Monday, April 21, 2008

Reverend Elhanan Winchester

Elhanan Winchester was born Setember 30, 1751, in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1780 he began a seven-year pastorate of the largest Baptist church in Philadelphia. Winchester became well acquainted with the Dunkers in the years that he resided in Philadelphia, and specifically mentioned in his book the fact that he was with the Dunkers at Germantown on the first Sunday in April 1781.

He had a very favorable opinion of the Dunkers and Moore [J. H. Moore, Some Brethren Pathfinders] claimed that he "seriously thought of uniting with their church." Certainly he was a welcomed visitor in their homes and at their places of worship. He had come to know and appreciate the high quality of these Dunkers.

In 1787 he wrote the following which is one of the finest statements preserved for us about our eighteenth century ancestors.

The Tunkers, or German Baptists, in Pennsylvania and the states adjacent, who take the Scriptures as their only guide in matters both of faith and practice, have always (as far as I know) received, and universally, at present hold these sentiments: But such Christians, I have never seen as they are; so averse are they to all sin, and to many things that other Christians esteem lawful, that they not only refuse to swear, go to war, etc., but are so afraid of doing anything contrary to the commands of Christ, that no temptation would prevail upon them ever to sue any person at law, for either name, character, estate, or any debt, be it ever so just: They are industrious, sober, temperate, kind, charitable people, envying not the great, nor despising the mean:: They read much, they sing and pray much, they are constant attendants upon the worship of God; their dwellinghouses are all houses of prayer: They walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless both in public and private: They bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: No noise of rudeness, shameless mirth, loud, vain laughter, is heard within their doors: The law of kindness is in their mouths; no sourness, or moroseness, disgraces their religion; and whatsoever they believe their Savior commands, they practice, without inquiring or regarding what others do.

...Rev. Morgan Edwards...once said to me, "God will always have a visible people on earth; and these are his people at present, above any other in the world."

Source: "Historical Notes" by Roger Sappington in Brethren Life and Thought, Spring 1957