The material on this post can be shared freely, without asking permission. I have put this together to promote the great doctrine, praise, and comfort hymns of Paul Gerhardt.
- Words are linked on the hymn number.
- The melody is linked on the hymn name.
| My Lutheran Hymnal contains lyrics only|
in historical order, arranged by author.
Below is a great Gerhardt hymn in German. I have not found it in English.
Three of his five children had already died in infancy, and now he lost one of his two remaining sons, the child on whose death he wrote his touching hymn,
"Thou'rt mine, yes, still Thou art mine own,"
while his wife, worn out by sorrow and anxiety, fell into a long and slow decline. When she died, Gerhardt was left with only one child, a boy of 6 years. Many of his most beautiful hymns were written at this time, and among others, "If God be on my side."
The Lübben congregation commissioned a life sized painting of him for the church where it still hangs. Beneath it one can read the inscription, "Theologus in cribro Satanae versatus" ("A theologian sifted in Satan's sieve").https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Biographies/paul_gerhardt.htm
As a poet he undoubtedly holds the highest place among the hymn-writers of Germany. His hymns seem to be the spontaneous outpouring of a heart that overflows with love, trust, and praise; his language is simple and pure; if it has sometimes a touch of homeliness, it has no vulgarism,1 and at times it rises to a beauty and grace, which always give the impression of being unstudied, yet could hardly have been improved by art. His tenderness and fervor never degenerate into the sentimentality and petty conceits which were already becoming fashionable in his days; nor his penitence and sorrow into that morbid despondency which we find in Gryphius, and for which the disappointments of his own life might have furnished some excuse.
If he is not altogether free from the long-windedness and repetition which are the besetting sins of so many German writers, and especially hymn-writers, he at least more rarely succumbs to them: and in his days they were not considered a blemish. One of his contemporaries, a certain Andreas Bucholz, who wrote a great deal of religious poetry which was then highly esteemed formally announces in his preface that he has spun out his poems as long as he could, for he observed that when people were reading sacred poems at home, they preferred long ones.
Gervinus, a severe judge of sacred poetry in general, says of Gerhardt: "If one man among the poets of the seventeenth century makes an attractive impression on us, it is Gerhardt. He recurred, as no one else had done, to Luther's genuine type of the popular religious song, only with such modifications as the altered circumstances demanded.In Luther's time the old wrathful, implacable God of the Romanists had assumed the heavenly aspect of grace and compassion; with Gerhardt the Merciful and just One is a loving and benignant Man, whom he addresses with reverential intimacy. With Luther, it was the belief in free grace and the work of Atonement, in the Redemption which had burst the gates of hell, which inspired the Christian singer with his joyous confidence; with Gerhardt it is his faith in the love of God.