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Sunday, May 7, 2017
Walther, Schaller, Lange… now Günther! Pieper's address (Part 1)
This follows the previous blog on Prof. C.H.R. Lange's funeral message.
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The young Concordia Seminary president, Prof. Franz Pieper was called on again in short order after Prof. Lange's passing to deliver yet another funeral address – this time for Prof. Martin Günther (WorldCat Identity). This passing would now bring the total to four fathers of the early Missouri Synod who had fallen in the space of 5-6 years. Would this young man just wring his hands and wonder how he could carry on such a church in America that had grown so much and thrived under its founder Walther? How could he keep the ship of Missouri from capsizing?... keep it sailing under God's blessing? Let us hear how God not only used the dear Günther, but also the dear Franz Pieper and kept the ship of Missouri sailing, and propelled it into the 20th century:
† Prof. M. Günther. †
held in the auditorium of the theological seminary
In Christ, dearly beloved mourners.
When we had gathered at this place for a funeral service a little more than seven months ago, we had to break into the complaint: "Walther, Schaller, Lange — God has called these men away over a period of five years from our midst and the chairs at our institution." But what should we say today, where we once again need to gather still in the same academic year for a funeral service, because the Lord has suddenly called our dear Professor Prof. Günther from his work! In a period of six years — May 7th of 1887 was the day of the death of the blessed Dr. Walther — our institution has lost four teachers, all the older members of the teaching staff have gone home. We are not merely beaten — God has thrown us into the dust. We are shaken and frightened to the core. The elders in our council are taken away from us!
Also our institution, as well as our whole synod, suffered a great loss by the going home of our blessed Günther. He was one of the first students of the founders of our Synod. In their spirit he was educated, and in their spirit he walked and worked in the service of the church for forty years, twenty years as a pastor and twenty years professor of theology at the local institution. A clear and sure knowledge of the pure Christian doctrine marked him as it is testified in the confession of our Church. He possessed in a great measure the gift of distinguishing between right and wrong doctrine. And as he was devoted to the pure, unadulterated doctrine with all his heart, he shared with all serious and well-informed children of God the quality that he was hostile to all adulteration of the salutary doctrine. In this sense he has worked in his oral lectures and in writings, and exerted an extensive influence on our Synod and the Church in general. It was true that his effectiveness took place more in silence. Rarely did he speak in public church meetings. But it was given to him before others to testify in a clear, concise, written expression the saving truth and to refute the error. Thus, through many years of editorial work, especially in the Der Lutheraner, God made him a blessing to the Church. And the pure doctrine was not only a dead storehouse for him. What he taught and wrote as a theological professor, he also gladly preached from the pulpit of the Christian congregation. He died preaching. He was as a theological professor still lovingly active as a pastor. As a theological professor, he gathered and nurtured a church in Kirkwood, which now has already appointed its own pastor for several years. Such a pardoned instrument in the hand of God was the blessed Günther!
We are deeply, deeply afflicted by the loss which we have suffered by his sudden death. But do we want to quarrel with God? Not so! God has allowed us to enjoy the service of our fathers to their old age; They have been among us forty or fifty years. So not quarreling, but thanking is appropriate. Do we want to be despair because God takes the old, experienced teachers so fast one after another from us? This, too, would not be in accordance with the will of God. We know from the Word of God, and also through the testimony of our fathers, that the Church is not built on the persons of the teachers whom God gives and takes, but on a basis which remains the same through all changes of persons. This is the foundation of the apostles and prophets; this is the Word of God, as God has recorded through the apostles and prophets in the Holy Scriptures, and has given the Church a foundation. As long as the Church of God has a pure Word, and remains in it with simple faith, so long does it remain firm and immovable on the foundation upon which God Himself has built it, and on which God will continue to build it until the Last Day. We should also not despair in unbelief. But let us recollect and be reminded that we hold fast to faith in the immovable foundation of the Church, namely, the infallible Word of God, and always base our persuasion upon them again and again. That can, that will be given us by God out of grace. So in the great tribulation that has affected us, our prayer is this:
Oh, stay with your grace
With us, Lord Jesus Christ,
That we not be brought to shame
By the evil enemy’s cunning.
Oh, stay with your Word
With us, precious Saviour,
To us both here and there
Preserve goodness and salvation.
Lord, have mercy. Amen.
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As Pieper mentions, Günther worked many years as an editor for the Der Lutheraner magazine. He wrote many articles – search for "(G.)" or "Günther" in my Table of Contents blog post. He also was the main editor for the periodical Magazin für Ev.-Luth. Homiletik — And his biographical book of Walther C.F.W. Walther: Lebensbild was a popular book for presenting the life of Walther to succeeding generations. The book has had enough interest in Germany to be republished again in recent years. It is too bad that this was never fully translated into English!
But perhaps the greatest legacy of Prof. Guenther, as Pieper highlights, was when he used his "gift of distinguishing between right and wrong doctrine". In the next Part 2 of this blog series, I will expand on this part of Günther's work sometimes referred to as "popular symbolics".