"Some Who Led", D.L. Miller and Gallen B. Royer, Brethren Publishing House, Elgin IL, 1912
Johannes Naas1669 or 1670- May 12, 1741
Born near Norten, twelve miles north of Emden, in the province of Westphalia, Germany, Nothing is known of his parentage or under what training he received his ideals of life.He grew to manhood, taller by a head than the average of his fellows, broad shouldered, of a commanding appearance and a powerful frame.In the movement which brought forth the congregation of the Brethren at Creyfelt he appears to have been one among the first.His natural endowments and deep piety soon marked him for the ministry.He accepted the call with a whole heart and preached the Word with power.Creyfelt was much too small in which to spend his energies, and he made a number of tours in surrounding provinces.In this manner he spread the faith rapidly and gathered believers into the fold.In 1715, while on one of these evangelistic journeys, and accompanied by Jacob Priesz, he was met by the army recruiting officer for the king of Prussia.The officer as soon as he set eyes on him saw how desirable Brother Naas would be in the army and at once seized him and undertook to press him into service.But though he inflicted many tortures even to hanging him for a while by cords tied around the great toe and thumb, he did not succeed.Then the officer took him before the king.Here Brother Naas replied to the question concerning his refusal."My Captain is the Great Prince Immanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ.I have espoused his cause and cannot and will not forsake him."During his missionary journeys he endured many privations and suffered much persecution, but this only whetted his zeal.
Brother Naas was a preacher of more than ordinary ability.Wherever he went his messages commanded marked attention and men and women cried our to be saved. His labors extended along the River Rhine, for Alexander Mack, Jr., makes mention of a special baptism performed by Naas to show that applicants, even though sick, were baptized in the open stream, without physical harm.The instance referred to is one of a sister who had been sick and wanted to be immersed.Naas went to her bedside and said, "are you faith that this work of the Lord can yet be performed to your sick body?"To her reply in the affirmative he said, "I also believe it;so let it be undertaken by thee."
In church government he was mild and charitable to the erring and thus endeared himself greatly to his membership.As bishop of the congregation at Creyfelt his work was most marked until the following occurred:Christian Libe was an eloquent evangelist in those days.He preached all along the Rhine into Switzerland, where finally he was arrested and sent to the galleys to work with criminals for two years.After he gained his liberty through purchase he settled in the Creyfelt congregation.He had much zeal but lacked greatly in wisdom and knowledge.His eloquence had won him a large following, and in an effort to expel a certain young minister he opposed Bishop Naas and carried his point. This thoroughly disheartened Naas, who seems to have moved to Switzerland.Here Alexander Mack, Sr., who had high regard for him, found him and urged him to forget the Creyfelt trouble and come to America.This he decided to do.(1)After a stormy voyage, the account of which is preserved through a letter to his son in Bern, Switzerland, they landed in Philadelphia some time near Sept. 1, 1733.The party was met by Alexander Mack, Sr., and brethren and sisters who went out to meet them in small boats and give them fresh food and water.Brother Naas located near Amwell and founded the Amwell congregation.Under his shepherding it prospered rapidly and he continued its beloved bishop tillhis death.It is said that this Amwell congregation is the spiritual birthplace of more members of the Brethren than any congregation in the Brotherhood.
Perhaps to seek to effect some reconciliation in the Beissel trouble Brother Naas, with some other brethren, visited Ephrata, Pa., in 1736.Even if he did not get to see Beissel, he was pleased with his journey, especially with the attention the members gave to their children.Later in life he seems to have met Beissel, formed a good opinion of him and esteemed his friendship to the last.
George Adam Martin, a contemporary, speaks of Brother Naas as an "incomparable teacher" and a "blessed teacher."His conversation was very edifying.He had a "great and sound mind," and "unusual ability and power.""He had a strong personality.Some characterized him as the German Whitefield;others as Boanerges.Well educated, poetical in tastes, his ability as a writer has been preserved in a collection of hymns, "The Little Harp", a book published in Baltimore;second edition, in 1797, by Samuel Sower, son of Bishop Christopher Sower, of Germantown.
He was married twice, left one son and one daughter in Switzerland, and one daughter, Elizabeth, came to America with him.She married Hannes Landis, who finally united with the Church of the Brethren at Conestoga, Pa.Brother Naas’ body was laid to rest in the cemetery at Amwell, N.J., but no stone marks his grave.
Four stanzas of hymn by Naas in "The Little Harp," translated from the German:
1.One thing grieves me much on the earth, that so few are saved:Oh, what am I to do, because so many people are dying, and going to miserable destruction?Who can help but be concerned?
2.Alas!How can it happen that so many go to ruin, alike from all ranks?A few enter into life, but numberless are those that are outside.Oh, what can be the cause?
3.Very easily is this answered, for men full of envyings live not as pleases god, but follow only their own lusts, as if they did not know better that the way to heaven is narrow.
4.Oh, what vanity is to be seen!Behold how proudly men pretend to go about, each wanting to be the greatest.Pride increases every day, and men strive only after great honors.Can one go thus to heaven?
(1)Abraham Cassel says in Brethren Almanac of 1872 that Brother Naas came to America in 1729 with the second company of Brethren, settled at Germantown till 1733, when he moved to Amwell(NJ).