bullet John Christian Till (1762-1844)

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Lebenslauf of the widowed Br. Johann Christian Till

Our widowed Brother Johann Christian Till, who passed away in the Lord, was born in Gnadenthal on May 18, 1762, where his father was House-Liturgist.  His parents, Brother Jacob and Sister Rosina Till, who in his fourth year were called to serve the Gemeine in Bethel, in which place they passed out of the world within ten days of one another after eighteen years of service.  They placed him in the educational school in Nazareth Hall.  There he was treated very strictly and hard, which method of upbringing that was customary at the time, and which made a very disadvantageous impression on his mind, which was upward striving but also very keen to learn. This also taught him, however, as the essay that he left behind about his life's circumstances shows, to turn "with child-like prayer and tears to God our Savior," the helper in all needs. 
 Once, in a children's hour, he "felt himself excited with particular feeling of the heart to raise his voice so that it attracted attention;" this was the first occasion when one was made aware of the talent for music that laid within him.  His teacher at the time, Br. Simon Peter, took him afterwards for particular instruction, which was exactly according to his dearest inclination.  In a short time he progressed so far that in his eleventh year he was already given the regular task of playing the organ in the children's hours.  In this his proficiency already went so far "that he could already play all of the necessary chorales by heart and in several keys."

 In his thirteenth year he came to Bethlehem in order to learn the profession of the nail smith.  At the time of the American Revolution, when among others the Choir House of the Single Brethren here was transformed into a military hospital and holding place for British prisoners, he fell, as did many of his peers, into a degenerate and licentious course.  It was all the more surprising for him then, that at this same time he was allowed to achieve being taken into the Gemeine and the enjoyment of the Holy Abendmahl with the same for the first time, "through which he was first brought into reflection over himself and his condition"; afterwards he rejoiced warmly when the hospital was removed and everything could return to its earlier course, and he could moved back into the Choir House.

 After his apprentice-master released him from the trade at his twenty-first year, and he saw it as necessary to look elsewhere for work, he hired himself out to the overseer of the oil mill here, through which he received the opportunity to acquire proficiency in all kinds of wood work.  In 1785, the proposal was made to him that he become a teacher in the boys school here.  The explanation given to him, "that the musical talent that had been given to him could not be brought to use in his present occupation, and that he owed it to his Creator and to the Gemeine to use it,  for which purpose service in the school was particularly well suited," "caused him much reflection over the whole course of his life until that time."  "Although he felt himself totally incapable for such service with the children, he also felt no joy in declining the offer, so he turned with prayer and supplication to the Savior that He would grant him the mercy to treat the children with wisdom and understanding.  And so he took on the assignment, with trust in God's presence, and let it be his particular assignment, with the assistance of the blessed Br. Jacob Van Vleck, to teach those children who were talented in music.
 In December 1786, he moved from here in the company of Bishop Ettwein, to Hope, in New Jersey, and there took over the position of school keeper and organist, with a yearly salary of $80.  Because in the three years of his stay here, "he had to fight against all kinds of unpleasantness," he was pleased when it was offered to him that he become House Servant for the Oeconomy in Christiansbrunn.  After he had spent three years there, he was prompted to move to Hope once again, where meanwhile conditions had improved in his favor.  In order to better fulfill his school duties, he entered into marriage with the Single Sister Elisabeth Frey on December 1, 1793 in Nazareth, which marriage was blessed with three children: one son and two daughters.  These latter preceded him into eternity.  Of his five grandchildren, two passed away before him.  A few days after the wedding, he traveled with his wife to Hope, "where their shared wish," was that, as the beautiful song No. 525 in our hymnal so aptly expresses, "Jesus, go ahead on the way of life, and we will not delay, to hurry after You faithfully."  After the standard of living for the residents of Hope fell very low, and the school there declined to three children altogether, he saw it as necessary to go into the shop there as a storekeeper, along side Br. Leinbach.  After he served this business for three years, he established himself in carpentry until the Gemeine in Hope was closed, and on May 1, 1808, he moved here with his family, where he sought his living in the beginning with carpentry and later with instrument-making.  In 1811, he was offered the position of organist, which he fulfilled with punctuality and faithfulness until his final sickness, that is, thirty-three years.  He also served in that capacity in the town boy's school for many years.
 One also saw him busy as a member of the Board of Overseers many times? 

He closed his life's story, which he wrote in his eightieth year of life, with the words:
"Because I now, during so long a life, have gone through various experience, so let it be remembered that much has occurred for which I had to feel ashamed before God our Savior and Redeemer, had to implore Him from the bottom of my heart for mercy and forgiveness, and had to call out: "God, do not judge me, because before You no person is just, rather let mercy come before justice, and let me appear before you as one of those remorseful sinners who stand on the edge of the grave, and enter into eternal joy!"  My last wish remains expressed in that verse:
 "Who do I have, God! but You alone
 who come to my aid in my last pain
 with council and comfort?
 Who takes on my Soul,
 when I, who without it can do nothing,
 Now wrestle with death,
 that breaks all strength?
 You do it, God, my Savior, right? Amen!"

About 5 months ago, he fell ill with a painful sickness of the skin, that gave him no rest, day or night, and made his care very difficult.  It fell to the Direction of the Gemeine to find a man, in the person of Br. Johann Gottfried Weiniger, who, with rare sacrifice of his own comfort, cared for the severely-suffering patient day and night.  He always recognized it with thanks to God and to him [his caretaker].  When on the 19th of this month one believed to see that his end approached, it was decided, in accordance with his wishes, to give the last blessing at 11 o'clock; yet, at nine-thirty, in consequence of a bleeding, his breath stood unexpectedly still, and so his tired soul was released from all earthly need and suffering forever.  His pilgrimage here below lasted eighty-two years and six months. 

Transcription and translation by Katherine E. Carté

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