Paul Gerhard (1607-1676) is not only one of Lutheranism's most prolific hymn writers. He is also one of Lutheranism's most profound and faithful hymn writers. The following piece explores Gerhardt's life, theology, and work.
Those at the feet of Dr. Luther appreciate the specific preacher, that is, the preacher who does not dwell on niceties and generalities that could be true of all religions, one who does not simply repeat biblical words but who says what these words mean “for you,” thus applying God’s unchanging law and gospel concretely and faithfully to his congregation. Tua res agitur, someone once said: your case is before the Judge now.
In our age, one can often hear in sermons “God loves you.” Who this God is, what his love is, and who “you” is – these key questions are left unanswered, or, they are left for the pious ego (a mask of the old Adam) to answer. And the old Adam will answer them. Often one can hear “we are saved by Christ” – the questions who, how, when, why, and from what are again many a time left for the listeners to answer.
To be sure, dwelling on the generic, or even simply repeating the text, is safe and even seems to be very ecumenical. After all, that God loves us and that we are saved by Christ is true indeed. And somehow all Christians of whatever creed, along with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe these things, somehow at least. So speaking in generalities promotes love and understanding between people, so it seems; it does not hurt anyone’s feelings. Today, that is often the highest good. However, for those who have come to appreciate Luther’s concreteness responding to the Catechism’s “What does this mean?” something important is missing. To put it harshly, words are repeated without having their meaning expounded; they remain meaning-less, blind. The old Adam is left in peace.
Judging by his many poems (137 in German and 15 in Latin) – only four (funeral) sermons have been preserved – Paul Gerhardt, who was born on March 12, 1607, was a genuine Lutheran preacher. He spoke the truth faithfully and concretely. Under Gerhardt’s artful pen and by God’s grace, God’s word in law and gospel appears as a well-cut diamond, every priceless facet of which is carefully showcased in his multi-stanza poems to glorify the triune God alone and to comfort the sinner by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ alone.
 Gerhardt's Education in the Liberal Arts, Lutheran Theology, and the School of Experience
 The Liberal Arts: Rhetoric, Poetry, and Music
In addition to God’s grace, three factors account for the great Lutheran poet-preacher Paul Gerhardt. The first was that Gerhardt was trained well in the liberal arts: rhetoric, poetry, and music. This training he received both at the Fürstenschule, the Count’s School, at Grimma, and at the University of Wittenberg. The former was a prep school for civil servants and ministers established in Philip Melanchthon’s spirit of Christian humanism. Gerhardt attended this school between 1622 and 1627, during the first years of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). The latter – Gerhardt attended Wittenberg beginning in 1628 – continued to be the preeminent Lutheran institution of higher learning in Europe – and that meant at the time: in the whole world – not only for theology but also for the liberal arts. During Gerhardt’s enrollment, August Buchner (1591-1661) taught rhetoric and poetry there. Buchner’s influence on German Baroque poetry both secular and religious, in the judgment of some, cannot be overestimated.
Poetry at the time of Gerhardt certainly did not work without “creativity” on part of the poet – it was called “invention” and had to do with “finding” the subject matter of the poem. However, his ideas had to be expressed within a certain formal framework that also did justice to the specific occasion of the poem, including its “audience.” Poetry, much like music, was considered a craft with rules that could be learned and applied more or less skillfully. Gerhardt’s German Christian poems hold up to the best secular poems of the day – such is his mastery of the rules of poetry.
Baroque poetry was not primarily a vehicle for self-expression; poetry as an applied, practical form of art was there to teach. This made it of course very well suited for Christian poetry which could then easily be set to music to yield good, catechetical hymns. Additionally, the “new poetry” of the day, promoted by Martin Opitz (1597-1639) and Buchner, demanded that the emphasis in word and verse foot had to coincide: e.g., a word, or syllable, lacking natural emphasis has to be at a position in the verse where it is not emphasized either. This makes for very “natural-sounding” poetry.
Baroque poetry is thus another instance in which humanistic learning, by God’s grace, was utilized as a vehicle for orthodox Lutheran theology. Luther and his followers embraced the humanistic ideal of music according to which music – newly classified as a rhetorical and not a numerical art – had to serve the word by following it in a natural fashion. Gerhardt and others embraced the humanistic ideal of poetry according to which the verse structure and the natural word structure had to agree. Others fruitfully mined biblical but also classical rhetoric for preaching.
In these cases, specific contemporary expressions of culture were deemed suitable for the Church due to their affinity to the Church’s core doctrine, salvation by faith in the word of Christ’s gospel (fides ex auditu, Rom. 10:17). These forms were then also used in a very artful way. The ideal Lutheran hymn, e.g., is thus doubly word-centered, both as to its texts and as to its music. The Lutheran hymn is, in other words, an artistic expression of John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word.” It is also a highly interesting exercise in the congruence of nature (creation, law) and grace (word, gospel).
When Gerhardt, during the 1640s, spent some time in Berlin as a private tutor, the cantor at St. Nicholas in Berlin, Johann Crüger (1598-1662), who was one of the leading church musicians of the day, “discovered” Gerhardt’s poems and, by setting them to music, made hymns out of them. While Gerhardt served as pastor at St. Nicholas (1657-1666/67), he and Crüger worked at the same congregation. After Crüger’s death, Gerhardt continued this cooperation with the new cantor, Johann Georg Ebeling (1637-1676).
 Theological Training
The second factor accounting for the phenomenon Gerhardt was his solid theological training which he received again both at Grimma and at Wittenberg. Already at the prep school both future civil servants and future ministers were carefully trained in orthodox Lutheran theology which provided the framework for the study of the liberal arts. This framework led Gerhardt and others to appreciate properly the value of classical learning as belonging to the gifts of the First Article of the Creed. Lutheran theology was imparted to the students living in a secularized monastery by means of Scripture, Luther’s Catechism, and Leonhard Hutter’s 1610 Compendium.
In Wittenberg, from 1628 on, Gerhardt studied with Paul Röber (1587-1651), a famous preacher and lover of music and singing, who succeeded L. Hutter (1563-1616) and who, in 1650, was succeeded by famous Abraham Calov (1612-1686) with whom Gerhardt corresponded later on. Here Gerhardt completed his thorough theological education whose biblical contents he, following to the rules of Baroque poetry, translated into vernacular poems that are accessible for the average congregant without being folksy, condescending, or simply devoid of doctrine.
 The School of Experience: Cross-Bearing
A third and final element accounts for the Lutheran greatness of Gerhardt’s poems. Having been schooled in the liberal arts and in theology, Gerhardt – as countless others during the Thirty Years War – was enrolled by God in the school of Christian life and experience under the cross of Christ, his Savior. In other words, along with much oratio and meditatio, there was also an abundant measure of tentatio in Gerhardt’s life. And as Luther taught, tentatio makes the gospel all the more precious for the believer. Long, specific poems teaching God’s word in law and gospel are the Spirit-wrought response to hardships. In other words, these poems brimming with detail are thus not only a reflection of the encyclopedic spirit of the age of Baroque we also see in the voluminous dogmatic writings of the age. By offering a maximum of nourishment out of the gospel’s every breadcrumb, they are first of all priceless spiritual sustenance for those who, like Gerhardt, travel through the valley of death, who here sow in tears to reap there in rejoicing.
The main tentationes making up the grain of Gerhardt’s cross are, on the personal level: In 1619, Gerhardt’s father Christian dies; his mother Dorothea dies in 1621. In 1637, Gerhardt’s hometown Gräfenhainichen near Wittenberg is destroyed by the Swedish army; in the fall of that year, Gerhardt’s brother, Christian, dies there of the plague. After marrying Anna Marie Berthold in 1655 in Berlin, four of Gerhardt’s five children die within their first year; 1668 his wife dies after having been seriously ill for six years.
On the “official” level, Gerhardt, urged by the (Reformed) Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg (1620-1688), participates in fruitless union talks between Lutherans and Calvinists in 1662/63. In 1664, the elector – understandable after the devastations wrought by the Thirty Years War – issues an edict of “tolerance” between Lutherans and the Reformed which is to be signed by all pastors and aims at silencing Lutheran polemics against the Reformed and at eliminating the Formula of Concord as Lutheran symbol in Brandenburg. The few confessors who, strengthened in their resistance by Gerhardt, refuse to sign are exiled. Gerhard who, having subscribed to the Book of Concord when he was ordained in 1651, also refuses to sign and is relieved of his office first temporarily in 1666 and then permanently in 1667. He leaves Berlin in 1668 after receiving a call to a congregation in Lübben, in Lutheran Electoral Saxony, which he serves till his death in 1676.
 Gerhardt's Poetry: The Example of "O Lord, How Shall I Meet You"
What kind of “sermons” or, as J. G. Ebeling called them, “spiritual devotions” resulted from his threefold training? Generally speaking, Gerhardt’s poems teach the triune God and his work in the course of the church year. They teach Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as creation (including “times and seasons” and friendship), redemption, and sanctification. They extol the Christian’s daily vocations, especially holy matrimony. They call to repentance and express well-founded gratitude and praise. They prepare the Christian to face death and God’s judgment confidently. They comfort him under the cross. They are proclamation and prayer, sacrament and sacrifice. – In other words, they cover, and are part of, the whole range of Lutheran doctrine and piety without ever being dry, impersonal, “dead orthodox,” or shallow.
One specific example must suffice here. It is Gerhardt’s famous Advent hymn, O Lord, How Shall I Meet You (LW 19, TLH 58, LSB 334). This poem in ten stanzas is about the threefold coming of Jesus Christ into the world: to win the world’s salvation on the cross; to distribute this salvation to the individual believer; and to judge the nations. Interestingly, the hymn is not structured chronologically. It does not begin with the first advent of Christ to save the world. It begins with Christ’s saving advent in the believer, “in me.” Hence the question: “O Lord, how shall I meet you?” The gospel’s distributive “for you” reappears here in faith’s appropriating “for me.” The theme of Christ’s coming “to me” continues in the first stanza, where the anxious question – How shall I meet the Desire of the nations (Hag. 2:7), my soul’s crown? – is answered with a confident petition: “Jesu, Jesu, you himself give me light so that I know what pleases you,” a clear reference to God’s bright word (Ps. 119:105).
The second stanza then spells out what are the things that please the Lord: as Jesus is welcomed in Zion with palms, so the believer welcomes him with wholehearted psalms of praise and works of service. Obviously, these biblical offerings of the believer are not the things that force Christ to come down; they rather take place spontaneously when Christ freely and lovingly comes, as stanzas five and seven clearly indicate (see below). Gerhardt here intertwines the first advent with Christ’s advent in the believer. Both events take place in the present. In fact, the next three stanzas (three to five in the original) are the only stanzas that have a reference to the past in them. Stanza three sings: “What have you left undone … when my body and soul sat in greatest distress? When the Kingdom was taken from me… then you came and made me glad.” But already stanza four, while leaving my sin in the past – “I lay in fetters groaning …; I stood in shame and ridicule” – proclaims Christ’s work as present: “you come and make me free … you come and make me great and lift me up to glory and give me great good which cannot be used up like earthly treasures.” The fifth stanza, proclaiming the reason for Christ’s saving advent to earth – nothing but his “beloved loving” – again speaks in perfect terms but so as to describe the present state brought about by Christ’s work: his free love now holds the whole world with all its thousands of hardships and unspeakable groaning and lamenting. Christ’s first advent is not an event locked up in some remote past; as present in the word, it remains relevant today – for the world as well as for the individual believer under the cross. Here one can also see that the light of God’s word for Gerhardt is clearly not just information about what we ought to do, but first also judgment and salvation.
The singer now presents the gospel to his fellow Christians – how fitting for congregational song: the members of the priesthood comforting each other with Christ’s gospel (Col. 3:16) – who make up with him a deeply sorrowful host: “write this into your heart and be joyful despite your sadness and pain – your Help is just outside the door, ready to nourish and comfort your hearts!” Again, the presence of the gospel is evident. The seventh, eighth and ninth stanzas contradict the things that contradict the gospel of Christ’s present, gracious coming: the desire to draw him down by one’s own might; one’s sin; and one’s enemies. One must not try to pull him down (Rom. 10:6) – he comes, he comes willingly of his own accord. One must not fear one’s sin – he comes, he comes to comfort sinners and preserve them to the end. One must not fear the screaming and cunning of the enemies – he comes, he comes, a King (Zech. 9:9; Mat. 21:5), against whom no enemies prevail.
And with this, the second-last stanza, still proclaimed in present tense, Gerhardt turns to this diamond’s final facet: Christ as the coming Judge of the world who will curse who curses him but who comes with grace and sweet light to those who love and seek him. This stanza and hymn ends with the expectant cry of the church (cf. Rev. 22:20 with Mal. 4:2; Rev. 21:23): “oh come, oh come, O Sun, and take us altogether to the eternal light and joy in your halls of gladness.”
Gerhardt’s sermon in ten stanzas offers an abundance of both law and gospel that both rhetorically and theologically engages the singer and listener. He speaks of man’s sin, frequently also of man’s suffering and anxiety as consequences of sin. This clear praedicatio legis verbalis et realis is countered by the concrete comforting coming of Christ the Savior whom the poem, adorned with a goodly number of biblical, catechetical, and liturgical references, presents in various ways to the penitent and fainthearted. This hymn is therefore a fine example of pastoral care through poetic preaching. It is an example of Paul Gerhardt’s work as faithful and specific preacher. We should not only give thanks to God for such an outstanding teacher of the church; we should also, as much as we can, learn from him. We can only benefit from becoming again well-versed in genuine liberal arts and in genuine theology and in genuine cross-bearing. Many a misguided form of enculturation of the gospel that compromises its content would thus be avoided.
- ↑ Cf. Ch. Bunners, Paul Gerhardt: Weg, Werk, Wirkung (Berlin: Union, 1993), 62, 141, 265. The sermons have been published in Paul Gerhardt: Dichtungen und Schriften, ed. E. von Cranach-Sichart (Munich: P. Müller, 1957), 395-467.
- ↑ J. A. Steiger, “Rhetorica sacra seu biblica: Johann Matthäus Meyfart (1590-1642) und die Defizite der heutigen rhetorischen Homiletik,” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 92 (1995): 533 points to the great significance of the fact that after the Reformation rhetoric – based on a careful study of biblical and classical rhetoric – was taught at high schools. This brought about a popularization of rhetoric which was furthered by its deliberate use in preaching where it reached and shaped virtually all classes. Cf. W. Barner, Barockrhetorik: Untersuchungen zu ihren geschichtlichen Grundlagen (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1970), 258-320 with interesting details about the teaching of rhetoric (including theater) at Protestant high schools during the age of Baroque (roughly the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy). The importance of rhetoric in religious education – on the Catholic side at Jesuit schools (ibid., 321-366) – shows, according to Barner, the high profile of religion in the public life of the time (ibid., 80f.).
- ↑ Cf. Bunners, Paul Gerhardt, 28-45.
- ↑ Gerhardt’s hymns, written for the average churchgoer, are best classified as belonging to the “lowest” of the three Baroque styles of poetry which purposely and artfully employed day-to-day language and simple figures of speech and aims at teaching and delighting the hearers, not at moving them, which was reserved for the highest style, cf. J. Dyck, Ticht-Kunst: Deutsche Barockpoetik und rhetorische Tradition, 3rd, enl. ed. (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1991), 94f. and Bunners, Paul Gerhardt, 250, who traces the art of sermo humilis back to Augustine. These differences in style obviously need to be considered when translating Gerhardt into English or any other language.
- ↑ Cf. A. Buchner’s definition of the office of the poet (Kurzer Wegweiser zur deutschen Tichtkunst (1663; reprint, Leipzig: Zentralantiquariat der DDR, 1977), 27f.) whose duty it is to depict reality like a painter in order to delight and to teach. In distinction from the philosopher who researches all things (not only depicts them) and then speaks truth in an often unappealing way, the poet should strive to present his subject matters gracefully and delightfully as well as usefully and instructively (ibid.). Secular poetry thus operated in a “scientific” (philosophical) and aesthetic framework; religious poetry, one would think, should operate within a theological and aesthetic frame of reference. Barner, Barockrhetorik, 75, points out that the explicit purposefulness of Baroque poetry is the key feature that connects it to rhetoric but that also makes it deeply suspect to post-Baroque theoreticians of poetry.
- ↑ Representative of the program behind Lutheran hymnody is Melanchthon’s brief remark (Apology XXIV, 3, ed. Kolb-Wengert): “We also use German hymns in order that the [common] people might have something to learn, something that will arouse their faith and fear.” Lutheran hymns teach God’s word in law and gospel to God’s people.
- ↑ Cf. Optiz, Buch von der deutschen Poeterey (1624; reprint, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1963), 37f., where he observes that this ancient Latin practice had originally not been observed by him or his contemporaries.
- ↑ In other words, it was shifted from the old quadrivium to the trivium.
- ↑ Cf. R. Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1:550, 566, 612ff., 769ff., who, on the one hand, points out the basic Aristotelian-humanist approach early Lutherans took when it came to church music (primacy of doctrinal text; modesty of musical means employed) and who, on the other hand, shows how the Catholic Counter Reformation, after a brief and inconsequential “Aristotelian” interlude (Trent, Palestrina), practically reverted back to the middle ages, only now using the more powerful musical tools of the 17th century (the text disappears behind exciting carpets of mainly instrumental sounds). It seems obvious – Taruskin does not make that exact point though he suggests it by pointing to the experiential, ecstatic mysticism of Teresa de Avila (1515-1582) representative of the age – that here deep differences in the understanding of the importance of God’s word in the church surface. The word is drowned out when the ears are deafened with graphic, “visual” music; the latter makes the church part of the “visual” kingdom of this world which is opposed to the “aural” kingdom the church is meant to be, given the primacy of the word and faith in it (cf. Luther, WA 51:11). Counter Reformation’s entertaining services were attended by large numbers of people; Taruskin therefore considers them to be the first public concerts in Western history.
- ↑ Even as cultural forms change, this approach during the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy remains exemplary today: doctrine decides which contemporary cultural forms – culture can be defined as a totality of expressions of love geared towards serving the neighbor – are appropriate and where these need to be transformed. Luther and Gerhardt thus did not simply embrace any and all expressions of contemporary culture for the sake of mass appeal. The formation of the Christian, outlined by Luther and Melanchthon, is “holistic;” it embraces both body and soul, faith and love. This led them to make critical distinctions – not only when it came to doctrine (faith), but also when it came to culture (love shaped by (the) faith – caritas fide formata, cf. Luther, AE 27:29): Some cultural expressions belong in the world, others belong in the church. – Steiger, “Rhetorica sacra,” 526, shows analogously how Luther (cf. AE 27:23-24) coordinates dialectic and rhetoric in the way faith relates to hope: the former cannot be without the latter, and the former provides the formative contents for the latter. When, as Luther put it following the Roman orator Quintilian, “words originate in the mouth,” informed eloquence is perverted into empty loquaciousness (cf. AE 3:73). For Gerhardt’s contemporaries, poetry and rhetoric were two sides of the same coin, cf. Dyck, Ticht-Kunst, 25ff.
- ↑ As O. Bayer, Schöpfung als Anrede, 2nd ed., enl. (Tübingen: Mohr, 1990), 70f., has shown, part of Luther’s “natural theology” is the understanding that, for the Christian who has his eyes opened by Scripture, “everything is full of bible.” This is to say that God continues to use his creation to preach not just the law but also the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15:36ff.). Since Luther explicitly mentions the workshop in this context, “creation” thus by no means is limited to “nature” in the narrow sense. The crafts (and the arts, especially “artistic music,” cf. AE 53:324), even in their “secular” forms, are God’s preaching too when they are properly done. – This seems to suggest that at the bottom of “worship wars” and similar contemporary controversies are differences in the understanding of creation, also as to how it relates to the gospel, which lead to different uses of the liberal arts.
- ↑ According to Ch. Bunners in G. Bassewitz, Ch. Bunners, Auf Paul Gerhardts Spuren (Hamburg: Ellert & Richter, 1996), 40f., 94, the 1647 edition of Crüger’s Praxis Pietatis Melica, a hymnal for church and the home influenced by Johann Arndt (1555-1621), offers 18 poems written by Gerhardt set to Crüger’s own music. The 1653 edition already contained 82 Gerhardt poems. The 1661 (10th) edition contained 90 of his works. LW 19, 39, 119, 128, and 184 are examples of the Gerhardt-Crüger cooperation. Ebeling published 120 of Gerhardt’s poems set to new music under the title Geistliche Andachten (Spiritual Devotions) in 1666/67 (e.g., LW 419, 423), the time when both left Berlin.
- ↑ L. Hutter, Compendium locorum theologicorum, ed. W. Trillhaas (1610; reprint, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1961). This Latin booklet divided in 34 loci was specifically written for schools like the one at Grimma and had to be memorized by the students. In this way, it led the student from the Small Catechism to the larger works of the dogmaticians which, at the time, were also organized in loci, as, e.g., Johann Gerhard’s doctrinal opus magnum shows.
- ↑ In 1662, Calov’s polemics against the Reformed led the elector of Brandenburg to bar his Lutheran subjects from studying in Wittenberg (see note 18 below).
- ↑ Cf. Luther’s famous saying: “Thirdly, there is tentatio, Anfechtung. This is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom” (AE 34:286-87).
- ↑ The ideal Baroque poet was, like his classical predecessor and the contemporary rhetorician, the erudite man who displayed his learning in his poems, not only to garner social recognition, but to teach it to others in a pleasant way, cf. Optiz, Deutsche Poeterey, 10: poetry embraces all the sciences. The post-Baroque critics saw the cosmopolitan learning of their predecessors as something quite sterile, unnatural, and elitist, cf. Barner, Barockrhetorik, 220-238. The knee-jerk rejection against theological Baroque literature due to its alleged sterility is thus neither new nor a uniquely “theological” problem.
- ↑ Cf. Bunners, Paul Gerhardt, 75-107. The best and most detailed contribution on the theological controversies involving Gerhardt in Berlin is that by G. Krispin, “Paul Gerhardt: Confessional Subscription and the Lord’s Supper,” Logia IV, 3 (Trinity 1995): 25-38.
- ↑ It was in this context that Gerhardt made his famous remark that he recognized neither the Reformed nor the Papists as fellow Christians. As Bunners, Paul Gerhardt, 88f., points out, the important qualifications made by Gerhardt are often omitted: Gerhardt, according to a wider definition of “Christian” (baptized, confessing Jesus as Messiah and Savior of the world), did consider Reformed and Papists as Christians. Yet according to a narrow definition (having the true saving faith pure and unadulterated, showing the fruits of faith in one’s life), he regard neither Calvinists nor Papists as Christians. Like Luther (cf. AE 38:70f., 304), he acted on the latter, narrower definition when it came to matters of church fellowship. It is worth noting that Gerhardt remained on an “external,” verifiable level for both his narrow and wide definitions. The distinction between “visible” and “invisible” church was not invoked; he rather seemed to distinguish between the true visible church (Lutheran) and false visible churches (Calvinists and Papists) which correspond to true Christians and false Christians. Cf. also Krispin, “Paul Gerhardt,” 26. – It is also worth noting that the elector, already in 1662, had barred his subjects from studying theology and philosophy in Wittenberg due to sustained anti-syncretistic polemics of Prof. Abraham Calov, a native of solidly Lutheran East Prussia, which was the first part of the elector’s realm where he, in the 1650s, sought to spread his Reformed faith with the help of Calixtine syncretists, cf. J. Wallmann, “Abraham Calov – theologischer Widerpart der Religionspolitik des Großen Kurfürsten,” in 700 Jahre Wittenberg: Stadt, Universität, Reformation, ed. S. Oehmig (Weimar: Böhlaus Nachf., 1995), 309f.
- ↑ The text is offered by Bunners, Paul Gerhardt, 91. The baptismal exorcism was also to be “mitigated.”
- ↑ The Formula of Concord, to which Gerhardt appealed in his 1667 letter to the elector (quoted in Bunners, Paul Gerhardt, 358), prescribes and practices a certain theological method which is both positive and negative: the truth is taught and the error is pointed out and refuted (SD RN 14). Religious polemics are thus not deplorable and embarrassing character flaws of narrow-minded theologians of the past; they are the necessary biblical flipside of teaching the truth so that the hearers might with confidence be able to tell it apart from soul-destroying error. Gerhardt was bound to this method by his sacred ordination vow. J. A. Quenstedt’s 1685 dogmatic opus magnum is fittingly called Theologia didactio-polemica, presenting doctrine in theses and antitheses. Missourians know this program as the title of their first theological journal, Lehre und Wehre – doctrine and defense. R. Preus is correct when he states: “A church no longer engaged in polemics may have lost the spirit of testimony” (The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism (St. Louis: CPH, 1970), 1:33)
- ↑ The Gerhardt portrait in the Paul-Gerhardt Church in Lübben has the fitting subscription: Theologus in cribro satanae versatus – a theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve, cf. W. G. Polack, The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, 3rd and rev. ed. (St. Louis: CPH, 1958), 510. A slightly different (and longer) version of this subscription, which seems to go back to Luke 22:31f. (Gerhardt did strengthen the brethren while being tested in Berlin), is offered by Bunners, Paul Gerhardt, 17: “Paulus Gerhardus Theologus in Cribro Satanae tentatus / et devotus postea obiit Lubena Ao 1676 aetatis 70,” that is, “Paul Gerhardt, a theologian [who was] tested in Satan’s sieve and [found] faithful, later died in Lübben in the year 1676 at the age of 70.”
- ↑ This perhaps unusal theological topic is discussed, comparing J. Arndt and P. Gerhardt, by E. Axmacher, Johann Arndt und Paul Gerhardt: Studien zur Theologie, Frömmigkeit und geistlichen Dichtung des 17. Jahrhunderts (Tübingen: Francke, 2001), 233-313.
- ↑ Specifically on the way Gerhardt deals with the suffering of the Christian in his hymns cf. S. Grosse, Gott und das Leid in den Liedern Paul Gerhardts (Göttingen: Vandehoeck & Ruprecht, 2001).
- ↑ Cf. the fine analysis offered by E. Axmacher, Johann Arndt und Paul Gerhardt, 91ff, where she also refutes a school of thought that sees in Gerhardt an a-doctrinal, merely “pious” poet, a judgment that not only misses what is clearly evident in Gerhardt’s actual poetry, but also does not do justice to the “doctrinal” nature of all Baroque poetry, secular and religious. This approach ultimately cannot grasp that Gerhardt the “rigid” confessor and Gerhardt the “pious” poet are one and the same person, as shown above: the hymns sing of the faith that sustained the man in his many private and official tentationes, cf. also Axmacher, ibid., 73ff.
- ↑ The complete German version is available in Cranach-Sichart’s edition, Paul Gerhardt, 1-3; cf. also # 10 of the 1987 Evangelisch-Lutherisches Kirchengesangbuch of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, the German sister church of the LCMS. -- TLH offers nine stanzas and omits the third (TLH’s Handbook offers all nine in German too); LW is more “economical” and additionally omits the seventh, eighth and ninth stanzas – a uniquely cut diamond looses more and more of its gospel-facets and becomes more and more generic. The Lutheran Service Book adds at least TLH’s seventh stanza to the ones contained in LW, but the structural triad of stanzas seven through nine remains destroyed. The stanza not translated for TLH reads: “What did you leave undone / for my comfort and joy? / When body and soul sat / in their greatest distress, / when the Kingdom of peace and joy (Rom. 14:17) / was taken from me, / then you, my salvation, came / and made me glad.” Cf. also the translation by J. Kelly, Paul Gerhardt’s Spiritual Songs (London: A. Strahan, 1867), 10f.: “What hast thou e’er neglected / for my good here below? / When heart and soul dejected / were sunk in deepest woe, / when from Thy presence hidden, / where peace and pleasure are, / thou camest, and hast bidden / me joy again, My Star!”
- ↑ The historic gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Advent is Mat. 21:1-9; the palm branches are found in the parallel account in John 12:13.
- ↑ One can see Luther’s catechetical explanation of the articles of the Creed in the background of this: The creation of the world is taught as my creation; the redemption of the world is taught as my redemption; and sanctification is taught as my and the whole church’s sanctification. Gerhardt emphasizes more the individual appropriation of salvation and present reality of this salvation, while Luther points the student more to the objective – not: impersonal or abstract – reality of the work of the triune God. The focus on the “me” one sees in both Luther and Gerhardt is given by the Creed’s “I believe” which expresses the nature of faith as both communal and personal, as mine and the church’s. Luther emphasized the personal aspect right at the beginning of the first of his famous 1522 Invocavit-sermons (AE 51:70): “The summons of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Every one must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. We can shout into another’s ears, but every one must himself be prepared for the time of death, for I will not be with you then, nor you with me. Therefore every one must himself know and be armed with the chief things which concern a Christian.” This is the ultimate reason for catechetical instruction in the church, whatever the form it might take (sermon, catechism, or hymns).
- ↑ The reference here is clearly to Rev. 3:20, which mentions the Lord’s Supper. This biblical verse is also set to music in J. S. Bach’s cantata for the first Sunday in Advent, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 61, movement 4). As a whole, this cantata also offers an interesting combination of Christ’s past, present, and future coming.
- ↑ As seen above, Gerhardt was fully committed to teaching God’s word both positively and negatively: at the seminary, in the pulpit, and in the sanctuary.
- ↑ In the language of the season of Advent, this is Luther’s “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel…”
- ↑ Luther’s Conclusion of the Ten Commandments in the Small Catechism comes to mind.
- ↑ The historic collects for the first and fourth Sundays in Advent call on God: “Stir up, we beseech Thee, Thy power, O Lord, and come …,” cf. TLH, p. 54f.
- ↑ Cf. F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: CPH, 1953), 3:240, based on FC SD VI, 24.