From the Maryville Intelligencer.
THE UNITED BRETHREN.
May 13, 1833
Dear Sir:- If you consider the following brief notice from Mr. Heckwelder's narrative, worthy the attention of your readers, they are at your disposal. Respectfully, yours,
In his introduction, Mr. H. observes 'The course which the missionaries, who dwelt with Indians, had to pursue, was plainly marked out to them. They did not go among those people for the sake of earthly gain, neither to serve a party. Their sole object was that of bringing them the good tidings that Christ had come into this world-suffered and died on the cross for the sins of mankind, and to teach them the way of salvation. Under this commission, they considered themselves as serving the God of peace who himself had promised a blessing on peace makers.'
The United Brethren commenced their missionary labors among the Indians, A.D. 1732 in Georgia; but in consequence of the war between Great Britain and Spain, A.D. 1739, they were obliged to abandon this field of labor.
On the 16th of July, A.D. 1740, their missionary Christian Henry Rauch arrived at New York. Is instructions were, 'not in any wise to interfere with the labors of other missionaries or ministers, or cause any disturbance among them; but silently to observe whether any of the heathen were, by the grace of God, prepared to receive and believe the word of life.- That if even only one was to be found desirous of hearing, to him the gospel should be preached; for God must give the heathen ears to hear the gospel, and hearts to receive it.' The missionary, soon after his arrival, went to the Indian town, Shekomeko, and commenced his labors among the Mahigans (sic); and on the 22d day of Feb. 1742, the three first converts were baptized. The same year twenty-six more were added to their number. More laborers were sent, and another mission commenced at Scatticok, on Kent River, in Connecticut; and a number more converted, mostly of the Wampano tribe. These settlements built themselves each a place of worship, in which they daily met for divine service. Scarcely three years had elapsed, before their white neighbors had began to trouble and even persecute them. In the beginning they had represented the Indians to the missionaries, as a race of savages, incapable of embracing Christianity, or of leading a Christian life; and that it was next to madness to think of living among them. But now, when it was manifest that a number of them had embraced Christianity, and did lead a Christian life, they would not permit them to enjoy Christian privileges. Every device was resorted to to have these missionaries banished out of the country. Some even offered liquor to any Indian who would kill them. The next step they took was to charge the missionaries with being an evil minded, designing people, and disaffected to the government. Inconsequence of which, they were taken from one place to another to be examined, sometimes by a magistrate, and at other times by minsters. Two of them were kept for sometime at New Midford, while the others were ordered to Poughkeepsie, and there mal-treated, until at length, being brought before the Governor of Connecticut, were declared innocent and discharged.- They were then accused of being Papists, and traitors, in alliance with the French, 'c. Therefore on the 15th of Dec. 1744, a sheriff and two justices of the peace, came to Shekomeko, and in the name of the Governor and Council of New York, forbade all meetings of the Brethren, and commanded them to appear at Poughkeepsie on the 7th of that month.
As the Brethren were conscientiously scrupulous about taking an oath, their accusers prevailed on the Governor of New York, to have them examined before him. This being done they were discharged as innocent. Yet the senior missionary, Buttner, having been ordered to Poughkeepsie, was obliged to go, though in ill health from previous abuse. Here, after waiting and suffering with cold for several days, he was discharged.
In October of that year, the Assembly of New York passed the two following acts, viz; one by which all suspicious persons were required to take the oath of allegiance, or leave the Province; the other positively forbidding the brethren to instruct the Indians.- The brethren, now like strangers in the land, dare not meet with their Indian congregation for divine service, nor even abide with them where they were; yet had to delay their departure on account of the sickness of the senior missionary. Gottlieh Buttner, who on the 23d of Feb. 1746 departed this life. The Indian brethren having taken the burial duties and ceremonies upon themselves since the white brethren, (their teachers,) dare not officiate, purchased linens, dressed his corpse nicely in white, and interred his remains with Christian solemnity in the burying ground at Shekomeko-watering his grave with their tears. Soon after, the remaining missionary Martin Mack, his wife and the widow of the deceased, took a final farewell of their congregation, and set out for Bethlehem-from whence the Indian congregation frequently received visits, till they were all removed. During the two last years of the brethren's laboring at this place, sixty-two persons were baptized. The departure of the missionaries, however, did not satisfy the surrounding whites. They threatened to destroy the town, and endeavored to obtain a death warrant for the whole congregation; until at length, the poor people were obliged to flee for their lives to Bethlehem; leaving their lands, improvements, 'c. without the least prospect of recompense.
Extract from a letter of Mr. Williams,
dated at Bethalbara, April 4, 1833
MEETINGS AND ADDITIONS TO THE CHURCH.- Since January, I have been occupied for the most part in pastoral labors. This work has greatly increased on my hands since the arrival of the new emigrants. The believers who lately settled within my bounds have felt the effects of their journey on their own hearts; and an intercourse with them has had a chilling influence on the hearts of the church members here; so that for nearly three months the religious prospects were not so flattering as for some time previous. It was but too apparent that because iniquity abounded the love of many had waxen cold. But when the enemy came in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifted a standard against him. Our poor endeavors to stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance of former mercies, have not been entirely fruitless; though, alas! some of the church members had indeed left their first love.- Meetings were appointed and held in different neighborhoods, but often thinly attended when we hoped it would be otherwise. At length a sacramental meeting was appointed, which commenced on the 29th of March and closed on the 1st inst. Three weeks previous to this meeting, however, increasing feeling was manifest under the preaching of the word, and at evening conference meetings. The still small voice was heard, and some backsliders, and a few others manifested a special concern for their souls, and seem determined to seek the favor of God.- Still a great number of the believers showed too little interest in these things until our last meeting which I hope was the time or release to some captive souls. If there were no new cases of conversion, yet many were warmed, many harps were taken down from the willows and tuned anew.
The church session had endeavored to prepare for the meeting,was far as practicable, by examining candidates before hand. Much time was spent and some good was affected by the means, all tending to prepare the minds of the session, of the candidates, and of the congregation which was present at most of the examinations, for the ordinances of God's house. In had the aid of two Methodist brethren and Mr. Hotchkin, in dispensing the word of life to a very large congregation. On the Sabbath, after suitable instruction on the subject, three new elders were ordained, and forty-four candidates made a public profession of their faith in Christ, and entered into covenant with this church. Nine of this number being persons not belonging to the church in the old nation, were baptized. The others had all been members of the Mayhew church, but were not received here without a careful examination. Some who applied for admission to the church were deferred; others were providentially detained from attending the meeting. Three indeed of those who had been accepted by the session, were thus detained. About one hundred and fifteen persons sat down together at the table of our Redeemed, and his presence made it a feast of fat things to many who had been almost famished I suppose there were present at least a hundred persons who had never heard the gospel, or witnessed any such scenes before. The whole assembly could not consist of less than five hundred persons. In the evening, although but few of those not members of the church attended, fifteen were found to come over to the Lord's side, after hearing a sermon on the words of Moses, Exodus xxxi, i, 26. Twelve infant children were dedicated to the Lord by baptism on the same evening. Verily it is good to be there. Many things conspired to make the meeting and exercises deeply interesting. If ever I could have wished the sun and moon to stand still, that the day might be prolonged, it was last Sabbath; so that those multitudes who had never heard, and many more who, though they had often heard, had not embraced the gospel, might have been particularly instructed, and as it were, compelled to come in. It is believed that a number of those who retired to their homes at sunset, were almost persuaded to become Christians. This meeting was held within one mile and a half of this station, at our new meeting house, which was built by the natives, and was solemnly dedicated to God on the Sabbath previous to the sacramental meeting.
Although I have mentioned these favorable appearances, I would not raise expectation too high. Satan is very active at this particular time. But I am not only supported, but comforted, and my confidence in God is stronger than ever. Our chief has not become very friendly, and at our meeting assured his countrymen that it was wholly in vain to oppose, or to attempt to obstruct the progress of the gospel.
It is an interesting fact that the Christian females hold weekly meetings in different neighborhoods. Miss Clough generally meets with those on the east of the river, and Mr. Williams with those on the west side. Some of their meetings are very solemn indeed. As many as twelve prayers have been offered before they would separate, besides singing, reading the scriptures, and exhortation. Indeed there are many precious people under my charge-dear to me as bearing the image of Jesus. In view of the vast and increasing responsibility resting upon me, I am led at exclaim, 'Who is sufficient for these things.'