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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Raphu', רָפוּא, healed; Sept. ῾Ραφοῦ ), father of Palti, which latter was sent with Caleb and Joshua as a spy into the promised land; representing the tribe of Benjamin (Numbers 13:9). B.C. ante 1658.
Rappists, also known as Harmonists, are a Christian people living in community of goods, and in celibate state, at Economy, Pa., in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, and hence also not infrequently called Economites. They owe their origin to George Rapp, a German, who was born at Iptingen, in Wirtemberg, in October, 1757, of humble parentage, and had enjoyed only a moderate education. Having always been a devout Christian and a close reader of the Bible, he became convinced that the lifeless condition of the churches was in accord with the vital character of apostolic Christianity, and in 1787 began to preach among those of like mind with himself in the little village where he was then living. The clergy resented this interference with their office, and both Rapp and his adherents were visited with all manner of persecution, and denounced as "Separatists," a name which they bore ever after while in Germany, and which they themselves accepted gladly. In the course of six years the Rappists numbered not less than 300 families, scattered over a distance of twenty miles from the home of George Rapp. The consistent manner in which the Separatists bore themselves gave little opportunity for positive accusation, yet they were constantly annoyed by government and clergy, and in 1803 finally determined to end all strife by emigration to a land of freedom.
Rapp, accompanied by his son and two other followers, came to this country in advance to select a home for all like-minded with himself. In the course of one year 600 persons came over, and were settled by Rapp in different parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland, while he himself. with several skilful mechanics and ingenious persons, prepared for a family home for the Separatists the land he had purchased in Butler County, Pa., along the Conequenessing Creek. On Feb. 15, 1805, those who had come with Rapp, and such others as had followed thither, organized themselves formally and solemnly into the "Harmony Society," agreeing then to throw all their possessions into a common fund, to adopt a uniform and simple dress and style of house, to keep thenceforth all things in common, and to labor for the common good of the whole body. Later in the spring they were joined by fifty additional families; and thus they finally began wmith what must have made up all together less than 750 men, women, and children. But these were all accustomed to labor, and with such a leader as Rapp then was — in the prime of life, only forty-eight years old, of robust frame and sound health, with great perseverance, enterprise, and executive ability, and remarkable common-sense — the society got on very successfully. In the first year they erected between forty and fifty log-houses, a church and school-house, a grist-mill, a barn, and some workshops, and cleared 150 acres of land. In the following year they cleared 400 acres more, and built a saw-mill and a tannery, and planted a small vineyard. A distillery was also a part of this year's building — a thing not so very strange in those days of general tendency towards strong drink among the laboring classes — though they themselves indulged only very moderately in any intoxicating liquors. Rapp was the general in all departments. He planned for all. He was their preacher, teacher, guide, and keeper.
Until 1807 community of goods and the hope of the approach of the millennial reign alone distinguished the Rappists from other Christians; but in that year an unusual religious awakening led them to determine upon a still closer life with God, and, having become persuaded that it was the duty of the followers of Jesus to conform in all things to to the life of Christ and his apostles, the Rappists, in the spirit of the apostle Paul, that "he that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife," forsook marriage, and since that time celibacy is one of the distinguishing tenets of the Harmonists, and they that have wives do truly live "as though they had none." A member writing on the constancy of the Rappists to the decision of 1807, in 1862. says, "Convinced of the truth and holiness of our purpose, we voluntarily and unanimously adopted celibacy, altogether from religious motives, in order to withdraw our love entirely from the lusts of the flesh, which, with the help of God and much prayer and spiritual warfare, we have succeeded well in doing now for fifty years."
In 1814 the Rappists determined to remove to Indiana, and the unanimity of feeling which prevailed when the council so ordered proves how well organized and how sincere they all were. They settled in the Wabash valley, on a tract of 27,000 acres, and called the place "New Harmony" — a property which, in 1824, they sold to Robert Owen (q.v.), who settled upon it his New Lanark colony — and bought and removed to the property they still hold at Economy. For some years the society was in a most flourishing condition, and, by frequent accessions from Germany, maintained their ground remarkably until 1831, when an adventurer — Bernhard Muller by right name, who had assumed the title Graf, or count, Maximilian de Leon, and had gathered a following of visionary Germans — joined the Economists, and sowed the seed of discord. [n 1832 Rapp determined upon a dissolution, and 250 members — about one third — left Economy for Philipsburg, where they settled, to break up in a short time, and finally to furnish a small quota to the Bethel Community in Missouri. Thereafter the Economists no more sought for accession. But they have steadily increased in wealth in spite of all their removals and numerical decadence; and now own, besides their village and estate at Economy, much property in other places, having a large interest in coal-mines and oil- wells, and railroads and manufactories, and controlling at Beaver Falls the largest cutlery establishment in the United States.
At present the town of Economy counts about 120 houses, very regularly built, and it is well drained and paved. It has water led from a reservoir in the hills, abundant shade-trees, a church, an assembly hall, a store, and different factories. The house which the society built for their founder is a sort of museuum, and serves also as a pleasure resort to all that remain of the Rappists, who, according to Nordhoff, number about 110 persons, most of whom are aged, and none under forty, with some 35 adopted children, and an equal number living there with parents who are hired laborers, these numbering about 100. The whole population is German, and German is the medium of communication on the street and in the church, as well as in the houses. Most of the men wear for Week-day dress blue "roundabouts," like boys' spencers, and pantaloons of the same color, and broadbrimmed hats; and are full of quiet dignity and genuine politeness. On Sunday the men wear long coats. The women are dressed quite as oddly as the men, with their short loose gowns, kerchiefs across the shoulders, and caps that run up to the top of a high back-comb. The present dress of the Harmonists was worn by Rapp and his associates when they came to this country, and continued from choice by them and their successors.
The agreement, or articles of association, under which the "Harmony Society" was formed in 1805. and which has been signed by all members thenceforward, reads as follows:
"Whereas, by the favor of Divine Providence, an association or community has been formed by George Rapp and many others upon the basis of Christian fellowship, the principles of which, being faithfully derived from the Sacred Scriptures, include the government of the patriarchal age, united to the community of property adopted in the days of the apostles, and wherein the simple object sought is to approximate, so far as human imperfections may allow, to the fulfilment of the will of God, by the exercise of those affections and the practice of those virtues which are essential to the happiness of man in time and throughout eternity: "And whereas it is necessary to the good order and well-being of the said association that the conditions of membership should be clearly understood, and that the rights, privileges, and duties of every individual therein should be so defined as to prevent nmistake or disappointment, on the one hand, and contention or disagreement, on the other;
"Therefore, be it known to all whom it may concern that we, the undersigned, citizens of the county of Beaver, in the comnmonwealth of Pennsylvania, do severally and distinctly, each for himself, covenant, grant, and agree, to and with the said George Rapp and his associates as follows, viz.:
"Article 1. We, the undersigned, for ourselves, our heirs, executors, and administrators, do hereby give, grant, and forever convey to the said George Rapp and his associates, and to their heirs and assigns, all our property, real, personal, and mixed, whether it be lands and tenements, goods and chattels, money or debts due to us, jointly or severally, in possession, in remainder, or in reversion or expectanicy, whatsoever and wheresoever, without evesion, qualification, or reserve, as a free gift or donation, for the benefit and use of the said association or community; and we do hereby bind ourselves, our heirs, executors, and administrators, to do all such other acts as may be necessary to vest a perfect title to the same in the said association, and to place the said property at the full disposal of the superintendent of the said community without delay.
"Article 2. We do further covenant and agree to and with the said George Rapp and his associates that we will severally submit faithfully to the laws and regulations of said community, and will at all times manifest a ready and cheerful obedience towards those who are or may be appointed as superintendents thereof, holding ourselves bound to promote the interest and welfare of the said community, not only by the labor of our own hands, but also by that of our children, our families, and all others who now are or hereafter may be under our control.
"Article 3. If, contrary to our expectation, it should so happen that we could not render the faithful obedience aforesaid, and should be induced from that or any other cause to withdraw from the said association, then and in such case we do expressly covenant and agree to and with the said George Rapp and his associates that we never will claim or demand, either for ourselves, our children, or for any one beholden to us, directly or indirectly, any compensation, wages, or reward whatever for onr or their labor or services rendered to the said conmininity, or to any member thereof; but whatever we or our families jointly or severally shall or may do, all shall be held and considered as a voluntary service for our brethren.
"Article 4. In consideration of the premises, the said George Rapp and his associates do, by these presents, adopt the undersigned jointly and severally as members of the said community, whereby each of them obtains the privilege of being present at every religious meeting, and of receiving not only for themselves, but also for their children and families, all such instructions in church and school as may be reasonably required, both for their temporal good and for their eternal felicity.
"Article 5. The said George Rapp and his associates further agree to supply the undersigned severally with all the necessaries of life, as clothing, meat, drink, lodging, etc., for themselves and their families. And this provision is not limited to their days of health and strength; but when any of them shall become sick, infirm, or otherwise unfit for labor, the same support and maintenance shall be allowed as before, together with such medicine, care, attendance, and coulsolation as their siluation may reasonably demand. And if at any time after they have become members of the association, the father or mother of a family should die or be otherwise separated from the community, and should leave their family behind, such family shall not be left orphans or destitute, but shall partake of the same rights and maintenance as before, so long as they remain in the association, as well in sickness as in health, and to such extent as their circumstances many require.
"Article 6. And if it should so happen, as above mentioned, that any of the undersigne d should violate his or their agreemen)t, and would or could not submit to the laws and regulations of the Church or the community, and for that or any other cause should withdraw from the association, then the said George Rapp and his associates agree to refund to him or them the value of all such property as he or they may have brought into the community, in compliance with the first article of this agreement, the said value to be refunded without interest, in one, two, or three annual instalments, as the said George Rapp and his associates shall determine. And if the person or persons so withdrawing themselves were poor, and brought nothing into the community, notwithstanding they depart openly and regularly, they shall receive a donation in money, according to the length of their stay and to their conduct, and to such amount as their necessities may require, in the judgment of the superintendents of the association."
In 1818 a book in which was recorded the amount of property contributed by each member to the general fund was destroyed. In 1836 a change was made in the formal constitution or agreement above quoted, in the following words:
1. The sixth article [in regard to refunding] is entirely annulled and made void, as if it had never existed; all others to remain in full force as heretofore.
2. All the property of the society, real, personal, and mixed, in law or equity, and howsoever contributed or acquired, shall be deemed, now and forever, joint and indivisible stock. Each individual is to be considered to have finally and irrevocably parted with all his former contributions, whether in lands, goods, money, or labor; and the same rule shall apply to all future contributions, whatever they may be.
3. Should any individual withdraw from the society or depart this life, neither he, in the one case, nor his representatives, in the other, shall be entitled to demand an account of said contributions, or to claim anything from the society as a matter of right. But it shall be left altogether to the discretion of the superintendent to decide whether any, and, if any, what allonwance shall be made to such member or his representatives as a donation."
On the death of "Father" Rapp, Aug. 7, 1847, the articles were re-signed by the whole society, and two trustees and seven elders were put in office to perform all the duties and assume all the authority which their founder had relinquished with his life. Under this simple constitution the Harmony Society has flourished for sixty-nine years; nor has its life been threatened by disagreements, except in the case of the count de Leon's intrigue. It has suffered three or four lawsuits from members who had left it, but in every case the courts have decided for the society, after elaborate, and in some cases long-continued trials. It has always lived in peace and friendship with its neighbors.
Its real estate and other property was, from the foundation until his death in 1834, held in the name of Frederick (Reichert) Rapp, who was an excellent business man, and conducted all its dealings with the outside world, and had charge of its temporalities generally, the elder Rapp himself avoiding all general business. Upon Frederick's death the society formally and unanimously imposed upon father Rapp the care of the temporal as well as the spiritual affairs of the little commonwealth, placing in his name the title to all their property. But, as he did not wish to let temporal concerns interfere with his spiritual functions, and as, besides, he was then growing old, being in 1834 seventy-seven years of age, he appointed, as his helpers and subagents two members, R. L. Bilker and J. Henrici, the latter of whom is still, with Mr. Jonathan Lenz, the head of the society, Mr. Bilker having died several years ago.
The theological belief of the Harmony Society naturally crystallized under the preaching and during the life of father Rapp. It has some features of German mysticism, grafted upon a practical application of the Christian doctrine and theory. At the foundation of all lies a strong determination to make the preparation of their souls or spirits for the future life the pre- eminent business of life, and to obey in the strictest and most literal manner mwhat they believe to be the will of God as revealed and declared by Jesus Christ. In the following paragraphs is given a brief summary of what may be called their creed:
1. They hold that Adam was created "in the likeness of God;" that he was a dual being, containing within his own person both the sexual elements, reading literally, in confirmation of this, the text (Genesis 1:26-27), "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion;" and, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them;" which they hold to denote that both the Creator and the first created were of this dual nature. They believe that had Adam been content to remain in this original state, he would have increased without the help of a female, bringing forth new beings like himself to replenish the earth.
2. But Adam fell into discontent, and God separated from his body the female part, and gave it him according to his desire, and therein they believe consisted the fall of man.
3. From this they deduce that the celibate state is more pleasing to God; that in the renewed world man will be restored to the dual Godlike and Adamic condition; and,
4. They hold that the coming of Christ and the renovation of the world are near at hand. This nearness of the millennium is a cardinal point of doctrine with them; and father Rapp firmly believed that he would live to see the wished-for reappearance of Christ in the heavens, and that he would be peimitted to present his company of believers to the Saviour whom they endeavored to please with their lives. So vivid was this belief in him that it led some of his followers to fondly fancy that father Rapp would not die before Christ's coming; and there is a touching story of the old man that when he felt death upon him, at the age of ninety, he said, "If I did not know that the dear Lord meant I should present you all to him, I should think my last moments come." These were indeed his last words. To be in constant readiness for the reappearance of Christ is one of the aims of the society; nor have its members ever faltered in the faith that this great event is near at hand.
5. Jesus they hold to have been born "in the likeness of the Father;" that is to say, a dual being, as Adam before the fall.
6. They hold that Jesus taught and commanded a community of goods, and refer to the example of the early Christians as proof.
7. They believe in the ultimate redemption and salvation of all mankind; but hold that only those who follow the celibate life, and otherwise conformn to what they understand to be the commandments of Jesus, will come at once into the bright and glorious company of Christ and his companions; that offenders will undergo a probation for purification.
8. They reject and detest what is commonly called "Spiritualism." — Nordhoff, Communistic Societies, p. 81-86.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Raphu'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/r/raphu.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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