Gellert Christian FürChtegott
Gellert Christian Fürchtegott, a German poet and-hymn writer, was born July 4, 1715, in Hainichen, Saxony, and studied philosophy and theology at Leipzic. In 1744 he was made privat decent, and in 1751 professor extraordinary of philosophy in the University of Leipzig. He became professor ordinarius in 1761, and died December 13, 1769, after gaining the high esteem of Frederick the Great. His fables have never been surpassed in German literature, and his narrations and moral essays occupy a creditable place in German literature, while his comedies are forgotten. He also composed some fifty-four hymns, which will give him a more enduring reputation than all his other writings. A translation of his hymn Jesus lebt, mit ihm auch Ich, is given in Schaff's Christ in Song, page 275. "In order to understand Gellert's position as spiritual song-writer, we must consider him with reference to his age. The spirit which was the basis of the old songs of Germany had altogether departed. Gellert's songs were so fully the expression of his pious inner nature that they found a hearty response in the breasts of many kindred natures. 'Never did he attempt a spiritual poem,' his biographer, Cramer, informs us, 'without carefully preparing himself, and striving with all his soul to experience previously the truth of his utterances. He then chose his most ecstatic moments for composition, and as soon as his ardor cooled he laid aside his pen until the golden moments came again. Even among Roman Catholic circles Gellert's songs found a welcome reception. A country priest in the mountains of Bohemia had been so impressed by them that he wrote to Gellert and urged him to join the Catholic Church, since this Church could much better reward his good works than the Protestants were able to do. Also in Milan, Vienna, and other great Catholic cities, Gellert found many warm admirers. There can be more purely Christian songs than Gellert's; songs that would be the evidences of recent improvement in our language and literature, and might partake of more of the old fire of reformative times, or bear the romantic coloring of mysticism or recent orthodoxy; but all these perfections could not supply the place of the simple, glowing language of a Gellert, which was his expression of inner, self-experienced truth. Gellert will long remain the poet of our masses. By the agency of pious mothers he will long continue to plant the seeds of virtue in the hearts of tender youth; and where the later tendencies have not obliterated the old German method of domestic training, he will continue to save many a young man from the ways of sin. He will still console the sick and broken-hearted. And though but few of his songs have been reserved for use in our churches, even these few — for instance, the Easter song, Jesus lives, and I live with him — will continue to elevate, our Christian congregations, and help them to gain the victory over the world. Gellert has not only influenced one generation by his songs, but has deeply affected succeeding ones. That humble man wished no higher honor than the salutation of any one whom he met, "You have saved my soul — you!" But in the coming world of bliss there will thousands meet him who on earth would have gladly done what the Prussian sergeant did, walk five miles to press the hand of the man who had saved his soul' " (Hagenbach, Recent Church History, translated by J.F. Hurst). Among his works are, Fabeln end Erzählungen (Lpz. 174 6): - Geistliche Oden u. Lieder (Lpz. 1757): — Moralische Vorlesucngcn (Schlegel and Hoyer, Lpz. 1770): — Sammtliche Schriften (Lpz. 1769-74, 10 vols.; 1840-41, 6 vols.; and 1853, 6 vols.). See J. Co Cramer, Lebensbeschreibung (Lpz. 1774); H. Döring, Lebensbeschreibung (Greiz. 1833, 2 volumes); Eck, Gellert's Empfehlung (Lpz. 1770); F. laumann, Gellertbuch (Dresd. 1854); Pierer, Univ. Lex. s.v.