Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume Two
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The deplorable, perishing state of the Indians in these parts of America, being by several ministers here represented to the Society in Scotland for propagating Christian Knowledge; the said Society charitably and cheerfully came into the proposal of maintaining two missionaries among these miserable pagans, to endeavour their conversion “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God;” and sent their commission to some ministers and other gentlemen here, to act as their correspondents, in providing, directing, and inspecting the said mission.

As soon as the correspondents were authorized by the Society’s commission, they immediately looked out for two candidates of the evangelical ministry, whose zeal for the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and whose compassion for poor perishing souls, would prompt them to such an exceeding difficult and self-denying undertaking. They first prevailed with Mr. Azariah Horton to relinquish a call to an encouraging parish, and to devote himself to the Indian service. He was directed to Long Island, in August 1741, at the east end whereof there are two small towns of the Indians, and from the east to the west end of the island, lesser companies settled at a few miles’ distance from one another, for the length of above a hundred miles. At his first coming among these, he was well received by the most, and heartily welcomed by some of them. They at the east end of the island, especially, gave diligent and serious attention to his instructions, and many of them put upon solemn inquiries about “what they should do to be saved.” A general reformation of manners was soon observable among the most of these Indians. They were careful to attend, and serious and solemn in attendance, upon both public and private instructions. A number of them were under very deep convictions of their miserable perishing state; and about twenty of them give lasting evidences of their saving conversion to God. Mr. Horton has baptized thirty-five adults, and forty-four children. He took pains with them to teach them to read; and some of them have made considerable proficiency. But the extensiveness of his charge, and the necessity of his travelling from place to place, makes him incapable of giving so constant attendance to their instruction in reading as is needful. In his last letter to the correspondents, he heavily complains of a great defection of some of them, from their first reformation and care of their souls; occasioned by strong drink being brought among them, and their being thereby allured to a relapse into their darling vice of drunkenness. This is a vice to which the Indians are every where so greatly addicted, and so vehemently disposed, that nothing but the power of divine grace can restrain that impetuous lust, when they have opportunity to gratify it. He likewise complains, that some of them are grown more careless and remiss in the duties of religious worship, than they were when first acquainted with the great things of their eternal peace. But as a number retain their first impressions, and as they generally attend with reverence upon his ministry, he goes on in his work, with encouraging hopes of the presence and blessing of God with him in his difficult undertaking.

This is a general view of the state of the mission upon Long Island, collected from several of Mr. Horton’s letters; which is all that could now be offered, we not having as yet a particular account from Mr. Horton himself. It was some time after Mr. Horton was employed in the Indian service, before the correspondents could obtain another qualified candidate for this self-denying mission. At length they prevailed with Mr. David Brainerd, to refuse several invitations unto places where he had a promising prospect of a comfortable settlement among the English, to encounter the fatigues and perils that must attend his carrying the gospel of Christ to these poor miserable savages. A general representation of whose conduct and success in that undertaking is contained in a letter we lately received from himself, which is as follows:


Since you are pleased to require of me some brief and general account of my conduct in the affair of my mission amongst the Indians; the pains and endeavours I have used to propagate Christian knowledge among them; the difficulties I have met with in pursuance of that great work; and the hopeful and encouraging appearances I have observed in any of them; I shall now endeavour to answer your demands, by giving a brief and faithful account of the most material things relating to that important affair, with which I have been and am still concerned. And this I shall do with more freedom and cheerfulness, both because I apprehend it will be a likely means to give pious persons, who are concerned for the kingdom of Christ, some just apprehension of the many and great difficulties that attend the propagation of it amongst the poor pagans, and consequently, it is hoped, will engage their more frequent and fervent prayers to God, that those may be succeeded who are employed in this arduous work. Beside, I persuade myself, that the tidings of the gospel spreading among the poor heathen, will be, to those who are waiting for the accomplishment of the “glorious things spoken of the city of our God,” as “good news from a far country;” and that these will be so far from “despising the day of small things,” that, on the contrary, the least dawn of encouragement and hope, in this important affair, will rather inspire their pious breasts with more generous and warm desires, that “the kingdoms of this world may speedily become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” I shall therefore immediately proceed to the business before me, and briefly touch upon the most important matters that have concerned my mission, from the beginning to this present time.

On March 15, 1743, I waited on the correspondents for the Indian mission at New York; and the week following, attended their meeting at Woodbridge in New Jersey, and was speedily dismissed by them with orders to attempt the instruction of a number of Indians in a place some miles distant from the city of Albany. And on the first day of April following, I arrived among the Indians, at a place called by them Kaunaumeek, in the county of Albany, near about twenty miles distant from the city eastward.

The place, as to its situation, was sufficiently lonesome and unpleasant, being encompassed with mountains and woods; twenty miles distant from any English inhabitants; six or seven from any Dutch; and more than two from a family that came, some time since, from the Highlands of Scotland, and had then lived, as I remember, about two years in this wilderness. In this family I lodged about the space of three months, the master of it being the only person with whom I could readily converse in those parts, except my interpreter; others understanding very little English.

After I had spent about three months in this situation, I found my distance from the Indians a very great disadvantage to my work among them, and very burdensome to myself; as I was obliged to travel forward and backward almost daily on foot, having no pasture in which I could keep my horse for that purpose. And after all my pains, could not be with the Indians in the evening and morning, which were usually the best hours to find them at home, and when they could best attend my instructions. I therefore resolved to remove, and live with or near the Indians, that I might watch all opportunities, when they were generally at home, and take the advantage of such seasons for their instruction.

Accordingly I removed soon after; and, for a time, lived with them in one of their wigwams; and, not long after, built me a small house, where I spent the remainder of that year entirely alone; my interpreter, who was an Indian, choosing rather to live in a wigwam among his own countrymen. This way of living I found attended with many difficulties, and uncomfortable circumstances, in a place where I could get none of the necessaries and common comforts of life, (no, not so much as a morsel of bread,) but what I brought from places fifteen and twenty miles distant, and oftentimes was obliged, for some time together, to content myself without, for want of an opportunity to procure the things I needed.

But although the difficulties of this solitary way of living are not the least, or most inconsiderable, (and doubtless are in fact many more and greater to those who experience, than they can readily appear to those, who only view them at a distance,) yet I can truly say, that the burden I felt respecting my great work among the poor Indians, the fear and concern that continually hung upon my spirits, lest they should be prejudiced against Christianity, and their minds imbittered against me, and my labours among them, by means of the insinuations of some who, although they are called Christians, seem to have no concern for Christ’s kingdom, but had rather (as their conduct plainly discovers) that the Indians should remain heathens, that they may with the more ease cheat, and so enrich themselves by them, were much more pressing to me, than all the difficulties that attended the circumstances of my living.

As to the state or temper of mind, in which I found these Indians, at my first coming among them, I may justly say, it was much more desirable and encouraging than what appears among those who are altogether uncultivated. Their heathenish jealousies and suspicion, and their prejudices against Christianity, were in a great measure removed by the long-continued labours of the Reverend Mr. Sargeant among a number of the same tribe, in a place little more than twenty miles distant. Hence these were, in some good degree, prepared to entertain the truths of Christianity, instead of objecting against them, and appearing almost entirely untractable, as is common with them at first, and as perhaps these appeared a few years ago. Some of them, at least, appeared very well disposed toward religion, and seemed much pleased with my coming among them.

In my labours with them, in order “to turn them from darkness to light,” I studied what was most plain and easy, and best suited to their capacities; and endeavoured to set before them from time to time, as they were able to receive them, the most important and necessary truths of Christianity; such as most immediately concerned their speedy conversion to God, and such as I judged had the greatest tendency, as means, to effect that glorious change in them. But especially I made it the scope and drift of all my labours, to lead them into a thorough acquaintance with these two things. First, The sinfulness and misery of the estate they were naturally in; the evil of their hearts, the pollution of their natures; the heavy guilt they were under, and their exposedness to everlasting punishment; as also their utter inability to save themselves, either from their sins, or from those miseries which are the just punishment of them; and their unworthiness of any mercy at the hand of God, on account of any thing they themselves could do to procure his favour, and consequently their extreme need of Christ to save them. And, secondly, I frequently endeavoured to open to them the fulness, all-sufficiency, and freeness of that redemption, which the Son of God has wrought out by his obedience and sufferings, for perishing sinners: how this provision he had made, was suited to all their wants; and how he called and invited them to accept of everlasting life freely, notwithstanding all their sinfulness, inability, unworthiness, &c.

After I had been with the Indians several months, I composed sundry forms of prayer, adapted to their circumstances and capacities; which, with the help of my interpreter, I translated into the Indian language; and soon learned to pronounce their words, so as to pray with them in their own tongue. I also translated sundry psalms into their language, and soon after we were able to sing in the worship of God.

When my people had gained some acquaintance with many of the truths of Christianity, so that they were capable of receiving and understanding many others, which at first could not be taught them, by reason of their ignorance of those that were necessary to be previously known, and upon which others depended; I then gave them an historical account of God’s dealings with his ancient professing people the Jews; some of the rites and ceremonies they were obliged to observe, as their sacrifices, &c.; and what these were designed to represent to them: as also some of the surprising miracles God wrought for their salvation, while they trusted in him, and the sore punishments he sometimes brought upon them, when they forsook and sinned against him. Afterwards I proceeded to give them a relation of the birth, life, miracles, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ; as well as his ascension, and the wonderful effusion of the Holy Spirit consequent thereupon.

And having thus endeavoured to prepare the way by such a general account of things, I next proceeded to read and expound to them the Gospel of St. Matthew (at least the substance of it) in course, wherein they had a more distinct and particular view of what they had before some general notion. These expositions I attended almost every evening, when there was any considerable number of them at home; except when I was obliged to be absent myself, in order to learn the Indian language with the Rev. Mr. Sargeant. Besides these means of instruction, there was likewise an English school constantly kept by my interpreter among the Indians; which I used frequently to visit, in order to give the children and young people some proper instructions, and serious exhortations suited to their age.

The degree of knowledge to which some of them attained, was considerable. Many of the truths of Christianity seemed fixed in their minds, especially in some instances, so that they would speak to me of them, and ask such questions about them, as were necessary to render them more plain and clear to their understandings. The children, also, and young people, who attended the school, made considerable proficiency (at least some of them) in their learning; so that had they understood the English language well, they would have been able to read somewhat readily in a psalter.

But that which was most of all desirable, and gave me the greatest encouragement amidst many difficulties and disconsolate hours, was, that the truths of God’s word seemed, at times, to be attended with some power upon the hearts and consciences of the Indians. And especially this appeared evident in a few instances, who were awakened to some sense of their miserable estate by nature, and appeared solicitous for deliverance from it. Several of them came, of their own accord, to discourse with me about their souls’ concerns; and some with tears, inquired “what they should do to be saved?” and whether the God that Christians served, would be merciful to those that had been frequently drunk? &c.

And although I cannot say that I have satisfactory evidences of their being “renewed in the spirit of their mind,” and savingly converted to God; yet the Spirit of God did, I apprehend, in such a manner attend the means of grace, and so operate upon their minds thereby, as might justly afford matter of encouragement to hope, that God designed good to them, and that he was preparing his way into their souls.

There likewise appeared a reformation in the lives and manners of the Indians. Their idolatrous sacrifices (of which there was but one or two, that I know of, after my coming among them) were wholly laid aside. And their heathenish custom of dancing, hallooing, &c. they seemed in a considerable measure to have abandoned. And I could not but hope, that they were reformed in some measure from the sin of drunkenness. They likewise manifested a regard to the Lords day; and not only behaved soberly themselves, but took care also to keep their children in order.

Yet, after all, I must confess, that as there were many hopeful appearances among them, so there were some things more discouraging. And while I rejoiced to observe any seriousness and concern among them about the affairs of their souls, still I was not without continual fear and concern, lest such encouraging appearances might prove “like a morning-cloud, that passeth away.”

When I had spent near a year with the Indians, I informed them that I expected to leave them in the spring then approaching, and to be sent to another tribe of Indians, at a great distance from them. On hearing this, they appeared very sorrowful, and some of them endeavoured to persuade me to continue with them; urging that they had now heard so much about their souls concern, that they could never more be willing to live as they had done, without a minister, and further instructions in the way to heaven, &c. Whereupon I told them, they ought to be willing that others also should hear about their souls’ concerns, seeing those needed it as much as themselves. Yet further to dissuade me from going, they added, that those Indians, to whom I had thoughts of going, (as they had heard,) were not willing to become Christians as they were, and therefore urged me to tarry with them. I then told them, that they might receive further instructions without me; but the Indians, to whom I expected to be sent, could not, there being no minister near to teach them. And hereupon I advised them, in case I should leave them, and be sent elsewhere, to remove to Stockbridge, where they might be supplied with land, and conveniencies of living, and be under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Sargeant: with which advice and proposal they seemed disposed to comply.

On April 6, 1744, I was ordered and directed by the correspondents for the Indian mission, to take leave of the people, with whom I had then spent a full year, and to go, as soon as conveniently I could, to a tribe of Indians on Delaware river in Pennsylvania.

These orders I soon attended, and on April 29th look leave of my people, who were mostly removed to Stockbridge under the care of the Rev. Mr. Sargeant. I then set out on my journey toward Delaware; and on May 10th met with a number of Indians in a place called Minnissinks, about a hundred and forty miles from Kaunaumeek, (the place where I spent the last year,) and directly in my way to Delaware river. With these Indians I spent some time, and first addressed their king in a friendly manner; and after some discourse, and attempts to contract a friendship with him, I told him I had a desire (for his benefit and happiness) to instruct them in Christianity. At which he laughed, turned his back upon me, and went away. I then addressed another principal man in the same manner, who said he was willing to hear me. After some time, I followed the king into his house, and renewed my discourse to him: but he declined talking, and left the affair to another, who appeared to be a rational man. He began, and talked very warmly near a quarter of an hour together: he inquired why I desired the Indians to become Christians, seeing the Christians were so much worse than the Indians are in their present state. The Christians, he said, would lie, steal, and drink, worse than the Indians. It was they first taught the Indians to be drunk: and they stole from one another, to that degree, that their rulers were obliged to hang them for it, and that was not sufficient to deter others from the like practice. But the Indians, he added, were none of them ever hanged for stealing, and yet they did not steal half so much; and he supposed that if the Indians should become Christians, they would then be as bad as these. And hereupon he said, they would live as their fathers lived, and go where their fathers were when they died. I then freely owned, lamented, and joined with him in condemning the ill conduct of some who are called Christians: told him, these were not Christians in heart; that I hated such wicked practices, and did not desire the Indians to become such as these. And when he appeared calmer, I asked him if he was willing: that I should come and see them again? He replied, he should be willing to see me again, as a friend, if I would not desire them to become Christians. I then bid them farewell, and prosecuted my journey toward Delaware. And May 13th I arrived at a place called by the Indians Sakhauwotung, within the Forks of Delaware in Pennsylvania.

Here also, when I came to the Indians, I saluted their king, and others, in a manner I thought most engaging. And soon after informed the king of my desire to instruct them in the Christian religion. After he had consulted a few minutes with two or three old men, he told me he was willing to hear. I then preached to those few that were present; who appeared very attentive, and well disposed. And the king in particular seemed both to wonder, and at the same time to be well pleased with what I taught them, respecting the Divine Being, &c. And since that time he has ever shown himself friendly to me, giving me free liberty to preach in his house, whenever I think fit. Here therefore I have spent the greater part of the summer past, preaching usually in the king’s house.

The number of Indians in this place is but small; most of those that formerly belonged here, are dispersed, and removed to places farther back in the country. There are not more than ten houses hereabouts, that continue to be inhabited; and some of these are several miles distant from others, which makes it difficult for the Indians to meet together so frequently as could be desired.

When I first began to preach here, the number of my hearers was very small; often not exceeding twenty or twenty-five persons: but towards the latter part of the summer, their number increased, so that I have frequently had forty persons, or more, at once; and oftentimes most belonging to those parts came together to hear me preach.

The effects which the truths of God’s word have had upon some of the Indians, in this place, are somewhat encouraging. Sundry of them are brought to renounce idolatry, and to decline partaking of those feasts which they used to offer in sacrifice to certain supposed unknown powers. And some few among them have, for a considerable time, manifested a serious concern for their souls’ eternal welfare, and still continue to “inquire the way to Zion,” with such diligence, affection, and becoming solicitude, as gives me reason to hope, that “God, who, I trust, has begun this work in them,” will carry it on, until it shall issue in their saving conversion to himself. These not only detest their old idolatrous notions, but strive also to bring their friends off from them. And as they are seeking salvation for their own souls, so they seem desirous, and some of them take pains, that others might be excited to do the like.

In July last I heard of a number of Indians residing at a place called Kauksesauchung, more than thirty miles westward from the place where I usually preach. I visited them, found about thirty persons, and proposed my desire of preaching to them; they readily complied, and I preached to them only twice, they being just then removing from this place, where they only lived for the present, to Susquehannah river where they belonged.

While I was preaching they appeared sober and attentive; and were somewhat surprised, having never before heard of these things. There were two or three who suspected that I had some ill design upon them; and urged, that the white people had abused them, and taken their lands from them, and therefore they had no reason to think that they were now concerned for their happiness; but, on the contrary, that they designed to make them slaves, or get them on board their vessels, and make them fight with the people over the water, (as they expressed it,) meaning the French and Spaniards. However, the most of them appeared very friendly, and told me, they were then going directly home to Susquehannah, and desired I would make them a visit there, and manifested a considerable desire of farther instruction. This invitation gave me some encouragement in my great work; and made me hope, that God designed to “open an effectual door to me” for spreading the gospel among the poor heathen farther westward.

In the beginning of October last, with the advice and direction of the correspondents for the Indian mission, I undertook a journey to Susquehannah. And after three days’ tedious travel, two of them through a wilderness almost unpassable, by reason of mountains and rocks, and two nights lodging in the open wilderness, I came to an Indian settlement on the side of Susquehannah-river, called Opeholhaupung; where were twelve Indian houses, and (as nigh as I could learn) about seventy souls, old and young, belonging to them.

Here also, soon after my arrival, I visited the king, addressing him with expressions of kindness; and after a few words of friendship, informed him of my desire to teach them the knowledge of Christianity. He hesitated not long before he told me, that he was willing to hear. I then preached; and continued there several days, preaching every day, as long as the Indians were at home. And they, in order to hear me, deferred the design of their general hunting (which they were just then entering upon) for the space of three or four days.

The men, I think universally (except one) attended my preaching. Only the women, supposing the affair we were upon was of a public nature, belonging only to the men, and not what every individual person should concern himself with, could not readily be persuaded to come and hear: but, after much pains used with them for that purpose, some few ventured to come, and stand at a distance.

When I had preached to the Indians several times, some of them very frankly proposed what they had to object against Christianity; and so gave me a fair opportunity for using my best endeavours to remove from their minds those scruples and jealousies they laboured under: and when I had endeavoured to answer their objections, some appeared much satisfied. I then asked the king if he was willing I should visit and preach to them again, if I should live to the next spring? He replied, he should be heartily willing for his own part, and added, he wished the young people would learn, &c. I then put the same question to the rest: some answered, they should be very glad, and none manifested any dislike to it.

There were sundry other things in their behaviour, which appeared with a comfortable and encouraging aspect; that, upon the whole, I could not but rejoice I had taken that journey among them, although it was attended with many difficulties and hardships. The method I used with them, and the instructions I gave them, I am persuaded were means, in some measure, to remove their heathenish jealousies, and prejudices against Christianity; and I could not but hope, the God of all grace was preparing their minds to receive “the truth as it is in Jesus.” If this may be the happy consequence, I shall not only rejoice in my past labours and fatigues; but shall, I trust, also “be willing to spend and be spent,” if I may thereby be instrumental “to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.”

Thus, Sir, I have given you a faithful account of what has been most considerable respecting my mission among the Indians; in which I have studied all convenient brevity. I shall only now take leave to add a word or two respecting the difficulties that attend the Christianizing of these poor pagans.

In the first place, their minds are filled with prejudices against Christianity, on account of the vicious lives and unChristian behaviour of some that are called Christians. These not only set before them the worst examples, but some of them take pains, expressly in words, to dissuade them from becoming Christians; foreseeing, that if these should be converted to God, “the hope of their unlawful gain” would thereby be lost.

Again, these poor heathens are extremely attached to the customs, traditions, and fabulous notions of their fathers. And this one seems to be the foundation of all their other notions, viz. that “it was not the same God made them who made the white people,” but another, who commanded them to live by hunting, &c. and not conform to the customs of the white people. Hence when they are desired to become Christians, they frequently reply, that “they will live as their fathers lived, and go to their fathers when they die.” And if the miracles of Christ and his apostles be mentioned, to prove the truth of Christianity; they also mention sundry miracles, which their fathers have told them were anciently wrought among the Indians, and which Satan makes them believe were so. They are much attached to idolatry; frequently making feasts, which they eat in honour to some unknown beings, who, they suppose, speak to them in dreams; promising them success in hunting, and other affairs, in case they will sacrifice to them. They oftentimes also offer their sacrifices to the spirits of the dead; who, they suppose, stand in need of favours from the living, and yet are in such a state as that they can well reward all the offices of kindness that are shown them. And they impute all their calamities to the neglect of these sacrifices.

Furthermore, they are much awed by those among themselves, who are called powows, who are supposed to have a power of enchanting, or poisoning them to death, or at least in a very distressing manner. And they apprehend it would be their sad fate to be thus enchanted, in case they should become Christians.

Lastly, The manner of their living is likewise a great disadvantage to the design of their being Christianized. They are almost continually roving from place to place; and it is but rare that an opportunity can be had with some of them for their instruction. There is scarce any time of the year, wherein the men can be found generally at home, except about six weeks before, and in, the season of planting their corn, and about two months in the latter part of summer, from the time they begin to roast their corn, until it is fit to gather in.

As to the hardships that necessarily attend a mission among them, the fatigues of frequent journeying in the wilderness, the unpleasantness of a mean and hard way of living, and the great difficulty of addressing “a people of a strange language,” these I shall, at present, pass over in silence; designing what I have already said of difficulties attending this work, not for the discouragement of any, but rather for the incitement of all, who “love the appearing and kingdom of Christ,” to frequent the throne of grace with earnest supplications, that the heathen, who were anciently promised to Christ “for his inheritance,” may now actually and speedily be brought into his kingdom of grace, and made heirs of immortal glory.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient, humble servant,


From the Forks of Delaware, inPennsylvania, Nov. 5, 1744.

P. S. It should have been observed in the preceding account, that although the number of Indians in the place I visited on Susquehannah river, in October last, is but small, yet their numbers in the adjacent places are very considerable; who, it is hoped, might be brought to embrace Christianity by the example of others. But being at present somewhat more savage, and unacquainted with the English, than these I visited, I thought it not best to make my first attempts among them; hoping I might hereafter be better introduced among them by means of these. Sundry of the neighbouring settlements are much larger than this: so that there are, probably, several hundreds of the Indians not many miles distant. D. B.

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