John Ettwein (1721-1802)
He [wrote] and left behind the following about the circumstances of his life, in his own hand:
I, Johannes Ettwein, was born on June 29,
1721, in Freudenstadt, in the Black Forest, in the Duchy of Württemburg.
My great-grandfather, Jean Edwein, came from France or Savoy, where he
had lost his parents in the great religious persecution, and came to St.
Georgen in the Black Forest in 1620, as a boy. There my grandfather
and father were born. My grandparents on my mother's side emigrated
from Carinthia, in Austria, for religious reasons. They were
among the first recruits in the city which Duke Frederick built for the
Austrian [religious] immigrants, and which was called Freudenstadt by
them. When I was about a half-year old, I took a dangerous fall
from the table on which my mother laid me when she had work to do in the
kitchen. One seized me up, as if dead, and there was no sign of
life apparent in me for twenty-four hours. My parents tried to give
me a good upbringing, and sent me to the Latin school. My mother,
who was a God-fearing woman, I lost in my fourteenth year.
I was very hasty in my manner, and
because of this fell into all kinds of trouble. Yet, I always had
a soft heart, and could not listen to any sermon about the suffering of
Jesus without tears. When I began to read, I found my greatest pleasure
in the story of the ten great persecutions of Christ, and as a boy often
wished also to become a martyr for the Savior.
When, in 1735, both preachers [in
Freudenstadt] died of the spotted fever that was raging in our town, two
awakened students came to serve as vicars in their place. One of
them, Koestlin, who instructed me in the Holy Abendmahl, made great efforts
with us children, and thirty-some of us were awakened through the preparations
for Holy Abendmahl. He taught us many pretty verses from the Herrnhut
hymnal, and from him I heard about the Brüdergemeine for the first
time. My confirmation and first Abendmahl brought me an unforgettable
blessing, and I was an unusually pious boy. From Christmas of that
year on, I attended the gatherings of the awakened for half of a year
without my father knowing about it. The meetings were held very
early on Sunday mornings, and my prayers the night before that I would
wake up at the right time, were always heard. Finally it happened
that my father wanted me to wake me earlier than usual, and found that
I was not in bed. So, when I returned from the gathering, I had
to tell him where I had been, and he strictly forbad my attending the
pietists' meetings, as the awakened were called.
The next Sunday I omitted to go; but
it was the most uneasy day for me that I had ever had, and I decided to
go to the gatherings, come what may. I did it under many heavy
threats from my father, who finally greeted me with blows when I returned
from one meeting. I immediately told him how it had been for me
on that Sunday when I had obeyed his prohibition. This had the effect
that afterwards nothing stood in my way; and the old father who held the
meetings soon made me a helper in the singing and reading. In my
sixteenth year, I was made Provisor in the German school, and remained
so for three years. When around this time my sinful ruin of body
and soul began to stir, and I fell into misery and despair because of
it, the evangelical comfort of those first two brothers who visited my
town came to me, with great consolation and blessing. February 18,
1738, remains an unforgettable day for me. I was in the greatest
predicament over my sinful condition; I wept and poured my misery out
before the Savior. Then it was as if I saw Him before me on the
Crossin bright clarity, and as if I was called to: Look! This
is the Lamb of God, who has carried your sins! My heart believed,
and came into clarity; I threw myself down and thanked the Savior for
the forgiveness of my sins. Everything that had plagued me up until
then was taken away from me, and I felt life and salvation. There
arose now a great longing in me to go to the Brüdergemeine, and when
I saw no way before me, I laid my request before the Savior in prayer.
He mercifully heard it and guided my father's heart, so that in the fall
of 1739 he gave his consent for my traveling abroad. Thus, I left
my father's house and made my way towards Marienborn. Hardly was
I out of the door before there was a round up of young people for soldiers;
my father should have produced me, but he did not know where I had gone.
He was put in prison and given a heavy fine, and he had to take an oath
that he did not know where I was. When my bundle, with everything
I had, was stolen along the road, and I broke my pilgrim's staff before
the gate in Marienborn out of carelessness, it came to me: "This is a
sign that you will stay here!" So I arrived, very poor, on November
7 of that year, under the Loosung: "And the spirit entered into me when
he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I head him that spake
unto me. etc." [The second part of the Loosung continues with
a hymn verse:] "And was to the King's service, on the plentiful
Earth by the flock, that prepared for the splendor: willing, cheerful,
faithful, and capable, hitherto in the days of grace." Maybe this
Loosung was the reason that Count Zinzendorf and other important people
took particular notice of me, a poor youth. Now my great concern
was whether I would be allowed to stay here, as I had only learned a little
of the shoemaking trade from my father. In this predicament, I turned
in faithful prayer to the Savior, and He heard me. Then, though
it was then offered out of love and sympathy that I go to a master in
Frankfurt, who was a Brother, to learn the trade well, nothing came of
it, but rather I stayed there [in Marienborn]. How hard it was for
me in that very cold winterfor six weeks I lived literally on bread
and watermade no difference to me, because I truly had my joy in
the House of the Lord, enjoyed the love of the Brethren, and loved them
warmly in return.
The work of the Holy Spirit in my
heart began soon after to show me even more clearly the greatness and
depth of my ruin and faithlessness, and to inscribe me with the comfort
of the grace of Jesus' blood and death. In March 1740, I was taken
into the Gemeine, and on October 25, I achieved the enjoyment of the Holy
Abendmahl with the Gemeine for the first time, in Herrnhaag. In
April, I was already employed as a helper in the boys-school there, and
in the beginning of the 1741 I was presented as Mitpfleger of the
Big Boys, and came into the Hourly Prayers. Afterwards I moved with
the school to Marienborn, and had blessed times in the service of the
dear children. In 1742, I recovered, contrary to everyone's expectations,
from a ravaging fever, of which I had had a certain conviction.
When, in 1743, I was beset with side cramps and hemorrhages, one thought
of a new business for me, and for a time I was the Servant with the blessed
Jünger, and after the Hirschberg Synod, I was House-Servant for the
Single Brothers. I preformed this position even after I became an
Acolyte in 1744: for around a year in Herrnhut and then again in Herrnhaag
until 1746. Then, in Marienborn on March 11, I entered into marriage
with Sister Johannetta Maria Kymbel, born in Hachenburg. This marriage
was blessed with three sons and three daughters, of whom two daughters
are yet living and in Bethlehem: Anna Benigna and Maria Magdalena.
The latter was married to Br. Daniel Kliest here. I have lived to
see eleven grandchildren, eight of whom are still living. Soon after
our marriage, we traveled to Zeist. I was sealed as a Deacon in
the synod that was held there, and we were appointed as Servants for the
Pilgergemeine. This group was found first in London and then in
various places in Germany, where we had occasion to make several trips
on footsome of them in the cold of winter. In 1748, we were
employed as Pfleger and Pflegerin in the Married-People's Choir in Herrnhut.
There I camethrough affection for certain people and through opposition
to others and in difficult circumstances from inside and outside,
into the then Sifting Time. In March 1749, we came back to Herrnhaag,
where on June 19 our first daughter, Anna Benigna, was born. In
the following September I made a visit to the land of Württemburg,
and traveled in October to London because of a call I received.
From there, I returned to Herrnhaag in February 1750. After the
announcement of the Büdingen Emigration Edict, I traveled with
my wife via Holland to England, and left our eleven-month-old child behind
in Lindheim. There [in London] we served in a several ways, and
were finally installed in Fetter Lane as Children's Elders. We were
there over three years. This stay was useful to me in learning the
English language, in preparation for our future work, as we received our
call to America in 1754. We accordingly set out on a sea journey
on March 12, on the ship Irene. Our society was comprised of 54
people, including fourteen children, among whom was our little son Christian,
nearly two-years-old. We had an unusually favorable and speedy trip
of four weeks from shore to shore, and were already in Bethlehem on April
20. Here I began a new life straight off, and was most blissfully
humbled by the feeling of love of my dear Savior and my Brethren.
The sight of two hundred children at the Liebesmahl, the first gathering
that we were present for in Bethlehem, soothed me inwardly, and was important
to us, as we were employed here as Children's Elders, for which we also
had responsibility for visiting children in the city and country congregations.
In August, I was present at the Synod that was held at Gnadenhütten
on the Mahony, and the Indians captured my heart. In 1755,
I traveled out from New York, where I had accompanied Br. Peter Böhler,
to visit the Indian-Gemeine in Pachgatgoch, which journey afterwards occurred
three more times. Through the end of that year, I was in New York
to assist Br. Rogers in the little Gemeine there, except for a short visit
that I made to Bethlehem upon receiving news of the sad events in Gnadenhütten
on the Mahony. In the years 1756 and 1757, I visited the children
in the city and country Gemeine several times, sometimes with my wife
and sometimes alone. From July 1758 to May 1759, I was Vicarius
in Wachovia. When Br. Christian Seidel arrived, I returned again
to Bethlehem, but upon receipt the news of his passing soon afterwards,
I hurried to depart once again, with my wife on horseback, to take up
his position as preacher. Along the way, after we had missed our
path and had of necessity to make our camp for the night in a very old
and distasteful collapsed tree, I came down with the so-called "Kumme"
fever. It held for eight or nine days, and each day for almost six
hours in the heat of the fever I knew little of myself. We set out
on our trip, however, before and after the paroxysms, and came safely
into Bethabara on October 4.
In the Indian War, in 1760, I often
traveled alone to Bethania, and the thought that the Cherokees could take
me prisoner was not fearful for me, because if I came among them in this
way, I could preach the Gospel to them. In 1762, I made a trip through
South Carolina, visited the awakened Germans, and preached in various
places. In 1763, I was appointed First Worker in Wachovia.
In 1764, I visited Pennsylvania with my wife and brought our son Jacob
to the school. On the decision of the Provincial Synod, I was ordained
a Presbyter in Bethlehem on April 29.
In 1765, I traveled by commission
to Savannah, in Georgia. I took the opportunity to preach in German
and English in the Court House there, and made a visit to the Salzburgers
and other awakened Swiss and Württemburgers in Ebenezer, on the Saluda,
Broad, and Catawba Rivers. I renewed my acquaintance with
Herr Henry Laurens in Charleston, whose friendship came in handy
for the Brethren in the Revolutionary War. I came back safely from
this trip of more than nine hundred English miles. In 1766, upon
receipt of an invitation, I traveled to Bethlehem for a conference during
the visit of Br. David Nitschmann, and along the way made a considerable
detour to visit the governor of North Carolina, Tyron, at his request.
I had to leave my dear wife in bed, because she had broken her leg shortly
before my departure, on April 9. After a blessed stay in Bethlehem
of some weeksduring which I received the assignment of being the
next assistant to Br. Nathanael SeidelI traveled back to Wachovia
to pick up my wife. We arrived safely in Bethlehem with our little
daughter Maria Magdalena on September 20 of the same year. I reckon
my journeys in that year as over two thousand English miles. In
1767, I made several trips: among others to New York, Newport, Boston,
and Broadbay. The visit to the last-named place was the occasion
on which our acquaintances there, who were served with the Gospel by Br.
Soelle, moved to Wachovia and founded Friedland. In 1768, I made
a visit to the Indian-Gemeine in Friedenshütten (Wialusing).
On the trip, I was rescued from apparent mortal danger. I just about
to ride around a cliff and a high mountain in the Susquehanna when two
Indian Brethrenwho had been on the hunt and had already run about
forty miles that day to collected meshowed me the present danger
of the high water and raging current. It turned out that the river
was over eight feet deep in that place and I would without doubt have
been lost. They were thus my angels, according to the chorus of
the daily Loosung: "Then are the dear angels swift," and I thanked the
Savior with tears for this rescue. In 1769, when the building of
Hope in the Jerseys was begun, I visited there almost every month.
In 1771, I accompanied the Deputation from the Unity Elders' Conference, that is Brothers Lorez and Gregor, on their visits to the western city and country congregations, and to Wachovia and back, and then in 1772 [I accompanied] the Indian Gemeine from Friedenshütten through the forest to Muskingum. We were underway for eight weeks, during which time I never came under a roof, until Br. and Sr. Jungmann's place on Beaver Creek. It was an onerous trip, but was blessed for me. The number of Indians numbered 240, with a few strangers, of which over fifty had the measles on the trip. Three times in particular I was in mortal danger. My return trip took me over Pittsburgh, and on September 25, after an absence of five months, I came back to Bethlehemalbeit weighing one-fourth less. In 1773, Gen. William Thomson commissioned me an Agent of Indian Affairs, and at that time I made a visit to our friends in what is now the State of Vermont, in Rhinebeck, New London, Rhode Island, New York, and Staten Island. Everywhere I went, I had the opportunity to preach about the death of our Lord. The same thing occurred on a trip through Maryland that I made in 1774.
After the home-going of our blessed
Br. Thrane in April 1776, I fulfilled the duties of a preacher in Bethlehem,
until the arrival of Br. J. F. Reichel from the U[nity] E[lders] C[onference]
in April 1779. During that timethe time of the Revolutionary WarI
had to appear many times before the Congress, as well as before the Assembly
of Pennsylvania, and everywhere else where it was required, in the name
of the Brüdergemeine in this land; the Lord gave me a confident heart
for this, and let me find mercy in all people. That I merited this
service was a mercy to me. Around the end of these aforementioned
years, I moved with my wife to Hope, [New Jersey], in order to serve the
little Gemeine there until the end of March 1781. In April, I was
in Bethlehem, at the conference there held by Br. Reichel for the Workers
in the city and country Gemeine, and moved afterwards to Lititz, from
where I made a visit to several city and country congregations.
In 1782, after the home-going of the blessed Br. Nathanael Seidel, we
moved again to Bethlehem. In 1783 I made various trips in the commission
of the Helper's Conference, f[or the] G[emeine], in particular for the
affairs of the Indian missions. On one trip to visit Oldman's Creek,
I was on the Delaware and in great mortal danger from a raging storm.
In 1784, I was consecrated a bishop in the Church of the Brethren, on
June 25, by Br. Johannes von Watteville, with the assistance of Br. Mattheaus
Hehl. In this and the following years I again made various trips,
particularly for the business of our dear Indian Gemeine, who since the
well-known murder on the Muskingum had become fugitives. [I] had
the pleasure, brought about by the request of the government, that the
Congress awarded 12,000 acres of land on the Muskingum to the Brethren
on behalf of the Christian Indians. The foundation of a Society
of Brethren for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen also occurred,
held its first festive gathering in Bethlehem on September 21, 1787, and
was soon incorporated by the Assembly of Pennsylvania through a Charter,
or letter of freedom. In 1789, I attended the synod in Herrnhut,
and was absent from Bethlehem for exactly a year. That is, I left
on January 2, 1789 with Brothers Jacob Van Vleck and Christian Ludwig
Benzien, and reached Bethlehem on January 1, 1790, with some of my traveling
companions. The synod and my visit to most of the German Gemeine
remained unforgettable to me; this year was the most outstanding and blessed
of my life: without care, full of love, and pliable feelings. On
September 8 of this year, while I was on my return journey in Holland,
the dear Savior took my faithful beloved wife and helpmeet home to himself,
in Bethlehem, with which the affecting news I was met on my arrival in
New York. I could give childlike thanks to the dear Savior for all
the blessings that he let us enjoy with each other for 43 years.
She was made for me totally, let me follow my calling without grumbling,
and when she could come along, she let all the difficulties please her.
She traveled at least five hundred German miles on foot in Europe and
America with me. Through the provision of God, I brought my daughter Anna
Benigna with me [to America], whom I had seen again for the first time
in 39 years when I came to the Synod in Herrnhut on April 4, and who faithfully
and childlike took care of me.
After my return from Europe, I laid sick in February and March, yet I recovered well enough again that in May I could attend the Conference of city and country congregation workers in Lititz. After this I traveled to Graceham, but I fell sick again, and came weak back to Bethlehem. In July and August, I visited the Gemeinen in Philadelphia and Oldman's Creek, New York, Staten Island and Newport, and in November I was in Lancaster on the business of the Heathens' Society. On January 2, 1791, I traveled to Philadelphia to discuss what was best for the Indian missions. There I had the opportunity to speak with the three head chiefs of the Seneca nation. I received 5000 acres of land from the government of the State of Pennsylvania, to support the incorporated Society of the Brethren for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen. In November, I was in Trenton, in the Jerseys, by which occasion an Act of Incorporation for the said Society was had from the government of that state without delay. I also had the opportunity to witness to a great number of people in the Presbyterian Church, that in the sacrifice of Jesus alone is found mercy and freedom from all sins for all the world. In the years 1792, 1793, and 1794 I made various visits from time to time in the city and country Gemeine.
I see now with longing the end of my pilgrimage. If He has taken my journeys to heart, if my doings have somewhat pleased him, then all the honor goes to Him alone. The shortcomings and mistakes in it have not remained hidden to me.
I have had the honor of preaching publicly in churches or courthouses, in barns or other gathering places, in twelve of the United States of North America, and to praise my crucified Savior and the reconciliation through his blood to [people of] all kinds of religious convictions. I even had the occasion to tell many Indians of such varied nations as the Wampanos, Mahikans, Delawares, Munseys, and from the six united Nations, who released them from the devil and from their sins through His blood, and paid so high a price for them as his possessions; I also baptized two adults. I was in the towns of the Catawbas, saw 150 Cherokee warriors in Bethabara, and spoke with their chief through their interpreter. Moreover, I have seen Chickasaws, Nanitkoks, Shawanoes, and Tuscaroras, and felt thereby what it might feel like to be a Heathen-messenger. When the main hospital was in Bethlehem during the Revolutionary War, I was Comforter of the Sick and Hospital-Preacher, and twice a week held a talk for around six hundred sick soldiers. The feeling that I did not work for naught was a great payment to me. I had neither disgust nor horror, and the infectious air did not do any damage to me, although many Brethren were infected with the sickness, and the same was the occasion for the deaths of seven Single Brethren, among whom was my twenty-year-old son Johannes. The experience of the care of my dear Father in Heaven, and the protection of his Holy Angel on my many journeys over water and over land, I cannot count. More than twenty times I was dangerously thrown from a horse without sustaining any injury, and I was rescued from water several times when I was near drowning. I can praise my dear Lord with thanks and submission, that He was with me wherever I found myself. That I was honored to be His servant in the Brüdergemeine, and was far and wide a witness to His Death, often laid me weeping at His feet with the words: How did I come to this? He loved me ever and ever, and even brought me to him! I can do nothing other than rejoice humbly over my state of bliss, because it is pure mercy! I pray to Him in the dust for everything that He did for me and to me. His mercy will preserve me until I see Him. I am devoted to him like a child; He does with me as it pleases Him! He never comes to me too soon. I wait for Him from one morning's waking until the next.
So far his own writing.
His loving, tender, friendly, and sympathetic heart seemed to contrast with his peculiar style of tending to judge people and things quickly, and giving short and general explanations and remarks the stamp of hardness and severity, so that they often hurt! The nearer one grew acquainted with him, the less this disturbed the love and trust for him, because he was very inclined to recognize his mistakes, be convinced of his errors, and to let love manage things. This side of his character is also shown in the following written explanation that was found among his papers.
"I wait for my dear Lord, as His poor reconciled sinner, and when my little hour comes, as I expect, that no one will mistake it, and thus my Brothers and friends will come there calmly. Everyone who has somehow injured me, I forgive, and beg forgiveness for them. Everything else I have recommended to God, who knows what is right. If I have unjustly judged someone, and accused him of something of which he is not guilty of before God, I have often prayed to the Savior to forgive me my sins. He knows well yet that I would rather love, and hate only injustice and all false ways."
The conversion of the Heathen, especially the North American Indians, was one of his dearest wishes, and he often expressed his hope, like a prophetic spirit, that the Gospel would prove most marvelous in the rescue of many nations. The Brethren's Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen, which was founded through his activities in particular, and in whose yearly gatherings he was each time elected president, will also remain as a monument to his zealous efforts for the well-being of the Heathen. His faithful service, which he rendered to the Gemeine here during the often most dangerous circumstances of the Revolutionary War, will remain in the thankful memory of the Gemeine.
The last years of his life were a gradual preparation for his blessed end. His otherwise strong constitution had already received a blow before his last trip to Europe, and collected from time to time the weaknesses of age and several sicknesses; in this the faithful care that he enjoyed from his daughter was very commendable. In one illness in particular his chest was severely attacked, and he contracted a hoarseness that would not be helped, regardless of all means that were put to it, and was the reason that he asked to be exempted from all recitations in the last three years. At the same time, he was concerned that the decline of his bodily and mental strength would put him out of condition to carry out his commissions sufficiently, and thought to ask for his complete relief. In this he was encouraged from time to time by his colleagues in the Helpers' Conference for the Gemeineto whom his experiences and acquaintance with the work of God here were very valuableto continue in his service as much as his strength allowed, and he was also so strengthened that he was only rarely hindered by indisposition from attending the Helpers' Conference for the Gemeine. When the time of the Synod of 1801 of the Unity of the Brethren drew near, he believed that the Savior would release him from his service, and explained this wish to the Synod.
This gathering of Servants of our dear Lord was to him, of whom one can say: "He was faithful in prayer," a completely exquisite and important object of daily entreaties and intercessions to the Lord and to the Elders of His Brüdergemeine, and he hoped fervently for a new mercy and visitation time. He had the joy of seeing this hope received through the report that was held until the end of the Synod, and also the fulfillment and guarantee of his longed-for wishto be able take off his burden of dutyin the last letter from the Unity Elders' Conference. He rejoiced like a child over this, and thanked the dear Savior with raised hands for the filling of his place by the dear Br. Loskiel. He was just recovering from a quite severe attack of illness when the Helpers' Conference took the instructions from the Synod to heart, among which the commission for him was, that Br. Carl Gotthold Reichel be ordained a bishop in the Church of the Brethren, and it was determined for the following Sunday, that is, December 6. He performed, therefore, his last ceremonious ecclesiastical act with mercy and anointing, and one could not look on this old, venerable Servant of Jesus and Bishop in the Church of the Brethren during the prayer and consecration without an inward calming.
Now it was for him as it is for one who has completed his daily work and prepares for soothing rest. He was unusually serene, childlike, loving, and pleased, and testified often that he had no displeasure towards anyone, and how full of praise and thanks he was for his faithful and merciful Lord, who had led him so blessedly through all the time of his life. On the celebration day of Christmas he visited almost all the gatherings, and seemed to be as well and lively as he had not been for some time. But, in the night between the 28th and 29th of December he was struck with a strong chest fever, and could not, to his pain, attend the last gathering of the Helpers' Conference for the Gemeine that was held on that day. The sickness had an alarming appearance from the beginning, yet there were indications on the second and third day of some improvement. During the Year's End of the Gemeine he often raised his hands in silent prayer, and testified so warmly, lovingly, and pleasingly that evening and on the next day, the first day of the new year, to those that visited him, that it was very edifying. He seemed, according to his remarks, to have no certain expectation of the nearness of his home-going, but had like a child resigned himself to the will of the Lord. On the first of January, in the afternoon, the sickness enveloped him again; the pain in the chest was great, and made speech difficult for him, and his old injury in the left side gave him great pain. In this, his patience and willingness to take the medicines ordered for him by the very faithful doctor, was pleasing to look on. In the following night, he laid completely calm, as in a gentle sleep, until he finally received a death rattle in his chest, and the signs of his imminent Home-going appeared. His departing soul was accompanied by those who were near with the singing of a verse and with prayer and with silent tears; under the blessing that was given to him through the laying on of hands, he drew his last breath, and went very gently home into the eternal rest from his work, by his Lord, on the second day of the new year, 1802, early at four o'clock: his age was eighty years and six months.
Ettwein! Faithful servant of the Lord!
Oh! The Rest in Jesus' Lap!
O how blessed did you pass!
Chime with Angels' Voices
And so Rise and ever after
Child and Child-like: Children remain
Transcription & translation by Katherine E. Carté.