Pastor Blumhardt (1805-1880): His Life And Ministry (Part 1)
John Christolf Blumhardt was born in Germany in 1805. From his father he imbibed in boyhood a keen relish for Scripture study. He received thorough training as a Lutheran pastor. Although the universities were largely discounting evangelical truth and simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he passed through their courses thoroughly trained but untainted in his faith.
As he left the university his whole being was filled with zeal to do the utmost in his power to counteract the evil tendencies of the age. When in 1828 he began to preach, his gifts soon became widely known and recognized.
It was no doubt a wonderful help to his whole Christian life to work for six years in connection with the Missionary Training School at Basle. Here the missionary fervor was implanted and he had the opportunity of seeing the power of evangelical truth.
The marked characteristic of the man at this stage of his experience was a strong faith in God, a faith that took absolute hold on the promises of the Word and rested upon them in calm confidence. In person he was commanding, yet gentle and winning in manner, while in conversation he manifested an interest in and love for all men. God had wonderful things in store for him, and the call came to a new field.
After short service as pastor of Iptingen, in 1838 he removed to Mottlingen, a Lutheran village in the Black Forest of the kingdom of Wurtemberg. At the beginning of his work there he was married to Johanna Dorothea Kollner, who proved to be a devoted Christian wife and helper.
Simple trust in Jesus was held in contempt by many, but the young pastor boldly began to preach where his Master had begun before him, with that first and most important Gospel to sinners, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). Soon his earnestness and zeal bore fruit, and crowds flocked to hear the simple Word. A revival came on, mingled with conflicts and opposition, but he held steadily onward and endeavored to guide all who believed into the pathway of holiness. He had unlimited confidence in the atonement of Christ for soul and body and was not at all ashamed to avow his belief and faith.
God often teaches us through some spiritual crisis. Blumhardt learned the way of faith more perfectly through meeting a case in his pastoral experience that did not seem to respond to prayer. There was a young woman in his congregation who was very strangely afflicted. For a period of two years Blumhardt had her constantly on his mind and presented her to God in prayer. She seemed to be truly possessed of demons as in great agony she would speak first with one voice and then with a strangely different one. Medical men were sent for and upon examination, asked if there was not someone who could pray, as this did not seem to be a case for medical treatment.
This came as a challenge to Blumhardt, and the pressure was increased when some of his members who had accepted his teaching as to the power of prayer, came to him and told him that this was his opportunity. There was no way of retreating from the challenge, and so he gave himself to earnest prayer. He also responded, "To be in accord with the Word of God you also must unite with me in supplication, according to James 5:14."
At first there seemed to be nothing accomplished by Blumhardt’s prayers. The young woman became worse. He took the burgomaster of the town with him on frequent occasions, who witnessed the raving and the peculiar phenomena manifested by this young woman, but all his praying and visitation seemed to be of no avail.
His attention after a time was drawn to the text in Scripture which says that "…this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21). In his desperation Blumhardt gave himself to prayer and fasting and then called upon the young woman once again. Prayer was made and the fulfillment of the promise claimed. In the name of Jesus, he commanded the evil spirits to depart. But Satan would not give up without a struggle. Through an entire night the battle continued, Blumhardt praying unceasingly and with rising faith. Toward morning the struggle culminated. The demon was vanquished! The afflicted one was made whole! One of her limbs had been drawn up and was considerably shorter than the other. This was immediately lengthened and she was entirely healed!
The cry, "Jesus is Victor!" rang out with such fervor that almost the whole village heard it. A dissolute man who was passing near the young woman’s home at the time became thoroughly convicted of his sins and sought out Pastor Blumhardt afterward and gave his heart to the Lord. Then he spent his time bringing others who were out of Christ to the pastor, which resulted in about twenty being brought to a saving knowledge of the truth.
News of the remarkable deliverance of the young woman in Pastor Blumhardt’s parish spread rapidly and for months he was busy dealing with seeking souls. Through the answer to prayer for the young woman, Blumhardt’s own confidence in God increased, and God began not only saving souls but also healing the sick in such a marked way that many began coming to him from different parts of Germany. Sometimes large companies would camp on the lawn of his church, and he would preach to them and pray for them.
On the monthly day of "humiliation and supplication," Blumhardt preached from the text, "The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly" (Psa. 118:15). The pastor said himself that from that day he was actually besieged in his own house, from seven in the morning till eleven at night. Men who had never cared for their souls sat in the parlor for hours, patiently awaiting their turn. In two months’ time there was scarcely a score of persons in the parish who had not thus come in humble confession and sincere repentance.
Said Blumhardt: "The meeting of the so-called Pietists within the parish, about thirty in number, soon grew like an avalanche, and prayer meetings had to be held – first twice, then four times a week. The people felt so irresistibly driven to meet together that eventually the prayer meetings had to take place every evening…. The Lord blessed these gatherings more and more.
"Extremely touching were the assemblies of the children in three or four sections, of which I knew nothing for a considerable time. There you would see children of four years and upwards, all kneeling in a circle, and praying in so earnest, childlike, and intelligent a manner, that grown-up people who happened to hear them could not restrain their tears. Who had taught these little ones to pray? They used to go about so carelessly. Who put into their minds that sudden and irresistible desire to unite themselves in prayer?
"For the grown-up people I now arranged evening lectures, held first at my own house twice a week, then in the large schoolroom; and when the schoolroom would not hold the people, we were obliged to assemble in the church. I held besides, three times during the summer, conferences, eight meetings each time, and each lasting about three hours. These the Lord was pleased greatly to bless. My principal aim in this was to lay a good foundation in the families for brotherly love, peace, forbearance to one another, and the spirit of reconciliation. It became a rule that married people frequently prayed together, besides having the daily morning and evening prayers with their families; and this contributed more than anything else to the keeping alive and strengthening of the Christian spirit."
(To be continued)
– From the booklet Pastor Blumhardt.