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Christian Singers Of Germany by Catherine Winkworth

Joachim Neander

It was under the impulse received from the Pietists that the Reformed Church first produced any hymnwriters of mark; but from this time onwards it can show a succession of such authors, though it was never nearly so rich in them as the Lutheran. Its first poet too was, with the exception of Tersteegen, by far its best, Joachim Neander. He belonged to a family of Bremen in easy circumstances, and in his youth was a wild and careless student. One day he and two of his comrades went into St. Martin's Church at Bremen, with the intention of making a jest of the whole affair. But the sermon touched him so deeply that he determined to visit the preacher in private; and from this time he began to draw back from many of the coarser pleasures in which he had formerly indulged. But he was still a passionate lover of the chase, and once followed his game on foot so far that night came on, and he utterly lost his way among rocky and wooded hills, where the climbing was difficult even in daylight. He wandered about for some time, and then suddenly discovered that he was in a most dangerous position, and that one step forward, which he had been on the point of making, would have thrown him over a precipice. A horror came over him that almost deprived him of the power of motion, and in this extremity he prayed earnestly to God for help, vowing an entire devotion of himself to His service in the future. All at once his courage returned; he felt as though a hand were leading him, and following the path thus indicated, he at length reached his home in safety. From this day he kept his vow, and a complete change took place in his mode of life. After completing his university course he accompanied some rich merchants' sons to Frankfort, and here he made the acquaintance of Spener, Schütz, and the little clique of religious persons, of whom Spener was the centre in that city, and a warm friendship grew up between them which lasted through life.

In 1674 he was made head-master of the grammar-school at Dusseldorf, belonging to the Reformed Church. It flourished exceedingly under his rule; but he also set on foot private religious meetings after the pattern of Spener's, and these gave great offence. He was accused of heresy; and one day the elders of the church made their way into the school, and before the pupils charged him in an abusive manner with various errors of doctrine, ending with the announcement that he was deposed from his mastership, forbidden to preach, and banished from the town. His pupils would have liked to fight for him, but he forbade them, and submitted. It was summertime, and feeling himself utterly friendless there, he wandered out to a deep and beautiful glen near Mettmann on the Rhine, where for some months he lived in a cavern, which is still known by the name of |Neander's Cave.| In this retreat he composed many hymns, and among them the following: --

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