Monday, March 22, 2010

Amanuensis Monday- A 1681 Letter

I read about Amanuensis Monday in Randy Seaver’s blog “GeneaMusings”, and he read about it on John Newmark’s genealogy blog “TransylvanianDutch”. Amanuensis: a person employed to take dictation or to copy manuscripts.


The Whipple House, Ipswich, Massachusetts
built about 1638
Letter from Sarah Whipple Goodhue 1681

Sarah was the daughter of Elder John Whipple of Ipswich, Massachusetts, and appears to have been very nicely educated for her time. Her letter and poetry are beautifully written, especially for a woman on her deathbed. Something about the pregnancy must have signaled to Sarah that she would not survive. I am descended of the daughter Mary in the poem. Sarah was my 9 x great grandmother.

Joseph Goodhue remarried to the widow Rachel Todd in 1684 and had three more children. He married third to the widow Mercy Clarke, and had another son.

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Dear and loving Husband, If it should please the Lord to make a sudden change in thy family, the which I know not how soon it may be, and I am fearful of it. Therefore in a few words I would declare something of my mind, lest afterwards I should have no opportunity. I cannot but sympathize and pity thy condition seeing thou has a great family of children and some of them small, and if it should please the Lord to add to thy number one more or two, be not discouraged, although it should please the Lord to deprive thee of thy weak help which is so near and dear unto thee. Trust in the living God, who will be an help to the helpless, and a father to the motherless.

My desire is, that if thou art so contented, to dispose of two or three of my children. If it please the Lord that I should be delivered of a living child, son or daughter, my desire is that my father and mother should have it, if they please; I freely bequeath and give it to them.

And also my desire is that my cousin Symond Stacy should have John, if he please. I freely bequeath and give to him for his own if thou art willing. And also my desire is that my cousin Catharine Whipple should have Susannah, which is an hearty girl, and will quickly be helpful to her, and she may be helpful to the child, to bring her up. These, or either of these I durst trust their care under God, for the faithful discharge of that which may be for my children's good and comfort, and I hope to thy satisfaction. Therefore, if they be willing to take them, and to deal well by them, answer my desire I pray thee, thou has been willing to answer my request formerly, and I hope now thou wilt, this being the last, so far as I know.

Honored and most loving father and mother, I cannot tell how to express your fatherly and motherly love towards me and mine. It hath been so great and in several kinds, for the which, in a poor requital, I give you hearty and humble thanks, yet trusting in God that he will enable you to be a father and mother to the motherless. Be not troubled for the loss of an unworthy daughter, but rejoice in the grace of God that there is hope of rejoicing together hereafter in the place of everlasting joy and blessedness.

Brothers and sisters all, hearken and hear the voice of the Lord, that by his sudden providence doth call aloud on you to prepare yourselves for that swift and sudden messenger of death; that no one of you may be found without a wedding garment; a part and portion in Jesus Christ; the assurance of the love of God, which will enable you to leave this world, and all your relations, though never so near and dear for the everlasting enjoyment of the great and glorious God, if you do fear him in truth.

The Private Society to which, while here, I did belong, if God by his providence come amongst you, and begin by death to break you, be not discouraged, but be strong in repenting, faith and prayers, with the lively repeatal of God's counsels declared unto you by his faithful messengers. I pray, each for another, and with one another, that so in these threatening times of storms and trouble you may be found more precious than gold tried in the fire. Think not a few hours time in your approaches to God misspent, but consider seriously with yourselves to what end God lent to you any time at all. This surely I can through grace now say: that of the time that there I spent, through the blessing of God, I have no cause to repent, no not in the least.

O my children all, which in pains and care have cost me dear, unto you I call to come and take what portion your dying mother will bestow upon you; many times by experience it hath been found that the dying words of parents have left a living impression upon the breasts of children. O my children be sure to set the fear of God before your eyes; consider what you are by nature, miserable sinners, utterly lost and undone; and that there is no way and means whereby you can come out of this miserable estate, but by the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died a reproachful death that every poor humbled and true repenting sinner, by faith on God through him, might have everlasting life. O my children, the best counsel a poor dying mother can give you is to get a part and portion in the Lord Jesus Christ that will hold when all these things fail. O let the Lord Jesus Christ be precious in your sight.

O children, neighbors and friends, I hope I can by experience truly say that Christ is the best, most precious, most durable portion that all or any of you can set your hearts' delight upon. I forever desire to bless and praise the Lord that he hath opened mine eyes to see the emptiness of these things and mine own, and to behold the fullness and riches of grace that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. To that end, my children, I do not only counsel you, but in the fear of the Lord I charge you all to read God's Word, and pray unto the Lord that he would be pleased to give you hearts and wisdom to improve the great and many privileges that the Lord is at present pleased to afford unto you; improve your youthful days unto God's service, your health and strength whilst it lasteth, for you know not how soon your health may be turned into sickness, your strength into weakness, and your lives into death; as death cuts the tree of your life down, so will it lie; as death leaveth you, so judgment will find you out. Therefore be persuaded to agree with your adversary quickly, whilst you are in the way of these precious opportunities; be sure to improve the lively dispensations of the Gospel; give good attention unto sermons preached in publick, and to sermons repeated in private.

Endeavor to learn your father's hand, that you may read over those precious sermons that he hath taken pains to write and keep from the mouths of God's lively messengers, and in them there are lively messages. I can, through the blessing of God, along with them say, that they have been lively unto me; and if you improve them aright, why not to all of you! God upbraideth none of the seed of Jacob that seek his face in truth. My children, be encouraged in this work, you are in the bond of the covenant; although you may be breakers of covenant, yet God is a merciful keeper of covenant.

Endeavor as you grow up to own and renew your covenant, and rest not if God give you life, but so labour to improve all the advantages that God is pleased to afford you, that you may be fit to enjoy the Lord Jesus Christ in all his ordinances. What hath the Lord Jesus given himself for you? if you will lay hold of him by true faith and repentance. And what will you be backward to accept of his gracious and free offers, and not to keep in remembrance his death and sufferings, and to strengthen your weak faith. I thank the Lord in some measure I have found that ordinance a life-making ordinance unto my soul. Oh, the smiles and loving embraces that they miss of that hold off and will not be in such near relation unto their Head and Saviour. The Lord grant that Christ may be your portions all.

My children, one or two words I have to say more: In the first place, be sure to carry well to your father; obey him, love him, follow his instructions and example, be ruled by him, take his advice, and have a care of grieving him. For I must testify the truth unto you, and I may call some of you to testify against yourselves, that your father hath been loving, kind, tender-hearted towards you all, both for your temporal and spiritual good.

You that are grown up cannot but see how careful your father is when he cometh home from his work to take the young ones up into his wearied arms; by his loving carriage and care towards those, you may behold as in a glass, his tender care and love to you every one as you grow up. I can safely say, that his love was so to you all, that I cannot say which is the child that he doth love the best. But further I may testify unto you, that this is not all that your father hath been doing for you, and that some of you may bear me witness that he hath given you many instructions, which hath been to the end your souls might enjoy happiness; he hath reproved you often for your evils, laying before you the ill event that would happen unto you if you did not walk in God's ways, and give your minds to do his will, to keep holy his Sabbaths, to attend unto hearing it preached with a desire to profit by it, and declaring unto you this way that he had experienced to get good by it; that was to pray unto the Lord for his blessing with and upon it, that it might soak into the heart and find entertainment there; and that you should meditate upon it; and he hath told you meditation was as the key to open the door to let you in, or that into your heart, that you might find the sweetness of God's word.

Furthermore, my children be encouraged in this work. Your father hath put up many prayers with ardent desires and tears to God on behalf of you all; which if you walk with God, I hope you will find gracious answers and showers of blessing from those bottled tears for you. O carry it well to your father, that he may yet be encouraged to be doing and pleading for your welfare. Consider that the Scriptures holdeth forth many blessings to such children that obey their parents in the Lord, but there are curses threatened to the disobedient.

My children, in your life and conversation live godly, walk soberly, modestly and innocently; be diligent, and be not hasty to follow new fashions, and the pride of life, that now too much abound. Let not pride betray the good of your immortal souls.

And if it please the Lord you live to match yourselves, and to make your choice: Be sure you choose such as first do seek the kingdom of heaven.

My first, as thy name is Joseph,
Labor so in knowledge to increase
As to be freed from the guilt of thy sins
And enjoy eternal peace.

Mary, labor to be so arrayed
With the hidden man of the heart
That with Mary thou mayest find
Thou hast chosen the better part.

William thou hadst that name
For thy grandfather's sake,
Labor so to tread in his steps
As over sin conquest thou mayest make.

Sarah, Sarah's daughter thou shalt be
If thou continuest in doing well.
Labor so in holiness among the daughters to walk
As that thou mayest excel.
So my children all, if I must be gone
I with tears bid you all--Farewell.
The Lord bless you all.


Now dear husband, I can do no less than to turn unto thee; and if I could I would naturally mourn with thee.

And in a poor requital of all thy kindness, if I could, I would speak some things of comfort to thee, whilst thou dost mourn for me. A tender hearted, affectionate, and entire loving husband thou hast been to me several ways. If I should but speak of what I have found as these outward things; I being but weakly natured in all my burthens thou has willingly with me sympathized and cheerfully thou hast helped me bear them, which although I was but weak-natured, and so the more unable to go through those troubles in my way, yet thou hast by thy cheerful love to me helped me forward in a cheerful frame of spirit.

But when I come to speak or consider in thy place, thy great pains and care for the good of my soul; this twenty years experience of thy love to me in this kind hath so enstamped it upon my mind, that I do think that there never was a man more truly kind to a woman. I desire forever to bless and praise the Lord, that in mercy to my soul, he by his providence ordered that I should live with thee in such a relation; therefore, dear husband, be comforted in this (although God by his providence break that relation between us, that he gave being to at first), that in thy place thou has been a man of knowledge to discharge to God and my soul that scripture commanded duty, which by the effects in me wrought through the grace of God, thou mayest behold with comfort our prayers not hindered, but a gracious answer from the Lord, which is of great price and reward. Although my being gone be thy loss, yet I trust, in and through Jesus Christ, it will be my gain.

Was it not to this end that the Lord was pleased to enable thee and give thee in heart to take (as an instrument) so much pains for his glory and my eternal good, and that it might be thy comfort. As all thy reading of scriptures and writing of sermons, and repeating of them over to me, that although I was necessarily often absent from the public worship of God, yet by thy pains and care to the good of my soul, it was brought home unto me. And blessed by the Lord who hath set home by the operation of his spirit, so many repeatals of precious sermons and prayers and tears for me and with me for my eternal good. And now let it be thy comfort under all; go on and persevere in believing in God and praying fervently unto God. Let not thy affectionate heart become hard, and thy tears dried away; and certainly the Lord will render a double portion of blessing upon thee and thine.

If thou couldst ask me a reason why I thus declare myself, I can answer no other but this, that I have had of late a strong persuasion upon my mind, that by sudden death I should be surprised, either at my travail, or soon after it; the Lord fit me for himself.

Although I could be very willing to enjoy thy company and my children longer, yet if it be the will of the Lord that I must not, I hope I can say cheerfully "The will of the Lord be done." This hath been often my desire and prayer.

Further, if thou couldst ask me why I did not discover some of these particulars of my mind to thee before, my answer is, because I knew that thou wert tender hearted towards me, and therefore I would not create thee needless trouble.

Oh, dear husband, dearest of all my bosom friends, if by sudden death I must part from thee, let not thy trouble and cares that are on thee make thee to turn aside from the right way:

O dear heart, if I must leave thee and thine here behind,
Of my natural affection here is my heart and hand.

Be courageous, and on the living God bear up thy heart in so great a breach as this.

SARAH GOODHUE

Dear husband, if by sudden death I am taken away from thee, there is unfolded among thy papers something that I have to say to thee and others.

July 14, 1681.

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You can read the “Valedictory of Sarah Goodhue Whipple” at the website http://www.whipple.org/docs/valedictory.html

Or in the book, History and Genealogy of the Goodhue Family in England and America , by Jonathan E. Goodhue, E. R. Andrews, Rochester, N.Y.: 1891 pp. 293-297.

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Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo
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2 comments:

  1. All I can say is "WOW" she sure had faith! And to know (apparently) that she was dying and to write such a letter...WOW...I cried all the way through

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  2. What a stunning letter! Nicely educated, indeed--she was brilliant.

    In reading this, I realize that I rarely think of my ancestors of that era in terms of their having emotions (especially the tender emotions!), other than to wonder whether they did, or to project my own assumptions, as in "it must have been so sad to lose so many babies" or whatever. Sarah's heartbreaking letter adds a whole new dimension to my perception of colonial life.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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