The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, old
style, October 31 /November 11.
1. The night watch is to be held this week
by the following:
2. Regarding the watch by the classes Bro. Ludwig asked the brethren and sisters to consider whether it would not be desirable, in view of the present long nights, to divide the watch by the classes each time, a part of them taking the first half of the night watch and the others the second.
The underlying reason: In a congregation of Jesus nothing should be done apathetically and by half measures, but everything should go on with constant uniformity and conscientiousness. So soon as negligence develops, the proper earnestness with which congregational affairs should be treated and the appropriate spirit are lost, and thus their designed purpose is not maintained; they had better be dropped and allowed to disappear or they should be terminated rather than be allowed to continue impaired in this manner. This is a basic principle of our Church, and it keeps it pure. In other denominations, on the contrary, once anything is introduced, it endures in spite of there being neither spirit nor power in it any longer.
3. Regarding a number of irregularities which have occurred in our congregation, the proposal was made that a congregational judge should be selected and appointed as in other congregations of ours, who would also have assistants available who could remove and settle troublesome matters.
4. It was further proposed to get rid of our white hired hands, because to the present they have behaved so arrogantly and insolently. And should we be compelled to keep hired hands, it would be preferable to buy Negroes from St. Thomas and employ them as regular servants who would receive wages, to show Pennsylvania and a conscientious author, who in his writing has opposed slavekeeping, how one could treat even Negroes.
We would always simply deceive ourselves should we have dealings with such people with the laudable intention of converting them.
No one becomes converted in a state of servitude; such folk seek their own advantage and harbor false designs.
If one should wish to help people pay off their debts, one should do so out of pity and as an act of mercy, and then let them go their way again.
Bro. Ludwig stated that he was emphatically opposed to our keeping white hired hands.
This matter was commended to the brethren for further consideration.
5. The morning devotions which the elder conducts should be continued without interruption, even though no one should attend them, for it is a personal affair of the elder.
6. Indeed Bro. Ludwig gave the warning that Bethlehem must not be thwarted in its [striving for] purity. He stated that he was not satisfied with the congregation in that the individual brethren recently arrived from Europe (see September 18/29) had not been examined more carefully, prior to their having been admitted to the congregation. Brethren who arrive from a distance, even those who have been considered outstanding brethren and confessors in the congregations from which they respectivly come, must be tested, grilled, and dealt with in an impartial manner; all must depend upon humility and discernment. In this way a congregation could maintain its purity. All denominations and sects strive to grow larger and stronger; but our rule must remain that of keeping the door open for everyone to leave us, yet of being more cautious in admitting them.
It is to be feared that in time our Church may sicken due to its largeness rather than its smallness.
As an argument for and an illustration of this warning, the example of the congregation at Herrnhaag was cited, which, because of the large number of those competing for admission to it at present, has announced publicly that it would accept no one as an additional member without the Saviour's approval.
While the congregation council was in session, Bro. Andreas Eschenbach and his wife arrived here from their station in Lancaster County (see September 7/18), together with Michael Schafer from Tulpehoken.
Bro. Ludwig conducted the morning preaching service, speaking on I Peter 1:22, Purify your souls in obeying the truth, etc., to be found in the printed collection of his Pennsylvania addresses.
He also conducted the afternoon meeting, speaking on the words for today chosen from the Discourses of the Saviour, John 15.
This Lord's Day was one that was blessed in an unusual degree. Many non-resident friends, also, and strangers attended divine worship. In particular the quarter-of-an-hour devotions of the Choirs were richly blessed as well.