RELIGION AMONG THE CHOCTAWS.
Extracts from the journal of Mr. Williams at Ai-ik-hun-na.
The characters of some of the converts in the neighborhood of Ai-ik-hun-na were described at (sic) p. 321, of the last volume. Some of those persons are referred to in the extracts to be inserted here. In no manner can the friends of missions better acquire a knowledge of the character, extent, and results of the religious awakening in the Choctaw Nation, than by such descriptions as these, of the appearance of individuals and neighborhood.
'July 7, 1829. At a late meeting in Chickasaw Nation, Tahoka, from this place was present, and took a part in the public exhortation and prayer, as he was called upon. He appeared to be very spiritual, and all took knowledge of him that he had been with Jesus. He told the people that he came not to them as a learned man, or as a good man, or as an angry man; nor in pride, or for money, no, not a penny: but he came to hunt for poor lost souls. He felt, and made others feel too, that Christ, and heaven, and hell, were not terms without signification.
21. Tahoka called this evening 'to beg' as he said, 'I am a beggar at any rate, and am now upon that business. I want some instruction upon these words which I have heard, from the good book, `Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' I have been meditating upon it today, while at work in my field; and though I hope I know what it is to be born of the Spirit, yet as I do not know what it is to be born of water, I came to ask you.' I trust that I was enabled to give him the sense of the passage, and the 'beggar' went away rejoicing to his work again.
27. Received a letter from A. H. one of our neighbors, who was once in Elliot school, but dismissed for improper conduct. He has been much hardened in sin, and stoutly resisted conviction until of late. This letter is written in Choctaw, and expresses his full determination no longer to neglect the great salvation. Accompanying the letter was a request for me to call upon him if possible. I accordingly did so, and found him under a peach tree, with his little stools, his Bible, and writing implements, employed in copying Choctaw hymns.- He appeared to be an earnest inquirer.*
Several cases have occurred within the last two years in which young men who had formerly been trained in the mission schools, and faithfully taught in the truths of the Bible, but who subsequently became hardened and immoral, and appeared likely to do hurt rather than good, with their knowledge-have apparently been savingly(sic) wrought upon by the truth, and promise, by their example and influence, to be of great use to their people.
31. Have conversed with a number of the awakened people this week, and find much reason to hope that there are indeed many who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. Family prayer is generally observed in this part of the country. Even children sometimes take their turn in prayer in the presence of their parents; so that in some families they have little prayer meetings of their own. Indeed it is astonishing to observe the change; how miraculous; how glorious how worthy of its Author. To him be the glory forever.'
Two years ago there was but one Choctaw in all the neighborhoods around Ai-ik-hun-na, who prayed to God. So great a change in the feelings and habits of individuals and of families, is the result of religious instruction, accompanied by the divine blessing.
'Nov. 3.- Tahoka called upon us, apparently full of faith and the Holy Ghost. The following are some of his remarks, made with every appearance of sincerity and deep feeling. 'I think much about what is called the new birth. Though I formerly heard about it, yet what I seemed to hear was soon gone from me. But now I think of it while I am at work and wherever I am. Have I been born again? Or have I not? I do not certainly know. But oh that I might know. If I am born of the Spirit I am but a very little child indeed.- Not one year old. Oh that I might become a man in Christ. But ah! I am indeed a very poor ignorant, sinful creature; a worm and no man.'- alluding to an appointment which he had received, as one of a committee for examining candidates, he remarked; 'Did they think I had any learning which qualified me for that office? As to learning, I know nothing only to spell Chi-ho-wa, Chihowa.' (Jehovh. (sic)) Again he remarked, 'when I am troubled about anything, as children, business, and the like, my heart fall down, and I am obliged to pray frequently and earnestly before I can get relief, so that any affection may rise and take hold on things above. When Sabbath comes my thoughts are much upon my Father above and upon his Son, Jesus Christ, who died for me upon the cross and my heart cries after him so much, that though I be in the midst of an assembly, I do not imagine that any one sees me. I am, as it were, alone. Oh, that all my poor fellow Choctaws might feel the same!' He has of late said much about the works of nature, the things that are made; and notices, evidently with a contemplative mind, the great variety of objects which meet his eye: and the use he makes of all is to lead him to nature's God, whom he beholds with increasing delight in the workmanship of his hands; having with an eye of faith seen his glory, as revealed in the Gospel of his Son.
Sab. 8. Spent a part of the afternoon in inquiring into the minds of some individuals. Tahoka assisted me. He asked one man if the remembrance of his former sins was loathsome to him. The man not fully understanding the application of that word to his feelings, replied that when his sins came into his mind, it was as though some person came and told or showed them to him, which made him much ashamed and very sorry. 'That is it,' said T, 'that is what I meant by loathsome.'
There were but very few who professed to have found great joy in believing. But all declared their determination to seek till they die, and never to cease calling for mercy and trying to serve God.
March 3. Tahoka, in conversation, expressed an ardent wish that every one of the praying Choctaws would discontinue the use of ornaments. He then added, 'These tully hultah [silver ornaments] put me in mind of the tully hultah tushahta [pieces of silver] with which my Lord Jesus was betrayed; and I fear for that they are still a temptation to some professing the Christian name.
25 Lamantubbi, a church member, informed us that he had recently lost his little all, as it were by the burning of his house and its contents. He related the circumstances with cheerful countenance, until he came to speak of his Choctaw book, (worth ninepence perhaps,) when sorrow was deeply depicted in his countenance and tears stood in his eyes. 'That book' said he, 'which contained some of the word of life, was dearer to me than any other property I had. Indeed nothing would have tempted me to part with it. But now it is burned, and my heart weeps for sorrow.'-- This is a man who was formerly mentioned as an extraordinary example of perseverance in learning to read. Do all professing Christians thus value the 'word of life?' Another church member once lost his little book, and in stating the fact to me, his tears flowed plenteously.-- 'Because,' said he, 'it contains some of my Heavenly Father's words.'
Admission to the Church.
April 1. We have just closed a very interesting meeting at this place. On Saturday was an ordination service, and on the Sabbath a communion season which was enjoyed for the first time by seventeen of my dear Choctaw neighbors, who that day entered into a solemn covenant with God and his people. At night twenty seven of their offspring were dedicated to God in baptism. 'And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them. Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them. Ye are the sons of the living God.' The Lord is indeed still among this dear people. Good news recently from all the stations.'
Since the date of the communications from which the survey of this mission, contained in the January number of this work was composed, 51 Choctaws have been received to the church at the several stations; making the whole number, connected with the mission churches in that nation 153; of whom 135 are Choctaws.
*April 1st, 1830. I would here add respecting this young man that he has been for some months past a worthy member of our church.