Carolina - The Lutherans

First in North Carolina at New Bern, then in South Carolina during the Royal Period

On October 31, 1731, the Catholic ruler of Salzburg, Austria, Archbishop Leopold von Firmian, issued an edict expelling as many as 20,000 Lutherans from his principality. Many propertyless Lutherans, given only eight days to leave their homes, froze to death as they drifted through the winter seeking sanctuary. The wealthier ones who were allowed three months to dispose of their property fared better. Some of these Salzburgers reached London, from whence they sailed to the English colonies in the New World. Others found new homes in the Netherlands and East Prussia.


In 1707, a small band of Lutherans, from the Palatinate, embarked for America. They landed at Philadelphia and settled in what is now known as Morris County. In the spring of the following year, another company of fifty-two Palatines, joined by three Holsteiners, went to England and appealed to Queen Anne, praying for transportation to America. The majority of these men were farmers and one was a Lutheran clergyman, Kockerthal; on arriving in the colonies in the winter of 1709, they were settled in the district then known as Quassaick Creek and Thankskamir (part of the territory of the present Newburgh).

Another, and far more extensive, migration took place in the same year and the following; about three thousand Palatines landed in America, by way of England. The severities of the winter of 1708-09 seem to have been the chief cause of this exodus. One company, under Christoph von Graffenried and Franz Ludwig Michel (aka Lewis Mitchell), settled at the junction of the Neuse River and the Trent River in what is present-day North Carolina. This colony included a considerable number of Swiss, and to their first settlement they gave the name, New Bern, in memory of the native city of the two Swiss partners, von Graffenried and Michel.


Lutherans, the religious belief held by the oldest and, in Europe, the most numerous of the Protestant sects, was founded by the Wittenberg reformer, Martin Luther. The term Lutheran was first used by his opponents during the Leipzig Disputation in 1519, and afterwards became universally prevalent. Luther preferred the designation "Evangelical," and today the usual title of the sect is "Evangelical Lutheran Church." In Germany, where the Lutherans and the Reformed have united (since 1817), the name Lutheran has been abandoned, and the state Church is styled the Evangelical or the Evangelical United.

In doctrine, official Lutheranism is part of what is called orthodox Protestantism, since it agrees with the Catholic and the Greek Churches in accepting the authority of the Scriptures and of the three most ancient creeds (the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed). Besides these formulæ of belief, Lutheranism acknowledges six specific confessions, which distinguish it from other churches:

* the unaltered Augsburg Confession (1530),
* the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531),
* Luther's Large Catechism (1529),
* Luther's Catechism for Children (1529),
* the Articles of Smalkald (1537), and
* the Form of Concord (1577).

These nine symbolical books (including the three Creeds) constitute what is known as the "Book of Concord," which was first published at Dresden in 1580 by order of Elector Augustus of Saxony. In these confessions the Scriptures are declared to be the only rule of faith. The extent of the Canon is not defined, but the Bibles in common use among Lutherans have been generally the same as those of other Protestant denominations. The symbols and the other writings not contained in Scripture do not possess decisive authority, but merely show how the Scriptures were understood and explained at particular times by the leading theologians.

The chief tenet of the Lutheran creed, that which Luther called "the article of the standing and falling Church," has reference to the justification of sinful man. Original sin is explained as a positive and total depravity of human nature, which renders all the acts of the unjustified, even those of civil righteousness, sinful and displeasing to God. Justification, which is not an internal change, but an external, forensic declaration by which God imputes to the creature the righteousness of Christ, comes only by faith, which is the confidence that one is reconciled to God through Christ. Good works are necessary as an exercise of faith, and are rewarded, not by justification (which they presuppose), but by the fulfilment of the Divine promises.

Lutherans were among the earliest European settlers on the North American continent. Their first representatives came from Holland to the Dutch colony of New Netherlands about 1624. Under Governor Stuyvesant they were obliged to conform to the Reformed services, but freedom of worship was obtained when New Amsterdam (New York) was captured by the English in 1664.

The second distinct body of Lutherans in America arrived from Sweden in 1637. Two years later they had a minister and organized at Fort Christina (now Wilmington, Delaware), the first Lutheran congregation in the New World.

After 1771, the Swedes of Delaware and Pennsylvania dissolved their union with the Mother Church of Sweden. As they had no English-speaking ministers, they chose their pastors from the Episcopalian Church. Since 1846 these congregations have declared full communion with the Episcopalians.

The first colony of German Lutherans was from the Palatinate. They arrived in 1693 and founded Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia. During the eighteenth century large numbers of Lutheran emigrants from Alsace, the Palatinate, and Würtemberg settled along the Hudson River.

On the Atlantic coast, in New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina were many isolated groups of German Lutherans. The first German settlement in South Carolina was in 1731, at Purrysburg on the Savannah River. A colony of Lutherans from Salzburg founded the settlement of Ebenezer, Georgia, in 1734. In Eastern Pennsylvania about 30,000 German Lutherans had settled before the middle of the eighteenth century. Three of their congregations applied to Europe for ministers, and Count Zinzendorf became pastor in Philadelphia in 1741.


 


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