The Singer of Pietism
The city of Tønder, when Brorson located there, had about two thousand inhabitants. At one time it had belonged to the German Dukes of Gottorp, and it was still largely German speaking. Its splendid church had three pastors, two of whom preached in German and the third, Brorson, in Danish.

The parish Pastor, Johan Herman Schraeder, was an outstanding and highly respected man. Born at Hamburg in 1684, he had in his younger days served as a tutor for the children of King Frederick IV, Princess Charlotte Amalia and Prince Christian, now reigning as King Christian VI.

Pastor Schraeder was a zealous Pietist and a leader of the Pietist movement in Tønder and its neighboring territory. Like the Brorsons he sought to encourage family devotions, Bible reading and, especially, hymn singing. People are said to have become so interested in the latter that they brought their hymnals with them to work so that they might sing from them during lunch hours. He himself was a noted hymnwriter and hymn collector, who, shortly after Brorson became his assistant, published a German hymnal, containing no less than 1157 hymns.

Schraeder, we are told, had been personally active in inducing Brorson to leave his beloved Randrup and accept the call to Tønder. As Brorson was known as an ardent Pietist, Schraeder's interest in bringing him to Tønder may have originated in a natural wish to secure a congenial co-worker, but it may also have sprung from an acquaintance with his work as a hymnwriter. For although there is no direct evidence that any of Brorson's hymns were written at Randrup, a number of circumstances make it highly probable that some of them were composed there and that Schraeder was acquainted with them. Such a mutual interest also helps to explain why Brorson should leave his fruitful work at Randrup for an inferior position in a new field. It is certain that the change brought him no outward advantages, and his position as a Danish pastor in a largely German speaking community must have presented certain unavoidable difficulties.

Although Brorson to our knowledge took no part in the endless contest between German and Danish, his personal preference was, no doubt, for the latter. It is thus significant that, although he must have been about equally familiar with both languages, he did not write a single hymn in German. He showed no ill will toward his German speaking compatriots, however, and worked harmoniously with his German speaking co-workers. But this strongly German atmosphere does constitute a peculiar setting for one of the greatest hymnwriters of the Danish church.

The congregation at Tønder had formed the peculiar custom of singing in German -- even at the Danish service. It is self-evident, however, that such a custom could not be satisfactory to Brorson. He was a Pietist with the fervent longing of that movement for a real spiritual communion with his fellow Christians. But a custom that compelled the pastor and his congregation to speak in different tongues was, of necessity, a hindrance to the consummation of such a desire. And now Christmas was drawing near, that joyful season which Brorson, as his hymns prove, loved so well and must heartily have desired to share with his hearers, a desire which this mixture of tongues to a certain extent, made impossible. He and his congregation had to be one in language before they could wholly be one in spirit.

And so, shortly before the great festival in 1732, he published a small and unpretentious booklet entitled: Some Christmas Hymns, Composed to the Honor of God, the Edification of Christian Souls and, in Particular, of My Beloved Congregation during the Approaching Joyful Christmastide, Humbly and Hastily Written by Hans Adolph Brorson.

This simple appearing booklet at once places Brorson among the great hymnwriters of the Christian church. It contains ten hymns, seven of which are for the Christmas season. Nearly every one of them is now counted among the classics of Danish hymnody.

Brorson seems at once to have reached the height of his ability as a hymnwriter. His Christmas hymns present an intensity of sentiment, a mastery of form and a perfection of poetical skill that he rarely attained in his later work. They are frankly lyrical. Unlike his great English contemporary, Isaac Watts, who held that a hymn should not be a lyrical poem and deliberately reduced the poetical quality of his work, Brorson believed that a Christian should use "all his thought and skill to magnify the grace of God". The opinion of an English literary critic "that hymns cannot be considered as poetry" is disproved by Brorson's work. Some of his hymns contain poetry of the highest merit. Their phrasing is in parts extremely lyrical, utilizing to the fullest extent the softness and flexibility that is supposed to be an outstanding characteristic of the Danish tongue; their metres are most skillfully blended and their rhymes exceedingly varied. His masterly use of what was often considered an inconsequential appendage to poetry is extraordinarily skillful. Thus he frequently chooses a harsh or a soft rhyme to emphasize the predominating sentiment of his verse.

Brorson is without doubt the most lyrical of all Danish hymnwriters. Literary critics have rated some of his hymns with the finest lyrics in the Danish language. Yet his poetry seldom degenerates to a mere form. His fervid lyrical style usually serves as an admirable vehicle for the warm religious sentiment of his song.

In their warm spirit and fervid style Brorson's hymns in some ways strikingly resemble the work of his great English contemporaries, the Wesleys. Nor is this similarity a mere chance. The Wesleys, as we know, were strongly influenced first by the Moravians and later by the German Pietists. Besides a number of Moravian hymns, John Wesley also translated several hymns from the hymnbook compiled by the well-known Pietist, Johan Freylinghausen. The fervid style and varied metres of these hymns introduced a new type of church song into the English and American churches. But Freylinghausen's Gesang-Buch also formed the basis of the hymnal compiled by Johan Herman Schraeder from which Brorson chose most of the originals of his translations. Thus both he and the Wesleys in a measure drew their inspiration from the same source. The Danish poet and his English contemporaries worked independently and mediated their inspiration in their own way, but the resemblance of their work is unmistakable. In poetical merit, however, the work of Brorson far excels that of the Wesleys. But his Christmas hymns also surpass most earlier Danish hymns and even the greater part of his own later work.

One's first impression of the booklet that so greatly has enriched the Christmas festival of Denmark and Norway, is likely to be disappointing. At the time of Brorson the festival was frequently desecrated by a ceaseless round of worldly amusements. People attended the festival services of the church and spent the remainder of the season in a whirl of secular and far from innocent pleasures. With his Pietistic views Brorson naturally deplored such a misuse of the season. And his first hymn, therefore, sounds an earnest call to cease these unseemly pleasures and to use the festival in a Christian way.

Cast out all worldly pleasure

This blessed Christmastide,

And seek the boundless treasure

That Jesus doth provide.

But although such a warning may have been timely, then as now, it hardly expresses the real Christmas spirit. In the next hymn, however, he at once strikes the true festival note in one of the most triumphant Christmas anthems in the Danish or any other language.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

This blessed Christmastide we will,

With heart and mind rejoicing,

Employ our every thought and skill,

God's grace and honor voicing.

In Him that in the manger lay

We will with all our might today

Exult in heart and spirit,

And hail Him as our Lord and King

Till earth's remotest bounds shall ring

With praises of His merit.

A little Child of Jesse's stem,

And Son of God in heaven,

To earth from heaven's glory came

And was for sinners given.

It so distressed His loving heart

To see the world from God depart

And in transgression languish,

That He forsook His home above

And came to earth in tender love

To bear our grief and anguish.

Therefore we hymn His praises here

And though we are but lowly,

Our loud hosannas everywhere

Shall voice His mercy holy.

The tent of God is now with man,

And He will dwell with us again

When in His name assembling.

And we shall shout His name anew

Till hell itself must listen to

Our Christmas song with trembling.

And though our song of joy be fraught

With strains of lamentation,

The burden of our cross shall not

Subdue our jubilation.

For when the heart is most distressed,

The harp of joy is tuned so best

Its chords of joy are ringing,

And broken hearts best comprehend

The boundless joy our Lord and Friend

This Christmas day is bringing.

Hallelujah, our strife is o'er!

Who would henceforth with sadness

Repine and weep in sorrow sore

This blessed day of gladness.

Rejoice, rejoice, ye saints on earth,

And sing the wonders of His birth

Whose glory none can measure.

Hallelujah, the Lord is mine,

And I am now by grace divine

The heir of all His treasure!

Equally fine but more quietly contemplative is the next hymn in the collection which takes us right to the focal point of Christmas worship, the stable at Bethlehem.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

My heart remains in wonder

Before that lowly bed

Within the stable yonder

Where Christ, my Lord, was laid.

My faith finds there its treasure,

My soul its pure delight,

Its joy beyond all measure,

The Lord of Christmas night.

But Oh! my heart is riven

With grief and sore dismay

To see the Lord of heaven

Must rest on straw and hay,

That He whom angels offer

Their worship and acclaim

From sinful man must suffer

Such scorn, neglect and shame.

Why should not castles royal

Before Him open stand,

And kings, as servants loyal,

Obey His least command?

Why came He not in splendor

Arrayed in robes of light

And called the world to render

Its homage to His might?

The sparrow finds a gable

Where it may build its nest,

The oxen know a stable

For shelter, food and rest;

Must then my Lord and Savior

A homeless stranger be,

Denied the simplest favor

His lowly creatures see.

O come, my Lord, I pray Thee,

And be my honored guest.

I will in love array Thee

A home within my breast.

It cannot be a stranger

To Thee, who made it free.

Thou shalt find there a manger

Warmed by my love to Thee.

Far different from this song of quiet contemplation is the searching hymn that follows it.

How do we exalt the Father

That He sent His Son to earth.

Many with indifference gather

At His gift of boundless worth.

This is followed by another hymn of praise.

Lift up your voice once more

The Savior to adore.

Let all unite in spirit

And praise the grace and merit

Of Jesus Christ, the Holy,

Our joy and glory solely.

And then comes "The Fairest of Roses", which a distinguished critic calls "one of the most perfect lyrics in the Danish language". This hymn is inspired by a text from the Song of Songs "I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley". It is written as an allegory, a somewhat subdued form of expression that in this case serves admirably to convey an impression of restrained fire. Its style is reminiscent of the folk songs, with the first stanza introducing the general theme of the song, the appearance of the rose, that is, of the Savior in a lost and indifferent world. The remainder of the verses are naturally divided into three parts: a description of the dying world in which God causes the rose to appear, a lament over the world's indifference to the gift which it should have received with joy and gratitude, and a glowing declaration of what the rose means to the poet himself.

Many chapters have been written about the poetic excellencies of this hymn, such as the perfect balance of its parts, the admirable treatment of the contrast between the rose and the thorns, and the skillful choice of rhymes to underscore the predominating sentiment of each verse. But some of these excellencies have no doubt been lost in the translation and can be appreciated only by a study of the original. English translations of the hymn have been made by German-, Swedish-, and Norwegian-American writers, indicating its wide popularity. The following is but another attempt to produce a more adequate rendering of this beautiful song.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

Now found is the fairest of roses,

Midst briars it sweetly reposes.

My Jesus, unsullied and holy,

Abode among sinners most lowly.

Since man his Creator deserted,

And wholly His image perverted,

The world like a desert was lying,

And all in transgressions were dying.

But God, as His promises granted,

A rose in the desert hath planted,

Which now with its sweetness endoweth

The race that in sinfulness groweth.

All people should now with sweet savor

Give praise unto God for His favor;

But many have ne'er comprehended

The rose to the world hath descended.

Ye sinners as vile in behavior

As thorns in the crown of the Savior,

Why are ye so prideful in spirit,

Content with your self-righteous merit?

O seek ye the places more lowly,

And weep before Jesus, the Holy,

Then come ye His likeness the nearest;

The rose in the valley grows fairest.

My Jesus, Thou ever remainest

My wonderful rose who sustainest

My heart in the fullness of pleasure;

Thy sweetness alone I will treasure.

The world may of all things bereave me,

Its thorns may assail and aggrieve me,

The foe may great anguish engender:

My rose I will never surrender.

The last Christmas hymn of the collection is printed under the heading: "A Little Hymn for the Children", and is composed from the text "Have ye not read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise". Said to be the oldest children's hymn in Danish, it is still one of the finest. It is written as a processional. The children come hastening on to Bethlehem to find the new-born Lord and offer Him their homage. One almost hears their pattering feet and happy voices as they rush forward singing:


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

Here come Thy little ones, O Lord,

To Thee in Bethlehem adored.

Enlighten now our heart and mind

That we the way to Thee may find.

We hasten with a song to greet

And kneel before Thee at Thy feet.

O blessed hour, O sacred night,

When Thou wert born, our soul's Delight!

Be welcome from Thy heavenly home

Unto this vale of tears and gloom,

Where man to Thee no honor gave

But stable, manger, cross and grave.

But Jesus, oh! how can it be

That but so few will think of Thee

And of that tender, wondrous love

Which drew Thee to us from above?

O draw us little children near

To Thee, our Friend and Brother dear,

That each of us so heartily

In faith and love may cling to Thee.

Let not the world lead us astray

That we our Christian faith betray,

But grant that all our longings be

Directed always unto Thee.

Then shall the happy day once come

When we shall gather in Thy home

And join the angels' joyful throng

In praising Thee with triumph song.

We gather now about Thee close

Like leaves around the budding rose,

O grant us, Savior, that we may

Thus cluster round Thy throne for aye.

His Christmas hymns were so well received that Brorson was encouraged to continue his writing. During the following year he published no less than five collections bearing the titles: Some Advent Hymns, Some Passion Hymns, Some Easter Hymns, Some Pentecost Hymns, and Hymns for the Minor Festivals. All of these hymns were likewise kindly received and therefore he continued to send out new collections, publishing during the following years a whole series of hymns on various phases of Christian faith and life. In 1739, all these hymns were collected into one volume and published under the title: The Rare Clenod of Faith.

This now famous book contains in all 67 original and 216 translated hymns. The arrangement of the hymns follows in the main the order of the Lutheran catechism, covering not only every division but almost every subdivision of the book. Brorson, it appears, must have written his hymns after a preconceived plan, a rather unusual method for a hymnwriter to follow.

The Rare Clenod of Faith fails as a whole to maintain the high standard of the Christmas hymns. Although the language, as in all that Brorson wrote, is pure and melodious, the poetic flight and fresh sentiment of his earlier work is lacking to some extent in the latter part of the collection. One reason for this is thought to be that Brorson, on locating at Tønder, had come into closer contact with the more extreme views of Pietism. The imprint of that movement, at least, is more distinct upon his later than upon his earlier work. The great preponderance of his translated over his original hymns also affects the spirit of the collection. He was not always fortunate in the selection of the original material for his translations. Some of these express the excessive Pietistic contemplation of the Savior's blood and wounds; others are rhymed sermons rather than songs of praise.

Despite these defects, The Rare Clenod of Faith, still ranks with the great books of hymnody. It contains a wealth of hymns that will never die. Even the less successful of its compositions present a true Evangelical message, a message that, at times, sounds a stern call to awake and "shake off that sinful sleep before to you is closed the open door" and, at others, pleads softly for a closer walk with God, a deeper understanding of His ways and a firmer trust in His grace. There are many strings on Brorson's harp, but they all sound a note of vital faith.

Judging Brorson's original hymns to be far superior to his translations, some have deplored that he should have spent so much of his time in transferring the work of others. And it is, no doubt, true that his original hymns are as a whole superior to his translations. But many of these are so fine that their elimination would now appear like an irreplaceable loss to Danish hymnody. The constant love with which many of them have been used for more than two hundred years should silence the claim that a translated hymn must of necessity be less valuable than an original. A considerable number of the originals of Brorson's most favored translations have long been forgotten.

As a translator Brorson is usually quite faithful to the originals, following them as closely as the differences in language and mode of expression permit. He is not slavishly bound, however, to his text. His constant aim is to reproduce his text in a pure and idiomatic Danish. And as his own poetic skill in most cases was superior to that of the original writer, his translations are often greatly superior to their originals in poetical merit.

Although the translation of a translation of necessity presents a very unreliable yard-stick of a man's work, the following translation of Brorson's version of the well-known German hymn, "Ich Will Dich Lieben, Meine Starke" may at least indicate the nature of his work as a translator.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

Thee will I love, my strength, my Treasure;

My heart in Thee finds peace and joy.

Thee will I love in fullest measure,

And in Thy cause my life employ.

Thee will I love and serve alone.

Lord, take me as Thine own.

Thee will I love, my Life Eternal,

My Guide and Shepherd on Life's way.

Thou leadest me to pastures vernal,

And to the light of endless day.

Thee will I love, Whose blood was spilt

To cleanse my soul from guilt.

Long, long wert Thou to me a stranger,

Though Thou didst love me first of all,

I strayed afar in sin and danger

And heeded not Thy loving call

Until I found that peace of heart

Thou canst alone impart.

Lord, cast not out Thy child, returning

A wanderer, naked and forlorn.

The tempting world, I sought with yearning,

Had naught to give but grief and scorn.

In Thee alone for all its grief

My heart now finds relief.

Thee will I love and worship ever,

My Lord, my God and Brother dear!

Must every earthly tie I sever

And naught but sorrow suffer here,

Thee will I love, my Lord divine;

O Jesus, call me Thine.

Equally characteristic of his work is his translation of the less-known but appealing German hymn "Der Schmale Weg Ist Breit Genug zum Leben".


tr., Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

The narrow way is wide enough to heaven

For those who walk straight-forward and with care

And take each step with watchfulness and prayer.

When we are by the Spirit driven,

The narrow way is wide enough to heaven.

The way of God is full of grace and beauty

For those who unto Him in faith have turned

And have His way with love and ardor learned.

When we accept His call and duty,

The way of God is full of grace and beauty.

The yoke of God is not too hard to carry

For those who love His blessed will and way

And shall their carnal pride in meekness slay.

When we with Him in faith will tarry,

The yoke of God is not too hard to carry.

O Jesus, help me Thy blest way to follow.

Thou knowest best my weak and fainting heart

And must not let me from Thy way depart.

I shall Thy name with praises hallow,

If Thou wilt help me Thy blest way to follow.

But fine as many of his translations are, Brorson's main claim to fame must rest, of course, upon his original compositions. These are of varying merit. His Christmas hymns were followed by a number of hymns for the festivals of the church year. While some of these are excellent, others are merely rhymed meditations upon the meaning of the season and lack the freshness of his Christmas anthems. The triumphant Easter hymn given below belongs to the finest of the group.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

Christians, who with sorrow

On this Easter morrow

Watch the Savior's tomb,

Banish all your sadness,

On this day of gladness

Joy must vanquish gloom.

Christ this hour

With mighty power

Crushed the foe who would detain Him;

Nothing could restrain Him.

Rise, ye feeble-hearted,

Who have pined and smarted,

Vexed by sin and dread.

He has burst the prison

And with might arisen,

Jesus, Who was dead.

And His bride

For whom He died,

He from sin and death now raises;

Hail Him then with praises.

When our sins aggrieve us,

Jesus will receive us,

All our debt He paid.

We, who were transgressors

Are now blest possessors

Of His grace and aid.

When in death

He gave His breath

To the cruel foe He yielded

That we should be shielded.

Earth! where are thy wonders!

Hell! where are thy thunders!

Death, where is thy sting!

Jesus rose victorious,

Reigns in heaven glorious

As our Lord and King.

Him, the Lord,

Who did accord

Us so great a joy and favor,

We will praise forever.

Brorson's other hymns are too numerous to permit a more than cursory review. Beginning with the subject of creation, he wrote a number of excellent hymns on the work and providence of God. Best known among these is the hymn given below, which is said to have so pleased the king that he chose its author to become bishop. The hymn is thought to have been written while Brorson was still at Randrup. But whether this be so or not, it is evidently inspired by the natural scenery of that locality.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

Arise, all things that God hath made [5]

And praise His name and glory;

Great is the least His hand arrayed,

And tells a wondrous story.

Would all the kings of earth display

Their utmost pomp and power,

They could not make a leaflet stay

And grow upon a flower.

How could the wisdom I compass

To show the grace and wonder

Of but the smallest blade of grass

On which the mind would ponder.

What shall I say when I admire

The verdant meadows blooming,

And listen to the joyful choir

Of birds above them zooming.

What shall I say when I descry

Deep in the restless ocean

The myriad creatures passing by

In swift and ceaseless motion.

What shall I say when I behold

The stars in countless numbers

Display their light and charm untold

While nature sweetly slumbers.

What shall I say when I ascend

To Him Who made creation,

And see the angel host attend

His throne with adoration.

What shall I say -- vain are my words

And humble my opinion!

Great is Thy wisdom, Lord of lords,

Thy glory and dominion!

Lift up your voice with one accord

Now, every tribe and nation:

Hallelujah, great is our Lord

And wondrous His creation!

The Pietist movement is known for its fervid glorification of the Savior, and particularly of His blood and wounds, a glorification which at times appears objectionable because of the too-familiar and realistic terms in which it is expressed. Brorson did not wholly escape the excesses of the movement in this respect, especially in his translations. In his original hymns the excesses are less apparent. However faithful he might be to the movement he possessed a wholesome restraint which, when he was not following others, caused him to moderate its most inappropriate extravagances. What can be more reverent than this beautiful tribute to the Savior:


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

Jesus, name of wondrous grace,

Fount of mercy and salvation,

First fruit of the new creation,

Weary sinners' resting place,

Banner of the faith victorious,

Anchor of our hope and love,

Guide us in Thy footsteps glorious,

Bear us to Thy home above.

Or more expressive than this jubilant hymn of adoration:


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

O Thou blest Immanuel!

What exceeding joy from heaven

Hast Thou caused in me to dwell

By Thy life for sinners given.

Thou hast broke the bands at last

Which my yearning soul held fast.

In Thine arms I find relief,

Soon Thy home I shall inherit,

Sin and sorrow, death and grief

Nevermore shall vex my spirit.

For Thy word confirms the pledge

Of my lasting heritage.

Lord, my praise ascends to Thee

For these days of joy and sorrow;

They shall end in jubilee

On that blest eternal morrow

When the Sun of Paradise

Shall for me in splendor rise.

Rise in joyful faith, my soul!

Banish all thy grief and sadness.

Strong the stream of life shall roll

Through my heart with constant gladness.

Jesus, Who mine anguish bore,

Be now praised for evermore.

Most beautiful is also his hymn to the Lamb of God, translated by Pastor D. G. M. Bach.

I see Thee stand, O Lamb of God,

On Zion's mountain peak.

But Oh the way that Thou hast trod,

So long, so hard, so bleak!

What Thou didst suffer for our woe,

No man can ever know.

Though Brorson made a number of excellent translations of hymns to the Spirit such as the beautiful, "Come, Rains from the Heavens, to Strengthen and Nourish the Languishing Field," he wrote no outstanding Pentecost hymns of his own composition. It remained for Grundtvig to supply the Danish church with a wealth of unexcelled hymns on the Holy Ghost.

Aside from his Christmas hymns, Brorson's greatest contribution to hymnody is perhaps his revival hymns, a type in which the Lutheran church is rather poor. The special message of the Pietist movement was an earnest call to awake, and Brorson repeated that call with an appealing insistence and earnestness. The word of God has been sown, but where are its fruits?

O Father, may Thy word prevail

Against the power of Hell!

Behold the vineyard Thou hast tilled

With thorns and thistles filled.

'Tis true, the plants are there,

But ah, how weak and rare,

How slight the power and evidence

Of word and sacraments.

It is, therefore, time for all Christians to awake.

Awaken from your idle dreaming!

Ye lukewarm Christians, now arise.

Behold, the light from heaven streaming

Proclaims the day of mercy flies.

Throw off that sinful sleep before

To you is closed the open door.

Many are heedless, taking no thought of the day when all shall appear before the judgment of God. Such people should arouse themselves and prepare for the rendering of their account.

O heart, prepare to give account

Of all thy sore transgression.

To God, of grace and love the Fount,

Make thou a full confession.

What hast thou done these many years

The Lord hath thee afforded.

Nothing but sin and earthly cares

Is in God's book recorded.

He realizes that many continue in their sin because of ignorance, and with these he pleads so softly:

If thou but knew the life that thou are leading

In sin and shame is Satan's tyranny,

Thou wouldest kneel and with the Lord be pleading

That He thy soul from bondage would set free.

Oh, how the Saviour would rejoice

If thou today should'st listen to His voice!

And the day of salvation is now at hand.

O, seek the Lord today,

Today He hath salvation.

Approach Him while He may

Still hear thy supplication.

Repent and seek His grace

While yet His call doth sound,

Yea turn to Him thy face

While still He may be found.

Orthodoxy had instilled a formal, but often spiritless faith. Pietism aimed to awaken the great mass of formal believers to a new life, a living and active faith. This is strongly expressed in the very popular hymn below.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

The faith that Christ embraces [6]

And purifies the hearts

The faith that boldly faces

The devil's fiery darts,

That faith is strong and must

Withstand the world's temptation

And in all tribulation,

In Christ, the Saviour, trust.

The faith that knows no struggle

Against the power of sin,

The faith that sounds no bugle

To waken, fight and win,

That faith is dead and vain,

Its sacred name disgracing,

And impotent when facing

The devil's mighty reign.

A Christian wears his armor

To wage the war of faith

Against the crafty charmer,

His foe in life and death.

With Jesus he must stand

Undaunted and victorious,

If he would win his glorious

Reward at God's right hand.

It is a comfort pleasing

In our embattled life,

To feel our strength increasing

In trying days of strife.

And as our days shall be

The Lord will help accord us

And with His gifts reward us

When striving faithfully.

O Lord, my hope most fervent,

My refuge in all woe,

I will hence be Thy servant

Through all my days below.

Let come whatever may,

I will exalt Thee ever,

And ask no other favor

Than live with Thee for aye.

Although Brorson knew that --

The cost is greater than at first expected

To be in God's unbounded gifts perfected.

he holds that

It does not cost too hard a strife

To be a Christian, pure and heaven-minded, --

But a Christian must be steadfast and persevering, as he admonishes himself and others in the following very popular hymn. The translation is by Pastor P. C. Paulsen.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., P. C. Paulsen

Stand fast, my soul, stand fast

In Christ, thy Saviour!

Lose not the war at last

By faint behaviour.

It is of no avail

That thou hast known Him

If when thy foes assail,

Thou shalt His banner fail,

And thus disown Him.

To brandish high thy sword,

With calm assurance,

And face the devil's horde

With brave endurance,

Is meet and well begun,

And merits praising.

But from the strife to run,

When blows thy courage stun,

Is most disgracing.

Let Satan rave and rage

By hosts attended,

The war for Christ I wage

Until it's ended.

When leaning on His arm

With firm reliance,

I need not take alarm,

To me can come no harm

From Hell's defiance.

When Jesus' love I see,

It me constraineth,

So that from carnal glee

My soul abstaineth.

When heaven to me is dear,

Its joys attractive,

Of hell I have no fear,

For Christ, my Lord, is near,

In battle active.

In just a little while

The strife is ended,

And I from Satan's guile

For aye defended.

Then I, where all is well,

In heaven's glory,

Among the saints shall dwell,

And with rejoicing tell

Salvation's story.

Therefore children of God should rejoice.

Children of God, born again by His Spirit,

Never ye cease in His name to rejoice;

Jesus believing and saved by His merit,

Come we to Him with a jubilant voice.

But even a child of God must not expect to escape from the common trials and perils of life. God promises assistance but not exemption to those who love Him. In the following striking hymn, Brorson vividly pictures both the trials and the comfort of a child of God.


Brorson, Hans Adolf, 1694-1764

tr., J. C. Aaberg

I walk in danger everywhere, [7]

The thought must never leave me,

That Satan watches to ensnare

And with his guile deceive me.

His cunning pitfalls may

Make me an easy prey

Unless I guard myself with care;

I walk in danger everywhere.

I walk through trials everywhere;

The world no help can offer.

The burdens I am called to bear

I must with patience suffer;

Though often I discern

No place where I may turn

When clouds surround me far and near;

Death walks beside me everywhere.

Death walks besides me everywhere;

Its shadows oft appall me.

I know not when the hour is here

When God from earth shall call me.

A moment's failing breath,

And I am cold in death,

Faced with eternity fore'er;

Death walks besides me everywhere.

I walk 'mongst angels everywhere;

They are my sure defenders;

The hordes of hell in vain prepare

Against such strong contenders.

All doubts and fears must flee,

With angels guarding me;

No foe can harm me in their care;

I walk 'mongst angels everywhere.

I walk with Jesus everywhere;

His goodness never fails me.

I rest beneath His shielding care

When trouble sore assails me.

And by His footsteps led,

My path I safely tread.

Despite all ills my foes prepare:

I walk with Jesus everywhere.

I walk to heaven everywhere,

Preparing for the morrow

When God shall hear my anxious prayer

And banish all my sorrow.

Be quiet then, my soul,

Press onward to thy goal.

All carnal pleasures thou forswear,

And walk to heaven everywhere.

Unlike Kingo and Grundtvig, Brorson wrote no outstanding hymns on the sacraments. Pietism was in the main a revival movement and placed no special emphasis on the means of grace. And although Brorson remained a loyal son of the established church, he wrote his finest hymns on those phases of Christianity most earnestly emphasized by the movement to which he belonged. While this is only what could be expected, it indicates both his strength and limitation as a hymnwriter. He was above all the sweet singer of Pietism.

The hymns of Brorson that appeared during his lifetime were all written within the space of four years. In that brief period he composed a volume of songs that rank with the finest in the Christian church, and just as he might have been expected to produce his finest work, he discontinued his effort. The hymns of the Swan-Song -- which we shall discuss later -- though written for his own edification, indicate what he might have attained if he had continued to write for publication. His reason for thus putting aside the lyre, which for a little while he had played so appealingly, is unknown. Some have suggested that he wrote his hymns according to a preconceived plan, which, when completed, he felt no inclination to enlarge; others have surmised that the new and ardent duties, bestowed upon him about this time, deprived him of the leisure to write. But as Brorson himself expressed no reason for his action, no one really knows why this sweet singer of Pietism so suddenly ceased to sing.


[5] Another translation with the same first line by A. M. Andersen in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

[6] Another translation: "The faith that God believeth" by P. C. Paulsen in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

[7] Another translation: "I walk in danger all the way" by D. G. Ristad in "Hymnal for Church and Home".

chapter eight brorsons childhood and
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