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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 Leave-Taking at Southampton

By Captain Edward Johnson (1599?–1672)

[Born in Kent, England, about 1600. Died at Woburn, Mass., 1672. Wonder-working Providence of Sion’s Saviour in New England. 1654.]

AND now behold the several Regiments of these Soldiers of Christ, as they are shipped for his service in the Western World, part thereof being come to the Town and Port of Southampton in England, where they were to be shipped, that they might prosecute this design to the full. One ship called the “Eagle,” they wholly purchase, and many more they hire, filling them with the seed of man and beast to sow this yet untilled wilderness withal, making sale of such land as they possess, 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 choose but be more advantageous both to you and yours, than all that rocky wilderness, whither you are going, to run the hazard of your life? Have you not here your tables filled with great variety of food, your coffers filled with coin, your houses beautifully built and filled with all rich furniture?” Or otherwise, “Have you not such a gainful trade as none the like in the town where you live? Are you not enriched daily? Are not your Children very well provided for as they come to years? Nay, may you not here as pithily practise the two chief 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 resolvedness these stout Soldiers of Christ reply; as Death, the King of terror with all his dreadful attendance inhuman and barbarous, tortures doubled and trebled by all the infernal furies have appeared but light and momentary to the Soldiers of Christ Jesus, so also the pleasure, profits and honors of this World, set forth in their most glorious splendor and magnitude by the alluring Lady of Delight, proffering pleasant embraces, cannot entice with her syren songs such Soldiers of Christ, whose aims are elevated by him many millions above that brave Warrior Ulysses.

Now seeing all can be said will but barely set forth the immovable resolutions that Christ continued in these men, pass on and attend with tears, if thou hast any, the following discourse, while these Men, Women and Children are taking their last farewell of their Native Country, Kindred, Friends and Acquaintance, while the ships attend them. Many make choice of some solitary place to echo out their bowel-breaking affections in bidding their Friends farewell. “Dear friends,” says one, “as near as my own soul doth thy love lodge in my breast, with thought of the heart-burning ravishments, that thy heavenly speeches have wrought; my melting soul 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 other’s shoulders, they let fall the salt-dropping dews of vehement affection, striving to exceed one another, much like the departure of David and Jonathan. Having a little eased their hearts with the still streams of Tears, they recovered speech again. “Ah! my much honored friend, hath Christ given thee so great a charge as to be Leader of his People into that far remote and vast wilderness? I, oh, and alas thou must die there and never shall I see thy face in the flesh again! Wert thou called to so great a task as to pass the precious Ocean, and hazard thy person in Battle against thousands of Malignant Enemies there? There were hopes of thy return with triumph, but now after two, three, or four months spent with daily expectation of swallowing waves, and cruel 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 he locks his friend fast in his arms. Holding each other thus for some space of time, they weep again. But, as Paul to his beloved flock, the other replies: “What do you, weeping and breaking my heart? I am now prest for the service of our Lord Christ, to rebuild the most glorious edifice of Mount Sion in a wilderness, and as John Baptist, I must cry ‘prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ for behold he is coming again, he is coming to destroy Antichrist…. Then my dear friend unfold thy hands, for thou and I have much work to do—I and all Christian Soldiers the World throughout.” Then hand in hand they lead each other to the sandy banks of the brinish Ocean, when clenching their hands fast, they unloose not till enforced to wipe their watery eyes, whose constant streams forced a watery path upon their cheeks, which to hide from the eyes of others they shun society for a time, but being called by occasion, whose bald back-part none can lay hold on, 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 mutual consent are now purposed to part for a time nine hundred Leagues asunder, since some providence at present will not suffer them to go together, they resolve their tender affections shall not hinder this work of Christ. The new married and betrothed man, exempt by the Law of God from war, now will not claim their privilege, but being constrained by the Love of Christ, lock up their natural affections for a time, till the Lord shall be pleased to give them a meeting in this Western World, sweetly mixing it with spiritual love. In the meantime many Fathers now take their young Samuels, and give them to this service of Christ all their Lives. Brethren, Sisters, Uncles, Nephews, Nieces, together with all kindred of blood that binds the bowels of affection in a true Lover’s knot, can now take their last farewell, each of other, although natural affection will still claim her right, and manifest herself to be in the body by looking out at the windows in a mournful manner among this company. Thus disposed doth many Reverend and godly Pastors of Christ present themselves, some in a seaman’s habit, and their scattered sheep coming as a poor Convoy loftily take their leave of them as followeth, “What doleful days are these, when the best choice our orthodox ministers can make is to take up a perpetual banishment from their native soil, together with their Wives and Children; we their poor sheep they may not feed, but by stoledred should they abide here. Lord Christ, here they are at thy command, they go; this is the door thou hast opened upon our earnest request, and we hope it shall never be shut; for England’s sake they are going from England to pray without ceasing for England, O England! Thou shalt find New England prayers prevailing with their God for thee, but now woe alas, what great hardship must these our endeared Pastors endure for a long season!”

With these words they lift up their voices and wept, adding many drops of salt liquor to the ebbing Ocean.