Tuesday, 21 March 2017

John Gossner teaching spiritual life came not from church but from God

As a young Catholic priest, educated at the University of Dillingen, in Germany late in the 1790s, Johannes Evangelista Gossner also known as John Gossner, longed for a Christianity that would make him alive. He began to teach others what he had learned from Johann Michael Sailer of the   Society of Jesus and Martin Boos, who had followed the extreme practices of asceticism as a penance for sin, all to no avail, as he believed, and then developed a doctrine of salvation by faith which came very near to pure Lutheranism.

By 1802, Gossner his earnest endeavours to show people that they could have new spiritual life directly from God (rather than through the agency of priests and the church) landed him in hot water with his denomination. The Jesuits brought him into a church court. Still unsure of how to reconcile evangelical thought with traditional Catholic teaching, John agreed to toe his church's line. (When he sought to leave his church, a highly-placed Lutheran advised against it.)

Having a real gift for teaching at those places hr came to speak he reached many, packing assembly halls with lots of listeners. This got him such reputation wich led to an invitation to come and pastor the Germans who lived in Russia. In St. Petersburg from 1820-1824 he preached evangelical sermons after each mass. Four and five hundred listeners packed the church every time. He invited sincere seekers to his apartment and when that could not hold everyone, he rented assembly halls. He worked closely with Prince Golitsyn, an evangelical.
Because the Dominicans distrusted him, Johannes provided private teaching outside of the church building. This proved so successful that Russia's Orthodox leaders grew alarmed. Metropolitan Serafim of the Orthodox church pleaded for John's expulsion from the country. The Tsar ordered John out; but the evangelical seed had been planted. It spread into neighboring Estonia and Finland, and was strong in St. Petersburg two generations later.
When John returned to Germany, the Catholic church expelled him in 1826, and he went for the Protestant communion. As Reformed (Calvinist) minister of Bethlehem's Church (1829-1846), a Lutheran and Reformed simultaneum in Berlin, he was conspicuous not only for practical and effective preaching, but for the founding of schools, asylums and missionary agencies. In Berlin's Bethlehem church he continued his successful work, leading large numbers of people to seek a deeper Christian life. He created kindergarten schools, founded a hospital, and started the mission organization which bears his name.
Gossner emphasized the missionary as an apostle driven by faith and casting all his cares on God. His soc. received royal sanction 1842. Sent missionaries to Australia, New Guinea, South Sea Islands, Indonesia, India (with special success among the Kols), Afr., and Am. 
John Gossner died in Berlin on this day, March 20, 1858. His mission work lives on, having converted hundreds of thousands to Christ in India.
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