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1679 - 1735

There have been those called reformers whom God has used to restore the truth of His word. God greatly used the Anabaptists during the Reformation. Called Tauffers, and Dunkards, they came into an understanding of water baptism by immersion, not sprinkling and they were persecuted, even to death. The Anabaptist Movement, through which the Baptist denomination as we know it today, came through the fires of persecution. It has reformers and leaders considered as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, who are highly respected. The lives, ministry and doctrine of these men can only be judged by scripture, and by lining their conduct and what they taught up with what God's word teaches.


At times, the restoration of biblical truth has taken the form of "a partial reformation," on the road to full recovery, and the church "growing up into Christ in all things." I say this because although Mack came into light in some areas, and this was God's Spirit moving during this era, he like so many, needed a clear and accurate understanding of biblical doctrine in order to plant churches after the model of the early church as seen in the book of Acts and elsewhere in scripture. Alexander Mack desired to see the sacrament of water baptism restored as a "candle to the lampstand." And while history records that it has not been restored to the biblical pattern as the New Testament apostles taught in scripture, (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:46-48, Acts 19:5) Mack can certainly be credited with helping to restore the following doctrinal understanding in his day:

Alexander Mack's weak points are due only to his own extra-biblical teachings, which namely include:

In those early years, individuals came into the understanding that infant baptism does not save, but rather scripture states that the infant who is too young to understand doctrine is sanctified by it's believing parents. In 1679 in an oscure agricultural village called Schriesheim, a few miles from Heidelberg, Germany, Alexander Mack was born into a very respectable and wealthy family. He was named for his mother's brother, Alexander Fillbrunn. Mack's devout parents were identified with the Reformed Church so he was baptized as an infant there. He'd intended to go to college, but the death of an older brother forced him to work the family mill. As a young man he learned the milling trade and assisted in the care of the numerous vineyards belonging to the Mack family.

An avid reader, he never stopped educating himself. Mack had been influenced by both Pietism and Anabaptism. Alexander Mack was drawn to these beliefs and began holding meetings at his father's water mill (still standing in 1984). He also preached along the Rhine and in Switzerland and is credited with founding the German Baptist Brethren Church (now the Church of the Brethren) in 1708.

As time went by, it's beliefs in pacifism and simplicity posed a threat to the authorities. It's members suffered severe persecution. They found refuge in Schwarzenau, a village near Marburg. From the Bible, he concluded that the only meaningful baptism was by immersion of believers who were old enough to understand the act. He and seven others, who had been baptized as children, decided to obey Scripture as they understood it. Mack strongly urged that they draw lots to see who should conduct the ceremony, not wanting to be known as the founder of yet another religious group. On an August morning in 1708, after one of the other believers baptized Mack in the Eder river, he baptized the rest. For the occasion, Mack composed a hymn, "County Well the Cost" which was sung as part of that service.

Since they had already been baptized at birth, this act was punishable by death. Yet, they chose this act as an outward expression of their inner faith n Jesus Christ. These people called themselves "Brethren." They came top be called Dunkards. Like the Mennonites, the Dunkards were anabaptists, believing in adult baptism.

Convinced that baptism was only for believers at an age of accountability, they drew the attention of the authorities for failing to have their children baptized as infants. Their meetings were forbidden. Some were imprisoned. Many left their homes and property behind to nove to areas where the ruling princes were more tolerant.

Mack found himself out of harmony with the three state churches of Germany because of their formality, laxity in practice, and failure to observe all the New Testament teachings. The state churches of Germany seemed out of step with what Mack observed in scripture as the Christ-life. And he was appalled by the way "Christian" armies butchered one another in Europe. Influenced by the religious awakening known as Pietism, he saw that one must be a follower of Christ with his or her whole heart. That church tradition was pointless if it contradicted the very tenor of scripture.

In 1708, at Schwarzenau, Germany, with seven other likeminded persons, he planted a Christ and Bible-centered church. Alexander Mack, reader of the bible, Conrad Biesel, a salesman, and Michael Eckerling, a member of the city council, made up the group of independent worshippers, then called "Pietists", and held secret services at private homes until they were hounded out of the country to become citizens of America.


From an old book we learn that the Eckerlings were Alsatians by birth. They were born, baptized and raised in the Luthern faith. The father, Michael Eckerling was a reputable burgher, a master tailor by trade who followed cap-making. (kappenschneider/kappenmacher) His establishment was in the Fladergasse of the city of Strassburg. He was of good report in the city and church, serving as a Rathsherr or Councillor.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, the Philadelphian Society was formed in Strassburg. Michael Eckerling who attended these Pietist meetings, began to neglect the Luthern services in favor of the Pietist doctrine, which did not go unnoticed by the authorities. The meetings were moved to Eckerlings house in the Fladergasse, under Krafft, the original leader of the Philadelphian Society. Krafft was arrested, tried, and convicted and given 3 days to go outside the Rhine or be imprisoned. Michael Eckerling was deprived of his office as Rathsherr, commanded to cease holding meetings or be expelled from Strassburg. Michael, his wife and four sons left Strassburg and went to Schwarzenau, where they joined the congregation of Taufer, led by Alexander Mack. After Michael's death, his widow and sons emigrated to Philadelphia, arriving in 1725. In 1725 the Eckerlings, four sons and mother, came after the death of their father Michael. Biesel of the new congregation held out for the observance of the seventh day as the Lord's Day and established a monastic society with buildings suitable for the solitary life the members desired to live. With the help of the Eckerling brothers, Israel, Emanuel, Samuel, and Gabriel, the colony prospered until it became the well-known institution at Ephrata. In the year 1740 there were 36 single brethren in the cloister, and 35 sisters, and it continued to grow until the society numbered nearly 300. The Eckerling brothers, (Israel and Samuel), and Alexander Mack chose a site on the banks of the New River. Soon a third Eckerling brother, Gabriel, joined them. The Eckerlings were interested in expanding the activities of the group to include more industries along with religious practices and in building an institution of some reputation. When they were caught in unauthorized transactions, it became clear to them that they should leave the area. In September of 1745 Israel and Samuel Eckerlings and Alexander Mack Jr. set out for the wilderness. They traveled by way of York until they were beyond all settlements and arrived on the west side of the New River. In October, they were found with a cabin which they had built.


"Weep over Saul who clothed you in scarlet and put ornaments of gold on your apparel..."

It's a biblical concept that it's possible that some men do good deeds and bad. In the changing administration from the dynasty of King Saul to King David, David wrote the "Song of the Bow," which commemorates the good things done by the King named Saul whom the Lord at one time chose to rule His people Israel.

Conrad Beissel arrived in America with the intention of joining the commune of hermits founded by Johannes Kelpius, but Kelpius had died in 1708. Beissel met with one of Kelpius' associates, Conrad Matthaei, who became his principal spiritual confidant. The group around Kelpius had arrived in 1694. They settled on a ridge above the Wissahickon Creek. There they prayed, meditated, watched the stars looking for signs of the coming kingdom of Christ, and they educated children. Some were celibate until death; others married. Conrad Biessel was born in Eberbach, Germany. He fled religious persecution in his native land, making his way to America, and settling in Lancaster County, where he served as the head of a congregation of German Baptist Dunkers.

Eventually Biesssel left the church and went into the wilderness along the Cocalico Creek to carry out his original intention of living in solitude. But Biessel was very charismatic and many of his former church members soon followed him to his retreat and began building their own small residences around his house. The society now known as the Ephrata Cloister was born.

The village that grew from the Cloister was once referred to as Dunkerstown. Today it is known as Ephrata.

From historical accounts, Conrad Biesel, who pastored the Euphrata Cloister appears to have lacked an accurate understanding of how to achieve a true Christian union in Christ as well as in Christian marriage. Marriage to him was a thing to be shunned. WHile it's good to remember that eneimes of the cross of Christ fabricate slanderous stories of Christians, to bitterly and vigorously oppose the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to learn from what scripture terms "ensamples or examples."

The accounts, if placed there by elders to warn the church, state that married women seemed to be a recurring target. Maria Sauer, wife of Germantown printer Christopher Sauer, Sr. was enticed from her family to live at Ephrata, the wife of the Elder at Falckner's Swamp left her husband who forcibly took her back several times, and Brethren historians claim that Elder Martin Urner of Coventry begged his wife to remain faithful, to which she did.

In 1744, only four years after Eckerlin had become Prior and at the height of the administrative struggle with Beissel, Maria Sauer returned to husband and son in Germantown with a full reconciliation. As the disruptions continued, other residents began to realize and more fully comprehend what the Elders in many Brethren settlements had perceived years before. Although he was genuinely bestowed with charisma and richly endowed with the gift of leadership, Johann Conrad Beissel was also a benevolent tyrant. It seems quite paradoxical, that as many Brethren residents were leaving, Alexander Mack, Jr. came to Ephrata seeking consolation following the death of his father, only to find bitterness and strife in open display. Hoping for peace and the very preservation of the Ephrata community, Alexander Mack, Jr., Israel and Samuel Eckerlin decided to leave. A journey that would leave a string of Brethren settlements and congregations in western Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.


The bible teaches: It's better to marry than to burn. (I Corinthians 7:9) Married people at the Cloister, renounced marriage vows. God instituted marriage way back in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman. At no time did the Lord teach that marriage is to be repudiated. The Apostle Paul in teaching on marriage, did allow individuals opportunity to fast, and to abstain from food, or from sex for an extended period of time, but only if there is mutual consent.

In 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 Paul brings out that it can also be good for a person to remain single--but because of the sexual immorality all around you in Corinth, it's also good to be married. It's a natural thing for a man and woman to be married. God created men and women with the gift of sexuality as the benefit of marriage, and it should be sanctified and treasured by married couples in an attitude of holiness. Marriage is a safeguard against sexual immorality. Verses 1-2. "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband."

Verses 3-5, Now that you are in the marriage Paul says you need to protect each other from sexual immorality. You have this union, so don't deprive each other. Verses 3-5, "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer ["and fasting" KJV]. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." Matthew 19:4-6. "'Haven't you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female [Gen. 2:24], and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.'" Verse 5 teaches the only reason to deprive one another of the marriage union and the expression of love found within the sex relationship, is "seeking God without distraction. Paul warns against depriving one another of the experience of the marriage bed. It's more than a physical thing, it's a spiritual "oneness" as well as "one flesh" experience.

As Alexander Mack continued to study the bible, he became convinced that the established churches were not definately not following its teachings, and it's true, they were not. There was a great need for God to send men into the religious system of the day to "Sound the trumpet!" There was a law against leading private Bible studies in the home, and Mack defied it. The law was contrary to scripture, and it's better to fear God than man! One day, while he worshipped with a number of others, authorities broke in and threatened to arrest them all.


In 1719 Peter Becker led a group of Dunkards to Krefeld, Germany and from there to Germantown, Pennsylvania. This was the beginning of the Palatine immigration phase, with inhabitants of the palantine region of Germany heading for America in great numbers. The persecution that followed caused Mack and the body of believers there to flee from Germany, to Holland to a place called Surhuisterveen around 1720. Under the leadership of Peter Becker, they settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in the colony that William Penn had opened up as a haven for religious dissenters in Europe.

A group met at Peter Becker's house in Germantown on Christmas Day 1723. Peter Becker was chosen to act as Elder. Six people were baptized in the Wissahickon Creek by trine immersion. That evening the first Love Feast was held in the house of John Gomorry. Now the congregation was organized. The next year, October 1724, they decided to make a general visitation to the Brethren in the whole country. Brother John Jacob Price of Indian Creek was visited.

John Naas and Peter Becker moved another group of peace desiring Brethren from the expansion project in Marienborn to the city of Krefeld in 1715. This haven for Mennonites was an industrial textile city along the Rhine River under the temporary jurisdiction of the King of Prussia.

In 1720 forty Brethren families settled in Surhuisterveen in West Friesland. They settled among the Mennonites and remained there until 1729, when all but a handful emigrated to America. At that time, Alexander Mack transported his Anabaptist- Pietist refugees to Pennsylvania where the founder William Penn was promising economic freedom and cheap land in order to build his dream of a Christian state. Here it seemed, they would at last, have religious freedom. Embarking from Rotterdam on the ship Allen, his party would arrive in Philadelphia harbor on September 11, 1729. Preceding him by ten years, however, was the first Brethren group of about twenty families who arrived in 1719 from Krefeld, Germany, under the leadership of Peter Becker. Alexander Mack and fifty-seven families, arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The first congregation was started in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1723. Soon, there were congregations popping up around Pennsylvania, then spreading to New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. In 1747 Becker moved from Germantown to the Skippack and spent his remaining years living with his eldest daughter. Here he was happy and worshipped with the Indiana Creek congregation on the spot where a home was later built for Abraham H. Cassell.

Mack insisted that followers of Christ must count the cost. They must be prepared to suffer the loss of everything for the sake of their Lord. At love feasts, these brethren would sing hymns, examine their consciences, and wash one another's feet. They followed this with a simple meal. Soon their numbers had grown to 200.

Persecution again threatened. The non-violent brethren fled to the Netherlands where Mennonites helped them. While he was in the Netherlands, Mack's wife and a young daughter died.

Ship "Allen", James Craigie, Master. From Rotterdam, last from Cowes. Sailed 7 July 1729 and landed in Philadelphia, PA., on 15 Sept. 1729, with fifty-nine Palatines and their families totaling one hundred and twenty-six persons aboard.

Circumstances changed. Led by Mack, 59 families of these brethren migrated to Pennsylvania, rejoicing in their new-found religious freedom. Alexander Mack Jr Israel, and Samuel Ekerlin broke from the cloisters of Ephrata and fled towards the Setting Sun 7th day settlement. On February 19, 1735, to the deep sorrow of his brothers and sisters in the faith, Alexander Mack died at his home in Germantown. He was buried in Church of the Brethren, Germantown, Pennsylvannia. Schwarzenau, Germany, is in Schriesheim in the electorate of Palatia, between Mannheim and Heidelberg. Mack's influence was great and the Dunkards founded several congregations. To these early congregations, several of America's Brethren denominations trace their roots and practices.

1745 - The first settlement west of the New River was called Dunkards Bottom due to the practice of full immersion baptism by the religious community. Because of their views on baptism, these brethren became known by such names as Dunkards, Tunkards, and Old Baptists.


Johann Christoph Sauer was born in 1695 in Landeburg (near Heidelberg), the son of a Reformed pastor. Around 1720 he moved to the County (Graftschaft) of Wittgenstein in central Germany. At the time, its rulers were tolerant of a variety of Pietists and other religious dissenters, most notably Alexander Mack, who would later found the Church of the Brethren in the United States. He had married the widowed Maria Christina (born Gruber) in 1720. The family lived in the village of Schwarzenau, which now belongs to the town of Berleburg though had ties to Laasphe as well.

They emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1724, settling in Germantown. Sauer worked as a tailor before moving in 1726 to Lancaster where he had a 50-acre (200,000 m2) farm. Within a few years, his wife had joined the Ephrata Cloister as "Sister Marcella", leaving Sauer to care for their young son (she returned to the family around 1744). He and the son returned to Germantown where he worked in a variety of trades and belonged to the Dunkard community. He was successful enough to purchase 6 acres (24,000 m2) where he built a house.

Around 1735, Sauer took up the idea of becoming a printer and publisher. Benjamin Franklin dominated this trade at the time, and was a supplier of printed materials to the large German community around Pennsylvania. Significantly, Franklin used only Roman typefaces. Sauer obtained Fraktur type from a foundry in Frankfurt/Main in 1738 and began to publish almanacs, calendars, books and newspapers in 1739 using a type face that his German readers could more easily read.

The press itself is believed to have come from Berleburg in Wittgenstein, with which he had remained in contact. It had been used by Pietist printers there.

In 1743, Sauer published the first German-language Bible to be printed in North America (the first in any European language). The 1,272 pages were of course hand-set and printed one sheet at a time. It bore the title "Biblia, Das ist: Die Heilige Schrift Alten und Neuen Testaments, Nach der Deutschen Ãœbersetzung D. Martin Luther". (Bible: The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments following the translation of Dr. Martin Luther). 1200 copies were printed. Another 40 years would pass before an English-language Bible would appear in North America.

Controversially, Sauer's Bible emphasized passages most in sympathy with Pietist beliefs. It was well-received by the German sects of Pennsylvania, who were in turn influential in what became the Universalist church in the Middle Atlantic and New England states. George de Benneville (1703-1793) was an important influence on the early Universalists and, like Sauer, had sojourned among the Wittgenstein Pietists before coming to America.

Sauer remained active as a printer up until his death on September 25, 1758 in Germantown, but none of his other publications had the impact of the "Sauer Bible." The latter was re-published in 1763 and again in 1776 by his son.

The first Bible produced with type cast in America was printed by Christopher Sower, Jr. in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1776.

Previous editions of the Bible printed in America were produced from type cast in Europe and shipped to the colonies.

The foundry Sower set up in 1772 to produce hot metal type was the first of its kind in America. Sower's Bible, using type from his foundry, was printed in Gothic style German during the Revolutionary War.

Sower's print shop, engulfed in the fighting between Americans and the British, was severely damaged during the Battle of Germantown. Although Sower had always maintained a neutral position politically, his property was seized by the American authorities and sold at auction. Unbound pages of the German Bible were sold "for less than a quarter of the price of a like quantity of ordinary wrapping paper."

A printer from the city, unaware of their value, in turn sold the pages for gun wadding and cartridge covers to be used by American soldiers. Ironically, what was originally intended for the salvation of men's souls was used to destroy their bodies.

Alana Campbell is a descendant of those with roots in the Anabaptist Movement, who settled in Rhode Island, Virginia, and Libertyville, Iowa. Brethren congregations are still known by the body of water where these baptisms or dunkings took place. The oral history of my family is that they attended the Yellow Creek Congregation.

I Will Make All My Mountains A Way Our Great God & Saviour: Jesus Christ

A Minister For Your Marriage Celebration

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