1697 - 1769 Person Name: Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) Scripture: Ezekiel 1, 2:1-2 Author of "Lo, God Is Here! Let Us Adore" in Common Praise (1998) Tersteegen, Gerhard, a pious and useful mystic of the eighteenth century, was born at Mörs, Germany, November 25, 1697. He was carefully educated in his childhood, and then apprenticed (1715) to his older brother, a shopkeeper. He was religiously inclined from his youth, and upon coming of age he secured a humble cottage near Mühlheim, where he led a life of seclusion and self-denial for many years. At about thirty years of age he began to exhort and preach in private and public gatherings. His influence became very great, such was his reputation for piety and his success in talking, preaching, and writing concerning spiritual religion. He wrote one hundred and eleven hymns, most of which appeared in his Spiritual Flower Garden (1731). He died April 3, 1769.
Hymn Writers of the Church by Charles S. Nutter and Wilbur F. Tillett, 1911
Gerhardt Tersteegen or ter Stegen, was born at Moers, Netherlands [sic. Germany] , November 25, 1697. He was destined for the Reformed ministry, but after his father's death when the boy was only six, his mother was unable to send him to the university. He studied at the Gymnasium in Moers, and then earned a meager living as a silk weaver, sharing his frugal daily fare with the poor. Malnutrition and privation undermined his health to such an extent that he suffered a serious depression for some five years, following which he wrote a new covenant with God, signing it in his own blood. A strong mystic, he did not attend the services of the Reformed Church after 1719. Although forming no sect of his own, he became well known as a religious teacher and leader. His house was known as "The Pilgrim's Cottage" -- a retreat for men seeking a way of life, while he himself was known as "the physician of the poor and forsaken." Barred from preaching in his own country until 1750, he visited Holland annually from 1732 to 1755, holding meetings. In addition to his other labors he carried on a tremendous correspondence. Overwork resulted in physical breakdown, so that during the latter years of his life he could speak only to small gatherings. He died at Muhlheim on April 3, 1769. One of the three most important of Reformed hymn writers, he is also regarded as the chief representative of the mystics. He wrote 111 hymns. His important Geisliches Blumengartlein was published in 1729. H.E. Govan published The Life of Gerhard Tersteegen, with selctions from his writings, in 1902.
--The Hymnal 1940 Companion
Tersteegen, Gerhard, son of Heinrich Tersteegen (otherwise ter Stegen or zur Stiege), merchant at Mörs (Meurs), in Rhenish Prussia, was born at Mors, Nov. 25, 1697. His parents intended that he should become a minister of the Reformed Church in Germany. His father however died in 1703, and his mother found that after giving him a thorough classical training in the Latin school at Mörs she was unable to afford the cost of his University course. He was accordingly apprenticed, in 1713, to his brother-in-law, a merchant at Mühlheim on the Ruhr, and in 1717 started in business on his own account, at Mühlheim. As he found his time much broken up, and his opportunities of meditation few, he gave up his business in 1719; and, after a short trial of linen weaving, took up the easier and much more lucrative occupation of weaving silk ribbons. During the years 1719-24 he passed through a period of spiritual depression, at the end of which his faith in the reconciling grace of Christ became assured (see No. xxxiv. below), and on Maundy Thursday, 1724, he wrote out a solemn covenant with God which he signed with his own blood. Previous to this, even before 1719, he had ceased to attend the ordinary services of the Reformed Church; and also absented himself from Holy Communion on the ground that he could not in conscience communicate along with open sinners. About the beginning of 1725 he began to speak at the prayer meetings which had been held at Mühlheim, since 1710, by Wilhelm Hoffmann, who was a candidate of theology (licensed preacher) of the Reformed Church. Tersteegen soon became known as a religious teacher among the "Stillen im Lande," as the attenders on these meetings were called, and in 1728 gave up his handicraft in order to devote himself entirely to the translation of works by medieval and recent Mystics and Quietists, including Madame Guyon and others, and the composition of devotional books, to correspondence on religious subjects, and to the work of a spiritual director of the "awakened souls." From this date to his death he was supported by a small regular income which was subscribed by his admirers and friends.
About 1727 a house at Otterbeck, between Mühlheim and Elberfeld, was set apart as a "Pilgerhütte," where the "awakened souls" could go into a spiritual retreat, under the direction of Tersteegen. This house, with accommodation for eight persons, was retained until about 1800. Tersteegen, however, did not confine himself to Mühlheim, but travelled over the district, addressing gatherings of like-minded Christians, giving special attention to Elberfeld, Barmen, Solingen, and Crefeld. From 1732 to 1755 he also went regularly every year to Holland, to visit his spiritual kinsfolk at Amsterdam and elsewhere. From 1730 to 1750 a law against conventicles was strictly enforced, and Tersteegen could not hold meetings except on his visits to Holland. During this period he removed to a house which had been Wilhelm Hoffmann's, where he preached, and provided food and simple medicines for the poor. After 1750 he resumed his public speaking until 1756, when he overstrained himself, and had to confine himself to the smallest gatherings absolutely. In 1769, dropsy set in, and after patient endurance for a season he died on April 3, 1769, at Mühlheim (Koch, vi. 46). Up to the end of his life Tersteegen remained outside the Reformed Church, but never set up a sect of his own. After his death his followers as a rule reunited themselves with it, especially when a less formal type of religion began to prevail therein.
Tersteegen's most important hymnological work was his Geistliches Blümen-Gärtlein, of which many editions were published. Tersteegen ranks as one of the three most important hymnwriters associated with the Reformed Church in Germany, the other two being F. A. Lampe and Joachim Neander.
He is however more closely allied, both as a Mystic and as a Poet, with Johann Scheffler than with either of his co-religionists. He almost equals Scheffler in power of expression and beauty of form, and if Scheffler has more pictorial grace, and a more vivid imagination, Tersteegen has more definiteness of teaching, a firmer grasp of the Christian verities, and a greater clearness in exposition. Inner union of the soul with God and Christ, the childlike simplicity and trust which this brings, renunciation of the world and of self, and daily endeavour to live as in the presence of God and in preparation for the vision of God, are the keynotes of his hymns. To his intense power of realising the unseen, his clear and simple diction, and the evident sincerity with which he sets forth his own Christian experience, his hymns owe much of their attractiveness and influence. During his lifetime they did not come much into use except through the Harfenspiel, as above, and they did not meet the taste of compilers during the Rationalistic period. But since Bunsen in his Yersuch, 1833, and Knapp in his Evangelischer Lieder-Schatz, 1837, brought his hymns once more into notice they have been received in greater or less measure into almost all the German hymnbooks, among the Lutherans as well as among the Reformed, the most popular of all being his “Gott ist gegenwärtig".
A number of Tersteegen's hymns are noted under their own first lines. They appeared, almost all for the first time, in the successive editions of his Geistliches Blümen-Gärtlein, viz., in the 1st ed., 1729; 2nd ed., 1735; 3rd ed., 1738; 4th ed., 1745; 5th ed., 1751; 6th ed., 1757; 7th ed., 1768; and in each case (after 1729) in the Third Book of that work. Those which have passed into English are as follows:—
i. Freue dich, du Kinder-Orden. Christmas. Translated as:—
Little children, God above, 1858, p. 78. Another tr. is: "Children rejoice, for God is come to earth." By Miss Dunn, 1857, p. 30.
ii. Jedes Herz will etwas lieben. Love to Christ. In the 4th ed., 1745, as above, Bk. iii., No. 70, in 8 stanzas of 4 lines, entitled "The Soul wishes to take Jesus as her best Beloved." Translated as:—
1. The heart of man must something love. A cento beginning with st. ii. “Though all the world my choice deride," is in Spurgeon's Our Own Hymn Book, 1866, and also in the Plymouth Collection, 1855, and other American hymnals.
2. Something every heart is loving. A full and good translation by Mrs. Bevan, in her Songs of Eternal Life, 1858, p. 58.
iii. Jesu, der du bist alleine. Communion of Saints. In the 2nd ed., 1735, in 11 stanzas of 6 lines, entitled "Prayer on behalf of the brethren." Translated as:—
Jesus, whom Thy Church doth own. By Miss Winkworth, omitting st. iii., in her Lyra Germanica, 2nd Ser., 1858, p. 99.
iv. Jesu, mein Erbarmer! höre. Lent or Penitence. In the 2nd ed., 1735, in 12 stanzas of 6 lines, entitled "In outward and inward sufferings and Temptations." Translated as:—
Jesus, pitying Saviour, hear me. In full, by Miss Winkworth, in her Lyra Germanica, 2nd Ser., 1858, p. 133. In her Christian Singer, 1869, p. 298, she gave st. ii., v., vi., beginning "Lost in darkness, girt with dangers."
v. Nun so will ich denn mein Leben. Self-Surrender. Translated (omitting st. ii., iii., vi., x.) as:—
1. Lo! my choice is now decided. By Miss Cox, in her Sacred Hymns from the German, 1841, p. 125. Her translations of st. viii., ix., vii., altered and beginning, "One thing first and only knowing," are repeated in Hedge & Huntington's Hymns for the Church of Christ, Boston, U.S., 1853.
2. Now at last I end the strife. By Miss Winkworth, in herLyra Germanica, 2nd Ser., 1858.
vi. 0 liebe Seele! könntst du werden. The Childlike Spirit. Translated as:—
Soul! couldst thou, while on earth remaining. In Miss Cox'sHymns from German, 1864, p. 197, it begins "Soul, while on earth thou still remainest."
Other trs. are: (1) "Wouldst thou, my soul, the secret find." By Lady E. Fortescue, 1843, p. 47. (2) “Dear soul, couldst thou become a child." By Miss Winkworth, 1855, p. 22.
vii. Siegesfürste, Ehrenkönig. Ascension. Translated as:—
Conquering Prince and Lord of Glory, By Miss Winkworth, omitting st. ii., in her Lyra Germanica, 2nd Ser., 1858, p. 48.
viii. Wie gut ists, wenn man abgespehnt. Lent or Self-Renunciation. In the first edition, entitled "Of the sweetness of the hidden life of Christians." Translated as:—
How sweet it is, when, wean'd from all. This is a good and full translation by S. Jackson, in his Life of Tersteegen, 1832 (1837, p. 417).
Other hymns by Tersteegen which have been rendered into English are:—
ix. Ach Gott, es taugt doch draussen nicht. On the Vanity of Earthly Things. Tr. as, "Ah God! the world has nought to please." By Miss Winkworth, 1869, p. 304.
x. Ach, könnt ich stille sein. Peace in God. Translated as (1) "Oh! could I but be still." By Mrs. Bevan, 1859, p. 134. (2) "Ah, could I but be still." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 77.
xi. Allgenugsam Wesen. God's All-sufficiency . The trs. are (1) "Thou All-sufficient One! Who art." By Miss Warner, 1858, p. 601, repeated in Hymns of the Ages, Boston, U.S., 1865, p. 163. (2) "Thou, whose love unshaken."
xii. Bald endet sich mein Pilgerweg. Eternal Life. Translated as “Weary heart, be not desponding." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 84.
xiii. Berufne Seelen! schlafet nicht. Lent. The translations are (1) "Ye sleeping souls, awake From dreams of carnal ease." By S. Jackson, in his Life of Tersteegen, 1832 (1837, p, 413). (2) "Sleep not, 0 Soul by God awakened." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 98.
xiv. Das äussre Sonnenlicht ist da. Morning. Tr. as (1) "The World's bright Sun is risen on high." By H. J. Buckoll, 1842, p. 51. (2) "The outer sunlight now is there." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 75.
xv. Das Kreuz ist dennoch gut. Cross and Consolation. Translated as "The Cross is ever good." By Mrs. Findlater in Hymns from the Land of Luther, 1862, p. 72 (1884, p. 234).
xvi. Die Blümlein klein und gross in meines Herren Garten. On the Graces of the New Testament. The trs. are (l) "Flowers that in Jesu's garden have a place." By Miss Dunn in her translation of Tholuck's Stunden, 1853, p. 114. (2) "Full many flowers, in my Lord's garden blooming." By Dr. R. Menzies in his translation of Tholuck's Stunden, 1870, p. 182.
xvii. Die Liebe will was gauzes haben.Entire Consecration. Tr. as "Love doth the whole—not part—desire." By Miss Warner, 1869, p. 12.
xviii. Für dich sei ganz mein Herz und Leben. Consecration to Christ. The trs. are (1) "Constrain'd by love so warm and tender." By R. Massie in the British Herald, April, 1865, p. 55. (2) "My soul adores the might of loving." By Mrs. Edmund Ashley in the British Herald, Sept., 1867, p. 136, repeated in Reid's Praise Book, 1872, No. 582.
xix. Grosser Gott, in dem ich schwebe. God's Presence. Translated as "God, in Whom I have my being." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 81.
xx. Jauchzet ihr Himmel! frohlocket ihr englische Chören. Christmas. Tr. as "Triumph, ye heavens! rejoice ye with high adoration."
xxi. Jesu, den ich meine. Life in Christ. Tr. as ”Jesus, whom I long for." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 92.
xxii. Jesus-Nam, du höchster Name. The Name of Jesus. Translated as "Jesu's name, thou highest name." By S. Jackson in his Life of Tersteegen, 1832 (1837, p. 415).
xxiii. Liebwerther, süsser Gottes-Wille. Resignation to the Will of God. The translations are (1) "Thou sweet beloved Will of God." By Mrs. Bevan, 1858, p. 14. (2) “Will of God, all sweet and perfect." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 96.
xxiv. Mein ganzer Sin. Lent. Turning to God. Tr. as "My whole desire Doth deeply turn away." By Miss Warner, 1869, p. 30.
xxv. Mein Gott, mein Gott, mein wahres Leben. Self-Dedication. Tr. as "My God, my God, my life divine!" By S. Jackson in his Life of Tersteegen, 1832 (1837, p. 414).
xxvi. Mein Herz, ein Eisen grob und alt. Cross and Consolation. Tr. as "A rough and shapeless block of iron is my heart." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 79.
xxvii. Mein'n ersten Augenblick. Morning. Tr. as "Each moment I turn me."
xxviii. Nun lobet alle Gottes Sohn. Praise to Christ. Tr. as "Give glory to the Son of God." By Mrs. Bevan, 1858, p. 75.
xxix. 0 Jesu, König, hoch zu ehren. Self-surrender. Tr. as “0 Jesus, Lord of majesty." By Miss Winkworth, 1858, p. 136.
xxx. So gehts von Schritt zu Schritt. For the Dying. Tr. as "Thus, step by step, my journey to the Infinite." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 105.
xxxi. So ist denn doch nun abermal ein Jahr. New Year. Tr. as "Thus, then another year of pilgrim-life." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 73.
xxxii. Sollt ich nicht gelassen sein. Cross and Consolation. Tr. as “Should I not be meek and still." By Mrs. Bevan, 1858, p. 45.
xxxiii. Von allen Singen ab. Turning to God. Tr. as "From all created things." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 100.
xxxiv. Wie bist du mir so innig gut. The Grace of Christ. Written in 1724 at the close of his time of spiritual despondency. “This state of spiritual darkness continued five years; until at length whilst on a journey to a neighbouring town, the day-spring from on high again visited him; and the atoning mercy of Jesus Christ was made so deeply and convincingly apparent to him, that his heart was set entirely at rest. On this occasion he composed that beautiful hymn, &c." Translated as “How gracious, kind, and good, My great High Priest art Thou" (st. i.-v.), No. 74 in Dr. Leifchild's Original Hymns, 1842.
xxxv. Wiederun ein Augenblick. The Flight of Time. Tr. as: (1) “Of my Time one Minute more." (2) "One more flying moment." By Lady Durand, 1873, p. 26.
xxxvi. Willkomm'n, verklarter Gottes Sohn. Easter. This is translated as "O Glorious Head, Thou livest now." By Miss Winkworth, 1855, p. 89. Repeated in Schaff’s Christ in Song, 1870.
The first Book of the Blumen-Gärtlein contains short poems, more of the nature of aphorisms than of hymns. In the ed. of I76S there are in all 568 pieces in Book i., and of these Miss Winkworth has translated Nos. 429, 474, 565, 573, 575, 577 in her Christian Singers, 1869. Others are tr. by Lady Durand, in her Imitations from the German of Spitta and Terstsegen, 1873, as above, and by S. Jackson, in his Life of Tersteegen, 1832. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]
-- Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
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Hymn Writers of the Church