The Destinies and Adventures of the Stephanists who emigrated from Saxony to America - pages 64 - 68

of this newpaper.

7. A Shot in the Air

"To bring suit in the courts for libel and slander, etc."

What? Do Dr. Gempp and his hunting buddies believe that I will sink to my knees as a result of this empty threat? — Sharp shooting, Gentlemen! We will see who buckles first.

8. Poverty

"This group may be advised to sue for damages, usually a hefty sum, in addition to those charges filed by the judge for slander and libel."

So here we have Dr. Gempp in his most noble magnitude reminding me of my impoverished circumstance. I do not covet any riches he might have while I live happily in my poverty. Among the public there is a general agreement that I could be richer if I made money making my personal god.

And thus, dear Doctor, I close with "the truth and nothing but the truth," that you have refuted nothing. You've gotten up on your high horse, cast insults and written down your lofty prose. I have responded to this dark agent but he should not expect that I will take any notice of him in the future. Once priests and lawyers join the ranks, it's no longer necessary to cross swords.

I will deal directly with the beloved Stephanist ministry and no one else. In the last issue there was an article by the original Stephanist and this gives me an opportunity I've wanted for a long time and to which I will avail myself in the next issue.

                                    Heinrich Koch.

Even the head of the congregation himself took up his feather to reply with the following:

                 Anzeiger des Westens, March 13, 1839

We are happy to have arrived in the land which for many years has been our desired destination. After a brief stay in this, our new fatherland, we have already come to the conclusion that what we sought - freedom, free thought, free speech, free service to God - we have found here.

How good it is for the prisoners to see the many years of captivity come to a close, to breathe in the free air with free hearts. The chains of worldly despotism and forced religion have been broken and the old wounds, painful reminders of the long-borne yoke, have already started to heal.

Surely you, our German blood relatives, would not begrudge us to share in this freedom, a true gift of God which you have attained so many years before us. The sun shines no less strongly on the individual when it already shines on thousands.

And yet, there seem to be many of our countrymen who would begrudge us this blessing. If only they would have received us without insult. We will not defend ourselves against such unjust accusations. We know that arrows poisoned with lies were shot at us from Europe. We prefer to keep quiet since others, who view us unbiasedly, have already come to our defense. God bless them for this. You shall have no reason to feel ashamed for taking up our cause. Our behavior will justify your trust.

The future will teach who we are and what we seek here. We are in no way a new sect; rather we are professors of the old Lutheran faith. The complete word of the New and Old Testaments is the fortress, which we will not yield to our enemies and with the help of God we will never bend again. The well-known faith of our fathers dealing with the proper interpretation and understanding of this holy word is the sound wall around this fortress. Confusion and false teaching cannot enter this holy sanctuary. The phrase, "God's work and Luther's teaching preside now and forever," is our motto and it resonates from the good old German times. In its golden age there were 30 million true believers in our faith, but now our old homeland has unfortunately forgotten it. Indeed it is generally scorned and rejected. We however remain true to it. We will preserve it here in our new homeland for our children and our children's children. We will believe and live in accordance with it. We will also fight and suffer for it

so we may die in the sanctity of God's grace.

This ever holy faith is the bond which unites us. It is the basis for the internal integrity between the congregation, its bishop and its pastors. Our congregation does not hold to communal property ownership - we expressly prohibited this practice in Article 8 of our emigration compact; we do not hold with forced profession of faith, domination over thought or worldly citizenship. It is freely chosen individual faith, which originates from brotherly love and deep mutual trust. These are the three bonds which unite us.

The few individuals, who have left our community, probably never felt the strength and value of this bond. If they speak the truth, they have little to say about chains, which bound them. We would gladly let them go and endure their departure if, after such a brief period of time, they had not heaped so much unwarranted attention upon us. The Lutheran church and its profession of faith are known throughout the world. Whosoever sufficiently educates himself will find this profession among us in our teachings and our lives. Whosoever offers his hand in friendship because of this profession of faith, will find we are happy to grasp it in fraternity.

Accusations that we are trying to convert people are false. We leave it to each individual's conscience to find his path to sanctity. In peace we allow other faiths to go on their way

so we may make the same claim for tolerance.

We do not seek lawless freedom. We consider authority part of divine and holy ordering. We will forever conduct ourselves as obedient citizens in our new fatherland. Under this protection we wish to lead peaceful and quiet lives in divine sanctity and respectablity. We are prepared to serve our new fatherland with our resources and our blood because it is our asylum for faith and freedom. We will help to defend against all enemies to its laws.

And thus in old German Christian honesty we extend our hand to all who welcomed us here in faith and love. We especially wish to extend our thanks to the two church congregations and their leaders who were willing and selfless in their offer to let us use their houses of worship. May they never have the bitter experiences we had in our painful past.

May Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, open the gates of heaven to them as they have opened the doors of their churches to us.

God bless America, our beloved fatherland. May he forever make it a divine garden. May he show us a place where we may live. May the splendor of the Lord break with the long-awaited dawn and shine throughout the land upon this country's glorious future in world history.

Go to pages 69 - 73

Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825

Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks