A "Jeremiad" -- Results of the General Court Synod (1679)


[
The jeremiad was a formulaic statement of concern by Puritan ministers or magistrates that the colony had fallen into a pattern of declining piety (a paradigm historians refer to as "declension"). Usually that declension had specific ramifications for God's displeasure with the colony in New England -- heavy casualties from warfare with Indians, the prevalence of epidemic diseases, or interference by the Crown with the colony's charter. These larger events were presented in the "jeremiad" as the consequence of the individual sins or the declining godliness of the colonists.]


The Result of the 1679 General Synod:

The NECESSITY OF REFORMATION with the Expedients subservient thereunto, asserted ; in Answer to two QUESTIONS: 1. What are the Evils that have provoked the lord to bring his Judgments on New England?, and 2. What is to be done that so those Evils way be Reformed? . . .

The Ways of God towards this his People, have in many respects been like unto his dealings with Israel of old: It was a great and high undertaking of our Fathers, when they ventured themselves and their little ones upon the rude waves of the vast Ocean, that so they might follow the Lord into this Land ; a parallel instance not to be given, except that of our Father Abraham . . .

Question 1:

What are the Evils that have provoked the Lord to bring his judgements on New-England?

Answ. That sometimes God hath had, and pleaded a Controversy with his People, is clear from the Scripture, . . .

That God hath a Controversy with his New-England People is undeniable, the Lord having written his displeasure in dismal Characters against us. Though personal Afflictions doe oftentimes come only or chiefly for Probation, yet as to publick judgements it is not wont to be so; especially when by a continued Series of Providence, the Lord doth appear and plead against his People. 2 Sam. 21. 11. As with us it hath been from year to year. Would the Lord have whetted his glitterring Sword, and his hand have taken hold on judgement ? Would he have sent such a mortal Contagion like a Beesom of Destruction in the midst of us ? . . . In which respect, a deep and most serious enquiry into the Causes of his Controversy ought to be attended. Nevertheless, it is sadly evident that there are visible, manifest Evils, which without doubt the Lord is provoked by. For,

I. There is a great and visible decay of the power of Godliness amongst many Professors in these Churches. It may be feared, that there is in too many spiritual and heart Apostacy from God, whence Communion with him in the ways of his Worship, especially in Secret, is much neglected, and whereby men cease to know and fear, and love and trust in him; but take up their contentment and satisfaction in something else. . . .

II. The Pride that doth abound in New-England testifies against us. . . . Whence two great Evils and Provocations have proceeded and prevailed amongst us.

I. A refusing to be subject to Order according to divine appointment . . .

2. Contention. Prov. 13. 10. An evil that is most eminently against the solemn Charge of the Lord Jesus, Joh. 13. 34, 35. And that for which God hath by severe judgements punished his People , both in former and latter Ages. . . .

Yea, and Pride in respect to Apparel hath greatly abounded. Servants, and the poorer sort of People are notoriously guilty in the matter, who (too generally) (goe above their estates and degrees, thereby transgressing the Laws both of God and man. Math. 11.8. . . .

IIII. The Holy and glorious Name of God hath been polluted and profaned amongst us, More especially.

I. By Oaths, and Imprecations in ordinary Discourse; Yea, and it is too common a thing for men in a more solemn way to Swear unnecessary Oaths; whenas it is a breach of the third Commandment, so to use the blessed Name of God. . . .

2. There is great profaneness, in respect of irreverent behaviour in the solemn Worship of God. It is a frequent thing for men (though. not necessitate d thereunto by any infirmity) to sit in prayer time, and some with their heads almost covered, and to give way to their own sloth and sleepiness, when they should be serving God with attention and intention, . . .

V. There is much Sabbath-breaking; . . . Many that do not take care so to dispatch their worldly businesses, that they may be free & fit for the duties of the Sabbath, and that do (if not wholly neglect) after a careless, heartless manner perform the duties that concern the sanctification of the Sabbath. This brings wrath, Fires and other judgements upon a professing People, Neh. 3. 17, 18 Jer. 17. 27.

VI. As to what concerns Families and the Government thereof, there is much amiss. There are many Families that doe not pray to God constantly morning and evening, and many more wherein the Scriptures are not daily read, that so the word of Christ might dwell richly with them. . . . Nay, children & Servants that are not kept in due subjection; their Masters, and Parents especially, being sinfully indulgent towards them. This is a sin which brings great judgements, as we see in Eli's and David's Family. In this respect, Christians in this Land, have become too like unto the Indians, and then we need not wonder if the Lord hath afflicted us by them. Sometimes a Sin is discerned by the Instrument that Providence doth punish with. Most of the Evils that abound amongst us, proceed from defects as to Family Government.

VII. Inordinate Passions. Sinful Heats and Hatreds, and that amongst Church Members themselves, who abound with evil Surmisings, uncharitable and unrighteous Censures, Back-bitings, hearing and telling Tales, few that remember and duely observe the Rule, with an angry countenance to drive away the Tale bearer: Reproachfull and reviling Expressions, sometimes to or of one another. Hence Law suits are frequent, Brother going to Law with Brother, and provoking and abusing one another in publick Courts of judicature, to the Scandal of their holy Profession, Isa. 58. 4. 1 Cor 6 6, 7. . . .

VIII. There is much Intemperance. The heathenish and .Idolatrous practice of Health-drinking is too frequent. That shamefull iniquity of sinfull Drinking is become too general a Provocation. . . .

And there are other hainous breaches of the seventh Commandment. Temptations thereunto are become too common, viz. such as immodest Apparel, Prov. 7. 10 Laying out of hair, Borders, naked Necks and Arms, or, which is more abominable, naked Breasts, and mixed Dancings, light behaviour and expressions, sinful Company-keeping with light and vain persons, unlawfull Gaming, an abundance of Idleness, which brought ruinating judgement upon Sodom, and much more upon Jerusalem. . . .

X. Inordinate affection to the world. Idolatry is a God provoking, judgement-procuring sin. And Covetousness is Idolatry. Eph. 5. 5. There hath been in many professors an insatiable desire after Land, and worldly Accommodations, yea, so as to forsake Churches and Ordinances, and to live like Heathen, only that so they might have Elbow-room enough in the world. Farms and merchandising have been preferred before the things of God. In this respect, the Interest of New-England seemeth to be changed. We differ from other out-goings of our Nation, in that it was not any worldly consideration that brought our Fathers into this wilderness, but Religion, even that so they might build a Sanctuary unto the Lords Name; Whenas now, Religion is made subservient unto worldly Interests. Such iniquity causeth War to be in the Gates, and Cityes to be burnt up. Judg. 8. 5. Math. 22. 5, 7.


Source: Williston Walker, The Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism (Boston, 1893), 423-31. *Some spelling has been modernized.

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