Missionary John Eliot -- By: Richard E. Reynolds

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 17:2 (Summer 1974)
Article: Missionary John Eliot
Author: Richard E. Reynolds


Missionary John Eliot

Second Of Two Parts

Richard E. Reynolds

Every Bible student can profit from a study of the Biblical methods and principles that were applied by John Eliot. Because Eliot did not write extensively for colonial or English readers, directly upon this subject, most of the material must come from other sources. These sources include: his personal correspondence; the “Indian Tracts” [some written by Eliot, and some by others on behalf of the mission effort]; and the manner (de facto] in which the work was directed.

That a Biblical methodology guided Eliot was emphatically attested on one occasion when a critic reproached his work for lack of great numerical success. Eliot recorded: “Wee [sic] are oft upbraided by some of our countrymen [the English], that so little good is done by our professing planters upon the hearts of the natives. Such men have surely more splene [sic] than judgment, and know not the vast distance of natives from common civility, almost humanity itself; and ‘tis as if they should reproach us for not making the winds blow when we list ourselves. It must certainly be a spirit of life from God which must put flesh and sinews upon these dry bones. If wee would force them to baptisme as the Spanish do about Cusco, Peru, and Mexico, having learnt them a short answer or two to some popish questions, or if wee [sic] would hire them to it by giving them coates [sic] and shirts to allure them to it, wee [sic] could have gathered many hundreds, yea thousands, it may be by this time into our churches; but wee [sic] have not learnt, [sic] as yet, the art of coyning [coining] Christians, or putting Christ’s name and image upon copper mettle [metal].”

From such sources, it is possible to present first, how Eliot conducted his missionary ministry and obeyed the New Testament missionary command. Next, consideration will be given to the goal of his missionary ministry which was to establish local churches. Following this will be a presentation of the indigenous church policy of Eliot.

Eliot’s Missionary Principles

Eliot Preached To Win Converts

After several years of language study Eliot recounts the details of his first four attempts to preach to the Algonquin. These four meetings date from October 28 to December 9,1646, and recount a marvelous, spiritual response. Eliot had made one other earlier attempt in September, 1646, that must have been a serious disappointment after his years of study, prayer, and anticipation. About the middle of September, 1646, he sought out some Indians under Chutchamaquin in Dorchester; but they showed little interest in his message and asked him questions as to the ca...

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