"A Sorrowful Estate"
GREETED by a virgin forest and dense underbrush, the Puritan colonists were awed by the tasks awaiting them in America. Their background provided scant preparation for the difficulties of settling the untamed continent, and only a painful process of trial and error enabled the Puritans to adjust to life in the wilderness. William Hubbard expressed sympathy for the settlers who first confronted the rigors of American life and who, "for want of experience and judgment," exposed themselves to the hazards of an unknown wilderness. "These poor people," he stated, "met with much hardship . . . in their first settlement, before they were well acquainted with the state of new Plantations, and nature of the climate." The Puritans explained their unexpected difficulties with reference to the Biblical wilderness wherein the Lord tempted His people to test their faith. Although Thomas Shepard praised the peacefulness of New England, he acknowledged that the land remained "a place of tryall." For, as his eldest son, Thomas Shepard, Jr., declared, "In a wilderness there is not only want of many comforts, but there is a danger as to many positive evils." Shortly after the arrival of the Winthrop fleet in the summer of 1630, Francis Higginson preached his final sermon from Matthew 11:7: "What went ye out into the wilderness to see"? With his waning strength, he reminded the peo-