Philip Schaff.

The American church history series, consisting of a series of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History; (Volume 12) online

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home, but was too exhausted to go farther. His soul
triumphed gloriously in the last hours of his life. The
death- chamber was radiant with the divine presence. He
took an affectionate farewell from all present, exhorting
them to praise God for his grace. All present realized
powerfully the presence of Jesus. The funeral obsequies
were attended by a vast concourse of people. Among
the throng were many who had been saved through his
instrumentality. These were filled with holy joy because
of the triumphant death of their beloved leader. The
funeral sermon was preached by the eloquent John Walter,
from Dan. xii. 3. Many unsaved persons were convinced
of the error of their ways and afterward converted. New
doors were opened to these despised preachers of the
gospel. Thus Albright's death was the means of the salva-
tion of sinners, as well as his life. His remains were buried
in the little cemetery near by. The grave is marked by
a simple marble slab, and later a memorial church was
built near the spot, called the Albright Church.

The death of Mr. Albright filled the church with sor-
row. Never did his presence and counsel seem so indis-
pensable as now. The church was weak and scattered,
persecuted and despised. The enemies of the work re-
joiced immoderately, and predicted its sure and speedy
disintegration. " They are fallen. Albright is dead.
All is now over with these deceivers," shouted the rabble.
But they were poor prophets. The little flock was only
driven closer to God. Harmony prevailed. Unity of
purpose was manifest, and the Lord prospered them, rais-

1 " Albright and His Co-Laborers," p. 114-


ing up men to take Albright's place, and giving them
many souls. Albright had been hated for his goodness
and for his holy zeal. But his life was a testimony so
overwhelming that its direct results were powerfully felt
for years.

The work went right on. George Miller was an ex-
cellent leader; John Walter was a preacher of rare power;
and John Dreisbach was a born organizer, a splendid eccle-
siastical statesman. All three were of unusual natural
abilities ; they were good men, full of faith and of the
Holy Ghost, and mighty in the Scriptures. Other preach-
ers were added to their ranks, and the work developed in
every direction.

It will be impossible within the limited space at our dis-
posal to follow out in detail the material development of
the Evangelical Association. From this point, 1808, we
can but briefly sketch the salient features of progress. The
second conference was held in 1809, at which a discipline
compiled by George Miller was adopted, and ordered
printed, and the name " Newly Formed Methodist Con-
ference," adopted by the society a year before, was
changed to "The So-called Albrights." This name pop-
ularly attached to them, especially since the death of
Jacob Albright, and was intended as a stigma by their
enemies. But they were not ashamed to adopt the re-
vered name of the founder, at least temporarily, until a
better name should suggest itself.

In the year 18 10 a pregnant conversation occurred be-
tween John Dreisbach and Bishop Asbury of the Meth-
odist Episcopal Church, which throws further light upon
the continued separate existence of the Evangelical Asso-
ciation. For an authentic account of this historic interview
we are indebted to the personal journal of Mr. Dreisbach.

Dreisbach fell in with Bishop Asbury and H. Boehm on


a journey down the Susquehanna River to Harrisburg, Pa.
The conversation drifted to the subject of union. The
bishop proposed to Mr. Dreisbach that he should with-
draw from the "Albrights," accompany him to Baltimore,
Md., join the Methodist Conference, and travel a year with
the reputed Jacob Gruber, at that time a presiding elder.
In this way he would become familiar with the English
tongue, so that he might preach in both languages. He
was to have the same salary as though he regularly trav-
eled. The bishop further pleaded that he could thus be
more useful than by preaching only in one language, and
that in their communion there would be less danger of self-
exaltation and pride than in Dreisbach's present position.

The latter answered that the il Albrights " felt called
of God to labor especially among the German-Americans.
But the bishop rejoined that the German language would
not continue long in this country. Dreisbach then made
this counter-proposition : " Give us German circuits, dis-
tricts, and conferences, and we will as one man make your
church ours, will be one people, under one and the same
ecclesiastical government." "That cannot be; it would
be inexpedient," remarked the bishop.

They parted with the best of feeling. Asbury at part-
ing presented Dreisbach with a copy of Fletcher's " Portrait
of St. Paul," embraced him affectionately, and gave him
his blessing. But they parted in more senses than one.
Bishop Asbury's remark has become historic. It made
union impossible at the time when it might have been
accomplished with advantage apparently to both bodies.
But it was not to be. The Evangelical Association had a
distinctive mission to perform, which could not have been
done had she been merged in another church. Nor has
she by any means confined herself to the German people,
but as Providence opened the way and circumstances made


it necessary she also labored among the English-speaking
population, doing everywhere the same work of emphasiz
ing the importance of sound conversion, vital godliness,
and spiritual worship. God has blessed her labors with
great success. She has flourished amid persecution and
poverty, and has succeeded often where others failed,
reaching especially the common people. To-day she is
represented in three languages upon the grand^ divisions
of the globe, North America, Europe, and Asia, also pub-
lishing literature in all three of them. She has conferences
in all the States of the Union north of Mason and Dixon's
line, besides one (Texas) south of that line, and one in
Canada. Two conferences are in Europe, and one (organ-
ized in 1893) in Japan. About one third of the member-
ship in America worships in English, and two thirds in
German. Most of these are more or less familiar with both
languages ; the two labor side by side in peaceful coopera-
tion and mutual helpfulness, with an outlook as hopeful
and bright as the promises of God.



DURING these years of slow and steady growth the
Evangelical Association has been blessed with many noble
leaders — men of spiritual power and immense influence —
not so much among the learned as among the common
people. One of the earliest after Albright, Miller, and
Walter, whose characters have been briefly delineated in
the preceding chapter, was John Dreisbach.

He was born June 5, 1789, in Northumberland County,
Pa. His parents were pious and God-fearing. In 1806
he experienced- a change of heart, and was licensed to
preach at a quarterly meeting in 1807 by Jacob Albright.
For fourteen years he served regularly in the itinerancy,
the half of that time as presiding elder, being the first man
ever elected to that office in the Evangelical Association.
His district embraced the whole church. During the first
six months of his life he had the privilege of frequent asso-
ciation with Mr. Albright, whose fatherly interest and wise
counsel greatly aided the young preacher. Mr. Dreisbach
bore an important part in the early development of the
work of the church. As an itinerant he was active, zeal-
ous, and enterprising ; as a presiding elder he was strictly
disciplinary, methodical, watchful, and a consummate leader
of men ; as a preacher he presented the vital truths of the
gospel in a comprehensive and analytical manner. His
manly bearing, his mobile countenance, his expressive gest-
ures, profound moral earnestness, and stern, logical com-



mon sense combined to make him an unusually impressive
and effective preacher. As a theologian he was distinct-
ively Wesleyan, thoroughly familiar with the Arminian
system of doctrine. He made the doctrine of entire sanc-
tification, as taught by Albright and Miller, particularly
prominent, frequently inviting believers forward to seek
this state of grace definitely in his camp-meetings and
quarterly meetings. In a letter to Rev. R. Yeakel, written
as late as 1869, he solemnly said: "If a time shall ever
come when the Evangelical Association rejects this doc-
trine and discards it, then should Ichabod be written in
the place thereof, for then ' the glory is departed from
Israel.' "

As an ecclesiastical legislator in the General Conference
he was invaluable. His comprehensive grasp of thought,
his logical methods of reasoning, his profound and thorough
acquaintance with the spirit, genius, scope, and mission of
the Evangelical Association enabled him to devise laws
and arrangements admirably adapted to the need of the
church. Mr. Dreisbach was not inexperienced, either, as
a civil legislator, having been a member of the State legis-
lature of Pennsylvania during the years 1828 and 1829.

Mr. Dreisbach was a man of literary ability. In 18 16
he edited jointly with H. Niebel the " Spiritual Psaltery,"
a hymn-book for popular use. He was also a hymn- writer
of considerable prominence. It was he also who, with Mr.
Niebel, the same year completed the revision of the disci-
pline left unfinished by the death of George Miller. In
October, 1S54, he became editor of the English organ of
the church, "The Evangelical Messenger," published in
Cleveland, O. Ill- health compelled him to resign this
important position April 16, 1857.

He was twice married, and the father of a large family,
of whom he was able to say, late in life : " All of them,



we believe, embraced religion in their younger days." He
lived to a good old age, dying in triumph at Circleville, 0.,
August 20, 187 1, aged eighty-two years, tw r o months, and
fifteen days. His remains lie buried in Ebenezer Church-
yard, Pickaway County, O., amid the scenes of his later

Another of this galaxy of men great in goodness was
John Seybert He was born at Manheim, Pa., July 7, 1 791,
of Christian parents, and born again, or, as he expressed
it, " converted deep into eternal life " {fief ins Ewige Leben
hinein bckclirt), June 21, 18 10.

In 18 19, after much hesitation and prayer and many a
severe inward struggle, he yielded to the conscious call of
the Holy Spirit, and began to preach. His sermons, at
first, were not remarkably able or exceptionally brilliant.
Like most of the early preachers, he lacked literary train-
ing, but was endued with the power of the Holy Ghost.
He improved very rapidly, and in a few years became a
preacher of extraordinary spiritual power, an itinerant of
untiring zeal, and a missionary of wonderful intrepidity
and enterprise. Phenomenal success attended his labors.
He was the ideal pioneer circuit-rider. He entered the
Eastern Conference in 1821. In 1825 he was elected pre-
siding elder, and assigned to duty on Canaan District,
Eastern Conference, reelected in 1829 and assigned to
duty on Salem District. In this capacity he not only
superintended his district, large as it was, but helped his
preachers extend their fields of labor, made frequent in-
cursions into the regions beyond, and sought out new ter-
ritory for the introduction of the gospel. At the expira-
tion of his second term as presiding elder Seybert offered
himself to the conference as a missionary. His offer was
accepted, and he was accordingly sent forth to labor any-
where in northwestern Pennsylvania. He was to spend


the year in explorations and pioneer work. This suited
exactly the character of the man and the spirit of the
Evangelical Association, which from first to last has been
a missionary church.

At the General Conference of 1839 John Seybert was
elected to the office of bishop. This was the first regular
election of a bishop under the discipline of the Evangelical
Association. Since the death of Jacob Albright, in 1808,
there had been no bishop in the church. The office was
thus vacant for thirty-one years. John Seybert became,
then, the first incumbent of the office as defined and pro-
vided in the book of discipline. For this distinction he
was eminently fitted. His piety and zeal, his simplicity
and courage, made him a safe example to others. His
power as a preacher, his skill as an administrator, his en-
terprise as a leader, qualified him for the position. He
was conservative in his attitude, yet progressive in spirit.
A man of broad sympathies and unbounded spiritual en-
thusiasm, a thorough product of gospel grace molded in
the peculiar cast of the Evangelical Association, he, more
perfectly than any other man, incarnated the spirit and
genius of the Evangelical Association. In short, he was a
living representative of all that is distinctive in this church.

The administration of Bishop Seybert was an epoch in
the history of the church. By his very incumbency he
served to unify and consolidate the membership of the
whole church. It gave new meaning and force to the
connectional idea, and at the same time gave new inspira-
tion as well as masterful direction to the various enterprises
of the church. He was a born missionary bishop, and held
the church closely to the missionary idea, by constantly
fostering, by precept and his own example, the missionary
spirit. What added to his efficiency was the fact that, like
Asbury, he was never married. This made it possible for


him to be constantly on his journeys through the church.
There were very few members whom the bishop did not
visit; very few churches where he did not preach. He
was everywhere, and everywhere at home. He kept him-
self in personal touch with the whole body of the church.
This was of immense advantage to him and to the develop-
ment of the work. He was reelected by every General
Conference until his death.

Bishop Seybert died full of years and labors, in the
house of Isaac Parker, near Bellevue, O., January 4, i860.
His remains lie buried in the village cemetery at Flat
Rock, O.

He was sixty-eight years of age at the time of his death.
He served the church for a period of forty years in the
ministry, without a furlough, vacation, or other interrup-
tion. In these forty years he traveled, per horse, 175,000
miles, preached 9850 sermons, made about 46,000 pastoral
visits, held about 8000 prayer and class meetings, besides
visiting at least 10,000 sick and afflicted ones. The writer
of this sketch examined carefully Bishop Seybert's personal
journal, and found that even in the journal not one day is
omitted or unaccounted for during those forty years. Not
a day but saw something attempted or accomplished for
his Master. His last journal entry was made with his own
hand, December 28, 1859, one week before the morning
of his death. That entry was most suggestive — an epitome,
in fact, of his whole life. It contained the laconic phrase,
" One Soul Saved." With such a leader and such an ex-
ample in the highest official position, it is no wonder the
Evangelical Association flourished. No wonder that she
fostered and developed a type of Christianity so much
needed in this day and age of the world, that of staunch
morality, deep spirituality, and flaming evangelism. 1

1 " Life of Bishop John Seybert," by S. P. Spreng.


Others deserve extended notice, but the restrictions of
space compel us to content ourselves with a mere mention
of their names, a roll of honor of which any church might
well be proud. They are Henry Niebel, Bishop Joseph
Long, Bishop W. W. Orwig, Charles Hammer, Samuel
von Gundy, John G. Zinser, Samuel Baumgardner, Henry
Fisher, and others.

These men were of heroic mold. They were not great
in the eyes of the world, lacking many of the qualities
that the world demands. But they were a spiritual force.
They were morally great. Not learned in the lore of the
scholar ; not masters of rhetoric or of the eloquence taught
in the schools ; they were taught of God. Their knowl-
edge was experimental. Their power was spiritual. Their
weapons of warfare were not the carnal weapons of cold
logic or pyrotechnics of speech, but they employed spirit-
ual weapons. In their hands the Word of God was indeed
a two-edged sword, and they handled it, not deceitfully,
but with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. They
were no theological hair-splitters, though masters in the
advocacy, exposition, and defense of the faith as they had
received and conceived it. They cared less for the letter
than for the spirit. They taught the gospel, not as a creed,
but as the power of God unto salvation. The vitality of
religion was their theme, and they carried that vitality
with them in the spiritual energy of their own hearts.

i. They were truly corverted. The time was when
there was not in all the ministry of the Evangelical Asso-
ciation one man of whose genuine conversion there was
any reasonable doubt. This is the ideal to this day.

2. They were divinely called — called by the Holy Ghost
to the ministry. They were taken from the plow, the
plane, and the yard-stick, without college training, but
divinely equipped, qualified, and commissioned.



3. They were men of much prayer. They wrestled
with God by day and night. Their pulpit preparation
was made, whenever practicable, in solitude upon their
knees. They frequently prayed all night. Rev. Henry
Bucks, still living in Plainfield, 111., at the age of eighty-
three years, who entered the ministry in 1832, says he
has read the entire Bible through eighteen times upon his
knees. Of George. Miller and Henry Niebel it is said that
at their death it was found that their knees were calloused
like the soles of their feet. With their praying they also
fasted much. They imparted the same spirit to the mem-

4. They laid great emphasis in their preaching upon the
doctrine and experience of entire sanctification as taught
by Wesley and Albright. Upon this subject their trumpet
gave no uncertain sound. They held up the possibility
of freedom from all sin through grace as the divine ideal ;
they taught that this state of grace can and should be
attained after conversion, but in this life and long before
death ; they urged the people in every sermon and ex-
horted them daily to seek this blessed experience. The
ministers themselves were expected to lead in this matter.
Indeed, Mr. Albright once told the youthful Miller that
unless he attained this state of grace he would not be able
to preach the gospel in the fullness of its power.

5. They were strict disciplinarians. In their hands the
law became no dead letter. The discipline of the church
was rigidly and impartially enforced. Any divergence from
or infraction of the rules was promptly punished. The
fathers believed this to be the only way to keep the church
pure. They were perhaps at times too rigid. Often per-
sons were summarily dealt with who, with a little patience
and gentleness, might have been saved. But if these dis-
ciplinarians erred, it was owing to their consuming zeal


for a pure and spiritual church. They were strict in very
small matters. Everything that savored of or tended to
worldly conformity in dress or social custom was frowned
upon. They tithed mint and anise and cummin, but they
did not neglect the weightier matters of the law. Under
their administration law and authority were respected be-
cause they were enforced.

These things we believe are the chief reasons for their
success in building up a church which has, as its chief
characteristics, insistence upon conversion, spiritual wor-
ship, and holy living.



As we have already seen, Jacob Albright naturally loved
method and order. At that time a spirit of ecclesiastical
independency was rampant, to which many good and pious
men yielded. But Mr. Albright had no sympathy with
it. Accordingly, so soon as the work of his hands began
to assume an organized shape, he saw and felt the need
of firm, regular administration. Hence also steps were
at once taken to prepare a code of rules and system of

The first conference, in 1807, formally adopted the epis-
copal form of government. That conference elected
Albright bishop, and instructed him to prepare a book of
discipline. He at once began the task, but his early death
the following year left the work incomplete. In Decem-
ber, 1808, Mr. George Miller, yielding reluctantly to the
urgent appeals of his brethren, took up the work where
Albright had left it. In a most remarkable manner Miller,
about the same time, became seriously ill; so that he was
physically unable to preach or travel regularly, but was
still able to do literary work. This has always been re-
garded as a special providence. The compilation of the
discipline caused him much anxiety. He prayed most
fervently for help and guidance, and not in vain.

At last, when the second conference met in April, 1809,
in his own house, he was able to present the completed
draft of the discipline, which was adopted. In its prep-
aration he had made use of a German translation of the



Articles of Faith of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which
had been made by one Ignatius Romer, at the instance of
the German Methodist preacher, Henry Boehm, in 1808. 1

This first discipline was a small book of seventy-five
pages, and contained not only Articles of Faith and rules
of discipline, but certain disquisitions upon doctrinal points,
drawn from the writings of Wesley and Fletcher. These
disquisitions treated of " Christian Perfection," " Election,"
" The Final Perseverance of the Saints," and a warning
against " Antinomianism." It was thus a brief theological
compendium, which was of great value to the ministry.

The adoption of this book of discipline resulted in great
good. It served to introduce uniformity and order, and
contributed greatly to the connectional unity of the church
in doctrine, mode of worship, and manner of life.

The first General Conference in 18 16 adopted the sec-
ond edition of the discipline, revised and improved by John
Dreisbach and Flenry Niebel. Some changes were made ;
the book was rearranged and divided into chapters and
sections, and contained substantially the book of discipline
as it is to-day. The lengthy doctrinal dissertations, how-
ever, were discontinued. This may, therefore, be the
proper place to define more specifically the doctrines and
principles of government.

The Articles of Faith are twenty-one in number, and
strictly embody the Arminian system of doctrine in its
Wesleyan form. There is nothing erratic in our creed;
we hold to the common faith of orthodox Christians. We
believe in the spirituality and trinity of God, the divinity
as well as perfect humanity of the Son of God, and the
true divinity of the Holy Ghost. The canonical Scriptures
of the Old and New Testament " contain the will of God
so far as it is necessary for us to know for our salvation."

1 Asbury's "Journal," vol. iii., p. 293.


The Articles of Faith cannot be altered by the General
Conference, except Article xix., according to the first re-
striction under Section 73. This restriction was adopted
by the General Conference itself in 1839. 1

Chapter iii. is devoted to an elucidation of a the doctrine
of Christian Perfection," which, however, is not classed with
the Articles of Faith. It is in the main a plain direction
to believers how to attain this state of grace. Christian
perfection is defined as a state of grace in which we are
so firmly rooted in God that we have instant victory over
every temptation the moment it presents itself, without
yielding in any degree; in which our rest, peace, and joy
in God are not interrupted by the vicissitudes of life ; in
which, in short, sin has lost its power over us, and we rule
over the flesh, the world, and Satan, yet in watchfulness.
Entire sanctification is the basis of this Christian perfection.
It is the elimination of all moral evil from the heart, and is
a definite experience, limited by the point of perfect cleans-

Online LibraryPhilip SchaffThe American church history series, consisting of a series of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History; (Volume 12) → online text (page 32 of 43)