HomeMoreThe Life of Samuel Heinrich Fröhlich (part2)

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The Life of
Samuel Heinrich Fröhlich
Part 2

Letter to the English Continental Society

“True, I did not as yet grasp and understand correctly what I had said. Indeed I also did not as yet know the Lord Jesus Christ and the necessity for His atonement and redemption, for it was not yet the burden of my load of sin which had driven me to the Savior of Sinners, but merely the conviction, ‘Thou must change; otherwise thou canst not become a minister.’ 

“From then on, with all earnestness and might, I wished to shun sin, which I now recognized as sin, and knew not that it did not lie within my power to overcome a mastery which had for so long bound me with the chains of darkness. But it was a s if the Lord, to Whom I had made my vow, had taken me at my word, although it was really He Who had taken me by my hand and with all His goodness drawn me to Him.

“Beginning with this day, the whole scene changed. He never left me. I found rest and peace nowhere. My whole body, indeed, the whole world, became too narrow for me. I sought for something which should fill the endless emptiness which had now arisen in my soul, and I did not find it. I went out into mountain and forest, knelt and prayed and cried out in lonesome places. My whole being was longing, sorrowfulness, and anxiety. I sought the Lord Jesus Christ with ardent fervor and many tears. That was the first period of my awakening.

“The first piece of literature that fell into my hands was Fenelon’s ‘Religious Works’, translated by Claudius. In it, I found for the first time a name for my spiritual condition, for up to this time, I had been an inexplicable riddle to myself and I did not know what was to become of me. Therefore, it was, in a measure, a consolation to see that others had experienced similar things. Especially did I believe to recognize myself in the 14th chapter of the first part which bears the superscription: ‘Concerning the inner workings of God, to bring man back to the true end for which He created us’. As yet I was far from seeking to be represented therein; it was Another Who did lead me, and He led me into an extraordinarily difficult and dark path.

“Now for the first time my suffering began. What I had to go through from then on, in a literal sense, is inexpressible. Everything that fire and water, hammer or sword may bring about is as nothing compared with the unfathomable sea of trouble and misery wherein I thought I must sink. I wept night and day and writhed like a worm in the dust when it is trodden upon. Had I had authority over myself, I would often have taken my life through anguish and despair. But the Lord held me in His hand in such a way that I could not move. The price that I paid was a higher one than this earthly life. Like Job I lay in the dust. In no human being, in no friend could I confide, nor could I reveal myself to anyone. All theological or rationalistic lectures became an abomination to me for I was now in another school.

“All my letters of that time bear the stamp of my inner condition. My sisters feared that I was losing my mind because the tone of my letters was radically different from what it had previously been. They consisted for the most part of scriptural passages. For a long time I remained in this fiery furnace until at length faith in Jesus Christ the Crucified brought me rest, peace, and light, and made place within me for a new creation.

“From then on, Jesus Christ was the center of my whole life and sphere of activity. However, I was kept constantly under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, for not until now did the struggle against my old nature and against the law of sin, which dwelt in my very members, become serious. But even with all my new transgressions, the faithfulness of the Lord did not forsake me. Both of these things, my sins and His grace, humbled me greatly.

“That was my last half year in Basel and the second period of my conversion from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. And so after a stay of two years in Basel, I was obliged to return to my home, principally for economic reasons, in October, 1825. Here in my father’s house a new school or period in my life began, in which I was to be further trained, developed, strengthened, invigorated, and grounded so that I should not enter as a novice into the important office which preaches atonement.

“Here I applied for the examination as a candidate for the Ministry, which was postponed to the following spring, 1826. At the request of my parents, I preached for the first time in my native Brugg the Sunday before Christmas and met with such general approval that I should have become anxious and afraid if the honor of the Lord had not counted for more with me than all personal vainglory among men. I did not again preach here until Good Friday, 1826, and that proved to be a veritable Good Friday for me. Instead of expressions of praise, I reaped only ridicule and reproach. It produced an entirely effect from the praises I had received; it was necessary and wholesome for me.

“Now for two entire years there came over me fiery tribulations that are beyond description. Only He Who knows the heart knows what I suffered. I preached Christ here, there, and everywhere in the country. But in every minister who allowed me to preach, I gained a new opponent. With such preparation and forebodings, I approached my examination.

“The principles which I brought to light in the compositions made such an unfavorable impression upon the members of the church council that I failed the examination and was put back a year. The Lord had resolved upon this also for my further testing and purification.

“In the course of this year, oppression and misery often rose to the extreme, both from within and without. I was compelled to preach in September, 1826, in the church of a member of the church council. Among other things, he wrote to my parents, who were already troubled and dissatisfied because of my set-back: ‘It is bad and dangerous (and this impressed the whole church council at the trial sermon) that your son is not on the right road in regard to his doctrine and teaching, and in all sincerity he should be advised to enter upon a better course, if he wishes to be accepted into the Ministry and is to make the proper success of his future calling. On this point I gave him my opinion in a friendly and earnest way. Now it depends upon whether he will give ear to good counsel. In any case, he will do well if he will soon present new sermons composed in a different spirit.’ That was the occasion that also in my case the saying should be fulfilled: ‘A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“From this quarter, too, they now began to urge vehemently upon me that I should preach in a different manner and indeed like other so that I be not excluded from the Ministry entirely. I, however, could not say a word in answer to this. In the midst of these blows and storms, I had to keep still like a lamb that is led to slaughter, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers. The Lord, however, amidst all these attacks of the foe, still gave me patience and courage to endure everything — yes, rather death than to abandon the recognized and experienced truth.

“With all this my body was not spared. In that very month of September, 1826, I had a sudden attack of a sharp pain in the chest, so violent that I could hardly draw a breath and for many days seemed near death. That was followed, for an entire year, by cramps in the chest and most difficult respiration. But never did I experience more vividly in my hear the unspeakable friendliness of the Lord Jesus than I did toward the end of the year 1826. Without doubt, it was to strengthen and prepare me for the ensuing darkness and the storms of opposition.”

Chronology: Beginning in 1827

The first period in the conversion of S. H. Fröhlich was one of awakening (April, 1825); the second, being brought from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (in October the same year). There was an interim of seven years from the time of his conversion until his baptism in 1832. 

On May 27, 1827, Fröhlich was confirmed for the Ministry in the Protestant state church after repeated examinations. Of this acceptance, he wrote that it was brought about through no fault of his. After waiting for some time, he became parish administrator of the congregation Leutwil (Aargau). There was still no thought of a position, and his suffering continued for another year, inwardly and outwardly, until Easter, 1828, when he received an assignment as tutor with a private family near Schaffhausen.

It was not until his transfer to the vicariate of the Probstei Wagenhausen (Thurgau) in August, 1828, that an essential change in him took place. There his spirit became a thing of life and he felt himself to be in his element.

In December, 1828, he accepted a call as vicar to the congregation at Leutwil. The hand of the Lord was with him and gave his word such power that the testimony of the crucified Savior pierced the hearts of the hearers like a two-edged sword and called forth a great awakening in the congregation of 1,800 souls. The once poorly-attended church was now crowded. The evil one could no longer look on passively. Fröhlich was accused of attracting members from neighboring parishes, but he remained for two years without taking fright at the threatenings. The adversaries of the Gospel, however, sought reasons to put away this new preacher who stood in their path.

At Easter, 1830, the church council introduced, in place of the old Heidelberg Catechism, a new rationalistic one for the instruction of the children. After an examination of the book, Fröhlich could not persuade himself to use it because, instead of a positive faith in Christ, it laid a foundation for nature- or reason-religion. Because of this and other trumped up charges of arbitrariness, he was haled before the church council on September 27, 1830, He defended himself and held his ground on the basis of his conviction, and was, for the time being, dismissed without a decision from the hearing.

Removal from the Protestant State Church

Removal from the Protestant State Church Since two Basel divines, who had been sent privately to investigate and persuade him, could achieve nothing, the church council recognized the futility of its efforts. With reference to his removal, Fröhlich wrote (to his beloved congregation in Leutwil): “My deposal was revealed to me by the church council without further ado on October 22, 1830, and, in fact, so quickly that I had no opportunity to preach a real farewell sermon. Accompanied by many thousand tears and good wishes, I went my way on October 25th.” A teaching which demanded regeneration through repentance, faith, and baptism was bound to call forth opposition from the consistory, which suffered from dead formalism. 

On June 4, 1831, Fröhlich was called before the district magistrate of Brugg, who gave him the following decisions of the Aargau government:

a) He is removed from the list of the Aargau clergy;

b) All churchly functions, i.e., teaching, baptism, holy communion, are strictly forbidden him;

c) All officers of the Canton, Protestant and Catholic, have received strict orders, if he enters their jurisdiction, to have him arrested and reprimanded and sent back to his home [state church] congregation.

The breach with the state church was thus made final. What should he do now? Submit or assert himself against the whole power of darkness? His inner conviction no longer permitted him to practice infant baptism, at which, according to the old liturgy, the baptismal candidate is addressed by name and asked five questions. These questions the sponsors answer in the name and in the stead of the child. First question: Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways? Answer: Yes, I renounce. Second question: Do you believe in God the Father, etc.? Answer: Yes, I believe. Third question: Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Answer: Yes, I believe. Fourth question: Do you believe in the Holy Ghost? Answer: Yes, I believe. Fifth question: Will you be baptized in this Christian faith? Answer: Yes, I will.

Fröhlich wrote: “This play with holy things I could no longer carry on in my conviction.” For this reason it was no longer possible for him to be a clergyman in the state church. He strove for clarity and unceasingly brought his need and desire to God in prayer.

New Beginning

Fröhlich returned to his paternal home in Brugg, where he for a year quietly prepared himself for the work God had appointed for him. It seemed to him that he was being sifted like wheat and, like Joseph in prison, was waiting for the Lord’s deliverance. But he could not remain inactive, for one cannot stop a living spring. 

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