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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

The Languishing Commonwealth

By Thomas Walley (1616–1678)

[Born in England about 1616. Minister in Barnstable, Mass. Died there in 1678. Balm in Gilead to heal Sion’s Wounds. 1669.]

WE have cause to fear that our condition is but sad this day, for our case looks like the case of this people that the Prophet speaks of. We have Gilead’s Balm and Gilead’s physicians, and yet we are a sick people; we have the means of healing amongst us, that means that is proper and suitable, and yet we continue a wounded and weak people. What means can a people have more for cure than we have? God is yet in our Sion, we have healing ordinances, the preaching of the Gospel, the seals of the covenant of grace, Magistrates that would heal the sicknesses of Sion, and Ministers that mourn for the hurt of the daughter of Sion.

Surely this day New England is sick, the country is a sickly country; the country is full of healthful bodies, but sick souls.

I shall name two or three of the diseases that reign amongst us and do most mischief.

1. The Lethargy, a cold sleepy disease; there seems to be an insensibleness of sin and danger. Faith is dead, and Love is cold, and Zeal is gone; the wise and foolish virgins seem to be all asleep, in a deep sleep of security. The power of godliness decays, the trumpet sounds, the alarm is given, yet the most sleep on.

Oh ye Christians that are not quite asleep! do not you perceive that the love of the most of the professors of religion is grown cold to Christ, to truth, to ordinances, to one another? And that which renders our case the more sad, is, that neither the Word of God nor the Rod of God awakens us; though we see that Satan is busy, yet we are idle. Indeed when Saints do least good, the Devil doth most hurt; while they sleep, he is awake. It is to be feared, that we shall be awakened in some dreadful way, by some sudden and unexpected tempest of divine wrath. A Laodicean frame of spirit is hateful to God.

2. There is a Burning Fever amongst us, a Fire of Contention in towns, in churches; fuel is laid upon this fire daily. What town or what church is there that is free from this disease? The work of Contention is followed as though it were the work of our day, as though we had nothing else to do. Many through the pride of their hearts are very unquiet, and cannot be content in the places God hath set them in, but strive for mastery, dominion and rule, forgetting that counsel of the Apostle: “My brethren, be not many Masters.” This comes from pride and self-love. Proud Nature is discontented with the condition that God hath put man in. The great reason why many are unquiet, is, because they do not think they are high enough either in the Church or in the Commonwealth. The Contentions and Divisions that are amongst us are a sign that lust reigns, and that God’s destroying judgments are not far off. The Fire of Contention will consume all, except God prevent.

3. Many are possessed with an Evil Spirit. It ’s observed that when Christ came into the world there were more possessed with evil spirits than had been in any age; and it is to be wondered at that in this time, in which the Gospel is so clearly preached and religion so much professed, that so many should be possessed with evil spirits.

Some, with a spirit of oppression, cruelty and covetousness; some, with a spirit of error and delusion; some, with a spirit of envy and jealousy; others are filled with pride in heart and manners. Was it ever worse among the Jews than it is with us? That which is threatened as a sore judgment to the Jews, is in a great measure fulfilled among us this day: “The people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor; the child shall behave himself proudly against the Ancient, and the base against the Honorable.” Many of the children of this generation, if they consider their carriage to their parents, will have little cause to expect much obedience from their children, and are like in their latter years to reap the fruit of their present disobedience to their parents. Oh, how sad is it that there should be such a spirit of profaneness, looseness and wilfulness against counsel in our days! Truly if the means we have do not cure us, what is like to cure us? God will either make us better or leave us. God would heal us, and we will not be healed….

Let this be matter of admiration as well as of humiliation to us, that a sick people that have all means to heal them are not healed; that those who have Gilead’s Balm and Gilead’s physicians are yet sick. And if we do not wonder at it, strangers will hereafter, That a people that have such proper suitable means are still unrecovered, and dying under them. I speak not to flatter. We have a godly Magistracy, that have made it manifest that they are willing, yea earnestly desirous of healing the sicknesses of Church and State. We have godly Ministers, that I am confident would spend and be spent for the recovery of the health of the daughter of Sion. We have holy ordinances, and we have some mourning and praying Saints, that lament the evils that are among us; and God’s Providences call upon us daily to get our sickness healed. And is it not a wonder that a people that hath such means and mercies should still languish of their diseases? Oh that that which is said of Nineveh, might never be said of us: “There is no healing of thy bruises, thy wound is grievous”! It would be sad, if God should threaten us as he doth Egypt: “In vain shalt thou use many medicines, for thou shalt not be cured.” Or if God should say as once concerning Babylon: “We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed; forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country.” It was no wonder that these heathen nations could not be healed, but it is matter of astonishment that Sion is not, that New England should have so much means of healing, and yet continue sick; that a people that are lifted up to Heaven with mercies should be so likely to be thrown down to Hell.