Meet a Puritan: John Eliot
I had to do this for a class project, and you might like it. Enjoy!
· Born in 1604 in Widford, Hertfordshire, England. Family moved to Nazeing, Essex when he was six.
· Educated at Jesus College, Cambridge.
o He enjoyed classical literature and Hebrew.
o While at college, both his mother and father died (1620 and 1621, respectively).
o He earned his BA in 1622.
· Disdained the rules of the Anglican church, so he taught at the grammar school in Little Baddow, Essex, under master Thomas Hooker. It was during his time living with Hooker that Eliot was saved:
“To this place I was called, through the infinite riches of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus to my poor soul: for here the Lord said to my dead soul, live; and through the grace of Christ, I do live, and I shall live for ever! When I came to this blessed [Hooker] family I then saw, and never before, the power of godliness in its lively vigour and efficacy.”
· Moved to America:
o Thomas Hooker was forced to shut down his school and depart for America due to England’s increasing persecution of nonconformists. Eliot decided to leave, as well.
o Arrived in Massachusetts in 1631 via the Lyon.
o He and his fiancé became the first couple wed in Roxbury. Hannah, his wife, became known for her holiness and service.
o Took position as teaching elder at the First Church in Roxbury.
· Held a position on the translation team of the Bay Psalm Book, published in 1640.
· Founded Latin School in 1645.
· Involved in the trial of Anne Hutchinson, whose teachings he deplored.
· Worked missions to the Massachusett Indians:
o Gathered Indian converts into “praying towns” modeled after what he found in his study of the Pentateuch. They were almost entirely self-governing, leaving major issues to the Massachusetts General Court.
o Eliot’s work inspired the English, who, in 1949 under Cromwell and the Long Parliament, created The President and Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.” They collected 12,000 pounds to support missions in New England.
o He attempted to be cross-cultural in his missions work, but he also believed converts should “have visible civility,” meaning “Indian Christianity” should look a great deal like “English Christianity.” Though self-governing, they were expected to adopt Puritan ideals.
o The first town was established in 1951, and there were fourteen by 1674.
o The first Indian church was established in 1660.
· Published The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ in 1659.
o This treatise based on Exodus 18 and how he helped organize the American Indians.
o Among other things, it advocated the institution of an elected theocracy in England.
o Charles II, hater of things Puritan, returned to power in 1660, making the book an embarrassment.
o The book, banned in 1661, was the first banned by an American government. Eliot publically retracted and apologized for this book.
· Translated Bible into the American Indian language of Algonquian. The New Testament was complete in 1661, and the entire Bible was available in 1663.
o He believed “the writings of the Bible are the very words of God.”
o Unfortunately, “The President and Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England” became defunct when Charles II ascended to power.
o However, Richard Baxter had become interested in Eliot’s work. Through Baxter’s influence, the charter was revived in 1662 and Eliot received what he needed to publish the Indian Bible through “The New England Company.”
· Missions became exponentially more difficult due to King Philip’s/Metacom’s War in 1975–76.
o Indian converts were distrusted by both the English and other natives.
o The praying towns were destroyed, never to recover
o The bloodshed and prejudice of the English against the native peoples colored future relations.
· Donated 75 acres of land to support the Eliot School in 1689, an institution founded in 1976 that was required to accept blacks and Indians without prejudice. Eliot prayed at a synod of Boston churches, “Lord, for schools everywhere among us!”
· Died in 1690, at the age of 86, with the words “welcome joy!” on his lips.
· Fathered two pastors, John Eliot, Jr., and Joseph Eliot. These two, along with third son Benjamin, became missionaries to the American Indians. He had the following to say about parenting:
“The gentle rod of the mother is a very gentle thing, it will break neither bone nor skin: yet by the blessing of God with it, and upon the wise application of it, it would break the bond that bindeth up corruption in the heart.”
Joel Beeke and Randall J Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2006), 396–403.
“John Eliot (missionary),” Wikipedia (22 Feb, 2009), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Eliot_(missionary).
Accessed 9 Mar, 2009.
Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1990), 80, 141, 158.
Leonard Woolsey Bacon , History of American Christianity, (The Christian Literature Co., 1987), 66. Online at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bacon_lw/history.ii.vi.html.
Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 401.
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