Nicolaus Garrison (1701-1781)
Lebenslauf for Nicolaus Garrison (Appendix to Sept. 1781)
Our dear Br. Nicolaus Garrison recorded the following of his lifes events: I was born in the year 1701 on Staten Island, in New York, and enjoyed a God-fearing upbringing from my parents in the English Church. Beginning in my childhood, they taught me about the Holy Scriptures, which I liked to read, and from my most tender years I worried about my eternal well being. Unfortunately, it was only too early, and I was pulled into worldly ruin by my dear brothers. Yet my dear Lord followed my so faithfully, that I always felt remorse for my sins, and promised to improve. I was twelve years old when my dear mother blessedly left this world. The impression of what she had told me about the suffering and death of the Savior stayed with me through my entire life. Soon after her passing, my father let me go to see at my own request. Eight years passed before I tired of the mean and Godless life among sea-people and returned home. During that time, I was taken prisoner three times, and was amazingly rescued from various dangers. There was one time in particular when I swam to another ship in order to escape, and I was nearly drowned. I had to conceal myself on the new ship until it sailed into open sea. Not long after my return home, my father passed away. I now decided to marry and lead a Godly life. I entered into marriage with the daughter of a neighboring, God-fearing family. The Lord blessed this union with twelve children, which I tried to raise after my understanding. Despite all my efforts, diligent reading, prayer, and fasting, and the outward appearance of piety, I remained a slave of sin, and my own heart and conscience damned me. I decided to return to sea in order to better my worldly circumstances. So far, I was successful, but my souls distress followed me and grew ever greater. Since I could not resist sin, I became very scared for my soul. It was in this condition that, on the island of Eustatia, I came together with Br. Spangenberg, who had been on a visit to St. Thomas. From there [Eustatia], he went with me to New York, which I afterward saw as the guidance of the Savior. We had a very pleasing sea-journey; his lifestyle and behavior, as well as the sermons that he gave on board ship, were a blessing to my people and me. I looked on him as a man of God and tried to follow his example, but it was all in vain because I still followed in my own judgment, and had no clarity over the reconciliation through the Blood of Christ. In May 1737, on my next voyage to the West Indies, I was sick and I doubted that I could reach Antigua. It pleased the Savior then to extract me from my own judgment. I saw myself naked and bare; all of my sins were before my eyes, and my supposed good works were to me like a sullied cloak, made of pure hypocrisy and deception. There I stood as a condemned sinner, expecting soon to go into eternity without consolation and full of damnation because I had sinned against my own convictions. I received such a fear of hell that I cannot describe it. As I wanted to break down under this burden, it was if I heard myself say that there was help for me in the Blood of Christ, upon which I was comforted a little. Because I was still under the law, however, my sins seemed too great, and I found it hard to believe that they could be forgiven of me. Yet, I thought, if God preserved my life this time and gave me a reprieve for penance, I would look on it as a sign that he would handle me with mercy. This [plea] he granted me in grace. Because I had come to know the Brethren through Br. Spangenberg during my last trip, I now hurried to them. Br. Friedrich Martin took care of me faithfully, and during my long sickness I enjoyed love-filled accommodations in the house of Mr. Carstens. After my recovery, I set out with Mr. Carstens on my return journey to New York, where, through a new attack of my illness, I arrived much weakened. Brother Joseph visited me, and rejoiced over the changes that I had undergone. He was a great comfort to me. I did not neglect to express to my acquaintances with cheerful courage how I had previously cheated them and myself through my own will, and how the Lord in Grace had opened my eyes, which information had a good effect on some of them. My firm resolution not to go to sea again changed before two years were out, because I felt an irresistible pressure in my heart to become a good example to sea-faring people, and to win them for the Savior. I had the joy of seeing that my efforts in this direction were not without result, in some cases. Around the end of the year 1738 I had the pleasure of seeing the blessed Count von Zinzendorf in St. Thomas and of sharing a house with him. Right from the first moment I received a strong impression from him, and his company was to me like a veritable blessing for my heart. In May 1740, I undertook to please some merchants, and took a trip to Jamaica against my inclination, particularly as I had not yet fully recovered from my last sickness. Prayers and tears accompanied the parting from my wife and dear children. My oldest son I took with me. Near Jamaica I was taken by a Spanish warship, (from which I previously had had retribution), and was brought to the island of Cuba. I was put on the Spanish warship, among mean and Godless sailors. I had no other bed but the floor (the deck of the ship), and the most miserable diet. The thought that I might never again see my family, who lay very close to my heart, made me very sad, yet I held by my dear Lord in the conviction that nothing could happen to me without His Will. The doctor on the ship took special care of me, and I found in him a man that loved the Savior. Since he had been compelled by force to serve on the ship, and the mean society was very burdensome to him, as it was to me, he comforted me, shared his bed with me, and did everything he could to ease my condition. Thus, it affected us very much, when we had to part from one another. I was put on land with my people [sailors] and other prisoners, in order to be taken by convoy 150 miles inland to Byam (1). The first day we had to go thirty miles through a thick forest, without coming across either water or a house. My fourteen-year-old son, who grew sick from the intense heat and thirst, had to be carried in turns by my people, until they were themselves no longer in any condition to continue. They hurried farther, because of great thirst, and left us behind without help, when it was already nearing evening in the thick woods. In this emergency, I went, like the Hagar (2), a bit from the boy, and cried to my Savior. I was assured of His hearing, took my son by the hand, and in a half hour we were again with our group and revived by a little creek. Before night we came to a house, where we were given over into the hands of an old man who was to take us farther. He treated us with friendship, and granted my request that we be allowed to rest on the following day, as the next station was a hard days journey through the forest. Among the prisoners, of which there were twelve, I was the only [one] that could speak some Spanish, which came in handy. I was allowed to go to a house a quarter mile away in order to get some sugar cane. The man inquired very kindly about my circumstances, and regretted much that the next day we were to be taken on by a party of hunters who would probably murder us. These same men had alarmed us very much the previous night, and from their conversation one could gather their plans only too clearly. He [the man] allowed himself to be moved by my urgent plea that he travel with us for our security, and was, as will be shown hereafter, our guardian angel. When we were in the middle of the forest on the way to the next station, [the hunters] wanted to carry out their evil deed. But our faithful companion, who in any case was well armed, declared that he would defend us to the end and that they would have to kill him first. He remained steadfast until they gave it up, and so we safely reached our quarters late in the evening. Our companion did not want to leave us until we had been brought to Byam safe and sound and had been handed over to the governor with a special recommendation. He then tearfully parted from us. After managing very difficultly for a night in a narrow room, I, my son, and my helmsman were brought to a room with other English captains, some of whom had already been sitting there for a year. Even as I entered I heard what sort of company I had now come into, and would have wished rather for death. I asked the prison overseer to find me a separate room, and he gave me some hope. During the night I dampened the floorboards, which were my bed, with tears for my hearts melancholy. And so it went also the next three nights, until the Savior, who saw my tears, comforted me mightily, and gave me the assurance that he wanted to rescue me from here and bring me to my family. The rest of that night I wept tears of love and gratitude. The next morning my fellow prisoners set into me as usual, but whereas previously I had remained silent and full of grief, now the Lord opened my mouth so that I could speak my mind with confidence and courage. I held as emphatic a sermon for them as they had probably ever heard in their lives. They were so struck by it that they could not respond with a single word. Thus, I left them, and went on for myself alone. One of them, however, a Captain Toler, came after me and testified that I had spoken the truth. He told me his whole lifes story, how he had once been thoroughly awakened, but had afterwards become unfaithful and now feared that he had missed his hour of mercy. I encouraged him and he sought and found mercy in the Savior, so that we were both very pleased with one another. Together we read and sung for our edification. This came as a blessing to the others as well, who were won over by and by. When I became very miserable from this bad and unusual life, the Savior decreed that a certain young man–who had inquired closely over my circumstances–formed a special love for me. He visited me every day, and during my imprisonment cared for me in every way possible; just as I had enjoyed from some others much useful friendship, which I ascribed to the true and loving care of my dear Savior. After five months had passed, an uncomfortable circumstance came to pass. Although the prisoners were thrown into a tougher prison, a separate room was provided for me and my son along, through the intercession of my good friend. It did not last long, however. On the accusation that I had an understanding with the governors son, who was at odds with his father, to escape together, I was put in the prison with the others. Yet the hand of the Savior was also here, as this was the reason that all the other prisoners came out of this unhealthy dungeon. When I became deathly ill from the moistness and the intolerable stink, my friend could not receive permission to bring me to the hospital. So with the help of the Kings Attorney, he procured an order for all seventy prisoners to be transferred to St. Jago (3), a port on the island. He also took care of everything necessary for my good transfer, both by land and by ship. On his recommendation the captain handled me very dearly, made me the overseer of the prisoners, and on our arrival in St. Jago he found for me, through an English man in the castle, good board and lodging for me, my son, and the above-mentioned Capt. Toler. After a stay there of six months, we were freed by Admiral Vernon (4), who was in Jamaica. I enjoyed much friendship on his [Vernons] ship for six to eight weeks, and received permission to return to New York on a warship. On September 16, 1741, I came to land on Staten Island, three miles from my home. I hurried to pour out my hearts gratitude before the good Lord: that his promise to me had been so mercifully fulfilled, that he had let me see so many examples of his charity and faithfulness during my imprisonment, that I wondered at every consideration, and that I would hereafter celebrate this day as a day of thankfulness, until he took me to him. I then made my way to my family, by whom I was welcomed with great joy after an absence of fourteen months. Around the end of that year, the blessed Jünger(5) spoke in my house, and I accompanied him as far as Brunswick on his trip to Pennsylvania. In the next year I made my last trip to the West Indies. I took my dear Friedrick Martin back with me and went with him to Bethlehem, where I stayed for a few days and then returned home. In addition, after some time I brought three of my children to Bethlehem to live. In 1743, the blessed Jünger gave me the task of traveling with him and a group of twenty people to Europe, in order to bring a number of Brethren to America, which assignment I accepted with joy. I also received permission to take my oldest daughter, who was fifteen year old, with me. On this journey, we were in great danger of wrecking on the reef of Scilly (6), where a storm pushed us with great force. The blessed Count, who, to my amazement, was very cheerful and pleased by this danger and noticed my anxiety. He said to me that we would all come safely to land, and that the storm would be over in two hours. After the passage of that time, he sent me on deck and in a few minutes, the storm was over. A favorable wind brought us out of any danger. This remarkable occurrence, can be read about in detail in the blessed Counts biography, p. 1470 (7), made a great impression on me and filled me with a particular admiration and love towards this Servant of Jesus. On my arrival in England, I also found my son, who had just come from Jamaica with Admiral Vernon. I took him with me to Germany, and we reached Marienborn at the end of March. On April 27, I was taken into the Gemeine by the blessed Jünger. By the next Abendmahl I achieved the enjoyment of this great Good [communion], to my great humility before my dear Saviors grace and mercy. In June, I went to London with a few Brethren who understood sailing, in order to acquire a ship and, as captain, to take a number of Brethren to America. In August, I found myself in a position that I had often wished for but never believed I would experience: at sea on a Gemeine ship that was being used by the Brethren. We were in 132 people in all, and sailed from Rotterdam to New York, where we arrived on November 25. From there, I accompanied this group to Bethlehem. The trip cost me many tears afterwards, however, because I could not show the necessary faith, and I could not console myself over this until the dear Savior gave me assurance in my heart that he had forgiven me everything. On the return trip to Europe, with a few Brothers and Sisters, we were taken by a Spanish warship and brought to St. Sebastian in Spain, from where, however, we soon went to London with an English cartel ship, and from there to Germany. After a short sojourn, I was sent with Brother Joseph and several other Brethren to back to America, with the task of ordering a community ship built. In October 44 we reached New York. In March, after the necessary shipbuilding arrangements had been made, I sailed for England with Br. Peter Bshler and his congregation, as well as with my wife and two children, one of whom was still nursing and went home [died] in Marienborn. As we were reaching the end of our trip, we were seized by two French warships and taken to St. Malo. From there we traveled by land to Havre de Grace, sailed to Holland, and reached Marienborn in June of the same year, full of praise and thanks for our Lord, who had shown us so much mercy. Now I had the joy of seeing myself and my whole family in the Gemeine, which exceeded all my expectations. My wife soon achieved being taken into the Gemeine and admitted to the Holy Abend Mahl. In 1747 I brought building materials for a Gemien-Haus in New Herrnhut to Greenland. On the return trip, we had two Brethren and five Greenlanders with us, whom I accompanied from Amsterdam to Marienborn. There I was met with the news that my wife and eleven-year-old child had gone to the Savior. At the end of the year 1747, I was bound in holy matrimony with my current wife, who was born Bandtin. We traveled the next year to America in order to outfit the newly built Brethrens-ship, the Irene, with tackel work, and then to take over the place of Captain of the ship. I remained in this position for eight years, and had the joy experiencing much wonderful protection by the Savior, who had an especially merciful eye on this ship. Among other occasions, [he protected] us three times from the danger of sinking, once in a thick fog on the reef of Scilly, the same in the ice in the Davis Strait (8), and also during a strong storm in the Channel, as well as others. In 1756, I gave my position to my former helmsman, Captain Jacobsen, and the Irene was now used as a merchant ship. I traveled with my wife to Herrnhut, but was in the same year sent to Surinam in order to find two pieces of land for settlements for the Brethren. This was my last and hardest sea journey in the service of the Gemeine, yet with the help of the Lord everything proceeded well, regardless of all the onerous struggles that we experienced in the rivers and forests, and through sickness. After my return to Herrnhut in August 1757, I was assigned to a little place in dear Niesky, where my wife had already been for some time. Here I had a blessed period of rest, enjoying the blessings of the Gemeine and the love of my dear Brethren. I thought over my whole lifes course before the Savior at this time. With many tears, I confessed to him all my sins, negligences, infidelities, and my insufficient application of all the graces and good deeds he granted to me. He made me an especially merciful and friendly visit, and assured me of His forgiveness, love, and mercy, and my call and election to His people. From this time on, I lived in a very blessed way, in childlike dependence on my best friend, as he had maintained me before. In April 63, after a five-year stay in this dear Gemeine, I traveled one more time under the direction of our good Lord, with my son Benjamin and his wife and child, to Holland and England, and from there among a community of Brethren with Capt. Jacobsen to New York. We reached there happily in October, and continued on to Bethlehem. In memory of my dear Niesky, I named the little place on the banks of the Lehigh, which I made into a comfortable spot for solitude and silent meditation in conversation with the Savior, with the name Niesky. There I completed this essay on the merciful guidance of the Lord through my whole life, and often thanked him for my election. So far his own composition.
What concerns his life among us, we can say nothing but that he had a
heart that was devoted to the Savior and penetrated through and through
by the Martyr Jesus. He expressed this on many occasions with heartfelt
feeling and humility. The duty of Fremdendiener, which he faithfully
performed for many years, gave him frequent occasions to give an emotional
witness of the foundations of our salvation to those both high and low.
This was, for some, not without real blessing, and we miss him very much
in this capacity. Above all, his relations with every man were affectionate
and filled with love, his whole progress and development exemplary and
edifying; it laid close to his heart to follow the customs and laws of
our Lord and to change honorably for the Gospel. The Gemeine gatherings
were for his heart a blessed pasture, and he never lightly neglected one.
Regardless of his advanced age, he was still quite lively and healthy,
except that he once in a while had attacks of Podagra (9). That he had
for some time already been concerned with his passing, can be clearly
seen from the song found above. The occasion for his last, serious illness
was that he was hit in the hip by a passing cart and had such a bad fall
that he had to be carried home. Outside of a minor wound in the foot,
there was no visible sign of injury, and, at the beginning, it [the accident]
seemed not to be of great consequence. But then the Podagra set in and
finally spread to his body, so that it appeared this could be the time
of his salvation. Everything was used for his recovery, but he became
worse from day to day. He longed for his passing because of his great
pain, which he often professed to those who visited him. In the end, it
went so far that his whole throat was inflamed, so that he could not take
anything in and talking came with great difficulty. He took an affectionate
parting from his wife a few days before his passing, and he comforted
her that the dear Savior would not abandon her. He was very calm despite
is great pain, and looked with yearning and silent sigh towards the blessed
moment when he would be released from all need, and could refresh himself
in Jesus wounds. In this mood, he recommended himself to the memorials
and prayers of the Gemeine. This desire was granted to him on Monday
the 24th in the third hour, when he went over blessedly into the arms
of his redeemer, during the singing of several verses and with the blessing
of the Gemeine and his Choir. It was the 81st year of his life.
1 Probably the town of Bayamo, on the southeastern end of the island.
Transcription and translation by Katherine E. Carté