From the Christian Herald.
A LETTER CONCERNING THE CHOCTAW INDIANS.
We have been kindly favored with the privilege of making the extraction given below, from a letter addresses [sic] to the Rev. John Andrews, of this city, by the Rev. Loring S. Williams, missionary among the Indians. The letter is of a later date than any we have seen published from the missionaries. As it contains an interesting narrative of the Mayhew Church, of the difficulties it has encountered, and of the prospects of the Indians of the Choctaw tribe; feelings of sympathy and anxiety will be awakened by its perusal, in behalf of these poor people. The territory inhabited by the Choctaws is in the central part of the state of Mississippi. Amongst them missionary labors were commenced in the year 1813, and there are now eight regular stations, where schools are taught, and the gospel preached within the last year or two, it will be recollected that the efforts of the missionaries have been remarkably successful. Towards the close of the last year, it was believed there were two thousand persons who habitually prayed in the name of the Savior.
AIKHUNNA, Choctaw Nation
June 30, 1830
Rev. and Dear Sir:
A few particulars respecting the Choctaw Mission may be acceptable.
When I wrote to you in October last, I think I stated that we had received about 50 Choctaws into our church. Since that date we have been permitted to receive 184 more * besides two black persons; and it is expected that a number more will be admitted on the next Sabbath. I am now speaking of the Mayhew church which is scattered over a large extent of country, and is now under the care of Brethren Kingsbury, Byington, and myself, residing at three different stations. Of the church members 52 belong to my congregation.
There are nine ruling elders in this church, seven of whom are natives, who appear extremely well as church officers. It is true they are comparatively ignorant; but they are very teachable, and thus far, faithful and exemplary.
There are several places for public worship within the bounds of the church, where there is generally a good attendance on the Sabbath; and once in two months, the whole church according to their ability, meet at a central spot, where a large house has been erected for the purpose. They commonly collect on Friday, and stay until Monday. On such occasions we have considerable preaching, examination of candidates, and the administration of the ordinances. The Lord's supper is also occasionally administered at some of the stations, as otherwise some of the infirm members, who live at a great distance from the center meeting house, could never enjoy it.
The number received into the churches in other parts of the nation is, I think, not far from 50.- There are also a number of hopeful candidates in different places. We hope that the special influences of the Holy Spirit are not wholly withdrawn. But there is less excitement among the people in general; or, I should say, less deep concern for the salvation of the soul is manifested. It will be seen in the sequel, that there is an excitement of another kind. There are some cases of lamentable backsliding among those who had professed to be anxious to obtain an interest in Christ. Some few church members have also gone astray. This may be said of this part of the nation; but it is particularly applicable to the southern part, where many of the inquirers, having been overcome by powerful temptations, have returned to their evil course. Never was the great Adversary more busy in opposing the gospel in this land, than at the present time. I will briefly state some facts in illustration of this remark.
Soon after the legislature of Mississippi extended her laws over the poor Indians, abolishing their laws, customs, &c. making it a heavy penalty, and imprisonment, for any chief to associate as such--- two of the principal chiefs resigned their commissions. Their influence, in favor of the gospel, had hitherto been most salutary. But there were some portions remote from missionary stations, still held in complete bondage by the prince of darkness:--and besides, they were so much under the influence of certain corrupt white men, that though they had repeated offers of preaching, they would not hear. It seems that they only waited on opportunity of manifesting more openly their opposition to all invocations on their ancient customs. Taking advantage of the great change in the political affairs and government of the nation, they formed a conspiracy, which has at length become very strong. They make every exertion to oppose the gospel or anything that pertains to it; such as our mission schools, scripture, translation, & the like. They have not yet proceeded to acats of violence on any person,and we think they will not presume to do so. But it would seem that every other means that the wicked one could invent, has been, or is now tried, to induce the Christian party to renounce their religion. Flattery, bribes, threats, slanders, various allurement &c. have been successfully employed. The descent upon the south part of the nation was so sudden and so skillfully managed as to produce the effect before mentioned. The church in this northern section had timely notice of their approach, and desirous so to prepare their minds by prayer and mutual consultation. More private attempts were first made, after which a public council was called when the two parties met. It was good to see one of the band conduct with so much Christian fortitude and meekness as they did on this occasion. All matters were discussed very freely but there could be no fellowship of light with darkness.--- The heathen party had much to say about political affairs, but it was sufficiently obvious that their intent was to undermine the foundation of religion and to shut out the light of the gospel from the nation. And it was painful to see some white men among them encouraging and advising them in their attempts. The Christian party spent the most of the two nights they were on the council ground in worship of God: while the other party, thirty rods distant, spent them in heathen games and dances. O what a contrast! I know not that any advantage was gained by the enemy. He has not however, relaxed his exertions to draw off these poor lambs from the fold. The intelligent part of the people are on this side, but there are some cunning and powerful speakers on the other. And as they address themselves to the corrupt propensities of human nature, and plead so earnestly for the ancient customs of their fathers for "liberty of conscience," and insist so strenuously, that "the religion of white men is not for the red man, and that even multitudes of white men do not believe, and obey the Bible,"----that it cannot be expected but that they should succeed with many of those who are not rooted and grounded in the faith. They insist upon it for instance, that religion disqualifies a man for any civil office--being told by these officious white men, that the President of the U.S. is not a Christian; and that there are few or none in Congress.
It is indeed a sifting time in the church. But we are comforted in the assurance
that the Lord knoweth them that are his, and is able to keep them in the evil
day. I have no doubt that perilous times are at hand.--The legislative proceedings
of their white brothers have shocked and thrown them into confusion. They now
expect to leave their little farms and comfortable dwellings- the sepulchers
of their fathers, their schools and meeting houses, to their white neighbors,
while they retreat to the western wilds for a home, which, even there, they
fear may yet be coveted and perhaps claimed by white men. O will not Christians
at least pray for these lambs, and for those who are called to feed them.
Your in gospel bonds.
L. S. WILLIAMS
*All Indians we presume.