The writing prompt for this week is “Check it Out!” There are a few ways to take this, as in sharing something cool or neat, or something to do with libraries and books. I was inspired to write about my ancestor Rev. Thomas Shepard. His works are available at several brick-and-mortar public libraries and also in university libraries including Harvard University, due to my ancestor’s close historical connections with this university and with Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thanks to Google Books, the online library of today, and the Internet Archive, I will be able to share links to his works that you can read online for free.
The photo to the left of my ancestor is from a t-shirt available with his image from mediagratiae from their Puritan Collection! There does survive a sketch of my ancestor done in his lifetime, and the image is based on that sketch. I thought that was kind of cool, so check that out too! 😎
I have written about my ancestor in a prior blog entry I wrote last August in celebration of the 372nd anniversary of the death of my quite interesting and significant ancestor Rev. Thomas Shepard. That entry includes detailed biographical information about him, his life in England and America, his marriages, his descendants (including some famous ones!), and his religious and spiritual journey. To learn more about Rev. Thomas Shepard please read My Ancestor Rev. Thomas Shepard, an English and American Puritan Minister and Significant Figure in Early Colonial New England.
I often wonder what my ancestor would think of me, his eighth-great granddaughter. A cradle Roman Catholic who is also a student at Phillips Theological Seminary. If you read above what the Puritans believed, then no doubt my ancestor would have thought me a Papist in need of saving! Would he find my theological writings fascinating and sound? Would he even entertain reading my writings? I am guessing not. For not everyone had rights in Colonial New England. It’s no secret that the villages and towns were run by men and women had little rights if any at all. They weren’t permitted to attend town meetings and didn’t have any power in church decisions. The minister and church supported this concept as well, claiming that the soul consisted of two halves – an immortal half, which was the ‘masculine’ half, and the mortal half, which was the ‘feminine’ half. This belief extended even to childbirth, where it was believed that a woman would have a nice rosy complexion should she be pregnant with a boy, and a pale complexion should she be having a girl. (3) Just some things to ponder. 😮 But I would like to think I inherited my intellect and passion for learning from him and many other ancestors including those not as well known that were also ministers, as well as teachers, school principals, coopers, weavers, farmers, merchants, auctioneers, tailors, innkeepers (tavern keepers), vinedressers, blacksmiths, cobblers, milliners, dressmakers, and much more.
The first of his writings that I want to share that is available at Google Books is The Works of Thomas Shepard, First Pastor of The First Church, Cambridge, Mass. with a Memoir of his Life and Character. Published in 1853 from a copy at the Harvard College Library. Many of the works included are also available for stand-alone reading including The Sincere Convert.
The Works of Thomas Shepard, First Pastor of The First Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts “has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.” (1) This work is in the public domain in the United States of America.
The next work I want to share is The Parable of the Ten Virgins by Thomas Shepard. It is not found in The Works of Thomas Shepard sited above. The entire book can be found to read online via the Internet Archive: The Parable of the Ten Virgins by Thomas Shepard. This digital copy was sponsored by the Boston Public Library.
Partial review of the book:
Jesus Christ relentlessly divides the world into two. There are houses built on a rock, and on sand. There are sheep, and there are goats. There is wheat and there are tares. There are trees that bear fruit, and there are thorns and thistles. And, according to Jesus in Matthew chapter 25, there are wise virgins, and there are foolish virgins; and the one you are making all the difference here now, and in eternity.
At first, the size of the book and the language both make it appear that reading it may seem like a burdensome task, but I would like to propose that it shouldn’t be. Dr. John Gerstner in the foreword says, “Don’t read it. Study it, a few pages at a time; decipher it… It may not save you, but it will leave you in no doubt if you are saved, and even less if you are not!” We ought not try to just read through The Parable of The Ten Virgins. When your motive is to finish the book rather than understand it—it does become burdensome. But if your motive is to learn from the faithful expositions of God’s Word, and if your motive is to have assurance about the things of God, and if your motive is to fight to enjoy Christ here and to be prepared in the hereafter then this book is not a burden; it’s a blessing.
The book is a collection of Shepard’s sermon notes on the Parable of The Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13. He takes you verses by verse, sentence by sentence, and word by word. Though the work is a little over six-hundred pages, Shepard does not repeat himself. The points of doctrine always seem reasonable, and are never forced. It is never boring, especially when you realize his sermons are directed to you.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins is a parable that covers much of the Christian life. This is precisely the reason why Shepard has written so much concerning it. It affects how we view the church, sin, wasting our time, and assurance of salvation. It affects how we view the most important of things. (2) – Taken from a review of the book by Chadd Sheffield.
- Books A Million.com – The Works of Thomas-Shepard
- Book Review: Parable of the Ten Virgins–Thomas Shepard by Chadd Sheffield. WordPress.com
- This Is What It Was Like to Be a Puritan During Colonial Times in New England – During a time when the separation of church and state was far from anyone’s minds, Puritan life was physically healthier but mentally taxing. By Katie Machado. 6 October 2020.
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