bullet John Frederick Peter (1746-1813)

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Married Brother Johann Friedrich Peter, who passed away on July 13:  He left behind the following report of his life.

I was born May 19, 1746 at Heerendyk in Holland and baptized by Brother Grube. I enjoyed what was to me the always-admirable care of the Brudergemiene from my tenderest youth. When I was two years old, my dear parents put me in the children's school in Hartem, from where I, along with the whole school, came to Zeist.  I cannot think on the years of my childhood that were spent there without tears of joy.  The Savior's love let itself be felt noticeably among the children. Together we often beseeched the Lord on our knees for hearts that were warmed by His Blood and totally engulfed by His Death and Suffering.

In 1755 I came, with some other children, to the Children's School in Niesky. The bleak and uncomfortable circumstances there had an influence on my subsequent disposition and style of thinking.  My high spirits were lost into a pensive nature. This did not damage my heart, however, but rather drove me further to seek my only pleasures and joys in the Savior, and to sacrifice my self-love to him.  As a poor sick being, I had to run to Him always.  In this condition, I came to [Gross] Hennersdorf on May 6, 1756, through the transfer of the Niesky School.  There I devoted myself to the Savior anew, and made a covenant with Him that he should apply me to something completely and make me the payment for his suffering, and if I should not thrive for him in the care of the community, that I would have him take me home to him.  That I already made such a pact with the Savior as a child, and often thereafter renewed it, made my progress in the Boys-Choir, into which I was taken on January 2, 1759, much easier.  As I grew to know that I was sinful and corrupt throughout, the Savior held his powerful hand over me so I would not allow myself to be concerned by my sinful tendencies, and yet sometimes my heart was so anxious about my sinful-misery that I cried for grace and mercy.  The Savior used a lengthy sickness to bring my heart to rights, and to mark it with His bloody martyr's beauty, and I received, in His blood, mercy from my weeping and pleading for the forgiveness of my sins. On November 26 of the same year, I was taken into the Gemeine to my deep humility, and I dedicated myself to the Savior with body and soul.  I was thoroughly cheered and learned to understand what one had from the dear Savior.  In everything, I turned to Him.
 On August 30, 1760, after I had wept much for my infirmities and weaknesses and worried that my whole progress was not yet to the joy of the Savior, I became a happy participant in the Holy Abendmahl.  At the time, I did not yet have the true understanding of this most worthy sacrament, but I was full of joy and let flow tears of thankfulness and sinfulness.  In that same year, the Paedegogium was transferred to Niesky.  There, in the school of the Holy Spirit, I grew in an understanding of my sinfulness and my depravity, as well as of my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.  He punished me for the betterment of my soul when I wanted to put him off of something; in particular, he showed me the triviality of my own judgment, and afterwards led me always to appear as I was before my Savior and my Brothers.  Subsequently, I found the holy truth that a youth can go on his way without punishment if he holds himself to God's Word.  I had a special share in the blessed work of the dear Brother Johannes von Watteville in our Choir; by the feeling of my deep depravity, the sanctification and chastening of the spirit, soul, and body through Jesus' body became an ever-greater matter to me.  Each day I opened myself to the Savior for one hour to discuss all that was happening with me.  Thus, through His mercy, I could be openhearted towards my choir-elder.  On August 29, 1765, I was taken into the Single Brethren's Choir.  I entered it with the complete intention of willingly lending body, soul, and limb to please Jesus, and serving Him in my tiny way in whatever he would ask of me, to which end I asked for His mercy with many tears.  With this understanding, I went to the Seminary in Barby on September 18 of the same year to set about my studies.  The dear community of hearts among the young Brothers who studied there was worth much to me, but the pleasure of the calm communion with the Savior consoled me effusively for my sinful-misery, and became thereafter ever more indispensable to me.  Various circumstances gave me reason to feel humble, among them that I came into the hourly-prayer community on August 27, 1766, and also had a Quartan Fever1 from September 1767 to May 1768.  At the same time, I could rejoice that He would not desert me, His most depraved and poorest creature, who had nothing but His bloody mercy.  Through the above-mentioned fever, my body was cured completely of sickly attacks that I had often had before, and which had also set my studies back.  Because I knew my weak intelligence well, I turned now with great diligence to make up everything that I had neglected, in order to become useful to the Savior through His mercy.  The many blessings of the Savior, for which I held myself unworthy, made my heart burn with love and gratitude for Him, and made me dedicate my soul and my bodily strength to His service in more complete devotion to Him.  I spent the year 1769 in particular, the final year of my stay in Barby, with my heart in this spirit.  During a conversation with Him, which was accompanied by the indescribable and consoling feeling of the Savior's nearness, my heart was fully prepared for the call to North America that I received after the Brethren's Synod that year, and now could take on with joy.  After a wistful and tearful farewell, I started my journey on January 4, 1770, on foot and in a frustrating snow flurry, alongside four other Brethren.  On the 18th, we came to Zeist, from where we went to Amsterdam.  After an unforgettable Abendmahl with the Single Brethren's Choir there, we—that is, eight people—sailed for London, where we met Br. Nathanael Seidel, his wife, and three other Brethren, all of whom were waiting for a ship to North America.  After a five-week stay in Lindsey House, and a happy sea-journey of nine weeks, we came to Bethlehem on May 18, in the company of the Seidels.  The Abendmahl on the following day, which was my birthday, remains unforgettable in my memory.  On May 28, I came to serve in the young boys school in Nazareth, under the most beautiful and appropriate watchword: "There are several gifts, but there is one spirit.  Mercy and strength he gave without measure."  The Savior showed himself in my work with the children and boys.  To tell them about His love in the Children's Hour was, to me, and undeserved blessing.  He himself must have opened and filled my mouth.  After some time, the pleasure that I had with the children was interrupted by painful circumstances that made my cry to the Lord and weep many tears for his help, and he made me grow in understanding and strengthened me anew for His further service with the children. But the Savior guided me in 1773 to a new occupation: helping Br. Fommelt in Bethlehem with the care of the apprentices and boys and Br. Bonn with the keeping of the accounts of the Single Brother's Choir.  On January 30, I entered into this pursuit bent with sin.  On June 6, I was taken on as an acolyte.  I abandoned myself to the awareness that the Savior knew my poverty and weakness, and to His merciful guidance, which I richly experienced through various trials, in particular during the years 1776-77 and 1778, which brought oppressive circumstances to the Single Brethren's Choir.  That group gave over its house to a Continental Hospital, and had to live scattered around.  I must confess to the praise of the Savior that he kept me in firm belief in him though the sad circumstances described here, and blessed my slight service.  In one special temptation that came upon me, he did not let me fall:  it could have been that my musical talent became dangerous.  I noticed that this talent was prized by the world, and it would secretly press upon me.  The Savior, to whom I lamented this with tears, heard my prayers and brought me through sickness into the calm once more. The visit of our dear Brother John Friedrich Reichel was also a blessing to my heart, and it motivated me in what I wrote during the months from April to September 1779.  On September 15 of that year, I came to Lititz as the Recorder in the Conferences and Community Scribe.  After a seven-month stay, on May 22, 1780, I left for North Carolina with Brother and Sister Friedrich Reichel and Jeppe Nielsens.  On June 16, I came into Salem with them, to serve the Gemeinen there in the same capacity [recorder and scribe].  On September 16, to my humility, I was blessed as a deacon in the Brethren's Church by Br. Reichel.  After the blissful passing of Br. Johann Michael Graff on August 29, 1782, I took on the role of an interim minister, which I fulfilled until September 1784 when Br. Koehler came to Salem as minister.  I must confess with shame and submission and the deepest thanks for my dear Savior, that during frequent periods of despondency over myself, when I uttered before Him many Kyrie Eleision2,   He mercifully showed himself to me and in my work, and powerfully encouraged me through the prevailing blessing of the community.  When the young boys' school was built, which occurred at this time, I took over running it and had much joy in the children.  On a Sunday, as I was riding to Friedland to care for the gathering there, I experienced a special protection of my life when I fell from the horse.  At the close of Br. Johannes v. Watteville's visit among the Wachovia Gemeinen, I was bound in holy matrimony to the Single Sister Catharina Leinbach, who I accepted from the Savior's hand.  I had hitherto laid my path at Jesus' feet, and a feeling of His peace recommended His further merciful guidance to me in the state of marriage.  I remained, during all the changes, His patient.  Often I had to be ashamed of myself, that I had lamented so much misery before him.  He renewed me ever again, however, in the comfort of His mercy.  My sojourn and service in Salem lasted until 1790, from which I have nothing about which to boast but weakness, and that the Savior is powerful in the weak.  I must mention one other thing to his praise—for which I owe special thanks to Him—that he richly blessed the use of the musical talents that I received from His hand for the beautifying of the Liturgies and festival gatherings, and whereby I myself had much blessed enjoyment for my heart.  Although I had not wished for a change of service, a call came to my wife and me very unexpectedly to serve the Savior in the Pennsylvania Gemeinen.  I would have liked to have stayed in Wachovia, but I accepted this also from the Savior's hand, and thanked Him for the peaceful purpose he had for me.  The leave-taking from Salem, during which we humbly came to know the love of the Brethren, will remain unforgettable to me.  It occurred on August 23, 1790.  On September 9, we came into Graceheim, Maryland, the place we had been destined for in the meantime, pleased and thankful.  Brother and Sister Gottlob Sensemann, our predecessors, had left for the Indian Gemeine at Petquotting a few days before.  We seemed like lost children, and appealed to the Savior for his aid so that we could carry out our duty to this Gemeine to his satisfaction.  Brother and Sister Andr. Hübner visited from Lititz on September 18 and started us on our tasks.  Our duty in this Gemeine lasted only until April 3, 1791; the next day we left for Bethlehem, reaching that place on the 9th of the same, happy and grateful that the Lord had brought us there.  In addition, I had the joy of meeting my dear old mother and father, who were yet healthy.  Four days later, however, my father was laid sick with a raging chest-fever, and soon after, on April 28, he went gently and blessedly to the Savior, to my deep sadness.  Yet, I was glad that I had been able to see and speak with him again.  It was another source of pain for me that my cheerful hopes of receiving work in Bethlehem were not fulfilled at that time.  I was given the task of caring for the school in Hope, New Jersey.  We came there on May 7, 1791.  This assignment was not as comfortable to me as I could have wished.  I sighed and wept before our Savior, and wished for nothing but to be consoled by him.  He is to be thanked that he made my burden bearable through His loving nearness. 
So far goes this essay, dated August 11, 1792.
In December 1793, our blessed Brother and his dear wife came to Bethlehem again and served as the Chief Accountant, along side Br. Schropp, then the Gemiene-Vorsteher.  He [Br. Peter] also took over the keeping of the community diary, and the role of scribe for the Elder's Conference. In addition, he served in various ways with his musical talent.  He carried out all his duties with much faithfulness and dutifulness. —After the Provincial Synod for the workers of the Gemeinen in this area was held here in October 1802, he and his wife received a call to work in the little Gemeine in Mountjoy.  At the end of 1804, he was called as the Recorder of the Helfers-Conferenz for the Gemeine in Bethlehem, and to that end returned here in January 1805.  In July 1806, he asked to lay down this assignment because of his weakness.  This request was granted to him.  His principal occupation was to write the Gemein-Nachrichten, in which his good eyesight, for which he was very thankful to the Savior, stood him in good stead.
He was tireless in everything he undertook, and cared for it with exemplary faithfulness.  In such a spirit he served accountant and treasurer for the Brethren's Widows Society; it was a particular joy to him to give an annuity to those widows who were to receive such payment from the accounts of the Society.   This pleasurable task he carried out until a few days before his passing.  His service as Organist of the Gemeine, which he carried out with unmistakable faithfulness and diligence, brought him the special thanks of the Gemeine.  His lovely compositions and musical pieces for the community will keep his memory with us.  On the twelfth of this month, (July), in the evening after the funeral of the blessed sister Irmer, he related to another brother what his joy would be at being Home, by the Lord.  He did not suspect that this happiness was intended for him so soon.  He ended his activities as organist here below on Earth, and then after a night spent sleepless from anxiety, he went at eight o'clock on the morning of the 13th to the Children's Hour, to play the organ.  Just after that, he went to see Br. Freytag in the Apothecary, complaining that he did not feel well.  There, he dropped to the ground when an attack suddenly befell him, and it appeared that he might then go gently and easily to our Lord, whom he had faithfully served in his way and with the gifts that he received from Him—it was at an end.  The necessary efforts were immediately made, as if he still lived, but they were fruitless.  And so his soul left him for the blessed place acquired for it by Jesus' suffering, to eternal joy.

What otherwise relates to the progress of our blessed Brother among us is well enough known, as can be seen from his essay. The intercourse with the Man of Pain was and remained of the first importance to him; his heart's desire and longing was to love Him ever more deeply and tenderly. He diligently prayed to the Savior for the welfare and labor of the Brethren's Church, and the propagation of the realm of Jesus among Christians and Heathen.
Our dear Sister Peter, who went to Reading on the twelfth of this month on a short visit to a friend, and to whom the report her husband's swift passing had to be sent, felt deep suffering over her loss. During this trial, his mind—which had been devoted to the Savior—and his peace-loving consciousness were a manifold edification and encouragement to her. She did not begrudge him [his rest], however, as he had been taken without sickness or pain away from his duties into the eternal peace. She called after him, with the Gemeine:

 Rest gently in peaceful stillness
 Rest at your friend's breast:
 Which is a joy granted to you,
 That sweet heaven's desire!
 Rejoice now in the marriage-room
 Where the heavenly harps ring
 Where for your merciful election
 The redeemed forever Hallelujah sing.

His pilgrimage below lasted 67 years, one month, and 24 days.

1 An intermitten fever which returns every few days.
2 Lord! Have mercy on us!

Updated: 8 June 2001

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