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Example 1. HIACOOMES, the first Christian Indian, and Minister in the island of Martha's Vineyard. This Hiacoomes was an Indian of Great-Harbour, now Edgartoun, where a few English families first settled in the year 1641. His descent was but mean, his speech but slow, and his countenance not very promising. He was therefore, by the Indian Sachems, and others of their principal men, looked on as but a mean person, scarce worth their notice or regard. However, living near the English, some of them visited him in his wigwam, and were courteously entertained by him. These endeavoured to discourse a little with him about the way of the English, and the man seemed to hearken to them, and in a little time began to pay them visits again, going frequently to some of their houses; and it was thought that he was trying to learn something of them that might be for his advantage. About the same time he went also to the English meeting, and observed what was done there. This was soon observed by the Rev. Mr Thomas Mayhew, who was then minister to the few English inhabitants in that new plantation, and was at the same time contriving what might be done in order to the salvation of the miserable Indians round about him. But now, observing in this Hiacoomes a disposition to hear and receive instruction; observing also, that his countenance was grave and sober, he resolved to essay, in the first place, what he could do with him, and immediately took an opportunity to discourse him; and, finding encouragement to go on in his endeavours to instruct him, he invited him to come to his house every Lord's-day evening, that so he might then more especially have opportunity to treat with him about the things of God. Hiacoomes accepting this kind invitation, Mr Mayhew used his utmost endeavours to enlighten him; and Hiacoomes seemed as eagerly to suck in the instructions given him, as if his heart had been before prepared by God, and made good ground, in order to a due reception of his word sown in it. And thus, as a new-born babe, desiring the sincere milk of the word, that he might grow thereby, he increased daily in knowledge, and grew in grace also.


But Hiacoomes' thus conversing with, and hearkening to the English, was soon noised about among the Indians; and the news of it coming to the Sachims and Pawaws of the island, they were, as obscure a person as Hiacoomes was, much alarmed at it; and some of them endeavoured, with all their might, to discourage him from holding communication with the English, and from receiving any instructions from them; but all that they could say or do to this end, was to no purpose; for it seems that God, "By whom not many wise men after the flesh, nor many mighty, nor many noble are called," had by his special grace effectually called him out of darkness into his marvellous light; and having now had a taste of that knowledge of God and Christ, which is life eternal, he was resolved that nothing should hinder him from labouring after still higher attainments in it. About this time, therefore, Hiacoomes going with some Englishmen to a small island near by, called Chapaquiddick, they there met a surly Sagamore, whose name was Pahkehpunnassoo; and the said Sagamore reviling him for his communion with the English in things both civil and religious, and railing at him for being obedient to them, Hiacoomes replied, "That he was gladly obedient to them; neither was it for the Indians' hurt that he was so." Upon his saying of which, the Sachim gave him a grievous blow in the face, and would have struck him again if the English present would have suffered it; but the poor man thus wronged, made this improvement of the injury done him; "I had, said he, one hand for injuries, and another hand for God; whilst I received wrong with the one, I laid faster hold on God with the other."


There was this year, 1643, a very strange disease among the Indians; they ran up and down, as if delirious, till they could run no longer; they would make their faces as black as a coal, and snatch up any weapon, as though they would do mischief with it, and speak great swelling words; but yet they did no harm. Many of these Indians were by the English seen in this condition. Now this, and all other calamities which the English were under, they generally then attributed to the departure of some of them from their own heathenish ways and customs; but Hiacoomes being built upon that foundation which standeth sure, and being one of those whom God hath set apart for himself, and knew to be his, none of these things moved him; but the things which he had heard and learned he held fast: and that he might be in a way to learn more than he had done; he now earnestly desired to learn to read; and having a Primer given him, he carried it about with him, till, by the help of such as were willing to instruct him, he attained the end for which he desired it.


A while after, in the year 1644, Hiacoomes going to an Indian's house, where there were several Indians met together, they laughed and scoffed at him, saying, "Here comes the Englishman." At this his old enemy, Pahkehpunnassoo, then asleep in the house, awaked, and joining with the other Indians, said to him, "I wonder that you that are a young man, and have a wife and two children, should love the English and their ways, and forsake the Pawaws; what would you do if any of you were sick? whither would you go for help? If I were in your case, there should nothing draw me from our gods and Pawaws." To this Hiacoomes at present answered nothing, perhaps foreseeing, that, if he should answer, it would only put the man into a rage, as formerly. However, he soon after told a friend of his, that he then thought in his heart, that the God of heaven did hear and know all the evil words that Pahkehpunnassoo said; and he was further confirmed in this, when a little after the said Pahkehpunnassoo was by the just hand of God terribly smitten with thunder, and fell down in appearance dead, with one leg in the fire then in the house where he was, the same being grievously burned before any of the people present were aware of it (it being in the night, and dark). But for this time Pahkehpunnassoo was spared, though a young man that was helping him to cover the chimney of the house, at which the rain then beat in, was killed outright at the same time. I shall have done with this Pahkehpunnassoo, when I have said, "That as obstinate an infidel as he was; yet so victorious is the grace of God, that he afterwards renounced his heathenism, and became a worshipper of the only true God, in and through his son Jesus Christ; so that it is to be hoped that he was at last a brand plucked out of the fire, in a better sense than that before-mentioned."


In this and the following year, 1645, Mr Mayhew went on with his design of instructing his Hiacoomes, and several others of the Indians, as he had opportunity; and now Hiacoomes begins to be so far from needing to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God, that he becomes a teacher of others; communicating to as many as he could the knowledge he himself had attained: and some there were that now begin to hearken to him, yet seemed not to be duly affected with the truths taught by him, and many utterly rejected them; but God now sending a general sickness among them, it was observed by the Indians themselves, that such as had but given a hearing to the things Hiacoomes preached among them, and shewed any regard to them, were far more gently visited with it than others were; but Hiacoomes and his family in a manner not at all. At this many of the Indians were much affected, for they evidently saw that he, who, for the sake of the truth, exposed himself to the rage of his enemies, and such as adhered to him, fared better than those that opposed both him and that. And being thus affected, many of the people desired to be instructed by him; and some persons of quality, such as before despised him, sent for him (as Cornelius for Peter) to come and instruct them, and those about them: so in particular did one Miohqsoo, afterwards to be mentioned. And now the Indians began not only to give some credit to the truth by Hiacoomes brought to them, but were also awakened by what they heard and believed, so as humbly to confess their sins, and be concerned how they should obtain the pardon of them, and renounce their own gods and Pawaws, and promise to serve the true God only; and Hiacoomes could now tell Mr Mayhew, that this was the first time that ever he saw the Indians sensible of their sins.


Hitherto the Indians had not any public preaching to them; but now (in the year 1646) Tawanquatick, one of the chief Sachims of the island, invited both Mr Mayhew and Hiacoomes to preach to himself and such of his people as would hear them; and Hiacoomes was from this time forward heard as a public preacher, by a considerable number of the Indians, and God gave him not only light, but courage also for his work; and the Indians then said of him, that though formerly he had been a harmless man among them, yet he had not been at all accounted of, and therefore they wondered that he that had nothing to say in all their meetings formerly was now become the teacher of them all. The Pawaws, and those that adhered to them, observing those things, and seeing two meetings of the praying Indians set up, in opposition to that way which themselves and their fathers had long walked in, were very much disturbed and enraged; and now they thought to terrify Hiacoomes and the rest of the praying Indians, by threatening to destroy them by witchcraft. To this end several Indians went to a meeting of the praying Indians, and there told many stories of the great hurt which the Pawaws had in this way done to many; of which these Indians could not be ignorant, and which seemed above any thing else to discourage them from embracing the true religion now preached to them. Then this question was asked by one that was on the Pawaws' side, who is there that does not fear the Pawaws? to which another of them answered, there is no man that is not afraid of them; which said, he looked upon Hiacoomes, who protested most against them, and told him the Pawaws could kill him; but he answered, that they could not; for, said he, I believe in my God, and put my trust in him, and therefore all the Pawaws can do me no hurt. The Indians therefore wondering to hear Hiacoomes speak thus openly, divers of them said one to another, that though they were before afraid of the Pawaws, yet now because they heard Hiacoomes' words, they did not fear them, but believed in God too. A while after this, on a Lord's-day, after meeting was done, where Hiacoomes had been preaching, there came in a Pawaw, very angry, and said, I know all the meeting Indians are liars; you say you don't care for the Pawaws. Then calling two or three of them by name, he railed at them, and told them they were deceived; for the Pawaws could kill all the meeting Indians, if they set about it. But Hiacoomes then told him, that he would be in the midst of all the Pawaws on the island that they could procure, and that they should do the utmost they could against him; and when they should do their worst by their witchcraft to kill him, he would without fear set himself against them, by remembering Jehovah; he told them also, he did put all the Pawaws under his heel; pointing to it. By which answer he put the Pawaws to silence, so that they had nothing to say, but that none but Hiacoomes was able to do so. Such was the faith of this good man! nor were these Pawaws ever able to do the Christian Indians any hurt, though others were frequently hurt and killed by them. And with respect to Hiacoomes in particular, I cannot forbear here adding, that a converted Sachim, who was before a Pawaw, did in his public protestation afterwards declare as followeth, viz., "That having often employed his god, who appeared unto him in the form of a snake, to kill, wound, or lame such as he intended mischief to, he employed the said snake to kill, and that failing, to wound or lame Hiacoomes, the first Indian convert on the island; all which proved ineffectual. And that, having seriously considered the said Hiacoomes' assertion, that none of the Pawaws could hurt him, since his God whom he now served was the great God, to whom theirs were subservient, he resolved to worship the true God. And he further added, that from the time of his doing so, for seven years, the said snake gave him no disturbance; but that he never after his praying to God, in Christ, employed that snake in any thing; about which time the said snake ceased to appear to him."


The piety of our Hiacoomes did further appear in that which here followeth. None of the praying Indians or their children having died until the year 1650, as if God would on purpose in this way distinguish them from the rest of their neighbours, it now pleased Him to begin with Hiacoomes, as being the best able to make a good use of such a providence, and carry well under it; God now by death took a young child from him, and he had grace to show an excellent example under this trial, and so did his wife also, who was a very pious woman. At the funeral there were no black faces, or goods buried, or howling over the dead, as the manner of the Indians in those times was; but instead thereof, a patient resignation of the child to him that gave it. At the funeral, Mr Mayhew made a speech concerning the resurrection of the godly, and their children, to life eternal at the last day; which great truth these good people believing, mourned not as those that had no hope were wont to do.


What I have hitherto related concerning this Hiacoomes, being mostly extracted from some of Mr Mayhew's letters concerning the Indian's affairs, I shall add this testimony concerning him, in one of them, dated 1650. "I must needs give him this testimony after some years' experience of him, that he is a man of a sober spirit, and good conversation; and as he hath, I hope, received the Lord Jesus in truth, so I look upon him to be faithful, diligent, and constant in the work of the Lord, for the good of his own soul, and his neighbours with him." To this testimony of Mr Mayhew, let me add one of the Rev. Mr H. Whitfield's, who was once pastor to a church of Christ in New England. This Mr H. Whitfield, in his voyage to Boston, and so to England, was, by reason of contrary winds, stopped at Martha's Vineyard about ten days; in which time he conversed frequently with Hiacoomes, and in a book which he published after his return to England, he says, "I had speech with some of the Indians (Mr Mayhew being my interpreter.) About the rest, I desired to speak with the Indian that now preacheth to them twice every Lord's-day; his name is Hiacoomes; he seemed to be a man of prompt understanding, of a sober and moderate spirit, and a man well reported of for his conversation, both by English and Indians. I thought him to be about thirty years of age; with this man I had often speech, and I asked him many questions about the Christian religion, and about his own estate before God: 1. Whether he had found sorrow for sin as sin? 2. Whether he had found sorrow for his sins as they had pierced Christ? 3. Whether he had found the Spirit of God as an inward comforter to him? unto all which he gave me very satisfactory and Christian answers."


As Hiacoomes was a good Christian, so he was, doubtless, a good minister, and herein his being a godly man was yet more evident. If any man might say, "I believed, therefore have I spoken," with respect to his entering on the ministry, it seems our Hiacoomes might truly do so. As soon as he came to understand and believe the great truths of the Christian religion, he began to publish and declare them to his countrymen, nor could he be hindered from doing so by all that the Pawaws, and their wretched instruments, could do or say, to discourage him from it: and as he daily increased in knowledge, under the instructions of Mr Mayhew, to whom he continually resorted for that end, so he went on to preach to his neighbours, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, which he had received; and it pleased the Lord abundantly to succeed his endeavours for the good of these miserable creatures, to whom he sent him. For three years after his conversion, this good man only instructed his neighbours in private, as he had opportunity: but after they were prepared and disposed to give him public audience, viz. in the year 1646, with what zeal and boldness did he preach to them? He then not only declared and opened the great mysteries of religion to them, as that of the Trinity, the covenant of works by God made with man, man's fall and apostacy by Adam's first transgression, and the wretched conditions which mankind were thereby brought into, and the way of redemption which God has in and by his son Jesus Christ provided for them, &c. I say, he not only instructed them in these things, but boldly charged them with the sins and abominations in which they daily lived; especially with their worshipping of false gods, and adhering to Pawaws or wizards, and giving that honour to creatures which was due to Jehovah only. Thus as Hiacoomes had God's word, so he spake it faithfully, and God did abundantly own this his servant, in the work to which He had called him. For when he reckoned up the sins of the people to them, instead of being provoked at him for it, they would, many of them, with tears, confess their guilt, and promise to turn to the true God, and serve Him only, and seek for the pardon of them through the blood of his son, the only Saviour of sinners. His piety did also much appear in his humility. Though God blessed his ministry, giving him much success in it, yet did he not appear to be exalted or lifted up therewith; nor did he thereupon think himself sufficient for the work of the ministry, but thought he still needed the continual help and instructions of Mr Mayhew, by whom God had called him out of darkness into his marvellous light. To him, therefore, he frequently resorted, that he might be yet more taught by him, and in particular, on the day before the Sabbath he constantly did so, and that in order to his being the better prepared for the duties and service of that holy day. This course Hiacoomes held, till, to his grief, he lost Mr Mayhew in the year 1657; which was, indeed, a very heavy stroke on these poor Indians, and exceedingly lamented by them. However, this good man went on still in the faithful discharge of his duty; and God so succeeded the labours of this, and some other servants of his, that most of the Indians here were in a few years brought to an acknowledgment of the great truths of religion; and, it is hoped, that many of them were effectually called. However, there was no Indian church here completely formed and organized till the year 1670, when the Rev. Mr John Eliot, and Mr John Cotton, came and ordained our Hiacoomes, and another Indian named Tackanash, pastor and teacher of an Indian church on this island. After he was ordained, he went on steadily and faithfully in the work to which he was called, till he arrived to so great an age, that he was not able to attend the public ministry any longer. He survived his colleague before-mentioned, made a grave speech at his funeral, and laid hands on, and gave the charge to Mr Japhet at his ordination, who succeeded the said Tackanash in his office in the year 1683. My father, who then preached to the Indians on this island, and assisted them in the management of their ecclesiastical affairs, being present at the funeral of the said Tackanash, took in writing the heads of the said speech made by Hiacoomes, with what else he thought observable in the said Tackanash's funeral obsequies; which having now by me, among his reserved papers, I shall here insert.


"Here," said he, "is my deceased brother. Paul said, this body is sown in corruption, but it shall be raised in strength; now it is a pitiful mean body, but then it shall be a glorious body: yea, however, this body shall be consumed, and be as if it had never been, as it were turning into nothing; yet the power of God shall bring it forth again, and raise it up an excellent and glorious body; yea this body is now a precious body; for example sake, though this body is but one, yet there are many people round about come together to see it sown. But if a man should go about to put one grain of wheat into the ground, there would not be so many people present at the doing of it, as there are at the interring of this one body. And as you see there are many people present at the burial of this body, so there shall be many people at the resurrection also. But it shall not be then as you see it now, now every one is diversely apparelled, some after one manner, some after another, but all after a pitiful mean sort: but the righteous at the resurrection shall have all one uniform glory. Thus much I say as to that: but I shall now speak a short word to the relations of the person deceased, especially to his wife and children. If you be desirous to see your fathers, seek your father; for your father went before you in every good work, therefore seek your father in every good work, and you shall find your father again; for God's mercies are exceeding great."


Having finished his speech, saith the writer thereof, they proceeded to their work, (viz. of filling up the grave) and this good man standing by, I heard him say, This is the last work man can do for him, the next work God himself will do. Which words he often repeated; and further adds, that, when this good father spoke of the resurrection, he uttered himself with such fervency and confidence, as would have become one who had himself actually seen the dead raised.


Hiacoomes was of a great age when this speech was made by him, yet he lived several years after it, if I mistake not, till the year 1690; but was not able for some years before he died to preach publicly. I saw him frequently when I was a youth, and still remember him, the gravity of his countenance, speech, and deportment. He seemed always to speak with much thought and deliberation, and I think very rarely smiled. I was present when he laid hands on Mr Japhet, prayed, and gave the charge to him; which service he performed with solemnity, and as I have heard my father say, with very pertinent and suitable expressions. He was, by both the English and the Indians, looked upon as a man of a very blameless conversation. In his last sickness he breathed forth many pious expressions, and gave good exhortations to all about him, and so went into eternal rest.  




“HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF ACCOUNTS OF REVIVAL,” compiled by the Rev. John Gillies, D.D., 1754. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1981. pp 224-228.