Among the Red Indians: Chapter 7

THOUGH all, or nearly all, of Mr. Young's missionary journeys were attended by dangers and difficulties, yet the Lord did not withhold from the faithful laborer the joy of seeing many of the Indians who had first heard the glad tidings of salvation from his lips, not only converted but witnessing brightly for Christ. His own account of his second visit to Nelson River, where a large and friendly tribe had taken up their winter quarters, is so full of interest that I will try to tell its story as nearly as possible as he told it.
On his first visit very few Indians were in the camp, some having gone a distance of many miles, and their whereabouts not being exactly known he could not follow them, even if the time at his disposal would have allowed him to do so; others had gone to one of the company's stations to sell their furs. He was, however, well received by those who were there, and they had, on the return of their friends, so much to tell them about the missionary and the wonderful book he carried, and which, after a great deal of talking among themselves, they agreed must have been wrapped up in an envelope and sent down direct from the heaven of which he had told them, that they all wanted very much to see him, and were quite ready to give him a cordial welcome.
After traveling for several days by canoe and dog-train, he reached their encampment just before sunset. The news of his arrival spread with great rapidity, and in a short time he found himself surrounded by from two to three hundred Indians, men, women and children, among whom the use of soap and water seemed to be unknown, who all wanted to kiss him. As he was by no means anxious to be kissed by so many unwashed people, he put them off with a few kind words and some hand-shaking, and after telling them that he was very tired, but that if they would come together at eight o'clock the next morning he would read to them from the wonderful book of which they had heard, and which he always carried with him, he induced them to go away and leave him and the Christian Indians who were with him to rest for a few hours.
But as the Indians had neither clocks nor watches, perhaps some one will wonder how they were to know the time. They were all keen observers, or in other words had learned to take notice of everything around them, and as the sun, which is God's clock, never goes wrong, by watching it they seldom make any serious mistake as to the time of day.
A large company gathered quickly and quietly, very few of whom had ever heard the gospel before. Several hymns were sung by Mr. Young and the Christian helpers who were with him, to the great delight of the listeners. Then the blessing of God upon the meeting (which I need hardly add was held in the open air) was asked, and then Mr. Young preached to the crowd of interested and attentive listeners, reading every now and then some short passage of scripture. If the message he brought them was to be understood, he must, he knew, begin at the very beginning, so in the simplest words he could he told them the story of the creation and the fall, the story of the Garden of Eden, which you, dear young reader, have so often heard, but which was new to the Indians.
Then he told them of the great love of God in the gift of His only Son, and when he spoke of the Lord Jesus, of His life, of His death upon the cross for sinners, and of His rising again, and tried to show them how, though we are all by nature sinful and have wandered far away from God, we are invited to return to Him and by faith in the Lord Jesus become His dear children, loved and forgiven, the Holy Spirit was, he felt sure, working in the hearts of many of his listeners, and though he spoke for four hours, no one seemed to be tired, or to think of going away.
After prayer and more singing, Mr. Young asked them all to again seat themselves on the ground, as he wished to know if any among them really wanted to give up the worship of idols and become Christians. Every eye turned towards their chief, as if waiting for him to speak first. After a short pause he rose from his place among his people, and going up to where Mr. Young was standing, placed himself at his right hand. The address he then gave was one long to be remembered.
He said: "Missionary, I have long lost faith in our old heathen ways." Then, pointing to the conjurers and medicine men, he continued, "They know I have not cared for the old ways. I have not called for these men; I did not fear them as my people do. I will tell you, missionary, why I have not called for them. I know there is a God. I hear Him in the thunder, in the rain, in the tempest. I see His power in the lightning that shivers the forest trees; I see His goodness in giving us the moose, the reindeer, the beaver and the bear. I see His kindness in giving us when the south wind blows the ducks and geese, and when the summer comes, and the snow and ice melt, He fills our lakes and rivers with fish, so that if we are industrious and careful we may always have something to eat. So thinking about these things, I made up my mind years ago that this great Spirit, so kind and so watchful, did not care for the beating of the conjurer's drum, or the shaking of the rattle of the medicine men, so for years I have not followed their ways.
“But, missionary, what you have said to-day fills my hungry heart, it makes me glad. It is just what for years I have been wishing to hear about the great Spirit. I am so glad that you have come to tell us this wonderful story. Stay with us as long as you can, and when you must go, forget us not, but come again soon and tell us more of this good news.”
A murmur of approval ran through the crowd, and many spoke in almost the same words. The conjurers and medicine men, who knew if the tribe became Christians their trade would be gone, were the only ones who looked troubled and anxious.
A strange, savage-looking old man rose from the back; he wore very little clothing, and his tangled gray hair was almost down to his knees. He said: "Missionary, I am an old man. Gray hairs here, and grandchildren in the wigwam tell me that I am old. You have told us great things to-day; stay with us, or if you must go, come again soon, for I am old, and I may forget. May I say more?”
“Yes; say on.”
“Did I not hear you when you spoke to the great Spirit say 'our Father'?”
“Yes.”
“Is He your Father?”
“Yes.”
“Would He be Father of the poor Indian too?”
“Yes, for He loves poor Indians.”
Then after a pause, "If He is your Father and my Father too, then we are brothers?”
“Yes, we are brothers.”
“May I say more?”
“Yes, say all that is in your heart.”
“Then, my white brother, I do not wish to be rude, but my people are dying. I am old, and soon I shall die. Why have you been so long in coming to bring us the Book of the great Spirit, and to tell us its wonderful story?”
Ah, why are those who know the blessedness of the gospel, who are themselves rejoicing in salvation, so slow in obeying the command of their absent Lord, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:1515And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15))