Dr. Teresa Coronado
13 December 2012
Samson Occom’s Sermon on Temperance and Morality
Samson Occom’s sermon on Temperance and Morality is a sermon that is much like what we would hear at church. This one in particular was made for Moses Paul to be said before he was hung. Before the explanation of the importance of “Samson Occom’s sermon on Temperance and Morality” it is imperative to know just who this man is. Only by understanding the struggles he has faced in his life and the choices he made in the end can it be understood why this particular sermon is so important. Occom used this sermon as a way to discuss not just Moses Paul’s actions but the prices that come with them, prices that everyone will have to pay in the end. He also uses this sermon as a way to offer hope of change, saying that each person has the power to fight the individual devil that lives inside them.
Occom was born in Heathen in 1723, brought up in Heathenism up until around the age of 16 or 17, than moved around to New London, Connecticut, and New England (“Because I am Poor”). His father was Aukum, which can be loosely translated into Occom, founder of the Mohegan which is located on the western bank of river Thames. His mother was Sarah, a descendent of Uncas and a Groton Native American and probably part of the Samson family, explaining where Samson Occom inherited his name. When Occom was 10, Jonathan Barber came among them and attempted to start a school, a project that failed in the end. Then during the summer times David Jewett would come once a fortnight and hold a sermon to which the majority of the Native Americans would participate in only because of the blankets handed out that would be useful when it started to get colder (“Because I am Poor”). Around the age of 16 Occom recognized that the way he was living his life was wrong and knew he needed to change. He spent 6 months struggling out of the darkness and by the age of 17 he was finally able to reach the light and feel free. In that new found light the desire to read and write and learn so he could pass the Word to his people bloomed inside of him, it took him 6 months to read without spelling but that would prove to still not be enough (William Love).
By age 19 Occom was able to read some of the Bible but still sought out Mr. Wheelock, hoping he would accept him as a student and teach him how to read. Mr. Wheelock did end up accepting and tutored Occom and had him help him for four years. By the end of the four years Occom’s health was not good and he was weak, his eyes were strained to point he had to quit his studies (“Because I am Poor”). By the winter of 1747 he began to teach school on Long Island and continued to do that for 12 years. By November 1749, Occom’s influence in the tribe had spread and he became a school master, counselor, judge, and preacher, these duties also spread to the neighboring tribe the Shenecock’s. In 1751 he married Mary Fowler who is a daughter of the Montauk tribe and gained brothers; David and Jacob Fowler. And later a future son-in-law named Joseph Johnson, all of which became the Native American heroes of New England and were the ones that helped give birth to Brothertown. On November 29, 1787, Occom became minister in Brothertown of the first Presbyterian Church that was set up without the help from white men (William Love and “Because I am Poor”).
Samson Occom only wanted to take care of his people and be true to his faith; he did not judge or gossip and spread negative words about others, because to do that would be un-Christian. The sermon on Temperance and Morality is about Moses Paul; a Native American man that was hanged for murdering a person while under the influence of drink and claimed because of the drink. Moses Paul knew that he had sinned and wished that Occom would pray for him. He asked for help, hoping Occom would allow him a way to repent even though he believed he was not going to be able to be saved by God. He did not even think that he could repent or pray because he was so full of sin. He thought there was too much sin to even try. Occom believed that the greater the sin the greater the need to repent and that God was willing to save every person who asks for forgiveness. And it was this belief that prompts his sermon on Temperance and Morality.
Occom talks about the fact that people govern their own bodies. The Devil has no role there; he doesn’t force us to go to the bar and pour the liquid down our throats. He argues that God has given humans our bodies and neither He nor the Devil owns them, we do. We control our legs that walk us through those doors. We control the mouth that orders those drinks and swallows them down. And we control the hand that continually lifts the glass to our lips. The very act of drinking is only fit for the Devil and his demons because of how ungodly and unchristian it is. Yet there are plenty of Christians that drink, that enjoy liquor every once and awhile. Occom himself has indulged in the act, feeling “…the sensation of intoxication he condemned himself… not from intemperate drinking, but from having a small drink when he hadn’t eaten all day” (William Love). This section of the sermon is his way of saying ‘these bodies are ours, we control them not the devil, and so we must own up to our sins.’ Don’t be afraid to repent because the people who need to repent the most are the ones who need the most saving and God is always listening (“Execution of Moses Paul” and “Temperance and Morality”).
It’s not just the Native Americans either, English Christians, who where so knowledgeable, were leading the Native American’s down a path that was destined toward Hell. Those white Europeans talked as if swearing was their mother language, like they were born knowing the words. Yet in their “perfect heathenism” the Native Americans had no words for that kind of language. Even before they had Christians to tell them what was good or bad, swear words didn’t exist. Not because they couldn’t be made up but because they are horrible words that serve no purpose. In fact Native Americans hold God’s name in very high regard. Calling him “Cauhtuntootc”, meaning “Supreme Independent Power”, a name so grate that children could not speak it. Occom was not trying to say that the Native Americans were perfect, because they did sin; it was just so much more with the Christians introducing them to all manner of abominations (“Temperance and Morality”).
The Europeans brought about diseases of the like that no Native American has known before. One such disease being a venereal disease also known as French Pox. Ships would carry it from place to place, spreading it through the tribes. The only redeeming factor being it was just as easy for the Europeans to get it as well. Along with this the Native Americans took up the act of whoredom, an act that was not previously known. A practice that no human being should have to go through, yet the English had whore houses all over their nation. They were supposed to be a Christian nation, a learned nation but still they fought common sense and continued down the path of judgment. And that is something you can be sure of; God will judge you (“Temperance and Morality”).
Another practice that can be seen in every nation is contention, quarreling, and fighting. Whispering, backbiting and defaming one another, breeding quarrels and wars, but there is no way of controlling that, it is in our blood, in our inner self. Human’s were “condemned by Scripture.” If a person is treated badly it is automatically assumed that they can be treated better by that person, that they have the power to change themselves. That also means we can no longer respond to violence with like violence. Because if we are to believe that they could be better then likewise we can be better too. Humanity must strive for truth. No one will ever speak against another so long as they talk about their true character, they are merely speaking facts. At the same time people need to be sure to speak the truth, gossip will better no man. Another way of speaking against a neighbor is if you see one of his flaws or mistakes and decide to spread it around and make it sound worse then it is. It is in the power of men to treat each other better, we might as well be the first ones to step up (“Temperance and Morality”).
This document, this sermon, was created for Moses Paul for the day of his death. It explains why he acted the way he did, that it was because of his drinking that he ended up killing that man. But it goes further and explains how it was him who did it, not the devil and how he is the one that needs to take responsibility for his actions and how he is willing to pay the price for his sins. It also talks about what it really means to be a Christian, how it’s not the color of our skin or what side of the ocean we live on but about the way we decide to live and what we do with the life God has granted to us. If the people of this world want to live in a better place then it is up to us to step up and make it a better place. Blame needs to stop being placed on outside sources, people need to step up, grow up and most of all learn how to love and forgive because “it is in our power to hate one another, then there is [also] power to love one another and if [we] don’t love one another, then we are self-condemned…do well, or do better; this is the universal creed of all mankind” (“Temperance and Morality”). This very last lesson is what the world today needs to learn. Bombs attack homes and hearts and we need to be able to join together in an ultimate show of forgiveness and express our love for one another and that is what will finally lead us to peace.
Love, William De Loss. “Early History of the Brothertown Indians: Samson Occom: the Founding of Brothertown by Christian Indians…” Wisconsin Historical Society”. Oneida Historical Society, 1894. 1-4. Web. 1 October 2012.
Occom, Samson. “I Believe It Is Because I Am a Poor Indian: Samson Occom’s Life as an Indian Minister”. History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web. Dartmouth College Archives, 1982. 12-18. Web. 19 November 2012.
Occom, Samson. “A Speech by Brothertown Indian Leader Samson Occom, 1771: A Sermon at the Execution of Moses Paul…” Wisconsin Historical Society. London, 1781. 1-17. Web. 1 October 2012.
Occom, Samson. “Samson Occom’s Sermon on Temperance and Morality”. Early Americas Digital Archives. Connecticut Historical Society, 2005. 398-402. Web. 1 October 2012.