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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Fick #2: beginnings in Germany; counsel for parents

      This continues from Part 1 (Table of Contents in Part 1), publishing an English translation of C.F.W. Walther's biography of Pastor C.J. Hermann Fick. —
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      With Walther's stirring introduction of this life story of Fick, we now begin our journey with them, Fick and Walther, in Germany:
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This translation by BackToLuther (BTL), taken from Der Lutheraner, Vol. 42, Nos. 14 (July 15, 1886) to 18 (September 15, 1886). All underlining is emphasis from original. All highlighting by BTL. — This portion from vol. 42, #14, p. 105-106.
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In Memory of Our Unforgettable Fick.
(by C.F.W. Walther; Part 2, cont'd from Part 1)

Our Fick is the son of the once Commissioner of Economics and Lieutenant Otto Fick and his wife, Frau Wilhelmine, born Hillefeld. He was born on February 2, 1822 at Dönhausen in the county Hoya in the former Kingdom of Hanover. Here he also received the first lessons in reading and writing, from an old lady living in his family at that time. Later, in 1828, when his parents moved to Petershagen in the government district of Minden, he visited the same rector’s school. His pious parents seem at that early age to have evoked in the boy the idea that he would once become a pastor. We are informed that, if [Page 105, col. 3] he was asked what he wanted to be during that time, he would always have answered: “Soldier or pastor.”  In any case, the boy particularly wanted to become a soldier because his father was an officer.  But still this, that just then the cavalry was quartered in Petershagen, so that the handsome riders made a deep impression on the awakened boy. However, in all the many letters we have in which the young Fick pours out his heart to his father and mother, later on no word appears from which one could conclude that the desire to become a soldier as a pastor was fixed on him. And later, as we shall see, his choice varied only between missionary or pastor. It was undoubtedly a consequence of the touching tender love of his parents and the deepest veneration of the same, which speaks in all his letters. Each of their wishes was a holy order to him..  Since he saw now that both father and mother had intended him for the direct service in the Kingdom of God, it was and remained a foregone conclusion for him that he had to become either a missionary or a pastor.
Unfortunately many parents, including Christians, follow the principle of leaving the choice of profession entirely to their children. While they may not be opposed to having their sons become pastors, instead of appointing at least one of them for the profession if they see that he has good gifts for doing so, or rather than to awaken and nourish in him the early decision to become a pastor, they see this as a harmful compulsion. In doing so, they neglect the sacred parental obligation to be life-guides to their still inexperienced children; yes, they “sin herein,” [hierin so viel sündigenhere; or “sinning unspeakably” here]  as Luther writes in the preface to the Small Catechism, "need not be said.” [“sinning unspeakably” here]  Like some Christian parents, they would not have had to complain that their gifted son had become a prey to the world if they had dedicated it to the service of the Kingdom of God!  To be sure, an old church teacher says it is a miracle when a pastor is saved; however, we would like to say that it is a miracle when a pastor is lost, since no one has more opportunity to [Page 106, col. 1] hold to the faith just as a pastor, provided that he, like Timothy “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6), has become the servant of an orthodox church.
But let us return to our dear Fick.  In 1832 his parents left Petershagen. As a result, the ten-year-old boy came to Siebenbäumen in Lauenburg near Lübeck to his maternal grandfather, Pastor Hillefeld there. Here he was taken by his uncle August Hillefeld into instruction, a young faithful and gifted man, who was his father's assistant preacher; and here it was also where our Fick came to a conscious living faith. Becoming a missionary here became the ultimate goal of his yearning. “Just think," he said to one of his sisters at the time, "when I'm among the poor black heathen, and they are all sitting around me, and I tell them about the dear LORD JESU, whom they have never heard of, then the great tears roll down their black cheeks.” Most beloved of his little songs, for example to the larks in whose song he enjoyed himself so much, are given to us from this time. When he once read to his sister such a song and she asked him, “how he did that, that he conceived the rhymes," the little poet replied: “I do nothing at all, it is as if someone were reading the verses into my ear, then I must go quickly and write them down.” Far from giving in to childish musings and putting down learning, he was so diligent and made such rapid progress that his teacher was able to begin teaching him Hebrew and English as early as 1834. As the time drew near to be taken to grammar school, he wrote to his parents: “It is now approaching” (in February, 1836) “the time that I will go to Ratzeburg to school, but I still don't like to think about it.  I suppose I have a desire to learn, I also have a pretty good memory, but I cannot think very thoroughly and deeply about a profound thing; but I hope that the dear God will yet give me this gift.”
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      This narrative is more than just a biography of Fick, it contains also Walther's spiritual counsel for all Christians.  It contains his “pastoral theology”. Walther's counsel for parents was a stinging one for me.  His counsel, especially for fathers, continues in the next Part 3.

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