Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Duffy, Edward

Second Advisor

Curran, John

Third Advisor

Reid, Margaret


Throughout the history of the Christian church, its members have struggled for a sign or indication that they possess assurance of salvation. During its evolution within the Reformation period, the early modern Christian church produced a myriad of voices that attempted to address this issue. Since then, various critics and readers have wrestled with the significance, intersection, and overlapping of these Roman Catholic, Anglican, Calvinist, Puritan, and even Lutheran voices within the space and life of early modern England. Within that broad realm, this project examines the poetry of George Herbert and the extent to which he pursues and confesses assurance of his salvation. I would propose that Herbert finds the hope of salvation, this "rest," in the visible marks of the church. In the public performance of his poetic and priestly vocations, he embraces and expresses a christological doctrine, which resonates with the tone and substance of Reformation Lutheran sacramental theology. This Lutheranism manifests itself most strongly in Herbert's recognition of God's actions in re-creating the Christian's life and triggering the Christian's voice. Herbert's identification of this "double" action of the divine word transforms his perspective toward life, faith, and art. In order to reveal the development and significance of this double action at work within Herbert's life and art, the first chapter provides a context for the theological and aesthetic forces at work within Herbert. His readers begin to see him as one who confesses his faith in the rest that Christ's person and words provide. The last three chapters of this project follow a parallel pattern that defines the aspects of the vocation of confessing "doctrine" that permeates Herbert's roles as Christian, poet, and priest. Each aspect builds upon the ideas presented in the previous chapter in order to illuminate the theological and aesthetic forces at work within Herbert's poetry. Within each chapter, the under-appreciated theological perspective of the sixteenth century Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard provides a lens through which I read and analyze Herbert's search for assurance of salvation. Gerhard's Sacred Meditations play a pivotal role in the development of this project. The translation, publication, and availability of multiple editions of this Lutheran theologian's work indicate the substantial, but often underestimated, role of Lutheran doctrine in England's theological development.1 Although Gerhard's direct influence upon Herbert may be difficult, if not impossible, to prove, I propose that the objective knowledge of salvation that grounds Lutheran sacramental theology parallels the assurance of salvation that lies at the heart of Herbert's theology and art...



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