J. C. W. Lindemann.
(Lebensbild eines lutherischen Volk- und Schulmannes.)
Life Sketch of a Lutheran Man of the People and Pedagogue.
For “Blätter und Blüten” by L.
(Translated from Blätter und Blüten (Petals and Blossoms: Gathered by the Editors of the
The ancient university
The first childhood years
of little Wilhelm were spent in the house of the town musician and landlord to
students, Spangenberg, across from the Pauliner-Kirche [
At his fourth year Wilhelm started to draw under his father’s supervision; likewise regular writing exercises began and at six years he had to help his father with copying, whereby hard compulsory measures were not missing. In the parental home he had also advanced in reading so far that his teacher, “the tall man with the long hand,” told him to bring along his catechism right at the first school attendances, after having tested him in reading the primer. His father had seen to it that Wilhelm received a good school education and with his Wilhelm, as we will see, it was not in vain. The little boy had a desire to learn anytime and the necessary talents. Milling around in the street had never been his passion. He’d rather sit in the parlor reading, drawing, or cuting out figures. That earned him the title “Stubenhocker” (“Stay-at-home”). He was also given the nickname “Recke” (“Stretch”) by his comrades because of his long build.
Thus under strict paternal supervision, under cheery, merry learning in school, combined with amusing excursions into the romantic surroundings of Goettingen, the time of confirmation approached, but at the same time also the earnest question: “What was to become of the lad?” Attending the Gymnasium [academic secondary school] and then attending university — the funds did not permit that. Learning to paint, for which Wilhelm always had a great desire, also required a significant amount of money. Finally it was decided that Wilhelm would enter into an apprenticeship under his uncle in Kirchrode to be a carpenter. As though in a dream, he went dejectedly into his attic room in which he shed many a tear, while all who knew him shook their heads over it that the bright boy picked this trade. Now followed four hard years as an apprentice, filled with anguish and anxiety. But this too had to serve for his best.
Nearly throughout his entire apprenticeship time — for he soon sensed that he had missed his calling by becoming a carpenter — young Lindemann entertained the idea of becoming a painter; in his leisure time he diligently practiced drawing. He repeatedly asked his father to permit him to devote himself to painting; but he constantly either received no answer at all or a negative one. Later, too, in the last years of his life, he constantly drew with great pleasure and just as great neatness and correctness. His skill in it is attested to by his several large pen-and-ink drawings and pictures, which he as pastor and professor gave to several good friends as anniversary gift or pleasant memento.
During his apprenticeship he read diligently and expanded his knowledge. His assiduous, restless spirit, which constantly compelled him to work and which now evinced the earnest man, who later, as he often said himself, “worked for his recreation.”
After he finally had
become a journeyman carpenter, he traveled around “with good clothes, a
moderately filled wallet and a full knapsack.” The destination was
On the same evening yet,
he arrived in Leipzig, lodged at the hostel for carpenters and immediately
acquired work the next morning; but he soon got into terrible danger of
[loosing] his soul. Just at that time the [Johannes] Ronge
Movement had originated in
Faithful God, however, Who wanted to use the one led astray in His service later
on, saw to it that Lindemann’s eyes were opened in
time. Of course, Lindemann informed his parents and
his pastor in Göttingen what he had done. The answer
of his former Seelsorger
(pastor) had an immediate effect: Something like scales fell from his eyes; he
realized his error and immediately went to see Mr. Großmann
[Grossmann], who was employed as catechist at St. Peter’s Church. Mr. Großmann helped him faithfully, prayed with him and
introduced him to serious-minded Christian people. Just at that time of the
German Catholic movement, Dr. Delitzsch wrote to his
old friend professor Walther: “The number of believers in
Hildebrand used his influence with supervisors of the teachers’ seminary in
He did not remain long
at the seminary in
Thus, God, in a
marvelous way, without Lindemann’s assistance, called
He subsequently decided
upon the advice of friends, especially [that of] Pastor Friedrich C. D. Wyneken, to devote himself to the ministry. Although he had
married in the meantime, he acted on the decision around Easter 1852 and
entered the seminary at
The studies did not last
* * *
assumed his ministry in
The circumstances at that time were meager. The congregation was called Holzhackergemeinde (woodchopper congregation) because many of its recently immigrated members had to support themselves by chopping wood and as day laborers. No one among them was prosperous. In 1856 when they proceeded to build a larger church building, the congregation had so little credit, was also without funds, that the sole farmer in it took out a mortgage on his farm, in order to be able borrow the absolutely necessary money. To a large part the church-building debt was paid off cent-wise, without [the congregation] having to ask for outside help.
With such poverty of the congregation in the material it is self-evident that also the pastor and his family had to make both ends meet and apprehension for food was added to the hot congregational conflicts. Nevertheless the pastor retained his joyful courage and gladly shared his poverty and need with his congregation members. His cross, of which he was not spared, could not take away his joyfulness.
Even when he was especially stressed and overburdened, he always found time to devote to his family. He was a loving, caring house father, who oversaw and led his children’s instruction. Idleness and inactivity was an abhorrence to him, which he could not tolerate from his children, although he granted them the necessary recreation and childish pastimes. Being a lover of nature himself, who enthusiastically observed the life and goings-on of the animal kingdom and liked to be outdoors, he took long walks through field and forest with his children, visited the most secluded places, set traps with his boys, caught butterflies, looked for beetles, lizards and other creepy-crawlies and was glad like a child when he had found a striking fossil, a rare bug or a hidden spring in the undergrowth. During long winter evenings he devoted the first hours to his loved family. He either orally tested [his children] on their school lessons, had read to him, or read a story, or a travel book, or something from world or natural history. But we liked best to hear him tell stories.
He kept up social intercourse with members of his congregation and liked to have company. Between several members of the vestry and him an intimate personal relationship had been formed. As strict and earnest he was as pastor in his ministry, he was just as affable and intimate in his social intercourse when he found like-minded persons. His speech, always seasoned with salt, his superb gift for entertaining made him into a welcomed companion.
In his sermons he proved himself not only a preacher firmly founded in Scripture and a confessional Lutheran, but also a very up-to-date one, who with wise attentiveness and seelsorgerischer (pastoral) conscientiousness as a good steward among his [fellow] servants gave everyone his due share. He was not an exceptional speaker. Using plain, down-to-earth speech, disdaining every rhetorical embellishment, free from all sensationalism, he spoke naturally and appropriate to his whole personality, but preached nevertheless so didactically and with such an emphasis that he truly edified his congregation and not only promoted knowledge of doctrine, but molded it into a model congregation regarding [its] vitality. He employed great diligence and constant attention to the Christenlehren (catechetical instructions). At that time he had gone through his catechism more than once with pen in hand and several neatly written exercise books give witness to his thorough preparation. Generally he was not a man who did anything haphazardly, but whatever he touched was completed thoroughly.
At that time already he began to place his gifts and knowledge in the service of wide spheres. He began to write for the Lutheraner and published his Arithmetisches Exempelbuch für deutsche Volksschulen in Amerika [Book of Arithmetic Problems for German Elementary Schools in America]. Thus it was hardly surprising that such a man attracted the attention of the Synod and that it tried to win such a worker for a wider sphere.
When, therefore, the
directorship at the teachers’ seminary of the Synod became vacant, Pastor Lindemann was chosen for this office. After eleven years of
ministry as pastor, he began his activity as professor and Direktor (president) with the
opening of the seminary relocated from
With habitual determination and steady hand, the new director took hold of the reins and it soon turned out that, although he had no particular previous experience for such an important position, he, nevertheless, was a natural for this ministry. God had endowed him for this position from an early age. His bright mind led him to clearly discern the assignment given him, and his strong will did not let the objective be displaced easily. His astonishing capacity for work helped him overcome many difficulties. He was strict but also loving. You could hear his footstep in the seminary, said the late Dr. Sihler of him, even when he had his feet underneath his desk.
With untiring devotion he has, now that God had made him into a champion and had put him at the head of such a great school system, sought and worked, gathered and studied, in order to be able to carry out the ministry entrusted to him. That, which he had acquired by thorough studies, by sincere prayer begged of God and by having been tried and tested by his own doubts, he offered now to his students in a lively, clear, well-thought through lecture. The gift to teach had been bestowed him in an entirely special measure, so that he could clearly and convincingly convey that which he had discerned to others, but also had the great advantage that he shaped character, which in the future acted with the mind and spirit of their teacher. How much he was concerned about the physical welfare of his students, is evident among other things by the fact that he often cared for the sick and kept watch over them at their bed. Yet shortly before his death he had a younger, seriously ill student brought to his own study and cared and waited on him for two weeks as his own child and yet on the day of his death he had visited the sick in the nearby small hospital, which was so difficult for him, that he had to rest three times along the short distance.
His seminary and his
students grew on him. He served God and not men. To be allowed to serve his
Savior, to help building His kingdom, to advance his dear
However, not satisfied to
let the pound, entrusted to him due to his calling, grow exuberantly,
he put his excellent talent as narrator into service for his fellow believers
and countrymen. He was a man of the people. He had gotten to know the [common]
folk through his Lebensführung
[conduct of his life], and he, as did once the captain of
It almost seems as though the diligent man had sensed that his indefatigable working would take a sudden, quick end. While he took care of that young student in his study during Christmas time, he had put his letters and papers in order and completed his family chronicle except for his own life. One can tell by the last entries that they had been written in great haste. At other times, he had gone to bed after he had held the evening service in the seminary; but the last few nights he had repeatedly worked at his desk until midnight; when his family admonished him to stop working, he used words like these: “Let me; I have to hurry; my time is precious!” He was also observed withdrawn deep in thought. During those days he often admonished his students emphatically saying: “Repent, see to it that you have a good conscience and be saved.”
Nevertheless no one had thought that the end of the dear man would be so close. On January 15, 1879, he was seated at the lunch table with his family and had seasoned the meal with his delightful, this time especially happy conversations, and then he sat at the sickbed of his oldest daughter. She noticed that he turned his face away suddenly and started to groan. With a grasp he tore off his necktie and paced up and down the room tortured by intense angina pectoris, but praying loudly. In the meantime, one of his colleagues, as well as an older student had been sent for, and they put him hurriedly to bed, applied already often proved palliatives; but this time no medicine and no rubbing of the chest and arms with wool cloths helped. Lying there in the death-struggle he prayed with an unusually loud and grave voice: “Lord Jesus, I commend my spirit into Your hands!” — “You alone are my Savior and all my trust is in You!” — “O God, be merciful to me for Christ’s sake!” In between he repeated his favorite Bible verse several times: “For God so loved the world, etc,” until the end. He then began to pray the Three Articles. But before he had finished them, he called out: “Call my colleagues! Little children, my senses are fading away!” When his eldest colleague approached his bed, dying Lindemann was already unable to speak. During the consolation of short words of comfort from the Bible, the soul departed gently and peacefully from the tired body.
The daily task of the now late Direktor had been a relatively short one and yet he probably worked more than many others, to whom God had granted a long life. He never sought earthly advantages, fleeting honor and fame from the people, but was motivated to new faithfulness and indefatigable work in honor of his Savior, Who had administered to and done such great things for him.
Dr. Walther wrote of him when he announced the sudden death of the dear Seminary Direktor: “A man full of faith and the Holy Ghost; a man, who was childlike in faith and childlike naive in heart, word and deed but a champion; just as faithful in little things as in the great, highly talented and abundantly endowed with rare knowledge and profound experience, but at the same time humble in heart; always ready to yield [the things] concerning himself, but unswerving and adamant [in things] pertaining to the Word and the cause of God; self-consuming in the zeal for God’s house, but forgetting himself and his own advantage; working indefatigably day and night for God’s Kingdom until the last breath of his life — a light, a salt, a jewel, a gem of our church community.”
He has died, but he still lives in his writings and also in his delightful stories, with which he had repeatedly graced the “Abendschule.” May the tale [“Wohl dem, der Freude an seinen Kindern erlebt.” (“Blessed is He Who Delights in His Children.”)] freshly presented [in this book] not only revive the memory of a true man of the people, but also contribute to Christian instruction and prove to be a lasting blessing to quite many readers.
* Dr. [Franz] Deltzsch
wrote to Dr. [C. F. W.] Walther at that time (Lutheraner I, 91): “Everywhere