Louis Harms (1808-1865) a pastor in rural Hermannsburg, Germany, took over a church from his father that seemed spiritually dead. Praying and fasting, calling his members to a closer walk with God, he was able to bring about a marvelous revival—a spiritual awakening—that continued for 17 years. Believing that a healthy church was a mission-promoting church, he immediately began training missionaries to go out in groups on a self-sustaining basis. Within seven years the Hermannsburg church was training and equipping missionaries, transporting them to mission stations on their own boat the Candace, operating multiple mission stations, and publishing a missions publication that had 13,000 subscribers. All of this was accomplished in spite of Harm's parishioners being poor farmers and artisans, and despite his often being in pain to the point of not being able to sleep at night.
Learning about what made him such a spiritual man and such an effective pastor, to say nothing of keeping the revival going 17 years and developing a training school for preparing and sending out missionaries, makes Louis Harms a very inspiring and instructive person to look into further. I discovered him by accident many years ago, but have been learning and rejoicing in what I have learned ever since.
Excellent evaluatory article.
"Pastor Harms died in 1865 (November 17), having conducted his whole mission work as a work of faith, asking God for every needed help, and finding that as his work grew the means to carry it on grew in proportion; and setting an example which to this day challenges the admiration and imitation of the whole Christian world."
This biography by Louis' brother is the longest and the best. All the other biographies reference and quote from this biography.
"The whole work of the Hermannsburg Mission was a work of faith, and Louis was strong in faith and fervent in prayer. To him the word of the Lord: “Whatsoever ye ask in my name that will I do," was the inviolate truth; he prayed in confidence in God's Word, and was not put to shame. He began and ended all with prayer; never left his house and returned to it without the words, "In God's name," and in his many outgoings never met with injury. Once when he was in a carriage the horses became unmanageable, and the driver was thrown out. Louis sat and prayed. The horses stopped before doing further damage, and the driver, with the exception of a few bruises, was unhurt."
"He was a man of the Bible and a man of prayer. "He had made the Scriptures," said one of his friends, "his own property. He believed, preached, loved, and received them. His earnest conscientiousness, the clearness of his understanding, the power of his memory, the energy of his will, the constant and indomitable firmness of his character were all permeated and sanctified by the spirit of the Holy Scriptures." This was the secret of his power in the pulpit."
Written after the writer visited Hermannsburg in 1866, following Harms' death.
"It may be asked how Harms obtained all the funds necessary for carrying out his great Mission work. They flowed in unasked; it is the story of Franke and the Mission-house at Halle over again. It was in answer to prayer that God gave the means. Harms never asked a person for a donation, and in the sixteen years since the establishment of the Mission he has received at least 300,000 dollars."
“In an incredibly short space of time, not many months after his father’s decease, the fields of Hermannsburg were white unto harvest. It was as if a gale of Holy Ghost power had swept over the valley of dry bones, and where death had reigned there now appeared a living army. The Kingdom of Hanover was, it is true, comparatively orthodox, but the orthodoxy was of the letter mainly. The pulse of spiritual life beat very low. Now, however, in Hermannsburg and neighborhood a great change had come. Multitudes, through the Spirit-inbreathed ministrations of Harms, begin to know and keep going on to know, that “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power;” instead of a desert of formality there is a garden of spiritual blossom and fruit; on every hand signs of life appear."
H. J. Schuh: The Life of Louis Harms (I have a printed copy, but no copy is on line.)
This short biography was published in a children's magazine and I therefore included it.
Il y a des ressources en français au bas de cette page. (There are resources in French at the bottom of this page.)
Father was a godly but not particularly effective Lutheran pastor; mother was a godly women; several siblings.
His Education in skeptical rational theology at Göttingen University (1827-1830) brought about disbelief in God—told his father God did not exist. Fortunately he was subsequently converted reading John 17:3.
Where he had put his full energy and attention into his studies and athletic activities, now he put his energy and attention into his relationship with God. Very quickly, however, he developed a debilitating and painful reumatism as a result of a winter accident when he fell into a river, which clung to him the rest of his life.
"He was still at the University. Inwardly unhappy in the midst of all his scientific pursuits, he incessantly asked himself, with anguish, the question, What is the truth? What is the end of life? One night, the whole of which he had passed in work, wearied and sad, he opened the Gospel of St. John, and read the 17th chapter, the last and solemn prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the reply to his questions; or rather, to use the language of his brother, " light arose in his soul: the prayer of our great High Priest and Sacrifice, Jesus Christ, touched and melted his heart." In such a character, this crisis was decisive and absolute. From that moment his life was devoted to Him who had made himself its Lord."
"The rheumtism proved a heavy burden, for it frequently kept him from sleeping for the rest of his life. Weakened and tortured by physical pain, which seldom left him, he bravely and patiently bore it, refusing to take opiates, and accepting his affliction as the Lord's way of humbling. Like so many great people, Louis saw in his trial blessings: "It is true that I suffer much everyday," he said, "and more every night. I do not wish it otherwise. My Savior is my physician. I love to lie awake the entire night, because I can then commune with Him."
As a pastor, he sought the closest possible walk with God and called his people to a similar walk. A revival ensued that continued for 17 years. As a result, his members became wonderfully generous and fully surrendered. It was said that only one person in the village was not a fully devoted Christian.
"Preach no word that you do not yourself live up to; avoid all that savors of the world; call all by its right name, that people can grasp the meaning; simple as possible, that it may not go over their heads."
"Oh, beloved, the blessed Son of God, whom you have loved, recognizes the pure in heart, for He is pure; therefore let each confess his sins to God, and examine himself by the test of the holy commandments, comparing his course of life with them, that he may, by the help of the Holy Spirit, perceive his sins."
"I asked, ‘How long has this excitement continued?’ ‘About seventeen years,’ was the reply, ‘ever since Pastor Harms came among us.’ A stranger is apt to regard the villagers as living almost altogether for the church and missions. ‘Are there not some unbelievers in the parish?’ I asked my landlord. ‘There is one, only one,’” was his reply."
"It is not only more reverent and scriptural, but more rational, to say that they have been guided invisibly by God, than that they did it by chance, which is equivalent to confessing our inability to know how it was done. And if there has been a child of God praying all the while for this very blessing to his Father who seeth in secret, is it not rational to go back a step farther, and connect the giving with the prayer!"
"It was by no means his words only that exerted so great a power; but his whole person, his deportment, his look, his manner of reading the liturgy-in a word, his whole being-seemed the visible personification of Christian piety, of Evangelical faith, of deep repentance, of intimate confidence in God, of a holy adoration in the presence of the Lord and Saviour of souls. In his prayers there was a mysterious power which elevated with him the whole assembly to the very throne of God. He commenced speaking in a low voice; his discourse, simple, without pretension, without ornament, soon flowed like a river."
At the same time that he took over the parish from his father, he initiated the missionary program., which included buying property and training missionaries, eventually constructing the Candice, and experiencing in all of this God's financial keeping. Reports made fifty years later point to careful obedience and the faithful keeping of God.
"As soon as Harms took over the pastorate from his father, he began developing the mission program. This included purchasing a farm on ten acres. Many doubted Harms would succeed since wealthier parishes had failed, but believing that it was the will of God, he was undaunted and plunged ahead."
"After he had once gained this conviction he lost no time in carrying the plan into execution. Harms was a man of very decided convictions. He never halted long between two opinions. He reports his decision as follows: “Not we are going to build a ship, we will appoint the Lord as shipbuilder; He once before commanded Noah to build a ship and that ship was finished although it was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. If God could accomplish that through Noah, who had only his three sons as human helpers, then I do not see why God cannot let us build a ship to his glory and the salvation of the heathen, which will be only one fifth as large as Noah’s ark, and we, by the help of God, have a host of human helpers. I am not afraid of the money it will cost, because I, thank God, will not be expected to furnish it since I do not have it, but the Lord shall give it. He has enough and is very rich."
"Where did he get these 118,000 crowns? Did he send begging letters? Did he go to Holland, or cross to England, or ask a subsidy from the State? He is a foe to beggars. He will not tolerate them in his parish; his doctrine is that no Christian dare be a beggar, nor ask from any but God. No one acts so rigorously on these principles as himself. His scruples are almost prohibitory. Beyond the barest outline of accounts, he excludes money matters and money difficulties from his paper; he will neither mention the sums that have been given (unless incidentally, as an illustration of some truth) nor the names of any who give."
"This is a cardinal point of his faith. "It is wonderful when one has nothing, and 10,000 crowns are laid in his hand by the dear Lord. I know from whom it all comes. When I remarked to my brother that he was such a master in the art of taking, I thought within myself, Let him take, thou wilt receive. And I went to my God, and prayed diligently to Him, and received what I needed."
"In the homeland two training schools, known respectively as the Old and New Mission House, are in active operation. The number of students is now so large that only a part of them are needed to supply the mission fields. All, however, are sent to foreign lands. Some are serving as pastors in Australia, America, and other fields remote from the fatherland. Besides these training schools, there is a boarding school for the children of missionaries in India, who are sent home to be educated. No such provision is made for children of missionaries to Africa. On account of the good climate and excellent school facilities, they remain with their parents in the field."
Johannes Du Plessis' chapter on the missions originating in Hermannsburg, describes the challenges and successes obtained by the Hermannsburg missionaries, and provides a fuller picture of what was going on in the mission programs onsite.
Harms became very concerned for released prisoners and accordingly established a refuge—in this case a farm—for them.
"Every honest work was denied us; we could not starve; we were forced to steal." These were the miserable words which earnest and painstaking prison chaplains had been hearing for years. And as the burden of these pressed sore upon Harms, he determined to join in connexion with the mission a refuge for discharged convicts. He felt rightly that there were peculiar facilities about him; the quietness and country character of the neighbourhood, the Christian life that it had pleased God to quicken and sustain, and the presence of the future missionaries, who would find as great advantage in teaching and helping these convicts as the convicts would find from them."
Birth/Death: May 5, 1808 (Walsrode, Germany) - November 14, 1865 In 1865. After a period of intense suffering, borne without a murmur, Louis Harms passed to his reward. The desire of his heart, that he might die in the harness, without reaching old age, was granted to him. The news of his death was received with peculiar sorrow by Christians everywhere, and all eyes were upon his mission. Many feared that with its great head taken away it would decline in power. But its foundations were broad and deep, and God, who ''buried his workman, carried on his work."
Marriage: Remained single; a godly sister ran his household.
Employment: Private Tutor (1830-1840, 1840-1843); Assistant Pastor (1844); Ordained (11/1844); Pastor (1849-1865).
Milestones: Milestones include taking over his father's congregation (1849); Bringing about the awakening ( 1849 to the end of his ministry—17 years); founding the Hermannsburg Mission Centre (10/1849); launching the Candadace (09/1853); sending out the first 16 missionaries (10/1853); commencing the Hermannsburger Missionsblatt Newspaper (1854); establishing missionary work—among the Zulus in Africa (1854) and other work in India (1864); He also began a ministry for youthful offenders (1858).
“The nearness and perfect confidence of his relation to God; the character of his spiritual intercourse, which is a perpetual and most deep communion with Jesus; the profoundness and humility of his spiritual knowledge; the utter earnestness and consecration of the man, are the real strength and beauty of his life. Like any other child of God, he has become a power in the world by giving himself up to the power of God; for in proportion as Christ is in the believer, so is He the power of God in him.”
“A book-worm by nature, his delight is to root out the moth-eaten parchments of some village church, and pore through them for a hint of the old doings in his parish, or any parish in the district. He is indefatigable in his exhumations, and there is now scarcely a spot with which he has not connected some story out of the ninth and tenth centuries.”
"For His indwelling, beloved, you must know that the temple of each heart must be pure, as He desired the Temple at Jerusalem to be ere He could remain therein. When He saw the ungodly buyers and sellers trafficking in the sacred place He cast them out, saying: "My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves." And this is an example for us; Jesus the King will come into the temple of your hearts; are they holy temples, houses of prayer, or are they through manifold sins and pleasures of the world converted into dens in which perhaps Satan has built his throne? Oh, beloved, the blessed Son of God, whom you have loved, recognizes the pure in heart, for He is pure; therefore let each confess his sins to God, and examine himself by the test of the holy commandments, comparing his course of life with them, that he may, by the help of the Holy Spirit, perceive his sins."
“What was right was also wise and prudent.”
“God's command and his great desire to obey gave him no rest; but his faith in Jesus kept him serene, collected, and calm; no failure caused him to doubt of success, nor adverse circumstances disheartened him. When there was not a penny in the treasury he remained cheerful and patient; he knew that God would help, and that help never failed him.”
“His maxim was that what was right was also wise and prudent; and if mistakes were made through his or other people's short-sightedness, it gave him no anxiety, for he had faith that the Saviour would correct all that had been done in true belief.”
"Be diligent; but also remember Luther's saying, Well-prayed is more than half-learned. Therefore pray diligently. I do not mean your common prayer alone, but pray diligently in your own room, daily, daily, for the Holy Spirit."
"To him the word of the Lord: “Whatsoever ye ask in my name that will I do," was the inviolate truth; he prayed in confidence in God's Word, and was not put to shame. He began and ended all with prayer; never left his house and returned to it without the words, "In God's name," and in his many outgoings never met with injury. “
“He held fast to the belief that to those who could pray nothing was impossible.“
"The only theory I value is the Holy Spirit."
"What I then promised, my beloved, before God the searcher of hearts, I now also promise to you, the same vow the husband makes the wife, and the wife makes the husband. The vow which a pastor makes to his congregation must the congregation make to the pastor. You must promise that you will live with me after God's will and command in all Christian love and charity, that you will not abandon me in adversity or affliction, that you will not separate from me until God separates us. If it be your earnest wish and will, as it is mine, then arise; and let us together promise, in the presence of the living Triune God, that we will live with one another after God's will and command; that we will have Christian love and charity for each other; that we will not abandon each other in trial or adversity; that, lastly, we will not separate from each other until the Almighty Father separates us."
"Preach no word that you do not yourself live up to; avoid all that savors of the world; call all by its right name, that people can grasp the meaning; simple as possible, that it may not go over their heads." “seeing in every soul one whom Christ bought with His blood, who belongs to Him, and whom we must win for Him.” “Preach regardless of anything but God's Word. Rebuke the sins and godlessness of the land-owner and farmer, which he may have or not; the sins and godlessness of the day laborer, which he may have or not; let them take offense or not, or receive it or not; the Word will never return void.” “Make not your sermons, but pray them upon your knees, and, if the people are dormant, wrestle with God for the souls of men. “ “Make the Word of God clear, whether upon belief, keeping the Sabbath holy, the gospel, law or precepts, without regard to results. All must bow to God's Word, and no circumstances can prevent it. Therefore, I pray you, preach no word that you do not yourself live up to; avoid all that savors of the world; call all by its right name, that people can grasp the meaning; simple as possible, that it may not go over their heads.”
“He was not a polished orator, preferring to preach using simple language and familiar concepts. He focused on the essentials, including sin and repentance, grace and redemption, the Word, the Sacraments, faith, good works, and the reward of the righteous and the reward of the wicked. Justification by faith was at the heart of all of his sermons, but this faith not only justified, it also sanctified. He was deeply concerned about keeping the Lord's Day, and insisted on spending the whole day for the purpose for which it was set apart: rest from bodily labor, the hearing of God's Word, prayer and deeds of mercy. He always wrote out his sermons, strongly believing he was called to be God's mouthpiece. His sermons were easily understood by the farmers, the housemaid and the children, who made up his congregation.”
“He has a mastery of exposition, of unfolding the meaning in the fewest and plainest words; in lucid order, and with a natural reference to the people. He never pretends to flights of eloquence; it would be unsuited to his position, and probably to the character of his mind. He is content with the Word itself, as it appeals to the heart, with broad and positive statements of doctrine. He has much of that plainness of doctrine and homeliness of illustration which the ultraLutheran party affect but never reach; He has also a sharpness and roughness of idiom which would offend fastidious hearers. But he has eminently that merit which Luther pronounces the highest, of making you forget the preacher and hear the Word.”
“Harms walking backwards and forwards in his energy, to the scandal of every dry-as-dust ecclesiastic; and with the interval of a hymn, the sermon follows. It would be impossible, without transcribing the whole, to give a right conception of what is preached and how; it would be impossible thus to convey a sense of the fervour, and (there is no better word for it) holiness of the speaker, his utter simpleness, the directness of his country phrases, his fire, and that love and perfect faith which colour all his words.”
“He encouraged freewill offerings and never tried to shame his members into giving what they would not give willingly. As a result a wonderful spirit of liberality took over his church.”
“He was especially faithful in visiting he sick and bringing them the comforts of the Gospel. He was honest with the sick, admonishing them to repentance and faith. Where there was imminent danger of death he was not slow to speak of it; he endeavored to prepare the patient for his end, which could be one of peace and hope only through a firm reliance in the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God. He never tried to comfort the sick with a false hope and never tried to fill their souls with undue alarm."
“While they were so diligently engaged in sending the Gospel to the heathen, the windows of heaven opened, and showers of blessing descended upon the work at home. During the whole period of Louis Harms' pastorate there was an uninterrupted revival in Hermannsburg parish, in which it is said 10,000 souls were brought to a knowledge of the truth. Prof. Park, who spent three weeks with Pastor Harms in 1865, says: “I supposed for a time that the parish was then in a state of special religious excitement. I asked, 'How long has this excitement continued?' 'About seventeen years,' was the reply, 'ever since Pastor Harms came among us.' A stranger is apt to regard the villagers as living almost altogether for the church and missions. 'Are there not some unbelievers in the parish?' I asked my landlord. 'There is one, only one,'” was his reply.“ Brain
“Mr.. Harms recognised that his first duty lay within his own parish, and it was there he sought for Christian reform.”
“He attended no wedding where there was card playing or dancing; otherwise, he willingly took part, and, when there, old and young clustered about him.”
“Hermannsburg is now a Christian parish, the like of which is probably not to be found the world over. There is not a house in the village where there is not regular family worship morning and evening; there is no one absent from church unless by sickness. The population is small, and yet there are 11,000 communicants in the year; so that, with very rare exceptions, every adult must be a communicant, and every communicant be a frequent participator. The services in the week are as well attended as on the Lord's Day. The labourers have prayer in the fields; instead of country ballads -and we know in this country what they are-the ploughboy or the weeding-girl is singing one of the grand old hymns; the people are like one Christian family, and their influence and conversation have already acted on the surrounding districts. Their houses are neater, drunkenness is unknown; so, it has been already mentioned, is poverty. They are found to be kind-hearted, with few quarrels, good farmers, and good peasants.”
“While the people were rejoicing in their spiritual life, a mission to the heathen was suggested. It was a time of strong faith and self-sacrifice, and the suggestion was adopted. They would go out themselves as missionaries, wherever it might please God to show them the greatest need. This was in 1849. Twelve persons offered; a house was set apart for their residence and training, and a brother of Mr. Harms, also a clergyman, took charge of it.”
“How were all these persons to be sent out? Where would the money come from? “Then I knocked diligently on the dear God in prayer; and since the praying man dare not sit with his hands in his lap, I sought among the shipping agents, but came no speed; and I turned to Bishop Gobat in Jerusalem, but had no answer; and then I wrote to the missionary Krapf in Mombaz, but the letter was lost. Then one of the sailors who remained said, 'Why not build a ship, and you can send out as many and as often as you will! The proposal was good: but, the money! That was a time of great conflict, and I wrestled with God. For no one encouraged me, but the reverse; and even the truest friends and brethren hinted that I was not quite in my senses. When Duke George of Saxony lay on his deathbed, and was yet in doubt to whom he should flee with his soul, whether to the Lord Christ and His dear merits, or to the Pope and his good works, there spoke a trusty courtier to him: 'Your Grace, straightforward makes the best runner.' That word had lain fast in my soul. I had knocked at men's doors, and found them shut; and yet the plan was manifestly good and for the glory of God. What was to be done? Straightforward makes the best runner. I prayed fervently to the Lord, laid the matter in His hand, and as I rose up at midnight from my knees I said, with a voice that almost startled me in the quiet room, Forward now, in God's name! From that moment there never came a thought of doubt into my mind.”
“As the long months went by no tidings were received from the Candace. It was a time of sore anxiety, for commercial authorities had spread the report that she was worm-eaten and had been lost at sea. The pastor kept nothing back, and when the people asked, “What shall we do if she never returns?" replied: “Humble ourselves, confess our sins, pray to God, and build a new ship!" Great was the rejoicing when, in 1855, she at last arrived in such good condition that even ordinary repairs were not needed.”
“There was a daily course of work through which they went. This was partly, as they were told, "for your bodily health, partly that you may, to some extent, earn your own bread, and partly that you may remain humble, and be no more ashamed of your work than Peter was of his fishing, or Paul of his tent-making."
“they dedicated the Candace to its work of carrying the gospel to the Ethiopians. At Hermannsburg there was a ceaseless industry. Smiths, tailors, carpenters, shoemakers, coopers, were preparing for their ship. A water-butt or a suit of clothes were not to be had at any price. The women and girls knitted with a rapidity that was marvellous to look upon. The farmers came in with loads of buck-wheat and rye. The orchards were stripped. Pigs and hens accumulated to the proportions of an agricultural show. The very heath was bared for besoms. Nor did a Christmas tree fail, but one was carefully planted in a huge tub to be in readiness against crossing the line.”
“Two rules are expressly insisted on-the reading of the Word of God and prayer. "I beg you with my whole heart that every morning you will pray, you have such high reason to thank the Lord who kept you through the night, who can keep and strengthen and bless you through the day. And every evening pray. You would be the most unthankful of men if you did not thank the Lord for all the benefits which He has shewed you. And you must pray every evening for the forgiveness of sins, for there is not a day without sin, and where there is no forgiveness there is no blessing, Begin all your work with prayer; and when the storm-wind rises, pray; and when the billows rave round the ship, pray; and when sin comes, pray; and when the devil tempts you, pray. So long as you pray, it will go well with you, body and soul."
Three weeks after the Candace left “twelve new candidates were waiting to enter the house. There were two tailors, four carpenters, and six yeomen or peasants; and one of them had a history of his own, which has so connected itself with the progress of the mission, and is so intelligible a sign of the place, that it cannot be omitted.”
"When it is said that we shall publish a Missionary Magazine, it is not meant to be a kind of royal speech, we by the grace of God, and yet there is only one; nor, as our writers say, as if they had learned it from the kings, we have been informed, in our opinion, and the man is speaking all the while of himself. Our we means literally we, my brother and me, for he will help me. And now I think I hear many a sigh, and words like these-So many missionary magazines already, and here is another! what folly! Dear friend, believe me, if you sigh once over this new magazine, I sigh ten times. For you need only read it, or if you will not do that, lay it aside; or if you have ordered it, countermand it, and all your trouble and sighing are at an end. But I must write it, every month a new one, although I am burdened with work enough already. Believe me, I would much rather let the whole matter drop if I dare. You will say, Why dare you not? My answer is, the love of Christ constraineth me. Ever since our Mission was established I have been besought to publish a missionary paper, and I shook off these petitions as one might shake the raindrops off a wet cloak. But when you shake and shake, and it only rains the harder, you are presently wet through. And so, that the rain may cease, I publish the magazine. And in truth I would have no love for the Lord Christ, and for the people who ask it of me, if I hesitated longer. So then, in our God's name, let it be begun, and may our faithful Lord say thereto, Yea, and amen; and grant new strength for the new work!"
“Four brides were sent out to as many of the missionaries, nor were bridal wreaths forgotten in the great chests. A tailor, a shoemaker, a smith, a tanner, and a wheelwright went out as colonists, the latter with his wife and five sons.”
“In the autumn the Candace was ready for another mission-journey, and was so crowded that the captain and the shipping agent were in despair. No less than forty-four persons left the old Hermannsburg for the new, twelve of them missionaries, fourteen colonists, and again four brides, the rest being women and children. By their calling, the colonists were: two tailors, two weavers, two ropemakers, a saddler, a turner, a joiner, a carpenter, a wheelwright, a smith, a shepherd, and a sailor-variety enough to found another Rome, though, if the legend tell truth, a vastly more honest and useful variety.”
“It is only seven years since their first missionaries sailed for Africa; and in these seven years this is the fruit of their labours. There are 100 settlers spread over the Eastern provinces at eight stations; there are dwelling-houses and workshops at every station; there are about 40,000 acres of land; 50 heathens have been baptized; their influence reaches from the Zulus on the coast, to the Bechuanas in the centre, and from the Orange River to Lake Ngami. At home, they have the mission house and farm, with 45 persons living in them; the Refuge Farm, with 20 persons; they have their own ship, and print their own books; and they continue with one accord in breaking of bread and in prayer. This is no common success. It is wonderful. And what to some would explain the wonders, to most would seem more wonderful than all.”
"A true, simple, able man, just such as we need; not of lofty words nor lofty nature, although, by the body, he belongs to the high people of this world; one who knows how to deal with plain peasant folk, and, as you may believe, heartily devoted to our dear church."
“The religious life at Hermannsburg was so perfectly blended with the secular that there was apparently no separation between them. All was done to the glory of God. Prof. Park has given a beautiful picture of some of the quaint old customs introduced by Harms, combining religious fervor with the performance of the common duties of daily life. He says: "Over many a door in the village is printed some verse of the Bible or stanza of a hymn. At sunrise, sunset, and midday, the church-bell is tolled for a few minutes, and at its first stroke men, women, and children stop their work wherever they are-in the house, or field, or in the street -and offer a silent prayer. Once I saw a company of seventeen men on their way to a wedding at the church, when suddenly they stopped, took off their hats, and seemed to be devout in prayer until the bell ceased tolling. Often during the evening, as men walked the streets, they sang the old church hymns.”
“It is not the outward circumstances, but the heart which makes .... difficulties; when the heart is changed, so also the circumstances.” "It is true that I suffer much everyday," he said, "and more every night. I do not wish it otherwise. My Savior is my physician. I love to lie awake the entire night, because I can then commune with Him.
This is a 3-part series that appeared in Le Chrétien Évangélique in 1859.
HARMS (Louis) naquit à Walsrode (Hanovre), le 5 mai 1808. Son père, pasteur à Walsrode et depuis 1817 à Hermannsbourg, était un homme droit, sincère, ennemi du mensonge et de l'hypocrisie; mais il n'avait pas cette piété vivante et communicative qui réveille les cœurs.
Louis Harms fit ses études, d'abord au gymnase de Celle, puis à l'université de Gœttingen, où il vécut d'une vie de privations, mais laborieuse et honnête; le rationalisme de ses professeurs lui fit perdre la foi qu'il avait apportée delà maison paternelle; il ne croyait plus même à l'existence de Dieu, et sans son père il eût renoncé à la carrière pastorale. Il passa ses examens avec distinction et devint ensuite précepteur à Lauenbourg, où il resta neuf ans. Là sa vie religieuse se réveilla et s'accentua de plus en plus; se sentant pressé de faire quelque chose pour son Dieu, il se mit à visiter les malades et les prisonniers et à tenir des réunions d'édification. Cité en justice, sur la plainte de l'un des pasteurs, qui était rationaliste et menacé de la prison, il déclara qu'à sa sortie de prison il recommencerait aussitôt ses réunions. On le laissa faire. Ayant intérimairement remplacé l'un des pasteurs de la ville, appelé à un autre poste, il déploya dans sa prédication une puissance et une éloquence irrésistibles; enfin le choléra ayant éclaté à Lauenbourg, il se concilia l'estime de tout le monde par son courage et son dévouement. A Lunebourg, où il devint précepteur en 1840, il déploya les mêmes qualités avec le même succès.
En 1843 il retourna dans la maison paternelle, et fut adjoint l'année suivante à son père, comme suffragant, et, à la mort de ce dernier, il lui succéda comme pasteur. Quand son père était venu à Hermannsbourg, l'état spirituel de la paroisse était lamentable; un seul fait suffira pour le montrer. Quand il y bénit son premier mariage, la bouteille d'eau-de-vie circulait dans les rangs de rassemblée, autour de l'autel. Il rétablit l'ordre avec la plus grande énergie; et Louis Harms y apporta cette vie qui en a fait une Eglise rappelant celles des temps évangéliques, et qui a exercé une influence si bénie surtout le nord de l'Allemagne.
Dans ce village perdu au milieu de la lande de Lunebourg, il osa entreprendre son œuvre missionnaire, au moment même où celle qui existait dans l'opulente ville de Hambourg périclitait et était abandonnée. Il en fut l'àme pendant toute sa vie, et quoiqu'il ne collectât jamais, ne frappant qu'à la porte de son Dieu, quand l'argent venait à manquer, il sut la faire prospérer et la maintenir jusqu'à sa mort exempte de déficit. Mais nous n'avons pas à parler ici des missions de Hermannsbourg, dont il sera question ailleurs (voyez l'art. Missions).
C'est par ses prières et par sa foi aux promesses de Dieu que Harms acquit son influence au dedans et au dehors. Les dimanches de Hermannsbourg eurent une grande célébrité et attirèrent chaque fois une foule d'étrangers. Le culte du matin durait quatre heures et se terminait toujours par la célébration de la sainte cène; après une heure et demie d'intervalle commençait le service d'après-midi, qui ne finissait qu'après six heures, et dans la soirée il y avait une réunion plus intime, dans la maison de Harms. Il n'avait sans doute aucune des qualités extérieures de l'orateur, mais il savait entraîner ses auditeurs et réveiller les consciences; ses deux volumes de sermons (Evangiles et Epitres) sont devenus populaires dans toute l'Allemagne ; son journal de missions édifiait et remplissait de zèle les individus et les Eglises, et ses Goldene Aepfel in silbernen Schaalen ont fait du bien à grand nombre d'àmes. Ce qui caractérise Harms, c'est l'amour ardent des âmes, puis, la foi absolue, nous dirions volontiers massive à la parole de pardon que nous apporte l'Evangile. Il ne s'est jamais marié. "Vraiment," disait-il, quand on l'y engageait, "je n'en ai pas le temps." Il continua son ministère jusqu'à la dernière heure, se faisant transporter à son église dans un fauteuil à roulettes, lorsque l'hydropisie l'empôcha de marcher, et mourut le 14 novembre 1863, à l'âge de cinquante-sept ans. — Voyez A. Weber, Louis Harms et les missions de Hermanmbourg, Paris, 1869.
Ch. Pfender, Encyclopédie des sciences religieuses, Vol. 6, 1879