The Life of John Papoonung – Part 9

John Woolman had some other satisfactory opportunities with the Indians, and after describing one held on a First-day, he says; “When the last-mentioned meeting was ended, it being night, Papoonung went to bed, and one of the interpreters sitting by me, I observed Papoonung spoke with an harmonious voice, I suppose a minute or two; and asking the interpreter, was told that he was expressing his thankfulness to God for the favors he had received that day; and prayed that he would continue to favor him with the same which he had experienced in that meeting. Though Papoonung had before agreed to receive the Moravians, and join with them, he still appeared kind and loving to us.”

“On the 21st. This morning in meeting, my heart was enlarged in pure love amongst them, and in short, plain sentences, expressed several things that rested upon me, which one of the interpreters gave the people pretty readily ; after which the meeting ended in supplication ; and I had cause humbly to acknowledge the loving kindness of the Lord towards us, and believed that a door remained open for the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, to labor amongst these people.”

John Woolman, with a thankful heart, took an affectionate farewell of the Indians, and the Moravian appeared respectful at parting.

Papoonung was at this time, passing through deep exercises of mind, and according to Zeisberger’s account, complained much of the hardness and depravity of his heart. He freely confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus, and his dependence on Him alone for salvation. As he and his people had concluded to have a Moravian minister among them, he requested to be joined to that body of Christians by baptism in water. This was readily and quickly acceded to by the minister, who although a true hearted believer in the Lord Jesus, could hardly recognize any as of the true fold, who had not passed through that outward rite; as though the impress of the Savior’s private seal, manifested in a regenerate heart, was not a sufficient proof of discipleship, and mark of a being entered into that covenant which saves. The watery rite was administered to him on the 26th of Sixth month, in less than two weeks after Zeisberger’s settlement there, and a few days after the departure of John Woolman. Papoonung was a truly humbled believer, and on this occasion, he not only declared to the Indians his Christian faith, but he testified he saw more fully the evil of his heart, and that he had not known how miserable a creature he was, even when he was preaching to them before. Although thus submitting to outward rites, which belong to that dispensation which makes nothing perfect, his blessed Savior did not take his Holy Spirit from him. The apostle declared to the Galatians, ” if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing,” If Papoonung had trusted for salvation to the baptism of water, or to his having partaken of bread and wine, blessed by a man,.* this declaration of the apostle might have applied to him. But he had learned to love the Lord Jesus, and desired to dwell under the influence of the Holy Spirit, whose teachings he daily waited for.

The settlement of Zeisberger at Wyalusing, was of very short duration. The Indians about the great lakes, and those on the Ohio River, took up the hatchet against the whites, and murdered several hundred people. A murderous, fanatical spirit had been spread amongst certain inhabitants of Pennsylvania, which would have doomed all the Indians to destruction. It was openly declared, and that by persons professing to be ministers of the Gospel, that the heathens ought not to be permitted to live in the land. That this country had been given to the white settlers, and that as Joshua and the children of Israel were to destroy the Canaanites, so it was their duty to kill all the Indians.

When the account of the murders committed by the Indians reached these fanatics, they declared it was a judgment upon the whites for not having carried on the work of destruction, and they scrupled not to threaten the lives of such natives as they should meet with. The brethren at Bethlehem were alarmed; they recalled the Indian men who were engaged at a considerable distance from their settlement at Nuin, hunting, and Zeisberger was summoned from Wyalusing. It is not needful to trace very minutely the rise and progress of the Indian war, and the murders committed by these fanatics. The Christian Indians were a principal object of attack to those deluded, wicked men, and at last it was necessary for their protection that they should be removed to Philadelphia. John Jennings, the sheriff of the county in which Bethlehem was, took charge of the Christian Indians residing near that place and saw them in safety to Philadelphia. They arrived there on the 11th of the Eleventh month, 1703. The governor had ordered that they should be lodged in the barracks, but the soldiers refused them entrance, and after much derision and abuse from a mob which collected round them, they were marched down to Province Island, six miles below the city.

In the meantime, the northern Indians had poured down into Wyoming valley, laying waste all the white settlements therein, and killing many people. Papoonung was a friend of peace, and refusing to join with his warlike brethren in their excursions against the whites, it became necessary for him to seek for shelter and protection for himself and Christian followers. Towards the close of the Eleventh month, he, with 21 others, came down to Bethlehem. Here he was in as much danger from the professedly Christian white people, as he had been at Wyalusing from the heathen red men. He was accordingly sent on to Philadelphia, and soon joined his brethren at Province Island. Whilst the Indians were encamped at this place, they were the objects of the unremitting care and attention of the members of the Society of Friends. Whatever could minister to their comfort was furnished, and the sympathy and aid thus freely rendered, was very cordial to them. Heckewelder says, “often times since, these Indians have been heard to say, that during their troubles which lasted between one and two years, even the sight of a Quaker made them feel happy.”

(To be continued.)

“Relics of the Past No. 41 – Life of John Papoonung” from The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal Printed by Joseph & William Kite Vol. XVIII No.8 Nov. 16, 1844 Philadelphia. Biography is based on original documents from 1744-1758