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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

The Escape of Shepard and Norton

By Captain Edward Johnson (1599?–1672)

[From Wonder-working Providence of Sion’s Saviour in New England. 1654.]

NOW, my loving Reader, let me lead thee by the hand to our native land, although it was not intended to speak in particulars of any of these people’s departure from thence, purposing a general relation should serve the turn, yet come with me and behold the wondrous work of Christ in preserving two of his most valiant Soldiers, namely Mr. John Norton, and that soul ravishing Minister, Mr. Thomas Shepard, who came this year to Yarmouth to ship themselves for New England, where the people of God resorted privately unto them to hear them preach. During the time of their abode the enemies of Christ’s kingdom were not wanting to use all means possible to entrap them, in which perilous condition they remained about two months, waiting for the ship’s readiness. In which time some persons eagerly hunting for Mr. Thomas Shepard began to plot (for apprehending of him) with a Boy of sixteen or seventeen years of age, who lived in the house where he lodged, to open the door for them at a certain hour in the night.

But the Lord Christ, who is the Shepherd of Israel, kept a most sure watch over his endeared servants, for thus it befell: the sweet words of grace falling from the lips of this Reverend and godly Mr. Thomas Shepard in the hearing of the Boy (the Lord’s working withal), he was persuaded this was an holy man of God, and therefore with many troubled thoughts began to relate his former practice, although he had a great sum of money promised him, only to let them in at the hour and time appointed; but the Boy, the more near the time came, grew more pensive and sad, insomuch that his Master taking notice thereof began to question him about the cause of his heaviness, who, being unwilling to reveal the matter, held off from confessing a long time, till by urgent and insinuating search of his godly Master, with tears he tells that on such a night he had agreed to let in men to apprehend the godly Preacher. The good man of the house forthwith gave notice thereof unto them, who with the help of some well-affected persons was conveyed away by boat through a back lane. The men at the time appointed came to the house, where finding not the door open (when they lifted up the latch) as they expected, they thrust their staves under it to lift it from the hooks, but being followed by some persons whom the good man of the house had appointed for that end; yet were they bolstered out in this their wicked act by those who set them on work. Notwithstanding, they were greatly ashamed when they missed of their end.

But the Lord Christ, intending to make his New England Soldiers the very wonder of this age, brought them into greater straits, that this Wonder-working Providence might the more appear in their deliverance, for coming a-shipboard, and hoisting sail to accomplish their voyage, in little time after they were tossed and sore beaten with a contrary wind, to the loss of the ship’s upper work, with which loss and great peril they were driven back again, the Lord Christ intending to confirm their faith in showing them, that although they were brought back, as it were into the mouth of their enemies, yet He could hide them from the hand of the hunter for the space of six months longer or thereabout, even till the Spring of the year following, at which time (God willing) you shall hear of them again. In the meantime the master and other seamen made a strange construction of the sore storm they met withal, saying their ship was bewitched, and therefore made use of the common charm ignorant people use, nailing two red-hot horseshoes to their main-mast. But assuredly it was the Lord Christ, who hath command both of winds and seas, and now would have his people know He hath delivered, and will deliver from so great a death.