"After the strictest inquiry respecting their notions of the Deity, I find, that in ancient times, before the coming of the white people, some supposed that there were four invisible powers, who presided over the four corners of the earth. Others imagined the sun to be the only deity, and that all things were made by him. Others, at the same time, have a confused notion of a certain body or fountain of deity, somewhat like the anima mundi, so frequently mentioned by the more learned ancient Heathens, diffusing itself to various animals, and even to inanimate things, making them the immediate authors of good to certain persons, as before observed, with respect to various supposed deities. But after the coming of the white people, they seemed to suppose there were three deities, and three only, because they saw people of three different kinds of complexion, viz. English, Negroes, and Indians.

"It is a notion pretty generally prevailing among them, that it was not the same God made them, who made us; but that they were made after the white people; which further shows, that they imagine a plurality of divine powers. I fancy that they suppose their God gained some special skill by seeing the white people made, and so made them better; for it is certain they look upon themselves, and their method of living, which they say, their God expressly prescribed for them, vastly preferable to the white people, and their method. Hence they will frequently sit and laugh at the whites, as being good for nothing else but to plough and fatigue themselves with hard labour; while they enjoy the satisfaction of stretching themselves on the ground, and sleeping as much as they please; and have no other trouble but now and then to chase the deer, which is often attended with pleasure rather than pain. Hence, by the way, many of them look upon it to be as disgraceful for them to become Christians, as it would be esteemed among Christians for any to become Pagans. They suppose our religion will do well enough for us, because prescribed by our God; yet it is no way proper for them, because not of the same make and original. This they have sometimes offered as a reason why they did not incline to hearken to Christianity.


They seem to have some confused notion about a future state of existence, and many of them imagine that the chichung, i. e. the shadow, or what survives the body, will at death go southward, and in an unknown but curious place, will enjoy some kind of happiness, such as hunting, feasting, dancing, and the like. What they suppose will contribute much to their happiness in that state is, that they shall never be weary of those entertainments. It seems by this notion of their going southward to obtain happiness, as if they had their course into these parts of the world from some very cold climate, and

found the further they went southward the more comfortable they were; and thence concluded, that perfect felicity was to be found further towards the same point.

"They seem to have some faint and glimmering notion about rewards and punishments, or at least happiness and misery in a future state; that is, some with whom I have conversed; though others seem to know of no such thing. Those who suppose this, seem to imagine that most will be happy; and that those who are not so, will be punished only with privation, being only excluded the walls of that good world, where happy souls shall dwell.

"These rewards and punishments they suppose to depend entirely upon their conduct with relation to the duties of the second table, i. e. their behaviour towards mankind; and seem, so far as I can see, not to imagine that they have any reference to their religious notions or practices, or any thing that relates to the worship of God. I remember I once consulted a very ancient, but intelligent Indian upon this point, for my own satisfaction; and asked him, whether the Indians of old times had supposed there was any thing of the man that would survive the body? He replied, Yes.' I asked him, where he supposed its abode would be? He replied, 'It would go southward.' I asked him further, whether it would be happy there? He answered, after a considerable pause, that the souls of good folks would be happy, and the souls of bad folks misera

I then asked him, whom he called bad folks? His answer, as I remember, was, 'Those who lie, steal, quarrel with their neighbours, are unkind to their friends, and especially to aged parents, and, in a word, such as are a plague to mankind.' These were his bad folks; but not a word was said about their neglect of divine worship, and their badness in that respect.

"They have indeed some kind of religious worship, are frequently offering sacrifices to some supposed invisible powers, and are very ready to impute their calamities in the present world, to the neglect of these sacrifices; but there is no appearance of reverence and devotion in the homage which they pay them; and what they do of this nature, seems to be done only to appease the supposed anger of their deities, to engage them to be placable to themselves, and do them no hurt, or at most, only to invite these powers to succeed them in those enterprises they are engaged in respecting the present life. So that in offering these sacrifices, they seem to have no reference to a future state, but only to present comfort. This is the account my interpreter always gives me of this matter. They sacrifice,' says he, 'that they may have success in hunting and other affairs, and that sickness and other calamities may not befall them, which they fear in the present world, in case of

[ocr errors]

neglect; but they do not suppose God will ever punish them in the coming world for neglecting to sacrifice.' Indeed they seem to imagine, that those whom they call bad folks, are excluded from the company of good people in that state, not so much because God remembers, and is determined to punish them for their sins of any kind, either immediately against himself or their neighbour, as because they would be a plague to society, and would render others unhappy if admitted to dwell with them. So that they are excluded rather of necessity, than by God acting as a righteous judge.


They give much heed to dreams, because they suppose these invisible powers give them directions at such times about certain affairs, and sometimes inform them what animal they would choose to be worshipped in. They are likewise much attached to the traditions and fabulous notions of their fathers; who have informed them of divers miracles that were anciently wrought among the Indians, which they firmly believe, and thence look upon their ancestors to have been the best of men. They also mention some wonderful things which, they say, have happened since the memory of some who are now living. One I remember affirmed to me, that himself had once been dead four days; that most of his friends in that time were gathered together to his funeral, and that he should have been buried, but that some of his relations at a great distance, who were sent for upon that occasion, were not arrived; before whose coming he came to life again. In this time, he says, he went to the place where the sun rises; imagining the earth to be a plain; and directly over that place, at a great height in the air, he was admitted, he says, into a great house, which he supposes was several miles in length, and saw many wonderful things, too tedious as well as ridiculous to mention. Another person, a woman, whom 1 have not seen, but of whom I have been credibly informed by the Indians, declares that she was dead several days, that her soul went southward, and feasted and danced with the happy spirits, and that she found all things exactly agreeable to the Indian notions of a future state. To these superstitious notions and traditions, and to this ridiculous worship they are extremely attached; and the prejudice which they have imbibed in favour of these things, renders them not a little averse to the doctrines of Christianity. Some of them have told me, when I have endeavoured to instruct them, "that their fathers had taught them already, and that they did not want to learn now."

"It will be too tedious to give any considerable account of the methods I make use of for surmounting this difficulty. I will just say, I endeavour, as much as possible, to show them the inconsistency of their own notions, and so to confound them out of their own mouths. I must also say, I have some

times been almost nonplussed with them, and scarcely knew what to answer them; but never have been more perplexed with them, than when they have pretended to yield to me as knowing more than they, and consequently have asked me numbers of impertinent, and yet difficult questions, as, 'How the Indians came first into this part of the world, away from all the white people, if what I said was true,' viz. that the same God made them who made us? How the Indians became black, if they had the same original parents with the white people?' And numbers more of the like nature.These things, I must say, have been not a little difficult and discouraging, especially when withal some of the Indians have appeared angry and malicious against Christianity.

"What further contributes to their aversion to Christianity is, the influence which their powaws (conjurers or diviners) have upon them. These are a sort of persons who are supposed to have a power of foretelling future events, or recovering the sick at least oftentimes, and of charming, enchanting, or poisoning persons to death by their magic divinations. Their spirit, in its various operations, seems to be a Satanical imitation of the spirit of prophecy with which the church in early ages was favoured. Some of these diviners are endowed with the spirit in infancy-others in adult age. It seems not to depend upon their own will, nor to be acquired by any endeavours of the person who is the subject of it, although it is supposed to be given to children sometimes in consequence of some means which the parents use with them for that purpose; one of which is to make the child swallow a small living frog, after having performed some superstitious rites and ceremonies upon it. They are not under the influence of this spirit always alike,but it comes upon them at times. Those who are endowed with it, are accounted singularly favoured. "I have laboured to gain some acquaintance with this affair of their conjuration, and have for that end consulted and queried with the man mentioned in my diary, May 9, who, since his conversion to Christianity, has endeavoured to give me the best intelligence he could of this matter. But it seems to be such a mystery of iniquity, that I cannot well understand it, and do not know oftentimes what ideas to affix to the terms he makes use of. So far as I can learn, he himself has not any clear notions of the thing, now his spirit of divination is gone from him. However, the manner in which he says he obtained this spirit of divination was this ;-he was admitted into the presence of a great man, who informed him, that he loved, pitied, and desired to do him good. It was not in this world that he saw the great man, but in a world above at a vast distance from this. The great man he says, was clothed with the day; yea, with the brightest day he ever saw; a day of many years, yea, of

everlasting continuance! this whole world, he says, was drawn upon him, so that in him, the earth, and all things in it, might be seen. I asked him, if rocks, mountains, and seas, were drawn upon, or appeared in him? He replied, that every thing that was beautiful and lovely in the earth was upon him, and might be seen by looking on him, as well as if one was on the earth to take a view of them there. By the side of the great man, he says, stood his shadow or spirit; for he used (chichung,) the word they commonly use to express that part of the man which survives the body, which word properly signifies a shadow. This shadow, he says, was as lovely as the man himself, and filled all places, and was most agreeable as well as wonderful to him. Here he says, he tarried some time, and was unspeakably entertained and delighted with a view of the great man, of his shadow, or spirit, and of all things in him. What is most of all astonishing, he imagines all this to have passed before he was born. He never had been he says, in this world at that time. What confirms him in the belief of this, is, that the great man told him, that he must come down to earth, be born of such a woman, meet with such and such things, and in par'ticular, that he should once in his life be guilty of murder. At this he was displeased, and told the great man he would never murder. But the great man replied, 'I have said it, and it shall be so.' Which has accordingly happened. At this time, he says, the great man asked him what he would choose in life. He replied, first to be a hunter, and afterwards to be a powaw or diviner. Whereupon the great man told him, he should have what he desired, and that his shadow should go along with him down to earth, and be with him for ever. There was, he says, all this time no words spoken between them. The conference was not carried on by any human language, but they had a kind of mental intelligence of each other's thoughts, dispositions and proposals. After this, he says, he saw the great man no more; but supposes he now came down to earth to be born, but the spirit or shadow of the great man still attended him, and ever after continued to appear to him in dreams and other ways, until he felt the power of God's word upon his heart; since which it has entirely left him.

"The spirit, he says, used sometimes to direct him in dreams to go to such a place and hunt, assuring him he should there meet with success, which accordingly proved so. When he had been there some time, the spirit would order him to another place. So that he had success in hunting, according to the great man's promise made to him at the time of his chosing this employment.

"There were some times when this spirit came upon him in a special manner, and he was full of what he saw in the great man. Then, he says, he was all light, and not only light him

« ElőzőTovább »