The Historical Foundation
THE WALDENSIAN ACTIVITY IN THE DARKEST AGES
1. Who the Waldenses Were
They were a group of Christian lay-people, whom God raised up, first about the years 1170-80 in Southern France. They later spread all over Central Europe. God raised them up in the very darkest age of the church and gave them the mission to give the Bible back to the people, to confess the living Truth, call sinners to repentance and to show a dead formalistic church how far it had gone out of the way. They were the Christian fellowship and Bible groups of the Dark Ages. They called the people back to the simple apostolic Christianity.
2. The Founder of the Movement - Peter Waldo
It is a question whether this wonderful and spiritual Christian fellowship and Bible movement had not existed, like an underground current, since the time of the Apostles though there may have been broken links at times.
Certain it is that Peter Waldo, a well-to-do merchant in Lyon, Southern France, was converted about the year 1170 and like Luther, Wesley and Hauge, long afterward, received a definite call from God to devote his whole life for the salvation of souls.
When Peter Waldo was called from darkness and into the new and marvelous light of God, he saw the awful condition of the church. Personally he had been brought up a strict Roman Catholic; but now, when he found the Word of God and ate it and tasted of its heavenly power, he set about in great eagerness to give the Living Book to the ignorant and dead church people. He sold his property, hired two learned assistants, began at once to translate the Bible into French and, after translating it, transcribing and copying it and spreading it among the people. The art of printing had not yet been invented. This great work itself became a real revolution in the lives of multitudes and it stirred the lifeless and formalistic church to its foundations. For the church wanted to sleep on in peace.
3. The Organization of the First Inner Mission Federation
The love of God, the love for souls and the desire to spread the living Word of God were burning, living passions in the heart of Peter Waldo. Soon after his conversion and after God had given him some souls, he was led to organize a holy fellowship group, a holy society, or federation which name, aim, and principles were as follows:
1. Name of the holy society: The Poor Men of Lyon.
If we shall have apostolic power to testify and win souls we must come back to apostolic life, Waldo contended. So he spent most of his big fortune in translating the Bible.
The rest he gave to the poor. His followers did the same before going out to preach according to the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:9-10, which they took literally, hence the name of this group of living witnesses: The Poor Men of Lyon--a city in Southern France. The "great salvation'' was their true riches.
2. The aim of the holy fellowship group was through the power of the Spirit to revive apostolic life, revive apostolic love for the brethren, love for souls and for the apostolic truth. In order to reach this aim, the living Word of God must be given to the people in four different Ways:
(1) The living Word in its written form must be translated and spread in order that as many as possible should own a copy of the Bible.
(2) The living Word must be preached publicly to the people. The first group of converts became a group of living witnesses, living preachers, like the earliest Haugeans in Norway long afterward. The "Poor Men'' had a burning desire to preach the Gospel-mostly in the streets to begin with, as the churches soon were closed against them.
(3) The living Word must be testified to in private. Those who did not have the gift or the opportunity to preach publicly bound themselves in obedience to the Spirit, according to Matt.10:32, in a more private way to recommend to the lost world "the Pearl of great price."
(4) The living Word must be recommended by transformed and Godly lives. Even the enemies had to admit that this poor and despised people "were holy and without blame before them in love in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom they shined as lights in the world."
3. The main principles, or guiding-lines of this holy society.
(1) Their confession of faith may be termed their first guiding-line. They felt they needed this to forestall that many might interpret the Scriptures in their own way and confusion set in. Thus based on the three articles of the Creed they drew up a confession stressing the great doctrines of the Bible - the creation in God 's image, the fall, redemption, sanctification, including the new birth, and two sacraments-rejecting purgatory, the mass, worship of images and the five extra sacraments of the church body to which they belonged as yet.
It is not to be expected they should have the deep insight of Luther on salvation by grace alone, through simple faith and without the deeds of the law, but they surely could show men the way of salvation through Jesus and the living Word alone.
In addition to the Confession of Faith, they also published a catechism in questions and answers for the instruction of children in order that their children might be trained for eternal life. What a wonderful insight and spiritual light was given to these poor and ignorant (in the eyes of the church) laymen! How they must have prayed and asked God's guidance step by step as they were led on in their wonderful soul-saving work!
(2) Second principle, or guiding-line, was that of obedience to God, rather than men. Acts 5:29. This is the principle of liberty of conscience, liberty of the Spirit, which Luther, Hauge and all men of God have stressed so strongly. But it is a principle which since the time of Daniel has always brought on persecution. It brought the Waldensian lay-people in direct opposition to the pope and the church authorities; it brought them to be "chained in prisons dark; but they were in heart and conscience free."
But every real movement of spiritual life meets opposition, especially by the organized church, but if it shall succeed and go forward there must be spiritual liberty, controlled by God's Word and God's real people only. For standing uncompromisingly on this life-principle Luther was put under the ban of the church and Hauge spent ten years in prison; for when people turn whole-heartedly to the Lord, they receive the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2 Cor.3:16, 17.
(3) The third life-principle of guidance was the use and Authority of the living Word itself. Every spiritual life-movement has held this, but none stronger than the Va1denses. It was given to Peter Waldo to make the Bible a living Book (Schaff). He and his lay-preachers found God's Word, ate and digested it and made it a living fire- a living hammer that broke the hard rocks to pieces. They prayed over the open Bible so long that many of them knew entire books, like the four Gospels, by heart. Like the pietistic and Haugean "readers" long afterward, it was the secret of their holy lives and their power to testify and endure persecution.
(4) The fourth life-principle was that of the so-called universal priesthood - the right, privilege and duty of lay people, including women, to confess the name of God in preaching, teaching and exhortation, and prayer and testimony in public and private.
1 Peter 2:9. To them the greatest of all good things you possibly can do is to lead souls to the living fountain. Therefore they greatly stressed James 4 :17 in their laymen's work : "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" - a great sin, if you know the living Truth but fail to make it known to dying sinners. To defend the privilege of women testifying, they made strong use of Luke 2:38, where old Anna gave thanks and spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
This leading God-given principle did then, as always, draw down strong opposition: "You interfere with the work of the organized church and the ordained ministry. You want to be better than others! You are too ignorant!'' etc. But when the Waldenses were forbidden in the churches, they went to the street corner and continued from house to house.
(5) The fifth principle stressed that it was the God- given, gifts of grace, not the ordination of the church, that gave the right not only to preach but also to bind and loose, to consecrate and to bless, even to baptize and administer the Lord's Supper.
However, they left the administration of the sacraments to the priests before they were driven out of the churches. But they held that a priest living in sin had no right to administer the Lord's Supper, but any Christian layman might do it. Their conception or idea of the church was the same as most of God's enlightened lay people have always held, namely, according to Matt.18:20 : For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. This is God's church, to which God has bestowed the right to preach the Word and administer the sacraments.
But this was to strike at the root of the whole Roman Catholic Church system and brought upon them fierce persecution. In 1179 they were forbidden to preach by a great church meeting at Rome, except by the consent of the bishops. In 1184 they were put under the ban and curse of the church for preaching the Gospel without the consent of the bishops-and driven out of the city of Lyons. They were charged with being in rebellion against the church authorities, when they, being only laymen, dared to preach the Gospel. Then in 1209 persecution broke out in all its fearfulness, the climax being reached in 1212 in Strassburg, when 80 living witnesses were burned at the stake- 23 women, and even 12 converted priests being of the number. But whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; I and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. I John 5:4.
But the burning torch of the living Gospel truth could not be put out. It continued to spread and burn-all over Central Europe and England, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword. In more quiet places, God's people stood as fellowship groups within the local churches, always meeting for testimony and prayer and Bible instruction. Where driven out, they organized their own churches. They prepared the way for the great Reformation. They have handed down the living Truth to us.
THE PIETISTIC REVIVAL MOVEMENT-1670.1750
"Just let the fire start!'' Praise God, it did start and spread over the Protestant churches, especially in Germany, England and here in America. In the two latter countries it was through John Wesley and George Whitfield, whom God raised up and gave a most wonderful power. But we shall only trace briefly the God-sent revival movement in the Lutheran Church of Germany and a little of its spread to Denmark and Norway.
Here we come to the real dark age in the Lutheran Church. The reformers had no real followers. The glorious living-faith theology of Luther had become a dead formalistic thing. After the most frightful 30-years war, ending in 1648, it seemed like living faith and true Christian love had died out in this cold, dark world, except in very few cases.
The theological schools and the churches had become dead museums which took pride in having the pure doctrine on exhibit. The Lutheran theologians surely fought tooth and nail for the pure doctrine and the correct creeds. The living Word itself was more neglected and was fast becoming a closed book to the masses in the Lutheran churches, among whom sin, worldliness and immorality prevailed to a fearful degree. Meanwhile the preachers were busy defending the pure doctrine and condemning all who were not strict Lutherans. The Norse Church Historian, H.G. Heggtveit, writes: "The preachers did not stand for the least departure from the Lutheran fathers. A new scholasticism threatened to kill all life and all liberty. They gnawed at the outward shell, but seldom reached the inner contents.''
It was the dark age in the Lutheran Church. But God was about to raise up true and living witnesses and a strong, living lay movement. Just as God had done during the dark age in the Roman Catholic Church, He raised up the Valdense lay movement, when it was at the very darkest.
The chief messages of the living Pietists in the Lutheran Church was the same as the living message of Peter Valdo and his followers in the Catholic Church-a strong call to repentance. Repent ye and be converted-the message of John - the message of Pentecost.
Pentecost and the apostolic church are always the great forerunners to every revival movement. Back to the fountains! Back to the living fountains of Jesus and the apostles, is the watchword of every true revival movement. The Valdense lay movement was living yet in 1670-and it is still living, though now in 1941 as a Protestant church body in the midst of the Roman Catholic population of France and Italy. It had been the great connecting link between apostolic Christianity and the great Reformation in keeping the Truth alive in the darkest ages. It also prepared the ground and pointed the way for the pietistic revival in the Lutheran Church, as well as the Lutheran Reformation itself. Luther had greatly stressed repentance, living faith and the priesthood of believers. Thus the pietistic revival is really a returning to the most important and living elements as taught by Luther himself.
But there were a few real Christians and real living German Lutheran church teachers, who labored just preceding the pietistic revival, and who prepared the ground, whom I briefly will mention:
Calixt was born in Schleswig in 1586. He was professor of Theology at Helmstadt. But the Spirit of God had planted him on higher ground. He believed that Christianity was a personal experience, and he extended the right hand of brotherly fellowship to Christians of other denominations, for which he was attacked and persecuted by the formalistic Lutherans. He was accused of being a religious mixer. His watchword was: "Blessed are the peacemakers.'' In fighting for the living Truth, God kept him in the peace that passeth all understanding. On his deathbed his heart was filled with the love of God, forgiving his accusers and looking to Jesus as His only Savior. He died at Helmstadt in 1656 and was one of the living witnesses who prepared the way for the Pietistic Revival.
Paul Gerhardt was born near Wittenberg, the city of Luther, in Saxony, in 1607 and died at Lubben in 1676. He was a minister at Berlin and other places and is the foremost of German hymn-writers. He was a very pious and God-fearing man, who suffered for his convictions. Out of his 120 hymns, 16 begin with "I" and of the rest more than 60 concern only his own heart and God, all proving that he lived a life of prayer and in close personal fellowship with Jesus. His precious hymns helped much to lay the foundation for the pietistic life-movement. Nine of his hymns are found in the large Concordia, but they have lost very much in the translations. One of the most noted is: "If God Himself be for me, I may a host defy.''
Johann Arndt was born at Ballenstedt, Prussia, in 1555. He was a minister at various places, even at Eisleben, Saxony, where Luther was born. He was a very godly and studious man. He is most noted for his very famous book: ''Wahre Christenthum'' or "True Christianity,'' which has been translated into many languages and been of untold blessing to multitudes of God's people. He upholds the insufficiency of mere pure doctrine and teaching conversion from dead works, living faith and a true godly life. The strict Lutherans accused him of Arianism, Pietism, Calvinism, Veigelianism,
Schwenkfeldianism and other "isms." He had a peculiar way of speaking to the heart of man. He used an unusual number of Bible passages. He was one of the great forerunners of the Pietistic Revival. He died at Celle in Hanover in 1621. On his death-bed he really saw the glory of God. His last words were: "Now I have overcome!"
Jakob Bohme is the first noted German Lutheran lay- preacher, but was looked upon as a crazy fanatic and was despised and rejected, as God's testifying people so often have been.
He was born near Gorlitz, Oberlausitz, in Silesia, in 1575, and was by trade a shoemaker, and a good husband and father. He spent much time at the feet of Jesus and especially prayed for the Holy Spirit. He had visions, like Paul in 2 Cor.12:4 and was filled with heavenly joy and peace. For this, his personal testimony and some small writings he published, he was bitterly attacked and persecuted, especially by his own minister, who thundered against him from the pulpit: "Shoemaker, stick to your last." They silenced him, but only for awhile. He had to testify concerning what he had heard and seen. But he was a very peculiar man, despised and rejected.
He had a most wonderful death-bed in 1624. He asked his son, Tobias, if he did not hear the heavenly music. He died with this joyful cry upon his lips: "Now I go to Paradise." No minister wanted to preach at the funeral of such a despised fanatic. The humble "cross" which a few friends had put up over the grave was thrown down and the grave defiled by a fierce mob. "In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world" He was despised and rejected of men.
Heinrich Mueller, not to be confused with George Mueller, who lived two centuries later, was born at Lubeck, on the Baltic, in 1631. He was led early to the Savior, whom he loved with all his heart, and became a preacher and professor at Rostock. But far more than this, he was a humble and intensely earnest Christian and a very fearless witness. We have four idols in the (Lutheran) church, he said: The first idol is the baptismal font. The second idol is the pulpit. The third idol is the confessional, and the fourth idol is the altar. He has written some very good spiritual books. He died in 1675, at the age of 44.
It was said of him that he lived more in heaven than on earth. The world was more bitter than gall, but Jesus sweeter than honey.
This very godly man has given us at least two very precious books, "Gotthold's Emblems,'' a collection of four hundred parables on how to see God's hand in everything, and his "Seelenschatz'' or "Treasury of the soul" which describes the progress of the soul from misery to eternal life. He was born at Rendsburg in Schleswig-Holstein in 1629 and was pastor in the German Lutheran Church the longest time in the city of Magdeburg. He opposed the besetting dead formalism of the Lutheran Church, and was a friend of Spener. He went through fearful suffering on account of the 30-years war. He was married four times and had 14 children. He followed all four wives and 12 of his children to their last resting place. He died at Quedlinburg in 1693. His last words were: "Now I taste and see how good God is." Through these and other living witnesses, the lamp of the living Truth was kept burning in a dark and formalistic age in the Lutheran Church, until the blessed Pietistic Revival broke through in 1669, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit spread all over Germany and reached Denmark, Norway, and Sweden - and a little later through Count Zinzendorf reached America. This movement of spiritual life with its prayer and fellowship meetings, stress on conversion and personal evangelism, foreign mission and separation from the world and many other benefits, became the mother of the later Haugean revival in Norway and the mother of our spiritual life movement among us Lutherans here in America. The human instruments God especially used and further lead on this blessed movement of life were Spener, Francke and to some lesser extent Count Zinzendorf. The two men in the Danish-Norwegian Church, which God used to further and transmit the pietistic spiritual life, are Pontoppidan, the author of the Explanation, "Truth Unto godliness", and H. A. Brorson, the hymn-writer. The lives of these men of God will be described briefly. Pietism is only another word for living faith and living Christianity and stands for a living power which calls sinners to repentance and calls God's people into intimate Christian fellowship.
Philipp Jakob Spener - the Father of the Pietistic Revival
Our founder of Pietism who was born in Elsace - Lorraine in 1635 and died in Berlin, February 5, 1705, we can only describe very briefly and just on the few points where his life and activity more especially touch the pietistic revival movement, which God ushered in through him.
1. Spener connected the pietistic revival with the earlier Valdense revival movement and with the living principles of the Reformation.
Prof. Dannhauer at the University of Strasburg led young Spener into the spiritual riches of Luther and pointed out to him the rights of the lay-people of which Spener later made so much use.
As a student and after God had awakened living repentance and faith in his own heart, he visited Lyons, the old home of Peter Valdo and the Valdense headquarters, and he also Studied at Geneva. Here he met living Christians of the Reformed churches. Through Prof. Leger, a born Valdensian, and John Von Labadie, a living revival preacher, young Spener was led more fully into practical spiritual life; he learned about the wonderful lay preaching of the Valdensian movement and learned to be tolerant and recognize the Christians in other denominations. In this way, the Spirit prepared him for his great life-work.
2. Through Spener the pietistic revival broke out Sunday, July 18, 1669.
As the Reformation revival broke out October 31, 1517, and the Hauge revival in Norway started April 5, 1796, so this blessed movement of life broke out on a definite day. Spener had preached in Frankfurt an Main on the "Vain Righteousness of the Pharisees,'' and likened it to the dead formalism in the Lutheran Church, where people think that outward participation in the church services, sacraments and outward morality is enough, without real repentance and change of heart. Many got mad, many others were awakened and converted and the lines began to be drawn between real converted Christians and mere church people. This to be sure had been done before by the living witnesses but it had never before come so strikingly out in the open in the Lutheran Church. It caused terrific opposition.
3. Through Spener the prayer and devotional meeting was first started in the Lutheran Church and God's people learned to talk.
The Lutheran Church had kept God's people as dumb and silent as possible, but now Spener started prayer and fellowship meetings in his own house twice a week. What a wonderful blessing and wonderful opening for God's born- again people, which they never had before in our church. The Apostolic Christianity and the Valdense movement were transplanted right into the Lutheran Church; and to be sure they caused an awful commotion, especially among all the dead formalistic preachers. Soon, however, revivals, fellowship and prayer meetings sprang up everywhere to the great dread and consternation of the majority of the ministers. But to the great joy of God's people.
4. Through Spener, more than anyone since Luther, God's people were led into the living Word itself.
The living Word and the living experience were made to fit into each other. Of the two weekly fellowship meetings, the Monday meeting was especially given to Bible study, but free for all to take part in the discussion, or make remarks. The Wednesday meeting was more given to prayer - a good variety. To pray over the open Bible in private, family devotion and instruction of the young in the Bible were greatly encouraged. From this time we get the renewal of the confirmation instruction, which Luther really had done away with. Not only the instruction but the confirmation itself, which Luther did not want on account of its abuse, was started up again.
God's people became real "readers" and the power of the living Word and the power of the new life, and the power of the new brotherly love as manifested in these devotional meetings were felt far and wide and shook the old formalistic Lutheran Church to its foundations. The new converts were called "Pietists" in a sneering way. Hence the name.
5. Spener's six soul-stirring demands to the Lutheran Church and its Ministers through his little book "Pia Desideria" or Pious Wishes.
No book since Luther's time had so stirred up the Lutheran Church. After describing the dead and lifeless condition of the church, Spener goes on to say that the great aim of the church should be the conversion of the individual followed by a godly life. To reach this Biblical aim he proposed the following helpful measures:
First measure of help: Revive the apostolic house meetings around the living Word and prayer. Just Sunday services in church is not enough.
Christian fellowship meetings must be kept going, if we are to have revival. Then the new converts, now as in Spener's day, will find a blessed home in these meetings, a center of attraction for them apart from the world. These little meetings will divide the born-again Christians from the mere church Christians. They are the strong rock and back-ground of all layman's activity, but a thorn in the flesh of all unconverted preachers. Such a gathering of Christians is the real church, a church within a church, which must be kept alive, but has met so much fierce opposition at all times.
Second helpful measure: The sincere and earnest use of the spiritual priesthood.
1 Peter 2:9.
The doctrine of the priesthood is the chief error of the Romish Church, says Spener. It gives the priests authority and they keep the people in obedience and ignorance like minor children. We have a lot of the same in the Lutheran Church. But, like Luther, Spener maintains from the Bible that every Christian without exception is an appointed priest. And as a priest he has a right and the privilege to teach, bear witness, admonish, and care for souls. Not, indeed, to encroach upon the office of the regular pastor, but to supplement and to help. Every pastor should encourage the gifts of grace in his congregation to bear witness for the Lord. This is the great laymen's principle, which has been so opposed in a formalistic church but has been of such untold blessing to the salvation of souls through all ages. How easy it is to leave all this to the regular preacher. This has ever been the tendency of a worldly church, and of the worldly preachers themselves.
Third helpful measure: Admonish the people that doctrine and knowledge alone is not enough. Christianity is an experience. Conversion and a godly life is needed most of all.
The Lutheran Church had gone to sleep on the pure doctrine. But now Spener preached repentance and conversion. And people were converted. He preached 66 sermons just on the new birth: "You must be born again." This is the outstanding doctrine of all pietistic preaching. God has given the lay people a special mission to preach repentance. This has been and is sorely neglected in the Lutheran and other churches.
Fourth helpful measure: Not to fight about doctrines, but to show brotherly love to Christians of other denominations. If you shall win them, you must win them in the spirit of the love of God. Spener wanted the Lutheran Christian to recognize God's people in other folds and cooperate in Christian work when possible and practical, a serious stumbling - block to many strict Lutherans.
Fifth helpful measure: There must be a change in the training of ministers. One that is not born again will never be a true preacher. He who shall convert others must himself be converted. The minister must be alive or else he will not preach life. This point met with frightful opposition on the part of many ministers who felt themselves condemned. But how true!
Sixth helpful measure: The preaching from the pulpit must be different. Stop these long sermons full of learning, or everlasting preaching about the sacraments and pure doctrine. You must preach in a simple and direct way, straight to the hearts of the people, Spener declared. If there shall be a real change in the congregations, the ministers must begin to change first. Here again is a strong laymen's point. To speak and bear witness of salvation, as experienced in simple every-day language. How that has awakened many who would go to sleep under learned, historical sermons.
God's people all over Germany praised God for these clear propositions from God's own word, just as though they were written from their own converted hearts. However the majority of the ministers raged against them. They asked a learned university professor (of theology) to hunt through Spener's writings for false doctrines. He found 263, a great number of false teachings to be sure. Not only did the people get into two camps, the converted and the unconverted, but the ministers as well. Two kinds: the converted and the unconverted, the saved and the unsaved preachers, that's the way the lines will be drawn when a spiritual awakening breaks out. Here is another mission of the lay people: To draw the Biblical lines between the saved and the unsaved.
6. Spener's teachings on the "adiafora" (middle things), or that which may be questionable in Christian life.
Up to this time drinking, dancing, theatre-going, card- playing and many other forms of amusement were common not only among ordinary church people but among the ministers of the Gospel as well. Now the converted Christians came out squarely and uncompromisingly against these: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed.” Rom. 12:2; “come ye out from among them and be ye separate”. 2 Cor. 6:17; “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Rom. 14:23. From the last mentioned passage Spener wrote a treatise declaring that all the living Christian does, or does not, must pass the following four tests, plainly taught in God's own Word:
First test: That God is glorified in your body, and in your spirit which is God's.
1 Cor.6:20. That's the first narrow gate.
Second test: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God.”
Col. 3:17. Another narrow gate.
Third test: That it is for the real good of your neighbor. Rom. 15:2.
Fourth test: It must be necessary for your soul's salvation, or for the real well-being of your body as eating, sleeping, etc.
All that cannot go through these four narrow gates cannot be done in faith, hence it is sin, Spener declares. This does not only rule out card-playing, dancing and drinking, etc., but even reading of useless books, the latest fashion, smoking, joking in an un-christian way, etc.
The worldly ministers and church people held all these things, including dancing and drinking for "adiaphora'', or middle things, that Christians could indulge in or leave alone, as they pleased, for they would condemn no one. A fierce church fight all over Germany ensued and the fight is not over yet-and never will be. While this point was overstressed by some zealous Christians, who might forget that first of all the sinner must be born again and receive the Holy Spirit, before he will take a right stand on these outward questions, it must always be remembered that God's people are called to be a separate people - and they became a separate people.
7. Spener's private prayer-life. Spener is our great spiritual pioneer and trail-blazer along so many Biblical lines within the Lutheran Church - not forgetting the "millenium," according to Rev. 20, which was an entirely new line of thought at that time in the Lutheran Church, and which another earnest pietist, J. A. Bengel, has further developed. But now just a few words about his prayer life.
Westermeier writes, "Prayer was the breath of his life. It always kept his soul in a profound peace. His private prayer season began every morning at 5:30--on Sundays at 4 A.M. He prayed for his friends and acquaintances by name. Any person Spener knew as a Christian, even if he only had seen him once, could be sure that he prayed for him. For certain ones he prayed several times a day. To be sure not to forget anyone, he had a system in his prayer in which he divided Germany, and other countries, in places and provinces and accordingly prayed for the people who lived there. In difficult circumstances he prayed in fellowship with his friends. People who came from far to call on him usually had a season of prayer with him before they left. He prayed with his household three times a day, morning, noon and evening, together with Bible reading and singing."
The end of this apostolic man came February 5, 1705, in Berlin. He looked forward with great joy to his final release, praying, pleading and praising God. Contrary to custom, he wanted a white shroud and white coffin to bear testimony he was through with his sorrows and had become a member of the redeemed host in heaven.
Spener rests from his labors, but his works follow him. God through him started a spiritual life-movement in the Lutheran Church, which is still continuing. The preaching of repentance and the new birth, the Christian fellowship meetings of God's people, separation from the world, our privilege to bear witness as the true priest of God, and the humble, devoted and godly life. These and others God has given us through Philipp Jakob Spener. God give us grace to watch over this our precious heritage, spread it around in this dark age and transmit it to our children. The night is coming, when no man can work.
August Herman Francke
Books could be written and have been written about the wonderful labors and love of Francke. But I have no space left except barely to mention two or three outstanding facts.
Having been born in Lubeck in 1663, he became born again in Luneburg in1687, after he had become a preacher and a teacher. This living experience of salvation and the new birth he never failed to declare.
Together with Spener and other pietists, the Halle School was made the headquarters of the new spiritual movement, from which living preachers and teachers, living witnesses, were sent to many countries, including India, in 1705. Neither were Norway and the Scandinavian countries forgotten. Like Spener, Francke lived a most wonderful prayer life and received real miraculous answers to prayer. His orphanages and institutions of mercy were reared and continued through prayer, like G. Mueller's at Bristol much later.
Francke started the first Bible Society in 1712 and a stream of spiritual literature flowed out from Halle all over Europe, even to Siberia among the poor prisoners of Russia among whom many were converted. The love of God shed abroad by the Holy Spirit flowed like a mighty river through Francke's heart. He simply yearned with compassion for all the unsaved and all the needy the world over.
On the 8th of June, 1727, God took His devoted servant home. Just before his release, he praised God for that wonderful day at Luneburg forty years before when he was saved and God had accepted him as His child.
The living witnesses who went out from Francke's school at Halle encouraged the prayer meeting, preached repentance and the new birth, and went from house to house to do personal work with the individual. The blessing spread, but there was great opposition--"But be ye of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
This German Christian nobleman was born at Dresden in 1700, was sent to Francke's school at Halle and gave his heart to God early in life.
With Spener and Francke he stood on the ground of a real heart-religion, stressing repentance and faith and formation of Christian fellowship meetings in private houses to keep the sacred fire burning.
Zinzendorf is the first outstanding layman of the pietistic revival movement; though later he was ordained for the sake of expediency. He was really a lawyer by profession.
But he was a great soul-winner. He invited the persecuted Bohemian Christians, really a remnant of the old Valdensian lay movement, to settle on his estate. He was led to take a further step than Spener and Francke in regard to the church principle. They held that the best way to build the Kingdom of God and save souls was for God's people to stand as a little group within the mass-church and labor among the unconverted, but not to go out and form a separate congregation. This principle H. N. Hauge also followed and most of the Inner Mission people up to the present day.
But Zinzendorf found under certain circumstances it was better to go out and form a separate organization and the church body of the "Brethren" or "Moravian Brethren'' was founded. It was a Lutheran organization, but Christians of more reformed views could belong to them just so that they had a living experience of sin and grace.
A wonderful soul-saving activity went out from this little church body with its small congregations. Inner mission work began in Germany, Scandinavia and other countries and foreign mission work in Greenland, Labrador, the West Indies and among the Indians of North America. Zinzendorf himself made two trips to America. "O that you may win some souls for the Lamb of God," were his parting words to the Christian workers he sent out. They stressed more the free grace of God and salvation through the precious blood of Jesus than Spener and Francke. Zinzendorf died rejoicing in the hope in 1760. Among his last words were: "Now I am going to my Savior; now I am ready. Nothing hinders me any more."
Hans Adolf Brorson
H. A. Brorson, who was born at Randrup in the south part of Jutland, Denmark, in 1694, and was a minister and later a bishop, is the foremost of all our many pietistic hymn-writers.
The pietistic hymns center to a great extent around a real conversion and living faith and experienced salvation and separation from the world. The pietistic revival movement reached Denmark in its strength shortly after the year 1700. Brorson in hymn 279 in Landstad hymn-book describes his own conversion as translated in prose in this way:
''0 how I am happy, since I my Jesus found.
When I came and surrendered, all my burden was taken away.
O how my heart now is glad, just like I was in heaven itself.
How good to reach the harbor, when Jesus is your own."
In 1739, Brorson edited the noted hymn - book, "Troens rare klenodie,'' or "The Rare Jewel of faith," a collection of 250 hymns, some of his own, but mostly translations from the German pietistic hymn-writers, and also from Bernhard, Luther and Gerhard. These hymns of living personal Christian experience have now been sung for two hundred years in the Danish and Norwegian churches, and more especially by the living Christians. They have contributed very greatly toward whatever spiritual life there is among us.
The Concordia English hymn - book has included ten of his hymns and 11 of his translations. But they have lost so much in translation. The spirit of the hymns is hardly to be recognized. None but a sacred poet, who himself has had a living personal experience of salvation, could translate the spirit of these hymns, and then only in part. "Now found is the fairest of Roses; O Father, may Thy Word prevail. (But the translated has left out: May the Spirit prevail); I see Thee standing Lamb of God; Thy little ones, dear Lord, are we," are familiar.
Brorson died at Ribe in 1764. A number of hymns written shortly before his passing, called his swan-songs, were found and published after his death, among which are: "Behold the host arrayed in white." And a little further: "How often in the evil day they here below did weep and pray." Brorson himself was a man of great trials in his earthly life.
Erik Pontoppidan- "Truth unto Godliness''
"I love to tell the story, because I know 'tis true, it satisfies my longing as nothing else can do." Perhaps the truth of this hymn has never been brought out stronger, at least not in print, than when Erik Pontoppidan wrote his unique book for children and for all- "Truth Unto Godliness.''
It will here have to suffice to say about Pontoppidan personally that he was born at Aarhus, Denmark, in 1698. He had a hard struggle with need and poverty, traveled considerably, was perhaps converted among the reformed people, became minister in the state church of Denmark, was bishop at Bergen, Norway, 1747-53, court preacher for the pietistic king, Christian the VI, and was asked by him to write his book, "Truth Unto Godliness,'' which he published in 1737, especially for use in confirmation instruction. The book contains 759 questions and answers.
"No book next to the Bible has had such an influence on the Norwegian people." No book has been of such help to pietism and layman's activity, as it is definitely pietistic and stands definitely for awakening and conversion and experienced Christianity. It has been used either in the original or abridged editions in the church of Norway for 200 years, and is used yet. It is also found in the Norwegian Lutheran churches in America, though it is now sadly being shortened and toned down-often leaving out the most striking truths of personal experience - yet a considerable portion remains as it was.
Thus the foundation of the living truth has been laid in the hearts of the children these 200 years-a pietistic foundation that worldly teachers and preachers have not been able to efface. A foundation has been created for layman's work and the Christian testimony, which our lay preachers beginning with Hauge and Elling Eielsen have made great use of-arguments of truth that the people cannot so easily brush aside: "We learned it as children in school, Sunday school or when we read for the minister, and it must be true. Even though we do not like these lay preachers, it must be true what they say."