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While all the hymn-writers of Germany in the early part of the eighteenth century were more or less influenced by the Pietistic movement, there were some who nevertheless refused to be carried away by the emotional extravagances of which some of the Halle song-writers were often guilty. In the hymns of these more conservative psalmists we find a happy blending of objective teaching and a warm, personal faith that reminds us of the earlier hymns of Gerhardt.

The chief representatives of this more typical Lutheran school were Benjamin Schmolck, a beloved pastor and a poet of rare ability, and Erdmann Neumeister, creator of the Church Cantata. It was the age in which John Sebastian Bach lived and wrought, and this prince of Lutheran organists, whose title of “high priest of church music” has never been disputed, gave of his musical genius to help make the hymns of Schmolck and Neumeister immortal.

Next to Gerhardt, there is no German hymnist whose name is so frequently found in hymn-books today as that of Schmolck. Born at Brauchitzdorf, Silesia, where his father was pastor, he was sent to school at Lauban at the age of sixteen. After an absence of five years the young man returned home and was invited to fill his father’s pulpit. The sermon he preached so pleased the father that he determined to send him to the University of Leipzig to study for the 118 ministry. In 1697 he returned to Brauchitzdorf to be ordained as his father’s assistant.

In 1702 Schmolck became pastor of Friedenskirche at Schweidnitz, in Silesia. According to the terms of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, all of the churches in this district had been turned over to the Catholics, and only a “meeting-house,” built of timber and clay and without tower or bells, was allowed to the Lutherans. Here Schmolck labored patiently for thirty-five years under the most trying circumstances, not even being permitted to administer communion to the dying except by consent of the Catholic authorities.

Schmolck’s hymns and spiritual songs, numbering 1,183 in all, brought him fame all over Germany. Many have been translated into English. His fervent love for the Saviour is beautifully reflected in the hymn:

My Jesus, as Thou wilt!

O may Thy will be mine!

Into Thy hand of love

I would my all resign;

Through sorrow or through joy,

Conduct me as Thine own,

And help me still to say,

“My Lord, Thy will be done!”

“Light of light, enlighten me,” a noble hymn of praise and adoration, has been happily wedded to a glorious chorale by Bach. Other hymns that have won renown throughout the Christian world include “Open now thy gates of beauty,” “Welcome, Thou Victor in the strife,” “Blessed Jesus, here we stand,” “What our Father does is well,” “My God, I know that I must die,” “Hallelujah, Lo, He wakes,” “My truest Friend abides in heaven,” and “Precious Word from 119 God in heaven.” The joyous spirit in many of Schmolck’s hymns may be seen reflected in the beautiful temple hymn:

Open now thy gates of beauty,

Zion, let me enter there.

Where my soul in joyful duty

Waits for Him who answers prayer;

O how blessèd is this place,

Filled with solace, light, and grace!

Neumeister followed the example of Schmolck in becoming an ardent champion of the older, conservative Lutheranism. Although he was greatly influenced as a youth by the writings of Francke, he later became convinced that there were dangerous tendencies in the Halle and Herrnhut movements, and he did not hesitate to issue violent polemics against them.

His hymns, on the other hand, offer a curious contrast to his other writings. Often they reveal a warmth and tenderness of feeling that would have merited a place for them in any Pietistic hymn-book. This may be seen in the hymn, “Jesus sinners doth receive,” which has also been translated “Sinners may to Christ draw near:”

“Jesus sinners doth receive!”

Word of surest consolation;

Word all sorrow to relieve,

Word of pardon, peace, salvation!

Naught like this can comfort give:

“Jesus sinners doth receive!”

Neumeister became pastor of St. James church in Hamburg in 1715, where he remained for forty-one years until his death in 1756. His fame does not rest merely upon his hymns, although he wrote 650 in all, but Neumeister will 120 also be remembered as the originator of the Church Cantata. In this new field of musical art he was fortunate in having the coöperation of such a genius as Bach.

Bach belonged to the fifth generation of a remarkable family of musicians. As many as thirty-seven of the family are known to have held important musical positions. John Sebastian, who is by far the greatest musician the Protestant Church has produced, was born in Eisenach, on March 21, 1685. The greater part of his life was spent in Leipzig, where he labored from 1723 until his death in 1750 as cantor of the Thomas school and director of music at the Thomas and Nicolai churches.

Bach’s devotion to the Lutheran Church has been likened to that of Palestrina to the Catholic Church. There is no loftier example of musical genius dedicated to the service of the Christian religion than we find in the life of Bach. He felt that his life was consecrated to God, to the honor of his Church, and to the blessing of mankind. Although it was the age when the opera was flourishing in Europe, Bach gave no attention to it, but devoted all his remarkable talent to church music.

As master of the organ, Bach has never been equaled. His chorales and passion music also belong in a class by themselves. A famous critic has written: “Mozart and Beethoven failed in oratorio, Schubert in opera; the Italian operas of Gluck and Handel have perished. Even in the successful work of these men there is a strange inequality. But upon all that Bach attempted—and the amount of his work is no less a marvel than its quality—he affixed the stamp of final and inimitable perfection.”

With the passing of years, Bach’s genius is being recognized more and more throughout the Christian Church. 121 The performance of his cantatas by the Catholic Schola Cantorum of Paris “is one of the many testimonies to the universality of the art of this son of Lutheranism.” There is something in his mighty productions that touches the deepest chords of religious emotion, regardless of creed or communion.

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