Posted by: rcottrill | December 8, 2010

Today in 1649 – Martin Rinkart Died

Martin Rinkart was a pastor whose parish gave him a unique opportunity for ministry. He served the Lutheran church in Eilenberg, Germany, during the Thirty Years War, beginning his work there just before the conflict started.

Eilenberg had the mixed blessing of being a walled city. Its protective fortress was sought out as a safe haven by the hundreds of war refugees who poured into it. But it was also looked upon as a coveted prize of war. Over the years, it was overrun by the Austrian army once, and by the Swedish army twice. In the process, eight hundred homes were demolished. Meanwhile, the increasingly overcrowded conditions brought waves of famine and deadly pestilence.

The death toll was staggering. Soon, Pastor Rinkart was the only clergyman left alive in the city. He conducted an average of fifteen funerals a day, sometimes as many as fifty. He opened his home as a refugee centre, sharing what he had, though it was difficult enough just to provide for his own family. In addition, he carried on other pastoral work, and still found time to write some sixty-six hymns. Sadly, the stress of overwork took its toll and Rinkart died a year after the conflict ended.

Even so, through all the horrors of war, and the strain of dealing with destitute and grieving families, the good pastor never lost his spiritual moorings. He maintained a strong faith in God, and radiated the joy of the Lord. As a table grace for his children, he wrote a hymn based on a verse from the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with the Bible book of Ecclesiastes). It says:

Now bless ye the God of all, who everywhere doeth great things, who exalteth our days from the womb, and dealeth with us according to His mercy. May He grant us joyful hearts, and may peace be in our days forever” (50:22).

Pastor Rinkart’s praise hymn was called Nun Danket Alle Gott, or as we know it in English, Now Thank We All Our God.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

(2) Today in 1929 – Edwin Ufford Died
Edwin Smith Ufford was a Baptist pastor, known in hymn history mainly for the hymn Throw Out the Lifeline. It uses the rescue of sailors on the storm-tossed sea as an illustration of the spiritual rescue that is possible through the proclamation of the gospel. The song, written in only 15 minutes, has several more stanzas than are usually found in our hymn books. (For more about Mr. Ufford and his hymn, see the second item under Today in 1791.) Here are a couple of the unused stanzas:

This is the life line, oh, tempest tossed men;
Baffled by waves of temptation and sin;
Wild winds of passion, your strength cannot brave,
But Jesus is mighty, and Jesus can save.

Throw out the life line! Throw out the life line!
Someone is drifting away;
Throw out the life line! Throw out the life line!
Someone is sinking today.

Jesus is able! To you who are driv’n,
Farther and farther from God and from heav’n;
Helpless and hopeless, o’erwhelmed by the wave;
We throw out the life line, ’tis “Jesus can save.”


  1. […] (2) Today in 1851 – Edwin Ufford Born Edwin Smith Ufford attended schools in Connecticut and Maine. He was licensed to preach by the Baptists, and served congregations in Maine and Massachusetts. Saved as a young man, Edwin Ufford was inspired by a biography of Dwight Moody to devote his life to preaching the gospel. He came from a musical family, both his father and grandfather being choir directors. Ufford wrote a number of hymns, but only one remains in use today. (For a bit more on Pastor Ufford and his hymn, see Throw Out the Lifeline.) […]

  2. […] Today in 1598 – Johann Cruger Born Johann Cruger was born near Guben, Prussia. He settled in Berlin in 1615, where he became organist and cantor of St. Nicholas Cathedral. He is considered one of the foremost musicians of his day, and his work in editing Praxis Pietatis Melica (The Practice of Piety Through Melody) has been called the most important work on the subject of hymnody produced in the seventeenth century. In the third edition of this book, the hymn tune Nun Danket appeared. It is used with Martin Rinkart’s hymn Now Thank We All Our God. (For the interesting story behind this hymn see Today in 1649.) […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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