The earliest occurrence of what church historians call a jeremiad happened before there was a United States. In 1670, only 50 years after the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Reverend Samuel Danforth offered a harsh assessment of the colonists’ “errand into the wilderness.”
The community had fallen into sin and disharmony, he said. It was wasting away in the grip of a “radical disease too tremendously growing upon us.” Drawing on Isaiah 5, Danforth said the colony was a vineyard “all overgrown with thorns, and nettles cover the face thereof, and the stone wall is all broken down.”
Throughout the following two decades, various New England clergy issued jeremiads in that mode: they called the community to mend its ways and promised that if it did, God’s favor would again be showered upon it.