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Death and Memorials

For some years Gerhardt lived in Berlin without any position, supported by his friends in his congregation. He was, however, the victim of inevitable circumstances, for although within a few months of his resignation the edict was withdrawn, his patroness, Electress Luise Henriette, had died. All of his children had died in infancy except Paul Friedrich who survived him, and in March, 1668, his wife died who had been as strong a follower of the Lutheran Faith as he, and had encouraged him in his stand of not signing the edict.1111The attitude of the women in this time of religious strife who urged their husbands to sign the edict is satirized in the following lines: Schreibt, liebe Herre, schreibt, dasz Ihr in der Pfarre bleibt. Her death was the fulfillment of a wish that "the dear Lord might soon come and release her."

Gerhardt took into his home as housekeeper the widow of his brother-in-law Fromme.1212Cf. pp. 2 and 3. His household was reasonably large for one in his condition, 5 a preacher without office; he speaks of three, or even of four servants, and mentions at times some business matters in Berlin that seem to be of moment. Although he must also have had pupils whom he tutored during these years, he evidently wished for some definite occupation, and it came. On the 14th of October, 1668, Paul Gerhardt preached a trial sermon ("Gastpredigt") in Lübben. The city council the following day with the unanimous consent of the citizens offered him the vacant charge and Gerhardt accepted it as a divine gift. The formal call under date of October 29th was sent to him at Berlin. Owing to various circumstances, such as the delay incident to necessary repairs on the parsonage, and also the serious illness of his son, Paul Friedrich, he did not enter his duties till Trinity Sunday, 1669. He was at this time sixty-three years old, and for seven years he worked faithfully in this new field.

Gerhardt died the 27th of May, 1676, with the prayer on his lips:

Kann uns doch kein Tod nicht tödten,
Sondern reiszt unsern Geist
Aus viel tausend Nöten;
Schleuszt das Thor der bittern Leiden
Und macht Balm, Da man kann
Gehn zur Himmelsfreuden.1313This is stanza VIII of his poem: "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen" (cf. Goed. 122).

He was buried in the vault of the Lübben church.

Shortly before his death, in his seventieth year, he composed a sort of testament or will of a moral nature for his own Paul in which he hoped to leave little of this world's goods, but an honorable name of which his son might not be ashamed. He commends to the boy the study of theology at reputable universities and also the avoidance of the Syncretists,1414The Syncretists sought to effect an agreement between the Reformed and Lutheran doctrines. on the ground that they aimed at temporal things and were loyal to neither God nor man.

In a memorial service to Gerhardt in 1876, a tablet was put up on the north wall of the chancel of the church at Lübben; and his portrait hung there bears this inscription:

Theologus in cribro Satanae versatus.1515"A divine sifted in Satan's sieve." Cf. St. Luke XXII, 31.

The Nicolaikirche in Berlin and the other churches where he held charge have portraits of Gerhardt on their walls. Also among the many memorials to him are charitable foundations in Mittenwalde, Wittenberg and Berlin bearing his name. To these tributes the present generation, now, three centuries later, adds its praise and gratitude.


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