« AnteriorContinuar »
over our hills and plains, when we recollect that they disappeared, to make room for us, too soon for the great and final results of that zeal to be fairly unfolded.
“But the question may be asked, on the other hand, Was there no good done? It is true, indeed, that both the red man and his Christianity, such as it was, vanished ere long from the roll of existing things. But while he remained, did the religion, which he had received, do nothing for him ? True, it was a very imperfect and rude exercise of faith ; his conceptions of what he had learned under the name of Christianity were, as we should expect, coarse and narrow, But was even such a form of moral life useless to him? God has endowed spiritual truth with a power, which, when it has once found its way to the heart, cannot be wholly suppressed or extinguished by any rudeness of apprehension, or any poverty of knowledge.
“ Who the line Shall draw, the limits of the power define,
That even imperfect faith to man affords ?” I cannot readily believe, that any portion of spiritual culture is entirely lost. Somewhere and somehow it has worked, and will work, for good. Even in the comparatively faint moral life kindled among the Indian settlements founded by Mr. Eliot, before they were broken up by war and discord, there was far more of the substantial good that belongs to man in his true attributes, than among all the tribes, who still roamed in vaunted freedom through the forests, unchained by any restraints of order or religion.
“But even if not one of the Indians had been personally benefited by the labors of the apostle Eliot, still those labors, like every great benevolent effort, have answered a noble purpose. They stand as the imperishable record of good attempted by man for man; and such a record, who, that values the moral glory of his country, will consider as a trivial portion of her history? It constitutes a chapter in the annals of benevolence, which every Christian, every friend of man, will contemplate with pleasure, even if his gratification be mingled with the sad reflection, that so much was done for so small results. When the settlers of New England came hither, and built new homes on these shores, they and the natives, the stranger emigrant and the old inhabitant, stood side by side, each a portion of God's great family. Had our fathers never cast one kind regard on these wild men, had they never approached them in any office of kindness or any manifestation of sympathy, had they stood off from them in surly or contemptuous indifference, except when occasion might serve to circumvent or crush them, a melancholy deduction must have been made from the reverence, with which every son of New England loves to regard their character and doings.
“ But it is not so. The voice of Christian affection was spoken to the savage. The accents of pious kindness saluted his ear. For him benevolence toiled, and faith prayed, and wisdom taught ; and the red race did not pass away, carrying with them no remembrance but that of defeat, and wrong, and submission to overpowering strength. The Christianity of the white man formed a beautiful, though transient, bund of interest with them. The light, which Eliot's piery kindled, was indeed destined soon to go out. But there his work stands for ever on our records, a work of love, performed in the spirit of love, and designed to effect the highest good which man is capable of receiving. Nonantum and Natick will ever be names of beautiful moral meaning in the history of New England.” – pp. 301 - 305.
It is always a pleasure to record with honor, instances of self-forgetting benevolence in our fellow-men, and not the less so for its being sometimes chargeable with improvidence. We have to thank our author for preserving a characteristic anecdote in the next extract.
“In the performance of his duties among his congregation and elsewhere, he was eminently remarkable for his free and selfforgetting bounty. The pecuniary resources of a New England clergyman, slender enough at any time, were then scanty indeed. But Mr. Eliot, in the unchecked freedom of his liberality, made the most of the little he possessed, in works of benevolence. To the poor he gave with an open band, till all was gone; and they looked to him as a father and a friend. The amount of his personal charities in this way alonc, at different times, was many hundred pounds. He did not wait for suffering to come in his way, but sought it out diligently. As other men would search for hidden treasures, he searched for opportunities of raising the wretched and relieving the miserable. When his own means were exhausted, he applied to those who were blessed with abundance, and begged of them contributions for the children of want. His bounty, to be so 'profuse, inust sometimes doubtless have been indiscriminate and injudicious. With a benevolence too incautious, he often distributed his salary for the relief of others, before the wants of his own family were supplied.
“On this subject there is a well-known anecdote, which, though probably familiar to many readers, is too characteristic to be omitted. When the parish treasurer was once about to pay him his salary, or a portion of it, knowing his habitual propensity, he put it into a handkerchief, which he tied in several hard knots, in order to prevent Mr. Eliot from giving it away before he reached home. After leaving the treasurer, the benevolent man called at the house of a family who were poor and sick. He blessed them, and told them God had
sent relief by him. His kind words brought tears of gratitude to their eyes. He immediately attempted to untie his handkerchief; but the knots had been so effectually made, that he could not get at his money. After several fruitless efforts to loose the handkerchief, growing impatient of the perplexity and delay, he gave the whole to the mother of the family, saying, “Tiere, my dear, take it; I believe the Lord designs it all for you.''
pp. 316-318. Mr. Francis has two or three chapters on the private life and personal traits of Eliot. We copy a few paragraphs.
“ His habits with respect to personal indulgence were of the most simple and severe kind. He had attained a complete mastery over the pleasures of sense, and held them in despotic subjugation. The lessons of self-denial, which he had thoroughly learned and daily practised, and his indifference to outward accommodations, fitted him to endure without complaint the privations, to which he was often exposed in his ministry to the Indians. He allowed himself but little sleep, rising early and beginning his labors in the freshness of the morning. This habit he recommended to others, especially to those who were engaged in intellectual pursuits. Ile would often say to young students, 'I pray you, look to it that you be morning birds.'
His food was always the plainest and most simple. Rich viands and highly seasoned varieties, it seems, were not unknown in New England even at that time. For these Mr. Eliot had no relish himself, and but little mercy for the taste in others. When he dined abroad, he partook of but one dish, and that the plainest on the table. He was habitually a water-drinker, and seldoın deviated into the use of any other liquor. The juice of the grape did not denounce, but rarely tasted it himself. “Wine,' he was accustomed to say, “is a noble, generous liquor, and we should be humbly thankful for it; but, as I remember, water was made before it.' He thought very justly, that intemperate eating deserved to be severely rebuked, no less than intemperate drinking. In his correspondence with Baxter, he remarks, 'I observe in yours a thing, which I have not so much observed in other men's writing, namely that you often inveigh against the sin of gluttony, as well as drunkenness. It appeareth to be a very great point of Christian prudence, temperance, and mortification, to rule the appetite of eating as well as drinking; and, were that point more inculcated by divines, it would much tend to the sanctification of God's people, as well as to a better preservation of health, and lengthening of the life of man on earth.'
“Extravagance or finery in dress was likely to draw from Mr. Eliot a witty or a serious rebuke. His own apparel was not only - 30 s. VOL. II. NO. I.
without ornament, but frequently of the most home!y kind. It is said that, like John the Biptist, he sometimes had a leathern girdle about his Joios; but this, it is likely, was worn only or chietly during his missionary excursious. In some men, habits like these might justly be suppo-ed to proceed from an aff-ctation of homeliness ; for there is a pride of plainness, as well as a pride of finery. But Mr. Eliot was too guileless a man to be suspecied of such folly. His negligence of external appearance, and his contempt for the pleasures of the table, were the result of an unaffected love of simplicity, strengthened by a studious life and by intense engagement in absorbing duties.
“ Mr. Eliot had a few whims, to which he was pertinaciously attached. One of these was an un-paring hostility to the practice of wearing long hair and wigs. lle could not endure it; he regarded it as an iniquity not to be tolerated. The man, and especially the minister of the Gospel, who wore a wig, he considered as committing an offence, not only against decency, but against religion. His zeal about ‘prolix locks' was warm, but unavailing. He lived to see the practice prevail in spite of his remonstrances, and at last gave over his warfare against it with the despairing remark, ‘The lust has become insuperable!! The readers of New England history will remember, that in 1649 an association was formed, and a solemn protest published, against wearing long hair, by Governor Endicot and the other magistrates.
“ In this punctiliousness we see the influence of sympathy with the English Roundherds carried even into trifles. Iu England, periwigs were permitted quietly to cover the head soon after the restoration of Charles. But for more than thirty years after that time, they were deemed by many a sore grievance in New Englaud. Gradually during that period they were coming into use ; but they needed all the authority derived from the practice of such divines as Owen, Bates, and Mede, to find protection at last. The intolerance they experienced from Mr. Eliot was not, therefore, a singularity in the good man; he only persevered in his stern liostility against them longer than many others.
“ To the use of tobacco, the introduction of which had caused no little disturbance in New England, he had likewise a strong aversion, and denounced it in the severest terms.
But his opposition in this case was as ineffectual, as in that of the wigs. 'In contempt of all his admonitions,' says Allen, 'the head would be adorned with curls of foreign growth, and the pipe would send up volumes of smoke.'” - pp. 320 - 323.
“ This aged servant of Christ sat waiting, as it were, in the antechamber of death, quiet and full of hope. He used sometimes pleasantly to say, that he was afraid some of his old Christian
friends, who had departed before him, especially John Cotton of Boston and Richard Mather of Dorchester, would suspect him to have gone the wrong way, because he remained so long behind them. His full share of work seemed to have been done; but even now he could not consent to be idle. He looked around for some labor of benevolence and piety, such as the remnant of his powers might allow him to perform. The care of the ignorant and the neglected was still the ruling passion of his heart. He saw with grief the great want of concern for the moral welfare of the blacks. He proposed to many of the families within two or three miles of his house, that they should send their negro servants to him once a week, to be instructed in religion. In this humible, but truly benevolent work, he rejoiced to occupy some of his last hours; but death intervened before much could be accomplished.”
pp. 332, 333.
We have already trespassed largely upon the pages of our author, and will pass on to the closing scene of our apostle's life.
“While death was fast approaching, his mental powers, though dimmed and broken, were still retained. He rejoiced in the thought, that he should soon carry to his friends in heaven good news of the prosperity of the New England churches. When some one inquired how he was, he replied, “ Alas! I have lost every thing; my understanding leaves me; my memory fails me ; my utterance fails me; but, I thank God, my charity holds out still; I find that rather grows than fails.'
One of his last remembrances lingered sadly among those, to whom he had given so much of his strength and life. There is a cloud,' he said, ' a dark cloud upon the work of the Gospel among the poor Indians. The Lord revive and prosper that work, and grant it may live when I am dead. It is a work, which I have been doing much and long about. But what was the word I spoke last? I recall that expression my doings. Alas, they have been poor and small doings, and I'll be the man that shall throw the first stone at them all.' When, a short time before his death, Mr. Walter came into his room, he said, “Brother, you are welcome to my very soul ; but retire to your study, and pray that I may have leave to be gone.' Mr. Eliot died on the 20th of May, 1690, aged eighty-six years. The last words on his lips were 'WELCOME JOY!'
“ Such was the life and such the end of John Eliot. New England bewailed his death, as a great and general calamity. The churches, whose growth and prosperity had always been among the things which lay nearest to his heart, felt that they had lost a spiritual father, whose venerable presence had been to them a defence and glory. So deep was the sentiment of reverence for his character, that Mather observes, ' We had a tradition among