The Historical Society of the Bible Fellowship Church

June, 2000

         Six months have slipped by since I put the last issue of this paper together. I will issue a sort of apology. I say sort of because the delay was pretty much unavoidable. These six months included a trip to Spain, the wedding of one of my children, preparation for our Annual Conference and BFC 2000. For me, these were very busy but wonderful times. I could spend all my time telling you about these events but that is not the purpose of this paper. To atone for the length of delay, this issue will be a bit longer than normal. As always, I hope you enjoy reading and learn a bit more of our historical foundation.

         I have been at work on a number of fronts in our archives. I am computerizing as much as I can. I am preparing an index of pastoral assignments. This will allow almost instant access to who served what churches and when. I am continuing to computerize our list of catalogued documents. I am preparing an index of articles in the Gospel Banner which relate to the work in Pennsylvania. I have completed 1878 through 1886. I continue to scan our photographs to allow use of them without needing to make photographic copies (which cost as much as $10.00 per copy).

         This issue was a stretch for me. I will offer a bit of a complaint. I have not heard from any of you for awhile. Remember, I love to hear from you. Send me a memory, a story, a question- anything. I prefer your agenda to my own and welcome what you send. My mailbox awaits your response.


         My first offering takes you back to something shared a couple of years ago. The story, “The Midnight Robber,” was told in the Gospel Banner during 1910. While on my search for Pennsylvania stories, I came across the original reporting of the story by Abel Strawn and the surprise ending. I thought you might enjoy reading the original account.

[From the Gospel Banner, 9 #2, 1/15/1886, p. 13]

Daniel’s God Still Able to Deliver

             On the night of December 30th [1885], a thief entered the house of Bro. David Musselman, aged nearly 80 years, parents of Eld. Jonas Musselman, in Upper Milford, Lehigh Co., Pa. They had retired in the evening, commit[t]ing themselves to the care of their heavenly Father. They were awakened out of their sleep by the thief entering their room with a light in one hand an axe in the other, and a handkerchief tied over his face, swearing he would kill them if they would not give up their money. Bro. Musselman replied: you cannot, for God will not let you do so, when immediately the axe fell from his hand to the floor. They then told him the small amount of money they had on hand. The thief concluded they should give him some, when Bro. Musselman took two dollars from his pants-pocket and gave it to him, and then offered to let him out by the door, but the thief preferred to go out where he had come in. It was found that he had been through the bureau and taken a small sum.

             I came to their place the next morning, not knowing what had happened. I asked if the Lord had helped them thus far, when they commenced praising God, and leaping for joy, shouting hallelujah, that it set my spirit all on fire, so that I rejoiced with them. O how good it is to be wholly given into the hands of the Lord. The Lord is ever near them that serve him day and night, for not a hair shall fall from their head without his knowledge. He has never lost a battle. There is quite an excitement amongst the neighbors, and they think the thief might be traced up.

                          Eld. Abel Strawn.

Someone was good enough to continue the story through to its end. Prepare yourself because it doesn’t go as you might think.

[ From the Gospel Banner, 9 #9, 5/1/1886, p. 8]

             Oswin Gehman who was incarcerated in the Lehigh County jail had his trial and was acquitted by the jury last week. The court severely reprimanded the jury which acquitted Gehman of robbing the home of David Musselman, near Vera Cruz; in Lehigh County. The case against him was very strong, and Mr. and Mrs. Musselman identified him as the man who broke into their home and axe in hand demanded money. The Judge said the jury disgraced the place in which they stood. – Schwenksville (Pa.) Item.

             Oh, well. The wheels of justice do not always turn smoothly. Did a guilty man escape or did an innocent man find freedom? After 104 years, we would probably do just as well to move on.


         For the second offering, I want to share accounts of early meetings in Hellertown. I am encouraged and excited by the recent decision of the Coopersburg Church to begin a daughter church in Hellertown. This is a return. For a some years, a camp meeting was held in Hellertown but it is clear, our earlier leaders had their eyes on a church there early in our history.

         A further word of explanation may be necessary. During revivals, all sorts of strange behavior occurred. Even straight shooters like George Whitfield and John Wesley saw strange phenomena during the revivals with which they were connected. On several occasions, our preachers reported events that we might think bizarre. It is hard to go back and find adequate explanation. It is enough for me that the events were reported. I am simply sharing them with you.

[From the Gospel Banner, Vol. 4 #23, December 1, 1881, page 181.]

Coopersburg, Pa., Nov. 23, ‘81.

Dear Bro. Brenneman:--

             I wish to drop a few lines to let you know what the Lord is doing for us. Our protracted meeting is still in progress near Hellertown, and the Lord’s Spirit is coming down in a powerful manner. The display of his Spirit is so great that quite a number are enabled to testify of the great things that the Lord has done for them. The altar is crowded with seekers. To God be all the glory.

             One sister after her conversion fell into a trance, and lay in this condition till the next morning, when she awoke and wanted to see her sister and father who were unconverted. She told them that she saw her mother (who had died happy in the Lord some years ago), and that she was with her all night; also that she saw a host of shining angels around her. Several times since that she has fallen into a trance, and has been “absent from the body” for hours. Last evening her unconverted sister came to the altar. One sister

came from Bath to see her sister go to the meeting, and the Lord convicted her, she came to the altar, found Christ, and says she will not go home till the meeting is over. She wishes to be baptized. May the Lord baptize her with the Holy Ghost. She is earnestly engaged in saving souls. Bro. Traub and myself are conducting the meeting. Bro. S. Musselman spent three evenings with us. We also have protracted meeting at Coopersburg. We hope and pray that many souls may be saved here. Your humble brother in Christ,

             Abel Strawn.

[From the Gospel Banner, Vol. 5 #2, January 15, 1882, page 13.]

Hellertown, Pa., Jan. 4, ‘82.

Dear Bro. Brenneman:– A happy new year to you and all the readers of the Banner, and may this new begun year be one blessed of God for you and us all.

             I feel impressed out of love to God, to impart to your readers what the Lord has done for us, on the last day of the past as well as on the first day of the present year.

             On Saturday afternoon, Dec. 31st, several of the brethren and sisters met at the house of Bro. Ruch near Hellertown. One brother and two sisters here testified to the love of God in their hearts, and desired to be baptized. We then repaired to the stream, where these three souls were baptized by Bro. A. Strawn while hymns of praise were being sung. The blessing of God rested upon us. Praise his name.

             At this meeting a sister fell into a trance, and the last that I heard (forty-nine hours after the meeting) she was still in the same condition. She never stirred in the least only that the movements of the body in breathing were preceptible [sic].

             Bro. Strawn then returned to Coopersburg, but I remained for the night to hold a watch-meeting with the brethren. We improved the last hours of the old year by preaching, singing, praying, confessions and the relating of experiences and in praising God for all his benefits, after which we “went our way rejoicing.” I praise God for his love.

             Sunday, the first day of the year, we held two public services at private residences in Bucks county, seven miles from Hellertown, and the Lord was with us. In the evening we again returned to Northampton county to hold a special prayer meeting at the residence of Bro. Aaron Bader. Almost the entire class was here assembled together, among them a beloved old mother more than seventy years old. The brethren had a season of refreshing here, that I hope will not be forgotten in eternity. Already in the first day of the year we were permitted to enjoy a pentecostal time. To God be all the glory. Your brother in Christ,

                          John Traub.

[From the Gospel Banner, Vol. 6, #4, February 15, 1883, page 25.]

Bro. Jacob H. Moyer reports of a protracted meeting held at Hellertown, Pennsylvania, in which two souls were converted. As an evidence that the devil was mad, he says that one of the coverts was obliged to leave the parental home. God save the deluded parents.

             From these accounts I want to jump to the present, to BFC 2000, to an event which took place within a couple of stones’ throw from Hellertown. I know that some of you who read this were present and were as delighted as I by what we heard and saw. Some said that such a meeting has not been held for 30+ years. In my mind, there has never been such a meeting as this. Other meetings were in connection with camp meetings but this was not a camp meeting but a single meeting to which people came from all over the denomination. I do not know that we have ever had such a large meeting with over 3500 people in attendance.

         I was privileged to share one of the presentations. I elected to draft a fictional letter from William Gehman. I want to share it with you. If you heard it, you can ignore it. If you did not hear it, it is my hope that you will be encouraged. It was my goal to grab hold of our history and jump into the future by allowing fictional words of Father Gehman to encourage us. I will be glad for any feedback you might like to share about the letter and BFC 2000.

Dear Brother Taylor,

Greetings in the great and glorious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is precious to my soul.

I have heard about the meeting you are attending today and am sorry I am not able to be there. I would ask you to excuse my absence and do it graciously for the obvious reasons. Even if I were able to attend, you know I would be uncomfortable sharing anything in public since I have always been reluctant to speak in English. I usually spoke German and German is easiest for me. I guess you would call me self conscious. I hope you will think none the less of me for it.

If I am to speak today, Brother Taylor, it will have to be through your imagination. You have become acquainted with me over the years. I am content to let your words be my words and am willing to speak through what you might say.

I know you and the other speakers are to focus on God’s instructions to the Israelites as they entered the promised land. I know those instructions included, “Be strong and courageous.” I had none of the formal education you have but you don’t need formal training to know what “be strong and courageous” means. You need strength when you feel weak. You need courage when you are frightened. Being strong and courageous is what is hard, not figuring out what it means.

Back in 1853, when we began to pray about the lost people around us, we never imagined how we would have to be strong and courageous. We thought nothing about meeting together to pray and thought everyone would see it the way we did. We were living in a country at war with itself. As we moved toward our terrible Civil War, we saw how God had opened people’s hearts and caused them to see their need for our great Savior. It seemed people everywhere were praying. We determined that we too needed to pray and reach out to the people who lived in the towns and villages near us. Our land was ready for the Lord’s harvest and we saw what God wanted us to do. We never imagined anyone could think we were being disobedient. We wanted only to do what the Bible taught us – preach the Gospel everywhere. It seemed simple to us at the time.

We never imagined people would be so upset with us and troubled by what we were doing. We had no intention of creating problems. We certainly had no idea of starting a new church. We were in a hard place, Brother Taylor. We believed God was telling us to preach the Gospel and bring new people into the church even if it meant things would be different. But people we respected and admired were telling us what we were doing was against the Gospel. We could not understand how they could say that. We had hopes for a couple of years that they would join with us but they did not. When they told us to stop having our prayer meetings, we knew we had to obey the Lord. We knew we had to be strong and courageous. We were cut off from some of our friends and family. That was hard in our small town world where ties to family members and fellow believers were very strong.

We looked out to the lost people around us and determined we had to do what God’s word taught. We took the name, Evangelical Mennonites, and went out to preach the Gospel. I myself traveled many times all the way to Allentown, sometimes to Terre Hill and even down to Graterford. Wherever we could find people and a place to preach, we presented the Gospel. We never knew what we would meet. Sometimes, hecklers showed up. It seems whenever God is doing something, the devil comes alongside to disrupt it. Sometimes these hecklers brought some of their choice rotten vegetables to throw at us. We stood up to them and preached on. Some of those who came to heckle stayed to pray. We knew we had to keep going.

Brother Taylor, I did not write to bore you with old stories of how it used to be. I write to encourage you and the people who are with you today. You are facing a world very much like mine. You live in a nation at war with itself. Very important issues divide America; abortion, the definition of family, the place of religion, the value of human life - just to name a few. Your towns and villages are filled with people who are scared and unsure and spiritually uncertain. The people you see every day are just as lost as the people we faced. We could not stand by and watch 140 years ago. You must not stand by today. You must step out and be strong and courageous.

I confess I don’t understand much about your world - things like television and computers. Perhaps someday you can explain it all to me. I do know that people you meet have the same needs as people did when I was alive. They are lost and without hope if Christ is not precious to them. They must turn to Him and trust Him or they have no hope. God has commanded us to take the Gospel to every person in the world. Brother Taylor, our church has a great opportunity.

I know the demands on you are great. It won’t be as simple as when we started. We were just a handful of people. We did not have to worry about leadership or organizing efforts or even high financial costs. If you think about those things and let them stand in the way, you will never get around to doing what needs to be done. You need to pay the costs and give all your efforts. You need strength and courage. God will give you the strength and courage to keep going. Don’t worry about that. Can you and the people there with you trust the God who commands you to be strong and courageous, Brother Taylor? If you can, then you will be strong and courageous and God will use our church to bring revival again to this nation and the world.

If I could be there today, I would say as well as I know how to say it, “Be strong and courageous.” I speak for your brothers and sisters who have gone before you. We prayed, journeyed, preached and worked that others might come to welcome our glorious Savior and receive His great salvation. You who meet today are the answer to our prayers and the fruit of our labors.

Today, our voices are silent and our bodies lie in your cemeteries. Our love for the blessed Savior and desire to serve Him is alive in you, our spiritual children. As you look over the land to be conquered, do not waver. Be strong and courageous.

Your humble brother and fellow servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

William Gehman

             For the last of this paper, I offer a sermon. I often wish I could have heard some of our preachers and their early sermons. I think I have an idea of how they sounded but that is only my imagination at work. I also enjoy knowing what they preached. We have a number of sermon outlines from various preachers. The following sermon is from Jonas Schultz. Brother Schultz was the physician turned preacher of whose life you heard a couple of years ago. He was converted in the revival that came to the Lehigh Valley area in the 1850's. He was acquainted with our preachers and came a few years to our Conferences. He served for a while as a teacher at a short lived attempt by the MBC at higher education in Wadsworth, Ohio. What do you see in the theology, how the material is arranged, the use of Scripture, etc.

A Sermon

by Eld. Jonas Y Schultz


“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1

             Justification implies a legal transaction between a judge, a law and a transgressor, by which the accused is acquitted of penalty, either by proving his innocence or by personal recompense, or by satisfaction of a substitute. We suppose the following cases:

             Case 1. A man is accused of theft, and found guilty, and must now meet the demands of the law either himself or through another person in his place, before the law can be satisfied and he be acquitted of penalty. This done, however, he is as legally free from penalty, as if he had not committed robbery.

             Case 2. A. owes B. 1000 dollars. B. Stringently demands payment, and will and cannot feel satisfied, or acquit A. of his debt, until it is paid. B. resorts to legal power to collect the money; A. has not a cent in possession; and is consequently, placed in an unhappy position, accused, and subject to legal compensation. C. hears of the case, pities A., goes and pays B. the whole sum; thus B. is appeased, the law satisfied, and A. acquitted. Neither the law, nor B. nor any body else can henceforth demand the payment of said sum, because it has been paid.

             Case 3. R. is accused of murder, found guilty, the sentence of death pronounced upon him, and thrown into prison. Convinced of his guilt and his impending death, he is in a most lamentable condition. S. moved by much compassion, offers himself to take his place. His offer is accepted, he is imprisoned and executed. He dies for the guilt of another. R is set at liberty, and discharged from further legal guilt, because S. becomes his substitute.

             In connection with the above cases the following points are to be considered:

             1. If a legal justification shall come home to the heart of a transgressor, and if he shall have a conscious part in, and benefit of it, he must be clearly convinced of the violation of the law, apprized of the possibility of deliverance, and become willing to accept the terms. 2. The substitute must himself be innocent, at the time of mediation; and possess the means to meet all the legal demands in the case, or else his offer, though ever so sincere and gracious, is not valid. 3. Although a criminal, either by personal compensation, or by mediation of another person, is acquitted of legal debt, yet the evil deed in itself is not thereby annulled. This would be impossible. Only from a legal point of view his is, and must be regarded as free from punishment, as though he had never committed the deed. He can surely never entirely forget his misdeed, or think of it otherwise than with shame and humiliation. 4. By the transgression of the law, and the legal and judicial process by which the transgressor is tried and condemned he learns forcibly, the folly of his deed, the force of the law, and the official power of the judge; and a desire to be released from his position, and to cease from further transgression is awakened in him. 5. What humiliation on one part, and thankfulness and joy on the other, must it cause in the heart of a criminal, if he is acquitted by compensation of a second person! Humiliation, when he remembers his evil deed, and the reproach, anxiety and trouble brought upon himself and his deliverer; joy on account of the unexpected and gracious deliverance, and thankfulness toward his compassionate benefactor. 6. In case the convicted criminal would not accept the provided offered substitution on account of indifference, or of malice and pride, or, in spite of many credible representations of unbelief, or would even reject the offer with scorn and contempt, would not such ungrateful conduct, in all probability, leave him in his sad condition? Would it not offend the community, and grieve the person, who had offered his services?

             May God grant his blessing to the spiritual application, which now follow, for instruction, comfort and practice!

             The justification of a sinner by faith in Jesus Christ is an important and necessary act for salvation. This subject has to do with God, his laws, and sinful man. God is perfect. – Matth. 5:48. All his laws are perfect, “holy, just, and good.” – Rom. 7:12, and include things commanded and things forbidden, and consist of moral, ceremonial, and civil laws. With the moral law, including the ten commandments, in its two-fold sense – the inward, spiritual, and outward, literal – and which is the most important, from which all of others spring, we have here principally to do. Whoever transgresses any of these laws, is placed in a legal position before God, and is liable to penalty. Now as all men have sinned against these laws, Rom. 5:12, all are sinners, Rom. 3:23, and as such under the law in bondage, Rom. 7:6, carnal and at enmity with God, Rom. 8:7, cursed, Deut. 27:26, and condemned to death. – Hes. 18:20. The law in its strictness and fierceness stands immovable between God and the sinner against any leniency of the former, or entreats of the latter for pardon or mitigation of the imposed penalty, knowing nothing, of grace, or pardon, and demands full satisfaction, If it be fearful event for a criminal to fall even under the jurisdiction of the civil law, how much more fearful must it be to fall into the hands of the living God! – Heb. 10:31. “Pay what thou owest me!” demands the law, “or thou must perish under the judgment!” Adds the judge. “Wherewith shall I pay?” responds the troubled conscience. In this condition some resort to their own righteousness, and appeal to that as a recompense. But God says, “There is none righteous, no, not one. – Rom. 3:10; others resolve to abstain from sinning and do good works. Scripture however says: By the deed of the law, no flesh shall be justified. – Rom. 3:20. Many seem unconcerned about these matters; to such, a warning voice says: “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.– “ Gal. 6:7. With all the resolutions to become and do better under the law, and by one’s own strength, the awakened sinner feels more and more his own inability to this work. – To will that which is good is present with him, but how to perform it he finds not. – Rom. 7:18. A sad helpless condition! “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but words, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. – :Isa. 1:5,6. Such an one feels with David to be “ in an horrible pit, and in the miry clay.” Psalm 40:2. Sorrows of hell compass him about. – Psalm 18:5, and he is trouble, bowed down greatly and goes mourning all the day long. —Psalm. 38:6. O, how the haughty mind is troubled by the piercing swords of the word of God, and the proud heart broken down under the hammer of the law! – Jer. 23:29; and with Paul in despair he exclaims: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. 7:24, or with the trembling, Jailor in inquires: “What must I do to be saved?” – Acts 16:30. Thanks be to God, for such sin-sick soul there is a physician, and for such wounds, a balm at hand!

             The word Gospel means “Good News,” “Glad Tidings.” The gospel of the New Testament proclaims to men the blessed fact, that God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16; that the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. – Matth. 18:11; and that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. – 2 Cor. 5:19, by the suffering of Christ in the flesh, his obedience, and his death on the cross was this reconciliation effect, Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. – 1 Pet. 3:18. By disobedience man became a sinner; by the obedience of Christ he shall again be made righteous. – Roma. 5:19. By transgression, the righteousness of God was offended and sinful man is now too weak, by reason of sin, to work out that righteousness which the laws demands, and which availeth before God; so Christ is made of God unto us righteousness. – 1 Cor. 1:30. God made Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2 Cor. 5:21. The law condemns the sinner. – Christ redeems from the curse of the law, being himself made a curse. – Gal. 3:13. He is accused and condemned criminal’s substitute. – Isa. 53:4,5. His blood cleanseth from all sin. – 1 John 1:7. He is the propitiation for our sins; and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2. As such a full salvation has been effected, God will now have all men saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Tim. 2:4, and therefor now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. – Acts 17:30, and to believe on Christ. – John 6:40. Repentance is a change of mind, and implies knowledge and confession of, sorrow for, and cessation from sin. The heart is thus prepared for the reception of the meritorious work of Christ. True, scriptural, living and saving faith is simple, undoubted trust in this work and the promises of God, on which it lays hold and appropriates them. A faith which worketh by love, in believing on Christ. – John 6:29, in keeping his commandments. – John 14:23, and in following him. – John 12:26. How great the change! The believer has now attained to a position in Christ. – Rom. 8:1. The relation is altogether changed. He is no more under the law, but under grace. – Rom. 6:14. Under the law he brought forth fruit unto death, but under grace he brings forth fruit unto God. – Rom. 7:4-6. Being justified by faith he hath peace with God through Christ. – Rom. 5:1. There is therefore now no condemnation to him, because he is in Christ.– Rom. 8:1. Says a writer: “The curse of that holy law which we had broken, is removed from us by the cross of Christ. If we have faith in the Son of God, the law proclaims no words of terror against us; its awful penalty has been born, its tremendous malediction has been endured by him who espoused our cause and undertook our recovery. What else can be the meaning of that most delightful declaration. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Such are justified freely by his blood; so justified, that nothing is laid to their charge; as to stand complete in Christ, and as to be beheld without spot by the eyes of infinite purity. The righteousness of Jesus covers them; hides their nakedness, and all their deformity; and renders them righteous, even as he is righteous. Glorious privilege!” “This glorious salvation offered, Christ has acquired, and faith lays hold upon and appropriates; the word proclaims, and the Holy Spirit confirms.” The believer does not look up to God through the law in a legal position, to find him a consuming fire, but through Christ, and finds him perfectly reconciled. – God says: “My Child!” – the believer: “Abba, Father” – Peace! Peace! but only in Christ.

             That ends another time to dig into our past. I will try not to be so long to the next issue. You can speed things up by being in touch as I previously advised.


Richard Taylor

723 South Providence Road

Wallingford PA 19086