New England’s First Fruits, Book

Full Title:

New Englands first fruits: in respect, first of the conversion of some, conviction of divers, preparation of sundry of the Indians: 2. Of the progresse of learning, in the colledge at Cambridge in Massachusetts Bay. With divers other speciall matters concerning that countrey. Published by the instant request of sundry friends, who desire to be satisfied in these points by many New-England men who are here present, and were eye or earewitnesses of the same

Annotation:

Annotation from From English to Algonquian: Early New England Translations

New England’s First Fruits is the colonists’ response to English criticism about the lack of evangelical work being performed in New England. Colonists asserted that they first needed to build homes, secure food, form a government, and establish an institution of higher education before turning their attention to missionary work.

Excerpt:

2. In respect of the College, and the proceedings of Learning therein. After God has carried us safe to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for livelihood, rear’d convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the Civil Government: One of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance Learning, and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministery to the Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust. And as we were thinking and consulting how to effect this great Work; it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard (a godly Gentleman and a lover of Learning, there living amongst us) to give the one half his Estate (it being in all about 1700). towards the erecting of a College, and all his Library: after him another gave 300 l. others after them cast in more, and the publique hand of the State added the rest: the College was, by common consent, appointed to be at Cambridge, (a place very pleasant and accommodate and is called (according to the name of the first founder) Harvard College.

Let us here give a touch also of what God hath done and is further about to doe, to divers Plantations of the English, which before that time that God sent light into our coasts, were almost as darke and rude as the Indians themselves.
I. First at Agamenticus (a Plantation out of our jurisdiction) to which one of our Preachers comming and labouring amongst them, was a meanes under God, not only to sparkle heavenly knowledge, and worke conviction and reformation in divers of them, but conversion also to Christ in some of them, that blesse God to this day, that ever he came thither.

2. Then after that, at Sauco Plantation, which is an hundred miles from us, divers of that place comming often into our coasts and hearing the Word preached, and seeing Gods goings amongst his people there, being much affected went home, and lamented amongst their neighbours their own wofull condition, that lived like heathens without the Gospel, when- others injoyed it in great plenty: hereupon with joynt consent two of their cheife men were sent in- all their names earnestly to intreat us to send a godly Minister to preach the Word unto them ; which was doe accordingly, not without good successe to the people there, and divers places about them.

3. After this, towards the end of last Summer, foure more Plantations some of which are divers hundred miles ; others of them many hundred leagues from our Plantation) hearing of the goodnesse of God to his people in our parts, and of the light of the Gospel t ere shining; have done even as Jacob did in the Famine time, when he heard there was bread in Egypt, he hasted away his Sonnes for Corn, that they might live and not die : in like manner’ three severall Towns in Virginia, as also Barhados, Christophers, and Antego, all of them much about the same time, as if they had known the minds of each other, did send Letters and Messengers, crying out unto us, C as the man of Macedonia to Paul, Come and help us and that with such earnestnesse, as men hunger-starved and ready to die, cry for bread; so they cry out unto us in the bowels of compassion for the Lord Jesus sake to send them some helpe. They tell us in some of their Letters that from the one end of the Land to the other, there is none to break the thread of life unto the hungry; and those that should doe it, are so vile, that even drunkards and swearers, cry shame on them.
We had thought (but only for the swelling of our Discourse) to have set down their Letters at large, which they wrote to all our Churches, which spake with such strength of reason and affection, that when they were read in our Congregations, they prevailed with us, that for their necessity, we spared the bread from our own mouths to save their lives, and sent two of our Ministers for the present to Virginia ; and when the Ships came away from them they left them in serious consultation, whom to give up to the worke of Christ in the other three places also. We heare moreover that the Indians themselves in some of the places named did joyne with them in this their suit. Now from ‘what hath bin said, see the riches of Gods free Grace in Christ, that is willing to impart mercy even to the worst of men, and such as are furthest off cry out with Paul, Oh the depths, &c. and let heaven and earth be filled with the glorious praises of God for the same.
And if such as are afarre off, why should not we that are nearer presse in for a share therin, and cry out, as Esau did with teares to his Father, when he saw the blessing going away to his younger brother, and himselfe, like to lose it: [Oh my Father hast thou but one blessing, bless me also, even me thy horne, blesse me, oh my Father.] Else these poore Indians will certainly rise up against us, and with great boldnesse condemn us in the great day of our accompts, when many of us here under great light, shall see men come from the East and from the West, and sit down in the Kingdome of God, and our selves cast out.

2. Let the world know, that God led not so many thousands of his people into the Wilder nesse, to see a reed shaken with the wind, but amongst many other special] ends, this was none of the least, to spread the light of his blessed Gospel, to such as never heard the sound of it. To stop the mouths of the profane that calumniate the work of God in our hands, and to satisfie the hearts of the Saints herin, that God had some special] service for his people there to doe, which in part already we begin to see, and wait upon Divine Wisdome, to discover more of his leasure herin, and upon his Grace to effect, w ich we beleeve in his time he will so doe, that men shall see and know the Wisdome and power of God herin.

3. Shall we touch here upon that apprehension which many godly and wise have conceived, and that from some Scriptures compared, and from other grounds, and passages of Providence collected, that (as it’s very probable) God meanes to car his Gospel westward, in these latter times of t e world; and have thought, as the Sunne in the afternoon of the day, still declines more and more to the West, and then sets : so the Gospel (that great light of the world) though it rose in the East, and in former ages, hath lightened it with his beames; yet in the latter ages of the world w-ill bend Westward, and before its setting, brighten these parts, with his glorious lustre also.

4. See how Gods Wisdome produceth glorious effects, from unlikely meanes, and make streight works by crooked instruments: for who would have thought, that the chafing away hence so many godly Ministers, should so farre have promoted the praises of God, and should be a meane to spread the Gospel, when they intended to ruine it: they blew out their lights and they burn clearer: their silencing Ministers have opened their mouths so wide, as to sound out his glorious raises, to the uttermost parts of the earth, say with the Psalmist, ‘This is the Lords doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

5. Despise not the day of small things; let none say of us as those scoffers did of their building Jerusalem, What will these weak Jewes desire but learne to adore God in all his Providence, and wait to see his ends.

6. Lend us, we beseech you (all you that love Zion) your prayers, and helpe in heaven and earth for the furtherance of this great and glorious worke in our hands; great works need many hands, many prayers,many teares: And desire the Lord to stirre up the bowels of some godly minded, to pitty those poore Heathen that are bleeding to death, to- eternal] death, and to reach forth an hand of soule-mercy, to save some of them from the fire of hell by affording some means to maintain some fit instruments on pur pose to spend their time, and give themselves wholly to preach to these poore wretches, that as the tender Samaritan did to the wounded man, they may pitty them, and get them healed, that even their bowels may bless them in the day of their visitation, and Christs bowels refreshed by their love, may set it on his own score, and pay them all againe on the day of their accompts.


NEW ENGLANDS FlRST FRUITS:
II. In respect of the Colledge, and the proceedings of Learning therein.
After God had carried us safe to New England, and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, rear’d convenient places v for Gods worship, and setled the Civill Government: One of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance Learning, and perpetuate it to Posterit ; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministery to the Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust. And as wee were thinking and consulting how to effect this great Work; it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard (a godly Gentleman and a lover of Learning, there living amongst us) to give the one halfe of this Estate (it being in all about 1700. 1.) towards the erecting of a Colledge, and all his Library: after him another gave 300. 1. others after them cast in more, and the publique hand of the State added the rest: the Colledge was, by common consent, appointed to be at Cambridge, (a place very pleasant and accommodate and is called (according to the name of the first founder) Harvard Coledege.

The Edifice is very faire and comely within and without, having in it a spacious Hall ; (where they daily meet at Commons, Lectures, Exercises) an a large Library with some Bookes to it, the gifts of diverse of our friends, their Chambers and studies also fitted for, and possessed by the Students, and all other roomes of Office necessary and convenient, with all needful] Offices thereto belonging: And by the side of the Colledge a faire Grammar Schoole, for the training up of young Schollars, and fitting of them for Academicall Learning, that still as they are judged rie, they may be received into the Colledge of is Schoole. Master Corset is the Mr., who hath very well approved himselfe for his abilities, dexterity and painfulnesse in teaching and education of the youth under him.

Over the Colledge is master Dunster placed, as President, a learned conscionable and industrious man, who hath so trained up his Pupills in the tongues and Arts, and so seasoned them with the principles of Divinity and Christianity thath we have to our great comfort, (and in truth) beyond our hopes, beheld their progresse in Learnin and godlinesse also; the former of these hath appea’red in their sipublique declamations in Latine and Greeke, and Disputations Logicall and Philo sophicall, which they have beene wonted (besides their ordinary Exercises in the Colledge-Hall) in the audience of the Magistrates, Ministers, and other Schollars, for the probation of their growth in Learning, upon set dayes, constantly once every moneth to make and uphold: The latter hath been manifested in sundry of them by the savoury breathings of their Spirits in their godly conversation. Insomuch that we are confident, if these earl blossomes may be cherished and warmed wit the influence of the friends of Learning, and lovers of this pious worke, they will by the help os God, come to happy maturity in a short time.

Over the Colledge are twelve Overseers chosen by the general] Court, six of them are of the Magistrates, the other six of the Ministers, who are to promote the best good of it, and (having a power of influence into all persons in it are to see that every one be diligent and proficient in his proper place.

Rules, and Precepts that are Observed in the Colledge.
I. When any Schollar is able to understand Tully, or such like classicall Latine Author extempore, and make and speake true Latine in Verse and Prose, suo ut aiunt Marte; And decline perfectly the Paradigim’s of Nounes and Verhes in the Greek tongue: Let him then and not before be capable of admission into the Colledge.

Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Ie us Christ which is eternall life, Joh. 17. 3. and there fore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.
And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one serioufly set himselfe by prayer in secret to seeke it of him Prov 2, 3.

Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoretticall observations of the Language, and Logick, and in Practicall and spiritual] truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple, Psalm. 119. 130.

That they eschewing all profanation of Gods Name, Attributes, Word, Ordinances, and times of Worship, doe studie with good con science, carefully to retaine God, and the love of his truth in their mindes else let them know, that (notwithstanding their Learning) God may give them up to strong delusions, and in the end to a reprobate minde, 2 Thes. 2. II, 12. Rom. I. 28.

That they studiously redeeme the time ; observe the general] houres appointed for all the Students, and the special] houres for their owne Claffis: and then dilligently attend the Lectures without any disturbance by word or gesture. And if in anything they doubt, they shall enquire as of their fellowes, so, (in case of Non satisfaction) modestly of their Tutors.

None shall under any pretence whatsoever, frequent the company and society of such men as lead an unfit, and dissolute life. Nor shall any without his Tutors leave, or (in his absence) the Call of Parents or Guardians, goe abroad to other Townes.

Every Schollar shall be present in his Tutors chamber at the 7th. houre in the morning, im mediately after the sound of the Bell, at his opening the Scripture and prayer, so also at the 5th. houre at night, and then give account of his owne private reading, as aforesaid in Particular the third, and constantly attend Lectures in the Hall at the houres appointed? But if any (without necessary impediment) shall absent himself from prayer or Lectures, he shall bee lyable to Admonition, if he offend above once a weeke.

If any Schollar shall be found to transgresse any of the Lawes of God, or the Schoole, after twice Admonition, he shall be lyable, if not adultus, to correction, if adultus, his name shall be given up to the Overseers of the Colledge, that Ae may bee admonished at the publick monethly Act.

The times and order of their Studies, unlesse experience shall show cause- to alter.
The second and third day of the weeke, read Lectures, as followeth.
To the first yeare at 8thv. of the clock in the morning Logick, the first three quarters, Physicks the last quarter.
To the second yeare at the 9th. houre, Ethicks and Politicks, at convenient distances of time.
To the third yeare at the loth. Arithmetick and Geo’netry, the three first quarters, Astronomy the last.

Afternoone.
The first yeare disputes at the second houre. The 2nd. yeare at the 3d. houre.
The 3d. yeare at the 4th. every one in his Art.
The 4th. day reads Greeke.
To the first yeare the Etymologie and Syntax at the eigth houre.
To the ad. at the 9th. houre, Prosbdia and Dialects.

Afternoone.
The first yeare at 2d houre practice the precepts of Grammar in such Authors as have variety of words.
The 2d. yeare at d. houre practice in Poisy, Nonnus, Duport, or the like.
The 3d. yeare perfect their Theory before noone, and exercise Style, Composition, Imitation, Epitome, both in Prose and Verse, afternoone.
The day reads Hehrew’, and the Easterne Tongues.
Grammar to the first yeare houre the 8th.
To the zd. Ghaldee at the 9th houre.
To the 3d. Syriack at the roth. houre.

Afternoone.
The first yeare practice in the Bible at the 2d. houre.
The 2d. in Ezra and Danel at the 3d. houre.
The 3d. at the 4th. houre in Trestius New Testament.
The 6th. day reads Rhetorick to all at the 8th. houre.
Declamations at the 9th. So ordered that every Scholler may declaime once a moneth. The rest of the day vacat Rhetoricis studiis.
The 7th. day reads Divinity Catecheticall at the 8th. houre, Common places at the 9th. houre. Afternoone.
The first houre reads history in the Winter,
The nature of plants in the Summer.
The summe of every Lecture shall be examined before the new Lecture be read.
Every Schollar that on proofe is found able to read the Originalls of the Old and New Testament into the Latine tongue, and to resolve them Logically; withal] being of godly life and conversation; And at any publick Act hath the Aprobation of the Overseers and Master of the Colledge, is fit to be dignified with his first Degree.
Every Schollar that giveth up in writing a System, or Synopsis, or summe of Logick, Natural] and Morall Phylosophy, Arithmetick, Geometry and Astronomy: and is ready to defend his Theses or positions: withal] skilled in the Originalls as above said : and of godly life 85 conversation: and so approved by the Overseers and Master of the Colledge, at any publique Act, is fit to be dignified with his 2d. Degree.

Source Citation:

Overton, Henry. 1643. New Englands first fruits: in respect, first of the conversion of some, conviction of divers, preparation of sundry of the Indians: 2. Of the progresse of learning, in the colledge at Cambridge in Massachusetts Bay. With divers other speciall matters concerning that countrey. Published by the instant request of sundry friends, who desire to be satisfied in these points by many New-England men who are here present, and were eye or earewitnesses of the same. New York: J. Sabin. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100114587

Cite this page:

Overton, Henry. 1643. "New England’s First Fruits, Book." History of Higher Education. https://higheredhistory.gmu.edu/primary-sources/new-englands-first-fruits/