150. Todestag von Henry Craik

craik
Henry Craik (1805–1866)

Heute vor 150 Jahren starb in Clifton (einem Vorort von Bristol) der engste Freund und Mitarbeiter Georg Müllers, Henry Craik, im noch nicht sehr fortgeschrittenen Alter von 60 Jahren. Über sein Leben habe ich bereits 2010 einen Wikipedia-Artikel geschrieben, sodass ich hier auf einen biografischen Abriss verzichte;1 stattdessen möchte ich die Aufmerksamkeit auf die erstaunlich ausführliche Presseberichterstattung lenken, die sein Tod auslöste.

Die Bristoler Tageszeitung The Western Daily Press widmete Craik am 24. Januar 1866 gleich zwei lange Artikel. Auf Seite 2 hieß es unter der Rubrik “Topics of the Day”:

One of the most devoted, learned, and amiable labourers in the Christian vineyard, the Rev. Henry Craik, passed from his labours into eternal rest late on Monday evening, in this city. Under date March 29, 1832, there is the following entry in the Narrative of the deceased gentleman’s fellow-labourer, Mr Müller, so well known throughout the Christian world as the founder of the Ashley Down Asylum for Orphans: – “I went to Shaldon this morning; brother Craik has left for Bristol for four weeks. I think he will only return to take leave, and that the Lord will give him work there. [What a remarkable presentiment, which came to pass, concerning my beloved brother and fellow-labourer.]” From that period, if we except the short interval of leave-taking which Mr Craik spent with his former flock at Shaldon and Teignmouth, he has, until struck down by his last painful illness, devoted himself to the work of the Christian ministry in Bristol with a zeal which nothing could damp; and we only state the simple truth when we say that while he was beloved by the people who had the benefit of his ministrations he won by his pure, consistent, Christian life, and by the devotion with which he threw all his energies into the performance of his work, the warmest esteem and the deepest respect of persons of all creeds capable of appreciating worth of more than an ordinarily rare kind. In another column a narrative of Mr Craik’s life will be found. It is necessarily imperfect, as indeed it is impossible to do justice to such a life within the brief limits of a newspaper article. He laboured long in this city, and the spirit in which he laboured and the faith with which he rested upon the promises of the Master, whom he served for the means necessary to enable him to prosecute his labours, were purely apostolic. Ever since, and for some time before, he came to Bristol, Mr Craik, like the colleague who now mourns his loss, depended for his living upon the willingness of the people to whom he ministered. With a faith which we need not say is rarely exhibited in these doubting days, he trusted not in man, but in God, for the “food and raiment” which he required. The dominant thought of his life was not how he might increase his store of the goods of this world, but how he could best promote the spiritual interests of his fellow-men. One, if not more than one, of the universities of his native country, on two occasions, offered him, as a mark of appreciation of his rare scholarship, the degree of D.D., but on both occasions he declined the honour. His modesty was as conspicuous as his worth, and his memory will dwell long in the hearts of all who had the privilege of his acquaintance.

Das angekündigte Lebensbild folgte auf Seite 3:

DEATH OF REV. HENRY CRAIK.

Our readers will receive this announcement, we feel sure, with deep and unfeigned sorrow. A truly good man – a great man, in the sense of high intellectual as well as high moral qualities – has been removed from us, after 34 years’ service as a devoted Christian minister in this city. Mr Craik’s death was not unexpected. A painful illness had confined him for several months to his house. In the summer, when upon an excursion in Scotland, the symptoms of a wasting internal disorder became apparent by increased feebleness and incapacity for study. Medical advice was sought; but it was not until he returned home to his residence in Hampton Park, Redland, and had consulted his own medical attendant (Mr Burleigh), along with Dr. Symonds, that a correct diagnosis was obtained. It was then found that Mr Craik was suffering from collapse of the pylorus – a disease always dangerous and difficult of cure, and one which soon showed the usual effects in his case. When the writer saw him, some three months since, he was painfully struck by the sad change in Mr Craik’s appearance. Although he was then able to drive out a little, he was a mere shadow of his former self; he was debarred from reading – a severe deprivation of one of his chief pleasures – he could not even bear the excitement of another reading to him, except at infrequent intervals, and he seemed altogether like a man who was slowly nearing the last stage of decay and dissolution. Yet his old cheerfulness and geniality were but slightly diminished; while his confidence in the end, his faith, his hope, were expressed in the same unaffected, unfaltering, manly tone and manner which always characterised him. To meet death was not to meet an enemy of whom he was afraid – it was to meet the conqueror of death, the Master whom he had served so lovingly, so cheerfully, and so acceptably, as many can testify in this city and elsewhere. Mr Craik lingered on, gradually growing weaker and weaker, until Monday night, when he died very calmly and peacefully. About nine o’clock a change was observed by his family, and an intimate friend and neighbour (Mr Charles Lemon) was sent for. The pulse was found to be gradually falling, and at 11.23 it ceased. It is common enough to praise men when they are dead, and to indulge indiscriminate laudations of them. Of all this Mr Craik had an instinctive abhorrence. Himself without a particle of pride or affectation – although he had, being among the first linguists in England, much to be proud of – he turned with surprise and regret at the assumption of superiority in others, especially when he knew, as he easily could know, that it was pretentious and unwarranted. We are only employing, however, the language of truth and soberness, when we say that Henry Craik’s religion was of the loftiest and purest description – that it was untarnished by worldly considerations, and that it combined as much of the spiritual and human nature in felicitous proportion as we have ever found or expect to find again. His very simplicity and child-like trustfulness charmed all classes. His piety, never ostentatious, never bordering upon personal merit, was so transparent that you could not help feeling and recognising its power and influence. The priestly character he could not assume, nor the perfunctory style of duty which some who disown the title of priest are apt to fall into. His whole life, his very soul, he gave entirely to the service of his Master and the welfare of his fellow-creatures. As he lived, so he died, in faith and hope. Who that knew him doubts his destiny? Of some men we may have doubts – of Henry Craik we can think only as we think of the saints and martyrs who walked for a while upon earth in a pilgrim’s journey to Heaven. Thousands will sorrow after him – his bereaved flock, and especially his self-sacrificing colleague, Mr George Muller, with whom he commenced his ministry in Bristol, and who regarded him in the truest sense as a brother. By the whole Christian community of this great city his memory will be cherished with affection, his character will be reverenced, and his life and labours will long be remembered with admiration and gratitude.

By the first part of Mr Muller’s “Narrative,” we find that Mr Craik left Teignmouth, where he then was a minister among “The Brethren,”2 for Bristol, on a visit of four weeks, on the 29th March, 1832. Mr Muller states that “it was there [Teignmouth] that I became (in 1829) acquainted with my beloved brother, friend, and present fellow-labourer, Henry Craik.” Mr Muller, at Mr Craik’s solicitations, followed him to Bristol, and on the 22nd April preached at Gideon Chapel, then occupied by the Brethren.3 It is well known that these remarkable men made a wonderful impression during this their first visit to the city. An entry of the “Narrative,” dated April 29, 1832, says: – “Brother Craik preached this evening at Gideon for the last time previous to our going. The aisles, the pulpit stairs, and the vestry were filled, and multitudes went away on account of the want of room.” The next entry, May 15, shows the decision to accept the invitation to settle in Bristol. “Just when I was in prayer,” writes Mr Muller, “concerning Bristol, I was sent for to come to brother Craik. Two letters had arrived from Bristol. The brethren assembling at Gideon accept our offer to come, under the conditions we have made, i.e., for the present to consider us only as ministering among them, but not in any fixed pastoral relationship, so that we may preach as we consider it to be according to the mind of God, without reference to any rules among them; that the pew-rents should be done away with; and that we should go on, respecting the supply of our temporal wants, as in Devonshire.” This last sentence means a great deal. In Devonshire these truly apostolic men literally laboured “without money and without price.” Occasionally they were reduced to such straits as to have neither money nor food; yet their wants were always supplied, without appealing for aid to friends or neighbours. They made no bargain in Bristol for salaries or residences. “A cheap lodging” at 18s a-week, consisting of two sitting-rooms and three bed-rooms, was deemed sufficient for them and their families. It was the year of the cholera, and during four months they held every morning a prayer meeting at Gideon, from six to eight o’clock, at which from two to three hundred people were present. Mr Muller says: “Though brother Craik and I visited many cholera cases, by day and by night, yet the Lord most graciously preserved our families from it.” That Mr Muller fully estimated Mr Craik’s preaching power may be seen by an entry of Oct. 1st, 1833: – “Many more are convinced of sin through brother Craik’s preaching than my own. This circumstance led me to inquire into the reasons, which are probably these: – 1. That brother Craik is more spiritually minded than I am. 2. That he prays more earnestly for the conversion of sinners than I do. 3. That he more frequently addresses sinners, as such, in his public ministrations, than I do.” Mr Craik’s preaching drew a large and intelligent congregation to Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street – this place of worship having been secured when Gideon was found inadequate. It was not popular preaching, being deficient in manner and style, and without any of the gaudy rhetoric which is commonly relied on to fill chapels. Mr Craik had but one object in view – to instruct and impress his hearers, and in this he always succeeded. No one could complain that Mr Craik did not understand the text on which he preached. Whatever the subject might be Mr Craik was certain to master it thoroughly. His language was chaste and scholarly. Words singularly forcible and apposite were employed to convey his meaning upon topics to which he had given special attention. Frequently there was much warmth, always great earnestness, in his pulpit addresses and his prayers. Many thoughtful and pious members of the Church of England were drawn to Bethesda Chapel on the Sunday evenings to hear Mr Craik, and were not the least sincere among his numerous admirers. Mr Craik also preached, alternately with Mr Muller, at Salem Chapel.

Our own idea is, that Mr Craik’s forte was the professor’s chair rather than the pulpit. As a Hebraist he had few equals, still fewer could be named as his superiors; and among his friends and correspondents were some of the first scholars and divines of the day, including our own diocesan (Bishop Ellicott), with whom a strong intimacy was maintained, – the Bishop being fully alive to the extent and variety of Mr Craik’s learning and ability. Mr Craik had been a pupil, at Edinburgh University, of the late Dr. Chalmers, and was educated as a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, in which his brother (Rev. Dr. Craik, of Glasgow) occupies a conspicuous position. But the trammels of Presbyterianism were over much for him, and he became a decided Nonconformist, embracing the Congregational form of church polity. His habits, however, were too retiring to allow him to mingle in controversial strife. Only once do we remember his appearing in public to give his views on the connexion of Church and State. It was in 1860, at the Broadmead Rooms. A correspondence followed in these columns, his opponent being a well-known clergyman who figured on the same side at the July election of members of Parliament.

Mr Craik, while an active pastor, was also a frequent writer. His principal works are: “Principia Hebraica;” “The Distinguishing Characteristics and Essential Relationships of the Leading Languages of Asia and Europe;” “The Hebrew Language, its History and Characteristics;” “Hints and Suggestions on the Proposed Revision of our English Bible;” “Reply to certain Misrepresentations contained in Essays and Reviews;” “Pastoral Letters;” “An Amended Translation of the Epistle to the Hebrews;” “The Popery of Protestantism,” &c.

We understand that Mr Craik kept a diary, in which he has given the leading events of his interesting career, his correspondence and intercourse with eminent men of his time, and an account of the establishing of that great national institution, the Ashley Down Orphan Houses. This will shortly be published, we believe, and will form a valuable history of the thirty-four years’ life and labours of Mr Muller and Mr Craik – two of the most remarkable men, two of the most honoured servants of the Church of Christ, who have ever appeared in this or any other country.

Auf derselben Seite findet sich unter der Rubrik “Deaths” noch folgende knappe Notiz:

On the 22nd inst., at Holyrood Villa, Hampton Park, Clifton, the Rev. HENRY CRAIK, deeply and sincerely regretted by a wide circle of friends and admirers.

Über Craiks Beerdigung am 30. Januar erschien in der Western Daily Press ebenfalls ein ausführlicher Bericht, den ich mir für einen separaten Blogeintrag aufhebe.


Anmerkungen:

  1. Weitere online verfügbare Lebensbilder Craiks sind der englischsprachige Wikipedia-Artikel und das Kapitel aus Pickerings Chief Men among the Brethren, verfasst von einem gewissen J. L. S.
  2. Hier irrt der Autor; Craiks Gemeinde in Shaldon (nicht Teignmouth) war eine Baptistengemeinde.
  3. Auch diese Angabe ist zu korrigieren; Gideon Chapel war damals noch eine unabhängige kongregationalistische Gemeinde.

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