Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1607–1764
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. I–II: Colonial Literature, 1607–1764
 
A Cry unto the Lord to Stay His Hand
By Captain Edward Johnson (1599?–1672)
 
[From Wonder-working Providence of Sion’s Saviour in New England. 1654.]

        Of the wonder-working providences of Christ, wrought for his people among our English Nation, both in our Native country, and also in New England, which should stir us up to mourn for all our miscarriages much the more.

FROM silent night true Register of moans,
  From saddest soul consum’d in deepest sin,
[A]  From heart quite rent with sighs and heavy groans,
  My wailing muse her woful work begins,
And to the world brings tunes of sad lament,        5
Sounding naught else but sorrow’s sad relent.
 
Sorry to see my sorrow’s cause augmented,
  And yet less sorrowful were my sorrows more,
[A]  Grief that with grief, is not with grief prevented,
  Yet grief it is must ease my grieved sore;        10
So grief and sorrow, care but how to grieve,
For grief and sorrow must my cares relieve.
 
The wound fresh bleeding must be stanch’d with tears,
  Tears cannot come unless some grief proceed,
[A]  Grief comes but slack, which doth increase my fears,        15
  Fear, lest for want of help I still shall bleed;
Do what I can to lengthen my life’s breath,
If Christ be wanting, I shall bleed to death.
 
Thou deepest searcher of each secret thought,
  Infuse in me thy all-affecting grace,        20
[A]  So shall my work to good effect be brought,
  While I peruse my ugly sins a space,
Whose staining filth so spotted hath my soul,
That naught can wash, but tears of inward dole.

          A  The consideration of the wonderful providence of Christ in planting his New England Churches, and with the right hand of his power preserving, protecting, favoring, and feeding them upon his tender knees, together with the ill requital of his all-infinite and undeserved mercies bestowed upon us, hath caused many a soul to lament for the dishonor done to his Name, and fear of his casting off this little handful of his, and the insulting of the enemy, whose sorrow is set forth in these four first staffs of verses.
 
How soon, my soul, hast thou the Lord forgot,        25
  [B]  Who thee and thine through troublous Seas hath led,
On earth thy parts should praise him, sudden rot,
  Why dost neglect his glorious Kingdom spread?
Thy eyes have seen the Mountains mov’d with ’s hand,
And sunk in Seas to make his Sion stand.        30
 
No wonder then thy works with Eastern wind
  [B]  On Seas are broke, and thy best Seamen slain,
Sith thou thy gain, and not Christ’s work dost mind;
  Lord, stay thy hand, I see my works are vain.
Our ships they shall thy Gospel forth convey,        35
And not bring home strange errors here to stay.
 
Instead of home-oppression, they shall now
  Thy Saints abroad relieve, by Sea them send;
No riot shall our Merchantmen allow,
  Time in exchange walks, not in Taverns spend.        40
Godly grief and good purpose comes from thee,
Lord Christ command, and then to work go we.

          B  The Rod of God toward us in our Maritime affairs manifested, not only to our own shipping, but strangers; as the “Mary Rose” blown up in Charles River, and sunk in a moment, with about thirteen men slain therein. As also one Capt. Chadwick’s Pinnace, and about four men slain therein, beside what hath been formerly said touching our own shipping.
 
Oh thou, my soul, how weak ’s thy faith become,
  With scatter’d seed of man and beast, thou hast
Seen thy great God increase thy little sum,        45
  [C]  Towns close compact in desert land hath plac’d:
In Wilderness thy table richly spread,
Thy poor therein hath satisfi’d with bread.
 
While fertile lands with hunger have been pined,
  [C]  Thy harvest hath with heaps on heaps come in;        50
Oh mourn, that thou no more thy God should’st mind,
  His gentle rod to teach thee doth begin;
Then wonder not that swarms of Locust fly,
And that earth’s fruits for want of moisture die.
 
A countless crew of Caterpillars crawl,        55
  To rob the earth of her green mantle quite;
Wolves only wont on lesser beasts to fall,
  [C]  On great ones prey by day, and eke by night;
Thy houses are consum’d with much good store,
By fearful fires, which blustering winds blow o’er.        60
 
Lord, stay thy hand, and stop my earthly mind,
  Thy Word, not world, shall be our sole delight,
[C]  Not Meadow ground, but Christ’s rich pearl we ’ll find,
  Thy Saints embrace, and not large lands down plight.
Murmur no more will we at yearly pay,        65
To help uphold our Government each way;
 
Not strive who least, but who the most shall give,
  Rejoice will we, our hearts enlarged are,
[C]  Those wait on th’ Altar, shall on Altar live,
  Nor shall our riches their good doctrine mar;        70
Our pride of parts in thought of clear discerning,
No longer shall disgrace their godly learning.
 
Our meaner sort that metamorphos’d are
  With women’s hair, in gold and garments gay,
[C]  Whose wages large our Commonwealth’s work mar,        75
  Their pride they shall with moderation lay;
Cast off their clothes, that men may know their rank,
And women that with outward deckings prank.

          C  Of the Lord’s hand against our Land affairs, as is heretofore expressed; and also in the sudden taking away many men’s estates by fire, and chiefly by a most terrible fire which happened in Charles-Town, in the depth of Winter, 1650, by a violent wind blown from one house to another, to the consuming of the fairest houses in the Town. Under the pretence of being unequally rated, many men murmur exceedingly and withdraw their shoulders from the support of Government, to the great discouragement of those that govern, 1651. Pride and excess in apparel is frequent in these days, when the Lord calls his people to humiliation and humble acknowledgment of his great deliverances; and that which is far worse, spiritual pride, to show ourselves to be somebody, often step out of our ranks, and delight in newfangled doctrines.
 
The world’s embrace our longing lust for gain,
  [D]  No longer shall us into corners draw,        80
Nor our large herds us from God’s house detain
  From fellowship of Saints, who learn thy Law;
Thy righteous Judgments, Lord, do make me tremble,
Nor word, nor rod, but deep in this dissemble.
 
Two Masters, Lord, we will professed serve;        85
  How can we, Christ, united be to thee,
[D]  When from thy Law learn’d we so greatly swerve,
  With watery tears unclued we will be.
From creature-comforts, Christ, thou art our stay,
Work will and deed in us, we humbly pray.

          D  An over-eager desire after the world hath so seized on the spirits of many, that the chief end of our coming hither is forgotten; and notwithstanding all the powerful means used, we stand at a stay, as if the Lord had no farther work for his people to do, but every bird to feather his own nest.
        90
 
Oh thou, my soul, and every part in me
  Lament, the Lord his worthies from the earth
Takes to himself, and makes our earth to be
  [E]  A mourning place left destitute of mirth;
Are these the days wherein that Beast shall fall,        95
Lord, leave us means, though thou be all in all.
 
What courage was in WINTHROP, it was thine;
  SHEPARD’S sweet Sermons from thy blessing came,
[E]  Our heavenly HOOKER thy grace did refine,
  And godly BURR receiv’d from thee his frame;        100
PHILIPS didst thou indue with Scripture light,
And HUET had his arguings strong and right.
 
Grave HIGGINSON his heavenly truths from thee,
  [E]  MAVERICK was made an able help to thine;
What HERVER had thou gavest, for ’s people free;        105
  Follow GREEN full of grace, to work thou didst assign;
Godly GLOVER his rich gifts thou gavest,
Thus thou by means thy flocks from smoiling savest.
 
But Lord, why dost by death withdraw thy hand
  From us, these men and means are sever’d quite;        110
Stretch forth thy might, Lord Christ do thou command
  Their doubled spirit on those left to light;
Forth of their graves call ten times ten again,
That thy dear flocks no damage may sustain.
 
Can I forget these means that thou hast used,        115
  To quicken up my drowsy drooping soul;
Lord, I forget, and have the same abused,
  Which makes me now with grief their deaths condole,
And kiss thy rod, laid on with bowels tender,
By death of mine, makes me their death remember.        120
 
Lord, stay thy hand, thy JACOB’S number ’s small,
  Pour out thy wrath on Antichrist’s proud Thrones;
Hear thy poor flocks that on thee daily call,
  Bottle their tears, and pity their sad groans.
Where shall we go Lord Christ? We turn to thee;        125
Heal our backslidings, forward press shall we.
 
Not we, but all thy Saints the world throughout
  Shall on thee wait, thy wonders to behold;
Thou King of Saints, the Lord in battle stout
  Increase thy armies many thousand-fold.        130
Oh Nations all, his anger seek to stay,
That doth create him armies every day.

          E  The Lord’s taking away by death many of his most eminent servants from us, shows that either the Lord will raise up another people to himself to do his work, or raise us up by his Rod to a more eager pursuit of his work, even the planting of his Churches the world throughout. The Lord converts and calls forth of their graves men to fight his battles against the enemies of his truth.
 
 
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