Samson Occom’s Sermon on Temperance and Morality

An Electronic Edition ยท Samson Occom (1723-1792)

Original Source: Unpublished manuscript published here by kind permission of the Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT. The manuscript can be found in their collection, Index # 79998, folder 26 (microfilm pages 398-402)

Copyright 2005. This text is freely available provided the text is distributed with the header information provided.

Full Colophon Information

Samson Occom’s Sermon on Temperance and Morality *

[…] When he drowns his reason he loses all that time and he is fit for no service at all, either for himself, for his family, and for his country, and how much more is he unfit to serve God? And yet, to astonishment, he is just fit to serve the Devil. Yea drink itself is the service of the Devil, and this fits him for all manner of service to the old [Genie? ], * and many has undone themselves and their * families by drunkenness. And this practice is condemned by all conscienced people, and it is in the power of mankind to break off from this accursed sin if they will, and they know it. It is in vain to say I can’t help it, and it is a folly to blame the Devil. Does the Devil carry the man to tavern and there call for the liquor for him, and does [he] take the cup and pour [it] down his throat, and does the Devil pay for the liquor, and does he repeatedly call for drink and keep pouring of [it] in his thr[oat] till he has made him drunk? If this is the case, then the man is clear of sin and blame, and the Devil is guilty of that sin. But let us see a little further. Does not this drunkard use that natural power and understanding which God has given him in his pursuit after strong drink? Don’t he think and consider where he can get liquor? And when he has found a place in his mind, he will use them legs, which God has given him, and direct his course to the place where he expects to get liquor, and when he is got there, he will [use] that tongue and speech, which God has given him, and call for liquor, and when it is granted, he takes [the?] cup with his own hands, and he pours it down in his own throat and he uses the power of swallowing, and swallows down his liquor. And he will repeatedly call, and pour down the liquor till he has transformed himself from a rational man to worse than a natural fool. Now is it not in the power of this man to break off from this course of life? I am persuaded he can. Such a man that will contrive and follow all ways to get strong drink, and take pleasure in it, is properly a drunkard. A man may be overtaken sometimes, but if he is ashamed of it, and repent[s] of it, [he] is not a drunkard. * 1.

Let us trace another practice, which is universal among the people called civilized nations: that [of] cursing, swearing, and profaning the name of God. It is so common amongst all sorts of people that it is become innocent and inoffensive, but let it be never so common, it is of the same nature as it ever was, it is the most daring, heaven and God-provoking sin that man is capable of committing, and it is the most unprofitable sin. It neither clothes the body nor feeds it. Why is a rational man so in love with such language? Is it [so?] comely, is it decent, is it graceful, is it credible, is it manly, is it genteel, is it godly, and Christian-like? Why no, I think every considerate person must say no, by no means. Well, then, it must be uncomely, indecent, disgraceful, uncredible, inhuman, ungenteel, ungodly, unchristian, unholy, yea in truth, it is every thing [sinful?], Devilish, and hellish language, it is from the bottomless pit and it is fit for no creature but Devils, and I verily believe the Devils don’t curse and swear and profane the name of God, as mankind does. It is amazing to hear how expert the white people are in swearing, men, women and children, of all ages, ranks and degrees, it seems to be a mother tongue with them. Or are there schools where they go to learn this language? Now, is it in the power of man to leave of[f] swearing, or is it not? I am glad there is no such language among the Indians. It is not because, [that it is incapable?] of it, but it is horrid, they will not use such language. I will tell you [an] amazing truth about them. They have very great veneration for the name of the great God. In their perfect heathenism they called God, Cauhtuntootc, * which signifies Supreme Independent Power, and they had such regard for this name, they would not suffer their children to mention that name; they say it was too great for children to mention. And in the evening when it is time to go to bed, an old man who is appointed for that purpose will go around the town, with a loud voice, calling upon the young people and children to desist making noise and go to sleep and not to disturb God. Now how is it amongst those that are called Christians? Don’t ye hear ye [Christians?]? Don’t you think these heathen Indians will rise up against you at the Last Day not only for this sin, but for many others also? Yea, don’t they testify against you now in this life? But you will reply and say: Are they so clear of sin as to rise up against us? No, by no means. But you have learnt them many of the sins they are guilty of, and they are ignorant heathens, and you are Christians and have [had?] all learning and great knowledge, and therefore, you ought to go before them in all holy conversation and godliness. But instead of that, I am afraid you lead them in the downward road in all manner of abominations.2.

And man’s diseases that Europeans brought into this country, that the natives were entirely ignorant [of] before, such as what they call in genteel language, venereal disease, [or] in common language, French Pox. Captain Cook in his voyage round the world says that there was a vessel in a place called Otaheite,* about fifteen months before him, and [it] had left that accursed commo[n] disease among the poor Indians, which they were utterly ignorant of before. The captain was so honest as to say if he could have learnt their specific * for the venereal disease; if such they have it would have been of great advantage to us, for when he left the island it had been contracted by more than half of the people on board the ship, but he was not quite so honest as to say whether he had it himself. Vol 1:146.p. This was only returning the compliment, and they had no room to complain, and it was only giving back what they had received from the Europeans and I suppose there was no difficulty in returning of it. * 3.

But since we have begun upon this practice which is called, whoredom, let us take notice of it a little. I suppose it is universal among all nations, and it is universally condemned by rational people. It is [an] abominable, inhuman, and beastly practice, and it is more abominable when it is supported and countenanced by polite, learned, and Christian people. But some will say or ask, Who allows such practice? The Eng[lish] have many bawdy or whore houses there in that nation, and I suppose it is just so among the French. These are called Christian nations and the most learned nations in the world at this age of the world. And I never heard of any such house amongst the Indians in this great continent. Certainly, common sense condemns such practices and the heavenly artillery is leveled against it and the thunders of Mount Sinai are roaring against it, yet man will persist in it. The grand question occurs again, Is man a rational man, unable to turn from this detestable, filthy, shameful, and beastly practice? Or can he desist, and become a chaste creature? I imagine to hear an answer universally from all rational men, saying, O! Yes O! Yes, we [can]. Why don’t he turn then? It is because he will not. He chooses to go to hell in his own way. And if he will, who can he blame? Marriage is lawful, and honorable, but God will judge whore mongers and all adulterers.4.

Another practice which is very prevalent everywhere amongst all nations and all sorts of people [is] contention, quarreling, and fighting. There is scarcely any [thing] else, but whispering, backbiting, and defaming one another. This breeds quarreling, and wars. Certainly this is unbecoming rational creatures. It [is] condemned by the light of nature, and it is utterly condemned by Scripture, and it is what we don’t like from our fellow men, and if we don’t like it, why should we give it to our fellow men? And if we don’t like such treatment, and can blame others for it, then we must believe it is in their power to treat us and their fellow men better. Well, if they can, then certainly we can too. And why don’t we do it? I have took a particular notice of the words, speaking against one another. Speaking against another must mean, belying one another. If I speak the truth about my neighbour, I don’t speak against him, but for him. To make this plain let us take two neighbours: one is every way agreeable to his neighbours. He is kind, benevolent, loving, obliging, just and honest in all his dealings with his neighbours, he is a man of truth and uses no bad language, he does not defame his neighbours. Now if I should tell of his real character would that be speaking against him? Why no by no means, it is speaking for him. But if I should give him contrary characters, that is speaking against him, because I don’t give him his true character. But the other neighbour is right to the reverse, he is every way disagree[able] to his neighbours, he is morose and cross, unkind, turbulent, he cheats in his dealings all he can, he curses and swears, defames his neighbours and sets his neighbours by the ears, sows the seeds of discords, and he will lie for a copper as for nothing. Now upon occasion, if I should tell his true character, will that be speaking against him? I think not, but if I should say that he is a clever, kind, just and honest man, I should say that of him which he is not, and therefore I should speak against him in so saying. Don’t you think so?5.

There is another way of speaking against my neighbour, that is, when I see my fellow creature take a miss step, and directly I take the occasion to blaze it abroad and exaggerate the matter, and make it seven times worse than it really is; this is speaking against my neighbour in a very bad sense. It is discovering his nakedness to the world, Ham like concerning his father, for which he was severely curst by his father. * Now, is it not in the power of men to treat one another better? I think they can, and if they don’t, then they are under blame. Love is everywhere commend[ed] and command[ed] [in] the Holy Scriptures, and it is certainly beautiful and agreeable amongst rational creatures, and it is in our power naturally to love and to be kind to one another. And it is the strength of a kingdom and nation to live in peace and in love, it is the beauty of a state, city, town or family to do all together in love, peace, and unity. The Scripture commands people to provoke one another to love and to good works. But I think in these days, people in general are provoking one another to hatred and to evil works. If it is in our power to hate one another, then there is equal power to love one another and if [we] don’t love one another, then we are self-condemned. It is very natural for mankind [to] love to be loved, and used well. Well, let us practice that rule upon our fellow men. I might go on mentioning many practices amongst the children of men, but what has been said is quite sufficient to lead the minds of men, to consider the conduct of their fellow men, and also their own conduct. It is very common amongst all nations, and amongst all orders, ranks and degrees of men; and amongst all ages, both men and women and children to find fault with each other. Yea, it is [? * ] unfit not to find fault. And it is very well that with one another we can see so far. [Th]is must lay a foundation for us to see our own conduct. And this makes it very plain, that we all [have] power to do well, and if our conduct has been bad, we believe it is in our natural [power] to do better. It is a universal doctrine, and it [is] the pr[ovo]king of all that have any understanding to their fellow men, to do well, or to do better; this is the universal creed of all mankind. From hence [ar]ises this daily preaching. The kings of the [ea]rth would have their subjects do well or better, [th]e people would have their kings do well, all that have any power and authority over the people would have them do well; the people find fault with their ruler, and would have [him] do better; the ministers of the gospel exhort their people to do better. [An]d the people would have their ministers […?] * better. Husbands would have the[ir] […]. * 6.

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Prose
Subjects: Religion, Theology
Location: New England
Format: Sermon

This text was written ca. 1771.

The text of the document was initially prepared from the manuscript housed at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, CT. It has been transcribed and subsequently proofed against this manuscript. Line numbers have been automatically generated. In the header, personal names have been regularized according to the Library of Congress authority files as "Last Name, First Name" for the REG attribute and "First Name Last Name" for the element value. Names have not been regularized in the body of the text.