Neumeister, Libretto for the Third Sunday after Trinity

Come ye! Come ye! Come, all, / Who from so many falls into sin / Wounded, weak, and trembling stand, / We want to go to Jesus. / He heals all wounds.

Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756) is perhaps best known among us as the author of the hymns “Jesus Sinners Doth Receive,” “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It,” and “I Know My Faith Is Founded.” Neumeister was a marvelous poet. He studied poetry and theology at Leipzig, wrote a dissertation on 17th century poets, and then lectured on poetics in Leipzig.1 Yet hymns were not his main poetic work. In 1697 Neumeister received his first call as a pastor and, as a fruit of his sermon preparation, not only wrote a sermon for delivery to the congregation, but also regularly wrote a set of poems, interwoven with Scripture passages and occasionally stanzas from Lutheran hymns, that likewise captured the main themes of that Sunday of the Church Year.2 Such a series of poems is called a libretto, and each libretto was meant to be set to music.

In the first half of the 18th century, Neumeister wrote ten cycles of libretto texts, each cycle covering the Sundays of the Church Year.3 Certain movements in his librettos were arias, that is, concise poems, meant to be sung ornately and with repetition. Other movements were recitatives, whose texts were significantly longer than those of arias, yet were to be sung straight through in a style more akin to speaking. While arias and recitatives already existed in the opera house, Neumeister pioneered their use in the church. Musicians composed music to accompany Neumeister’s librettos, and the resulting cantatas became a regular part of church services.4 Other librettists arose, and musicians to compose for them. By the time of Bach’s tenure as cantor in Leipzig, there was a cantata every Sunday.

Neumeister wrote the following libretto for the Third Sunday after Trinity, on which we hear the Parable of the Lost Sheep and Parable of the Lost Coin (Lk. 15:1-10). Because it is difficult to do justice to the irregular meters of librettos when going from German to English, we here present Neumeister’s original German text alongside an unversified English translation by Pastor Mark Preus. – A.R.

1 The Cantatas of J. S. Bach by Alfred Dürr, pg. 6
2 Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig by Günther Stiller, pg. 213
3 Dürr says that Neumeister wrote 10 cycles (pg. 6) and Stiller says that he wrote 8 (pg. 217). Whichever is the case, Neumeister was a prolific poet.
4 Indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach himself set 5 of Neumeister’s librettos fully and a sixth partially (Stiller, pg. 217).

1. Kommt! Kommt! Kommt, alle,
Die von so manchen Sündenfalle
Verwundet, schwach und zitternd stehn,
Wir wollen hin zu Jesu gehn.
Er heilet alle Wunden.
Er spricht ein einzig Wort,
So ist der Angst verschwunden,
Und alle Schmerzen fort.
Die Gnaden-Thür
Ist dir und mir
Bei Jesu aufgethan.
Denn Jesus nimmt die Sünder an.

1. Come ye! Come ye! Come, all,
Who from so many falls into sin
Wounded, weak, and trembling stand,
We want to go to Jesus.
He heals all wounds.
He speaks a single word,
And the fear disappears,
And all pains leave.
The door of grace
Is for you and for me
Opened in Jesus.
For Jesus receives sinners.  

2. So komm ich auch zu dir alhie in meiner Noth geschritten,
Und thu dich mit gebeugtem Knie von ganzem Hertzen bitten:
Vergieb mirs doch genädiglich,
Was ich mein Lebtag wieder dich auff Erden hab begangen.

2. So I also come to Thee, here in my need that I stepped into,
And beg Thee with bended knee from my whole heart:
Forgive me that graciously
Which I have committed against Thee my living days on earth.  

3. Sprenge, Jesu, über mich
Deines Blutes Seegen.
Wie sich Laub und Graß erquickt,
Das des Tages Hitze drückt,
Durch den Abend-Regen:
Also tröstest du das Hertz.
Da, da muss sich aller Schmertz
Augenblinklich legen,
Und die Seele lebt durch dich.
Sprenge, Jesu, über mich
Deines Blutes Seegen.

3. Sprinkle, Jesus, over me
Thy blood’s blessing.
As leaf and herb come alive,
Which the day’s heat oppressed,
Through the evening rain:
So Thou comfortest the heart.
There, there all pain
Must pass away in the blink of an eye,
And the soul liveth through Thee.
Pour, Jesus, over me
Thy blood’s blessing!  

4. Ich gläube festiglich,
Und soll mich nichts von solchem Glauben kehren
Wenn meine Sünden grösser wären,
Als dein Verdienst, mein Jesu, ist,
So könnt ich dennoch nicht verderben.
Du würdest da vor mich,
Vor mich, zum andern mahle sterben.
Allein, da du einmahl gestorben bist,
Ist dein Verdienst unendlich groß und gut.
Und wären Millionen Welten,
So könt´ein eintz´ger Tropffen Blut
Für alle yur Versöhnung gelten.
Unmöglich ist, daß der verlohren bleibet,
Der Busse thut, and gläubet.  

4. I firmly believe,
And will not turn myself from such faith,
That if my sins were greater
Than Thy merit is, my Jesus,
Then I could nevertheless not perish.
Thou wouldest for me,
For me, die a second time.
Only, since Thou once hast died,
Thy satisfaction is unendlingly great and good,
And were there millions of worlds,
So could one single drop of blood
Count to reconcile them all. 
It is impossible, that he remains lost,
Who repents and believes.  

5. Jesus´ Hertze brennt voll Flammen.
Ihre Gluth ist Lieb´und Huld.
Meine Schuld
Kan mich nimmermehr verdammen.
Seine Treue küsset mich,
Und die süssen Lippen sprechen:
Laß dich keinen Kummer stechen.
Ich bezahle ganz vor dich.

5. Jesus’ heart burns full of flames.
Their embers are love and favor.
My guilt
Can nevermore condemn me.
His faithfulness kisses me,
And the sweet lips speak:
Let no worry prick thee.
I pay for thee entirely.  

6. Wo ist solch ein Gott, wie du bist; der die Sünde vergiebet, und erlässet die Missethat den übrigen seines Erbtheils, der seinen Yorn nich ewiglich behält. Denn er ist barmhertzig. Mich. VII, 18.

6. Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. Micah 7:18

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Rev. Mark Preus

Rev. Mark Preus is Pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Laramie, WY.

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