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Christian Singers Of Germany by Catherine Winkworth

August Herrmann Franke

Franke was a man of the same type of piety as Spener, but more ardent and passionate in temperament. He belonged to a respectable family of Lubeck, where his father was Syndic; and in 1684, at the age of twenty-one, was sent to the university of Leipsic. The fame of Spener soon attracted him over to Dresden, and the young Franke speedily enrolled himself among the master's most attached disciples. At Spener's instigation in 1686, as a private tutor, he opened classes for the study of the Bible, and though when he began them not a single Bible or New Testament was to be found in any bookseller's shop in Leipsic, within a few months he had from 300 to 400 pupils, many of whom were converted to the new mode of life. It was at this time that the name of Pietists was given to this party in contempt, and in 1690 their opponents in the university succeeded in having these lectures prohibited. On this Franke joined Spener at Dresden, who procured him an appointment with Breithaupt to a church at Erfurt. There his private meetings, the great number of books that were sent to him, and above all the startling effect produced by his sermons, awakened the envy and hostility of the old orthodox and the Romanist parties, who united in accusing him to the Roman Catholic prince as |one of the men who are turning the world upside down.| One of his packets of books was seized, and he was summoned before the council, but when, on opening it, it was found to contain nothing but Bibles, the council was fain to let him go again. Presently, however, a decree from the prince deprived him of his post, and commanded him to leave Erfurt within two days, and it was on his journey to Gotha on this occasion that he wrote his celebrated hymn, |Thank God that towards eternity.| A few months later, through Spener's recommendation, he received the incumbency of one of the suburban churches of Halle, with a promise of the professorship of Greek and Oriental languages in the university about to be founded there. He accordingly went to Halle in December 1691, and it remained his residence for thirty-five years, until his death in 1727. Shortly after his own removal there, Breithaupt, Lange, Anton, and other friends of the same way of thinking, also received professorships and pulpits in Halle, and for many years Halle continued to be the head-quarters of the Pietistic movement. Spener had given to it its first spiritual impulse, Franke gave it its practical organization and utility. Numbers of students flocked to the new university; nothing like the concourse had been seen since the days of Luther at Wittenberg. Within thirty years it had sent out more than 6,000 graduates in theology, besides some thousands who had been trained in the theological schools founded by Franke. These men spread themselves all over evangelical Germany; early in the eighteenth century they had made their way into other universities than Halle, and occupied the majority of the pulpits in all the States, while even the old orthodox party had been gradually modified by their example, and had adopted many of their innovations. But Franke's great work, for which his name must always be held in grateful remembrance, was that he first in his times set on foot schemes of organized Christian benevolence, and recalled Christian people to the duty of personal effort for the most degraded classes of society. The suburb of Glaucha, where his church was situated, was one of the worst parts of Halle, in which all the low beer-houses and dancing saloons were to be found. Its population was excessively poor and totally uncared for; he laboured as their pastor, gave relief to the poor in a systematic manner, sought out employment for them, founded free schools, and finally his famous Orphan-house. In these undertakings he obtained personal help from his students; money was another matter. He began his schools with four dollars and sixteen groschen, his Orphan-house with seven dollars; it was, as he himself says, |founded in faith and prayer;| he had no lists of subscribers, and he was more than once reduced to his last shilling. But help always came at the right moment; the work grew and prospered as more people came to know of it, and at last he had the happiness of seeing his great schools built on what had been the site of the very worst houses in Glaucha. At the time of his death the establishment contained 145 orphans who were entirely provided for there, 2,200 scholars who were receiving a free education, and it gave daily dinners to nearly 400 poor students at the university, while it also included a printing and publishing house, and a dispensary. Similar institutions were founded in imitation of it in many other German towns, and it is not too much to say that Germany owes to the Pietists the resuscitation of her educational system after the war, the introduction of systematic provision for the poor, and the revival of a purer and more refined domestic life.
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