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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : LUTHERANS IN PENNSYLVANIA.

American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

LUTHERANS IN PENNSYLVANIA.

37. Roaming About without Altar and Ministry. -- Justus Falckner, in a letter to Dr. H. Muhlen, [tr. note: sic!] dated August 1, 1701, describes the |spiritual wilderness| in and about Germantown as follows: |As much, then, as I was able to observe the conditions of the churches in these parts and in particular in this province, they are still pretty bad. Because of the lack of any good preparations the aborigines, or Indians, remain in their blindness and barbarism. In addition to this they are scandalized by the wicked life of the Christians, and especially by the trade carried on with them, and merely acquire vices which were unknown to them before, such as drunkenness, theft, etc. The few Christians here are divided in almost in numerable sects, which kat' exochen [tr. note: two words in Greek] may be called sects and rabbles, such as Quakers, Anabaptists, Naturalists, Libertinists, Independentists, Sabbatarians, and many others, especially secretly spreading sects, regarding whom we are at a loss what to make of them. However, all of them agree in their beautiful principles (si Dis placet): Abolish all good order, and live for yourself as you see fit. The Quakers are the most numerous because the Governor [William Penn] belongs to them, so that one might call this land an anatomical laboratory of Quakers. For much as our theologians have labored to dissect this cadaver and discover its entrails, they, nevertheless, have not been able to do it as well as the Quakers are now doing it themselves in this country. It would fill a whole tract if, as could be done easily, I were to describe how they, by transgressing their own principles, make it apparent what kind of a spirit is moving them, while they, by virtue of the foundation of such principles, are scoffers and Ishmaels of all well-ordered church-life. Hic Rhodus, hie saltant (Here is Rhodes, here they dance).| |Also here| (as in Europe), Falckner proceeds, |the Protestant Church is divided in three nations; for there is here an English Protestant Church, a Swedish Protestant Lutheran Church, and people of the German nation belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran and the Reformed Churches. The Swedes have two congregations.... But not without reason have I spoken of the Germans merely as some Evangelical Lutheran Germans and not the German Evangelical Lutheran Church, inasmuch as they are roaming about in this desert without altar and the ministry (scilicet qui ara sacerdotuque destituti vagantur hoc in deserto), a miserable condition, indeed. Otherwise there is a great number of Germans here. But a part of them have joined the other sects, who use the English language, which is learned first by all who come here, and some of them are Quakers and Anabaptists. Another part of them are freethinkers, uniting with nobody and letting their children grow up in the same way. In brief, there are Germans here, and probably the most of them, who despise God's Word and all good outward order, blaspheme and frightfully and publicly desecrate the Sacraments. Spiritus enim errorum et sectarum asylum sibi hic constituit (For the spirit of errors and sects has here established his asylum). And the chief fault and cause of this is the lack of provision for an external visible church-communion. For since, as it were, the first thesis of natural theology, inborn in all men, is 'Religiosum quendam cultum observandum, A certain religious cult must be observed,' it happens that these people, when they come here and find no better external service, elect any one rather than none. For though they are Libertinists, nevertheless also Libertinism is not without its outward form, by which it makes itself a specific religion in none of them.| Falckner proceeds: |I and my brother [Daniel] attend the Swedish church, although, as yet, we understand little of the language. And by our example we have induced several Germans to come to their meetings occasionally, even though they did not understand the language, and for the purpose only of gradually drawing them out of barbarism and accustoming them to outward order, especially as one of the Swedish pastors, Mr. M. Rudman, for the sake of love and the glory of God, offered to go to the trouble of learning the German language and occasionally to deliver a German address in the Swedish church, until the Germans could have a church of their own.| In the following Falckner dwells on the great help it would afford in attracting the Indians and the children of the Quakers and drawing the young Swedes to the services if an organ could be installed in the Swedish church. (G. Fritschel, Geschichte, 35 ff.) The miserable condition spiritually of the Lutherans in Pennsylvania appears from a letter of their representatives to Dr. Ziegenhagen in London, dated October, 1739, in which they state: |There is not one German Lutheran preacher in the whole land, except Caspar Stoever, now sixty miles distant from Philadelphia.| (Jacobs, 191.)

38. New Hanover, Philadelphia, Providence. -- It was a motley crowd of Germans that gathered in the land of the Quakers. Indeed, Pastorius, the first mayor of Germantown, was a rather moderate pietist from the circles of Spener, but, as stated above, with him and after him came Mennonites, Tunkers, Moravians, Gichtelians, Schwenkfeldians, disciples of the cobbler of Goerlitz, Jacob Boehme, and enthusiasts who as yet had no name. (G., 242.) Before long, however, the Lutherans outnumbered all other German denominations (Moravians and German Reformed) and sects in the Quaker State, to which they came in increasingly large numbers, especially after the sad experiences of the Palatinates in New York. By 1750 the number of Germans in Pennsylvania was estimated at 60,000, of whom about two-thirds were Lutherans by birth. Though imbued with apocalyptical and mystical ideas, H. B. Koester, who arrived in 1694 with forty families, is said to have conducted the first German Lutheran services in Germantown. Before long he united with the Episcopalians and founded Christ Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, but returned to Germany in 1700. Daniel Falckner, who had emigrated with Koester, opposed the Quakers in Germantown. In Falckner's Swamp (New Hanover), he organized the first German Lutheran congregation in Pennsylvania, and is said to have erected a log church as early as 1704. In his struggle against the mismanagement of Pastorius, Falckner, in 1708, fell a prey to intrigues. A disappointed man he went to New Jersey, where he served the congregations at Raritan, Muehlstein, Rockaway, and other points, and from 1724 to 1725 also the settlements which Kocherthal had served along the Hudson. Owing to his increasing mental weakness, Daniel Falckner, in 1731, resigned his field in favor of J. A. Wolff. He died at Raritan ten years later. In New Hanover Gerhard Henkel, the first Lutheran pastor in Virginia, continued the work from 1717 to 1728. In Philadelphia J. C. Schulz, of Wuerttemberg, was the first Lutheran pastor of whom we have any knowledge. Educated in Strassburg, Schulz arrived in Philadelphia on September 25, 1732. He also served New Hanover and New Providence. At the latter place the first entries in the parish register date back to 1729, and the congregation numbered about one hundred communicant members when Muhlenberg took charge. In 1732 Pastor Schulz, accompanied by two lay delegates, left for Europe to collect money, and, above all, to secure laborers from Halle, for the mission-work in Pennsylvania. These efforts terminated when Schulz was arrested in Germany for disorderly conduct. Before leaving Pennsylvania, Schulz had ordained John Caspar Stoever, a relative of Pastor J. C. Stoever, Sr., in Spottsylvania, Va., and placed him in charge of his congregations. Stoever, Jr., had studied theology in Germany, and after his arrival in America, 1728, had been active in mission-work among the Lutherans in Pennsylvania, a labor which he zealously continued till his sudden death in 1779, while confirming a class at Lebanon. Stoever's aversion to Pietism at first kept him from uniting with Muhlenberg. It was 1763, fifteen years after its organization, before he became a member of the Pennsylvania Ministerium. Concerning Stoever and the Agenda of 1748, Muhlenberg relates the following: |We were minded to employ the very words of our Lord Jesus: Take and eat; this is the body of Jesus Christ, etc. Take and drink, this cup is the New Testament in the blood of Christ, etc. At the baptism of children it was our intention to ask the sponsors, or godparents: Do you renounce in the name of this child, etc.? To this the opponents [Stoever, Wagner, and their adherents] objected strenuously before we had finished. We therefore made a change immediately and used the words which their terrified consciences desired, viz.: This is the true body, etc.; this is the true blood, etc., and in the formula of baptism: Peter, Paul, or Maria, dost thou renounce, etc.?| Graebner comments as follows: |If the Wagners and Stoevers [whom Muhlenberg severely censured in 1748] had committed no other crimes but that of compelling the 'united preachers' [from Halle] to take a decided Lutheran position, one might wish that their influence had extended still farther.| In the following year, 1749, however, the Pennsylvania Synod changed the formula of baptism so that the sponsors were asked, |Do you renounce (believe) in the name of this child, etc.?| (Graebner, 327.)

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