Wednesday, September 29

More from the Preface

The rest of the introductory notes to the journals.

It would perhaps have been more agreeable to the taste of politer readers, if the following Journal had been cast into a different method, and formed into one connected narrative. But the worthy author, amidst his continued labours, had no time to spare for such an undertaking. Besides, the pious reader will take a peculiar pleasure to see this work described in its native simplicity, and the operations of the Spirit upon the minds of these poor benighted pagans, laid down just in the method and order in which they happened. This, it must be confessed, will occasion frequent repetitions; but these, as they tend to give a fuller view of this amazing dispensation of divine grace in its rise and progress, we trust, will be easily forgiven.

When we see such numbers of the most ignorant and barbarous of mankind, in the space of a few months, "turned from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God," it gives us encouragement to wait and pray for that blessed time, when our victorious Redeemer shall, in a more signal manner than he has yet done, display the "banner of his cross," march on from "conquering to conquer, till the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." Yea, we cannot but lift up our heads with joy, and hope that it may be the dawn of that bright and illustrious day, when the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS shall "arise and shine from one end of the earth to the other;" when, to use the language of the inspired prophets, "the Gentiles shall come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising;" in consequence of which, "the wilderness and solitary places shall be glad, and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose."

It is doubtless the duty of all, in their different stations, and according to their respective capacities, to use their utmost endeavours to bring forward this promised, this desired day. There is a great want of schoolmasters among these christianized Indians, to instruct their youth in the English language, and the principles of the christian faith; for this as yet, there is no certain provision made:* if any are inclined to contribute to so good a design, we are persuaded they will do an acceptable service to the "kingdom of the Redeemer." And we earnestly desire the most indigent to join, at least, in their wishes and prayers, that this work may prosper more and more, till the "whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord."

Saturday, September 25

Notes from the Preface

David Brainerd takes a bit of a break from his journal here. It could be that he is travelling, although that's not clear from the text. It could also be that he's just discouraged. I thought I might post some of the preface to his journals while we wait for David to write his own entries again.

Whenever any of the guilty race of mankind are awakened to a just concern for their eternal interest, are humbled at the footstool of a sovereign God, and are persuaded and enabled to accept the offers of redeeming love, it must always be acknowledged a wonderful work of divine grace, which demands our thankful praises. But doubtless it is a more affecting evidence of almighty power, a more illustrious display of sovereign mercy, when those are enlightened with the knowledge of salvation, who have for many ages dwelt in the grossest darkness... and are brought to a cheerful subjection to the government of our divine Redeemer, who from generation to generation had remained the voluntary slaves of "the prince of darkness."

This is that delightful scene which will present itself to the reader's view, while he attentively peruses the following pages. Nothing certainly can be more agreeable to a benevolent and religious mind, than to see those that were sunk in the most degenerate state of human nature, at once.... surprisingly transformed into the character of real and devout Christians.

This mighty change was brought about by the plain and faithful preaching of the gospel, attended with an uncommon effusion of the divine Spirit, under the ministry of the Reverend David Brainerd, a Missionary employed by the Honourable Society in Scotland, for propagating CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE.

And surely it will administer abundant matter of praise and thanksgiving to that honourable body, to find that their generous attempt to send the gospel among the Indian nations upon the borders of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, has met with such surprising success.

Wednesday, September 22

Sept. 22.

Made some further attempts to instruct and christianize the Indians on this island, but all to no purpose. They live so near the white people, that they are always in the way of strong liquor, as well as the ill examples of nominal Christians; which renders it so unspeakably difficult to treat with them about Christianity.

Tuesday, September 21

Lord's day, Sept. 21.

Spent the day with the Indians on the island. As soon as they were well up in the morning, I attempted to instruct them, and laboured for that purpose to get them together, but quickly found they had something else to do; for near noon they gathered together all their powows, (or conjurers,) and set about half a dozen of them to playing their juggling tricks, and acting their frantic distracted postures, in order to find out why they were then so sickly upon the island, numbers of them being at that time disordered with a fever, and bloody flux. In this exercise they were engaged for several hours, making all the wild, ridiculous, and distracted motions imaginable; sometimes singing; sometimes howling; sometimes extending their hands to the utmost stretch, spreading all their fingers; and they seemed to push with them, as if they designed to fright something away, or at least keep it off at arm's-end; sometimes stroking their faces with their hands, then spurting water as fine as mist; sometimes sitting flat on the earth, then bowing down their faces to the ground; wringing their sides, as if in pain and anguish; twisting their faces, turning up their eyes, grunting, puffing, &c.

Their monstrous actions tended to excite ideas of horror, and seemed to have something in them, as I thought, peculiarly suited to raise the devil, if he could be raised by any thing odd, ridiculous, and frightful. Some of them, I could observe, were much more fervent and devout in the business than others, and seemed to chant, peep, and mutter with a great degree of warmth and vigour, as if determined to awaken and engage the powers below. I sat at a small distance, not more than thirty feet from them, (though undiscovered,) with my Bible in my hand, resolving, if possible, to spoil their sport, and prevent their receiving any answers from the infernal world, and there viewed the whole scene. They continued their hideous charms and incantations for more than three hours, until they had all wearied themselves out, although they had in that space of time taken sundry intervals of rest; and at length broke up, I apprehended, without receiving any answer at all.

After they had done powowing, I attempted to discourse with them about Christianity; but they soon scattered, and gave me no opportunity for any thing of that nature. A view of these things, while I was entirely alone in the wilderness, destitute of the society of any one that so much as "named the name of Christ," greatly sunk my spirits, gave me the most gloomy turn of mind imaginable, almost stripped me of all resolution and hope respecting further attempts for propagating the gospel, and converting the pagans, and rendered this the most burdensome and disagreeable sabbath that ever I saw. But nothing, I can truly say, sunk and distressed me like the loss of my hope respecting their conversion. This concern appeared so great, and seemed to be so much my own, that I seemed to have nothing to do on earth if this failed. A prospect of the greatest success in the saving conversion of souls under gospel-light, would have done little or nothing towards compensating for the loss of my hope in this respect; and my spirits now were so damped and depressed, that I had no heart nor power to make any further attempts among them for that purpose, and could not possibly recover my hope, resolution, and courage, by the utmost of my endeavours.

The Indians of this island can many of them understand the English language considerably well, having formerly lived in some part of Maryland among or near the white people, but are very vicious, drunken, and profane, although not so savage as those who have less acquaintance with the English. Their customs in divers respects differ from those of other Indians upon this river. They do not bury their dead in a common form, but let their flesh consume above-ground in close cribs made for that purpose; and at the end of a year, or sometimes a longer space of time, they take the bones, when the flesh is all consumed, and wash and scrape them, and afterwards bury them with some ceremony. - Their method of charming or conjuring over the sick, seems somewhat different from that of other Indians, though for substance the same: and the whole of it, among these and others, perhaps is an imitation of what seems, by Naaman's expression, 2 Kings v. 11. to have been the custom of the ancient heathens. For it seems chiefly to consist in their "striking their hands over the diseased," repeatedly stroking them, "and calling their gods," excepting the spurting of water like a mist, and some other frantic ceremonies, common to the other conjurations I have already mentioned.

When I was in these parts in May last, I had an opportunity of learning many of the notions and customs of the Indians, as well as of observing many of their practices. I then travelled more than a hundred and thirty miles upon the river above the English settlements; and had in that journey a view of some persons of seven or eight distinct tribes, speaking so many different languages. But of all the sights I ever saw among them, or indeed any where else, none appeared so frightful, or so near akin to what is usually imagined of infernal powers - none ever excited such images of terror in my mind - as the appearance of one who was a devout and zealous reformer, or rather restorer of what he supposed was the ancient religion of the Indians. - He made his appearance in his pontifical garb, which was a coat of bears' skins, dressed with the hair on, and hanging down to his toes, a pair of bear-skin stockings, and a great wooden face, painted the one half black, and the other tawny, about the colour of an Indian's skin, with an extravagant mouth, cut very much awry; the face fastened to a bear-skin cap, which was drawn over his head. He advanced toward me with the instrument in his hand that he used for music in his idolatrous worship, which was a dry tortoise-shell, with some corn in it, and the neck of it drawn on to a piece of wood, which made a very convenient handle. As he came forward, he beat his tune with the rattle, and danced with all his might, but did not suffer any part of his body, not so much as his fingers, to be seen: and no man would have guessed by his appearance and actions, that he could have been a human creature, if they had not had some intimation of it otherwise. When he came near me, I could not but shrink away from him, although it was then noonday, and I knew who it was, his appearance and gestures were so prodigiously frightful. He had a house consecrated to religious uses, with divers images cut out upon the several parts of it; I went in and found the ground beat almost as hard as rock with their frequent dancing in it. - I discoursed with him about Christianity, and some of my discourse he seemed to like, but some of it he disliked entirely. He told me that God had taught him his religion, and that he never would turn from it, but wanted to find some that would join heartily with him in it; for the Indians, he said, were grown very degenerate and corrupt. He had thoughts, he said, of leaving all his friends, and travelling abroad, in order to find some that would join with him; for he believed God had some good people somewhere that felt as he did. He had not always, he said, felt as he now did, but had formerly been like the rest of the Indians, until about four or five years before that time: then he said his heart was very much distressed, so that he could not live among the Indians, but got away into the woods, and lived alone for some months. At length, he says, God comforted his heart, and showed him what he should do; and since that time he had known God and tried to serve him; and loved all men, be they who they would, so as he never did before. - He treated me with uncommon courtesy, and seemed to be hearty in it. - And I was told by the Indians, that he opposed their drinking strong liquor with all his power; and if at any time he could not dissuade them from it, by all he could say, he would leave them and go crying into the woods. It was manifest he had a set of religious notions that he had looked into for himself, and not taken for granted upon bare tradition; and he relished or disrelished whatever was spoken of a religious nature according as it either agreed or disagreed with his standard. And while I was discoursing he would sometimes say, "Now that I like: so God has taught me," &c. And some of his sentiments seemed very just. Yet he utterly denied the being of a devil, and declared there was no such a creature known among the Indians of old times, whose religion he supposed he was attempting to revive. He likewise told me that departed souls all went south-ward, and that the difference between the good and bad was this, that the former were admitted into a beautiful town with spiritual walls, or walls agreeable to the nature of souls; and that the latter would for ever hover round those walls, and in vain attempt to get in. He seemed to be sincere, honest, and conscientious in his own way, and according to his own religious notions, which was more than I ever saw in any other pagan. I perceived he was looked upon and derided amongst most of the Indians as a precise zealot, that made a needless noise about religious matters; but I must say, there was something in his temper and disposition that looked more like true religion than any thing I ever observed amongst other heathens.

But, alas! how deplorable is the state of the Indians upon this river! The brief representation I have here given of their notions and manners, is sufficient to show that they are "led captive by Satan at his will," in the most eminent manner: and, methinks, might likewise be sufficient to excite the compassion, and engage the prayers, of pious souls for these their fellow-men, who sit in "the regions of the shadow of death."

Monday, September 20

Sept. 20.

Visited the Indians again at Juncauta island, and found them almost universally very busy in making preparations for a great sacrifice and dance. Had no opportunity to get them together in order to discourse with them about Christianity, by reason of their being so much engaged about their sacrifice. My spirits were much sunk with a prospect so very discouraging, and especially seeing I had now no interpreter but a pagan, who was as much attached to idolatry as any of them; (my own interpreter having left me the day before, being obliged to attend upon some important business elsewhere, and knowing that he could neither speak nor understand the language of these Indians;) so that I was under the greatest disadvantages imaginable. However, I attempted to discourse privately with some of them, but without any appearance of success: notwithstanding, I still tarried with them.

In the evening they met together, near a hundred of them, and danced round a large fire, having prepared ten fat deer for the sacrifice. The fat of whose inwards they burnt in the fire while they were dancing, and sometimes raised the flame to a prodigious height, at the same time yelling and shouting in such a manner, that they might easily have been heard two miles or more. - They continued their sacred dance all night, or near the matter, after which they ate the flesh of the sacrifice, and so retired each one to his lodging.

I enjoyed little satisfaction this night, being entirely alone on the island, (as to any christian company,) and in the midst of this idolatrous revel; and having walked to and fro till body and mind were pained and much oppressed, I at length crept into a little crib made for corn, and there slept on the poles.

Sunday, September 19

Sept. 19.

Visited an Indian town called Juncauta, situate on an island in Susquehannah. Was much discouraged with the temper and behaviour of the Indians here, although they appeared friendly when I was with them the last spring, and then gave me encouragement to come and see them again. But they now seemed resolved to retain their pagan notions, and persist in their idolatrous practices.

Friday, September 17

Sept. 17.

Spent the forenoon in visiting and discoursing to the Indians. About noon left Shaumoking, (most of the Indians going out this day on their hunting design,) and travelled down the river south-westward.

Thursday, September 16

Sept. 16.

Spent the forenoon with the Indians, endeavouring to instruct them from house to house, and to engage them, as far as I could, to be friendly to Christianity. Towards night went to one part of the town where they were sober, and got together near fifty persons of them, and discoursed to them, having first obtained the king's cheerful consent. - There was a surprising attention among them, and they manifested a considerable desire of being further instructed. There was also one or two that seemed to be touched with some concern for their souls, who appeared well pleased with some conversation in private, after I had concluded my public discourse to them.

My spirits were much refreshed with this appearance of things, and I could not but return with my interpreter (having no other companion in this journey) to my poor hard lodgings, rejoicing in hopes that God designed to set up his kingdom here, where Satan now reigns in the most eminent manner; and found uncommon freedom in addressing the throne of grace for the accomplishment of so great and glorious a work.

Wednesday, September 15

Lord's day, Sept. 15.

Visited the chief of the Delawares again; was kindly received by him, and discoursed to the Indians in the afternoon. Still entertained hopes that God would open their hearts to receive the gospel, though many of them in the place were so drunk from day to day, that I could get no opportunity to speak to them. Towards night discoursed with one that understood the languages of the Six Nations, (as they are usually called,) who discovered an inclination to hearken to Christianity; which gave me some hopes that the gospel might hereafter be sent to those nations far remote.

Tuesday, September 14

Sept. 14.

Visited the Delaware king, (who was supposed to be at the point of death when I was here in May last, but was now recovered,) and discoursed with him and others respecting Christianity, and spent the afternoon with them, and had more encouragement than I expected. The king appeared kindly disposed, and willing to be instructed: this gave me some encouragement that God would open an effectual door for my preaching the gospel here, and set up his kingdom in this place. Which was a support and refreshment to me in the wilderness, and rendered my solitary circumstances comfortable and pleasant.

Monday, September 13

Sept. 13.

Sept. 13. After having lodged out three nights, arrived at the Indian town I aimed at on Susquehannah, called Shaumoking, (one of the places, and the largest of them, that I visited in May last,) and was kindly received and entertained by the Indians: but had little satisfaction by reason of the heathenish dance and revel they then held in the house where I was obliged to lodge, which I could not suppress, though I often entreated them to desist, for the sake of one of their own friends who was then sick in the house, and whose disorder was much aggravated by the noise. - Alas! how destitute of natural affection are these poor uncultivated pagans! although they seem somewhat kind in their own way. Of a truth, "the dark corners of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty."

This town (as I observed in my Journal of May last) lies partly on the east side of the river, partly on the west, and partly on a large island in it, and contains upwards of fifty houses, and they tell me, near three hundred persons, though I never saw much more then half that number in it; but of three different tribes of Indians, speaking three languages wholly unintelligible to each other. About one half of its inhabitants are Delawares, the others called Senakes, and Tutelas. The Indians of this place are counted the most drunken, mischievous, and ruffianly fellows of any in these parts: and Satan seems to have his seat in this town in an eminent manner.

Thursday, September 9

Sept. 9.

Left the Indians in the Forks of Delaware, and set out on a journey towards Susquehannah river, directing my course towards the Indian town more than a hundred and twenty miles west-ward from the Forks. Travelled about fifteen miles, and there lodged.

Wednesday, September 8

Lord's day, Sept. 8.

Discoursed to the Indians in the forenoon from John xii. 44-50. in the afternoon from Acts ii. 36-39. The word of God at this time seemed to fall with weight and influence upon them. There were but few present, but most that were, were in tears, and sundry cried out under distressing concern for their souls.

There was one man considerably awakened, who never before discovered any concern for his soul. There appeared a remarkable work of the divine Spirit among them, almost generally, not unlike what has been of late at Crossweeksung. It seemed as if the divine influence had spread from thence to this place; although something of it appeared here in the awakening of my interpreter, his wife, and some few others.

Sundry of the careless white people now present were awakened, (or at least startled,) seeing the power of God so prevalent among the Indians. I then made a particular address to them, which seemed to make some impression upon them, and excite some affection in them.

There are sundry Indians in these parts who have always refused to hear me preach, and have been enraged against those that have attended my preaching. But of late they are more bitter than ever, scoffing at Christianity, and sometimes asking my hearers, "How often they have cried?" and "Whether they have not now cried enough to do the turn?" &c. So that they have already "trial of cruel mockings."

Tuesday, September 7

Sept. 7.

Preached to the Indians from John vi. 35-39. There was not so much appearance of concern among them as at several other times of late; yet they appeared serious and attentive.

Sunday, September 5

Sept. 5.

Discoursed to the Indians from the parable of the sower, afterwards conversed particularly with sundry persons, which occasioned them to weep, and even cry out in an affecting manner, and seized others with surprise and concern; and I doubt not but that a divine power accompanied what was then spoken. Sundry of these persons had been with me to Crossweeksung, and had there seen, and some of them, I trust, felt the power of God's word in an effectual and saving manner. I asked one of them, who had obtained comfort, and given hopeful evidences of being truly religious, Why he now cried? He replied, "When he thought how Christ was slain like a lamb, and spilt his blood for sinners, he could not help crying, when he was all alone:" and thereupon burst out into tears and cries again. I then asked his wife, who had likewise been abundantly comforted, wherefore she cried? She answered, "She was grieved that the Indians here would not come to Christ, as well as those at Crossweeksung." I asked her if she found a heart to pray for them, and whether Christ had seemed to be near to her of late in prayer, as in time past? (which is my usual method of expressing a sense of the divine presence.) She replied, "Yes, he had been near to her; and that at some times when she had been praying alone, her heart loved to pray so, that she could not bear to leave the place, but wanted to stay and pray longer."

Friday, September 3

Sept. 3.

Preached to the Indians from Isa. liii. 3-6. "He is despised and rejected of men," &c. The divine presence seemed to be in the midst of the assembly, and a considerable concern spread amongst them. Sundry persons seemed to be awakened, amongst whom were two stupid creatures that I could scarce ever before keep awake while I was discoursing to them. Could not but rejoice at this appearance of things, although at the same time I could not but fear, lest the concern they at present manifested, might prove like a morning cloud, as something of that nature had formerly done in these parts.

Wednesday, September 1

Lord's day, Sept. 1.

Preached to the Indians here from Luke xiv. 16-23. The word appeared to be attended with some power, and caused some tears in the assembly. Afterwards preached to a number of white people present, and observed many of them in tears, and some who had formerly been as careless and unconcerned about religion perhaps as the Indians. Towards night discoursed to the Indians again, and perceived a greater attention, and more visible concern among them than has been usual in these parts.