« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Wheelock's house, while he was there, was the daily resort of persons under solemn religious impressions, to whom he dispensed the word of life. In his public and private instructions they hung on his lips with ardent attention. Mr. Wheelock was a favored instrument in the hands of God of gathering many souls to Christ, who, are now his joy and crown. (6)
Towards the close of this uncommon work, some enthusiastic and unlearned teachers and exhorters arose, who, lead many astray and set up societies, denominated Separatists. Mr. Wheelock, with other able leaders in the work of God,opposed this wild torrent of delusion, which threatened the peace and edification of the churches. They were successful in reclaiming many, who had deserted their duty. The good effects of his wisdom appeared conspicuous among his own people, who universally discountenanced the pretensions and errors of the Separatists, and continued united in great peace and love. (c)
While he, with fidelity and success, fulfilled the duties of a pastor, he became anxious to employ himself in a more extensive field, for which his enlarged, benevolent mind was qualified. The religious attention of his people declining, and his labors being not so constantly demanded, by his people, he was desirous that the time, which might be spared from them, should be devoted to the more extensive advancement of the Redeemer's cause. The unhappy and neg, lected tribes of Indians, in New England, and others more numerous on our northern and western borders, engaged his attention. He thought and felt, that as a christian community, we had shamefully, and criminally neglected proper endeavors to reclaim them from barbarous ignorance and vice, and lead them to a knowledge of God and his Messiah.
SAMPSON OCCUM--MR. WHEELOCK'S MOTIVES IN UNDER.
TAKING HIS INDIAN SCHOOL-PLAN OF A SCHOOL.
ABOUT this time Sampson Occum, a serious Indian youth, visited Mr. Wheelock, and solicited instruction, which was gladly and freely bestowed. He afterwards became a celebrated preacher in America and Great Britain. He was of the Mohegan nation, and born a pagan. Living in the vicinity of the English, he, in 1741, at the age of eighteen, became acquainted with the christian religion, forsook the vices of his countrymen, and became devout and zealous. He was deeply affected by the deplorable ignorance and vices of the Indians, and was industrious in qualifying himself to teach and reform them. Mr. Wheelock had, previous to this time, opened a school for the instruction of a small number, whom he received into his family, with a few English youth, preparing for admission into college. He very willingly received young Occum into his school, where he continued about three years. He was likewise one year with the Rev. Mr. Pomroy, pursuing the study of the English, Latin and Greek languages, during which time he also attained some acquaintance with the Hebrew. It was at first designed that he should complete his education at college, but want of health, first affecting his eyes, compelled him to desist for a season, and finally to relinquish the plan. The Hon. London Board of Commissioners in Boston, assisted in supporting the expense of his education. He pursued his studies, as his health permitted, and was, occasionally, very useful as a school master, and
teacher among the Montauk Indians, on Long Island, and elsewhere. He brought them off from a fanatic wildness, into which they had fallen, by means of zealous exhorters from New England. It is believed he was instrumental in the salvation of many.
Having attended a considerable time to the study of theology, and made sufficient proficien
he was 'examined by the Rev. Association of Windham county, in Connecticut, and by them licenced to preach. Afterwards, in 1759, he was ordained to the work of the gospel ministry by the Rev. Suffolk Presbytery, on Long Island, to be employed on a mission to the Mohawk and Oneida Indians.
Mr. Wheelock considered Occum a specimen of what might be accomplished in forming the minds of the heathen, and was encouraged to proceed in the work proposed. Various motives induced him to encounter his arduous and benevolent undertaking. The following were in his view very important : as the brethren of the human race, christians are under obligations to spread the gospel among the heathen; because it is a treasure committed to them by Jesus Christ, to be communicated to all, where they may have access. It is the command of the great Redeemer to his first ministers, to go
into all the world and teach all nations, which is still in force; and because God had manifested his displeasure against us, for our neglect of the heathen, by suffering them, almost from the first settlement of New England, to be dreadful scourges; that not only the obligations of religion, but pity for their miserable condition, as to the comforts of this life, should be a powerful motive to draw our attention to their welfare and clear ourselves of public guilt. A gen
erous spirit of patriotism also had its influence; he conceived that they might, by adopting our manners, become good subjects of our government; that the least expensive and most efficacious method to make them peaceable neighbors, was to form a friendly connection with them, by educating their children in the principles of the christian religion, and teaching them the arts of civil life; that to christianize the heathen was a condition attached to the royal charters of the colonies, and promised by our fathers. “But that which was of greatest weight,” to use his own words, “and should powerfully excite “and persuade us hereto, is the many com“mands, strong motives, precious promises, and “tremendous threatenings, which fill so great a
part of the sacred pages, and are so perfectly “ calculated to awaken all our powers, to spread “the knowledge of the only true God and Sa“ viour, and make it as extensive and common as possible.”
Other considerations had their influence with him, particularly as has been hinted, his want of such extensive fields for industry and success in his ministry, as he wished. Although his ministrations had been divinely blest to many souls, yet the bounds of a small parish were too confined; and ordinary labors, too limited, for his active and ardent mind. In the forests of America, over which numerous tribes of Indians were scattered, on the north, the west and the south, he discovered a glorious range for labor ; and with ardor, and apostolic zeal, he entered on the important work. (d)
Before this much had been done, by pious and charitable individuals and societies, to christianize the heathen, by sending among them English missionaries. But the difficulty in learning their
several barbarous languages, or of communicating, by means of interpreters, intellectual and spiritual knowledge, to the barren minds of savages, the suspicions they entertained, that white people in all their proposals, had a design to enslave them or obtain their lands; these, with the vices of the white people on their borders, who had divested themselves of the restraints of government and religion, and had greatly corrupted the minds and morals of the Indians, exhibited discouraging prospects of accomplishing any thing very effectual among them by any common
To devise the best method of evangelizing the heathen, he had long engaged his thoughts. He conceived and adopted a plan, which was new and till then never attempted. It was to persuade Indian parents to send their children to him, and in this manner remove them entirely, from all connection with their countrymen; and
' in the period of their lives, when impressions are most lasting, to instruct them in the principles of learning, the christian religion, and the arts of civilized life. By keeping them a number of years, under those advantages, and until they should be qualified to teach their brethren, he hoped to form them to such habits, as would effectually secure them from degenerating into the idle, wandering, and vicious manners of their own nation. He wished, so far as practicable, to make them equal to English youth in every useful and virtuous accomplishment, and rouse in them an emulation to persevere.
His plan comprehended the education of female children, either by placing them in pious families, or under the care of a skilful governess, to be instructed in domestic business and other accomplishments adapted to their sex. The united example of both form