Johann Heermann was born October 11, 1585 in Raudten, one of five children, but the only to survive. Although he suffered many ailments throughout his life, he never ceased to preach the gospel. When he was young, he grew ill, nigh unto death. In faith, his pleading mother pledged that should he survive, she would dedicate him to the Lord by educating him in the ministry, heeding not the cost – though they were poor. Due to her sacrifice, he attended many schools and was well educated. November 11th, 1611, he became the pastor of a church in Koben, a small town not far from his hometown. He was forced to quit preaching in 1634 after enduring an affliction of the throat for eleven years. He died four years later.
Even through his ailments and in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War, he wrote the beautiful hymns of “Cross and Consolation.” Julian describes his many trials thus: he several times “lost all his movables; once he had to keep away from Koben for seventeen weeks; twice he was nearly sabred; and once, while crossing the Oder in a frail boat loaded almost to sinking, he heard the bullets of the pursuing soldiers whistle just over his heard. He bore all with courage and patience, and he and his were wonderfully preserved from death and dishonor. He was thus well grounded in the school of affliction.” One can see that while he endured many trials and tragedies, he continued to spread the message of Jesus Christ.
He began writing poetry during the Reformation period, but then transitioned to hymns. His hymns include: “Thine Honor Rescue, Christ Our Lord” and “O Jesu, Lord, Who Once For Me.” Julian states that his hymns are, “distinguished by depth and tenderness of feeling; by firm faith and confidence in the face of trial; by deep love to Christ, and humble submission to the will of God.” Heermann’s short life was a beautiful example of God working in the midst of trials. The song, “Ah, Holy Jesus” is a tribute of Heerman's - a heartbreaking account of the sinless, perfect Christ suffering for our atonement. Read the agonizing tale of our sin laid on Him, and rejoice in our perfect Saviour.
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
That man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.
Who was the guilty? who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.
Lo, the good shepherd for the sheep is offered:
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered:
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation:
Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.
Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee
Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.
Julian, J., 1957. Dictionary of Hymnology. New York: Dover.