Joel Brunner and the Story of Three Hymnals, The Sell Family, and Selected Sermons of H.K. Kratz: Society Newsletter

June, 2008

The 2008 version of Annual Conference ended a few weeks ago. It was the 125th meeting which dates us back to the 1883 conference in which we merged with a few other groups of believers who were serious about bringing the gospel to the people around them. However, even farther back of this anniversary is the 150th anniversary of the first meeting of a few men in the home of David Musselman out behind Zionsville. In the last issue of this publication, Harold Shelly’s article reminded us about this event. In addition to the other anniversaries, we can remind ourselves that this is the 25th year of the Historical Society which was formed in celebration of our 100th Anniversary.

Because September, 2008, is the 150th Anniversary of our denomination, the Annual Conference has appointed the Historical Committee as the program committee for next year’s Annual Conference. That means they will select the speakers and themes of the messages presented at Annual Conference. For those of you who have not attended an annual conference, each day begins with a time of worship and a message from God’s word. My personal observation is that God blesses in a special way during these times of worship and I look forward to what the Committee will prepare. In addition to this, Bible Fellowship Churches have been encouraged to celebrate this anniversary in some way or other, perhaps by showing our video / dvd entitled, According to the Holy Spirit, a one-half hour summary of our history.

Enough of all that. What follows is more from some of my favorite researchers, Ardis Grosjean and LeRoy Wilcox. I admire how they dig out and put together information that draws our past together. I will also include some sermons of H. K. Kratz I found in my files. I had intention to publish them but never got to it.

I will start with a letter I received from Royal Kramer who is good enough to share some of his memories and a bit of encouragement which I greatly appreciate (whether I need it or not).

Remembrances from Royal Kramer

Dear Richard,

Since I do not plant a garden nor watch basketball finals, I have completely read the March 2008 issue of the BFC History which I found very interesting especially the portions where you remember or have known the various persons mentioned. One such section I found on page 6 where the names of David Gehman Musselman was mentioned who was married to Rose Lambert. Rose, as you had mentioned, was a maternal granddaughter to William Gehman. Abraham and Catherine Musselman had three sons and three daughters according to your article. One of the daughters, Ellen, was my father-in-law’s mother. Ellen then married a Charles David Weaver and they had one son, Charles David Weaver (my father-in-law) and six daughters. However, he did not go as Charles David Weaver II. My father-in-law was the youngest of the children so he had six sisters to pamper him and they certainly did from what I had heard. Their names were Ella (Weaver) Bieber, Sally (Weaver) Kinsey, Annie (Weaver) Gehman, Mary (Weaver) Wentz, Florence (Weaver) Fretz and Katie (Weaver) Stickler. Incidentally, Ardella Bray is a first cousin to my wife Charlotte as Ella Bieber was her mother. Mary Wentz was Charlotte’s aunt and she was married to Albert Wentz who did a lot for the Berean Bible School and Pinebrook Jr. College. After Mary passed away, Albert then married Dorothy Hartman who was the widow of Pastor Herbert Hartman who was the pastor at Salem BFC from 1946-1954.

Getting back to David Musselman and Rose Lambert, my father-in-law always referred to Aunt Rose whenever he spoke about her and of her missionary ventures in Armenia. In early 1959, shortly after returning from military service, my wife Charlotte, her dad and another friend of ours from Salem BFC in South Allentown, Ellsworth Kistler, took a trip to California and were gone for 26 days covering 8500 miles. We stopped in Texas on the way home to see the Musselman family. Dave and Rose had at least four boys if I recall and a daughter who was sort of “mentally slow” I would call her. She was nicknamed “Prairie Rose” since she lived there on the ranch in Inez, Texas a few miles from Victoria. The ranch as I understand it, was really owned by one of the sons, George Musselman who was a multimillionaire in the oil business and had a huge plush office in downtown San Antonio in one of the bank buildings. He told us at that time that he owned approximately 200 oil wells with each one paying about $45,000 a year. We stayed in his home for one night and almost needed a road map to find our way around the place since it was so large as he did have five children, the house had five bathrooms and seven bedrooms. In trying to take a photograph of the house, I had to keep backing up in order to get the entire house within my range finder and thought for awhile that I would end up in New Mexico before I could get it all. (Well, not really.) Money was no object in this family as George’s wife came from a wealthy family herself. However, George and his wife were very accommodating and we had a great time with them. A short time prior to arriving there, George had purchased a brand new 1959 Ford Thunderbird for his daughter for her 16th birthday. Some years later, while in contact with John’s family, we were told that George’s oldest son, who was preparing to go to college, was killed when he was flying a U-Controlled model airplane and he was using steel wires instead of nylon wire to control it, got in contact with some high voltage electric lines and was electrocuted. I think he was on 17 or 18 years of age. So despite all of their money, they too had their heartaches and griefs. We did visit the ranch in Inez and met George’s other brothers who did the actually work on the ranch. There was John, Ed and another brother whose name I do not recall anymore but I do know he was in poor health at the time we were there. They raised Brahman steers at the time and had many heads of them. Those Brahmans were vicious looking animals and I certainly would not have liked to be in the same field with them. These folks too were very accommodating and friendly. Charlotte and I had been in contact with John and his family at Christmas time for a few years after our visit there but then John passed away suddenly with a heart attack and we never heard from anyone in the family again after that time. As to how many of these folks are still living, I have no idea. I do know that “Prairie Rose” passed away a number of years ago and I am sure most, if not all, of the Musselman brothers are deceased as well.

I didn’t know if you would be interested in any of this info but at least you have it for whatever use you may have for it. You are doing a great job with the society and I really enjoy reading the many articles that you have published so far. Keep up the good work.

Sincerely in Christ,

Royal Kramer

How Did a Song Leader Lead? Joel Brunner (1839-1910), Vorsinger in Zionsville and the story of three hymnals

Ardis Grosjean Dreisbach, Stockholm, Sweden

Joel Brunner, who lived from 1839 to 1910, is one of the many unsung laymen who contributed faithfully to their individual congregations. In Joel’s case, it was the Zionsville congregation, where he worshiped for forty years and where, for a number of those years, he played a unique and essential role among the Zionsville brothers and sisters.

What was Joel Brunner’s special contribution? If it were not for family tradition, we would probably not even know. Indeed, Joel is mentioned only three times in the Annual Conference records, but nowhere is it stated just what Joel did in the Zionsville fellowship. Joel was, in fact, the congregation’s song leader, its Vorsinger. Now that may not seem so remarkable to us, but as we shall see, it was a specialized and demanding task.

What may have prepared Joel Brunner to fill such a role? There is nothing specific that we know of, only that, according to a grand-daughter, he had a clear tenor voice. Was he musical? Clearly, he must have had some musical ability, but the only documented material evidence of his musicality did not come to light until after his death.

The making of a Vorsinger

Readers will already have encountered Joel’s father in an article published in the April, 2006 issue of this publication, “John William Brunner, Unwilling Patriarch” (pages 6 to 12), and in “The Brunner Family” in the March, 2007 issue on pages 16 and 17. Joel was born on John William’s farm not far from Vera Cruz, Upper Milford Township, Lehigh County. He was still in his teens, and was the last child still living at home, when his father sold the farm and moved to Emmaus with his wife, Maria, nee Sell. In the 1860 census we find Joel at age nineteen, a live-in hired man on the farm of Samuel Bachman in Upper Milford Township. All his siblings are married, even his younger sister Lucy, who had married the future preacher Jonas Musselman in October, 1859 when she was only 17½.

The years 1858 to 1860 saw great changes in Joel’s life. Not only did he become a hired-man on former neighbor Bachman’s farm but, far more important, Joel had a life-changing experience. He was converted in late 1858 during an evangelistic campaign in Quakertown, and from then on he worshiped with the brand new Zionsville congregation of the Evangelical Mennonites that had formally come into being that September. The account of Joel’s conversion, helped along by the young evangelist Jonas Y. Schultz, was published by C. H. Brunner in 1909, and is worth retelling:

“We have often heard the story as repeated by father how he said (then young) Schultz embraced him and

 never relinquishing his hold until he was found crying for mercy in that meeting.

This was a decisive encounter. It is the first piece of information we have on Joel’s spiritual life, for there seem to have been some religious complications in the Brunners’ home life. Joel’s father was a Lutheran, though apparently not an active one. Joel’s mother came from a family firmly established in the Upper Saucon Mennonite community. In close-knit farming communities inter-faith marriages were rare and socially unacceptable. In such cases it was normal for one of the spouses to go over to the other’s faith. It was clearly Maria who made the change. Soon after her marriage she was baptized into the Lutheran faith, and the older Brunner children were baptized Lutheran. In 1828 John William and Maria moved their family from Upper Saucon Township to Upper Milford Township, near Vera Cruz. With regard to the family’s religious allegiances, what took place after the move has yet to be determined. Records of the baptisms of the younger children have not yet been found. Did Maria revert to the Mennonite faith? Did she, like many future Evangelical Mennonites, come under the sway of the Oberholtzer Mennonites in the 1840’s and 1850’s? All we have to go on is a statement made in the 1960’s or thereabouts by the Brunners’ great-grand-daughter Sallie Brunner to the effect that John William Brunner was not a religious man and that he objected to his wife’s religious involvement.

So we do not know in what religious context Joel grew up, whether he attended Lutheran, Mennonite or other services, or whether he had acquired a personal treasure of hymns even before his conversion. We can assume that at the latest he was introduced to the singing of revivalist songs, perhaps in both German and English, at the Quakertown revival services which evangelist Edwin M. Long conducted for a number of months, starting in September 1858. As far as we know, Joel then began attending the services of the newly formed Evangelical Mennonites. By the end of 1859, ‘little’ sister Lucy was also integrated into the Zionsville congregation. After her marriage to young Jonas Musselman, the couple lived for a while with Jonas’s parents, in the very house where the new Mennonite fellowship had come into being.

We next catch sight of Joel Brunner in 1863 when he has moved to Hosensack, a few miles to the south-east. Now he has become the husband of Rebecca Gehman and is living in or near the house of his father-in-law, deacon and store- keeper David Gehman. Joel may of course have met Rebecca at the Zionsville meetinghouse, but it is equally likely that he met Rebecca at the prayer meetings that were held in the ‘upper room’ above David Gehman’s country store. (David Gehman’s role in the first twenty years of the Evangelical Mennonites has been described in “Deacon and Schreiber David Gehman, 1802-1881″ in the July, 2005 issue of this publication, pages 7 to 20.)

David Gehman was the eldest of the seven men known to have been present in David Musselman’s house when the new Gemeinschaft was founded. He emerged from that meeting having been given the office of deacon, which meant that though he was a layman he had a leading position in his congregation. He was also a man of some local consequence; he had been postmaster in Hosensack (its first one) from 1841 to 1852, and would again function as postmaster from 1861 to 1872. As postmaster, he needed to be proficient in English as well as the local dialect. Moreover, his command of High German must have been excellent, for he was the Schreiber or Secretary of nearly all the Evangelical Mennonite semi-annual and annual conferences from 1861 through 1875.

It has not hitherto been noted that this store-keeper, deacon and Schreiber may himself have had an affinity for music – one which was valued and called upon, even in his old age. In November of 1879 there was a momentous Special Conference in Zionsville where the Evangelical Mennonites and two similar Mennonite groups from Canada and the Mid-West joined together to form the Evangelical United Mennonites. Though David, now 77, had already been relieved of his deaconship at his own request and had retired to Quakertown, the new denomination appointed three men “as a committee to gather songs for our hymnbooks”. One of the three was David Gehman. It stands to reason that if he was called out of his retirement for this purpose he must have possessed some recognized musical ability. As we shall see, this is the first in a chain of three hymnals involving three generations of Gehmans and Brunners.

However, we know nothing else about David Gehman’s relationship to music. Likewise, we do not know what experiences of music Joel Brunner may have had in his childhood or youth, though we must presuppose a certain musicality to enable him to function as the congregation’s song leader. One non-musical condition that could lead to being given this responsible role in worship may have been Joel’s arriving at a stable, settled social state. A substantial step in this direction was marriage and a family.

Joel’s and Rebecca’s first child, Charles Henry (later to become the significant denominational leader C. H. Brunner) was born in Hosensack at the beginning of 1864. Thereafter three more children were born in Hosensack, but each died after only a few months. The young parents were sorely tried. It is not known what Joel did while living in Hosensack. He may have worked the farmland David Gehman owned. He can have worked in David’s general store, and he may have helped out in the post office. Then, in the year 1868, the little family entered into a new, more independent phase.

Zionsville ‘Vorsinger’

1868 was the year when Joel purchased a farm in the Zionsville area, perhaps with the financial help of his father-in-law. The family moved from Hosensack to what would become a beloved Brunner homestead among several generations of descendants. After Harvey, born in 1868, came Nora in 1870, Ida in 1871 and Sarah a few years later. All survived, all lived long lives and all had children with the exception of Sarah, who became a life-long Gospel Worker at Union Gospel Press, ending her days in Cleveland, Ohio.

Now that Joel was the head of a family, had his own farm and had been in the congregation for a decade or so, the late 1860’s might well have been the time for Joel to be chosen to lead the congregational singing in Zionsville, to be its Vorsinger. Not only was he visibly a responsible member of society and of the congregation, he had moreover had ten or more years to learn the songs which were sung in the meetinghouse. If not before, then after moving to his own farm, one can assume that Joel was made Vorsinger. What did a Vorsinger do? Part of the answer may be found in an article which Paul M. Lederach, a Mennonite pastor and historian, published in the Mennonite Historians of Easter Pennsylvania Quarterly, Vol. 8, Spring 2005, “Entering the twentieth Century”. The following information comes from page 4 of his article.

In many Mennonite meetinghouses there were one or two “amen corners” in the front, near the pulpit, with raised benches. There was also a raised Vorsinger Banek, or song leader bench near the front, perhaps along a side wall. Here “the song leaders sat—and remained seated to lead. They did not beat time nor did they lead with hand motions. From this high point (“the roost,” as it was irreverently called), song leaders could lead by projecting their voices over the assembly. Before the days of the pitch pipe, song leaders used tuning forks (key of A or C). Some hit the fork on their thumbs, others on the hard edge of the hymnbook cover, still others on the back of the bench in front of them.” It would appear that when a hymn was generally known, the Vorsinger would start off the hymn and then the congregation would join in. During the first two decades of their existence, the Evangelical Mennonites did not have a hymn book of their own. Those coming to meeting either came with various hymnals (most did not contain notes), or they were dependent on the Vorsinger to lead them through the hymn. This was called to “line out” the hymns, which Lederach describes thus, “The song leaders would sing the first line or two of a hymn, thus setting the pitch and identifying the tune. Then the congregation would sing those lines. The leader would sing the next lines, followed by the congregation’s singing them, and so on through the hymn.”

Lederach continues, “To be a song leader was no easy task. It required knowledge, time, and dedication. Song leaders had to know many tunes and which hymns could be sung with which tunes. They had to know both pitch and meter. Time and dedication were involved in that they led singing not only in worship services but also at funerals. Hymns were led in the home before the funeral service, during the funeral service in the meetinghouse and then at the graveside.”

How much of Lederach’s description can be applied to conditions in the Zionsville meetinghouse? That is a matter that needs more study, for the Evangelical Mennonites were in a process of distancing themselves from the more staid Mennonite forms of worship. The older, slower, more meditative form of singing (still found among the Amish and the Old Order Mennonites today) was giving way to newer, livelier hymns and gospel songs. Here Methodist-inspired revivalism and the services of traveling evangelists were exerting a strong influence. Was Joel the only Vorsinger? There was certainly an “amen corner”, but did the 1859 Zionsville meetinghouse also have a raised song leader bench? It seems that some of the older Mennonite patterns, at least, were preserved. Thus, the Zionsville meetinghouse originally had two doors, one for men and one for women. During services women and children sat on one side, and men on the other. Gradually the denomination’s buildings and the services conducted in them grew more like those of other evangelical churches.

Hymnals and organs and a worship service in 1880

By the 1880’s, after the Evangelical Mennonites had united with other groups to form the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, hymns and gospel songs in English were becoming more prevalent in congregational worship. It will be remembered that in 1879 David Gehman was called out of retirement to help compile a hymnbook for the new, wide-spread denomination that was taking form. However, in March 1881 David Gehman died. It has not been ascertained whether he was able to contribute to the compilation of the projected hymnal.

Not many years later, it was son-in-law Joel’s turn to collaborate on a hymnal. In early 1886, the Annual Conference minutes relate that the young pastor in Reading, William Brunner Musselman, the son of Joel’s younger sister Lucy, had

asked permission for issuing a book of Revival Songs to be printed at our own printing establishment…” The Conference resolved: “That an examining committee be appointed to examine said Revival Songs (to be issued by the said William B. Musselman of Reading in book form). Committee as follows: Joel Brunner, W. C. Detwiler and A. Kauffman.

This collection, with a German and an English section, was intended for the use of the Pennsylvania Conference. Apparently progress was slow, for at Conference one year later (February 1887) another resolution was made:

That George A. Campbell, Joel Brunner and Abraham Kauffman shall form a committee to examine the song book which William B. Musselman wants to have printed for which he was given permission at the last Annual Conference.

The result appeared later that year. It was The Ebenezer Hymnal for Revival, Holiness, Prayer, and Camp Meetings, the first MBC hymnal. Published in Philadelphia by John J. Hood, it was a handy little volume measuring 5½ by 3½ inches. The German section, titled Frohe Botschaftslieder (Joyful Gospel Songs), has been recognized as “Pennsylvania’s first German chorus-book” (Don Yoder, Pennsylvania Spirituals, 1961, p. 180).The hymnal’s title page states that it was compiled by “Eld. W. B. Musselman”, and here we find that he also held the copyright. There are many testimonies to W. B. Musselman’s strong and dynamic personality, and one wonders how he and his “examining committee”, which included his uncle, got along.

If there was now a hymnal, was there also some form of instrumental music to accompany the singing? Decidedly not. The Gospel Banner reported approvingly on 1 February 1888 that revivalist preachers were denouncing the bustle on women, the mustache on men and the use of organs in the church. In the 1890’s another son of Joel’s sister Lucy, Harvey Brunner (H. B.) Musselman, began preaching, and soon published an undated pamphlet, Vocal and Instrumental Music in Worship According of God’s Word. (This pamphlet was reprinted in its entirety in the January 2002 number of this periodical, pages 5-8.) Here the young H. B. argues most decidedly against the use of musical instruments, saying they came into being after the Fall, with the harp and the organ being invented by Jubal the son of Cain, and that according to Amos 6:5 David’s use of instruments in worship was contrary to the will of God. However, within only a few years, the members of both the Gospel Worker Society and the Gospel Herald Society would be making frequent use of guitars, banjos and other stringed instruments as an essential part of their evangelistic meetings, and H. B. himself would live to see the entry of pianos and even organs into MBC sanctuaries.

In Joel’s day, in any case, there could be no doubt. The congregational singing that Vorsinger Joel Brunner led, like that in all other Mennonite groups of the day, was performed a capella. We know too that singing was an important part of worship services. An official church document from 1880, The Doctrines and Discipline of the Evangelical United Mennonites of Canada and the United States, lets us get an insight into the order of the “general service of public worship”. It was a long service and consisted of two main parts. First, there was a time of singing and prayer. When the congregation prayed, this was done simultaneously and out loud (by older accounts, this praying was done “with great volume”). The singing and praying continued while waiting for the preacher to begin leading his part of the service, at which point the actual service began. Here is the order for this second part as proposed by the Discipline, pp. 35-36.

“The minister will read a portion of God’s Word, and at his direction, the congregation will arise and sing, and then kneel in united prayer; after prayer a verse or two may be sung, then preaching, prayer, singing, and benediction.”

For many years the services of the Pennsylvania Evangelical Mennonites, later the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, were conducted predominantly in German, and singing was in German, though with the years more English hymns and gospel songs were sung. Joel’s first language was of course the local variety of German, Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch. Indeed his own children, when they entered the little Zionsville school-house in the 1870’s, knew almost no English. The gradual transition from German to the use of English can be traced in the various publications of the denomination through the years. By 1893 German was the obvious loser. In that year it was decided at Annual Conference to publish instructions for preachers on how to prepare oral reports. There would be 200 copies published in English, and only 100 in German. During Joel Brunner’s time as Vorsinger, it was German that dominated, though he certainly witnessed, and perhaps participated in the slow but steady change-over to English. The general outline is clear, but a detailed study has yet to be done of the transition within different parts of the denomination from preaching and singing in German to using English exclusively. It would not come as a surprise to find that singing in German outlasted preaching in German.

Farmer, widower, church financier

Joel Brunner worked his farm for more than thirty years. However the first fourteen years differed greatly from the last eighteen, for in the latter period Joel was a widower. When Rebecca (Gehman) Brunner died on May 27, 1882 she had just turned forty-one. It was doubtless at Joel’s request that the funeral was conducted not only by ‘Father’ William Gehman but also by Jonas Schultz, the evangelist who had led Joel to Christ some twenty-two years previously. As we have seen, it was the Vorsinger’s task to lead the singing at funerals, starting at the home, and then in the meetinghouse and finally at the graveside, though this time someone else must have performed that function. A small glimpse of that day in 1882 was preserved in the eulogy eldest son C. H. Brunner spoke at the funeral of Annie (Mrs. H. B.) Musselman in 1932. In his notes for what he planned to say C. H. has included a personal memory from fifty years before: “There at the old homestead under the canopy of the heavens they sang “Sie schlummert im Thale so schön“. (He cites the English words to the melody as “We are going down the valley one by one”.) Rebecca’s bier “was followed by a large concourse of friends and relatives”, according to her death notice in The Gospel Herald, July 15, 1882. An image takes form of a large and hushed gathering of people on the grass in front of the farmhouse, silent except when singing the German hymn, and then slowly walking in a long formation the mile or so up the road to the Zionsville meetinghouse and its graveyard.

At the time Susanna died, eldest son Charles was probably already working elsewhere, perhaps on the farm of his future father-in-law, Abraham Musselman. At home were Harvey, thirteen, and the three girls, Nora, eleven, Ida, ten, and Sarah, younger still. It fell mainly to Nora and her younger sisters to keep the household going, while Harvey helped with the farm work.

Charles was the first to marry, taking as his bride his second cousin Sarah Catherine Musselman. Nora was next, marrying the young candidate for the ministry, Robert Dreisbach, in 1894. (It is noteworthy that both Nora and Sarah Catherine – who had already become Mrs. C. H. Brunner – had been granted preaching licences in 1893, and that their aunt Lucy Brunner had received hers as early as 1890.) In 1895 Harvey married Emma Kate Rhoads who came from a farm near Abraham Musselman’s. Sarah became a Gospel Worker, joining her widowed Aunt Lucy, who had become Gospel Worker Number One. By the end of the 1890’s only Ida remained at home, unmarried.

In 1893 Joel was called upon to serve the church in a new way – as a financier. A new church building had been constructed in Reading, Faith Chapel, and it had turned out to be an unexpected financial burden. It was mortgaged for $2100, and the Reading congregation could not meet the 6% per year interest entailed. This was a heavy debt, and the mortgage was carried by the leader of the denomination, Elder William Gehman. At the February 1893 Annual Conference, the proposal to free Elder Gehman from this burden was acted upon with unusual swiftness.

“Resolved… That William Yeakel, Milton Kauffman and A. Strawn shall serve as a committee in seeking to free Elder William Gehman from the Reading Church matters.

This committee reported that the Conference shall recall the mortgage it had given to Elder William Gehman and shall give it to Brother Joel Brunner. The Conference shall also give him an assurance for the interest. Accepted.”

Now why was this financial burden given almost instantaneously to Joel Brunner? Granted, his character must have been recognized as upright, but his farm was not large, and his connections within the denomination did not have nearly the substance they would have a decade or so later. In this year 1893, most of the children, though nearing adulthood, were still at home, and eldest son Charles Henry was only a “probationer”, a fledgling preacher, not yet ordained. True, Joel’s nephew, W. B. Musselman, (partially responsible for the Reading crisis) was now a successful preacher and church developer. True, also, Joel’s sister Lucy, the mother of W. B., was now a “probationer” for the ministry (!), having attained some of the highest grades ever given in the candidates’ Reading Course examinations, but she could have no official influence at Annual Conference. Of greater import was that one of the members on the Reading Debt Committee was the Rev. Abel Strawn, Joel’s brother-in-law, and he can have had a little authority and a lot of insight into Joel’s financial solvency.

Former deacon David Gehman had died in 1881, leaving as heirs his two daughters. The following year his daughter Rebecca died. David Gehman’s estate was finally settled in 1885 and 1886, and one can assume that Joel, as heir to Rebecca, became one of the two inheritors of David Gehman’s estate. Thus, Joel Brunner’s financial situation can have improved after 1886. Moreover, Elder William Gehman had been named trustee of David Gehman’s other daughter, Catharine Ann Schoenly. Thus, Joel Brunner’s financial situation in 1893 can have been known to various leaders within the denomination. However that may be, Joel’s assumption of financial responsibility for the Reading debt is the last recorded act of service that he is known to have performed for his church.

Joel Brunner: city gentleman with a pump organ

How long did Joel remain the Zionsville congregation’s song leader? Until further information arrives we can assume that he continued in this function until he moved away from Zionsville. The course of events is not quite clear, but it seems that son Harvey and his wife Emma lived with Joel on the farm after their marriage in 1895. Unmarried daughter Ida was still at home, and with the rapid arrival of three baby girls, it was perhaps time to think of having two separate households. In 1899 Joel turned sixty, and at about this time he sold the farm to Harvey and moved to Allentown with daughter Ida. For all we know, Joel may still have been in fine voice when he became a retired gentleman.

Unfortunately there is not much known about the last decade of Joel Brunner’s life, from 1900 to 1910. At present we have only the death notice and a brief obituary as given in the Allentown Morning Call, and the papers relative to his estate. From the newspaper we learn that “for the last ten years he lived retired”. There is also the 1900 census, which shows Joel as already established in Allentown, and Ida living with him. He has a respectable address at 1322 Linden Street and his profession is given as “landlord”. (At the time of his death his address was 1316 Linden Street.) Joel was remembered by his daughter Nora’s sons as owning a certain amount of real estate in Allentown. They were also impressed by his driving about in a horse and carriage. After a lifetime of hard work, Joel had become a gentleman of leisure.

There is a family photo, a studio group portrait taken, probably, in Allentown in about 1900 or soon thereafter. It captures Joel as a retired gentleman surrounded by his five grown children who, we now know, had already set out on the paths they would follow. Ida is the exception, but perhaps even her estate was changing.

Charles, now known as “C.H.” as was the wont of MBC ministers, wears ministerial dress and a ministerial beard. He and his wife Sarah Catherine had had a son born in 1894 who died the following year. Their next and only child would be Dorothy, born in 1906. Having started out as a carpenter, C. H. had become one of the more learned ministers in the Pennsylvania Conference and his organizational abilities gained him such recognition that in 1900 he was chosen as chairman of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ held in Kitchener Ontario in 1900. He was elected Presiding Elder several times, served on the most important Boards in Pennsylvania and in the wider MBC organization, founded a home mission movement that would develop into the Gospel Herald Society, served as editor of several church publications and edited the Annual Conference yearbook until 1942 when he retired. He was efficient, devoted and a leading theologian in the church. It is said that he was influential behind the scenes but that he did not seek overt power nor did he seek to wield it. Joel must have been justifiably proud of his eldest son.

Harvey, next in age, is already an independent farmer, having purchased the farm from his father probably before the turn of the century. Harvey and Emma Kate Rhoads, married since 1895, already had Sally, Alice, Cora and possibly Ida, who was born in 1901. The remaining two children, Sylvia and H. Walter, were probably born after the photo was taken, in 1908 and 1912 respectively. Standing next to his seated father, Harvey wears a dark jacket and waistcoat and light trousers. He is in his early thirties, but looks surprisingly young. The chains of Harvey’s and Joel’s pocket watches are visible, and it appears that everyone in the picture has a pocket watch tucked away on their person. For another decade or two, wearing wristwatches would be strongly discouraged in the Conference, as they were considered jewelry and therefore inappropriate for earnest Christians to wear.

Nora, seated in the foreground, looks serious as befits a minister’s wife. Her husband, Robert Dreisbach, is still in the ministry, though he will leave it shortly to begin working for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Nora is a preacher too, having followed in the steps of her Aunt Lucy. Nora preached as long as her husband was in the ministry, but had to cease when he left in about 1906. After that she became a much loved Sunday School teacher in Allentown, first in the Gordon Street chapel and then in the newly constructed Bethel Church. At the time of the photograph she has probably come down to Allentown from her present home in Union Hill near Weissport, where Robert is a minister of the combined Union Hill and Lehighton congregations (1900 to 1906). By 1905 she had borne five boys, one of whom died in 1901.

Ida, looking quite pretty and slender in her dark dress with white edging at the neck, is gazing into the distance. Thought born in 1871, in 1900 she was not yet married and was living with Joel in his Allentown house. She might appear to be awaiting the suitor who has not yet arrived. On the other hand, a suitor did appear in the person of the Rev. Edgar T. Shick, and in April 1906 their daughter Miriam was born, so until the dates of the photograph and of Ida’s marriage have been established we cannot say what Ida’s marital state was when it was taken. Nor will it help to look at the fingers of her left hand for wedding rings, like wristwatches, were also considered jewelry, and it was not until the 1930’s that they started to be worn by married women in the church.

Sarah, the youngest child, is perhaps in her late twenties. She is wearing the blousy and intentionally unflattering uniform of the Gospel Workers, and looks both pensive and inquiring. In 1898 her name appeared as the nineteenth in a list of Gospel Workers, indicating that she had joined this evangelizing and church-planting society for women in the mid 1890’s. The Society was under the direction of her cousin, W. B. Musselman (he of the 1879 hymnal, and now bearing the title he had created for himself, Missionary Presiding Elder). Sarah has probably come down from Williamsport for the family photo. In about 1907, W. B. would move the Society from Williamsport to Cleveland, Ohio, where the printing establishment, the Union Gospel Press, still carries on. The Gospel Workers conducted evangelistic meetings in various places, but gradually the operation of the linotype presses became a more dominant part of their waking lives under the eye of W. B.’s daughter who was known as “Euphie”. In the Gospel Worker Society life was regimented and disciplined (as is seen in the 1897 Discipline of the Gospel Workers, prepared by Aunt Lucy), though this was willingly accepted by most as their freely offered service to the Lord.

Father Joel, seated in the other chair in the foreground and dominating the photo with his elegant pose and light-toned three-piece suit, looks both self-possessed and quietly content. We would like to know more about Joel’s life in retirement, but unfortunately all those who could have told us about him are gone. We can deduce a little from the estate documents, especially the appraisers’ inventory. There we can see that Joel was comfortably situated financially, but that he was not what one might call wealthy.

We find that Joel had an old buggy ($2.00) and another buggy ($10.00). Further, the highest sum on the appraisers’ list is “1 Bay Horse” valued at $175.00. Also outside the house, perhaps in a carriage house, was a grind-stone, a carpenter’s bench and carpenter’s tools, suggesting that, musician though he may have been, ex-farmer Joel was still a practical man. In the estate accounts we learn that Joel had a “shed at Zionsville Church” for which the estate received ten dollars. It would seem that on some Sundays Joel hitched up horse and buggy and drove over South Mountain and down to Zionsville for church, and that he maintained a shed there to shelter his horse. This and the double funeral ceremonies in Allentown at the MBC Gordon Street Chapel and in Zionsville, indicate that in his retirement Joel Brunner did not abandon the fellowship he had been a member of since 1860.

Inside the house the appraisers found nothing luxurious, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing, that is, except one item which was valued higher than any other of the house’s contents. What was Joel Brunner’s most valuable possession? A pump organ. The appraisers set a value of $25.00 on it, whereas most of the other items in the house were valued at under $5.00. This must have been a parlor organ with foot peddles to work the internal bellows. Thus far we have thought of Joel Brunner as a singer. Now we can add an image of Joel sitting at the organ playing hymns, certainly, and perhaps other music as well, whether or not his anti-instrument first cousin, H. B. Musselman, approved. At the time of Joel’s death organs and pianos were still excluded from MBC houses of worship, but here is evidence that at least one musical church member had a pump organ of his own at home.

Joel’s last journey

The newspaper notices of his death, which occurred on March 5, 1910, inform us that Joel “was taken ill with the grip last Saturday which later developed into pneumonia and since Sunday he declined slowly until his death”. Moreover, we can see the whereabouts of his scattered family at the time of his death:

“one sister, Mrs. Lucy Musselman of Cleveland, Ohio; two brothers (sic! should be ‘sons’!) Rev. C. H. Brunner, pastor of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church at Reading; Harvey G. Brunner of Zionsville; three daughters, Mrs. Nora Dreisbach, of Lehighton, Miss Sarah Brunner of Norfolk, Virginia (were the Gospel Workers active here in 1910?), and the wife of Rev. E. T. Schick, pastor of the Mennonite Church (sic) at Mount Carmel.”

As we can see, at the time of his last illness none of Joel’s children was living nearby. Closest was Harvey, down in Zionsville. C. H. was pastoring the Reading Church, Nora was living north of the Lehigh Gap in Lehighton, Ida, having married her Rev. Shick, was in Mount Carmel in the anthracite region of Northumberland County, and Gospel Worker Sarah was down in Virginia. It is not known how many of them were with Joel in his final week of life or were able to come to Allentown and Zionsville for the funeral. Two services would be held, the newspaper announced. On the 8th the first funeral service would take as its point of departure Joel’s residence on Linden Street, and then proceed to the MBC chapel on Gordon Street near 8th Street. The next morning those wishing to attend the funeral proper and the burial could get on the train in Allentown at 9:15 a.m. and, since the train could make a special stop as the track ran just past the MBC meetinghouse in Zionsville, they could be in place inside in time for the funeral service starting at 10:15. (The card printed by the undertaker differs somewhat from the newspaper and says the train leaves at 9:10 and that the service in Zionsville is at 10.) The funeral service was followed by Joel’s burial in the cemetery behind the church, where he joined Rebecca who had been laid to rest there in 1882.

Here ends our attempt to follow the life of Joel Sell Brunner. His death notice in the newspaper says he died at the age of 70 years, 5 months and 17 days. That is not really what we would consider an advanced age, even though he did reach the Biblical three score and ten years. We have briefly scanned the various segments of his life: his childhood on John William Brunner’s farm in Upper Milford Township; the experience of conversion and his life as a young father in Hosensack; the long period as farmer in Zionsville; finally, retirement in the city of Allentown. We have also tried to assemble information that can help clarify Joel Brunner’s role as the congregational Vorsinger in Zionsville. Here we could end our story. But we have a continuation, which follows.

Addendum: a third hymnal and Joel’s parlor organ?

About five years after Joel’s death, it was time to plan another MBC hymnal. In 1915, Annual Conference created a committee to compile such a hymnal. This was a fairly large committee, composed of five members: H. B. Musselman (still a fervent proponent of unaccompanied singing, no doubt, though even he could not stop the change that lay ahead), W. G. Gehman, E. N. Cassel, J. F. Barrall and C. H. Brunner. We have an account of the final stages of the compiling, left us by C. H.’s daughter, Dorothy Hartman, later Wentz:

           “In 1917 after many meetings in the Brunner home, using pitch-pipe and parlor organ and

             harmonizing new gospel songs, “The Rose of Sharon Hymnal” was compiled.

Indeed, in 1917 Rose of Sharon Hymns was published, containing a total of 755 hymns. The copyright was held by the Compiling Committee of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ. Two of the committee members contributed hymns of their own. H. B. Musselman was the author of two, though only of the words. The music was composed by C. H. Brunner. C. H. Brunner contributed no less than six hymns of his own – both words and music. It is tempting to think that some of those hymns may have been composed on the parlor organ which had once stood in Joel Brunner’s house in Allentown, and that this very organ served the work of the Compiling Committee as it selected and arranged the final 755 hymns.

Forty years earlier, in 1879, David Gehman had been selected to help prepare a hymnal for the newly formed Evangelical United Mennonites. Next, in 1887, his son-in-law Joel Brunner helped compile The Ebenezer Hymnal. Finally, in 1917 Joel’s son Charles Henry Brunner not only helped compile but contributed hymns to Rose of Sharon Hymns. The compilation of hymnals can be likened to a musical thread running through these three generations, a musical thread that stretched out to the very end of C. H. Brunner’s life, for it is said he left at his death an unfinished manuscript, four stanzas for a hymn. Its title – “Home at Last”.

[The author is especially indebted to the research of Harold P. Shelly, Richard E. Taylor and LeRoy C. Wilcox.]


by LeRoy C. Wilcox

      The Sell family produced a Bible Fellowship pastor although one served as a delegate to Annual Conference and was included in the photo taken in 1906. Members of the family, however, through intermarriage, had a definite influence on our Conference as did the property of one family member.

      The Sell family can be traced back to Jacob Zellen, who was born in 1638 in Krefeld, Germany. He married a woman named Mariecken in 1691 and three children are listed. Heinrich, the firstborn, came to America with his two brothers, settling in Germantown. A Mennonite, he donated land for a Mennonite church to be built in Germantown and was a charter member of that church.

      The third child, Peter, born in 1692, married Adriana Van Sintern in 1717 and they had three children. Adriana is listed as being born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on January 1, 1691. The first child, Heinrich, married Mary Schell in 1742, the daughter of Michael and Veronica Schell. On March 9, 1753 Heinrich received a deed for 100 acres of land in Saucon Township, which had been organized in March 1745. No date is given for the division of the township into Upper and Lower but it appears to have been around the same time. Heinrich’s land fell in Upper Saucon which became part of Lehigh County when it was organized in 1812.

      Heinrich and Mary became the parents of ten children, whose surname was now Sell. The last child, Susanna, married Jacob Nold, who became the first Mennonite bishop in Ohio. The seventh child was Peter, who married Susanna Bachman, the daughter of George and Esther nee Oberholtzer Bachman. George, although a Mennonite, served in the Northampton County Militia as First Lieutenant under Captain John Roberts. George was the son of Hans George Bachman, who was born in Switzerland in 1686 but had come to Philadelphia probably on August 24, 1717. Around 1735 he acquired land about 50 miles north of Philadelphia recently obtained from the Natives. He continued to purchase land until he owned about 1000 acres. Much of that land is now within the borough of Coopersburg. His land was called Saucon, named after Saucon Creek, which flowed through it. Saucon is from the Native word “Suakunk” which means “mouth of a stream”. This was the name of a Native village located where the creek flows into the Lehigh River but early settlers mistook the name as being that for the stream. In 1742 Hans George was one of the settlers who petitioned that the area become a township. It became Saucon Township, named for the lands of Hans George. He died in 1753, and was buried in the Saucon Mennonite cemetery. The date on the gravestone is 9ZZ Novr, which has been translated as November 22. Jacob Musselman was one of the three who witnessed his will. Heinrich Sell died in 1786 and his wife, Mary, probably died around the same time. It is believed that they both were buried on the Sell farm.

      Peter Schell Sell married Susanna Bachman in 1787 and they had six children. Their second child was named Heinrich and he married Anna Ziegler. They had eight children, the first being Peter Ziegler Sell. He married Barbara Musselman, the daughter of Michael and Sarah Landis nee Moyer Musselman. Michael was the son of Samuel and Hannah Musselman. Samuel, a Mennonite minister, was the son of Michael Landis Musselman, also a Mennonite minister. Michael was the son of Jacob and Anna nee Landes Musselman and also a minister. One of Michael’s brothers was Jacob Musselman, who married Maria Basler and became the grandfather of David Musselman, in whose farmhouse our Conference began. His son, Jonas, is credited with founding four churches, including the one at Bethlehem. Jonas had three sons and a grandson who became preachers.

      Peter and Barbara had eleven children, Leidy being the eighth. Leidy was born on November 19, 1856 in Milford Township. He married Annie Gehman Taylor, the daughter of Lewis B. Taylor and Susanna nee Gehman Taylor, on December 23, 1882. The father of Lewis was Joseph Schneider, who was one of the seven who met in David Musselman’s farmhouse and founded a new Conference. The surname of Lewis was anglicized to Taylor. Leidy served as a delegate to Annual Conference from 1903 to 1906. He served on different committees during that time and also appears in the photo taken in 1906 of Annual Conference members. Leidy is listed as a farmer in the 1880 census, living in Milford Township, Bucks County and in 1900 he is listed as a miller. In 1910 he is listed as a presser in a hosiery mill and living on Main Street in Coopersburg. In the 1920 and 1930 Census reports he is listed as a mail carrier and still living on Main Street. He died at his home on January 30, 1936 and is buried at the Coopersburg Bible Fellowship cemetery.

      A daughter of Peter Schell Sell, named Susanna, was born on January 26, 1798 and married Jonathan Hottel, son of Michael and Maria nee Hiestand Hottel. According to the Sell Family Bible, Jonathan was born on June 3, 1797 and died on March 25, 1805. Thus he was only seven years old. That’s amazing because he not only was married but also had a son. Other information declares that he died on March 25, 1875. Family Bibles have been found to have many errors. Jonathan was the son of Michael and Maria Hottel and the brother of Abraham, who was the grandfather of Franklin Hottel and great-grandfather of William Hottel, two of our Conference preachers.

      The last child of Peter and Susanna was Maria, born on November 14, 1799. She met a young man in the area named Johann William Brunner and they were married in February 1819. Eight children were born to them and two became involved with our Conference. Joel, the seventh child, married Rebecca Gehman and eight children were born to them but three died in early childhood. Joel was an outstanding layman and his son, Charles, born in 1864, became a pastor and noted leader in our Conference. He married Sarah Musselman and their lives have been well covered in previous papers of our Historical Society. Joel’s daughter, Nora, born in 1870, married Robert Dreisbach, who became one of our pastors and Nora swerved as an assistant pastor for a time. The last child born to Johann William and Maria was Lucy Brunner, who married David Musselman’s son, Jonas. Jonas and Lucy have been well covered in previous papers of the Historical Society. Another daughter, Sarah, spent her adult life at Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, Ohio.

      The fourth child born to Peter and Susanna was also named Peter. He married Catharine Beidler, daughter of Henry Beidler of Upper Saucon Township. They had ten children, a son, Henry, being the third. He married Maria Ann Horlacher of Upper Saucon Township and they continued to reside there. Maria was the daughter of John and Mary Catherine nee Egner Horlacher. John was the son of Johannes and Maria Elizabetha nee Schaeffer Horlacher and Johannes was the son of Daniel Horlacher. Daniel married Maria Margartha Brunner who was the daughter of Heinrich Brunner, the great -grandfather of Charles Brunner. Maria Ann Horlacher was a cousin of Louisa Horlacher, in whose home the Allentown church first met. In 1886 people gathered at the home of Louisa Horlacher on Linden Street above 11th Street where they met for three years.

      Henry Sell farmed in Upper Saucon Township and died on December 2, 1907. Maria had died on September 4, 1905.

      At the 1903 Annual Conference it had been resolved that a committee should look into purchasing a Home and Orphanage. Report of the Trustees submitted to the 48th Annual Conference in 1931:

It is now twenty-eight years since the conference held in Mt. Carmel October 16-20, 1903, that a committee consisting of H. B. Musselman, L. B. Taylor, Wm. Gehman, J· G· Shireman, and W. G. Gehman was appointed to look into the matter of the advisability of purchasing a property for an Orphanage and Home. At the conference held in Bethlehem October 12-16, 1905, the following Board of Trustees was elected: H. B. Musselman, president; C. H. Brunner, secretary; E. N. Cassel, treasurer; W. G. Gehman, L. B. Taylor, J. G. Shireman, H. L. Musselman, O. B. Bartholomew and Allen M. Gehman. On March 28, 1906, this board of trustees took title to a farm of 85 acres about one-third mile east of Center Valley station. Edwin Fehnel and Thomas Knauer were secured to do the farming. In the fall of 1908 the Board bought the property of the late Henry Sell in the village of Center Valley and took title to this property in the following spring.

      In 1907 it was reported that an additional 10.5 acres was purchased from the estate of Henry Sell. It was noted that the brick house on the property could be used for an Orphanage. In 1909 it was reported that an addition was built on, providing for total of 13 rooms. The Home was opened on July 1, 1909 and two female residents were admitted. Louisa Horlacher, of Allentown, was admitted in 1911. The 1909 minutes of Annual Conference record: “Sister Louise Horlacher, who so kindly opened her home to hold the first meetings we held in Allentown, was introduced to the Conference. She is one of the oldest members of our Conference and was much misunderstood for the work’s sake when it was started at this place.” Louisa was the daughter of Wilhelm and Elizabeth (nee Keck) Horlacher, of Upper Saucon Township and Wilhelm was the brother of Maria Ann, wife of Henry Sell. Louisa never married and spent her last years at the Home, dying on September 15, 1916 and buried in the West End Cemetery in Allentown.

      In the 1938 Report of board of Trustees, it is declared that additional land was purchased making the farm 175 acres and having 3 farm houses and 3 barns; and again in 1939, it is reported that the Bethlehem property was exchanged for more land bringing the total to 228 acres. The farm grew to over 225 acres and a herd of cattle of almost 100 head. There were never more than 6 people being cared for at any given time. In 1948 and one building and 33 acres were sold reducing acreage to 194 acres.

      In 1951 the Board concluded that after 46 years of existence the present facilities were inadequate and a new Home needed to be built. A Search Committee was established to look for property in Coopersburg, Emmaus, or Quakertown. In this same year at a special meeting it was resolved to sell the dairy herd. The 66 cattle were sold for more than $25,000. The Board decided that the Henninger property at Sigmunds should be purchased and the house and part of the grounds be considered for a Home for the Aged. They decided that there was sufficient acreage available for such other uses as Annual Conference may determine. There was little interest, however, in relocating to the Henninger property but it was purchased anyway and Victory Valley Camp is now located there. The Board of Trustees decided to sell the two farms in Upper Saucon Township to Joseph B. Teator, MD and his wife, Sara who functioned as purchasing agents for the Roman Catholic Church. The property was sold for $120,314.19 and has become the major portion of the campus of Allentown College of St. Frances De Sales, now called Allentown College.

      A new Roman Catholic diocese was carved out of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Joseph McShea was the new bishop. His family had moved to Philadelphia when he was 11 and he later settled in St. Francis de Sales Parish. When he became the new bishop he desired to found a Roman Catholic college for the men in his diocese. Five possible locations were considered and land in the area of Center Valley was chosen. One of the largest parcels of land was the 171-acre farm owned by the Bible Fellowship Church and Anne Ulans, of Ulans Realty, sought to buy the land needed from the owners. Negotiations with the Bible Fellowship Church progressed slowly and the agent listing the property was asked about the slow pace. His response was, “You have no idea what it is like to deal with these men in black hats”. The land was finally purchased and a groundbreaking for the new college was held on Sunday, May 17, 1964. It was recorded that “10,000 people attended just to gaze at acres of cornfields”.

      On February 9, 1960 the Board acquired a three story brick building at 38 S. New Street, Nazareth and an adjoining lot (100 feet x 62 feet) was also purchased for parking and future expansion. In 1964 property at 7 S. New Street, Nazareth, was purchased. Problems developed which caused the board to realize that a new home was needed. Difficulties in obtaining zoning approval led to the purchase of land in Whitehall Township and Fellowship Manor was constructed, completed in August of 1988. The Manor has expanded considerably since that time as the facilities are much in demand.

      The farm of Henry Sell provided much of the farmland for the Bible Fellowship Farm and Home, which in turn provided the financial resources for the establishment of Fellowship Manor. Henry Sell and others of the family and extended families certainly had an influence on our Bible Fellowship Church.

Selected Sermons of H. K. Kratz

The Seven Churches of Asia

Rev. 3:22


Preliminary notes – The Christian age is not represented in the prophetic glimpses as an age of moral or spiritual perfection.

There are early intimations of error, declension apostasy.

Peter forewarns us of the same conditions. (2 Pet. 2:1-3, 3:3,4)

These warnings manifest on every hand.

The Church of the Apostles became the Church of Rome.

The Church of the Reformation appears in even greater danger of developing into the Laodicea of the apocalypse if not the Babylon of God’s judgment.

In these churches we have the successive stages of visible Christianity from the vision of Patmos to the end of time.

I. The Church at Ephesus.

1. Orthodox

2. Active

3. Conservative and growing cold.

Represents the second generation of primitive Christians.

II. The Church at Smyrna

1. A suffering church

2. Age of persecutions – Ten days tribulations.

III. The Church in Pergamos

1. Dwells at Satan’s seat

2. Assailed by Balaam’s wiles

3. The church of Constantine

4. Corruption of the world

5. Result – The Cathedral

                      The proud bishopric

IV. Church in Thyatira

1. Jezebel – The rise of Romanism

Its works and dominion from the sixth to the sixteenth century

V. Church at Sardis

1. The Dark Ages – The putrid corpse of Medieval Romanism

VI. Church in Philadelphia

1. Church of the Reformation

Honoring God’s Word.

VII. Laodicean Church

1. Church of wealth – pride

2. Languid and lukewarm

Christ points to the Millennial throne and offers the reward to him that overcometh (Rev. 3:21)

The Seven Churches are not only for brief periods but the spirit continues to the end.

There is a holy Phila midst an insipid Laodicea.

The Dignity of Mothers – Luke 7:15


The memory of a good mother is one of the strong stays in the tempests that sweep over one’s life.

“Give us good women an our nation is secure.”

If our mothers become immodest, extravagant, pleasure-seeking, frivolous, godless women there is no hope or help.

All that I am my mother made me. J. Q. Adams

“A babe is a mother’s anchor.”

I would desire for a friend the son who never resisted the tears of his mother.

The story here brings out the deep compassion of the Son of Mary and that is why it is exclusively reported in the third Gospel.

I. A case of deep distress.

The only son of a widow had died. – her only support

How human and filled with sympathy were His words, “Weep not.”

There was also that great compassionate intercession.

A great degree of interest in the temporal affairs of other may consist with the most devoted piety.

Gal. 6:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,” etc.

Humanity is an essential part of genuine religion.

II. An Exertion of Divine Power.

Arise was the word of His power.

Elijah raised the son of a widow, but he had to humble himself and cry to the Lord.

Elisha also raise the son of the Shunamite, but only after he stretched himself over the child but the Lord commands and death has to release its prey.

Mother, Home and Heaven have long been associated together.

Mother should set an example for piety.

Consider the analogy between Hannah and Elizabeth (See Ill.) and their sons.

See Ill. “A New Bonnet.”

The word home means everything bright.

Where there is a mother in the house, matters speed.

At first babes feed upon their mother’s bosom, but always upon her heart.

The home tests character.

There are people who in public act the philanthropist who at home act the Nero.

Home is a refuge away from it, the fierce (sic) gales of temptations blow.

III. The Effects of His Power.

The natural effect was that He gave her son back to her.

The moral effect was to look away from the disappointments of life to the Lord.

Her son had proved a broken reed.

A forwardness to oblige is a great grace upon a kindness and doubles its intrinsic worth.

Christ undertook the work of our salvation in His love and pity. See Isa. 63:9

So also the restoration to spiritual life promotes family union.

Christ is the great restorer of broken ties.

Jesus showed His affection from the Cross when He commended His mother to John.

Jesus’ mother may have been a widow at this time.

Refer to the shipload of girls sent over to America in the days of the pioneers.

James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keep himself unspotted from the world.”

See Ill. “Talmadge’s Dream” in Social Knots 1.45

See also Prov. 31:10

A Promise of Obedience

Josh. 24:26-28



Here is recorded Joshua’s address and the people’s response.

A memorial stone se up to mark the sit, the event, the pledge.

Moses had twice ratified this covenant between God and Israel at Sinai, (Ex. 24:1- ) and in the plains of Moab (Deut. 29:1)

Joshua had likewise done it one (8:31) and now the second time.

It is here called a statute and an ordinance, because of the perpetuity and strength of its obligation.

To give it the formalities of a covenant he calls witnesses.

He put it into writing and set up a great stone.

The matter being thus settled, Joshua dismissed the assembly and took his leave, satisfied that he had done his part.

This book, which had begun with triumphs, here ends with funerals, by which all the glory of man is stained.

While Joshua lived, religion was kept up among them, how well it is that our Joshua, remains with us.

I. The Stone Set Up.

1. Durable material.

We find sermons in stone!

The stone found in Moab, set up in that age, has lasted to this.

In this manner ancient people recorded their activities.

Deut. 27:8 “And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”

2. Representing determination

They might have planted a tree.

Isa. 50:7 “For the Lord God will help; therefore shall I not be confounded.”

II. A Great Stone

1. A courageous testimony.

This was visible from afar.

They were not ashamed of their promise.

Job 13:15 “Though he slay me yet will I trust in him.

2. An inviting appeal

The heathen, seeing the stone, and learning its history, might make a similar vow.

Ps. 34:8 “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

III. A Reminder of Communion

It was under “an oak tree,” the place where travellers would encamp and shepherds would take shelter from heat or storm.

The Lord draws sinner to Calvary and believers to “fellowship” with Him.

1. Through providences. (Ex. 3:2)

God uses various agencies to make an appeal to people.

2. Through His people.

Zech 8:23 “We will go with you for we have heard that God is with you.”

IV. A Stone Near the Sanctuary

It was set up in the sight of God.

1. Teaches dependence upon God.

Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”

2. Shows a desire to abide.

Ps. 9:1, “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works.”

See Ill. False and True Religion, B. M.

Remember, I love to receive mail, email or otherwise. Your memories, observations, and questions are highly valued. I am easy to get, one way or another.

Dick Taylor

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