Works of Frederick Engels, 1840

Two Sermons by F. W. Krummacher

Written: in early September 1840
First published: in the Telegraph für Deutschland No. 149, September 1840

We have before us the two sermons which caused the otherwise so pious people of Bremen to prohibit the Elberfeld zealot, F. W. Krummacher, from further officiating by invitation in the Church of St. Ansgarius. If the ordinary sermon in which God is spoken of only as the Father of the World or the highest Being generally sounds very watery, the text of these orations by Krummacher is lye, caustic, even aqua regia. They will be read with interest if only because of the originality displayed in communicating thus with the congregation from the pulpit; they show that Krummacher is a zealot of intelligence, blessed with wit and imagination. Whether he speaks in this fiery language out of a real rock-like faith in Christianity may he doubted; we believe that Krummacher is no hypocrite but that he fixed on this manner of preaching merely because he liked it and cannot now abandon it, the less so because the ordinary tone of the evangelical whisperers on love and of the preachers for the ladies is very insipid. This much is certain, however, that Krummacher is badly mistaken about the significance of the pulpit if he raises it to a seat of the Inquisition. What can a congregation take home from such a sermon? Nothing but that spiritual pride which is so repellent in pietism. He who demands of his congregation nothing but faith, who merely reiterates this rigid commandment in synonyms and uses the rest of the sermon-lecture for current polemics, will spread much self-conceit, pride and orthodox obduracy, but little Christianity. Krummacher seems to be methodically carrying on this task of elevating Christian simplicity into pride. The statement that spirit, wit, imagination, poetic talent, art and science are all nothing before God is a cliché to him.

He says:

“There is more joy in heaven over a repentant sinner than over the birth of a poet."
[F. W. Krummacher, Paulus kein Mann nach dem Sinne unsrer Zeit. Predigt]

He paints such a picture of the importance which the poorest member of his congregation could have that the latter must inevitably fancy himself higher and wiser than Kant, Hegel, Strauss, etc., whom Krummacher constantly anathematises in his sermons. Is it not possible that at the root of Krummacher’s inmost being there is frustrated ambition, a longing for distinction? There are many minds which have striven for the highest, failed to achieve it by diligence, talent and hard work, and then hope to win the eternal crown by an unexampled virtuosity of faith. This and nothing else, one is inclined to believe, explains Krummacher’s constant polemic against everything famous in the world. — It is truly painful to find in these sermons so few softening elements, so little pathos, feeling, or true grief. The tone of love cannot come easily to such a rigid zealot. And yet there are passages which reconcile us to this man’s strange nature. How few sermons we have in which one can find such a beautiful passage as the following:

“Yes, friends, the world does not end where the storm howls on the sea’s distant shore, or where the sorrowing moon walks on high and the silent stars look down in sadness on the earth. Beyond, there is another, wider, brighter region. Oh, ‘tis better to be there than here. There roses are no longer carried to the grave; there love no longer fears separation; there no drop of gall remains in the cup of joy. That such a world exists is as true as that the Lord Jesus visibly (?) ascended into it."
[F. W. Krummacher, Das letzte Gericht. Gastpredigt]