REV. JOHN GREENFIELD.
Memorial delivered Sunday, Nov. 15, 1908, in Nazareth, Pa.
"That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through
faith and patience inherit the promises."- Hebrews 6:12.
Our congregation celebrates today a threefold festival.
We commemorate, first of all, "the powerful experience" made
by our Fathers, November 13, 1741, "that Jesus Christ is the
Chief Shepherd and Head of the Church." We celebrate, in
the second place, our annual congregation festival, for it was
on November 13, 1756, that "the consecration of the Chapel in
Nazareth Hall" took place, it being apparently the first house of
worship which was built and set apart for this exclusive pur-
pose. We observe furthermore today the David Zeisberger Cen-
tennial, for it was on November 17, 1808, that this "Moravian
Apostle to the Indians" died at Goshen, Ohio, after a service of
The town in which we live was founded in the year 1740
by eleven Moravian immigrants, under the leadership of Bishop
Peter Boehler. One of the eleven, and perhaps the youngest
of the party, was the man whose triumphant death a century
ago we today commemorate. David Zeisberger, in 1740, then a
youth of nineteen, was one of the Moravian woodsmen and car-
penters sent to Nazareth by the great English evangelist, George
Whitefield, to build here a school for negro children. These
early Moravians, in more than one sense, builded better than
they knew. That structure which they began in 1740 still stands
and bears the name of its illustrious founder, being known as
the "Whitefield House."
David Zeisberger, whose happy departure we today "call
to mind with joy," and who was one of the first founders of this
town and congregation, is also the best practical illustration of
one to whom Christ has become Chief Shepherd, Head and
Elder. Let us briefly consider I. His Decisive Conversion; II.
His Evangelistic Zeal; III. His Triumphant Death.
190 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
I. HIS DECISIVE CONVERSION.
David Zeisberger's conversion stands out as clearly and
strongly as does that of John Wesley. in January, 1743, a lit-
tle company stood on the deck of the "James," ready to leave for
Europe. It was a group of Moravian Brethren, most of whom
had come to take leave of their beloved leader, Count Zinzen-
dorf. Belonging to this company was a young man, twenty-
two years of age, who had been appointed to return with the
Count to Germany. He stood alone and looked mournfully
upon the land of his choice. "Cast off the cable!" commanded
Captain Garrison. At that moment Bishop Nitschmann, who
had been the last to take leave of Count Zinzendorf, passed by,
and, observing the young man's dejected looks, stopped short.
"David," said he, "do you not return to Europe willingly?"
"No, indeed!" was Zeisberger's reply. "I would much
rather remain in America."
"For what reason?"
"I long to be truly converted to God and to serve Him in
This declaration deserves our careful consideration. David
Zeisberger was a "born Moravian" both nationally and denomi-
nationally. His birthplace was Zauchtenthal in Moravia, where
he first saw the light of day on Good Friday, April II, 1721.
His parents belonged to the Ancient Church of the Bohemian
and Moravian Brethren. They were evidently most godly peo-
ple, for in July, 1726, they left their large earthly possessions,
forsaking all for Christ's sake, and sought a refuge in the new
settlement in Saxony called Herrnhut. And yet, born Moravian
that Zeisberger was, and brought up in a pious home, he him-
self apparently remained unchanged by the Divine grace and
Spirit. Heredity was not sufficient. Not that he despised his
birthright; far from it! He prized his privileges and oppor-
tunities. With the great Scotch preacher and poet, Horatius
Bonar, he would have said:
"I thank Thee for a holy ancestry;
I bless Thee for a godly parentage;
For seeds of truth and light and purity,
Sown in this heart from childhood's earliest age."
David Zeisberger. 191
Another circumstance to be noted is this: David Zeisberger
passed through the great revival of 1727 and the following years
in Herrnhut. Ten years he spent in that place of which John
Wesley wrote: "God has given me at length the desire of my
heart. I am with a church whose conversation is in heaven, in
whom is the mind that was in Christ, and who so walk as He
walked." In this congregation David Zeisberger lived during
the most impressionable years of a person's life, from five to
fifteen, and yet without being "converted to God." He listened
to the strong Scriptural preaching of the Moravian carpenter,
Christian David; he heard the joyful testimonies of that "little
preacher of righteousness," Susannah Kuehnel; he witnessed
the remarkable prayer-meetings of the children when they spent
hours in supplication and praise; yet, though deeply impressed
by all he saw and heard, there was in his case no definite de-
cision, no absolute surrender. He still was not "converted to
Let us learn from this that neither heredity nor environment
can save a soul. Zeisberger's opportunities were certainly of
the best. Pious Moravian parentage, godly Moravian training
and education were all enjoyed by him, and not without much
profit. It is a matter of record that he was the "brightest Latin
scholar of his class, a diligent student who showed a natural
facility for acquiring languages." Moreover, he lived a morally
pure and clean life. He was a truthful, honest and industrious
lad. The first year spent in America, 1739, he acted as a trav-
eling companion and assistant of Peter Boehler, that masterful
preacher and soul-winner, just arrived from England, where he
had been the means in the hand of God for the conversion of
hundreds, among them being John and Charles Wesley. With
him David Zeisberger spent upwards of a year and yet was not
"converted to God." In later years when speaking of this period
of his life he said: "At that time my heart was not yet con-
verted to God, but I longed to enjoy His grace and that fully."
On board the vessel, therefore, Bishop Nitschmann advised the
young man to leave the ship and return to Bethlehem. Zeis-
berger did not wait to be told a second time. He returned to
Bethlehem in a state of deep spiritual concern and of longing
192 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
for the assurance of the pardon of his sins. A Brother by the
name of Buettner, four years his senior, acted the part of An-
drew and Philip in bringing the young man to Jesus. "Some
days thereafter, during the singing, by a company of young men
in the Single Brethren's House at Bethlehem, of a familiar hymn
of praise to Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, a great light came
into his soul, and Zeisberger realized the joy of thorough con-
version in the assurance that the Saviour had taken all his sins
This great change was such a distinct and unique experi-
ence in his life that Zeisberger might truly with few variations
have adopted John Wesley's words, who described his own con-
version at a little Moravian meeting in London as follows:
"About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change
which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my
heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ
alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that He
had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law
of sin and death."
II. HIS EVANGELISTIC ZEAL.
David Zeisberger at once became an evangelist. The old
martyr-spirit of the Ancient Bohemian and Moravian Church
was both in name and in fact the "witness-spirit" of the Re-
newed Brethren's Church. Zeisberger put at once into practice
what another young Moravian in Europe was doing at the same
time, viz., John Cennick, who testified:
"Then will I tell to sinners round
What a dear Savior I have found,
I'll point to the atoning Blood
And say: Behold the way to God!"
Zeisberger, like his Master, practiced both personal and
public evangelism. In John's Gospel, chapter 4, we are told
how Jesus dealt with one poor sinner in such a way as to lead
her to repentance and faith. This might be called personal
evangelism. It led into a larger field. This woman became
such a witness, that Christ was invited to spend several days
David Zeisberger. 193
in her town, and to conduct there a public evangelistic campaign
resulting in the conversion of hundreds. Some one has called
it "The Revival at Sychar."
Following in the footsteps of the Savior, young Zeisberger
felt his heart drawn out in pity towards the lowest and poorest
of mankind. He began to speak to some Indians near Bethlehem
and Nazareth of "Jesus and His love." Proceeding further
through the wilds of Pennsylvania he preached to the Indians in
the Mohawk Valley of New York. When he and a brother-
missionary were arrested as spies and asked by Governor Clinton
at Albany, N. Y., as to their designs, they made this truly
Moravian and Scriptural reply: "We hope to get liberty to
preach among the Indians the Gospel of our Crucified Savior,
and to declare to them what we have personally experienced of
His grace in our own hearts." This became the supreme pas-
sion of his life-"to declare to the Indians what he had per-
sonally experienced of Christ's grace in his own heart." In
order to do this, he mastered their languages and dialects, tran-
lated the Holy Scriptures. Litanies and Sacred Songs, prepared
school-books, grammars, dictionaries, etc., and spent sixty-three
years of his life amongst his brown brethren, often in pathless
forests, frequently exposed to privations, hardships and death,
all with one object in view, viz., "to declare to them what he had
personally experienced of Christ's grace in his own heart." He
became a plodding student, a thorough scholar, a famous lin-
guist, a noted writer, an accomplished administrator, in order
that he might be a successful evangelist. Frequent revivals ac-
companied his faithful testimony.
The famous picture of Zeisberger preaching to the Indians
well illustrates the supernatural power of the Gospel which he
preached "with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven" At
one time when laboring in Central Pennsylvania Zeisberger
"For several months a great revival has been prevailing
among the Indians who visit us. All who attend our services
are deeply impressed and listen as though they never had enough
of the message of the Savior. Often while I am preaching the
power of the gospel message makes them tremble with emotion
194 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
and shake with fear, until they almost lose consciousness and
seem about to faint. This shows with what violence the powers
of evil within them oppose the work of the Cross. As a rule
when such a paroxysm is over they weep in silence."
Special methods and meetings were found to be necessary
in dealing with those under conviction of sin. Zeisberger's
biographer tells us; "A revival broke out at the new mission,
named Friedenstadt, in Western Pennsylvania. In the house
of Abraham, the Helper, inquiry meetings were held every even-
ing, sometimes lasting until midnight. Even the children were
impressed and talked of Jesus." St. Paul's maxim or rule of
methods had evidently been adopted by David Zeisberger: "By
all means save some." Like Alleine he was "insatiably greedy
after souls." With David Brainerd he could say: "I had no
notion of joy from this world; I care, not where or how I live,
or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain
souls for Christ."
Brainerd finished his course with joy after five years' service;
Zeisberger toiled in the vineyard sixty-three years. A biographer
thus describes one of his many journeys: "For two days, amid
drenching rain, in the pathless forests and swamps of the Broad
Mountain, in what is now Monroe County, these two mes-
sengers of Jesus crept for miles on hands and feet, beneath and
between laurel bushes whose tangled mazes made walking im-
possible. Their only guide was a pocket compass. After two
days they struck the trail to Wyoming. Although thoroughly
exhausted by the toil of their journey, Zeisberger at once began
to preach the gospel. The Indians flocked from every side to
hear his blessed message. Next morning, after a short night's
rest, the work was resumed, and for three days he preached
Christ with great power. Tears rolled down the cheeks of his
hearers and their whole frames were convulsed with emotion."
"He is wise that winneth souls," said Israel's royal sage,
and David Zeisberger was indeed a wise soul-winner, for, like
John Wesley, he organized the newly converted into societies
and drew up rules and regulations for their guidance. One of
two articles of their "brotherly agreement" may well be heeded
David Zeisberger. 195
"We will rest from work on the Lord's day and attend
"We will have nothing to do with thieves, murderers,
whoremongers, adulterers or drunkards. We will not take part
in dances, sacrifices, heathenish festivals or games."
"We will not admit rum or any other intoxicating liquor
into our towns. If strangers or traders shall bring intoxicating
liquors, our Helpers shall take it from them and not restore
it until the owners are ready to leave the place."
No wonder in view of all this that one of Zeisberger's ad-
mirers exclaims: "Rich fruitage of the veteran missionary's life
labor! Happy indeed amid all the countless trials and poignant
sorrows that clouded his career, in the triumph of the Savior's
grace over the powers of darkness, in the salvation of hundreds
and thousands of precious souls!"
III. HIS TRIUMPHANT DEATH.
A century ago this valiant soldier of the Cross stood face
to face with "the last enemy." In spirit let us gather around
that death-bed. The historian tells us: "Zeisberger lay calm,
without pain and perfectly conscious. The converts sang hymns,
treating of Jesus, the Prince of Life, of death swallowed up in
victory, and of Jerusalem, the Church above. He occasionally
responded by signs expressive of his joy and peace. Amid such
strains, at half past three o'clock in the afternoon, he breathed
his last, without a struggle, and went to God. All present im-
mediately fell on their knees."
"Oh may I triumph so,
When all my warfare's past;
And dying find my latest foe
Under my feet at last!"
What now was the secret of Zeisberger's peace in death, of
his victory over the mighty conqueror? What-was the ground
of his serene confidence? Did he rest on his own achievements?
He might with reason have been tempted to do so. What a
career could he look back upon! Measured by length of service,
by absolute consecration to Christ, by self-denial and self-sacrifice
196 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
for the sake of the gospel, no name stands higher in the history
of Christian Missions than that of David Zeisberger. With the
Apostle Paul he might have said: "Are they ministers of
Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more
abundant, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. In journey-
ings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils
by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in
the wilderness. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings
often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and naked-
ness." II Cor. II:23-27. Yet all these toils, trials and suffer-
ings, so cheerfully borne for Christ's sake during nearly seven
decades, did not form Zeisberger's ground of confidence in the
hour of death.
Was it then perhaps his seemingly perfect character? To
us at this distance as well as to his contemporaries David Zeis-
berger appears well-nigh faultless. His famous companion in
labors, John Heckewelder, said of him: "He was endowed with
a good understanding and a sound judgment; a friend and
benefactor of mankind, and justly beloved by all who knew
him, with perhaps the exception of those who were enemies of
the Gospel which he preached." "Experience invariably proved
the correctness of his judgment. Receiving, as it were, a glimpse
of the future, through the deep thoughts and silent prayers in
which he engaged, he stood up, on most occasions, full of con-
fidence and knew no fear." "He would never consent to have
his name put down on a salary-list or become a 'hireling,' as he
termed it; saying that although a salary might be both agree-
able and proper for some missionaries, yet in his case it would
be the contrary."
The language used by the noted Unitarian preacher, Theo-
dore Parker, in his eulogy of the famous missionary, Adoniram
Judson, might with equal truth be applied to David Zeisberger:
"If the Foreign Missionary enterprise had accomplished nothing
more than to produce such a character it had been well worth
all its costs and sacrifices."
But Zeisberger's hope for eternity was built on a better and
stronger foundation than that of his wonderful character. A
few days before his death he gave his last testimony, and the
David Zeisberger. 197
words form the, sum and substance of his creed and experiences:
"As my weakness is continually increasing and my appetite gone,
I believe that the Saviour intends to take me to Himself. Ly-
ing here, often sleepless, on my bed, I have employed the time
in reviewing my whole past life, and I find so many faults,
and so much cause for forgiveness, that nothing remains to me
but His grace. Nevertheless I know that I am His. I trust
in the efficiency of His atoning blood, which makes one clean
from all sin. The Saviour is mine. The Saviour's merits are
mine. Some Christians die rejoicing, with joy unspeakable and
full of glory. This is not my case. I leave the world as a poor
sinner. My spirit God will receive. I am certain of that. This
mortal, with all its sinfulness, I leave behind."
And thus the greatest of Moravian missionaries passed into
the presence of the King and entered the joy of his Lord. The
Christian Church does well to observe the Centennial of his
death. We, of this place, would affectionately call to mind the
heroic youth who helped to found our town and congregation.
Often has he trod this ground on errands of mercy for his
Master. How times have changed! The very soil which his
weary feet frequently pressed has become a source of untold
material wealth. Where nestled some of his mission-stations
huge cement plants are now located. But his name and fame
are far more imperishable even than the products of those great
industries. The wild mountain regions of Pennsylvania which
he so willingly traversed on foot for many years, searching out
and shepherding his brown brethren, for whom Christ died, have
yielded up incalculable treasures of coal, iron and oil, and made
some of his fellow mortals multi-millionaires and "kings of
finance;" but none of them can for a moment compare with him
who coveted only "souls for his hire and as seals of his ministry."
The Territory of Ohio, in which he achieved some of his
mightiest missionary triumphs, has become a great State, and
the so-called "mother of presidents;" but the fame of none of
them will equal his who a century ago left her clime for the
Paradise of God, who having "turned many to righteousness
shall shine as the stars for ever and ever."
Let us not, however, spend our lives and waste our breath
198 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
in mere idle admiration, but let us follow him even as he followed
Christ. Be it ours to seek and find that "full assurance" of our
pardon in the "precious blood;" be it ours to bear witness "to
sinners round" of what "we have personally experienced of
God's grace in our own hearts;" be it ours to turn our backs
upon the world with its treasures and pleasures, "to seek and
to save the lost;" in order that there may be said of us what
was so truthfully affirmed of David Zeisberger in the text of his
funeral sermon a century ago: "They overcame by the blood
of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved
not their lives even unto death." (Rev. 12:11.)
"Soldier of Christ, Well done!
Thy glorious warfare's past!
The battle's fought, the victory won,
And thou art crowned at last!"