Ebenezer Pemberton Sermon

Publication Year: 1744


A transcript of the Ebenezer Pemberton Sermon may be found at the Evans Early American Imprint Collection through the Text Creation Partnership. 

Pemberton, Ebenezer. A Sermon Preach'd in New-Ark, June 12. 1744: at the Ordination  of Mr. David Brainerd, a Missionary among the Indians …With an Appendix,  Touching the Indian Affairs. Boston: Printed by Rogers and Fowle, for J. Pemberton,  1744.  
PHS Call number: CR Amer 1744 E5471 

Reading suggestions

See especially pages 24-39, David Brainerd's letter to Ebenezer Pemberton,  describing his work with the Indians, and including descriptions of Indian customs  and traditions. This document was printed using the "long s".

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Source note

Ebenezer Pemberton (1704-1777) was a New Light minister in the Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches and was the only New York minister to  invite George Whitefield, a major force in the Great Awakening, to preach to his  congregation. This document is Pemberton’s sermon from the ordination of David Brainerd, a Presbyterian missionary to the Indians of the mid-Atlantic region and author of Mirabilia Dei inter Indicos (Document 1). Brainerd first heard Pemberton preach in 1741 while he was a student at Yale University. He was inspired by Pemberton’s emphasis on the importance of experiential faith rather than just scriptural knowledge.  

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Reading questions
  1. Who wrote this source? What was the author’s purpose for writing it? 
  2. Why did the author choose to include the letter from David Brainerd in his sermon at Brainerd’s ordination (page 24)?  
  3. How did Brainerd come to move from the home of a white settler family two miles away, to live among the Indians in their village (page 26)?  
  4. What specific methods did Brainerd use to introduce Christianity to the Indians  (page 28)? Based on what you know of contemporary missions to Indians in the British colonies, were Brainerd’s methods widely used?  
  5. Brainerd faces opposition to his missionary work at Minnissinks, on his way to his new post on the Delaware River (pages 32, 33). What objections do the Indians here have to Christianity and Brainerd’s missionary work? How does Brainerd counter these objections?  
  6. Brainerd finds Sakhauwotung, a settlement near a fork in the Delaware River, sparsely populated: “most of those that formerly belong'd here, are dispers'd, and remov'd to Places farther back in the Country” (page 33). Given the historical context, why had so many Indians left this settlement? Why would some Indians have stayed behind?  
  7. Based on this letter, how successful was Brainerd as a missionary, measured by conversions? What attitude do you think the Indians had toward Brainerd? What source(s) could help us learn more about the Indians’ perspective? 
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Source type
History Topics
American Religious History
Mission History
Native American History
Time Period
Colonial Settlement (1600s-1763)