Of Br. GEORGE FREDERIC KNAUS,formerly
who departed this Life at
on the 15th of December,1859.
Periodical Accounts, Vol. 24(1861-63), 195-200
"I WAS born on the 27th of September, 1784, at Schorndorf in the kingdom
of Wirtemberg, and was baptized in the Lutheran church at that place. Respecting
my early years, I only know that I was a delicate child, and that when
I went to school in the eighth year of my age, I learned with difficulty.
"My parents were deeply concerned for the spiritual welfare of their
ten children, and bestowed on us a Christian education, screening us from
the allurements of the world, to the utmost of their power. As soon as
the hours of school were ended, we were expected to join our parents in
their labours. Though my father worked as a plasterer, he also cultivated
a vineyard and had some arable land; and we were in the habit of taking
a part in the various duties of the farm.
"During his leisure hours, my father frequently spoke to us concerning
the fall and lost condition of man, of God's gracious plan of salvation,
and of the incarnation, sufferings, and death of our Saviour. As I grew
older, I became convinced that there was nothing good in me, and that I
could never obtain eternal life, without our Saviour. Hence I often prayed
that I might be saved; but I also often slackened in my anxiety for the
welfare of my soul, and fell into carelessness.
"In my fourteenth year I was confirmed, and admitted to the enjoyment
of the Lord's Supper. I approached the holy table with fear and trembling,
and with the fervent prayer that I might not partake of this precious privilege
unworthily. At the same time I resolved to lead a pious life; but I soon
found myself engaged in a course of legal and scrupulous efforts in my
own strength. All I did became sin to me, and I passed through a period
of great inward trial. Had I possessed sufficient courage and candour to
make my circumstances known to my father, or some other experienced Christian,
I should probably have been at once directed to the Saviour of sinners;
but as I carefully concealed my struggles, I quite lost courage, and began
to doubt whether I should ever obtain peace of heart.
"In my seventeenth year, I was taken seriously ill, and being much
alarmed at the thought of dying, I earnestly prayed for recovery, that
I might have time to be converted. My faithful Saviour, whom I did not
clearly recognise as my Redeemer and the Atoner of my sins, graciously
restored me to health. By degrees, I found in Him peace and the assurance
of forgiveness. This did not take place in such a striking manner as I
have often found described in biographies which I have read. But so completely
did the peace of God fill my heart, that I could have left this world without
fear, joyfully convinced that I should go to be with the Lord.
"I had for some time attended meetings of awakened persons, and at them
had become acquainted with some members of the congregations/196/ of the
Brethren. This proved of great assistance to me in my spiritual course.
"About this time, I remarked that my father was in the habit of retiring
at the dawn of the day to a quiet room, where he remained for some time
alone. On one occasion, I had an opportunity of ascertaining that he was
engaged in prayer, earnestly commending me and my brothers and sisters
to the Lord, and imploring Him to draw us to Himself, so that not one of
us might be lost. This made a deep impression on my mind, and I felt anew
called upon to give myself entirely to our Saviour.
"About the same time I recollect being much struck by hearing my
father say, after he had perused some missionary accounts, 'How it would
rejoice my heart to be able to convey to the poor heathen the good news
of a Saviour!' Little did I then imagine that this favour would be bestowed
"Till the year 1804, I had mostly been employed in my father's farm
and vineyard, but in that year I was apprenticed to a plasterer at Stutgard.
It was settled that I should work with him during the summer, and go home
for the winter. But I never saw my parents again. Six weeks after my arrival
at Stutgard, war broke out beween France and Austria, and I was advised
to leave the town without delay, to avoid being taken as a soldier. But
where was I to go? My whole possessions amounted to twenty-four kreutzers,
and I was extremely shy and timid, never having been accustomed to intercourse
with strangers. I therefore left the town in great depression. On the same
day I reached a place near the frontier, and obtained employment. But I
could only remain there four weeks, as the hostile armies were drawing
near, and my employer had no more work for me to do. He advised me to return
home, even at the risk of being taken for military service, and added,
by way of comfort, that not all soldiers were shot. Agreeably to his advice,
I went back to Stutgard, having to make my way between the columns of the
French army, which was accompanied with much danger. On reaching the town,
I found the gates closed, and was informed that no one would be permitted
to pass. This caused me much distress, as I had intended to ask advice
of a Christian friend. Under these circumstances, I besought our Saviour
with tears, to direct me what to do. Just then it occurred to me that there
was a footpath, by which it might be possible to get into the town unperceived.
I attempted it, and was successful. My friend, however, advised me to leave
the town the same way as I had entered it, and to endeavour to quit the
country, as I should otherwise be obliged to become a soldier.
"I was therefore constrained to resume a wandering life. Under God's
gracious protection, I reached the Palatinate in safety, and met with awakened
persons in the neighbourhood of Manheim and Heidelberg, who showed me great
kindness. I also fell in with my older brother at Weinheim, where he had
been working several years. I was recommended to spend the approaching
winter with a Diaspora brother in the vicinity, and to work at my trade
in the summer. In this way I passed three years.
"At Christmas in 1807, I visited Neuwied, and was so favourably/197/
impressed with what I saw of the Brethren's congregation at that place,
that I would gladly have remained there, had circumstances admitted of
my so doing. One of the ministers, however, promised that he would inquire
whether I could not obtain some employment in another settlement. In the
following year, I received a letter from Neuwied, stating that, if I still
felt inclined to join one of the congregations, I could be received and
obtain employment at Neudietendorf. I at once resolved to go, and arrived
there in the summer of the same year.
"As regarded temporals, I was at first very poorly off; but I was
glad and thankful to have found a dwelling-place, where I was screened
from the allurements of the world. I did not, however, remain long at Neudietendorf,
but removed the same year to Kleinwelke. There I was received into fellowship
with the congregation, on which occasion I solemnly promised our Saviour
that I would live to His praise and glory.
"For several years I was truly happy. But our Saviour saw fit to
teach me more of my innate depravity, in order to keep me humble. I did
not immediately recognise the design of my gracious Lord, who had already
displayed such great love and faithfulness towards me. Hence doubts and
unbelief arose in my heart, and I at the same time became dissatisfied
with my position. In the first place, I sought the cause of this in my
external circumstances, as I was employed in the kitchen of the Brethren's
house, and had to do work, to which I was not accustomed. I looked on those
Brethren who earned their bread by labouring at their respective callings,
as better off than myself, and thought that if I was only like them I should
be content and happy. The duties which I had previously performed cheerfully
and with pleasure, and in such a way to gain the approbation of my superiors,
now became distasteful to me. I, however, strove to conceal my discontent
as much as possible, lest those around me should be offended.
"After I had for some time embittered my own life in this way, often
praying to our Saviour to guide my feet once more into the way of peace,
I one day took up my hymn-book, and my eye fell on a verse which treated
of the mysterious dealings of the Lord with His people, and of the necessity
that they, for their own happiness, should cheerfully submit to His gracious
leadings. I read the whole hymn, which so exactly suited my state of heart
at the time, that it appeared to have been designed specially for me. I
was much struck with the circumstance, that, while I was desirious of concealing
my state of mind from every one, I should find it so exactly described
in one of the hymns. My confidence in our Saviour was renewed, and I earnestly
implored Him to aid me, by bestowing on me true resignation, so that I
might child- likely trust His gracious direction. This petition He kindly
answered, so that again I entered on a happy course, and attained to peace
of mind. The Holy Spirit increasingly convinced me of my inward depravity,
and taught me that I, as a poor sinner, might by faith appropriate the
merits of Jesus, and might, under all circumstances, seek and obtain from
Him the aid and counsel I required. I was also led to attach more value
to my happy lot in union with a congregation of Jesus./198/
"It ws about the same time that I first experienced the desire to
serve our Saviour among the heathen, and thus to make known to others what
He had done for my soul. But a conviction of my unworthiness, and lack
of the needful gifts and knowledge, deterred me from making my wish known.
As, however, some intimate friends of mine were called to missionary service,
I ventured to mention my desire to my spiritual superiors.
"At Easter, in the year 1815, I received a call to serve in the Labrador
Mission, which I accepted with timidity, and yet with the believing hope
that our Saviour would bestow on me all that might be requisite. As I could
not venture to visit my native place, I took leave of my parents and brothers
and sisters in writing, and my dear father, who was rejoiced at my appointment,
imparted to me his blessing in the same way.
"After visiting Herrnhut and Berthelsdorf, at the latter of which places
I was accepted an acoluth, together with another Brother, who was about
to enter on the same service, we went to Altona, whence we sailed for London.
During the voyage, which lasted twenty-two days, I suffered severely from
sea-sickness. From London, where we met with much kindness, we sailed for
Labrador on the 7th of June, and landed at Hopedale on the 19th of July.
"My appointed sphere of duty was at Okak, at that time the most northern
station, and at which the most numerous congregation was assembled. The
acquisition of the difficult Esquimaux language was an object which I had
much at heart, and with this view I copied out the grammar and vocabulary,
often sitting up half the night for the purpose. At that time the four
gospels were the only portions of Scripture which were translated into
Esquimaux. The learning of the language was, properly speaking, only practicable
in winter, as the Esquimaux were absent for the greater part of the remainder
of the year. An unmarried missionary also had pretty full employment in
attending to outward affairs, as but little aid was obtainable from the
natives. However, the Lord, in answer to my prayers, laid His blessing
on my efforts, so that ere long I was able to preach the gospel to the
Esquimaux in their native tongue, and to take a share in teaching in the
"In the year 1823, I was united in holy matrimony to Sr. Mary Catharine
Fischer. It was our united prayer that our Saviour would look upon us in
mercy, and give us strength to walk in a manner well pleasing to Him, and
to be of use in His service.
"On removing to Nain, I was appointed, in addition to our principal
calling, to take charge of the secular affairs of the station, especially
with reference to the supplying of the Esquimaux with useful articles in
the way of barter. I occupied this position altogether for fourteen years,
and found it marked by many trials. This was particularly the case in years
of scarcity, when the natives to a great extent depended on the Mission
for all the necessaries of life. When it is impracticable to comply with
their demands, an unfavourable impression is not unfrequently produced
on the minds of the Esquimaux. Under such circumstances I besought our
Saviour to bestow on me wisdom and grace to conduct myself in such a manner
/199/ that no spiritual injury might be done to the people. In many ways
I was privileged to experience His gracious aid.
"In the course of the following years, we were called to Okak, subsequently
to Hopedale, and finally to Okak once more. Often did I experience great
difficulties in the discharge of my duties, but our Saviour graciously
supported me, and, amid all my failings and defects, I was privileged to
enjoy the confidence of my fellow-labourers, as well as of the Esquimaux
brethren and sisters.
"At length, when I had spent thirty-seven years among the dear Esquimaux,
without having once visited Europe, my dear wife having been with me for
twenty-nine years of that time, I began to experience a decay of bodily
and mental power, accompanied by a spasmodic cough and increasing difficulty
of hearing. This induced me to apply for leave to retire. In 1852 I received
the desired permission, and we sailed for Europe, accompanied by the widow
Sr. Körner, and four children, who were going home for the purpose of
their education. We found it painful to part from our esteemed fellow-labourers,
and from the Esquimaux flocks among whom we had spent so long a period.
We, however, derived comfort from the assurance that their prayers would
accompany us, and that the ties of Christian love, whereby our spirits
were united, would last until we should meet above.
"We left Okak on the 18th of September, and two days after reached
Hebron, where the ship only remained for a short time. On the homeward
voyage, which lasted forty-four days, we experienced some violent storms,
but were favoured with the gracious protection of the Lord. On the 1st
of November we arrived in London, where we spent twelve days in the enjoyment
of much kindness on the part of our Brethren and Sisters and the friends
of our Missions. On the 24th, we reached Kleinwelke, and after visits at
Berthelsdorf and Herrnhut, went to Königsfeld, in the Black Forest,
we hoped to spend our last years. There I had the pleasure to meet with
two of my sisters, and some other relatives, after a separation of forty-eight
"When I now, in my seventieth year, look back on my past life, I must declare
with deep abasement, that I am not worthy of the love and faithfulness,
which my Lord and Saviour has manifested towards me. I have manifold cause
to pray, that He would not remember my numerous sins, or enter into judgment
with His poor servant.
"It gave me great pleasure, in the spring of 1853, to pay a visit to my
native place, Schorndorf. I there met with three of my brothers, and became
acquainted with several children of God in the vicinity, who listened with
much interest to the statements I made regarding my missionary experiences.
After visiting Neuwied and Offenbach, at the last of which places I had
relatives, we returned to Königsfeld. Here I now await the call of my
Saviour into the mansions of everlasting peace. May this blessing speedily
be granted to me!"
Thus far our late Brother's own account. His widow adds the following particulars:
"My late dear husband led a cheerful and happy life in close communion
with his Saviour. He continued to take a deep interest in the Mission of
the Church of the Brethren, particularly in that in Labrador. The unfavourable
voyage of the Harmony, in 1853, powerfully appealed to his sympathies,
and it was his earnest prayer that the design of our Saviour in permitting
that mishap might be fully attained, that all concerned might humble themselves
under His mighty hand, and that we might become more faithful in our intercessions
on behalf of His work.
"In the spring of 1859, he suffered from inflammation of the lungs, from
which he recovered but slowly; yet, in the autumn, he was restored to his
"On the 9th of December, feverish symptoms appeared, accompanied
by pains in his side. Domestic remedies proving inefficacious, medical
aid was called in. But it was evident, that the illness was serious, and
the probability that it would result in the dissolution of the patient
speedily changed almost to certainty. This conviction was shared by the
dear suffered himself, who looked forward to his summons less with resignation
than with joyful anticipation. Nevertheless, we none of us expected that
the Lord would call His weary servant home so soon as was actually the
case. His happy departure took place on the 15th of December, 1859, in
the 76th year of his age."
(Text made available by Dr. Hans Rollmann; keyed in by Pamela Andersen)