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Bles’t be thy name, who did’st restore

To health my daughter dear

When death did seem ev’n to approach,

And life was ended near.

Grant she remember what thou’st done,

And celebrate thy praise;

And let her conversation[1] say

She loves thee all thy days.

The poem indicates that it was written in response to Anne’s daughter Hannah Wiggin (married, Andrews Wiggin on June 14, 1659) recovery from a “dangerous fever”.

Two observations: 1) It is remarkable to consider what would be the manner of life – how one would think and feel about life – when every fever could potentially mean the end of one’s life. I remember learning the prayer as a child, “Now I lay be down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake ….” Living where and when I do, I do not consciously experience the precarious nature of life as a regular fact. The danger of life comes rarely – either suddenl , as an accident; or, slowly, as in a disease (and that usually when one is old).

I expect my child to recover from a fever – the surprise would be getting worse, not getting better. While I think that death is evil and wrong and unnatural (albeit common: I mean that it is unnatural, in that death and its companion sin are intruders into nature; Rom. 5:12), I wonder if there is a derivative benefit which is lost by pushing off the reality of death so brilliantly (as we have done in Western culture – we even have deaths which we call good such as the death of the old, the sick & the extremely small and vulnerable; that is a curious case of propaganda). To know consciously that life is precarious may make one take life as even more dear; a greater cause for reflection and celebration.

It certainly can make concern about God, one’s soul, eternity seem morbid or at least excessive. The trouble in one’s marriage is not the symptom of a profound spiritual disease – rather it is merely a matter of technique and self-esteem. The damage of sin is not that it is a creeping effect of death, but rather is merely a matter of psychological effects and medical manipulation.

2) Note the progress of Bradstreet’s prayer: It moves from praise to petition. She first praises God for the restoration of her daughter’s life. She then prays that such restoration of body work a spur to her daughter’s own love and worship.

Bradstreet’s prayer is wholly biblical in its form and intention: The psalms give the patter of recounting and proclaiming God’s work as a matter of praise.

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 4 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! 5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, Psalm 105:1–5 (ESV)

It must be understand that this pattern of proclamation is not merely a matter of grand historical events (such as Psalm 105), but it is a matter of personal , private good:

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1–5 (ESV)

Thus, this poem presents a pattern of true Christian devotion and piety. The most common of personal events, here a daughter’s recovery from fever, become the basis meditation, prayer, praise, devotion.

This model of transformative praise is an example of Lloyd-Jones’ famous dictum that a principle trouble of the human heart is that we listen to ourselves too much – and do not preach the Gospel to our own souls. The good doctor was not stating anything new, but rather what Christians have always known to be true.

[1] Conversation here means, “manner of life” – not merely speech. E.g., “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel Christ” (Phil. 1:27, KJV). The ESV uses the phrase “manner of life” rather than “conversation”.