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BAPTISTS OR BRETHREN, GERMAN.

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BY THE REV. PHILIP BOYLE,

UNIONTOWN, MARYLAND.

The German Baptists, or Brethren, are a denomination of Christians who emigrated to this country from Germany between the years 1718 and 1730; they are commonly called Dunkers; but they have assumed for themselves the name of “ Brethren," on account of what Christ said to his disciples, Matt. xxiii. 8, “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.

The following account of these people has been extracted from a work called “ Materials toward a History of the American Baptists," published in 1770 by Morgan Edwards, then Fellow of Rhode Island College, and overseer of the Baptist Church in Philadelphia:

“Of the Germans in Pennsylvania who are commonly called Tunkers, to distinguish them from the Menonists; for both are styled Die Taufer, or Baptists. They are called Tunkers in derision, which is as much as 'sops,' from tunken, to put a morsel in sauce; but as the term signifies dippers, they may rest content with their nickname. They are also called Tumblers, from the manner in which they perform baptism, which is by putting the person head forward under water (while kneeling), so as to resemble the motion of the body in the act of tumbling. The first appearance of these people in America was in the fall of the year 1719, when about twenty families landed in Philadelphia, and dispersed themselves, some to Germantown, some to Skippack, some to Oley, some to Conestoga, and elsewhere. This dispersion incapacitated them to meet in public worship, therefore they soon began to grow lukewarm in religion. But in the year 1722, Baker, Gomery, and Gantzs, with the Trauzs, visited their scattered brethren, which was attended with a great revival, insomuch that societies were formed wherever a number of families were within reach one of another. But this lasted not above three years; they settled on their lees again; till about thirty families more of their persecuted brethren arrived in the fall of the year 1729, which both quickened them again and increased their number

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every where. Those two companies had been members of one and the same church, which originated in Schwartzenau, in the year 1708, in Germany. The first constituents were Alexander Mack and wife, John Kipin and wife, George Grevy, Andreas Bhony, Lucas Fetter, and Joanna Nethigum. Being neighbours, they agreed together to read the Bible, and edify one another in the way they had been brought up, for as yet they did not know there were any Baptists in the world. However, believer's baptism and a congregational church soon gained on them, insomuch that they were determined to obey the gospel in those matters. These desired Alexander Mack to baptize them, but he deeming himself in reality unbaptized, refused; upon which they cast lots to find who should be administrator; on whom the lot fell hath been carefully concealed. However, baptized they were in the river Eder, by Schwartzenau, and then formed themselves into a church, choosing Alexander Mack as their minister. They increased fast, and began to spread their branches to Marienborn and Epstein, having John Naass and Christian Levy as their ministers in those places; but persecution quickly drove them thence: some to Holland, some to Crefelt. Soon after the mother church voluntarily removed from Schwartzenau to Serustervin, in Friesland, and from thence migrated toward America in 1719; and in 1729 those of Crefelt and Holland followed their brethren. Thus, we see, all the • Tunker churches' in America sprang from the church of Schwartzenau in Germany; that that church began in 1708, with only eight souls, and that in a place where no Baptist had been in the memory of man, nor any now are; in sixty-two years that little one is become a thousand, that small one a great nation. It is very difficult to give a true account of the principles of these Tunkers, as they have not published any system or creed, except what two individuals have put forth, which has not been publicly avowed. However, I may assert the following things concerning them, from my own knowledge, viz., general redemption they certainly hold, and with all general salvation. They use great plainness of dress and language, like the Quakers, and like them will neither take an oath nor fight. They will not go to law, nor take interest for the money they lend.* They commonly wear their beards, and keep the first day (except one congregation).t They

* The taking of interest is now tolerated among them, but most of them do not demand or take full lawful interest, and some of them do not take any interest for the money they lend to their poorer brethren.

+ It is quite probable the author here alludes to the (Sieben Taeger) Seventh Day Baptists, who formed a settlement at Ephrata, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in the

celebrate the Lord's Supper, with its ancient attendants of lovefeasts, washing feet, kiss of charity, and right hand of fellowship. They anoint the sick with oil for recovery; and use the trine immersion, with laying on of hands and prayer, even while the person baptized is in the water, which may easily be done, as the person kneels down to be baptized, and continues in that posture till both prayer and imposition of hands be performed. Their church government is the same with the English Baptists, except that every brother is allowed to stand up in the congregation, and speak by way of exhortation and expounding; and when by these means they find a man eminent for knowledge, and possessing aptness to teach, they choose him to be their minister, and ordain him with laying on of hands, attended with fasting and prayer, and giving the right hand of fellowship. They also have deacons, and aged women for deaconesses, who are allowed to use their gifts statedly. They do not pay their ministers, unless it be by way of presents; neither do their ministers assert their right to pay, esteeming it more blessed to give than receive.' Their acquaintance with the Bible is admirable ; in a word, they are meek and pious Christians, and have justly acquired the character of Harmless Tunkers.'The Rev. E. Winchester, one of the Baptist missionaries from England, in a work published by him in the year 1787, gave, among other things, the following account of these people : “ They are industrious, sober, temperate, kind, charitable people; envying not the great, nor despising the mean. They read much, they sing and pray much; they are constant attendants upon the worship of God; their dwelling-houses are all houses of prayer: they walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, both in public and private. They bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.' The law of kindness is in their mouths; no sourness or moroseness disgraces their religion: and whatsoever they believe their Saviour commands they practise, without inquiring or regarding what others do."

Though they in general maintain the same principles at this present time, yet they themselves confess there is not that same degree of vital piety existing among them that there was at the close of the cighteenth century; owing, as they think, to the circumstance of many of them having become very wealthy, and of their intermarriage with others.

The German Baptists, or Brethren, have now dispersed themselves

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year 1724. These are the same people meant and described under the name Dunkards, in Buck's Theological Dictionary; there is no account given of the German Baptists or Brethren in that work.

almost through every State in the Union, more or less; but they are most numerous in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. It would be a difficult task to give a regular statistical account of these people, as they make it no part of their duty to keep an exact account of the number of communicants. Some of their larger congregations number from two to three hundred members ; each congregation has from two to three preachers, and some more. In travelling and preaching there are in general two together; and very frequently one speaks in the German, and the other in the English language, to the same congregation. None of their ministers receive any pecuniary compensation for any services they perform pertaining to the ministry; they preach, officiate at marriages and funerals among all who call upon them, without respect to persons: though their ministers will not perform the rites of matrimony, unless they can be fully satisfied that there are no lawful objections in the case of either of the parties to be married. .

Their teachers and deacons are all chosen by vote, and their bishops are chosen from among their teachers, after they have been fully tried and found faithful; they are ordained by the laying on of hands and by prayer, which is a very solemn and affecting ceremony. It is the duty of the bishops to travel from one congregation to another, not only to preach, but to set in order the things that may wanting; to be present at their love-feasts and communions, and, when teachers and deacons are elected or chosen, or when a bishop is to be ordained, or when any member who holds an office in the church is to be excommunicated. As some of the congregations have no bishops, it is also the duty of the bishop in the adjoining congregation to assist in keeping an oversight of such congregations. An elder among them is, in general, the first or eldest chosen teacher in the congregation where there is no bishop; it is the duty of the elder to keep a constant oversight of that church by whom he is appointed as a teacher. It is his duty to appoint meetings, to baptize, to assist in excommunication, to solemnize the rites of matrimony, to travel occasionally to assist the bishops, and in certain cases to perform all the duties of a bishop. It is the duty of their teachers to exhort and preach at any of their regular stated meetings; and, by the request of a bishop or elder, to perform the ceremony of baptism and rites of matrimony.

It is the duty of their deacons, (or, as they are sometimes called, visiting brethren,) to keep a constant oversight of the poor widows and their children, to render them such assistance as may be necessary from time to time; it is also their duty to assist in making a general

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visit among all the families or members in their respective congregations, at least once a year, in order to exhort and comfort one another, as well as to reconcile all offences that may occur from time to time. It is also their duty to read the Scriptures, to pray, and even exhort, if it may appear necessary, at their regular meetings of worship

The general order of these people has been to hold their meetings for public worship at dwelling-houses; but in some of their congregations they have now erected meeting-houses, or places expressly for worship. Some of them are built very large, without a gallery or a pulpit.

They, as yet, have but one Annual Meeting, which is held every year about Whitsuntide, and is attended by the bishops and teachers, and other members, who may be sent as representatives from the various congregations. At these meetings there is, in general, a committee of five of the eldest bishops chosen from among those who are present, who retire to some convenient place, to hear and receive such cases as may then be brought before them, by the teachers and representatives from the various congregations, which are (or at least the most important of them) afterwards discussed and decided upon, and then those several queries with the considerations as then concluded, are recorded and printed in the German and English languages, and sent to the teachers in all the different congregations in the United States, who, when they receive them, or as soon as convenient, read them to the rest of their brethren. By this course of proceeding, they preserve a unity of sentiment and opinion throughout all their congregations.

Some of their ministers manifest a great deal of zeal in their Master's cause; and although some of them are poorly circumstanced in the world, yet they, at their own expense, leave their families for several weeks in succession, and some even longer, to preach the Gospel to others. They have had a general revival amongst them within the few last years past; many have been convicted and converted under their preaching, and the cause of religion seems to be progressing among them; and what might seem strange to some, is, that they baptize by immersion, and that at any season of the year.

In connexion with what has been said in the commencement of our account, concerning their doctrines, &c., we will only add, hy way of conclusion, that they believe that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteous. ness,

is accepted with him; and that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should

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