BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Life and letters of W.A. Passavant

by George Henry Gerberding



The Life of Dr. Passavant should have been given to the Church at least a decade ago. All good biography is history in the concrete. In the lives of God's eminent children we have most useful and delightful information for the mind, inspiration for the spirit, braces for our faith, stimuli for our hope and most effective incentives for our love. Such lives are lived for others. They are not over when those who lived them are gone, but being dead they yet speak. The stories of these saints are written for our inspiration, for our warning and for our comfort. If posterity is to have the benefit of such lives, their story must be written. It ought to be written while the memory of the heroes is still fresh and the heart still warm towards them. Few lives have been so eminently beautiful and attractive, so useful to others, so many-sided, so helpful to the Church and so signally owned of God as the life of Dr. Passavant.

The Rev. William A. Passavant, junior, the gifted and grateful son, had fully intended to write the story of that wonderful life. He had made considerable preparation. He was selecting and arranging the thousands of letters in hand when death came and stopped it all before he had written a page.

About five years ago the Author of this book was officially requested by the Passavant family and by the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses to undertake the work. On account of pressure of work in and for the Chicago Seminary he hesitated and at last after much urging reluctantly undertook the task. The Passavants put the accumulated letters of a lifetime and files of papers edited by the Doctor together with fragmentary journals and other documents at his disposal. As Dr. Passavant had preserved all his letters, there Was a very formidable mass of them. Detmar L. Passavant was specially helpful in gathering and chronologizing this vast correspondence.


The author's difficulty was not in any lack of material, but in the selecting of what was most needed for his purpose.

Dr. Passavant was an editor for fifty years. He wrote on almost every conceivable subject. What wealth of wisdom was here! What a tempting mass of material! Volumes of interesting, instructive and inspiring reading matter might be culled from what was before us. At every point the writer had to restrain himself. Again and again he cut out what had already gone into the manuscript. He tried to select and retain only what seemed necessary to the understanding of the man and his work. What was needed to throw light on his .character, his spirit, his inner life, his motives, his aims and achievements was retained. The man and the life were found a most absorbing study. Four summer vacations were spent on the manuscript, before it went to the publisher.

We present to our readers not merely our story of that Life. We offer the "Life and Letters," including under letters anything that he wrote. We have tried to make it an Autobiography rather than a Biography. As far as possible, we have made the Doctor tell his own story.

Dr. Passavant's Life covers a most important period of American Lutheran Church History. It was a formative period. He threw his whole great soul into the life and development of that part of his church which God, in His Providence, had planted first on our shores. That formative period was of necessity a period of searching, sounding and sifting. The old Church found herself in a new environment. In how far could she adapt herself to the new surroundings, without giving up her distinctive character and life? How could she become a proper child of her new motherland and do her part in the making and conserving of her new home? How could she become thoroughly American and yet remain thoroughly Lutheran ? Should she throw aside all her traditions, all her hallowed associations, repudiate her distinctive faith and life and be content to be recognized as one of the many American denominations, affiliate with them on grounds of equality and gradually lose her identity 1 These were the questions that had to be settled. Able and aggressive men took opposing sides. Controversy was inevitable. Dr. Passavant took his full share in the controversy. His life could not be written without going over some of these old controversies. The writer, being a friend and advocate of Lutheran Union on a proper basis, and not a partisan of any particular branch or organization in the church, being by nature a friend of peace rather than of polemics, regrets the necessity of the controversial statements and references. Facts, necessary to the understanding of our church, ought however to offend no one.

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