Francke, August Hermann
Francke, August Hermann an eminently pious divine and philanthropist of Germany, was born at Lubec March 23, 1663, and studied theology and philosophy at the universities of Erfurt, Kiel, and Leipsic; and Hebrew, with great success, at Halmburg. In 1685, in connection with Paul Anton, he established at Leipsic the Collegium Philobiblicum, for the study of the Bible with practical exegesis. It met with great success, but made him many enemies. In 1687 he went to Luineburg to study exegesis with Sandhagen, and here he imbibed a deep spiritual experience. The aims of his whole life from this time were purely Christian; all his labors and studies were consecrated to the glory of God. In 1688 he taught school in Hamburg, and laid the basis of his subsequent mastery of the art of teaching. After visiting Spener from whom he derived comfort and strength in the Christian life, he returned to Leipsic in 1689, where he gave exegetical lectures on St. Paul's epistles. Crowds attended them, and a new impulse was given to the study of the Bible. His instructions developed also a new religious spirit among the students. Opposition was soon awakened and he and his friends were stigmatized as pietists. In 1690 his lectures were arrested by the faculty. He then "accepted an invitation to preach at Erfurt, where his sermons attracted such numbers (among them many Roman Catholics) that the elector of Mentz, to whose jurisdiction Erfurt then belonged, ordered him to leave the city within twenty-four hours. On this he went to Halle (1692) as professor in the new university, at first of the Oriental languages, and afterwards of theology. At the same time he became pastor of Glaucha, a suburb of Halle, the inhabitants of which he found sunk in the deepest ignorance and wretchedness, and for whose benefit he immediately began to devise schemes of usefulness. He first instructed destitute children in his own house, and gave them alms; he then took into his house some orphans, the number of whom rapidly increased. In this charitable work he was aided by some benevolent citizens of Halle, and his charitable institutions increased from year to year. In 1698 was laid the first stone of the buildings which now form two rows eight hundred feet long. Sums of money poured in to him from all quarters; and frequently when reduced to the utmost embarrassment in meeting the expense, the providence of God, in which he implicitly trusted, appeared for his relief. A chemist, whom he visited on his death-bed left him the recipe for compounding several medicines, which afterwards yielded an annual income of from twenty thousand to thirty thousand dollars, by which he was enabled to prosecute his benevolent undertakings without any assistance from government." The following account of the several institutions founded by Francke is taken from an excellent article by professor Stoemer, in the Evangelical Quarterly Review, April 1868:
1. The Orphan House engaged Francke's most assiduous attention. The main edifice, six stories high and 150 feet wide, was the largest in the city, colossal in proportions, handsomely finished, and imposing in appearance. Connected with this were other buildings, adapted to the various wants of the children, and intended to accommodate upwards of 1000 orphans. This was erected without capital, without soliciting the funds for the purchase of the material, or for the payment of the workmen. The Lord, from day to day, in answer to prayer, supplied everything that was required. In 1704 it was educating 125 orphans; at a subsequent period, as many as 500.
2. The Normal Seminary, designed for the education of teachers. Poor young men received gratuitous instruction and boarding, and, as an equivalent, rendered services in the Orphan House. In 1704 there were seventy-five students in this department. The course of instruction extended to five years. For its maintenance no contributions were ever asked.
3. The Divinity School grew out of the necessity of assisting in their studies indigent students in theology. From the very first Francke had employed the services of these young men studying in the university as his co- laborers in the Orphan House and the schools for the poor. Many were thus prepared for the ministry. They received special instruction from Francke and other professors in the university, and funds came in freely for their support. In this institution cany of the earlier American Lutheran ministerm were trmained.
4. The Seven Schools, partly designed for the children of citizens who were able to pay tuition, and partly for those in the humble walks of life. In 1704, the pupils in these schools, independently of the orphan children, amounted to 800, the teachers to 70.
5. The Royal Pedagogium, an institution designed for the sons of noblemen, and man of wealth. Its benefits were subsequently extended to others. The school at first consisted of only twelve pupils, but in 1704 numbered seventy scholars and seventeen teachers. Instruction was here communicated in the ancient and modern languages, the sciences, and in literature.
6. The Collegium Orientale, designed to advance the critical study of the Scriptures in the Oriental languages in 1704, consisted of thirteen individuals, but accessions to the number were made from time to time.
7. The Institution to provide free Board for poor Students. This was a most excellent feature in Francke's operations. Without any special resources, he furnished, at first, gratuitous boarding to twelve young men; the number gradually increased, until nearly one hundred regularly sat down to their meals in the great hall of the Orphan House.
8. The Book-store and Publishing Department, small in the beginning, expanded till it became one of the most extensive enterprises of the kind in Germany. Not only were school-books issued, but standard religious books, and also works in the Hebrew and Oriental languages. The fonts in the Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic characters, in the course of time, were the most complete in the country. The presses were also extensively used for printing the, Scriptures. In the early history of the American Lutheran Church, the Bible, through this instrumentality, was furnished to hundreds who were destitute of the Word of Life. This department always sustained itself, as the greater part of the labor was performed by the older boys in the school, all of whom were trained to industrious habits.
9. The Chemical Laboratory and Apothecary Department. Occasional cases of sickness, at the beginning, rendered it necessary to make provision for such exigencies. This department soon became very much enlarged. A
dispensary, with separate rooms for putting up medicines connected with. it was extensively used by the people of Halle.
10. Other Eleemosynary Departments. In these are included various benevolent agencies, viz. The Infirmary; A Home for indigent Widows; An Institution for the care of the Poor in Glaucha; A Home for itinerant Beggars. In 1714, 1775 scholars snd 108 teachers were connected with the different schools under Francke's superintendence. At the present time there are nearly 4000, and a corps of 200 teachers.
The whole establishment forms one of the noblest monuments of Christian faith, benevolence, and zeal; and the philological and exegetical labors of Francke are gratefully acknowledged by Biblical scholars of the present day, whose views of the doctrines of revelation widely differ from his. In his Collegia Biblica, at Halle, there was a return from human forms and systems to the sacred Scriptures, as the pure and only source of faith, and the substitution of practical religion for scholastic subtleties and unfruitful speculations. Thus Scripture interpretation again became, as among the first Reformers, the basis of theological study. His labors as a lecturer were as industrious and thorough as if he had no other occupation; the philanthropist never trespassed on the student in his well-balanced life.
After a life full of labor, faith, zeal, and usefulness, Francke died at Halle June 8, 1727. Among his writings are Manuductio ad Lectionem Scripturae Sacrae (Halle, 1693, 1704; Lond. 1706; also translated, with life of Francke by Jacques, Lond. 1813, 8vo): — Observationes Biblicae (Halle, 1695, 8vo): — Praelectiones Hermeneuticae (Halle, 1717, 8vo): — Methodus Studii Theologici (Halle 1723, 8vo); besides many practical works, among which we have, in English, his Nicodemus, a. Treatise against the Fear of Man (Lond. 1709, 12mo): — Footsteps of Divine Providence (London, 1787, 8vo). For the life of Francke, and accounts of the phiblanthropic institutions founded by him, see biographies by Guericke (A.H. Francke, eine Denkschrift. Halle, 1827), Leo (Zwickau, 1848), Koch (Breslau, 1854), Niemeyer. (Uebersicht von Francke's Leben, etc., Halle, 1778); Life of Francke (Christ. Family Library, Lond. 12mo); Princeton Rev. 1830, page 408; Stoever, in Evang. Qu. Review, 1868; Kramer, Beitrage z. Gesch. francke's. (Halle, 1861), from MSS. recently found in the Orphan House, containing, among other matter, an account by Francke of "the Beginning and Progress of his Conversion;" a chronological summary of the principal events in Francke's life, also written by himself, and the correspondence between Francke and Spener; Hurst, History of Rationalism, chapter 3: SEE PIETISM.