The Life of John Papoonung – Part 4

“I have often thought it strange that the Christians are such great warriors, and have wondered they are not greater lovers of peace. For from the time God first showed himself to my mind, and put his goodness in my heart, I found myself in such a temper, that I thought if the flesh had been whipped off me with horse-whips, I could have borne it without being angry at those who did it.” As we were riding upon the way, I had a mind to say something to him concerning our Savior’s words and example when on earth. I desired the interpreter to ask him if he was disposed to hear such things. He answered, “such words are very good, and would be very acceptable at a fit time, but they are awful, and should be spoken of at a solemn time, for then the heart is soft, and they would enter in and not be lost. When the heart is hard, they will not go into it, and so are lost. Such words should not be lost ; at a fit time I would be glad to hear of these things.”

Concerning people reasoning about religion, he said, “When people speak of these things, they are apt to stand in opposition one against the other, as though they strove to throw each other down, or to see which was the wisest. Now these things should not be so. Whilst one is speaking the other should hold down his head till the first is done, and then speak without being in a heat or angry.”

I told him many of my Friends, as well as myself, had been thoughtful about the Indians last winter, and had desires for their welfare; and that our hearts were made to love many of them, though we had never seen them. He replied, “I believe this love was of God. You did not know we should come down, neither did we ourselves know it. Yet God did; therefore he inclined your hearts towards us, that you might be the more glad, and make us the more welcome when we did come.”

The morning I parted with the Indians at Bethlehem, I told them that I intended to set my face homewards, and said, “If any of you have a word of advice to give me, I shall hear it gladly.” After a pause, Papoonung spake as follows:

Brother, it discovers a good disposition in you to love to hear good counsel. There are some people that set light by what I say, and will not hear me. Since I first had desires after God, people of different notions about religion have spoken to me, all directing me to their particular ways, — but there is but one way to the place of happiness God hath prepared fir his creature man.

Brother, there are none that ever spoke such good words to me as I have now heard from the Quakers: what they say answers exactly to what had been told my heart before I saw them. When I left home I resolved  not to speak to the Quakers, but to hearken and hear what they would say to me. I have heard a voice speak to my heart, ‘the Quakers are right.’ It may be a wrong voice, but I believe it is the true voice. However, if that I feel in my heart remain with me, I shall come again to see the Quakers, and if I continue to grow strong, I hope the time will come that I shall be joined in close fellowship with them.”

During the time this Friend was thus traveling with the Indians, he learned many particulars from the interpreter of the early exercises of Papoonung, and the conflicts and baptisms of spirit he had passed through, preparatory to his taking upon him to preach among his people.   Papoonung and his followers returned home from Bethlehem, and he appears to have continued the exercise of his ministerial labors among them, having gained some further knowledge of divine things. The Moravians were not yet prepared to receive him as one of them, for he had not been baptized in water, neither had partaken of that outward ordinance which they termed the Lord’s Supper. They still called him a “heathen moralist,” although he fully and freely declared his belief in the divinity of our Savior, and gladly rested his hopes of future happiness on the offering upon Calvary, and the regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit.   (To be continued.)

“Relics of the Past No. 38 – Life of John Papoonung” from The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal Printed by Joseph & William Kite Vol. XVIII No.5 Oct. 26, 1844 Philadelphia. Biography is based on original documents from 1744-1758