[Sermon of Pastor Theodore Harms at the Funeral of his Brother, Pastor Louis Harms.]
The grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with us all. Amen.
Let us pray:
Christ, Thou Lamb of God, who bearest the sins of the world, have mercy upon us; Christ, Thou Lamb of God, who bearest the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Christ, Thou Lamb of God, who bearest the sins of the world, give us Thy peace.
Oh, Jesus, dear Saviour, look upon us poor sinners, for we are deeply troubled as we look upon the dear father whom Thou hast taken. Where can we find comfort except in Thee? Thou hast wounded us, and must heal. Let us all, from this day, receive the rich blessing of loving Thee above all others, that we may follow the example of our dear brother, and our last end be like his. Give us, above all things, Thy Holy Spirit, and write Thy holy words in our hearts, that they may be engraven there for time and eternity. Have compassion upon us, Lord Jesus, and let Thy holy sacrifice overcome the power of death, that we also may say in true belief, "O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory!" Let us have comfort in this, let us be strong in Thy strength, let us look beyond this body into that blessed home ... that we, too, may long for that home where all Clod's children shall be gathered. Amen.
Hear the word of God as it is written in St. John xvii. 3:
"And this is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
Our beloved, departed brother was born in Walsrodeon May 5th, 1808.
His father was the former pastor of this church —Pastor Harwig Christian Harms; his mother was Lucie Dorothee Friederika Harms, born Heinze.
In the holy baptism he received the name of George Ludwig Detlef Theodore.
Trained tenderly but strictly by his parents, he early evinced wonderful gifts, which, with careful instruction and his own untiring diligence, developed brilliant results.
.In 1817, when nine years of age, be came with his parents to Hermannsburg, which in more than one respect has been his earthly home.
At sixteen years of age he went to the high school at Celle, where he was first in the first class, and left after two years to go the University of Gottingen, bearing the highest testimonials from the professors, and where he remained from 1827 to 1830.
In the University there prevailed the most shameful infidelity, which had its effect upon him, for he had gone there with no fixed belief, and he threaded the whole realm of human knowledge to fill the void in his heart—philosophy, mathematics, natural history, astronomy, theology, also Sanscrit, Syriac, Chaldaic, Italian, Spanish, he added to his knowledge of the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew—but found no peace. He became an unbeliever.
Then did God take compassion upon the earnest wrestler, and chose him as an instrument for His service. One night in his quiet room, while reading St. John xvii. 3, light came into his soul. The love of Jesus illumined his heart, and from that hour he let God direct his path.
After a brilliant examination, he came to Luneburg as tutor in the family of Councilor von Linstow, where he remained nine years; his sojourn in that house being a blessing to it, as it was to the village. There he enjoyed the society of a band of believers, and the remembrance was always dear to him.
From Lauenburg he went to Luneburg, as tutor in the family of Landmeister Pampel, remaining there until 1843; there also his sermons and Bible readings were richly blessed.
He then had a call to the mission-house in Hamburg, and at the same time to a church in New York; but by God's leading declined both, and came to Hermannsburg to assist our aged father in his charge.
In 1844 he was chosen pastoral collaborator, and entered the service of the ministry the second Sunday in Advent of that year.
In 1849, upon the death of our father, he was chosen pastor in charge of Hermannsburg church, preaching his entrance sermon from the parable of the nobleman's son; and in 1865 preached his last sermon from the same text.
What he accomplished in that twenty-one years of service I need not say, your tears testify to it. “Woe to me if I come to my old age in strength,” he once said to me; he was his own prophet. He worked whilst the last remnant of strength was spared him; deathly weary, deathly weak, an old man at fifty-seven, but a youth in zeal and fire of the Spirit, he laid down all in the service of God, of his congregation, and of all whom he could help.
He remained unmarried, saying in his cheery way, “I have no time;” but in truth Hermannsburg was his bride, his beloved.
On Monday, eight days before, he buried a member of his congregation, and eleven o'clock the following Monday evening began his battle with death. The pain was almost unbearable, but no murmur escaped his lips, but only prayer. The Lord took compassion on him, and on Tuesday morning at half-past three o' clock he slept peacefully and sweetly his last sleep.
His vitality was such that it took rheumatism, asthma, dropsy of the chest, and heart disease to rob him of life; his life numbered fifty-seven years, six months, and eight days.
This is in brief the earthly course of our dear brother, led to the Saviour through the words, "And this is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”
Where Jesus is not, there is no life, no blessedness; He alone it is who leads us to God; that fills our hearts that they need nothing more; Jesus being all in all.
Our departed father had gifts of intellect given to but few; yet his heart remained empty until he learned to know his Saviour.
In his unregenerate condition his high sense of honor, and the deep love he bore our parents, particularly our mother, kept him from the sins and follies of the world.
The feeling of fear was unknown to him, and he once told me that he had never felt fear save when the knowledge of his sins came upon him, when his limbs trembled with fear of the anger of God.
In his youth he was proud, passionate, and obstinate; but how wholly changed was he when he found Jesus. From a stormy Saul he became a gentle Paul. Until then all must go his way, bend or break; after that it was God's way. Nothing troubled him, nothing vexed him. With many pains and sickness of the body, he kept on his way. Often the thought came to me, why must such a man suffer? But man could not bend him, only God through His Word and His cross. Then with sins forgiven, his heart filled with the knowledge of everlasting life, he, with the fire and zeal which characterized him, turned all to the service of the Lord; placed all upon Him; his whole soul thrilling with love to Him and desire to proclaim the power of Jesus to all the world. Yet he must fight heavy battles to do away with the false doctrines of the times, replacing them with the clear, simple Lutheran belief; and through them came great treasures of heart-experience, the loving entering into the needs of seeking souls, the tender, careful fostering of feeble belief, his prayerful wish to influence them for good.
In his service he was faithful in every detail, every following of the Saviour was full of earnestness, to kneel or stand in prayer was enjoined, and in all points of his pastorate was he caretaking for souls, helping as long as a remnant of strength was left him—his last breath used for us. To proclaim that Jesus was everlasting life was his life; and he did so, as long as the weakness of his mortal body permitted.
No one who heard him during his last days could but wonder at so much strength and endurance, so much zeal and fire, the services lasting sometimes from four to five hours; and would not have been surprised had his life been extinguished at any moment. Now he is gone; and, oh beloved, I have loved him as I have loved no man upon earth, and he loved me perhaps as no other, and I cannot tell you how my heart grieves as I hold this service. I mourn not that my brother is at rest, but that such a man, one of the most faithful, should be lost to us.
And now, beloved Hermannsburgers, I have an earnest word to say to you. You are a community of whom the world speaks. Honor the memory of your pastor, not alone by tears, but by your faithful Christian conduct. Take no pastor in his place who is not firm and faithful in the Lutheran belief, that the pure word of Lutheran doctrine be proclaimed here. He said to me once, "That because of the wickedness and indifference of many of his children he had often felt that his work was vain." I have a right to speak thus to you, for I am his brother and a Hermannsburger. Honor his memory by taking Christ into your life. That you remain a faithful, pious congregation will be the best monument you can raise to him.
And you, dear mission-pupils, who with hearts heavy with sorrow stand beside the body of your leader, honor his memory by being as faithful in far-away mission lands as he was here.
We pastors and teachers, who had in him such a lofty example, let us be faithful unto death, taking the groundwork of his life, “What is right is wise." ... His dying prayer was, “Help me, Saviour; make me ready for everlasting peace and blessedness." May our end be like his. Amen.
After this sermon the mission-pupils about the casket sang “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;” and another loved hymn of the departed, “Christ is my life." They sang with trembling lips and hearts' filled with sorrow. Then the bearers took up the casket, and—preceded by the mission-pupils, then the teachers with the schoolchildren, each bearing flowers and green twigs, then the preachers in their robes—proceeded to the new cemetery, followed by a great multitude. When the casket was placed over the grave the words, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me, though dead, shall live," were uttered, and with the words, “God the Father who created, God the Son who redeemed, God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies, keep him in peace to the resurrection of life. Amen," it was lowered into the grave.
Consistory Councilor Niemann pressed the sign of the cross upon the mound, Inspector Baustadt spoke sincere words of sorrow for the loss the Mission had sustained, and Missionary Prigge spoke of the sorrow the knowledge of his death would bring to heathen lands; after which Pastor Blumenthal said a few words, for he was an old friend of the departed and a faithful friend of the Mission. Klaus Harms, in Kiel, had been his spiritual father, and the spiritual life implanted by Klaus Harms had been fostered by my brother. Then the Consistory Councilor pronounced the benediction, and we left our dear brother in the silent grave.
When we, sixteen years before, buried our aged father, my brother Louis did not wish a tombstone with his name upon it, saying that the congregation should remember where their aged, faithful shepherd reposed. But my brother belonged not alone to Hermannsburg Congregation, he belonged to the whole church; therefore should a tablet give knowledge to all that here a man rests who was faithful to his church, his people, the heathen, the poor and abandoned, his friends and his enemies—a great one in Israel, a star in the church, a favored child of God. That grave is commended to the community as a precious relic. Amen.
Mary Ireland, Life Work of Louis Harms, (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1900).