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in the principles of it; who, after enduring much contradiction of sinners *, and going through a great variety of labours and difficulties, have, through the blessing of God, made a remarkable change in the face of things; and laid a noble ground-work, of what, we hope, will every day be carried on towards perfection. But at present much remains to be done. Multitudes continue, as before, in a thoughtless disregard to almost every part of Christianity: and multitudes also are daily petitioning for help; which to some we cannot give at all; and to others so little, that they have divine service only once in many weeks; and several districts of sixty, seventy, and eighty miles long, have but one minister to officiate in each of them.
The next object of the Society's concern, were the poor negroes. These unhappy wretches learn, in their native country, the grossest idolatry, and the most savage dispositions; and then are sold to the best purchaser: sometimes by their enemies, who would else put them to death; sometimes by their nearest friends, who are either unable or unwilling to maintain them. Their condition in our colonies, though it cannot well be worse than it would have been at home, is yet nearly as hard as possible : their servitude most laborious, their punishments most severe. And thus many thousands of them spend their whole days, one generation after another, undergoing with reluctant minds continual toil in this world, and comforted with no hopes of reward in a better. For it is not to be expected, that masters, too commonly negligent of Christianity themselves, will take much pains to teach it their slaves : whom even the better part of them are in a great measure habituated to consider, as they do their cattle, merely with a view to the profit arising from them. Not a few therefore have openly opposed their instruction; from an imagination, now indeed proved and acknowledged to be groundless, that baptism would entitle them to freedom. Others, by obliging them to work on Sundays to provide themselves necessaries, leave them neither time to learn religion, nor any prospect of being able to subsist, if once the duty of resting on that day makes part of their belief. And some, it may be feared, have been averse to their becoming Christians, because, after that, no pretence will remain for not treating them like men. When these obstacles are added to the fondness they have for their old heathenish rites, and the strong prejudices they must have against teachers from among those, whom they serve so unwillingly; it cannot be wondered, if the progress made in their conversion prove but slow. After some experience of this, catechists were appointed in two places, by way of trial, for their instruction alone: whose success, where it was least, hath not been inconsiderable; and so great in the plantations belonging to the Society, that out of two hundred and thirty, at least seventy are now believers in Christ. And there is lately an improvement to this scheme begun to be executed, by qualifying and employing young negroes, prudently chosen, to teach their countrymen : from which, in the opinion of the best judges, we may reasonably promise ourselves that this miserable people, the generality of whom have hitherto sat in darkness, will see great light *.
* Heb. xii. 3.
There still remains another branch of the Society's care, the Indians bordering on our settlements. These consist of various nations, valuable for some of their
* Matth. v, 16.
qualities, but immersed in the vilest superstitions, and engaged in almost perpetual wars against each other, which they prosecute with barbarities unheard of amongst the rest of mankind : implacable in their resentments, when once provoked; boundless in their intemperance, when they have opportunities for it, and at such times mischievous to the highest degree : impatient of labour, to procure themselves the common conveniences of life; inhumanly negligent of persons in years; and, if accounts of such things may be credited, not scrupling to kill and eat their nearest relations, when the long expeditions, which they make, for hunting, or against enemies, have reduced them to straights. Now these poor creatures also, diligent endeavours have been used to enlighten and reclaim, on such occasions, and by such methods, as were least suspicious. For, without due precautions, harm would be done, instead of good, where natural jealousy is so industriously fomented by an artful neighbour. And, after all precautions, it cannot be an easy work, to convert nations, whose manners are so uncultivated; whose languages are so different, so hard to learn, and so little adapted to the doctrines of religion; with whom we scarce ever contract affinities : and who seldom continue long enough in the same place, to let any good impressions fix into habits. Yet, notwithstanding these difficulties, which frustrated formerly a very expensive attempt, another hath been made of late ; and through the blessing of God, hath so reformed and improved the morals, together with the notions, of one Indian tribe *, that we cannot but hope the rest will be induced, by seeing their happiness, to follow their example.
* The Mohawks: who compose two Christian congregations, each consisting of above 200 persons. Their schoolmaster is a Mohawk. There are also some converts amongst the Oneidan and Tuscararo Indians.
You have now heard in brief the state of our colonies, with respect to religion. And were the prospect of further success much smaller than it is, yet our rule would be, to do our duty, and leave the event to Heaven. Persons of unwilling or desponding minds may easily find arguments to prove every good design unpromising, or even impracticable. But the natural dictate of piety and virtue is, to try. And the express command of our blessed Lord is, that the Gospel be preached to every creature *. Nor is only the offer of instruction to heathens, but the continuance of it for ever amongst Christians, the will of him, who, as he gave some, apostles and evangelists, gave some also, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, and the edifying of his body t. By endeavouring to our power, that these things be done; we shall pay obedience to his authority, and imitate his example: we shall give a proof to our own hearts, that we are indeed his disciples; and convince the world, that zeal for religion is not yet extinguished: we shall habituate ourselves to the most amiable of virtues, good will to mankind in the most important of their interests : we shall serve the purposes of Providence; which have their accomplishment, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear I: and how much soever we may labour in vain with respect to others; yet our judgment will be with the Lord, and our work with our God g.
But the same God hath promised, that his truth shall finally prevail upon earth. And though we cannot say, at what time, or by what degrees, this Mark xvi. 15.
+ Eph. iv. 11, 12. | Ezek. ii. 5.
§ Isa. xlix, 5.
promise shall be fulfilled ; yet, we have room to hope that every sincere endeavour is all along contributing something towards its completion. The good seed, which appears to lie dead for a while, will spring up in its season : that, which seems to shoot weakly at first, will gain strength insensibly, through the favourable influences of heaven: and the grain of mustard seed become a tree *. Thus have these colonies themselves grown: thus hath Christianity grown from its beginning, both in other places, and in them also : nor have we any reason to doubt its going on to do so still. In less than forty years, under many discouragements, and with an income very disproportionate to the vastness of the undertaking, a great deal hath been done: though little notice may have been taken of it, by persons unattentive to these things, or backward to acknowledge them. Near a hundred churches have been built ; above ten thousand Bibles and Common Prayers, above a hundred thousand other pious tracts, distributed : great multitudes, upon the whole, of negroes and Indians brought over to the Christian faith; many numerous congregations have been set up, which now support the worship of God at their own expence, where it was not known before; and seventy persons are constantly employed, at the expence of the Society, in the farther service of the Gospelt. All this, we grant, makes but a small appearances in a tract of land, extending sixteen hundred miles. But it is an encouraging specimen, however, of what longer time and more liberal assistance may effect. .
* Matth. xiii. 31, 32.
+ Since the preaching of this sermon, all these numbers have been much increased. The missionaries, catechists, and schoolmasters are now, 1765, above 100.