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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 Nursing Fathers of the New World

By Joshua Scottow (1618–1698)

[Born in England. Died in Boston, Mass., 1698. A Narrative of the Planting of the Massachusetts Colony. 1694.]

MEN of narrow spirits, of mean capacities and fortunes, had not been capable to officiate in so great a work, that such and so many gentlemen of ancient and worshipful families, of name and number, of character and quality, should combine and unite in so desperate and dangerous a design, attended with such insuperable difficulties and hazards in the plucking up of their stakes, leaving so pleasant and profitable a place as their native soil, parting with their patrimonies, inheritances, plentiful estates, and settlement of houses well furnished, of land well stocked, and with comfortable ways of subsistence, which the first planters deserted; and not a few did leave all their worldly hopes to come into this desert and unknown land, and smoky cottages, to the society of cursed cannibals (as they have proved to be), and at best wild Indians. What less than a Divine Ardor could inflame a people thus circumstanced to a work so contrary to flesh and blood?

Infinite wisdom and prudence contrived and directed this mysterious work of Providence; divine courage and resolution managed it; superhuman sedulity and diligence attended it, and angelical swiftness and dispatch finished it. Its wheels stirred not, but according to the Holy Spirit’s motion in them; yea, there was the involution of a wheel within a wheel. God’s ways were a great depth, and high above the eagle or vulturous eye; and such its immensity as man’s cockle-shell is infinitely unable to empty this ocean….

The leaders of this people, upon serious debate, drew up a determination to settle the corporation and government upon the place; and accordingly made choice of a governor and deputy to abide there, which being effected, and divinely directed in such a choice of the governor, the famous pattern of wisdom, justice, and liberality, and of a deputy governor who, by his experience at home and travels abroad, with his natural and acquired abilities, was a gentleman qualified above others for the chief rule and government, wherein, according to his just deserts, he shared more than others,—the fame whereof being come abroad in the nation to such whose hearts God had touched,—this being upon the wing, there wanted not number of persons of all occupations, skilled in all faculties needful for the planting of a colony, who filled up a fleet of eleven ships, of considerable burthen, besides their attenders; some of them about four hundred tons, the rest not much inferior; some carrying near two hundred passengers, the rest proportionably. The wheels of Providence were lifted up very high, and also were radiantly magnificent.

These tarting travellers’ removal, carrying so great a resemblance of departure into another world, they were not stupid Stoics, but abounded with that which grace doth not destroy, but direct. What showers of melting tears dropped into the bosoms of each other, whose souls as Jonathan and David clave one to another, yet alleviated with consideration; though they were “absent in body, yet present in spirit,” and of their mutual access to the Throne of Grace, and of “meeting at the assembly of the first-born and spirits of just men made perfect.” Some of their choice friends, as the Reverend Mr. Cotton, and others, went along with them from Boston in Lincolnshire to Southampton, where they parted, and he preached his farewell sermon.

That so many eminent persons, some of noble extract, should upon sea-bridges pass over the largest ocean in the Universe, by the good hand of their God upon them, having sought of him a right way for themselves, little ones, and substance; yea, above three thousand in one year, and that above three hundred ships since that time, all laden with jewels of invaluable value, far above the gold of Ophir—that each individual one should have a Celestial Convoy, under the flaming swords of flying Cherubims, turning every way, to keep them in their way, so as they all at their port safely arrived. Not one foundered in the sea, split upon rocks, were sucked in by sands, overset by sudden gusts, nor taken and plundered by pirates or robbers, except one called the “Angel Gabriel,” whose tutelar guardianship failed (if any aboard put trust therein). She was laden with passengers for Boston, but put in at Pemiquid, where the ship and whole cargo perished, but not one soul of seamen or passengers miscarried. They met with an hurricane, before or since not known in this country, raised by the power of him who holds the wind in his hand and commissioneth the Prince of the Air, by raising “stormy winds to fulfil his Word.” It’s said the tide rose twenty foot perpendicular above its ordinary height. The same time another great ship laden with passengers was wonderfully preserved, when as ready to be split in pieces upon rocks at the “Isle of Shoals;” at the prayer of the distressed Saints aboard God caused the winds to veer a point or two about the compass, so as she cleared them, and they were saved….

Our ancestors were men of God, made partakers of the divine nature; Christ was formed and visibly legible in them; they served God in houses of the first edition, without large chambers, or windows, ceiled with cedar, or painted with vermilion; a company of plain, pious, humble and open-hearted Christians, called Puritans. When news was brought hither, that the church at Bermudas was banished thence into a desert island, and full of straits, forthwith they sent a vessel of good burthen to them, fully laden with provisions of all sorts, each striving who should be forwardest in so good a work; which supply came unto them, when as all the meal in their barrels and oil in their cruise was spent; and it was brought to them upon a Lord’s-day, when as their faithful pastor had finished his exhortation from Psalm xxiii.: “To trust upon Jehovah their Shepherd, who would not trust his flock to want;” thus the Lord set his seal to their faith and progress.

The gravity of their habit and calendar reformation, by Satan’s policy, hath since been imitated by the Quakers, that our Fathers might be listed among those fanatics and enthusiasts; but they owned no Spirit within them, but to be tried by the Word without them, and no Word without them, but accorded with the Spirit within them; no word of promise to them without a work of grace upon them, neither without the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in them and testifying to them. They minded the ornament of the meek and quiet Spirit; they were not acquainted with the toys and fancies of this age; they were glorious within; their clothing was of wrought gold; they were brought in unto the King in raiment of needle-work, wrought with tender pricks of conscience; the least vain fashion, wanton, or wicked thought touched them to the quick….

It’s historied of our Pagan progenitors, that Gregory the Great, the last of the good, and first of bad Popes, seeing strange lads of a comely countenance produced publicly to be sold, he inquired of what nation they were of. Being told they were Angli, “English,” looking upon their fair faces, he said they were Angeli, Angels, and pitying them that they were vassals of Satan, he took order for the conversion of our nation to the Christian faith; but as for us Nov Angli, “New English,” by our smutty deformity and Hell’s blackness, we have rendered ourselves Diaboli Veterani, Old Devils. New England will be called new Witch-land, Emmanuel’s Land will be titled the Land of Abaddon; Salem Village and Andover will be called the Swedish Mohra and Bokul; the country whose native and natural smell was as of a field which the Lord hath blessed; a promenado abroad, after rain, would have revived a man’s spirits, as some have experienced it; yea, the whole Continent which, long after our first coming hither, was so full, not only of internal, but of external flavor and sweet odor; so as when ships were divers leagues distant and had not made land, so fragrant and odoriferous was the land to the mariners, that they knew they were not far from the shore; such was the plenty of sweet fern, laurel, and other fragrant simples this land then abounded with, especially near the sea-side; such was the scent of our aromatic and balsam-bearing pines, spruces, and larch trees, with our tall cedars, exceeding all in Europe. But our sweet scent is gone, we smell rank of hellebore, henbane, and poisonful hemlock, as if we were laid out to be the American Anticyra.