This treatise was written by Franck in 1701. I am working with an English translation dated 1831. I will seek to provide a condensed version of the whole, to permit one to follow the general course of the argument. Franck was a German pietist, 1663-1727.
An interesting aspect of Franck’s life, which is germane to the argument he makes in the dedication:
The following year he took the master’s degree, which carried the right to give philological and exegetical lectures on the Bible. He and Paul Anton were encouraged by Carpzov, another theology professor, to start a Collegium Philobiblicum for young masters and to fill one of the gaps in a university theological curriculum that was confined to dogmatic and polemical theology. This proved popular, but caused a personal crisis for Francke which came to a head in 1687. Teaching theology seemed to create a conflict between seeking professional distinction and seeking to serve others. To promote the former his uncle restored his Schabbel stipendium on the condition that Francke took instruction in biblical exegesis from Superintendent Sandhagen in Lüneburg. Here he underwent a vivid conversion experience. It began with anxiety as to whether the Christian claims for the authority of the Bible were any more reasonable than those of Jews for the Talmud and of Turks for the Koran. In a way that became normative for evangelicals, these doubts were resolved with the aid of Luther’s Preface to the Romans, with its doctrine that faith was a transforming work of God in humans; certainty was derived from an immediacy of experience which required no further evidence. Yet Francke’s problem of intellectual uncertainty was not Luther’s problem of forgiveness of sin, and while conversion resolved his dilemma of whether to serve others or scholarly reputation, it cut him off from the characteristic concerns of the Enlightenment. Francke’s experience also led him to an elaborately structured view of conversion in which the penitential struggle (Busskampf) was central.
W. R. Ward, “Francke, August Hermann,” ed. Timothy Larsen et al., Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 238.
A note on pietism:
A movement in the Lutheran church in the 17th century, reacting against dead orthodoxy and aiming at a revival of piety and vital godliness. P. J. Spener, its chief mover, emphasized informal prayer meetings and Bible study. Pietism did not itself become an organized movement, but it had a profound influence on the early Moravians, and through them, on the awakening of missionary vision. It also greatly affected John Wesley, and through him, the English-speaking countries of the world. Indeed, it still influences much of modern-day evangelicalism. Its emphasis is a healthy one, so long as it is within the framework of the great objective truths of the gospel. If that proviso is neglected, it leads to a very basic denial of the faith—witness the fact that Halle University, founded on the principles of pietism, became a centre of such emphasis on individual experience that it produced the pure subjectiveness of Schleiermacher’s consciousness theology.*
Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), 331.
THE AUTHOR’S DEDICATION
To all Ministers and Teachers in Churches and Schools throughout Germany—Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, in the fellowship and communion of the Holy Ghost.
Dearly beloved Brethren,
More especially hath my heart been touched to the quick, when from innumerable instances I have been convinced, that the fear of man is become the epidemical disease of our teachers. For when I reflected on one hand, with what spirit, with what joy, with what undaunted courage and boldness, the servants of God, in the Old and New Testament, set aside all regard and fear of man, delivering, as the Lord’s ambassadors, their message plainly, and without mincing the matter, though it exposed them to the apparent hazard of their lives; and, on the other, how gently and how softly we go about it now-a-days; and how little we manifest the truth to the conscience of every one: when I moreover considered how much they suffered with Christ their Lord, for the sake of their testimony; and how the most of us take care to preach so smoothly, as not to incur the least shadow of their sufferings; all this made the difference between us and them appear so exceedingly great to me, that I could not but be amazed and astonished at it.
He puts the cause for the fear of man among teachers of the Gospel to an over-concern for temporal comfort and status. He does not argue that the Gospel requires us to be ascetics and deny all temporal comfort. However, temporal comfort should not be our primary concern. If such does become our primary concern, we error:
But if, on the contrary, we seek ourselves, being influenced, in what we do, by temporal concerns; then, as far as I understand, we depart from that glorious pattern Christ our Lord and Master hath set before us: neither is there any thing, to my apprehension, that doth more effectually deprive us of God’s blessing in our calling, than this doth. For sure it is, that the greater concern we have for our own profit, ease, and honour, the less we shall have for promoting the real good of our neighbour. And as long as our minds are not wholly conformable to the mind of our great Shepherd, whose servants we are, it is impossible he should be well pleased with us.
It is this concern with the temporal which leads to the fear of man:
This I take to be the true cause why we are so strongly possessed with the fear of man; for did we desire nothing in the world, we should not fear it.
As a matter of persuasion, Franck then draws out this decision in light of eternity. How will it appear to you on Judgment Day to have shaved the Gospel to fit the expectations of others so that you could live a slightly more comfortable existence?
How can we then entertain the least thought of appearing before Him in that day with joy, when our hearts will upbraid us, that whilst we were here, we took more pains to improve our land, than the souls committed to our care? to increase our flock, and sum up our yearly revenues, than to lay up in store a good foundation against the time to come? that we were either careless in our preaching, without the least tincture of godly zeal and earnestness, as if it were no more than some other common trade; or else intending by it, rather to set forth our own arts and learning, than to recommend the simple truth of Jesus Christ, without any gloss or trimming, to the consciences of men? Alas! it is but too apparent, that the generality of men, both in cities and villages, are sunk into the blackest vices, and all manner of the most abominable corruptions.
August. Herm. Franck.
At Glaucha, near Halle.
October 26, 1701.