Rambach, Johann Jakob, D.D., son of Hans Jakob Rambach, cabinet maker at Halle on the Saale, was born at Halle, Feb. 24, 1693. In 1706 he left school and entered his father's workshop, but, in the autumn of 1707, he dislocated his ankle. During his illness he turned again to his schoolbooks; the desire for learning reawoke; and on his recovery, early in 1708, he entered the Latin school of the Orphanage at Halle (Glaucha). On Oct. 27, 1712, he matriculated at the University of Halle as a student of medicine, but soon turned his attention to theology. He became specially interested in the study of the Old Testament under J. H. Michaelis. In May 1715 he became one of Michaelis's assistants in preparing his edition of the Hebrew Bible, for which he wrote the commentary on Ruth, Esther, Nehemiah, &c. His health began to suffer in the spring of 1719, and he gladly accepted the invitation of Count von Heukel to stay at Polzig, near Ronneburg, where he spent several months. By August he had quite recovered, and went to pay a visit to Jena, where a number of the students asked him to lecture to them. For this purpose he settled at Jena in Oct., 1719, and lived in the house of Professor Buddeus (J. F. Budde). He graduated M.A. in March 1720.
In 1723 he was appointed adjunct of the Theological Faculty at Halle, as also inspector of the Orphanage; in 1726 extraordinary professor of theology; and in 1727, after A. H. Francke's death, ordinary professor as well as preacher at the Schulkirche. Here he was very popular, both as preacher and professor, but the jealousy of his colleagues induced him to accept an offer from the Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, who, in 1731, invited him to Giessen as superintendent and first professor of theology (before leaving Halle he graduated D.D., June 28, 1731), and in Aug., 1732, appointed him also director of the Paedagogium at Giessen. In 1734 he was, for various reasons, greatly inclined to accept the offer of the first professorship of theology in the newly-founded University of Göttingen, but eventually, at the earnest request of the Landgrave, remained in Giessen, where he died of fever, April 19, 1735 (Die Familie Rambach. By Dr. T. Hansen, Gotha, 1875: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, xxvii. 196; Blätter fur Hymnologie, 1883, pp. 113, 129, 145, 163, 186; 1884, p. 20; 1885, p. 13, &c.)
Rambach was a voluminous author in various departments of practical theology, e.g. his Institutiones hermeneuticae sacrae, Jena, 1724, which passed through four editions in his lifetime; hisErbauliches Handbüchlein fur Kinder, 1734 (see below), which reached an eighth edition in 1736, and a 14th in 1766; his various volumes of sermons, &c. He justly earned his popularity by the thoroughness of his researches, and the clear and concise way in which he set forth the results of his investigations. It is however as a hymnwriter that his name is likely to be best known. While not entitled to rank with the best hymn-writers of the 16th and 17th centuries, he yet takes a high place among his contemporaries, and deserves to be remembered as much as almost any of the 18th cent, hymnwriters. His style is good and dignified; his thought is profound yet clearly expressed. While his hymns are often sufficiently didactic, they are generally scriptural and churchly in tone, and are characterised by lyric force, lively imagination, and earnest, sober piety. Of hymns, in the strict sense, he wrote over 180, a large number of which passed into the German hymn-books of the 18th cent. (e.g. the Hannover Gesang-Buch, 1740, and Lüneburg Gesang-Buch, 1767, contains 52 by him), and a good many are still found in modern hymn-books. Of these Dr. J. L. Pasig gives 165 in his edition of Rambach's Geistliche Lieder, Leipzig, 1844, and the rest are printed by Hansen as above, while the first lines of the whole are given in the Blätter as above. Four are recasts (practically originals), made for the 11th edition, 1719, of Freylinghausen's Gesang-Buch, to replace similar hymns in the ed. of 1705. The rest principally appeared in the following works by Rambach, viz.: (1) Geistliche Poesien, Halle. 1720 [British Museum] The first part contains 72 cantatas on the Gospels for Sundays and festivals; the second part includes 20 hymns, mostly written at Polzig in 1719. (2) Poetische Fest-Gedancken. Jena and Leipzig, 1723 [Royal Library, Berlin]. Included are 15 pieces which may be called hymns. The second edition of 1727 [Brit. Mus.] has 28 new hymns; and the 3rd ed., 1729 [Gottingen Library], has 22 more. (3) Erbauliches Handbuchlein für Kinder, Giessen, 1734 [Hamburg Library]. The 3rd part contains 8 new hymns. (4) Geistreiches Haus-Gesang-Buch, Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1735 [Hamburg Library], with a preface dated April 10, 1735. This contains 112 hymns by Rambach, of which 58 are practically new, 11 of these, however, being recasts of his own earlier hymns. (5) Wander der bis zum Tode des Kreutzes erniedrigten Liebe, Giessen, 1750 [Berlin Library]. This includes 27 new hymns.
Rambach's hymns …which have passed into English are:—
i. Auf! Seele, schicke dich. Holy Communion. Written, by request for the eleventh edition, 1719, of Freylinghausen's Gesang-Buch, 1704, as No. 229, in 16 stanzas of 6 lines in order to replace the hymn "Auf, Seele, sey gerüst."
This hymn, by George Heine, was included in the Geistreiches Gesang-Buch, Halle, 1697, p. 433. In the second ed., 1771, of the complete book formed by the fusion of pt. i., 1704, and its supplement of 1705 with pt. ii., 1714, of Freylinghausen's Gesang-Buch, both hymns are given, Heine's as No. 524, and Rambach's as No. 522, both marked as being No. 229 in pt. i., 1704.
Rambach's hymn is in his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 369; the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863, No. 471, &c. In Pasig's edition of his Geistliche Lieder, 1844, p. 112, entitled "Before the reception of Holy Communion." It has been translated as:—
My soul prepare to meet. Omitting st. i., 11. 4-6 ; ii., 11. 4-6; vii., xiv., as No. 570 in the Moravian Hymn Book, 1789 (1849, No. 966). In the edition of 1886, No. 979 begins with st. iv., "How should I, slaughtered Lamb"; and No. 1012 with st. xi., "Lord, of Thy wondrous love."
ii. Mein Jesu, der du vor dem Scheiden. Holy Communion. Appeared in Freylinghausen's Gesang-Buch, 11th ed., 1719, as No. 238, in 9 st. of 6 1. It was written to replace the hymn "Mein Jesn, hier sind deine Brüder" (Geistreiches Gesang-Buch, Halle, 1697, p. 363), in the first edition of Freylinghausen's Gesang-Buch. It is in his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 365; the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863, No. 1601; and in Pasig, 1844, p. 110, entitled, "On the treasures of Grace in Holy Communion." The translations are:—
1. Lord Jesus, Who before Thy passion. Omitting st. ix., this is No. 1181 in the Supplement of 1808 to the Moravian Hymn Book, 1801 (1886, No. 963).
2. 0 Lord, Who on that last sad eve. A good translation omitting st. ix., by Miss Cox, contributed to Lyra Eucharistica, 1863, p. 15, and repeated in her Hymns from the German, 1864, p. 75. Included, omitting st. iii., in G. S. Jellicoe's Collection, 1867.
iii. 0 Lehrer, dem kein Andrer gleich. Christ our Prophet. In his Haus Gesang-Buch1735, No. 107, in 8 st. of 6 1., entitled, "On the prophetical office of Jesus Christ." Repeated in the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863, No. 118, and in Pasig, 1844, p. 51. Translated as:—
Surely none like Thee can teach. By Miss Fry, in 102 lines, in her Hymns of the Reformation,1845, p. 126. A recast in 3 st. of 8 1., beginning, "Saviour, none like Thee can teach," was included in J. Whittemore's Supplement to all Hymn Books, 1860, No. 263, and repeated in the Methodist New Congregational Hymn Book, 1863, No. 62.
iv. Wie herrlich ists ein Schäflein Christi werden. Joy in Believing. In his Poetiche Fest-Gedancken, 2nd ed. 1727, p. 131, in 6 st. of 6 l., entitled, "The Blessedness of the Sheep of Christ. John x. 28, ‘I give my sheep eternal life.'" In his Haus Gesang-Buch 1735, No. 325; the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863, No. 645; and Pasig, 1844, p. 139. Translated as:—
How great the bliss to be a sheep of Jesus. A translation of st. i., ii., v., by C. J. Latrobe, as No. 293, in the Moravian Hymn Book, 1789 (1886, No. 385).
Hymns not in English common use:—
v. Allwissender, vollkommner Geist. The Omniscient One. In his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 12, in 6 stanzas; the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863; and in Pasig, p. 8. Translated as, "Thou Spirit, perfect and allwise." By Dr. H. Mills, 1856, p. 11.
vi. Frommes Lamm, von was für Hunden. Passiontide. In his Poetische Fest-Gedancken, 2nd ed., 1727, p. 49, in 8 st. In his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 151, it begins, "Frommes Lamm, durch dessen Wunden." Also in Pasig, p. 67. Translated as, "Great Thy sorrows, injur'd Jesus." By Dr. H. Mills, 1845 (1856, p. 297).
vii. Gesetz und Evangelium, Law and Gospel. In his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 356, in 10 st.; the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863; and Pasig, p. 105. Translated as, "The holy law and gospel, both." By Dr. II. Mills, 1845 (1856, p. 27.)
viii. Herr, du hast nach dem Fall. Before Work. In his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 565, in 4 st.; and Pasig, p. 150. In the Berlin Gesang-Buch, 1765, No. 206, it is altered (probably by J. S. Diterich), and begins "Du hast uns, Heir die Pflicht." This is translated as, “Lord, Thou hast bid us labour, bid us toil." By Miss Warner, 1858, p. 230.
ix. Hier bin ich Herr, du rufest mir. Christian Work. In his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 269, in 6 st.; the Württemberg Gesang-Buch, 1842, No. 306; and Pasig, p. 119. The translations are (1) "Here am I, Lord, Thou callest me, Thou drawest me." By Miss Warner, 1858, p. 209. (2) "Here am I, Lord, Thou callest me, Thou drawest and." By Mrs. Findlater, in Hymns from the Land of Luther, 4th series, 1862.
x. Höchste Vollkommenheit, reineste Sonne. God's Majesty . Written for the 11th ed., 1719, of Freylinghausen's Gesang-Buch, No. 170 (in 20 st.), to replace an anonymous hymn in the first edition, 1704, which began "Höchste Vollkommenheit, alles in Einem." In his Haus Gesang-Buch 1735, No. 8, Rambach reduced it to 12 st., and rewrote it to an easier metre, so as to begin "Höchstes Wesen, reinste Sonne." Both forms are in Pasig, pp. 3-6. Translated as "If Heav'ns and Earths there were innumerable," a tr. of st. iii., viii., xi., xv., xvii., xix., xx., as No. 672, in pt. i. of the Moravian Hymn Book, 1754.
xi. O grosser Geist, dess Wesen Alles füllet. The Omnipresent One. In his Geistliche Poesien, 1720, p. 330, in 9 st.; his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 13; the Württemberg Gesang-Buch, 1842, No. 44 ; and Pasig, p. 7. Translated as, “Eternal God, Thy dwelling-place." By Dr. G. Walker, 1860, p. 73.
xii. 0 grosser Geist! O Ursprung aller Dinge. God's Holiness. In his Geistliche Poesien, 1729, p. 327, in 9 st.; his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 19; and Pasig, p. 15. Translated as, "O mighty Spirit! Source whence all things sprung." By Miss Winkworth, 1858, p. 153.
xiii. Verklärte Majestät, anbetungs-würdigst Wesen. God's Majesty. Founded on 1 Tim. vi. 15, 16. In his Geistliche Poesien, 1720, p. 303, in 11 st.; his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 7; and Pasig, p. 2. The form translation is "Anbetungswürdger Gott," a recast (probablv by J. S. Diterich), which is No. l in the Berlin Gesang-Buch 1765, and No. 5 in the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863. Translated as, "Dread Majesty above." By Dr. H. Mills, 1845 (1856, p. 8).
xiv. Wirf, blöder Sinn, den Kummer hin. Christmas. In his Haus Gesang-Buch, 1735, No. 129, in 6 st. (founded on Rom. viii. 31, 32). In Pasig, p. 6, and the Unverfälschter Liedersegen 1851, No. 60. Translated as, "Throw, soul, I say, thy fears away." By Miss Manington, 1864, p. 28. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907