Have you ever looked at an old family photo and wondered what kind of people your forebears were? One can comb through the old courthouse records and baptismal registers and piece together a chronology, but what were their lives like, and in particular, what were their relationships to the Lord? How did they respond to the preaching of the Word? What was the nature of their assurance? For our Editor, a recently discovered document answers some of those questions.
In delving into the Ingersoll side of my family tree, I learned that we are descended from “John Ingersoll” or “Ingerson” of Westfield, Connecticut, who arrived on our shores aboard the second voyage of the Mayflower. While other forebears included John Alden and William Bradford, it was Ingersoll that captured my attention, largely because of a remarkable document that came to light relatively recently—his written public profession of faith upon joining the church.
I first read this testimony in an article written by David L. Green, writing in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register.1Green, David L., New England Historical and Genealogical Review, Vol. 151, No.602, April, 1997. St. Paul warns us about getting caught up in genealogies and to reinforce the point, Green notes that the first mention of John Ingersoll is when he is, on November 28,1654, fined 10 shillings by the Connecticut Particular Court “for the breach of the law against lyinge.”2Records of the Particular Court of Connecticut 1639-1663, Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 22 (Hartford, 1928): 131, as cited by Green.
Ingersoll became one of the seven “founding pillars” of the Westfield church. His written testimony upon that occasion gives a rare and remarkable insight into how the Lord worked in his life. Unlike John Alden and William Bradford, whom history has often painted larger than life, John Ingersoll was a man whose sins and struggles seem to make him much more accessible to us. What follows is the testimony of a sinner saved by grace.
The Relation of Brother John Ingerson
I being brought by Godly Parents, who tooke great pains & Care to bring me out of a State of Nature into a State of Grace in watching over me, in keeping me from Sin, & Sabbothbreaking, in bringing me to attend the word preached, read, & in Cathechising I’d little regard itt, but onely for fear of them.
The first time, to my rememberance, that God met with me was by a Sermon I heard at Darby in old England upon Ps. 15.1,2, when I was about 18 years old, whereby I was Convinct that as yet I was none that should inherit the holy Hill of Zion, but I thought I would labour to be one that Should. But this Conviction was soon over & I went on in my Sin & vanity still. & tho I met with many Conviction that my State was bad, & was in many dangers both at sea, & land; & I saw I must Repent, & become a new Creature if ever I ment to be Saved, yet I put repentance off till afterwards.
But being under Mr. Stones Ministry I was convincd that the time was come that I must not put Repentance off any longer, for the Lord had granted me the thing wherein my excuses lay & therefore I set upon Duties, & reformed in many things, & having a book of Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs I read much in it, about Faith, & Hope, & was much incouraged, till I met with an Expression thus, that if my Hopes were not such as would stand with every line of the word of God at the day of Judgment they would availe me nothing.
Then being troubled I threw the book a side for a while thinking that altho he was a good man he was too Strict, & mistaken therein. & that I did believe, & that he that did believe should be saved & therefore my State was good. But coming to Northampton I heard Mr. Mather the first time upon that, that in the world ye shall have trouble, but in Christ you may & shall have peace, which incouraged me for a while.
But afterwards his preaching did not please me but I thot I would keep my hopes. And the Lord visiting me with sickness that I was neer death, yet I thot I was well enough prepared for death & was not willing to hear to the Contrary. But the Lord in great merry was pleased not to take me away in that Condition. But remaining still Confident of my good Estat, I, as I was on atime into the meadow to work, thot nothing should dash my hopes thereof.
But presently the thoughts of——who murdered himselfe Coming into my mind, I for a while much wondered at it. But my thots soon runing thus, What if God should leave me? then I should do so. & the temptation came so hard upon me that God would leave me, & I should certainly dy such a death; be guilty of mine own Blood, & be damned irreconcilably, that I was not able to go on to my business; but returning home, the temptation prevaild more, & more upon me, & I was filled with horrour of Conscience, the Lord did so manifest his wrath & Displeasure against me:
And my Sins were like mountains ready to sink me down into Hell every moment. & not being able in the night to sleep, was forced to rise up at midnight, & Call up my Father in Law, who hearing how it was with me, & that I feared I had sinned the unpardonable Sin; & that there were no Hopes of mercy, gave me good Counsell, & prayed with me. & after having some abatement I returned home, & remained in that Condition.
But the Lord after awile was pleased to abate the temptation, & his wrath a little. & I fell to reading & praying in Secret; being incouraged to look to Jesus Christ for mercy. But Mr. Mathers Ministry was like daggers in my heart. For when I was labouring to lay hold on Christ, as I thot, by Faith, it did so rip up my State in such a way as dashed my hopes, whereby, me thot, I was one that went about to Establish mine own Righteousness, & to have something of mine own to Carry me to Christ.
Wherefore I Studied upon what terms Christ was to be had, I prayed, Searched the Scriptures, & attended all duties; but could find no way to get a pardon, of Sin, & peace with God, but by Repentance of all Sin, & a Closing with Jesus Christ by Faith. I thot I was willing to part with all Sin, & would gladly be delivered from it, as seing what a Condition it had brought me into. As for the world, I accounted it not worth regarding, so I could but get an Intrest in Christ Jesus. But how to believe I knew not.
I heard many Descriptions of Faith, yet could not tell what it was, nor how to gett it. Mr. Mather being upon the work of Humiliation said be humble enough, & good enough; I thot it was the Pride of my heart, that I was so impatient; & could not wait Gods time. I saw there was hopes of mercy for me in Jesus Christ. He came into the world to save his people from their Sins: With him the Fatherless finde Mercy; He gives gifts to Rebellious ones; the Chiefe of Sinners. He Is able to Save all to the uttmost, & will by no means cast off any that come to him. & tho I could not come to him of myselfe, yet he is able to bring me to, & keep me with, himselfe, then reading that Isa. thou has brought me no Sweet Cane but hast made me to serve with thy Sins; yet I am he that blotteth out all thy Sins for my names sake.
Whereupon I found myself willing, & was inabled to Cast myselfe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, to give up myselfe & all unto him; to leave my Sins, & Corruptions to him to do as he pleased. & So to leave myselfe with him, let him do, what he would with me. & if I did perish at last, yet it should be in his way, remembring Peters words, Lord to whom should we go thou hast the words of Eternall Life.