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Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana

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  • Thomas Britton
    A Letter Out of Grief by Samuel Danforth [In 1659 an unknown disease, perhaps pertussis, swept through several towns in New England. Samuel Danforth, minister
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 8, 2003
      A Letter Out of Grief

      by Samuel Danforth

      [In 1659 an unknown disease, perhaps pertussis, swept
      through several towns in New England. Samuel Danforth,
      minister at Roxbury, lost all three of his children to
      the epidemic. Some time later he was asked by friends
      to put on paper some of the words he spoke at their
      burial. This is the letter he wrote in reply.]

      My Friends: If any that see my grief should say to me,
      as the Danites to Micah, 'What is wrong with you?' I
      thank God I cannot answer as he did, 'They have taken
      away my gods.' My heart was indeed somewhat set upon
      my children, especially the eldest; but they were not
      my gods and not my portion; my portion is whole and
      untouched to this day. It has been my design and work
      to understand for myself, and to communicate to my
      hearers the spiritual meaning, extent and nature of
      gospel obedience. I have employed much reading and
      study to expound what faith, hope, love, patience,
      etc., the glorious wisdom, power and mercy of God
      oblige us to render to him. What I have endeavoured to
      set forth before you, God will now test. Both God and
      you will see whether they were mere notions and
      speculations, or whether I believed as I spoke, and
      whether there is any divine spark in my heart. I
      remember him that said to Abraham, 'By this I know
      that you fear me, that you have not withheld from me
      your son, your only son.' It is the pleasure of God
      that (besides all that may be gained by reading, and
      studying, and preaching) I should learn and teach
      obedience by the things that I suffer. The holy fire
      is not to be fetched for you, out of such a flint as I
      am, without smiting.

      Not long before these strokes descended upon us, it
      pleased God marvellously to quicken our hearts (both
      mine and my wife's) and to stir up in us most earnest
      desires after himself. Now that he has taken our
      children, we pray that he will he draw us into freer
      and fuller communion with himself, blessed be his holy

      I trust the Lord has done what he has done in wisdom,
      and faithfulness, and dear love. I trust that in
      taking these pleasant things from me, he exercises and
      expresses the same tender affection to me, as I now
      express towards my children in mourning for the loss
      of them. I desire, with Ephraim,'to bemoan myself,'
      etc. Jer. 31:18, 19. O that I might hear the Lord
      answering me as he did ver. 20! ['I will surely have
      mercy on him, says the Lord.'] It is right to say to
      God, 'We have endured chastisement, we will not
      offend; what we see not, teach us; and if we have done
      iniquity, we will do so no more.' Though we cannot
      reproach ourselves with any known way of disobedience,
      we know there is enough in us to justify his repeated
      strokes. God knows much more.

      My desire is that no one may be overly dismayed at
      what has happened to us; and let no man by any means
      be offended. Who may say to the Lord, 'What are you
      doing?' I can say from my heart, though what is come
      upon us is very dreadful and amazing, nevertheless I
      consent unto the will of God that it is good. Does not
      the goldsmith cast his metal into the furnace? And you
      husbandmen, do you not cause the flail to pass over
      your grain, not that you hate your wheat, but because
      you desire pure bread? Had our children been insolent
      when we corrected them, we could not have borne it;
      but, poor hearts, they honoured us; how much rather
      should we be subject to the Father of spirits, and

      You know that, nine years ago, I was in a desolate
      condition -without father, without mother, without
      wife, without children: but what a father, and mother,
      and wife have been bestowed upon me, and are still
      continued, though my children are taken away. And,
      above all, although I cannot deny but that it pierces
      my very heart to call to remembrance the voice of my
      dear children, calling 'father, father!' a voice now
      not heard: yet I bless God it does far more abundantly
      refresh me and cause me to rejoice to hear the Lord
      continually calling to me, 'My son, my son! My son, do
      not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His
      correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just
      as a father the son in whom he delights.'

      And blessed be God that does not ignore the anguish of
      the afflicted, nor hide his face from him. It was the
      consideration that God had sanctified and glorified
      himself, by striking an holy awe and dread of his
      majesty into the hearts of his people, that made Aaron
      hold his peace: and if the Lord will glorify himself
      by my family, by these awful strokes upon me,
      quickening parents unto their duty, and awakening
      their children to seek after the Lord, I shall desire
      to be content, though my name be cut off. I beseech
      you be earnest with the Lord for us, that he would
      keep us from sinning against him; and that he would
      teach us to sanctify his name. Although our dear
      branches have left us, yet that he that has promised
      to be with his children in six troubles and in seven
      will not forsake us. My heart truly would be consumed,
      and would even die within me, except that the good
      will of him that dwelt in the burning bush, and his
      good word of promise, are my trust and stay.

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