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Paul Gerhardt (Hymn-Writer)

Born: March 12, 1607 - Grafenhaynichen, near Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Died: May 27, 1676 - Lübben an der Spree, Spreewald, Germany


Paul Gerhardt was the son of Christian Gerhardt, Burgermeister of Grafenhaynichen, near Wittenberg. He enrolled at the University of Wittenberg in 1628. In 1655, he married Anna Maria Barthold. He appears to have frequent­ly preached in Berlin in the 1640’s.

In 1651, Gerhardt was appointed, at the recommendation of the Berlin clergy, Lutheran Probst (chief pastor) at Mittenwalde, near Berlin. In 1657, Gerhardt returned to Berlin as third diaconus of St. Nicholas’ church. However, Gerhardt became involved in the contest between Elector Friedrich Wilhelm (who was of the Reformed Church) and the Lutheran clergy of Berlin; Gerhard was deposed from his office in February 1666, though he still remained in Berlin. In November 1668, he accepted the post of archidiaconus at Lübben an der Spree, was installed in June, 1669, and remained there till his death. The motto on his portrait at Lübben read Theologus in cribro Satanae versatus.

Source: Cyber Hymnal Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2003)

Paul Gerhardt's Testament

Paul Gerhardt prepared his "testament" his 70th birthday for his son. It offers insight into this important Lutheran writer of many great chorales..

Now that I have reached the 70th year of my life and also have the joyful hope that my dear, holy God will soon rescue me out of this world and lead me into a better life than I have had until now on earth, I thank Him especially for all His kindness and faithfulness which, from my motherâ?Ts womb until the present hour, He has shown me in body and soul and in all that He has given me. Besides this, I ask Him from the bottom of my heart that when my hour comes He would grant me a happy departure, take my soul into His fatherly hands, and give my body a peaceful rest in the ground until the dear Last Day, when I, with all of my [family] who have been before me and also may remain after me, will reawake and behold my dear Lord Jesus Christ face to face, in whom I have believed but have not yet seen. To my only son whom I am leaving behind I leave few earthly goods, but with them I leave him an honorable name of which he will not have to be ashamed.

My son knows that from his tender childhood I have given him to the Lord my God as His possession, that he is to become a servant and preacher of His holy Word. He is to remain now in this and not turn away from it, even if he has only few good days in it. For the good Lord knows how to handle it and how sufficiently to replace external troubles with internal happiness of the heart and joy of the spirit.

Study holy theologiam [â?otheologyâ?¯] in pure schools and at unfalsified universities and beware of the syncretists [those who mix religions or confessions], for they seek what is temporal and are faithful to neither God nor men. In your common life do not follow evil company but rather the will and command of your God. Especially: (1) Do nothing evil in the hope that it will remain secret, for nothing is spun so small that it is not seen in the light of day. (2) Outside of your office and vocation do not become angry. If you notice that anger has heated you up, remain still and speak not so much as a word until you have first prayed the Ten Commandments and the Christian Creed silently. (3) Be ashamed of the lusts of the flesh, and when you one day come to the years in which you can marry, then marry with God and with the good advice of pious, faithful, and sensible people. (4) Do good to people even if they have nothing with which to repay you, for the Creator of heaven and earth has long since repaid what humans cannot repay: when He created you, when He gave you His beloved Son, and when He accepted you in Holy Baptism as His child and heir. (5) Flee from greed as from hell. Be satisfied with what you have earned with honor and a good conscience, even if it is not all too much. But if the good Lord gives you something more, ask Him to preserve you from the burdensome misuse of temporal goods.

In summary: Pray diligently, study something honorable, live peacefully, serve honestly, and remain unmoved in your faith and confessing. If you do this, you too will one day die and depart from this world willingly, joyfully, and blessedly. Amen.

Source: Christian Bunners, Paul Gerhardt: Weg Werk Wirkung (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 301-302. Translated by Benjamin T. G. Mayes, 5/4/2007
Contributed by
Paul T. McCain (May 2007)

Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

BWV 32, BWV 40, BWV 65, BWV 74, BWV 92, BWV 103, BWV 108, BWV 153, BWV 159, BWV 176, BWV 183, BWV 194, BWV 195, BWV 228, BWV 248/1, BWV 248/2, BWV 248/3, BWV 248/6, BWV 384, BWV 441, BWV 448, BWV 451, BWV 460, BWV 469, BWV 489, (BWV 510), BWV 511, (BWV 512), BWV Deest

Chorale Texts used in Bach’s Vocal Works





Auf, auf! mein Herz, mit Freuden


Barmherzger Vater, höchster Gott


Befiehl du deine Wege


Der Tag mit seinem Lichte



Die güldne Sonne voll Freud und Wonne



Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille



Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist


Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn


Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier



Nicht so traurig, nicht so sehr



Nun danket all und bringet Ehr



Nun ruhen alle Wälder


O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden


O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben



Schaut, schaut, was ist für Wunder dar?


Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott


Wach auf, mein Herz, und singe


Was alle Weisheit in der Welt


Weg, mein Herz, mit den Gedanken


Wie soll ich dich empfangen


Wir singen dir, Immanuel


Zeuch ein zu deinen Toren




Links to other Sites

Paul Gerhardt (Cyber Hymnal)
Paul Gerhardt (CCEL)

German Hymn-writers of the 1600’s (James Kiefer's Christian Biographies)



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Last update: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 23:31