Gerhardt Tersteegen: 1697 - 1769
Gerhardt Tersteegen was born in Germany amid the residual strife of the Thirty Years' War. In preparation to attend a university, young Gerhardt studied at the Latin school at Mörs for over nine years. However, at age fifteen he became a menial apprentice because his mother could not provide the education he desired, for his father had died when he was only six. While still a teen, Gerhardt was brought to Christ through the shepherding of the pietist Wilhelm Hoffman.
Tersteegen took up ribbon-weaving and lived an isolated, ascetic life, which eventually led to depression. After being gloriously set free from darkness through God's grace, Tersteegen lived a less solitary lifestyle. He then took on an apprentice, thus freeing him to minister to his ever-growing number of visitors, literally hundreds, seeking Christ. Before his death in his 72nd year, Tersteegen had published devotional writings, poems, sermons, and 111 hymns.
Whiter than Snow
"Whiter than Snow" was written on a spring morning in 1724 after Gerhardt Tersteegen gave himself unreservedly to God. "In a moment, he knew not how, the glory and sweetness of the love of God poured into his soul as a flood of light from the innermost Heaven."
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." Hebrews 4:14
To heart and soul how sweet Thou art,
O great High Priest of God!
My heart brought nigh to God's own heart
By Thy most precious blood.
No more my countless sins shall rise
To fill me with dismay-
That precious blood before His eyes,
Hath put them all away.
My soul draws nigh with trust secure,
With boldness glad and free;
What matters it that I am poor
I, I am rich in Thee.
Forgotten every stain and spot,
Their memory past and gone,
For me, O God, thou seest not
Thou lookest on Thy Son.
Is all a dream? Thou canst not lie,
Thy Spirit, and Thy blood,
Proclaim to sinners such as I
The boundless love of God.
They tell Thy love so deep, so free,
They tell the Father's heart-
Not what I am, or I must be,
They tell what Thou art.
Come, weary sinners great and small,
The open door stands wide,
Thy blessed heart that welcomes all,
O Lamb of God Who died.
Lost but Found in God
O past and gone!
How great is God! How small am I!
A mote in the illimitable sky,
Amidst the glory deep and wide and high,
Of Heaven's unclouded sun.
There to forget myself forevermore;
Lost, swallowed up in Love's immensity,
The sea that knows no sounding and no shore,
God only there, not I.
More near than I unto myself can be,
Art Thou to me;
So have I lost myself in finding Thee,
Have lost myself forever, O my Sun!
The boundless Heaven of Thine eternal love
Around me, and beneath me, and above;
In glory of that golden day
The former things are passed away-
I past and gone.
The Heart-A Temple!
Here on earth a temple stands,
Temple never built with hands;
There the Lord doth fill the place
With the glory of His grace.
Cleansed by Christ's atoning blood
Thou art this fair house of God.
Thoughts, desires, that enter there,
Should they not be pure and fair?
Meet for holy courts and blest
Courts of stillness and of rest,
Where the soul, a priest in white,
Singeth praises day and night;
Glory of the love divine
Filling all this heart of thine.
How sweet it is, when, wean'd from all,
We follow Jesu's secret call,
And hidden in Him live!
How sweet to be releas'd from sin,
And, freed from all self-love within,
To God alone to cleave!
How sweet, from earthly things to part,
And in the closet of the heart,
To live retired with God!
How sweet, the Lord himself to find
Residing in our inmost mind,
And make Him our abode!
How sweet, when with a child-like grace,
We walk before the Father's face,
And seek but Him to please!
How sweet, when we to all below,
A meek and quiet spirit show,
And live in perfect peace!
How sweet, when with a silent awe,
In spirit near to God we draw,
Array'd in truth divine!
How sweet when with a cherub's eye,
We fixedly behold Him nigh,
And in His glory shine!
How sweet, when all our powers and will,
Subdued, resign'd, serene, and still,
At God's disposal lie!
How sweet, when every lofty thought,
Is into due subjection brought,
Before the omniscient eye!
How sweet, when self and things remote
Are lost and utterly forgot,
And all our cares depart!
How sweet, beyond all time and place,
A still eternity to trace
Within our inmost heart!
How sweet it is, retired and free,
In such a desert place to be,
And hear the voice of peace!
How sweet, when undisturb'd we rest,
Like children on a parent's breast,
And from our own works cease!
How sweet, when after wasting strength,
The spirit finds its home at length,
And roams no more abroad!
How sweet, in pure and perfect love,
To soar through sense to things above,
And join ourselves to God!
O precious, sweet eternity,
Thou realm of peace! How happy he,
Who Thee within hath found!
My spirit in Thy silence blest,
Shall steadfast in concealment rest,
Till life hath reached its bound!
Repose in Thee
Thou hidden love of God, whose height,
Whose depth unfathomed, no man knows,
I see from far Thy beauteous light,
And inly sigh for Thy repose;
My heart is pained, nor can it be
At rest till it finds rest in Thee.
What is there more that hinders me
From ent'ring to Thy promised rest-
Abiding there substantially,
And being permanently blest?
O Love, my inmost soul expose,
And every hindrance now disclose!
Is there a thing beneath the sun,
That strives with Thee my heart to share?
Ah, tear it thence, and reign alone,
The Lord of every motion there!
Then shall my heart from earth be free,
When it hath found repose in Thee.
Tell me, O God! If aught there be
Of self, that wills not Thy control,
Reveal whate'er impurity
May still be lurking in my soul!
To reach Thy rest and share Thy throne,
Mine eye must look to Thee alone.
O love Thy sovereign aid impart,
To save me from low-thoughted care;
Chase this self-will from all my heart,
From all its hidden mazes there;
Make me Thy duteous child, that I
Ceaseless may, "Abba Father," cry.
Ah no! I would not backward turn;
Thine wholly, Thine alone I am!
Thrice happy he, who views with scorn
Earth's toys, for Thee his constant flame!
O keep, that I may never move,
From the blest footsteps of Thy love!
Each moment draw from earth away,
My heart, that lowly waits Thy call;
Speak to my inmost soul, and say,
"I am thy Love, thy God, thy All!"
To feel Thy power, to hear Thy voice,
To taste Thy love, be all my choice.
Translated by John Wesley
"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ." Philippians 3:7
To learn, and yet to learn, whilst life goes by,
So pass the student's days;
And thus be great, and do great things, and die,
And lie embalmed with praise-
My work is but to lose and to forget,
Thus small, despised to be;
All to unlearn-this task before me set
Unlearn all else but Thee.
The Blessed Journey
Let Him lead thee blindfold onwards,
Love needs not to know;
Children whom the Father leadeth
Ask not where they go,
Though the path be all unknown
Over moors and mountains lone.
Give no ear to reason's questions;
Let the blind man hold
That the sun is but a fable
Men believed of old.
At the breast the babe will grow;
Whence the milk he need not know.
God is evermore rejoicing
Loving, tender, still;
Breathe His life and learn His gladness,
Sweetness of His will.
Loving, still, thou thus shalt be
Jesus manifest in thee.
"And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry." Luke 15:23-24
Thou who givest of Thy gladness
Till the cup runs o'er-
Cup whereof the pilgrim weary
Drinks to thirst no more-
Not a-nigh me, but within me
Is Thy joy divine;
Thou, O Lord, hast made Thy dwelling
In this heart of mine.
Need I that a law should bind me
Captive unto Thee?
Captive is my heart, rejoicing
Never to be free.
Ever with me, glorious, awful,
Tender, passing sweet,
One upon whose heart I rest me,
Worship at His Feet.
With me, whereso'er I wander,
That great Presence goes,
That unutterable gladness,
Everywhere the blessed stillness
Of His Holy Place-
Stillness of the love that worships
Dumb before His Face.
To Thy house, O God my Father,
Thy lost child is come;
Led by wandering lights no longer,
I have found my home.
Over moor and fen I tracked them
Through the midnight blast,
But to find the Light eternal
In my heart at last.
On, oh beloved children,
The evening is at hand,
And desolate and fearful
The solitary land,
Take heart! the rest eternal
Awaits our weary feet;
From strength to strength press onwards
The end, how passing sweet.
Lo, we can tread rejoicing
The narrow pilgrim road;
We know the Voice that calls us.
We know our faithful God.
Come, children, unto glory!
With every face set fast
Towards the golden towers
Where we shall rest at last.
It was with voice of singing
We left the land of night,
To pass in glorious music
Far onward out of sight.
O children, was it sorrow?
Though thousand worlds be lost,
Our eyes have looked on Jesus
And thus we count the cost.
The praising and the blaming,
The storehouse and the mart,
The mourning and the feasting,
The glory and the art,
The wisdom and the cunning,
Left far amidst the gloom;
We may not look behind us,
For we are going home.
Across the will of nature
Leads on the path of God;
Not where the flesh delighteth
The feet of Jesus trod.
Oh bliss to leave behind us
The fetters of the slave,
To leave ourselves behind us,
The grave-clothes and the grave!
To speed, unburdened pilgrims,
Glad, empty-handed, free;
To cross the trackless deserts
And walk upon the sea;
As strangers amongst strangers
No home beneath the sun;
How soon the wanderings ended,
The endless rest begun!
We pass the children playing,
For evening shades fall fast;
We pass the wayside flowers-
God's Paradise at last.
If now the path be narrow,
And steep and rough and lone,
If crags and tangles cross it
Praise God! we will go on.
We follow in His footsteps;
What if our feet be torn?
Where He has marked the pathway,
All hail the briar and thorn!
Scarce seeing, scarce heard, unreckoned,
Despised, defamed, unknown;
Or heard but by our singing
On, children! ever on!
In Him We Live
In Him we live, In Him we move;
Seek not thy God afar;
He is not prisoned in a height
Above sun, moon, and star,
But thou through strange, dark lands has strayed
And wandered far from Him;
And therefore He, O soul, to thee
Is distant and is dim.
Lord, I was in the far-off land.
I loved from Thee to stray,
And when unto myself I came,
A swine-herd far away,
One moment-then the welcome sweet,
The kiss, the Father's home;
Far-distant was the distance;
To Thy bosom I am come.
The High Calling
"Kings' daughters are among Your honorable women; At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir." Psalm 45:9
Child of the Eternal Father,
Bride of the Eternal Son,
Dwelling-place of God the Spirit,
Thus with Christ made ever one;
Dowered with joy beyond the angels
Nearest to His throne,
They, the ministers attending
His beloved One;
Granted all my heart's desire,
All things made my own;
Feared by all the powers of evil,
Fearing God alone;
Walking with the Lord in glory
Through the courts divine
Queen within the royal palace,
Christ forever mine;
Say, poor worldling, can it be,
That my heart should envy thee?
The Name Above Every Name
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus." Luke 1:31
Name of Jesus! highest Name!
Name that earth and Heaven adore!
From the heart of God it came,
Leads me to God's heart once more.
Name of Jesus! living tide!
Days of drought for me are past;
How much more than satisfied,
Are the thirsty lips at last!
Name of Jesus! dearest Name!
Bread of Heaven, and balm of love,
Oil of gladness, surest claim
To the treasures stored above.
Jesus gives forgiveness free,
Jesus cleanses all my stains,
Jesus gives His life to me,
Jesus always He remains.
Only Jesus! fairest Name!
Life, and rest, and peace and bliss;
Jesus, evermore the same,
He is mine, and I am His.
Still, O soul! the sign and wonder
Of all ages see-
Christ, thy God, the King of glory,
On the Cross for thee;
From the Father's bosom come,
Wandering soul, to bring thee home.
Wouldst thou know if Jesus loves thee?
If He loves thee well?
See Him suffer, broken-hearted,
All the pains of hell-
Smitten, bearing in thy room
All thy guilt, and all thy doom.
See Him of His God forsaken,
Hear His bitter cries
Rise unanswered through the darkness
Of the silent skies-
See the fountain of the blood
Shed to bring thee back to God.
Mine the sin, O mighty Saviour,
Laid by God on Thee-
Mine eternal condemnation
In Thy Cross I see-
In Thine agony divine
See the curse that else were mine.
See the conquest and the triumph
Thou for me hast won;
Justice satisfied for ever,
All God's pleasure done.
Thus, O smitten Rock! From Thee,
Life eternal flows to me.
Unto me, the base, the guilty,
Flows that living flood;
I, Thine enemy, am ransomed
By Thy precious Blood.
Silent at Thy feet I lie,
Lost in love's immensity.
The Land of Rest
Wanderer, rest thy weary feet;
Shapes and sounds forgotten now-
Close thine eyes in stillness sweet,
With thy God alone art thou,
In the depths of silence rest,
Let Him work His high behest.
Silence! reasonings hard and keen,
Still-O longings sad and deep-
Waken to the morn serene,
Tangled dreams depart with sleep;
In the calm eternal day
Night's wild visions passed away.
In the silence of that dawn,
God shall speak His words of grace,
Light that round thy waking shone
Is the radiance of His Face;
Yearnings of His heart to thee,
Fills the deep immensity.
Gently loosens He thy hold
Of the treasured former things-
Loves and joys that were of old,
Shapes to which the spirit clings-
And alone, alone He stands,
Stretching forth beseeching hands.
Lo, the soul Thy love has bought,
Through the ages, Lord, am I,
Knowing nought, and willing nought,
Thine alone eternally-
Thine, the Bride Thy love has won,
Gift of God to Christ His Son.
In Thy strength my soul is still
Clay within the potter's hands,
Moulded by Thy tender will
Mightier than all commands;
Shaped and moved by Thee alone,
Now, and evermore Thine own.
O God, through Christ the living way,
My Father and my God,
So near, and I so far astray,
Brought nigh Thee by His Blood.
Myself, and this and that, I sought
Behind, around, before-
And yet the nearest found I not,
Until I sought no more.
O Love, Thou deep eternal tide,
How dear are men to Thee!
The Father's heart is opened wide
By Jesus' blood to me.
It was Thyself, O God, who sought,
With tender yearnings deep,
The loveless soul who sought Thee not,
The worthless, wandering sheep.
I come, yet leave myself behind,
And thus unfearing come,
For nought besides Thyself I find
In mine eternal Home.
I come-Thine open arms enfold
And welcome me within-
Let others work to bring their gold,
I only bring my sin.
Thou bringest love and gladness forth
From Thine exhaustless store,
To me, deserving but Thy wrath,
The life for evermore.
And now by magnet force led on,
I reach the inmost rest-
The nameless rapture of the son
Upon the Father's breast.
Be not afraid, though every stay
Should fail, or be removed away,
And thou be stript of all;
But lose thyself in that vast sea,
The ocean of the Diety,
And all thy cares let fall.
In death, which is the most profound,
The purest life is always found;
Then, blindly, all forego!
He ne'er shall find, who will not lose;
Who sinks from self, shall gain repose,
Which none but he can know.
From Self to God
My God, my God, my life divine!
To Thee I cordially resign
My heart, my soul, my powers, and will;
My all is Thine, and shall be still.
Myself I will no more regard,
But every thought of self discard,
Entirely upon Thee confide,
And love Thee like a tender bride.
To Thee, O God! myself I give,
For Thee alone I wish to live;
The heart no more by self oppress'd,
May rest as on a parent's breast.
In me, I nothing good can see;
I nothing am, nor seek to be;
O Thou, that dost my sins remove,
Thou art my wealth, my joy, my love!
Thou wilt, that I to Thee alone
Should look, and be to self unknown.
‘Tis Thou this work must operate,
And all my longing satiate.
To Thee my origin and end,
Must all my life and loving tend.
Turn wholly all I am to Thee,
And take me into Diety!
Take me, Jesus, to Thy breast;
Folded close in warmth and rest,
Keep me near to Thee;
Silenced in the bliss profound
Of the love that wraps me round,
Every care shall be.
Every breath for Thee alone,
Comfort me in sleep.
Still deep rest art Thou to Thine,
Safely in Thine arms divine
Thy beloved keep.
O God, a world of empty show,
Dark wilds of restless, fruitless quest
Lie round me wheresoe'er I go;
Within, with Thee, is rest.
And sated with the wary sum
Of all men think, and hear, and see,
O more than mother's heart, I come,
A tired child to Thee.
Sweet childhood of eternal life!
Whilest troubled days and years go by,
In stillness hushed from stir and strife,
Within Thine Arms I lie.
Thine Arms, to who I turn and cling
With thirsting soul that longs for Thee;
As rain that makes the pastures sing,
Art Thou, my God, to me.
"God never deprives us of something, be it temporal or spiritual, except to impart Himself in His very essence, after we have had the necessary preparation."
"The Lord gives a cross according to strength-or strength according to the cross."
"It is a little thing for Him to let us find in our souls in one moment, without any trouble, what we may have been seeking for years with much trouble outside ourselves."
"You say you cannot pray. Is there then no ‘Oh' and no ‘Ah' in your heart? And granted you cannot find even that, when you say you cannot pray, you are praying."
From a letter:
"Our dear brother writes that he has so many cruel adversaries who have left him stripped even of the shadow of outward honor, but that is a good start, a palisade fencing him in and keeping him from sallying forth. Let all that is personal to us rot away! Let the whole world die for us, and all creatures abandon us, we would only become more free, more fitted to hear the Lord, follow the Lord, and enjoy Him in the blessed wilderness of inner solitude. Oh, that our whole being might remain turned toward Him alone! When we enjoy esteem from others, or have anything else-knowledge, or ability in the physical or the spiritual realm-it is so incredibly easy to bring some of the plunder with us to our intercourse with God, but that is not lawful merchandise. ...
How He brings to nought, destroys and rejects all that is not His own work; how He draws everything to Himself and absorbs it, that at last He may live and work in us and through us and reign alone as king. Happy the soul who refuses nothing to love, but places everything at His disposal, for only thus may all our works be done more and more in God.
The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648): Westphalia
Gerhardt Tersteegen spent his life ministering Christ in the region of Westphalia in Germany where cataclysmic events had recently taken place. The Thirty Years' War was one of the great conflicts of early modern European history. This series of wars began in 1618 and ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. It was both a Catholic-Protestant religious conflict and a political and territorial struggle by various European powers, particularly France against its greatest rival, the Hapsburgs (the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire). In fact, this attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to bring Germany back to the Catholic fold resulted in the breakup of the Holy Roman Empire.
Impact of the War
The Thirty Years' War caused the devastation of German agriculture, commerce, and industry; and a catastrophic loss of German life. An estimated eight million people were lost during the war.
Villages that were once rich and filled with life lay in ruins-plundered by soldiers. Food, belongings, and clothing were confiscated. Women and children were either left to die or forced into service. Parsonages, homes, and schools were destroyed. Sheep and cattle were seized and slaughtered on sight.
As a result of the war, Germany remained mired in poverty, chaos, and social ruin the rest of the century.
Perseverance amid Hardships: Early Evidence of Talents
Gerhardt Tersteegen was born the youngest of eight children on November 25, 1697, in the German village of Mörs, near Düsseldorf, in the region of Westphalia. Gerhardt was a shy, physically frail, and sickly child, yet intellectually very gifted.
From his earliest days, it was planned that he would become a minister in the Reformed Church, of which his father, Heinrich, was an active member. Unhappily, when Gerhardt was just six years old, his father died.
His mother, determined to give Gerhardt a classical education, sent him to the local Mörs grammar school where he became well versed in several languages including French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He excelled academically-early evidence of his prodigious talents, unusual conscientiousness, and self-discipline. With his sights set on attending a university, he persevered at his studies for nine years.
Though Gerhardt and his mother had hoped for him to continue in a university education, the resultant loss of income from his father's death ultimately precluded it. As a result, at the age of fifteen, he was pressed into service in a dreary apprenticeship as a shopkeeper working for his brother-in-law Matthias Brinck, who in turn was so concerned and frustrated by Gerhardt's brooding disposition that he kept him busy by making him push empty barrels in circles around the shop yard!
In typical fashion, Tersteegen was later grateful that any exuberance of youth (not a noticeable attribute to begin with) was thus further curbed and abated.
Seeking God: Restrictions and Limitations
However, God uses our outward restrictions and inward limitations to lovingly work all things together for our good. In the midst of Gerhardt's ill-fitting vocation and the deep disappointment of lost opportunity for the education he had longed for, God brought Wilhelm Hoffmann, a pietist, into his life. Hoffman invited Gerhardt to the Thursday night prayer meetings of the "Quiet in the Land," a group of believers who were considered "lights in the dark ages of Protestant Germany" and who earnestly sought for God in consecration. Through Hoffman's influence, Gerhardt experienced an inner awakening and spent many nights in prayer and fasting.
Living in Solitude
When Tersteegen finished his apprenticeship, he left all family-related commerce and ran his own small business for two years, yet was repulsed by the busyness it necessarily required. Therefore, he sought an occupation that would meet both his simple needs and allow him to live an undistracted life of devotion to Christ. He tried linen weaving, even though it was considered a lowly, despised, and tedious trade. However, it did not meet his desire for reflection because it was physically difficult and time-consuming.
In 1719, at the age of twenty-two, Gerhardt learned the simple skill of ribbon-weaving, which could be crafted in solitude. His family objected to his choice of the lowly trade of ribbon-weaving, yet Tersteegen had become certain that he must part ways with their wishes in order to be true to his insatiable desire to live alone and spend as much time as possible in prayer, study, and fasting.
Contentment in Solitude
In fact, Tersteegen preferred his new life: "How happy I was when I found myself living all alone! I often thought no king in the whole world could be as fully contented as I was."
With the Scriptures as his companion, he wove ribbons from five in the morning to nine at night, spending the remainder of the evening in visiting the poor. He preferred one meal per day of a gruel made of flour, water, and milk, which allowed him to save his meager earnings for the needy.
His Mother's Death-Family Rejection
In 1721, Tersteegen's mother, who was seemingly his sole sympathizer in the family, passed away. Experiencing increasing prosperity, the rest of the family was ever more embarrassed by his menial job and altogether different path in life. As a result, they scorned and derided him. In fact, their regard for him deteriorated to such an extent that when he fell under serious bouts of illness, they would not even suffer themselves to visit or attend to him in any way.
Thus by both nature's course and his family's small-heartedness, Tersteegen became truly isolated from his old hearth and home. However, he chose to respond in love and with forgiveness instead of harboring bitterness when his family misunderstood his manner of service to God.
Sharp-edged Extremes: Breaking Point
The sharp-edged extremes-his fragile health, his family's rejection, his brooding introspection, iron self-will, and great intellect, his delicate conscience, and his monastic self-sacrifice and total isolation-all combined to chisel away at Tersteegen to a breaking point-and he did!
Five Years of Darkness
Tersteegen's chosen lifestyle of seclusion and asceticism ultimately produced a five-year period of spiritual darkness interspersed with debilitating physical illness. Sometimes he was so ill that he became bedridden, or even so weak that he collapsed upon the floor-unable to get up. During this time, his siblings did not inquire after him.
Not only was Tersteegen isolated from an uncaring family, he felt that God was also distant: "The sense of God's grace was withdrawn from me." He felt cut off from the love of Christ to such an extent that he began to doubt his faith:
Like one far away on the great sea, when in the stormy skies neither sun nor stars appear, who knows not where he is, so can I not say where I am. But my hope is that my Jesus has His hand upon the helm, and the breath of His spirit will waft my ship along.
The Return to Light: Unreservedly Given
In the spring of 1724, light broke upon Tersteegen. One day while walking through the woods to Duisburg on business, he became violently ill. At only twenty-seven, he felt that he was going to die, and in his agony, asked the Lord to give him some time to get ready. The Spirit, Who had been working in his spirit and spreading into his heart, empowered even his earthly body. The pain went away, and he gave himself unreservedly to God.
Overcome with Joy
Suddenly, the next morning, though he knew not how, "the glory and sweetness of the love of God poured into his soul as a flood of light from the innermost Heaven." Tersteegen was so overcome with joy that he immediately composed a poem (later entitled "Whiter than Snow") containing the following verse:
No more my countless sins shall rise
To fill me with dismay-
That precious blood before His eyes,
Hath put them all away.
The cry Tersteegen had uttered before his newfound freedom had been answered by the One Who is "full of pity, full of grace." At long last, he had been "led out of the horror of the great darkness of the law by Christ Himself."
Covenant to God
In response to God's unfathomable love and grace, Tersteegen penned a formal "Covenant to God" giving himself "wholly and eternally" to Christ Jesus, "yielding himself without reserve."
MY JESUS,-I own myself to be Thine, my only Saviour and Bridegroom, Christ Jesus. I am Thine wholly and eternally. I renounce from my heart all right and authority that Satan unrighteously gave me over myself, from this evening henceforward. On this evening-the evening when Thou, my Bridegroom through the precious blood, ... didst purchase me for Thyself, agonizing even unto death, praying till Thy sweat was as blood falling to the ground, that I might be Thy treasure and Thy bride, ... my heart and all my love are offered up to Thee in eternal thankfulness.
From this evening to all eternity, Thy will, not mine, be done. Command, and rule, and reign in me. I yield myself up without reserve. Behold Thou hast me wholly and completely, sweet Friend of my soul. Thou hast the love of my heart for Thyself, and for none other. Thy Spirit be my keeper....
Thine unworthy possession,
Dependence on God: Divine Replacement
God wrought dramatic changes in Tersteegen's heart. Self-striving was replaced with the grace of Christ. The desire for solitude was displaced by a growing delight in caring for others. And Tersteegen was not without a spiritual companion; over the years, Hoffman had continued to look after and mentor him. He advised Tersteegen to take on an apprentice. Thus, Heinrich Sommer came to reside with Tersteegen to work as his apprentice. Laboring together, they enjoyed a lifelong friendship, and Heinrich's support proved increasingly important to Tersteegen as the years went by.
With Sommer's spiritual encouragement and help with the task of ribbon weaving, Tersteegen spent more time in Biblical and medical studies, the latter arising from his keen desire to minister not only to the spiritual, but also the physical needs of others.
Tersteegen started and maintained an ever-expanding "book of remembrance" for daily intercessory prayer. He increased his labors in translating the historical writings of those who had particularly pursued the subjective experience of Christ. Moreover, he compiled a book of hymns to enrich corporate worship and praise, and he began to speak at Hoffman's meetings. His outreach grew as many seekers came to him for help, both spiritually and physically. Three short years later, when Tersteegen was thirty, the region was in spiritual revival-there was no more time for ribbon-weaving!
A Life of Service
Ministering Christ: In Weakness Made Strong
Tersteegen was so much in demand, that he often had difficulty finding time to rest. Yet he relied on God to give him strength to minister to others even in times of sickness. At other times, he was so ill with colds and fevers that sometimes he would not know what was going on around him except that someone was taking care of him.
Reaching the Masses
Tersteegen's ministry of Christ attracted ever-increasing numbers-many from other countries-which swelled to overflowing crowds. He would minister Christ through the Scriptures and give counsel to individuals or groups of "ten, twenty, even thirty anxious souls."
In light of Tersteegen's strong predisposition to solitary reflection, he had to yield to the Lord in greater measure to allow Christ to shine to the throngs. Upon moving into a larger home that afforded a medical clinic and meeting place, he would spend the rest of his life ministering from dawn to dusk, in health or infirmities, surrounded by as many as four hundred people.
Living out the Life of Jesus
In 1740, the government outlawed conventicles, or meetings that were not sanctioned by the state church. Ironically, this ten-year moratorium gave Tersteegen more time to teach in others' homes.
In his teachings and letters, Tersteegen took a firm stance that all true believers were God's children. He was "courted" by many to join their groups, but he would not affiliate with one faction of Christ's church at the exclusion of another. He was unequivocal on the matter; indeed, his heart was grieved by religious division, particularly new ones. When asked what religion people were who came to him, he replied, "I ask not whence they come, but whither they are going."
In fact, furthering believers in their walk with God was Tersteegen's sole desire. He didn't chastise or look down on others for not being able to be as self-sacrificial as he was. Instead, he encouraged every step towards their giving up "self." As he said, "It is impossible for me to see with indifferent or unappreciative eyes the smallest, weakest, most faulty beginning of a course, in which a single soul, or the Church at large, is pressing forward to live out the life of Jesus."
Tersteegen continued, "If the love of God and the blessings which flow from it, do not constrain us to a reciprocal and cordial love to Him and to a courageous progress in the path of holiness, certainly no other means will accomplish it."
The Secret of God's Presence
Tersteegen knew the human heart must always be attached to something, whether to Christ or to the world. Seeing Christ as the One Who is "beauteous more than all things beauteous" compelled him to share the profoundly simple secret to living the Christian life:
The secret of God's presence is actually believed by very few. But are you aware, that if each one truly believed it, the whole world would at once be filled with saints, and the earth would be truly Paradise? If men really believed it as they should, [they] would need nothing more to induce them to give themselves up, heart and soul, to this loving God. But now it is hid from their eyes.
Let us pray, my beloved, that God may be made known and manifested to many hearts, and thus in the light of His divine presence the darkness of mere human life may be dispelled, and all things cast away, both without and within the heart, which hinder the growth and life of the soul, and which this light alone discovers and unveils.
In all Christian practice there is nothing more universally needful, nothing simpler, sweeter, and more useful, nothing which so sums up in itself all Christian duties in one blessed act, as the realization of the loving presence of God.
"He Alone Is Joy to Me"
In 1759 at the age of sixty-one, Tersteegen's strenuous travel and work schedule caused an internal injury that left him near death. He recovered sufficiently to live another nine years, although he was no longer able to journey beyond his home.
In addition to private ministry and correspondence, Tersteegen spent the remaining years revising his various books. He authored 111 hymns and published devotional writings, poems, and sermons. After a lifetime of ministering to the Body of Christ, Tersteegen died at the age of seventy-two on April 3, 1769.
Gerhardt Tersteegen enjoyed an intimate relationship with Christ. More than two centuries ago, he peered into the radiant face of Christ and affirmed so tenderly:
"He alone is joy to me."
A Final Thought
Clearly, in the midst of the great darkness in Germany, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, enlightened Gerhardt Tersteegen's understanding concerning the life of Christ as He is revealed in us:
How willingly would I be freed from the bondage of lusts and of empty pleasures; but I find in myself no strength or capability for it. This cannot be till the Lord Himself reveals Himself in us, raises up His dwelling-place in us, and inhabits it, filling it with His life, so that we are clothed in Him, and He Himself thus fulfills in us all the righteousness of the law.
Then we shall no more strive after this virtue or that, but all virtues will be there in actual existence, and will flow forth without force or compulsion, because of the new birth in us, the birth of the new man, who is the Son of God (John 1:12), and who therefore shares with Jesus the love of God which constrains us. Then we shall be at once delivered from the slavery of our affections and lusts and opinions, and from the terrifying accusations of our conscience.
And in the place of them we shall hear the sweet and tender voice of grace and of the gospel speaking within us. We shall be lead out of the horror of the great darkness of the law by Christ Himself, and shall be as little children at the breast, drawing in the fulness of His grace and love in glad and gentle stillness, and He Himself will be the refreshment and the rest of our souls.
It seems to me that the great Captain of our salvation drives us at times into a corner, in order that we may utterly despair of our own miserable righteousness. But the Lord knows the right moment to deliver us. Even waiting is unconscious advance, and to lose heart is a proof of self-confidence.