Cherokee Phoenix


Published August, 17, 1833

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From the Religious Intelligencer.


We copy from the Christian Advocate and Journal, of New York, the following extract of a letter from Mr. PERSIS SKINNER, and assistant missionary of the American Board at Mackinaw. The letter is addressed to the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, calling upon it for aid in prosecuting missions among the Indians at the north-west, and giving some minute and important particulars in relation to the efforts of the Church of Rome to plant itself and secure a firm foothold in the western country. We know that many doubts are entertained on this subject, and people are incredulous to the facts which are so often presented; and it is this incredulity which makes the danger greater, and the success of the Catholics more certain. For our own part, we have every assurance that the See of Rome is looking at the future subjugation of this country to its spiritual power, as one of the brightest hopes (perhaps the brightest) that shines above its darkening horizon; and we are confirmed in our fears not only by the self-denying and rigorous efforts made by the Catholics at the West, but by the increasing aversion to true religion which is so extensively manifested in our country, and in the prevalence of a skeptical and licentious 'liberality among our citizens.'

The letter of Mr. Skinner, though designed more particularly for our Methodist brethren, we hope will have the effect to stir up members of other denominations also, to increase efforts for the Indians.

'I suppose sir, it would be only saying what you already know, were I to tell you the Catholics are vigorously penetrating the Indian country, (as we call the region north and west of Mackinaw,) rendering the darkness which now envelopes it, 'still more dark.' Wherever they go, they carry with them so much of the imposing and mysterious ceremony, that they are but too successful in prejudicing the Indians so strongly against the 'new religion,'

as they call the Protestant, that they seem effectually to close and bar every avenue by which the missionary might hope to gain access to them. Now, I would ask, are there none in your church who are willing to sacrifice and suffer as much for the cause of truth as the Catholics are for error and superstition?'

At Parbrierosh, the nearest Indian settlement to the Mississippi, a Catholic priest has established himself, who is a European, and I doubt not, reared more delicately than most our American preachers; and yet he is content to be deprived of all refined society, and nearly all which can be termed civilized. I believe that there is not one individual in thirty miles of his station who can speak English, except his interpreter, who is half Indian.

'He has built a house, and lives as others around live; and the fruits of his toil and self-denial are, almost a whole settlement of the most noble, interesting Indians inhabiting this region, converted to the Catholic faith.'

'Only a few years since, (I believe three) they earnestly begged for Protestant teachers-were convinced of their need of instruction-encouraged to hope for it, and then disappointed, until weary of pressing their suit, they applied to the Catholics, and were successful. The result is what might have been expected-the exchange of pagan rites and superstitions for the doubly cruel yoke of popish dominion. O! what heart warmed with the love of God, would not bleed over a people thus blinded by false doctrine, hastening on to eternity, and separated by insuperable barriers from the 'way of life?' Even now, in the present life, they groan under the intolerable burden, and often say, 'The way to heaven is a hard way--so much penance to be performed, and so many Latin phrases to be learned, they sometimes almost despair.' And yet they are terrified at the idea of seeking another way; it being a prominent part of their teacher's duty to persuade them, that to change their religion would be to ensure to themselves eternal wrath.'

'Looking at their present situation, it does indeed seem that, as a people they must live and die as they are, and perish, unless someone possessing the spirit which animated a Whitefield, a Wesley, a Martin, and Elliot, and others, go to their help.'

'There is also a priest at this place, an Italian, said to belong to an opulent family in Rome, who, with the usual characteristics of Italians of rank, viz, effeminacy, refinement, and luxury; is content to board with an Indian woman, and accommodate himself to circumstances, for the sake of extending the church of Rome. He is indeed a faithful servant of his master, and manifests a zeal, and patience, and perseverance, which Christians would do well to imitate. In coming to Mississippi, he certainly must have sacrificed almost all that renders life dear; home, kindred, and friends were forsaken, and the elegant, refined society, and country, evidently dear to his heart as life itself, exchanged for a home on this lonely island, with no society but the rude, uncivilized French and Indians. He now looks back upon the city of Rome, the home of his childhood, as the Eden of this world, the counterpart of heaven; but expresses no desire to return. He seems to feel, that to aid in establishing the Roman supremacy in this country, is an object to which no other is paramount. All personal suffering in view of this,seems, in his view, unworthy to be named. Though young and effeminate, he displays a hardihood which few ministers evince in time of difficulty.'

Now, sir, I would again ask-are there none in your church who are willing to make the same sacrifices? I would be grateful for what has been done. The Methodists have done much in Canada, and are still doing much; but there is a great field to be occupied, I feel like getting at your feet, and calling upon you, as the Lord's watchmen, to cast your eyes over this land of darkness, as you stand on the walls of Zion, and then tell me 'what of the night?'

'After passing the Sault de St. Marie, (only 19 miles from Mackinaw,) your eyes will meet with no messenger of the Lord of Hosts, until you reach La Point,m on the south west side of the Lake Superior, a distance of 500 miles. There you will find brothers Hall and Boutwell, laboring alone in the wilderness. From thence you pass on a few hundred miles farther, and you will see brother Ayre toiling alone, without any to hold up his hands, or encourage his heart. From this place you may go, (if steering directly north,) to the Pole-you may pass thousands of wandering, perishing Indians; but you will find none to direct them to the Lamb of God.'

'If you look west of Mackinaw, where, sir, will your eye rest on one whose business it is to direct the multitudes who inhabit that region to Him who is the way, and the only way to Heaven? Again I ask; 'Watchmen, what of the night?' Can you send more help to us? Candid, firm, self denying, devoted Methodists are what we want. The missionary who goes among the Indians, must be a man after God's own heart, one willing and able to endure hardships, and toil, and want, and privations of every kind. Brother Hall whom I have before mentioned, says, 'As the people of his charge will not come to him, he must go to them;' and in order to do this, he has often to travel many miles on foot, in the wilderness, over swamps and rivers, and he must lodge, if necessary, in wigwams-must carry his food on his back, or eat such as the Indians give him: and this has to be done not only once or twice, but constantly, summer or winter, cold or hot, wet or dry:- The Indians must be followed from place to place in their wanderings.'