Feast of Joseph Augustus Seiss (June 20)   1 comment

United Lutheran Church in America

Above:  The Immediate Lineage of the United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS (MARCH 8, 1823-JUNE 20, 1904)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Liturgist, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator

Joseph Augustus Seiss was an important figure in U.S. Lutheran history.  He was, in fact, more complicated than the Lutheran hymnal companion volumes I consulted hinted.  I found evidence of this fact when I started skimming his books available at archive.org.  Seiss was, for example, a Premillenialist and a Dispensationalist, opinions which would have made C. I. Scofield happy yet were (and remain) heretical in the vast majority of Christianity in general and within Lutheranism in particular.  Seiss also had a bizarre theology regarding the Great Pyramid at Giza, which, according to him, was “a Miracle in Stone.”  (The Egyptian laborers who constructed that pyramid knew that it was not a miracle, I suppose.)  Seiss and I would have disagreed strongly regarding issues such as eschatology, pyramids, and the authorship of the Book of Daniel and the Epistle to the Hebrews, but none of that prevents me from adding him to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  I have added him mostly on the basis of his contributions to hymnody and liturgy.

Seiss entered the world at Graceham, Maryland, on March 18, 1823.  His father was a miner and his family attended the local Moravian church.  Seiss, confirmed in the Unitas Fratrum at age fifteen, did not remain for long.  From 1839 to 1841 he attended a Lutheran school, Gettysburg College and Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, yet did not graduate.  He studied theology privately, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Virginia licensed him to preach in 1842.  Ordination followed six years later.

From 1844 to 1904 Seiss ministered in congregations.  He was at Martinsburg and Shepherdstown, Virginia, for three years, followed by a stint (1847-1852) at Cumberland, Maryland.  Our saint served as the pastor of Lombard Street Church, Baltimore, Maryland, from 1852 to 1858.  The rest of his pastoral career played out in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, first at St. John’s Church (from 1852 to 1874), then at the Church of the Holy Communion, of which he was the founding minister and the pastor for the first thirty years or so of its existence.

Seiss also led on the synodical and denominational levels.  He was, for a time, the President of the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States, the oldest Lutheran synod in the United States.  He also helped to form the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918), of which he served as the President also.

Seiss published in excess of 100 works.  Some of them are available at archive.org:

  1. Popular Lectures on the Epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Hebrews (1846);
  2. The Baptist System Examined, the Church Vindicated, and Sectarianism Rebuked:  A Reviews of Dr. Fuller and Others on “Baptism and the Terms of Communion” (first edition, 1854; second edition, 1858; third edition, 1859);
  3. The Last Times:  An Earnest Discussion of Momentous Themes (first edition, 1856; second edition, 1859); The Last Times and the Great Consumation:  An Earnest Discussion of Momentous Themes (fifth edition, 1863; sixth edition, 1866); The Last Times, or Thoughts on Momentous Themes (seventh edition, 1878);
  4. The Arts of Design:  Especially Related to Female Education (1857);
  5. The Gospel in Leviticus; or, an Exposition of the Hebrews Ritual (1859);
  6. The Evangelical Psalmist:  A Collection of Tunes and Hymns for Use in Congregational and Social Worship (1859);
  7. The Day of the Lord (1861);
  8. The Parable of the Ten Virgins:  In Six Discourses, and a Sermon on the Judgeship of the Saints (1862);
  9. The Assassinated President; or, the Day of National Mourning for Abraham Lincoln, at St. John’s (Lutheran Church), Philadelphia, June 1st, 1865 (1865);
  10. The Apocalypse:  A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ with Revised Text, Volumes I, II, and III (1865);
  11. Church Song (second edition) (1875);
  12. A Miracle in Stone; or, the Great Pyramid of Egypt (1877);
  13. Recreation Songs (1878);
  14. Voices from Babylon; or, the Records of Daniel the Prophet (1879);
  15. The Gospel in the Stars; or, Primeval Astronomy (first edition, 1882; tenth edition, 1910);
  16. The Golden Altar:  Forms of Living Faith (first edition, 1882; second edition, 1898), a book of home liturgies;
  17. Luther and the Reformation:  The Life-Springs of Our Liberties (1883);
  18. Right Life; or, Candid Talks on Vital Themes (1886);
  19. The Letters of Jesus:  Lenten Lectures (1889);
  20. Church Song:  A Repertory of Music for the Rendering of the Responses, Canticles, Psalms and Hymnals of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (1889);
  21. Beacon Lights:  A Series of Short Sermons (1899); and
  22. Lententide Sermonettes (1901).

Seiss also wrote and translated hymns.  I have added some of his texts to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.

Seiss died at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 20, 1904.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MACRINA THE ELDER, BASIL THE ELDER, EMILIA, NAUCRATIUS, AND PETER OF SEBASTE, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS OVER THREE GENERATIONS

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF RICARDO MONTALBAN, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Joseph Augustus Seiss)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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One response to “Feast of Joseph Augustus Seiss (June 20)

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  1. Pingback: Joseph Augustus Seiss | GATHERED PRAYERS

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