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Christian Singers Of Germany by Catherine Winkworth

Jesu, mein Erbarmer, höre

Gerhard Tersteegen

trans. by Catherine Winkworth, 1869

|Lost in darkness, girt with dangers,

Round me strangers,

Through an alien land I roam;

Outward trials, bitter losses,

Inward crosses,

Lord, Thou know'st have sought me home.

Sin of courage hath bereft me,

And hath left me

Scarce a spark of faith or hope;

Bitter tears my heart oft sheddeth,

As it dreadeth

I am past Thy mercy's scope.

Peace I cannot find; O take me,

Lord, and make me

From this yoke of evil free;

Calm this longing never sleeping,

Still my weeping,

Give me hope once more in Thee.|

He could obtain no help from outside; but at last one day, when he was on a journey to a neighbouring city, he received such an internal manifestation of the goodness of God and the sufficiency of the Saviour, that all doubts and troubles vanished in a moment. Henceforward he had peace and joy, and an intense power of realizing the unseen which, combined with the experience he had lately gone through, gave him a wonderful faculty of touching and strengthening other hearts. He now (in 1725) admitted a young friend, named Heinrich Sommer, to live with him. The two worked ten hours daily at the loom, two hours Tersteegen devoted to private prayer, and the rest of his time to writing devotional works, and addressing private meetings of friends on religion. This last occupation, which he had begun reluctantly and in the quietest manner, soon became his principal one. So many persons were impressed by him, so many more urgently sought the opportunity of hearing him, that he was at last induced to give up his weaving altogether, and devote himself to this informal but real kind of ministry. Considerable sums of money had been already offered him by friends, which he had invariably declined; now he accepted a small regular income, but in order that he might not be entirely without manual occupation, he set up a dispensary for the poor in his house, and compounded the medicines himself, employing an assistant as the work increased. The thirty years of his life, from thirty to sixty years of age, were spent in the most incessant exertion for the good of others, though his own health was always delicate, and from time to time he had severe attacks of illness and of neuralgic pain. From morning to night he never had a moment to himself; the number of those who flocked to him for counsel was so great that there were frequently twenty or thirty persons waiting in his outer room for a chance of speaking to him, while his meetings were always attended by as many as could crowd into the rooms on the ground-floor of his little house, about four hundred persons. People came to him from England, Holland, Sweden, and Switzerland; sick persons would send for him, and he would pass hours or whole nights by their bedside; if he went into the neighbouring country for rest, people would watch for him by the roadside, and carry him off to the nearest barn, where a congregation would immediately assemble. He had an immense correspondence, and new editions of his hymns and other religious works were constantly demanded. To his quiet temperament this incessant labour and absence of solitude was most uncongenial, but he accepted it willingly as his appointed task. |I love most to be with the Father, but I am glad to be with the children,| he said. His intercourse with those who came to him seems to have been marked by a most searching insight into character, yet by a gentleness and affectionateness, an anxiety to cherish even the faintest sparks of spiritual life, which nothing could tire out. Some attempts were made to hinder his irregular ministerial activity, but he demanded an interview with the superior clergy of his native place, and so entirely justified himself in their eyes that they never allowed him to be interfered with. Nor did he ever join any sect, though many, especially the Moravians, made advances to him. When he was sixty-one, the exertion of so much speaking brought on an internal injury which was almost fatal; he recovered and lived to the age of seventy, but he is said to have looked like a corpse, and he was obliged to give up all travelling, and addressing large assemblies. But he toiled as assiduously as ever in private conversation and correspondence, and was able to revise his various books, of which the principal were |The Spiritual Flower Garden,| a volume of hymns and poems; and |Spiritual Crumbs,| a collection of sermons and addresses which had been taken down in short-hand. He died in 1769.

Tersteegen was a mystic of the purest type. In his earlier days, as he himself tells us, he laid too much stress on bodily exercises and violent emotions, but in later life he was singularly free from extravagance or intolerance. |My religion is this,| he says: |that as one reconciled to God by the blood of Christ, I suffer myself to be led by the Spirit of Jesus, through daily dying, suffering, and prayer, out of myself and all created things, that I may live alone to God in Christ; and clinging to this my God by faith and love I hope to become one spirit with Him, and through His free mercy in Christ to attain eternal salvation. And I feel myself to be of the same faith with every one who believes thus, of whatever class or nation or creed he may be.| Again, in the preface to his poems, he says: |In that sweet name of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, the tender and overflowing love of God has made for itself a new way into the very depths of our hearts, and has come unspeakably close to us poor fallen children of Adam. Since then the kingdom of God is so near at hand, nay, has come within us, we need make no wide circuit through much knowledge and laborious effort to get thither; but we may enter at once by this new, open, and living Way into the sanctuary of inward and eternal communion with God. We have but to let this deep, mysterious, intimate Divine Love lead us out from the cheating pleasures of this world and the tormenting life of egotism; and for this end to give our heart and will captive to this inward Love, that it may become our All in all, and guide us of its free pleasure. Behold this is the whole kernel of the matter.|

Many of Tersteegen's hymns have already been rendered into English, and two of them, translated by Wesley, are to be found in nearly all our hymn-books. These are, |Lo, God is here, let us adore,| and |Thou hidden Love of God.| The following little poems are taken from the first part of |The Flower Garden.|

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