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We hope this may prove an opening for great and extensive usefulness among the Indians in this quarter, where is a wide field for missionary labours, already occupied, in part, by the synod of Pittsburgh.
THE SENECA PROPHET, OR THE MAN OF THE GREAT SPIRIT.
Communicated for the Panoplist by a Missionary who visited him and his people.
A FEW years since, an Indian at the Alleghany river, half brother to the noted Cornplanter, gave out that he had communications from the Great Spirit, which he was commanded to make known to the different tribes of Indians. He was formerly a great drunkard, and despised by the Indians themselves, as an ignorant, idle, worthless fellow. Since his reformation, he appears meek, honest and inoffensive. By those best acquainted with him, he is considered as deficient in intellect. He converses but little. His countenance does not indicate much thoughtfulness. When questioned, however, his answers are pertinent, and his public speeches are sensible. He inculcates on his followers, that they sell not their lands; that they refrain from the use of ardent spirits; that they put not away their wives; that they cultivate their lands; live industrious lives; and maintain the religious customs of their ancestors.
To one, who expressed his doubts of his having such communications, and used some arguments to show him he had not, he replied with his usual simplicity," I think I have had such communications made to me." At the meeting of commissioners with the Senecas, for the purpose of purchasing a tract of land at the Black-rock, this Indian was present, and opposed the sale of their lands. He related the communications, which he said he had received from the Great Spirit. Some of the communications he could not recollect, and asked his brother Cornplanter. When asked how he could forget such communications, he said at the time the Great Spirit told him these things, he related them to his brother; and that he was told so many things, he did not remember all.
Since this Prophet, as he is styled, arose, there has been a great reform among the pagans of the Six Nations, The settlement at the Alleghany riv er, containing about 450 souls, a few years since, were a poor, idle, drunken, contemptible people; they are now become temperate, industrious, and comparatively wealthy. A mission from the Friends near Philadelphia, has much aided this reform, by counsels and example; but whether
one would have succeeded without the other, it is probably impossible to determine.
This prophet says, he has had repeated visions, in which he sees three spirits or angels, who make communications to him. Sometimes in dreams or visions, he pretends to have seen devils flying, and hovering over their new town, Canadesago, seeking some place to light, but could find none, be cause the people were now orderly, temperate, and industrious; he then saw them fly to Buffaloe Creek, and light among the whisky casks. Some. times, he says, he has seen idle, drunken Indians, clothed in rags and filth, in old worn out canoes, on lakes at a distance from shore, clouds gathering thick and black, with awful thunder, lightning and tempest.
Sometimes sick persons send a shirt or some other article of clothing, to the prophet, that he may prescribe a cure. In such a case, he takes two handfuls of tobacco, puts their ends to the fire on the hearth, lies down and covers himself with a blanket, after he has arisen he prescribes for the disease.
He has stated to the Indians, that great judgments would follow them, if they disobeyed the commands of the Great Spirit, such as floods, drought, &c. The principal of the Friends' mission near these Indians, observed, that a missionary who lately visited them, had spoken much in the same way to them respecting the judgments of God, following the wicked, and that they had been visited, as their prophet had declared, es pecially, with a remarkable flood in the Alleghany river.
The fame of this prophet is great among the western Indians. He has once visited the Wyandots, and by particular desire expected soon to visit them again. He is deeply im,
was a day, when a greater variety of false doctrines were propagated, and when error had more talents and zeal engaged in its cause. Nor was there ever a time, when the sentiments of be lievers were more openly calumniated, or when the church of Christ was more disturbed and disgraced by the multitude of false brethren. It is, therefore, highly important, that the faithful servants of Christ should exhibit a plain, and somewhat full account of their religious principles. Not willing to be confounded with all who bear the Christian name, they crave this justice, that the world would judge of them by the creed which they embrace, and the conduct which they practically approve. From every mistaken and slanderous representation, they make their appeal to those authentic vouchers of their sentiments, which are found in their confessions of faith.
Now if, according to the spirit of modern catholicism, confessions of faith should be wholly laid aside, the world would be deprived of one important advantage for distinguishing the friends of Christ from others, and so be in greater danger of forming confused and unjust conceptions of Christianity. In such a state of things, the faith of Christ's people must be judged by the opinions which commonly prevail. They would want the best advantage to clear their principles from perverse reproaches, and to designate them selves, as the faithful advocates of gospel truth. This effect of setting aside confessions would gratify the enemies of the gospel, and give them power to use
every hostile weapon with great
Secondly. By publishing plain and solemn declarations of their faith, believers design to show that they own the doctrines of Christ with cheerfulness and zeal; that his religion, though hated and despised by the impious, is the object of their veneration; that they glory in the gospel, as their most valuable possession, and feel grateful to God for such an unspeakable gift.
When God bestows distinguishing gifts, his people should not bury them in ungrateful silence, but seize every opportunity to make them known to the world, and to testify their gratitude to the bountiful Giver. Now in what way can God bless a people more than by causing the pure light of truth to shine upon them? The gospel is the noblest privilege, the most preciousgift. Christians should ac-. knowledge it with the sincerest praise, and embrace every opportunity to testify their esteem for its heavenly doctrines. This, is done by the practice here recommended. Every time the faithful churches of Christ publish their confessions, they own their obligations to the infinite goodness of God for the gospel, proclaim their adherence to the divine truths contained in it, and glory in them as their crown.
As it is the duty of Christians, upon all proper occasions, to acknowledge with confidence the truths of the gospel, and never to be ashamed to profess them before men; so there are some seasons which afford peculiar motives to this duty. For example, if any of the doctrines of our holy religion should be in
jured by clamorous reproaches, and exposed to contempt; if the ordinances of God are regarded with disdain and represented as insignificant by the rich and the learned; in such a case, for churches, that have preserved their integrity, to be ashamed of Christ's cause, to conceal his doctrines, and retire into a corner, would be inglorious and base. In such a time, God expects that his people will openly avow contemned truth, and espouse its interests the more earnestly, because it is misrepresented and vilified by others.
Unhappily this is the case at the present day. Numberless heresies have crept into the church, and the minds of men are enchanted with the enticing forms of error. With a great part insolent reproach and cunning sophistry triumph over the interests of truth. Some of the most important doctrines of Christianity, which were reputed of the highest value at the reformation, and were received with the warmest affection by the primitive worthies of NewEngland, are not only disbelieved, but branded with the most odious epithets, as the offspring of narrow, gloomy bigotry, and even abhorred, as blasphemous. This is particularly the case with the doctrines of man's native depravity, the deity and atonement of Christ, God's eternal decrees and electing love, his absolute dominion over all creatures, and his
grace toward his people.
In such circumstances, we ought to stand forth, as faithful witnesses for the truth, to assert with boldness the principles of Christianity in their full extent,
and to glory in them as our highest honour. Let us account it our privilege to retain the faith of the reformation, particularly that doctrine of grace, which attributes every step in the salvation of sinners to God, and no part of it to man. True wisdom will teach us to undervalue the calumny of proud adversaries. Christian fortitude will never be moved from the foundation of truth by ridicule and slander. Contempt and reproach, in such a cause, we may gladly bind upon our head, as a crown of glory. And if, in many churches of which we hoped better things, divine truth has lost much of its purity and lustre; we should reckon it the more indispensable duty, openly to maintain evangelical principles, and the more distinguished honour and happi ness, to be free from the infec tion of error.
Thirdly. By confessions of faith the churches may contribute much to mutual comfort and edification, and promote brotherly love and unity.
They, who are animated by' fervent zeal for religion, feel sensible pleasure when it flourishes in the world, especially when it maintains its ground in the midst of vigilant and powerful enemies. The faithful subjects of Messiah love him with the warmest affection. The glory of his empire is the dearest object of their desires. The more that empire flourishes and the more his throne is exalted, the greater joy flows into their hearts. Every victory of truth over error, and of grace over sin, yields them exquisite delight. When, therefore, churches, which embrace the same Christian doc
trines, publish authentic declara tions of their faith, they give pious satisfaction to each other. They afford the whole body of believers that pleasure, which those, who are inspired with the highest esteem for the truth, must receive from its establish ment and propagation in the world. Every view which a saint has of a church, or a person maintaining the same faith with himself, especially when it is abandoned by others around him, enlivens his feelings and comforts his heart.
The only reason why men do not see and feel, how excellent is this end of confessions, is because they have not an affection. ate regard for religion, and do not make Jerusalem their chief joy. The bulk of professors, lukewarm and degenerate, prefer their own interests before the interests of Christ, and so are little affected with the boldness of his enemies, the wounding of his cause, or the triumph of his grace.
All the real churches of Christ scattered over the earth, by whatever peculiarities they may be distinguished from each other, compose only one society, are animated by one Spirit, governed by the same maxims, invigorated by strength derived from the same source, and are all members of that body, of which Christ is the head. Thus all the subjects of Christ's kingdom are joined together by the strictest bonds, and are laid under inviolable obligations to the most intimate friendship, the most ardent love. They should perse vere in uninterrupted harmony, and keep up that holy fellowship with each other, which they all
enjoy with the Father and with the Son.
One means, by which the different parts of Christ's church are to maintain a good correspondence and happy commun, ion, is the sameness of their faith, or their agreement in the samę gospel doctrines. The apostle mentions faith, as one thing which constitutes unity among Christians. "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." It is easy to perceive that creeds are weil adapted to promote among the churches the happy cómmunion here recommended. By publish. ing their confessions, they express Christian affection and fel lowship towards all in every place, who receive the same com mon faith.
It can, indeed, be hardly expected, that sincere Christians, while inhabitants of these cloudy regions, will perfectly agree in their religious opinions. This happiness is reserved for that world, where God himself is the Sun. But it is a most melan choly consideration, that Christians are more divided in their affections, than they are in their sentiments. Love is the peculiar character of our religion. And it is one of its precepts, that whereunto we have already attained, we should all walk by the same rute and mind the same things. Now there are few means better calculated to promote mutual love and fellowship, than a right. use of confessions. This would directly distinguish between those who are infected by prevailing error, and those who hold the un corrupted faith of the gospel; and,' at the same time, would make it evident, that all the true servants? of Christ harmonize not only in
those principles which constitute the basis of Christianity, but in every sentiment' of special importance; and that they are one in the temper of their minds, all actuated by the same motives; all serving the same divine Lord, pursuing the same object, and partaking the same pleasure. How would the discovery of this agreement stifle every unfriendly passion and banish alienation. How would Christians be ashamed of their uncharitableness toward those, who adore and serve the same Lord, and trust in the same atonement. How would they blush at their treatment of those, who hold in substance the same faith, and are cordially united to the same cause.
While a proper use of confes-. sions would be likely to preserve the purity of Christian doctrine from the contagion of error, and to secure the ministry and the church from those who deny the faith; it would be a very powerful means of bringing all good men to embrace each other with the warmest affection, and either
to lay aside their controversies, or to manage them with moderation and charity. The little distinctions, which would remain among them, would not confine the noble freedom of their love. Narrow party spirit would expire; while the discussion of points on which they differed, being conducted with good temper and with prayer, would undoubtedly introduce an increasing uniformity. The warmth and zeal, so hurtfully directed against fellow Christians, would be employed in a joint and vigorous opposition against their common enemy. Their union would inconceivably augment their strength, and render every measure for Zion's good vastly more effective. Thus Christian virtue and piety would be strongly recommended to the esteem of mankind, and the church, all its divisions, its weakness, and deformity forgotten, would look forth as the morn ing, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.
ON THE EXECUTION OF LAWS.
For the Panoplist. though they are enacted with, consummate wisdom, and sanctioned by the authority of a thousand Solons; yet if the execu tion of them is attended with delay and indecision, they will necessarily be inefficacious.
AMONG the many rules proposed for deriving the greatest benefit from laws, this is one of the most important; that they be promptly and speedily enforced. Though they combine in them the two essential qualities of strength and impartiality; tho' they are plainly and invariably, directed to the public good;
Present punishment is a much more powerful preventive of. crimes, than future punishment, When present evil engages our attention, and threatens our happiness, it appears highly alarm