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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

On Admonishing the Indians

By John Eliot (1604–1690)

[Born in Essex, England, 1604. Died at Roxbury, Mass., 1690. A Letter to Thomas Shepard, published in “The Clear Sun-shine of the Gospel Breaking Forth Upon the Indians.” 1648.]

IN my exercise among them (as you know) we attend four things, besides prayer unto God for his presence and blessing upon all we do.

First, I catechise the children and youth; wherein some are very ready and expert; they can readily say all the Commandments, so far as I have communicated them, and all other principles about the creation, the fall, the redemption by Christ, etc., wherein also the aged people are pretty expert, by the frequent repetition thereof to the children, and are able to teach it to their children at home, and do so.

Secondly, I preach unto them out of some texts of Scripture, wherein I study all plainness and brevity, unto which many are very attentive.

Thirdly, if there be any occasion, we in the next place go to admonition and censure; unto which they submit themselves reverently, and obediently, and some of them penitently confessing their sins with much plainness, and without shiftings and excuses. I will instance in two or three particulars; this was one case, a man named Wampoowas, being in a passion upon some light occasion, did beat his wife, which was a very great offence among them now (though in former times it was very usual) and they had made a Law against it, and set a fine upon it; whereupon he was publicly brought forth before the Assembly, which was great that day, for our Governor and many other English were then present. The man wholly condemned himself without any excuse: and when he was asked what provocation his wife gave him, he did not in the least measure blame her but himself, and when the quality of the sin was opened, that it was cruelty to his own body, and against God’s Commandment, and that passion was a sin, and much aggravated by such effects, yet God was ready to pardon it in Christ, etc., he turned his face to the wall and wept, though with modest endeavor to hide it; and such was the modest, penitent, and melting behavior of the man, that it much affected all to see it in a Barbarian, and all did forgive him, only this remained, that they executed their Law notwithstanding his repentance, and required his fine, to which he willingly submitted, and paid it.

Another case of admonition was this, Cutshamaquin the Sachem having a son of about fourteen or fifteen years old, he had been drunk, and had behaved himself disobediently and rebelliously against his father and mother, for which sin they did blame him, but he despised their admonition. And before I knew of it, I did observe when I catechised him, when he should say the fifth Commandment, he did not freely say, “Honor thy father,” but wholly left out “mother,” and so he did the Lecture day before, but when this sin of his was produced, he was called forth before the Assembly, and he confessed that what was said against him was true, but he fell to accuse his father of sundry evils, as that he would have killed him in his anger, and that he forced him to drink Sack, and I know not what else: which behavior we greatly disliked, showed him the evil of it, and Mr. Wilson being present labored much with him, for he understood the English, but all in vain, his heart was hard and hopeless for that time. Therefore using due loving persuasions, we did sharply admonish him of his sin, and required him to answer further the next Lecture day, and so left him; and so stout he was, that when his father offered to pay his fine of ten shillings for his drunkenness according to their Law, he would not accept it at his hand. When the next day was come, and other exercises finished, I called him forth, and he willingly came, but still in the same mind as before. Then we turned to his father, and exhorted him to remove that stumbling-block out of his son’s way, by confessing his own sins whereby he had given occasion of hardness of heart to his son; which thing was not sudden to him, for I had formerly in private prepared him thereunto, and he was very willing to hearken to that counsel, because his conscience told him he was blameworthy; and accordingly he did, he confessed his main and principal evils of his own accord: and upon this advantage I took occasion to put him upon confession of sundry other vices which I knew he had in former times been guilty of, and all the Indians knew it likewise; and put it after this manner, Are you now sorry for your drunkenness, filthiness, false dealing, lying, etc., which sins you committed before you knew God? unto all which cases he expressed himself sorrowful, and condemned himself for them: which example of the Sachem was profitable for all the Indians. And when he had thus confessed his sins, we turned again to his son and labored with him, requiring him to confess his sin, and entreat God to forgive him for Christ his sake, and to confess his offence against his father and mother, and entreat them to forgive him, but he still refused; and now the other Indians spake unto him soberly and affectionately, to put him on, and divers spake one after another, and some several times. Mr. Wilson again did much labor with him, and at last he did humble himself, confessed all, and entreated his father to forgive him, and took him by the hand, at which his father burst forth into great weeping. He did the same also to his mother, who wept also, and so did divers others; and many English being present, they fell a-weeping, so that the house was filled with weeping on every side; and then we went to prayer, in all which time Cutshamaquin wept, insomuch that when we had done the board he stood upon was all dropped with his tears.

Another case of admonition was this, a hopeful young man who is my servant, being upon a journey, and drinking Sack at their setting forth, he drank too much, and was disguised; which when I heard I reproved him, and he humbled himself, with confession of his sin, and tears. And the next Lecture day I called him forth before the Assembly, where he did confess his sin with many tears.

Before I leave this point of admonition, if I thought it would not be too tedious to you, I would mention one particular more, where we saw the power of God awing a wicked wretch by this ordinance of admonition. It was George that wicked Indian, who, as you know, at our first beginnings sought to cast aspersions upon Religion, by laying slanderous accusations against godly men, and who asked that captious question, “Who made Sack?” and this fellow having killed a young Cow at your Town, and sold it at the College instead of Moose, covered it with many lies, insomuch as Mr. Dunster was loath he should be directly charged with it when we called him forth, but that we should rather inquire. But when he was called before the Assembly, and charged with it, he had not power to deny it, but presently confessed, only he added one thing which we think was an excuse; thus God hath honored this ordinance among them.

Fourthly, the last exercise, you know, we have among them, is their asking us questions, and very many they have asked, which I have forgotten, but some few that come to my present remembrance I will briefly touch.

One was Wabbakoxet’s question, who is reputed an old Powwaw; it was to this purpose, seeing the English had been twenty-seven years (some of them) in this land, why did we never teach them to know God till now? “Had you done it sooner,” said he, “we might have known much of God by this time, and much sin might have been prevented, but now some of us are grown old in sin,” etc. To whom we answered, that we do repent that we did not long ago, as now we do, yet withal we told them, that they were never willing to hear till now, and that seeing God hath bowed their hearts to be willing to hear, we are desirous to take all the pains we can now to teach them.

Another question was, that of Cutshamaquin, to this purpose, “Before I knew God,” said he, “I thought I was well, but since I have known God and sin, I find my heart full of sin, and more sinful than ever it was before, and this hath been a great trouble to me; and at this day my heart is but very little better than it was, and I am afraid it will be as bad again as it was before, and therefore I sometimes wish I might die before I be so bad again as I have been. Now my question is, whether is this a sin or not?” This question could not be learned from the English, nor did it seem a coined feigned thing, but a real matter gathered from the experience of his own heart, and from an inward observation of himself.

Another question was about their children, Whither their little children go when they die, seeing they have not sinned?

Which question gave occasion more fully to teach them original sin, and the damned state of all men. And also, and especially it gave occasion to teach them the Covenant of God, which He hath made with all his people, and with their children, so that when God chooses a man or a woman to be his servant, He chooses all their children to be so also; which doctrine was exceeding grateful unto them.