Toward a re-formed confession: Johann Gerhard's "Sacred Meditations" and "repining restlessnesse" in the poetry of George Herbert

Erik Peder Ankerberg, Marquette University


Contemporary readers of George Herbert's Temple tend to identify his work as either a response to the meditations of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation or a manifestation of what Barbara Lewalski has described as "Protestant poetics." Herbert's poems follow a middle way between these perspectives. Any manifestation of Christianity might diagnose the spiritual "restlessnesse" that Herbert demonstrates in his poems, but the antidote or "rest" that Herbert discovers is best described in terms of the world-view of post-Reformation Lutheranism. The Lutheran christological and sacramental thought that permeates Johann Gerhard Sacred Meditations illumines the path through which Herbert travels to find rest from: his own efforts to earn salvation, his slavery to sin, and his fear of eternal damnation. The four chapters of this project address how Herbert synthesizes his vocations of Christian, poet, and priest into one role: his habit of confessing the assurance of salvation he finds in Christ's words and works. Herbert poetic Temple serves as a material confession of the comfort the Christian finds in the ecumenical Temple of the visible church, the evangelical Temple of the person of Christ, and the eschatological Temple of heaven. Ultimately, Herbert's confession finds its impetus in what he understands as the double action of God's words and works in his life. Herbert's poetry confesses his belief that Christ first re-forms his life and then re-forms his art. In his journey from the restlessness of personal despair to his finding rest in Christ's words and works, Herbert discovers that Christ re-makes him into a Temple of the Holy Spirit and then animates his ability to craft his poetic Temple . Within the space that these christological and sacramental elements create, Herbert's restless heart is re-formed as it fords its eternal rest.

Recommended Citation

Ankerberg, Erik Peder, "Toward a re-formed confession: Johann Gerhard's "Sacred Meditations" and "repining restlessnesse" in the poetry of George Herbert" (2003). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3093134.