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the Sorbonne. The decision upon it was as follows ::— That, with respect to dying infants and adults, the missionaries might risk the sacrament of baptism when asked for, — presuming that God would give to the adults some ray of light, such as it was believed had already occurred in several cases : that, as to the other savages, it ought not to be administered, unless where, by a long trial, it appeared that they were instructed, and detached from their own barbarous customs, or where they had habituated themselves to the manners of the French ; and the same with respect to their children. A formulary and species of canon was composed, for the regulation and guidance of our missionaries on this subject.” *

Upon what grounds, however, Hennepin asserted the incapacity of the Indians to receive instruction concerning the truths of the Gospel, or upon what grounds Le Clercq pronounced them incapable of that degree of reflection which would lead to a knowledge of the Divinity, it is not easy to conjecture: for there appears to be scarcely any writer who has carefully and impartially investigated this subject, who does not admit that the North American tribes almost universally entertain rational, although rude, notions of natural religion, accompanied by the belief of a future state.

There were,

* Premier Etablissement de la Foy, &c., vol. i. ch. 5.

as might naturally be expected, considerable differences among the numerous nations with regard to their particular traditions, ceremonies, and faith, but they every where acknowledged the Great Spirit, the Disposer of all good, their supreme Guide and Protector. “It is an insult to an Indian,” says Hunter, " to suppose it necessary to tell him he must believe in a God." From the earliest discovery of North America, the belief in the existence of a Supreme Power, and of a future state, was observable among the Indians, and the same opinions prevail among them at the present day.

In "The briefe and true Report of the New-found Land of Virginia,” &c., by Thomas Hariot, who was employed by Sir Walter Raleigh in that infant colony, we find, as far back as the year 1587, the following remark made upon the Indians in that part of North America :-“Theye beleeve that there are many gods, which theye call Mantaoc, but of different sorts and degrees : one onely chief and great God which hath been from all eternitie, who, as theye affirme, when hee proposed to make the world, made first other gods of a principall order, to bee as means and instruments to bee used in the creation and government to folow; and after, the sunne, moone, and starres as pettie gods, and the instruments of the other order more principall.


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In the first of the Jesuit Missionary Reports, transmitted from Canada by Père le Jeune, we read : “ It is a great mistake to suppose that the Indians acknowledge no Deity. I admit that they have no prayers in public, or in common, nor any worship ordinarily rendered to the Being whom they consider as their God, and that their knowledge of him is mere darkness; but it cannot be denied that they believe in a Superior Power. Having no laws nor police, so they have no ordinance which relates to the service of this Deity : every one does in that respect as he chooses. I do not know their secret sentiments, but to me it is evident they believe in a Divinity. They say that there is a Being whom they call Atahocan, by whom every thing was created ; and one day, when I was conversing with them about God, they asked me what God was ? I answered, that it was He who could perform all things, and who had made the heaven and the earth. They immediately said to one another, Atahocan, Atahocan, Atahocan!”*

In Heckewelder's Report concerning the Indians, tie observes that the Indian considers himself as a being created by an all-powerful, wise, and benevolent Manito: all that he possesses, all that he enjoys, he looks upon as given to him, or allotted for his own use, by the Great Spirit who gave him

* Relation de la Nouvelle France, 1633, p. 76.


life. He therefore believes it to be his duty to adore and worship his Creator and Benefactor; to acknowledge with gratitude his past favours ; thank him for present blessings, and solicit the continuation of his good will."

Mr. Hunter states that, as far as his information extended, the Indians acknowledge one supreme, all-powerful, and intelligent Being, - the Great Spirit, who created and governs all things. That in general they believe that, after the hunting grounds had been formed and supplied with game, he created the first red man and woman, who were very large in their stature, and lived to a great age ; that he often held councils and smoked with them, taught them how to take game and cultivate corn, and gave them laws to be observed ; but that in consequence of their disobedience, he withdrew his favour, and abandoned them in some measure to the vexations of the Bad Spirit; that, notwithstanding the offences of his red children, they believe he continues to shower down on them all the blessings they enjoy ; that, in consequence of this parental regard for them, they are truly filial and sincere in their devotions, praying to him for such good things as they need, and returning thanks for those they receive. †

• Heckewelder's Account of the Indians, ch. 6.
+ Memoirs of Hunter's Captivity, ch. 6.

On the other hand, he states that, when in affliction from some great calamity, they pray with equal fervency to the Evil Spirit, whom they conceive to be directly the reverse of the Good Spirit, to whom he is inferior; but who, at the same time, is constantly employed in devising means to torment the human race. By the term Spirit, the Indians have an idea of a Being which can at pleasure be present and yet invisible; they think the Great Spirit possessed, like themselves, of corporeal form, though endowed with a nature infinitely more excellent than theirs, and which will endure for ever without change. “Although they believe in a future state of existence,” says Hunter, they associate it with natural things, having no idea of the soul, or of intellectual enjoyments ; but expect at some future time after death to become, in their proper persons, the perpetual inhabitants of a delightful country, where their employments, divested of pain and trouble, will resemble those here; where game will be abundant, and where there is one continued spring and cloudless sky.

Similar to this, in some respects, is the remark of Père le Jeune': “ The Indians having never heard of any thing purely spiritual, they represent the soul of man as an obscure and sombre image like the human shadow, with head, hands, feet, and

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* Memoirs of Hunter's Captivity, ch. 6.

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