Schmolck, Benjamin, son of Martin Schmolck, or Schmolcke, Lutheran pastor at Brauchitschdorf (now Chrόstnik) near Liegnitz in Silesia (now Poland) was born at Brauchitschdorf, Dec. 21, 1672. He entered the Gymnasium at Lauban in 1688, and spent five years there. After his return home he preached for his father a sermon which so struck the patron of the living that he made Benjamin an allowance for three years to enable him to study theology. He matriculated, at Michaelmas, 1693, at the University of Leipzig, where he came under the influence of J. Olearius, J. B. Carpzov, and others, and throughout his life retained the character of their teaching, viz. a warm and living practical Christianity, but Churchly in tone and not Pietistic. In the autumn of 1697, after completing his studies at Leipzig (during his last year there he supported himself mainly by the proceeds of occasional poems written for wealthy citizens, for which he was also, crowned as a poet), he returned to Brauchitzchdorf to help his father, and, in 1701, was ordained as his assistant.
On Feb. 12, 1702, he married Anna Rosina, daughter of Christoph Rehwald, merchant in Lauban and in the end of the same year was appointed diaconus of the Friedenskirche at Schweidnitz in Silesia. As the result of the Counter-Reformation in Silesia, the churches in the principality of Schweidnitz had been taken from the Lutherans, and for the whole district the Peace of Westphalia (1648) allowed only one church (and that only of timber and clay, without tower or bells), which the Lutherans had to build at Schweidnitz, outside the walls of the town; and the three clergy attached to this church had to minister to a population scattered over some thirty-six villages, and were moreover hampered by many restrictions, e.g. being unable to communicate a sick person without a permit from the local Roman Catholic priest. Here Schmolck remained till the close of his life, becoming in 1708 archidiaconus, in 1712 senior, and in 1714 pastor primarius and inspector. Probably as the result of his exhausting labours he had a stroke of paralysis on Laetare (Mid-Lent) Sunday, 1730, which for a time laid him aside altogether, and after which he never recovered the use of his right hand. For five years more he was still able to officiate, preaching for the last time on a Fastday in 1735. But two more strokes of paralysis followed, and then cataract came on, relieved for a time by a successful operation, but returning again incurably. For the last months of his life he was confined to bed, till the message of release came to him, on the anniversary of his wedding, Feb. 12, 1737. (Koch, v. 463; Bode, p. 144; Goedeke's Grundriss, vol. iii., 1887, p. 306; sketch prefixed to Ledderhose's edition of Schmolck's Geistliche Lieder, Halle, 1857, &c.)
Schmolck was well known in his own district as a popular and useful preacher, a diligent pastor, and a man of wonderful tact and discretion. It was however his devotional books, and the original hymns therein contained, that brought him into wider popularity, and carried his name and fame all over Germany. Long lists of his works and of the various editions through which many of them passed are given by Koch, Bode and Goedehe. It is rather difficult to trace the hymns, as they are copied from one book of his into another, &c. Schmolck was the most popular hymnwriter of his time, and was hailed as the "Silesian Rist," as the "second Gerhardt," &c. Nor was he altogether unworthy of such praise. It is true that he did not possess the soaring genius of Gerhardt. Nor had he even Gerhardt's concise, simple style, but instead was too fond of high-sounding expressions, of plays upon words, of far-fetched but often recurring contrasts, and in general of straining after effect, especially in the pieces written in his later years. In fact he wrote a great deal too much, and latterly without proper attention to concentration or to proportion. Besides Cantatas, occasional pieces for weddings, funerals, &c, he is the author of some 900 hymns, properly so called. These were written for all sorts of occasions, and range over the whole field of churchly, family, and individual life. Naturally they are not all alike good; and those in his first three collections are decidedly the best. A deep and genuine personal religion, and a fervent love to the Saviour, inspire his best hymns; and as they are not simply thought out but felt, they come from the heart to the heart. The best of them are also written in a clear, flowing, forcible, natural, popular style, and abound in sententious sayings, easily to be remembered. Even of these many are, however, more suited for family use than for public worship. Nevertheless they very soon came into extensive use, not only in Silesia, but all over Germany.
A number of Schmolck's hymns [that] have passed into English are:—
i. Der beste Freund ist in dem Himmel. Love of Jesus. First published in his Heilige Flammen (ed. 1709, p. 100), in 6 stanzas of 6 lines, entitled "The best Friend." The translation in common use is:—
A faithful friend is waiting yonder. This is a good translation, omitting stanza v., as No. 293, in Kennedy, 1863.
ii. Die Woche geht zum Ende. Saturday Evening. In his Andächtige Hertze, 1714, p. 116, in 10 stanzas of 8 lines, entitled "Evening Hymn," and appointed for Evening Prayer on Saturday. In the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863, No. 1158. Translated as:—
The week draws near its ending. This is a good translation of stanzas i., vi., vii., x., marked as by "A. G.," as No. 81 in the Dalston Hospital Hymn Book 1848.
Other trs. are: (1) “Though now the week is ending," by H. J. Buckoll, 1842, p. 107. (2) “The week at length is over," by Miss Manington, 1863, p. 137.
iii. Gott du hist selbst die Liehe. Holy Matrimony. Translated as:—
O God, "Who all providest. This is a good translation, omitting stanza iii., by J. M. Sloan, as No. 312 in J. H. Wilson's Service of Praise, 1865.
iv. Halleluja! Jesus lebt. Easter. In his Bochim und Elim, 1731, p. 67, in 5 stanzas of 6 lines, entitled "Hallelujah! at the grave of Jesus." In the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863, No. 296. Tr. as:—
Hallelujah! Lo, He wakes. By E. Cronenwett, omitting st. iv., as No. 79 in the Ohio Lutheran Hymnal 1880.
Another translation is: "Hallelujah! Jesus lives! Life, immortal life, He gives." This is a full and good translation, by Miss Warner, 1858, p. 486, repeated in the Treasury of Sacred Song, Kirkwall, n.d.
v. Heute mir und Morgen dir. Funeral Hymn. In his Schmuck und Asche, 1717, p. 252, in 6 stanzas of 6 lines, entitled "Daily Dying". The tr. in common use is:—
Today mine, tomorrow thine. This is a good and full translation, by Miss Warner, in her Hymns of the Church Militant, 1858, p. 260.
vi. Je grösser Kreuz, je näher Himmel. Cross and Consolation. In his Andächtige Hertz, 1714, p. 273, in 9 stanzas of 6 lines, entitled "Hymn of Cross and Consolation." By its sententiousness and its manifold illustrations of the power of the Cross it has been a favourite with many. Translated as:—
1. Greater the Cross, the nearer heaven.
2. The more the cross, the nearer heaven. Another translation is: "The heavier the cross, the nearer heaven," by J. D. Burns, in the Family Treasury, 1859, p. 160.
vii. Jesus soil die Losung sein. New Year. The translation in common use is:—
Jesus shall the watchword he. Another translation is: "Jesu's name shall be our watchword," by J. Kelly, in the Family Treasury, 1868, p. 689.
viii. Licht vom Licht, erleuchte mich. Sunday Morning. Translated as:—
Light of Light, enlighten me. This is a very good tr. omitting stanza vii., by Miss Winkworth, in her Lyra Germanica, 2nd Ser., 1858, p. 66, and thence in her Chorale Book for England, 1863, No. 17. Other translations are: (1) "Light of Light! illumine me," by H. J. Buckoll, 1842, p. 6. (2) "O thou blessed Light of Light," by Miss Dunn, 1857, p. 74.
ix. Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht, Ach was wollt ich hessres haben. Love to Christ. Translated as:—
I'll with Jesus never part. This is a translation of st. i., ii., iv., as stanzas iii.-v. of No. 378 in the Moravian Hymn Book, 1789. In the ed. of 1886, No. 452 (see p. 614, i.), the part from Schmolck begins, "He is mine and I am His" (the translation of stanza ii.).
Another tr. is: "I'll not leave Jesus—-never, never," by Miss Warner, 1858, p. 509.
x. Mein Gott, ich weiss wohl dass ich sterbe. For the Dying. Translated as:—
My God! I know that I must die, My mortal. Other trs. are: (1) "That I shall die full well 1 know," by Dr. H. Mills, 1845 (1856, p. 232). (2) "My God! I know full well that I must die," by Miss Warner, 1858, p. 344. (3) "My God, I know that I must die; I know," by G. Moultrie, in his Espousals of S. Dorothea, 1870.
xi. Mein Jesus lebt! was soil ich sterben. Easter. Translated as:—
My Saviour lives; I shall not perish.
xii. 0 wie fröhlich, o wie selig. Eternal Life. Translated as:—
Oh how joyous, oh how blessed. Another tr. is: "Oh, how blest beyond our telling."
xiii. Schmückt das Fest mit Maien. Whitsuntide. Translated as:—
Come, deck our feast today.
xiv. Thut mir auf die schöne Pforte. Sunday. Translated as:—
1. Open now thy gates of beauty. This is a good tr., omitting stanza iii., vii., by Miss Winkworth, in her Chorale Book for England, 1863, No. 15.
2. Open wide the gates of beauty. This is a translation of stanzas i., ii., iv., vi.-vii., by H. L. Hastings, dated 1885, as No. 1076, in his Songs of Pilgrimage, 1886.
Another tr. is: "Throw the glorious gates wide open," by Miss Manington, 1863, p. 146.
xv. Weine nicht, Gott lebet noch. Cross and Consolation. Tr. as:— "Weep not,-—Jesus lives on high. Another tr. is: "Weep not, for God, our God, doth live," by Dr. R. Maguire, 1883, p. 59.
xvi. Willkommen, Held im Streite. Easter. The translation in common use is:—
Welcome Thou victor in the strife. This is a good translation omitting st. ii.—iv., by Miss Winkworth, in her Lyra Germanica, 1st Ser., 1855, p. 91.
Hymns not in English common use:--
xvii. Ach wenn ich dich, mein Gott, nur habe. Love to God. Founded on Ps. lxxiii. 25, 26. Translated as "My God, if I possess but Thee," by G. Moultrie, in his Espousals of S. Dorothea, 1870.
xviii. An Gott will ich gedenken. Remembering God's Love and Care. In his Heilige Flammen (ed. 1707, p. 59; ed. 1709, p. 131), in 6 stanzas of 8 lines, and Burg's Gesang-Buch, Breslau, 1746, No. 112. Translated as "My God will I remember," by J. Kelly, in the Family Treasury, 1868.
xix. Der Sabbath ist vergangen. Sunday Evening. Tr. as "The Sabbath now is over," by Dr. H. Mills, 1856, p. 226.
xx. Du angenehmer Tag. Sunday. In his Lustige Sabbath, 1712, p. 1, in 8 stanzas of 6 lines. Tr. as “Thou ever welcome day," by J. Kelly, in the Family Treasury, 1868, p. 688.
xxi. Endlich, endlich, muss es doch. Cross and Consolation. Translated as "Yes, at last, our God shall make," in the Christian Examiner, Boston, U.S., Sept., 1860, p. 251.
xxii. Gedenke mein, mein Gott, gedenke mein. For the Dying. Translated as "Remember me, my God! remember me," by Miss Borthwick, in Hymns from the Land of Luther 1854, p. 9.
xxiii. Geh, müder Leib, zu deiner Euh. Evening. Translated as "Go, wearied body, to thy rest," by J. Kelly, in the Family Treasury, 1868. In his Lustige Sabbath, 1712, p. 35, in 10 stanzas of 6 lines, and Burg’s Gesang-Buch, Breslau, 1746, No. 403. Translated as "King, to Jews and Gentiles given," by Dr. H. Mills, 1845.
xxiv. Gott der Juden,Gott der Heiden. Epiphany. Translated as “King, to Jews and Gentiles given,” by Dr. H. Mills, 1845.
xxv. Gott lebt, wie kann ich traurig sein. Trust in God. Translated as "God lives! Can I despair," by Miss Warner, 1869, p. 44.
xxvi. Gott mit uns, Immanuel. New Year. Translated as "God with us! Immanuel, Open with the year before us," by Dr. R. P. Dunn, in Sacred Lyrics from the German, Philadelphia, U.S., 1859, p. 166.
xxvii. Hier ist Immanuel! New Year. Translated as "Here is Immanuel!" by Miss Manington, 1864, p. 24.
xxviii. Hilf, Heifer, hilf! ich muss verzagen. Cross and Consolation. Translated as "Help, Saviour, help, I sink, I die,” in the Monthly Packet, vol. xviii., 1859, p. 664.
xix. Ich habe Lust zu scheiden. For the Dying. Tr. as "Weary, waiting to depart," by Mrs. Findlater, in Hymns from the Land of Luther, 1855, p 130.
xxx. Ich sterbe täglich, und mein Leben. For the Dying. Translated as "Both life and death are kept by Thee" (st. iv.), by J. Kelly, in the Family Treasury, 1868, p. 689.
xxxi. Mein Gott, du hast mich eingeladen. Sunday. Translated as "My God, Thou hast the invite given," by Miss Manington, 1863, p. 150.
xxxii. Mein Gott! du wohnst in einem Lichte. Holy Scripture. Translated as "In glory bright, O God, Thou dwellest," by Dr. H. Mills, 1845.
xxxiii. Mein Gott, ich klopf an deine Pforte. Supplication. Tr.Translated as "given as "Mein Gott, mein Erstes und mein Alles." Translated as "My God! the Source of all my blessing," in the British Herald, August, 1866, p. 312; repeated in Reid's Praise Book, 1872.
xxxv. Mein Gott, weil ich in meinem Leben. The ChristiaWho, Lord, has any good whatever," by Dr. H. Mills, 1845, p. 91.
xxxiv. Mein Gott, mein Alles Uber Alles. Trust in God. Sometimes n Life. Translated as "Most High! with reverence to fear Thee," by Dr. H. Mills, 1845, p. 114.).
xxxvi. Nun hab ich überwunden; Zu guter Nacht, o Welt. For the Dying. Translated as "Now soon I shall have conquer'd," by Miss Manington, 1863, p. 87.
xxxvii. Seht welch ein Mensch ist das. Passiontide. The translations are (1) "See, what a man is this! How tearful is His glance," by J. Kelly, in the British Messenger, Feb., 1S68; repeated in the Family Treasury, 1868, p. 691. (2) "See what a man is this, O glances," by Miss Warner, 1869, p. 32.
xxxviii. Sei getreu bis in den Tod. Christian Faithfulness. Translated as "Be thou faithful unto death! Let not troubles nor distresses," by R. Massie, in the Day of Rest, 1878, vol. ix. p. 219.
xxxix. Theures Wort aus Gottes Munde. Holy Scripture. Translated as "Word by God the Father spoken," by Miss Manington, 1863.
xl. Was Gott thut das ist wohlgethan! Er giebt und nimmt auch wieder. On the Death of a Child. The trs. are (1) "What God does is well done, "Who takes what He gave," by W. Graham, in his The Jordan and the Rhine, London, 1854, p. 251. (2) "Whatever God doth is well done, He gives, &c," by J. Kelly, in the Family Treasury, 1868, p. 688.
xli. Wer will mich von der Liebe scheiden. Faith. Translated as "Who can my soul from Jesus sever," by Miss Manington, 1863, p. 39. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]
--Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)