Taken from the preface of, The Clear Sunshine of the Gospel breaking forth upon the Indians in New England
Written by Thomas Shephard, published 1648
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE THE LORDS & COMMONS
Assembled In High Court of Parliament.
These few sheets present unto your view a short but welcome discourse the visitations of the most High upon the saddest spectacle of degeneracy upon earth, The poor Indian People: the distance of place, (if our spirits be right) will be no lessening of the mercy, nor of our thankfulness That Christ is glorified, that the Gospel doth anywhere find footing; and success is a mercy well worth the praise of the Saints on Earth, as the Joy of the Angels in heaven. The report of this mercy is first made to you, who are the Representative of this Nation, that in you England might be stirred up, to be rejoicers in, and advancers of these promising beginnings. And because to you an account is first due of the success of the Gospel in those dark corners of the World, which have been so much enlightened by Your savior, enlivened by Your resolutions, encouraged by your fore-past endeavors for God, and hope still being parts of yourselves, to be further strengthened by your benign aspects and bountiful influences on them.
The present troubles have not so far obliterated and worn out the sad impressions which former times have made upon our spirits, but we can sadly remember those destructive designs which were on foot, and carried on for the Introduction of so great evils both into Church and State; In order to which it was the endeavor of the Contrivers and Promoters of those designs, to waste the number of the godly, as those who would never be brought to comply in such destructive enterprises; which was attempted by banishing and forcing some abroad, by burdening and afflicting at home.
Among those who tasted of the first, say not the worst sort of their cruelty, were these our Brethren who to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel, were content to sit down, and pitch their tents in the utmost parts of the Earth, hoping that there they might be out of the reach of their malice, as they were assured they were beyond the bounds of their love.
God who doth often make man’s evil of sin, serviceable to the advancement of the riches of his own Grace; the most horrid acts that ever was done by the sons of men, the murder of Christ, God made serviceable to the highest purposes of Grace and mercy that ever came upon his breast; that God doth shew that he had merciful ends, in this their malicious purpose: as he suffered Paul to be cast into prison, to convert the jailor, to be shipwrecked at Melita, to preach to the barbarians, so he suffered their way to be stopped up here, and their persons to be banished hence, that he might open a passage for them in the wilderness, and make them instruments to draw souls to him, who had been so long estranged from him.
It was the end of the adversary to suppress, but Gods to propagate the Gospel; theirs to smother and put out the light, Gods to communicate and disperse it to the utmost corners of the Earth; that as one saith of Paul, his blindness gave light to the whole World, so we hope God will make their distance and estrangement from us, a means of bringing many near and in to acquaintance with him.
Indeed a longtime it was before God let them see any farther end of their coming over, then to preserve their consciences, cherish their Graces, provide for their sustenance: But when Providences invited their return, he let them know it was for some farther errand that he brought them thither, giving them some bunches of grapes, some clusters of figs in earnest of the prosperous success of their endeavors upon those poor outcasts: The utmost ends of the earth are designed and promised to be in time the possession of Christ; and he sends his Ministers into every place where he himself intends to come, and take possession. Where the Ministry is the Harbinger and goes before, Christ and Grace will certainly follow after.
This little we see is something in hand, to earnest [guarantee] to us those things which are in hope; something in possession to allure us of the rest in promise, when the ends of the earth shall see his glory, and the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ, when he shall have Dominion from Sea to Sea, and they that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him. And if the dawn of the morning be so delightful what will the clear day be? If the first fruits be so precious, what will the whole harvest be? If some beginnings be so full of joy, what will it be when God shall perform his whole work, when the whole earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the Sea, and East and West shall sing together the song of the Lamb?
In order to this what doth God require of us, but that we should strengthen the hands, encourage the hearts of those who are at work for him, conflicting with difficulties, wrestling with discouragements to, spread the Gospel, and in that, fame and honor of this Nation, to the utmost ends of the earth? It was the design of your enemies to make them little, let it be your endeavor to make them great, their greatness is your strength. Their enemies threatened their hands should reach them for evil, God disappointed them; and let your hands reach them now for good; [if] there is enough in them to speak then, fit objects in your encouragement, they are men of choice spirits, not frightened with dangers, softened with allurements, nor discouraged with difficulties, preparing the way of the Lord in those impassable places of the earth, dealing with such whom they are to make men, before they can make them Christians.
They are such who are impressed for your service in the service of Christ, who can stand alone, but desire to have dependence on you, they fear not the malice of their enemies, but desire the countenance and encouragements their friends; And shall your Honors in consideration of their former sufferings, their present service, and real deservings, help the day of small things among them; shall you interest them in your assistances, as you are interested in their assertions, you will thereby not only further these beginnings of God by encouraging their hearts, and strengthening their hands to work for him, but also (as we humbly conceive) much add to the consort of your own accounts in the day of the Lord, and lay greater obligations on them yet more to pray for you, to promote your counsels, and together with us your unworthy servants to write down themselves.
Yours humbly devoted in the service of the Gospel.
Stephen Marshall Jeremy Whitaker Edmond Calamy
William Greenhill John Downam Philip Nye
Sydney Symptson William Carter Thomas Goodwin
Thomas Café Simeon Ashe Samuel Bolton