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ly obtained a liberty of preaching, through the in- SECT. V. tercession of friends, and his own perseverance. "7667
Such a precarious freedom however was little better, than continual bondage. He resolved upon travelling to a country, which, if it possessed fewer means of knowledge and elegant subsistence, afforded the finest field for the cultivation of unfettered religion.
He came hither in the same company with governour Winthrop and the first settlers of Massachusetts. In 1631, he went to England for his wife, whom he there left the preceding year. He gave it in charge to governour Winthrop and elder Nowell to prophesy and exhort in the church, during his absence. Mr. Eliot, the apostle however, landing about the time of Mr. Wilson's departure, officiated in his stead.
Mr. Wilson returned with his family, in 1632. In 1634 he again crossed the Atlantick, and, after visiting Ireland and several parts of England, came back, the following year, to America, which he thenceforth made his perpetual residence. He here fulfilled, during thirty-seven years, the office of pastor ; three years before Mr. Cotton ; nineteen years in his company ; seven years with Mr. Norton ; and four years after him. .
He was more beloved for his humility, beneyolence, and sweetness of temper, than admired for his talents, as a preacher, although these, in his younger days, were nowise contemptible. He was strong in faith, yet stronger in love. In many instances he seemed to attain to a full assu
SECT. v. rance of faith ; and the verity of his predictions 1667 was proverbial. When Mr. Norton was called to
leave Ipswich, to be a successour to Mr. Cotton, the colleague of Mr. Norton, Mr. Rogers opposed the measure. Some persons in company with the latter remarked, that Mr. Wilson by his argument, or rhetorick, or both, would effect his purpose. Mr. Rogers replied, that he was more afraid of his faith, than of his arguments. This · reputation for an unwavering faith and a prophet. ick spirit brought many of his friends to his dying bed, with a request, that he would designate the sins of the times, which, in his opinion, were the most heinous, and which, in their operation, would probably operate most ruinously on the country. He gave his opinion freely, saying, that God would judge the people for their rebellious, selfwilled spirit, for their contempt of civil and ecclesiastical rulers, and for their luxury and sloth. Here perhaps we shall do well to recollect, that his mind was greatly enfeebled by age and disease. With all his zeal for religion and benevolence for mankind, he had no sympathy with the sectary. Like Norton, Dudley, and others, he was for compelling the uniformity of irregular christians with other arguments, than such, as were furnished by reason and revelation. Go not after those enthusiasts, said he, for, whatever they may pretend, they will rob you of ordinances, rob you of your souls, rob you of your God.
He indulged a poetical vein in writing anagrams on his friends, in which he always contriy
ed to convey some moral and religious instruc- SECT. V. tion. In reference to these, which were not al
1667. ways exact, and to his remarkable hospitality, it was said by the witty author of the Simple Cobbler of Agawam, that the anagram of John Wilson was, “ I pray come in, you are heartily welcome.”
In all the offices of friendship and good neighbourhood he seems to have been a model of christian charity, being full of compassion to the distressed, of advice to the friendless, and of consolation to the aged. To designs and deeds of beneficence his heart and his purse were always open. He loved the house and worship of God, and was concerned for the spiritual improvement, not only of his own congregation, but of the neighbouring churches. He was seen assisting at their lectures as long, as he was able to preach ; and, after age had palsied his head and his hands, his heart still glowed with the warmth of youth, and he was, conversant among his friends, counselling them to adhere firmly to the good profession of their faith, and in the language of St. John exhorting them, “Little children love one another.”
His humility shone brightly to the last. On his dying bed he was surrounded by many of the congregation, who desired to witness the closing scene of the good man's life, and to see with what calmness so excellent a christian would die. He told them, that he should soon go to be with his departed friends in heaven. Yet he added, I
SECT. v. have been an unprofitable servant. The Lord be
merciful to me a siņner! He died, 7 Aug. 1667, 1667.
in the seventy-ninth year of his age.
Mr. W. preached his last thursday lecture, '16 Nov. 1665, which was taken in short hand by a hearer, and afterwards published. He also published a tract in London, entitled Helps to Faith.
From the death of Mr. Wilson to the settlement of Messieurs
Davenport and Allen, embracing the year 1668.
It may not here be amiss to glance at the condi. SECT. VI. tion of the churches in general. The morals of 1668. the people,* it was thought, had lost something of the purity, which marked the fathers of Newengland. This declension from primitive holiness was attributed partly to a disrespect for synodical decrees, and partly to the inattention of the clergy to their pastoral duties. The governour and council therefore, in 1668, wrote a serious and affectionate letter, addressing it to each minister in the colony. It called upon the teachers of religion in a solemn manner to guard against the slumbers of sloth, and renew their zeal for the spiritual improvement of the souls committed to their watch, and for the general promotion of piety in the land. The measure was well receive ed, and attended with a beneficial effect.† More diligence was observed by pastors in their catechetical instructions; and a disposition was manifested to print and circulate books on practical piety.
* Neal i. 368. + Holmes' Ann. i. 401.