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The First Indian Church of America.
(Continued from page 21.)
“ But Mr. Eliotis labours were not confined to one or two places. He travelled into all parts of the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies, even as far as Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, offering to preach to as many of the sachems and their subjects as would hear him. Having entered upon the teaching of these poor creatures, it is incredible,' says Mather, how much time, toil, and hardship he underwent in the prosecution of this undertaking; how many weary days and nights rolled over him; how many tiresome journeys he endured; and how many terrible dangers he had experience of. If you briefly would know what he felt, and what carried him through all, take it in his own words in a letter to the honourable Mr. Winslow; “ I have not been dry night nor day, from the third day of the week unto the sixth, but so travelled, and at night pull off my boots, wring my stockings, and on with them again, and so continue. But God steps in and helps. I have considered the word of God, in 2 Tim. ii. 3. En. dure hardships as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.'
“ He usually went once a-fortnight on his evangelical mission, though he knew that several of the Indian princes and priests had often plotted his destruction, and would certainly have put him to the most tormenting death, if they had not been awed by the power and strength of the English colonies. They looked upon Mr. Eliot as a man who designed to overturn their civil as well as religious policy. The prince was jealous of his prerogative, and the priest of his gain, and so both joined together to binder the progress
of the new doctrines. Innumerable were the affronts that he met with in his missionary work. Sometimes the sachems would thrust him out from among them, telling him, that if he came again, it should be at his peril. But his usual reply was, “I am about the work of the great God, and my God is with me; so that I fear neither you nor all the sachems in the country. I'll go on, and
dare!' « Notwithstanding all these discouragements, the Christian religion began to obtain in several parts of the country. The new converts were distinguished by the name of the Praying Indians, who, as soon as they had renounced their old religion, abandoned their wild and barbarous way of living. A considerable body of them combined together in the year 1651, and built a town by the side of Charles' river, which they called Natick. It consists of three long streets, two on this side the river, and one on that, with house-lots to every family. There is one large house built after the English manner. The lower room is a large hall
, which serves for a meeting-house on the Lord's day, and a school-house on the week-days. There is a large canopy of matts raised upon poles for Mr. Eliot and his company; and other sort of canopies for themselves and other bearers to sit under, the men and women being placed apart. The upper room is a kind of wardrobe, where the Indians bang up their skins, and other things of value. In a corner of this room Mr. Eliot has an apartment partitioned off, with a bed and bedstead in it. There is likewise a handsome large fort, of a round figure, palisadoed with trees, and a foot-bridge over the river, in form of an arch, the foundation of which is secured with stone, with several little houses after the English fashion.'
“ Eliot thus describes the building of the first Indian Church at Natick. We must of necessity have a house to lodge and meet in, and wherein to lay our provisions and clothes, which cannot be in wigwams. I set the Indians, therefore, to fell and square timber; and when it was ready, I went and many of them with me, and on their shoulders, carried all the timber together.'
“ The new converts continued several years under the character of catechumens, all which time they were visited by Mr. Eliot or some other divine every week. At length the first Indian church was formed at Natick, in the year 1660. • From this church and town of Natick,' says Gookin, “ bave issued forth, as from a seminary of virtue and piety, divers teachers that are employed in several new praying towns.'
“ But Mr. Eliot's care of the new converts was not confined to his own personal instruction. He therefore took an ingenious Indian, named Monequessun, into his house; and having taught him to read and write, made him schoolmaster at Natick. Some of the Indians who had a genius for learning, were admitted into Harvard College, and had a liberal education bestowed upon them, whereby their congregations were quickly furnished with ministers of their own.
“ It is no wonder after all this, that Mr. Eliot was in high esteem among the new converts; that they consulted him as their oracle in all difficult cases; that they loved him as their very lives, and would run all hazards to serve bim. He really deserved well of them, for no man ever took such true pains in the missionary work as himself: his name therefore will be mentioned with honour, as long as there is a Christian Indian in the world.
“Eliot certainly was the most successful missionary that ever preached the gospel to the Indians. His prudence and zeal, his patience, resolution, activity, and knowledge of mankind, were equally conspicuous. Many have done worthily in this benevolent work; but, if we unite an apt method of applying the truths of Christianity to the minds of the heathen, with the success of his labours, he far excelled them all. He likewise claims a very peculiar character, as being the first Protestant minister who diffused the beams of evangelical truth among the wild nations of this benigbted part of the globe. The tribes that roamed through the deserts became dear to him, like his own people, and he often forsook the charms of civilized and cultivated society, to reside with men, who were not only unacquainted with every thing called urbanity, but who wanted comfortable means of subsistence; with whom he would associate days and weeks, to instruct them in divine things, and also acquaint them how they could improve their condition upon the earth. He partook with them their hard fare, with locks wet with the dews of the night, and exposed to attacks from the beasts of the forest.
“We come now to speak of that great and laborious undertaking, his translation of the whole Bible into the Indian language. The New Testament was published Sept. 5, 1661, and dedicated to Charles II. The Old Testament was published in 1663. A second edition of the New Testament appeared in 1680, and of the Old in 1685.
“ Behold, ye Americans,' exclaims Cotton Mather, the greatest honour that ever you were partakers of! This Bible was printed here at our Cambridge; and it is the only Bible that ever was printed in all America, from the very
foundation of the world. The whole translation be writ with but one pen-which pen, bad it not been lost, would have certainly deserved a richer case than was bestowed
with which Holland writ his translation of Plutarch. The Bible being justly made the leader of all the rest, a little Indian library quickly followed; for, besides Primers and Grammars, and some other such composures, we had the · Practice of Piety,' in the Indian tongue, and the Reverend Richard Baxter's • Call to the Unconverted.' He also translated some of Mr. Shepard's composures; and such catechisms likewise, as there was occasion for. It cannot but be hoped, that some fish were to be made alive, since the waters of the sanctuary thus came unto them.'
upon that pen
“ The completion of his translation of the Bible, was a subject of deep interest to our venerable Evangelist, as may be seen from the following extracts from his letters to the celebrated Robert Boyle, Governor of the Corporation in England, for propagating the gospel among the Indians.
“Our praying Indians are numerous; thousands of souls beg, cry, entreat for Bibles. The great work that I travel about, is the printing of the Old Testament, that they may have the whole Bible. I desire to see it done before I die, and I am so deep in years, that I cannot expect to live long. I have added some part of my salary to keep up the work. My age makes me importunate. I shall depart joyfully, may I but leave the Bible among them. I am deep in years, and sundry say, if I do not procure it printed while I live, it is not within the prospect of human reason, whether ever, or when, or how, it
be accomplished. The work goeth on, I praise God.— The Bible is come forth, many bundreds bound up, and dispensed to the Indians. I am old, ready to be gone, and desire to leave as many
books as I can.'
(To be Concluded in our next.)
Hymn Composed by Mr. Josiah Biglow, of Natick, and sung at the
dedication of the Church, November 20, 1828.
Thou Mighty One! whose boundless sway
Our fathers, on this ballow'd ground,
To the Rev. Gavin Struthers,
Minister of the Relief Chapel, Anderston, Glasgow. SIR,
You will be surprised, probably, at receiving a letter from me. You cannot, however, be more surprised than I was, on learning of your refusal to meet me at a funeral. I would even yet indulge the hope, that the circumstances may have been mis-stated to me; but I am afraid not. The facts of the case are, I believe, as follows:-A member of my congregation, of industrious habits and of unblemished character, after a long illness, during which I often visited him, and had occasion to see and to admire the calm and Christian resignation with which he bore his sufferings, was called away in the hope of a better world, through the death and resurrection of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His widow, who is, or was, I understand, a member of your congregation, or, at any rate, professing similar religious opinions with yourself, invited you to attend and take part in the funeral. On the letter being left at your house, you asked the man who carried it, if Mr. Harris had visited Mr.Gillies during his sickness? The reply was, several times. You then inquired, if Mr. Harris would be at the funeral? The answer was in the affirmative. You then said, " I cannot attend, I cannot say Amen to his prayers.” The man suggested