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A History of the Moravian Church

by 'Joseph Edmund Hutton'

Book 2 — The Revival under Zinzendorf. 1700-1760

Chapter 14 — The American Experiments, 1734-1762

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IN order to have a clear view of the events recorded in this chapter, we must bear in mind that the Brethren worked according to a definite Plan; they generally formed their "Plan" by means of the Lot; and this "Plan," speaking broadly, was of a threefold nature. The Brethren had three ideals: First, they were not sectarians. Instead of trying to extend the Moravian Church at the expense of other denominations, they consistently endeavoured, wherever they went, to preach a broad and comprehensive Gospel, to avoid theological disputes, to make peace between the sects, and to unite Christians of all shades of belief in common devotion to a common Lord. Secondly, by establishing settlements, they endeavoured to unite the secular and the sacred. At these settlements they deliberately adopted, for purely religious purposes, a form of voluntary religious socialism. They were not, however, socialists or communists by conviction; they had no desire to alter the laws of property; and they established their communistic organization, not from any political motives, but because they felt that, for the time at least, it would be the most economical, would foster Christian fellowship, would sanctify daily labour, and would enable them, poor men though they were, to find ways and means for the spread of the Gospel. And thirdly, the Brethren would preach that Gospel to all men, civilized or savage, who had not heard it before. With these three ideals before us, we trace their footsteps in North America.

The first impulse sprang from the kindness of Zinzendorf's heart. At Görlitz, a town a few miles from Herrnhut, there dwelt a small body of Schwenkfelders; and the King of Saxony issued an edict banishing them from his dominions {1733.}. As soon as Zinzendorf heard of their troubles he longed to find them a home. He opened negotiations with the trustees of the Colony of Georgia. The negotiations were successful. The Governor of Georgia, General Oglethorpe, was glad to welcome good workmen; a parcel of land was offered, and the poor Schwenkfelders, accompanied by Böhnisch, a Moravian Brother, set off for their American home. For some reason, however, they changed their minds on the way, and, instead of settling down in Georgia, went on to Pennsylvania. The land in Georgia was now crying out for settlers. At Herrnhut trouble was brewing. If the spirit of persecution continued raging, the Brethren themselves might soon be in need of a home. The Count took time by the forelock. As soon as the storm burst over Herrnhut, the Brethren might have to fly; and, therefore, he now sent Spangenberg to arrange terms with General Oglethorpe. Again the negotiations were successful; the General offered the Brethren a hundred acres; and a few weeks later, led by Spangenberg, the first batch of Moravian colonists arrived in Georgia {1734.}. The next batch was the famous company on the Simmonds. The new settlement was on the banks of the Savannah River. For some years, with Spangenberg as general manager, the Brethren tried to found a flourishing farm colony. The learned Spangenberg was a practical man. In spite of the fact that he had been a University lecturer, he now put his hand to the plough like a labourer to the manner born. He was the business agent; he was the cashier; he was the spiritual leader; he was the architect; and he was the medical adviser. As the climate of Georgia was utterly different from the climate of Saxony, he perceived at once that the Brethren would have to be careful in matters of diet, and rather astonished the Sisters by giving them detailed instructions about the cooking of rice and beef. The difference between him and Zinzendorf was enormous. At St. Croix, a couple of years before, a band of Moravian Missionaries had died of fever; and while Zinzendorf immortalized their exploits in a hymn, the practical Spangenberg calmly considered how such heroic tragedies could be prevented in the future. In political matters he was equally far-seeing. As the Brethren were now in an English colony, it was, he said, their plain duty to be naturalized as Englishmen as soon as possible; and, therefore, in a letter to Zinzendorf, he implored him to become a British subject himself, to secure for the Brethren the rights of English citizens, and, above all, if possible to obtain letters patent relieving the Brethren from the obligation to render military service. But on Zinzendorf all this wisdom was thrown away. Already the ruin of the colony was in sight. At the very time when the Brethren's labours should have been crowned with success, Captain Jenkins, at the bar of the House of Commons, was telling how his ear had been cut off by Spaniards {1738.}. The great war between England and Spain broke out. The chief aim of Spain was to destroy our colonial supremacy in America. Spanish soldiers threatened Georgia. The Brethren were summoned to take to arms and help to defend the colony against the foe. But the Brethren objected to taking arms at all. The farm colony was abandoned; and the scene shifts to Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the good Spangenberg had been busy in Pennsylvania, looking after the interests of the Schwenkfelders. He attended their meetings, wore their clothing — a green coat, without buttons or pockets — studied the works of Schwenkfeld, and organized them into what he called an "Economy." In other words, he taught them to help each other by joining in common work on a communist basis. At the same time, he tried to teach them to be a little more broad-minded, and not to quarrel so much with other Christians. But the more he talked of brotherly love the more bigoted the poor Schwenkfelders became. At this time the colony had become a nest of fanatics. For some years, in response to the generous offers of Thomas Penn, all sorts of persecuted refugees had fled to Pennsylvania; and now the land was infested by

a motley group of Episcopalians, Quakers, Baptists, Separatists, Sabbatarians, Unitarians, Lutherans, Calvinists, Memnonites, Presbyterians, Independents, Inspired Prophets, Hermits, Newborn Ones, Dunckers, and Protestant Monks and Nuns. Thus the land was filled with "religions" and almost empty of religion. Instead of attending to the spiritual needs of the people, each Church or sect was trying to prove itself in the right and all the others in the wrong; and the only principle on which they agreed was the principle of disagreeing with each other. The result was heathendom and babel. Most of the people attended neither church nor chapel; most of the parents were unbaptized, and brought up their children in ignorance; and, according to a popular proverb of the day, to say that a man professed the Pennsylvania religion was a polite way of calling him an infidel.

As soon, therefore, as Zinzendorf heard from Spangenberg of these disgraceful quarrels a glorious vision rose before his mind; and the conviction flashed upon him that Pennsylvania was the spot where the Brethren's broad evangel was needed most. There, in the midst of the quarrelling sects he would plant the lily of peace; there, where the cause of unity seemed hopeless, he would realize the prayer of Christ, "that they all may be one." For two reason, America seemed to him the true home of the ideal Church of the Brethren. First, there was no State Church; and, therefore, whatever line he took, he could not be accused of causing a schism. Secondly, there was religious liberty; and, therefore, he could work out his ideas without fear of being checked by edicts. For these reasons he first sent out another batch of colonists, led by Bishop Nitschmann; and then, in due time, he arrived on the scene himself. The first move had the promise of good. At the spot the Lehigh and the Monocany meet the Brethren had purchased a plot of ground {1741}; they all lived together in one log-house; they proposed to build a settlement like Herrnhut; and there, one immortal Christmas Eve, Count Zinzendorf conducted a consecration service. Above them shone the keen, cold stars, God's messengers of peace; around them ranged the babel of strife; and the Count, remembering how the Prince of Peace had been born in a humble wayside lodging, named the future settlement Bethlehem. The name had a twofold meaning. It was a token of the Brethren's mission of peace; and it reminded them that the future settlement was to be a "House of Bread" for their evangelists.

The Count was now in his element. For two years he did his best to teach the quarrelling sects in Pennsylvania to help and esteem each other; and the bond of union he set before them was a common experience of the redeeming grace of Christ. He had come to America, not as a Moravian Bishop, but as a Lutheran clergyman; and he was so afraid of being suspected of sectarian motives that, before he set out from London, he had purposely laid his episcopal office aside. For some months, therefore, he now acted as Lutheran clergyman to a Lutheran congregation in Philadelphia; and meanwhile he issued a circular, inviting German Christians of all denominations to meet in Conference. His purpose, to use his own phrase, was to establish a grand "Congregation of God in the Spirit." At first the outlook was hopeful. From all sects deputies came, and a series of "Pennsylvanian Synods" was held. Again, however, the Count was misled by his own ignorance of history. At this time he held the erroneous view that the Union of Sendomir in Poland (1570) was a beautiful union of churches brought about by the efforts of the Brethren; he imagined also that the Bohemian Confession (1575) had been drawn up by the Brethren; and, therefore, he very naturally concluded that what the Brethren had accomplished in Poland and Bohemia they could accomplish again in Pennsylvania. But the stern facts of the case were all against him. At the very time when he was endeavouring to establish a "Congregation of God in the Spirit" in Pennsylvania, he heard that his own Brethren in Germany were departing from his ideals; and, therefore, he had to return to Germany, and hand on his American work to Spangenberg {1743.}.

For that task the broad-minded Spangenberg was admirably fitted, and now he held a number of titles supposed to define his mission. First, he was officially appointed "General Elder" in America; second, he was consecrated a Bishop, and was thus head of the American Moravian Church; and third, he was "Vicarius generalis episcoporum"; i.e., General Vicar of the Bishops. For the next four years the Pennsylvania Synods, with the broad-minded Spangenberg as President, continued to meet with more or less regularity. In 1744 they met twice; in 1745 three times; in 1746 four times; in 1747 three times; and in 1748 twice. But gradually the Synods altered in character. At first representatives attended from a dozen different bodies; then only Lutherans, Calvinists and Moravians; then only Moravians; and at length, when John de Watteville arrived upon the scene, he found that for all intents and purposes the Pennsylvanian Synod had become a Synod of the Moravian Church. He recognized the facts of the case, abolished the "Congregation of the Spirit," and laid the constitutional foundations of the Brethren's Church in North America (1748). Thus Zinzendorf's scheme of union collapsed, and the first American experiment was a failure.

Meanwhile, Bishop Spangenberg had been busy with the second. If this man was inferior to Zinzendorf in genius he was far above him as a practical politician. He now accomplished his "Masterpiece."135 The task before him was twofold. He had to find both men and money; and from the first he bravely resolved to do without one penny of assistance from Germany. He called his plan the "Economy," and an economical plan it certainly was. His great principle was subdivision of

labour. As the work in America was mostly among poor people — some immigrants, others Red Indians — he perceived that special measures must be taken to cover expenses; and, therefore, he divided his army into two main bodies. The one was the commissariat department; the other was the fighting line. The one was engaged in manual labour; the other was preaching the gospel. The one was stationed chiefly at Bethlehem; the other was scattered in different parts of North America. About ten miles north-west of Bethlehem the Brethren purchased a tract of land from George Whitefield, gave it the name of Nazareth, and proposed to build another settlement there. At first the two settlements were practically worked as one. For eighteen years they bore between them almost the whole financial burden of the Brethren's work in North America. There, at the joint settlement of Bethlehem-Nazareth, the "Economy" was established. There lay the general "camp"; there stood the home of "the Pilgrim Band"; there was built the "School of the Prophets"; there, to use Spangenberg's vivid phrase, was the "Saviour's Armoury." The great purpose which the Brethren set before them was to preach the Gospel in America without making the American people pay. Instead of having their preachers supported by contributions from their congregations, they would support these preachers themselves. For this task the only capital that Spangenberg possessed was two uncultivated tracts of land, three roomy dwelling-houses, two or three outhouses and barns, his own fertile genius, and a body of Brethren and Sisters willing to work. His method of work was remarkable. In order, first, to cut down the expenses of living, he asked his workers then and there to surrender the comforts of family life. At Bethlehem stood two large houses. In one lived all the Single Brethren; in the other the families, all the husbands in one part, all the wives in another, all the children (under guardians) in the third. At Nazareth there was only one house; and there lived all the Single Sisters. As the Sisters set off through the forest to their home in Nazareth, they carried their spinning-wheels on their shoulders; and two hours after their arrival in the house they were driving their wheels with zeal. At Bethlehem the energy of all was amazing. Bishop Spangenberg was commonly known as Brother Joseph; and Brother Joseph, in a letter to Zinzendorf, explained the purpose of his scheme. "As Paul," he said, "worked with his own hands, so as to be able to preach the Gospel without pay, so we, according to our ability, will do the same; and thus even a child of four will be able, by plucking wool, to serve the Gospel."

For patient devotion and heroic self-sacrifice these humble toilers at the Bethlehem-Nazareth "Economy" are unsurpassed in the history of the Brethren's Church. They built their own houses; they made their own clothes and boots; they tilled the soil and provided their own meat, vegetables, bread, milk, and eggs; they sawed their own wood, spun their own yarn, and wove their own cloth; and then, selling at the regular market price what was not required for their personal use, they spent the profits in the support of preachers, teachers, and missionaries in various parts of North America. For a motto they took the words: "In commune oramus, in commune laboramus, in commune patimur, in commune gaudeamus"; i.e., together we pray, together we labour, together we suffer, together we rejoice. The motive, however, was not social, but religious. "It is nothing," said Spangenberg himself, "but love to the Lamb and His Church." For this cause the ploughman tilled the soil, the women sewed, the joiner sawed, the blacksmith plied his hammer; for this cause the fond mothers, with tears in their eyes, handed over their children to the care of guardians, so that they themselves might be free to toil for the Master. Thus every trade was sanctified; and thus did all, both old and young, spend all their powers for the Gospel's sake. If there is any distinction between secular and sacred, that distinction was unknown at Bethlehem and Nazareth. At Bethlehem the Brethren accounted it an honour to chop wood for the Master's sake; and the fireman, said Spangenberg, felt his post as important "as if he were guarding the Ark of the Covenant." For the members of each trade or calling a special series of services was arranged; and thus every toiler was constantly reminded that he was working not for himself but for God. The number of lovefeasts was enormous. At the opening of the harvest season the farm labourers held an early morning lovefeast; the discourse was partly on spiritual topics and partly on rules of diet; then the sickles were handed out; and the whole band, with hymns of praise on their lips, set off for the harvest field. For days at a time the Single Brethren would be in the forest felling trees; but before they set off they had a lovefeast, and when they returned they had another. As soon as the joiners had the oil-mill ready they celebrated the event in a lovefeast. The spinners had a lovefeast once a week. The joiners, the weavers, the cartwrights, the smiths, the hewers of wood, the milkers of cows, the knitters, the sewers, the cooks, the washerwomen — all had their special lovefeasts. At one time the joyful discovery was made that a Brother had served a year in the kitchen, and was ready to serve another; and thereupon the whole settlement held a general lovefeast in his honour. For the mothers a special meeting was held, at which an expert gave instructions on the art of bringing up children; and at this meeting, while the lecturer discoursed or occasional hymns were sung, the women were busy with their hands. One made shoes, another tailored, another ground powder for the chemist's shop, another copied invoices and letters, another sliced turnips, another knitted

socks. For each calling special hymns were composed and sung. If these hymns had been published in a volume we should have had a Working-man's Hymnbook. Thus every man and woman at Bethlehem-Nazareth had enlisted in the missionary army. Never, surely, in the history of Protestant Christianity were the secular and the sacred more happily wedded. "In our Economy," said Spangenberg, "the spiritual and physical are as closely united as a man's body and soul; and each has a marked effect upon the other." If a man lost his touch with Christ it was noticed that he was careless in his work; but as long as his heart was right with God his eye was clear and his hand steady and firm. At the head of the whole concern stood Spangenberg, a business man to the finger tips. If genius is a capacity for taking pains, then Spangenberg was a genius of the finest order. He drew up regulations dealing with every detail of the business, and at his office he kept a strict account of every penny expended, every yard of linen woven, every pound of butter made, and every egg consumed. As long as Spangenberg was on the spot the business arrangements were perfect; he was assisted by a Board of Directors, known as the Aufseher Collegium; and so great was the enterprise shown that before the close of his first period of administration the Brethren had several farms and thirty-two industries in full working order. It was this which impressed our House of Commons, and enabled them, in the Act of 1749, to recognize the Brethren "as a sober and industrious people." For that Act the credit must be given, not to the airy dreams of Zinzendorf, but to the solid labours of Spangenberg. At the time when the Bill was under discussion the chief stress was laid, in both Houses, on the results of Spangenberg's labours; and so deeply was Earl Granville impressed that he offered the Brethren a hundred thousand acres in North Carolina. At length, accompanied by five other Brethren, Spangenberg himself set off to view the land, selected a site, organized another "Economy," established two congregations, named Bethabara and Bethany, and thus became the founder of the Southern Province of the Brethren's Church in America.

But his greatest success was in the Northern Province. For many years the Brethren at Bethlehem-Nazareth maintained nearly all the preachers in North America. In Pennsylvania they had preachers at Germantown, Philadelphia, Lancaster, York, Donegal, Heidelberg, Lebanon, Lititz, Oley, Allemaengel, Emmaus, Salisbury, Falkner's Swamp, the Trappe, Mahanatawny, Neshaminy, and Dansbury. In Maryland they had a station at Graceham. In Jersey they had stations at Maurice River, Racoon, Penn's Neck, Oldman's Creek, Pawlin's Hill, Walpack, and Brunswick; in Rhode Island, at Newport; in Maine, at Broadbay; in New York, at Canajoharie; and other stations at Staten Island and Long Island. They opened fifteen schools for poor children; they paid the travelling expenses of missionaries to Surinam and the West Indies; they maintained a number of missionaries to the Red Indians. Thus did Spangenberg, by means of his "Economy," establish the Moravian Church in North America. We must not misunderstand his motives. He never made his system compulsory, and he never intended it to last. If any Brother objected to working for the "Economy," and preferred to trade on his own account, he was free to do so; and as soon as the "Economy" had served its purpose it was abolished by Spangenberg himself (1762). It is easy to object that his system interfered with family life. It is easy to say that this Moravian Bishop had no right to split families into sections, to herd the husbands in one abode and the wives in another, to tear children from their mothers' arms and place them under guardians. But Brother Joseph had his answer to this objection. At Bethlehem, he declared, the members of the "Economy" were as happy as birds in the sunshine; and, rejoicing in their voluntary sacrifice, they vowed that they would rather die than resign this chance of service. The whole arrangement was voluntary. Not a man or woman was pressed into the service. If a man joins the volunteers he is generally prepared, for the time being, to forego the comforts of family life, and these gallant toilers of the "Economy" were volunteers for God.

Another feature of Spangenberg's work was his loyalty as a British citizen. As long as he was resident in a British Colony he considered it his duty, German though he was, to stand by the British flag; and while that famous war was raging which ended in the brilliant capture of Quebec, and the conquest of Canada, Brother Joseph and the Moravian Brethren upheld the British cause from first to last. The Red Indians were nearly all on the side of France. As the Brethren, therefore, preached to the Indians, they were at first suspected of treachery, and were even accused of inciting the Indians to rebellion; but Spangenberg proved their loyalty to the hilt. At Gnadenhütten, on the Mahony River, the Brethren had established a Mission Station {1755.}; and there, one night, as they sat at supper, they heard the farm dogs set up a warning barking.

"It occurs to me," said Brother Senseman, "that the Congregation House is still open; I will go and lock it; there may be stragglers from the militia in the neighbourhood." And out he went.

At that moment, while Senseman was about his duty, the sound of footsteps was heard; the Brethren opened the door; and there stood a band of painted Indians, with rifles in their hands. The war-whoop was raised. The first volley was fired. John Nitschmann fell dead on the spot. As the firing continued, the Brethren and Sisters endeavoured to take refuge in the attic; but before they could all clamber up the stairs five others had fallen dead. The Indians set fire to the

building. The fate of the missionaries was sealed. As the flames arose, one Brother managed to escape by a back door, another let himself down from the window, another was captured, scalped alive, and left to die; and the rest, huddled in the blazing garret, were roasted to death.

"Dear Saviour, it is well," said Mrs. Senseman, as the cruel flames lapped round her; "it is well! It is what I expected."

No longer could the Brethren's loyalty be doubted; and Spangenberg acted, on behalf of the British, with the skill of a military expert. As he went about in his regimentals his critics remarked that he looked far more like an army officer than an apostle of the Lord. For him the problem to solve was, how to keep the Indians at bay; and he actually advised the British authorities to construct a line of forts, pointed out the strategic importance of Gnadenhütten, and offered the land for military purposes. At Bethlehem and the other Brethren's settlements he had sentinels appointed and barricades constructed; at all specially vulnerable points he had blockhouses erected; and the result was that the Brethren's settlements were among the safest places in the country. At Bethlehem the Brethren sheltered six hundred fugitives. The plans of Spangenberg were successful. Not a single settlement was attacked. In spite of the war and the general unsettlement, the business of the "Economy" went on as usual; the Brethren labouring in the harvest field were protected by loyal Indians; and amid the panic the Brethren founded another settlement at Lititz. Thus did Spangenberg, in a difficult situation, act with consummate wisdom; and thus did he set an example of loyalty for Moravian missionaries to follow in days to come.

And yet, despite his wisdom and zeal, the Moravian Church at this period did not spread rapidly in America. For this, Zinzendorf was largely to blame. If the Count had been a good business man, and if he had realized the importance of the American work, he would have left the management of that work entirely in Spangenberg's hands. But his treatment of Spangenberg was peculiar. At first he almost ignored his existence, and broke his heart by not answering his letters (1744—48); and then, when he found himself in trouble, and affairs at Herrnhaag were coming to a crisis, he sent John de Watteville in hot haste to Bethlehem, summoned Spangenberg home, and kept him busy writing ponderous apologies. As soon as Spangenberg had completed his task, and done his best to clear Zinzendorf's character, he set off for Bethlehem again, and established the Brethren's cause in North Carolina; but before he had been two years at work the Count was in financial difficulties, and summoned him home once more (1753). His last stay in America was his longest (1754—1762). He was still there when Zinzendorf died. As soon as Zinzendorf was laid in his grave the Brethren in Germany formed a Board of Management; but, before long, they discovered that they could not do without Spangenberg. He left America for ever. And thus Brother Joseph was lost to America because he was indispensable in Germany.

The second cause of failure was the system of management. For the most part the men who took Spangenberg's place in America — such as John de Watteville and John Nitschmann — were obsessed with Zinzendorf's ideas about settlements; and, instead of turning the numerous preaching places into independent congregations they centralized the work round the four chief settlements of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lititz and Salem. We have seen how the settlement system worked in England. It had precisely the same result in America.

The third cause of failure was financial complications. As long as Spangenberg was on the spot he kept the American finances independent; but when he left for the last time the American Province was placed under the direct control of the General Directing Board in Germany, the American and German finances were mixed, the accounts became hopelessly confused, and American affairs were mismanaged. It is obvious, on the face of it, that a Directing Board with its seat in Germany was incapable of managing efficiently a difficult work four thousand miles away; and yet that was the system pursued for nearly a hundred years (1762—1857).

We come now to the brightest part of our American story — the work among the Red Indians. At this period almost the whole of North America was the home of numerous Indian tribes. Along the upper valley of the Tennessee River, and among the grand hills of Georgia, Alabama, and Western Alabama were the Cherokees. In Mississippi were the Natchez; near the town of Augusta the Uchies; between the Tennessee and the Ohio, the Mobilians; in Central Carolina, the Catawbas; to the west of the Mississippi the Dahcotas; in New England, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and the region stretching to the great lakes, the Delawares; and finally, in New York, Pennsylvania, and the region enclosed by Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, the Iroquois. Thus, the Brethren in America were surrounded by Indian tribes; and to those Indian tribes they undertook to preach the Gospel.

The first step was taken by Christian Henry Rauch. As soon as he arrived in Pennsylvania he offered himself for the Indian Mission, went to the Indian town of Shekomeko {1740.}, and began to preach the Gospel in a manner which became famous in Moravian history. First, at a Conference in Bethlehem, the story was told by Tschoop, one of his earliest converts; and then it was officially quoted by Spangenberg, as a typical example of the Brethren's method of preaching. "Brethren," said Tschoop, "I have been a heathen, and grown old among the heathen; therefore I know how the heathen think. Once a preacher came and began to explain that there was a God. We answered, ‘Dost thou think us so ignorant as not to know that? Go to the place whence

thou camest!' Then, again, another preacher came, and began to teach us, and to say, ‘You must not steal, nor lie, nor get drunk, and so forth.' We answered, ‘Thou fool, dost thou think that we do not know that? Learn first thyself, and then teach the people to whom thou belongest to leave off these things. For who steal, or lie, or who are more drunken than thine own people?' And then we dismissed him."

But Rauch came with a very different message.

He told us of a Mighty One, the Lord of earth and sky,

Who left His glory in the Heavens, for men to bleed and die;

Who loved poor Indian sinners still, and longed to gain their love,

And be their Saviour here and in His Father's house above.

And when his tale was ended — "My friends," he gently said,

"I am weary with my journey, and would fain lay down my head;

So beside our spears and arrows he laid him down to rest,

And slept as sweetly as the babe upon its mother's breast.

Then we looked upon each other, and I whispered, "This is new;

Yes, we have heard glad tidings, and that sleeper knows them true;

He knows he has a Friend above, or would he slumber here,

With men of war around him, and the war-whoop in his ear.?"

So we told him on the morrow that he need not journey on,

But stay and tell us further of that loving, dying One;

And thus we heard of Jesus first, and felt the wondrous power,

Which makes His people willing, in His own accepted hour.

"Thus," added Tschoop, "through the grace of God an awakening took place among us. I say, therefore, Brethren, preach Christ our Saviour, and His sufferings and death, if you will have your words to gain entrance among the heathen."

As soon, therefore, as Rauch had struck this note, the Brethren boldly undertook the task of preaching to all the Red Indians in North America. The Count himself set off to spy the land, and undertook three dangerous missionary journeys. First, accompanied by his daughter Benigna, and an escort of fourteen, he visited the Long Valley beyond the Blue Mountains, met a delegation of the League of the Iroquois, and received from them, in solemn style, a fathom made of one hundred and sixty-eight strings of wampum {1742.}. The fathom was a sign of goodwill. If a missionary could only show the fathom he was sure of a kindly welcome. In his second journey Zinzendorf went to Shekomeko, organised the first Indian Mission Church, and baptized three converts as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In his third journey he visited the Wyoming Valley, and interviewed the chiefs of the Shawanese and Mohicans. He was here in deadly peril. As he sat one afternoon in his tent two hissing adders darted across his body; and a few days later some suspicious Indians plotted to take his life. But a government agent arrived on the scene, and Zinzendorf's scalp was saved.

And now the Brethren began the campaign in earnest. At Bethlehem Spangenberg had a Mission Conference and a Mission College. The great hero of the work was David Zeisberger. He was, like most of these early missionaries, a German. He was born at Zauchtenthal, in Moravia; had come with his parents to Herrnhut; had followed them later to Georgia; and was now a student at Spangenberg's College at Bethlehem. For sixty-three years he lived among the Indians, and his life was one continual series of thrilling adventures and escapes. He became almost an Indian. He was admitted a member of the Six Nations, received an Indian name, and became a member of an Indian family. He was an Iroquois to the Iroquois, a Delaware to the Delawares. He understood the hidden science of belts and strings of wampum; he could unriddle their mysterious messages and make speeches in their bombastic style; and he spoke in their speech and thought in their thoughts, and lived their life in their wigwams. He loved their majestic prairies, stretching beyond the Blue Mountains. He loved their mighty rivers and their deep clear lakes. Above all, he loved the red-brown Indians themselves. Full well he knew what trials awaited him. If the reader has formed his conception of the Indians from Fenimore Cooper's novels, he will probably think that Zeisberger spent his life among a race of gallant heroes. The reality was rather different. For the most part the Indians of North America were the reverse of heroic. They were bloodthirsty, drunken, lewd and treacherous. They spent their time in hunting buffaloes, smoking pipes, lolling in the sun, and scalping each other's heads. They wasted their nights in tipsy revels and dances by the light of the moon. They cowered in terror of evil spirits and vicious and angry gods. But Zeisberger never feared and never despaired. As long as he had such a grand Gospel to preach, he felt sure that he could make these savages sober, pure, wise, kind and brave, and that God would ever shield him with His wing. He has been called "The Apostle to the Indians." As the missionaries of the early Christian Church came to our rude fathers in England, and made us a Christian people, so Zeisberger desired to be an Augustine to the Indians, and found a Christian Indian kingdom stretching from Lake Michigan to the Ohio.

He began his work with the League of the Iroquois, commonly called the Six Nations {1745.}. At Onondaga, their headquarters, where he and Bishop Cammerhof had arranged to meet the Great Council, the meeting had to be postponed till the members had recovered from a state of intoxication. But Cammerhof addressed the chiefs, brought out the soothing pipe of tobacco, watched it pass

from mouth to mouth, and received permission for two missionaries to come and settle down. From there, still accompanied by Cammerhof, Zeisberger went on to the Senecas. He was welcomed to a Pandemonium of revelry. The whole village was drunk. As he lay in his tent he could hear fiendish yells rend the air; he went out with a kettle, to get some water for Cammerhof, and the savages knocked the kettle out of his hand; and later, when the shades of evening fell, he had to defend himself with his fists against a bevy of lascivious women, whose long hair streamed in the night wind, and whose lips swelled with passion. For Cammerhof the journey was too much; in the bloom of youth he died (1751).

But Zeisberger had a frame of steel. Passing on from tribe to tribe, he strode through darkling woods, through tangled thickets, through miry sloughs, through swarms of mosquitoes; and anon, plying his swift canoe, he sped through primeval forests, by flowers of the tulip tree, through roaring rapids, round beetling bluffs, past groups of mottled rattlesnakes that lay basking in the sun. At the present time, in many Moravian manses, may be seen an engraving of a picture by Schüssele, of Philadelphia, representing Zeisberger preaching to the Indians. The incident occurred at Goschgoschünk, on the Alleghany River (1767). In the picture the service is represented as being held in the open air; in reality it was held in the Council House. In the centre of the house was the watch-fire. Around it squatted the Indians — the men on one side, the women on the other; and among those men were murderers who had played their part, twelve years before, in the massacre on the Mahony River. As soon as Zeisberger rose to speak, every eye was fixed upon him; and while he delivered his Gospel message, he knew that at any moment a tomahawk might cleave his skull, and his scalp hang bleeding at the murderer's girdle. "Never yet," he wrote, "did I see so clearly painted on the faces of the Indians both the darkness of hell and the world-subduing power of the Gospel."

As the years rolled on, this dauntless hero won completely the confidence of these suspicious savages. He was known as "Friend of the Indians," and was allowed to move among them at his ease. In vain the sorcerers plotted against him. "Beware," they said to the simple people, "of the man in the black coat." At times, in order to bring down the vengeance of the spirits on Zeisberger's head, they sat up through the night and gorged themselves with swine's flesh; and, when this mode of enchantment failed, they baked themselves in hot ovens till they became unconscious. Zeisberger still went boldly on. Wherever the Indians were most debauched, there was he in the midst of them. Both the Six Nations and the Delawares passed laws that he was to be uninterrupted in his work. Before him the haughtiest chieftains bowed in awe. At Lavunakhannek, on the Alleghany River, he met the great Delaware orator, Glikkikan, who had baffled Jesuits and statesmen, and had prepared a complicated speech with which he meant to crush Zeisberger for ever; but when the two men came face to face, the orator fell an easy victim, forgot his carefully prepared oration, murmured meekly: "I have nothing to say; I believe your words," submitted to Zeisberger like a child, and became one of his warmest friends and supporters. In like manner Zeisberger won over White Eyes, the famous Delaware captain; and, hand in hand, Zeisberger and White Eyes worked for the same great cause. "I want my people," said White Eyes, "now that peace is established in the country, to turn their attention to peace in their hearts. I want them to embrace that religion which is taught by the white teachers. We shall never be happy until we are Christians."

It seemed as though that time were drawing nigh {1765—81.}. Zeisberger was a splendid organizer. As soon as the "Indian War" was over, he founded a number of Christian settlements, and taught the Indians the arts of industry and peace. For the Iroquois he founded the settlements of Friedenshütten (Tents of Peace), on the Susquehanna, Goschgoschünk, on the Alleghany, and Lavunakhannek and Friedenstadt (Town of Peace), on the Beaver River; and for the Delawares he founded the settlements of Schönbrunn (Beautiful Spring), Gnadenhütten (Tents of Grace), Lichtenau (Meadow of Light), on the Tuscawaras, and Salem, on the Muskinghum. His settlements were like diamonds flashing in the darkness. Instead of the wildness of the desert were nut trees, plums, cherries, mulberries and all manner of fruits; instead of scattered wigwams, orderly streets of huts; instead of filth, neatness and cleanliness; instead of drunken brawls and orgies, the voice of children at the village school, and the voice of morning and evening prayer.

No longer were the Indians in these settlements wild hunters. They were now steady business men. They conducted farms, cultivated gardens, grew corn and sugar, made butter, and learned to manage their local affairs as well as an English Urban District Council. At the head of each settlement was a Governing Board, consisting of the Missionaries and the native "helpers"; and all affairs of special importance were referred to a general meeting of the inhabitants. The system filled the minds of visitors with wonder. "The Indians in Zeisberger's settlements," said Colonel Morgan, "are an example to civilized whites."

No longer, further, were the Indians ignorant savages. Zeisberger was a great linguist. He mastered the Delaware and Iroquois languages. For the benefit of the converts in his setlements, and with the assistance of Indian sachems, he prepared and had printed a number of useful books: first (1776), "A Delaware Indian and English Spelling-book," with an appendix containing the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, some Scripture passages and a Litany; next (1803), in the Delaware language,

"A Collection of Hymns for the use of the Christian Indians," translated from the English and German Moravian Hymn-books, and including the Easter, Baptismal and Burial Litanies; next, a volume of "Sermons to Children," translated from the German; next, a translation of Spangenberg's "Bodily Care of Children"; next, "A Harmony of the Four Gospels," translated from the Harmony prepared by Samuel Leiberkühn; and last, a grammatical treatise on the Delaware conjugations. Of his services to philology, I need not speak in detail. He prepared a lexicon, in seven volumes, of the German and Onondaga languages, an Onondaga Grammar, a Delaware Grammar, a German-Delaware Dictionary, and other works of a similar nature. As these contributions to science were never published, they may not seem of much importance; but his manuscripts have been carefully preserved, some in the library of the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, others at Harvard University.

Thus did Zeisberger, explorer and scholar, devote his powers to the physical, moral and spiritual improvement of the Indians. For some years his success was brilliant; and when, on Easter Sunday morning, his converts gathered for the early service, they presented a scene unlike any other in the world. As the sun rose red beyond the great Blue Mountains, as the morning mists broke gently away, as the gemmed trees whispered with the breath of spring, the Indians repeated in their lonely cemetery the same solemn Easter Litany that the Brethren repeated at Herrnhut, Zeisberger read the Confession of Faith, a trained choir led the responses, the Easter hymn swelled out, and the final "Amen" rang over the plateau and aroused the hosts of the woodland.

Away in the forest, how fair to the sight

Was the clear, placid lake as it sparkled in light,

And kissed with low murmur the green shady shore,

Whence a tribe had departed, whose traces it bore.

Where the lone Indian hastened, and wondering hushed

His awe as he trod o'er the mouldering dust!

How bright were the waters — how cheerful the song,

Which the wood-bird was chirping all the day long,

And how welcome the refuge those solitudes gave

To the pilgrims who toiled over mountain and wave;

Here they rested — here gushed forth, salvation to bring,

The fount of the Cross, by the "Beautiful Spring."

And yet the name of this wonderful man is almost unknown in England. We are just coming to the reason. At the very time when his influence was at its height the American War of Independence broke out, and Zeisberger and his converts, as an Indian orator put it, were between two exceeding mighty and wrathful gods, who stood opposed with extended jaws. Each party wished the Indians to take up arms on its side. But Zeisberger urged them to be neutral. When the English sent the hatchet of war to the Delawares, the Delawares politely sent it back. When a letter came to Zeisberger, requesting him to arouse his converts, to put himself at their head, and to bring the scalps of all the rebels he could slaughter, he threw the sheet into the flames. For this policy he was suspected by both sides. At one time he was accused before an English court of being in league with the Americans. At another time he was accused by the Americans of being in league with the English. At length the thunderbolt fell. As the Christian Indians of Gnadenhütten were engaged one day in tilling the soil, the American troops of Colonel Williamson appeared upon the scene, asked for quarters, were comfortably, lodged, and then, disarming the innocent victims, accused them of having sided with the British. For that accusation the only ground was that the Indians had shown hospitality to all who demanded it; but this defence was not accepted, and Colonel Williamson decided to put the whole congregation to death {March 28th, 1782.}. The log huts were turned into shambles; the settlers were allowed a few minutes for prayer; then, in couples, they were summoned to their doom; and in cold blood the soldiers, with tomahawks, mallets, clubs, spears and scalping knives, began the work of butchery. At the end of the performance ninety corpses lay dabbled with blood on the ground. Among the victims were six National Assistants, a lady who could speak English and German, twenty-four other women, eleven boys and eleven girls. The Blood-Bath of Gnadenhütten was a hideous crime. It shattered the Indian Mission. The grand plans of Zeisberger collapsed in ruin. As the war raged on, and white men encroached more and more on Indian soil, he found himself and his converts driven by brute force from one settlement after another. Already, before the war broke out, this brutal process had commenced; and altogether it continued for twenty years. In 1769 he had to abandon Goschgoschünk; in 1770, Lavunakhannek; in 1772, Friedenshütten; in 1773, Friedenstadt; in 1780, Lichtenau; in 1781, Gnadenhütten, Salem and Schönbrunn; in 1782, Sandusky; in 1786, New Gnadenhütten; in 1787, Pilgerruh; in 1791, New Salem. As the old man drew near his end, he endeavoured to stem the torrent of destruction by founding two new settlements — Fairfield, in Canada, and Goshen, on the Tuscawaras; but even these had to be abandoned a few years after his death. Amid the Indians he had lived; amid the Indians, at Goshen, he lay on his death-bed {1808.}. As the news of his approaching dissolution spread, the chapel bell was tolled: his converts, knowing the signal, entered the room; and then, uniting their voices in song, they sang him home in triumphant hymns which he himself had translated from the hymns of the Ancient Brethren's Church.


Lectionary Calendar
Friday, September 21st, 2018
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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