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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Scandal in the Indian Israel

By John Eliot (1604–1690)

[A Late and Further Manifestation of the Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New-England. 1655.]

THERE fell out a very great discouragement a little before the time, which might have been a scandal unto them, and I doubt not but Satan intended it so; but the Lord improved it to stir up faith and Prayer, and so turned it another way. Thus it was: Three of the unsound sort of such as are among them that pray unto God, who are hemmed in by Relations, and other means, to do that which their hearts love not, and whose Vices Satan improveth to scandalize and reproach the better sort withal; while many, and some good people are too ready to say they are all alike. I say three of them had gotten several quarts of strong water (which sundry out of a greedy desire of a little gain, are too ready to sell unto them, to the offence and grief of the better sort of Indians, and of the godly English too), and with these Liquors, did not only make themselves drunk, but got a child of eleven years of age, the son of Toteswamp, whom his father had sent for a little corn and fish to that place near Watertowne, where they were. Unto this child they first gave two spoonfuls of Strongwater, which was more than his head could bear; and another of them put a bottle, or such like vessel to his mouth, and caused him to drink till he was very drunk; and then one of them domineered, and said, “Now we will see whether your father will punish us for drunkenness (for he is a Ruler among them) seeing you are drunk with us for company;” and in this case lay the child abroad all night. They also fought, and had been several times punished formerly for drunkenness.

When Toteswamp heard of this, it was a great shame and breaking of heart unto him, and he knew not what to do. The rest of the Rulers with him considered of the matter, they found a complication of many sins together.

1. The sin of Drunkenness, and that after many former punishments for the same.

2. A wilful making of the child drunk, and exposing him to danger also.

3. A degree of reproaching the Rulers.

4. Fighting.

Word was brought to me of it, a little before I took horse to go to Natick to keep the Sabbath with them, being about ten days before the appointed Meeting. The tidings sunk my spirit extremely, I did judge it to be the greatest frown of God that ever I met withal in the work, I could read nothing in it but displeasure, I began to doubt about our intended work: I knew not what to do, the blackness of the sins, and the persons reflected on, made my very heart fail me. For one of the offenders (though least in the offence) was he that hath been my interpreter, whom I have used in translating a good part of the Holy Scriptures; and in that respect I saw much of Satan’s venom, and in God I saw displeasure. For this and some other acts of Apostasy at this time, I had thoughts of casting him off from that work, yet now the Lord hath found a way to humble him. But his Apostasy at this time was a great trial, and I did lay him by for that day of our examination, I used another in his room. Thus Satan aimed at me in this their miscarrying; and Toteswamp is a principal man in the work, as you shall have occasion to see anon, God willing.

By some occasion our Ruling Elder and I being together, I opened the case unto him, and the Lord guided him to speak some gracious words of encouragement unto me, by which the Lord did relieve my spirit; and so I committed the matter and issue unto the Lord, to do what pleased him, and in so doing my soul was quiet in the Lord. I went on my journey being the sixth day of the week; when I came at Natick, the Rulers had then a Court about it. Soon after I came there, the Rulers came to me with a Question about this matter, they related the whole business unto me, with much trouble and grief.

Then Toteswamp spake to this purpose, “I am greatly grieved about these things, and now God trieth me whether I love Christ or my child best. They say they will try me; but I say God will try me. Christ saith, He that loveth father, or mother, or wife, or child, better than me, is not worthy of me. Christ saith, I must correct my child, if I should refuse to do that, I should not love Christ. God bid Abraham kill his son, Abraham loved God, and therefore he would have done it, had not God withheld him. God saith to me, only punish your child, and how can I love God, if I should refuse to do that.” These things he spake in more words, and much affection, and not with dry eyes. Nor could I refrain from tears to hear him. When it was said, The child was not so guilty of the sin, as those that made him drunk; he said, That he was guilty of sin, in that he feared not sin, and in that he did not believe his counsels that he had often given him, to take heed of evil company; but he had believed Satan and sinners more than him, therefore he needed to be punished. After other such like discourse, the Rulers left me, and went unto their business, which they were about before I came, which they did bring unto this conclusion and judgment, They judged the three men to sit in the stocks a good space of time, and thence to be brought to the whipping-post, and have each of them twenty lashes. The boy to be put in the stocks a little while, and the next day his father was to whip him in the school, before the children there; all which judgment was executed. When they came to be whipped, the Constable fetched them one after another to the tree (which they make use of instead of a post) where they all received their punishments: which done, the Rulers spake thus, one of them said, “The Punishments for sin are the Commandments of God, and the work of God, and his end was, to do them good, and bring them to repentance.” And upon that ground he did in more words exhort them to repentance, and amendment of life. When he had done, another spake unto them to this purpose, “You are taught in Catechism, that the wages of sin are all miseries and calamities in this life, and also death and eternal damnation in hell. Now you feel some smart as the fruit of your sin, and this is to bring you to repentance, that so you may escape the rest.” And in more words he exhorted them to repentance. When he had done, another spake to this purpose, “Hear all ye people” (turning himself to the people who stood round about, I think not less than two hundred, small and great) “this is the Commandment of the Lord, that thus it should be done unto sinners; and therefore let all take warning by this, that you commit not such sins, lest you incur these Punishments.” And with more words he exhorted the people. Others of the Rulers spake also, but some things spoken I understood not, and some things slipped from me. But these which I have related remained with me.

When I returned to Roxbury, I related these things to our Elder, to whom I had before related the sin, and my grief: who was much affected to hear it, and magnified God. He said also, That their sin was but a transient act, which had no rule, and would vanish. But these judgments were an ordinance of God, and would remain, and do more good every way, than their sin could do hurt, telling me what cause I had to be thankful for such an issue. Which I therefore relate, because the Lord did speak to my heart, in this exigent, by his words.