OF BR. BENJAMIN GOTTLIEB KOHLMEISTER, FOR THIRTY-FOUR YEARS A MISSIONARY IN LABRADOR, WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE AT NEUSALTZ, IN SILESIA, JUNE 3RD, 1844, IN THE EIGHTY-NINTH YEAR OF HIS AGE.
(Compiled from his own Manuscript).
(From: PERIODICAL ACCOUNTS, Vol, 17[1844/45], 201-9, 249-57)
(From: PERIODICAL ACCOUNTS, Vol, 17[1844/45], 201-9, 249-57)
"After much hesitation, I at length yield to the repeated solicitations of my relatives and friends, that I would draw up some record of my pilgrimage through time. May it be to the sole honour of my merciful Redeemer! It is in his name that I venture on the task, having now reached the eighty-third year of my age.
"I was born, February 6th, 1756, at Reisen, near Polish Lissa, [NOTE 1: The proper name of this place, situated nearly mid-way between Posen and Breslau, is Leszno. It is the original seat and property of the family of Leczinsky, or Leszczynski, renowned in Polish and Bohemian History.] in the Grand Duchy of Posen, where my father was for many years baker to the Sulkowsky family, who had their seat in this small town. On the demise of the reigning prince, which happened when I was nearly four years old, my parents moved to Schwersentz, near Posen; but the depression occasioned by the seven years' war had extended to this place also, and their business kept declining.
"I was of a very lively turn, and readily followed the evil examples which were not wanting around me, so that I early fell into follies which I had afterwards to mourn over. Yet, even then I felt in my heart many drawings of grace from the Holy Spirit, especially at the celebration /202/ of Church festivals. I was deeply affected at these seasons, and promised God that I would be a good child; nor did my mother fail to add her exhortations. I gladly committed to memory texts of scripture, which at times went to my heart. When reading about the primitive Christians, in the Acts of the Apostles, it was a trouble to me, that were no such congregations to be met with now, and I cherished the determination, as soon as I grew up, and had learned a trade, to travel in quest of such persons, and join myself to them. During our five years' abode at Schwersentz, I experienced a special preservation of my life. When in my fifth year, I was playing with a number of other children in a barn, and, on the threshers going to their luncheon, we hid ourselves in the straw. When they returned to their work, I began to creep out, when one of them aimed a blow at the moving straw with his flail, and hit me on the back of my head. I was carried home bleeding and senseless; but, by God's mercy, the wound was healed, without leaving any bad effects.
"In the spring of 1764, my father travelled to Warsaw, to see whether he could establish himself there, and, in the autumn, he sent for my mother and myself, with my two sisters. We set out with a Polish carrier and another passenger. The journey was exceedingly tedious and difficult, owing to the bad roads; and, what was worse, the country was infested by numerous bands of robbers. Our carrier lost his way in a forest, through which we had to pass for thirty miles. At length, as night came on, we reached a large public house in the middle of the wood. The only inmates were a churlish Polish landlady, and two or three maids, busily employed in preparing a feast. But, in spite of all our entreaties, they refused to give us any food, saying, that all was bespoken for guests who were to come that night. This alarmed my mother and her fellow-travellers. They resolved not to remain in the house, but made a bed of straw for themselves and my elder sister, under the waggon, while myself and younger sister were lodged in it, and thus we went hungry to rest. About midnight, they heard a shouting and whistling in the forest, and presently a number of vehicles drove into the yard. Feasting and revelry succeeded; at length some of the party came out with lights, which they held close to our eyes. My mother and the rest below, though trembling with fear, pretended to be fast asleep, and we were so in reality. After examining our boxes without finding anything to attract their attention, they left the waggon, and before daybreak the whole party drove off. We too quitted our wretched quarters as soon as it was light, but it was late at night before we cleared the forest, after having been overturned, while crossing a deep stream in the dark, providentially without any fatal disaster. My mother often referred to this journey, with thankfulness for God's gracious preservation.
"At Warsaw, likewise my father found much difficulty in carrying on his business, so that my schooling was again frequently interrupted, my parents requiring my services at home. I was fond of reading the Bible, especially the historical parts of it; it was, indeed, the treasure of my childhood. One day a great fire broke out in our street, and we had to remove our furniture. Without caring for my clothes or trinkets, I seized upon our large family Bible, and though I could scarcely lift it, succeeded in bearing it away, till the danger was over. My parents /203/ were greatly pleased with this incident, and promised that this Bible should descend to me.
"In my 14th year, my father departed this life, leaving my mother, with myself and my younger sister, in very needy circumstances. My other sister had died a year before, and my two elder brothers were apprenticed in Posen and Lissa. My mother was encouraged by her friends to carry on the business with the help of journeymen. She entered on it with prayers and tears, and God so blessed her childlike confidence in Him, that she was not only enabled to pay the debts of her late husband, but acquired a handsome property. I too had to lend a helping-hand whenever I could, and, in her mind, she destined me to succeed her in the business.
"The Protestants of Warsaw had, at that time, neither church nor minister of their own. Divine service was held in the hotel of the Danish embassy, and their chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Scheidemantel, instructed and confirmed the Protestant children. Though in his sermons, he dwelt principally on a virtuous life, his preparatory instructions and address at our confirmation were decidedly evangelical, so that we were deeply affected on that solemn occasion. I entered into a covenant with God with many tears, and promised to devote myself to Him, to forsake all sin, and by His grace to lead a new life; and thus I drew near to the table of the Lord with solemn awe, and with deep emotion of heart.
"For some time I went on very comfortably, adhering to my good resolutions, and assisting my mother in her business. But when she pressed me to devote myself for good to this line of life, I felt an invincible repugnance to comply with her request, having a great desire to learn cabinet-making. She was greatly disturbed at my refusal, but when she saw that I was not likely to settle down at home, she at length gave her consent to my wishes, and apprenticed me to a cabinet-maker, in my 16th year. This apparently trifling circumstance had a material influence on my future course, for, had I fallen in with my mother's views, I should have been fixed for life at Warsaw, and my connexion with the Brethren's Church, and the gracious designs of my Saviour regarding me, would have been frustrated. My master and his wife treated me as their own child, having no children of their own.
"Soon after, I fell into great distress of soul when about to partake of the Holy Communion. The whole catalogue of my sins from my earliest days was disclosed to my sight, and I seemed to stand on the very brink of hell. St. Paul's words: "WHOSOEVER SHALL EAT THIS BREAD AND DRINK THIS CUP OF THE LORD UNWORTHILY, SHALL BE GUILTY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD," seemed to be levelled at me, and I thought there was no hope of deliverance left me. `All men,' I reasoned, `may be saved, but not thou.' In this state I continued for several weeks, and all the time I durst not unburden myself either to the minister, or my mother, or my master. I was afraid that they would only shun me as one cast off by God, and there was none, I thought, that could help me. At length, I sank into despair, and could not even pray. -- `What boots it for thee any longer?' was my melancholy reflection. I was besides tormented by blasphemous thoughts, and groaned out: `Oh! that I had never been born!'-- everything that I opened to in the Bible or in religious books, condemned me.
"In this indescribable misery, I went one day to a retired spot in the /204/ garden, -- it was under an elder-tree, if I recollect right, -- and, kneeling down in great dejection, I called upon God in the anguish of my soul, asking whether there were indeed no hope for me, no prospect any more but everlasting perdition. In a moment, a beam of light fell on my darkened soul; I heard as it were a voice within me saying: `No, thou shalt not be lost -- there is yet mercy for thee.' No words can describe the sudden change in my feelings; I was like a malefactor condemned to death, when the reprieve comes. There was light in my soul; it was full of peace, and comfort, and heavenly joy, and my mouth overflowed with gratitude and praise to the God of mercies. Now the Scripture passages which I had learned at school were life and joy to my spirit, especially the 103rd Psalm: `BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL, &C.,' which exactly expressed the feelings of my heart.
"This happy cheerful frame of mind continued for a considerable period; nothing interrupted my child-like intercourse with my gracious God and Lord. Even amidst noise and bustle, I could hold undisturbed communion with Him as the Friend of my soul, and neither saw nor heard what passed around me. On Sundays, I usually visited my mother, and now with pleasure and edification for my own heart, read to her a sermon or a portion from some devotional book, which I had before done only with reluctance and distaste. Still I said nothing even to my mother of what had passed within me.
"At length, it happened that a neighbour, an aged man, named Bohme, who had formerly lived in Dresden, came in one Sunday. He was an awakened man and had often spoken to my mother on the necessity of the new birth. He did so again on this occasion, but my mother could not take it in. I was by turns listening to their conversation and reading a hymn from the Dresden Hymn-book, in which is the verse: `REACH OUT THY SCEPTRE, KING OF LOVE,' &c. This hymn had been a great comfort to me in my time of trial, and while reading it again, the tears stole down my cheeks. Our visitor observed it, and inquired what I was reading, which drew me from an account of what had taken place. He wept tears of joy and thankfulness, and turning to my mother said: `This is what I have been speaking of to you, -- EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN HE CANNOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD.'
"It was a great comfort to me, that I had found a friend with whom I could converse on spiritual things. But in half a year he was taken from me, departing in faith in the merits of Jesus Christ. I shed many tears for his loss; for he was my first Christian friend and counsellor, and he gave the turn to my future course, advising me, when my apprenticeship was out, to go to Dresden, where I should find a worthy Gospel minister, of the name of Peterman, and many children of God.
"On the expiration of my apprenticeship at Midsummer, 1775, associating with journeymen, I soon lost all my good impressions, and, yielding to temptation and bad example, became again the slave of sin; but my faithful Saviour still held His hand over me, and His good Spirit checked me in my sinful course, so that I had no rest and often turned to God with weeping and supplication, for deliverance from this sad condition. I determined to break off from my present connexions, and, having obtained my mother's consent, I set out on my wanderings February 13, 1776, bending my steps in the first instance to Lissa, where my mother's relations lived; but, though I formed good resolutions, /205/ I soon found, that I carried with me the same corrupt heart. My young relatives invited me to their merry parties; but my uneasiness of mind followed me everywhere, and though I forgot it for a time while in company, yet no sooner was I alone, than it returned with double force, so that I sometimes spent whole nights in weeping and prayer.
"Amongst my relatives was a young married woman, who was said to be low-spirited and melancholy. On calling upon her one Sunday, I found that she, like myself, was under concern for her soul, and I disclosed to her my own uneasiness of mind. She said, that she had for some time noticed, that I did not seem to enjoy myself in parties of pleasure, and yet I joined in everything as well as others. This had stumbled her, and prevented her speaking freely to me. I was deeply struck with this reproof, and promised her, with tears, never to forget the caution she had given me. We mutually encouraged each other, to lead a life well-pleasing to God, and to pray for His help; yet we were both of us ignorant, that grace was to be found alone in Christ and His atonement.
"From Lissa I went to my native town, and wrought there a quarter of a year, when, to avoid the solicitations of my youthful acquaintances who sought me out here also, I removed to Breslau. Meeting with a very bad master, I soon proceeded to Freyburg, in the Giants' Mountains, where I stayed over winter. My distress of soul still continuing, the advice of my old friend Bohme occurred to me, -- to go to Dresden. I set out thither, and, after making some stay at Landshut and Hirschberg, arrived in Dresden, August 3rd, 1777, where I found work immediately.
"My first concern was to seek out the Rev. Mr. Peterman, but no one of whom I inquired knew anything about him, till, at the end of a month, I learned from an awakened comrade, named Pfeiffer, that he was minister of the small wooden Bohemian Church, outside the gate. We went next Sunday to the early service, which was in German. The sermon made a powerful impression on me; for I now, for the first time, heard the SAVIOUR faithfully proclaimed as the propitiation for our sins. On coming out of church, we were accosted by a young coachman, (the late Br. Scheibe), who asked us how we had liked the sermon, to which he had seen us so attentive. We replied, that we had found here what we had long sought in vain. On entering into further conversation with him, he informed us, that there were many awakened persons in Dresden who met together for mutual edification. One of these meetings for single men, which he himself attended, was held every Sunday evening at the parsonage by young Mr. Dohnert, the deacon. At our request, he introduced us to the deacon, who received us very cordially, and gave us an invitation to the evening meeting. We went at the time appointed, and found his large room filled with single men, amongst whom were many soldiers. A discourse was read, in which our Saviour was set forth as the Friend of sinners, seeking the lost, and affectionately inviting the weary and heavy-laden to come to him, and find pardon and free grace in his atoning sacrifice. This was a cordial for my wounded and troubled spirit, -- this I had long been seeking for, but never found. I had never till to-day heard such a description of our Saviour. The name of SAVIOUR was now sweet to me beyond expression; henceforth I could /206/ pour out all my requests into His bosom with childlike confidence, and it seemed as though my heaven had begun on earth.
"We soon after learned that this Society was in connexion with the Brethren's Church; indeed, most of the single Brethren belonging to it subsequently joined one or other of our congregations. In this fellowship with so many souls concerned for their salvation, I felt unspeakably happy, and prized our social meetings above all earthly good. My companion, Br. Pfeiffer, and myself, were united in the closest friendship. Our leisure hours were spent in mutual conference; encouraging each other to live entirely for our Saviour. On Sundays, we visited Br. Scheibe, and others of the single Brethren, or sought out some secluded spot in the suburbs, where we prayed and sang together. Sometimes we visited the soldiers belonging to our Society, while on guard or in the camp.
"Having never corresponded with my mother since I left Lissa, I now felt a peculiar impulse to write to her, informing her of my present happiness, in the society of so many children of God. This letter reached her on her dying bed, two days only before her end. On its being read to her, she lifted up her hands, and said, `Now I can die in peace, having heard such good news of dear Benjamin; my anxiety for him is over; -- he has learned to trust in the Lord, and he will prosper.'
"Having meanwhile heard and read much of the Brethren's Church, I conceived an ardent desire to visit Herrnhut, and applied to my master for leave of absence for five days. He inquired whither I was going, and on my naming Herrnhut, he smiled, and wished me a pleasant journey, but said I must not stay too long. On reaching an eminence which commanded a view of the whole city, I looked back on it with heartfelt gratitude to the Lord for all the proofs of grace and the seasons of spiritual enjoyment which had here been vouchsafed me by the Lord; and a voice within me seemed to say: `Your abode in Dresden is at an end; you belong to it no more!' I pursued my journey, engaged in happy converse with the friend of my soul, and cheered by the text for the day: `Truly my soul waiteth upon God, from Him cometh my salvation.' (Ps. lxii. 1). On the evening of the day following, June 26, 1778, I arrived in Herrnhut. As I caught the first glimpse of it from Strawalde, it glittered in the sunbeams, and I hastened forwards with eager step and beating heart. The bell rang for the meeting just as I entered the place, and I went straight to the chapel, where the hymn was struck up, `I will sing to my Creator, &c.' [NOTE 2: A well-known hymn, by Paul Gerhard, see Brethren's Hymn Book, No. 188.] My feelings overpowered me, I was deeply impressed by the sight of such an assembly, I saw with my mind's eye a LIVING CONGREGATION OF THE LORD, such as I had longed to see in my childhood. The daily word was: `Let the God of my salvation be exalted.' (Ps. xviii. 46.)
"After the meeting, Br. Wagner sought me out, and took me to the single Brethren's house, where I was kindly entertained during my stay. But now the feeling of my sinfulness and unworthiness disturbed me, as I felt quite unfit to live amongst these happy children of God. /207/ Br. Wagner observed my uneasiness, and took me to the venerable Br. Gneuss who had the spiritual charge of the choir. I met with the kindest reception from him, and could freely lay open to him my whole state of heart, on which he encouraged me to go to Jesus with all my sinfulness and infirmity. I said that I could have no pleasure in the world, while at the same time I felt myself too bad for the congregation, so that I knew not where to find rest for the sole of my foot. `What,' replied he, `if we find you work here, till you become clear on this point?' I caught at his proposal, returned to Dresden; when my fears lest my master should be unwilling to set me at liberty were put to shame, and, after taking an affectionate farewell of my dear Brethren there, I reached Herrnhut again, on the 7th of July.
"When I once more on this occasion caught sight of Herrnhut from the wooded hill of Strawalde, and regarded it now as my place of rest, I was penetrated with a powerful sensation of the nearness of God my Saviour, and falling on my knees before Him, I gave myself up to Him with many tears, as His eternal property. I besought Him, to do with me what He pleased, to take from me whatever was displeasing to Him, and to accomplish His thoughts of peace towards me. I have never since visited the spot, but it has vividly recalled the feelings of that hour; and now, after the lapse of sixty years, I feel that He has kept his covenant with me; but, on my part, I find great cause for humiliation before Him, on account of my unfaithfulness, and, even yet, my heart is weak and unstable.
"For some time, I was very happy and comfortable in my new situation. Under every difficulty, I could seek counsel and comfort from my faithful Saviour, and this made all things easy. A very lively spirit then prevailed in the congregation, especially in the choir of single Brethren and youths, amounting to 300 in number. There were many worthy experienced Brethren in this choir, who remembered the early days of the congregation, and exercised a salutary influence over the junior members. I, too, shared in the blessing. Often did I retire to the neighbouring woods, and in solitude, hold child-like intercourse with my Redeemer. These were blessed moments for me, and many are the spots, connected in my mind with these delightful associations. Often, too, I begged the Lord, with many tears, to grant my request for reception into the congregation, having some time ago applied for this privilege.
"One day, -- it was the 10th of December, 1778, -- I had had a difference with two of my companions, which weighed upon my spirits. I sat down in a corner, when the rest had gone to bed, and thought over my whole past course. The blemishes which rose in review before me, made me despair of myself, and I thought my best plan would be to pack up and leave the place that very night; but, when making preparations, a voice within me seemed to say, `Your request for reception is granted.' This increased my perplexity, and, earnestly as I had begged this favour of the Lord before, I now prayed as earnestly, that it might not be so, as it would only enhance my condemnation, should I prove unfaithful; but the more I strove, the clearer was the voice, `Thy request is granted.' I opened the textbook and read, `Ye are kept by the power of God, through faith unto /208/ salvation.' (I Pet. i. 5). These words brought comfort and assurance to my heart, and I could anew yield up myself with soul and body, in believing confidence to my faithful Saviour, saying, `If thou, Lord, wilt verify these words in me, and keep me by thy power through faith, then I may make progress, not otherwise.'
"I now lay down to rest with an easy mind, and, on entering the work-shop next morning, the difference with my comrade was soon settled; we mutually asked pardon, and loved each other better than before. Soon after, I was summoned to appear before the overseers of the congregation. This awoke me as from a dream. It was to tell me, that my request was granted, a thing which had appeared to me so little doubtful, that I thought all Herrnhut knew of it, whereas I now remembered, that no one had said a word to me about it.
"On February 13th, 1779, the anniversary of my baptism, which I was accustomed to keep as my birthday, having no register of the latter, I was much impressed by the discourse held by the late Pastor Muller from the text for the day, `Thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in,' (Isa. lviii. 12). He spoke with great animation of the Saviour's raising up messengers, and sending them forth to the rudest and most savage nations to prepare His way. I felt as if the whole discourse, from beginning to end, were addressed to myself, and was firmly convinced, that the Lord would send me to make known His Gospel to the Heathen.
"Being soon after admitted on the list of candidates for the Holy Communion, I had a particular wish, that I might partake of this privilege on the ensuing Maundy Thursday. I turned to the Lord with my request, and obtained from Him an assurance that my prayer was granted. But when, on the last Holy Communion before Easter, several Brethren were present as admitted for confirmation, while I was not, I was greatly perplexed. `Can it,' thought I to myself, `have been a mere delusion?' Thus musing, as I took a solitary walk, I met a young Brother, who asked me, whether I had obtained leave today to be confirmed. On my replying in the negative, he said, `That is well, for when every thing goes according to one's wishes, it strengthens self-love and self- complacency, and we think ourselves better then others who have to wait.' This was a seasonable admonition for me, unwillingly as I received it. I was led by it to serious reflection and self- examination, and was obliged to acknowledge, that my monitor was in the right; for I found so much impurity of motive, and so much of self, mixing with all I did, that I was constrained to throw myself at my Saviour's feet, and beg His forgiveness. I felt now my utter unworthiness to partake of His body and blood with the congregation, and, regarding it as an undeserved favour, could leave the time to Him, should I even have to wait for years. In this frame of mind, I felt as happy as a child, and could commit myself entirely to His leading.
"Great then was my astonishment when, on Palm-Sunday, I was informed, that I had leave to partake of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday. With a humbled and grateful spirit, I now perceived that it was no delusion, but that my faithful Lord saw it needful, to bring me to the knowledge of my deep-seated corruption, in order that I might be capable of enjoying His salvation aright. Hereupon I partook of this highest good with an humble, contrite heart, though without the feeling of extraordinary joy which I had expected. /209/ "Now, I thought, that I had attained the summit of my wishes, though yet a novice in the school of self-knowledge. I was happy, however, in my choir and congregation privileges, and in childlike communion with the Friend of my soul. Various little offices which were assigned me, particularly the oversight of a room of youths, were made useful to my soul, as I found much to learn in them. It was a peculiar time of grace for the whole choir of youths, and the Holy Spirit wrought powerfully upon their hearts. This period, from 1782 to 1784, was the pleasantest of my six years' residence at Herrnhut. I was sorry, therefore, when, in the commencement of the last-mentioned year, I received a proposal to go to Christiansfeld as master-joiner in the Brethren's house there.
"My desire to serve the Lord amongst the heathen had increased from year to year; but, though a frequent subject of prayer, I had never mentioned it to my superiors. There was a prevailing eagerness at that period, amongst the single Brethren in general, to be useful in our Saviour's service, and this feeling was cherished by the constant exhortations given on the subject in the meetings. I often felt inclined to make known my wish, but some scruple or other always kept me back. At length, I committed my views to paper; but just when on the point of handing it to my superior, I became agitated and turned back thrice from his door. I took this as an intimation, that it was not to be, and thought, `If the Lord has destined me for this service, He will know where to find me.' I returned to my room, sealed up the paper in a blank envelope, and laid it in my desk.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
OF BR. BENJAMIN GOTTLIEB KOHLMEISTER, MISSIONARY IN LABRADOR, WHO
DEPARTED THIS LIFE AT NEUSALTZ, JUNE 3RD, 1844.
(CONCLUDED FROM P. 209)
"On the 12th of April, 1784, I bade farewell to my beloved Herrnhut, and after an affectionate parting with my friends and my youthful Strawalde, pursued my solitary journey on foot. At Barby, I called on several members of the Elders' Conference of the Unity, and among the rest, on Bishop Spangenberg, with whom I had an interesting conversation on my appointment to Christiansfeld. He inquired whether I had accepted it cordially. I answered, `No; but as a matter of duty; since from my entrance into the congregation, I had felt an inclination for missionary service.' `Ah, my Brother!' he rejoined, `if you faithfully and diligently attend to the business committed to your management, you will be serving our Saviour, and should He destine you to serve Him among the heathen, He will know where to find you.' His words made a deep impression on me, and I committed my present and future course anew to the Lord, in child-like confidence, that He would condescend to lead me. Yet the impression remained upon my mind, that six years would still elapse, before my proper destination was realized.
"At Christiansfeld, I found the business to which I was called in a state of depression; but, in two years' time, by introducing the English style of cabinet-making, I had the pleasure, not only of seeing the custom increase in the immediate neighbourhood, but of establishing connexions in Holstein, Jutland, and Copenhagen, and even as far as Norway and Sweden, so that the only difficulty was, to get the orders executed. Till now, when asked how long I should stay at Christiansfeld, I had answered decidedly, `Six years;' but when the blessing of God so evidently rested upon the business, I became greatly attached to it, and was much flattered by the general estimation in which I was held. By degrees, my confidential intercourse with my Saviour fell off; I became lukewarm, and my longing desire to serve the Lord among the heathen vanished almost entirely. Sometimes, indeed, a passing remembrance of the happy years spent at Herrnhut came over me, but it was soon forgotten amid the press of business.
"As the sixth year of my abode at Christiansfeld drew to a close, I was again powerfully reminded of my former views. One day, while looking over my old letters, I found one sealed without a direction; I opened it; it was the paper, containing an offer of myself for missionary service, which had never been forwarded. On perusing it, I saw how greatly my zeal had declined; but I endeavoured to compose myself by the thought, `It might have been very well, had I received such a call while I had the desire for it, but now it is not to be thought of; my present line of life is evidently the path of duty.' With these words I tore the paper in pieces and threw it into the fire.
"On my next birth-day, February 13, 1790, an unusual lowness /250/ of spirits came over me; my friends remarked it, and asked what ailed me. `I have a presentiment,' I said, `that this is the last birth-day I shall celebrate at Christiansfeld; but whether I shall depart this life, or some other change awaits me, I know not.' Little did I think, however, that my call to the mission amongst the Esquimaux was despatched that very day by Br. Spangenberg. It was handed to me on March 2nd, but I felt little inclination at first to accept the call; indeed, the letter gave me little encouragement to do so. Br. Spangenberg described the post as one of peculiar difficulty, the Esquimaux manifesting as yet little desire for conversion, and recommended to me to consider seriously, whether I could freely devote myself to this service. In conclusion, he related the following anecdote: -- `The late Br. Matthew Hehl once proposed to a Brother to go among the Indians. On the latter's declining the commission, he remarked, "that he could not take it amiss, as it might easily happen that the Indians might kill him." "What!" replied the other, "does the case stand thus? Then I will go to them gladly;" and he did so.' On reading this, I thought, `Br. Spangenberg has mentioned many difficulties which I must expect to meet with, if I accept the call, but he says nothing about being killed. Would it not, then, be disgraceful for me to draw back, because my circumstances will not be so comfortable as they are here? No; this must not be. I dedicated myself to our Saviour, on entering into the Brethren's church, with soul and body, for life and death, if He should count me worthy of His service. I will, therefore, go to the heathen, dear Lord, in reliance on thy gracious help.'
"Such now became and continued to be my firm resolution. On the 10th April, I set out from Altona, and arrived in London May 5th, where I was joined by Br. and Sr. Turner, who had come over from Labrador on a visit, and were to return with me. After spending some weeks very pleasantly in the society of our English Brethren and Sisters, we set sail June 12th, and reached the coast of Labrador in safety, after a seven weeks' voyage. I had, however, a remarkable preservation of my life during the passage. As I was one day pacing to and fro on the lee side of the vessel, which was inclined almost to the water's edge by a strong side wind, I slipped overboard, and was already half in the water, when I caught hold of the taffrail, and was rescued by the sailors from my perilous situation.
"As we sailed between the islands along the coast, I saw the first heathen. A large boat approached us filled with several families from the north, and their dogs. The sight of these poor creatures brought Br. Spangenberg's words again into my mind, `You are going to the Esquimaux, and will find them barbarous heathen; yet you must love them as yourself, for they are your fellow-men, and, like yourself, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. And as the Saviour bears them with great patience, and seeks their salvation, so ought you to do through His grace.' Here, then, I had my lesson before me, and the text for the day made the subject still plainer: `There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God,' &c.: (Rom. iii. 10, 11). These words taught me how I ought to regard the poor heathen and myself also, for, in the course of my service, I had often to experience the truth of the declaration, and to remember the words, `NO, NOT ONE.'
/251/ "Br. Turner was acquainted with most of these people, and entered into conversation with them. They were all highly delighted to see us. This was on the 27th of July, seven leagues from Okkak. But contrary winds and drift-ice carried us out again to sea, so that it was the 5th of August, before we could make the Bay of Okkak. I was received in cordial love by the mission- family, amongst whom I had the pleasure to meet with two old acquaintances from Herrnhut. The small Esquimaux flock consisted only of twenty-two souls, several of whom relapsed into their former sins, and had to be excluded. It was six years, before I saw any heathen baptized. This was a long school of patience, and a severe trial of faith, for sometimes it seemed doubtful, whether the Esquimaux could ever be truly converted. Nor was the acquisition of the language an easy matter, as there was at that time neither grammar, nor even vocabulary, that could be depended upon. By keeping school to the children, I had, however, an opportunity of improving myself; and this was still further facilitated when, in 1793, the management of the barter-trade with the Esquimaux was entrusted to me.
"In the same year, September 19th, I was united in holy matrimony with the single Sr. Anna Elizabeth Reimann, who had come from Herrnhut with Br. and Sr. Morhardt. Her heart was sincerely devoted to the Lord, and we covenanted together to live alone to Him. In 1797, her only brother, to whom she was much attached, came out to serve the Mission at Hopedale, and staid with us a few days. My wife parted from him with melancholy forebodings, which the event justified; for we saw him no more. Three years after, one bright morning in December, he went out for the sake of recreation, and never returned, having no doubt lost his way, in a snow-storm which came on at noon; nor could any trace of him ever be discovered. The mournful intelligence did not reach us till the March following. His loss was the more to be regretted, as there was the best hopes of his usefulness in the Lord's house. [NOTE 3: See Periodical Accounts, vol. iii. p. 8.]
"After a residence of twelve years at Okkak, where, besides my other engagements, I had acted as doctor, we were called, in 1802, to Hopedale. Discouraging as was the spiritual state of the congregation we had left, we found this still worse, the few baptized members being almost all excluded; for this southern station was most exposed to the temptations presented by European traders. In consequence of these unhappy circumstances, the question was considered by the Directing Board, whether the settlement at Hopedale should not be abandoned, and transplanted further north. This was not, however, the will of the Lord, and we were anew exhorted, looking in faith to Him, to care for these poor wandering sheep in the spirit of love, and lead them to the Friend of Sinners.
"And, in fact, the longed-for hour soon struck, when the Lord pronounced over them his `Ephphatha!' and aroused them from their sleep of sin to newness of life. It was in the last days of December, 1803, that a discourse was held on the words of our Saviour, -- `The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost;' (Luke, xix. 10); and it was shewn, that precisely those who feel themselves /252/ to be the worst, and are most afraid of being lost, have the nearest right to the Saviour, since He seeks them, knowing that they cannot seek Him. The Lord opened the heart of a young widow of bad character to attend to what was spoken, and she thought, `What is that? Can it be that He is come to seek and save the worst and vilest? I am the vilest of all who are here assembled.' Immediately after the meeting she hastened to a solitary glen, and, falling on her knees, cried aloud to Jesus, `If what I have just heard be true, that Thou hast come to save the vilest, oh! save me, for I am the vilest of all, and must otherwise perish.' She received on the spot an assurance, that her sins were forgiven her, and returning home, she related to her companions, with tears of joy and gratitude, what God had done for her soul, and how her heart was filled with such an unspeakable love to Jesus, who had thus comforted her, that she could no more serve sin as aforetime. This account, and the happiness which beamed in her eyes, made a powerful impression on three other women, who lived with her, and who had never before heard of such an experience. They were all greatly moved, and were likewise awakened to new life, making the same joyful experience as the poor widow. Hitherto they had lived in constant disharmony and strife; now they manifested the greatest love for one another, and their mouths overflowed with praises to Jesus for the mercy He had shewn them. This fire of love soon spread to every house. Men and women, young and old, were laid hold on by divine grace. In April, 1804, a similar awakening took place among the children. They were to be seen singly, or in companies, engaged in prayer to Jesus, to have mercy upon them, to save them from being lost, and accept of them as His children.
"This was, indeed, a Pentecost, such as the Labrador Missionaries had never before witnessed, when, after thirty-three years of patient waiting, the promises of God began to be fulfilled, according to the Daily Word which cheered them, when they first set foot upon this coast: `Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thy inheritance.' (Exod. xv. 17). In the following year, 1805, the awakening extended from Hopedale to Nain, and Okkak, and the northern heathen, by means of two inhabitants of Nain of notoriously worthless character, who came to Hopedale on a visit. [NOTE 4: For further particulars, see Periodical Accounts, vol. xvii. pp. 65-77, where it will be seen that for the conversion of these two men, Kapik and Siksigak, Br. Kohlmeister himself was the honoured instrument. -- Ed.]
"From that time we could say with truth, that we had here three living congregations of Jesus, whose great object it was, to live by faith in the Son of God. They increased continually, not only in number, but also in grace and knowledge, and this gracious influence still operates to this day, so that a fourth establishment has since been found needful at Hebron. I esteem it a special favour, to have been a witness of this visitation of grace, and a sharer in the blessings then poured from on high. `Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits!'
"In 1806, we obtained leave to visit Europe, in order to place our daughter, Henrietta, and two other missionary children, in the institution at Kleinwelke for education. This voyage was rendered very /253/ tedious by constant adverse winds. Leaving Hopedale, October 3rd, it was December 3rd before we reached London. Amongst the Orkneys, and on the English coast, we were thrice in imminent danger in the dark and stormy nights. After a pleasant sojourn of three months in London, we arrived safe and well at Kleinwelke in April, 1807. But, in November following, our Henrietta took the scarlet fever, and terminated her brief pilgrimage here below, in fervent desires after the Saviour whom she loved so tenderly. This painful experience filled our hearts with heaviness, but our faithful Lord comforted us mightily over our loss.
"Our return to England direct being prevented by the war, we resolved to proceed to Christiansfeld, in hopes of being able to find a passage to London from thence. After an affectionate parting with my wife's mother and our two sons, and other friends, at Herrnhut, we set out on our journey, and reached Christiansfeld, December 24th, 1808. But we were disappointed in our expectations of being able to proceed to England. I was advised, at last, to present a petition to the king of Denmark, and in May, we received passports for Elsinore, whence we reached London in June, by way of Sweden. To our no small grief, however, we found that the Labrador ship had sailed some weeks before. But our detention was not altogether lost time, as I was thus enabled to assist in carrying the Esquimaux New Testament through the press, and preparing an extract from the Harmony of the Four Gospels. We also made several agreeable visits in the English congregations.
"At length, we set out on our return to Labrador, in the year 1810, and, after a prosperous voyage, arrived at our beloved Hopedale, July 22nd. On descrying the vessel in the offing, several Kayaks put out to meet us; and, on reaching land, we were received with the liveliest affection by all our Brethren and Sisters, Esquimaux and European.
"My first concern now was to prepare for an exploratory voyage to Ungava Bay, in Hudson's Straits, which had been committed to me by the Mission-Board. On June 24th, 1811, I set out from Okkak, in a large boat, accompanied by Br. George Kmoch, and several baptized members of our flock, -- Jonathan, a faithful Esquimaux of tried character, to whom the boat belonged, acting as our captain. Our voyage was beset with hardships and perils, as we were often so hemmed in by drift-ice, that we were afraid every moment of seeing our vessel crushed to pieces. We were in an unknown region, hitherto quite unexplored, in waters full of rocks both visible and sunken.
"At length, doubling Cape Chudleigh, we reached the large river KOKSOAK, [NOTE 5: The discovery of this river, and of the KANGERTLUALUKSOAK, or George River, and the exploring of the whole of the deeply indented coast of Ungava Bay, west of Cape Chudleigh, were among the interesting fruits of this expedition. -- Ed.] the extreme limit of our expedition, on the 24th of August, and met with fourteen families in tents. They were at first timid and shy; but when we addressed them in their own language, and they recognized our crew as countrymen, they became more friendly. We informed them of the design of our visit, which was to make them acquainted with their Creator and Redeemer, who loved them and all /254/ mankind. They were very attentive to all that we said on this subject. We had daily conversations of this kind with them on the counsel of God for their salvation through Jesus Christ His Son, and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins and the sins of the whole world. It was particularly pleasing, to see the eagerness with which they conversed on this subject with our baptized Esquimaux, especially with Jonathan and his wife, for they were greatly impressed by seeing examples of true believers in their own countrymen.
"When we turned our faces homewards on the 1st of September, the good people accompanied us to the farthest point of the river, reiterating their request, that we would soon come again, because they wanted to hear more of the `good words of Jesus.' We reached Okkak again in safety, to the great joy of our Brethren, as early as October 4th, and, as the missionary ship was still at anchor, awaiting our return, I could immediately forward the account of our voyage to London. [NOTE 6: A brief but very interesting narrative of this voyage was compiled by Br. C.I. LaTrobe, and published in 1814. -- Ed.]
"Proposals were sent out to us next year by the Mission Board, for the establishment of a fourth station in the north, beyond Cape Chudleigh; but the difficulties which presented themselves to such an undertaking were so many and serious, that it had to be relinquished for the present. A settlement south of Cape Chudleigh was now determined on, in which view I undertook two other journeys in 1814 and 1816; but the plan was not carried into effect in my time. In 1818, we were called to Nain, where I succeeded Br. Schreiber in the general superintendence of the mission. In this new sphere, likewise, my faithful Lord graciously owned me, and preserved to me the confidence of my fellow-labourers. But, at my advanced age, the numerous winter journeys which I had to make in the discharge of my new office, had an injurious effect on my health, and I was at length obliged to request permission to retire.
"This was delayed, however, till the year 1824, when, taking an affecting farewell of our beloved Esquimaux and fellow-servants, I terminated my missionary service of thirty-four years, not without tears of love and of gratitude to the Lord, for the support which he had vouchsafed, and the blessing which He had been pleased to lay on my unworthy labours. The voyage home was unusually expeditious, as we arrived in England in nineteen days."
The memoir here breaks off, but he adds the following closing remarks, dated September 19th, 1840: --
"It is today forty-seven years, since I was united to my late dear wife, and more than two years, since the Lord called her home to Himself. This recollection leads me to a review of my past course.
"From my first acquaintance with the Brethren's Church in 1777, /255/ I have been deeply impressed with that fundamental truth, that IN THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST ALONE, MERCY AND DELIVERANCE FROM ALL SIN ARE TO BE FOUND. To this day, it has remained the anchor of my faith, and I have the believing hope, that, notwithstanding the remaining evil and corruption of my nature, my faithful Saviour will never suffer me to lose the comfort flowing from His merits and death.
"On my becoming a member of the Brethren's Church in 1778, the Lord soon granted me an insight into His designs with it. I was convinced: --
"1. That the pure doctrine of His Atonement, the Word of the Cross, has been committed to it as a special treasure, with peculiar clearness, by which each soul within its borders, may obtain forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal happiness.
"2. That the Brethren's Church has, in the next place, been favoured with the high calling, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation amongst Christians and heathen, and thus to spread the kingdom of God throughout the world.
"That the Lord has counted me, one of the poorest of his children, worthy to serve Him in weakness amongst the heathen, is a favour, for which I hope to praise Him throughout eternity.
"3. I have been further led to regard the Brethren's Church as an hospital, in which the Great Physician tends his patients with unwearied care and faithfulness. I account it an unspeakable privilege to rank amongst this number, and to lie at the pool of this Bethesda; and my daily prayer to Him is, that He will continue to care for me unto my end.
"Till that time mine eyes I'll raise
Unto Him in spirit,
And my feeble tongue shall praise
My redeemer's merit."
He arrived in Herrnhut with his wife in the year 1825, and the milder climate soon restored his health. After the Synod, they were called to Neusaltz, to take charge of the married division of this congregation, and of the Diaspora connected with it. He enjoyed the cordial love and entire confidence of the whole congregation. All who needed counsel or comfort repaired to him gladly, and he had a word of advice or consolation for every one. It was, indeed, a pleasure to be in his company, such an atmosphere of peace and happiness surrounded him.
The blessing of the Lord likewise rested on his labours in the service of the dispersed members of the Society, to which he was obliged to restrict his activity after the year 1836. He undertook frequent journeys with his dear wife, though they were both far advanced in years, and paid several visits, amongst the rest to Polish Lissa and to Reisen, his native place, not without blessed results. But, on the 7th of October, 1838, the Lord was pleased to call Himself his beloved wife, who had been for forty-five years the companion of his pilgrimage. This was a painful blow to him, yet his confidence in the Lord did not fail. He maintained the same liveliness of spirit, and the same indefatigable zeal in directing souls to the Saviour; and, as if to comfort him for his loss, the Lord now laid a greater blessing than ever on his activity in our country congregation. New /256/ life appeared, and new societies of awakened souls were formed in various places, as at Zullichau, Sagan, and Grunberg.
On festival days, when the Society Brethren and Sisters came to Neusaltz, his room was crowded with visitors, who seldom left him without edification for their souls. One of his latest efforts was to provide a house for their better accommodation on these occasions; and, by the influence which he possessed with a large circle of friends, he had the pleasure to see this object accomplished in 1840. [NOTE 7: See concluding note.] But his sympathies were not confined to his own immediate sphere of operation, but extended to whatever concerned the Brethren's Unity, and especially its missionary labours. These were a subject of his unceasing intercession at the Throne of Grace.
To the last year of his life he enjoyed remarkably good health, and the full possession of all his faculties, with the exception of his hearing, which became somewhat impaired with age. But in June last he had a serious illness, after returning from one of his circuits, so that his end was thought to be at hand. And, though we had the joy to see him recover from this shock, it became evident that his strength was gradually declining. Most of the winter he was obliged to keep his room. He spent his solitary hours in blessed meditation on the Lord's gracious dealings, spoke of them gladly, and with great emotion, and waited joyfully, yet patiently, for the day of his departure hence.
This arrived sooner than we had expected. He took a severe cold on the 28th of May, and on Monday, the 3rd of June, it was evident that his dissolution was at hand. About noon, the blessing of the Lord and of the church was imparted to him at his own request, under a peaceful feeling of our Saviour's presence, and he attempted, weak as he was, to join in the singing. Half an hour after he gently breathed his last, and his spirit passed into his Saviour's arms. He had reached the age of eighty-eight years and four months.
We, his fellow labourers, cannot but rejoice in his blessed lot, and thank the Lord for having so long favoured us to behold the walk of His faithful servant and disciple. In him we saw what it means to be "conformed to the image of Christ." He had received a large measure of the annointing from above; it spread over his whole being, and gave it an indescribable grace and dignity. The leading features of his character were love, faithfulness, and humility. He loved the Saviour, whom he had early learned to know, as his Redeemer, with his whole heart and soul. To devote to Him his life and faculties was not a sacrifice, but a privilege; he forgot himself, and sought not his own interest or glory.
From this love to his Saviour sprang his warm, active love to his brethren and fellow-men. He took the liveliest sympathy in others' weal and woe, and was constantly ready to relieve distress, whether of mind or body, to the utmost of his power.
Strictly as he dealt with himself, he was as mild and indulgent in judging others; ever inclined to think and hope the best. At the same time, he was far removed from that false liberality which excuses everything, and calls evil good. Whatever was contrary to the mind /256/ of Christ, and the character of God's children, met with his strenuous reprobation.
His natural abilities were considerable. He possessed a retentive memory, a sound judgment, and a ready comprehension, so that he was soon master of whatever business he undertook, and formed a correct opinion of the various circumstances and characters with which he had to deal. But these endowments were consecrated to the Lord. He never valued himself upon them, any more than upon his truly blessed service in the House of God, but retained to the last the most unassuming humility, willingly esteeming others better than himself. But the less he sought his own honour, the greater was the love and esteem manifested towards him by all who knew him, in or out of the congregation, high or low, nay, even by persons of the highest rank. [NOTE 8: His interview with the King of Saxony, of which a few particulars are given in Periodical Accounts, vol. xv. p. 52, proves that he had respect to the well-known declaration of the Psalmist, in Ps. cxix. v. 46, "I WILL SPEAK OF THY TESTIMONIES ALSO BEFORE KINGS, AND WILL NOT BE ASHAMED." -- Ed.] This general esteem was, doubtless, valued by him, but instead of puffing him up, it bowed and humbled him the more. He rejoiced that his name was written in heaven, and that he could be assured of his salvation; he glorified in Christ's blood and righteousness. In this fair garment, he now stands before his Saviour's throne, beholding Him face to face, and thanking Him with fervour of spirit for his election of grace. His memory will remain blessed among us.