The method of the brethren to bring the heathen to Christ, was, in the beginning of their attempts, particularly in Greenland, nearly as follows:
They proved to the heathen, that there is a God, and spoke to them of his attributes and perfections. In the next place, they spoke upon the creation -- how God had made man after his own image, which however was soon lost by the fall. They then made the heathen acquainted with the laws, which God gave by his servant Moses. Hence they proved to them, that they were sinners, and had deserved temporal and eternal punishment: And from this they drew the consequence, that there must be one, who reconciles them to God, &c.
This method of teaching continued for a long time, but without any success; for the heathen became tired of such discourses [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. i. p. 349. part 2. p. 379. part 5.]. If it be asked: How happened it, that the brethren fell upon the said method? /61/ I must confess, that I am apprehensive, I was myself the cause of it. The first brethren who were destined for Greenland, went to Copenhagen by way of Halle, where I, at that time, lived. They tarried a few days with me, and conversed with me, relative to their intentions. Upon this, I gave them a book to read, (for I knew no better at that time) in which a certain divine treated, among the rest, of the method to convince, and to bring the heathen to Christ. The good man had probably never seen a heathen in all his life, much less converted any; but yet he imagined he could give directions how to set about it. The brethren followed them, but without success.
Meanwhile it pleased the Lord our Saviour, to give the congregation at Herrnhut more insight into the word of atonement, through the offering of Jesus. Nor were the brethren wanting in declaring to those in Greenland, that they must preach Jesus Christ, if they meant to produce any blessing among the heathen. Upon this, the brethren began to translate some parts of the gospel, especially what relates to the sufferings and death of Jesus, and read that to the heathen. This gave an opportunity to speak with them farther on that head [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. i. p. 385. part 2.]. Then God opened their hearts, that they attended to the word, and it proved to them also the power of God. They became desirous of hearing more about it, and the fire, which had been kindled in them by the Holy Ghost, spread farther and farther. And thus many were converted to God. Since which time, the brethren were frequently asked by the heathen: why they did not preach sooner to them of Jesus? That they had been quite tired of hearing the discourses about God and the two first parents, &c. [NOTE: Ibid, vol. ii. p. 35. part 2.].
Above thirty years ago, when I lived in North America, I sometimes got the brethren, that were used occasionally in the service of our Lord, to come together, in order that I might converse with them about their labours. Johannes, an Indian of the Mahikander nation, who had formerly been a very wicked man, but was now thoroughly converted, and was our fellow labourer in the congregation gathered from among the heathen, at that time dwelling in Chekomekah, happened to be just then on a visit with us, and also came to our little meeting. He was a man that had excellent gifts, was a bold confessor of what he knew to be true, and understood the German language, so as to express himself with sufficient clearness. As we were speaking with one another about the heathen, he said, among other things: "Brethren, I have been a heathen, and am grown old among them, I know therefore very well how it is with the heathen. A preacher came once to us, desiring to instruct us, and began by proving to us that there was a God. On which we said to him: Well, and dost thou think we are ignorant of that? Now go again whence thou camest. Another preacher came another time, and would instruct us, saying: Ye must not steal, not drink too much, not lie, &c. We answered him: Fool that thou art; dost thou think that we do not know that? Go and learn it first thyself, and teach the people thou belongest to not to do those things. For who are greater drunkards, or thieves, or liars, than thine own people? Thus we sent him away also. Some time after this, Christian Henry, one of the brethren, came to me into my hut, and sat down by /63/ me. The contents of his discourse to me were nearly these: I come to thee in the name of the Lord of heaven and earth. He acquaints thee, that he would gladly save thee, and rescue thee from the miserable state in which thou liest. To this end he became a man, hath given his life for mankind, and shed his blood for them, &c. Upon this, he lay down on a board in my hut, and fell asleep, being fatigued with his journey. I thought within myself: What manner of man is this? There he lies and sleeps so sweetly. I might kill him immediately, and throw him out into the forest; -- who would care for it? But he is unconcerned. However I could not get rid of his words. They continually recurred to me; and though I went to sleep, yet I dreamed of the blood which Christ had shed for us. I thought, this is very strange; and went to interpret to the other Indians, the words which Christian Henry spake farther to us. Thus, through the grace of God, the awakening among us took place. I tell you, therefore, brethren, preach to the heathen, Christ, and his blood, and his death, if ye would wish to produce a blessing among them." Such was the exhortation of Johannes, the Mahikander, to us.
But the brethren were already, before that time, convinced that Jesus Christ must be the marrow and substance of the preaching of the gospel among the heathen; even as he is in general called with justice, the marrow and substance of the whole Bible. The ground of this position is contained in part 9 and following; where we treated of the apostles' labours among the Gentiles. Nor shall we do amiss, if we follow the method of the apostles, who, in their office, were under /64/ the peculiar leadings of the Holy Spirit, as far as it is applicable to us. Hence what Paul writes to the Corinthians, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified," is a firmly established rule for us in preaching to the heathen.
Does anyone ask: How is this to be understood? We answer as follows: We always preach the same Christ that died for us on the cross, though we declare of him, that he is Lord of Heaven and earth, and of all that is in Heaven and upon earth -- that all things were made and created by him, and that without him was not anything made and created, that is made and created -- that he is before all things, and by him all things consist, and that he upholdeth all things by the word of his power -- that he hath great compassion on man, who was made after the image of God, and was very willing to save him from his misery -- that he, now and then, in former times, appeared in human form, and made known his will to the children of men -- but that at last, moved by love to man, he came down from heaven, upon the earth, and was himself made man -- that he hath a Father, who dwelleth in Heaven, and who is well- pleased in him, as his only-begotten Son -- that is his Father in Heaven, had sent him into the world, out of love to man, that through him they might be saved -- that the Holy Ghost dwelleth in him, and that he was in the closest communion with him -- that he, through the Holy Spirit, hath taught and propounded to men the whole counsel of God concerning our salvation -- that he, in a particular manner, committed it to his disciples, whom he had /65/ chosen to preach his doctrine -- that he, as the Mediator between God and man, had been in this world like another man, and had experienced poverty, enmity from wicked men, danger and tribulation -- that he was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin, that he might have compassion on the ignorant -- that he was also tempted of Satan and his angels, the evil spirits, but was found in the truth -- that, on the contrary, the angels of God from heaven, the good spirits, were at hand, and ministered unto him -- that he neither had sin, nor committed sin, but was most perfect in the love of God, of men, and of all creatures -- that he gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, made the lame to walk, cleansed the lepers, cast out devils, and otherwise did many miracles, whereby he proved, that he was sent from God -- that he, as the Mediator, on whom the iniquity of us all was laid, took away the sin of the world -- that he instituted and ordained for his disciples, before his sufferings, his body for meat, and his blood for drink, in the holy communion -- that his soul was, for our sins, sorrowful unto death, and that he, in that conflict, sweated bloody sweat -- that he suffered himself, not of necessity, but of his own free will, out of love to us, and to reconcile us, to be taken captive, falsely condemned, mocked, spit upon, scourged, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross, on which he gave his life for us -- that his side was pierced with a spear, and forthwith came thereout blood and water -- that he was buried, and rose again the third day -- that he soon after appeared to his disciples, and shewed unto them his hands, his feet, and his side, which were pierced, to ascertain to them, that it was he himself -- that after these things, he tarried still forty days upon earth, speaking unto his disciples of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God -- that /66/ he commanded his disciples to go into all the world, and to preach the gospel to every creature, that God was willing to accept them in Christ through mercy -- that he, at the same time, commanded them to baptize, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, all those, that should receive this word of grace in faith -- also, that they should teach them to observe all things, whatsoever he had commanded them (the disciples) -- that he afterwards took his disciples together, and commanded them to tarry in the city of Jerusalem, until the Holy Ghost should be poured out upon them -- that then he lifted up his hands and blessed them, and while he blessed them, he was lifted up before their eyes, and ascended up into Heaven -- that now he hath again the same glory, which he had with his Father, before the foundation of the world was laid -- that he is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, before whom every knee shall bow, and whom all the angels of God worship -- that soon after his ascension, he poured out of the Holy Ghost upon his disciples, and thereby endowed them with power to spread his kingdom over all the world -- that in the name of Jesus, all who believe in him, obtain the remission of sin -- that to all them that receive him by faith, he giveth power to become the sons of God -- that he giveth, to all them that believe in him, the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth in their hearts -- that he maketh all those that cleave unto him by faith, free from the slavery and dominion of sin -- that, on the other hand, he gives them power to do good, to follow after him, and to keep his commandments -- that all, whatsoever we pray for to the Father in his name, is infallibly heard -- that if any man hath sinned, he is our Advocate with the Father, and the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins /67/ of the whole world -- that he will give to them, that are faithful to him unto death, the crown of life -- that he will raise the dead, in order to give unto everyone, according to their works, whether they be good or evil -- that all men shall appear before his judgement-seat, and hear their doom out of his mouth -- that he will bring them that are his into eternal life, and will consign the others to everlasting fire. Now if all this, and whatever else the holy scriptures say farther of him, be laid before the heathen (yet everything in proper time), then one, however, always preaches (as was before observed) Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
From what has been said, it is therefore evident, that a servant of Jesus, who determines not to know anything, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified, may yet deduce from him all divine truths, which God hath revealed for our salvation. But his blood and death always abide the main matter for us poor creatures. God's love to us is displayed in many thousand ways, but principally in this, that he gave his only-begotten Son up to the death for us: And what were we? Enemies to God. The love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, toward poor men, is likewise manifest from innumerable proofs, but distinguishingly in this, that he submitted for them, and in their stead, and for their atonement, to the most cruel death. All the sacrifices in the Old Testament, and all the shedding of blood, wherewith, in a view to the sacrifice of Jesus, an atonement was made, had a plain reference to the blood and death of Jesus. The prophets, as well as the apostles, also spoke of it in plain terms, and derive everything that is good and wholesome for man, from /68/ the blood and death of Jesus, that is, from his sacrifice or offering for us. Hence we are to shew the Lord's death till he come: especially when we partake together of his body and of his blood in the holy communion. At the solemn revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shewn to John in the Spirit, it was sung of him in the new song: "Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hath redeemed us to God by thy blood, &c." But no one in heaven, nor on earth, neither under the earth, was able to take the book out of the hand of God, to open the book and to loose the seals thereof, but the man Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God; because he was slain for poor men, and hath redeemed them to God by his blood, Rev. v. 5.
Thus we ought likewise to think; and hence the blood and death of Jesus must remain our diamond in the golden ring of the gospel [NOTE: For from this the greatest blessing among the heathen has at all times arisen, of which we have seen and known many instances. See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, &c. vol. ii. b. 3. part 3. -- b. 4. part 3, 4 and 5. idem, Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 18, &c. part 3. -- p. 27, &c. part 3. -- p. 31. part 6. -- p. 35, &c. part 2. -- p. 283, &c. part 8. -- p. 319, &c. part 10. -- p. 383, part 12. -- p. 443, &c. part 40./ I will here insert something out of David Crantz's History of Greenland, as it most excellently illustrates this matter. It is said there, vol. ii. p. 424-426. part 23. -- "After six years unsuccessful labour, they (the brethren) found, that the plain testimony concerning the death and passion of Jesus, together with its cause and happy consequences, delivered by a heart touched with a warm and experimental sense of it, is the best preparation, and the surest way of enlightening the dark and benighted minds of the wild heathen, in order to lead them afterwards step by step into all truth. And I have been filled with the greatest amazement to behold the powerful effects of the word of the cross on the most ignorant and savage heathens, who, according to their first appearance, seemed utterly incapable of comprehending this great mystery of godliness./ They have been confirmed in this method of teaching, not only by their own experience of many years, but also by the example and attestations of their fellow-labourers among other heathen nations. This method has further been found to be the best by other servants of God, who have laboured in the East and West Indies, among heathens of a more refined, in their way more learned, but also more corrupted turn of mind. To prove this, I will only quote a passage out of JOHN LUKE NIECAMP'S SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE EAST INDIA MISSION, to which Professor FRANKE wrote a preface; the words are these: "The missionaries have frequently remarked, that nothing makes such a powerful impression on the minds of the heathen, or makes them so desirous of receiving further information concerning the sinfulness of human nature, and the vanity of their idols, as when one, immediately at the FIRST SPEAKING WITH THEM, declares to their hearts, the gracious message concerning the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus towards the lost human race. On the contrary, our catechists, before they were rightly acquainted with the CHIEF MATTER, which a minister of the New Testament has to declare, have made manifold experiments, HOW LITTLE IS TO BE EFFECTED AMONGST THESE HEATHENS, BY ALL MORAL REPRESENTATIONS OF THE GLORIOUS ATTRIBUTES OF GOD, AND OF THE VARIOUS DUTIES OF VIRTUE, even supposing they outwardly assent to all such truths, still whilst their stubborn will is not gained over, they only seek the more, by various presences, to invalidate the same." Likewise page 465. "We observed that the greatest devotion and awakening was excited among them, by propounding to them the gospel-topics, and displaying before them the sufferings of Christ, &c."/ The same has also been confirmed by the late DAVID BRAINARD, missionary from a Presbyterian society in Scotland among the Indians in the province of Jersey and Pennsylvania. (See REMARKABLE HEATHEN CONVERSIONS, in FRESINIUS'S (?) PASTORAL COLLECTIONS, 3d and 4th parts.) We are well informed concerning that pious, and, till his (alas! too early) death, indefatigable man, and it is also observable throughout the whole of his account, that as long as he continued the usual method of preaching, and endeavouring to convince the Indians by connected arguments, he could effect nothing among them; but so soon as he took pattern by his neighbours, whose good success among the heathen he was an eye- witness of; and ventured straightway to preach to them simply the Saviour and his love even till the death on the cross, such a large and quick awakening ensued, that both he and all the ministers of his persuasion who saw it, were astonished, and forced to ascribe glory to God. Was I to quote all his beautiful passages of this kind, I could fill whole sheets of paper. The following may suffice. "Aug. 3, 1745, I preached on Rev. xxii. 17. WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE OF THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY. Although I could not treat on that subject in the method otherwise usual, yet the Lord gave me boldness and freedom, to set before my hearers, in a somewhat peculiar manner, our dear Redeemer as a most benign and compassionate Saviour, so that a real awakening was plainly to be perceived."/ In the GENERAL REMARKS ON THIS WORK OF GRACE it is said further, page 300. "But this great awakening, and surprising solicitude of the souls, was never occasioned by any terrifying sermons, but, what is exceeding remarkable, whenever in my discourses I strongly dwelt on that moving scene of a Saviour dying on the cross, and his meek behaviour under the whole, as also on the exceeding great riches of the gospel-salvation, and how kindly and out of mere unmerited grace, the divine mercy offers the same unto all needy, sorrowful, and distressed souls; there appeared, immediately amongst the hearers, an extraordinary stirring and awakening, &c."]. As to the rest, the /69/ mind of the Brethren is, and will always remain, never to conceal from the heathen any part of the counsel of God concerning their salvation, and to publish the whole gospel to them according to the mind of Jesus. But when we speak of the gospel, we take the word, according to the frequent use of it in holy writ, in an extensive sense, meaning thereby the whole doctrine of Jesus and his apostles.
The preaching of the Brethren among the heathen, if they proceed according to holy writ, consists of the following points:
"God loves you, and hath hitherto shewn much mercy to you. He hath given you life and being, and it is he likewise, who hath till now preserved your life.
/71/ But he hath displayed his love peculiarly in this, that he hath sent his only begotten Son, by whom he made all things, into the world, that through him ye might have everlasting life. This his Son was made man out of love to you, and hath given his life and shed his blood for you, for the remission of sins. Ye have to be sure hitherto behaved greatly amiss, and done those things that are contrary to his will, and have left undone those things which are pleasing in his sight. Ye have suffered yourselves to be ruled by the wicked spirit: but he is an enemy both to God and to /72/ man, and whoever doeth his will, plunges himself into everlasting perdition. Yet God will forgive you all your sins, and will accept you as children; he will deliver you from the power of Satan, will so dispose your hearts, that ye will get a hatred to evil things and flee them; and will, on the contrary, love that which is good, and follow after it, to do it. Nay, he will make you heirs of eternal life, and as such, receive you to himself in heaven, where he dwelleth. We come in his name, and by his command, to declare his grace unto you. Ye may stedfastly believe, that it is his earnest desire to deliver you from your misery, and to save you. Else he had not laid down his life, nor shed his blood for you. But then ye must be willing to desist from your wickedness, and to accept of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Redeemer. If ye believe his word, which he causeth now to be testified unto you, and accept of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, ye shall have peace and joy without end. But should ye despise and reject the words which we tell you in his name, ye will remain servants of the wicked spirit, and will be condemned with him. For God hath appointed a day in which he will judge, when the dead shall be raised, and everyone shall receive his deserved reward."
If one preacheth thus to the heathen, it is consistent with the words which we read in the prophet Isaiah: "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price," Isa. lv. 1. Again: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth," Isa. lii. 7. Then it is according /73/ to the commandment of Christ, who sent forth his servants into the highways and hedges, where the poorest people are used to be, -- the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, -- to invite them -- to what? To the supper. Luke xiv. 16, &c. As God hath sent Christ to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound: to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, &c. Isa. 1, 2, &c. even so Christ sendeth his servants to do the same. Thus the gospel of the grace of God is testified, Acts xx. 24., and is a declaration of the forgiveness of sins, Acts xiii. 38., and thus also the Gentiles may be glad, that the gospel is preached unto them also, Acts xiii. 48.
The Brethren's manner of preaching was very simple and artless: I believed, therefore have I spoken, was in a peculiar manner applicable to them. Indeed they would have acted in a foolish manner, if they had attempted to make use of any art. For unless they had expressed everything in a short and round manner, their speaking had been in vain; nor could the heathen, with whom they had to do, have understood them. It is also plainly apparent, from the blessing which the Lord God laid upon their labours, that human excellency of speech and of wisdom, is absolutely needless: Paul even declares it to be very hurtful, see part 13.
We now proceed to treat of the baptism of the heathen, which ought not to be considered otherways, /74/ than as a solemn and public acceptance of a poor sinner, at which on the part of God, nothing is expected from him, than that he should know and acknowledge himself to be a lost creature by reason of his sins, believing, at the same time, that Jesus Christ is able, and willing to rescue and save him from his misery and wretchedness, and that he hath moreover purposed to leave and forsake his sins, and to live unto him, who accepts him in mercy. In whomsoever the apostles found this, they confidently baptized such. That an ignorant heathen be first taught to read, and afterwards instructed in all the points of Christian doctrine, and one brings it perhaps so far, that he makes a public confession in words, which he was obliged to impress on his memory, is a custom that gradually arose in the church. For the heathen, who lived among the Greeks and Romans, where the most abominable idolatries, sorceries, and spectacles were in vogue, used to be asked first: Dost thou renounce the devil, and all his works and ways? Afterwards such and such points were put in opposition to the errors, that rose in the church from time to time; those points the heathen were obliged publicly to confess, prior to their being baptized. Hence the origin of the so called Apostolic creed, or confession of faith; which is the general opinion of the learned in our days, at least among the Protestants. At length it came to pass, that the heathen were first instructed in the doctrine, before they could be baptized. But as it happened that the poor creatures commonly took the doctrine only into their heads, the heart experiencing little or nothing at all of it; it was therefore but too often the case, that they became worse after their baptism, than they had been before.
We could not recommend the aforesaid method to our brethren, who went as missionaries among the heathen, with respect to such an instruction of the heathen, previous to their baptism. Nor could they possibly have made use of it among those heathen, with whom they had an intercourse [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 426. part 24. p. 430. part 26.]. Whoever considers the circumstances of the negroes, and their hard slavery, will easily comprehend what I say. There was, for example, on the island of St. Thomas, a very aged negro woman, who attended the meetings assiduously, and heard the gospel of Christ with eagerness, exhorting her people also to thank God, who caused his word to be spoken to them by the brethren, and to this end had brought them over the great water. But when I came to speak with her in private, she answered: O Lord! I can never be baptized! How should I now learn to read, and get so much by rote? I convinced her, that all that was not necessary, and told her of the love of Jesus to her. She was afterwards baptized, and obtained so much understanding in the gospel, as to become useful among the other negro women [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 2. part 2.].
But what we in particular recommend to the brethren going as missionaries among the heathen, was this: that they might not be satisfied with bearing a public testimony of Jesus, but that they should also take a special care of the souls in private. If they should perceive a work of grace in any heathen, and observe him, for example, concerned for his salvation, complain of his sinfulness, wishing and longing for deliverance, &c., /76/ they should have an attentive eye upon him, and frequently direct him to Jesus Christ, advising him, at the same time, to be by all means faithfully attentive to what should pass in his heart. Such people were particularly to be considered by the missionaries, and these were properly candidates for baptism. It is likewise true, that we have advised our brethren, not to delay the baptism of such persons, in whom the Holy Ghost evidently has his work, nor to think that they must first learn so and so much by rote, before they could be baptized. We were apprehensive least such delay of baptism might do hurt: for it was not well to neglect the time, when God himself takes the clay in hand, to form a vessel of mercy out of it. Nor was the example of the apostles alleged in vain in holy writ, part 16, who did not stay long before they baptized such persons as enquired with all their heart, what must we do to be saved?
On the other hand, the missionaries were advised to be extremely careful with regard to such heathen, as merely wanted to know a good deal. For should any endeavour to fill his head only with knowledge, and at the same time have an empty and unfeeling heart, such they were by no means to baptize in that state. That they should rather wait, till the Holy Ghost open his sinful depravity to him, and create in him a desire after deliverance from it, as well as a confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can save a lost and sinful man. Did they not do this, but proceed to baptize a heathen for this cause only, because he knew much, and had got a great deal in his head, without duly attending, whether or not there was a work of grace in his heart, they would thereby do no good, but much hurt.
The brethren having thus found entrance for the gospel among the heathen, and baptized such of them as were weary of their sins, mourned on that account, and were longing to obtain the grace offered unto them in Christ; the efficacy of baptism shewed itself very powerfully in them. They rejoiced in having a gracious God, were filled with peace, kindled with love to Jesus Christ, desirous for the pure milk of the gospel, became orderly in their walk, and were glad of being counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake, and truly they had to suffer much. A fire and zeal also entered into them, to declare to others the blessings which we find in Christ.
Upon this some people arose, who pretended their baptism was not valid, because they had learnt nothing by heart, &c. [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 2. part 8.].
This moved the missionaries, not only unweariedly to continue the instructions they had hitherto imparted to the heathen, but also to draw up some questions and answers, which related to the main matter, in order to render the heathen, that were to be baptized, well acquainted with it. The Direction of the Unity, acknowledged indeed the good intention of the missionaries, but advised them, not to have such an examination immediately preceding baptism, but rather a few days before. For it could easily happen, that such a solemn examination might occasion some confusion in the mind of an heathen, immediately before baptism; which should not be, at that solemn hour, when he was to enter into the covenant of a good conscience /78/ with God; for at that time, his whole heart should be engaged to think only of the important matter before him [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 429. part 26, and Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 3. part 1. -- b. 5. part 2.].
In the meantime, the missionaries enquire of the helpers, (of whom more afterwards) concerning the walk and conversation of everyone, that is proposed for baptism, and also speak personally and particularly with each, before he obtain holy baptism.
On such occasions, they enquire very narrowly, whether the person in question, be not actually baptized already. It happens sometimes, that negroes are found in the West Indies, who have either been baptized already in Guinea, or afterwards in the West Indies; in which case they cannot be baptized again. But if they have no one to take care of them, it is impossible to withhold assistance from them; for it is but just, that one should, with all possible faithfulness, take care of a poor sheep, that has neither a shepherd, nor knows of a flock to which it might keep.
With regard to children, we proceed thus. If the parents are baptized, we likewise baptize the children [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 63. part 9. page 428. part 25.]. But we do not baptize the children of such parents, who are still heathen; because we cannot hope, that they will be brought up for our Saviour. Yet if such heathenish parents bring their children /79/ into the meeting, and beg a blessing for them, the missionary blesses them by imposition of hands [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 3. part 9.].
If anyone be sick, and request to be baptized before his departure, he is visited; and if he be found to have a sense of his misery, and place his confidence on Christ, some of the baptized are taken together, and the patient is baptized in their presence. Then it happens, that the patient is either very much comforted, and departs this life with great joy, or that he is sometimes so much strengthened and revived, as to grow better, and is as one new born.
When an heathen, whom one cannot consider otherways in his miserable, sinful condition, than as one that is wounded unto death, and weltering in his blood, upon hearing the gospel, receives it in faith, and thereupon is baptized; one cannot without admiration, behold the change that is wrought in him. Sometimes they themselves will speak of it, yet though they should not do it, their very countenances discover that they have obtained mercy [NOTE: Ibid, vol. ii. b. 4. part 4.].
Here it is still to be observed, that the missionaries are particularly enjoined to keep the registers of the church in good order, which is peculiarly requisite in respect to baptism. Though it be commonly performed in the presence of the whole congregation, yet one cannot, in all congregations among the heathen, have separate witnesses of baptism. It is therefore proper to note down in a book, when, where, and by whom such a one was baptized, and by what name.
As to the holy communion of the body and blood of Christ, it has been observed in part 40, that in the beginning, the views of the brethren, with respect to the labour among the heathen, were confined to a few only. With regard to baptism, they restricted themselves within very narrow bounds, and still more so with respect to the holy communion. And though in process of time it came to pass, by the providence of God, that the baptisms became more frequent, yet the number of them that were admitted to the holy communion, remained very small, compared to the number of the baptized.
The following is observed by the brethren with respect to the holy communion [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 432. parts 28 and 29.].
In the week preceding the Lord's supper, it is made known to the communicants, that the Lord's supper is at hand, and they are exhorted to examine themselves. Upon which the communicants come, as their circumstances will permit, to their labourers, and speak with them simply about the state of their hearts, and relative to their course hitherto. Should anything be found in this or the other, that renders them scrupulous to partake of it for that time, they mention it, and abstain from it for the present. If the labourers know anything which renders a person unfit to be a partaker of the holy communion, they advise him rather to abstain from it for that time. The missionaries have likewise a conference with the national helpers, previous to the Lord's supper, in order to be apprised by them, as they are constantly about their /81/ own people, whether they have anything to object against any of the communicants.
The baptized usually remind the missionaries, when they visit them of themselves, relative to the Lord's Supper.
All possible pains are taken to learn to know them more accurately according to the state of their souls: enquiry is made of the helpers concerning their conduct; and, if approved, they are admitted as candidates for the holy communion; on these, particularly, closer instructions are bestowed concerning it. They are usually spectators once, previous to their partaking of the holy communion for the first time.
The brethren likewise take pains to make the heathen acquainted with the holy scriptures. In their sermons they always lay some words of holy writ as the foundation; this they do also in addressing particular homilies to this or the other division in the congregation. Thus the words of the scriptures are impressed on their memories, and the Holy Ghost takes occasion to bring them, at a proper season, to their remembrance. For he is ever occupied to do, what our Saviour said concerning him to his disciples: "He shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I said unto you."
Wherever the brethren have an opportunity of teaching the children, there they also learn to read; at times also grown-up persons attend, that they may learn to read the holy scriptures [NOTE: The occasion of the Brethren's scruples, respecting the heathen learning to read, may be seen in Oldendorp's History of the Missions, &c. vol. ii. b. 3. part 6.]. I happened once to come /82/ to a negroe hut in St. Thomas, and heard somebody read in it. On entering, I found a whole company sitting on the ground, and one of them reading to them out of the Dutch New Testament (many negroes of St. Thomas understand Dutch very well, and indeed their Creole negroe language was mostly formed from the Dutch), and the rest heard him with eager attention. Among our Indians in North America, there was one who was called Joshua Junior; he always used to take with him a New Testament and an almanac, whenever he went hunting. The one that he might know, every day, how time went on, and the other to get daily food from it for his soul. The Indians are obliged sometimes to spend four, six, or eight weeks, and even a longer time, in hunting in the woods, before they return home again.
Moreover, I should not forget to observe here, that when the Brethren become acquainted with the language of the heathen, they then translate this or the other piece into it [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, &c. vol. ii. b. 4. part 3. -- b. 5. part 1.].
A Greenland translation of many fine hymns has been printed at Berlin, and a Creole version of the same was printed at Barby. THE HISTORY OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, EXTRACTED FROM THE FOUR EVANGELISTS, has likewise been translated into the Greenland, Arawak, Delaware, and Creole languages, besides many passages of holy writ, which were translated, in order to read them to the congregations of the heathen, to whom they prove a great blessing [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 45, 46. part 7. -- p. 110. part 5. -- p. 306. part 9.].
Nor can we sufficiently describe the great utility of the ancient and modern gospel hymns, which were /83/ translated for the use of the heathen. When the life of God hath penetrated their hearts, they not only delight to hear them sung, but will endeavour with much care to learn them themselves. And if the brethren are willing to teach them, (and what can be more agreeable to them?) they are very diligent in singing, and one learns of another. By this means, not only their thoughts are diverted from unprofitable things to something useful, but also the divine truths expressed in the hymns from a feeling heart, become so imprinted in their minds, as frequently to recur to their remembrance; on which occasion the Holy Ghost is particularly occupied to bless them. This is evident not only in grown persons, but also in children; and it is a peculiar joy to hear, how the Lord hath prepared praise out of the mouths of babes and sucklings [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 228. part 11. -- p. 306, 307. part 9. -- p. 369, 370. part 5. -- p. 423. part 22.].
As the missionaries of the brethren could not effect much among the heathen without assistants, we are next to speak of these. Among nations destitute of cultivation, a missionary could not possibly do much of himself. How could it have been practicable for a missionary to reside among the Esquimaux, if provision had not been made for it? This consisted herein, that a company of brethren went thither to settle upon a tract of land given them by the King of Great Britain, in order to preach the gospel to the heathen. They took the frame of a house and the necessary bricks along with them, and by the assistance of the sailors erected their house immediately upon their arrival, having previously purchased the said tract of land from the Esquimaux. /84/ The utensils for fishing and hunting they also had brought with them, and besides that, they contrived to build boats and small vessels for the natives, being thus of service to them, and at the same time earning something towards their subsistence [NOTE: See David Crantz's History of the Brethren, p. 606 and f. part 297.].
God also hath granted them success and blessed their undertaking in such a manner, that they have already gathered a little congregation of baptized Esquimaux. Now wherever there is such a mission, there those brethren, who carry on a handicraft business, are each of them (according to the gift he has, and according to the grace given unto him) the first and nearest assistants of the missionaries. If there be any married brethren in a company, which devote themselves for a mission, they also take their wives along with them: thus these sisters are also helpers in the work of the Lord among the heathen. Whoever thinks this strange, let him read the sixteenth chapter of St. Paul's epistle to the church at Rome. But what can the sisters possibly do in a mission? Very much. For if, for example, persons of the female sex among the heathen are thoroughly converted, they are glad to have someone with whom they can speak, without reserve, about the state of their hearts, and indeed about their whole life. The sisters can hear them, speak afterwards with their own husbands, and learn their thoughts about it; or a brother may send for them, and, in presence of his wife, hear them and speak with them. This is quite in order, and spares the heathen, who are commonly very jealous, various thoughts. Thus it is also with the heathen of the female sex that are already baptized, or partakers of the holy communion. For sometimes matters may occur to them, in which they want advice /85/ and instruction, or comfort, and being set right. Thus a day seldom passes, for example, in St. Croix, where this or the other negroe woman does not come to complain of some distress. Now if any brother was to sit down and speak in private with such a negroe woman, we should deem it improper, if not dangerous. But where sisters are concerned with them, serving them with good advice in common occurrences, and, in more difficult cases, consulting their husbands; or where a brother speaks with them in presence of his wife, there it causes no observations, prevents appearances of evil, and obviates things that might also prove a real hurt to souls. We ourselves are men, that is, corrupted and sinful creatures, and among the heathen we have to deal with people, who, prior to their conversion, have usually been accustomed to evil. Hence order is necessary, by means of which bad things are obviated from the first; and God is a God of order, and lays his blessing upon it. However, more will occur hereafter of the service of the sisters in the missions.
We are also glad when, from among the heathen that are converted to God, we can bring up people in our missions for the use of others, and these we call Helpers.
If a brother that serves the Lord our Saviour among the heathen knows his people intimately, -- and he ought to do everything possible to learn to know them intimately, and should he not possess the needful grace and gift for that purpose, he is to pray to God for it, -- he will discover that one has something preferable before another, and that is the gift of God. Now if such a man approves himself as a poor sinner that hath /86/ obtained mercy of the Lord; and if his walk and conversation be such as to gain the regard and respect of others, then, on that account, such as one may, after due deliberation before the Lord, be taken among the helpers. Experience hath taught, that it is better to endeavour to get more helpers than one; for if there be but one, it may easily happen that he fall into conceitedness.
These helpers are made known to the rest, and commended to their prayers. They are particularly attended to, that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And they are commissioned to watch faithfully against any disorders that might occur among their people [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, &c. vol. ii. b. 2. part 6. -- b. 4. parts 2 & 4. -- b. 5. part 1. and David Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 197, and f. part 5. -- p. 417, and f. part 17.]. They visit the sick, assist occasionally the poor, endeavour to preserve peace in their respective places, and whatever they find too difficult, they mention it to the brethren. They keep a watchful eye on everyone, that, in case they should be questioned whether any may be baptized, or admitted to the holy communion, they might be able to give a true testimony of his conduct.
Such helpers as have gifts are sometimes desired to deliver a discourse, keep a funeral, &c. [NOTE: Some of those discourses are found in Oldendorp's History of the Mission, vol. ii. b. 5. part 6, towards the conclusion.]. We also choose helpers of the female sex, who have the same incumbence with respect to their own sex, as the other helpers have on their part; public speaking excepted.
The helpers of both sexes are likewise used, when a regulation is made among the baptized, as well as those of the unbaptized, that are won by grace, to meet in small numbers, each sex separately, in order to speak with one another, before the Lord, of what may tend to their salvation and amendment. For at such small companies of five, six, or more men, who meet together in proper places at an appointed time, one of the helpers is present, who, according to his experience and insight, imparts good advice to them. The societies of women are attended by female helpers, who does the same by her sex as the men do by theirs. Into such companies one gladly admits such persons who are nearly in similar circumstances; thus there are in one company married people, in another widows, in a third, young, single persons, &c., and this is attended with much blessing [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, &c. vol. ii. b. ii. part 6. and Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 31, 32. part 6. -- p. 61, and f. part 8. -- p. 436, and f. part 33.].
The missionaries, as has already been observed, meet the helpers of both sexes at stated times, but especially before the communion and prayer-days, and speak with them of the persons proposed for baptism, or of those that wish to partake of the Lord's supper. Besides this, they enquire how the helpers have observed the commission they are entrusted with, and give them an opportunity of mentioning whatever they have to observe: this is usually called the helpers conference. If any are to be baptized, or the holy communion is to be administered; or if a couple are to be married in /88/ the name of the Lord, it is always done by the missionaries themselves.
The brethren are used to build churches for the public meetings of the congregations among the heathen as soon as it is found necessary and possible. In these the gospel is declared publicly; and baptism, as well as the holy communion, are administered. And the prayers of the church, or the litany, is prayed with all the baptized.
On Easter morning the whole congregation meets before sunrise in the burying ground: when a public confession is made of the hope we have in Christ, to be once partakers of the resurrection, and to come to him into his glory; and at the same time thanks are offered to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for all the benefits vouchsafed us in Christ [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 420. part 20.].
At times one contrives also to have agapae with the believers from the Gentiles, after the custom of the primitive Christians. Then either the whole congregation, or only one division of it, which, according to circumstances, is more or less numerous, meets together in the name of Jesus, and enjoy some meat and drink in fellowship. At the same time they sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, provoking one another unto love and to good works. Sometimes they call to mind special benefits, which God shewed to them, and praise him for it [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Mission, &c. vol. ii. b. 2. part 6. and Crantz's History of Greenland, vol.ii. p. 434. part 30.].
/89/ The pedilavium has indeed been introduced into the congregation of Greenlanders [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 434, part 30.], but we have hitherto had scruples about making a public use of it in all the other congregations of the heathen. For it is thought more suitable to regulate it according to circumstances.
Moreover the brethren are used to divide their hearers according to certain circumstances, in order to speak with every separate division, that which is peculiarly applicable to them. These are,
1. The unbaptized, who attend the preaching of the gospel, and whose names, at their own request, are taken down.
2. The candidates for baptism, who, prior to it, receive particular instruction, and whom one endeavours to learn to know more particularly.
3. The baptized, who are frequently put in mind of their baptism, which is the covenant of a good conscience with God, of their share in the death of Jesus, and of the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of eternal life, grounded thereupon.
4. As to those who have not attended to the grace they had experienced in baptism, but have afterwards fallen again into sin, we speak indeed with these poor people very seriously, but at the same time direct them to Jesus, who so faithfully seeketh the poor strayed sheep, and will gladly receive again each that crieth unto him, with repentance and sorrow [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Mission, vol. ii. b. 5. part 4.].
5. The candidates for the communion, to whom is represented what is needful concerning the favour /90/ that awaits them, namely, the participation of the body and blood of the Lord in the holy sacrament, and whatever belongs to it.
6. The communicants, that is to say, those who are fellow- partakers of the holy communion, of whom one expects with justice, that their spirit and soul, and body and life should be to the praise of the Lord.
In the congregations among the heathen, such regulations are made, that everyone may attend the meetings, not only on the Lord's day, but also in the week [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 418, and f. parts 18, 19.]. Every fourth Sunday is appointed as a prayer-day, which is attended by all who can possibly come. Then there is commonly not only public preaching, but also all the concerns of the congregation are humbly laid before the Lord in the litany; moreover, on the same day, baptism is administered, and each of the aforementioned six divisions hears a discourse suitable to its circumstances. If anyone hath sinned, and begs forgiveness, and one has reason to believe that he does this from his very heart, he is readmitted, and assured at the same time that the congregation, as much as in her lies, has forgiven him all. The conclusion is generally made with prayer on the knees. Yet as the congregations, gathered from among the heathen, differ according to their respective circumstances, so some difference may also be observed in regard to the prayer-days [NOTE: Ibid, vol. ii. p. 102, and f. part 8. -- p. 118, and f. part 2, 3. -- p. 422. part 20.].
The festivals and holidays usual in the Christian church are also observed, and we endeavour, as much /91/ as possible, that the aim of their being introduced, may be obtained [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 117, and f. part 2. -- p. 420, and f. part 20.].
Besides this, their congregations are divided into choirs, of which they take each choir separate, in order to administer to each such food as is meet for it. These are particularly: 1. The children. 2. The boys and unmarried men. 3. The unmarried women. 4. The married people. 5. The widows. Among the helpers of both sexes, there are always some appointed to have a special care of the several choirs.
Each of the aforesaid choirs have separate homilies at stated times, that everyone may know what he has to do, or leave undone, according to the circumstances of the choir to which he belongs. In these homilies everything is grounded on the word of God, and deduced from faith, which is in Christ Jesus [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 4. part 4. -- and b. 5. part 4., and Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 61, and f. part 8 -- p. 435, and f. part 32.].
Nor are we content with merely holding homilies to the choirs; but take all possible pains to learn to know every individual, not only according to the outward appearance, but also according to the state of his soul. To this purpose, a certain time is appointed, when one after the other is called in, with whom one converses separately, in a plain and open manner. And this is called speaking, which has its great use [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 295, and f. part 3. -- p. 434, and f. part 31.].
/92/ What David Crantz saith in the History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 125, and following, part 5. of a choir-house of the unmarried women, and, p. 201, and following, part 8. of a choir- house of the unmarried men, in Greenland, cannot possibly be imitated in other heathen congregations, for example, in the Caribee islands. In such things one must proceed according to circumstances, which either render it useful, and necessary, and possible, or impracticable.
The mothers with children yet in arms, have also their peculiar meetings at certain times, when they are instructed how greatly they ought to value the favour of the Lord, in counting them worthy to commit children to them; for children are his property, which he hath purchased for himself with his own blood, and by his bitter death. So precious are they in the sight of God, that he sends forth his holy angels, who always behold his face, to serve them. At the same time, the mothers are instructed how to behave, that their children may, as it were, imbibe the love of Christ, with the mother's milk. What Moses and Samuel imbibed from their mothers, never left them in all their lives. Nor will the good example of the mothers, and their prayers and supplications before God, remain without a blessing for their children.
In the congregation some brethren and sisters are likewise appointed to serve the congregation in outward matters, that everything may be conducted in due order, in the meetings, as well as about the church [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 418. part 17.].
If brethren live in such places, where, besides the heathen to whom they preach Christ, there live also other people, who are baptized, and where there are Christian magistrates, then they are, according to our principles, to observe the following, namely:
1. That they be not only obedient to the magistracy, who are the servants of God, and shew due respect toward them, but also that they thank God for them, and heartily pray for them. Besides this, they ought to be careful, that they may not remain unknown to their dear magistrates, both as to their own persons, and touching their design in labouring among the heathen. If they can be as confident towards their magistrates, as children are towards their parents, it is always the best. Nor can we do otherwise than declare to the glory of God, that hitherto, in all such places where our brethren labour among the heathen, the magistrates have approved themselves as fathers to them. Wherever it has been otherwise formerly, it has probably been either a mistake on the part of the brethren, or we were not sufficiently made known to our dear magistrates.
2. As to Europeans in such countries, who before belonged to different divisions of the Christian church, the brethren leave everyone to his own religion. Though they can as little prevent his attending their public preaching, as they can withdraw from him, if he wishes to converse with them, relative to his soul's salvation in private. But they neither receive him into their congregation, nor do they admit him to their communion, or Lord's Supper; but advise him to abide by that church to which he belongs, seeing that they are there merely for the sake of the heathen.
/94/ Yet it is however certain that one can as little form a conclusive idea of the brethren's congregations, from the congregations gathered by means of the brethren, among the heathen, as from the former of the latter. There always remains, according to circumstances, an unavoidable difference. Neither can it be denied, but that, with respect to many orders and regulations, some similarity is perceivable. It is likewise true, that a missionary among the heathen, is as little permitted to advance any proposition that would run counter to the evangelical doctrine contained in the Augustan confession, as any teacher in the other brethren's congregations: for we have, at our synods, sacredly bound ourselves before the Lord, to remain inviolably by this confession.
The nature of discipline may be gathered from what has been said above. The reason why one or the other is taken to this or the other division is simply this, because he naturally belongs to it. Now if anyone, who has hitherto been in the division of communicants, should behave himself in a manner unbecoming a partaker of the Lord's Supper, and as may justly be expected of him, such a one is for the present put out of this division, and of course does not receive the Lord's Supper. This is called discipline; but then it is perfectly consistent, nor can it be otherwise. If any one be in the class or division of the baptized, he hath renounced Satan and all his works and ways; and it is expected of him that he should keep from evil things, and follow after that which is good. But if he again addict himself to sin, he belongs no more to that class or division, but is reckoned among the fallen. /95/ This again is called discipline; but it is order, and must be so in a congregation.
Does anyone again audaciously sin and enter into heathenism, and he is on that account totally excluded from the congregation, he does not suffer wrongfully; for he no longer belongs to it.
This discipline, where everyone is placed in that class to which he belongs, and where he is displaced when no longer belonging to it, is very needful among the heathen, and wherever it is neglected, nothing but hurt ensues. It is likewise conformable to the mind of Christ, and much recommended by the apostles of the Lord. The brethren, therefore, who serve among the heathen, ought justly to maintain it, and God our Saviour owns it, and lays his blessing upon it. I myself have seen, among the heathen, such consequences from it, as have astonished me. People of a rough cast have taken it so deeply to heart, when excluded from their respective societies, that they came, and of their own accord begged the congregation on their knees and with tears to forgive them; nay, after the meeting, they stepped to the door, and most heartily besought everyone singly to forgive them. Indeed many, that have given public offence, are publicly absolved, kneeling, in the congregation, with the spirit of the church, that is to say, with the unanimous consent of all hearts; and this is by them not looked upon as a punishment, but considered as a benefit. Such transactions as these are likewise generally accompanied with many tears, not only of the returning penitent, but also of all present. For the Lord walketh in the midst of the congregation, and owns that which is performed in his name [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 2. part 6. -- b. 4. part 4, and 5. -- b. 5. part 2.].
/96/ For the rest it is to be observed, that the congregation discipline could not, in itself be of that utility, which is usually consequent upon it, were it not that the Holy Spirit, who is so active in the congregation, did himself graciously interfere in this matter. But to him we owe thanksgiving, that a poor man, by occasion of this discipline, acknowledges his sins, heartily repents of them, confesses them before the congregation, and renounces them.
Wherever sundry brethren and sisters are labouring in a mission, and form a house-congregation; there they are, without respect to persons, to use the same earnestness towards each other, and if that be neglected, the Lord himself will sometimes take it in hand, and remove such as might prove a hurt to his cause [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 2. part 7.].
Superstitious and idolatrous customs will at times glide along in the dark, and are not so very easily detected. To these belong especially witchcraft, and the shameful power of lies, that occur among the heathen. But the more one gains their confidence, the more easily they are brought to light; especially if some of the sorcerers themselves are converted, which happens now and then, though seldom. For when these begin cordially to confess, by what arts they have deceived others, one may then rightly perceive what is meant by this saying: that God gave up to strong delusion those men, that did not like to retain him in their knowledge, that they should believe a lie. But if such things only come to the light, they stand /97/ refuted of themselves. The brethren therefore are only to be solicitous, that they do not remain concealed.
Heathenish ornaments and fineries, which are either the effect of pride, or have other bad motives at bottom, are not suffered among the baptized. An Indian has his head shaven, but preserves some locks, which he hangs with strings of pearl or coral (these are called wampum), and with various rings, and also with silver. He will slit the extremities of the ears, and place a brass or silver wire in them, which he twists into a narrow circular form, in order to join the separated parts, which are cut in the middle, on both sides or ends. He hath then a large ear, which he adorns with flowers and other ornaments. Besides this, he will paint his face, perhaps also his breast, with red, blue, and other colors, &c. He will also etch or cut various figures, such as serpents, turtles, and the like, on his face, his body, his arms, &c. All these things we do not allow of in the baptized, but use them to a plain, orderly Indian dress.
The nakedness of the heathen in hot climates, where they however use to hide what decency requires, cannot well be avoided in their daily occupations, for example, when the slaves work in the fields. However a former national helper of the heathen congregation in St. Thomas, our late dear brother Mingo, who has now happily finished his course, had brought it so far among his people, that they are all dressed when they come to a meeting, and especially when they go to receive the holy communion.
When one speaks of the precepts, which, according to Acts xv. were to be given to believers among the Gentiles, I cannot say that our brethren were able to make use of them. For the heathen among whom /98/ our brethren labour, are totally ignorant of the Israelites, and of the various laws which the Lord had enjoined them. They also live in countries, where they have no intercourse with Jews. We cannot therefore tell them, that on account of not giving offence to the Jews, they ought to abstain from this or that kind of food. But we must earnestly admonish them, that they are not only to avoid fornication, but also whatever might give occasion thereto, to which the heathenish plays and dancings belong; and should anyone notwithstanding engage in such things, he is then excluded, until he shall acknowledge his sin, and promise before God, never to do it any more; upon which, if a cordial repentance be perceived in him, he is absolved.
The natural connection which those heathen, who are converted to Jesus Christ, have with the other heathen, that are not yet converted, is much more dangerous than one might at first imagine. For it is possible, that the friendship and near relationship of an awakened heathen, that hath obtained mercy, with other heathenish persons, might prove an occasion to their suffering in their faith, or at least damage in their souls. Hence it is necessary, faithfully to inculcate to them, the exhortations our Lord and Saviour gave to his disciples, of denying friends, brothers, fathers, mothers, wives, and children. For if they should love any of their relatives better than the Saviour, they must already have fallen, and would thereby incur imminent danger of falling still more, and even losing their own souls thereby. For a perverse love to their relations would certainly lead them to please them in things that are contrary to the Lord, and ultimately plunge them into perdition.
/99/ To prevent such things, which do not become a Christian, it has been found needful, here and there in the congregations among the heathen, to think of establishing certain regulations. These, after having been, in the presence and with the concurrence of the most sensible men from among the negroes, well weighed, were written down, and read to the whole congregation. And as the members of it perceived, that everything of that kind was meant for their good, they also promised to conduct themselves accordingly. Now if anything should occur, that is contrary to the said regulations, for example, if anyone should wear heathenish ornaments, or become a party at games which are customary among the heathen, and the like, he is reproved on that account, and the thing is laid aside before it becomes a detriment to others [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 133, and f. part 6.].
It were needless to detain my readers with a relation of the various abominations that occur in the marriages of the heathen. However I must observe, that it frequently happens, that a husband has more than one wife. Now if such a one should be converted, what is to be done? Paul saith, "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, (that is yet a heathen), and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away," I Cor. vii. 12. But again he saith; "A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife," &c. I Tim. iii. 2. Nor do we farther read of any order relative TO THIS CASE. The brethren therefore believed they would do best to keep to the following points, namely:
/100/ 1. That they could not oblige a man that had, before his conversion, taken more than one wife, to put away one, or more of them.
2. But yet that they could not appoint such a man to be a helper or servant in the congregation: and,
3. That one, who believeth in Christ, if he marry, can take only ONE WIFE, and that he is bound alone to THAT WIFE, so long as she liveth [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 4. part 1, towards the end.].
For the rest, the brethren not only inculcate to married people, in what manner they may conduct their married state according to the mind of Jesus, concerning which we find beautiful instructions in holy writ; but also impart a blessing to those that engage in matrimony, and faithfully advise them to do it in the name of Jesus [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 2. part 6. -- b. 3. part 9, and Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 47, and f. part 8. -- p. 438, and f. part 35, and 36.]. The missionaries likewise bless such to their marriage, in the name of God, who entered into that state as heathen, provided they have by baptism been incorporated into the church of Christ, and are partakers of the holy communion. See David Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 137. part 9.
There occur, however, with regard to the married state among the slaves, even after the baptism, such circumstances, in which our brethren are totally at a loss how to act. If, for example, a gentleman in the West-Indies, who hath perhaps two or three hundred negroes on a plantation, dies, and leaves many debts, his property, and of course his negroes, are sold by auction. Such auctions are attended also by purchasers from the neighbouring islands; and then it frequently occurs in that, as well as in other cases, that not only /101/ the parents become for ever separated from their children, but the wives from their husbands.
The brethren take particular care of the children of the heathen. No opportunity is omitted to enforce to the parents a faithful inspection of their children, to keep them carefully from everything that is bad, and to inculcate to them, as much as possible, that which is good [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 3. part 4.].
Wherever it is practicable, as, for example, in Greenland, they keep schools for them, instructing them in reading, and other useful things. And wherever this is not feasible, as, for example, in the West-Indies, where the children are not only much scattered, but are also employed by their masters in various things; there they appoint certain days for meetings of the children, when they speak to them in a manner suitable to their age and capacity, of the way of life, that is of our Lord Jesus Christ [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 22. part 5. -- p. 32. part 6. -- p. 251. part 6. -- p. 371. part 6.]. Sometimes they will change their discourse into short easy questions, in order to be the better understood, and at the same time to try, whether the children have apprehended what they said. In sundry places where the children are dispersed, particular persons are appointed to visit them, who have no other commission, than just to take notice of children. This regulation was so acceptable to the children, that on spying their visitors from far, they would run to meet them, and beg to stay with them a little, /102/ and then they would listen with the greatest attention to the words delivered to them [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Missions, vol. ii. b. 4. part 2, 3, 4. -- b. 5. part 1.].
It is likewise a concern of the brethren, that have the care of the heathen, to bring those that are converted to our Saviour, into good order outwardly. We have found in most places where brethren dwell among the heathen, that the latter go on without much care or thinking. Were they with suitable consideration to regulate their matters, duly to take care and manage what providence gives to them, they would not so often be driven to the utmost distress. But instead of that, they are idle when they should labour, and when they have anything to eat, they will squander it in an extravagant manner; and afterward they are miserably distressed for want of food, and tormented by the cares of this life.
But when they are baptized, the brethren advise them to a regular labour, for example, to plant in due season, to hunt, to fish, and do everything needful: they also learn of the brethren how to keep and preserve what they may get, for the winter. And being incapable of making a proper calculation (for they have no almanacs), and to regulate themselves according to the seasons, the brethren also assist them in this respect. I will illustrate this by an instance or two. Dried herrings are of great use to the Greenlanders in winter, for their subsistence; but when they grow wet they are spoiled. To obviate this, the brethren not only encourage the Greenlanders to be diligent in /103/ catching herrings at the proper season, but also to dry them well, and assist them in preserving them dry. If the brethren are among the Indians, they endeavour to get them to clear their fields at the right time, to surround them with hedges, plant them with Indian wheat, and to cut it down in a proper manner; thus a difference is very perceptible between their people, and other Indians; for if those Indians, who have neglected planting, suffer hunger, the others have always so much, as to be able to spare a part of it to them.
Various things occasionally occur, which must be brought into order among the heathen that are converted to Christ. If, for example, a provider dies in Greenland, (thus they call the head of the family) the widow and her orphans are worse off than one can imagine. Or if a husband loses his wife, and she has left a small child, that still wants the mother's breast, he is as badly off; for it is very difficult to get a Greenland woman to suckle any child but her own. Hence it is, that those Greenlanders that are yet heathen, and live among heathen, find themselves obliged, at times, to bury such a motherless infant alive. Now if the case occurs, that the wife of an husband dies, leaving a sucking child behind, the brethren do not rest till they find a person that will take care of the little orphan, and give it suck with her own child. If the husband dies, they divide the orphans, and take care to have them properly educated, and likewise that the widow may be supplied with the necessaries of life [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 226, and f. part 10. -- p. 407, and f. part 9.]. /104/ In sicknesses, likewise, which happen among the heathen, the brethren are obliged frequently to take care of their people [NOTE: See Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. i. p. 390. part 4.].
There are indeed some people among the heathen, that know good remedies for various disorders, and for this reason they are made use of by others. Among the Indians in North America, there are, for example, people who successfully cure the bite of serpents, and to whom the neighbouring Europeans have recourse in such cases. Also among the negroes in the West-Indies are skilful and experienced persons, to whom others apply in their diseases. But these heathenish doctors are jugglers, and generally affect to shew they cure the sick by magic. Therefore believers from among the heathen, when sick, consult their teachers, and often apply with success such remedies, as they have for their own use.
Moreover, divers misfortunes, that occur in the congregations among the heathen, reduce the brethren to the necessity of taking care of them also in respect to their outward concerns. There was, for example, a congregation of Indians at Chekameka in the district of New York, which had formerly in a fit of intoxication, and while they were still heathen, sold the right to their land for a trifle, and when, afterward, they became converted, occasion was taken from this, to drive them out of their country. Most of these people took refuge with the brethren at Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, and were, with the consent of the governor of Pennsylvania, received and treated in a brotherly and /105/ hospitable manner. A piece of land was purchased for them on the Mahoni, which answered the purpose of hunting, as well as for the cultivation of their corn; and they were assisted by the brethren in building, and in the management of their outward matters [NOTE: See Crantz's History of the Brethren, p. 331, and f. part 139.].
The same thing happened with other Indians, who were obliged to quit the land they had sold, at Wechquatnach [NOTE: Ibid, p. 424, and f. part 188.].
The Indian congregation at Meniolagomekah experienced the same fate, and the brethren could not forbear lending them a helping hand in such circumstances, and caring for their support [NOTE: Ibid, p. 424, &c.].
In the year 1755, the brethren, who lived with the Indian congregation on the Mahoni, were surprised, at the beginning of the night, by those Indians, who had taken up the hatchet against the English (that is, according to their language, had begun the war); they killed eleven of the brethren, dispersed the whole congregation, and laid the whole place in ashes. But the brethren fought again for the scattered sheep, took them to Bethlehem, where they provided for them, and took the same care of their souls, as they had done before [NOTE: Ibid, p. 468, and f. part 217. -- p. 472, and f. part 220.].
The aim of the visitations which are from time to time appointed, is, that a brother, nominated by the direction of the Unity, may inform himself in the missions, how it goes with them in the whole, and individually. Some things are of such a nature, as immediately to admit of better regulation, if requisite; /106/ others however require some deliberation with the Elders Conference of the Unity, and are mentioned previously by letters from the visitor, or laid before them by word of mouth on his return. What a visitor has to take notice of in a mission, is, in the first place, the doctrine and mode of teaching; for we are ever to be upon our guard, lest anything should creep in that might be contrary to sound doctrine, and that nothing might be withheld, or omitted, belonging to the whole counsel of God concerning our salvation; as also, that no one depart from simplicity in the preaching of the gospel. In the next place he is required to observe, how it is with the brethren and sisters, who are appointed together in a mission, relative to their inward and outward state; whether any of them have suffered hurt in their soul; whether their calling, to serve our Saviour among the heathen, be still important and precious to them; whether they live together in hearty and brotherly love; whether each, on his part, does what might be justly expected of him, &c.
Besides this, it is incumbent on him to learn to know the congregation in general, and the members of it in particular. In the meetings, he not only considers, whether everything be transacted with that decency becoming divine things, but also observes particularly, whether the gracious presence of our Saviour is felt and perceived in them. He converses with the labourers upon all the orders and regulations in the congregation; and where he observes anything that seems to require an alteration, he speaks with them relative to it. In speaking with the single members of the congregation, that is to say, with the baptized and communicants, he endeavours to learn, whether they have actually, as poor sinners, fought and found grace at the feet of Jesus, and whether they continue /107/ in the grace they once obtained, are obedient to the dictates of the Holy Spirit, hating and eschewing that which is evil, but loving and following after that which is good; and whether they stand in a confidential intercourse with Jesus Christ, and through him with our dear Father in Heaven, as also, whether they walk in love, &c. He attends himself the conferences of the helpers, observing whether openness, sincerity and confidence rule among them. He also inquires upon what footing the brethren are with their dear magistrates and neighbours.
Such visitations take up a great deal of time, and are not only very expensive, but also, especially when one is obliged to cross the seas in time of war, attended with much danger. In the meanwhile, they are not only useful, but also necessary sometimes, they have therefore been held in GREENLAND and TERRA LABRADOR, as well as in NORTH and SOUTH AMERICA, and in the EAST and WEST- INDIES. It is indeed our hearty wish that they might take place more frequently [NOTE: One of the last visitations took place in the English West-India islands, ST. CHRISTOPHER, ANTIGOA, JAMAICA, and BARBADOES: our dear brother Martin Mack performed it, in consequence of a commission from the Elders Conference of the Unity. He was a bishop of the Brethren's church, and is lately (after a faithful and blessed service of more than thirty years among the heathen, chiefly in the Danish Caribee Islands) entered into the joy of his Lord at St. Croix.].
To comprise the whole briefly together, the labours of the brethren among the heathen aim at this, that they might be enabled to say of a truth: "Whether /108/ we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's," Rom. xiv. 8. That the brethren's labour is not in vain, for THIS glory is due to God alone, who causeth his gospel to approve itself as the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth. O how often are they rejoiced, and encouraged to praise the Lord, when poor heathen, who put their trust in Jesus, finish their course through this life comfortably and joyfully, in a confident hope of eternal life, amidst all the pains of their bodies [NOTE: See Oldendorp's History of the Mission, &c. vol. ii. b. 4. part 3. -- b. 5. part 3. and Crantz's History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 441, and f. part 38.]. The brethren likewise appoint everywhere, where it is practicable, burying places for the converted from among the heathen; and whereas the unconverted heathen deposit their dead into the ground, wherever the relations think proper, with howling and shouting, the brethren treat the burials in a manner becoming Christians. At the grave, either the missionary, or one of their helpers, delivers a discourse to the people assembled, which on such occasions are generally very numerous, and then concludes with prayer and giving of thanks.
Now small as this labour of the brethren among the heathen may appear to one or the other; yet if the words of our Saviour were duly considered: "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" it would cause one to think otherwise. For if it is clear from this passage, that ONE soul is of more value before God, than all the riches of the whole world, (and this is however the plain sense of this saying) then is the salvation of a single /109/ heathen, who through the gospel is brought to Christ, and obtains in him the forgiveness of sin, life and salvation, to be far more highly esteemed, than the gain of the whole world.
This treatise was not written with a view to praise the brethren: For who are we, that God should count us worthy to make any use at all of us? We have made many mistakes everywhere, and we still commit many. Had we done all things, which are commanded us, we still could, according to the word of the Lord, say nothing else, but that we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. And what does an unprofitable servant deserve? We will be glad and thankful if the Lord in mercy forgives us our debts.
Meanwhile that which we do among the heathen is not our work, but the Lord's. The ground we have to cultivate is the Lord's. He himself does all things by his powerful word, and by his Holy Spirit. For "neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase," I Cor. iii. 7. In the meantime, the servants of Jesus have however the honour of being called, in holy writ, labourers together with God.
For this cause we entreat that no man may stand in our way, in that which God hath commanded us, and in what he himself hath put into our hands. If this be done, (and it has, alas, been too often done) we shall certainly bear it; yea, we shall pray for our opposers, which we do indeed in stillness, as well as in our litany; but let such a one consider, that he is fighting against God, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
We hereby thank our friends, our brethren and sisters, heartily, for the share they have hitherto /110/ taken in our labour among the heathen, and for supporting them, partly with their prayers and blessing, and partly by their willing contributions. The words of John in his third epistle, verse 5, &c. may be properly applied here: "Beloved, thou dost faithfully, whatsoever thou dost to the brethren, and to strangers;" -- that is, to such strangers as thou entertainest -- "which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well. Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles," -- like Paul, I Cor. ix. 18. "We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth." For John saith concerning Diotrephes: "He himself doth not receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth THEM out of the church," 3 John 10.
But we will pray to God, that he may farther give us the right persons for his service among the heathen, that he would fill them with love to him, and with love to the poor souls whom Christ hath purchased with his own blood -- that he would be with them in their labours, and cause his blessing to rest upon them -- that he would open the hearts of the heathen, as he formerly opened that of Lydia, that they may take to heart the word, and receive it in faith -- that he would not suffer the beautiful seed of the Lord among the heathen to be trodden under foot by wild beasts -- that he rather would cause it to spring up, to grow and bring forth fruit that may ripen well -- and that he may grant them rain and sunshine in due season -- in a word: that he may spread his kingdom over the whole earth. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Amen.