Wilhelm Baur.

Religious life in Germany during the wars of independence : a series of historical and biographical sketches online

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IBixxim t{)e 51i^ars of 3Intrepcnlicnce








Second Edition








GREAT as was the pleasure which the preparation of these
memoirs afforded me, it is with timidity that I offer them to
the public, now that they are at length completed.

For the task of producing, by means of sketches of the
most eminent exponents of it, a picture of religious life during
the wars of independence, required, besides a general know-
ledge of the history of the period, and an acquaintance with
manifold details, a talent for seizing on the salient points in
the lives of eminent persons, so as to produce a vivid portrait
of them. I am fully conscious of having performed the task
only very imperfectly, and console myself with the hope, that
the importance of the subject of my book will atone for many
imperfections in its form.

But in order to anticipate objections which may present
themselves to the reader, I beg him to give attention to a few
introductory remarks. It may be asked, if the object was to
present proofs of the renewal of religious life during the wars
of independence, why this was not effected by selecting and
grouping together these proofs from the lives of individuals,
rather than by means of biographical sketches ? I answer,
that the latter form was chosen, in the hope of thereby
securing for the book a larger circle of readers, especially
among women and young people. And if I may judge from
the pleasure which I have always had in biography myself, I
should say that there is something peculiarly attractive and
inciting in tracing the course by which a man attained to
eminence. For this reason I have given a prominence to the



period of youth, and to the mental atmosphere in which it was
passed. There is a peculiar interest in observing under what
varying early impressions, and by what various leadings, the
exponents of religious life during the war-time united in one
object, and how often the seeds of parental, and especially of
maternal, training, sprang up and bore fruit at that important

Should the reader, however, approve of the treatment of the
subject, he may take exception to the selection of incidents. I
acknowledge that on this point there is room for difference of
opinion, but trust that, on the whole, nothing of consequence
is omitted, nor anything unworthy admitted. And I beg the
reader to remember, that in a sketch of the renewal of religious
life, he must not look for perfection, or great advancement, but
for growth and aspiration.

Whatever may be regarded as a healthy plant springing up
on the barren soil of religious life in Germany at the beginning
of this century, I have noticed, though it might be far from
having attained maturity. An earnest desire for truth, a warm
heart open for the reception of the Spirit of God, is more bene-
ficial in its effects than the mere assent of the understanding to
truths without any corresponding warmth of heart ; and in this
latter quality, I think none of the characters whom I have
introduced to the reader are wanting.

In conclusion, I beg that the remoteness of my residence,
which has made it difficult to obtain access to sources of
information, may be taken into account in the judgment passed
upon my book. May God grant it His blessing.



November, 1864.

* The author has since removed to Hamburg. — Tr.


THE loyalty and patriotism of one nation appear to be no less
incomprehensible to another than the subtile attraction of
one individual for another. English readers, therefore, can per-
haps scarcely be expected to take any particular interest in the
special purpose of this book, namely, to illustrate the renewal of
religious life in Germany at the time of the wars of independence.

Indeed, the ardent patriotism which animates it, the high
place given to Germany among the nations, may to some
appear exaggerated and ridiculous ; but we, with our exalted
notion of our own national merits, are surely not the people to
cast stones at other nations for their measure of self-esteem ;
and I thought that the interest of many of the biographical
sketches was so great, independently of their special purpose,
that some English readers might be glad through their means
to increase their acquaintance with men of whom they know
but little, and to make acquaintance with others. As far as I
am aware, no popular sketches of the subjects of most of these
biographies have appeared in England.

It is, therefore, with a hope of extending an interest in
German life and character, and of thereby contributing some-
thing, however little, towards diminishing our "aecht Brit-
tische Beschränktheit," genuine British narrowness, that these
Sketches are offered to the public.

The characters portrayed are selected from spheres of life so
diverse — royal, military, political, theological, literary, and
philanthropic — that it may be hoped that readers of various
tastes will find something to interest them.


Several chapters in the original have been omitted, as not
possessing much interest for any but German readers; the
book has also been considerably abridged.

Two of the poetical translations are taken from * Lyra Ger-
manica,' by purchased permission of Messrs. Longman and Co. ;
for most of the others I am indebted to one of my sisters.


NoRTHFLEET, Fchruanj, 1870.

tea:n'slatoe'8 peeface to the
SECois^D editio:n\

THIS book would probably have attracted more attention
than it did, when the first edition appeared, had not its title,
w^hich is not that which was originally intended for it, been
somewhat misleading. A more appropriate one would have
been " Biographical Sketches during the Wars of Independence
in Germany."

For it really contains much of the history of that period, and
of the French dominion in Germany, so that its appearance
shortly before the breaking out of the Franco- German War in
1870 was remarkably opportune, for the one contest must be
looked upon as the sequel of the other, and the book is not
likely soon to lose its value to those who would understand the
relation between them.

Its pages show abundant light on the earnest enthusiasm of
the German people, and on many of the causes of their success
in the late struggle, while the annals of the French dominion
in Germany, now no longer contemporary history to most of
the present generation, explain, however little they may be
thought to justify, the severe measures of the Germans in 1871.

Thus the events of the last two years have invested the
period of which this book treats with a special interest quite
unlooked for when it was translated, and the history of the
recent war will be followed with much greater intelligence
when read in the light which the following biographical
sketches afford.

Sydenham, July, 1872.

















XVI. JOHN FALK . . . . ; 409




ON a deep consideration of the subject, it appears as if every
aboriginal nation, as well as every individual man, has
some special part assigned to it, in the counsels of the Creator,
in the historical development of the Divine intentions.
/ As it is the duty of every individual to discover what is his
^Vocation, to know himself, to ascertain his powers and their
limits, and, with submission to the Divine guidance, to strive
to ful^ his calling, so should every nation endeavour to discover
what is the mission which is given to it to perform. The
vocation set before it by the Lord of all the ages should guide
it like a star through the dark and tortuous paths of history.
However far it may wander from its guide, it should endeavour
to find it again, and feel that it can never use its powers with
pleasure and success except when walking in the path appointed
for it by God.

But as with the individual the secular and Christian vocation
unite in one, as soon as he has attained light through Christ,
so it is only by the closest union of the two that a Christian
nation can fulfil its national and religious calling.

Christianity should permeate patriotism, and it is only at its
peril that patriotism can withdraw from the influence of Chris-

In endeavouring to discover what is the vocation of the
German nation, we must first call attention to the fact that it is
a Christian nation, and as such has performed its most brilliant



deeds. National ignominy will be the result, not only of
declension in patriotism, but in religion ; and it is only when
conscientiously seeking to regain the right path that we shall
see German honour vindicated.

Thus, in studying the German wars of independence, we find
that the low state of religious life in the nation was a principal
cause of its fall ; that the revival of religion was an essential
element in its regeneration. The blessing which resulted from
war and victory was a renewed apprehension of the mission
with which it had been entrusted when first its national
strength had been imbued with Christianity, for this had been
very much lost sight of.

The Gospel never found a more gifted or impressible disciple
than the German nation. While Greece and Rome first heard
the Word of Life when death was approaching ; while they
derived from it consolation for their last hours rather than
strength to perform mighty deeds, the German nation was in
the full vigour of youth, and thirsting for action when it heard
the news of a Saviour. It had acquired possession of the heart
of Europe ; it had founded new empires within the Roman
territories ; had imparted its fresh young life to decaying
peoples ; it had the aspect of one intending to do great things
in the world when it was invited to bow the knee at the name
of Jesus. It soon formed a close alliance with Christianity,
which gave it new aims, and consecrated its growing powers.

It is not national vanity, but the result of the soberest
historical research, to ascribe to the Germans a special recep-
tivity for Christianity, a special gift for the apprehension of its
deepest essence. The claims of other nations are not thereby
lessened, but the responsibilities of the Germans increased.

But it must not be forgotten that the moral and religious
principles of German nationaHty are mostly identical with those
of other Germanic tribes, and love of country must not induce
us to attribute specially to them merits which they have in
common with other heathen nations.

But if we grant that the Germanic representation of the
Allfather amounts to little more than the Grecian " Father


of gods and men ;" that worship in groves, without temple or
idols, is also found among other primitive peoples ; that in the
Teutonic mythology, as well as in others, a demoralising repre-
sentation prevailed of the production instead of creation of the
world ; that other nations saw something prophetic in woman,
— still there remain features in the religious and moral concep-
tions of the Germans in which we may be permitted to recognise
the likeness of a son to a father. One significant feature is
their belief in the future extinction of their divinities, and of an
end of all things. For the whole existing world, including
their gods, in the imagining of which they had expended all
their mental treasures, could not satisfy them, but appeared to
them as something doomed to destruction, from the ashes of
which something more pure, more genuine, and true should one
day arise. Their profundity is shown more by what they con-
signed to destruction than by what they created.

If among the Jewish people we admire the spirit of prophecy
which, instead of mourning over a lost paradise, proclaims a
future kingdom of God, we may also regard it as a gleam of
Divine enlightenment that the Germans, with a deep conscious-
ness of sin, perceived the imperfection of their most perfect
eflforts, and looked forward to the future when something better
should arise. But even the mythology, which was doomed to
destruction, offered many points of contact for the teaching of
the Gospel. Among these may be reckoned the heroism of the
Germans, and the joy with which they encountered death,
which were coupled with their reverence for Odin, who, as
Wodan, was the chief deity of the Saxons. To fall in battle
was the highest aim of man, because thereby he became the
companion of Odin in Valhalla, and at the end of the world
would join him in the conflict with the powers of darkness.
How easily must the heroism and triumph in death of the
Christian, who loses life in order to gain it, who devotes
himself wholly to his Lord, with whom to stand outweighs
all earthly sacrifice, have been grafted upon these ideas !

But this devotion and self-sacrifice are by no means to be
attributed to a contempt for life. The doctrine of Christianity


— that one human soul exceeds the whole world in value ; that,
because he bears the image of Himself, one human being, in
God's estimation, is worth more than all the rest of His creatures
— must have sunk deeply into the soul of the German, because
he had by nature a high esteem for man as an independent
being. The announcement of the liberty of the children of God
must have sounded to him like the fulfilment of a long-cherished
idea, for he had no stronger impulse than that for freedom.
And when with the value which was attached to his own free
individuality, the value of his fellow man was increased in his
eyes, if it gave rise to an idea that man must be willing to
sacrifice himself for others, the retainer for the leader, the
leader for the retainer, — what an example of such devotion, of
self-sacrifice, of redemption of captives by the substitution of
one who was free, must Christ have appeared to them ! He
who demands their lives as a sacrifice from His followers,
because He has first given His life for them.

In respect to the morals of the Germans, it is certain that
both the heathen Tacitus and the Christian Salvianus draw a
picture of the purity of the Germanic tribes, which stands out
in clear contrast to Roman immorality. Unnatural vices were
unknown among them, and maiden purity and conjugal fidelity
were fenced round by the strongest public opinion, and by the
severest punishment in case of fall.

All these features display a certain depth and morality in the
views and lives of these people which indicate a natural adapta-
tion for Christianity. It might be expected that it would be
displayed in their language, for on this, next to their religion,
the spirit of a nation is most plainly stamped ; and, in fact, the
German language seems to be a vessel wonderfully adapted for
receiving the whole contents of Gospel teaching.

Thus we find, in the natural character of the Germans, moral
views of profound depth and proportionate height ; and it
appears to be their Christian vocation to unite an earnest
morality with a profound faith, to apprehend the deepest signi-
ficance of the Gospel message, as well as to attain pre-eminence
in putting it in practice. That faith is not German which can


dispense with the acceptance of mercy ; those works are not
German which lack the fervour of piety.

The Romish Church, from which the Germans first received
Christianity, imposed difficulties in the way of its reception.
Because her doctrine was not correct on the subject of faith, it
necessarily followed that she taught a false system of works.
While, according to the Scriptures, faith is the most profound
act of the mind, the entire devotion of a finite creature to an
infinite God, reliance of the sinner on His mercy as revealed to
us in His Son, an inviolable attachment to Him who loved us
unto death, a faithful following of the Hero who alone can make
us free, a union with the Living One who alone can impart life
to those who were worthy of death, a life in the Saviour, — in
the Romish Church, faith was soon reduced into a mere assent
of the understanding to the doctrines of the Church. "WTiile,
according to the Scriptures, faith produces the closest union
with the Saviour, in the Romish Church it is only expected to
produce obedience to her teaching. While, according to the
Scriptures, works are nothing but the love which proceeds as
naturally from faith as light and heat from fire ; and faith in
itself possesses no merit, and is only pleasing to God so far as,
like a sap of life, it animates our works ; — in the Romish
Church works take an independent place, and are considered as
a ground of salvation. While, in the sphere of Protestant
Christendom, works exist in healthy combination with faith,
and are represented as fulfilments of the Divine will, in the
Romish Church the most arbitrary works sprang up, till they
became a disgrace to, and distortion of, Christianity.

The Romish Church was to be the schoolmaster of the
youthful Gennan race for a time, but its vocation for freedom
through communion with God, she could not comprehend ; and
it was for the nation itself to awake to it gradually, and to
assert it in opposition to the spirit of its teacher. For the
special calling of the nation to a deeper piety is shown by the
fact that the Church of Rome had no more faithful adherents
than the Germans, and that they sought to animate its lifeless
dogmas with the warmth of their hearts' blood. While at


Rome, the Pope and Cardinals, like the heathen Greeks, were
enjoying the refinements of art and the good things of this life,
the Germans were given up to the earnest contemplation of
their sins, and did not disdain the use of the miserable means
offered by the Church to obtain peace. But the tendency of
the nation to penetrate into the deep signification of Christianity
is still more clearly shown by German mysticism than by the
endeavour to fix a meaning to the Romish dogmas.

In the theology of Johann Tauler, Heinrich Suso, and Johann
Ruysbroek, German subjectiveness triumphed over Romish
objectiveness, the German language over the ecclesiastical
Latin, the readiness of the German people to receive God
through Christ in the heart, over the Romish doctrine of recon-
ciliation to God through obedience to the Church. This was
German theology; this clearing away of all legal fences and
false mediation, this leading man back to immediate communion
with God, this dying of the old man with Christ, and rising to
a new life with Him, this pouring out of love from its eternal
source through the soul of the believer to his brethren : this was
German theology, this proclamation of the deepest secrets of
revelation in the simple tones of the German language. The
mysticism of the middle ages was a return of the spirit to the
sources of divine life ; it was an earnest of that greatest deed of
Germany, the Reformation.

Martin Luther was sent to the nation to announce to it its
Christian calling, to unite heartfelt faith with the purest
morality. Never, perhaps, were united in one man so clear
an apprehension of Divine truth with the strong stamp of
nationality, as in the German reformer.

There have been men in whom the image of Christ was more
clearly mirrored than in the ardent soul of Luther, and others
may have devoted to the Gospel a more undivided patriotism,
but no such union of religious fervour with the natural vigour
of the German character has appeared before or since.

His alarmed conscience could not rest till he had discovered
and partaken of the deepest springs of peace for the soul, but
in putting on the new man in Christ he did not cast off his


German nature. The word of God appeared to him as the all-
powerful means to lead the world to Christ, and thoroughly
German in tone was his proclamation of it ; faith was to him
the life-giving fruit of the word, and with true German devotion
he clung to the Captain of his Salvation. He taught that
matrimony was a holy state, and thoroughly German was the
family life which he held up as a pattern to future generations.
With far-seeing eye he traced Christianity from its origin to its
furthest extension, and perceived that human life in all its
phases may be consecrated to God.

The idea of the possibility of the whole nation walking in the
paths that Luther pointed out to it, appears, as things now
stand, like ridiculous enthusiasm. But Germany was not so
far at one time from acknowledging as one man her Christian
calling. Luther's writings were as joyfully received by the
Christian nobles as by the burgher and peasant class. His
preaching touched the national heart, his catechism taught in a
national tone, his hymns opened new paths to the national love
of song. The man appeared to the whole nation as an imper-
sonation of its better self. The Gospel from Wittenberg had
gone forth on all sides, it had been accepted by the choicest of
the people ; the North Germans were its adherents, the spirit
of the ancient faith was revived in Bohemia and Moravia, it
had penetrated into Bavaria and Austria, and to the countries
to the east of Germany. Then God permitted the spirit of the
Romish Church, which was revived in Jesuitism, to hinder
through force and cunning the spread of the Gospel.

Jesuitism is the very antipodes, the arch enemy of the
German mind ; for inward and heartfelt feeling, it substitutes
the most repulsive formaHsm ; it seeks to control liberty by
revolting statutes. In place of the sanctified idealism which
burns in the youthful German mind, it ofi'ers as the only
incentive in education the commonest motives of ambition. Its
object is not to lead souls to a life-giving communion with
their Sa\dour, but only to secure obedience to the Church and
to increase the adherents of the Papacy. A century after the
Reformation, and even earlier, Germany presented a mournful


spectacle. Jesuitism pressed like an incubus on the national
mind, and even when Luther's teaching still prevailed, it was
forgotten that the Christian calling consists of sincere faith, and
of a life which originates therein. Even in the Protestant
Church faith was in danger of becoming a mere intellectual
assent ; pure doctrine had assumed the form of law ; there was
a zeal in the defence of it with which zeal for a life of love did
not keep pace.

The period of unbroken Lutheran orthodoxy doubtless pre-
sents many valuable examples of Gospel life and faith, rich
treasures of hymns and prayer, profound expositions of doctrine
applicable to all time, excellent regulations concerning both
public and private life, but the special vocation of the nation
was not sufficiently apprehended. Two powerful voices were
heard admonishing their countrymen to see their calling, the
theologian Johann Arndt, and the philosopher Jacob Böhme, —
the former by his ' True Christianity,' which has become a
national work, the latter by numerous writings of remarkable
depth and power. Both exhort their readers to a more inward
reception of Divine truth, not an idle contemplation of the
infinity of the Divine nature, but a partaking of that pure
spring of the Godhead offered to us in Jesus Christ, in order
that man may be regenerated and lead a holy life. We pass
over the orthodoxy of the seventeenth century with its active
piety, which in great part arose from the writings of these two
great men, till we come to the times of Philip Jacob Spener
and August Hermann Francke. They renewed the teaching of

Online LibraryWilhelm BaurReligious life in Germany during the wars of independence : a series of historical and biographical sketches → online text (page 1 of 44)