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Paul Gerhardt's advice to his son

November 12, 2007

On his 70th birthday, Paul Gerhardt penned a testament addressed to his son. Here is his advice:

Study holy theology 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.

I stumbled across this at See Christian Bunners, Paul Gerhardt: Weg Werk Wirkung (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 301-302. Translated by Benjamin T. G. Mayes, 5/4/2007. You may also want to see other Immoderate posts referencing Gerhardt.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2007 11:12 pm

    Sobering words. Thanks for posting them.

    The “common life” reference confused me, though, as there really is no difference between the secular & the sacred.

  2. brad permalink
    November 13, 2007 7:37 am


    Regarding #2, have you gotten any sense from your other reading on Gerhardt what “Christian Creed” he was referring to? The Apostle’s, Nicene, one of the Lutheran confessions, a specific portion of Scripture, or the faith generally?

    Just wondering.

  3. lilrabbi permalink
    November 13, 2007 11:49 am

    It seems like he is first addressing what his son should seek and avoid in his formal education. Then he turns to what his son should seek and avoid in his everyday life that involves the friends he chooses. Does that make sense, Chris?

  4. lilrabbi permalink
    November 13, 2007 11:56 am

    I just checked your blog, Chris…were you joking here then?

  5. November 13, 2007 1:41 pm

    Yes, Jesse, I was joking. Not well, apparently.

  6. lilrabbi permalink
    November 14, 2007 12:28 am

    I hadn’t seen your blog today until after your comment here!

  7. November 14, 2007 1:24 pm


    My guess would be the Nicene creed, but that is merely a guess, and worth very little.

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