The Historical Background (Social and religious environment of Tersteegen's time.)
His Daily Life (Tersteegen's work, family, and other interesting points.)
Spiritual Admonition (A chapter from Govan's book on Tersteegen.)
"The assurance of the forgiveness of sins," he writes to one who put some questions to him, "is commonly taken for believing in Jesus; but in my opinion, this is incorrect. That which I have more fitly called the drawing of the Father, I might also with propriety call believing in Jesus; for the Father draws us to the Son. But faith in Christ has its gradations. In the beginning it is a coming to Jesus (John 6:35); that is, with hunger and desire. It is afterwards a receiving of Jesus (John 1:12), which cannot take place unless the sincere will of the soul let's go at once the world, sin, and self. In advancing, faith is an abiding in Jesus (John 15), namely, with a fervent inclination, otherwise called retiring within or cleaving to him (1Corinthians 6:17); and thus, by abiding and walking in Jesus, we are increasingly rooted and grounded in Him (Colossians 2:7), which, however, is not accomplished without afflictions and trials. Faith is, finally, a dwelling of Christ in the soul, and of the soul in Christ (Ephesians 3:17; John 17:23), and a becoming one with him. In referring to and considering the passages quoted, you may perhaps attain more light on the subject.
Born to a wealthy merchant family in 1697, Tersteegen attended the elite Adolﬁnum Grammar School where there was an emphasis on foreign languages and became proﬁcient in many many of them.
Eventually settled in Milheim, the birthplace of the German Pietist movement (as a result of the ministry of Reformed Pastor Theodore Undereych-1635-1693 who worked through home meetings where his members discussed what they had heard in church. Spener and Francke also visited Milheim in later years.), where Tersteegen worked as a linen weaver for a time.
It was in Milheim that Gerard Tersteesgen became part of the Pietist movement, a group of individuals who desired to have a practical, Bible-based experience, looked for holy outcomes, and sought a revival of practical godliness within the Lutheran church. Other notable Pietists were Johann Arndt (True Christianity), Philip Spener (Pia Desideria), August Francke (opened a school and orphanage in Halle Germany) and later Nicholas Zinzendorf (the Moravian Movement). Though the Pietists are accused of mystical leanings--and some among them were mystics, some of them knew Jesus in a marvelously intimate way, lived godly, community-changing, dead-to-self lives, and we can learn much from them.
Tersteegen sought to experience “inner liberty” (a transformed life based on God’s indwelling presence) for seven years before ﬁnally experiencing a breakthrough in 1724, at which time he consecrated himself to God as attested to in his testimony. He soon set up a school for poor children and began composing textbooks of instruction, which included a catechism of Christian doctrine.
There were times when he was almost reclusive, but it was during this time of study, prayer and writing, that his experience deepened. Though he had abandoned tea, coffee, and all but one meal per day, he began living in a more balanced way.
Soon Tersteegen became a leading evangelist in the area and brought many people to a saving walk with God. He also began to produce many Christian books, partially to counteract the feelings of some converts that they could live a sinful life without fear of punishment. Concerned about the poverty and disease that was rampant, he began to learn the trade of a chemist and began dispensing at no cost healing remedies to the sick. He also found homes for the poor and unemployed and taught them the trade of weaving. He also spent much time translating the stories of saints of former times to show that God had been working in the past and to teach the gospel through their lives. Catholics in the area were unhappy with his efforts and convinced the state government to ban his efforts, and thus he wasn’t allowed to preach for ten years, though he continued to privately minister to the “quiet of the land.”
In 1750 a revival came to Milheim from Holland and it became a center of spiritual activity. Tersteegen publicly participated in this revival-and would have been imprisoned for his participation had the local mayor not refused. Tersteegen became increasingly popular and people came from here and there to hear him, some even setting up ladders outside his home to listen. At one point Zinzendorf tried to get Tersteegen to join the Moravians, but Tersteegen deferred due to the Moravians not accepting what Tersteegen referred to as the “inward and outward cross.”
Gerhard Tersteegen died April 3, 1769.
Samuel Jackson's Life and Character of Gerhard Tersteegen is the one of just a few books available on Gerhard Tersteegen in English. Because of Tersteegen's mystical leanings and the times in which he lived—1697-1769—there are things he speaks of which I see differently. But his knowledge of Jesus, prayer, his instruction on how to have a relationship with Jesus, and what it means to be a Christian on a practical basis, is wonderful and much can be learned from him. Therefore read with discernment. This has to be downloaded as a pdf. Be aware the pdf file is very LARGE and therefore should only be downloaded if you have a high speed connection.
“To Gerhard Tersteegen, an apprentice shopkeeper in Mulheim, “a godly merchant” came as God’s priest and led his soul into peace. But the constant bustle of shop keeping proved too much for his delicate health, and he retired to the more peaceful work of ribbon-weaving. In an isolated cottage Tersteegen lived alone with his God and his books, helped only by a little girl who came once a day to wind his silk. For five years Gerhard was “deprived of the sense of God’s favor” till one day, when he was walking along a country road, “the Dayspring from on high visited him.” He signed a covenant with God in his blood and the cottage became a center of spiritual power. Tersteegen’s reputation as a good man and a spiritual adviser spread through the neighborhood and to the four corners of Germany. He had a vast correspondence with numerous “brothers and sisters” who wrote for his spiritual counsel, and there were usually twenty to thirty people in his waiting-room every evening. When he preached, the cottage was crammed with some four to five hundred people, often including strangers from Holland, Switzerland, or England. So great was the desire to hear him speak that ladders were fetched from the farms, set up at the open windows, and people listened, perched on the rungs. Even the king, Frederick the Great, heard of the wisdom of the saintly weaver and summoned him to the palace at Wesel for conversations. Tersteegen’s advice was simple. You are the child of God. God’s nature is in you. It has only become overclouded. Withdraw from outward things. Pray, and you will make contact again with God, the source of your being. Forget yourself. Forget your selfish desires. Look to God. Die to your own will, live for God’s will and you will know true life.—Excerpt from the Translator’s Preface of The Quiet Way, by Emily Chisholm
You can enjoy Gerhard Tersteegen in greater depth reading the two volumes on his life and works written by Harvey & Tait. The first volume is entitled Recluse in Demand. I strongly recommend purchasing these volumes.
I also have H. E. Govan's Gerhard Tersteegen Life and Selections which was published in 1898, and includes the story of his life, samples of his letters and four sermons.
Commenting on his own writing, he states, "I have written thus in simplicity, in the presence of God, as it came into my mind not as though you did not know these things, but that we might rejoice together in hope of all the good things that are given us in Christ. The Lord give us the vital and essential experience of them in our souls, even should the knowledge of them be forgotten."
“How willingly would I be freed from the bondage of lusts and of empty pleasure, but I find in myself no strength or capability for it. This cannot be till the Lord Himself reveals Himself in us, raises up His dwelling-place in us, and inhabits it, filling it with His life, so that we are clothed in him, and He Himself thus fulfills in us all the righteousness of the Law. And in the place of them we shall hear the sweet and tender voice of grace and of the Gospel speaking within us. We shall be led out of the horror of the great darkness of the law by Christ Himself, and shall be as little children at the breast, drawing in the fullness of His grace and love in glad and gentle stillness, and He Himself will be the refreshment and the rest of our souls. It seems to me that the great Captain of our salvation drives us at times into a corner, in order that we may utterly despair of our own miserable righteousness. But the Lord knows the right moment to deliver us. Even waiting is unconscious advance, and to lose heart is a proof of self-confidence.”
“My sentiments and my religion are these, that as one who is reconciled to God, through the blood of Christ, I suffer the spirit of Jesus, by means of mortification, affliction, and prayer, to lead me away from self, and all created good, in order that I may live safely to God in Christ Jesus; and cleaving by faith and love to him, I hope to become one spirit with him, and through his mercy in Christ alone, to obtain eternal felicity."—Samuel Jackson, Life and Times of Gerhard Tersteegen, p. 38
Tersteegen was adamant that all spirituality was centered in Christ. He was not mystical in the sense that he looked to have a intrspective "feel good" experience as some might suppose. He also realized that developing that relationship with Christ was a progressive as attested in the following:
"The assurance of the forgiveness of sins is commonly taken for believing in Jesus; but in my opinion this is incorrect. That which I have more fitly called the drawing of the Father, I might also with propriety call believing in Jesus; for the Father draws us to the Son. But faith in Christ has its gradations. In the beginning it is a coming to Jesus (John 6:35); that is, with hunger and desire. It is afterwards a receiving of Jesus (John 1:12), which cannot take place unless the sincere will of the soul lets go at once the world, sin, and self. In advancing, faith is an abiding in Jesus (John 15), namely, with a fervent inclination, otherwise called retiring within or cleaving to Him (1 Cor. 6:17); and thus, by abiding and walking in Jesus, we are increasingly rooted and grounded in Him (Col 2:7), which, however, is not accomplished without affliction and trials. Faith is, finally, a dwelling of Christ in the soul, and of the soul in Christ (Eph. 3:17); John 17:23), and a becoming one with Him. By referring to and considering the passages quoted, you may perhaps attain more light on the subject." Govan, Gerhard Tersteegen: Life and Selections, pp. 84,85
He was convinced of the love of God and happily encouraged others to believe in that love. But that love was conditional on giving oneself entirely over to God:
"This inestimable favour and honour is not only earnestly desired for you by me, but is kindly intended for and graciously offered by Jesus Himself to the most wretched amongst you. Could we, who are deserving of the curse, behold even only through a fissure the opened heart of Jesus, what should we not see! What should we not feel!
As long as we lived in a state of carnal security, without God and without Jesus, we stood on the brink of perdition's yawning gulf, and were unconscious of it. Jesus loved us, sought us, and we knew it not. It is He that hath taken us by the hand, that hath drawn us away from that dreadful abyss, that hath directed our minds to Himself, and, instead of the well-deserved pit of hell, hath opened unto us the unfathomable abyss of His loving heart, in order that we may fly to this safe and blessed city of refuge from all sin and danger, and become eternally happy in Him. Oh, come, my dear brethren! Taste and see how gracious the Lord is, and how unspeakably blessed we may be in communion with Him, even during the present state of existence! Seek nowhere else alleviation for your burdened hearts. All besides is deception. You will not find it out of Christ, but only be adding to your burden by seeking it elsewhere.
He that abhors all his sins, has a right to believe that he has the forgiveness of all his sins and cleansing from them in the blood of Christ; but he that wishes to receive Christ, and yet secretly retain both the world and sin, his faith is vain. He that gives all for all, shall certainly obtain the pearl of great price; but how can a person receive anything whose hands are already full! Do not console yourselves on unsubstantial grounds, till Jesus consoles you in His due time, lest you be injured by it." H. E. Govan, Gerhard Tersteegen Life and Selections, pp. 86,87.
"The marriage state itself is very different according to the state of the persons who enter into it. “To the pure, all things are pure; but to the unbelieving, nothing is pure; for even their minds and consciences are defiled." (Titus, i. 15.) Marriages are, indeed, in general, under the divine permission; but it is not every marriage that is made in heaven. A truly holy marriage state, as all are called now-a-days, is perhaps very rare; yet there is a difference amongst them. In the mutual love and fidelity of two hearts, which are really united in the Lord, there is indeed something good and beautiful, in this pilgrimage state; and in itself, it is not displeasing to God, but a sacred mystery." (Read more on Gerhard Tersteegen's thoughts on marriage)
“As far as possible he did everything at a stated time, but the visits of his patients were allowed at all hours, and thus gave him continual exercise of self-denial, though he was willing to have his quiet hours disturbed, rather than to keep waiting any who were suffering. He often recommended exercise and occupation rather than medicine, and always recommended prayer.”
“Oh that it would please the LORD to send out faithful laborers into His vineyard, for if they send themselves, they are good for nothing!”
“These histories (of Teresa, Fenelon, Madame Guyon) show us that God’s inner working is independent of outward circumstances-we find saints in palaces and deserts, in married life and in cloisters, in the church, in the chamber, in the kitchen, in the streets, in all employments and all places. Let none then, however difficult his position, regard himself as debarred from the way of holiness. Have we but God and the cross of Christ, we have means for becoming altogether holy in our walk and conversation. What dungeon is there that can shut us out from this? Only let us use the present occasions and means faithfully and truly, taking them from the hand of God, and we shall find Him able to free us from all that is really a hindrance. Let us each one desire to be a saint in his own place and calling (the “place and calling” phrase was used by the people of Herrnhut in 1727 when they consecrated themselves during the Moravian revival), instead of building castles in the air of future holiness.”
“I wished to perform this journey (to Barmen in 1747) incognito, but this was impossible. In Barmen and in other places, numbers of people whom I have never seen before were so awakened and moved by the preaching that I could scarcely tear myself away from them, or behave manfully in the midst of so many who were weeping bitterly. I was obliged to travel about eleven days in the province of Berg, surrounded with enquiring people from morning to night. Once I thought of a quiet place about four miles from the road, where I might spend a little time alone, but they were all on the watch, and when I arrived there I was taken into a bar, in which there were about twenty people, mostly unknown to me, who had gone on before and were waiting for me.”
“'Tersteegen is truly a friend of God,’ and this testimony I can fully endorse. He was most truly a friend of God. I have often seen and experienced that the love and the grace of God flowed into him and from him as an overflowing stream. His life seemed to consist of nothing but loving intercourse with God. What solemnity, what devotion and peaceful stillness have I not felt in my own soul when in his company! As he was a friend of Go, so can I also truthfully call him a friend of man. He never wished to keep for himself any of the gifts that God gave him.”
“A royal place is too small for a man who lives for himself, but a little hut is great and splendid for one who is living to God.”
“Often when he got up, he would find sixty or seventy people already waiting to speak to him, and the time he could call his own was very short.”
“To walk before God and in His presence is the ground and the costly jewel of true Christian living. I would have you above all things to grasp this firmly, because when it is rightly understood and practiced, it includes all else.”
“The secret of God’s presence is actually believed by very few, but are you aware, that if each one truly believed it, the whole world would at once be filled with the saints, and the earth would be truly Paradise? If men really believed it as they should, they would need nothing more to induce them to give themselves up, heart and soul, to this loving god. But now it is hid from their eyes. Let us pray, my beloved, that God may be made known and manifested to many hearts, and thus in the light of His divine presence, the darkness of mere human life may be dispelled, and all things cast away, both without and within the heart, which hinder the growth and life of the soul, and which this light alone discovers and unveils. In all Christian practice there is nothing more universally needful, nothing simpler, sweeter, and more useful, nothing which so sums up in itself all Christian duties in one blessed act, as the realization of the loving presence of God.”
“Love is simply this, to look upon the face of God, and to be looked upon by Him.”
“When I pass by that man’s house, a great awe comes over me of some holy presence. And when I think about him, it has more power over me than many a sermon.”
“It is a matter of astonishment, adoration, and delight, to see how the Lord can induce us to let every thing go. Everything appears so frivolous, unsatisfying, trifling, and superficial-even good and spiritual things which formerly afforded such gratification, and of which we were so tenacious, but which, for that very reason, served only to interpose between us and God, and were injurious, because they were held so fast. Jesus alone is sufficient, but yet insufficient, when He is not wholly and solely embraced.”
“I record with deep sorrow the fact that, in our days, in the case of newly converted souls, the necessity of advance and pressing forward in holiness of life is not sufficiently insisted upon, whereas the Scripture is so clear and full upon this subject. In the Scripture we find that holiness includes a real and actual cleansing from sin and pollution, in the renewing of the inner man, in a changing from glory to glory after the image of Him who created us, inconformity to Jesus Christ. Let us seek after all these thing, praying earnestly, and withdrawing ourselves into the seclusion of the inner sanctuary of communion with God, Who is so inexpressibly near to us, Who desires, by the power of the resurrection of Christ, by the spirit of holiness, to sanctify us wholly, to work by us, to live, and move in us.”
The weaning of a child from its mother’s breast is not so useful to it as when God our heavenly Father purposes to detach us, by means of the bitterness of this life, from the soul-destroying attachment to the things that are seen. O it is infinite grace when He breaks our wills and hedges up our way, that we may run unto Him! Did we but recognize the high intentions of God towards us when He gives us pain, we would kiss the rod of His paternal love, and love Him and cleave to Him only the most cordially.”
"Be willing to occupy the lowest place, till the Lord Himself says, 'Friend, come up hither' (Luke xiv.). Only wait at Jesus' feet, ye troubled hearts—no one waits in vain; for whilst we wait, the precious corn groweth up. We are not so happy in the world, when all things go well with us, as we are with Jesus in troublous times. Every tear and every sigh will bring, in due time, abundant fruit. Learn to keep Lent with Jesus. Be not disquieted, dejected, or faint-hearted, when sufferings, trials, and temptations arise. We ought rather to fortify our hearts with confidence when thess things befall us, even as they happened to our great Forerunner." (Govan, pp. 87,88)
“To be saved and sanctified through grace is not so easy as many suppose. It is found to be otherwise when the light and chastening of God are applied to our souls. We then perceive that without the inmost purity no union with God can be hoped for. Efforts are made to satisfy the just demands of grace, but the deep and radical wound cannot be healed by our own endeavors. If we find ourselves unable to make progress we lose our courage and temper. If we succeed, self-righteousness springs up and secretly insinuates itself into the soul, so that even her best works continue to be polluted by self-love. If it advance for a time, she finds herself all of a sudden again in the midst of the mire.
What then is to be done? To believe that we must continue miserable sinners all our lives is a desperate consolation. To rely upon the merit and death of Christ is highly proper and the sole ground of our salvation, but He gave Himself for us that He might sanctify us (Eph. 5:26). He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). What help is there then? The soul must go forwards, and cannot. She must give something, and yet has nothing. Hypocrisy and pretence no more avail. There is only one means remaining, that is, that we creep to the cross and humbly acknowledging and consenting to our helpless condition, cease from our own efforts in order that God may carry on His work in us. Thus, by a resigned and believing application to, and immersion in, the opened fountain of the grace and love of Jesus, wait for the happy hour when this mighty Redeemer shall reveal Himself and fulfill in us that righteousness which the law demands.”
“O that I might be no more, nor have any longer in myself either life, or understanding, or will, or thought, or any other motion, and that Thou, my God, my Jesus, might be and work all in me, be for ever silent and cease! Condemn and destroy in me all which Thou art not and which is not Thee. Take entire possession of the place which I now occupy and do in me and through me what is pleasing in Thy sight. Let me exist no more, but Thou alone be all in all.”
“That our watching and waiting may be of a proper kind, and be successful, we must turn entirely away from all created things, and appear in the presence of God, with a heart entirely empty, and hungering and thirsting after grace, so that we may boldly say, ‘Lord, here is my vessel, here I wait, here I continue lying on the brink of the waters; here, O my God! I expect the promised power from on high, with perfect resignation and in child-like confidence, that thou wilt, in due time, fulfill thy promise! Thou hast promised thy Holy Spirit to me; and thou wilt also perform. Do not look at my poverty and wretchedness, my nakedness and destitution; for it is for his very reason I need thy grace the most; on this very account I am worthy of compassion.’
It is thus that a soul, which is entirely turned away from the world, and directed to God, and which hungers and thirsts after God, waits in a right and proper manner, and therefore shall be filled with the blessings of salvation, and most assuredly made partaker of the Holy Spirit. When the beggar, at the door, has said, ‘Give me a morsel of bread!’ he does not immediately go away, but waits; and if he is left to stand long, he repeats his request, again and again, until he has really received what he desires. And although he be refused, yet he continues to beg, and does not move until he be attended to. So ought we also to act. We must stand at the door of God’s grace, and wait, until we have received what we ask for. And though it may often seem, as though he would not hear us; yet we ought still to continue our requests, and not move, until he has really granted us his favours, and fulfilled his promise in us. If it sometimes seems long to us, so that we are compelled to exclaim, ‘Lord, how long will thou be unmindful of us? How long dost thou hide thy face from us? My soul is in terror! O Lord, how long!’ Yet we ought still to be of good courage, and firmly believe, that help will come, at an hour when we least expect it; that he will suddenly and all at once hasten to us, comfort, and refresh us, even as he did for his dear disciples, to whom, after long waiting, he at length, all at once and instantaneously appeared. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Thus suddenly does it occur, in the present day, with many souls. Many, who, with all sincerity of heart, have frequently waited, sighed and prayed, for many years together, are sometimes on high; and when they have almost given it up for lost and are saying to themselves, ‘it is over with us, the Lord has forgotten us;’ he suddenly comes all at once to put to shame their little faith, and lets the light of his grace shine over them.” Gerhard Tersteegen, Spiritual Crumbs from the Master’s Table, pp. 250,251
“We also grieve the Holy Spirit, when we bind his hands, as it were, by our faintheartedness, by our unbelief, and by the constant consideration of our wants and infirmities. For instance, when we are conscious of our great and manifold weaknesses, together with the utter inability of our own power, and we then continue lying in utter despondency, and do not confide in the Holy spirit and his power and goodness, that he is able and willing to deliver us entirely from our infirmities, and that it is an easy matter for him to make something entire of us, and to bring us to perfection.
O how many well-meaning souls often lie and complain, weep and lament, and do not even once rub their eyes, so as to be able to see what the Holy Spirit purposes respecting them! He, my dearest friends can do abundantly more than we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. We ought, therefore, filially to resign ourselves to his guidance, and not grieve him further in this manner, since he has already bestowed so many benefits upon us. Did we ever possess, in ourselves, any thing that was good, before the conversion which the Hoy Spirit wrought in us? Were we not slaves of Satan, did new not wear the devil’s livery? And yet he sought us, yet he laboured with us! You see, therefore, my dearest friends, how kind his intentions are towards us! If there were a friend, who had shown us a thousandth part of the love and fidelity manifested towards us by the Hoy spirit of God, and yet we should have no confidence in him, and were always running either before him or from him-this would be acting very ill; and thus it is, that we grieve the Holy Spirit of God by our culpable mistrust in not giving the glory to him, and by our want of confidence in his ability to make of miserable sinners, upright souls.
Now then, in a word, and to conclude, let us give the Holy Spirit an unlimited authority in our hearts. It is he, who has begun the work in us; he it is, also, who must accomplish it, and will do so, to the eternal glory of his name.” Gerhard Tersteegen, Spiritual Crumbs from the Master’s Table, pp. 298,299
Tersteegen wrote many beautiful poems. Fortunately many of these have been translated into English and are still available. Look for Frances Bevan's Hymns of Tersteegen Suso and Others, and Harvey and Tait's Sermons and Hymns.
Am I not enough, Mine own?
Enough, Mine own, for Thee?
Hath the world its palace towers,
Garden glades of magic flowers
Where thou fain wouldst be?
Fair things and false are there,
False things but fair.
All shalt thou find at last
Only in Me.
Am I not enough, Mine own?
I, forever and alone,
I, needing Thee?
How sweet it is, when, wean’d from all,
We follow Jesus’ secret call,
And hidden in Him live!
How sweet to be released from sin,
And, freed from all self-love within,
To God alone to cleave!
How sweet, from earthly things to part,
And In the closet of the heart,
To live retired with God!
How sweet, the Lord Himself to find
Residing in our inmost mind,
And make Him our abode!
How sweet, when with a child-like grace,
We walk before the Father’s face,
And seek but Him to please!
How sweet, when we to all below,
A meek and quiet spirit show,
And live in perfect peace!
How sweet. when with a silent awe,
In spirit near to God we draw,
Array’d in truth divine!
How sweet when with a cherub’s eye,
We fixedly behold Him nigh,
And in His glory shine!
How sweet, when all our powers and will,
Subdued, resigned, serene, and still,
At God’s disposal lie!
How sweet, when every lofty thought,
Is into due subjection brought,
Before the omniscient eye!
How sweet, when self and things remote
Are lost and utterly forgot,
And all our cares depart!
How sweet, beyond all time and place,
A still eternity to trace
Within our inmost heart!
How sweet it is, retired and free,
In such a desert place to be,
And hear the voice of peace!
How sweet, when undisturbed we rest
Like children on a parent’s breast,
And from our own works cease!
How sweet, when after wasting strength,
The spirit find its home at length,
And roams no more abroad
How sweet, in pure and perfect love,
To soar through sense to things above,
And join ourselves to God!
O precious, sweet eternity,
Thou realm of peace! How happy he,
Who Thee within hath found!
My spirit in Thy silence blest,
Shall steadfast in concealment rest,
Till life hath reached its bound!
Apart from Thee
I am not only naught, but worse than naught,
A wretched monster, horrible of mien!
And when I work my works in self’s vain strength,
However good and holy they may seem,
These works are hateful—nay, in Thy pure sight
Are criminal and fiendish, since thereby
I seek, and please, and magnify myself
In subtle pride of goodness, and ascribe
To Self the glory that is Thine alone.
So dark, corrupt, so vile a thing is self.
Seen in the presence of Thy purity
It turns my soul to loathing and disgust;
Yea, all the virtues that it boasts to own
Are foul and worthless when I look on thee.
Oh that there might be no more I or mine!
That in myself I might no longer own
As mine, my life, my thinking, or my choice,
Or any other motion, but in me
that Thou, my God, my Jesus, might be all,
And work the all in all! Let that, O Lord,
Be dumb, forever, die, and cease to be,
Which thou dost not Thyself in me inspire,
And speak and work.
“Let Him lead thee blindfold onwards,
Love needs not to know;
Children whom the Father leadeth
Ask not where they go.
Though the path be all unknown
Over moors and mountains lone.
Give no ear to reason’s questions;
Let the blind man hold
That the sun is but a fable
Men believed of old.
At the breast the babe will grow;
Whence the milk he need not know.”
A Rough and shapeless block of iron is my heart;
So hard, so cold-The Master cannot use it so.
Love must my Furnace be:-I enter in through prayer:
I keep quite still, and leave the smoking fire to glow.
Then doth the gentle wind of Love begin to breathe:-
I hold me still-and let the hotter flame burn on.
The iron's blackness must be melted quite away:
When softened and made fair, the Fire's fierce work is
The way of self-denial, and of daily death-
This is the Anvil upon which my soul I lay.
Blow after blow, The Master's strokes begin to fall,
Till, turned and bent, the softened ore at last gives way.
Yet still, it will not wholly yield in every part;
Therefore, The Master Workman for His aid doth
One, who with rougher, stronger hammer strikes the blows:
Strike on, O Mighty One! Thus soon will end my sorrow.
The Master's Hand directeth all the work full well:
According as the fashioning doth most require,
The strokes must fall. And now once more the ore He lays
Within the Flame;—and strokes again succeed the Fire.
Whilst in that glowing heat, "The Iron shines;" me thought, "
All clear and bright:—now, surely, soon the work is
But when the burning was withdrawn, all cold, and black,
And shapeless grew the metal:—thus my hope was gone.
On the Refining-Board of inner woe and pain,
Next must the ore, in all its coldness, firm be pressed.
The keen-edged File must work—a thousand splinters
Now follow finer, closer strokes, upon the rest.
O Master, Who this art dost understand aright,
Make Thou my soul well fitted for Thy use at last!
Not o'er my heart may polished brightness seem to shine
But, inly chastened, let me in Thy Fire stand fast.
In this sermon taken from the Quiet of the Land (translated by Frances Bevan), Tersteegen reveals how the gospel removes the hindering burdens that so often impede our spiritual progress. Read this very encouraging sermon from many years ago.
This is a pdf book of sermons by Tersteegen is translated by Samuel Jackson. This book is exceedingly rare and we are blessed to have it available to us in this form. Please read with discernment since he comes from the 1600s and had strong mystical leanings! This is a very large file so only attempt to download it if you have a high speed connection.
"... Further, as a virgin when betrothed has no longer need care for her support, but leaves her bridegroom to provide for her, so likewise those souls who, by true conversion and presentation, have become Christ's own, need no longer care for themselves, either as it respects body or soul. God, who in Christ has now become their God and reconciled Father knows that they require meat and drink and also raiment to cover their nakedness. They now stand under the peculiar oversight and protection of their heavenly Father, so that, according to the letter of Scripture, "Without the will of their Father in heaven not a hair of their head shall fall to the ground...." From a sermon by Gerhard Tersteegen
"It is a very lamentable thing, that in these our last, dark, and corrupted times, godliness, piety, or the true service of God, and religion—for all these are one and the same thing—is become so rare, and so little known upon earth; nay, that even amongst Christians, or those whose profession or peculiar character it is—according to the Word of God—to let their godliness shine as lights in the eyes of all other nations upon earth—that amongst these, I say, true piety or godliness is so little known, that they universally manifest disgust at the very name of piety; or if they talk of godliness, they do not even know of what they are speaking...." From a sermon by Gerhard Tersteegen
"In process of time, a latent inclination, by which they are more completely drawn away from all other things, and led and exhorted to set their affections upon God. They perceive that something noble, entire, and complete is required of them: their hearts tell them from God, that he desires to have them solely and wholly for himself."
"Let us constantly set before us the pure and holy word, and self-denying life of Jesus Christ for our imitation. “He that saith he abideth in him, must also walk as he walked.” We ought not to look much about us, nor pay attention to others, except so far as they are in Christ, and follow his steps." From a sermon by Gerhard Tersteegen
"The weaning of a child from its mother's breast, is not so useful to it, as when God our heavenly Father purposes to detach us, by means of the bitterness of this life, from the soul-destroying attachment to the things that are seen. O it is infinite grace, when he breaks our wills and hedges up our way, not in order that we may be constrained to depart from him, but that we may run unto him! Did we but recognize the high intentions of God towards us when he gives us pain, we would kiss the rod of his paternal love, and love him and cleave to him only the more cordially."
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. All the victory lies in a peaceful, passive, believing, and praying state of mind. The harsh and impetuous force of nature must be nailed to the cross of Christ, and be broken and softened by a believing descent into his meek and conciliating mind of love; so that nothing may be cherished but compassionate charity, benevolence, and in beneficence, even towards our adversaries. In this way, Christ triumphed over all the powers of hell. If we walk at the same time, worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even those shall be added unto us who now oppose us, when they behold the beauty of truth and what blessedness we enjoy with Jesus."
"The Holy Spirit is then the scepter, which is sent forth out of Zion into our hearts; for he takes possession of all our will and desire, all our actions and deportment, all our inclinations and affections, and makes us entirely subject to him. He dwells in our hearts like a king of the realm in his palace; he ordains and accomplishes in us that which is pleasing and acceptable to him; he creates in us another principle and beginning of life."