The Historical Society
of the Bible Fellowship Church
Welcome to your latest installment of your newsletter. I invite you to save it for a clear summer evening when you can sit on the front porch and read it. What?? You don't have a front porch??? I forget that this is the 1990's and houses don't come with front porches where people sit and talk. Probably you are part of this society because you either have a front porch or wish you did. Well, take the time to enjoy this presentation.
A little background will help you before you begin. This article appeared in the Eastern Gospel Banner of April 1, 1920. TheEastern Gospel Banner was the localized publication of the Pennsylvania Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ. C. H. Brunner, the author of the article was also the editor of the magazine. He delighted to preserve stories from our past. How he would have enjoyed our society and being at our meetings where the conversation would right up his alley.
David and Sarah Musselman are pretty important people in our history. In their home (not the one in the story) the first meeting of the Evangelical Mennonites / Mennonite Brethren in Christ / Bible Fellowship Church was held. Their son was Jonas Musselman, a church planter responsible for at least three of our churches, and the father of three of our former pastors.
With that background, enjoy this wonderful story.
Delivered from the Hands of Robbers and Murderers
A Touching Incident by C. H. Brunner
On a little farm near a village called Vera Cruz, in the eastern part of Pennsylvania lived an aged couple all alone in quiet retirement. They had spent the greater part of their lives on a large farm about a mile away. They were now growing old and their two sons had married and left home, moving on farms of their own. One of them received a call from God to preach the gospel, and leaving the work of the farm over to his sons devoted his time to the saving of souls.
The father and mother felt that the care and work of their large farm was too much for them, purchased this little farm where they lived happily together. Their humble though comfortable home was situated a little distance up a lane leading from the busy country thoroughfare.
The house was surrounded by a great variety of fruit trees. Their few little fields were very productive. Back of the house was a garden beyond which the woodland commenced, reaching up to the top of the hill. There, at this shady retreat, away from the noise and rush of daily travel these aged saints lived for many years.
The greater part of their life they had already spent in the service of the Lord. In their younger days a genuine revival broke out in the community. A young man, William Gehman, who had been elected as a minister of the Gospel in one of the neighboring churches commenced to hold prayer meetings in a number of homes in the community. He was a very zealous young preacher and soon gathered a number of families together.
During these days of spiritual awakening this family of which I am now writing, together with about a dozen others, organized little congregation and built a substantial brick church about a mile from their home. Here they regularly occupied a prominent place and found their greatest joy in the work and worship of the Lord. They held their family worship regularly; even after they lived alone in their quiet retreat. The aged father always read from the big family Bible every evening before they retired, after which they both knelt down and committed their bodies and souls, their house and possessions, as well as the families of their two sons, unto God for His protection.
They had victoriously stood many tests and passed through many deep waters, upheld by the God in whom they had put their trust. Through all these trials God was preparing them for still greater things as the poet says:
"Each victory will help you
Some other to win."
One cold night in the month of January 1883, after reading the Bible and committing themselves to their great Protector as usual, the aged couple, now far past the allotted three score years and ten, retired for the night.
During the night they were suddenly awakened out of their sound sleep, and to their surprise they saw a tall man standing in front of them, a few feet away from the bed, with a red handkerchief tied over this face all but the eyes, with an axe in one hand and a candle in the other hand.
Grandmother, calm and composed, lifted up her head and said to the man, "Where do you come from?" and as he did not answer she asked him,"What do you want?" Upon this the burglar stepped up to the side of the bed and lifting up his axe ready to strike, said, "I want your money and that at once. There are four more down stairs and if you don't give me your money I will call them up and we will kill you."
While this robber was standing in front of them with his uplifted axe, the Lord helped these defenseless children of His to remain calm and composed. He took away all fear so they did not even realize the great danger they were in. We often heard Grandfather tell how the glory of the Lord filled the room. He used to tell us that they heard a peculiar rushing noise as the sound of a whirlwind which filled their souls with a sweet quietness and peace and a sense of His Divine protection. They realized that the Lord of Hosts had, as it were, sent a detachment of His heavenly hosts for their body-guard. Whenever Grandfather related this part of the incident during the later years of his life, his soul became so filled with joy and praise that he could not speak for thankfulness to God for what He did for them that night.
By this time they both sat up in bed and Grandmother said to him, "Don't strike; you cannot strike. Our God is stronger than you. You are alone. That is not true that there are four others down stairs. You cannot strike us." As she said this the burglars's arms dropped and he put his axe on the floor without saying a word. Then Grandmother got out of bed and took the man by the arm and preached a powerful sermon to him while he stood motionless and confounded, listening with deathly silence.
After she was done with her admonition and had exhorted him to quit his life of sin and get converted, she said to Grandfather: "We'll give him a few dollars." So Grandfather got his purse out of his trousers hanging on the bed post, took out a number of bills, and handed the ruffian a two-dollar bill.
It seemed the Lord had completely unnerved this robber by this time and had divested him of his daring boldness so that he stood there, helpless, his arm apparently paralyzed, unable even to reach out and take the money handed to him by Grandfather, so Grandmother took the money and put it into his hand saying "Here, take this."
Grandfather leisurely put the rest of his money back into the purse and put the purse into the pocket of his trousers in the presence of the robber as though it had been an ordinary business transaction.
So completely had the lord taken all fear away from them that Grandmother even took hold of his handkerchief which he had tied over his face, to see who he was.
When the man had put the money into his pocket, he started to go down stairs, when Grandmother said, "Wait, I will take the light and light you down to the door."
As they were going down stairs she asked him, "Where did you get in?" to which he replied, "Why here through the window." The she said, " Well you can go out through the door," and after another exhortation she opened the front door and left him out.
By this time Grandfather had dressed and come down stairs too and went out with him as far as the gate, opening from the yard into the lane, leading down to the main thoroughfare.
After he had watched the robber going down the lane as far as he could see him, he returned back into the house. They did not sound an alarm but both went back to bed but for joy they could not sleep the rest of the night as they meditated upon the wondrous love and care bestowed upon them by their Heavenly Father in whom they had trusted these many years.
So they spent the night in talking of what Darius said to Daniel when they cast him into the den of lions. " Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee." And God did send His angel who delivered Daniel out of the lions' mouth, also how He delivered the three Hebrews out of the fiery furnace.
While they thus praised God for sending His angel to encamp about them to guard them continually, and especially for deliverance during this night extreme danger, it seemed to them as though the room was filled with the glory of the Lord and one wave of unspeakable joy after another swept over them and flooded their souls.
The next morning a young man who was working in the ore mines not far from the place of the robbery said to some of the workmen: "Did you hear already that robbers had broken in to the house of ____________ ?" This young man was the first one to publish the incident as the old people had not yet told any of the neighbors anything about what had happened. He was at once regarded with suspicion arousing the whole neighborhood with indignation as these aged people were held in high esteem by all those who knew them. Many of the neighbors advised them to employ detectives to try and arrest the burglar if possible. They, however, though they did not care to go to law about the matter, being thankful that God had so gloriously delivered them. So the neighbors took the matter in hand, notified the county detective who had the burglar behind the bars in a short time.
A Second Attempt at Their Lives
One night, about two weeks before the time set for the trial, Grandfather had a very significant dream which caused him to awake. He awoke Grandmother and as he was telling her this dream, they hear a noise down stairs. They arose and went down and found that another robber had been in the house. They searched all around an found that he had stolen some provisions and a little money. They also noticed that he had left the coffee box, which was about half full of ground coffee, standing on the table uncovered.
They had been told that the father of the man in jail had made the remark to some one in the neighborhood a few days before, that, "These people are old and might die yet before the trial, what will happen then? Can the matter be pushed further yet?" In view of this, and the dream Grandfather had that night, they were suspicious and had the coffee examined and found that the man who broke in that night had put poison into the coffee to poison them.
So then the second time, God had marvelously protected them from the hands of would-be murderers.
What Happened at the Trial?
Several years after this incident, Grandmother fell asleep in Jesus and was laid to rest n the quiet country church-yard, back of the old brick church where she and Grandfather had spent their lives in the worship of the Lord.
Grandfather, David Musselman, this was his name, though bereft of his earthly companion in the tests and trials of life, continued for many ears in the service of the Lord. We were often refreshed when we heard him relate the above remarkable miracles of God's protection and care, while his eyes were filled with tears of joy and gratitude and his soul so full of glory that he could hardly speak. These things were always remarkably clear and fresh in his memory.
He lived to see all his children, grandchildren, and also his great-grandchildren (with possibly one or two exceptions) converted, while a large percentage of them are actively and exclusively engaged in the Lord's work, among whom are some of the most successful and prominent leaders in both church and mission work.
He lived to within a few years of the century mark, well in body, clear in his mind, strong in the faith, conscious of God's presence with him unto the end. When worn out and full of days, though without sickness and pain, he also fell asleep in Jesus and was carried to his last resting place by the side of his companion.
Here is another proof of the truthfulness of the Scriptures - "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them," and again, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
We had often heard these aged saints pray, "God bless our children and grandchildren unto the third and fourth generation." Were their prayers answered? Is it a blessing to have praying parents? Just a few words more to prove that "He is faithful that promised."
One of the sons, Jonas Musselman, was for many years a successful revivalist and pastor of a number of churches in Eastern Pennsylvania up to the time of his death. Soon after his death, his faithful companion during his lifetime devoted all her time and energy to Home Missionary work in which she was actively engaged as long as she was able, almost to the time of her death. During her later years she was known as "Grandmother." Her faith, courage and cheerful disposition endeared her to all who knew her.
The three sons of Jonas Musselman followed their father in the Gospel ministry. The oldest, Rev. W. B. Musselman, during the earlier years of his ministry organized congregations and built several churches, while he served as pastor. After holding the office of Presiding Elder for a number of years he founded the Gospel Worker Society of which he is still the President. He is also the President of the Union Gospel Printing Company of Cleveland, Ohio, one of the finest, cleanest and most up-to-date publishing houses of religious literature in the country. He is also Missionary Presiding Elder of the Pennsylvania Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.
The second son (1) has also been a very successful Pastor in the same Conference, organized several congregations, built a number of churches and has for many years been Presiding Elder and Chairman of the Annual Conference as well as President of the Board of Foreign Missions, Executive Board and Orphanage and Home.
The third son (2) of the late Jonas Musselman died a number of years ago after serving several charges in Canada and Pennsylvania. One of the daughters died while young, another died soon after marrying a Pastor while the third one has been spending many years in Home Missionary work and is still active. Several grandsons also are promising young Pastors and Missionaries.
The other son of David Musselman was called Abraham. He and his whole family also were Christians, belonging to the same church. The parents and two sons are buried in the graveyard back of the old brick church. Of their children one son (3) is living, married to a former missionary to Turkey, and three daughters, one of whom is married to a Pastor of the same conference. All their children and grandchildren are Christians.
Thus the faithful God did not only protect these aged Christians from the murderer's axe and poison, but also made their future generations a blessing to thousands among saved and unsaved.
That's it for this newsletter. Remember, I look for your letters with your stories, questions, comments, and whatever else you might like to communicate.
What's ahead? Look for a mailing from me that will list all the publications of our society and the Historical Committee. You may want to get caught up with missing papers. Remember our meeting at Lehighton on November 2. Details will follow in the next installment.
1. H. B. Musselman
2. A. B. Musselman died at Reading in 1900. He is the forebear of society member Polly Thomann.
3. David Musselman was married to Rose Lambert, an early missionary to Hadjin, Turkey. They relocated in Texas and became ranchers there.