Within a few months of his death, having been orphaned already in his own youth, having lost all of his siblings to death, as likewise his dear young wife and four of their five children in infancy; having suffered for the sake of his confession and been driven from his pastoral office in Berlin by the elector, the Reverend Paul Gerhardt wrote the following "Last Will and Testament" to his one surviving son, the thirteen-year-old Paul Friedrich. Given all that the sweet singer of Germany had witnessed and endured in the course of his 70 years on this earth, this confident testimony of faith in the Lord is all the more remarkable.
God grant us, in His mercy and by His grace, that all of us who are His own dear children should live and die in such a manner as His faithful, pious and believing servant, Pastor Gerhardt (1607-1676). That humble man of blessed memory is best known for his beautiful hymns, but the witness and example of his confession are no less salutary:
Paul Gerhardt's Will and Testament to His Son, Paul Friedrich:
After reaching my 70th year and truly having the joyful hope that my loving and gracious God will in a short time deliver me from this world and lead me into a much better life than I have had so far on this earth, I thank God ahead of time for all His kindness and faithfulness which He has given me and demonstrated from my mother's womb in body and soul and everything until this very hour. Besides, I pray from the bottom of my heart that He would grant me, when my hour comes, a happy departure, and that He would take my soul in His fatherly hand and give my body a gentle rest in the earth until He returns on the wonderful judgment day. Then I will be with all of my family who have died and those who will die in the future, and I will awaken to see my precious Lord Jesus Christ in whom I have believed. Even though I have never seen Him, I will see Him face to face.
To my only son whom I am leaving behind, I will bestow on him very little worldly goods, but at the same time an honest name of which he will never need to be ashamed. My son knows that, from childhood, I gave him to the Lord that he might become a servant and preacher of God's holy Word. He should stay with that and not be concerned if he has only a few good days. Because our loving God knows the solution and can change the outer distress to inward joy of the heart and happiness of the spirit.
Study the holy theology in clean schools and at unadulterated universities and protect yourself from the Syncretist idiots who always look for the secular and are neither true to God nor man. In your life do not follow bad companionship but follow the wishes and commands of your God.
1. Never do anything bad in the hope that it will not be discovered, because nothing is ever woven so fine that it will not be found out.
2. Do not let yourself be provoked to anger outside of your office and profession. If you notice your anger inflamed, keep a profound silence and do not say one word until you have prayerfully gone through the Ten Commandments and Christian Creed.
3. Be ashamed of the carnal sinful lusts and if you, someday, come to such years that you can get married, then marry with God's wisdom and good advice from pious, faithful, and intelligent people.
4. Do good to people, even if they do not reward you immediately, because what man does not reward has been rewarded long ago by the Creator of heaven and earth when He created you, when He gave His loving Son, and when He took you upon Himself as His child and heir at your Holy Baptism.
5. Avoid greediness like hell; be satisfied with what you have, with what you acquired with honor and a good conscience, even if it is not much. If our loving God should shower you with much more, then entreat Him that He may guard you against the loathsome misuses of temporal goods.
To sum it all up: Pray diligently; study what is honorable, live peacefully, serve honestly, and remain steadfast in your faith and confession. Someday you will also die and leave this world willingly, happily, and blessedly. Amen.
(Here cited from the book, In the Shadow of His Wings: Paul Gerhardt and His Hymns, pp. 61-63, being an English translation by Nelda Roth of Paul Gerhardt und seine Lieder, by Jörg Erb)
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