The Colonial Image: Origins of American Culture

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

Michael Wigglesworth

Michael Wigglesworth was born in England of "godly parents," who lived in a wicked village. Shortly after they moved out, God destroyed the village by fire. This incident set the pattern for young Wigglesworth's life: always try to keep one jump ahead of God's vengeance. Emigrating to New England, a holy place where the chances of avoiding wholesale chastisement seemed better than in Old England, Wigglesworth entered Harvard College, received a degree in divinity and became a minister at Malden, Massachusetts. In 1662, at a time of severe drought, he wrote God's Controversy with New England, a Jeremiad in which he attributed the crop failures to God's anger at the backsliding of His saints. "New England planted, prospered, declining, threatened, punished"--a succinct but awful tale. Having thus set the stage, he wrote The Day of Doom, or Poetical Description of the Great and Last Judgment. Here in jingling, dog-trot meter, Wigglesworth expounded the tenets of Puritanical Calvinism--original sin, damnation for the many and salvation for the few.

In marked contrast to the brooding, implacable and vengeful Jehovah he worshiped, Wigglesworth was a mere wisp of a man: a mild, inoffensive, dyspeptic little invalid who would have fainted at the sight of even a small part of the violence he described so vividly and so lovingly in The Day of Doom. (Valetudinarianism apparently agreed with him: he was the father of eight children and at the time of his death in 1705, at the age of seventy-four, he had recently become a bridegroom for the third time.) His own spiritual life, however, was anything but placid; as he said, he walked through "a howling wilderness of fiery temptations" and he fell prey to agonies of mind that would have shattered the health of a far stronger man. Accustomed to taking constant inventory of his thoughts and acts, he discovered, among other things, that he was guilty of pride, slothfulness, sensuality, "fleshy lusts," vain thoughts, carnality, wantonness, "an unthankful impenitent heart" and addiction to the pursuit of "earthy contentments." He was even assailed by momentary doubts as to the infallibility of the Scriptures, the existence of God and the divinity of Christ. Harboring such "an Ocean of deadly poison" in his heart, he could only conclude that he was destined to land in the hottest spot in

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Michael Wigglesworth: The Day of Doom. Edited by Kenneth B. Murdoch.

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The Colonial Image: Origins of American Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 5
  • Contents 9
  • Introduction 15
  • Part I - Arrivals 41
  • The Plymouth Plantation 43
  • A Description of New England 66
  • The New English Canaan 76
  • Letters 77
  • The Crossing to Pennsylvania! 83
  • Part II - Daily Life 99
  • Pirates in Plymouth 101
  • Thomas Morton of Merrymount 103
  • The Merrymount Colony 108
  • Edifying Incidents 113
  • An Exemplary Christian 115
  • Inoculation for Smallpox 118
  • Courtship 132
  • Marriage 141
  • On Taking a Mistress 154
  • The Speech of Polly Baker 156
  • Riding through Virginia 159
  • Part III - God and the Devil 167
  • Religious Tolerance 169
  • In Defence of Intolerance 175
  • Witchcraft in Salem 179
  • Witchcraft in Salem 185
  • Witchcraft in Salem 190
  • The Devil in the Shape of a Woman 193
  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God 207
  • Personal Narrative 212
  • Part IV - The Indians 221
  • The Indians in Virginia 223
  • Pocahontas 231
  • The Pequot War 239
  • The Pequot War 244
  • Indian Customs and Manners 248
  • Captured by Indians 257
  • Part V - The South 291
  • Virginia 293
  • History of the Dividing Line 310
  • Part VI - Literature 351
  • Anne Bradstreet 353
  • Michael Wigglesworth 357
  • Edward Taylor 367
  • Bacon's Epitaph 370
  • Ebenezer Cook 372
  • Benjamin Franklin 377
  • Part VII - Four Colonial Views 387
  • Itinerarium Dr. Alexander Hamilton 389
  • Autobiography 419
  • Journal 437
  • Letters from an American Farmer 479
  • Bibliography 499
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