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The Pietistic movement quickly made its influence felt in all parts of Germany. In some quarters, especially in the latter stages of the movement, it assumed more radical forms. Sometimes it developed into emotionalism and mysticism. The hymns were often of a subjective type, which led the worshiper to think more about his own inner processes and feelings than to direct his thoughts to Him alone who can redeem and sanctify.

Some of the Pietistic hymnists, notably Woltersdorf, were given to the use of inordinate language and even sensuous descriptions for the purpose of arousing intense emotion. In one of Woltersdorf’s passion hymns, he dwells morbidly on every detail of the physical sufferings of Christ, and in another hymn he borrows Scheffler’s figure which likens the soul to a bee deriving sustenance from the crimson wounds of Christ.

On the other hand, the Pietistic hymn is exemplified in its highest and noblest form in the writings of the so-called Württemberg school of hymnists, the chief exponent of which was Philipp Friedrich Hiller. Württemberg was blessed with the famous scholar and theologian, Johann Albrecht Bengel, whose sound doctrinal views and profound understanding of human nature not only led to a healthy development of Pietism in southern Germany, but also left a lasting impression on all the theological students who came under his influence at the training schools at Denkendorf, near Esslingen. Hiller was one of these.


Hiller’s hymns and those of the other Württemberg hymnists never indulge in the weak emotional effusions of which the later Halle hymn-writers were often guilty.

Hiller was a man sorely tried in the school of adversity. Shortly after he began his pastorate at Steinheim, in 1748, he lost his voice and was unable to continue his pulpit duties. However, he believed implicitly in the Pauline teaching that “to them that love God all things work together for good,” and, when his voice became silent, his spirit began to sing hymns richer and sweeter than ever. Witness, for example, the note of tenderness in the last stanza of his baptismal hymn, “God, in human flesh appearing”:

Feeble is the love of mother,

Father’s blessings are as naught,

When compared, my King and Brother,

With the wonders Thou hast wrought;

Thus it pleased Thy heavenly meekness;

Pleasing also be my praise,

Till my songs of earthly weakness

Burst into celestial lays.

Hiller was a prolific writer, his hymns numbering no less than 1,075 in all. Most of these were written for his devotional book, “Geistliches Liederkästlein,” a work that holds an honored place beside the Bible in many pious homes in southern Germany. Indeed, it has been carried by German emigrants to all parts of the world. It is related that when a Germany colony in the Caucasus was attacked by a fierce Circassian tribe about a hundred years ago, the parents cut up their copies of the “Liederkästlein” and distributed its leaves among their children who were being carried off into slavery. Hiller’s hymns, though simple in form and artless in expression, have retained a strong hold on the people of Württemberg and are extensively used to this day. Among 113 the more popular are “O boundless joy, there is salvation,” “Jesus Christ as King is reigning,” and “O Son of God, we wait for Thee.”

Hiller’s rule for hymn-writing, as set forth in one of his prefaces, could be followed with profit by many modern writers of sentimental tendencies. He says: “I have always striven for simplicity. Bombastic expressions of a soaring imagination, a commonplace and too familiar manner of speaking of Christ as a brother, of kisses and embraces, of individual souls as the particular Bride of Christ, of naive and pet images for the Christ-child,—all these I have scrupulously avoided, and serious-minded men will not blame me if, in this respect, I have revered the majesty of our Lord.”

Another representative of the Württemberg school was Baron Christoph Carl Ludwig von Pfeil, a diplomat of high attainments and noble, Christian character. In September, 1763, he was appointed by Frederick the Great as Prussian ambassador to the Diets of Swabia and Franconia. He was created a baron by Emperor Joseph II shortly afterwards.

Pfeil began writing hymns at the age of eighteen years and continued it as his chief diversion throughout life. He was a prolific writer, his published hymns numbering about 850. He was a warm friend of Bengel, who wrote the introduction to one of Pfeil’s hymn collections. Pfeil wrote hymns on various phases of civil life. His hymn on the Christian home is typical:

O blest the house, whate’er befall,

Where Jesus Christ is All in all;

Yea, if He were not dwelling there,

How poor and dark and void it were!

The Silesian pastors, Johann Andreas Rothe and Johann 114 Mentzer, also may be regarded as belonging to the more conservative Pietistic hymn-writers. Rothe was pastor at Berthelsdorf, having been brought there through the influence of Count von Zinzendorf, who had heard him preach in Silesia. The Moravian community of Herrnhut formed a part of Rothe’s parish, and he took a keen interest in the activities of Zinzendorf and his followers. However, when Rothe, in 1737, found it necessary to report to the ecclesiastical authorities that the Moravians were deviating from sound Lutheran doctrine, the friendship between him and Zinzendorf ceased, and Rothe found it advisable to remove to Thommendorf, where he died in 1758.

Rothe wrote approximately forty hymns, the most famous of which is “Now I have found the ground wherein.” This hymn was greatly admired by John Wesley and was translated by him in 1740. Because it first appeared in the Moravian hymn-book, the Lutherans suspected that Zinzendorf was the author. Upon discovering that it was by Rothe, they quickly adopted it. The first stanza reads:

Now I have found the ground wherein

My soul’s sure anchor may remain:

The wounds of Jesus, for my sin

Before the world’s foundation slain;

Whose mercy shall unshaken stay

When heaven and earth are fled away.

Mentzer, who has given us the beautiful hymn, “O would, my God, that I could praise Thee,” was born at Jahmen, Silesia, in 1658. For thirty-eight years he was pastor at Kemnitz, Saxony, at which place he wrote his hymns, about thirty in number. There is an exalted strain in his hymns of praise:


O all ye powers that He implanted,

Arise, keep silence thus no more,

Put forth the strength that He hath granted,

Your noblest work is to adore;

O soul and body, be ye meet

With heartfelt praise your Lord to greet.

This hymn sometimes begins with the line, “O that I had a thousand voices.”

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