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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Boston Divine

By Nathaniel Morton (1613–1685)

[From New England’s Memorial. 1669.]

THIS year, the 7th of August, it pleased the Lord to call home to himself, the reverend, ancient, and godly pastor of the church at Boston, Mr. John Wilson. He was a truly reverend and holy man of God. He came to New England in the year 1630. He was instrumental in the first beginnings of the church of Boston, having been the pastor of it three years before Mr. Cotton, twenty years with him; ten years with Mr. Norton, and four years after him; thirty-seven in all. And in all the changes of time that passed over him, he was full of faith and prayer, and eminent for sincerity and humility, being ever low in his own eyes, and for the grace of love, he had largeness of heart as the sand of the sea, to do good to all. He was very charitable where was any signs and hopes of good; and yet, withal, very zealous against known and manifest evils. He was orthodox in his judgment, and very holy in his conversation. Very few that ever went out of the world so generally beloved and reverenced as this good man. He was a good man indeed, and full of the Holy Ghost. He lived to a good old age, and was full of days, and full of honor, being in the seventy-ninth year of his age, when the Lord took him to himself. He was interred with much honor and lamentation.

In the time of his languishing sickness, he was visited by the elders round about, especially on the 16th of May, the day after the court of election, when there being a general meeting of all the elders of the churches, at his house, they requested Mr. Wilson (because they knew not whether ever they should have the like opportunity to hear him speak again, and having been, from the first, a pillar amongst them, and of much experience in his observation of the state of things) that he would solemnly declare unto them, what he conceived to be those sins amongst us, which provoked the displeasure of God against the country. He then told them, that he had divers times and long feared these sins following, as chief, among others, which God was greatly provoked with, namely, Separation, Anabaptism, and Korahism.

This latter he did explain thus, namely, when people rise up as Korah, against their ministers or elders, as if they took too much upon them, when, indeed, they do but rule for Christ, and according to Christ; yet, saith he, it is nothing for a brother to stand up, and oppose, without Scripture or reason, the doctrine and word of the elder, saying, I am not satisfied, etc., and hence, if he do not like the administration, be it baptism, or the like, he will then turn his back upon God and his ordinances, and go away, etc. And, saith he, for our neglect of baptizing the children of the church, those that some call grandchildren, I think God is provoked by it.

Another sin I take to be, the making light of, and not subjecting to the authority of Synods, without which the churches cannot long subsist. And so for the magistrates being Gallio like, either not caring for these things, or else not using their power and authority for the maintenance of the truth, and gospel and ordinances of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and for the bearing thorough witness against the contrary. Should the Lord leave them hereunto, how miserable a people should we be!

At night, the assembly being dismissed with prayer, Mr. Wilson did (being desired by them so to do), in a solemn manner, bless the elders, making a short prayer, saying, “I am not like long to be with you; the Lord pardon us, and heal us, and make us more heavenly, and take us off from the world, and make us burning and shining lights, by our heavenly doctrine and example. And I beseech the Lord, with all my heart, to bless you, and to bless his churches, and to bless all his people, and to bless all your families, and to bless your wives, and to bless all your children, and your children’s children; and make us all more and more meet for our inheritance, and bring us all to it in his good time,” etc. These words, with some few other, he spake with great affection, and with tears; and all the ministers wept with him, and they took their leave of him, even as children of their father, who having blessed them, was about to die.