« PreviousContinue »
but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth out of my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Such is the encouragement presented to the SoCIETY now assembled, a Society instituted to propagate the Gospel of Christ. The first objects of our charity, and of our labours, Fathers and Breth ren, are the ABORIGINALS of our country, the INDIANS of North America; with whose very name we have been accustomed, from our infancy, to associate all that is wild and intractable, all that is ferocious and vindictive, all that is savage and barbarous. How few tracts of the territory, which we now possess, are unstained with blood, shed by their hands! How few of our towns or villages are exempt from monuments and vestiges of their cruelty! The first English inhabitants of this peninsula gat their bread with the peril of their lives, because of the sword of the wilderness. Here probably, but for a concurrence of propitious circumstances and events, they would have heard the terrible war whoop, and have experienced the savage onsets of the circumjacent tribes; and we might, at this moment, have been assembled over their relics. Blessed be the God of our fathers, who preserved them in their low estate; and who permitteth us, on this day, to see the ground, where they erected their first cot
tages, covered with spacious and elegant buildings, and their little colony increased to nearly thirty thousand souls!
Forbidding as was the character of the natives, and unpropitious as were the circumstances of our pious ancestors, to the propagation of the Gospel among them, the work was early undertaken. One of these fathers, animated with an apostolical spirit, went to their villages, and proclaimed to them the Gospel of Christ. Encouraged by his first reception, he continued his evangelical labours among them with such assiduity, perseverance, and zeal, as to acquire the title of THE APOSTLE OF THE INDIANS. Of the converts at Nonantum, the first fruits of his Indian ministry, he formed a church, which long continued to receive accessions, and to enjoy the privileges of the preached word, and of the special ordinances of the gospel. These people, rescued from darkness and barbarism, he nourished, as a nurse cherisheth her children. The translation of the Bible into their language will remain a perpetual monument of his diligence and fidelity, and of his earnest endeavours to promote their salvation. The name of ELIOT it is scarcely needful to subjoin-a name, which has been transmitted to us, and will be transmitted to our descendants, with double honour. Wherever the gospel shall be preached among the aboriginals of our country, there also let this, that this man hath done, be told for a memorial of him. Nor let his faithful friend, and able coadjutor, be forgotten;
GOOKIN, whose services in behalf of the natives were active and unabated, and whose Christian affection for them many waters could not quench. The pious and successful labours of the MAYHEWS, the BOURNES, and the SERGEANTS, of WHEELOCK, BRAINARD, HAWLEY, and KIRKLAND, need not be mentioned to inform you, but merely to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance. Nor need we, but for the same purpose, advert to the perilous and indefatigable services of the MORAVIAN missionaries; who, by their self denial, disinterestedness, prudence, conciliatory address, and Christian fidelity, have introduced the Gospel into some of the most ferocious of the Indian tribes. The recent successes of missionaries from our own Societies, among the same intractable people, it were superfluous to recite.
These examples, my brethren, ought to encourage and animate us, in the great and good work in which we are engaged. Other men before us have laboured in this work with success; we have entered into their labours; why should we despair of gathering, in like manner, the fruits of harvest? He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. We indeed who send, and our missionaries who bear, the precious seed, while we may justly hope to reap in joy, may well sow in tears. Where is the field of our labours? Not in our neighbourhood; but in a distant wilderness. Where now are those Indian tribes, among which it was the
object of our pious forefathers to disseminate the Gospel of Christ? Most of them are extinct. In NewEngland there can scarcely be found a collection of Indians sufficiently numerous to be denominated a tribe. A few remains of them are still to be seen, the objects equally of our wonder and compassion. (e) Great GOD! How unsearchable are thy judgments!
But, my brethren, it is not for us to inquire toocuriously into the counsels of Heaven. Let us do our duty. While our holy religion requires, pity should excite, us to do what in us lies to meliorate the condition of such of the poor natives, as do still continue in our country. By instituting schools for their children, by furnishing them with implements of husbandry, and by introducing among them the useful articles of life, instead of those inebriating liquors, which are an essential cause of their diminution and wretchedness; we may promote at once their comfort and their virtue. It is, above all things, incumbent on us to impart to them the knowledge of CHRIST. This is the special design of our Institution. Let not our zeal in this important cause slacken, because the objects of our charity are so exceedingly diminished. Let it rather be quickened, that by our vigorous exertions, with the blessing of God, a remnant at least of this devoted people may be saved. The less, my brethren, we are called to impart to neighbouring Indians, the more have we to impart to distant tribes. To them therefore let us, with a liberal hand, extend our labours and charity. Some
of those tribes have aid from State Legislatures; some, from our National Government. That aid however is, for the most part, pecuniary, or such as relates to their temporal comfort; let us impart to them the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Nor let us forget those parts of the country, settled by our own people, which but sparingly enjoy the privileges of the Gospel. The Act of our Incorporation allows us to embrace them also in the arms of our Christian charity. The frequent emigrations from old towns within a few of the last years, and the rapid, the incalculable increase of population in the frontier settlements, demand our most serious attention. An almost new field of labour is here presented to us. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. By sending forth into these settlements able and zealous missionaries; by supporting schools; by distributing Bibles, and well selected religious books and tracts; we may be instrumental in preserving among them the form and the influence of religion through the present generation, and of extending the blessings of the Gospel to millions yet unborn. The reports of our Missionaries are encouraging. Let us persevere in our labours, with diligence and zeal, and we may justly expect success. While we faithfully plant and water, we may, without presumption, rely on GOD to give the increase. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose, and become like the garden of God.