The use of alcoholic drinks had become a great problem for the Wyandotts. When Stewart came. there were only about twenty men in the naticn who did not drink to excess. When he told them that this drinking was ruining them and that they shouldn't do it, he practiced what he preached. He told them of his bitter struggle to overcome its power over his life, and how God had removed his desire to get drunk. God could do the same for them, and in Stewart they saw an honest, sober, and humble servant of a personal God.
Trials and discouragements came his way almost every day. Some of the Indians said that the Bible had been given to the White Man and it was not intended for the Indian. If it had been meant for them, then why wasn't it given to them instead of to the White Man? John Stewart used the words of Christ to his disciples when he said, "Go ye, into the entire world and preach my gospel to every creature." He explained that he had come to them for this purpose. Now the Bible had come to them, and it was theirs as much as anyone else's.
Those who had been under the influence of the Roman Cath olics questioned his Bible. It could not be the right one for it was not like theirs. They went to Detroit to consult with the priest about it. It was decided that Stewart's Bible should be carefully inspected by the sub-agent, William Walker. The time was set, several of the Indians came, and Stewart came bringing with him his much cherished Bible. After patiently waiting as Walker went over the two Bibles. the verdict was given-yes, it was a true Bible, but it was printed in English while the Catholic one was printed in Latin.
The next objection that was voiced was that he had no written permission to preach. This was very true. He had come as a self-appointed ambassador of God. He had not asked to be licensed; it is probable that the thought never occurred to him. He had heard God's call and that was all that was necessary as far as he was concerned. He came to tell the children, who for so long had been in darkness, of the great power of God to carry their burdens and save their souls from the despair of ignorance and alcoholism. He knew how the great love of Jesus longed for these Red Men to reach out to him, "Oh, come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." It is possible that Stewart knew little of church organization, nor cared to bring it about. Up until the time the objection was raised, he had performed no marriages or baptisms so no fault could be found in him. As William Walker said, "Any man has a right to talk about religion, and try to get others to embrace it."
John Stewart had a gift of persuasion. He spent many hours in smoke filled wigwams reading God's word to the Wyandotts who were educated only in the ways of nature, and the traditions and customs of their tribe. He knelt beside them on the hard dirt floor and prayed with them, pleading with them to give their lives to the one who loved them most of all, Jesus Christ their Savior.
When he preached, it was usually in the Council House, for it was the only structure of any size in the village. This building had only three sides and a dirt floor. It was located to the west of Harrison Smith Park, near the south end of Fourth Street. The Indians sat huddled in their blankets on logs around he fire which was near the open end of the building. In nice weather they no doubt met in the shade of the large trees nearby.
All this time he had never touched on the beliefs of so many such as the power of magicians, witches, dances, feasts, nor any of the other ceremonies which they observed as handed down from their ancient ancestors. And then it came! At a certain meeting, in the course of his sermon, he made some very pointed remarks against their ancient religion. He stated,
"Instead of your form of worship being pleasing to the Lord, on the contrary, it is displeasing to him. Although he has in the time of your ignorance winked his eye at your conduct, now the Gospel has reached you, and God requires that you all repent."
Needless to say, this was like a bomb exploding. At the dose of the meeting he gave them a chance to talk. John Hicks, one of the chiefs, was the first to stand to his feet. He spoke as follows:
"My friend, you have given liberty to any who had objec tions to the doctrines you teach and endeavor to maintain, to speak on the subject, and state their objections. I, for one, feel myself called upon to rise in the defense of the religion of my fathers, . . . a system of religion the Great Spirit has given to his Red children as their guide and rule of their faith. We are not going to abandon it as soon as you might think; we are content with it and it is adapted to our capacities. No, my friend, your diselaiming so vio lently against the modes of worshipping the Great Spirit, is in my opinion, not calculated to benefit us as a nation; we are willing to receive good advice from you, but we are not willing to have the customs and institutions which have been kept sacred by our fathers, thus assailed and abused." Chief Mononcue then arose and stated strongly that he did not think this religion was meant for the Red Man. It had first been given in the East to the White People, and it was their religion, not the religion of the Indians. The talk went on, John Stewart again tried to explain how he had come to bring the true gospel to the Red Man as Christ had instructed his disciples to do. He warned them; "Whosoever believeth not shall be damned. So think well before you reject the Gospel."
The meeting finally ended with many going back to their wig wams feeling very uneasy and disturbed. Mononcue followed Chief Hicks to his dwelling where they could talk privately. He said,
"My friend, I feel somewhat inclined to abandon a good many of the Indian customs but I cannot agree to give up painting my face; this I think would be wrong, inasmuch as ceasing to paint will be jeopardizing my health."
It was some time before these two chiefs could accept the new doctrines, but in time both not only became Christians but also licensed exhorters. They could preach in the language of the Wyandotts and this was a big help to John Stewart as well as to the missionaries who came later.
The meeting had left many of the Indians less sure than ever that they wanted the new religion. Many returned to their dances and feasts, some to the worship of idols, and more resumed their Roman Catholic practices. However, this did not keep them away from the meetings, for the council house was filled almost every Sunday. Maybe they came out of curiosity. maybe to hear him sing, and maybe just because it was some place to go, but they still went to meetings. According to Rev. Joseph Mitchell;
"There did not seem to be any who evidenced a genuine conversion, though many appeared to be really hopeful penitents, and mourning for errors past. There being no preacher among them who was authorized to form them into a Society, and thereby. in some degree, cause them to come out from among the wicked, it will not be surprising to the reader, when he is informed that many grew weary in well doing, fainted by the way, and relapsed into a cold, careless, and indifferent state of mind."
John Stewart felt alone and discouraged. Had he failed so completely? Was it all in vain? He spent long hours on his knees in prayer seeking God's will and guidance. Then one day he preached a sermon on "The Day of Judgment" with vivid de scriptions of the moment when each one would stand alone before the Great Judge and give an account of his life. Maybe this was God's way of answering his prayers for it was at this meeting that some really "got religion" and accepted Christ as their personal Savior. This was encouraging. for now at least a few were safe on the Shores of Salvation.
Still feeling that he had failed, Stewart decided to return to Marietta when spring came. He had been here since November and the harvest had not been good. He thought he would return to Marietta, and go with some friends on to Tennessee where his parents now lived. When he made this announcement at the close of one of his meetings, some cried, some pleaded with him to stay, but he told them that he must go. They then asked him if he would come back. Mrs. Warpole took up a collection of ten dollars and gave it to him for his use in returning. Still feel ing that he was a failure, he said to them before leaving:
"Must I depart and leave you as I found you, careless, wicked, and ungodly? God forbid it. I have wept with you, I have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you and have taught you publicly, from house to house testifying both to you, the Wyandotts, and also to the Whites, repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I feel I have discharged my duty toward you; God sent me here to warn you of the wrath to come, and I have done so; but, Lord, who has believed the report? . . . Now, my friends, I expect you to see my face no more, for I must go; I shall meet you all at the flaming bar of God; and. my friends, for your kindness to me since I came among you, I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to you; God will reward you. . . ."
Many wept bitterly at his leaving. He did promise to return after taking care of some business he felt he must return to do in Marietta. It must have been with a heavy heart that he started south across the plains of Sandusky. Had he done the will of God, or had he failed so completely?