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JOHN ELIOT-THE APOSTLE OF THE INDIANS.
MR. John Eliot, teacher of the Church of Roxbury for fifty years after the first settlement of that town in 1631, will be remembered, by all acquainted with the history of New England, fof his early and persistent efforts to civilize and Christianize the native Indians, and is entitled to our grateful recognition for his life-long interest in the mental and spiritual culture of the children and youth, not only of his own people, but of all New England. Of his perpetual resolution and activity to support a good school in the town that belonged unto him,' Cotton Mather,* in his elaborate · Life of the Renowned John Eliot,' writes: "A grammar school he would always have upon the place, whatever it cost him; and he importuned all other places to have the like. I can not forget the ardor with which I even heard him pray, in a synod of these churches which met at Boston to consider • how the miscarriages which were among us might be prevented.' I say with what fervor he uttered an expression to this purpose: Lord, for schools every where among us! 0! that our schools may flourish! That every member of this assembly may go home and procure a good school to be encouraged in the town where he lives! That before we die we may see a good school encouraged in every plantation of the country.' God so blessed his endeavors, that Roxbury could not live quietly without a free school in the town; and the issue of it has been one thing, which has made me almost put the title of Schola Illustris upon that little nursery; that is, 'that Roxbury has afforded more scholars, first for the colledge, and then for the publick-than any town of its bigness, or if I mistake not, of twice its bigness in all New England.' From the spring of the school at Roxbury, there have run a large number of the streams which have made glad this whole city of God.' I persuade myself that the good people of Roxbury will for ever scorn to begrudge the cost, or to permit the death of a school which God has made such an honor to them; and
Magnalia Christi Americana. By Cotton Mather, D. D., F. R. S., and Pastor of North Church in Boston.
this the rather, because the deceased Eliot has left them a fair part of his estate for the maintaining of the school in Roxbury; and I hope, or at least I wish, that the ministers of New England, may be as ungainsayably importunate with their people as Mr. Eliot was with his, for schools that may seasonably tinge the young souls of the rising generation. A want of education for them is the blackest and saddest of all the bad omens that are upon us.” the appreciation of the educational labors of the Apostle Eliot by one who was a witness of their abundant fruitfulness, and who included him, in his Divine Illustrations,' among the First Good Men, who brought the Gospel into this wilderness, and settled churches here according to the order of the Gospel.'
He was born at Nasing, in Essex, England, Nov., 1604, of Puritan parents, who secured for him a thorough education in Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took his degree in 1622. After leaving Cambridge, he taught for a time in the school kept by the eminent Thomas Hooker, “the quiet sanctity of whose household was a rich blessing to his soul.' He came over in the vessel which brought over Gov. Winthrop's wife and children, in Nov., 1631, and supplied the pulpit of the First Church, in a temporary absence of Mr. Wilson in England, with such acceptance that the Church would have made him their Teacher. But he had pledged himself to a company of friends to be their teacher, when they should come over, as they did in 1632, when he settled with them at Roxbury -being ordained Teacher in November, in the church of which Rev. Thomas Weld was invested with pastoral charge in July preceding. In the same year he was married to Ann Mountfort, born in 1604, to whom he was engaged before he left England. To them were born seven children—she died March 24, 1687, aged 84, and he in May 20, 1690, aged 86.
In the year previous to his death, he conveyed an estate of about 75 acres to trustees for “the 'maintenance, support, and encouragement of a school and schoolmaster at that part of Roxbury, commonly called Jamaica, or the Pond Plains, for the teaching and instructing of the children at that end of the town, (together with such Indians and negroes as shall or may come to the said school) and to no other intent or purpose whatever.'
Before giving in some detail the original documents, connected with the Free School in the Easterly Part of Roxbury, which illustrates the peculiar character of the early Free schools of New England, we will note briefly the labors of Eliot, for which his contemporaries and posterity call him the Apostle of the Indians.
ELIOT'S LABORS FOR THE INDIANS.* In the first place he set about learning the Indian language, under difficulties which only a pioneer can encounter or appreciate. Without book, or teacher, he had to grope his way from the unintelligible sounds of the barbarous natives, into the mysteries of a language that it would be no easy thing to master with all the helps of learning. He had first to learn to understand the common talk. Then he had to learn the fit analogies to express what he had to teach, for which they had no words, but which he must still teach in the language of the natives.—And he had also to study the Indian and reduce it to some system, to study its laws scientifically, as well as to learn the words, by memory, in order to reduce it to a written tongue. It is said he took Job Nesutan into his family to learn the language. It is much more probable that he had been studying the language for several years. Amongst the deaths recorded in the town is one, in 1646, of 'an Indian who had lived ten years with the whites, and could readi' From our knowledge of Eliot, we can not help believing that Eliot taught, and learned of this
person. There were many Indians in the vicinity of Roxbury, and very likely many within the town, though but rare traces are found of them. Eliot first went to preach to them at Nonantum, October 28th, 1646. He preached there again on the 11th, and again on the 26th of November, in the same year. The whole proceedings of the meetings are still preserved. After prayer and a discourse, the Indians put such questions as suggested themselves, such as these, How he knew Jesus Christ? Whether the English were ever ignorant of Christ? Whether Christ could understand prayers in Indian? How the world came to be full of people, if all men were drowned in the flood? Why sea water was salt and river water fresh? These and many more were put at the different meetings. They are curious and interesting, as they show the operation of men's minds and of the religious sentiment. But they are too voluminous for the limits of this sketch. The accounts of the meetings were sent to England and published and excited great interest.
It was a maxim with Eliot that the Indians must be civilized in order to their being christianized. Accordingly, he took the greatest pains not only to teach them the truths of Christianity, but to show to them the benefits of the various arts known to the English, and to urge them to industry, good order, and good government. He looked to their physical comfort. "Cleanliness' he considered next to Godliness.' On the organization of a town at Natick, a simple code of laws was agreed upon, which indicate at once the habits of the natives, and the aim and obstacles of Eliot. They punished 1st, idleness; 2d, licentiousness; 3d, cruelty to women; 4th, vagrancy; 5th, looseness in dress ; 6th, filthiness in person. These were, no doubt, made by Eliot.
* By Charles M. Ellis-in History of Roxbury, 1847,
Before, or about the time when Eliot commenced his labor at Nonantum, he had visited the Indians at Dorchester mill, but was not well received by them, though they afterward desired him to preach to them. He began with those in his immediate vicinity. The next year, he went to Concord to preach, when he converted the chief and gained converts in the tribe. In 1648, he went to a tribe on the Merrimac; in 1648, to Yarmouth, afterward to Lancaster and Brookfield. It was his custom for many years to preach to the Indians once a fortnight. In 1670, he made a journey to the Indians at Martha's Vineyard. In 1673-4, he traveled through the country of the Nipmucks, who inhabited the southern parts of western Massachusetts and the north of Connecticut, preaching constantly, and teaching them in their wigwams.
The progress he made was not rapid. It may be judged of from the fact that, at the breaking out of Philip's war the whole number of Christian Indians in the Massachusetts colony was about 1,150. The work was beset with difficulties. King Philip told the Apostle that he cared no more for his religion than for a button on his coat. Ninigret, the Narraganset sachem, when requested by Mayhew leave to preach to his tribe, told him to make the English good first. There was great personal danger and hardship. On one occasion, the life of Mr. Eliot was threatened if he dared to visit a certain tribe; but he did not hesitate, saying, “it is God's work and I fear not,' and he went, under the guard of his friends and some Christian Indians. In one of his letters he says, 'I have not been dry night or day, from the third day of the week unto the sixth, but so traveled, and at night pull off my boots, wring my stockings, and on with them again, and so continue. But God steps in and helps.' Gookin, a Judge of the Indian Court, said he was afraid to go through the streets alone. Eliot was not proof against all hardship. In 1657, he was 'exercised by the sciatica, enduring much anguish and dolor,' so that he could not preach for twenty weeks.
Yet he accomplished much. Under him the Indians became neat and industrious. They began to leave their old habits and organize into civilized society. Several of their towns became quite thriving and respectable. In 1647. on Eliot's petition, a court was estab-