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LEARNING THE INDIAN LANGUAGE,
INTRODUCTION. I Shou
Should have concluded what I had at present to offer, upon the affairs respecting my mission, with the preceding account of the money collected and expended for the religious interests of the Indians, but that I have not long since received from the Reverend President of the correspondents, the copy of a letter directed to him from the Honourable Society for propagating Christian knowledge, dated at Edinburgh, March 21, 1715. Wherein I find it is expressly enjoined upon their missionaries, “ That they give an exact account of the methods they make use of for instructing themselves in the Indians' language, and what progress they have already made in it. What methods they are now taking to instruct the Indians in the principles of our holy religion. And particularly that they set forth in their Journals what difficulties they have already met with, and the methods they make use of for surmounting the same.”
As to the two former of these particulars, I trust that what I have already noted in my Journals from time to time, might have been in a good measure satisfactory to the Honourable Society, had these Journals arrived safely and seasonably, which I am sensible they have not in general done,' by reason of their falling into the hands of the enemy, although I have been at the pains of sending two copies of every Journal, for more than two years past, lest one might miscarry in the passage. But with relation to the latter of these particulars, I have purposely omitted saying any thing considerable, and that for these two reasons. First, because I could not oftentimes gire any tolerable account of the difficulties I met with in my work, without speaking somewhat particularly of the Vol. !!!
causes of them, and the circumstances conducing to them, which would necessarily have rendered my Journals very tedious. Besides, some of the causes of my difficulties I thought more fit to be concealed than divulged. And, secondly, because I thought a frequent mentioning of the difficulties attending my work, might appear as an unbecoming complaint under my burdens; or as if I would rather be thought to be endowed with a singular measure of self denial, constancy, and holy resolution, to meet and confront so many difficulties, and yet to hold on and go forward amidst them all. But since the Honourable Society are pleased to require a more exact and particular account of these things, I shall cheerfully endeavour something for their satisfaction in relation to each of these particulars: although in regard of the latter, I am ready to say, Infandum-jubes renovare dolorem.
Method of learning the Indian Language.
The most successful method I have taken for instructing myself in any of the Indian languages, is, to translate English disçourses by the help of an interpreter or two, into their language, as near verbatim as the sense will admit of, and to observe strictly how they use words, and what construction they will bear in various cases; and thus to gain some acquaintance with the root from whence particular words proceed, and to see how they are thence varied and diversified. But here occurs a very great difficulty; for the interpreters being unlearned, and unacquainted with the rules of language, it is impossible sometimes to know by them what part of speech some particular word is of, whether noun, gerb, or participle ; for they seem to use participles sometimes where we should use nouns, and sometimes where we should use verbs in the English language.
But I have, notwithstanding many difficulties, gained some acquaintance with the grounds of the Delaware language, and have learned most of the defects in it; so that I know what English words can, and what cannot be translated into it. I have also gained some acquaintance with the particular phraseologies, as well as peculiarities of their language, one of which I cannot but mention. Their language does not admit of their speaking any word denoting relation, such as, father, son, &e. absolutely; that is, without prefixing a pronoun-passire to it, such as my, thy, his, &c. Hence they cannot be baptized in their own language in the name of the Father, and the Son, &c.; but they may be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and his Father, &c. I have gained so much knowledge of their language, that I can understand a considerable part of what they say, when they discourse upon divine things, and am frequently, able to correct my interpreter, if he mistakes my sense. But I can do nothing to any purpose at speaking the language myself.
And as an apology for this defect, I must renew, or rather enlarge my former complaint, viz. That “while so much of my time is necessarily consumed in journeying,” while I am obliged to ride four thousand miles a year, (as I have done in the year past), “I can have little left for any of my necessary studies, and consequently for the study of the Indian languages.” And this, I may venture to say, is the great, if not the only reason why the Deleware language is not familiar to me before this time. And it is impossible I should ever be able to speak it without close application, which, at present, I see no prospect of having time for. To preach and cate. chise frequently ; to converse privately with persons that need so much instruction and direction as these poor Indians do; to take care of all their secular affairs, as if they were a company of children ; to ride abroad frequently in order to procure collections for the support of the school, and for their help and benefit in other respects; to hear and decide all the petty differences that arise among any of them; and to have the constant oversight and management of all their affairs of every kind, must needs ingross most of my time, and leave me little for application to the study of the Indian languages. And when I add to this, the time that is necessarily consumed upon ny Journals, I must say I have little to spare for other business. I have not (as was observed before) sent to the Honourable Society less than two copies of every Journal, for more than two years past; most of which, I suppose, have been taken by the French in their passage. And a third copy I have constantly kept by me, lest the others should miscarry. This has caused me not a little labour, and so straitened me for time, when I have been at liberty from other business, and had opportunity to sit down to write, which is but rare, that I have been obliged to write twelve and thirteen hours in a day; till my spirits have been extremely wasted, and my life almost spent, to get these writings accomplished. And after all; after diligent application to the various parts of my work, and after the most industrious improvement of time, I am capable of, both early and late, I cannot oftentimes possibly gain two hours in a week for reading, or any other studies, unless just for what appears, of absolute necessity for the present. And frequently when I attempt to redeem time, by sparing it out of my slceping hours, I am by that means thrown under bodily indisposition, and rendered fit for nothing.- This is truly my present state, and is like to be so, for aught I can see, unless I could procure an assistant in my work, or quit my present business.
But although I have not made that proficiency I could wish to have done, in learning the Indian languages; yet I have used all endeavours to instruct them in the English tongue, which perhaps will be more advantageous to the Christian interest among them, than if I should preach in their own language; for that is very defective, (as I shall hereafter observe, so that many things cannot be communicated to them without introducing English terms. Besides, they can have no books translated into their language, without great difficulty and expence; and if still accustomed to their own language only, they would have no advantage of hearing other ministers occasionally, or in my absence. So that my having a perfect acquaintance with the Indian language, would be of no great importance with regard to this congregation of Indians in New-Jersey, although it might be of great service to me in treating with the Indians elsewhere,
Method of instructing the Indians.
The method I am taking to instruct the Indians in the principles of our holy religion, are, to preach, or open and improve some particular points of doctrine ; to expound particular paragraphs, or sometimes whole chapters of God's word to them; to give historical relations from scripture of the most material and remarkable occurrences relating to the church of God from the beginning; and frequently to catechise them upon the principles of Christianity. The latter of these methods of instructing, I manage in a twofold manner. I sometimes catechise systematically, proposing questions agreeable to the Reverend Asseinbly's Shorter Catechism. This I have carried to a considerable length. At other times I catechise upon any important subject that I think difficult to them. Sometimes when I have discoursed upon some particular point, and made it as plain and familiar to them as I can, I then catechise them upon the most material branches of my discourse, to see whether they had a thorough understanding of it. But as I have catechised chiefly in a systematical forir, I shall here give some specimen of the method I make use of in it, as well as of the propriety and justness of my people's answers to the questions proposed to them.
Questions upon the benefits believers reccive from Christ at death,
2. I have shewn you, that the children of God receive a great many good things from Christ while they live, now have they any more to receive when they coine to die? A. Yes.
2. Are the children of God then made perfectly free from sin!
A. Yes. 2. Do you think they will never more be troubled with vain, foolish, and wicked thoughts? A. No, never at all.
2. Will not they then be like the good angels I have so often told you of? A. Yes.
2. And do you call this a great mercy to be freed from all sin ?
2. Do you think this is what they would ask for above all things, if God should say to them, Ask what you will, and it shall be done for you?
A. O yes, besure, this is what they want.
2. You say the souls of God's people at death are made perfectly free from sin, where do they go then?
A. They go'and live with Jesus Christ.
2. Does Christ shew them more respect and honour, and make them more happy * than we can possibly think of in this world?
A. Yes. 2. Do they go immediately to live with Christ in heaven, as soon as their bodies are dead? or do they tarry somewhere else a while ? A. They go immediately to Christ.
2. Does Christ take any care of the bodies of his people when they are dead, and their souls gone to heaven, or does he forget them?
A. He takes care of them.
* The only way I have to express their “ entering into glory,” or being glorified; there being no word in the Indian language answering to that general term.