Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][merged small]

dination. The new pastor had been under the ban of the authorities at Hull and elsewhere; and to the offence of an irregular ordination was soon added that of "unsafe and offensive expressions," which involved both pastor and people in trouble.

This was an important and celebrated case in the history of the colony. Pressed by civil and ecclesiastical authority, the little church fought single-handed for the independence of the churches, which had been recognized by the Bill of Rights and the Cambridge Platform.


members asserted the freedom of individual thought, limited by conscience and the Word of God. They were worthy of the convictions for which they persistently stood. They were overthrown; but the principles for which they suffered are now recognized by the laws and the churches of New England.

The troubles occasioned by the Matthews affair distracted the town for many years, and its baneful effects outlasted the

generation to which it belonged. After many trials and disappointments, the church called Michael Wigglesworth, then a tutor at Cambridge, to be its teacher; and he was ordained in 1657. The life of this man was a sombre one, filled with misgivings and pain. Physical ills added miseries to a mind without hope; and the spiritual condition of his people and their indifference or opposition cast him still lower. All the minor ills of life pressed closely upon matters of moment and became of equal importance in his gloomy mind. "Mr. Hills marrying of himself" and "his judgment about baptism" came to trouble him with "a multitude



of great black buggs" that swarmed all over the house and ate the food, and, perhaps, "some cloathes also."

Out of his weakness came in 1662 the great New England epic of the Day of Doom, with its mighty subject and its fearful denunciations to the sons of men. This book attained a popularity which was not exceeded by that of any other work published


in New England before the Revolution; it has hardly been exceeded since.* Its influence was widespread and deep; and it was remembered and quoted with reverence by a generation which has barely passed away. It was the utterance of a sincere belief which to-day finds little acceptance; and its awful warnings and its vivid description of the fate of sinners of all grades and conditions, terrifying as they were to a former generation, now excite our curiosity or evoke a

Wigglesworth wrote another "composture," Meat out of the Eater, which, without the great subject of the former, entered the popular heart and passed through more editions than any poetical work published during the colonial and provincial periods, with the exception of the Day of Doom and the Bay Psalm Book.

During the physical incapacity of Mr. Wigglesworth, colleagues as pastors were settled at Malden from time to time; and Benjamin Bunker, Benjamin Blakeman, and Thomas Cheever ministered to the people with varying success. The coals of the Matthews fire were still warm.

Thomas Cheever, a son of the famous Latinist, Ezekiel Cheever, the schoolmaster of Boston until his ninetyfourth year, was dismissed by the advice of a council in 1686; but he retired to Rumney Marsh, afterwards Chelsea, and became the faithful and honored first pastor of the church at that place.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wigglesworth had been neglected, or perhaps sometimes wholly set aside, and for more than five years after the departure of Mr. Cheever he is not mentioned upon the

records of the town. But the load which had rested upon his life was finally removed. With health restored in a wonderful manner, vigor came to both body and mind. Most or all of those who had been prominent in the church and town during the pastorate of Mr. Matthews had passed away; and the remembrance of the troubles of that period had become softened by time or existed only in the traditions of the elders. His sickness had induced the study and



smile. Besides the Day of Doom, Mr.

See article on "An Old Puritan Poet," by Helen Marshall North, in the NEW ENGLAND MAGAZINE, October, 1890.

[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]

practice of medicine, towards which his early education had been directed. His practice extended into the neighboring towns; and one at least of his favorite remedies was in use and repute for more than a century and a half. Not only his townspeople but others gave him honor; and it appears that the presidency of Harvard College had been offered to him, even before his people had restored him to favor. For a little more than ten years he remained the beloved teacher of the Malden church, and at the end peacefully fell asleep, "Finnished his Work and Entred apon an Eternal Sabbath of Rest on ye Lords Day Iune ye 10 1705 in ye 74 Year of his Age." In the little burying ground at Sandy Bank, on a stone once leaning and covered with moss, but now upright and clean, one may read this homely and loving couplet:



An uncanny and romantic spot was that little ground, where the Puritan poet sleeps in the midst of those who neglected or loved him, before the hand of improvement raised its sinking stones and cleared them of the lichens of years. Over the neglected graves wild brambles wove their tangled masses of briers, of white blossoms, or of shining berries, to




is in favor of the dead, who by piety long continued has attained a state to which the reader may never come.

There is a grewsome story of one who, dying, swore with a horrible oath that he would never decay like common folk. Nor decay did he; but his flesh grew brown and hard, and so it remained, to the terror of the ignorant and the wonder of the learned. A medical student sawed off the head, but, becoming frightened, he threw it into a clump of bushes, where it was found securely bagged for transportation. After that the tomb, with its slight wooden door, in the old fashion, was never long closed. Mischievous boys in the daytime entered and shook the poor head in horrible


which never a gatherer came; and the glee; but at night it was a place to be

red barberry, when the frosts came, dropped its

acid fruit, unheeded, upon the unshorn turf. Slow-growing cedars, here and there, pushed aside the crumbling stones, or covered with their thin and odorous boughs, as with a mantle. of pity, the failing records beneath. In the summer it was a wild medley of clustering field

[merged small][merged small][graphic]

flowers and verdant brake, a place of escaped from her friends had passed

sunken graves, dangerous pitfalls. hidden below the deceitful green; and in the fall, the sweet everlasting spread its balmy breath over the decaying leaves. It was a place neither for joy nor for sorrow; for there were never heard the gladsome voices of children at play, and seldom the sobs of the mourner. The dead who were there had rested long years, and they who had slept beyond the memory of the living had never a claim for pity or for grief. There is little of hope in the rude memorials which the fathers placed over their sleepers; for if, in the midst of denunciations and warnings to the living, some little semblance of a tender thought appears, it

[graphic][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »