Godwyn, Preface and Introduction from The Negro’s and Indians Advocate by Morgan (1680)


In The Negro’s and Indians Advocate, published in 1680, the Anglican minister Morgan Godwyn argues that free and enslaved African Americans and Native Americans ought to be educated and converted to Christianity. Godwyn traveled in Virginia and Barbados from 1665 to 1680.



THe state of Religon in the Plantations is such, as that to stir up all Mens Zeal and Commiseration, there needs no other Argument than its being rightly understood and known.

This is industriously avoided and prevented by such, who as public Agents for those parts, should in the first place represent the Wants and Grievances thereof; being of greatest consequence both to the Souls of Men, and to the Government under which they live, and by which they are Protected and Imployed; and therefore ought in Conscience to preserve it.

But the Gospel being become stale News, and those glad Tidings sounding but as some Anile Fable or Dream , the necessity of this needless and troublesome Charge about Religion, cannot enter into such, who for the most part do know no other God but Money, nor Religion but Profit. Which, with some other prouder Considerations, provokes them to obstruct all designs for the good of those Churches, and to report all things already so well settled, as not needing the least amendment or alteration. Presuming (belike) that no half-starved Caitiff coming from those parts, will be so hardy as to gain-say Men in Authority, befriended with the Purses and Power of whole Provinces to defend them; and thereby enabled to support their own, and to blast any other the most innocent Man’s Reputation.

But being my self fully persuaded, that God will assuredly make good his Promise to the World, of causing his Gospel to be published, his Name called upon, and his Church established among the remotest Nations, I have here attempted to break through this Opposition; and as not knowing how to justifie my silence, which perchance might be more safe; without any regard to those Gentlemens displeasure, which I must expect even to the utmost degree; I do here tender to the Public this Plea both for the Christianizing of our Negro’s and other Heathen in those Plantations , and for settling (or rather reviving) of Religion amongst our own People there.

And as the Epidamnians (a Colony also, but oppressed by a Faction) coming to Corcyra their Mother-Country, are said to have pointed to their Ancestors Sepulchres, and chalenging Kindred with them, did thence infer their natural Rightto relief and assistance from those Corcyreans; So I doubt not but, besides these, (which are no less true, and may as well be alledged by us,) many nobler Considerations will prevail for the Relief of those parts. For our Church being, as is too evident, indebted to the Wise and Unwise, to the Barbarians and others, both Bond and Free; how can she, the former Veil being removed, forbear to impart her Bread, the Word of Eternal Life,to the many wretched Souls there, who do daily perish through the want thereof?

Rather as St. Paul’s Macedonian, Acts 16. suing for help, was to him an infallible token, that God had called him to preach the Gospel unto them; so I question not but the miserable state of those People thus represented to our most Reverend Fathers and C[ … ]ntry-Men, and alike needing and imploring their help, may stir up the same Zeal and pious Sentiments; and in the end prove no less effectual for the propagating and preserving of Christianity in those Colonies. And since the detecting of Conspiracies against Religion, is a work so grateful, as at this time doth especially appear; I hope I shall deserve no blame (from good People) for thus offering my Mite of Discovery also; not against some one Party or Division in Religion , but of a more dangerous Conspiracy, even against Christianity it self, with the very Life and Being thereof. To defend and preserve which, against the Hellish contrivances of our Anti-Religionists (such as we find, Acts 13. 8. and who are grown very numerous,) ought to be the united and joynt endeavours of all Persons (of what Sect or Party soever) who do retain any Sense or Affection for it: Each Soul vowing with himself, (in the Comedians Language) Nunquam eam se deserturum, non si capiundos sciat esse inimicos omnes Homines: And resolving not to desist from p[ … ]osecuting those Enemies to God and Man (its implacable Adversaries,) until they are exterminated from off the face of the Earth. We having certainly as much reason to be zealous for Christ‘s Laws, as those Heathens, who thought a bare Inscription on their Graves, a sufficient reward and recompence for bravely attempting (tho perishing in) the defence of their Countries.

But here ’tis possible that they may be apt (as ’tis certain they have Confidence enough) to deny this whole Charge, even to their refusal of the Christianizing of their Slaves, were it a thing less known. But this last being so manifestly true, can any Man once so much as doubt of the rest? There being (questionless) nothing so black, which he for his profit (if with impunitie) will not perpetrate, who, without scruple, can so glibly swallow that Impiety. Nor is it against Charity to think the worst of one, who, by that single Omission, lives in a perpetual contempt of Christianity, and hourly affronts that Faith he professeth to believe. And I do here once for all declare, That whatever Passages I have in this Discourse delivered of them, are either what have proceeded from my own Knowledg, as being an Eye or Ear Witness, and (perhaps) a Patient under them; or else which have been attested to me by Persons of as great Veracity and Credit, as any those parts do afford, (of whom divers are now residing in England); who could have no design in the Imposture, and therefore are not by me in the least suspected. Nay further, even themselves, (unless resolved to be Perjur’d upon Record), if examined upon Oath, must confess as much. Nor do I desire any thing more, than to be brought upon a Justification; which they cannot but know can never (here) succeed to their Advantage. And for their Threats (I have heard) of throwing Dirt, and smiting with their Tongues, (besides that this is but a shifting off of the Question); as they shall not take me unprepared, so let them know, that whilst I have this shelter to flie unto,

Nil conscire mihi, nullâ & pallescere culpâ;

the very worst they can vomit forth will never in the least prejudice me in the opinion and esteem of Good Men.

Lastly, Whereas some may perchance object against my spending Time in this Discourse to prove the Negro’s Humanity, and to shew that neither their Complexion nor Bondage, Descent nor Country, can be any impediment thereto. Tho I have spoken to it, Pag. 13. and else-where, yet here I shall further give this Answer, That this is as needful (the contrary being believed, or at least made a pretence) as any of the rest. And here let the Objecters also remember, that a thousand Years since, it had been as ridiculous for any Man to go about to prove that Bread was Bread, and not Flesh: Whereas now the greatest Divines of both the Protestant and Romish Persuasion, have though it no disparagement to their Learning, to write large Volumns, the one for, but the other against that Faith. And for other (whether Imaginary or Real) defects in this Discourse, if Charity and the goodness of the Design will not veil them, I hope that at least it may find some mitigation of the Censure, from the consideration of its being written in Terra barbara.


THE NEGRO’S and INDIANS ADVOCATE, SUING For their Admission into the Church. OR, A PERSUASIVE to the Instructing and Baptizing the Negro’s and Indians in our PLANTATIONS.

Shewing that as the complying therewith can be no Prejudice to any Man’s just Interest; so the wilful Neglecting and Opposing of it, is no less than a manifest Apostacy from the Christian Faith.


Wherein the Temper and Inclination of our People here (viz. in Barbados) as to the Promoting of Christianity among their Slaves, or other Heathen, is Described; and the Motives for writing this Discourse are shewed, with the Necessity thereof.

§. 1. IT having been my Lot since my Arrival upon this Island, to fall sometimes into Discourses touching the necessity of Instructing our Negro’s and other Heathen in the Christian Faith, and of Baptizing them (both which I observed were generally neglected;) I seldom or never missed of opposition from some one of these three sorts of People: The first, Such, as by reason of the Difficulty and Trouble, affirmed it not only Impracticable, but also Impossible. The second, Such who lookt upon all Designs of that Nature, as too much savouring of Popish Supererrogation, and not in the least Expedient or Necessary. The third, Such (and these I found the most numerous) who absolutely condemned both the Permission and Practice thereof, as destructive to their Interest, tending to no less Mischief than the overthrow of their Estates, and the ruine of their Lives, threatning even the utter Subversion of the Island. Who therefore have always been very watchful to secure that Door, and wisely to prevent all such mischievous Enterprizes. Themselves in the mean time imploying their utmost Skill and Activity to render the Design Ridiculous, thereby to affright the better disposed (if any) from ever consenting to an Act, which, beyond all peradventure, would so much call their Discretion and Wisdom into Question.

2. This spirit of Gentilism (for that is the mildest Name it will deserve) was principally occasioned through the want of care in the seating of these Colonies, where Religion ought to have been planted together with the first Inhabitants; as amongst all Christians, besides our selves, hath elsewhere been generally practised: But the English, for being of the best Religion, are to be excused. ‘Tis true, the Negro’s ignorance of our Language was for some time a thereto, and so long a tolerable plea for the Omission; but none afterward, when they had arrived to an ability of Understanding, and discoursing in English equal with most of our own People; which many thousands of them long since have: Whilst now after such a long Risk of Licentiousness, an ungodly Custom grown strong, is kept as a Law: To gain-say which is lookt upon as no less impious, than elsewhere it is (and formerly it universally was) reputed Meritorious.

3. Now to represent this more plausible to the World, another no less disingenuous and unmanly Position hath been formed; and privately (and as it were in the dark) handed to and again, which is this, That the Negro’s, though in their Figure they carry some resemblances of Manhood, yet are indeed no Men. A Conceit like unto which I have read, was some time since invented by the Spaniards, to justifie their murthering the Americans. But for this here, I may say, that if Atheism and Irreligion were the true Parents who gave it Life, surely Sloth and Avarice have been no unhandy Instruments and Assistants to midwife it into the World, and to Foster and Nurse it up. Under whose Protection getting abroad, it hath acquired sufficient strength and reputation to support it self; being now able not only to maintain its ground, but to bid defiance to all its Opposers; who in truth are found to be but very few, and those scarcely considerable. The issue whereof is, That as in the Negroe’s all pretence to Religion is cut off, so their Owners are hereby set at Liberty, and freed from those importunate Scruples, which Conscience and better Advice might at any time happen to inject into their unsteadie Minds. A Fiction hardly to be parallel’d throughout the Fables of the Poets; and which I presume never before found entertainment amongst any, beside those above mentioned; or perhaps our Neighbours of Holland, whose Religion is also governed by their Trade, and (as hath, I fear, been too justly charged upon them) for the sake thereof shall be denied.

4. Now whilst in my thoughts I reflected upon these wild Fancies and absurd Positions, which I had often heard (tho not in express words, yet in terms equivalent) no less impudently urged and asserted, than I saw universally practised. A petty Reformado Pamphlet was put into my hand by an officious FRIEND, or Quaker of this Island, (I suppose, in order to my Conversion); upon the perusal whereof, which was strictly enjoyned me, I met with this malitious (but crafty) Invective, levelled against the Ministers, to whom it was by the way of Interrogatory, directed and applied in no other than these words: “Who made you Ministers of the Gospel to the White People only, and not to the Tawneys and Blacks also? (with many other the like insolent Queries, following in a tedious Harangue, I think, to this effect, for I shall not undertake to rehearse his words exactly): “Why do you not teach your People in this part of their Duty, or at least shew them the way by your Example, beginning at HOME with those of your OWN FAMILIES, whom you cannot deny but you neglect as much as you do the rest? What should be the Reason that you spend so much time in Railing against us, whom you call Quakers, and other peaceable People; but where there is Occasion, have not a word to say? As if this Ignorance of Christ in them were not as well worth your Pains and false Zeal, as the beating down of Phanaticism, as you are pleased to term Innocent People’s belief and persuasions? Doth not this silence proceed from a fear of Men, whom you are loth to displease by this Doctrine, for what covetous ends your selves best know? And do you not thereby testifie that you are Men-pleasers and Hirelings; but not the Servants of God, nor as you falsely pretend Ministers of Jesus Christ, who, as as your Catechism (if you ever read it) doth confess, came to Redeem all Mankind, without excepting NEGRO’S and INDIANS? And therefore his Ministers and Apostles were by him commanded to preach the Gospel to all the World, and to be Witnesses of him to the uttermost parts of the Earth. Is this the way to set forward the Salvation of all Men; and to make the Ways of God and of the Gospel known unto all Nations, and to all Conditions of Men therein, not omitting Slaves, nor any other? Is this to prepare the Way of Jesus Christ against his second coming to judge the World, by turning the Hearts of the Disobedient to the wisdom of the Just, and to approve your selves faithful and true Pastours, earnestly feeding the Flock of Christ, and preaching his Word unto them, as in your Collects (as you call them) you pretend to pray? Is this to follow the Saints in all Godly and Vertuous Living, who as you reade, Mark the 16th and the last Verse, went forth preaching every where, and ventured their Lives into all the World to preach the Gospel to the Heathen, when you neglect it in your Parishes and Families? Is this to take upon you the Office of a Minister, to serve God for the promoting of his Glory, and the edifying of his People committed to your care and charge? Is this to be ready with all faithful diligence to use both publick and private Monitions and Exhortations, as well to the Sick, as to the whole within your Cures? Is this to be diligent to frame and fashion your own Lives and your Families according to the Doctrine of Christ, and to make both your selves and them, as much as in you lieth, wholesome Examples and Patterns to the Flock of Christ, laying aside all study of the World and the Flesh? For shame cease to call your selves Christ’s Ministers, unless you will be contented to work in Christ’s Vineyard, to preach his Doctrine truly, and to exhort and edifie the poor of his Flock, as he commanded you; and to testifie both to small and great, bond and free, (as his Apostles and Ministers did) the whole Counsel of God, lest hereafter you be found partial in your selves, against which both Paul and James do warn you,” &c. This was the scope and substance of our Quakers Harangue (if my Memory fails me not) with a great deal more to the same purpose, which I have neither will nor leasure here to repeat; what I have already delivered, being sufficient to silence us as to any Reply, besides that of the Poet,

Pudet haec opprobria nobis

Et dici potuisse, & non potuisse refelli.

The Duties there by him urged, (tho doubtless with curst intent, and as Judas became Spokesman and Orator for the Poor) being evident from the avowed Principles of all Christians; no less then from the express words of our own Liturgie, by him collected from the several parts thereof: As will be seen upon the perusal of the Collect for the Ember Weeks, the general Prayer for all conditions of Men, the Collect for Good Friday, that for the second Sunday in Advent, and for St. Peter‘s, and All-Saints Days; and lastly, from the Responses in the Book of Ordination of Priests and Deacons. And the Neglect reprehended, being too apparent to be either shifted off, or extenuated by any palliation, or excuse.

5. Now upon this I began to question with my self, If the Gospel be good Tidings, why should it be concealed, or hid? And since designed so to all People, why should not these partake of it as well as others? If we are bound to pray for their Conversion, why are we not also to endeavour it? And since that our Blessed Lord commanded his Apostles, St. Mat. 28. to go and make Disciples of ALL the Heathen, why may it not be alike lawful for me, with the great Apostle, Heb. 2. 8. to both argue and conclude, In that he said All, he had excepted none? I then also fell to reflect upon the Doom of the unprofitable Servant; and that since Christ had been thus merciful to me, putting me into the Ministry, so unworthy of it; I could have no pretence to be silent; and that I ought not to lay my (tho slender) Talent up in a Napkin, lest thereby I should justly incur the like sad Doom. And withal, observing that no abler Advocate for them had appeared, I concluded my self under some Obligation, to endeavour to wipe off these Blemishes, and to repair the Honour of our Religion and Profession. But withal, chiefly to admonish our People of this Neglect; and if possible, to convince them of the wickedness of those horrid Positions and Principles before mentioned; as also of the necessity of their speedy applying themselves to that great Duty hitherto so unchristianly omitted. Whereupon my thoughts after some time, resolved themselves into these three general Assertions.

1. That the Negro’s (both Slaves and others) have naturally an equal Right with other Men to the Exercise and Privileges of Religion; of which ’tis most unjust in any part to deprive them.

2. That the profession of Christianity absolutely obliging to the promoting of it, no Difficulties nor Inconveniences, how great soever, can excuse the Neglect, much less the hindering or opposing of it, which is in effect no better than a renunciation of that Profession.

3. That the Inconveniencies here pretended for this Neglect, being examined, will be found nothing such, but rather the contrary.

And this I do the more confidently here undertake from the encouragement and counsel of the Wise Man, Eccles. 11. 6. thus advising: In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine Hand, for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall prove alike good. And as not in the least despairing of a due success, tho even Briars and Thorns should be with me, and my dwelling should be among Scorpions; since the Almighty hath by the Mouth of his Evangelical Prophet given us this assurance, Isa. 55. That as the Rain cometh down, and the Snow from Heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the Earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give Seed to the sower, and Bread to the eater: So shall my Word be, that goeth forth out of my Mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.

Ezek. 8. 9.

And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked Abominations that they do here.

APA Citation:
Godwyn, Morgan. Godwyn, Preface and Introduction from The Negro’s and Indians Advocate by Morgan (1680). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Godwyn, Morgan. "Godwyn, Preface and Introduction from The Negro’s and Indians Advocate by Morgan (1680)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 22 Jun. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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