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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

Among the French and Indians

By John Williams (1664–1729)

[From The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion. 1707.]

THE NEXT morning the bell rang for mass. My master bid me go to church; I refused; he threatened me and went away in a rage. At noon the Jesuits sent for me to dine with them, for I ate at their table all the time I was at the fort; and after dinner they told me the Indians would not allow of any of their captives staying in their wigwams whilst they were at church, and were resolved by force and violence to bring us all to church if we would not go without. I told them it was highly unreasonable so to impose upon those who were of a contrary religion, and to force us to be present at such a service as we abhorred, was nothing becoming Christianity. They replied, they were savages, and would not hearken to reason, but would have their wills. Said also, if they were in New England themselves, they would go into their churches and see their ways of worship. I answered, the case was far different, for there was nothing (themselves being judges) as to matter or manner of worship but what was according to the word of God in our churches, and therefore it could not be an offence to any man’s conscience. But among them there were idolatrous superstitions in worship. They said, “Come and see, and offer us conviction of what is superstitious in worship.” To which I answered, that I was not to do evil that good might come of it, and that forcing in matters of religion was hateful. They answered, “The Indians are resolved to have it so, and they could not pacify them without my coming; and they would engage they should offer no force or violence to cause any compliance with their ceremonies.” The next mass, my master bid me go to church. I objected; he rose and forcibly pulled me by my head and shoulders out of the wigwam to the church, which was nigh the door. So I went in and sat down behind the door: and there saw a great confusion, instead of any Gospel order; for one of the Jesuits was at the altar saying mass in a tongue unknown to the savages, and the other, between the altar and the door, saying and singing prayers among the Indians at the same time; and many others were at the same time saying over their Pater-nosters and Ave Mary by tale from their chaplet, or beads on a string. At our going out we smiled at their devotion so managed, which was offensive to them, for they said we made a derision of their worship. When I was here a certain savagess died. One of the Jesuits told me she was a very holy woman, who had not committed one sin in twelve years. After a day or two the Jesuits asked me what I thought of their way now I saw it. I told them I thought Christ said of it, “Howbeit, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For, laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” They told me they were not the commandments of men, but apostolical traditions, of equal authority with the Holy Scriptures; and that after my death I would bewail my not praying to the Virgin Mary, and that I should find the want of her intercession for me with her Son; judging me to hell for asserting the Scriptures to be a perfect rule of faith; and said I abounded in my own sense, entertaining explications contrary to the sense of the Pope, regularly sitting with a General Council, explaining Scripture and making articles of faith. I told them it was my comfort that Christ was to be my judge, and not they, at the great day; and as for their censuring and judging me, I was not moved with it.

One day a certain savagess taken prisoner in Philip’s war, who had lived at Mr. Bulkley’s at Weathersfield, called Ruth, who could speak English very well and who had been often at my house, being now proselyted to the Romish faith, came into the wigwam, and with her an English maid who was taken in the last war. She was dressed in Indian apparel, and was unable to speak one word of English. She could neither tell her own name nor the name of the place from whence she was taken. These two talked in the Indian dialect with my master a long time; after which my master bade me cross myself; I told him I would not; he commanded me several times, and I as often refused. Ruth said, “Mr. Williams, you know the Scripture, and therefore act against your own light; for you know the Scripture saith, ‘Servants, obey your masters’; he is your master and you his servant.” I told her she was ignorant and knew not the meaning of the Scripture; telling her I was not to disobey the great God to obey my master, and that I was ready to die and suffer for God if called thereto. On which she talked with my master: I suppose she interpreted what I said. My master took hold of my hand to force me to cross myself, but I struggled with him, and would not suffer him to guide my hand. Upon this he pulled off a crucifix from off his own neck, and bade me kiss it; but I refused once and again. He told me he would dash out my brains with his hatchet if I refused. I told him I should sooner choose death than to sin against God. Then he ran and took up his hatchet and acted as though he would have dashed out my brains. Seeing I was not moved, he threw down his hatchet, saying he would bite off all my nails if I still refused. I gave him my hand and told him I was ready to suffer: he set his teeth in my thumb-nail and gave a gripe, and then said, “No good minister, no love God, as bad as the Devil,” and so left off. I have reason to bless God, who strengthened me to withstand. By this he was so discouraged, as never more to meddle with me about my religion. I asked leave of the Jesuits to pray with those English of our town that were with me; but they absolutely refused to give us any permission to pray one with another, and did what they could to prevent our having any discourse together.