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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Character of Mistress Joanna Shepard

By Thomas Shepard (1605–1649)

[Shepard’s Memoir of His Own Life. Written about 1647.]

THE LORD hath not been wont to let me live long without some affliction or other; and yet ever mixed with some mercy. And therefore, April the 2d, 1646, as he gave me another son, John, so he took away my most dear, precious, meek, and loving wife, in childbed, after three weeks’ lying-in; having left behind her two hopeful branches, my dear children, Samuel and John. This affliction was very heavy to me; for in it the Lord seemed to withdraw his tender care for me and mine, which he graciously manifested by my dear wife; also refused to hear prayer, when I did think he would have hearkened and let me see his beauty in the land of the living, in restoring of her to health again; also, in taking her away in the prime time of her life, when she might have lived to have glorified the Lord long; also, in threatening me to proceed in rooting out my family, and that he would not stop, having begun here, as in Eli, for not being zealous enough against the sins of his sons. And I saw that if I had profited by former afflictions of this nature, I should not have had this scourge. But I am the Lord’s, and he may do with me what he will. He did teach me to prize a little grace, gained by a cross, as a sufficient recompense for all outward losses.

But this loss was very great. She was a woman of incomparable meekness of spirit, toward myself especially, and very loving; of great prudence to take care for and order my family affairs, being neither too lavish nor sordid in any thing, so that I knew not what was under her hands. She had an excellency to reprove for sin, and discern the evils of men. She loved God’s people dearly, and [was] studious to profit by their fellowship, and therefore loved their company. She loved God’s word exceedingly, and hence was glad she could read my notes, which she had to muse on every week. She had a spirit of prayer beyond ordinary of her time and experience. She was fit to die long before she did die, even after the death of her first-born, which was a great affliction to her. But her work not being done then, she lived almost nine years with me, and was the comfort of my life to me; and the last sacrament before her lying-in seemed to be full of Christ, and thereby fitted for heaven. She did oft say she should not outlive this child; and when her fever first began, by taking some cold, she told me so, that we should love exceedingly together, because we should not live long together. Her fever took away her sleep; want of sleep wrought much distemper in her head, and filled it with fantasies and distractions, but without raging. The night before she died, she had about six hours’ unquiet sleep. But that so cooled and settled her head, that when she knew none else, so as to speak to them, yet she knew Jesus Christ, and could speak to him; and therefore, as soon as she awakened out of sleep, she brake out into a most heavenly, heart-breaking prayer, after Christ, her dear Redeemer, for the spirit of life, and so continued praying until the last hour of her death, “Lord, though I [am] unworthy, Lord, one word, one word,” etc.; and so gave up the ghost.

Thus God hath visited and scourged me for my sins, and sought to wean me from this world. But I have ever found it a difficult thing to profit even but a little by the sorest and sharpest afflictions.