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The Life of 
Samuel Heinrich Fröhlich 
Part 1

Introduction

In the early 1840’s, the young congregations founded by Samuel Heinrich Fröhlich [*the fellowship title “Brother” is generally omitted for the sake of brevity] were assailed by dissension from within, in addition to the persecution they constantly suffering from without. One leader gathered to himself those who fell away from sound teaching and wished to associate with groups outside the membership who had not a clear grasp of the baptismal truth and were not convinced that baptism was necessary. Another faction held that the promises of the covenant in baptism were wholly one-sided: that God gave promises but that no vow of obedience was required on man’s part. The dissidence had not only caused general laxity in church discipline, but had threatened the very life of the “new” church. 

These false teachings attacked the very root of the faith. It was therefore necessary that strong and incisive teaching from the Word of God be brought to overcome such fatal opposition. These sermons used the sword of the Word in the struggle to a successful end, so that the truth was maintained. Many of the apostates came back upon their painful disenchantment, while others remained excommunicated. 

Fröhlich’s activities fell in the time when freedom of faith and conscience was dawning upon the nations of nominal christendom (Revelation 3:8): “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” 

Fröhlich believed this to be the “then” in the Savior’s parable: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins which... went forth to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1, ff.). The candlestick was again being set in its place on the continent of Europe where the light had flickered out for the descendants of those who in bygone centuries had been true witnesses. 

Fröhlich knew whereof he spoke concerning the established state church of which he had been a part and, by the grace of God, saw the light of the truth. He appeared at a time when so-called christendom had fallen into degeneracy and the State Protestant and Catholic Churches dominated the governments of Europe, to teach anew the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as it had been taught by the apostles. He had been planted, so to speak, in the very soil of the Protestant State Church, and although his conversion did occur while he was still therein, this church had not brought it about; in other words, though he was no longer of the Protestant State Church, he found himself still in it. Thus it became the field of his missionary effort. In this labor, the mission of bringing the Gospel into the field of the great false churches of false christianity, which, since the beginning of the fourth century had been elevated to the position of state religion, he was a pioneer. 

Early Life and Conversion

Samuel Heinrich Fröhlich was the son of a sexton, descended from a Huguenot (French Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries) family, by the name of DeJoyeau, a French word meaning “the joyful”, who lived in France. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes under which the Huguenots were permitted to live in France, and after St. Bartholomew’s Night (August 24, 1572) when many thousands of Protestants were massacred, the remaining families fled in all directions. The DeJoyeau family sought refuge in Switzerland where the name was later translated into “Fröhlich” (joyful). 

In a letter to the English Continental Society of London (England), written in November, 1831 (after his expulsion from the state church), making application for an assignment as an itinerant preacher in the Rhine Country, Fröhlich gave a detailed account of his awakening and conversion. It is believed that inasmuch as what Fröhlich received from the Lord was by revelation, this account, besides being helpful to souls among us seeking God, who feel heavily the burden of their sins and their separation from Him, may enable souls outside the activities of our congregations, who are entirely unfamiliar with the teaching and to whom this would be a new message, to understand to the fullest extent what conversion by reconciliation and regeneration means. 

Further, it is hoped that this account may set aright those who confess having gone through conversion, as to any benefit to be expected from a so-called theological education to better prepare them to work for the Lord. It is also hoped that it may make clear that one must be accepted by Christ as well to accept Him, and that there is no such acceptance by Him without conversion and baptism. 

In the letter mentioned above, Fröhlich wrote, in part: 

“As to my outward circumstances, I was born July 4, 1803, in Brugg, a small municipal city of the Swiss canton of Aargau. From my youth, the idea of devoting myself to the ministry was made so much a matter of course by my parents that I never considered anything else, although I did not in the slightest degree feel the great importance and responsibility of the vocation, and still less did I realize what was required to fulfill the duties of the office which preaches reconciliation. I was to learn it much more in the way of a trade than as a profession. 

“Accordingly, I was instructed in the necessary rudiments for this purpose in the school of my native city up to my 17th year, and was advanced to the extent that upon my removal to Zurich on New Year’s Day, 1820, I was not only at once taken into the Collegium Humanitatis, but also, contrary to custom, after a year’s course promoted to the Gymnasium Carolinum. 

“According to the practice there, in the following years I progressed class by class and pursued my studies mechanically, without spirit or life; indeed, without any real interest — however, not without absorbing the principles of theology and rationalism from Dr. Schultess and others, although quite unnoticed and unconscious thereof. When I came home When I came home on vacation with my head full of fancies, I caused my God-fearing mother, who is now dead, many a tear; and even paraded with bare-faced fluency the glories of the new teaching that there was no devil, no hell, etc. 

“In the four years of my stay at Zurich, I advanced thus far that I should enter the actual class of theology, but I preferred to go to Basel to study theology in the newly organized university under the still famous name of DeWette, and others. That was in the latter part of the year 1823. “In the meantime the might of SIN and the power of DEATH had grown up hand in hand with UNBELIEF, since it cannot fail that where the head of the old serpent rises, its members also rise and, of necessity, stir. I became enwrapped and entangled in such a horror of sin that I shudder now when I think of it, and the saddest of all was that, in accordance with my very principles, I could pass over it so lightly and so easily quiet and deceive myself, that I could even formally say to myself, ‘That which I am doing is not sin.’ 

“O woe unto me, if God had been a man or had dealt with me as a man! He would have shattered me as a potter’s vessel. Nevertheless, at one time during this period I preached on Psalm 51:10, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God...,’ from which I now comprehend what all the so-called beautiful sermons of the Rationalists amount to! Fortunately, this was my first and last sermon in this state of ignorance. 

“Soon after I went to Basel. However, the hour of my enlightenment and release from the dominion of darkness had not yet come. Even deeper was I destined to fall into the depths of Satan. For fully another year and a half I lived without God and without the knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ and of myself. What Schultess began in Zurich was completed by DeWette in Basel. I became utterly carried away by the idealism with which he treated the Scriptures. I thought this was the true way and was sorry only that I did not have the wings to follow him in his flight. I honored him almost as a god. I felt no need of the LIVING GOD and had no thought of conversion from my sins. 

“During my stay in Zurich I also entirely neglected prayer. Even the mechanical prayer learned from childhood seemed ridiculous. In Basel, ‘Witschel’s Morning and Evening Sacrifice’ appealed to my taste, not so much for the sake of prayer, but because it appealed to my idealism, and — with all my sins — I wished to my pious. For that purpose those were the right ‘sacrifices’ that cost nothing. Me benighted spirit had by way of Basel the opportunity to cultivate and develop itself more. There were among the students some who belonged to the Community of Brethren. These were distasteful to me from their very name, without knowing any other cause. It was a blind zeal like that of Saul. I became a scoffer, and slanderer, and a blasphemer. 

“On my transfer to Basel, I was commended by the State Rector of my native city to the courtesy of one of his friends in Basel, Pastor P.[*Fröhlich never divulges the identity of Pastor P. in any of his writings.] He received me in a very friendly manner and introduced me into a society of long standing composed of young students who met every Thursday evening to read and discuss the Greek New Testament. Most of these students were inclined toward the Community of Brethren. For this very reason I felt uncomfortable among them and in everything became an opponent. When they finally decided to begin and close the hour with song and prayer, I became angry and stayed away, and also made others desert them so that gradually the class was almost disbanded, until after my conversion when it was again brought to renewed life and blessing. 

“Nevertheless, the true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ was not alone in His exceeding patience and longsuffering in bearing with me in this time of my blindness, for this beloved Pastor P. was tireless in his endurance with me. As often as I visited with him (which was not very frequently), he greeted me with the question, ‘Well, how are things going in the most important matter of all?’ What he meant by this and what the most important matter of all was, I could not imagine. Each time I became embarrassed and still did not wish to let him notice it. 

“Once, however, when he asked me again as to the most important matter of all, I could not help but ask him the counter-question — what he meant by it. The esteemed pastor almost laughed at the question, but he composed himself, grasped the opportunity, and began to preach to me of repentance to God, knowledge of one’s self, faith in Christ, etc. But he preached to deaf ears. I understood not a word of all he said. His sermon seemed in part foolish to me, in part vexatious. 

“Yet I was honest enough to write down at home in my diary the main thought which had stayed with me and as it still stands there under the date of April 6, 1824, namely: ‘Through the knowledge of God, man comes to the knowledge of self; that is the truth which Christ taught us and to which we arrive only through repentance.’ But that was all; and besides, I do not know whether I wrote it correctly or not, for the sinner does not attain to self-knowledge through knowledge of God, but much more the reverse: ‘Through the knowledge of self, one comes to the knowledge of God,’ (John 16:8): ‘And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:’ 

“From that day on, however, a whole year passed before I felt the slightest trace of the knowledge of self, and from the above it is clear that if the grace of God wished to make something of me to His glory, it certainly had in me, the greatest of all sinners, a fit object in whom to manifest, even in me, the greatest riches of the patience and pity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that I in turn should have pity toward my brethren in the flesh who still wander in error along the course of this world and after the prince of darkness. Finally, it pleased God well to awaken me from the sleep of death. He passed by me and saw me lying in my blood. He said to me as I thus lay in my blood, ‘Thou shalt live!’ (Ezekiel 16:6). 

“It was the month of April, 1825, when I was spending my Easter vacation in Brugg. All the circumstances are as fresh in my mind today as if they had happened yesterday. I cannot, however, recall that there were many previous preparations or any special circumstances to work towards it. A very soft voice, which was neither terrifying nor depressing, but nevertheless very convincing and penetrating, spoke in the depth of my soul, ‘It cannot remain thus with thee. Thou must change!’ And at the same time it drew me irresistibly onward. I knelt for the first time before the hidden God and with uplifted hands solemnly gave the vow of fidelity that from now on it must be different with me.” 

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