bullet John Bechtel (1690-1777)

(View source document and German transcription)

Johannes Bechtel, a widower, wrote the following about himself.

I was born in the year 1690 on October 3rd in Weinheim on the mountain road in electoral Palatinate, where my parents had fled because the city of Franckenthal, where they otherwise lived, had been burned by the French. My dear parents sent me to school and church regularly. In my 9th year I lost my mother and in my 14th [I lost] my father. In 1704 I came to Heidelberg and was apprenticed to a turner. At that time I look for a good stirring of my heart. In 1709 I set out as an itinerant [journeyman], fell into vain company, and lost my innocence. To my shame I must confess that I became rather reckless and where things were wildest that’s where I most enjoyed being; this lasted for about three years. Then my dear Savior began to work in my heart so that I became anxious and afraid in the company of my jolly friends, and his chastising mercy worked so powerfully in me that when I came home I remembered everything that I had done over the course of the day. Then I often dissolved in many tears and promised to make it better without thinking that I unfortunately could do nothing until finally, through the Savior’s grace, his word came to me: Without me you can do nothing, The I began to pray with tears that He would have mercy on me and forgive me all my sins and I resolved to improve myself. I also ttried more and more to free myself from my vain companions. In 1714 I allowed my friends to convince me to become a master craftsman in Heidelberg. In February 1715 I married my dear wife, who went to the Savior here on February 7, 1758. We were married 43 years and had 9 children, of whom 5 daughters are still alive and from them we have 38 grandchildren, of whom 7 have gone to the Savior, and 16 great-grandchildren. I hope and pray that all of them may progress toward the Savior and that none of them will be lost. In the year 1717 I moved from Heidelberg to Franckenthal until in 1726 I moved to Pennsylvania with my wife and 3 children. I lived for 20 years in Germantown. In 1738 I became acquainted with the dear Br. Spangenberg when he was living with Wiegner in Skippack, since we traveled there for a visit every 4 weeks. The blessed H[einrich] Antes, Stiefel, J. A. Gruber, I, and others from Germantown had many blessed hours together with each other. In 1742, when the dear Blessed Disciple (Count Zinzendorff) came to Pennsylvania, I became acquainted with him and other people [and] my heart quickly felt a tender inclination to him and I came to love them heartily. When I heard the blessed Count preach in the church in Germantown for the first time it was this way in my heart: "Yes! That is indeed the true and only basis of blessedness: Jesus Christ and his merits and suffering. No other foundation can one lay. It is only through his death that life is earned." And from then on the Brethren were the dearest visitors in my house, and when hate and bitterness against the Brethren began to grow in the country I received my own portion in abundance. Then my Reformed religious relatives, among who I had served as a preacher for more than 16 years, began now to torment me somewhat until they expelled me on Sunday, February 9, 1744. The congregation’s watchword for that day was: "The Jerusalem above is mother to us all. In the East and the West it is for those who are pressed down, still always something for the best from the congregation." I did not know it [the watchword], however, until I came to Bethlehem but thereafter I knew in my heart that I belonged in the congregation. I asked the Savior to see to it that I received grace and to bring me to the congregation. He heard my plea and in early 1746 I received permission to move to Bethlehem which, to my great joy, occurred on September 13th. "Now!" I thought, "I will live for the dear Lord alone and through his grace I will be productive and blessed and thus he will keep me until my end." Thus far [what] the blessed [brother wrote himself].

In the year 1742 he was ordained a Reformed preacher in Germantown through the laying-on of hands in the name of the Trinity by Bishop David Nitschmann. At the same time he was also made a Reformed catechist in His name. Here in B[ethlehem] he served the Economy and the congregation with his whole heart and joyfully in all ways, especially by doing hand work. For many years he was president of the Overseers Board. He spent his time, especially his years as a widower, in quiet fellowship with the Savior, and was loved by all, just as he loved them heartily. The lovely services of worship to the Lord were his joy, and he did not miss any meeting lightly. On the 18th of March was afflicted with a serious case of fainting and has been laid up since that time. He told those who visited him that he believed that he would soon see his salvation. "Oh, if He would only come to take me soon!" was his heartfelt wish and it was fulfilled on April 16th at 11 o’clock in the evening. He was in his 87th year. He was buried on the 20th.




Transcription & translation by Otto Dreydoppel, Jr.


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