Telling the Story of Jonathan Edwards and the Stockbridge Mohicans
It was during his time studying church history at Heritage Theological Seminary with Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin that Dr. Roy Paul says he became fascinated with the history surrounding Jonathan Edwards and his ministry to the Mohican Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
This interest became the focus of Paul’s doctoral research that will be published in a forthcoming book – Jonathan Edwards and the Stockbridge Mohican Indians: His Mission and Sermons.
Dr. Paul, an alumnus of Heritage Theological Seminary, explains that the opportunity to study Edwards and his missionary work to the Mohican people was a valuable endeavour. Though the story of Edwards’ work in this area and the sermons he preached were known, he explains that many had not been previously published.
As a result, his doctoral research took him on a journey looking at archives in Stockbridge, spending time on the Mohican reservation in Bowler, Wisconsin, and travelling to Yale University to review some of the over 200 sermons that Edwards preached during his ministry in this area.
Paul’s research delves into Edwards’ involvement in continuing the gospel ministry that was within the Mohican community in Stockbridge. He explains that after European settlers began to settle in their area, this monotheistic group who acknowledged the “Great, Good Spirit” as the giver of all things became interested in both the lives and beliefs of these new residents.
“They took notice, particularly, of how prosperous the European settlers were and decided that they wanted to know more about their God,” says Paul. “To that end they agreed to have a missionary come to them and to teach them.”
After the passing of the first and long-serving missionary to the community, John Sergeant, Edwards came to take his position in 1752. Paul explains that though Edwards came into this position with a heart for missions and the Mohican people, he also began his preaching ministry without knowing their language. Though this would be a challenge for Edwards, with the help of a translator and thoughtful preaching, Paul says that he served in this role preaching two different sermons each Sunday – one to the English settlers and one to the Mohicans.
“His content and style to each group was quite different,” explains Paul. “Edwards was a master of rhetoric and so when preaching to the Mohicans he drew on their love of nature and gave many analogies from creation.”
One thing that was clear from his research was the deep care that Edwards had for the Mohicans that he served. Paul explains that, while preaching the word in Stockbridge, Edwards also fought for the rights of the Mohicans in the area. As the settlers continued efforts to swindle land from the Mohicans and not live up to their obligations to the boys learning in the community’s boarding school, Paul says that Edwards was their advocate through letter writing campaigns and other initiatives.
“He truly cared about them physically and spiritually, bringing many of them into his own home,” says Paul.
When looking at this chapter in Jonathan Edwards life, Paul says that there are a number of important lessons for the church today. He explains that in the life of Edwards in Stockbridge, readers will see not only his personal commitment to the study of God’s Word and the discipleship of his family, but also his great devotion to preaching the gospel and the mission to the Mohicans. A commitment that has left a lasting impact on the Stockbridge Mohicans today.
“When doing my research on the current state of Christianity within the tribe, one tribal member said to me, ‘If it were not for the ministry of Jonathan Edwards to my people; my ancestors, my grandmother, my mother, and I would not be Christians today.”
For more information on Dr. Paul’s new book, click here: https://bit.ly/EdwardsandtheStockbridgeMohicans