Commission to Rev. Michael Schlatter

The Commission and Instructions Given to Rev. Michael Schlatter by the Amsterdam Classis Prior to His Leaving for the Colony of Pennsylvania in 1746 [1]

The Classis deputies gave Rev. Schlatter the following:

1. An introduction to the German Reformed Church of Pennsylvania, giving his reasons for being sent thither.

a. Because originally the settlers in Pennsylvania were from the Palatinate and Switzerland, to which two countries Holland was under the greatest obligations of gratitude, because from them the light of the Gospel first streamed to Holland.

b. Because the Pennsylvania congregations are attached so loyally to their time honored Reformed faith, and

c. because Pennsylvania would become thus a safe asylum for the oppressed brethren of their faith of Europe when driven out by persecution.

Then they gave two reasons for not being able to do something for Pennsylvania before.

1. They could not get a clear idea about the Church in Pennsylvania.

2. Because they had hitherto lacked a suitable German minister, although they had sought for one for fifteen years since 1731. They then say that they believe they have found a proper person in Rev. Michael Schlatter, one of the 26 ministers of St. Gall. He was of good family, well educated, understanding Hebrew, Greek, German, Dutch and French. After being admitted as a candidate to the ministry in 1739 he had visited the five great universities of Holland and the principal Protestant universities of Germany. He was willing, because of the great need of Pennsylvania, to go there, and they recommend them to give him a cordial reception.

2. They also gave Schlatter the following instructions about his work in Pennsylvania:

1. He was to organize the ministers and congregations into a coetus, which should meet annually.

a. It should subscribe to the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort with heart and voice.

b. It should consider the concerns of the Church, the members being appointed president and secretary in rotation, beginning with the oldest. {24}

c. It should correspond with the deputies of the synods of Holland, and render reports of their work as a coetus. The deputies allow Schlatter half a year as a sufficient time in which to do this. After that he was to take charge of a congregation.

2. He was to fulfill the duties of a church officer known in Holland as the visitor extraordinary. He was to visit the congregations and find out their condition, how many members each congregation had, whether they were steadfast in the faith, whether they paid a fixed salary to their minister and how. (The deputies say they were willing to aid the congregations in Pennsylvania, but they were not willing to divert the money which was already used to aid more than a hundred Reformed congregations in various parts of the world.)

3. Where there was no congregation as yet, he was to gather the most intelligent and zealous Reformed together, and learn how much money they would be willing to raise for the salary of a minister, and also how much they would pay toward building a church. He was then to install elders and deacons in those churches.

4. He was to ascertain how the 130 Bibles sent over to Pennsylvania in 1742 had been distributed. He was also to bring the money accounts of Reiff to a desirable settlement.

5. At the end of the first half year he was to hold a coetus, act as president and send a faithful account of its proceedings to Holland. That having been done, he was to take charge of a congregation and become pastor. They gave him money only for his traveling expenses and for half a year’s work, but hoped that the Dutch and the Swiss churches would contribute toward this worthy cause. This instruction was dated May 23, 1746, and was signed by all the deputies. They placed in his hand a passport of both the Dutch and English governments, and committed him into the hands of Him who rules the wind and the waves. He sailed from Amsterdam, June l, 1746, on his mission to, complete the organization of the Pennsylvania Reformed Church, by organizing the coetus. {25}

[1] Quoted from J. I. Good, op. cit., pp. 305-308.

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