Part of the PAGenWeb




Home | Up

HAVING given a sketch of the history of each congregation as well as of the chief features of the life of Rev. Father Heim, we would yet add an outline of the genius and spirit of the Lutheran Church in Perry County as a whole.

In 1840, twenty-two years ago, there were in the county eight regularly organized Lutheran congregations,--now (June, 1862) there are twenty-five and eight preaching stations; then one pastor supplied the whole territory in the county with preaching,--now six ministers occupy the field and all have more labor than they can well perform; then about 650 communicants were reported at Synod,--now about 1800 are reported.  As some members are, however, during the year, prevented from coming to the Lord's table on account of age, sickness and other causes, we may put down the number of members, in Perry County, entitled to full communion , at 2200, who are distributed among the six different charges in about the following proportion:

Blain charge, . . . 450
Loysville ", . . . 450
Bloomfield ", . . . 600
Petersburg ", . . . 275
Liverpool ", in Perry County, 275
Millerstown ", . . . 150

The whole number of members at this time entitled to communion, 2200.

Besides those who are entitled to communion, we also count our baptized children, and youth, who are not yet admitted to the Lord's Supper, as members of the Church.  Counting two of these to every communicant member, we have at this time in Perry County a Lutheran population of 6600.  This estimate, we are sure, is rather too low than too high.*

*For the information of the members and all who may desire knowledge on the subject, we will subjoin the following estimate of the Lutheran population in the world:  Sweden, 3,000,000; Norway, 1,500,000; Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Jutland and Greenland, 2,000,000; France, 500,000; Protestant Germany, 25,000,000; Prussia, 5,000,000; Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and Moravia, 1,500,000; Poland and Russia, 2,500,000; United States, 1,600,000; West India Islands, 100,000; Brazil, 100,000; South American States, 50,000; New South Wales, 5,000; Nova Scotia and the Canadas, 10,000; Holland, 600,000; England, 40,000; Italy, 500; Turkey in Europe, 15,000; Hindoostan, 10,000.  --Total, 43,530,500.

In 1840, all the congregations worshipped in so-called union-churches, that is, in churches erected and owned conjointly with other denominations; but now the Lutherans alone own twelve or fifteen in the county.  The members and pastors have long since painfully realized the disadvantages and frequent sad effects arising from such misnamed unions, and are therefore unanimously opposed to them wherever they can be prevented.  They are convinced, by past experience, that it is best for all to erect nor more such churches, and that then, when each denomination has its own house of worship, there will be more cordial union among them, and each will be more useful, not being continually entangled in the affairs of another.

In 1840, all the preaching was in the German language; but at present two-thirds of the congregations require German no more at all, and the remaining one-third only one-half or occasionally.  From present indications we are led to believe that before many years not a Lutheran congregation will need preaching in the German language.  It is ten or twelve years since this language has ceased to be taught in our common-schools, and as the aged pass away, and the youth who know only the English take their place, the use of the German language must necessarily and before long be among the things that were.

All the congregations take a deep and active interest in the various benevolent operations of the Church.  The cause of beneficiary education, of Home and Foreign Missions, of Temperance, also of the Bible an Tract Societies, and all other causes that tend to extend the Redeemer's kingdom, receive their cordial cooperation and material aid.

Every congregation has its Sunday-school in successful operation, and the cause of education in general receives encouragement and active support from all the churches.  Of late years, especially, have education and intelligence made rapid progress, and we are happy to believe that on these points the Lutheran population of Perry County will, on the whole, bear a favorable comparison with any other community in this part of the State.  To verify this, we need but recur to a few facts.  About six years ago, the late Col. John Tressler, prompted by a laudable desire to promote education, erected at his own expense at Loysville a spacious and convenient edifice, where an Academy of the first order was opened and has since been deservedly well patronized.  This excellent institution has done and is now doing a good work in that community.  Besides this Academy, five or six other high schools, in different parts of the county, are largely patronized by the members, whose children received at these institutions of learning a liberal education.  The following members of the Church in the county have graduated with honor at Pennsylvania College, Gettyburg:  J. Andrew Tressler, Josiah R. Tizel, John M. Rice, David L. Tressler, Rudolphus J. Heim, David Elliot, John W. Tressler and John Kistler, pursued a pretty full course at the same College, and J. T. L. Sahm, Lemuel O. Foose and D. L. McKenzie are there now.  The following, from this county, have entered the ministry of the Lutheran Church:  Revs. David Smith, John W. Tressler, John M. Rice, John Kistler and Michael G. Earhart, all of whom are now laboring successfully in the vineyard of the Lord, and the following are now prosecuting their theological studies with a view to the ministry:  J. R. Williams and A. T. Kistler at the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and John G. Breininger in the theological department of the Missionary Institute at Selinsgrove, Pa.  This representation speaks well; but we sincerely hope that it is only the beginning of a glorious educational career in the Church of this county.  With the introduction of preaching in the English language, ten or fifteen years ago, a new era on the subject of education commenced.  Of late years the members have evinced an unusual degree of interest in this noble cause, and we may cherish the pleasing hope that they will illustrate in Perry County the well-known fact, that the Lutheran Church is an educating and educated Church.  Her admirable systems of catechetical instruction plays no small part in advancing education.  The members in this county, especially the English-speaking portion of them, are a reading people, and secure and study the literature of their own Church, to which they are sincerely attached; they are active, intelligent, and go forward in every good cause; they receive the Lutheran Observer as their weekly adviser in general Church intelligence; and most of them have possessed themselves of a good family library of choice religious and miscellaneous literature.  The prospects are certainly fair of soon seeing an ample harvest spring from this field of cultivated mind.

Each Lutheran congregation in the county has a weekly prayer-meeting, conducted by the pastor, or in his absence by a member of the Church-Council.  These religious meetings for mutual edification are generally well attended by the members, and we think there are few, if any, of the male members who would not lead in prayer at these meetings when requested to do so.  During these exercises, in addition to the singing of hymns and the offering of prayer, a portion of God's word is read, which the pastor, if present, expounds.  Most of them have also daily family-worship, conducted by the head of the household; and if any neglect this Christian duty, they are by the Church considered as remiss and subject to admonition and reproof by the Church-Council.  Parents are expected and required to teach their children the doctrines of our holy religion as set forth in the Catechism.

Each pastor is expected, as often as possible, to meet the youth of his charge for instruction in the Catechism.  This duty is, perhaps, nowhere more faithfully and thoroughly performed than by the Lutheran pastors in Perry County.  The results of this kind of pastoral labor are often most cheering.  If properly conducted catechization is a blessed means of doing good, and in the very nature of the case there can never be found a substitute for it.  The Catechism is not only committed by the catechumens, but the pastor explains, illustrates, and by practical remarks applies and enforces the truths so committed.  Considerable time is also devoted to the singing of appropriate hymns and the offering up of prayer to God.  These exercises are usually continued for many weeks, and at last daily.  During this time it almost invariably occurs that some or perhaps all of the catechumens are by the truth awakened to a realizing sense of their sins and lost condition, and of their need of a personal and saving interest in the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ.  Here, then, is what may be called a revival.  If the religious interest thus commenced extends to others, as is often the case, then the pastor holds what may be called a protracted meeting.  The members are exhorted to give themselves to a special prayer in their families and closets, more frequent meetings for social prayer are held, at which the awakened persons are expected to attend for instruction and direction.  The pastor visits the families in the community where the meeting is held and in progress, prays with them and admonishes the careless of their duty and warns the impenitent of their danger.  During each day an anxious meeting is held--or, if you prefer the expression, there is catechization,--when the pastor instructs or advises the awakened souls.  Such meetings are held in the church if the number of the awakened is large; if their number is small, then the pastor visits them in their families or gives them the needed instruction in the catechetical class, if they are catechumens.  The preaching will of course be adapted to the occasion.  The great object will be to humble the sinner by showing him what he is and to what he is exposed; to point him to the only refuge, to teach him that the only condition on which he can be saved is the exercise of repentance toward God and faith in Lord Jesus Christ, and to urge him to accept of the proffered salvation now.  Those, then, who have been so instructed, who have intelligent views of the plan of salvation, and who give satisfactory evidence of having been born again by the Holy Ghost, are admitted to full communion by the solemn rite of confirmation.  During such protracted meetings no unnecessary noise or any kind of confusion and disorder are encouraged or tolerated.  Our pastors and members know that religion is not wild fanaticism on the one hand, nor dead formalism on the other.  Hence they preach with all earnestness, the absolute necessity of a change of such a change.  Protracted meetings, so conducted, have in this county been blessed with the most cheering and glorious results.  May the Lord multiply them, and fill the earth with His glory!

In their public worship, the congregations observe a Scriptural simplicity, studiously avoiding everything that would divert attention from the Cross of Christ.  For the sake of uniformity in worship, and as a guide in the administration of he ordinances of God's house, the Liturgy of the General Synod is used on sacramental occasions, and on no other.  The pastor have hitherto followed the example of Father Heim, decking themselves, not with gowns, but raiment becoming ministers of the Gospel and the house of God and anxiously seeking, not to attract attention to themselves, but to direct all attention to the blessed Gospel of the adorable Son of God.  So may they continue to do!

All the congregations in the county have adopted the Formula of the General Synod, appended to the Lutheran Hymn-Book, as their rule for government and discipline, or a constitution in full harmony therewith. 

As to their doctrinal position, the Catechism is the guide in the impartation of family and catechetical instruction.  In addition to this, the pastors and congregations unanimously believe with the General Synod and the Synod of Central Pennsylvania:  "1.  That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  2.  That the following fundamental doctrines of the Word of God are correctly taught in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession, viz., The existence of one God,--the Trinity of the Godhead,--the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ,--the universal depravity of man,--the Savior's vicarious sufferings and death,--the justification of the sinner by faith in the Son of God,--the necessity of the Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify the soul,--the one Holy Catholic (or universal) Church,--the divine institution of the Ministry, and of the sacraments of Baptism, and the Lord's Supper,--the necessity of repentance and good works,--the return of Christ to judge the world in righteousness,--the resurrection of the dead,--the everlasting blessedness of the righteous, and the eternal punishment of the wicked."

The above is a brief summary of the doctrines every one must cordially believe that would be a member of the Church.  It is a good, a Scriptural confession.  And whilst Lutherans glory in their inheritance, and would not part with it, they are at the same time ever disposed to fraternize and co-operate with all other evangelical denominations in the promotion and advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom among men.

Home | Up


This site is maintained  by Cathy Wentz-Eisenstadt
Copyright 2003-2010.  All Rights Reserved.

This page was last updated on:   03/03/2009

People for better PA Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access)
Learn about the grassroots effort to make older PA state death certificates available on-line!!  Please consider helping.