Jacob Gross and Christian Gross Deathbed Farewell Letters

from Chapter 2 of

Deep Run Mennonite Church East– A 250 Year Pilgrimage

Bishop Jacob Gross Farewell Letter

Bishop Jacob Gross, who with others advised Canadian Mennonites from Bucks County concerning ordinations in 180I, also wrote a farewell letter to the congregations of Deep Run, Blooming Glen, and Doylestown in 1810 before his death on December 12, 1810. This letter reproduced below demonstrates Jacob’s love for the church and something of the piety of the times that is also reflected later in his son Preacher Christian Gross.

My last sincere words to the Church, whom I must now leave, among whom I, as an unworthy servant, preached the word, especially the churches at Deep Run, Perkasie [Blooming Glen], and New Britain [Doylestown]. Brethren and sisters and others: I embrace you in the arms of love, precious, blood-bought souls; I regret that I must leave you under the circumstances of which the Lord spake; and because iniquity shall abound~ the love of many shall wax cold, but he that shall endure to the end shall be saved, Matt. 24:12. 0 love! 0 indispensable love to God and His word, how little room findest thou in the human heart towards Thee and Thy Word, towards friend and foe! 0 love of the world! 0 lust of the eye, and lust of the flesh! 0 pride of life, how high hast thou risen up! But farewell! This is my last admonition to you, written with my dying hand, therefore repent; come diligently to the public meeting and hear the word of God; love your teachers and ministers, so shall both they and you be strengthened, and if not, the candlestick shall be taken away altogether. No more. Any brother who is able to read so that he may be understood by all, may read this before the Church, as it is of interest to all of them.

December 7th, 1810. Jacob Gross

Preacher Christian Gross

Preacher Christian Gross, a son of Bishop Jacob and Mary Krall Gross of Deep Run, was born December 24, 1776. He married Barbara Wismer on April 26, 1803, after which he settled in Plumstead Township, Bucks County. He died July 22,

A Pilgrimage Through Fire, 1800 – 1865

1865. Christian was ordained preacher at Deep Run by 1834. His brother Daniel was ordained a deacon at Deep Run, a brother John K. a preacher at Doylestown, and a brother Jacob a preacher and then a bishop in Ontario, Canada.47
During his life, he wrote a number of letters. Although the addressee is not always identified, they appear to have been sent at times to his brother, Preacher Jacob Gross, and others in Ontario. Some of the spiritual themes that appear in his letters emphasize the powerfulness o f God and the helplessness o f man, the fleeting nature of life and our need to be ready for death, the need to call sinners to repentance, and the struggle of love for the things of the world versus love for the things of God. Frequently in his letters Christian Gross appeared somewhat burdened or pessimistic. Some of that may have been due to some of the experiences, he and the church must have gone through before, during, and after the split at Deep Run in 1847.

As an example of the piety of Christian Gross, a portion of a letter written in 1853 is reproduced below.

Compelled by love I am undertaking to write a little to you because we are passing through this vale of misery and are not likely to see one another again for I do know that the time of my departure is at hand and I have nothing as a source of comfort except for God’s grace and mercy if He will go with me into Judgement. I as a poor sinner could not stand up against Him, so it is my wish and prayer that He the Prince of the Sheep might in His goodness let His light shine upon us and illuminate the way for us with His divine light, so that we might be able to pass through this wilderness of the world where so many temptations beset us. I shall finally pass through Jordan, that is to say death, into the heavenly abode or the glorious eternity where peace and joy will be eternal, where there is no separation or division or any separation from peace, this is what I am wishing for myself and for you and indeed to all people in and through Jesus Christ. Amen.

In an earlier letter in 1834, Christian gave advice to his brother Jacob Gross of Ontario who had recently been ordained a minister. Christian encouraged Jacob to serve with humility, realizing that without God we can do nothing. We can develop or quench our talents depending on whether we are obedient or disobedient to God. In preaching, a few words with the power of the Spirit will bring forth more fruit than a “decorated sermon or many words.” We need also to be a pattern for the flock. Additionally, he wrote that “it is ‘a hard office’ especially here with the mark of a true Christian disappearing from many.It seems as if all my labor and advice is fruitless.”
In an 1844 letter, Christian confessed that he had seen so much in his office as minister that his love for God has grown less and less while the pull of the world has grown stronger. Yet he so much wanted to see God at work among his people and expressed hope that God in his mercy would bring light so that his people might not waver.5°
16 Deep Run Mennonite Church East– A 250 Year Pilgrimage
In another portion of the previously mentioned 1853 letter, Christian addressed an unidentified group of believers (probably located in Ontario) expressing his anguish that they had departed from the Mennonite position of faith. Christian asked them, “Where can we find a better evangelical basis of faith than what was taught to us in our youth?” He noted that their fathers held onto this faith in spite of difficulties and opposition, setting forth an example for future generations. He expressed regret that one’s coworkers in the faith would be offended by the truth. In the same letter, he expressed a fear that the upcoming youth would reject the belief and practice of nonresistance.51
In an 1856 letter, Christian mourned the condition of the church in their generation. He diagnosed their generation as seeking luxury rather than simplicity and being abundant in material possessions yet poor in soul. Love for one another had decreased and quarrels had increased.

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