The New International Encyclopædia/Muhlenberg, Heinrich Melchior

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MUHLENBERG, Heinrich Melchior (1711-87). The founder of American Lutheranism. He was born at Eimbeck, Prussia, September 6, 1711. His parents were Saxon, but having suffered greatly in the Thirty Years' War, removed to Eimbeck. The death of his father in his twelfth year threw the family into poverty and occasioned an interruption of his studies, and till his twenty-first year he toiled incessantly to assist in the support of the family. In 1735 he entered the University of Göttingen, where he remained three years. Graduating at Göttingen, he went to Halle in 1738, where, besides studying, he taught in the orphan house. He associated intimately with Francke, Cellarius, and Fabricius. Soon after his ordination application came to Germany from Pennsylvania for some one to be sent to labor among the destitute Lutherans of that colony. The faculty immediately selected Muhlenberg, who was then in his thirty-first year. He accepted the appointment, and the better to qualify himself went to London, where he acquired facility in the use of English. He reached America in 1742, to the great joy of the German Christians. His arrival marked a new era in the history of the Lutheran Church in the United States, its condition gradually improved, and frequent accessions were made to the ranks of the ministry of men educated at Halle and thoroughly devoted to their work. He took the pastoral care of the associated churches of Philadelphia, New Hanover, and New Providence (now Trappe, some 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia), which had united in calling a minister, and these three congregations were the principal scenes of his ministerial labors. The first three years of his ministry he resided in Philadelphia, the next sixteen in New Providence. In 1761 he removed to Philadeljihia, but in 1776 went back to New Providence. During the War of the Revolution his sympathy with the colonists excited great opposition, and his life was often in peril. Consult his autobiography to 1743 (in German) edited by Germann (Altoona, 1881), and his Life by Mann (Philadelphia, 1887), and Frick (Philadelphia, 1902); also Oschsenford, Muhlenberg College, a Quarter-Centennial Memorial Volume (Allentown, 1892).