by which a part » used for the whole. And apparently varioni causes might produce this synecdoche. For I have seen an anonymous "Plea for Ministers of the Gospel," in 1706, which complains that "young ministers have often occasion in their preaching to speak things offensive to some of the wealthiest people in town, on which occasion they may withold a considerable part of their maintenance." It is a comfort to think how entirely this source of discomfort, at least, 11 now eradicated from the path of the clergy! and it is painful to think that there ever was a period when wealthy parishioners did not enjoy the delineation of their own sins.
Yet the Puritan divine could commonly afford not only to keep house, but to keep horse likewise, and to enjoy the pet professional felicity of printing his own Bermons. * *"'"
As to the lart privilege there could have been no great trouble, for booksellers were growing rich in New England as early as 1677,—not that it is always an inevitable inference that authors are,—and Cotton Mather published three hundred and eightytwo different works for his own share. Books were abundant enough at that day, though somewhat grim and dingy, and two complete Puritan libraries are preserved in the rich collection of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester; without whose treasures, let me add, this modest monograph never could have been written. As for the minister's horse, the moral sentiment of the community protected him faithfully; for a man was fined in Newbury for "killing our elder's mare, and a special good beast she was." The minister's house was built by the town; in Salem it was "13 feet stud, 23 by 42, four chimneys and no gableends;" so that the House with Seven Gables belonged to somebody else; and the Selectmen ordered all men to appear with teams on a certain day, and put the minister's ground in order. Inside the parsonage-house, however, there was sometimes trouble. Rev. Ezekiel Rogers wrote in 1657 to his brother in England: "Much ado I have with my own family; hard to get a Bervant who enjoys catechising or family duties. I had a rare blessing of servants in England, and those I brought over were a blessing; but the young brood doth much afflict me." Probably the minister's wife had the worst of this; but she 6eems to have been generally, like the modern minister's wife, a saint, and could bear it. Cotton Mather, indeed, quotes triumphantly the Jewish phrase for a model female—" one who deserved to marry a priest;" and one of the most singular passages in the history of the human heart is the old gentleman's own narrative, in his manuscript diary, of a passionate love-adventure, in his later years, with a fascinating young girl, an "ingenious child," as he calls her, whom his parish thought by no means a model female, but from whom it took three days of solitary fasting and prayer to wean him at last.
lie was not the only Puritan minister who bestowed his heart somewhat strangely. Rev. John Mitchell, who succeeded the soul-ravishing Shepard at Cambridge, as aforesaid, married his predecessor's widow "on the general recommendation of her," and the college students were greatly delighted, as one might imagine. Rev. Michael Wigglesworth, in 1691, wooed the Widow Avery in a written discourse, which I have seen in manuscript, arranged under twelve different heads,—one of which treats of the prospect of his valuable life being preserved longer by her care. She having children of her own, he offers mysteriously to put some of his own children "out of the way," if necessary,— & hint which becomes formidable when one remembers that he was the author of that once famous theological poem, "The Day of Doom," in which he relentiogly assigned to infants, because they had sinned only in Adam, '"the
easiest room in hell." But he wedded the lady» and they were apparently as happy as if he had not been a theologian; and I have seen the quaint little heart-shaped locket he gave her, bearing an anchor and a winged heart and "Thine forever."
Let us glance now at some of the larger crosses of the Puritan minister. First came a "young brood" of heretics to torment him. Gorton's followers were exasperating enough; they had to be confined in irons separately, one in each town, on pain of death, if they preached their doctrines,—and of course they preached them. But their offences and penalties were light, compared with those of the Quakers. When the Quakers assembled by themselves, their private doors might be broken open,—a thing which Lord Chatham said the King of England coidd not do to any one,—they might be arrested without warrant, tried without jury, for the first offence be fined, for the second lose one ear, for the third lose the other ear, and for the fourth be bored with red-hot iron through the tongue, —though this last penalty remained a dead letter. They could be stripped to the waist, tied to a cart, and whipped through town after town, —three women were whipped through eleven towns, eighty miles,—but afterwards the number was limited to three. Their testimony was invalid, their families attainted, and those who harboured them were fined forty shillings an hour. They might be turned out shelterless among wolves and bears and frosts; they could be branded H for Heretic, and R for Rogue; they could be sold as slaves; and their graves must not be fenced to keep off wild beasts, lest their poor afflicted bodies should find rest there. Yet in this same age female Quakers had gone as missionaries to Malta and to Turkey and returned unharmed. No doubt the monks and the Sultan must have looked on the plain dress much as some clerical gentleman have since regarded the Bloomer costume,—and the Inquisition imprisoned the missionaries, though the Sultan did not. But meanwhile the Quaker women in New England might be walking to execution with their male companions,—like Mary Dyer in Boston,—under an armed guard of two hundred, led on by a minister seventy years old, and the fiercer for every year. When they asked Mary Dyer, "Are you not'ashamed to walk thus hand in hand between two young men V she answered, "No, this is to me an hour of the greatest joy I could enjoy in this world. No tongue could utter and no heart understand the sweet influence of tho Spirit which now I feel." Then they placed her on the scaffold, and covered her face with a handkerchief which the Reverend Mr. Wilson lent the hangman; and when they heard that she was reprieved, she would not come down, saying that she would suffer with her brethren. na suffer death she did, at last, and the Reverend Mr. Wilson made a pious ballad on her execution. It is no wonder, if some persons declare that