Strieter Autobiography: Newburgh

[Continued from Part 19. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Newburgh

The first St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newburgh, Ohio, with parsonage in the background (today St. John's Lutheran, Garfield Heights)

The first St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newburgh, Ohio, with parsonage in the background (today St. John Lutheran, Garfield Heights)

In 1854 a small portion of Zion’s Church in Cleveland, Mr. Pastor Schwan’s congregation, branched off and formed an independent congregation in Independence, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, near Newburgh, two miles south, and named it St. John Church.1 Twenty or so families combined to form it. They built a little frame church and a small parsonage behind it. They called me to be their pastor. In October 1854 I moved there with my young wife, Mother-in-law Ernst, and her five younger little daughters.2 On the 18th Sunday after Trinity I was installed by Pastor Schwan, with Pastor Kühn from Euclid and Pastor Steinbach from Liverpool assisting. The church was dedicated at the same time. Pastor Kühn delivered the sermon. Pastor Steinbach presided at the rite of dedication.3 On the 19th Sunday after Trinity I delivered my inaugural sermon.

I preached and taught school during the week to twenty or so children. With the exception of one family and a widow Z. they were all Hanoverians. Father H. H. Böhning was the senior member. When we met to elect our Board of Elders and determine the salary (I was to be paid two hundred dollars per year), Father Böhning said, “I will give this much.” And he went through the ranks this way, and asked at the end if they were happy with that. “Yes,” they said, cheerfully and unanimously. Besides the two hundred dollars they also gave wood for fuel and a lot of other stuff. They took very good care of us. There I had it very nice for a change. The people loved me and bore with my weakness4 very patiently. They also loved my wife very much. The girls M. B. and M. B. gave her a new dress every year. They also liked Mother-in-law Ernst and the girls. The dear people came to church very regularly, and the same was true for Catechism instruction and the men’s attendance at congregational meetings. There was a very brotherly spirit among us.

My church attendees [Kirchkinder] enjoyed listening to God’s Word. It also had its fruit. One time Widow Z. came to me and said that her neighborlady had brought her an entire basketful of goodies, and when she asked why she was doing this, she had answered, “On Sunday the pastor preached about love, and it went to my heart.”

One time H. B.5 spoke his mind to me rather quite freely and definitely said more than he should have. The next day he came: “Mr. Pastor, I am sorry. I have as many regrets about what I said as I have hairs on my head.”

One time I noticed that a certain man had peered into the glass a little too deeply. The next morning there was a knock at the door. I said, “In here [Herein]!” which is what we said back then. In comes my man So-and-so. I say, “Have a seat, sir!” He sits down. I say, “Now, my dear man, what brings you to me this early?”

He says, “Oh, sir, you know that already!” and he started to cry and pleaded with me to forgive him anyway.

One time I stayed overnight at Father Böhning’s. Before going to bed he read from the Bible, prayed, and sang with his family the entire hymn, “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow,”6 and my, how lovely! My Newburgers, as they called us, were good singers overall. We would also sing in four parts. My Ernst Böhning sang a splendid bass, and my Friedrich Tönsing a fine tenor. Mary Böhning and Mary Borges and several others sang the first part and W[ilhel]m and John Böhning sang alto.

Almost every Sunday we were taken along as guests after the service. Often we ended up at Father Böhning’s. The good old mother boiled us pea beans [Vicebauna] with a long sausage in there and meat. Beforehand there would be a milk soup with these tiny little dumplings. My, that was delicious! The Borges family also invited us often and took us along, and many others did too.

I received a call from the vicinity of Baltimore, but the Newburgers would not release me. Another one from the vicinity of Columbus, Ohio, but again I was not released, and yet another from old Frankentrost, but they would not release me then either.

Now my Jüngel7 came to me one day. I say, “What brings you to me so unexpectedly?”

He says, “Tomorrow morning I will tell you.” In the morning he took a letter from Dr. Sihler out of his pocket with an enclosed call and accompanying note from W[ilhel]m Stelter, from Crystal Lake, Marquette County, Wisconsin. In it was stated that over 300 families had been deserted by their preacher and had been left for the fanatics and Albright Brethren there. Help had to be provided immediately. Dr. Sihler had thought of us both.

Jüngel said, “I cannot and I dare not leave. I have recently received a United congregation in Amherst, which I dare not abandon. You must go.”

I presented it to my congregation. Fritz Tönsing was chairman. It was discussed back and forth, all of it in favor of my staying. Finally the chairman says, “I will call the question now, so that we know where we stand. All in favor of letting our pastor move, say Yes!”

Everybody was silent.

“All opposed, No.”

“No,” everybody called out.

Tönsing smiled and said, “I am going to ask again, but a bit differently: All who are convinced in their conscience that we should let our pastor move, say Yes.”

“Yes,” they said, though very meekly. That was in November 1859.

With my neighboring ministers [Amtsnachbarn] I was on good terms. I visited them and they me. Held conferences with each other regularly. In Cleveland was Schwan. He was our senior. In Ohio City, now West Cleveland, my dear Lindemann. Already at the seminary we had gotten along very well.8 In Euclid was Kühn. In Liverpool first Steinbach, then Jüngel. He was also at the seminary with me and we were always close friends.

I know that one time Schwan and Lindemann marched the five miles out to me. I walked to Schwan after school almost every Monday. We also went to take baths together in Lake Erie and often went for walks. After these recreations we would set about on our sermon for the next Sunday. Schwan had the Latin Harmony9 and I had Luther. He would read, then I would read. At this point he would ask, “Strieter, what should we use?” I would then have to start outlining, and he would laugh sometimes, but he also often commended me. One time he said, “Your outline is absolutely excellent. If Walther had it, he would turn it into a sensational sermon, but you, sir, are too stiff.”

I said, “Yeah, how does one go about becoming more smooth?”

He said, “Copy someone else’s sermons, so that you get into a different channel. Take Fresenius.10” I buy myself Fresenius right away11 and start copying, word for word in fact, and I commit it to memory. Sunday I mount the pulpit and repeat everything beautifully up through half of the first part; at this point I lose my line of thought. My Tönsing was sitting close to the front and looking me right in the eye. As I was losing it, he looked down at his feet. I didn’t get back on track; everything got jumbled together. Finally in my anxiety I say, “Amen!” Before everyone left, I signal my Tönsing: “Did you notice something today, sir?”

He says, “Yes sir, I did. You lost your spot.”

I put my Fresenius in the corner though and went back to making my own sermon, after I had made my usual study of Luther, especially his House Postil.12 This was my method: When I was finished with Luther, I started thinking and prepared the whole thing in my mind right up to the Amen, and then I wrote it and delivered it that way.

One time conference was held by me. Jüngel brought his neighboring United minister along. He already had all sorts of United ideas during the conference. Theology was also discussed during dinner. After Lindemann had spoken, the United gentleman said, “That all depends on how you look at it.”

Lindemann lifted his plate into the air: “How you look at it!? This is a plate, no matter how I might look at it.”

The gentleman was silent, but after the meal he took his hat and left.

One time Lindemann and I had to go to Holmes County, Ohio, where I had been together with B[esel], in order to dedicate a church. Engelbert was there now.13 Lindemann preached in the morning and I in the afternoon. Because of the sermon I gave, I continued to get quite a bit of razzing. That’s because I was betrayed.14 I had my dear old Pennslyvania Dutchmen in front of me and was going right along in my sermon and said that on the Last Day our dear Lord would call out, “Jack, John, George, come out!” and just like that they would be standing there with glorified bodies. To my Pennsylvania-Dutchmen it wasn’t funny at all; they all had on completely serious faces. The dear old Arnold had already told me earlier, “I think you are a pretty smart guy [Ich denk, du bist a ziemlich smarter Kerl].”

Endnotes

1 Today this is St. John Lutheran Church of Garfield Heights.

2 Henry F. Rahe, Johannes and Elizabeth’s eventual nephew (a son of Elizabeth’s next oldest sister Martha), in his previously cited “Sketch of the Parents of the Ernst Girls” (rf. endnote 21 here), writes: “When they got to Newburgh, Rev. Strieter could not support the Widow Ernst and her five daughters, and besides the parsonage was too small. Aunt Martha worked out and they farmed out three of the girls to other pastors. Aunt Sophie, Aunt Sarah and my mother, Anna, all of them under eleven years of age were the ones placed in pastors’ families and they had a hard life of it. Aunt Sophie, who resembled her mother in stature, temperament and will power more than any of the other girls, would not put up with this farming out proposition and they had to take her home and keep her there until after her confirmation. She then went to work for Rev. H. C. Schwan. It no doubt was a hard thing for Grandmother Ernst to send her young girls, eight, nine, and ten years old, to other people even if they were ministers. It was her own doing, and Uncle Strieter was to blame for much of it. All relatives, both from the Ernst and Wittig sides, opposed her determination to go with Strieters, and promised her all the help she would need to raise her family. This act estranged her from all her relatives, especially her brother. She never corresponded with any of them or visited them. She was the one who was estranged and not the relatives. In later years and especially in her last illness (Uncle Leutner in whose home she died told me this), conscience pangs bothered her, on account of her conduct toward her relatives, especially her brother and the separation from her husband. I once spoke to Uncle John Strieter about this moving of the family from Vermilion and he admitted that it probably would have kept the family together had they remained in Vermilion and would have been ‘better according to human reason, but what was to be, was to be.’”

3 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachricht]” section of the November 21, 1854, issue of Der Lutheraner: “After a number of members of the Cleveland congregation formed their own parish with our consent, St. John’s Congregation in Independence, and issued an orderly call to Mr. Pastor J. Strieter, who had been in Elyria and Vermillion [sic], he was committed by me to his new office, at the behest of the Most Reverend President of the Middle District of our synod, Mr. Dr. and Prof. Sihler, on the 18th Sunday after Trinity, with Mr. Pastors Kühn and Steinbach assisting, and the newly erected church was dedicated at the same time. — Now may our dear fellow believers include also this congregation in their prayers. — H. C. Schwan. Address: Revd. J. Strieter, Newburgh P. O., Cuyahoga Co., O[hio]” (p. 56).

4 Strieter more than once mentions “his weakness,” and he seems to be referring to something in particular. Later in this chapter he specifies this weakness by referring to the delivery of his sermons.

5 This is perhaps the “Father H. H. Böhning” he mentions earlier, but since Johannes always uses his last name elsewhere, it is more likely someone else.

6 The original hymn has nine stanzas.

7 Heinrich Jüngel, originally from Hesse-Darmstadt, was pastor in Valley City, town of Liverpool, Medina County, Ohio.

8 Wilhelm Lindemann, originally from Hanover, had enrolled at Fort Wayne during the 1851-1852 school year.

9 This refers to the Harmonia Quatuor Evangelistarum or Harmony of the Four Evangelists, a harmonizing of and commentary on the four Gospels begun by Martin Chemnitz, continued by Polycarp Leyser, and completed by Johann Gerhard in 1627.

10 Johann Philipp Fresenius (1705-1761) was a pietistic Lutheran pastor at Nieder-Wiesen, Giessen, Darmstadt, and Frankfurt am Main, who remained loyal to the Lutheran Confessions and opposed the Moravians.

11 Since it appears that Schwan and Strieter studied and preached on the Gospels together, the book Strieter bought was probably Heilsame Betrachtungen über die Sonn- und Festtags-Evangelia (Beneficial Reflections on the Sunday and Festival Gospels), first published in 1750. Fresenius also had a book of sermons on Epistle texts published in 1754.

12 There were two editions of Luther’s House Postil (a postil is a book of sermons). The first was published in 1544 by Veit Dietrich, formerly Luther’s personal secretary. The second was published in 1559 by Andreas Poach, a former student of Luther, on the basis of the notebooks of Georg Rörer, a deacon at the Wittenberg parish church and tireless transcriber and copier of Luther’s sermons. (Thus Poach’s edition is sometimes also called Rörer’s edition.) From the next chapter we know that Strieter possessed the German volumes of the first Erlangen edition of Luther’s works (1826-1857). Volumes 1-6 of that edition (1826) contained Luther’s House Postil, interspersing the sermons found in both Dietrich’s and Poach’s original editions.

13 Wilhelm Engelbert, originally from Nassau, had enrolled at Fort Wayne during the 1852-1853 school year and had graduated in 1855.

14 Namely, Pastor Lindemann told the other pastors about Strieter’s sermon when they got back. Pastor Engelbert’s account of this dedication was published in the February 18, 1859, issue of Der Lutheraner (vol. 15, no. 13): “This past 17th Sunday after Trinity [September 26, 1858] was a day of celebration for St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Holmes County, Ohio, for they had the great joy of consecrating their newly erected frame church. In the morning Pastor Lindemann preached on Galatians 2:16 and presented on that basis: What the true adornment of an evangelical Lutheran church is, namely 1. the pure message about justification, and 2. the listeners who make this message their own in true faith. In the afternoon Pastor Strieter preached on Luke 19:1-10 and showed from that text: 1. how Christ has moved into this church, and 2. how we should serve as his hosts” (p. 103).

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Confirmation

[Continued from Part 5. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth (continued)

Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Scio (Ann Arbor), Michigan. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Scio (Ann Arbor), Michigan. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

In 1843 I was confirmed in the spring by Pastor Schmidt in Scio. We were positioned according to age. I was the second last. In the back of the Württemberg catechism [Württemberger Kinderlehre] are questions and answers for confirmation. There were enough for everyone to answer two. Whoever was good at learning learned them all; whoever was bad at learning learned the two questions and answers that would come up at his or her turn. The pastor held his classes in the church. They did not last very long. When it was time to start, we children sat in our place, Mr. Pastor would come in, say an ex corde prayer with his eyes half-closed and turned toward heaven, and then begin. With his hands behind his back he would walk up and down the aisle and talk. What did he say? This is the only thing I still remember: Once while he was walking, the stovepipe above him wobbled. I looked up and thought, “If that falls down, it’s going to hit the pastor on the head.” He noticed this, stood still, and asked what I was looking at. He never did ask anything from the catechism, never posed one question. In general he did nothing but talk, and towards the end I learned a couple Psalm verses and some hymn verses from Hiller.19 Hiller was also our hymnal in church. The questions, mentioned before, were assigned, as was the confirmation hymn that was supposed to be sung at the confirmation.

On Confirmation Day we had to go to his house. There he gave us a serious speech: We should not fall away. He would be able to see it in our eyes if we had fallen away. We cried emotional tears as we solemnly resolved that we would not fall away. He went away, soon came back, and his knees were dusty; he had apparently been praying on his knees. We headed to the church, the pastor in the lead; we followed along behind him. The altar was encircled by a railing. We had to take our seats inside it. He delivered an address, but I have no idea what that was about either. He stepped in front of the altar; we had to sing our hymn, and now he quizzed us on our questions. We knew the answers. Individually we went up to him, knelt down, and he solemnly blessed us with his hand laid upon us, and he read our commemorative passage from a small slip of paper.20 Mine was not a complete passage from the Bible, but his own words that were based on a Bible passage. For the Lord’s Supper we had to go to the altar two at a time. On the plate lay cut-up, ordinary bread, maybe about the length and width of a finger, and two drinking glasses stood there, filled with wine. He took one of those little pieces of bread, broke it in two and put a half-piece in everyone’s hand. He also put the glass in everyone’s hand. I don’t remember anything else about a confession and absolution. No one announced for the Supper. Later I saw a Catholic woman go to the Supper with everyone else.

Endnotes

19 Strieter is referring to Philipp Friedrich Hiller’s Geistliches Liederkästlein (Small Treasure of Spiritual Songs).

20 It is possible that Pastor Schmidt laid both his hands on each confirmand, but the immediate context seems to suggest that he blessed them with one hand and held the slip of paper with the other.

[Read the next part here.]

Strieter Autobiography: Youth in Affalterbach

[If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Youth

I was born in Affalterbach, Marbach Jurisdiction [Oberamt], Kingdom of Württemberg. Regarding my birth and baptism, here are my sainted father’s own words:

On the 9th of September, 1829, I, Jacob Strieter, became the father of a baby boy. He was born into the world between one and two in the morning. On the 11th of September he was brought to Holy Baptism and received the name Johannes, and his name was entered in the Book of Life with the precious blood of Christ.

Johannes Strieter's baptismal record (1) - entry 29

Johannes Strieter’s baptismal record (1) – entry 29

Johannes Strieter's baptismal record (2)

Johannes Strieter’s baptismal record (2)

Affalterbach, a small market town with a population of 500 back then, is located on the country road between Marbach and Winnenden, two hours from either city. In the middle of the town was a crossroads. On the left-hand corner, as you stand facing Winnenden, was an inn, the Lammwirt [Lamb Inn], and on the right-hand was an inn, the Ochsenwirt [Oxen Inn]. Everything above there was called the Upper Village [Oberdorf]. From the Ochsenwirt it went somewhat downhill, and down there was called the Lower Village [Unterdorf]. In the Lower Village, off to the side, was the well. It was a good well; everybody fetched their water from it for men and livestock.

In the Lower Village my father had a house of his own. We lived upstairs, and the livestock were stalled beneath us. Facing the street, which ran past below, were two windows. One evening fireworks were set off in the distance. We had the window open, were leaning out and were eagerly watching them. My sister shoved me to the side, I shoved her back and shoved my sister right out the window. She fell headfirst, one story down onto a stone slab. Father brought her up seemingly dead. But she soon came to again.

My father was born on July 17, 1789, my mother on November 28, 1791.

The family record for Jacob Strieter.

The family record for Jacob Strieter.

My parents were Jacob Strieter and Maria Katharina Wiesenauer. They had eight children:

  1. Rosina,
  2. Dorothea,
  3. Katharina,
  4. Christiana,
  5. Jacob Friedrich,
  6. Margaretha, the one I threw out the window,
  7. Johannes, and
  8. a girl who died young,1 so I ended up being the youngest.

My father was a shepherd at first. He sent his shepherd-servant with his flock to graze in the Bavarian countryside, while he guarded other people’s flocks at home. The servant came home and the flock was mangy, five hundred sheep, and Father had to have them cheaply slaughtered. With the proceeds he bought himself some more acreage, in addition to the acres he already had, and then took up farming.

A old, restored fresco on the north wall of the sanctuary in the Evangelical church in Affalterbach. It appears that this fresco once encircled the sanctuary, depicting important stories from the Bible. Whether it was visible when Johannes attended church there is unknown.

A old, restored fresco on the north wall of the sanctuary in the Evangelical church in Affalterbach. It appears that this fresco once encircled the sanctuary, depicting important stories from the Bible. Whether it was visible when Johannes attended church there is unknown.

My parents were pious; my father especially was a devout Christian. He held family devotions three times each day. In the morning he read a chapter from the New Testament; those of us children who could read also had to have the book in front of us and each one also had to read several verses. At midday he read from the Old Testament and in the evening from a devotional book, mostly from Arndt’s Wahrem Christentum [True Christianity].2 My father was kind to his children, but still stern in his discipline. He did not permit his children to keep any frivolous, worldly company and did not let any of them on the dance floor. He had an old hymnal, the Württemberg hymnal [das Württemberger Gesangbuch] of 1740, which was bound together with the New Testament. This testament contained brief annotations on the verses, by Brenz,3 I believe. This little book was a wedding present from his father-in-law, Johann Martin Wiesenauer, who was also a pious man. My niece, Lizzie Leiken in Sebewaing, Michigan, still has this little book. From this hymnal, whose songs still had doctrinally sound lyrics, the parents would sing. My parents liked to sing in general. When my mother sat at the spinning wheel, she would sing spiritual songs almost continously. My father, too, would sing almost constantly, when his work permitted it. How often I would hear: “Christ, the Life of All the Living.” My father also had many fine sayings, such as:

“No fire, axe, or knifepoint | shall sever me from you.”4

“I still have a Savior surely | from my sins, who’s mine securely, | all my lifetime never forsakes me, | till before his throne he takes me.”5

He also had the custom that, when the prayer bell tolled, he would remove his cap, fold his hands, and pray with his family loud and in chorus: “Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, | for round us falls the eventide.”

Another custom he had, when he would set out to go somewhere or would begin a task, was to say, “In God’s name.”

Vineyard outside of Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Vineyard outside of Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

One time my father was in his vineyard and I took his pruning knife, went off to the side a ways, and cut something off, then went to Father and said, “Father, look what a nice twig I have!”

He said, “Yeah, you have cut off my young little tree.” But he did not punish me any further.

One time there was gunfire in the direction of Wolfselten,6 a tiny little village on the Murr River where the mill was located.7 I followed the sound of the shooting, but I did not stay on the path; instead I went in at an angle. I came to the clay pit, where there was a bed of clay. It was nice and smooth and had a yellow tint to it. I tried to get across there, but I sank in up to my waist and got stuck. I was scared and cried out. Then someone came over from the road and got me out. But now I didn’t look for the shooting any more, but made my way home. The whole way I was gazing down at my yellow legs. My sister Margaretha, who was three years older, took off my little britches and washed them in the ditch opposite our house.

Evangelical church in Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Evangelical church in Affalterbach. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

We had a pastor whose name was Götz.8 He was a very strict, moral man, but a rationalist. When he visited a sick person, he would tell him that he should overcome all pain with manly strength. When he began his instruction, which my brother attended, he began with this: “The earth turns on its axis.” My brother related this at home. Then Father said to him, “Child, you must not believe that. Our dear God says, ‘The sun rises at the end of the sky and goes around until it’s back at the same end’ [cf. Ecclesiastes 1:5], and he knows better.”

The pastor’s wife, however, was pious. If anyone was seriously ill, then she would come after the pastor, even to the poorest people, and she would bring something good along and read to the sick person from the New Testament.

My father was a shepherd at first, as I already mentioned, and during that time people would often send for him now and then when something was on their livestock, especially on their sheep. He had a beautiful sharp knife, with a white handle made of bone, maybe eight inches long. When he was called out somewhere, he would stick the knife in the inner side pocket of his coat. One day he had been out, came home and forgot to take out his knife. He went to chop some wood. The knife was situated in the pocket with the point facing Father’s waist, and when he swung down he stabbed himself in the side with the knife. He swelled up badly and was in a lot of pain and almost suffocated to death. Then came the pastor’s wife and brought some olive oil and told Mother to give some of it to Father and to apply it to the swelling in a hot press using a rag. Mother did this, and Father got better again.

A model of the church in Affalterbach as it used to look, possibly including the schoolhouse.

A model of the church in Affalterbach as it used to look, possibly including the schoolhouse.

I also attended the school in Affalterbach for one year. This school was a little ways off the country road, toward Marbach. That’s where the church was too. There were two classrooms. In the lower level the schoolmaster held class with the smaller children, and in the upper level his son, who was called Provisor, taught the bigger children. Both were enormous wardens. In the lower classroom I was in the first row. He sat behind his desk, on which he had a long blackthorn the width of a finger. If someone misbehaved, then he would laugh, “Ha ha!”, take his stick, usually come striding out, up over our heads, until he reached the culprit, and then down it came in all its force. Oh, what dread I had for that old teacher; but I never received any beatings.

Affalterbach today. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

Affalterbach today. Copyright 2013 Red Brick Parsonage.

One time I was heading home from school; it was already late. There was music coming from the Ochsen.9 Before the Ochsen we had to veer right to go home. I was trotting along slowly behind my siblings. But when I heard the music, I followed the music. They were dancing in there. On one side there was an elevation, on which the musicians were sitting. An old codger was playing the bass viol; my Injunlanders called it the Brumm.10 I clambered up and sat down next to the Brumm player and kept peering in at the gaps in order to find out where the sound was coming from. How long I was sitting I do not know, but suddenly my sister grabbed me by the arm, pulled me down and marched on home with me.

My father had been across the field in Winnenden and had just come home. He was sitting in the middle of the living room and had his small leather cap on. He pulled me between his knees. “Where have you been?”

“In the Ochsen.”

He laid me over his knees, took his small leather cap off and taught me my numbers with it. “There, next time you’ll stay with your brother and sisters!”

Endnotes

1 Barbara was born on December 28, 1831, and died on January 8, 1832.

2 The fuller title is Vier Bücher vom Wahren [or von Wahrem] Christentum (Four Books about True Christianity). Johann Arndt (1555-1621) is best known for this book and for being the pastor of the young Johann Gerhard, who would become one of Lutheranism’s greatest theologians.

3 Johannes Brenz (1499-1570), a fellow reformer and correspondent of Martin Luther, who participated with him in the Sacramentarian Controversy and the Marburg Colloquy of 1529.

4 From st. 13 of “If God Himself Be for Me.” The you refers to Jesus.

5 The final lines of st. 13 of “Komm, mein Herz, in Jesu Leiden,” a German Communion hymn sung to the tune of “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness.” Based on the context of these hymn verse excerpts, Jacob Strieter appears to have used these sayings when things were going badly.

6 That is, Wolfsölden. Wolfselten is basically a phonetic spelling. See also next endnote.

7 Wolfsölden, just east of Affalterbach, is actually located on the Buchenbach (Beech Tree Creek), connected to the Murr River. Still today on a map you can see a Mühlkanal (mill canal) off of the Buchenbach. Both the creek and the canal run along Mühlenweg (Mill Lane).

8 According to Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Affalterbach’s website, M. Carl Gottlieb Goez (or Götz, as Strieter has it) was pastor from 1818-1837 (accessed 26 July 2015).

9 Rf. 3rd paragraph.

10 Strieter will talk more about “his Injunlanders” later in the Wisconsin chapter. Brummen means to growl or rumble, and in telecommunications a Brumm is a hum.

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Luther’s Great Pentecost Hymn

Translator’s Preface

The first stanza of Martin Luther’s hymn, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” was originally a Latin antiphon (a responsive prayer or exclamation, either spoken or chanted at the beginning of the service) for Vespers on the evening before Pentecost, in use from the 11th century. Currently, in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, we still use the first part of this antiphon as a refrain for the Psalm appointed for Pentecost (Psalm 51b, Christian Worship p. 87), as the Verse of the Day for Pentecost, and there are hints of it in the Prayer of the Day for Pentecost. The antiphon, in its entirety, went thus (in English):

Come, Holy Spirit, fill up the hearts of your believers, and kindle in them the fire of your love: You who have gathered the nations in the unity of the faith through all the diverse languages. Alleluia, Alleluia.”

In the 15th century, even before Luther was born, more hymns and songs were beginning to appear in German, including a paraphrase of this antiphon with its own melody.

In the early 1520s, Luther repeatedly appealled to men like Georg Spalatin for scripturally sound, clear, and appropriate Psalm arrangements and hymns in German. His appeals basically fell on deaf ears, so Luther himself took up his pen and composed more than 20 hymns between 1523 and 1524 that appeared in the first evangelical hymnals of 1524. One of them was, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” which is known at least in Wisconsin Synod circles as, “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord” (Christian Worship 176).

For this hymn, Luther tweaked the already existing German stanza and set it to an adapted and simplified version of its customary melody. The earliest printed version of the original German stanza went thus (in English prose):

Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God
Fill up with the pot [or kettle] of your grace
The heart and mind of those believers of yours.
Your burning love kindle in them,
You who through the radiance of your light
Have gathered in one faith
The people from all the world’s tongues,
For which may praise and honor to you be sung,
Alleluia, Alleluia.

This was one of Luther’s favorite hymns, as he made clear in 1539, when he told his companions, “The hymn, ‘Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God,’ the Holy Spirit himself composed about himself, both the text and the melody” (WA TR, #4478).

One of Luther’s changes was to begin the fifth line with, “O Lord,” probably both to tie this original stanza with the two new ones he composed (whose fifth lines also begin, “O Lord”) and to emphasize the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

The most notable change to the original German stanza was the sixth line. The original stanza, as also the older Latin antiphon, emphasized the unity of the Church’s faith, into which the Spirit had gathered people from all nations and tongues. But Luther relegated the concept of unity to the word “gathered” itself, and he substituted “to the faith” for “in one faith.” Thereby he meant either to emphasize the purenesscorrectness, and truth of that faith, or to reinforce the truth that we are saved by faith alone; the gathering work of the Holy Spirit is a gathering primarily to faith. (Good works will always follow faith as a matter of course.)

Luther’s three stanzas went thus (in English prose):

Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God,
Fill up with the blessing of your grace
Your believers’ heart, disposition, and mind;
Your burning love kindle in them.
O Lord, through the radiance of your light,
You have gathered to the faith
The people from all the world’s tongues.
May this, Lord, to your praise be sung.
Alleluia. Alleluia.

You Holy Light, Precious Protection,
Cause the Word of Life to shine on us
And teach us to know God correctly,
To call him Father from our hearts.
O Lord, protect from foreign doctrine,
That we seek no other master
Than Jesus with correct faith
And trust in him with all our might.
Alleluia. Alleluia.

You Holy Fiery Burning, Sweet Cheer,
Now help us joyfully and cheeredly
Steadfastly to remain in your service,
[And help] the tribulation not to drive us away.
O Lord, through your power prepare us
And fortify the timidity of the flesh,
That we here valiantly contend
And through death and life press on to you.
Alleluia. Alleluia.

With his additional two stanzas, the hymn, while not reflecting Luther’s best poetry, nonetheless is a treasure of biblical, and thus Lutheran, theology. He highlights salvation by grace alone, apprehended through faith in Jesus alone, worked through the Word alone. The doctrine and importance of the means of grace – the gospel of Jesus in Word and sacraments – is especially highlighted in st. 2. This doctrine is the driving force behind Luther’s prayer in that stanza for purity and correctness of teaching. The theology of the cross, another hallmark of Lutheranism, is highlighted in st. 3 in gripping terms.

The English translation in Christian Worship is unfortunate on a number of levels. Here is a sampling:

  • “All your graces” in line 2 of st. 1 is a misunderstanding of Luther’s “deiner Gnaden Gut,” which is really just a poetic way of saying, “your grace.” It thus misses the stress on God’s saving love in Christ.
  • Lines 6 & 7 of st. 1 turn Luther’s accomplished historical, gospel fact into a plea for something as-yet unrealized to be realized.
  • Luther’s original address, “Precious Protection” (could also be translated “Noble Refuge”), in line 1 of st. 2 somehow got turned into “Guide divine.” Thus the connection between that name and the second half of the verse is lost. (That connection is sort of redirected to the first half of the verse.)
  • “Call him Father with delight” in line 4 of st. 2 is a little unfortunate, though perhaps necessary in our modern world of broken homes and failed fatherhood in abundance. Luther’s original emphasis was simply on knowing and calling on God as a Father, period, as opposed to knowing him as an angry judge and being afraid to call on him or to have anything to do with him.
  • The translation that personally bothers me the most is the rendering of Luther’s, “rechtem Glauben” (“correct faith”), as, “living faith.” Certainly we want a living faith (as St. James makes clear), but perhaps now more than ever we need to emphasis that there is also a correct believing and an incorrect believing, and it is only correct believing (that is, believing in the truth) that can and will be living faith in the truest form. That this is the proper way to understand Luther’s phrase is probably best proved by the German compound noun which combines precisely these two words, Rechtgläubigkeit, which we would translate as orthodoxy, but many of us don’t know what orthodoxy means either – teaching and believing the right way (which implies there is a wrong way – contrary to the popular American expression, “You just gotta have faith…”).
  • “Grant us the will your work to do” in line 2 of st. 3 neither captures the connection between “süsser Trost” (line 1) and “getrost” (line 2) in Luther’s original nor the meaning and beauty of line 2 as a whole.
  • It’s always unfortunate when the concept of steadfastness gets lost in translation, as it does in line 3 of st. 3.

I was asked by a committee within our synod to study this hymn, and I found that I could not really meditate on it properly or with full edification without at least making my own attempt to rectify these problems. My own opinion is that my rendition of st. 3 below is the best of the three, while the rendition of st. 1 could probably use the most improvement (for which I will gladly take advice from readers).

The hymn itself is a prayer – a prayer especially appropriate for Pentecost, but also for every day of our lives. This powerful prayer is also my own in presenting a new translation of it below.

Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord

Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord!
In your believers’ hearts be stored
The fullness of your grace and light;
Your burning love in them ignite.
O Lord, what has your radiance done!
Within the faith you’ve made as one
People and realms of ev’ry tongue!
For this, O Lord, your praises e’er be sung!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O Holy Light, Shield Supreme!
The Word of life upon us beam
And teach us all the highest art—
To call God, “Father,” from the heart.
O Lord, keep us from falsehood free;
Let Jesus our sole master be,
That with a faith correct and right
We place our trust in him with all our might.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O Holy Fire, Cheer so sweet!
Help us, with joy and cheer replete,
To serve you steadfast, come what may,
Nor by our trials be driv’n away.
O Lord, lend power for the fight,
Repress for us Old Adam’s fright,
That we as knights wage battle brave,
Press on to you in heav’n through grief and grave.
Alleluia! Alleluia!