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The great German immigration begins to flow in earnest in this period. Three successive tides of migration have set from Germany to America. The first was the movement of the petty sects under the invitation and patronage of William Penn, quartering themselves in the eastern parts of Pennsylvania. The second was the transportation of "the Palatines," expatriated by stress of persecution and war, not from the Rhenish Palatinate only, but from the archduchy of Salzburg and from other parts of Germany and Switzerland, gathered up and removed to America, some of them directly, some by way of England, as an act of political charity by Queen Anne's government, with the idea of strengthening the colonies by planting Protestant settlers for a safeguard against Spanish or French aggressions. The third tide continues flowing, with variable volume, to this day. It is the voluntary flow of companies of individual emigrants seeking to better the fortunes of themselves or their families. But this voluntary migration has been unhealthily and sometimes dishonestly stimulated, from the beginning of it, by the selfish interests of those concerned in the business of transportation or in the sale of land. It seems to have been mainly the greed of shipping merchants, at first, that spread abroad in the German states florid announcements of the charms and riches of America, decoying multitudes of ignorant persons to risk everything on these representations, and to mortgage themselves into a term of slavery until they should have paid the cost of their passage by their labor. This class of bondmen, called "redemptioners," made no inconsiderable part of the population of the middle colonies; and it seems to have been a worthy part. The trade of "trepanning" the unfortunates and transporting them and selling their term of service was not by several degrees as bad as the African slave-trade; but it was of the same sort, and the deadly horrors of its "middle passage" were hardly less.

In one way and another the German immigration had grown by the middle of the eighteenth century to great dimensions. In the year 1749 twelve thousand Germans landed at the port of Philadelphia. In general they were as sheep having no shepherd. Their deplorable religious condition was owing less to poverty than to diversity of sects.[188:1] In many places the number of sects rendered concerted action impossible, and the people remained destitute of religious instruction.

The famine of the word was sorely felt. In 1733 three great Lutheran congregations in Pennsylvania, numbering five hundred families each, sent messengers with an imploring petition to their coreligionists at London and Halle, representing their "state of the greatest destitution." "Our own means" (they say) "are utterly insufficient to effect the necessary relief, unless God in his mercy may send us help from abroad. It is truly lamentable to think of the large numbers of the rising generation who know not their right hand from their left; and, unless help be promptly afforded, the danger is great that, in consequence of the great lack of churches and schools, the most of them will be led into the ways of destructive error."

This urgent appeal bore fruit like the apples of Sodom. It resulted in a painful and pitiable correspondence with the chiefs of the mother church, these haggling for months and years over stipulations of salary, and refusing to send a minister until the salary should be pledged in cash; and their correspondents pleading their poverty and need.[188:2] The few and feeble churches of the Reformed confession were equally needy and ill befriended.

It seems to us, as we read the story after the lapse of a hundred and fifty years, as if the man expressly designed and equipped by the providence of God for this exigency in the progress of his kingdom had arrived when Zinzendorf, the Moravian, made his appearance at Philadelphia, December 10, 1741. The American church, in all its history, can point to no fairer representative of the charity that "seeketh not her own" than this Saxon nobleman, who, for the true love that he bore to Christ and all Christ's brethren, was willing to give up his home, his ancestral estates, his fortune, his title of nobility, his patrician family name, his office of bishop in the ancient Moravian church, and even (last infirmity of zealous spirits) his interest in promoting specially that order of consecrated men and women in the church catholic which he had done and sacrificed so much to save from extinction, and to which his "cares and toils were given." He hastened first up the Lehigh Valley to spend Christmas at Bethlehem, where the foundations had already been laid on which have been built up the half-monastic institutions of charity and education and missions which have done and are still doing so much to bless the world in both its hemispheres. It was in commemoration of this Christmas visit of Bishop Zinzendorf that the mother house of the Moravian communities in America received its name of Bethlehem. Returning to Philadelphia, he took this city as the base of his unselfish and unpartisan labors in behalf of the great and multiplying population from his fatherland, which through its sectarian divisions had become so helpless and spiritually needy. Already for twenty years there had been a few scattering churches of the Reformed confession, and for half that time a few Lutheran congregations had been gathered or had gathered themselves. But both the sects had been overcome by the paralysis resulting from habitual dependence on paternal governments, and the two were borne asunder, while every right motive was urging to coöperation and fellowship, by the almost spent momentum of old controversies. In Philadelphia two starveling congregations representing the two competing sects occupied the same rude meeting-place each by itself on alternate Sundays. The Lutherans made shift without a pastor, for the only Lutheran minister in Pennsylvania lived at Lancaster, sixty miles away.

To the scattered, distracted, and demoralized flocks of his German fellow-Christians in the middle colonies came Zinzendorf, knowing Jesus Christ crucified, knowing no man according to the flesh; and at once "the neglected congregations were made to feel the thrill of a strong religious life." "Aglow with zeal for Christ, throwing all emphasis in his teaching upon the one doctrine of redemption through the blood shed on Calvary, all the social advantages and influence and wealth which his position gave him were made subservient to the work of preaching Christ, and him crucified, to the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant."[190:1] The Lutherans of Philadelphia heard him gladly and entreated him to preach to them regularly; to which he consented, but not until he had assured himself that this would be acceptable to the pastor of the Reformed congregation. But his mission was to the sheep scattered abroad, of whom he reckoned (an extravagant overestimate) not less than one hundred thousand of the Lutheran party in Pennsylvania alone. Others, as he soon found, had been feeling, like himself, the hurt of the daughter of Zion. A series of conferences was held from month to month, in which men of the various German sects took counsel together over the dissensions of their people, and over the question how the ruinous effects of these dissensions could be avoided. The plan was, not to attempt a merger of the sects, nor to alienate men from their habitual affiliations, but to draw together in coöperation and common worship the German Christians, of whatever sect, in a fellowship to be called, in imitation of a Pauline phrase (Eph. ii. 22), "the Congregation of God in the Spirit." The plan seemed so right and reasonable and promising of beneficent results as to win general approval. It was in a fair way to draw together the whole miserably divided German population.[191:1]

At once the "drum ecclesiastic" beat to arms. In view of the impending danger that their scattered fellow-countrymen might come into mutual fellowship on the basis of their common faith in Christ, the Lutheran leaders at Halle, who for years had been dawdling and haggling over the imploring entreaties of the shepherdless Lutheran populations in America, promptly reconsidered their _non possumus_, and found and sent a man admirably qualified for the desired work, Henry Melchior Mühlenberg, a man of eminent ability and judgment, of faith, devotion, and untiring diligence, not illiberal, but a conscientious sectarian. An earnest preacher of the gospel, he was also earnest that the gospel should be preached according to the Lutheran formularies, to congregations organized according to the Lutheran discipline. The easier and less worthy part of the appointed task was soon achieved. The danger that the religious factions that had divided Germany might be laid aside in the New World was effectually dispelled. Six years later the governor of Pennsylvania was still able to write, "The Germans imported with them all the religious whimsies of their country, and, I believe, have subdivided since their arrival here;" and he estimates their number at three fifths of the population of the province. The more arduous and noble work of organizing and compacting the Lutherans into their separate congregations, and combining these by synodical assemblies, was prosecuted with wisdom and energy, and at last, in spite of hindrances and discouragements, with beneficent success. The American Lutheran Church of to-day is the monument of the labors of Muhlenburg.

The brief remainder of Zinzendorf's work in America may be briefly told. There is no doubt that, like many another eager and hopeful reformer, he overestimated the strength and solidity of the support that was given to his generous and beneficent plans. At the time of Muhlenberg's arrival Zinzendorf was the elected and installed pastor of the Lutheran congregation in Philadelphia. The conflict could not be a long one between the man who claimed everything for his commission and his sect and the man who was resolved to insist on nothing for himself. Notwithstanding the strong love for him among the people, Zinzendorf was easily displaced from his official station. When dispute arose about the use of the empty carpenter's shop that stood them instead of a church, he waived his own claims and at his own cost built a new house of worship. But it was no part of his work to stay and persist in maintaining a division. He retired from the field, leaving it in charge of Muhlenberg, "being satisfied if only Christ were preached," and returned to Europe, having achieved a truly honorable and most Christian failure, more to be esteemed in the sight of God than many a splendid success.

But his brief sojourn in America was not without visible fruit. He left behind him the Moravian church fully organized under the episcopate of Bishop David Nitschmann, with communities or congregations begun at nine different centers, and schools established in four places. An extensive itinerancy had been set in operation under careful supervision, and, most characteristic of all, a great beginning had been made of those missions to the heathen Indians, in which the devoted and successful labors of this little society of Christians have put to shame the whole American church besides. Not all of this is to be ascribed to the activity of Zinzendorf; but in all of it he was a sharer, and his share was a heroic one. The two years' visit of Count Zinzendorf to America forms a beautiful and quite singular episode in our church history. Returning to his ancestral estates splendidly impoverished by his free-handed beneficence, he passed many of the later years of his life at Herrnhut, that radiating center from which the light of the gospel was borne by the multitude of humble missionaries to every continent under the whole heaven. The news that came to him from the "economies" that he had planted in the forests of Pennsylvania was such as to fill his generous soul with joy. In the communities of Nazareth and Bethlehem was renewed the Pentecostal consecration when no man called anything his own. The prosperous farms and varied industries, in which no towns in Pennsylvania could equal them, were carried on, not for private interest, but for the church. After three years the community work was not only self-supporting, but sustained about fifty missionaries in the field, and was preparing to send aid to the missions of the mother church in Germany. The Moravian settlements multiplied at distant points, north and south. The educational establishments grew strong and famous. But especially the Indian missions spread far and wide. The story of these missions is one of the fairest and most radiant pages in the history of the American church, and one of the bloodiest. Zinzendorf, dying at London in May, 1756, was spared, we may hope, the heartbreaking news of the massacre at GnadenhÜtten the year before. But from that time on, through the French wars, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and down to the infamy of Georgia and the United States in 1837, the innocent and Christlike Moravian missions have been exposed from every side to the malignity of savage men both white and red. No order of missionaries or missionary converts can show a nobler roll of martyrs than the Moravians.[194:1]

The work of Mühlenberg for the Lutherans stimulated the Reformed churches in Europe to a like work for their own scattered and pastorless sheep. In both cases the fear that the work of the gospel might not be done seemed a less effective incitement to activity than the fear that it might be done by others. It was the Reformed Church of Holland, rather than those of Germany, miserably broken down and discouraged by ravaging wars, that assumed the main responsibility for this task. As early as 1728 the Dutch synods had earnestly responded to the appeal of their impoverished brethren on the Rhine in behalf of the sheep scattered abroad. And in 1743, acting through the classis of Amsterdam, they had made such progress toward beginning the preliminary arrangements of the work as to send to the Presbyterian synod of Philadelphia a proposal to combine into one the Presbyterian, or Scotch Reformed, the Dutch Reformed, and the German Reformed churches in America. It had already been proved impossible to draw together in common activity and worship the different sects of the same German race and language; the effort to unite in one organization peoples of different language, but of substantially the same doctrine and polity, was equally futile. It seemed as if minute sectarian division and subdivision was to be forced upon American Christianity as a law of its church life.

Diplomacies ended, the synods of Holland took up their work with real munificence. Large funds were raised, sufficient to make every German Reformed missionary in America a stipendiary of the classis of Amsterdam; and if these subsidies were encumbered with severe conditions of subordination to a foreign directory, and if they begot an enfeebling sense of dependence, these were necessary incidents of the difficult situation--_res dura et novitas regni_. The most important service which the synods of Holland rendered to their American beneficiaries was to find a man who should do for them just the work which Muhlenberg was already doing with great energy for the Lutherans. The man was Michael Schlatter. If in any respect he was inferior to Muhlenberg, it was not in respect to diligent devotion to the business on which he had been sent. It is much to the credit of both of them that, in organizing and promoting their two sharply competing sects, they never failed of fraternal personal relations. They worked together with one heart to keep their people apart from each other. The Christian instinct, in a community of German Christians, to gather in one congregation for common worship was solemnly discouraged by the two apostles and the synods which they organized. How could the two parties walk together when one prayed _Vater unser_, and the other _unser Vater_? But the beauty of Christian unity was illustrated in such incidents as this: Mr. Schlatter and some of the Reformed Christians, being present at a Lutheran church on a communion Sunday, listened to the preaching of the Lutheran pastor, after which the Reformed minister made a communion address, and then the congregation was dismissed, and the Reformed went off to a school-house to receive the Lord's Supper.[196:1] Truly it was fragrant like the ointment on the beard of Aaron!

Such was the diligence of Schlatter that the synod or coetus of the Reformed Church was instituted in 1747, a year from his arrival. The Lutheran synod dates from 1748, although Mühlenberg was on the ground four years earlier than Schlatter. Thus the great work of dividing the German population of America into two major sects was conscientiously and effectually performed. Seventy years later, with large expenditure of persuasion, authority, and money, it was found possible to heal in some measure in the old country the very schism which good men had been at such pains to perpetuate in the new.

High honor is due to the prophetic wisdom of these two leaders of German-American Christianity, in that they clearly recognized in advance that the English was destined to be the dominant language of North America. Their strenuous though unsuccessful effort to promote a system of public schools in Pennsylvania was defeated through their own ill judgment and the ignorant prejudices of the immigrant people played upon by politicians. But the mere attempt entitles them to lasting gratitude. It is not unlikely that their divisive work of church organization may have contributed indirectly to defeat the aspirations of their fellow-Germans after the perpetuation of a Germany in America. The combination of the mass of the German population in one solid church organization would have been a formidable support to such aspirations. The splitting of this mass in half, necessitating petty local schisms with all their debilitating and demoralizing consequences, may have helped secure the country from a serious political and social danger.

So, then, the German church in America at the close of the colonial era exists, outside of the petty primeval sects, in three main divisions: the Lutheran, the Reformed, and the Moravian. There is free opportunity for Christians of this language to sort themselves according to their elective affinities. That American ideal of edifying harmony is well attained, according to which men of partial or one-sided views of truth shall be associated exclusively in church relations with others of like precious defects. Mühlenberg seems to have been sensible of the nature of the division he was making in the body of Christ, when, after severing successfully between the strict Lutherans in a certain congregation and those of Moravian sympathies, he finds it "hard to decide on which side of the controversy the greater justice lay. The greater part of those on the Lutheran side, he feared, was composed of unconverted men," while the Moravian party seemed open to the reproach of enthusiasm. So he concluded that each sort of Christians would be better off without the other. Time proved his diagnosis to be better than his treatment. In the course of a generation the Lutheran body, carefully weeded of pietistic admixtures, sank perilously deep in cold rationalism, and the Moravian church was quite carried away for a time on a flood of sentimentalism. What might have been the course of this part of church history if Mühlenberg and Schlatter had shared more deeply with Zinzendorf in the spirit of apostolic and catholic Christianity, and if all three had conspired to draw together into one the various temperaments and tendencies of the German Americans in the unity of the Spirit with the bond of peace, may seem like an idle historical conjecture, but the question is not without practical interest to-day. Perhaps the Moravians would have been the better for being ballasted with the weighty theologies and the conservative temper of the state churches; it is very certain that these would have gained by the infusion of something of that warmth of Christian love and zeal that pervaded to a wonderful degree the whole Moravian fellowship. But the hand and the foot were quite agreed that they had no need of each other or of the heart.[198:1]