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Befiehl du deine Wege.--(Goed. 185.)
[Trust in God.]
Appeared in Crü. Praxis, 1656, no. 333; Wackernagel: no. 66; Bachmann: no. 72 in 12 stanzas of 8 lines; Unv. L. S.: 1851, no. 620.
Lauxmann, in Koch VIII, 392, calls this hymn "the most comforting of all the hymns that have resounded on Paulus Gerhardt's golden lyre, sweeter to many souls than honey and the honey-comb." It is an acrostic on Luther's version of Psalm XXXVII, 5, "Befiehl dem Herren deine Wege und hoffe auf ihn, er wirds wohl machen," formed by the initial words of the stanzas, those of the Wackernagel edition being printed in blacker type. This acrostic form has been preserved by Jacobi and Stallybrass.
According to tradition Gerhardt wrote the hymn in a Saxon village to console his wife after they had been compelled to leave Berlin. But the hymn was printed as early as 1653, and although Gerhardt had to give up 115 his position in 1666,191191Cf. p. 4 f. he did not leave Berlin until his appointment to Lübben in 1669, while his wife died in Berlin in 1668. Hence there appear to be two good reasons for discrediting this story. We must assume, therefore, that the hymn was written during the Mittenwalde period when as yet he could have had no thought of a position in Berlin. The perfection of the hymn is strikingly evinced by the fact that it soon spread through Germany, finding its way into all hymn books and ranking as one of the finest hymns of its class. Lauxmann relates that it was sung when the foundation stone of the first Lutheran church at Philadelphia was laid, May 2, 1743, and again on October 20, when Muhlenberg, the father of the American Lutheran Church, held the opening service.
1. Commit thou all thy griefs.
A very free but spirited rendering omitting stanzas V, IX-XI, by J. Wesley in his Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739 (P. Works, 1869-72, Vol. I, p. 125), in 8 stanzas of 8 lines. Wesley has here caught, far more successfully than any other, the real ring and spirit of Gerhardt. His translation has been included in many hymn books and collections, and has come into very extended use, but generally abridged. In the United Presb. H. Bk., 1852, it began "To God commit thy griefs." It is also found under these headings:
- (a) Thou on the Lord rely (stanza III).
- (b) Thy everlasting truth (stanza V).
- (c) Give to the winds thy fears (stanza IX). (This is the heading under which it appears in most American hymnals. Cf. p. 202.)
- (d) O cast away thy fears (stanza IX altered).
- (e) Through waves and clouds and storms (stanza X).
- (f) Leave to his sovereign sway (stanza XIII).
- (g) Thou seest our weakness, Lord (stanza XV).
- (h) Put thou thy trust in God.
This last is a greatly altered cento with the stanza arrangement as follows:
In this form also it has appered in many hymnals.
2. Commit thy way, confiding.
A complete translation by Dr. H. Mills in the Evang. Review, Gettysburg, July, 1849, and his Horae Ger., 1856, p. 172. His stanzas I, II, VI, XII, were included in the Lutheran General Synod's Hymns, 1852, and I, II, V, VI, XI, XII, in the Ohio Luth. Hymnal, 1880.
3. Thy way and all thy sorrows,
Give thou into His hand.
A complete translation by Rev. A. T. Russell as no. 233 in his Psalms and Hymns, 1851, in 3 parts. Part II begins "In vain the powers of darkness / Thy will, O God, 116 oppose": (Gerhardt's stanza V). Part III (Gerhardt's stanza IX) begins "Awhile his consolation / He will to thee deny."
4. Commit thy way to God.
A translation omitting stanzas IX, X, XII, by Mrs. Charles in her Voice of Christian Life in Song, 1858, p. 239. A cento of her version (Gerhardt's stanzas I, II, VI, VIII, XI) appears as no. 138 in Jellicoe's Collection, 1867, and another cento (Gerhardt's I, VI-VIII, XI) appears as no. 283 in Bishop Ryle's Collection, 1860.
5. Commit thy way, O weeper.
A free paraphrase in 6 stanzas of 4 lines by J. S. Stallybrass for the Tonic-Solfa Reporter, July, 1857, repeated in Curwen's Child's Own H. Bk., 1862 and 1874.
6. Commit thou every sorrow, And care.
A translation of stanzas I-III, XII, by Miss Borthwick in Dr. Pagenstecher's Collection, 1864, no. 240.
7. Commit thy Ways and Goings.
J. C. Jacobi, 1720, 1722, 1732.
8. Commit thou thy each grievance.
In part I of the Moravian H. Bk., 1754 and 1849.
9. Commit thy ways, thy sorrows.
Mrs. Stanley Carr in her translation of Wildenhahn's Paul Gerhardt, 1845 and 1856.
10. Commit thy secret grief.
Miss Dunn, 1857, p. 89.
11. Commend thy way, O mortal.
In Madame de Pontes's Poets and Poetry of Germany, 1858, vol. I, p. 424.
12. Commit thou all thy ways, and all.
Mrs. Bevan, 1859, p. 124.
13. Commit thy way unto the Lord, thy heavy.
Dr. R. P. Dunn in Sacred Lyrics from the German, Philadelphia, 1859, p. 85.
14. To God thy way commending.
Miss Cox, 1864, p. 161; and in the Gilman-Schaff Lib. of Rel. Poetry, 1883, p. 510.
15. Commit whatever grieves thee.
16. Commit thy way, O weeping.
Dr. J. Guthrie in his Sacred Lyrics, 1869, p. 92.
17. Commit the way before thee,
N. L. Frothingham, 1870, p. 164.
18. Commit thy course and keeping.
Dr. John Cairns, c. 1850, but first published in Edinburgh, 1881, as an eight-page tract.
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