If you often have trouble sleeping, try reading Psalms 3 and 4.

David, running for his life and surrounded by Absalom’s rebellious army, wrote in Psalm 3:5, “I sleep and wake up refreshed because you, Lord, protect me.” Psalm 4:8 indicates the promises of God make good pillows for those who rest in him: “I can lie down and sleep soundly, because you, Lord, will keep me safe.”

But not during the preacher’s sermons.

At least, not in early American church history.

The Puritans of colonial New England appointed “tithingmen” to stroll among the pews on Sunday mornings, alert for anyone nodding off during the long, sometimes ponderous sermons. They carried long poles with feathers on one end and knobs or thorns on the other. Worshipers napped at their own peril, and the results were unpredictable—as noted by Obadiah Turner of Lynn, Massachusetts, in his journal for June 3, 1646:

Allen Bridges hath been chose to wake ye sleepers in meeting. And being much proud of his place, must needs have a fox tail fixed to ye end of a long staff wherewith he may brush ye faces of them that will have naps in time of discourse, likewise a sharp thorn whereby he may prick such as be most sound. On ye last Lord his day, as he strutted about ye meetinghouse, he did spy Mr. Tomlins sleeping with much comfort, his head kept steady by being in ye corner, and his hand grasping ye rail. And so spying, Allen did quickly thrust his staff behind Dame Ballard and give him a grievous prick upon ye hand. Whereupon Mr. Tomlins did spring up much above ye floor, and with terrible force strike his hand against ye wall; and also, to ye great wonder of all, exclaimed in a loud voice, curse ye wood-chuck, he dreaming so it seemed that a wood-chuck had seized and bit his hand. But on coming to know where he was, and ye great scandal he had committed, he seemed much abashed, but did not speak. And I think he will not soon again go to sleep in meeting.

There are some who ask, “Who will be good to us?” Let your kindness, Lord, shine brightly on us. You brought me more happiness Than a rich harvest of grain and grapes. I can lie down and sleep soundly Because you, Lord, will keep me safe. (Psalm 4:6-8)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 3.


1162Thomas à Becket is consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury. In this capacity, he troubled his former friend King Henry II and was assassinated by four of Henry’s knights on 29 December 1170.

1851Azariah Smith, missionary to Armenia and Turkey died. He was well-known for his successful treatment of cholera, and for scientific papers, he wrote on Turkey.

1905Hudson Taylor, English missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission died.

Accessed ChristianHistoryInstitute.org 02 June 2022.

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