The Communistic Societies of the United States, by Charles Nordhoff, , at sacred-texts.com
"If one gives himself entirely, and in all his life, to the will of God, he will presently be possessed by the Spirit of God."
"The Bible is the Word of God; each prophet or sacred writer wrote only what he received from God."
"In the New Testament we read that the disciples were 'filled with the Holy Ghost.' But the same God lives now, and it is reasonable to believe that he inspires his followers now as then; and that he will lead his people, in these days as in those, by the words of his inspiration."
"He leads us in spiritual matters, and in those temporal concerns which affect our spiritual life; but we do not look to him for inspired directions in all the minute affairs of our daily lives. Inspiration directed us to come to America, and to leave Eben-Ezer for Iowa. Inspiration sometimes directs us to admit a new-comer to full membership, and sometimes to expel an unworthy member. Inspiration discovers hidden sins in the congregation."
"We have no creed except the Bible."
"We ought to live retired and spiritual lives; to keep ourselves separate from the world; to cultivate humility, obedience to God's will, faithfulness, and love to Christ."
"Christ is our head."
Such are some of the expressions of their religious belief which the pious and well-instructed at Amana gave me.
They have published two Catechisms—one for the instruction of children, the other for the use of older persons. From these it appears that they are Trinitarians, believe in "justification by faith," hold to the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, but not to eternal punishment, believing rather that fire will purify the wicked in the course of time, longer or shorter according to their wickedness.
They do not practice baptism, either infant or adult, holding it to be a useless ceremony not commanded in the New Testament. They celebrate the Lord's Supper, not at regular periods, but only when by the words of "inspiration" God orders them to do so; and then with peculiar ceremonies, which I shall describe further on.
As to this word "Inspiration," I quote here from the Catechism their definition of it:
"Question. Is it therefore the Spirit or the witness of Jesus which speaks and bears witness through the truly inspired persons?
"Answer. Yes; the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Jesus, which
brings to light the hidden secrets of the heart, and gives witness to our spirits that it is the Spirit of truth.
"Q. When did the work of inspiration begin in the later times?
"A. About the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century. About this time the Lord began the gracious work of inspiration in several countries (France, England, and, at last, in Germany), gathered a people by these new messengers of peace, and declared a divine sentence of punishment against the fallen Christian world.
"Q. How were these 'instruments' or messengers called?
"A. Inspired or new prophets. They were living trumpets of God, which shook the whole of Christendom, and awakened many out of their sleep of security."
* * * * *
"Q. What is the word of inspiration?
"A. It is the prophetic word of the New Testament, or the Spirit of prophecy in the new dispensation.
"Q. What properties and marks of divine origin has this inspiration?
"A. It is accompanied by a divine power, and reveals the secrets of the heart and conscience in a way which only the all-knowing and soul-penetrating Spirit of Jesus has power to do; it opens the ways of love and grace, of the holiness and justice of God; and these revelations and declarations are in their proper time accurately fulfilled.
"Q. Through whom is the Spirit thus poured out?
"A. Through the vessels of grace, or 'instruments' chosen and fitted by the Lord.
"Q. How must these 'instruments' be constituted?
"A. They must conform themselves in humility and child-like obedience to all the motions and directions of God within them; without care for self or fear of men, they must walk in the fear of God, and with attentive watchfulness for the inner
signs of his leading; and they must subject themselves in every way to the discipline of the Spirit."
Concerning the Constitution of the Inspiration Congregations or communities, the same Catechism asserts that it "is founded upon the divine revelation in the Old and New Testament, connected with the divine directions, instructions, and determinations, general and special, given through the words of the true inspiration."
"Question. Through or by whom are the divine ordinances carried out in the congregations?
"Answer. By the elders and leaders, who have been chosen and nominated to this purpose by God.
"Q. What are their duties?
"A. Every leader or elder of the congregation is in duty bound, by reason of his divine call, to advance, in the measure of the grace and power given him, the spiritual and temporal welfare of the congregation; but in important and difficult circumstances the Spirit of prophecy will give the right and correct decision.
"Q. Is the divine authority to bind and loose, entrusted, according to Matt, xvi., 19, to the apostle Peter, also given to the elders of the Inspiration Congregations?
"A. It belongs to all elders and teachers of the congregation of the faithful, who were called by the Lord Jesus through the power of his Holy Spirit, and who, by the authority of their divine call, and of the divine power within them, rule without abuse the congregations or flocks entrusted to them.
"Q. What are the duties of the members of the Inspiration Congregations?
"A. A pure and upright walk in the fear of God; heartfelt love and devotion toward their brethren, and childlike obedience toward God and the elders."
These are the chief articles of faith of the Amana Community.
They regard the utterances, while in the trance state, of their spiritual head as given from God; and believe—as is asserted in the Catechism—that evils and wrongs in the congregation will be thus revealed by the influence, or, as they say, the inspiration or breath of God; that in important affairs they will thus receive the divine direction; and that it is their duty to obey the commands thus delivered to them.
There were "inspired instruments" before Christian Metz. Indeed, the present "instrument," Barbara Landmann, was accepted before him, but by reason of her marriage fell from grace for a while. It would seem that Metz also was married; for I was told at Amana that at his death in 1867, at the age of sixty-seven, he left a daughter in the community.
The words of "inspiration" are usually delivered in the public meetings, and at funerals and other solemn occasions. They have always been carefully written down by persons specially appointed to that office; and this appears to have been done so long ago as 1719, when "Brother John Frederick Rock" made his journey through Constance, Schaffhausen, Zurich, etc., with "Brother J. J. Schulthes as writer, who wrote down every thing correctly, from day to day, and in weal or woe."
When the "instrument" "falls into inspiration," he is often severely shaken—Metz, they say, sometimes shook for an hour—and thereupon follow the utterances which are believed to proceed from God. The "instrument" sits or kneels, or walks about among the congregation. "Brother Metz used to walk about in the meeting with his eyes closed; but he always knew to whom he was speaking, or where to turn with words of reproof, admonition, or encouragement"—so I was told.
The "inspired" words are not always addressed to the general congregation, but often to individual members; and their feelings are not spared. Thus in one case Barbara Landmann, being "inspired," turned upon a sister with the words,
[paragraph continues] "But you, wretched creature, follow the true counsel of obedience;" and to another: "And you, contrary spirit, how much pain do you give to our hearts. You will fall into everlasting pain, torture, and unrest if you do not break your will and repent, so that you may be accepted and forgiven by those you have offended, and who have done so much for you."
The warnings, prophecies, reproofs, and admonitions, thus delivered by the "inspired instrument," are all, as I have said, carefully written down, and in convenient time printed in yearly volumes, entitled "Year-Books of the True Inspiration Congregations: Witnesses of the Spirit of God, which happened and were spoken in the Meetings of the Society, through the Instruments, Brother Christian Metz and Sister B. Landmann," with the year in which they were delivered. In this country they early established a printing-press at Eben-Ezer, and after their removal also in Iowa, and have issued a considerable number of volumes of these records. They are read as of equal authority and almost equal importance with the Bible. Every family possesses some volumes; and in their meetings extracts are read aloud after the reading of the Scriptures.
There is commonly a brief preface to each revelation, recounting the circumstances under which it was delivered; as for instance:
"No. 10. Lower Eben-Ezer, November 7, 1853.—Monday morning the examination of the congregation was made here according to the command of the Lord. For the opening service five verses were sung of the hymn, 'Lord, give thyself to me;' the remainder of the hymn was read. After the prayer, and a brief silence, Sister Barbara Landmann fell into inspiration, and was forced to bear witness in the following gracious and impressive revival words of love."
The phrase varies with the contents of the message, as, on another occasion, it is written that "both 'instruments' fell into
inspiration, and there followed this earnest admonition to repentance, and words of warning;" or, again, the words are described as "important," or "severe," or "gentle and gracious and hope inspiring."
During his wanderings in Germany among the congregations, Metz appears to have fallen into inspiration almost daily, not only in meetings, but during conversations, and even occasionally at dinner—whereupon the dinner waited. Thus it is recorded that "at the Rehmühle, near Hambach, June 1, 1839—this afternoon the traveling brethren with Brother Peter came hither and visited friend Matthias Bieber. After conversation, as they were about to sit down to eat something, Brother Christian Metz fell into inspiration, and delivered the following words to his friend, and Brother Philip Peter."
The inspired utterances are for the most part admonitory to a holier life; warnings, often in the severest language, against selfishness, stubbornness, coldness of heart, pride, hatred toward God, grieving the Spirit; with threats of the wrath of God, of punishment, etc. Humility and obedience are continually inculcated. "Lukewarmness" appears to be one of the prevailing sins of the community. It is needless to say that to a stranger these homilies are dull reading. Concerning violations of the Ten Commandments or of the moral law, I have not found any mention here; and I do not doubt that the members of the society live, on the whole, uncommonly blameless lives. I asked, for instance, what punishment their rules provided for drunkenness, but was told that this vice is not found among them; though, as at Economy and in other German communities, they habitually use both wine and beer.
When any member offends against the rules or order of life of the society, he is admonished (ermahnt) by the elders; and if he does not amend his ways, expulsion follows; and
here as elsewhere in the communities I have visited, they seem vigilantly to purge the society of improper persons.
The following twenty-one "Rules for Daily Life," printed in one of their collections, and written by one of their older leaders, E. L. Gruber, give, I think, a tolerably accurate notion of their views of the conduct of life:
"I. To obey, without reasoning, God, and through God our superiors.
"II. To study quiet, or serenity, within and without.
"III. Within, to rule and master your thoughts.
"IV. Without, to avoid all unnecessary words, and still to study silence and quiet.
"V. To abandon self, with all its desires, knowledge, and power.
"VI. Do not criticize others, either for good or evil, neither to judge nor to imitate them; therefore contain yourself, remain at home, in the house and in your heart.
"VII. Do not disturb your serenity or peace of mind—hence neither desire nor grieve.
"VIII. Live in love and pity toward your neighbor, and indulge neither anger nor impatience in your spirit.
"IX. Be honest, sincere, and avoid all deceit and even secretiveness.
"X. Count every word, thought, and work as done in the immediate presence of God, in sleeping and waking, eating, drinking, etc., and give him at once an account of it, to see if all is done in his fear and love.
"XI. Be in all things sober, without levity or laughter; and without vain and idle words, works, or thoughts; much less heedless or idle.
"XII. Never think or speak of God without the deepest reverence, fear, and love, and therefore deal reverently with all spiritual things.
"XIII. Bear all inner and outward sufferings in silence,
complaining only to God; and accept all from him in deepest reverence and obedience.
"XIV. Notice carefully all that God permits to happen to you in your inner and outward life, in order that you may not fail to comprehend his will and to be led by it.
"XV. Have nothing to do with unholy, and particularly with needless business affairs.
"XVI. Have no intercourse with worldly-minded men; never seek their society; speak little with them, and never without need; and then not without fear and trembling.
"XVII. Therefore, what you have to do with such men, do in haste; do not waste time in public places and worldly society, that you be not tempted and led away.
"XVIII. Fly from the society of women-kind as much as possible, as a very highly dangerous magnet and magical fire.
"XIX. Avoid obeisance and the fear of men; these are dangerous ways.
"XX. Dinners, weddings, feasts, avoid entirely; at the best there is sin.
"XXI. Constantly practice abstinence and temperance, so that you may be as wakeful after eating as before."
These rules may, I suppose, be regarded as the ideal standard toward which a pious Inspirationist looks and works. Is it not remarkable that they should have originated and found their chief adherents among peasants and poor weavers?
Their usual religious meetings are held on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, and every evening. On Saturday, all the people of a village assemble together in the church or meeting-house; on other days they meet in smaller rooms, and by classes or orders.
The society consists of three of these orders—the highest, the middle, and the lower, or children's order. In the latter fall naturally the youth of both sexes, but also those older and married persons whose religions life and experience are not
deep enough to make them worthy of membership in the higher orders.
The evening meeting opens a little after seven o'clock. It is held in a large room specially maintained for this purpose. I accompanied one of the brethren, by permission, to these meetings during my stay at Amana. I found a large, low-ceiled room, dimly lighted by a single lamp placed on a small table at the head of the room, and comfortably warmed with stoves. Benches without backs were placed on each side of this chamber; the floor was bare, but clean; and hither entered, singly, or by twos or threes, the members, male and female, each going to the proper place without noise. The men sat on one side, the women on the other. At the table sat an elderly man, of intelligent face and a look of some authority. Near him were two or three others.
When all had entered and were seated, the old man at the table gave out a hymn, reading out one line at a time; and after two verses were sung in this way, he read the remaining ones. Then, after a moment of decorous and not unimpressive silent meditation, all at a signal rose and kneeled down at their places. Hereupon the presiding officer uttered a short prayer in verse, and after him each man in his turn, beginning with the elders, uttered a similar verse of prayer, usually four, and sometimes six lines long. When all the men and boys had thus prayed—and their little verses were very pleasant to listen to, the effect being of childlike simplicity—the presiding elder closed with a brief extemporary prayer, whereupon all arose.
Then he read some verses from one of their inspired books, admonishing to a good life; and also a brief homily from one of Christian Metz's inspired utterances. Thereupon all arose, and stood in their places in silence for a moment; and then, in perfect order and silence, and with a kind of military precision, benchful after benchful of people walked softly out of
the room. The women departed first; and each went home, I judge, without delay or tarrying in the hall, for when I got out the hall was already empty.
The next night the women prayed instead of the men, the presiding officer conducting the meeting as before. I noticed that the boys and younger men had their places on the front seats; and the whole meeting was conducted with the utmost reverence and decorum.
On Wednesday and Sunday mornings the different orders meet at the same hour, each in its proper assembly-room. These are larger than those devoted to the evening meetings. The Wednesday-morning meeting began at half-past seven, and lasted until nine. There was, as in the evening meetings, a very plain deal table at the head, and benches, this time with backs, were ranged in order, the sexes sitting by themselves as before; each person coming in with a ponderous hymn-book, and a Bible in a case. The meeting opened with the singing of six verses of a hymn, the leader reading the remaining verses. Many of their hymns have from ten to fourteen verses. Next he read some passages from one of the inspirational utterances of Metz; after which followed prayer, each man, as in the evening meetings, repeating a little supplicatory verse. The women did not join in this exercise.
Then the congregation got out their Bibles, the leader gave out the fifth chapter of Ephesians, and each man read a verse in his turn; then followed a psalm; and the women read those verses which remained after all the men had read. After this the leader read some further passages from Metz. After the reading of the New Testament chapter and the psalm, three of the leaders, who sat near the table at the head of the room, briefly spoke upon the necessity of living according to the words of God, doing good works and avoiding evil. Their exhortations were very simple, and without any attempt at eloquence, in a conversational tone.
Finally another hymn was sung; the leader pronounced a blessing, and we all returned home, the men and women going about the duties of the day.
On Saturday morning the general meeting is held in the church. The congregation being then more numerous, the brethren do not all pray, but only the elders; as in the other meetings, a chapter from the New Testament is read and commented upon by the elders; also passages are read from the inspired utterances of Metz or some other of their prophets; and at this time, too, the "instrument," if moved, falls into a trance, and delivers the will of the Holy Spirit.
They keep New-Year's as a holiday, and Christmas, Easter, and the Holy-week are their great religions festivals. Christmas is a three days' celebration, when they make a feast in the church; there are no Christmas-trees for the children, but they receive small gifts. Most of the feast days are kept double—that is to say, during two days. During the Passion-week they have a general meeting in the church every day at noon, and on each day the chapter appropriate to it is read, and followed by prayer and appropriate hymns. The week ends, of course, on Sunday with the ascension; but on Easter Monday, which is also kept, the children receive colored eggs.
At least once in every year there is a general and minute "Untersuchung," or inquisition of the whole community, including even the children—an examination of its spiritual condition. This is done by classes or orders, beginning with the elders themselves: and I judge from the relations of this ceremony in their printed books that it lasts long, and is intended to be very thorough. Each member is expected to make confession of his sins, faults, and shortcomings; and if any thing is hidden, they believe that it will be brought to light by the inspired person, who assumes on this occasion an important part, admonishing individuals very freely, and denouncing the sins and evils which exist in the congregation. At this time,
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CHURCH AT AMANA.
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INTERIOR VIEW OF CHURCH.
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PLAN OF THE INSPIRATIONIST VILLAGES.
too, any disputes which may have occurred are brought up and healed, and an effort is made to revive religious fervor in the hearts of all.
Not unfrequently the examination of a class is adjourned from day to day, because they are found to be cold and unimpressible; and I notice that on these occasions the young people in particular are a cause of much grief and trouble on account of their perverse hardness of heart.
The celebration of the Lord's Supper is their greatest religious event. It is held only when the "inspired instrument" directs it, which may not happen once in two years; and it is thought so solemn and important an occasion that a full account of it is sometimes printed in a book. I have one such volume: "Das Liebes- und Gedächtniszmahl des Leidens und Sterbens unsers Herrn und Heilandes Jesu Christi, wie solches von dem Herrn durch Sein Wort und zeugnisz angekündigt, angeordnet und gehalten warden, in Vier Abtheilungen, zu Mittel und Nieder Eben-Ezer, im Jahr 1855" ("The Supper of Love and Remembrance of the suffering and death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: How it was announced, ordered, and held by his word and witness, in four parts, in Middle and Lower Eben-Ezer, in the year 1855"). It is a neatly printed volume of 284 pages.
The account begins with the announcement of the Lord's command: "Middle Eben-Ezer, April 21st, 1855, Saturday, in the general meeting, in the beginning, when the congregation was assembled, came the following gracious word and determination of the Lord, through Brother Chr. Metz." Thereupon, after some words of preface, the "instrument" kneeled down, the congregation also kneeling, and said: "I am commanded humbly to reveal, according to the sacred and loving conclusion, that you are to celebrate the supper of love and remembrance in the presence of your God. The beginning and the course of it shall be as before. There will be on this
occasion humiliations and revelations, if in any the true Worker of righteousness and repentance has not been allowed to do his work. The Lord will make a representation of the lack of his understanding in many of you; his great love will come to light, and will light up every one." After more of this kind of address, the "instrument" said: "You are to begin the Lord's Supper on Ascension-day, make ready then all your hearts, clean out all filth, all that is rotten and stinks, all sins and every thing idle and useless; and cherish pious thoughts, so that you shall put down the flesh, as you are commanded to," and so on.
On a following Sunday, the "instrument" recurred to the subject, and in the course of his remarks reproved one of the elders for disobedience to the Lord and resistance to grace, and displaced him in the assembly, calling another by name to his place. At the close, he spoke thus, evidently in the name and with the voice of God: "And I leave it to you, my servants, to take out of the middle order here and there some into the first, and out of the third into the second, but not according to favor and prejudice, but according to their grace and conduct, of which you are to take notice."
A day was given to admonitions and preparation; the "instrument" speaking not only to the congregation in general, in the morning and afternoon meetings, but to a great many in particular—admonishing, exhorting, blaming, encouraging them by name. The next morning there was a renewal of such hortatory remarks, with singing and prayer; and in the afternoon, all being prepared, the elders washed the feet of the brethren. This is done only in the higher orders.
Thereupon tables are brought in, and bread and wine are placed. After singing, the "inspired" person blesses these, and they are then received by the brethren and sisters from the hands of the elders, who pronounce the customary words of Scripture.
This being accomplished, the assembly temporarily adjourns, and persons previously appointed for this office spread on the tables a modest supper of bread and cake, coffee, chocolate, and a few other articles of food, and to this all sit down with solemn joy. At the conclusion of this meal, a hymn is sung, and the assembly retire to their homes.
When the three regular orders have gone through this celebration, there is a fourth, consisting of children under sixteen years, and of certain adult members who for various reasons have been thought unworthy to partake with the rest; and these also go through a thorough examination.
I asked one of their leading elders whether they believed in a "prayer-cure," explaining what the Oneida communists understand by this phrase. He replied, "No, we do not use prayer in this way, to cure disease. But it is possible. But if God has determined death, ten doctors cannot help a man."
The present inspired instrument being very aged, I asked whether another was ready to take her place. They said No, no one had yet appeared; but they had no doubt God would call some one to the necessary office. They were willing to trust him, and gave themselves no trouble about it.
It remains to speak of their literature.
They have a somewhat ponderous hymnology, in two great volumes, one called "The Voice from Zion: to the Praise of the Almighty," by "John William Petersen (A.D. 1698)," printed at Eben-Ezer, N. Y., in 1851, and containing 958 pages. The hymns are called Psalms, and are not in rhyme. They are to be sung in a kind of chant, as I judge from the music prefixed to them; and are a kind of commentary on the Scripture, one part being taken up with the book of Revelation.
The other volume is the hymn-book in regular use. It contains 1285 pages, of which 111 are music—airs to which the different hymns may be sung. The copy I have is of the third
edition, and bears the imprint, "Amana, Iowa, 1871." Its title is "Psalms after the manner of David, for the children of Zion." It has one peculiarity which might with advantage be introduced in other hymn-books. Occasional verses are marked with a *, and it is recommended to the reader that these be taught to the children as little prayers. In practice, I found that in their evening meetings the grown persons as well as the children recited these simple and devotional little verses as their prayers: surely a more satisfactory delivery to them and the congregation than rude and halting attempts at extemporary utterance.
Many of the hymns are very long, having from twelve to twenty-four verses; and it is usual at their meetings to sing three or four verses and then read the remainder. They do not sing well; and their tunes—those at least which I heard—are slow, and apparently in a style of music now disused in our churches. The hymns are printed as prose, only the verses being separated. I was told that they were "all given by the Spirit of God," and that Christian Metz had a great gift of hymn-writing, very often, at home or elsewhere, writing down an entire hymn at one sitting. They are all deeply devotional in spirit, and have not infrequently the merit of great simplicity and a pleasing quaintness of expression, of which I think the German language is more capable than our ruder and more stubborn English.
Their writers are greatly given to rhyming. Even in the inspirational utterances I find frequently short admonitory paragraphs where rude rhymes are introduced. Among their books is one, very singular, called "Innocent Amusement" ("Unschuldiges Zeitvertreib"), in a number of volumes (I saw the fifth). It is a collection of verses, making pious applications of many odd subjects. Among the headings I found Cooking, Rain, Milk, The Ocean, Temperance, Salve, Dinner, A Mast, Fog, A Net, Pitch, A Rainbow, A Kitchen, etc., etc.
[paragraph continues] It is a mass of pious doggerel, founded on Scripture and with fanciful additions.
Another is called "Jesus's A B C, for his scholars," and is also in rhyme. Another is entitled "Rhymes on the sufferings, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ." There are about twelve hundred pages of the A B C book.
They have printed also a miniature Thomas à Kempis, "for the edification of children;" two catechisms; a little work entitled "Treasure for those who desire God," and other works of similar character. A list, not complete, but containing all the books I have been able to collect, will be found in the Bibliography at the end of this volume.
At the end of the Catechism are some pages of rules for the conduct of children, at home, in church, at school, during play hours, at meals, and in all the relations of their lives. Many of these rules are excellent, and the whole of them might well be added to the children's catechisms in use in the churches. Piety, orderly habits, obedience, politeness, cleanliness, kindness to others, truthfulness, cheerfulness, etc., are all inculcated in considerable detail, with great plainness of speech, and in sixty-six short paragraphs, easily comprehended by the youngest children. The fifty-fourth rule shows the care with which they guard the intercourse of the sexes: "Have no pleasure in violent games or plays; do not wait on the road to look at quarrels or fights; do not keep company with bad children, for there you will learn only wickedness. Also, do not play with children of the other sex."