Pietist Preacher Gerhard Tersteegen

Dan Graves, MSL

Pietist Preacher Gerhard Tersteegen

If you check the index of your hymnbook, you will likely find a hymn titled "Thou hidden love of God" by Gerhard Tersteegen. Can God's love be hidden? There were five terrible years after Tersteegen became a Christian when he had no sense of God whatever. He came close to despair.

Born in 1697, at Moers, Germany, Gerhard Tersteegen completed a few grades of school, after which he was apprenticed to an older brother, a shopkeeper. Gerhard was conscientious and thoughtful, subdued by frequent illnesses. A godly tradesman taught him that he could know Christ in daily life, and Tersteegen vowed to devote his life to God. Unable to find time for devotions during the day, he spent entire nights fasting and praying. As soon as his apprenticeship was up, he rented an isolated cottage and worked alone like a hermit, knitting ribbons to support himself. He thought much about God and read theology. His diet was as simple as could be--meal, milk and water--and he gave whatever money he saved to the poor.

His lifestyle embarrassed his well-to-do family, who came to the point they would not even mention his name. When he fell gravely ill, they left him unattended.

It was after this that darkness closed around him. For five years he had no impression of God and even began to doubt his existence. Yet he wrote hymns of faith. But mere words were not able to ease his troubled mind.

Yet one day God drew so close to Tersteegen that the sorrowing man knew absolute peace. From then until his death, on this day, April 3, 1769, Tersteegen taught others. Anyone could see that the spiritual world was real to him. Hundreds of the poor and farmers gathered daily at his home to hear him speak. He also traveled throughout the region, preaching. While at peace inwardly, he seldom had a moment's peace outwardly, for there were always people clamoring for his spiritual advice.

Tersteegen wrote books and hymns. "Thine wholly, Thine alone I am! Thrice happy he who views with scorn earth's toys, for Thee his constant flame; O help that I may never move from the blest footsteps of Thy love!" He even wrote a dedication of himself to Christ in his own blood.

When he was sixty-one, his constant speaking so wore him out that it almost proved the death of him. He lived nine more years, counseling, revising books and writing letters, but he was no longer able to preach or travel.


  1. Cook, Faith."Discovering Love." http://www.evangelical-times.org/articles/dec03/dec03a23.htm
  2. "Gerhard Tersteegen." http://www.cyberhymnal.org.
  3. Harvey, Edwin & Lillian and Hey, Elizabeth. They Knew Their God, Volume 2. Kingsley Press, ca. 2005.
  4. "Tersteegen, Gerhard (Gerrit Ter Steegen)" New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1954.
  5. Fremantle, Anne, editor. The Protestant Mystics. New York: New American Library, 1964.
Last updated May, 2007.
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