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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

O Lord, Purify This Region!

Editor's Note:

The frontier was not first settled by educated, literate people. In their understanding of religion and the larger questions of life, Mr. Phelps and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Wells, were probably typical. To a pious minister such as Marsh, who believed sin was ever-present and redemption was one's greatest goal, they were only a small step above the pagan Indians who surrounded them. Of course, they were a great deal better, morally, than the drunken fur traders he would meet tomorrow.

Deistical: Deists believed in a God who was not interested in human affairs; to them, there was indeed a Creator, but one which had set the universe in motion and then abandoned it, much as one wound up a Victorian pocket watch and let it run. To Deists, human reason and free will were more important than Biblical revelations or blind faith.

Marsh, on the other hand, believed in a God who was a sort of father-figure, intently watching over and judging humanity according to how well they obeyed His instructions, and who might directly intervene in our lives by introducing misfortune or removing obstacles.

July 17th

Conversed much during the P.M. with a Mrs. Wells, mother of Mrs. P[helps], my hostess. Found her mind in a state of great darkness and ignorance, too, respecting divine things, thinking that she loved God and Jesus Christ and at the same time not a Christian. The Bible she remarked was all a mystery, which she could not comprehend or understand. Sometimes almost despairing, at others doubting the reality of revelation etc. A strange compound of truth, deistical notions etc, seemed to have place in her mind. I urged upon her the necessity of going to God's word with that humble, child-like disposition which Mary put at the feet of her Lord and Master.

After answering as well as I could her doubts and difficulties, had some conversation with Mr. P. who seemed still further off and is strictly deistical in principle. Looks upon the Bible as a hidden, unfathomable mystery which cannot be rightly understood, and seems to have no fixed principles whatever...

During this day and evening have heard the awful name of Jehovah taken in vain by the wicked around more than for a long time previous. Here intemperance, I am informed, and profanity dreadfully abound - swearing is as common almost with some, especially when they have drank a little, as common conversation. O Lord purify this region. Felt resolved in the evening, if the Lord spared my life, to lift up a warning voice against these crying sins.

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