American Lutheranism, Vol. I: Early History of American Lutheranism and the Tennessee Synod, by Gerhard Friedrich Bente, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 1919
Essentially, Christianity is the special divine faith in the truth revealed by the Bible that we are saved, not by our own efforts, works, or merits, but alone by the pure and unmerited grace of God, secured by Christ Jesus and freely offered in the Gospel. And the Christian Church is the sum total of all those who truly believe, and therefore confess and propagate this truth of the Gospel.
Accordingly, the history of Christianity and of the Christian Church is essentially the record concerning this truth, viz., how, when, where, by whom, with what success and consistency, etc., it has been proclaimed, received, rejected, opposed, defended, corrupted, and restored again to its original purity.
Lutheranism is not Christianity plus several ideas or modifications of ideas added by Luther, but simply Christianity, consistent Christianity, neither more nor less. And the Lutheran Church is not a new growth, but merely the restoration of the original Christian Church with its apostolic, pure confession of the only saving Christian truth and faith.
The history of Lutheranism and of the Lutheran Church, therefore, is essentially the story concerning the old Christian truth, restored by Luther, viz., how, by whom, where, when, etc., this truth was promulgated, embraced, rejected, condemned, defended, corrupted, and restored again to pristine purity.
As for American Lutheranism, it is not a specific brand of Lutheranism, but simply Lutheranism in America; for doctrinally Lutheranism, like Christianity, with which it is identical, is the same the world over. Neither is the American Lutheran Church a distinct species or variety of the Lutheran Church, but merely the Lutheran Church in America.
The modified Lutheranism advocated during the middle of the nineteenth century as “American Lutheranism” was a misnomer, for in reality it was neither American nor Lutheran, but a sectarian corruption of both.
Hence, also, the history of American Lutheranism is but the record of how the Christian truth, restored by Luther, was preached and accepted, opposed and defended, corrupted and restored, in our country, at various times, by various men, in various synods and congregations.
In the history of American Lutheranism four names are of special significance: Muhlenberg, Schmucker, Walther, Krauth.
H. M. Muhlenberg endeavored to transplant to America the modified Lutheranism of the Halle Pietists. S. S. Schmucker’s ambition was to transmogrify the Lutheran Church into an essentially unionistic Reformed body. C. F. Walther labored most earnestly and consistently to purge American Lutheranism of its foreign elements, and to restore the American Lutheran Church to its original purity, in doctrine as well as in practise. In a similar spirit Charles Porterfield Krauth devoted his efforts to revive confessional Lutheranism within the English portion of our Church.
The first volume of our presentation of American Lutheranism deals with the early history of Lutheranism in America. The second, which appeared first, presents the history of the synods which in 1918 merged into the United Lutheran Church: the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod in the South. The third deals with the history of the Ohio, Iowa, Buffalo, and the Scandinavian synods, and, Deo volente, will go to press as soon as Concordia Publishing House will be ready for it. In the fourth volume we purpose to present the history and doctrinal position of the Missouri, Wisconsin, and other synods connected with the Synodical Conference.
As appears from the two volumes now in the market, our chief object is to record the principal facts regarding the doctrinal position occupied at various times, either by the different American Lutheran bodies themselves or by some of their representative men, such comment only being added as we deemed indispensable. We have everywhere indicated our sources, primary as well as secondary, in order to facilitate what we desire, viz., to hold us to strict accountability. Brackets found in passages cited contain additions, comments, corrections, etc., of our own, not of the respective authors quoted.
As collateral reading, especially to pages 1 to 147 of Vol. I, we urgently recommend the unique, thorough, and reliable work of our sainted colleague Dr. A. Graebner: “Geschichte der Lutherischen Kirche in Amerika. Erster Teil. St. Louis, Mo. Concordia Publishing House, 1892.”
While, as stated, the immediate object of our presentation is simply to state the facts concerning the questions, theologians, and synods involved, it self-evidently was an ulterior end of ours also, by the grace of God, to be of some service in furthering and maintaining the unity of the Spirit, an interest always and everywhere essential to the Lutheran Church.
“May the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus grant the grace of His Holy Spirit that we all may be One in Him and constantly abide in such Christian unity, which is well-pleasing to Him! Amen.” (Form, of Conc., Epit., 11, § 23.)
F. Bente, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. July 28, 1919.
1. Christianity the Only Real and True Religion
Religion is man’s filial relation to, and union with, God. Natural religion is the concreated relation of Adam and Eve in their state of innocence toward their Creator. Fallen man, though he still lives, and moves, and has his being in God, is, in consequence of his sinful nature, atheos, without God, and hence without true and real religion. His attitude toward God is not that of a child to his father. Heathen religions are products of the futile efforts of men at reconciling God and restoring union with Him by their own penances and works. They are religions invented and made by men. As such they are counterfeit religions, because they persuade men to trust either in fictitious merits of their own or in God’s alleged indifference toward sin. Christianity is the divine restoration of religion, i.e., of the true spiritual and filial relation of fallen man toward God. Essentially, Christianity is the divine trust and assurance that God, according to His own merciful promise in the Gospel, is, for the sake of Christ and His merits, my pardoning and loving Father. It is the religion of justification, restoration, and salvation, not by human efforts and works, but by divine grace only. Paganism believes in man and his capacity for self-redemption; Christianity believes in the God-man and in salvation by His name and none other. From Mohammedanism, Buddhism, and all other religions of the world Christianity differs essentially, just as Jehovah differs from idols, as divine grace differs from human works. Christianity is not one of many species of generic religion, but the only true and real religion. Nor is Christianity related to other religions as the highest stage of an evolutionary process is to its antecedent lower stages. Christianity is divine revelation from above, not human evolution from below. Based, as it is, on special divine interposition, revelation, and operation, Christianity is the supernatural religion. And for fallen man it is the only availing and saving religion, because it alone imparts real pardon, and engenders real and divine assurance of such pardon; because it alone really pacifies the conscience and fully satisfies the heart; and because it alone bestows new spiritual powers of sanctification. Christianity is absolute and final, it is the non plus ultra, the Alpha and Omega, of religion, because its God is the only true God, its Mediator is the only-begotten Son of God, its ransom is the blood of God, and its gift is perfect union with God. Compare John 8, 24; Acts 4, 12; John 14, 6; 3, 36; Gal. 1, 8. 9. Romanism, Rationalism, Arminianism, Synergism, etc., are heathen remnants within, and corruptions of, Christianity, elements absolutely foreign to, and per se subversive of, the religion of divine grace and revelation.
2. The Church and Its Manifestations
The Christian Church is the sum total of all Christians, all true believers in the Gospel of salvation by Christ and His merits alone. Faith always, and it alone, makes one a Christian, a member of the Church. Essentially, then, the Church, is invisible, because faith is a divine gift within the heart of man, hence beyond human observation. Dr. Walther: “The Church is invisible because we cannot see faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, which the members of this Church have in their hearts; for we can never with certainty distinguish the true Christians, who, properly, alone constitute the Church, from the hypocrites.” (Lutheraner, 1, 21.) Luther: “This part, ‘I believe a holy Christian Church,’ is an article of faith just as well as the others. Hence Reason, even when putting on ever so many spectacles, cannot know her. She wants to be known not by seeing, but by believing; faith, however, deals with things which are not seen. Heb. 11, 1. A Christian may even be hidden from himself, so that he does not see his own holiness and virtue, but observes in himself only fault and unholiness.” (Luther’s Works. St. Louis, XIV, 139.) In order to belong to the Church, it is essential to believe; but it is essential neither to faith nor to the Church consciously to know yourself that you believe. Nor would it render the Church essentially visible, if, by special revelation or otherwise, we infallibly knew of a man that he is a believer indeed. Even the Word and the Sacraments are infallible marks of the Church only because, according to God’s promise, the preaching of the Gospel shall not return without fruit. Wherever and only where the Gospel is preached are we justified in assuming the existence of Christians. Yet the Church remains essentially invisible, because neither the external act of preaching nor the external act of hearing, but inward, invisible believing alone makes one a Christian, a member of the Church. Inasmuch, however, as faith manifests itself in the confession of the Christian truths and in outward works of love, the Church, in a way, becomes visible and subject to human observation. Yet we dare not infer that the Church is essentially visible because its effects are visible. The human soul, though its effects may be seen, remains essentially invisible. God is invisible, though the manifestations of His invisible power and wisdom can be observed in the world. Thus also faith and the Church remain essentially invisible, even where they manifest their reality in visible effects and works. Apart from the confession and proclamation of the Gospel and a corresponding Christian conversation, the chief visible effects and works of the Church are the foundation of local congregations, the calling of ministers, the organization of representative bodies, etc. And when these manifestations and visible works of the Church are also called churches, the effects receive the name of the cause, or the whole, the mixed body, is given the name which properly belongs to a part, the true believers, only. Visible congregations are called churches as quartz is called gold, and a field is called wheat.
3. Visible Churches, True and False
The objects for which Christians, in accordance with the will of God, unite, and should unite, in visible churches and local congregations, are mutual Christian acknowledgment and edification, common Christian confession and labor, and especially the establishment of the communal office of the public ministry of the pure Gospel. This object involves, as a divine norm of Christian organization, and fellowship, that such only be admitted as themselves believe and confess the divine truths of the Bible, and who are not advocates of doctrines contrary to the plain Word of God. Christian organizations and unions must not be in violation of the Christian unity of the Spirit. Organizations effected in harmony with the divine object and norm of Christian fellowship are true visible churches, i.e., visible unions as God would have them. They are churches of the pure Word and Sacrament, professing the Gospel and deviating from none of its doctrines. Christians have no right to embrace, teach, and champion error. They are called upon and bound to believe, teach, and confess all, and only, Christian truths. Nor may they lawfully organize on a doctrinally false basis. Organizations persistently deviating from the doctrines of the Bible and establishing a doctrinally false basis, are sects, i.e., false or impure visible Churches. Yet, though error never saves, moreover, when consistently developed, has the tendency of corrupting the whole lump, false Churches may be instrumental in saving souls, inasmuch as they retain essential parts of the Gospel-truths, and inasmuch as God’s grace may neutralize the accompanying deadly error, or stay its leavening power. Indeed, individuals, by the grace of God, though errorists in their heads, may be truthists in their hearts; just as one who is orthodox in his head may, by his own fault, be heterodox in his heart. A Catholic may, by rote, call upon the saints with his lips, and yet, by the grace of God, in his heart, put his trust in Christ. And a Lutheran may confess Christ and the doctrine of grace with his lips, and yet in his heart rely on his own good character. False Churches as such, however, inasmuch as theirs is a banner of rebellion in the kingdom of Christ, do not exist by God’s approval, but merely by His sufferance. It is their duty to reform on a basis of doctrinal purity and absolute conformity with the Word of God.
4. The Lutheran Church the True Visible Church
The Lutheran Church is the only known religious body which, in the Book of Concord of 1580, confesses the truths of the Gospel without admixture of any doctrines contrary to the Bible. Hence its organization is in perfect harmony with the divine object and norm of Christian union and fellowship. Its basis of union is the pure Word and Sacrament. Indeed, the Lutheran Church is not the universal or only Christian Church, for there are many believers belonging to other Christian bodies. Nor is it the only saving Church, because there are other Churches preaching Christian truths, which, by the grace of God, prove sufficient and powerful to save men. The Lutheran Church is the Church of the pure Word and the unadulterated Sacraments. It is the only Church proclaiming the alone-saving truth of the Gospel in its purity. It is the Church with a doctrinal basis which has the unqualified approval of the Scriptures, a basis which, materially, all Churches must accept if they would follow the lead of the Bible. And being doctrinally the pure Church, the Lutheran Church is the true visible Church of God on earth. While all sectarian churches corrupt God’s Word and the Sacraments, it is the peculiar glory of the Lutheran Church that it proclaims the Gospel in its purity, and administers the Sacraments without adulteration. This holds good with regard to all Lutheran organizations that are Lutheran in truth and reality. True and faithful Lutherans, however, are such only as, being convinced by actual comparison that the Concordia of 1580 is in perfect agreement with the Holy Bible, subscribe to these symbols ex animo and without mental reservation or doctrinal limitation, and earnestly strive to conform to them in practise as well as in theory. Subscription only to the Augustana or to Luther’s Small Catechism is a sufficient test of Lutheranism, provided that the limitation does not imply, and is not interpreted as, a rejection of the other Lutheran symbols or any of its doctrines. Lutheran churches or synods, however, deviating from, or doctrinally limiting their subscription to, this basis of 1580, or merely pro forma, professing, but not seriously and really living its principles and doctrines, are not truly Lutheran in the adequate sense of the term, though not by any means un-Lutheran in every sense of that term.
5. Bible and Book of Concord on Christian Union and Fellowship
Nothing is more frequently taught and stressed by the Bible than the truth that church-fellowship presupposes, and must be preceded by, unity in the spirit, in doctrine. Amos 3, 3: “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” According to the Bible the Word of God alone is to be taught, heard, and confessed in the Christian Church. Only true teachers are to preach, in the Church: Deut. 13, 6 ff.; Jer. 23, 28. 31. 32; Matt. 5, 19; 28, 20; 2 Cor. 2, 17; Gal. 1, 8; 1 Tim. 4, 16; 1 Pet. 4, 11. Christians are to listen to true teachers only: Matt. 7, 15; John 8, 31; 10, 27. 5; Acts 2, 42; Rom. 16, 17; 2 John 10; 1 Tim. 6, 3-5; Eph. 4, 14; Titus 3, 10; 2 Cor. 6, 14-18. In the Church the true doctrine, and only the true doctrine, is to be confessed, and that unanimously by all of its members: 1 Cor. 1, 10; Eph. 4, 3-6. 13; 1 Tim. 5, 22; Matt. 10, 32. 33. Christian union and fellowship without the “same mind,” the “same judgment,” and the “same speech” with respect to the Christian truths is in direct conflict with the clear Scriptures. The unity of the Spirit demanded Eph. 4, 3 requires that Christians be one in doctrine, one, not 50 or 75, but 100 per cent. With this attitude of the Bible toward Christian union and fellowship the Lutheran symbols agree. The Eleventh [tr. note: sic!] Article of the Augsburg Confession declares: “For this is sufficient to true unity of the Christian Church that the Gospel be preached unanimously according to the pure understanding, and that the Sacraments be administered in agreement with the divine Word. And it is not necessary to true unity of the Christian Church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by men, be observed everywhere, as St. Paul says, Eph. 4, 4. 5: ‘One body, one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism.’” “Pure understanding of the Gospel” is here contrasted with “ceremonies instituted by men.” Accordingly, with respect to everything that God plainly teaches in the Bible unity is required, while liberty prevails only in such things as are instituted by men. In this sense the Lutheran Church understands the “Satis est” of the Augustana, as appears from the Tenth Article of the Formula of Concord: “We believe, teach, and confess also that no church should condemn another because one has less or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other, if otherwise there is agreement among them in doctrine and all its articles, as also in the right use of the Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: ‘Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in faith.’” (Mueller 553, 7.) It cannot, then, be maintained successfully that, according to the Lutheran symbols, some doctrines, though clearly taught in the Bible, are irrelevant and not necessary to church-fellowship. The Lutheran Confessions neither extend the requirements for Christian union to human teachings and institutions, nor do they limit them to merely a part of the divine doctrines of the Bible. They err neither in excessu nor in defectu. Accordingly, Lutherans, though not unmindful of the admonition to bear patiently with the weak, the weak also in doctrine and knowledge, dare not countenance any denial on principle of any of the Christian doctrines, nor sanction the unionistic attitude, which maintains that denial of minor Christian truths does not and must not, in any way, affect Christian union and fellowship. In the “Treatise on the Power of the Pope” the Book of Concord says: “It is a hard thing to want to separate from so many countries and people and maintain a separate doctrine. But here stands God’s command that every one shall be separate from, and not be agreed with, those who teach falsely,” etc. (§42.)
6. Misguided Efforts at Christian Union
Perhaps never before has Christendom been divided in as many sects as at present. Denominationalism, as advocated by Philip Schaff and many Unionists, defends this condition. It views the various sects as lawful specific developments of generic Christianity, or as different varieties of the same spiritual life of the Church, as regiments of the same army, marching separately, but attacking the same common foe. Judged in the light of the Bible, however, the numerous sects, organized on various aberrations from the plain Word of God, are, as such, not normal developments, but corruptions, abnormal formations, and diseased conditions of the Christian Church. Others, realizing the senseless waste of moneys and men, and feeling the shame of the scandalous controversies, the bitter conflicts, and the dishonorable competition of the disrupted Christian sects, develop a feverish activity in engineering and promoting external ecclesiastical unions, regardless of internal doctrinal dissensions. For centuries the Pope has been stretching out his arms to the Greek and Protestant Churches, even making concessions to the Ruthenians and other Uniates as to the language of the liturgy, the marriage of priests, the cup to be given to the laity, etc. In order to present a united political front to the Pope and the Emperor, Zwingli, in 1529, offered Luther the hand of fellowship in spite of doctrinal differences. In political interests, Frederick William III of Prussia, in 1817, forced a union without unity on the Lutherans and Reformed of his kingdom. In America this Prussian Union was advocated by the German Evangelical Synod of North America. The Church of England, in 1862, 1874, and 1914, endeavored to establish a union with the Old Catholics and the Russian Church even at the sacrifice of the Filioque. (The Lutherans, when, in 1559 and again in 1673 to 1681, negotiations were opened to bring about an understanding with the Greek Church, insisted on unity in the doctrines of Justification and of Free Will, to which Jeremiah II took exception.) Pierpont Morgan, a number of years ago, appropriated a quarter million dollars in order to bring the Churches of America under the leadership of the Protestant Episcopal Church, which demands as the only condition of union the recognition of their “historical episcopate,” a fiction, historical as well as doctrinal. In 1919 three Protestant Episcopal bishops crossed the seas seeking a conference with the Pope and the representatives of the Greek Orthodox churches in the interest of a League of Churches. The Evangelical Alliance, organized 1846 at London, aimed to unite all Protestants against Rome on a basis of nine general statements, from which the distinctive doctrines were eliminated. The Federal Council, embracing 30 Protestant denominations, was organized with the definite understanding that no Church, by joining, need sacrifice any of its peculiar doctrines. The unions effected between the Congregationalists and Methodists in Canada, and between the Calvinistic Northern Presbyterians and the Arminian Cumberland Presbyterians in our own country, were also unionistic. Since the beginning of the last century the Campbellites and kindred sects were zealous in uniting the Churches by urging them to drop their distinctive names and confessions, call themselves “Christians” or “Disciples,” and accept as their confession the Bible only. Indeed, the number of physicians seeking to heal the schisms of Christendom is legion. But their cure is worse than the disease. Unionistic henotics cannot but fail utterly, because their object is not unity in the Spirit of truth, but union in the spirit of diversity and error.
7. Lutherans Qualified to Head True Union Movement
Most of the union-efforts are failures ab initio. They seek outward union without inward unity. They proceed on a false diagnosis of the case. They observe the symptoms, and outlook or intentionally ignore the hidden cause, the deviations from the Word of God, which disturb the unity of the Spirit. And doctrinal discussions, which alone can bring about a real cure, are intentionally omitted and expressly declared taboo, as, e.g., by the Federal Council. The Church, suffering from blood-poisoning, is pronounced cured when the sores have been covered. They put a plaster over the gap in Zion’s wall, which may hide, but does not heal, the breach. Universally, sectarian henotics have proved to be spiritual quacks with false aims, false methods, and false diagnosis. Nowhere among the sects a single serious effort to cure the malady from within and to restore to the Church of Christ real unity, unity in the true doctrine! Indeed, how could a genuine unity-union movement originate with the sects? Can the blind lead the blind? Can the beggar enrich the poor? Can the sects give to Christendom what they themselves are in need of? The Lutheran Church is the only denomination qualified to head a true unity-union movement, because she alone is in full possession of those unadulterated truths without which there can be neither true Christian unity nor God-pleasing Christian union. Accordingly, the Lutheran Church has the mission to lead the way in the efforts at healing the ruptures of Christendom. But in order to do so, the Lutheran Church must be loyal to herself, loyal to her principles, and true to her truths. The mere Lutheran name is unavailing. The American Lutheran synods, in order successfully to steer a unity-union movement, must purge themselves thoroughly from the leaven of error, of indifferentism and unionism. A complete and universal return to the Lutheran symbols is the urgent need of the hour. Only when united in undivided loyalty to the divine truths of God’s Word, will the American Lutheran Church be able to measure up to its peculiar calling of restoring to Christendom the truths of the Gospel in their pristine purity, and in and with these truths the true unity of the Spirit and a fellowship and union, both beneficial to man and well-pleasing to God.
8. Lutheran Statistics
God has blessed the Lutheran Church in America abundantly, more than in any other country of the world. From a few scattered groups she has grown into a great people. In 1740 there were in America about 50 Lutheran congregations. In 1820 the Lutheran Church numbered 6 synods, with almost 900 congregations, 40,000 communicants, and 175 pastors. In 1867 about 1,750 pastors, 3,100 congregations, and 332,000 communicants. Twenty-five years later, 60 synods, with about 5,000 pastors, 8,390 congregations, and 1,187,000 communicants. In the jubilee year, 1917, the Lutheran Church in America embraced (besides about 200 independent congregations) 65 synods, 24 of which belonged to the General Synod (350,000 communicants), 13 to the General Council (500,000 communicants), 8 to the United Synod South (53,000 communicants), and 6 to the Synodical Conference (800,000 communicants). The entire Lutheran Church in America reported in 1917 about 9,700 pastors; 15,200 congregations; 2,450,000 communicants; 28 theological seminaries, with 112 professors and 1,170 students; 41 colleges, with 640 professors and 950 students; 59 academies, with 404 teachers and 6,700 pupils; 8 ladies’ seminaries, with 72 instructors and 340 pupils; 64 orphanages, with 4,200 inmates; 12 home-finding and children’s friend societies; 45 homes for the aged, with 1,650 inmates; 7 homes for defectives, with 430 inmates; 9 deaconess homes, with 370 sisters; 50 hospitals; 19 hospices; 17 immigrant homes and seamen’s missions; and 10 miscellaneous institutions; a large number of periodicals of many kinds, printed in numerous Lutheran publishing houses, in English, German, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, Icelandic, Finnish, Slavonian, Lettish, Esthonian, Polish, Portuguese, Lithuanian, etc., etc.
Early History of American Lutheranism.
Lutheran Swedes In Delaware
9. New Sweden
The first Lutheran pastor who set his foot on American soil in August, 1619, was Rasmus Jensen of Denmark. He was chaplain of a Danish expedition numbering 66 Lutherans under Captain Jens Munck, who took possession of the land about Hudson Bay in the name of the Danish crown. In his diary we read of the faithful pastoral work, the sermons, and the edifying death, on February 20, 1620, of this Lutheran pastor. However, the first Lutheran minister to serve a _Lutheran colony_ in America was Reorus Torkillus. He was born in 1609 at Faessberg, Sweden, educated at Linkoeping, and for a time was chaplain at Goeteborg. Gustavus Adolphus already had entertained the idea of founding a colony in America, chiefly for the purpose of carrying on mission-work among the Indians. Peter Minuit, a German, who had come to Manhattan Island in 1626 to represent the interests of the Dutch West India Company (organized in 1621), led also the first Swedish expedition to Delaware in December, 1637. Nine expeditions followed, until the flourishing colony was captured by the Dutch in 1655. The work of Torkillus, who died September 7, 1643, was continued by John Campanius (1601 to 1683), who arrived on February 15, 1643. Three years later, one hundred years after the death of Luther, he dedicated the first Lutheran Church in America at Christina (Wilmington). His translation of Luther’s Small Catechism into the language of the Delaware Indians antedates Eliot’s Indian Bible, but was not published till 1696. Returning to Sweden in 1648, Campanius left about 200 souls in the charge of Lars Lock (Lockenius), who served them until his end, in 1688. In 1654, Pastors Vertunius and Hjorst arrived with 350 additional souls. Both, however, returned to Sweden when Stuyvesant took possession of the colony in 1655, permitting the Swedes in Delaware to retain only Lars Lock as pastor. Jacob Fabricius, who, after rendering his stay in New Amsterdam (New York) impossible, was laboring among the Dutch along the Delaware from 1671 to 1675, before long also began to do mission-work among the Swedes and Finns, at the same time intriguing against Lock, whose cup of sorrow was already filled with family troubles and other griefs. In 1677 Fabricius took charge of the Swedes at Wicaco (Philadelphia), where he, though blind since 1682, continued faithfully to wait on his office until his death in 1693 (1696). He preached in Dutch, which, as reported, the Swedes “spoke perfectly.”
10. Succored by the King of Sweden
In 1692 the now orphaned Lutherans in Delaware addressed themselves to Karl XI, who promised to help them. However, four years passed before Pastor Rudman arrived with two assistants, Bjoerk (Bioerck) and Auren, as well as with a consignment of Bibles and other books. New life entered the Swedish colony. In 1699 the new Trinity Church was erected at Christina, and in 1700 Gloria Dei Church in Wicaco (Philadelphia). From the very beginning, however, a spirit of legalism, hierarchy, and of unionism wormed its way into the promising harvest. The congregations were not taught to govern themselves, but were ruled by provosts sent from Sweden. In the interest of discipline, Andreas Sandel, who arrived in 1702, introduced a system of monetary penances. In his _History of the Lutheran Church in America_ Dr. A. Graebner writes: “Whoever came to church tipsy, was to pay 40 shillings and do public penance. Blasphemy of the divine Word or the Sacraments carried with it a fine of 5 pounds sterling and church penance; to sing at unseemly hours was punished by a fine of 6 shillings; such as refused to submit to the discipline were to be excluded from the congregation and to be refused interment at its cemetery.” (86.) Eric Unander, who returned to Sweden in 1760, employed the same methods to keep order in the congregational meetings. A. Rudman, after his brief pastorate among the Dutch Lutherans in New York during 1702, returned to Philadelphia. From 1707 to his death, in 1708, he served an Episcopal church without severing his connection with the Swedes. His successors followed his footsteps. From 1737 to 1741 J. Dylander preached at Gloria Dei Church in German, Swedish, and English every Sunday, served the Germans in Germantown and Lancaster, and, in the absence of their pastor, ministered also to the Episcopalians. The same practise was observed by the provosts: Eric Bjoerk, who was appointed the first provost in 1712, and returned to Sweden in 1714; A. Sandel, who also served Episcopalian congregations and returned in 1719; A. Hesselius, who left in 1723, and in Sweden, 1725, published a short report of the conditions prevailing in America; Peter Tranberg, who was stationed at Raccoon and Pennsneck, N. J., from 1726 to 1740, and at Christina till his death in 1748; J. Sandin, who arrived in 1746, dying two years later; Israel Acrelius, who arrived in 1749, saw the language question become acute, served Episcopalian congregations, and returned to Sweden in 1756, where he published (1759) a description of the conditions in New Sweden; Olaf Parlin, who arrived in 1750 and died in 1757; Dr. C. M. Wrangel, who was provost from 1759 to 1768, assisted in rejuvenating the Pennsylvania Synod in 1760, and began a seminary with Peter Muhlenberg, Daniel Kuhn, and Christian Streit as students; Nils Collin, whose activity extended from 1770 to 1831, during which time he had eight Episcopalian assistant pastors in succession.
11. Church-fellowship with Episcopalians
In 1710 Pastor Sandel reported as follows on the unionism practised by the Swedes and Episcopalians: “As pastors and teachers we have at all times maintained friendly relations and intimate converse with the English preachers, one always availing himself of the help and advice of the other. At their pastoral conferences we always consulted with them. We have repeatedly preached English in their churches when the English preachers lacked the time because of a journey or a death. If anywhere they laid the corner-stone of a church, we were invited, and attended. When their church in Philadelphia was enlarged, and the Presbyterians had invited them to worship in their church, they declined and asked permission to come out to Wicaco and conduct their services in our church, which I granted. This occurred three Sundays in succession, until their church was finished; and, in order to manifest the unity still more, Swedish hymns were sung during the English services. Also Bishop Swedberg [of Sweden], in his letters, encouraged us in such unity and intimacy with the Anglicans; although there exists some difference between them and us touching the Lord’s Supper, etc., yet he did not want that small difference to rend asunder the bond of peace. We enter upon no discussion of this point; neither do we touch upon such things when preaching in their churches; nor do they seek to win our people to their view in this matter; on the contrary, we live in intimate and brotherly fashion with one another, they also calling us brethren. They have the government in their hands, we are under them; it is enough that they desire to have such friendly intercourse with us; we can do nothing else than render them every service and fraternal intimacy as long as they are so amiable and confiding, and have not sought in the least to draw our people into their churches. As our church is called by them ‘the sister church of the Church of England,’ so we also live fraternally together. God grant that this may long continue!” (G., 118.) Thus from the very beginning the Swedish bishops encouraged and admonished their emissaries to fraternize especially with the Episcopalians. And the satisfaction with this state of affairs on the part of the Episcopalian ministers appears from the following testimonial which they gave to Hesselius and J. A. Lidenius in 1723: “They were ever welcome in our pulpits, as we were also welcome in their pulpits. Such was our mutual agreement in doctrine and divine service, and so regularly did they attend our conferences that, aside from the different languages in which we and they were called to officiate, no difference could be perceived between us.” (131.)
12. Absorbed by the Episcopal Church
The evil influence which the unionism practised by the Swedish provosts and ministers exercised upon the Lutheran congregations appears from the resolution of the congregation at Pennsneck, in 1742, henceforth to conduct English services exclusively, and that, according to the Book of Common Prayer. In the same year Pastor Gabriel Naesman wrote to Sweden: “As to my congregation, the people at first were scattered among other congregations, and among the sects which are tolerated here, and it is with difficulty that I gather them again to some extent. The great lack of harmony prevailing among the members makes my congregation seem like a kingdom not at one with itself, and therefore near its ruin.” (335.) The unionism indulged in also accounts for the trouble which the Swedes experienced with the emissaries of Zinzendorf: L. T. Nyberg, Abr. Reinke, and P. D. Bryzelius (who severed his connection with the Moravians in 1760, became a member of the Pennsylvania Synod, and in 1767 was ordained by the Bishop of London). Unionism paved the way, and naturally led to the final undoing of the Lutheran Swedes in Delaware. It was but in keeping with the unionism advised from Sweden, practised in Delaware, and indulged in to the limit by himself, when Provost Wrangel gave the final coup de grace to the first Lutheran Church in America. Dr. Wrangel, the bosom-friend of H. M. Muhlenberg, openly and extensively fraternized not only with the Episcopalians, but also with the Reformed, the Presbyterians (in Princeton), and the Methodists, notably the revivalist Whitefield. And, evidently foreseeing the early and unavoidable debacle of Swedish Lutheranism in Delaware, von Wrangel, at his departure for Sweden, suffered the Episcopalians to use him as a tool to deliver the poor, weakened, and oppressed congregations, whose leader he had been, into the hands of the Anglicans. (392.) On his way home Wrangel carried with him an important letter of introduction from the Episcopalian Richard Peters to the Bishop of London, the ecclesiastical superior of the Anglican ministers and congregations in the American Colonies. The letter, dated August 30, 1768, reads, in part: “Now Dr. Wrangel intends to utilize properly the general aversion [in Delaware] to the Presbyterians in order to unite the great mass of Lutherans and Swedes with with the Church of England, which, as you know, is but small numerically and in humble circumstances in this province; through union with the German Lutherans, however, we both would become respectable. According to Dr. Smith’s and my opinion this could be effected through our Academy. In it we could establish a theological professorship; then German and English young men could be educated, and as their training would embrace both languages, they could preach German as well as English at places where both nations are mixed. That would unite us all and make us one people in life and love. It is a happy thought. I would desire your Excellency to speak with Dr. Wrangel, and encourage him as much as possible. In this matter I have written to the two archbishops, asking them to consider it carefully together with your Excellency. I am sure that now the opportunity is good to bring this desirable affair to a happy conclusion.” (394.) In a document dated June 25, 1789, the Swedish government served official notice on the congregations in America that in future they could no longer expect help from Sweden, alleging that, whereas “the purpose, the Swedish tongue,” had come to an end, it was but just that in future also the disbursements in Sweden should be discontinued. (401.) The result was that one congregation after another united with the Episcopalians. By 1846 the Lutheran name had disappeared from the last charter. Thus the entire Swedish mission territory, all of whose congregations exist to the present day, was lost to the Lutheran Church. The chief causes of this loss were: unionism, hierarchical paternalism, interference from Sweden, the failure to provide for schools and for the training of suitable pastors, and the lack of Swedish and, later, of English Lutheran literature. The report of the Pennsylvania Ministerium of 1762 remarks: “For several generations the Swedish schools unfortunately have been neglected in the Swedish congregations; Dr. Wrangel, however, has organized an English school in one of his parishes where Luther’s Catechism is read in an English translation.” From the very beginning the foundations of the Lutheran structure along the Delaware were both laid insecurely and undermined by its builders.
Salzburg Lutherans In Georgia
13. Banished by Archbishop Anton Firmian
Like the Swedes in Delaware, so also the Salzburg Lutherans in Georgia, as a Church, have disappeared in the course of years. The story of their vicissitudes and especially of their colony Ebenezer, however, has retained a peculiar charm. On Reformation Day of 1731 the cruel Archbishop Anton, Knight of Firmian, issued a manifesto which ordered the Evangelicals of Salzburg, Austria, either to return to the bosom of the Catholic Church, or to emigrate, leaving their property and their young children behind them. Some eighteen thousand Lutherans chose banishment rather than deny the faith that was in them. On their journey the exiles awakened lively sympathy by singing their Exulantenlied (Hymn of the Exiles) which Joseph Schaitberger had composed for those banished In 1685. The eleven stanzas of this hymn read in the original as follows:
- I bin ein armer Exulant,
A so tu i mi schreiba;
Ma tuet mi aus dem Vaterland
Um Gottes Wort vertreiba.
- Das wass i wohl, Herr Jesu Christ,
Es is dir a so ganga.
Itzt will i dein Nachfolger sein;
Herr, mach’s nach deim Verlanga!
- A Pilgrim bin i halt numehr,
Muss reise fremde Strossa;
Das bitt i di, mein Gott und Herr,
Du wirst mi nit verlossa.
- Den Glauba hob i frei bekennt,
Des derf i mi nit schaema,
Wenn ma mi glei ein Ketzer nennt
Und tuet mir’s Leba nehma.
- Ketta und Banda wor mir en
Ehr Um Jesu willa z’ dulda,
Und dieses macht die Glaubenslehr
Und nit mei boes Verschulda.
- Muss i glei in das Elend fort,
Will i mi do nit wehra;
So hoff i do, Gott wird mir dort
Och gute Fruend beschera.
- Herr, wie du willt, i gib mi drein,
Bei dir will i verbleiba;
I will mi gern dem Wille dein
- Muss i glei fort, in Gottes Nam!
Und wird mir ales g’nomma,
So wass i wohl, die Himmelskron
Wer i amal bekomma.
- So muss i heut von meinem Haus,
Die Kinderl muss i lossa.
Mei Gott, es treibt mir Zaehrel aus,
Zu wandern fremde Strossa.
- Mein Gott, fuehr mi in ene Stodt,
Wo i dein Wort kann hoba,
Darin will i di frueh und spot
In meinem Herzel loba.
- Soll i in diesem Jammertal
Noch laenger in Armut leba,
So hoff i do, Gott wird mir dort
Ein bessre Wohnung geba.”
The cruelly persecuted and banished Salzburgers were hospitably received in Prussia and Holland, where many found a permanent home. Others resolved to emigrate to Georgia, where, through the mediation of Dr. Urlsperger of Augsburg and the court preacher Ziegenhagen of London, the British government promised them religious liberty and other advantages.
14. Ebenezer in Georgia
The first ninety-one persons of the Salzburg colony, which later numbered about 1,200 souls, landed at Savannah, March 10, 1734. They were accompanied by Pastors John Martin Bolzius and Israel Christian Gronau, who had received their education at Halle. Governor Oglethorpe led the immigrants twenty-three miles northwest of their landing-place, where they erected a monument of stones and called the settlement Ebenezer. Seven years later (1741) Jerusalem Church was built, for which also Whitefield had made collections in Europe. In 1743 a second church was dedicated in the country. Dr. Graebner records the following statistics: “In 1743 the congregation numbered 279 souls: 81 men, 70 married women, 6 widows, 52 boys, 59 girls, and 11 maid-servants.” (554.) In 1744 the Salzburgers celebrated the tenth anniversary of their deliverance on the tenth of March, a day which was annually observed by them as a day of thanksgiving. Sorrow followed the joyous celebration, for in the following year, January 11, 1745, their beloved Pastor Gronau was called to his eternal reward. Dwelling on Gronau’s edifying death, Bolzius wrote in a letter dated January 14, 1845: “His heart was in deep communion with the dear Savior. With profound desire he received the Lord’s Supper a few days before his dissolution. He distinctly recognized all who surrounded him [when he was dying], and exhorted them to praise God. It seemed, and such was also inferred from his words, as though, like Stephen, he saw something extraordinarily beautiful and glorious. At last, after stretching forth his hands and taking leave of all, he directed his folded hands toward heaven, praying and praising God. Finally, saying, ‘Do come, Lord Jesus, Amen, Amen, Amen!’ he closed his eyes and mouth, and entered peacefully into the joy of God.” (556.) Gronau was succeeded by Pastor H. H. Lemke, of Schaumburg, who previously had been active in the institutions at Halle. His diploma of vocation was signed by Samuel Urlsperger in the stead and name of the English Society for the Promotion of the Knowledge of Christ. Thus Ebenezer was actually the foundation of a mission society whose members were for the most part adherents of the Reformed Church. In 1742 Pastor John Ulrich Driessler had been called to the congregation of Frederica, south of Savannah. He entered upon his labors in 1744, and died three years later. In the following years several ships arrived bringing emigrants from Swabia. To meet the growing needs Pastor Chr. Rabenhorst was sent to the colony in 1753. In 1765 Pastor Bolzius died, sixty-two years old, repeating the words: “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me.” (John 17, 24.) None of the three pastors, who were easily able to minister to the spiritual needs of the colony, displayed a missionary spirit in any marked degree.
15. Dissension and Disintegration
While Bolzius, Lemke, and Rabenhorst had labored together in harmony, dissension and strife began to blast the blissful peace and quiet contentment of Ebenezer, when, after the death also of Lemke, Pastor C. F. Triebner arrived in 1773. The congregation was torn by factions, the minority siding with Triebner in his bitter opposition to Rabenhorst. When the majority refused Triebner permission to officiate in the church, the minority forced the doors. After a new lock had been secured by the majority, the minority began to conduct separate services in the home of John Wertsch, and entered suit before the Governor of Georgia. This brought about the loss of their church property, the Governor, in accordance with the express wording of the patent grant of April 2, 1771, deeding Jerusalem Church to the Episcopalians. The patent contained the provision: “… for the only proper use, benefit, and behoof of two ministers of the Gospel, residents within the parish aforesaid, using and exercising divine service according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England within the said parish and their successors forever.” (599.) In 1774 Muhlenberg arrived, commissioned by the “English Society” to conduct an investigation and restore peace. A reconciliation was effected, and articles of agreement were signed by the pastors and the members of the congregation. Before long, however, the old discord broke out again and continued unabated until the death of Pastor Rabenhorst in 1777. Triebner now secured a firm footing in the congregation. But new storms were brewing for the poor people. In 1775 the War of Independence had broken out, in which Triebner not only espoused the cause of England himself, but urged his congregation to do the same, thereby bringing untold misery upon Ebenezer. Triebner, taken captive and severely dealt with, finally found his way back to Europe. After the war Ebenezer presented a sad spectacle. Soldiers had used the church as a hospital and stable; Rabenhorst’s home had been given to the flames; fields were laid waste; and the inhabitants were scattered and despoiled of their property. The congregation, however, recovered, and through the endeavors of Urlsperger received a new pastor in the person of John Ernest Bergmann, who had studied at Leipzig. In 1785 he assumed the duties at Ebenezer, formerly discharged by two and three pastors. But, though a diligent worker, Bergmann was not a faithful Lutheran, nor did he build up a truly Lutheran congregation. There came a time when but very little of Lutheranism was to be found in the old colony of the Salzburgers. (600.) During Bergmann’s long pastorate, which was conducted in the German language exclusively until 1824, the Americanized young people gradually began to drift away from the mother church. However, to the present day descendants of the Salzburgers are found in the Lutheran congregations of Savannah and of the Georgia Synod.
Lutherans in New York
16. Persecuted in New Amsterdam
In the first part of the seventeenth century the Lutheran Church was by law prohibited and oppressed in the United Netherlands. When the power of the papists had come to an end, Reformed tendencies gained the ascendency, and Calvinists reaped where Lutherans had sowed with tears. While claiming to be adherents of the Augsburg Confession, they persecuted the Lutherans, forbidding all Lutheran worship in public meeting-houses as well as in private dwellings. Nevertheless the Lutheran Church not only continued to exist, but even made some headway in Amsterdam, Antwerp, and other places. The greatest handicap, however, which also prevented the Dutch Lutherans from developing any missionary activity, was the lack of a native ministry thoroughly conversant with the language of the people. Conditions similar to those in Holland obtained in the American colonies. Like the mother country, New Amsterdam had a law prohibiting the exercise of any religion save that of the Reformed faith. Sanford H. Cobb, in his work The Rise of Religious Liberty in America, quotes the law as follows: “No other religion shall be publicly admitted in New Netherland except the Reformed, as it is at present preached and practised by public authority in the United Netherlands; and for this purpose the [Dutch West India] Company shall provide and maintain good and suitable preachers, schoolmasters, and comforters of the sick (Ziekentrooster).” (303, 321 f.) However, the report of the Jesuit Jogues, who sojourned in the colony in about 1642, shows that this law was not strictly enforced during the first part of the century. Also the Lutherans were permitted to conduct reading-services in their homes. But when the Dutch and German Lutherans (the former having arrived in New Amsterdam probably as early as 1624) had organized a congregation in 1648, and in 1653 requested the authorities to grant them permission to call a Lutheran pastor, they received a curt refusal at the hands of the governor, Peter Stuyvesant. The two Reformed domines, Megapolensis, who had arrived in 1649, and Drisius, who came in 1652 (the successors to Michaelius, who came over in 1623, and Bogardus, who followed him in 1632), proved to be the most bigoted and fanatical in the opposition to the request of the Lutherans. Instead of their petition being granted, the Lutherans were now forced to have their children baptized in the Reformed churches by Reformed pastors, and to promise to bring them up in the Confession of Dort; and private services in dwellings were made punishable with severe penalties. Peter Stuyvesant, who was also deacon of the Reformed Church, declared at the close of a session of the church council, that, if any one ever dared to appeal from his decision to the authorities in Holland, he would reduce his stature by the length of his head and send him back to the old country in pieces. But the Lutherans were not intimidated. When Stuyvesant denied their request for a Lutheran pastor, they appealed to the authorities overseas. The two Reformed domines also sent a letter to Holland, setting forth the dire consequences which were bound to follow in the wake of such religious toleration.
17. Moderation Advised
The authorities in Holland agreed with the intolerant domines and directed Stuyvesant to allow none but the Reformed religion. Yet, while denying the request of the Lutherans, they, at the same time, urged the governor to employ mildness and moderate means in dealing with them. Cobb gives the following translation of these instructions: “We have decided absolutely to deny the request made by some of our inhabitants, adherents of the Augsburg Confession, for a preacher and free exercise of their religion, pursuant to the custom hitherto observed by us and the West India Company, on account of the consequences arising therefrom; and we recommend to you also not to receive any similar petitions, but rather to turn them off in the most civil and least offensive way, and to employ all possible, but moderate means to induce them to listen and finally join the Reformed Church.” (313.) The letter was dated February 26, 1654. But notwithstanding this rebuff, the Lutherans persisted in their demand, and held religious services in their houses without a minister, declaring that “Heaven was above law.” This excited the wrath of the autocratic governor, who was not accustomed to brook opposition, nor knew how to employ mildness, wisdom, and “moderate means” in dealing with anybody, least of all with the Lutherans. Instead of persuasion he employed force; and instead of trying “the most civil and least offensive way,” he resorted to harsh and most offensive measures. On February 1, 1656, a stringent “Ordinance against Conventicles” was posted, which ran: “Some unqualified persons in such meetings assume the ministerial office, the expounding and explanation of the holy Word of God, without being called or appointed thereto by ecclesiastical or civil authority, which is in direct contravention and opposition to the general Civil and Ecclesiastical order of our Fatherland, besides that many dangerous heresies and schisms are to be apprehended. Therefore, the director-general and council . . . absolutely and expressly forbid all such conventicles and meetings, whether public or private, differing from the customary, and not only lawful, but scripturally founded and ordained meetings of the Reformed divine service, as this is observed . . . according to the Synod of Dordrecht.” The penalties imposed by the act were 100 Flemish Pounds for the preacher and 25 Pounds for every attendant at such services. (317.) A number of Lutherans were cast into prison. Realizing that such harsh measures would prove hurtful to their business interests, the authorities in Holland, in an order dated June 14, 1656, rebuked Stuyvesant for his high-handed procedure, saying: “We should have gladly seen that your Honor had not posted up the transmitted edict against the Lutherans, and had not punished them by imprisonment, . . . inasmuch as it has always been our intention to treat them with all peaceableness and quietness. Wherefore, your Honor shall not cause any more such or similar edicts to be published without our previous knowledge, but suffer the matter to pass in silence, and permit them their free worship in their houses.” (314.)
18. Johannes Ernestus Gutwasser
Evidently, to the Lutherans the time seemed favorable to renew their urgent requests for a pastor of their own. And in July, 1657, Johannes Ernestus Gutwasser (not Goetwater, or Gutwater, or Goetwasser), a German, sent by the Lutheran Consistory of Amsterdam, arrived on Manhattan Island. Great was the fury of the Reformed domines and vehement their clamor for his immediate return. They wrote a letter to the classis in Amsterdam in which, according to Cobb, “they relate that ‘a Lutheran preacher, Goetwater, arrived to the great joy of the Lutherans and the especial discontent and disappointment of the congregation of this place, yea, of the whole land, even the English. We went to the Director-General,’ who summoned Goetwater, and found that he had as credentials only a letter from a Lutheran consistory in Europe to the Lutheran Church in New Amsterdam. The governor ordered him not to preach, even in a private house. The domines lament, ‘We already have the snake in our bosom,’ and urge Stuyvesant to open the consistory’s letter, which, oddly enough, he refused to do, but consented to the ministers’ demand that Goetwater be sent back in the ship that brought him. [‘]Now this Lutheran parson,’ the Dutch ministers conclude, ‘is a man of a godless and scandalous life; a rolling, rollicking, unseemly carl, who is more inclined to look into the wine-can than to pore over the Bible, and would rather drink a can of brandy for two hours than preach one.’” (315.) But, though maligned and persecuted, Gutwasser did not suffer himself to be intimidated, and even begun to preach. So great and persistent, however, was the fury of the fanatics that he was finally compelled to yield and return to Holland, in 1659. The second Lutheran pastor to arrive on Manhattan Island while the Dutch were still in power was Abelius Zetskorn, whom Stuyvesant directed to the Dutch settlement of New Amstel (New Castle) on the Delaware. The tyranny of Stuyvesant, however, was abruptly ended when in 1664 the English fleet sailed into the harbor and compelled the surrender of New Amsterdam. In the Articles of Capitulation it was specifically agreed that “the Dutch here shall enjoy the liberty of their consciences in divine worship and church discipline.” And according to the proclamation of the Duke of York, also the Lutherans were granted religious liberty, “as long as His Royal Highness shall not order otherwise.”