A Description of New Netherlands
Adriaen van der Donck - 1649
OF THE MANNERS AND PECULIAR CUSTOMS OF, THE NATIVES OF THE NEW-NETHERLANDS
Of their knowledge of God, and their fear of the devils.
Although the original inhabitants of the New-Netherlands be heathen and are unbelievers, they however believe and acknowledge that there is a God in heaven from all eternity, who is almighty. But they say God is good, kind, and compassionate, who will not punish or do any injury to any person, and therefore takes no concern himself in the common affairs of the world, nor does he meddle with the same, except that he has ordered the devil to take care of those matters. For they say that all which happens to persons on the earth, is ordered and directed by the devil as he pleases. God, the chief of all, who dwells in heaven, is much greater and higher than the devil, over whom he has power, but he will not meddle in, or trouble himself with, those concerns.
When, on those subjects, we answer them conclusively, that the devil is deceitful and wicked; they acknowledge it to be true, and that he to the extent of his power, directs such matters in the most wicked and injurious ways (wherein he takes pleasure). They say that all accidents, infirmities and diseases, are sent and forced upon them by the devil, to whom they ascribe it by the common name, saying that the devil is in them, and is the cause of all their misfortunes and ailments.
For instance, if they have any inward complaint, they say there is a devil in me; if they have a defect in arm or leg, foot, or hand; shoulder or in the head; they devote the part, and say there is a devil in the same. And because he is so unkind to them, they must, whether they be willing or not, fear him, and preserve his friendship, and sometimes (as before related) cast a piece to him into the fire. Where we refute those follies, by saying that God knows all things, and is almighty, and has a perfect knowledge of the devil, and observes his conduct, and will not permit him to rule over man, who is created in the image of God, and is the noblest part of the creation; nor will the devil be permitted to tyrannize over man, provided they will rightly confide and trust in God, and not withdraw from his commandments to do evil; then they repay us, with strange and fabulous replies, saying--"You lazy Dutchmen say so, and when we observe the matter outwardly it would appear to be true-what you say; but in fact you do not understand the matter.
That God, who is the highest good, almighty and gracious, and Lord of heaven and earth, in whom all power is, exists in heaven, but not alone, and without pastime; for he has there with him a goddess, a female person, the most beautiful ever known and beheld. With this goddess or beautiful person, he is so much engrossed, that the time is passed away and forgotten. Meantime the devil plays the tyrant and does what he pleases.
This belief and feeling is deeply impressed in them, and when we with stronger
reasons sift the subject and drive them from their positions, they fall into
more abominable absurdities, and like the dogs return to their vomit, and say
they must serve the devil because be has the power to do them injuries.
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