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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

On Horrible War

By William Hooke (1601–1678)

[Born in Southampton, England, 1601. Died near London, 1678. New-England’s Teares for Old England’s Feares: A Sermon preached at Taunton, Mass., 1640.]

IT is commonly observed, that men and women who have turned Witches, and been in league with the devil, thereby to do mischief, are never given over so to do, till they begin to have an evil eye, which grieveth at the prosperity, and rejoiceth at the misery of others. Hence Witchcraft is described by an evil eye.

I know not what eye hath bewitched my young lambs. And when any are bewitched, it is a phrase of speech among many to say, they are overseen, i.e., looked upon with a malicious eye. Nay, it is the property of the devil to be thus affected. Man’s prosperity is his pain, and man’s adversity his rejoicing, as we see in Job; neither is there (scarce) any thing that doth more import the seed of the Serpent in a man, than this same [Greek], rejoicing in the evil and misery of another. It is then the property of Edomites, abjects, witches and devils, to rejoice in the misery that befalleth others. And though I am not able to charge any of you with this cursed affection, yet I do wish you to look into your own hearts; for this I am sure, here are strong temptations sometimes, leading towards it in this land, which when they meet with an heart void of grace, must needs stir up the disposition in it, and not only emulations and envyings, but witchcraft itself is a work of the flesh.

But the use that I do principally intend, is of exhortation to you all, as you desire to approve yourselves the true friend and brethren of your dear countrymen in old England, to condole with them this day in their afflictions. Job’s friends, you see, did it for him seven days and seven nights, i.e., many days. O let us do it then this one day; at least, for these.

Indeed when we look upon ourselves at this time in this land, the Lord hath given us great cause of rejoicing, both in respect of civil and spiritual peace. God hath at once subdued the proud Pequots and the proud opinions that rose up in this land: and for plenty, never had the land the like. Yea, which is much better, the Word of God grows and multiplieth; the churches have rest throughout the whole land, and are edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, are multiplied. This is much, and more it would be, if the edge of these and other our comforts were not this day turned by the fear of civil strifes and combustions in the land of our nativity, which do not a little abate the sweetness of all other our happiness to us, and call for lamentation and sackcloth at our hands.

When Artaxerxes said unto Nehemiah, “Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick?” Have you not read the answer? “Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lies waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?” Why? Nehemiah was well enough at ease, he had honor, and power, and favor, and pleasure enough, and being the king’s cup-bearer, he had wine enough of all sorts at his command, which maketh glad the heart of man. But what is all this not to cloud his countenance, and overcast it with grief and sorrow, when the city of his fathers was laid waste, and the gates thereof consumed with fire? Thus, beloved, if our comforts were treble to what they are this day, yet could it not but much abate the sweetness of them, to consider what distresses may lie at this time upon our native country, for aught we know, and to have too just cause to fear. When the Ark and Israel and Judah abode in tents, and Joab and his men were encamped in the open fields, Uriah took no comfort in his beautiful wife, nor in his house, nor in his meat and drink.

Let us therefore, I beseech you, lay aside the thoughts of all our comforts this day, and let us fasten our eyes upon the calamities of our brethren in old England, calamities, at least, imminent calamities dropping, swords that have hung a long time over their heads by a twine thread, judgments long since threatened as foreseen by many of God’s messengers in the causes, though not foretold by a spirit prophetically guided; heavy judgments in all probability, when they fall, if they are not fallen already. And not to look upon the occasions given on the one side or the other, between the two sister nations (sister nations? ah, the word woundeth), let us look this day simply on the event, a sad event in all likelihood, the dividing of a king from his subjects, and him from them, their mutual taking up of arms in opposition and defence; the consequences, even the gloomy and dark consequences thereof, are killing and slaying, and sacking and burning, and robbing, and rifling, cursing and blaspheming, etc.

If you should but see war described to you in a map, especially in a country, well known to you, nay dearly beloved of you, where you drew your first breath, where once, yea, where lately you dwelt, where you have received ten thousand mercies, and have many a dear friend and countryman and kinsman abiding, how could you but lament and mourn?

War is the conflict of enemies enraged with bloody revenge, wherein the parties opposite carry their lives in their hands, every man turning prodigal of his very heart blood, and willing to be killed to kill. The instruments are clashing swords, rattling spears, skull-dividing halberds, murdering pieces, and thundering cannons, from whose mouths proceed the fire, and smell, and smoke, and terror, death, as it were, of the very bottomless pit. We wonder now and then at the sudden death of a man: alas, you might there see a thousand men not only healthy, but stout and strong, struck dead in the twinkling of an eye, their breath exhales without so much as, “Lord have mercy upon us.” Death heweth its way through a wood of men in a minute of time from the mouth of a murderer, turning a forest into a champaign suddenly; and when it hath used these to slay their opposites, they are recompensed with the like death themselves. O, the shrill ear-piercing clangs of the trumpets, noise of drums, the animating voices of horse captains, and commanders, learned and learning to destroy! There is the undaunted horse whose neck is clothed with thunder, and the glory of whose nostrils is terrible; how doth he lie pawing and prancing in the valley, going forth to meet the armed men? he mocks at fear, swallowing the ground with fierceness and rage, and saying among the trumpets, Ha, Ha, he smells the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting. Here ride some dead men swagging in their deep saddles; there fall others alive upon their dead horses; death sends a message to those from the mouth of the muskets, these it talks with face to face, and stabs them in the fifth rib. In yonder file there is a man hath his arms struck off from his shoulder, another by him hath lost his leg; here stands a soldier with half a face, there fights another upon his stumps, and at once both kills and is killed; not far off lies a company wallowing in their sweat and gore; such a man whilst he chargeth his musket is discharged of his life, and falls upon his dead fellow. Every battle of the warrior is with confused noise and garments rolled in blood. Death reigns in the field, and is sure to have the day which side soever falls. In the meanwhile (O formidable!) the infernal fiends follow the camp to catch after the souls of rude nefarious soldiers (such as are commonly men of that calling) who fight themselves fearlessly into the mouth of hell for revenge, a booty, or a little revenue. How thick and threefold do they speed one another to destruction? A day of battle is a day of harvest for the devil.

All this while, the poor wife and tender children sit weeping together at home, having taken their late farewell of the harnessed husband and father (O it was a sad parting if you had seen it!) never looking to see his face again, as indeed many and the most of them never do; for anon comes Ely’s messenger from the camp saying, “There is a great slaughter among the people, and your husband is dead, your father is dead, he was slain in an hot fight, he was shot dead in the place and never spake a word more.” Then the poor widow who fed yet upon a crumb of hope, tears her hair from her head, rends her clothes, wrings her hands, lifts up her voice to heaven, and weeps like Rachel that would not be comforted, her children hang about her crying and saying, “O my father is slain, my father is dead, I shall never see my father more;” and so they cry and sob and sigh out their afflicted souls, and break their hearts together. Alas, alas! this is yet but war through a crevice. Beloved, do but consider. There is many times fire without war, and famine and pestilence without war, but war is never without them; and there are many times robberies without war, and murdering of passengers, ravishing of matrons, deflouring of virgins, cruelties and torments, and sometimes barbarous and inhuman practices without war, but war goes seldom or never without them.

War, it is malum complexum, a compound of judgments, a mixed misery, the cup in the hand of the Lord, the wine whereof is red, and it is full of mixture. The wine is indeed as red as blood, and the ingredients are fire, famine, pestilence, murders, robberies, rapes, deflourings, cruelties, torment, with many other miseries. The voice of melody ceaseth, relation that were lately the comfort and now become the grief of the life of men; the highways are unoccupied, the travellers walk through by-ways, the inhabitants of the villages cease, and the noise of the archers is heard in the places of drawing water. War, it is the immediate hand of such whose tenderest mercies are cruelties, commonly therefore the last of God’s strokes upon them that will take no warning. But yet there is difference in wars; a war in the borders of an enemy is held better than a war in one’s native country; for commonly, the land that is as the Garden of Eden before an enemy, behind them is like a desolate wilderness; and it is very woful when people and land shall be wasted together. Or if it be war in our own land, yet a war against a foreign enemy invading, is far better than a civil war. It is grievous, but not admirable, to see an Egyptian and an Hebrew contending, but to see, as the prophet saith, Egyptians against Egyptians, and every one fighting against his brother, and against his neighbor, city against city, and kingdom against kingdom; or to see, as the same prophet saith, Manasseh against Ephraim and Ephraim against Manasseh, and both against Judah; O, this is both lamentable and wonderful! The mad soldier in the heat of his blood, and the depth of his atheism, may account it perhaps at first with Abner but a play to see Israelites catching of Israelites by the beard, and thrusting their swords into one another’s sides: but of all wars none so bloody, neither hath any play such bitterness in the end.

It is a sad play, wherein not only men’s goods, and bodies, and souls do commonly lie at stake, but wherein also even the very conqueror is conquered, as one that played but for his own money, and at such a desperate play, whose very gains are losings. No wars so cruel, so unnatural, so desolating, as civil wars. You have heard, beloved, of the dreadful German wars; why, if there be any in our own country this day, I may call them German wars, because they are the wars of Germans, even the bloody contentions of brethren; and when relations turn opposites, nothing more opposite. A kingdom at wars with a foreign enemy may stand, but a kingdom divided against itself, can never; there can never be prosperity with Jerusalem’s palaces, if first there be not peace within her walls. Unity and peace are a bond, and where that is broken, there must needs follow dissolution.