Friday, June 17, 2011

A Winding Sheet Legacy

Mrs. Elizabeth Jocelin of Cheshire, England began a book of advice for the child in her womb. The book was found unfinished at her desk, titled The Mother's Legacie to her Unborn Infant, and published in 1624. In "The Approbation" of her book she was applauded as a "truly rich bequether taking care for providing an everlasting portion."

After six years of happy marriage, to the man she affectionately called her "good sweet heart," Elizabeth realized she was carrying the couple's first child.
"Accordingly when she first felt herself quick with child (as then traveling with death itself) she secretly took order for the buying a new winding sheet: thus preparing and consecrating herself to him, who rested in a new Sepulcher wherein was never man yet laid. And about that time undauntedly looking death in the face, privately in her Closet between God and her, she wrote these pious Meditations..."   - The Approbation
Elizabeth traveled with death, a normal course of pregnancy in the 17th century, until on October 12, 1622 she was made a mother. She saw her daughter baptized and gave thanks to God for her, then called for her winding sheet to be brought forth and laid upon her. After nine fevered days Elizabeth died, was wrapped in her winding sheet, buried in the dark earth.

These are her words, written by a young mother, a mother keeping a winding sheet in her room. A mother anticipating a lifetime with the little one stirring inside her, and yet with eyes focused on eternity giving godly advice to her child.
Having long, often and earnestly desired of God, that I might be a mother to one of his children, and the time now drawing on, which I hope he hath appointed to give thee unto me: It drew me into a consideration both wherefore I so earnestly desired thee, and (having found that the true cause was to make thee happy) how I might compasse this happiness for thee.
I knew it consisted not in honor, wealth, strength of body or friends (though all these are great blessings) therefore it had been a weak request to desire thee only for an heir to my fortune. No, I never aimed at so poor an inheritance for thee, as the whole world: Neither would I have begged of God so much pain as I know I must endure, to have only possessed thee with earthly riches, of which today thou may be a great man, tomorrow a poor beggar. Nor did an hope to dandle thy infancy move me to desire thee. For I know all the delight a Parent can take in a child is honey mingled with gall.
But the true reason that I have so often kneeled to God for thee, is, that thou mightiest be an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.

You can read the entirety of Elizabeth Jocelin's Book for yourself over here. I took the liberty of modernizing the spelling in the section I have quoted.

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