Gossner, Johannes Evangelista (1773-1858)

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Johannes Evangelista Gossner (b. 14 September 1773, d. 20 March 1858) was a Lutheran writer, born Catholic, who studied Catholic theology in Dillingen under Sailer, was in much contact with Protestants. Like Martin Boos he served as a Catholic priest in the same spirit in Dirlewang, Munich, and Düsseldorf.   Persecuted here by the Jesuits, he found a field of service by preaching in St. Petersburg, 1820-1824. As a fugitive he stayed briefly in Berlin, Altona, Leipzig, and Silesia. After preaching justification through faith for a long time, he joined the Protestants (1826). He founded the Berlin Missionsgesellschaft, which he led actively until his death. Widely known as a writer of devotional literature (tracts, hymnals, collections of sermons, etc.), Gossner was a guest in many Mennonite homes (Gem.-Kal. 1896, 92f.). Here two of his books were highly regarded:

(1) The Herzbüchlein oder das Herz des Menschen, ein Tempel Gottes oder eine Werkstatt des Satans in I0 Figuren sinnbildlich dargestellt zur Beförderung des christlichen Sinnes, published in 1812. Only the text was written by Gossner; the engravings are older.

(2) Schatzkästchen, enthaltend biblische Betrachtungen mit erbaulichen Liedern auf alle Tage im Jahre zur Beförderung häuslicher Andacht und Gottseligkeiit. This work is Gossner's best-known and most widely read book, the mature fruit of his life of faith, remarkably inspired by the medieval Mystics (Thomas à Kempis and Johann Tauler), by Tersteegen and Zinzendorf, its evangelistic character tested in the struggles with the Catholic Church, a warmly appealing testimony of "Christ for us and in us."

The Schatzkästchen came into being during Gossner's stay in Leipzig, the residence of Karl Tauchnitz, who printed many of his books. Dalton suggested (p. 276 f.) that its beginnings lay in the country home of the van der Smissens, the Mennonite merchant family, where Gossner is said to have resided in 1824 during his months in Altona, a surmise that the Gem.-Kal. (1896, 92 ff.) has taken up.

Gossner's relations with the Mennonite van der Smissens are significant. From them and the Wichern family he first sought counsel when he came to Altona (Prochnow II, p. 13); with them he took his first residence (Prochnow II, 29). The van der Smissens were leaders in religiously awakened circles, which were centered in the Moravian Brethren there (Dalton, 266). The head of the family was at that time Jakob Gysbert van der Smissen, and not the son, as Dalton (p. 266) supposes, but the father of Jakob van der Smissen, the pastor of the Mennonite church in Danzig 1826-1835 (Mannhardt, 162). The family chronicles report that Kissling, Jung-Stilling, and Lavater frequented his home; he was a co-founder of the Basler Sammlungen (Sammlungen für Liebhaber christlicher Wahrheit und Gottseligkeit), the organ of the Christentumsgesellschaft, which had also gained a footing in Altona; there a society known as the Particulargesellschaft had been formed (Ostertag, 34). The van der Smissen family already appears in Gossner's letters to Spittler, the business manager of die Christentumsgesellschaft in Basel in his Munich period (Prochnow I, 186, 208, 244). At the van der Smissen home Gossner met Merle d'Aubigne, the French Reformed pastor there (Dalton, 267f.).  Dalton names the family as the first recipient of the circle letter which Pastor Huber of Katharinenstadt (a member of the Christentumsgesellschaft) sent to Germany (Beiträge IV, 111). Gossner's writings were widely read by the Mennonites of Europe, as well as those of America, particularly those who came to America during the 19th century.


Dalton, Hermann. Johannes Goßner: ein Lebensbild aus der Kirche des 19. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: Verl. des Gossnerischen Missions-Vereins, 1874.

Dalton, Hermann, Beiträge zur Geschichte der evangelischen Kirche in Russland, 4 vols. Berlin, 1905.

Familien-Chronik der Familie van der Smissen. Danzig, 1875.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 145 f.

Mannhardt, H. G. Die Danziger Mennonitengemeinde. Danzig, 1919.

Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1896): 92-100.

Ostertag, Albert. Entstehungsgeschichte der evangelischen Missionsgesellschaft zu Basel. Basel: Missionhaus, 1865.

Prochnow, Johann Dettloff. Johannes Gossner, 2 vols. Berlin: Verl. d. Missions- u. Frauen-Kranken-Vereins, 1864-

Die Religion in Geschichte and Gegenwart, 2. ed., 5 vols. Tübingen: Mohr, 1927-1932: II, Col. 1311-1312.

Author(s) Walter Fellmann
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Fellmann, Walter. "Gossner, Johannes Evangelista (1773-1858)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 20 Apr 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gossner,_Johannes_Evangelista_(1773-1858)&oldid=94890.

APA style

Fellmann, Walter. (1956). Gossner, Johannes Evangelista (1773-1858). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 April 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gossner,_Johannes_Evangelista_(1773-1858)&oldid=94890.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 551-552. All rights reserved.

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