The Memoir of Jemima Wilkinson

On Thursday evening, about the latter end of October 1776, two women of the neighborhood came to watch with Jemima, who were far from being superstitious, and who were not very likely to be disturbed by those tales of wonder and mystery with which she had frightened several of her nurses of less courage and fortitude. As soon as the family had retired to rest, and the house became still she began to entertain those attendants with the old story of her visitations and visions, and the sights, and forms, and noises, which she continually saw and heard. But these ladies were not to be intimidated, or imposed upon by such vagrant assertions; and when she requested them to observe the white figures and celestial forms which she pretended to point out, they denied that any thing of the kind was apparent, and chided her folly; but Jemima insisted the more obstinately in proportion to their incredulity, and bade them take notice of the motion of her bed curtains, asserting at the same time, that it was occasioned by the presence of the Lord, who was then visiting and ministering unto her. This tremulous motion of her curtains was produced as her attendants afterwards declared, by Jemima, in pressing her feet against the wall at the foot of her bed. She also informed them that a great change in her state and condition was soon to take place, and that she felt conscious she was about to be called to act some great and useful part in this wicked world, for the benefit of mankind. In this manner she vexed her attendants and fatigued herself, until a little past eleven o’clock, when she fell into a light slumber, and continued in that situation for nearly an hour. Her nurse, during this interval of quiet, went several times to her bed side, and observed her to be pale and motionless, and apparently lifeless; but upon a close examination found her features unchanged, her pulse regular, and her respiration so soft and silent as almost to elude the closest scrutiny. Immediately after the clock struck twelve, she raised herself up in bed, and appeared as if suddenly awakened from a refreshing sleep. Her attendants inquired of her what she wanted, when to their utter astonishment, she, in an authoritative tone, and a voice much stronger than usual, demanded her clothes; one of them desired her to lie down and compose herself to rest, but she still persisted in her demand with increased firmness and austerity, declaring that she had passed the gates of death, and was now risen from the dead. Her father, who had been sleeping in an adjoining room, being awakened by their loud talk, rose and came to the door, and on being informed of her strange whims, endeavored to quiet her clamor and sooth her to repose, but she disdainfully rejected his kind attentions, as an impertinent interference, and told him she owed obedience to the higher powers only. Her apparel was procured, and she immediately got up and dressed herself, and from that time forward went about in apparently as good health as she ahd usually enjoyed, though somewhat feeble and emaciated by her long confinement.

Jemima did not go abroad until the Sabbath following; in the meanwhile many of her neighbors and acquaintance called to see her, having understood that she had recovered; but she repelled, with the utmost promptitude their congratulations on her recovery, and denied that it was not Jemima to whom they were speaking, and with affected solemnity informed them that the body of Jemima Wilkinson had been dead, that her soul was then in heaven, and that the tabernacle which Jemima had left behind was re-animated by the power and spirit of Jesus Christ, who was to remain on earth and reign a thousand years, that it was the eleventh hour, and the last call of mercy that would ever be made to the human race; that an “inquiry was made in Heaven saying, ‘Who will  go and Preach to a dying World?’ and she answered, ‘Here I am, send me,’ and that she thereupon immediately left the realms o flight and glory, and the company of the heavenly host, who are continually worshipping God—in order to pass through many trials and sufferings  for the happiness of mankind.”

 

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On Sabbath day after Jemima Wilkinson rose from the—bed, she made her appearance at the public meeting in the neighborhood; she was inhabited in plain and simple attire, but with the utmost neatness; her countenance was pale and languid, which, with a good form and graceful movement, gave her an interesting appearance. It being remarkable fine weather, people attended meeting from a considerable distance, so that there was an unusually large audience. Immediately after the morning service was ended, and while the congregation were waiting about the meeting house, as was customary during the intermission, Jemima walked to a shade tree at a little distance, where as she no doubt expected and wished, a considerable number immediately followed her; she then began without any ceremony to address them. This drew others along, and in a few minutes almost the whole congregation were gathered about her. This crafty actress now summoned all her powers to please her audience and engage their attention, and although not accustomed to speak in public, she continued her discourse for nearly half an hour with considerable fluency, and without discovering any signs of embarrassment. Her feeble voice, her graceful gestures, her languid countenance, her persuasive language, and the soft expression of her fine eyes, together with her recent extraordinary confinement, and the novelty of the scene before them, produced a great effect upon her hearers. This address was rather in the style of a moral lecture than a sermon. She descanted upon the beauty of virtue and morality, of the heinousness of sin, and the necessary of an amendment of life, and a faithful discharge of every duty; and evinced a knowledge of the scriptures, and an acquaintance with religious subjects generally, which astonished all who heard her. She had spent the principal part of her time for about a year with her Bible, and other religious books, and her memory was so retentive that she could repeat a greater portion of what she had read than almost any other person of her time.

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