Henry Muhlenberg's Journal Entry November 8th
NOVEMBER 8, Sunday. The gracious and supreme Benefactor vouchsafed us unusually pleasant weather for this time of the year. He let His sun rise and shine beneficently upon the good and the evil. At nine o'clock, we betook ourselves to the church where we found a great many people already assembled, but Pastor Voigt was not there, which gave me some concern because I had been depending upon him to conduct the service of dedication and preach the sermon on such a solemn occasion. He finally arrived about ten o'clock. In the meantime, a great crowd of people had gathered from far and near; even four good members from Philadelphia were present. Pastor Voigt opened by reading Psalm 100, and then "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr," etc., was sung. Pastor Voigt then dedicated the building to the Triune God for the use of the Evangelical congregation founded on the apostles and the prophets, of which Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, and according to our unaltered Augsburg Confession, symbolical books and doctrines, and I joined in with prayer, so far as the grace of God allowed me in my weakness. After this the hymn, "Sei Lob und Ehr dem hochsten Gut," etc. was sung. Pastor Voigt, however, pressed the sermon upon me and, though I immediately excused myself, because I was not really prepared for such a solemn occasion, I had to give in nevertheless. I selected the familiar text, Genesis 28:20-22, "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me," etc., and made suitable comments and application. The hearers inside and outside the church were very still and attentive despite the great crowding, and even shed tears, though nothing may be concluded for certain from these tears. After the sermon we sang further stanzas of the hymn, "Sei Lob und Ehr dem hochsten Gut," etc., and asked the members of the congregation to give their gifts and mites for a charitable collection which was to be received at the doors. This does not amount to any great sum in the country regions. It would be much greater if it consisted of turnips and potatoes with which the Lord blesses the land when accompanied by toil, labor, diligence, and prayer. It was also announced that the Swedish pastor would preach an English sermon in the afternoon.
In the intervening time, I took opportunity to speak privately with Pastor Voigt about the circumstances of the congregation, for he had to hasten back home. It is not enough to build and dedicate churches, but one must also be concerned chiefly with the means of achieving the most necessary result in souls. I asked him whether he intended, according to the recommendation of the Reverend Ministerium, to serve both little churches in Peikstown every fourth Sunday, seeing that they were now six miles apart. He replied that it seemed impossible to him, because the first church in Peikstown was situated twelve English miles from his residence in New Hannover and the new church was six miles farther away, making a distance of eighteen miles. Hence, when the days are short, it would be impossible to hold services in Peikstown at one church in the morning and at the other in the afternoon of the same day. He said that it always took him three days to do this work... Saturday to ride eighteen miles besides crossing the dangerous Schulkiel River to get there, Sunday to preach twice, and Monday to ride back home again; and when he was away from Hannover for three days all sorts of necessary ministerial duties turned up, and, if he was not at hand, the result was confusion, grumbling, and discontent. The congregation in Providence, he said, was dissatisfied up to now and was decreasing and scattering because they had service only every fourth Sunday, and there was also another little village or hamlet, called Pottsgrove or Pottstown, five miles to the left above New Hannover, where a little group of Lutherans had for a long time been requested that they might be united with the congregation in New Hannover and be served from there every other Sunday, as was shown by the petition which had been delivered to me today by delegates, as well as by other previous petitions.
(Here follows a discussion of the alternate ways these congregations might be served
We had to break off our discussion without coming to any decision and hasten into the church for the afternoon service, for the days are very short. As the English people had now assembled and the Germans also desired to hear the English sermon, the crowd was even larger than in the morning. We first sang an edifying German hymn and then Pastor Goransson preached in English. There were several children to be baptized, but they were unable to get to the altar, so they had to wait until the congregation was dismissed. Afterward the English neighbors sent a request that I speak a word of admonition in English for them on the morrow, in the forenoon, even if it was only for a half-hour, because we were old acquaintances and it might perhaps be the last time that we would be able to see, hear, and edify one another in this pilgrimage. The Germans likewise begged for a sermon at the same time, so I could not refuse either group.
In the evening Pastor Voigt took affectionate leave of us in order to get six miles nearer to his home. After we had eaten supper, about thirty young and old friends unexpectedly came to our quarters, desiring edifying spiritual conversation, which was a matter of great wonder and delight, especially to the Swedish provost. We sang a hymn and then, after the prayer, each one was required to tell what had been noteworthy, intelligible, and awakening to him in the Word of God preached today. Here one saw childlike simplicity and dove-like innocence. How carefully the hungry souls had picked up the fallen crumbs! After this I asked each one individually to try to recollect and tell how and where he or she had received the first impressions, affections, and awakenings from God's Word in his or her heart and conscience. How wonderful are the leadings of the Saviour of the world and His Spirit's working upon every soul! I found in several, who had received instruction and confirmation sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen years before, a few grains of the imperishable seed of God's living Word which had taken root among them and brought forth fruit, which reminded me that His Word shall never return void. The time passed so quickly with this weighty and pleasant discussion that we marveled and were constrained to say, "It is a blessed day wherein one thinks of Him; otherwise, alas, much time in our life is wasted," etc.