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Posts Tagged ‘Johann Franck’

1. Lord, to Thee I make confession;

I have sinned and gone astray,
I have multiplied transgression,
Chosen for myself my way,
Led by Thee to see my errors,
Lord, I tremble at Thy terrors.

2. Yet, though conscience’ voice appall me,
Father, I will seek Thy face;
Though Thy child I dare not call me,
Yet receive me to Thy grace.
Do not for my sins forsake me;
Do not let Thy wrath o’ertake me.

3. For Thy Son did suffer for me,
Gave Himself to rescue me,
Died to heal me and restore me,
Reconciled me unto Thee.
‘Tis alone His cross can vanquish
These dark fears and soothe this anguish.

4. Then on Him I cast my burden,
Sink it in the depths below.
Let me know Thy gracious pardon,
Wash me, make me white as snow.
Let Thy Spirit leave me never;
Make me only Thine forever.

Hymn #326
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Ps 139: 7-10
Author: Johann Franck, 1649, cento
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Titled: “Herr, ich habe missgehandelt”
Composer: Johann Crueger, 1649
Tune: “Herr, ich habe missgehandelt”

Note:  this hymn study is not of the music since I am musically illiterate!  This is a study of the hymn’s words as they reflect confessionally the Scriptures for our edification.

About Johann Franck:  He ranks second only to Paul Gerhardt (Lutheran Service Book, LSB, #334, # 360, etc) as a hymnwriter, was one of the writers who marked the transition from the objective German “church song” to a more personal and mystical kind of poetry, yet Franck’s hymns  are based on  the solid rock of God’s  Word of Law and Promise, as we can read and sing in his hymn above. He was also a writer of secular poetry of some renown during his time, but it is his hymns, finished in form and of earnest faith and simplicity, that have survived. Of these he wrote 110. Franck’s most known  hymns are both in  Lutheran Service Book (LSB):   #636, “Soul, Adorn Thyself with Gladness and #743, “Jesus, Priceless Treasure”.  

Born June 1, 1618, at Guben, Brandenburg, Germany, Franck was two years old when his father died and he was adopted by an uncle. He received his education at the University of Konigsberg, the only German university not disrupted by the Thirty Years’ War. There he formed a friendship with Simon Dach and Heinrich Held (LSB #352). He became a lawyer, as was his father, and after some travel, returned to Guben, where he became a councillor, a mayor, and finally a representative of the province to the Diet of Lower Lusatia. He died June 18, 1677. (adapted from Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, Augsburg-Fortress Publishing).

LSB lists these Scripture passages as the basis of “Lord, to You I Make Confession’:

  • Psalm 51: 5-11
  • 2 Corinthians 5: 18-20
  • Isaiah 59: 12
  • Psalm 32: 5

The Lutheran Confessions summarize Confession and Absolution,as taught in the Scriptures and the texts above:

 Now, repentance consists properly of these   two parts:  One is contrition, that is,  terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts  the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance. (Augsburg Confession, Article XII: Of Repentence)

 Franck’s hymn is precisely what every Christian knows:  contrition, sorrow over sin leads the Christian to seek in faith in Christ to  taking hold of His forgiveness, the Absolution, the Word of promise, by Christ’s Work and Word, after the terror over sin from God’s just judgment:

 “Led by Thee to see my errors,
Lord, I tremble at Thy terrors”.

We do not know what Franck’s precise sin(s) that prompted him to write this hymn.  Does it matter?  He did not make his confession, as many do today in the courts of public opinion to be accepted by  sinful suspect culture.  This kind of ‘confession’ is simply a continuation into sin:  

I have multiplied transgression,
Chosen for myself my way.

It is man seeking his own way. There is only One who can forgive and  to be forgiven in the courts of the Lord’s House:  Christ.  Absolution does not come from the Gallup polls but by God’s promise alone fulfilled in His Son.  “I can’t forgive myself”:  that’s right.  Advising someone to forgive themselves is choosing one’s own way, going the wrong way, back into the sinful heart, not outward to the Lord and the only Way of mercy.  Johann’s  confession was between himself and his confessor. The confessor would have been  authorized by Christ to be Johann’s pastor to speak God’s Word of freedom into his ears into his fearful heart.  Johann Franck did not even claim to be God’s child with proprietary rights supposedly entitling him to forgiveness:

Though Thy child I dare not call me,
Yet receive me to Thy grace.

Implied in that stanza that it was the Lord Himself who so claimed him as a child and you as well, by His grace alone.  He did so for all to see, and for thee  upon the Cross.  

For Thy Son did suffer for me,
Gave Himself to rescue me,
Died to heal me and restore me,
Reconciled me unto Thee.
‘Tis alone His cross can vanquish
These dark fears and soothe this anguish.

 Then on Him I cast my burden,
Sink it in the depths below.
Let me know Thy gracious pardon,
Wash me, make me white as snow.
Let Thy Spirit leave me never;
Make me only Thine forever.

It is a shame that  our hymnals no longer include the sung Amen as they once did. Nevertheless:

♫Amen♫

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