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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

Concerning Remarkable Judgments

By Increase Mather (1639–1723)

[From An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences. 1684.]

THOSE memorable judgments which the hand of Heaven has executed upon notorious sinners are to be reckoned amongst Remarkable Providences. Lubricus hic locus et difficilis. He undertakes a difficult province that shall relate all that might be spoken on such a subject, both in that it cannot but be gravaminous to surviving relations when such things are published, also in that men are apt to misapply the unsearchable judgments of God, which are a great deep, as Job’s friends did; and wicked Papists have done the like with respect to the untimely death of famous Zuinglius. We may not judge of men merely by outward accidents which befal them in this world, since all things happen alike unto all, and no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. We have seen amongst ourselves that the Lord’s faithful servants have sometimes been the subjects of very dismal dispensations. There happened a most awful providence at Farmington in Connecticut colony, Dec. 14, 1666, when the house of Serjeant John Hart taking fire in the night, no man knows how (only it is conjectured that it might be occasioned by an oven), he and his wife and six children were all burned to death before the neighbours knew anything of it, so that his whole family had been extinguished by the fatal flames of that unhappy night had not one of his children been providentially from home at that time. This Hart was esteemed a choice Christian, and his wife also a good woman. Such things sometimes fall upon those that are dear unto God, to intimate, “If this be done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry? that is, fit for nothing but the fire.” Nevertheless, a judgment may be so circumstanced as that the displeasure of Heaven is plainly written upon it in legible characters; on which account it is said, “That the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”…

It hath been by many observed, that men addicted to horrid cursings and execrations have pulled down the imprecated vengeance of Heaven upon themselves. Sundry very awful examples of this kind have lately happened: I shall here mention one or two.

The hand of God was very remarkable in that which came to pass in the Narraganset country in New England, not many weeks since; for I have good information, that on August 28, 1683, a man there (viz. Samuel Wilson) having caused his dog to mischief his neighbour’s cattle was blamed for his so doing. He denied the fact with imprecations, wishing that he might never stir from that place if he had so done. His neighbour being troubled at his denying the truth, reproved him, and told him he did very ill to deny what his conscience knew to be truth. The atheist thereupon used the name of God in his imprecations, saying, “He wished to God he might never stir out of that place, if he had done that which he was charged with.” The words were scarce out of his mouth before he sunk down dead, and never stirred more; a son-in-law of his standing by and catching him as he fell to the ground.

A thing not unlike this hapned (though not in New England yet) in America, about a year ago; for in September, 1682, a man at the Isle of Providence, belonging to a vessel, whereof one Wollery was master, being charged with some deceit in a matter that had been committed to him, in order to his own vindication, horridly wished “that the devil might put out his eyes if he had done as was suspected concerning him.” That very night a rhume fell into his eyes, so that within a few days he became stark blind. His company being astonished at the Divine hand which thus conspiciously and signally appeared, put him ashore at Providence, and left him there. A physitian being desired to undertake his cure, hearing how he came to lose his sight, refused to meddle with him. This account I lately received from credible persons, who knew and have often seen the man whom the devil (according to his own wicked wish) made blind, through the dreadful and righteous judgment of God.

Moreover, that worse than brutish sin of drunkenness hath been witnessed against from heaven by severe and signal judgments. It was a sign of the fearful wrath of God upon that notorious drunkard at a place called Seatucket in Long Island; who, as he was in drink, fell into the fire (the people in the house then being in bed and asleep), and so continued for some considerable time, until he received his death’s wound. At his first awakening he roared out, “Fire! Fire!” as if it had been one in hell, to the great astonishment of all that heard him. One in the house flung a pail of water on him to quench his clothes, but that added to his torment; so he continued yelling after an hideous manner, “Fire! Fire!” and within a day or two died in great misery. And though this drunkard died by fire, it is remarkable that many of those who have loved drink have died by water, and that at the very time when their understandings have been drowned with drink. It is an awful consideration that there have been at several times above forty persons in this land whom death hath found in that woful plight, so that their immortal souls have gone out of drunken bodies to appear before God, the judge of all.

That remarkable judgment hath first or last fallen upon those who have sought the hurt of the people of God in New England, is so notorious as that it is become the observation of every man. This Israel in the wilderness hath eat up the nations his enemies; he hath broke their bones, and pierced them through with his arrows. Some adversaries have escaped longer unpunished than others; but then their ends have been of all the most woful and tragical at last I shall instance only in what hath lately come to pass with respect unto the heathen who rose up against us, thinking to swallow us up quick when their wrath was kindled against us. Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us a prey to their teeth! The chieftains amongst them were all cut off, either by sword or sickness, in the war time, excepting those in the eastern parts, whose ringleaders outlived their fellows; but now God hath met with them. There were in special two of those Indians who shed much innocent blood, viz. Simon and Squando. As for bloody Simon, who was wont to boast of the mischiefs he had done, and how he had treacherously shot and killed such and such Englishmen, he died miserably the last winter. Another Indian discharging a gun, hapned to shoot Simon, so as to break his arm. After which he lived two years, but in extremity of pain, so as that the Indians when enquired of how Simon did, their usual answer was, “Worse than dead.” He used all means that earth and hell (for he betook himself to powaws) could afford him for his recovery, but in vain. Thus was the wickedness of that murtherer at last returned upon his own head.

Concerning Squando, the Sachem of the Indians at Saco, the story of him is upon sundry accounts remarkable. Many years ago, he was sick and near unto death, after which he said, that one pretending to be the Englishman’s God appeared to him in the form of an English minister, and discoursed with him, requiring him to leave off his drinking of rum, and religiously to observe the Sabbath-day, and to deal justly amongst men, withal promising him that if he did so, then at death his soul should go upwards to an happy place; but if he did not obey these commandments, at death his soul should go downwards, and be for ever miserable. But this pretended God said nothing to him about Jesus Christ. However, this apparition so wrought upon Squando, as that he left his drunkenness, and became a strict observer of the Sabbath-day; yea, so as that he always kept it as a day of fast, and would hear the English ministers preach, and was very just in his dealing. But in the time of the late Indian war, he was a principal actor in the bloody tragedies in that part of the country. The last year the pretended Englishman’s God appeared to him again, as afore, in the form of a minister, requiring him to kill himself, and promising him that if he did obey, he should live again the next day, and never die more. Squando acquainted his wife and some other Indians with this new apparition; they most earnestly advised him not to follow the murderous counsel which the spectre had given. Nevertheless, he since hath hanged himself, and so is gone to his own place. This was the end of the man that disturbed the peace of New England.