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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

An Answer to Prayer

By Captain Edward Johnson (1599?–1672)

[From Wonder-working Providence of Sion’s Saviour in New England. 1654.]

HERE again the admirable Providence of the Lord is to be noted, that whereas the Country is naturally subject to drought, even to the withering of their summer’s fruits, the Lord was pleased, during these years of scarcity, to bless that small quantity of land they planted with seasonable showers, and that many times to the great admiration of the Heathen. For thus it befell: The extreme parching heat of the sun (by reason of a more constant clearness of the air than usually is in England) began to scorch the herbs and fruits, which was the chiefest means of their livelihood. They beholding the Hand of the Lord stretched out against them, like tender-hearted Children, they fell down on their knees, begging mercy of the Lord for their Saviour’s sake, urging this as a chief argument, that the malignant adversary would rejoice in their destruction, and blaspheme the pure Ordinances of Christ, trampling down his Kingly Commands with their own inventions; and in uttering these words, their eyes dropped down many tears, their affections prevailing so strong, that they could not refrain in the Church Assembly. Here admire and be strong in the Grace of Christ, all you that hopefully belong unto him, for as they poured out water before the Lord, so at that very instant, the Lord showered down water on their gardens and fields, which with great industry they had planted, and now had not the Lord caused it to rain speedily, their hope of food had been lost; but at this these poor worms were so exceedingly taken, that the Lord should show himself so near unto their prayers, that as the drops from Heaven fell thicker and faster, so the tears from their eyes by reason of the sudden mixture of joy and sorrow. And verily they were exceedingly stirred in their affections, being unable to resolve themselves which mercy was greatest, to have a humble begging heart given them of God, or to have their request so suddenly answered.

The Indians hearing hereof, and seeing the sweet rain that fell, were much taken with Englishmen’s God, but the Lord seeing his poor people’s hearts were too narrow to beg, his bounties exceeds toward them at this time, as indeed he ever hitherto hath done for this Wilderness People, not only giving the full of their requests, but beyond all their thoughts, as witness his great work in England of late, in which the prayers of God’s people in New England have had a great stroke. These people now rising from their knees to receive the rich mercies of Christ, in the refreshed fruits of the Earth; behold the Sea also bringing in whole ship-loads of mercies, more being filled with fresh forces for furthering this wonderful work of Christ. And indeed this year came in many precious ones, whom Christ in his grace hath made much use of in these his Churches and Commonwealth, insomuch that these people were even almost over-balanced with the great income of their present possessed mercies. Yet they address themselves to the sea-shore, where they courteously welcome the famous servant of Christ, grave, godly and judicious Hooker, and the honored servant of Christ, Mr. John Haynes, as also the Reverend and much desired Mr. John Cotton, and the Rhetorical Mr. Stone, with divers others of the sincere servants of Christ, coming with their young, and with their old, and with their whole substance, to do him service in this desert wilderness. Thus this poor people having now tasted liberally of the salvation of the Lord every way, they deem it high time to take up the cup of thankfulness, and pay their vows to the most high God, by whom they were holpen to this purpose of heart, and accordingly set apart the 16th day of October (which they call the eighth month, not out of any peevish humor of singularity, as some are ready to censure them with, but of purpose to prevent the Heathenish and Popish observation of days, months and years, that they may be forgotten among the people of the Lord). This day was solemnly kept by all the seven Churches, rejoicing in the Lord, and rendering thanks for all their benefits.