Home  »  Specimens of American Poetry  »  Michael Wigglesworth (1631–1705)

Samuel Kettell, ed. Specimens of American Poetry. 1829.

By The Day of Doom

Michael Wigglesworth (1631–1705)

STILL was the night, serene and bright,

When all men sleeping lay;

Calm was the season, and carnal reason

Thought so ’t would last for aye.

Soul, take thine ease, let sorrow cease,

Much good thou hast in store:

This was their song, their cups among,

The evening before.

Wallowing in all kind of sin,

Vile wretches lay secure:

The best of men had scarcely then

Their lamps kept in good ure.

Virgins unwise, who through disguise

Amongst the best were number’d,

Had clos’d their eyes; yea, and the wise

Through sloth and frailty slumber’d.

Like as of gold, when men grow bold

God’s threat’nings to contemn,

Who stop their ear, and would not hear;

When mercy warned them:

But took their course, without remorse,

Till God began to pour

Destruction the world upon

In a tempestuous shower.

They put away the evil day,

And drown’d their care and fears,

Till drown’d were they, and swept away

By vengeance unawares:

So at the last, whilst men sleep fast

In their security,

Surpris’d they are in such a snare

As cometh suddenly.

For at midnight break forth a light,

Which turn’d the night to day,

And speedily an hideous cry

Did all the world dismay.

Sinners awake, their hearts do ache,

Trembling their loins surpriseth;

Amaz’d with fear, by what they hear,

Each one of them ariseth.

They rush from beds with giddy heads,

And to their windows run,

Viewing this light, which shines more bright

Than doth the noonday sun.

Straightway appears (they see ’t with tears,)

The Son of God most dread;

Who with his train comes on amain

To judge both quick and dead.

Before his face the heavens gave place,

And skies are rent asunder,

With mighty voice, and hideous noise,

More terrible than thunder.

His brightness damps heaven’s glorious lamps,

And makes them hide their heads,

As if afraid and quite dismay’d,

They quit their wonted steads.

Ye sons of men that durst contemn

The threat’nings of God’s word,

How cheer you now? your hearts I trow,

Are thrill’d as with a sword.

Now atheist blind, whose brutish mind

A God could never see,

Dost thou perceive, dost now believe

That Christ thy judge shalt be?

Stout courages, (whose hardiness

Could death and hell outface,)

Are you as bold now you behold

Your judge draw near apace?

They cry, “no, no: alas! and wo!

Our courage is all gone:

Our hardiness (fool hardiness)

Hath us undone, undone.”

No heart so bold, but now grows cold

And almost dead with fear:

No eye so dry, but now can cry,

And pour out many a tear.

Earth’s potentates and powerful states,

Captains and men of might,

Are quite abash’d, their courage dash’d

At this most dreadful sight.

Mean men lament, great men do rent

Their robes, and tear their hair:

They do not spare their flesh to tear

Through horrible despair.

All kindreds wail: all hearts do fail:

Horror the world doth fill

With weeping eyes, and loud outcries,

Yet knows not how to kill.

Some hide themselves in caves and delves

In places under ground:

Some rashly leap into the deep,

To ’scape by being drown’d:

Some to the rocks (O senseless blocks!)

And woody mountains run,

That there they might this fearful sight,

And dreaded presence shun.

In vain do they to mountains say,

Fall on us and us hide

From judge’s ire, more hot than fire,

For who may it abide?

No hiding place can from his face,

Sinners at all conceal,

Whose flaming eye hid things doth spy,

And darkest things reveal.


Then were brought in, and charg’d with sin.

Another company,

Who by petition obtain’d permission,

To make apology:

They argued, “We were misled,

As is well known to thee,

By their example, that had more ample

Abilities than we:

Such as profess’d they did detest

And hate each wicked way:

Whose seeming grace whilst we did trace,

Our souls were led astray.

When men of parts, learning and arts.

Professing piety,

Did thus and thus, it seem’d to us

We might take liberty.

The judge replies, “I gave you eyes,

And light to see your way,

Which had you lov’d, and well improv’d,

You had not gone astray.

My word was pure, the rule was sure,

Why did you it forsake,

Or thereon trample, and men’s example,

Your directory make?

This you well knew, that God is true,

And that most men are liars,

In word professing holiness,

In deed thereof deniers.

O simple fools! that having rules

Your lives to regulate,

Would them refuse, and rather choose

Vile men to imitate.”

“But Lord,” say they, “we went astray,

And did more wickedly,

By means of those whom thou hast chose

Salvation heirs to be.”

To whom the judge; “what you allege,

Doth nothing help the case;

But makes appear how vile you were,

And rendereth you more base.

You understood that what was good

Was to be followed,

And that you ought that which was naught

To have relinquished.

Contrary ways, it was your guise,

Only to imitate

Good men’s defects, and their neglects

That were regenerate.

But to express their holiness,

Or imitate their grace,

You little car’d, nor once prepar’d

Your hearts to seek my face.

They did repent, and truly rent

Their hearts for all known sin:

You did offend, but not amend,

To follow them therein.”

“We had thy word,” say some, “O Lord,

But wiser men than we

Could never yet interpret it,

But always disagree.

How could we fools be led by rules,

So far beyond our ken,

Which to explain did so much pain,

And puzzle wisest men.”

“Was all my word abstruse and hard?”

The judge then answered:

“It did contain much truth so plain,

You might have run and read.

But what was hard you never car’d

To know nor studied.

And things that were most plain and clear

You never practised.

The mystery of piety

God unto babes reveals;

When to the wise he it denies,

And from the world conceals.

If to fulfil God’s holy will

Had seemed good to you

You would have sought light as you ought,

And done the good you knew.”


Then at the bar arraigned are

An impudenter sort,

Who to evade the guilt that’s laid

Upon them thus retort;

“How could we cease thus to transgress?

How could we hell avoid,

Whom God’s decree shut out from thee,

And sign’d to be destroy’d?

Whom God ordains to endless pains,

By law unalterable,

Repentance true, obedience new,

To save such are unable:

Sorrow for sin, no good can win,

To such as are rejected:

Nor can they grieve, nor yet believe,

That never were elected.

Of man’s fall’n race who can true grace

Or holiness obtain?

Who can convert or change his heart,

If God withhold the same?

Had we applied ourselves and tried

As much as who did most

God’s love to gain, our busy pain

And labor had been lost.

Christ readily makes this reply;

“I damn you not because

You are rejected or not elected,

But you have broke my laws:

It is but vain your wits to strain

The end and means to sever:

Men fondly seek to part or break

What God hath link’d together.

Whom God will save such will he have

The means of life to use:

Whom he ’ll pass by, shall choose to die,

And ways of life refuse.

He that foresees, and foredecrees,

In wisdom order’d has,

That man’s free will electing ill,

Shall bring his will to pass.

High God’s decree, as it is free,

So doth it none compel

Against their will to good or ill,

It forceth none to hell.

They have their wish whose souls perish

With torments in hell fire,

Who rather chose their souls to lose,

Than leave a loose desire.


Then to the bar, all they drew near

Who died in infancy,

And never had or good or bad

Effected personally,

But from the womb unto the tomb

Were straightway carried,

(Or at the last ere they transgress’d)

Who thus began to plead:

“If for our own transgression,

Or disobedience,

We here did stand at thy left hand,

Just were the recompense:

But Adam’s guilt our souls hath spilt,

His fault is charged on us;

And that alone hath overthrown,

And utterly undone us.

Not we, but he ate of the tree,

Whose fruit was interdicted:

Yet on us all of his sad fall,

The punishment ’s inflicted.

How could we sin that had not been,

Or how is his sin our

Without consent, which to prevent,

We never had a power?

O great Creator, why was our nature

Depraved and forlorn?

Why so defil’d, and made so vild

Whilst we were yet unborn?

If it be just and needs we must

Transgressors reckon’d be,

Thy mercy, Lord, to us afford,

Which sinners hath set free.

Behold we see Adam set free,

And sav’d from his trespass,

Whose sinful fall hath split us all,

And brought us to this pass.

Canst thou deny us once to try,

Or grace to us to tender,

When he finds grace before thy face,

That was the chief offender?”

Then answered the judge most dread,

“God doth such doom forbid,

That men should die eternally

For what they never did.

But what you call old Adam’s fall,

And only his trespass,

You call amiss to call it his,

Both his and yours it was.

He was design’d of all mankind

To be a public head,

A common root, whence all should shoot,

And stood in all their stead.

He stood and fell, did ill or well,

Not for himself alone,

But for you all, who now his fall

And trespass would disown.

If he had stood, then all his brood

Had been established

In God’s true love never to move,

Nor once awry to tread:

Then all his race, my Father’s grace,

Should have enjoy’d for ever,

And wicked sprites by subtle sleights

Could then have harmed never.

Would you have griev’d to have receiv’d

Through Adam so much good,

And had been your for evermore,

If he at first had stood?

Would you have said, ‘we ne’er obey’d,

Nor did thy laws regard;

It ill befits with benefits,

Us, Lord, so to reward.’

Since then to share in his welfare,

You could have been content,

You may with reason share in his treason,

And in the punishment.

Hence you were born in state forlorn,

With nature so deprav’d:

Death was your due, because that you

Had thus yourselves behav’d.

You think, ‘if we had been as he,

Whom God did so betrust,

We to our cost would ne’er have lost

All for a paltry lust.’

Had you been made in Adam’s stead,

You would like things have wrought,

And so into the selfsame wo,

Yourselves and yours have brought.

I may deny you once to try,

Or grace to you to tender,

Though he finds grace before my face,

Who was the chief offender:

Else should my grace cease to be grace;

For it should not be free,

If to release whom I should please,

I have no liberty.

If upon one what’s due to none

I frankly shall bestow,

And on the rest shall not think best,

Compassion’s skirts to throw,

Whom injure I? will you envy,

And grudge at others’ weal?

Or me accuse, who do refuse

Yourselves to help and heal.

Am I alone for what’s my own,

No master or no Lord?

O if I am, how can you claim

What I to some afford?

Will you demand grace at my hand,

And challenge what is mine?

Will you teach me whom to set free,

And thus my grace confine?

You sinners are, and such a share

As sinners may expect,

Such you shall have; for I do save

None but my own elect.

Yet to compare your sin with their

Who liv’d a longer time,

I do confess yours is much less,

Though every sin’s a crime.

A crime it is, therefore in bliss

You may not hope to dwell

But unto you I shall allow

The easiest room in hell.”

The glorious king thus answering,

They cease, and plead no longer:

Their consciences must needs confess

His reasons are the stronger.

Thus all men’s pleas the judge with ease

Doth answer and confute.

Until that all, both great and small,

Are silenced and mute.

Vain hopes are crop’d, all mouths are stop’d,

Sinners have nought to say,

But that ’tis just, and equal most

They should be damn’d for aye.

Now what remains, but that to pains

And everlasting smart,

Christ should condemn the sons of men,

Which is their just desert;

Oh rueful plights of sinful wights!

Oh wretches all forlorn:

’T had happy been they ne’er had seen

The sun, or not been born.


The saints behold with courage bold,

And thankful wonderment,

To see all those that were their foes

Thus sent to punishment:

Then do they sing unto their king

A song of endless praise:

They praise his name and do proclaim

That just are all his ways.

Thus with great joy and melody

To heaven they all ascend,

Him there to praise with sweetest lays,

And hymns that never end.

Where with long rest they shall be blest,

And nought shall them annoy:

Where they shall see as seen they be,

And whom they love enjoy.