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Fourth difficulty in converting the Indians, viz. The designs of evil-minded persons to hinder the work.
The last difficulty I shall mention, as having attended my work, is “what has proceeded from the attempts that some ill-minded persons have designedly made, to hinder the propagation of the gospel, and a work of divine grace, among the Indians.” The Indians are not only of themselves prejudiced against Christianity, on the various accounts I nave already mentioned, but, as if this was not enough, there are some in all parts of the country where I have preached to them, who have taken pains industriously to bind them down in pagan darkness; “neglecting to enter into the kingdom of God themselves, and labouring to hinder others. ”
After the beginning of the religious concern among the Indians in New Jersey, some endeavoured to prejudice them against me and the truths I taught them, by the most sneaking, unmanly, and false suggestions of things that had no manner of foundation but in their own brains. Some particulars of this kind I formerly took notice of in one of the remarks made upon my Journal concluded the 20th of November last; and might have added more, and of another nature, had not modesty forbidden me to mention what was too obscene. But, through the mercy of God, they were never able, by all their abominable insinuations, flouting jeers, and downright lies, to create in the Indians those jealousies they desired to possess them with, and so were never suffered to hinder the work of grace among them. But when they saw they could not prejudice the Indians against me, nor hinder them from receiving the gospel, they then noised it through the country, that I was undoubtedly a Roman catholic, and that I was gathering together, and training up, the Indians in order to serve a popish interest, that I should quickly head them, and cut people’s throats.
What they pretended gave them reason for this opinion, was, that they understood I had a commission from Scotland. Whereupon they could with great assurance say, “All Scotland is turned to the Pretender, and this is but a popish plot to make a party for him here,” &c. And some, I am informed, actually went to the civil authority with complaints against me, but only laboured under this unhappiness, that when they came, they had nothing to complain of, and could give no colour of reason why they attempted any such thing, or desired the civil authority to take cognizance of me, having not a word to allege against my preaching or practice, only they surmised that because the Indians appeared so very loving and orderly, they had a design of imposing upon people by that means, and so of getting a better advantage to cut their throats. And what temper they would have had the Indians appear with, in order to have given no occasion, nor have left any room for such a suspicion, I cannot tell. I presume if they had appeared with the contrary temper, it would quickly have been observed of them, that “they were now grown surly,” and in all probability were preparing to “cut people’s throats.” From a view of these things, I have had occasion to admire the wisdom and goodness of God in providing so full and authentic a commission for the undertaking and carrying on of this work, without which, notwithstanding the charitableness of the design, it had probably met with molestation.
The Indians who have been my hearers in New Jersey, have likewise been sued for debt, and threatened with imprisonment, more since I came among them, as they inform me, than in seven years before. The reason of this, I suppose, was, they left frequenting those tippling houses where they used to consume most of what they gained by hunting and other means. And these persons, seeing that the hope of future gain was lost, were resolved to make sure of what they could. And perhaps some of them put the Indians to trouble, purely out of spite at their embracing Christianity.
This conduct of theirs has been very distressing to me; for I was sensible, that if they did imprison any one that embraced or hearkened to Christianity, the news of it would quickly spread among the pagans, hundreds of miles distant, who would immediately conclude I had involved them in this difficulty; and thence be filled with prejudice against Christianity, and strengthened in their jealousy, that the whole of my design among them, was to insnare and enslave them. And I knew that some of the Indians upon Susquehannah had made this objection against hearing me preach, viz. That they understood a number of Indians in Maryland, some hundreds of miles distant, who had been uncommonly free with the English, were after a while put in jail, sold, &c. Whereupon they concluded, it was best for them to keep at a distance, and have nothing to do with Christians. The method I took in order to remove this difficulty, was, to press the Indians with all possible speed to pay their debts, and to exhort those of them that had skins or money, and were themselves in a good measure free of debt, to help others that were oppressed. And frequently upon such occasions I have paid money out of my own pocket, which I have not as yet received again.
These are some of the difficulties I have met with from the conduct of those who, notwithstanding their actions so much tend to hinder the propagation of Christianity, would, I suppose, be loth to be reputed pagans. Thus I have endeavoured to answer the demands of the Honourable Society in relation to each of the particulars mentioned in their letter. If what I have written may be in any measure agreeable and satisfactory to them, and serve to excite in them, or any of God’s people, a spirit of prayer and supplication for the furtherance of a work of grace among the Indians here, and the propagation of it to their distant tribes, I shall have abundant reason to rejoice, and bless God in this, as well as in other respects.
June 20, 1746.
P. S. Since the conclusion of the preceding Journal which was designed to represent the operations of one year only, from the first time of my preaching to the Indians in New Jersey I administered the sacrament of the Lord’s supper a second time in my congregation, viz. on the 13th of July. At which time there were more than thirty communicants of the Indians, although divers were absent who should have communicated: so considerably has God enlarged our number since the former solemnity of this kind, described somewhat particularly in my Journal. This appeared to be a season of divine power and grace, not unlike the former; a season of refreshing to God’s people in general, and of awakening to some others, although the divine influence manifestly attending the several services of the solemnity, seemed not so great and powerful as at the former season.
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