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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Fick #4: pulled out of lukewarmness by… Luther!

      This continues from Part 3 (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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     How Walther relished telling the story of the journey of faith in the life of Hermann Fick!  Walther well understood what Fick went through in Germany, as he himself experienced it first hand.  I wonder that Walther remembered his own father as he reported on Fick's father.  Now let us watch how God graciously dealt with our young man...
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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. 106-107.
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In Memory of Our Unforgettable Fick.
(by C.F.W. Walther; Part 4, cont'd from Part 3)
To be sure, we still have a large number of letters from this time, which contain glorious testimonies of the deep faith life of the young Fick; however, in order not to become too extensive, we deny ourselves, though reluctantly, to make further communications from them – only this one correspondence is mentioned from this time. By the father's will, our Fick should complete his secondary education at the Lüneburg Gymnasium. Shortly before his departure from Ratzeburg (June 24, 1839), he wrote to his parents: “Now there are only fourteen days left and I may be on my way to you! There we want to philosophize rightly with each other, no, not philosophize with the mind that leaves the heart cold, but speak the language of the heart.  It seems to me that only those who love Christ can really entertain themselves; for is there anything more lofty than to speak of the dear Son of God in his heart? O father, as I, the greatest sinner by nature (which I must confess to myself if I do not want to most seriously deceive and be deceived myself), now gladly and joyfully can go to you, this is a mystery to me and only Christ's grace and blood releases me.”
Louis Harms

When, in the autumn of 1839, he entered the high school (Gymnasium) in Lueneburg, he had the joy, after a rigorous examination, of being immediately advanced to the Prima, that is to the highest class of this institution. He even writes to his father as he enters the same: “The school is very high, which is why I can still learn a lot here” He was no less pleased to get acquainted with the blessed Louis Harms,  who was still a Candidate there and tutor in a Lüneburg family, maintaining a lively exchange with him. In one letter he calls the latter a “true disciple of the Lord.”

To be sure, during the time in which he frequented the Lueneburg Gymnasium, our dear Fick sometimes complained that he was so taken with zeal in his scientific studies that it had damaged his eagerness in Christianity; but at the same time he always reports how God's grace followed him, awoke him to heartfelt repentance, and always inflamed him to new zeal.
He writes for example on July 27, 1840: “Even though I did not lose interest in Christianity in my studies, for I believe that I can no longer do so, I let it go with a sinful lukewarmness and with a Bible reading that was leaning to legalism. Externally there was no impulse that would have brought me closer to the Savior; for although I believe all here have a Christian cognition, there is certainly no Christian fellowship, admonition and edification, an urgent need for me. So I worked like a servant for fourteen days, from morning to evening, but the Lord stepped away,  because I was only looking for knowledge, not Him. The next Friday I wanted to go to Communion; the seriousness of this celebration tempted me to a serious consideration of myself and I found myself unworthy.

Then I remembered the saying: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you’, and shed light on my self-delusion. But the LORD loved and chastised me, and I heard His voice, and came to Him, and resolved to pray and cry to Him day and night, to come into my heart, to reveal Himself in it, and to dwell therein it. Pray for me to become a new creature; I am not yet; my change and my heart still bear witness against [page 107, col. 1] me. I am surprised that I have become ashamed in divine things, while my will in human matters has been so persistent. I believe I have recognized the cause of it: I never took up the whole Christ, but contented myself with some beautiful thoughts derived from him.”  It can be seen that the excellent young man lacked neither a thorough knowledge of human corruption nor a clear evangelical knowledge, as well as in the right distinction between the Law and the Gospel, such as sanctification and justification by faith.

It was true that his righteously excellent father had already procured Luther's works for him, and he also read in it – he himself writes after an eight-day illness during the Christmas period of 1840: “During this time my Bible and my Luther were my only books”; but at that point the time had not yet come that he could say with Luther: “In my heart reigns alone and shall rule among these articles, namely the faith in my dear Lord Christ, which of all my spiritual and divine thoughts, so I may have forever day and night, which is a certain beginning, middle and end.” (Walch1, VIII, 1524) [Luther's Galatians Preface; St. L. ed. 9, 8 §1, AE LW 27 (1535), p. 145] Our dear Fick still was missing that “firm heart”, which Scripture calls “a delightful thing”. But nothing was of more importance and was of incalculably great use to him than that he was already led by Luther's writings at such a young age, everywhere surrounded by fluctuating modern-believers – that his taste for it was preserved in the first place, which saved him from the most frightful enemy of all true Christianity. On the December 10, 1840, he wrote to his father, “How happy I am with you, that the Lord has pulled us out; it is infinite, immeasurable, undeserved grace from Him, which we can not thank him enough in all eternity.”
Even more so, it became evident later on how important it was for him to have been advised of Luther's writings so early by God's providence; for when he later came into a fellowship which, after Scripture and the Confessions, lived above all in Luther's writings, he soon felt at home as in his spiritual father’s house. If all fathers who have sons preparing for the administration of the holy preaching ministry would like to consider this! They can not make a more splendid gift than if they buy Luther's Works for them.
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      Fick, in his youth, was “everywhere surrounded by fluctuating modern-believers”.  Walther notes a certain amount of subjectivism in the early Fick. I recall 20 years ago as I traveled to both libraries at St. Louis and Ft. Wayne, I noted how sullen and moody the students behaved on the seminary campuses, in their libraries, and at Concordia Historical Institute.  I could not understand this, as my newly found Christian faith was blossoming with joy...
      When Walther speaks of “a fellowship which, after Scripture and the Confessions, lived above all in Luther's writings”, he is speaking of his (old German) Missouri Synod... that no longer exists in its external form.  It was C.F.W. Walther who brought to our world a whole Synod that lived in Luther's writings, not in the philosophies of the day, and was led by them.  Hermann Fick was pulled away “from the most frightful enemy of all true Christianity”, a modern theology of subjectivism, by… Martin Luther!  ... And so was I! — Oh, but the trials were not over yet. In the next Part 5

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