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Reverend John Eliot, First to Convert the Indians

By Edited Aug 15, 2016 0 0

Oh, my. Indians are such heathens! They live off the land, they barely wear clothes, and they certainly do not live in a "God-like" manner at all. The improvement to their situation can only come from Christians visiting them and converting them from their savage ways into Christianity. The idea that the indigenous groups of humans who lived in the new world were primitive and heathens that needed to be taught the better ways of the Church of England was naïve, and very presumptive, however it brought forth those who would help to convert the Indians to Christian beliefs.

John Eliot
However, there were those who believed that their God would save them, and guide them through teaching English to the natives, and then subsequently send them on to Christianity so that they would be able to go to Heaven when they died. Reverend John Eliot was the first to visit the new world and attempt to convert the natives to the way of the Lord.

Reverend Eliot was dedicated to this. He was a bright young man, having graduated from Cambridge when he was only eighteen years old, in 1622. While teaching at a school he was exposed to the Puritan religion, and became quite interested in their teachings, and in 1631 he became a Puritan minister. After a short period of ministry in England, the Puritans were forced out of the country by the dominant Catholic religion, and Reverend Eliot migrated to America in the fall of 1631. He was primarily an assistant pastor at the Church of Boston.

While still in England, he had discovered languages that came from across the Atlantic Ocean. Even the exploration of America was relatively new to England in the mid 1600's, there were explorers from England and Spain who had brought back gold, precious gems, and sometimes even some of the natives. Reverent Eliot learned the language of those Indians, at the time coined Algonkian. He learned it well enough to communicate and write their words.

Reverend Eliot traveled to America and spoke with the natives. He taught them his religion, he

Translated Bible
even setup a catechism for them. After a few years he took the Holy Bible and translated it into the native Algonkian language.

After petitioning the Massachusetts General Court to grant some land be provided for the converted Indians, Reverend Eliot helped Christian natives build homes in areas away from their tribes and away from the European colonies so that they would be able to worship within their own language and be given the opportunity to continue living within their own culture. After all, the Native Americans were more likely to keep the land clean and pure, and only take what they wanted to. The European colonists were more likely to pillage and plunder the land, taking stores of more than they needed, and shipping the natural resources back to Great Britain. Two clergymen were also charged with the continuing education of the Indians in these communities.

Eliot with the Indians

Reverend was very successful in his mission to convert the regional native tribes to Christianity. So much so that he was able to recruit missionaries from within the tribes to continue to help him to teach the Word of God through the tribes and indigenous groups. Daniel Takawambpait became the first Indian minister. He was ordained in Natick, Massachusetts in 1681.

In all, fourteen small Christian Indian towns were developed, with residency into the thousands.

King Philips War
Unfortunately, however, thanks to wars started by King Philip, an Indian who fought to chase European settlers from America, the inhabitants of the Christian Indian towns were scattered. They tried to come back together but were unsuccessful.

Besides the conversion of the Indians to Christianity, John Eliot made sure that the Word of God was available to all the members of the new towns. He was receiving enthusiastic funding from both Old England and New England in order to fully finance building churches as well as schools. He taught the citizens of the Indian communities how to read and write, and they were able, thanks to his tutelage, to read the Bible that he translated and then revised to further their own knowledge.

John Eliot lived a very long life, especially for the period in history, passing away at the age of 86 in 1690. He spent the entirety of his life in the New World teaching and ministering to both his European friends, and his new Indian friends.

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