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       Thomas Mayhew, preacher to the American Indians (17th century)




The book itself has an attestation prefixed by eleven ministers at Boston, dated June 14th, 1726. And the Appendix is written by Mr Prince, one of their number.



1. THE REV. Mr THOMAS MAYHEW jun. the only son of Thomas Mayhew, Esq.; he was a young gentleman of liberal education, and of such repute for piety as well as natural and acquired gifts, having no small degree of knowledge in the Latin and Greek languages, and being not wholly a stranger to Hebrew, that soon after their settlement on the island, the new plantation called him to the ministry among them. But his English flock being then but small, he beheld, with great compassion, the wretched natives, who then were several thousands on those islands, perishing in utter ignorance of the true God, and eternal life, labouring under strange delusions, enchantments, and fears of the devils, whom they most passionately worshipped, and in such a miserable case as those, Eph. ii. 12. “Without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” And God who had ordained him an evangelist, for the conversion of those Indian Gentiles, stirred him up with an holy zeal and resolution, to labour their illumination and deliverance. He first endeavours to get acquainted with them, and then earnestly applies himself to learn their language. He treats them in a condescending and friendly manner. He takes all occasions to insinuate and show the sincere and tender love and goodwill he bare them; and, as he grows in their acquaintance and affection, he proceeds to express his great concern and pity for their immortal souls. He tells them of their deplorable condition under the power of malicious devils, who not only kept them in ignorance of earthly good things, but of those things which might bring them to heaven for ever, what a kind and mighty God the English served, and how the Indians might happily come into his favour and protection. The first Indian that embraced the motion of forsaking their false gods, and adoring the true God, was Hiacoomes, which was in the year 1643; an account of whom we have in the first of the following examples. The Indian living near the English settlement, quickly grew into an acquaintance with them; and, being a man of a sober, thoughtful, and ingenious spirit, he not only visited their houses, but also their public and religious meetings, at which time Mr Mayhew took particular notice of him, discoursed often with him, invited him to his house every Lord’s-day at evening, gave him a clear account of the nature, reasonableness, and importance of the Christian faith, and quickly brought him to a firm and resolute adherence to it. Mr Mayhew having gained Hiacoomes, he first employs him as a faithful instrument to prepare his way to the rest of the natives, instructing him more and more in this new religion, showing him how to recommend it to them, and to answer all their arguments and objections against it. And then, in 1644, he proceeds to visit and discourse them himself; and whereas, at first he could not hope to be heard in public, he therefore begins to instruct them in a more private way, sometimes going to the houses of those he esteemed most rational  and well qualified, and at other times treating with particular persons. And, as Mr Mayhew endeavoured the good of these Heathens, by discoursing with as many as were willing to have any conference with him; so with Hiacoomes in particular, whom he from time to time directed to communicate the knowledge received to those that Mr Mayhew could not so easily meet with. And they united their counsels, and wrought together, and, by the blessing of God, soon gained some others. But that which especially favoured the progress of religion among them, was an universal sickness, wherewith they were visited in the following year; wherein it was observed by the Heathen Indians themselves, that those who hearkened to Mr Mayhew’s pious instructions, did not taste so deeply of it, and Hiacoomes and his family in a manner nothing at all. This put the natives, who within lived six miles off the English, upon serious consideration about this matter, being much affected, that he who had professed the Christian religion, and had thereby exposed himself to much reproach and trouble, should receive more blessings than they; whereupon Myoxeo, the chief man of that place, and Towanquatick, the Sagamore, with many others, sent for Hiacoomes, to tell them what he knew of the God which the English worshipped. At this very meeting, which was in 1646, Myoxeo was happily enlightened, and turned to chuse and acknowledge this God for his own, and Towanquatick soon after, encouraged by some others, desired Mr Mayhew to give them a public meeting, to make known to them the word of God in their own tongue; and, among other incitements, addressed him thus: “You shall be to us as one that stands by a running river, filling many vessels, even so shall you fill us with everlasting knowledge.” So Mr. Mayhew undertook to give them a meeting once a month; but as soon as the first exercise was over, they desired oftener than he could well attend; however, once a fortnight was the settled course; and, as this was the first public audience among them, so from hence, both Mr Mayhew on the week-days lecture, and Hiacoomes on the Sabbaths, were constantly heard in public as long as they lived. However, Mr Mayhew here met with three very great obstacles: for, 1st, Many strongly stood for their own meetings, ways, and customs, as being in their account much more advantageous and agreeable than ours, wherein they have nothing but talking and praying, and this in a manner too sober for them. 2nd, Others alleged that the Sagamores were generally against this new way. But the 3rd, and greatest of all, was, how they should come off from the Pawaws. This was the strongest cord that bound them; for the Pawaws, by their diabolical sorceries, kept them in the most slavish fear and subjection to them. There were about twelve at the meeting who were halting between two opinions, and others only came to see and hear; for, though they had heard something of the one God of Heaven, yet was there such unspeakable darkness and bondage to sin and the Pawaws, that they durst not for fear desert them; and though a few were better enlightened, yet the natives round about struck fast in their brutishness. The Sagamore Towanquatick was exceedingly maligned by them; and, in 1647, his life was villainously attempted, for his favouring the Christian religion: but his great deliverance, with a due reflection on the villainy, the rather confirmed him in it, and enflamed him with the more active zeal to espouse and assert it; and the meeting went on, to the joy of some Indians, and the envy of the rest, who derided and scoffed at those who attended the lecture, and blasphemed the God whom they worshipped, which very much damped the spirits of some for a time in his ways, and hindered others from looking towards them. But Towanquatick and Hiacoomes were inspired with a wonderful courage and constancy; and, in the following year, had a general meeting of all that were inclined for Christianity, to confirm and assist one another in their abiding by it. This assembly was held in Mr Mayhew’s presence; and therein he tells us, That twelve of the young men went and took Sacochanimo, Towanquatick’s eldest son, by the hand, telling him, they loved him, and would go with him in God’s way, and the elder men encouraged them, and desired them never to forget these promises. And so, after they had eaten, and sung part of a Psalm in their own language, and Mr Mayhew had prayed, they returned home with expressions of great joy and thankfulness. The next year there was a greater convention, wherein was a mixed multitude, both of Infidel and Christian Indians, and those who were in doubt of Christianity; but Mr Mayhew, it seems, was not now present. In this assembly the dreadful power of the Pawaws was publicly debated, many asserting their power to hurt and kill, and alleging numerous instances that were evident and undoubted among them; and then some asking aloud, “Who is there that does not fear them?” Others replied, “There is not a man that does not,” Upon which Hiacoomes breaks forth, and boldly declares, “That though the Pawaws might hurt those who feared them, yet he believed and trusted in the great God of heaven and earth; and therefore all the Pawaws together could do him no harm, and he feared them not.” At which they all exceedingly wondered, and expected some dreadful thing to befall him; but observing he remained unhurt, they began to esteem him happy in being delivered from their terrible power. Several of the assembly declared they now believed in the same God too, and would be afraid of the Pawaws no more: and desired Hiacoomes to tell them what this great God would have them to do; and what were the things that offended him; he immediately fell to prayer and preaching; and, by a rare and happy invention, he readily discovered and mentioned forty-five or fifty sorts of sins committed among them, and as many contrary duties neglected; which so amazed and touched their consciences, that, at the end of the meeting, there were twenty-two Indians who resolved against those evils, and to walk with God, and attend his word; among whom was Momonequem, a son of one of the principle Indians, who sometime after became a preacher. (Of whom in the second of the following examples.)


And now, in 1650, comes on the critical point of the credit and power of the Pawaws among them; for Hiacoomes thus openly renouncing and protesting against the false gods he had worshipped, with all the Pawaws their familiar ministers; and with an amazing courage despising and defying their power, the Pawaws were greatly enraged, and threatened his utter destruction; but to their own and their people’s surprise and confusion, were unable to hurt him. Mr Mayhew improves the advantage, and redoubles his diligence; is incessant in his pious endeavours; and now, while many are in doubt of their way, he offers to show them the right one; he spares not his body either by day or by night. He readily travels, and lodges in their smoaky wigwams; when he usually spends a great part of the night in relating the ancient stories of God in the scriptures, which were surprising and entertaining to them, and in other discourse, which he conceives proper. He proposes such things to their consideration, which he thinks first requisite; he fairly solves their subtle objections, and tells them they might plainly see it was purely in good-will to them, from whom he could expect no reward, that he spent so much time and pains, and endured so much cold and wet, fatigue and trouble. But God was pleased to animate, uphold, and preserve him, and quickly to give success to his painful labours: for soon after, an Indian standing up at the lecture confessed his sins, declared his repentance, and desire to forsake them, and to go in God’s way; and then going to Towanquatick, took him by the hand, and in his native simplicity said, “I pray you to love me, and I do love you, and desire to go with you for God’s sake;” upon which they received him with gladness of heart. After this, there came five more; and by the end of the summer, there were thirty-nine Indian men in this meeting, who had not only the knowledge of the main points of religion, and professed their belief of them, but had also solemnly entered into a covenant to live agreeably to them: besides the well-instructed and believing women, who were supposed to exceed the number of the men, though they had not yet entered the covenant.


Mr Mayhew’s way in public now is, by a lecture every fortnight, whereto men, women, and children come; and first he prays, and then preaches, then catechizes, then sings a psalm, and all in their own language. After sermon, he generally spends more time than in the sermon itself, in a more familiar reasoning with them. And every Saturday morning, he confers with Hiacoomes more privately about his subject-matter of preaching to the natives on both the parts of the following day.


About this time, Mr Henry Whitfield pastor of the church at Guildford, New-England, in his voyage to Boston, in order to return to England, happened to put in at the Vineyard, and to stay there ten days. There, he tells us, he found a small plantation, and an English church gathered, whereof this Mr Mayhew was pastor; that he had attained a good understanding in the Indian tongue, could speak well, and had laid the first foundation of the knowledge of Christ among the natives there by preaching, &c. Mr H. Whitfield attends Mr Mayhew to a more private meeting, and the next day to the Indian lecture, where Mr Mayhew preached; and then catechised the Indian children, who answered readily and modestly in the principles of religion; some of them answering in English, and others in the Indian tongue; and then Mr H. Whitfield adds the following lines: “Thus having seen a short model of his way, and of the pains he took, I made some inquiry about Mr Mayhew himself, and about his subsistence; because I saw but a small and slender appearance of outward conveniences of life in any comfortable way: the man himself was modest, and I could get little from him; but afterwards I understood from others how short things were with him, and how he was many times forced to labour with his own hands, having a wife and three small children who depended upon him, to provide necessaries for them; having not so much yearly coming in, in a settled way, as an ordinary labourer gets there among them; yet he is cheerful amidst these straits, and none hear him complain. The truth is, he will not leave the work in which his heart is engaged; for on my knowledge, if he would have left the work, and employed himself elsewhere, he might have had a more comfortable maintenance. I mention this the rather, because I have hope that some pious mind, who reads this, might be inwardly moved to consider his condition, and come to his succour, for his encouragement in this great work.” Thus Mr H. Whitfield.


But quickly after he left Mr Mayhew, there happened a thing which amazed the whole island, and turned to the great and speedy advancement of the Christian religion. For it pleased God, who had drawn the Indians from the Pawaws to worship himself, whereat the Pawaws were greatly offended, yet now to persuade even two of themselves to run after those who sought him, and desire they might also go with them in the ways of that God whose name is Jehovah. They came very deeply convinced of the sins they had lived in, and especially pawawing, revealing the diabolical mysteries, and expressing the utmost repentance and detestation of them; entreating that God would have mercy upon them, pardon their sins, and teach them his ways, for Christ Jesus his sake. And very affecting it was to Mr Mayhew and all who were present, “to see these poor naked sons of Adam, and slaves to the devil from their birth, to come towards the Lord as they did, with their joints shaking and their bowels trembling; their spirits troubled, and their voices with much fervency uttering words of sore displeasure against sin and Satan; which they had embraced from their childhood with great delight. And now accounting it also their sin that they had not the knowledge of God, that they had served the devil, the great enemy both of God and man, and had been so hurtful to their lives; but yet being very thankful that through the mercy of God, they had an opportunity to be delivered out of their dangerous condition.” The Christian Indians rejoiced to see the Pawaws begin to turn from their wicked ways to the Lord; and in a little time after, on a lecture-day, at the close of the exercise, there were several more of the natives who expressed their desire to become the servants of the most high God; among whom was Tequanonim, another Pawaw of great esteem and very notorious. And now indeed both the common Indians, and the Pawaws themselves, began to observe and confess, that since the gospel had been preached to them, the Pawaws had been very much foiled in their diabolical essays; and instead of curing as formerly, they now had rather killed many. At the same time there came pressing in about fifty Indians more in one day, desiring to join with the worshippers of God in his service, confessing their sins; some, those actual sins they had lived in; and others, the naughtiness of their hearts: desiring to be made better; and for this end, to attend on the word of God, and looking only to Christ for salvation. And upon this occasion, Mr Mayhew observes that they came in by families; the parents also bringing their children with them, saying, I have brought my children too; I would have my children serve God with us; I desire that this son and this daughter may worship Jehovah; and if they could but speak, their parents would have them say something to shew their willingness to serve the Lord: and when the commandments were repeated, they all acknowledged them to be good, and made choice of Jehovah to be their God, promising by his help to walk according to his counsels. And when they were received by those that were before in this general covenant, it was by loud voices, giving thanks to God that they were met together in the ways of Jehovah.


This was all before the end of the year 1650; and by the midst of October 1651, there were one hundred and ninety-nine men, women and children, who had professed themselves to be worshippers of the great and ever-living God. And now there were two meetings kept every Lord's day, the one three miles, the other about eight from Mr Mayhew's house. Hiacoomes taught twice a day at the nearest, and Mononequem as often at the farthest; and God greatly assisted them. And Mr Mayhew had them undertaken, in a dependence on God, to keep two several lectures among them, which would be at each assembly once a fortnight.


On January 11th, 1651-52, Mr Mayhew set up a school, to teach the natives to read, viz. the children, and any young men who were willing to learn, whereof they were very glad: and as there quickly came in about thirty Indian children, he found them apt to learn; and more and more were coming in every day.


In the spring of the year 1652, the Indians, of their own accord made a motion to Mr Mayhew, that they might have some method settled among them for the exercise of order and discipline, that so they might be obliged to live in a due subjection to the laws of God; whereto they desired to enter into a covenant; they desired him also to inform them what were the punishments which God had appointed for those who broke his laws, to which they were also willing to subject themselves; and that they might have some men chosen among them, with his father and himself, to see that the Indians walked in an orderly manner; encouraging those who did so, and dealing with those who did not, according to the word of God. In order to this, a day of fasting and prayer was appointed to repent of their sins, and seek the Divine presence and help; and another shortly after to finish the work. Being then assembled together, some Indians spake for their excitation, and about ten or twelve of them prayed, as Mr Mayhew describes it, not with a set form, like children, but like men endued with a good measure of the knowledge of God, their own wants, and the wants of others, with much affection, and many spiritual petitions, favouring of an heavenly mind. The same morning Mr Mayhew drew up an excellent covenant in their native language, which he often read and made plain to them: and they all with free consent and thankfulness united in it, and desired the grace and help of God to keep it faithfully; which, were it not for making this account too large, I should have here inserted. And Mr Mayhew observed, that when they chose their rulers, they made choice of such as were best approved for piety, and most like to suppress all wickedness, and encourage goodness; and that afterwards they were upon all occasions forward to show their earnest desire of the same.


In short, by the end of October 1652, there were two hundred and eighty two Indians, not counting young children in the number, who were brought to renounce their false gods, devils and pawaws, and publicly, in set meetings, before many witnesses, had freely disclaimed and defied their tyrannical power; yea, eight of their pawaws had now forsaken their diabolical craft, and profitable trade, as they held it, to turn into the ways of God. And as not any of these were compelled thereto by power, so neither were they allured by gifts, having received none from the very beginning. Indeed the natives in general observed, to their wonder, that the Christians were all along exempted from being hurt by the pawaws; even some of the Heathen pawaws themselves came at length to own, that they could not make their power to seize on a Christian: and those who were enemies to the Christian Indians, could not but acknowledge that the blessing of Heaven was in an eminent manner among them. But this was entirely the distinguishing favour of Providence to recommend this religion to those who were not otherwise yet induced to see the excellence of it.


The praying Indians, as the christianized Indians were commonly called, being distinguished by this pious exercise, were constant attenders on the public worship; and even the barbarous Indians, both men and women, came often to Mr Mayhew's lectures, bewailing their ignorance, disliking their sinful liberty, and seeking subjection to God, to be taught and saved by him, for Jesus Christ's sake. Thus this worthy gentleman continued his almost inexpressible labour, and vigilant care for the good of the Indians, whom he justly esteemed his joy and crown. And God was pleased to give such success to his painful and unwearied labours, that by the year 1656, there were many hundred men and women added to the Christian society, of such as might truly be said to be holy in their conversation; and for knowledge, such as needed not to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God; besides the many hundreds of looser and more superficial professors.


While he was labouring in this blessed work with indefatigable pain and difficulties, expecting no reward, but from Him who said, "Go and teach all nations, lo I am with you," God was pleased to move the hearts of many good people in England, who had heard of the same, to advance a considerable sum, to encourage the propagation of the gospel among the New-England Indians. And having seen so great a blessing on his painful labours, and seeing the Spirit given to sundry Indians, with the gift of prophesying, according to the promise made by Him who ascended on high and gave gifts to men; having also an able, godly Englishman, named Peter Foulger, employed in teaching the youth in reading, writing, and the principles of religion by catechizing; being well learned likewise in the Scriptures, and capable of helping them in religious matters: and Mr Mayhew, the father, being pretty competently skilled in the Indian language, and highly honouring the labour for their conversion, whereby, if any difficulties should arise, they might have suitable assistance: in the year 1657, which was the 37th year of his age, he intended a short voyage to England, to give a more particular account of the state of the Indians than he could well do by letters, and to pursue the most proper measures for the further advancement of religion among them. He accordingly took passage in a ship, with his wife's brother, and with an Indian who was a preacher among the natives. But alas! the mysterious ways of Providence ! neither the ship, nor any of the passengers were ever heard of more! Thus came to an immature death Mr Mayhew, junior, who was so affectionately beloved, and esteemed of the Indians, that they could not easily bear his absence so far as Boston, before they longed for his return; and for many years after his departure, he was seldom named without tears. I have myself seen the rock on a descending ground, upon which he sometimes used to stand and preach to great numbers crowding to hear him. And the place on the wayside, where he solemnly and affectionately took his leave of that poor and beloved people of his, was for all that generation remembered with sorrow. In a letter of Mr Eliot, of December 28th, of the following year, and published at London in 1659, he thus expresses himself: "The Lord has given us this amazing blow, to take away my brother Mayhew. His aged father does his endeavour to uphold the work among the poor Indians, whom by letters I have encouraged what I can," &c, This brings us to


2. THOMAS MAYHEW, Esq., the father of the former.




“HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF ACCOUNTS OF REVIVAL,” compiled by the Rev. John Gillies, D.D., 1754. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1981. pp 219-223.