Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrugge (1803-1875): A Comforter Of Mourners -- By: Pieter DeVries

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:1 (Jan 2014)
Article: Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrugge (1803-1875): A Comforter Of Mourners
Author: Pieter DeVries


Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrugge (1803-1875): A Comforter Of Mourners

Pieter Devries

Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrugge was one of the greatest theologians produced by the Netherlands. He has been characterized as an irregular theologian because he did not write a systematic theology; apart from his doctoral dissertation, he wrote only a few minor theological treatises. But Kohlbrugge’s theology can be derived from the many sermons he preached and that were published during his lifetime and after his death. Besides his sermons, he wrote three catechisms in the form of questions and answers, which also help us understand his theological position. Kohlbrugge’s life was full of sorrows and disappointments, revealing the truth of the apostolic principle: “death works in me and life in you.” This article aims to show that Kohlbrugge was a real comfort to mourners, for he knew by experience that the Word of God holds the power of God for salvation. This he ministered to others.

Background And Conversion

Kohlbrugge was born in 1803 in Amsterdam. His forefathers had come from Germany to Amsterdam because of the city’s many commercial activities. Kohlbrugge’s parents were members of the Restored Evangelical Lutheran Church, which had seceded from the Evangelical Lutheran Church because of its increasing liberalism. The Restored Evangelical Lutheran Church was centered mainly in Amsterdam. Since the Reformation, a small Lutheran Church had existed in the Netherlands, but the group swelled in numbers because of the many German immigrants. Kohlbrugge’s mother originally belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church, the national Reformed church of the Netherlands, which, until 1795, was protected and supported by the government.

As a young boy, Frits Kohlbrugge often stayed with his grandmother, Anna van Teerhuis-van der Horst. She told her grandson about the need for salvation, using the pictures of The Pilgrim’s Progress that were painted on the tiles of the hearth and chimney. After finishing secondary school, Kohlbrugge began studying theology at the University of Amsterdam. During his studies, he embraced a kind of Platonized version of Christianity. However, when he had almost finished his studies, Kohlbrugge felt more and more distressed. He sought help in the writings of mystical theologians but could not find it.

While he was preparing his first sermon (based on Romans 5:1) in 1825, Kohlbrugge was brought by the Lord to a saving knowledge of Christ. He said the Lord gave him faith and assurance in a moment, like lightning. “No matter how much I tried to attain it, I found no power in myself to turn myself to God, no...

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