23/24 April 1586–8 December 1649
He was one of those provincial clergymen to whom Germany had so much reason to be grateful. The son of a poor coppersmith, he made his way at the University of Leipzig by dint of industry and his musical gifts, took orders, and was precentor of the church at Eisleben, and at the age of thirty-one was offered the place of Archdeacon at his native town of Eilenburg in Saxony. He went there as the war broke out, and died just after the peace, and throughout these thirty-one years he stood by his flock, and helped them to the utmost under every kind of distress. Of course he had to endure the quartering of soldiers in his house, and frequent plunderings of his little stock of grain and household goods. But these were small things.
The plague of 1637 visited Eilenburg with extraordinary severity; the town was overcrowded with fugitives from the country districts where the Swedes had been spreading devastation, and in this one year 8,000 persons died in it. The whole of the town council except three persons, a terrible number of school children, and the clergymen of the neighbouring parish, were all carried off; and Rinkart had to do the work of three men, and did it manfully at the beds of the sick and dying. He buried more than 4,000 persons, but through all his labours he himself remained perfectly well.
The pestilence was followed by a famine so extreme that thirty or forty persons might be seen fighting in the streets for a dead cat or crow. Rinkart, with the burgomaster and one other citizen, did what could be done to organize assistance, and gave away everything but the barest rations for his own family, so that his door was surrounded by a crowd of poor starving wretches, who found it their only refuge. After all this suffering came the Swedes once more, and imposed upon the unhappy town a tribute of 30,000 [thalers]. Rinkart ventured to the camp to entreat the general for mercy, and when it was refused, turned to the citizens who followed him, saying, “Come, my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men, let us take refuge with God.” He fell on his knees, and prayed with such touching earnestness that the Swedish general relented, and lowered his demand at last to 2,000 florins.
So great were Rinkart's own losses and charities that he had the utmost difficulty in finding bread and clothes for his children, and was forced to mortgage his future income for several years. Yet how little his spirit was broken by all these calamities is shown by this hymn [“Nun danket alle Gott”] and others that he wrote; some indeed speaking of his country’s sorrows, but all breathing the same spirit of unbounded trust and readiness to give thanks.
by Catherine Winkworth
Christian Singers of Germany (1869)
Collections of Hymns:
Jesu Herz-Büchlein (Leipzig, 1636): WorldCat
Die Meisnische Thränen-Saat (Leipzig, 1637): WorldCat
Der meißnischen Klage-Lieder (Leipzig, 1637): WorldCat
Epithalami Salomoneo-Sulamitici Cantica Canticorum (Leipzig, 1642): WorldCat
Catechismus Wolthaten und Catechismus-Lieder (Leipzig, 1645): WorldCat
Heinrich Rembe & Johannes Linke, Martin Rinkarts geistliche Lieder (Gotha: F.A. Perthes, 1886): PDF
Josiah Miller, “Martin Rinkart,” Singers and Songs of the Church (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1869), pp. 56-57: Archive.org
James Mearns, “Martin Rinkart,” ed. John Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 962-963: Google Books
Adolf Brüssau, Martin Rinckart (1586–1649) und sein Lied “Nun danket alle Gott” (Leipzig: Schloeßmann, 1936): WorldCat
Wilhelm Büchting and Siegmar Kiel, Martin Rinckart, Leben und Werk (Spröda, 1996): WorldCat
J.R. Watson, “Martin Rinckart,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
Martin Rinkart at Hymnary.org: