1586 - 1649 Person Name: Martin Rinckart Author of "Nun danket alle Gott" in Agape Rinkart, Martin, son of Georg Rinkart or Rinckart, cooper at Eilenburg on the Mulde, Saxony, was born at Eilenburg, April 23, 1586.* After passing through the Latin school at Eilenburg, he became, in Nov., 1601, a foundation scholar and chorister of the St. Thomas's School at Leipzig. This scholarship also allowed him to proceed to the University of Leipzig, where he matriculated for the summer session of 1602, as a student of Theology; and after the completion of his course he remained for some time in Leipzig (he did not take his M.A. till 1616). In March 1610 he offered himself as a candidate for the post of diaconus at Eilenburg, and was presented by the Town Council, but the Superintendent refused to sanction this arrangement, nominally on the ground that Rinkart was a better musician than theologian, but really because he was unwilling to have a colleague who was a native of Eilenburg, and who appeared to have a will of his own. Rinkart, not wishing to contest the matter, applied for a vacant mastership in the gymnasium at Eisleben, and entered on his duties there in the beginning of June, 1610, as sixth master, and also cantor of the St. Nicholas Church. After holding this appointment for a few months, he became diaconus of St. Anne's Church, in the Neustadt of Eisleben, and began his work there May 28, 1611; and then became pastor at Erdeborn and Lyttichendorf (Lütjendorf), near Eisleben, entering on his duties there on Dec. 5, 1613. Finally he was invited by the Town Council of Eilenburg to become archidiaconus there, and in Nov. 1617 came into residence at Eilenburg. He died at Eilenburg, Dec. 8, 1649. A memorial tablet to his memory, affixed to the house where he lived, was unveiled at Eilenburg on Easter Monday, April 26, 1886. (Martin Rinkart’s Geistliche Lieder, ed., with a biographical introduction, and an extensive bibliography, by Heinrich Rembe and Johannes Linke, D.D., Gotha, F. A. Perthes, 1886; K. Goedeke's Grundris, vol. iii., 1887, pp. 169, 211, &c.)
The greater part of Rinkart's professional life was passed amid the horrors of the Thirty Years War. Eilenburg being a walled town became a refuge for fugitives from all around, and being so overcrowded, not unnaturally suffered from pestilence and famine. During the great pestilence of 1637 the Superintendent went away for change of air, and could not be persuaded to return; and on Aug. 7 Rinkart had to officiate at the funerals of two of the town clergy and two who had had to leave their livings in the country. Rinkart thus for some time was the only clergyman in the place, and often read the service over some 40 to 50 persons a day, and in all over about 4,480. At last the refugees had to be buried in trenches without service, and during the whole epidemic some 8,000 persons died, including Rinkart's first wife, who died May 8, 1637. The next year he had an epidemic of marriages to encounter, and himself fell a victim on June 24. Immediately thereafter came a most severe famine, during which Rinkart's resources were strained to the uttermost to help his people. Twice also he saved Eilenburg from the Swedes, once in the beginning of 1637, and again in 1639 (see p. 319, i.). Unfortunately the services he rendered to the place seemed to have made those in authority the more ungrateful, and in his latter years he was much harassed by them in financial and other matters, and by the time that the long-looked-for peace came (Oct. 24, 1648) he was a worn-out and prematurely aged man.
Rinkart was a voluminous writer and a good musician, but a considerable number of his books seem to have perished, and others survive only in single copies. He early began to write poetry, and was crowned as a poet apparently in 1614. Among other things he wrote a cycle of seven so-called "Comedies," or rather dramas, on the Reformation Period, suggested by the centenary of the Reformation in 1617. Three of these were printed respectively in 1613, 1618, and 1625, and two of them were acted in public. Rinkart's hymns appeared principally in the following works:—
(1) Jesu Hertz-Büchlein. This was completed in 1630, and first published at Leipzig in 1636. No copy is now known. The second edition, published at Leipzig, 1663, is in the Royal Library at Hannover. (2) Der Meissnische Thränen Saat, Leipzig, 1637. In the Royal Library at Berlin. (3) xlv. Epithalami Salomoneo—Sulamitici cantica canticorum . . . Leibliche Geistliche und Uimmlische Braut Messe, Leipzig, 1642. In Wolfenbüttel Library. (4) Catechismus-wolthaten, und Catechismus-Lieder, Leipzig, 1645. In the Berlin Library.
Dr. Linke, 1886, as above, gives a list of the first lines of all the hymns in the works of Rinkart which have come under his notice, and prints a selection from them, including 66 in all. The best of them are characterised by a true patriotism, a childlike devotion to God, and a firm confidence in God's mercy, and His promised help and grace. A few passed into the German hymn-books. Those which have been translated into English are:—
1. Alleluja, Lob, Preis und Ehr. This hymn… seems to be based on two hymns, beginning with the same first line, and both found in Rinkart's Braut Messe, 1642. Dr. Linke does not print the full text. (See Blätter für Hymnologie, 1886, p. 91.)
ii. Nun danket alle Gott. Thanksgiving. The oldest text now accessible is in J. Crüger's Praxis, 1648, No. 183, in 3 stanzas of 8 lines; also in the Crüger-Runge Gesang-Buch, 1653, No. 187. It is also in Rinkart's Jesu Hertz-Büchlein, 1663, where the text slightly varies, and is entitled "Grace" ("Tisch-Gebetlein," i.e. a short prayer at table). There does not seem any good reason for supposing that it did not appear in the first ed., 1636, of the Hertz-Büchlein, and in any case it has no connection with the Peace of Westphalia. (A good specimen of the way in which stories of hymns are manufactured is in the Sunday at Home, Aug., 1888, p. 539, where a full and particular account is given of its legendary origin in Nov. 1648.) It is founded on Ecclesiasticus 1. 22-24; and st. i., ii. are indeed little more than a paraphrase of these verses, st. iii. being a version of the Gloria Patri. The fact that the regimental chaplains, when holding the special service of thanksgiving for the conclusion of the peace, were commanded to preach from this passage, may have suggested the theory that Rinkart's hymn was written for the same occasion. It gradually came into general use, successfully survived the period of Rationalism, and is now to be found in every German hymnbook, e.g. in the Berlin Geistliche Lieder, ed. 1863, No. 1022. It may be called the German Te Deum, and as such is used at all national festivals or special occasions of thanksgiving. It was recently used at the festal celebration of the completion of Cologne Cathedral, on Aug. 14, 1880, at the laying of the foundation stone of the new Reichstags building in Berlin, by the Emperor William, June 9, 1884, &c.
The fine melody (set to the hymn in Hymns Ancient & Modern and most recent English collections) appears in the Praxis, 1648 (Crüger's Kirchenmelodien, 1649, No. 94), and in the Crüger-Runge Gesang-Buch, 1653, is marked with Crüger's initials. It has been described as adapted from a melody by Lucas Marenzo (choirmaster at Rome, who died 1598), or as adapted from a motet by Rinkart; but to prove either statement, very little evidence is forthcoming.
The translations of the hymn into English are:—
1. Let all men praise the Lord. This is a tr. of st. i., iii., by Alfred Novello, as part of his version of the word-book to Mendelssohn's Lobgesang, or Hymn of Praise, 1843, p. 89. This form has passed into a number of hymnals, including the New Congregational Hymn Book, 1859; Dale's English Hymn Book 1874, and others. In the Baptist Hymnal, 1879, a tr. of st. ii. is added, of which 11. 1—4 are from Miss Winkworth's translation.
2. Now praise the Lord on high. In full as No. 53 in the Dalston Hospital Hymn Book, 1848. This appears to be the version which Kübler, in his Historical Notes to the Lyra Germanica, 1865, p. 247, says was made by Baron C. K. J. von Bunsen, for the opening of the German Hospital at Dalston, on Oct. 15, 1845.
3. Now let us all to God. In full, by A. T. Russell, as No. 201, in his Psalms & Hymns, 1851.
4. 0 let us praise the Lord, From hearts by true love guided. This is No. 240 in the Winchester Church Hymn Book, 1857, and seems to be intended as a paraphrase of the German.
5. Now thank we all our God. A full and very good translation by Miss Winkworth, in her Lyra Germanica, 2nd Serv. 1858, p. 145, repeated in her Chorale Book for England, 1863, No. 11, and her Christian Singers, 1869, p. 181. It has been included in many recent English and American hymnals, e. g. Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1861; People's Hymnal, 1867; Congregational Hymnal, 1887, &c, and in America in the Episcopal Hymnal, 1871; Presbyterian Hymnal, 1874, and many others, generally in full and unaltered.
6. Now all give thanks to God. In full as No. 264 in the Anglican Hymn Book, 1868 (1871, No. 307), marked as a versification by R. C. Singleton. Repeated in J. L. Porter's Collection, 1876.
7. Now all men thank ye God. In full by T. E. Brown, as No. 37 in the Clifton College Hymn Book, 1872.
Other translations are:—
(l) "Now let us praise the Lord." In full by J. C. Jacobi, 1722, p. 85 (1732, p. 144), repeated, altered, in the Moravian Hymn Book, 1754 to 1886. (2) "Now all, to God give thanks." By Dr. H. Mills, in the Evangelical Review, Gettysburg, 1851, p. 293, and his Horae Germanica, 1856, p. 14. (3) "Lift heart, and hands, and voice." By Miss Cox, 1864, p. 239. (4) “Now all give thanks to God." By J. D. Burns, 1869, p. 252. (5) “All hearts and tongues and hands." By N. L. Frothingham, 1870, p. 212.
iii. So fahr ich hin mit Freuden. For the Dying. In his Meissnische Thränen-Saat, 1637, No. 24, p. 19, in 5 st.anzas of 8 lines, entitled "Even the same, and her soul-rejoicing Farewell Hymn. On May 8." St. i. is,
"So fahr ich hin mit Frewden
Aus diesem Jammerthal,
Aus Angst, Gefahr und Leiden
In Himmels-Frewden Saal,
Da wir und alle Frommen
Durch Gottes Wundermacht
In des zu guter Nacht."
The title refers to the preceding hymn, which is in 19 stanzas, the initials of the stanzas forming the acrostic Christina Rinckardi. Dr. Linke abridges it and misprints the title, which is:—
"Die Teutsche Jobs-Schwester (Christina M. Rinckart's Hertzgetrewe Ehe- und Creutz-genossin) und ihr Tagliches und behägliches Trost Lied. Aus ihrem längst erwählten und am 10. [not 30] Tage des Trosthühlen Meyen dieses 1637. Jahres zum letzten Ehrengedächtniss abgehandelten Leich-Text: des 77. Psalms."
From this it is clear that both hymns are in memory of his wife, that she died on May 8, 1637, and that her funeral sermon was preached by her husband on May 10, 1637. The form translation into English is the greatly altered, or rather practically new text. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]
* His own statement was that he “was born Anno 1586, Jubilate Sunday, on St. George's day, which was the 23rd of April, between 6 and 7 a.m." In 1586 however Jubilate S. (3rd Sunday after Easter) fell on April 24, while St. George's day is April 23. The entry in the Registers at Eilenburg says that he was baptised "Monday after Jubilate, the 25th of April," which is quite correct.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)