Over at The Beehive, the blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Erin Weinman introduces us to the diary of Elizabeth Craft White. From December 27, 1770 to January 23, 1771 White wrote about her spiritual life in the wake of her husband’s death. This looks like a wonderful source for those working in 18th-century lived religion.
Here is a taste of Weinman’s piece:
The diary is heartbreaking, but Elizabeth White’s thoughts were not uncommon during a period in which mourning became intertwined with religious culture. In early Massachusetts, it wasn’t uncommon for people to use the death of a loved one as a time to reflect upon their own souls and ask God to forgive their sins, faced with the reality that their own end could be near. Ministers often encouraged their parishioners to keep diaries to embellish their faith in Heaven, viewing this as another way to become closer to God and to understand what death meant. Sermons often revolved around the topic of dying, such as Timothy Edwards’ All the living must surely die, and go to judgement.
Man is born to trouble as the Sparks fly upward tears sorrow & Death is the Portion of every person that is Born into the world. I have been born, most certainly & it is as certain that I must die & I know not how soon. Die I must! & die I shall! (Elizabeth White, January 18, 1771).
Read the entire piece here.