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 . . .
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.
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,
Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism (Boston, 1893), 423-31).