Schwenkfeldians, or Sehwenkfelders

Schwenkfeldians, Or Sehwenkfelders, a religious sect in the 16th century deriving its name from Kaspar Schwenkfeld (q.v.). He often declared his unwillingness to form a separate sect, but after his death numbers who had embraced his views were subjected to severe persecution, especially from the Lutheran clergy. In 1719 the Jesuits endeavored to effect the conversion of this people, but, failing, they reduced them to slavery. They fled into Lusatia and other parts of Saxony; but protection being withdrawn there after eight years (1734), a number of them emigrated to Altona, Denmark. Many others, by the permission of the English govenment, came to Pennsylvania; and though in 1742 they were all invited back to Silesia, with the promise of the return of their estates and the full enjoyment of toleration, none could ever be induced to return. They celebrated their arrival in Pennsylvania by a "festival in grateful memory of all mercies and divine favors manifested to them by the Father of mercies." They still continue to celebrate the anniversary. Reference to the peculiarities of doctrine is made in the article SCHWENKFELD SEE SCHWENKFELD (q.v.). This sect has a service in reference to infants unknown among other religious bodies. As soon as a child is born, a preacher is called in to pray for its happiness and prosperity, exhorting the parents to bring it up in the fear of the Lord. A similar service is held in the church as soon as the mother is able to attend with the child. In their government they are Congregational, electing annually the minister, trustees, and other officers of their Church. They choose their pastors by lot, instructing them in their duties if uneducated when chosen. They number about 300 families, from 800 to 1000 communicants, 5 ministers, and as many churches. The language for social intercourse and private worship is German.

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