PASTORAL LETTER OF BISHOP GIBSON OF LONDON
To the Masters and Mistresses of Families in the English Plantations abroad; exhorting them to encourage and promote the instruction of their Negroes in the Christian Faith. (About 1727.)
The care of the Plantations abroad being committed to the Bishop of London as to Religious Affairs; I have thought it my duty to make particular Inquiries into the State of Religion in those Parts, and to learn among other Things, what numbers of slaves are employed within the several Governments, and what Means are used for their Instruction in the Christian Faith: I find the Numbers are prodigiously great; and am not a little troubled to observe how small a Progress has been made in a Christian country, towards the delivering those poor Creatures from the Pagan Darkness and Superstition in which they were bred, and the making them Partakers in the Light of the Gospel, and the Blessings and Benefits belonging to it. And what is yet more to be lamented, I find there has not only been very little Progress made in the work but that all Attempts toward it have been by too many industriously discouraged and hindered; partly by magnifying the Difficulties of the Work beyond what they really are; and partly by mistaken Suggestions of the Change which Baptism would make in the Condition of the Negroes, to the Loss and Disadvantage of their Masters.
As to the Difficulties; it may be pleaded, That the Negroes are grown Persons when they come over, and that having been accustomed to the Pagan Rites and Idolatries of their own Country, they are prejudiced against all other Religions, and more particularly against the Christian, as forbidding all that Licentiousness which is usually practiced among the Heathens.... But a farther Difficulty is that they are utter Strangers to our Language, and we to theirs; and the Gift of Tongues being now ceased, there is no Means left of instructing them in the Doctrines of the Christian Religion. And this, I own is a real Difficulty, as long as it continues, and as far as it reaches. But, if I am rightly informed, many of the Negroes, who are grown Persons when they come over, do of themselves obtain so much of our Language, as enables them to understand, and to be understood, in Things which concern the ordinary Business of Life, and they who can go so far of their own Accord, might doubtless be carried much farther, if proper Methods and Endeavors