The sovereignty and goodness of GOD, together with the faithfulness of his promises displayed, being a narrative of the captivity and restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, commended by her, to all that desires to know the Lord’s doings to, and dealings with her. Especially to her dear children and relations.
This is the opening statement of an incredible true tale. Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians during King Phillip’s War.
“On the tenth of February 1675, came the Indians with great numbers upon Lancaster: their first coming was about sunrising; hearing the noise of some guns, we looked out; several houses were burning, and the smoke ascending to heaven. There were five persons taken in one house; the father, and the mother and a sucking child, they knocked on the head; the other two they took and carried away alive. There were two others, who being out of their garrison upon some occasion were set upon; one was knocked on the head, the other escaped; another there was who running along was shot and wounded, and fell down; he begged of them his life, promising them money (as they told me) but they would not hearken to him but knocked him in head, and stripped him naked, and split open his bowels. Another, seeing many of the Indians about his barn, ventured and went out, but was quickly shot down. There were three others belonging to the same garrison who were killed; the Indians getting up upon the roof of the barn, had advantage to shoot down upon them over their fortification. Thus these murderous wretches went on, burning, and destroying before them. At length they came and beset our own house, and quickly it was the dolefulest day that ever mine eyes saw.”
Of thirty-seven persons who were in this one house, none escaped either present death, or a bitter captivity, save only one, who might say as he, “And I only am escaped alone to tell the News” (Job 1.15).
The capture, torture, and slaughter of the colonists was brutal. Mary was witness to all of this as she was taken captive, along with her 6 year old daughter. Her husband was away, but others in her extended family were either killed or captured. Mary suffered starvation and other brutal treatment during her 11 week captivity before she was rescued and reunited with her husband. She was persuaded by surviving family members to write down her story and publish for others to read.
Her narrative is a mixture of suffering and praise. I recently read this aloud to my children as part of our study of the 1600s. While the true story is exciting and terrifying, the most amazing part of it is Mary’s consistent trust in the sovereign will of God. I’d like to share a few examples here, but I urge you to read the entire story for yourself. It’s a wonderful part of history, and an incredible story of faith.
In the beginning, Mary describes the scene when the Indians attacked their family compound. She noted that, though they had six large dogs who would normally alert them to the coming of Indians, on this day the dogs remained silent through the entire event. Her response:
The Lord hereby would make us the more acknowledge His hand, and to see that our help is always in Him.
Her small daughter was wounded in the attack, and she was never given proper care, food, or covering.
Then they set me upon a horse with my wounded child in my lap, and there being no furniture upon the horse’s back, as we were going down a steep hill we both fell over the horse’s head, at which they, like inhumane creatures, laughed, and rejoiced to see it, though I thought we should there have ended our days, as overcome with so many difficulties. But the Lord renewed my strength still, and carried me along, that I might see more of His power; yea, so much that I could never have thought of, had I not experienced it.
In the midst of her misery, she always turns her thoughts to the Lord:
This day in the afternoon, about an hour by sun, we came to the place where they intended, viz. an Indian town, called Wenimesset, northward of Quabaug. When we were come, Oh the number of pagans (now merciless enemies) that there came about me, that I may say as David, “I had fainted, unless I had believed, etc” (Psalm 27.13). The next day was the Sabbath. I then remembered how careless I had been of God’s holy time; how many Sabbaths I had lost and misspent, and how evilly I had walked in God’s sight; which lay so close unto my spirit, that it was easy for me to see how righteous it was with God to cut off the thread of my life and cast me out of His presence forever. Yet the Lord still showed mercy to me, and upheld me; and as He wounded me with one hand, so he healed me with the other.
Nine days into her captivity, her poor daughter died in her arms. Her 10 year old daughter was also captive in a nearby Indian camp.
I had one child dead, another in the wilderness, I knew not where, the third they would not let me come near to: “Me (as he said) have ye bereaved of my Children, Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin also, all these things are against me.” I could not sit still in this condition, but kept walking from one place to another. And as I was going along, my heart was even overwhelmed with the thoughts of my condition, and that I should have children, and a nation which I knew not, ruled over them. Whereupon I earnestly entreated the Lord, that He would consider my low estate, and show me a token for good, and if it were His blessed will, some sign and hope of some relief. And indeed quickly the Lord answered, in some measure, my poor prayers; for as I was going up and down mourning and lamenting my condition, my son came to me, and asked me how I did.
She was eventually given a Bible, and despite the fact that she had memorized much of it, she was thrilled to read in it daily for comfort and encouragement. The Indians moved moved from one location to the next over many weeks. Each day of her captivity sounds like the book of Job:
And now I must part with that little company I had. Here I parted from my daughter Mary (whom I never saw again till I saw her in Dorchester, returned from captivity), and from four little cousins and neighbors, some of which I never saw afterward: the Lord only knows the end of them…Heart-aching thoughts here I had about my poor children, who were scattered up and down among the wild beasts of the forest. My head was light and dizzy (either through hunger or hard lodging, or trouble or all together), my knees feeble, my body raw by sitting double night and day, that I cannot express to man the affliction that lay upon my spirit, but the Lord helped me at that time to express it to Himself. I opened my Bible to read, and the Lord brought that precious Scripture to me. “Thus saith the Lord, refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall be rewarded, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy” (Jeremiah 31.16). This was a sweet cordial to me when I was ready to faint; many and many a time have I sat down and wept sweetly over this Scripture.
Mary writes like this continually. She was barely given enough food, water, or shelter for these many weeks. She was mistreated by her captors. She had no idea what the future held, but her comfort was in her faith in God.
As I sat amongst them, musing of things past, my son Joseph unexpectedly came to me. We asked of each other’s welfare, bemoaning our doleful condition, and the change that had come upon us. We had husband and father, and children, and sisters, and friends, and relations, and house, and home, and many comforts of this life: but now we may say, as Job, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: the Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I asked him whether he would read. He told me he earnestly desired it, I gave him my Bible, and he lighted upon that comfortable Scripture “I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord: the Lord hath chastened me sore yet he hath not given me over to death” (Psalm 118.17–18). “Look here, mother,” says he, “did you read this?” And here I may take occasion to mention one principal ground of my setting forth these lines: even as the psalmist says, to declare the works of the Lord, and His wonderful power in carrying us along, preserving us in the wilderness, while under the enemy’s hand, and returning of us in safety again. And His goodness in bringing to my hand so many comfortable and suitable scriptures in my distress.
Although this story has great historic value to Americans, it is also a beautiful illustration of the strong, Godly women that opened the wilderness and founded this nation. We read all the time about the great men, both in their physical labors and their philosophical achievements, but the women they married and who raised their children showed a strength and determination we see too little of today.
As I read this story aloud to my children, we not only shuddered at the horrific treatment of the captives, but we were constantly amazed at Mary’s ability to see God in every part of her distress (both the good and the bad). And when she was mercifully rescued and reunited with her husband, she was able to simultaneously praise God while mourning her children.
I think every Christian woman should have this in her library. The lesson in Mary’s story is full of more wisdom than most best-selling Christian women’s books on the market today. Further, it should be read to our children. Today’s children desperately need to read about real heroes, and Mary Rowlandson fits that bill perfectly.
In the 21st century world of “strong women,” we read daily about the need for self love and self care. We are told we deserve “me time” and “weekly date nights.” We are horrified at the faux-persecution of American Christians in the news. A Starbucks latte that is not at the precise temperature ruins our day.
Oh, how far we have come from these hardy women of the past. If we were to face such horrific nightmares, how in the world would we survive? Would we be able to glorify God in our misery? Or would we wonder where the God of love and comfort has disappeared to? It is in such times that we truly learn the value of a faith in God and the truth of scripture. It is imperative that in our time of ease, we study the scriptures and teach them to our children. I pray we never have to face such torment as Mary Rowlandson, but we do not know the future.
This book is a great part of any American history library and any Christian library. Visit my Knowledge Keepers Bookstore to get a copy for your family library. We read it as part of our 17th Century World History lessons.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these:
- The Christianity of George Washington
- The History of the Declaration of Independence
- An 1848 High School Lesson from the McGuffey Reader
While you’re here, visit my Knowledge Keepers Bookstore! In it you’ll find the books and the stories that have shaped this great country, the books that influenced our founders and our ancestors, the books that Americans have mostly ignored or never heard of, but the good books that we should all read and protect. Join me in saving Western Civilization, one book at a time!
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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