The Day of Trouble is Near

Increase Mather. The Day of Trouble is Near. Two sermons wherein is shewed, what are the signs of a day of trouble being near. And particularly, what reason there is for New-England to expect a day of trouble. Also what is to be done, that we may escape these things which shall come to pass. Preached the 11th day of the 12th moneth, 1673, being a day of humiliation in one of the churches in Boston. By Increase Mather, teacher of that church. Cambridge, [Mass.]: Printed by Marmaduke Johnson, 1674. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

Signs of the Times I

And the stars of heaven fell unto earth, even as a fig tree castest her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

Revelation 6:13

Early American Christians had a biblical warrant for searching the heavens for signs of the times, and took greatly to meteors, eclipses, and comets. The sky is of such importance in the Book of Revelation it is almost a character unto itself: the sun, moon, and stars undergo miraculous transformations page by page. At one point the sky is rolled up like a scroll, and its disappearance paves a thoroughfare for descending angels, dragons, saints and sinners. Thoroughly immersed in this apocalyptic lore, early American preachers kept their eyes peeled upon the sky and its wonders, as is shown by John Edwards' Cometomantia and Increase Mather's Heaven's Alarm to the World and Kometographia. The excitement was not limited to preachers like Samuel Willard-- even poets like Michael Wigglesworth were attracted to the perils foretold in the heavens. As signs from the heavens grew in number, however, the settler's confidence waned. Consequently, the jaunty optimism of earlier apocalyptic writers gave way to fearful exhortations such as Increase Mather's The Day of Trouble is Near and Ichabod, both of which claimed that God had departed New England.

At right: John Edwards. Cometomantia, A Discourse of comets shewing their original, substance, place, time, magnitude, motion, number, colour, figure, kinds, names, and more especially, their prognosticks, significations, and presages. Where also is inserted an essay of judiciary astrology, giving satisfaction to the grand question, whether any certain judgments and predictions concerning future events, can be made from the observation of the heavenly bodies, both occasioned by the appearance of the late comets in England in other places. London: Printed for Brab. Aylmer, 1684. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

At right: Samuel Willard. The Peril of the Times Displayed. Or, The danger of means taking up with a form of Godliness, but denying the power of it. Being the substance of several sermons preached. By Samuel Willard, teacher of a church in Boston, N.E. Boston: Printed by B. Green & J. Allen. Sold by Benjamin Eliot, 1700. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

At right: Michael Wigglesworth. The Day of Doom. Or, A poetical description of the great and last judgment. With a short discourse about eternity. By Michael Wigglesworth. The seventh edition, enlarged. With a recommendatory epistle (in verse) by the Rev. Mr. John Mitchel. Also Mr. Wiggleworth's character, by Dr. Cotton Mather. Boston: Printed and sold by Thomas Fleet, at the Heart and Crown in Cornhil, 1751. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

At right: Increase Mather. Heaven's Alarm to the World. Or, A sermon, wherein is shewed, that fearful sights and signs in heaven, are the presages of great calamities at hand. Preached at the lecture of Boston in New-England, January 20, 1680. By Mr. Increase Mather. Boston: Printed for Samuel Sewall. And are to be sold by John Browning at the corner of the Prison-lane next to the Town-house, 1682. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

At right: Increase Mather. Kometographia. Or, A discourse concerning comets wherein the nature of blazing stars is enquired into, with a historical account of all the comets which have appeared from the beginning of the world unto this present year, M.DC.LXXXIII, expressing the place in the heavens where they are seen, their motion, forms, duration, and the remarkable events which have followed in the world, so far as they have been by learned men observed. Boston: Printed by S. G[reen] for S. S[ewell] and sold by J. Browning, 1683. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

At right: Increase Mather. Ichabod. Or, A discourse, shewing what cause there is to fear that the glory of the Lord, is departing from New-England. Delivered in two sermons by Increase Mather. Boston: Printed by Timothy Green, sold by the book-sellers, 1702. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.