Emmitsburg Council of Churches


Pastor Bager revival service for the
Toms Creek Hundred - June 3, 1757

(actually reenacted, June 3, 2007!!)

Guten Taug dear friends . . .

I bring you greetings from all the churches of the new territory, and especially from Philadelphia where our bishop of the colonies, Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg rides from . . . and since I'm mentioning father Muhlenberg, let me tell you dear friends that it was he who had sent for me and about 10 other qualified pastors from our homeland in southern Germany, which you know as palatine region.

Being so involved with our studies at university of Halle and other schools in Germany, my fellow pastors and I hesitated at first, but upon father Muhlenberg's pleading, we did incline our hearts to that voyage which hath brought us with god's help to this new land.

I realize now that I have not seen you since last we met before Christmas, and for that, I am sorry I cannot get here more often . . . but as you must know, there are so few of us to minister to this vast new land that we can scarce see our charges more than twice per year! So vast and wide is this territory I have never seen such vast uncleared forests in all of Germany!!! Nevertheless, you know that I am establishing numerous other congregations from this place all the way back to York and Baltimore.

Since my time with your is short . . . I intend to make the most of the visit among you this day – should anyone need a child baptized, or if you are ready to marry – please address me, and we shall tend to these matters straight away! For those of you who have lost a child, parent or spouse in my absence, I will meet with you privately for prayers and god's mercy on your departed loved ones. Trust me, I know this sorrow all too well as my wife and I lost our first child upon arriving in that place called Lancaster just a year and a half ago. May the resurrection of the dead and the hope of glory be our consolation.

This morning we will celebrate the sacrament of the holy Eucharist– I therefore urge you in the strongest terms to come forth to partake! But take care that you come not with hearts hardened nor guilty conscience. For where fleshly malice lingers dear friends, that wild boar -- the devil is tramping upon the very roots of the vine!

Don't come to the lord's table with any grievance against a neighbor or some sin unconfessed, for indeed brothers and sisters, as surely as you live in this untamed land, which is like the human heart (!) filled with all kinds of desires, selfishness, greed and lusts . . . just as this wild forest needs thinning so that a man can make a crop grow . . . so your hearts and minds are in need of constant clearing and felling. Do not spurn the lord's refinement dear friends, but let the spirit purify your immortal souls!

When comes the time for our celebration of the holy supper -- I invite you to take a moment for holiness. May our hearts be turned from evil and headed toward useful service of Christ.

I have selected for our text this morning . . .   the 5th chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Romans, which says . . .

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with god through our lord jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of god. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because god's love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit that has been given to us. The word of the lord!!

Dear friends,

I do not know which of these verses is more fitting to expound upon with you this morning . . . as I did make my way here riding those narrow trails with lingering fog of morning, such thoughts as I did have of you and your toil in coming over to this beautiful, but strange and dangerous new land . . . .

What thoughts did vex me – deep in my spirit – and yet at the same time I have found such comfort in these words of St. Paul . . . . I could have shouted for joy! And would have made all the wild game of the forest scatter!!! But lest I should spook my trusty steed, Riker, I did contain such thoughts to my spirit. I must tell you beloved, it's a long ride from those parts this side of Hanover, Pennsylvania to your fellowship at toms creek hundred!! But I'm glad I'm here, and to be perfectly honest, I anxiously await the picnic you have prepared this morning!

But as I did ride through thicket and forest having arisen before daylight . . . , what have been my thoughts on this hot June morning you might ask???"

Perhaps a beginning can be made with the verse that bespeaks of "our peace with god" -- which is founded upon the coming of his son, Jesus Christ, the savior into the world.

For this "peace" that does console our hearts and souls so richly, we cannot possibly thank god enough!!!!

Oh, but here, dear friends, I must pause to ask you . . . have you taken time in the business of your clearing this land and building of these cabins and tendings of these livestock and cultivating that red clay soil . . . to give genuine thanks to god??

Does Christ the lord and his father in heaven know your heart-felt gratitude and adoration?? And in turn, have you known that peace which comes quite literally from heaven above. . . has "that peace" promised to all who believe warmed your hearts and flooded your soul???

But o, of course, dear friends, Alas, we have been given too much experience without peace!! If only for a moment you would think back on the hardships that you and your ancestors did face! Warfare, violence and bloodshed have tragically been our lot these past 30 years and more! As we did yet dwell in our homeland, now far across that sea . . . .

Many of you were acquainted with the devil himself!--that king Louise the 14th of France!! this man was a curse and a stench in our homeland, he who did invade our villages, and rape land and our women!! Arrogantly, this swine came into Germany -- burning our homes, destroying our barns . . . . Robbing us of our crops . . . o what a heartache it was, even as we recollect what abundant crops we could produce to feed our families and there was food to spare!!!!

But the hoarding devils of lords who lorded it over us with taxes, levies and plundering . . . took all the bread we had. And our not giving in was to die by the sword!!!!!

Then to see our own children die of hunger and disease !! Would that god would punish these tyrants in due season!!

Oh, but let me return to the point here friends. God has sent Jesus so that we might know true peace!! The peace that cannot be removed by threat of violence, tariff, or depravation! The peace that god gives comes with what a shilling cannot buy!!

Yet, again, dear friends, what suffering you have known throughout your brief history in this world!!!! What trials you have had to endure to build your character! Would that god would be more merciful in days ahead, because we have seen the greatest of sorrows. Indeed, perhaps this is now the time when and the place where the years lost to locusts will be redeemed!

God's peace comes through this gospel we preach –in him we live and move and have our very life!!!

Oh, but there may be those amongst us who did not know of the evil done in that other land we came from . . . need I remind you of the recent savagery inflicted upon some of our brethren in nearby woods and those mountains directly over there???

I trust most of you have heard . . . or were even involved with the pursuit of the savage Iroquois Indians who did butcher and scalp your neighbors. As that story did go . . . a certain neighbor of these parts had purchased a field about half way up that nearby mountain, and was planning to eventually move there. In preparation of that happy residence he would go up thence to clear the land and graze his cows about 2 days out of the week. Of course, being in Indian territory and with no other friendly neighbors around . . . he and his two Christian daughters would not stay long, nor would they linger there past sundown.

As the story was reported to me, this man and his goodly daughters had gone up to graze the cows and clear an additional field - - having left these parts early they arrived there by mid-morning. All seemed well, but a "lonesome feeling" seemed to be in the air . . . the girls felt this melancholy, and requested their father to join them in singing that familiar tune of mourners, sung when death is near, and in that melody they did find solace. With a prayer they committed themselves to the lord's care and went about their chores. Soon the horses were skittish! The cows lowed. And no sooner had they begun to work, when they found themselves surrounded by the savage Iroquois!!

The father (though with the might of Sampson!) did dash madly straight into the pack of them shouting that Christ would judge their savagery! As though held in a spell, the attacking braves, hearing the name of Christ, did freeze in their violence. But then let out a blood piercing scream. The father ran wildly into the wood and was soon lost to the attacking Iroquois. As he ran, he was encouraging his daughters to do the same -- "run with all your might!" he shouted . . . . but alas, it was too late, the poor lasses could not escape!! and their young lives came to a tragic end!! After some time the father returned to find their lifeless bodies, and yet there was a peace about them he could not explain.

Dear friends, I do not tell you this tale to cause you alarm nor to lose sleep after sundown. God knows, this place is wild with the dangers of the night! But I tell you this tale as a testimony to faith!! these young women had submitted themselves to Christ. They had sensed there lives would be cut short by the scalping knife . . . but they had the power of Christ's saving work to guard their souls!! Their young earthly lives were cut short, and for this we have grieved, but our faith is not in this world dear friends!! our faith, hope and trust are in Christ the risen lord!!

Some amongst us are all enough to remember that year when winter would not end. It was in the years 1708-09. It was at that time when we literally froze with fear and famine! For god's sun did cease to shine, and it became so cold that even the wild animals froze in the woods, and the water in wells froze solid, to say nothing of casks of beer and wine that burst their barrels as they also did freeze such that we could have none!! If warfare with men, had not been enough, it seemed that even the creation had turned against us!!!

But not even these tragedies and heartaches of our history of suffering can suppress our hope in the glory of the gospel of Jesus. For when the sun of this life no longer shines to warm our flesh and stir us from sleep . . . then it is Christ with whom and by whom we awake! !

As Paul says in this letter to the Corinthians, "We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because god's love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit that has been given to us."

Friends, hard times we have known! Oppression is no stranger to us! And yet you have been given the gift of god's love in his eternal son Jesus. And if the salvation of your souls was not enough . . . now god, in his providence, has led you to this land! Now you are being blessed with prosperity! Who knows what god will do as you continue to be faithful in worship, prayer and thanksgiving??

More importantly, remember, you have been given the gift of faith!! in Jesus Christ. Like those young girls who submitted themselves to god, as true witnesses in the midst of savagery, so you have been chosen of god to testify to the grace of the gospel in this new land!

Remember these words, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)."

Just think back to a few years ago when the local lords were taking your land and crops from you!! and now our gracious and glorious lord has given you this good land for just pennies!!

Surely you must sing god's praise for delivering you to this fine place and for his mercies that will sustain you in matters of the heart and soul.

And this is of great importance brothers and sisters: you must examine your heart. You must take stock of your moral soul. For surely the angel of death can come like a thief in the night. You yourselves know what truth I speak in this.

So I admonish you, I beg of you to uphold the commandments. If anyone is in need. Let him not be tempted to steal! But let him come with humility to plead his case before the elders. Even as our father Martin Luther declared, we must exceed Moses' commands, we ought to be constantly looking out for the welfare of our neighbors, such that they would have no need to steal or covet another's goods. Lead by example dear friends!!

By the same token, has anyone amongst us become wealthy and prosperous?? Let him share and give out of the abundance that he has! I should not have to remind you of this, that when it comes to supporting the ministry of the gospel, and I am your shepherd, it is right and customary that you supply me, food, goods, or land, as might be deemed necessary –that I may support my family as much as you! I suppose some 500 acres would be a reasonable sustenance for my family.

Be obedient to god! In this way beloved, our church here at Toms Creek will be blessed of god!!! Surely Christ will take note of the good deeds we do or the ill that we produce, did I remind you to begin a school here for the children at the earliest possible date?

Surely you know that your future is dependent on the young ones growing up to read and write and understand the scriptures. Without educational opportunities this land could be worse than back home! I heard there is a pastor in that Frederick town, who is one of the finest school masters in the whole of the colonies! A pastor Schley I believe.

Strive to do good to one another, and grow this church to the glory of god! God is indeed your hope and salvation and he will be with you always!

Thanks be to god!

Pastor John George Bager

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