Boston: Printed by [Gamaliel] Rogers and [Daniel] Fowle, for N[athanael]. Procter at the Bible and Dove in Ann-Street, 1744.
Duodecimo: 13.4 x 7.4 cm. xxiv,,26-180 p. Collation: A-P6
FIRST AMERICAN EDITION, preceded by editions printed in England in 1706 and 1709, and Edinburgh in 1731.
Bound in contemporary American calf, ruled in blind, over thin wooden boards (scuffed and with wear to extremities). Very good internally with a few minor stains, a couple of marginal tears and a longer tear entering the text on leaf F5 (no loss.) Provenance: with the contemporary ownership inscription, “Joseph Kidder, his book, 1749” and verses in the same hand.
The first American edition of this classic by the religious leader, educator, and social reformer August Hermann Francke, one of the principal promoters of German Pietism, a movement of spiritual renewal that influenced the development of three new groups of churches–the Moravian churches, the Swedish Evangelical churches, and the Methodist (Wesleyan) churches. Pietism shared strong affinities with American Puritanism (Cotton Mather wrote Franke that his works had rekindled Christian fervor in the colonies’ churches) and Pietism’s influence was felt in the American revival movement of the 1730s and 1740s called The Great Awakening.
“With the advent of German pietism, for the first time the churches of New England came into contact with a spiritual revival movement among the Protestant established churches of Europe. This movement accepted the Puritan critique of traditional continental church life as superficial and of the churches themselves as decadent, and agreed with the Puritans that the true reformation of the Church had not been brought to completion by the Reformers of the sixteenth century. Like Puritanism, this movement considered its mission to be that of bringing the reformation of the Church to completion and perfection by means of a spiritual and ethical revival. Thus it was that Puritans in New England and pietists on the continent discovered allies on the opposite side of the ocean - which, until then, generally had been understood as the enemy's side….
“[T]he second major point in this encounter of Puritanism and pietism [was] the ecumenical emphasis of their theology and practice. Continental pietism was a reaction against the confessional controversies on the continent which, by killing in the name of Christ during the religious wars of the seventeenth century, had reduced the population of Germany from thirty million at the start of the wars to three million at the end of the
wars, and had destroyed cities, towns and villages, changing the country into a wilderness. Pietism aimed at emphasizing the practical side of Christian devotion, in order to arrive at a better understanding among the opposing Protestant parties and churches (not to mention the Roman Catholics) of the continent. Thus we find a general tendency toward church union among the early pietists. This ecumenical outlook corresponded to a similar tendency in New England, and was one of the main reasons for the deepening of the friendship between continental and "American pietists" (as Cotton Mather calls the New England Puritans in his letters to Francke.”(Benz, Ecumenical Relations between Boston Puritanism and German Pietism: Cotton Mather and August Hermann Francke, p.163)
Francke’s work exerted a strong influence on the two founders of Methodism, John Wesley and George Whitefield. Wesley read “Nicodemus” while at Oxford and again aboard the Simmonds on his way to Georgia in 1732. “He found that it confirmed that devout radicalism of the primitive Christian attitude which he demanded of his student circle at Oxford, yet at the same time, in its characteristic conception of faith as union with God’s almighty power, it transcended the dimension of religion as mere demand.”(Schmidt, & Goldhawk, p. 145)
In Georgia, Wesley used the present English translation of the book to write his own abridgment, which he used in small group setting and later included in his “Christian Library.” Wesley later traveled to Halle to see the institutions established by Francke, including the orphanage that inspired Whitefield to establish his own orphanage in Georgia. Having seen Francke’s achievements firsthand, he wrote in his journal, ‘his name is indeed as precious ointment. O may I follow him, as He did Christ!’”
This edition of the “Nicodemus”, the first and only 18th c. edition printed in North America, appeared at Boston in 1744, the year in which Wesley held his first Methodist Conference of preachers (the founding event of the Methodist movement), and at the height of the “Great Awakening”. From 1740 to 1743, the itinerant preachers George Whitefield (vide supra), Gilbert Tennant, and the (mentally unstable) James Davenport had spread their revivalist message throughout New England; by 1744, the “Awakening” was at its height in Boston.
This English translation of “Nicodemus”, first published in England in 1706, was made by Anton Wilhelm Boehm, “the most important intermediary between Halle and England”(Gawthrop). Formerly a theology student at Halle, Boehm arrived in London in 1701 to become preacher to Prince Consort George of Denmark (Francke himself had recommended Boehm for the position), presiding at St. James’ Chapel. “Boehm was quite intimate with the leading men of both the free church movement and independent Puritan groups in England, e.g., the Wesleys, as well as Quakers, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists. Intensely interested in the problem of Christian unity, Boehm was well acquainted with the continental, English and American aspects of the problem…. By his death in 1725, Anton Wilhelm Boehm had become the clearing house for the entire global correspondence of other German pietists, connecting the Boston Puritans with Halle and with the pietist missionaries in Tranquebar.”(Benz)
August Hermann Francke was a Protestant religious leader, educator, and social reformer who was one of the principal promoters of German Pietism, a movement of spiritual renewal that reacted to the doctrinal preoccupation of contemporary Lutheranism. Influenced by the enthusiasm triggered by Philipp Jakob Spener’s initial Pietist impulses, Francke founded Pietist groups at the University of Halle, where he taught theology and Oriental languages (1695–1727). His conventicle was criticized by traditional Lutherans for its biblical revivalism and social activism, particularly the founding (1695) at Halle of the Franckesche Stiftungen (Francke Foundations), which included a school for the poor, orphanage, medical dispensary, and publishing house. Dismissed by the established church, Francke later received the favour of King Frederick William I of Prussia, who, influenced by a visit to the institutes (1713), initiated legislation for similar educational centers in his realm.”(EB)
“From its beginning, Pietism, by its very existence, challenged the Anglican, Lutheran, and Calvinist churches. While the movement was seen by supporters as an alternative to scholastic theology and a dry worship experience, many church leaders viewed any such informal alternative as primarily challenging the church's hegemony over religious matters in society, and they tended to treat the Pietists with hostility and in some cases initiated actual persecutions. To accomplish their goals, the Pietists emphasized (1) a Bible-centered faith, (2) the experienced Christian life (guilt, forgiveness, conversion, holiness, and love within community), and (3) free expression of faith in hymns, testimony, and evangelical zeal. The earliest representatives of the movement include Philipp Jacob Spener (1635–1705) and August Hermann Francke (1663–1727).
“Spener is credited with originating a basic form taken by Pietists–the collegia pietatis (association of piety). In despair over the impossibility of reforming Lutheranism, he began to organize small groups that met in homes for Bible study, prayer, and discussions, leading to a deeper spiritual life. These groups spread throughout Europe and were known in England as religious societies.
Francke was Spener's most famous disciple. Forced out of the University of Leipzig and later dismissed from the University of Erfurt, he became a teacher at the newly formed University of Halle and turned it into a Pietist center. During the three decades Francke taught there, Halle graduated more than 200 ministers per year. Besides the deeply experienced faith he taught at Halle, Francke encouraged missionary endeavors. He began an orphan house in 1698. Knowledge of his work brought financial help and allowed the ministry to include a pauper school, a Bible institute, a Latin school, and other facilities to aid destitute children. Most early missionaries came from among Halle's graduates.
“From Halle, Pietism spread throughout the world. Correspondence between Francke and Cotton Mather led to the establishment of religious societies in the Boston churches, and Pietistic literature lay directly behind the American revival movement of the 1730s and 1740s called the Great Awakening. In Germany, Pietism renewed the Moravian Church, which then began to spread its own version of Pietism. The Moravian Church carried the Pietist faith to England where Pietism became a strong influence on John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement.”(Pietism and Methodism: Or, the Significance of German Pietism in the Origin and Early Development of Methodism).
Evans, 5394; ESTC W19735. Further reading: Schmidt and Goldhawk, “John Wesley, a Theological Biography”, Vol. I, p. 141-145)