Home  »  Colonial Prose and Poetry  »  Nathaniel Ward

Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. I. The Transplanting of Culture: 1607–1650

Nathaniel Ward

NATHANIEL WARD, a Colonial clergyman and pamphleteer, who is best known as the “Simple Cobbler of Agawam,” was probably born in Haverhill, England, about 1578, and died at Shenfield, England, in 1652. Son of John Ward, a noted Puritan minister, he was graduated at Cambridge, in 1603, and educated for the law, but after practice in England, and travel on the Continent, he studied theology, and in 1618 became chaplain to a company of English merchants at Elbing, Prussia. Returning to England, he served in London, and in 1628 was given a parish in Essex. Here his pronounced Puritanism caused him to be summoned before Laud, but he escaped excommunication. He was, however, deprived of his living in 1633, went to New England in 1634, and served as assistant pastor at Agawam (Ipswich), till ill-health obliged him to surrender the charge in 1636. At Ipswich he helped to compile the first code of laws, The Body of Liberties (1641), which was fearless and somewhat radical in adapting legal philosophy to the needs of a democratic community. The Simple Cobbler was begun in 1645 and printed in January, 1647, before Ward’s return to England. Three other editions, with important additions and changes, speedily followed. It was reprinted in 1713 and again in 1843 at Boston. Under the Commonwealth, Ward was made minister of the church at Shenfield (1648), and held that office till his death, publishing several religio-political pamphlets, none of which is noteworthy. The Simple Cobbler is a small book, easily read through, and in spite of its bitterness, and its lack of toleration, so full of quaint originality, grim humor and power, that it is probably the most interesting literary performance with which we have to deal in this volume.

To help ’mend his Native Country, lamentably
tattered, both in the upper-Leather and sole,
with all the honest stitches he can take.

And as willing never to be paid for his work,
by Old English wonted pay.
It is his trade to patch all the year long, gratis
Therefore I pray Gentlemen keep your purses.


In rebus arduis ac tenui spe, fortissima
quaeque consilia tutissima sunt.


When boots and shoes are torne up to the lefts,
Coblers must thrust their awles up to the hefts.

This is no time to feare Apelles gramm:
Ne Sutor quidem ultra crepidam.

Printed by J. D. & R. I. for Stephen Bowtell, at the
signe of the Bible in Popes Head-Alley, 1647.

Against Toleration.

EITHER I am in an appolexy, or that man is in a lethargy who doth not now sensibly feel God shaking the heavens over his head and the earth under his feet…. Satan is now in his passions, he feels his passion approaching, he loves to fish in royled waters. Though that dragon cannot sting the vitals of the elect mortally, yet that Beelzebub can fly-blow their intellectuals miserably. The finer religion grows, the finer he spins his cobwebs, he will hold pace with Christ so long as his wits will serve him.

… We have been reputed a Colluvies of wild Opinionists, swarmed into a remote wilderness to find elbow-room for our fanatic doctrines and practices. I trust our diligence past, and constant sedulity against such persons and courses, will plead better things for us. I dare take upon me to be the herald of New England so far as to proclaim to the world in the name of our colony, that all Familists, Antinomians, Anabaptists, and other enthusiasts, shall have free liberty to keep away from us, and such as will come to be gone as fast as they can, the sooner the better….

Here is lately brought us an extract of a Magna Charta so called, compiled between the sub-planters of a West Indian Island; whereof the first article of consituplation, firmly provides free stable room and litter for all kind of consciences, be they never so dirty or jadish; making it actionable, yea, treasonable, to disturb any man in his religion, or to discommend it, whatever it be…. If the devil might have his free option I believe he would ask nothing else but liberty to enfranchise all false religions and to embondage the truth; nor should he need….

My heart hath naturally detested four things; The Standing of the Apochrypha in the Bible; Foreigners dwelling in my country, to crowd our native subjects into the corners of the earth; Alchymized coins; Toleration of divers religions or of one religion in segregant shapes. He that willingly assents to the last, if he examines his heart by daylight, his conscience will tell him he is either an Atheist or an Heretic or an Hyprocrite or at best a captive to some lust. Poly-piety is the greatest impiety in the world…. I lived in a city, where a Papist preached in one church, a Lutheran in another, a Calvinist in a third; a Lutheran one part of the day, a Calvinist the other, in the same pulpit; the religion of that place was but motley and meager, their affections, leopard-like…. To authorize an untruth, by a toleration of State is to build a sconce against the walls of heaven to batter God out of His chair….

A Wise State Will Compose, Not Tolerate Differences in Religion.

THAT State is wise, that will improve all pains and patience rather to compose, then tolerate differences in religion. There is no divine truth, but hath much celestial fire in it from the Spirit of Truth: nor no irreligious untruth, without its proportion of antifire from the spirit of error to contradict it: the zeal of the one, the virulency of the other, must necessarily kindle combustions. Fiery diseases seated in the spirit, imbroil the whole frame of the body: others more external and cool, are less dangerous. They which divide in religion, divide in God; they who divide in him, divide beyond Genus Generalissimum, where there is no reconciliation, without atonement; that is, without uniting in him, who is One, and in his Truth, which is also one.

Wise are those men who will be persuaded rather to live within the pale of truth where they may be quiet, than in the purlieus, where they are sure to be haunted ever and anon, do authority what it can. Every singular opinion, hath a singular opinion of itself; and he that holds it a singular opinion of himself, and a simple opinion of all contra-sentients: he that confutes them, must confute at three at once, or else he does nothing; which will not be done without more stir than the peace of the State or Church can endure.

And prudent are those Christians, that will rather give what may be given, then hazard all by yielding nothing. To sell all peace of country, to buy some peace of conscience unseasonably, is more avarice than thrift, imprudence than patience: they deal not equally, that set any truth of God at such a rate; but they deal wisely that will stay till the market is fallen.

My prognostics deceive me not a little, if once within three seven years, peace prove not such a penny-worth at most marts in Christendom, that he that would not lay down his money, his lust, his opinion, his will, I had almost said the best flower of his crown for it, while he might have had it, will tell his own heart, he played the very ill husband.

Concerning tolerations I may further assert.

That persecution of true religion and toleration of false, are the Jannes and Jambres to the Kingdom of Christ, whereof the last is far the worst. Augustine’s tongue had not owed his mouth one pennyrent though he had never spake word more in it, but this, Nullum malum pejus libertate errandi.

Frederick Duke of Saxon, spake not one foot beyond the mark when he said. He had rather the earth should swallow him up quick, than he should give a toleration to any opinion against any truth of God.

He that is willing to tolerate any religion, or discrepant way of religion, besides his own, unless it be in matters merely indifferent, either doubts of his own, or is not sincere in it.

He that is willing to tolerate any unsound opinion, that his own may also be tolerated, though never so sound, will for a need hang God’s Bible at the Devil’s girdle.

Every toleration of false religions, or opinions hath as many errors and sins in it, as all the false religions and opinions it tolerates, and one sound one more.

That state that will give liberty of conscience in matters of religion, must give liberty of conscience and conversation in their moral laws, or else the fiddle will be out of tune, and some of the strings crack.

He that will rather make an irreligious quarrel with other religions than try the Truth of his own by valuable arguments, and peaceable sufferings; either his religion, or himself is irreligious.

Experience will teach Churches and Christians, that it is far better to live in a state united, though a little corrupt, then in a state, whereof some part is incorrupt, and all the rest divided.

I am not altogether ignorant of the eight rules given by orthodox divines about giving tolerations, yet with their favour I dare affirm,

That there is no Rule given by God for any state to give an affirmative toleration to any false religion, or opinion whatsoever; they must connive in some cases, but may not concede in any.

That the state of England (so far as my intelligence serves) might in time have prevented with ease and may yet without any great difficulty deny both toleration, and irregular connivences salva Republica.

That if the state of England shall either willingly tolerate, or weakly connive at such courses, the church of that kingdom will sooner become the devil’s dancing-school, than God’s temple: The Civil State a bear-garden, than an exchange: The whole Realm a Pais base than an England. And what pity it is, that that country which hath been the staple of truth to all Christendom, should now become the aviary of errors to the whole world, let every fearing heart judge.

I take liberty of conscience to be nothing but a freedom from sin and error. Conscientia in tantum libera in quantum ab errore liberata. And liberty of error nothing but a prison for conscience. Then small will be the kindness of a state to build such prisons for their subjects.

The Scripture saith, there is nothing makes free but truth, and truth saith, there is no truth but one: If the States of the World would make it their sumoperous care to preserve this one truth in its purity and authority it would ease you of all other political cares. I am sure Satan makes it his grand, if not only task, to adulterate truth; Falsehood is his sole sceptre, whereby he first ruffled, and ever since ruined the World.

If truth be but one, methinks all the opinionists in England should not be all in that one truth, some of them I doubt are out. He that can extract an unity out of such a disparity, or contract such a disparity into an unity; had need be a better artist, than ever was Drebell.

If two centres (as we may suppose) be in one circle, and lines drawn from both to all the points of the compass, they will certainly cross one another, and probably cut through the centres themselves.

There is talk of an universal toleration, I would talk as loud as I could against it, did I know what more apt and reasonable sacrifice England could offer to God for his late performing all his heavenly truths than an universal toleration of all hellish errors, or how they shall make an universal reformation, but by making Christ’s academy the Divil’s university, where any man may commence heretic per saltum; where he that is filius Diabolicus, or simpliciter pessimus, may have his grace to go to Hell cum Publico Privilegio; and carry as many after him, as he can….

It is said, though a man have light enough himself to see the truth, yet if he hath not enough to enlighten others, he is bound to tolerate them, I will engage my self, that all the devils in Britanie shall sell themselves to their shirts, to purchase a lease of this position for three of their lives, under the seale of the Parliament.

It is said, that men ought to have liberty of their conscience, and that it is persecution to debar them of it: I can rather stand amazed than reply to this: it is an astonishment to think that the brains of men should be parboiled in such impious ignorance. Let all the wits under the heavens lay their heads together and find an assertion worse than this (one excepted) I will petition to be chosen the universal idiot of the world.

It is said, That civill magistrates ought not to meddle with ecclesiastical matters.

I would answer to this so well as I could, did I not know that some papers lately brought out of New-England, are going to the Press, wherein the opinions of the Elders there in a late Synod, concerning this point are manifested, which I suppose will give clearer satisfaction than I can.

The true English of all this their false Latin, is nothing but a general toleration of all opinions: which motion if it be like to take, it were very requisite, that the City would repair Paul’s with all the speed they can, for an English Pantheon, and bestow it upon the sectaries, freely to assemble in, then there may be some hope that London will be quiet in time….

If all be true we hear, never was any people under the sun so sick of new opinions as Englishmen nor of new fashions as Englishwomen. If God help not the one and the devil leave not helping the other, a blind man may easily foresee what will become of both.

Concerning Women’s Fashions.

SHOULD I not keep promise in speaking a little to Women’s fashions, they would take it unkindly. I was loath to pester better matter with such stuff; I rather thought it meet to let them stand by themselves, like the Quæ Genus in the grammar, being deficients, or redundants, not to be brought under any rule: I shall therefore make bold for this once, to borrow a little of their loose-tongued liberty, and misspend a word or two upon their long-waisted, but short-skirted patience: a little use of my stirrup will do no harm….

It is known more than enough, that I am neither niggard, nor cynic, to the due bravery of the true gentry. I honor the woman that can honor herself with her attire; a good text always deserves a fair margent; I am not much offended if I see a trim far trimmer than she that wears it. In a word, whatever Christianity or civility will allow, I can afford with London measure: but when I hear a nugiperous gentledame inquire what dress the queen is in this week: what the nudiustertian fashion of the court; I mean the very newest; with egg to be in it in all haste, whatever it be; I look at her as the very gizzard of a trifle, the product of a quarter of cipher, the epitome of nothing, fitter to be kicked, if she were of a kickable substance, than either honored or humored.

To speak moderately, I truly confess it is beyond the ken of my understanding to conceive how those women should have any true grace, or valuable virtue, that have so little wit, as to disfigure themselves with such exotic garbs, as not only dismantles their native lovely lustre, but transclouts them into gant bar-geese, ill-shapen-shotten shell-fish, Egyptian hieroglyphics, or at the best into French flurts of the pastery, which a proper English woman should scorn with her heels. It is no marvel they wear drails on the hinder part of their heads, having nothing as it seems in the forepart, but a few squirrels’ brains to help them frisk from one ill-favored fashion to another.

  • These whim Crown’d shes, these fashion-fancying wits,
  • Are empty thin brain’d shells, and fiddling Kits.
  • The very troublers and impoverishers of mankind, I can hardly forbear to commend to the world a saying of a lady living some time with the Queen of Bohemia; I know not where she found it, but it is pity it should be lost.

  • The world is full of care, much like unto a bubble,
  • Women and care, and care and Women, and Women and care and trouble.
  • The verses are even enough for such odd pegma’s. I can make myself sick at any time, with comparing the dazzling splendor wherewith our gentlewomen were embellished in some former habits, with the gut-foundered goosedom, wherewith they are now surcingled and debauched. We have about five or six of them in our colony: if I see any of them accidentally, I cannot cleanse my fancy of them for a month after. I have been a solitary widower almost twelve years, purposed lately to make a step over to my native country for a yoke-fellow: but when I consider how women there have tripe-wifed themselves with their cladments, I have no heart to the voyage, lest their nauseous shapes and the sea, should work too sorely upon my stomach. I speak sadly; methinks it should break the hearts of English men, to see so many goodly English women imprisoned in French cages, peering out of their hood holes for some men of mercy to help them with a little wit, and nobody relieves them.

    It is a more common than convenient saying, that nine tailors make a man: it were well if nineteen could make a woman to her mind. If tailors were men indeed, well furnished but with mere moral principles, they would disdain to be led about like apes, by such mimic marmosets. It is a most unworthy thing for men that have bones in them, to spend their lives in making fiddle-cases for futilous women’s fancies; which are the very pettitoes of infirmity, the giblets of perquisquilian toys. I am so charitable to think, that most of that mystery would work the cheerfuller while they live, if they might be well discharged of the tiring slavery of mistiring women. It is no little labor to be continually putting up English women, into outlandish casks; who if they be not shifted anew, once in a few months, grow too sour for their husbands. What this trade will answer for themselves when God shall take measure of tailors’ consciences is beyond my skill to imagine. There was a time when,

  • The joining of the Red Rose with the White,
  • Did set our State into a Damask plight.
  • But now our roses are turned to flore de lices, our carnations to tulips, our gillyflowers to daisies, our city dames, to an indenominable quæmalry of overturcased things. He that makes coats for the moon, had need take measures every noon: and he that makes for women, as often, to keep them from lunacy.

    I have often heard divers ladies vent loud feminine complaints of the wearisome varieties and chargeable changes of fashions: I marvel themselves prefer not a bill of redress. I would Essex ladies would lead the chore, for the honor of their county and persons; or rather the thrice honorable ladies of the court, whom it best beseems: who may well presume of a Le Roy le veult from our sober King, a Les Seigneurs ont assentus from our prudent peers, and the like Assentus, from our considerate, I dare not say wife-worn Commons; who I believe had much rather pass one such bill, than pay so many tailor’s bills as they are forced to do.

    Most dear and unparalleled ladies, be pleased to attempt it: as you have the precellency of the women of the world for beauty and feature; so assume the honor to give, and not take law from any, in matter of attire. If ye can transact so fair a motion among yourselves unanimously, I dare say, they that most renite, will least repent. What greater honor can your honors desire, than to build a promontory precedent to all foreign ladies, to deserve so eminently at the hands of all the English gentry present and to come: and to confute the opinion of all the wise men in the world; who never thought it possible for women to do so good a work.

    If any man think I have spoken rather merrily than seriously he is much mistaken, I have written what I write with all the indignation I can, and no more than I ought. I confess I veered my tongue to this kind of language de industria though unwillingly, supposing those I speak to are uncapable of grave and rational arguments.

    I desire all ladies and gentlewomen to understand that all this while I intend not such as through necessary modesty to avoid morose singularity, follow fashions slowly, a flight shot or two off, showing by their moderation, that they rather draw countermont with their hearts, than put on by their examples.

    I point my pen only against the light-heeled beagles that lead the chase so fast, that they run all civility out of breath, against these ape-headed pullets, which invent antique fool-fangles, merely for fashion and novelty sake.

    In a word, if I begin once to declaim against fashions, let men and women look well about them, there is somewhat in the business; I confess to the world, I never had grace enough to be strict in that kind; and of late years, I have found syrup of pride very wholesome in a due dose, which makes me keep such store of that drug by me, that if any body comes to me for a question-full or two about fashions, they never complain of me for giving them hard measure, or under weight.

    But I address myself to those who can both hear and mend all if they please: I seriously fear, if the pious Parliament do not find time to state fashions, as ancient Parliaments have done in some part, God will hardly find a time to state religion or peace. They are the surquedries of pride, the wantonness of idleness, provoking sins, the certain prodromies of assured judgment, Zeph. i. 7, 8.

    It is beyond all account how many gentlemen’s and citizens’ estates are deplumed by their feather-headed wives, what useful supplies the pannage of England would afford other countries, what rich returns to itself, if it were not sliced out into male and female fripperies: and what a multitude of misemployed hands might be better improved in some more manly manufactures for the public weal. It is not easily credible, what may be said of the preterpluralities of tailors in London: I have heard an honest man say, that not long since there were numbered between Temple-bar and Charing-Cross, eight thousand of that trade; let it be conjectured by that proportion how many there are in and about London, and in all England they will appear to be very numerous. If the Parliament would please to mend women, which their husbands dare not do, there need not so many men to make and mend as there are. I hope the present doleful estate of the realm will persuade more strongly to some considerate course herein than I now can.

    Knew I how to bring it in, I would speak a word to long hair, whereof I will say no more but this: if God proves not such a Barber to it as he threatens, unless it be amended, Esa. vii. 20, before the peace of the state and church be well settled, then let my prophecy be scorned, as a sound mind scorns the riot of that sin, and more it needs not. If those who are termed rattleheads and impuritans, would take up a resolution to begin in moderation of hair, to the just reproach of those that are called Puritans and Roundheads, I would honor their manliness as much as the others’ godliness, so long as I knew what man or honor meant: if neither can find a barber’s shop, let them turn in, to Psal. lxviii. 21, Jer. vii. 29, 1 Cor. xi. 14. If it be thought no wisdom in men to distinguish themselves in the field by the scissors, let it be thought no injustice in God, not to distinguish them by the sword. I had rather God should know me by my sobriety, than mine enemy not know me by my vanity. He is ill kept, that is kept by his own sin. A short promise is a far safer guard than a long lock: it is an ill distinction which God is loath to look at, and his angels can not know his saints by. Though it be not the mark of the beast, yet it may be the mark of a beast prepared to slaughter. I am sure men use not to wear such names; I am also sure soldiers use to wear other marklets or notadoes in time of battle.

    Of Reformation.

    WHEN states are so reformed that they conform such as are profligate into good civility; civil men, into religious morality; when Churches are so constituted, that Faith is ordained pastor, Truth teacher, Holiness and Righteousness ruling elders; Wisdom and Charity deacons; Knowledge, love, hope, zeal, heavenly-mindedness, meekness, patience, watchfulness, humility, diligence, sobriety, modesty, chastity, constancy, prudence, contentation, innocency, sincerity, etc., admitted members, and all their opposites excluded: then there will be peace of country and conscience.

    Did the servants of Christ know what it is to live in Reformed Churches with unreformed spirits, under strict order with loose hearts; how forms of Religion breed but forms of godliness; how men by church-discipline learn their church-postures, and there rest:—they would pray as hard for purity of heart, as purity of ordinances. If we mock God in these, He will mock us; either with defeat of our hopes, or which is worse, when we have what we so much desire, we shall be so much the worse for it. It was a well salted speech, uttered by an English christian of a Reformed Church in the Netherlands: “We have the good orders here, but you have the good christians in England.” He that prizes not Old England graces, as much as New-England ordinances, had need go to some other market before he comes hither. In a word, he that is not pastor, teacher, ruler, deacon and brother to himself, and looks not at Christ above all, it matters not a farthing whether he be Presbyterian or Independent; he may be a zealot in bearing witness to which he likes best, and yet an Iscariot to both, in the witness of his own conscience.

    I have upon strict observation seen so much power of godliness and spiritual-mindedness in English christians, living merely upon sermons and private duties, hardly come by, when the Gospel was little more than symptomatical to the state; such epidemical and lethal formality in other disciplinated churches, that I profess in the hearing of God, my heart hath mourned, and mine eyes wept in secret, to consider what will become of multitudes of my dear countrymen when they shall enjoy what they now covet. Not that good ordinances breed ill consciences, but ill consciences grow stark naught under good ordinances; insomuch that might I wish an hypocrite the most perilous place but Hell, I should wish him a membership in a strict Reformed Church: and might I wish a sincere servant of God the greatest grief earth can afford, I should wish him to live with a pure heart, in a church impurely reformed; yet through the improvement of God’s Spirit, that grief may sanctify him for God’s service and presence, as much as the means he would have, but cannot.

    A Word of Ireland.

  • Not of the Nation universally, nor of any man in it, that hath so much as one hair of Christianity or Humanity growing on his Head or Beard, but only of the truculent Cutthroats, and such as shall take up Arms in their Defence.
  • THESE Irish anciently called Anthropophagi, man-eaters, have a tradition among them, that when the Devil showed our Saviour all the Kingdoms of the Earth and their glory, that he would not show him Ireland, but reserved it for himself; it is probably true, for he hath kept it ever since for his own peculiar; the old Fox foresaw it would eclipse the glory of all the rest. He thought it wisdom to keep the Land for a Boggards for his unclean spirits employed in this Hemisphere, and the people, to do his son and heir, I mean the Pope, that service for which Louis the Eleventh kept his Barber Oliver, which makes them so blood-thirsty. They are the very offal of men, dregs of mankind, reproach of Christendom, the bots that crawl on the Beast’s tail, I wonder Rome itself is not ashamed of them.

    I beg upon my hands and knees that the expedition against them may be undertaken while the hearts and hands of our soldiery are hot, to whom I will be bold to say briefly: Happy is he that shall reward them as they have served us, and cursed be he that shall do that work of the Lord negligently. Cursed be he that holdeth back his sword from blood: yea, cursed be he that maketh not his sword stark drunk with Irish blood, that doth not recompense them double for their hellish treachery to the English, that maketh them not heaps upon heaps, and their country a dwelling place for Dragons, an Astonishment to Nations. Let not that eye look for pity, nor that hand to be spared, that pities or spares them, and let him be accursed, that curseth not them bitterly.

    [From the Same.]
  • POETRY ’s a gift wherein but few excell;
  • He doth very ill that doth not passing well.
  • But he doth passing well that doth his best,
  • And he doth best that passeth all the rest.
  • In Praise of Mistress Bradstreet.
    [Prefixed to “The Tenth Muse.” 1650.]

  • MERCURY show’d Apollo, Bartas’ book,
  • Minerva this, and wish’d him well to look,
  • And tell uprightly, which did which excel:
  • He view’d and view’d, and vow’d he could not tell.
  • They bid him hemisphere his mouldy nose,
  • With ’s crack’d leering glasses, for it would pose
  • The best brains he had in ’s old pudding-pan,
  • Sex weigh’d, which best, the woman or the man?
  • He peer’d, and por’d, and glar’d, and said for wore,
  • I’m even as wise now, as I was before.
  • They both ’gan laugh, and said, it was no mar’l
  • The auth’ress was a right Du Bartas girl.
  • Good sooth, quoth the old Don, tell me ye so,
  • I muse whither at length these girls will go.
  • It half revives my chill frost-bitten blood,
  • To see a woman once do aught that’s good;
  • And chode by Chaucer’s boots and Homer’s furs,
  • Let men look to’t, lest women wear the spurs.