Eliot, John

Eliot, John styled "the apostle of the Indians," was born in the county of Essex, England, in 1604, and studied at the University of Cambridge. Emigrating to New England in 1631, he joined the Church in Boston. He was settled over the Church in Roxbury November 5, 1632. Here he studied the Indian language, with the view of converting the natives to Christianity. "The first Indian Church, established by the labors of Protestants in America, was formed at Natick in 1660, after the manner of the Congregational churches in New England. Those who wished to be organized into a Christian body were strictly examined as to their faith and experience by a number of the neighboring ministers, and Mr. Eliot afterwards administered to them baptism and the Lord's Supper. Other Indian churches were planted in various parts of Massachusetts, and he frequently visited them; but his pastoral care was more particularly over that which he first established. He made every exertion to promote the welfare of the Indian tribes; he stimulated many servants of Jesus to engage in the missionary work; and, although he mourned over the stupidity of many who preferred darkness to light, yet he lived to see twenty-four of the copper-colored aborigines fellow-preachers of the precious Gospel of Christ. In 1661 he published the New Testament in the Indian language, and in a few years the whole Bible, and several other books best adapted for the instruction of the natives. When he reached the age of fourscore years he offered to give up his salary, and desired to be liberated from the labors of his office as a teacher of the Church at Roxbury. It was with joy that he received Mr. Walter as his colleague in 1688. When he was bending under his infirmities, and could no longer visit the Indians, he persuaded a number of families to send their negro servants to him once a week, that he might instruct them in the truths of God. He died May 20, 1690, saying that all his labors were poor and small, and exhorting those who surrounded his bed to pray. His last words were, 'Welcome joy'" (Allen). In 1649 Mr. Eliot published The glorious Progress of the Gospel among the Indians; in 1653, Tears of Repentance; in 1655, A further Manifestation of the Progress of the Gospel among the Indians; and in 1670, A brief Narrative of the Progress of the Gospel. Baxter says, in one of his letters, "There was no man on earth whom I honored above him." A handsome memorial to the "Apostle of the Indians, and the pastor for fifty-eight years of the first Church in Roxbury," has been erected in the Forest Hills Cemetery, Roxbury. — Life and Death of John Eliot, by Cotton Mather (1691); Mather's Magnalia, 3:270; Francis, Life of John Eliot (Edinb. 1828); Sprague, Annals, 1:18; Allen, American Biography.

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