Gloomy prospects at Ebenezer—Rev. C. F. Bergman—His early religious sentiments—Calvinistic tendency—Attends the Georgia Presbytery—Letter to Rev. M. Rauch—Conflicting views—Becomes a member of Presbytery—Receives a call to St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church—Dr. J. Bachman visits Savannah and Ebenezer—Interview and correspondence with Mr. Bergman—Mr. Bergman changes his views, joins South Carolina Synod, and becomes pastor at Ebenezer—His piety and qualification for the work—State of the congregation—Methodist and Baptist churches organized—Methodist church at Goshen—Rev. J. O. Andrew—Delusion—A false messiah—Strange scene at Goshen—Sad results—Rev. L. Myers locates at Goshen—His character, labours, and death—Temperance movement at Ebenezer—Mr. Bergman introduces English preaching—His marriage—His children—Temporal and spiritual prosperity—Emigration of Salzburgers to other counties—Church in Savannah—Rev. S. A. Mealy—Rev. N. Aldrich—New church in Savannah—Rev. A. J. Kara—German congregation—Rev. W. Epping—Disaffection at Ebenezer—Other churches built up by Salzburgers—Mr. Bergman as a scholar—Trials—Indifference to education—Mr. Bergman’s sickness and death—Rev. J. D. Schenck—Rev. E. A. Bolles—Difficulties at Ebenezer—Rev. P. A. Strobel—Death of Mrs. Bergman—Rev. E. Kieffer—Rev. G. Haltiwanger—Rev. J. Austin—Present condition of the church—“Father Snider.”
THE condition of the colony at Ebenezer, on the death of Mr. Bergman, was gloomy indeed. Owing to the establishment of the independence of the States, the “Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge” had ceased to extend any aid to the Salzburgers, and as the congregation at Ebenezer had made some changes in the administration of its affairs, the church no longer looked to their friends in Germany to supply them with a pastor. Their friend and faithful adviser, Dr. Muhlenburg, was dead, and there was no Lutheran Synod in the South from which they could expect to receive any aid. It is true, Mr. Bergman had left a son, Christopher F., a young man, of deep piety and of extensive learning, acquired mostly under the instruction of his father, and to him the people naturally looked as the successor of their late venerable pastor. His mind, however, was turned in a different direction.
Young Bergman seems in early life to have imbibed strong Calvinistic sentiments. This, no doubt, was the result of his reading. He had made himself familiar with the writings of Scott, Henry, Doddridge, and other eminent divines of that school, and he appears to have adopted the doctrine of the “Divine Sovereignty” and the doctrine of “grace,” as taught in Calvin’s institutes. So far had he gone in embracing these tenets, that he attended several sessions of the Georgia Presbytery, one in Abbeville South Carolina, in 1821, one in Augusta in 1822, and the other at Darien in 1823. At this latter meeting he presented a Latin exegesis on this question, “An Christus sit Deus verus.” The exegesis was received with great favour by the Presbytery, and Mr. Bergman was examined as to his personal piety, and upon natural and moral science. This examination was highly creditable, and furnished unmistakable evidence of fine order of intellect and very extensive acquirements. Mr. Bergman was consequently duly licensed as a Presbyterian minister. In his father’s congregation, he had occasionally exercised his gifts in preaching the gospel, but it was not with a view to become the pastor of the church. ‘This may be learned from the following extract of a letter addressed to Rev. M. Rauch in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and dated September 7, 1821.
“I have been for a while past revolving the question within myself, on the propriety of my assuming the pastoral relation in connection with our society. It is not very material whether we are denominated Calvinistic or Lutheran, provided the gospel be preached in purity and according to its true intent and acceptation. As to the exposition of the doctrine of grace, we need only refer to impartial history to discover that Luther maintained it no less strenuously than Calvin himself, differing only in a few slight shades. The fact is this, there are mysteries in revelation which a finite mind is incapable of resolving on any known principles.
“If I say, ‘Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world,’ the question arises, ‘Why then are not all saved?’ because they do not believe; but then ‘faith is the gift of God.’ It is the word of God that we believe, when he has said, that nothing debars us from salvation but unwillingness or dissimulation. If, then, this desire and inclination be implanted in us by God’s Holy Spirit, we shall of course be saved. Our salvation must be gratuitously bestowed, if by free grace.
“The difficulty that presents itself on the other hand is no less formidable. The only way to extricate ourselves is to receive the sacred Scriptures as we find them, and not confine ourselves to abstract systematic reasoning. The Scripture is the best interpreter of itself.
CHRISTOPHER F. BERGMAN.”
In this state of mind Mr. Bergman continued in the Presbyterian church until the year 1824. In the mean time he was invited to take charge of the Lutheran church in St. Matthew’s Parish, South Carolina, which, however, he declined. In 1824, Dr. Bachman, pastor of the Lutheran church in Charleston, went to Savannah with a view to attempt a reorganization of the Lutheran congregation in the latter city. Dr. Bachman extended his visit to Ebenezer, and had an interview with Mr. Bergman. This interview, in connection with a subsequent correspondence between the parties, gave a new direction to the theological views of Mr. Bergman. He embraced cordially the doctrines of the Lutheran church; and, in November, 1824, was received in connection with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of South Carolina and adjacent States, and solemnly ordained a minister of the gospel. He immediately assumed the pastoral charge of the congregation at Ebenezer.
To the discharge of his duties as a pastor, Mr. Bergman brought a mind well stored with varied and useful learning, and a heart deeply imbued with a spirit of Christian humility and unfeigned piety. In his tastes he was, perhaps, rather too refined for the particular sphere in which he moved. He had been a close student of nature, and his journal furnishes abundant evidence of a rich exuberance of sentiment, chastened, however, by a strong religious sentiment. His cast of mind was, perhaps, rather melancholic, but yet he seems always to have cherished an unwavering confidence in God, which cheered and animated him, even under the most trying circumstances. Still, there was a natural timidity and reserve in his character, which operated somewhat to his disadvantage as a pastor.
When he assumed that relation at Ebenezer, he found the congregation in a declining condition. This, as has been stated, was occasioned in part by the want of proper discipline, and also by the too long use of the German language. These causes induced many of the descendants of the Salzburgers to forsake the church of their fathers, and unite in the organization of other societies. Methodist and Baptist churches sprung up in various parts of the county, and the preachers of these denominations seemed to labour with great zeal to proselyte the members of the Lutheran church and their families. In this they were only too successful. In the neighbourhood of Goshen, Mr. David Gougle and his family, with several others, were induced to join the Methodist society; and, as they were allowed the use of the Lutheran church at Goshen, in process of time the church itself was transferred to the Methodist Conference, and is held to this day as their property, though the swan still surmounts the spire, clearly showing what was originally the character of the church.
The Methodist church at Goshen was organized about the year 1822. The Rev. James O. Andrew (now Bishop Andrew) was at that time stationed in Savannah, but occasionally, and perhaps statedly, visited Goshen. It was under his ministry that this society was formed, though the transfer of the property did not take place for several years afterwards. Among the first members of this society, were, besides Mr. David Gougle, his daughters, Mrs. Nowlan (wife of Major Nowlan) and Mrs. Charlton, and the husband of the latter, Major John Charlton.
There is a singular incident connected with the history of this church at Goshen, which it may be proper to insert here. The facts are given, but, out of respect to the feelings of their families, the names of the parties are suppressed.
Two gentlemen, Mr. D—and Captain W—, labouring under a strange hallucination, imagined themselves called, by a special revelation from heaven, to preach the gospel. By dwelling too much upon this subject, they ultimately became somewhat monomaniac, and announced themselves respectively as John the Baptist and the Messiah. They made an appointment to preach at Goshen, but owing to their insane pretensions, the elders closed the church against them. Nevertheless, they attended at the church at the time appointed, and announced to the large congregation assembled, that, as an evidence of the divinity of their mission, the doors and windows would fly open miraculously, precisely at twelve o’clock. But their prediction was not verified, and they were compelled to leave the assemblage, being deeply mortified at their disappointment. Of course, the whole affair proved a miserable farce. Mr. W____ left his house the next day, under great mental excitement, and wandered about in the woods until he died from hunger and exhaustion. Apart from this strange delusion, he is represented as having been one of the best and most exemplary men of his day, and was even honoured with a seat in the Legislature. Mr. D____, who had once been sheriff of Effingham county, after being immersed some three or four times, connected himself with the “Bible Christians or Campbellites.” He still lives, and is man of great integrity, and possesses many fine traits of character.
In the neighbourhood of Goshen resided the Rev. Lewis Myers, a venerable local preacher of the Methodist connection. He was admitted a member of the South Carolina Conference in 1799, and continued in the itinerancy until about the year 1823, when he settled with his family at Goshen in Effingham county. Father Myers occupied a very conspicuous place in the Methodist church. He was stationed at one time in Charleston, South Carolina, and frequently received the appointment of presiding elder. He travelled extensively in South Carolina and Georgia, and by his zeal and piety always secured the confidence and esteem of those who formed his acquaintance. After he located, he laboured diligently in the cause of his Master. He was a warm friend of Sabbath-schools and the temperance cause, and gave to both the full weight of his influence. In his domestic relations, he was dutiful and affectionate, and very social in his feelings. He always candidly reproved faults when he discovered them, but the reproof was tempered with kindness, and no one could fail to see the spirit of the honest, uncompromising Christian in every act of his life. He reared an intelligent and respectable family, most of whom are still living. Father Myers was attacked with paralysis in 1848, from which he never fully recovered. In 1849, he removed with his family to Springfield, where he resided until his death, which occurred in 1851.
Mr. Bergman entered upon his duties at Ebenezer with zeal, and with a full determination to discharge his obligations to his people in the fear of God; but he soon found that he was to meet with serious opposition in carrying out some of his measures of reform. He had seen that intemperance was prevailing to rather too great an extent among the people of the county, and that some of his own church-members were not as free from this sin as he had a right to expect. He therefore felt constrained to reprove this vice from the pulpit, and to suggest the propriety of organizing a temperance society. This measure met with very few advocates, and it is said that one of his members rebuked him publicly, in not very mild terms, for his temerity in attempting to correct this evil. He was not, however, driven from his purpose.
Mr. Bergman continued to preach at Ebenezer, at Bethel, and occasionally at Zion’s, and he introduced the use of the English language in all the churches. This, together with the better enforcement of the discipline, had a beneficial influence upon the spiritual interests of the church, and the cause of true piety seemed generally to revive. Still there was much apathy and indifference among a large portion of the members.
In 1825, Mr. Bergman was married to Miss Mary C. Fieri, second daughter of Mr. Israel Fieri, a lineal descendant of the Salzburgers. This lady, in point of mind and disposition, was well calculated to become the companion of such a man as Mr. Bergman, and their union was a source of mutual happiness and comfort. By this marriage, Mr. Bergman had three children, only one of whom survived him; a daughter, who died, however, in 1837.
There is nothing of special importance to notice in the general condition of the descendants of the Salzburgers during the ministry of Mr. Bergman. In their temporal interests they were very much prospered; and, on the whole, the church had made some improvement in spirituality.
There was, however, manifested by many of the Salzburgers, a disposition to emigrate to other sections of Georgia. Some had removed to Scriven, and other families had located in Lowndes and Thomas counties; and in fact, the descendants of the Salzburgers, if we had the means to trace them up, could no doubt be found in many States of the Union, from Pennsylvania to Louisiana, and in nearly one-third of the counties of Georgia ; though, it is true, in most cases, in rather an isolated condition; still they retain their names and their general characteristics.
Reference has been made to the church in Savannah. The congregation, since the elder Bergman relinquished his charge, had greatly declined, though there were some pious families who still adhered to our confession. In 1824, Dr. Bachman of Charleston succeeded in reorganizing the church. He found the families of Mr. Frederick Herb, Mr. Snider, Mr. Haupt, Mr. Spann, Mr. Gougle, Mr. Felt, Mrs. S. Cooper, Mrs. N. Weriman, and Mrs. L. Cooper, and some others who were still attached to the Lutheran church, and were disposed to unite in an effort to resuscitate the congregation. The effort was successful.
The same year, the Rev. Stephen A. Mealy, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and a licentiate of the South Carolina Synod, was induced to remove to Savannah and assume the pastoral charge of the church. Mr. Mealy had the pleasure to see the church attain to considerable respectability, both as to piety and numbers. He served this people with great usefulness until 1839, when he accepted a call from St. Matthew’s Church in Philadelphia, and removed to that city.
Mr. Mealy was succeeded by Rev. N. Aldrich of Charleston. Mr. Aldrich removed to Savannah in 1840. Up to the year 1843, the congregation had worshipped in a small wooden church which had been erected before the Revolutionary War. As, however, the city of Savannah was rapidly improving, and the congregation had increased in wealth and intelligence, a fine brick edifice eighty-eight by fifty-six feet was erected, at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars. The church was dedicated in the fall of 1843, on which occasion the pastor was aided by Rev. Dr. Bachman of Charleston.
Mr. Aldrich continued in Savannah until the year 1850, when he was succeeded by the Rev. A. J. Karn, who still sustains the pastoral relation. Mr. Karn labours with great acceptance to the people of his charge. The congregation is rapidly improving, and has been blessed with several gracious revivals, which have brought many members into the church. This congregation occupies, at this time, a very favourable position in the estimation of the Christian community of Savannah, and is making itself respected by the happy influence that it is exerting upon the moral interests of a large portion of the community. Within the last two years a German congregation has been organized, which bids fair, under the divine blessing, to accomplish much good for the large German population which is now to be found in that city. The German congregation is at present supplied by the Rev. W. Epping. These two churches, acting as they do in concert, are well adapted to meet the wants of the English and German Lutherans in Savannah, and important results may be confidently expected from them. May great grace abide upon them, and may God continually add to their number scores and hundreds, who shall be saved in the great day of rejoicing.
It has been deemed proper to make this reference to the Lutheran church in Savannah, because it was originally organized by emigrants from Salzburg, and was for many years a constituent part of the pastorate at Ebenezer. Great changes, however, have taken place in the congregation. Very few of its present members are descended from the original stock, and the church has become entirely anglicized. In fact, it has been so ever since 1824, when Mr. Mealy became the pastor. Having said this much in relation to Savannah, it is time to return to Ebenezer.
It has been stated that many of the descendants of the Salzburgers had abandoned the church of their fathers, and had aided materially in the organization of other churches. In Savannah, in the Episcopal church, the Methodist Episcopal church, and the Baptist church, many of them may be found. This is particularly the case in reference to the Methodist church. There we find the Remsharts, the Sniders, the Heidts, and others ; some of them men of wealth and influence. This is, however, more especially true in relation to Effingham county. Prominent among the Methodists may be seen the Hineleys, Sherraus, Bergsteiners, Scheubtrines, Neidlingers, Zittrauers, Mingle-dorffs, Oechleys, (now spelled Exley,) occasionally a Rahn, a Gnann, a Zettler, and some of the descendants of the Gougels, including the Charltons, Remsharts, and others. In the Baptist church, there are occasionally a Rahn, some of the Dashers, Waldhours, Wisenbakers, Bergsteiners, &c. &c. These families constitute, for the most part, the most conspicuos and wealthy members in the churches to which they respectively belong. Their withdrawal from the Lutheran church was certainly a serious loss; but it is consoling to think that they still form a portion of the great army of our common Lord, and in their new spheres of action are contributing materially to push forward the triumphs of the cross. Though, therefore, they have “gone out from us,” we can heartily wish them God-speed, even though it may not be proper to endorse the propriety of the course which they pursued, in abandoning the church of their fathers, especially as they cannot find in other communities any thing which is sounder in faith, or wiser, or more judicious in discipline and church government, than existed in the church which they left. And if reform was needed, they who were the first to perceive the necessity, were under the greatest obligation to labour with the most untiring zeal and energy to effect it.
These disaffections among the Salzburgers toward the Lutheran church, many of which occurred in the lifetime of Mr. Bergman, proved a source of great grief to him; and although he had a consciousness that he did his duty faithfully, yet he was pained at the results, even though he was not the cause of bringing them about.
The younger Bergman presided over the spiritual interests of the Ebenezer congregations for about eight years. If there was any fault of which he was guilty, it was too close attention to his literary pursuits, to the neglect of pastoral visitations and the serious injury of his health. He evidently was a very close and industrious student, and he laboured to acquire a thorough knowledge of every department of science and literature. He has left a number of treatises on various subjects, including botany, meteorology, astronomy, natural philosophy, history, poetry, belles lettres, &c. Beside which he kept a diary in which are carefully and minutely noted all the important events that happened in our own country and throughout the world, as far as they came to his knowledge. His acquirements in the languages and mathematics were extensive; and what is remarkable, his entire education was obtained in his father’s study. But his paternal instructor was well fitted for the task, being himself a man of very extraordinary attainments.
Among the other causes of regret to Mr. Bergman, was the indifference which many of the Salzburgers began to manifest on the subject of education. It had been an object with all the pastors at Ebenezer, to keep up good parochial schools at each of the churches, and for many years this was successfully done. Even after the Revolution, when the elder Bergman came over from Germany a teacher accompanied him, as has been stated, and the school at Ebenezer was reorganized and sustained for many years. But as the Salzburgers began to remove from Ebenezer and settle upon their farms, they gradually lost their interest (or at least in a good measure) in the subject of education, and many of them permitted their children to grow up in comparative ignorance, having very little more than the rudiments of the plainest English education. In this the people have been very culpable, especially as there is a fund belonging to the church for the education of those children whose parents may see proper to avail themselves of it.
About the year 1830, Mr. Bergman’s health began to decline; and it became manifest to his friends and himself that his constitution was seriously impaired. Nevertheless he endeavoured to perform his duties faithfully and cheerfully, as far as his strength would permit. In the early part of the year 1832, it was evident that the season of his probation and ministerial usefulness was drawing to a close. About the 1st of March he was compelled to desist from all active employments, and about the middle he was confined to his bed. He became so reduced in the course of a week that he could not speak above a whisper. Thus he continued gradually to waste away until the 26th of March, 1832, when he was gathered to his rest in peace. A short time before his death he regained sufficient strength to be able to converse with a ministerial brother, (Rev. S. A. Mealy) to whom he remarked : ‘If it is the divine will, I am prepared and would rather go now. I feel that for me to depart and to be with Christ, is far better. I think I can truly say, for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Blessed be the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, I have no doubts. … I look into the grave without alarm. I believe I can say without dread, to ‘corruption thou art my father, and to the worm thou art my mother and sister.’ “He then repeated with great energy, while his face was irradiated with a heavenly smile, the Christian’s hymn of triumph:
And let me languish into life.
Lend, lend your wings, I mount, I fly !
O grave, where is thy victory ?
O death, where is thy sting?”
With this language upon his lips, he gently fell asleep in Jesus, and was gathered to his fathers like one “who lies down to pleasant dreams.” On the 27th of March he was buried in Ebenezer cemetery, adding another to the pious and truly godly men who repose in that ancient and venerable receptacle of the dead. The congregation, as an evidence of the high regard which was cherished for him, erected a suitable tablet to his memory in the cemetery at Ebenezer.
The Rev. John D. Scheck succeeded Mr. Bergman. Mr. Scheck is a native of Maryland. In 1831 he removed to South Carolina, and connected himself with the Lutheran Synod of that State. During the first year of his ministry he missionated among the destitute congregations in the bounds of the synod. He then accepted a call to the charge of the Lutheran church in St. Matthew’s Parish, Orangeburg District, South Carolina. From this charge he removed to Ebenezer, and served the congregation until 1838, when he resigned and removed for a brief period to Alabama. Mr. Scheck’s labours were duly appreciated by a large portion of the congregation, and it is believed that his preaching was blessed to the edification of not a few. Nothing, however, of specia limportance occurred during his connection with the church.
While Mr. Scheck was pastor, his health and that of his family suffered very much during their residence at Ebenezer, from the miasma arising from the river and swamps. It became necessary, therefore, to build a new parsonage in the pine land, about three miles from Ebenezer. This house has been the permanent residence of the pastors ever since, and has proved to be one of the healthiest locations in all that country. At the suggestion of Mr. Scheck, the congregation likewise improved the church, placing in it a new pulpit after the modern style, and in other respects rendering the church more comfortable and tasty in its exterior and interior appearance.
In 1838, the Rev. E. A. Bolles of Charleston, South Carolina, received and accepted a call to the Ebenezer charge. Mr. Bolles had been a private student of Dr. Bachman’s, and subsequently spent two years in the theological seminary at Lexington, South Carolina. Upon leaving the seminary he removed to North Carolina, where he remained a year, prior to his location at Ebenezer. Mr. Bolles was for several years successful as a pastor, and made many warm friends at Ebenezer. However, in 1842, an attempt was made to introduce and enforce the new discipline, adopted by the Synod of South Carolina, which was warmly opposed by a large number of the members, and resulted in a schism, which wellnigh rent the church in twain.
For this measure there was really no necessity. Those who attempted to introduce the new discipline were no doubt influenced by the purest and best motives, but they evidently acted unadvisedly. A reform in the church was greatly needed; but those who favoured it, did not adopt the most judicious course to effect their laudable object. If they had examined the archives of the church, they would have found a discipline already in existence far superior in every respect to the one which they proposed to introduce, and by planting ‘themselves upon that, they might very easily have accomplished their purpose ; and while, by this course, they would have fortified their own position, they might have disarmed the opponents of the discipline of their most powerful arguments against the measure. The new discipline was evidently adopted unconstitutionally, and it was well for all parties that this controversy was amicably settled. This was accomplished through the agency of Dr. Bachman of Charleston, then President of the Synod. In 1843 he visited Ebenezer, and calling the whole congregation together, the matters in dispute were all discussed and an adjustment effected, which was satisfactory to the great majority of the members. A few, however, still remained disaffected, and several left the church. The strife had been very severe, and various documents had been presented to the synod, setting forth the views of the respective parties; and it was accomplishing much for the church, when, after all the crimination and recrimination which had occurred, the dispute was settled upon any terms whatever. There was a union effected, but it is to be feared it was not a very cordial one.
Mr. Bolles continued at Ebenezer during the remainder of this year; but in 1844, he relinquished the position and removed to his native city. After a short sojourn there, he accepted a call to the Beth-Eden charge in Newberry District, South Carolina. He is now an agent for the American Bible Society in South Carolina, in which position he is rendering good service to the cause of Christ.
After Mr. Bolles removed from Ebenezer, the congregation extended a call to Rev. P. A. Strobel, at the time principal of a female seminary in Savannah. Mr. Strobel is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and a graduate of the theological seminary at Lexington, South Carolina. The call was accepted, and Mr. Strobel served the congregation for four years and a half.
During Mr. Strobel’s stay at Ebenezer, a new church was built on the Middle Ground Road, near the Ogeechee River. This church was designed for the accommodation of those members who had removed so far from Ebenezer that it was impracticable for them to attend preaching at the parent church. It is believed that this measure was the means of saving many members to the Lutheran church, who would otherwise have been lost to it, and it also carried the means of grace to a very destitute neighbourhood.
Mr. Strobel continued at Ebenezer until the commencing of the year 1849, when he removed to the city of Macon, and accepted an appointment as missionary to the few Lutheran families who reside in that city. After labouring in this field a year, with some prospect of success, it was found impossible to prosecute the mission successfully, and it was abandoned. The Lutherans in Macon are mostly Germans, and their attachments to the church of their fathers are not strong enough to induce them to make the necessary sacrifices to build up a congregation. Those who make any pretensions to piety at all, have become pew-holders and worshippers in other churches, and they could not be induced to unite cordially in the enterprise of erecting a Lutheran church.
The congregation at Ebenezer was without a regular pastor for more than a year, after Mr. Strobel removed to Macon. In the mean time the Rev. Ephriam Keiffer served them as a temporary supply. Mr. Keiffer was a descendant of the Salzburgers, and had united with the church in the lifetime of the elder Bergman. Being a man of ardent zeal and devoted piety, he felt it to be his duty to do something to promote the spiritual welfare of the church. Encouraged by the pastor, he was induced to hold prayer-meetings and deliver exhortations, whenever an opportunity was afforded him. He took great interest in the Sabbath-school, and acted as superintendent for many years. He was at length prevailed upon to apply for license to preach. This was readily granted; for although his education was rather limited, yet he was a man of excellent natural abilities, and his good sense and upright and consistent deportment compensated for many other deficiencies.
While the congregation remained vacant, Mr. Kieffer was prevailed upon by his brethren to discharge the duties of a pastor, until one could be obtained. With great reluctance he complied with the wishes of the congregation, and served them until the beginning of the year 1851. During this year it pleased God to call him away from the scene of his earthly labours. After an illness of several weeks, he expired at his residence in Effingham county, closing his career with great serenity of mind, leaving to his family and the church the rich legacy of an unblemished Christian character.
The Rev. George Haltiwanger became the pastor at Ebenezer in 1851. Mr. Haltiwanger is a native of Lexington district, South Carolina, and a graduate of the seminary at Lexington. Possessing naturally a good mind, which he has cultivated with some care, and imbued with a spirit of deep piety, he is well calculated (if any man is) to succeed in this somewhat difficult charge. For it is a melancholy truth, that of late years the congregation at Ebenezer has become rather hard to suit with a pastor. Mr. Bolzius served them for thirty-two years. Mr. Rabenhorst for more than twenty years. The elder Bergman for thirty-six years. And the younger Bergman for eight years. And it is worthy of remark, that all the pastors at Ebenezer, up to the time of the younger Bergman, (with the exception of Mr. Triebner,) sustained the pastoral relation until they were removed by death. Since the demise of the younger Bergman, however, up to this date, a period of twenty-two years; four changes have been made, showing an average of a little more than four years for each pastor. It cannot always be the fault of the minister; the people must necessarily be more or less to blame, and it would be well for them to inquire seriously, prayerfully, and candidly, in how far they have unneccessarily rendered the situation of the pastor such, as to constrain him to leave the congregation, for his own peace as well as that of the church. A congregation will be made to feel, sooner or later, the baneful effects arising from so many changes, especially when they are demanded, not so much by any want of faithfulness on the part of the minister, as by a restless, faultfinding, and captious spirit on the part of the people.
Thus far, Mr. Haltiwanger has succeeded in giving general satisfaction to the people ; and there seems to be a more general interest manifested on the subject of religion, than for several years. Since his removal to Ebenezer, a new church has been erected near the old site of Bethel, three miles above Springfield, which is very creditable to those who built it. In this neighbourhood, particularly, the members have always been noted for their piety and the harmony which prevails among them. It may, in fact, be regarded as the most interesting and flourishing part of the congregation, and this in no doubt attributable to the spirit of union which always prevails among them.
In this neighbourhood lived and died the venerable J. Gotlieb Snider. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, having served his country faithfully under General Wayne. Father Snider lived to be nearly ninety years of age. He was contemporary with Messrs. Lembke, Rabenhorst, and Bergman, and lived until the year 1848. He was a man of ardent piety, enlarged benevolence, and strong practical views. By his beneficence he relieved many a widow and orphan, and sought to render himself a benefactor to all who needed his assistance. As he advanced in life, the evidences of the divine favour seemed every day to become brighter, and his faith and hope increased as he approached the end of his long and eventful life. He delighted to speak of the early days of the colony ; of the prosperity of Ebenezer; of the large and attentive congregations that once assembled in the old church; of the piety of the pastors and the spirituality of their flock; and while he dwelt upon these scenes, his eyes would fill with tears and his countenance beam with holy joy, as he would remark, “Oh! I shall soon see many of these pious, good old friends in heaven.” He died in full prospect of an inheritance among the saints in light. May the savour of his holy life never be entirely lost!
The congregation at Ebenezer, under the judicious management of the Rev. G. Haltiwanger, is making decided advancement. There has been a steady increase of the membership, and a gradual progress in the spirituality of the church. The people are beginning to manifest more enlarged views of Christian duty, and an expansive benevolence, which augur well for the future. As some evidence of this favourable change, the church has been recently thoroughly renovated. The brick floor has been removed, and a plank one substituted. Neat pews have taken the place of the old-fashioned “benches,” and both the interior and exterior of the venerable “Jerusalem” church have been greatly improved. One alteration has, however, been made, which is objectionable. The “swan” which once stood upon the spire of the church has been taken down, and its place is now occupied by a “fish.” This is in bad taste. If, as has been stated, the swan was Luther’s coat of arms, it should have been permitted to remain as emblematical of the distinctive character of the church. Besides, in view of the many thrilling associations connected with that swan, it ought never have been removed. It should have stood there as a kind of heirloom, connecting the present with all the glorious and inspiring recollections of the past: reminding us ever of the immortal Reformer, and the soul-elevating doctrines he proclaimed ; in defence of which the Salzburgers were exiled, and for their propagation and maintenance erected that time-honoured temple upon the banks of the beautiful Savannah. Let that “fish” come down, and let the old swan resume its accustomed place. It stood there for more than a century, solitary and alone, weathering every storm, a witness to all the varied incidents which have marked the history of the colony. Amid the decay of generations and the mutations of society, it has been a silent yet eloquent monitor, reminding us of the noble moral heroism of our ancestors, and bidding us emulate the example of those whose attachment to a pure and heavenly faith made them the victims of a dark and murderous spirit, and drove them upon a “willing pilgrimage” in search of that “holy ground” where, unawed by human cruelty and a blind superstition, the soul might unfold its pinions and soar aloft to hold sweet and unfettered communion with the “Father of spirits.”
In addition to these improvements in the church edifice, other measures have been adopted to advance the interests of the church, which cannot be too highly commended. The congregation have agreed to call and support an adjunct pastor; and the Rev. Jacob Austin, a recent graduate of the seminary of Lexington, South Carolina, has already entered upon his duties in that relation. Under this arrangement it would really seem that nothing can be wanting, as far as human instrumentality is concerned, to secure the permanent prosperity of the congregation. By a proper division of labour, and by harmonious and judicious effort on the part of the associate pastors, the several congregations can be supplied with preaching upon almost every Sabbath. Catechetical instruction and pastoral visitation, those very important agents in ministerial success, can be regularly and systematically employed ; and the descendants of the Salzburgers may yet, under the blessing of God, witness a return of that glorious period in the history of the church, when under the instruction of two pious and faithful pastors, the prayer-meeting, the catechetical lecture, and the ministerial conference shall be resumed, and the shepherds, being themselves nourished with “the pure milk of the word,” and “enriched with all spiritual grace,” shall be the better prepared to lead this precious flock into “the green pastures and beside the still waters,” and God shall be their God, and dwell with them, even as he dwelt with their fathers.