Pious feelings. Images and Texts in Books of Pietism

A virtual book exhibition from the library of the Francke Foundations

The piety movement of Pietism sensitized believers to trace their attitude toward God within themselves and to testify to it in community. The reading of pious writings aimed to strengthen individual religious sensibilities and guide them to a pious, moral life. Titles such as Göttliche Liebes-Funcken or Hertzens-Gespräch mit Gott as well as impressive copperplate engravings bear witness to this. The feelings that were to be evoked when looking at the illustrations and reading in books of Pietism are illustrated by selected examples in the cabinet exhibition.

1. Repentance and conversion

Repentance and conversion describe a process of conversion and renewal in faith to attain true sonship with God. The believers experienced a wide range of emotions in the process - from deep despair to pure, perfect joy. Conversion narratives, sermons, prayers and songs accompanied the believers with »simple-minded« language on their way to eternal bliss. The stages of the path to salvation were vividly depicted in multi-part pictorial programmes on title plates, such as in Johann Heinrich Reitz's Historie der Wiedergebohrnen (1716) and Johann Porst's Theologia Viatorum Practica (1722), and appealed to the senses and the mind in equal measure.

Explanation of the sequence of images

In the six-part picture story in Johann Heinrich Reitz's (1665-1729) collected biography Historie der Wiedergebohrnen, the Christian's journey from his entanglement in the world to his conversion and rebirth is presented in an ideal-typical way. In the pictorial allegory, the personified soul meets divine love in childlike form with wings and halo. The title of the book, the copperplate engraving and the example narratives of many known and unknown men, women and children of all classes are related to each other like a classical three-part emblem with motto, pictura (picture) and explanation. The title takes over the function of the motto: »How the same [soul] was first drawn [image I] and converted by God, and after many struggles [image II] and anxieties [image 3] was brought to faith [image V] and peace of conscience« [image VI] by God's Spirit and Word [image IV]. The narratives throughout the book can be interpreted as an interpretation of the motto and pictorial programme. The engraver Johann Friedrich Eggelhoff (1680-1731) borrowed the pictorial motifs I, II, IV and VI from the early Baroque Flemish emblematics in the Pia desideria of the Jesuit Hermann Hugo (1588-1629).

1 [Pictorial Motif I.]

The pictorial motif I in Reitz` Historie der Wiedergebohrnen is taken from Hermann Hugo`s Pia Desideria. The entanglement in the world is symbolised by the jester with his typical attributes such as a flag, a bell cap and a wooden horse.

2 [Pictorial Motif IV.]

»The soul before the curtain«. Copper engraving. In: Luyken, Jan: Voncken Der Liefde Jesu, [...] Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Arentsz, 1692. The image motif IV from Reitz's collective biography is reproduced here in an adaptation by the engraver Jan Luyken (1649-1712), to whom Reitz dedicates a detailed biography in his work. It is given a new meaning. In Hermann Hugo's imagery, the soul in front of the curtain laments the fact that the beloved is hidden behind the curtain - in Luyken's case a stone wall. In the picture in the Historie der Wiedergebohrnen, the soul stands with open hands in front of the curtain behind which the divine Cupid is hidden. She realises that salvation cannot be achieved by her own merits, symbolised by the empty hands, but only by trusting in God's grace hidden behind the curtain. 3.

3 [Pictorial Motif V.]

»The Imitation of Christ«. Picture V of Reitz' picture programme is taken from the doctrinal treatise The Imitation of Jesus Christ from 1707, also written by Reitz, and is by the engraver Gabriel Uhlich (1682-1741). The soul ascends naked from the place of the skull on a ladder to the cross and leaves all the attributes of the world, enclosed by the devil's ring of the serpent, behind on earth. In this way, her discipleship on the path of Christ's suffering and the metaphor often used in Pietism of the 'stripping of the old Adam' as a prerequisite for participation in God's grace are vividly and drastically symbolised. The skulls lying on the ground, from which blossoms, ears of corn and vines grow, stand for the new life that overcomes death and the devil.

4 [Pictorial Motif VI.]

»The longing of the soul«. This longing of the soul for the dwellings of the Lord in the heavenly Jerusalem is at the centre of the copperplate engraving and prayer meditation by Johanna Eleonora Petersen (1644-1724), who in her Hertzen's Gespräche mit Gott referred to the heart as the seat of the felt knowledge of God and to her own religious experience. The longing of the soul completely fills the interior and is perceived and felt as an inner certainty of being on the irreversible path to the New Jerusalem and thus to God. Petersen oriented himself on Hermann Hugo's Pia desideria. The pictorial motif shown here was taken up, varied and reinterpreted in Protestant devotional literature. In Petersen's work, the Catholic depiction of God on the throne of heaven was replaced by the heavenly Jerusalem or simply the name Jehovah in Reitz's Historie der Wiedergebohrnen.

Des seel. Herrn Professoris Franckens zu Halle Bekehrungs-Historie. In: Altes und Neues aus dem Reich Gottes und der übrigen guten und bösen Geister, Bestehende in glaubwürdigen Nachrichten von allerley merckwürdigen Führungen Gottes, sonderlich in dem Werck der Bekehrung, erbaulichen und erschröcklichen letzten Stunden, erwecklichen Lebens-Beschreibungen, mancherley Erscheinungen und vielem anderem, so zur Befestigung in dem guten und Verwahrung für dem bösen dienen kann […]. Dritter Theil. Frankfurt u. Leipzig: Metzler u. Erhard, 1733.

August Hermann Francke's (1663-1727) autobiographical account of his conversion experience is considered a »literary-historically significant document of the representation of inwardness«, an excerpt of which was only published posthumously. Francke, a young theologian of 24, was invited by the superintendent of Lüneburg to preach a sermon in the Johannis Church there in December 1687. While preparing the sermon, he had serious doubts about his faith. The realisation of his own sinfulness and remoteness from the faith triggered strong feelings in him, ranging from »sad thoughts« to great fear, accompanied by physical expressions such as weeping, kneeling, pacing back and forth, leading to an emotional breakdown. Nevertheless, he undauntedly called upon God in prayer, who suddenly heard him at the apex of the crisis: »Then the Lord, the living God, heard me from his throne, while I was still on my knees. [...] all sadness and restlessness of heart was taken away at once, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with a flood of joy, so that I praised and glorified God with all my might, who had shown me such great grace.«


The title page of Johann Porst's (1668-1728) Theologia Viatorum Practica Oder Die Göttliche Führung Der Seelen Auf dem Wege zur seligen Ewigkeit illustrates in five numbered circular images the Christian's journey from his entanglement in the world to his rebirth. The pictorial programme is not based on the emblematic tradition - as in Reitz's Historie der Wiedergebohrnen - but on the biblical tradition. Here, too, the copperplate engravings illustrate the contents of the 1,700-page work, which are briefly and succinctly summarised in the title: »Therein shown, How man in safety goes [image 1]/ therefrom awakened [image 2]/ variously tempted [image 3], led into repentance [image 4], and in faith is brought to the enjoyment of all goods of grace and salvation [image 5]." Johann Porst, provost at the Nicolai Church in Berlin, created this practical guide for the publishing house of the Halle Orphanage, primarily for preachers and Christian teachers, but also for interested souls, who were to "read through the work chapter by chapter with a simple heart« and be »guided« in the process. The title booklet provided an initial »guidance of souls« that directly appealed to the mind and senses.

While the Theologia Viatorum Practica aims to guide and accompany believers on the path to rebirth, Johann Porst's Theologia Practica Regenitorum is addressed to those who have already been awakened, the born-again, who were required on the path through their ages to accept the temptations and challenges sent by God, to grow steadily in the daily practice of faith and to be perfected in blessed eternity. The engraving shows Jesus as the good shepherd, caring for his flock of lambs, young and old sheep, protecting them and pointing them in the right direction, above them in heaven God the Father with the Lamb of God and the blessed at the »living fountain of water«, an ever-flowing spring as a symbol of eternity. The image of the good shepherd may have had a comforting and strengthening effect on many believers to walk the arduous path of temptations in faith and, like the sheep in the flock, to trust in God and his message of salvation.

2. Desirable and undesirable feelings

Living in the fear of God and daily practice of faith led to a disciplining of the emotions. Violent emotions were to be avoided, whereas humility, patience, self-control and peace of mind were the hallmarks of a true believer. The reading of pious exemplary stories, even for children, instructions in the right way of life and daily diary writing served to avoid undesirable affects.

The frontispiece shows undesirable behaviour and emotional attitudes advocated in Pietist circles on the left and desirable ones on the right. The copperplate engraving precedes a work that reports on a wave of Pietist revivals among Swedish officers and soldiers who were captives in the Siberian city of Tobolsk. The author of the work, published under the pseudonym Aletophilus, Truth Friend, is Christoph Eberhard (1675-1750), who modelled his writing on August Hermann Francke's Segens=volle[n] Fußstapfen and reported on the progress in building an orphan and poor school in Tobolsk on the Hallian model.


Gottfried Arnold's work on the lives of early church models is preceded by two copperplate engravings. On the left side, the faithful are staged in solitude praying to God (above) and studying the New Testament (below). Below and beside the reader are arranged the symbols of the world, from which he turns away and towards God. This is the desired behaviour that believers are to follow. On the right side, the path of light is marked out, which can only be followed through a narrow gate; separated from it - in the lower part of the picture - are the paths of darkness and error. Both paths are flanked by human behaviour, virtues and vices, which are assigned either to darkness or to light. These also include feelings such as despair and fear vs. contrition of heart and joy.

Exempel Solcher Kinder / die gern und fleißig gebetet haben.

1) Ein kleines Kind, das im fünften Jahre seines Lebens gestorben, pflegte öfters allein zu gehen, auf seine Knie vor GOtt niederzufallen und zu beten. In solchem Gebet weinete es oft sehr, und redete so ernstlich mit dem lieben GOtt, daß es auch den Nachbarn nicht verborgen bleiben konte.

2) Ein frommer Knabe, Carl Brügmann, begehrte früh morgens keinen Fuß aus dem Hause zu setzen, ehe er gebetet. Er gieng auch niemals ohn Gebet zu Bette. Und wenn er ja ein und andermal solches vergessen hatte, kam er geschwind wieder aus seinem Bette, kniete nieder, und bat GOtt um Vergebung dieser Sünde. Wenn seine Brüder essen wolten, ehe sie gebetet hatten, so pflegte er zu sagen: Dürft ihr also handeln? Das GOtt in Gnaden verhüte! Dieser Mund voll Brods könnte, durch GOttes Zulassung zur gerechten Strafen, uns ersticken. […]


Je fleißiger ein Kind betet, desto mehr wird es in allem Guten zunehmen.

Der Befehl des Herrn JEsu: Gehe in dein Kämmerlein, und schleuß die Thür nach dir zu, und bete zu deinem Vater im Verborgenen, gehet dich, liebes Kind, auch an. O wie angenehm wirst du deinem Heylande seyn, wenn du oft ein stilles Oertgen suchest, und dein Hertz vor ihm ausschüttest.

Quotation from:  Johann Jacob Rambach: Exempel frommer Kinder. In: J.J. Rambach: Erbauliches Handbüchlein für Kinder […]. 8., verm. Aufl. Leipzig: Friderici, 1736, 165–208, hier 177–179. Halle: BFSt: 181 M 4 [1]

Explanation on the text

Johann Jakob Rambach (1693-1735) compiled exemplary stories of pious children for children, which illustrated desirable pious behaviour and were intended to inspire imitation. Children thus learned which behaviours were desirable and which were undesirable in Christianity. In the preface, Rambach addresses the children directly: »You will find examples of pious, obedient, reverent, grateful, merciful, chaste, humble, patient, even such children as have allowed themselves to be tortured to death for the sake of Christ«. Good children are therefore God-fearing children who learn, practise and internalise religious emotional practices.

3. The emotional community

Praying and singing together, reading Pietist edifying literature aloud in the household, divinatory practices such as casting lots, thumbs or needles served to strengthen the Pietist movement and created an emotional bond. They accompanied the believer throughout his life until the hour of his death. In so-called »Last Hours«, a popular genre of Pietist edification literature, the exemplary death of converts in the presence of their relatives and the pastor was depicted and disseminated in moving words as a consolation and strengthening for the readers.

Freylinghausen's Geistreiches Gesang-Buch is inseparably linked to the Pietist faith movement, which was characterised by a new piety as well as a new community consciousness. The examination of faith and justification took place both in Bible study and in singing in the group. That it was primarily about the use of the song in the community is also emblematically indicated by the frontispiece presented. The song sung together was to support and strengthen the feeling of community in faith and finally unite the earthly congregation of the awakened throughout the world in the world-spanning singing of God's praise. Thus, the enthusiastic group singing of the early Pietists already made use of the considerable number of new community songs gathered in Freylinghausen's Geistreichen Gesang-Buch. This hymnbook eventually underwent twenty editions until the seventies of the 18th century.

Carl Heinrich von Bogatzky's (1690-1774) Güldenes Schatzkästlein der Kinder Gottes is one of the bestsellers and longsellers of Pietist devotional literature and was available in many households. It contains Bible verses, each of which is accompanied by verses by Bogatzky. The sayings were read in the household. Divinatory practices, such as drawing lots, thumbing and needling Bible verses, contributed to emotional community building, as did the use of the booklet as a family album in which friends entered pious sayings.


Liturgical and Emotional Communion in the Herrnhut Brethren Community

The four copperplate engravings show the reception into the Herrnhut Brethren Community, the shared eating of the previously distributed, blessed bread (participation) and subsequent worship of the Lord (prostratio) within the framework of the Lord's Supper, as well as the children's love feast (agape). They belong to sixteen plates engraved by Johann Rudolph Holzhalb (1723-1806), which were added to the so-called Zeremonienbüchlein of 1757 to illustrate the text. The author or editor was probably David Cranz (1723-1777), one of the closest associates of Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760). The Zeremonienbüchlein is a confessional self-portrayal of the Church of the Moravian Unity in Herrnhut, which informs about the history, the theological self-understanding, the constitutional structures and above all about the liturgical life of the Unity. That the detailed explanation of the church customs was of particular importance is reflected in its designation as a Zeremonienbüchlein.

Zinzendorf understood the experience of faith as a living feeling in the heart. His goal, that true faith had to become visible in all areas of life, was served by the creation of a strict liturgy through which daily life and rituals in the Herrnhut communities were structured. According to Zinzendorf's conviction, being a Christian was not possible without community. The rituals served to create this sense of community, based on emotional norms.

Plate II. Admission to the Brüder-Gemeine.

Admission to the Brüdergemeinde through the kiss of peace and a prayer on the knees took place monthly on "Gemein-Tag" (usually the next Monday after communion).

Plate X. Participation.

Part of the Lord's Supper was the communal eating of the previously distributed, blessed bread (participation). The solemn administration of the Lord's Supper served to create a feeling of deep communion and fellowship.

Plate XI. Prostratio.

Immediately following the participation, the communal worship of the Lord (prostratio) took place. Originally common in the Herrnhut Brethren community, free prayer communities were abolished by Zinzendorf because of his liturgically influenced view of prayer. They were replaced by regularly intoned, pre-formulated prayer chants called litanies. They were each addressed to one of the members of the divine family, i.e. to the Father, Mother (Holy Spirit) or Son. While the Mother and Son were worshipped kneeling, the Father was worshipped lying on his face in the form of the prostratio (Latin for "prostration") as a sign of humility.

Plate XIV. Agape of the children.

One of the communal spiritual experiences of the Herrnhut Brethren community was the Herrnhut Love Meal (Agape), a social gathering that quickly developed into a liturgical meal. It was inspired by Gottfried Arnold's (1666-1714) book First Love of the Community of Jesus. The early church agape celebration described therein can be seen as a continuation of the table fellowship with Jesus of Naza-reth and was now revived in this way. According to Zinzendorf's conception, Jesus Christ was the "head and elder" of his congregation, around whom the believers gathered.

(Engravings from: David Cranz: Kurze, zuverläßige Nachricht [...]. [o.O.] 1757.)

4. The pious heart

The personal heart relationship with God traditionally plays a prominent role in Christian iconography. Pietism made use of these images of heart piety in the context of conversion and rebirth. Prayer and sermon literature, but also the copperplate engravings contained therein, were intended both to express emotions and to trigger them in the viewer. This is impressively demonstrated, for example, by numerous copperplate engravings in Johanna Eleonora Petersen's Hertzen's Gespräche mit Gott (1694). The pictorially depicted heart usually represents the human heart and in doing so adheres to representational traditions of emblematics: it can reveal something in its interior or reveal something about its condition through added attributes such as a flame, an eye or a cross. Equipped with wings, the heart symbolises the human soul. A heart with an inscribed cross, on the other hand, can also be a symbol of faith (in Jesus Christ).

The engraving shown here precedes the first book, the Liber Scripturae, in Johann Arndt's (1555-1621) Bücher[n] Vom Wahren Christenthum. It is one of a total of five allegorical depictions that were introduced in the Leipzig edition of 1696, each of which preceded a book of the work and thus became an integral part of subsequent printings. While the two female figures depicted stand for the human soul, the anima humana, the hearts they bear on their chests represent the human heart revealing its inner being (evil and good). From the attached text components it is clear that evil (represented in the left heart by the fallen Adam) can only be overcome through daily repentance. Only then does the heart become free for Jesus Christ and true faith.

Johann Jakob Schütz's (1640-1690) Christliches Gedenck=Büchlein/ Zu Beförderung eines angefangenen neuen Lebens can be understood as a kind of guide for the "GOD=seeking soul", which explains the "path to beatitude" in three steps. The frontispieces of the present editions from 1691 and 1711 impressively visualise the conversion process described therein, in which the heart plays an important role in addition to the soul and the body. In the centre of the engraving is a young woman who asks God for a new, pure heart. Only with such a heart, renouncing worldly things, can true faith be attained. This is symbolised in the frontispiece of 1691 by seven hearts with an inscribed cross, which stand on the worldly objects spread out on the ground, thus »overlaying« or »overwriting« the young woman's former interest in them.

Johanna Eleonora Petersen's (1644-1724) Gespräche des Herzens mit Gott is a two-part book of devotion, the first part of which contains 50 prayer meditations conceived as personal conversations with God. These refer to selected Bible verses, primarily from the Penitential Psalms and the Song of Songs, which Petersen took from Hermann Hugo's (1588-1629) Pia Desideria. In the second edition of Petersen's work from 1694, the copperplate engravings associated with the Bible verses in Hugo's work are also taken over, which there form a unit together with the Bible verse and the prayer meditation.

The engraving presented here shows the human soul in the form of a young woman in dialogue with God. The copperplate engraving is the starting point for the »Hertzens-Gespräche«, so its position before the first prayer meditation is not chosen by chance. The soul looks up towards heaven and seeks (visual) contact with God. What is interesting here is the way in which God is depicted, whose all-seeing eye and ears are not, following the model in Hermann Hugo's Pia Desideria, in a cloud, but in a heart. This influences the interpretation of the scene: unlike in the original, the focus is not on the certainty before God, but on the heart in which this is felt.


The frontispiece in Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen's (1670-1739) Predigten über die Sonn- und Fest-Tages-Episteln is the only pictorial example with heart symbolism known from the literature of Hallian Pietism. On the one hand, seven winged and inflamed hearts can be seen, each with an open eye looking straight ahead. Each of these hearts is assigned a name by a banner, whereby they can be identified as the hearts of important men from the Old and New Testaments. They are transmitters of God's word, which explains their position in the engraving between God at the top of the picture and the Christians, represented by another seven hearts with an inscribed cross at the bottom of the picture.

5. The physical expression of feelings

Praying and singing together, reading Pietist edifying literature aloud in the household, divinatory practices such as casting lots, thumbs or needles served to strengthen the Pietist movement and created an emotional bond. They accompanied the believer throughout his life until the hour of his death. In so-called »Last Hours«, a popular genre of Pietist edification literature, the exemplary death of converts in the presence of their relatives and the pastor was depicted and disseminated with moving words as a consolation and strengthening for the readers.

Tears and crying

On the emblem with the motto »Nicht ohne Thränen«, a hand protrudes from a cloud formation reaching for an onion lying on the ground. The copperplate engraving is in the chapter in Johann Arndt's Bücher vom Wahrem Christenthum in the Frankfurt edition of 1700, which deals with repentance. The motif is explained on the reverse. Only those who recognise and painfully feel their sins shed tears, which are the outward sign of true repentance. The process of repentance initiated by God can, like the cutting of onions, »not take place without tears« and depicts a physical-mental pain in which the knowledge and feelings of the repentant sinner are condensed and amalgamated. With his »tears of repentance« he follows in the footsteps of biblical repentant sinners such as the apostle Peter who, according to Lk 22:61, denied Jesus three times in the Garden of Gethsemane: »The Lord turned/ and looked at Peter; and he went out/ and wept bitterly.«

Von den Thränen eines bußfertigen Sünders
Luc. 22, 62.
Und Petrus ging hinaus, und weinete bitterlich.

§. 1. Mercke weiter, o Seele, wie die wahre Reue eines zerknirschten Hertzens auch wol in Weinen und Thränen auszubrechen pfleget, dessen du an dem weinenden Petro ein Exempel hast.

§. 2. Du hast hiebey zuforderst die Quelle zuerforschen, aus welcher solche Thränen fliessen müssen. Diese Quelle ist mit nichten die heuchlerische Nachäffung andrer Weinenden, da mans andern aufrichtigen Seelen nachthut, nur damit man auch für bußfertig angesehen werde, Matth. 6, 18. oder auch sonst andere betriege. Jer. 41,6.

§. 3. Auch ist es nicht die natürliche Weichmüthigkeit, da man leicht weinet und doch wol kein geistlich = und göttlich= erweichtes Hertz hat.

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§. 4. Vielweniger ist es der Eigen=Sinn, Eigen=Willen und Bosheit, wie mancher nicht so wol über die Sünde, als über der Sünden Straffe weinet, oder auch darum weinet, weil er seinen Willen nicht haben kan, oder das Irrdische verlassen und verleugnen soll. Es. 15, 2.5.

§. 5. Gleichfals ist diese Quelle der Thränen nicht das blosse Gesetz. Diß fordert wol von dir Thränen, kan dir aber die rechte Thränen nicht geben, Joel 2, 12. und die es auspreßt, sind noch nicht die rechten, I Mos.27,38. I Kön. 21,27. denn sie kommen aus einem knechtischen Hertzen und sind was erzwungenes, so GOtt nicht gefället. Ps.110, 3.

§. 6. Noch sind das keine rechte Thränen, die aus dem blossen und natürlichen Andencken der überstandenen Leiden und Trübsalen bey dir entstehen möchten, oder wenn du, da dich GOtt mit leiblichen Wolthaten überschüttet, aus blosser Eigen=Liebe zu dir, häuffige Thränen vergiessest; oder wenn dich andere fleischliche Menschen trösten, und du darüber weinest.

§. 7. Die rechte Quelle der Thränen ist auch nicht der Misbrauch des Evangelii, wenn du den Trost desselben nur der Straffe der Sünden, nicht aber der Sünde selbst entgegen setzest, und über solchen fleischlichen Trost auch wol vor Freuden weinest.

§. 8. Die rechte Quelle hingegen, woraus die rechte Buß=Thränen fliessen, ist das zerknirschte, das aus liebe GOttes verwundete und zu GOtt wahrhafftig bekehrte Hertz. In diesem wircket der Heil. Geist selbst die rechte Thränen, wenn Er darin GOttes Gerechtigkeit und Liebe, und Christi Tod und Verdienst verkläret, und das alles gegen dein Hertz und Gewissen hält. Da zerschmelzet und zerfliesset das Hertz gleichsam in Thränen, und du wirst GOTT ein rechtes Thränen=Opffer. Ebr. 5, 7.

§. 9. Es wircket aber der Heil. Geist solche Thränen in dir durch das H. Wort GOttes. Das Gesetz muß das harte Hertz erst gleichsam in grobe Stücke zuschlagen: das Evangelium aber zuschmelzet es als wie ein Wachs, oder durchgiessets, salbets, erweichts und bereitets zu, daß es das Bild GOttes wieder annimmt. Ps.32, 3. Luc. 15, 20.

§. 10. Erblickest du mit Petro deinen JEsum in seinem Leiden, wie er für dich, ich sage, für dich so viel und grosse Leiden ausgestanden: und dich dabey so freundlich ansiehet, so gehest du mit Petro hinaus und weinest bitterlich.Luc. 22, 62. Da beweinest du deine Sünde, und wenn auch keine Straffe derselben wäre, weil du einen so liebreichen GOtt und Heyland, der es ohne alle dein Verdienst und Würdigkeit mit dir, seinem Feinde, so treulich meinet, damit beleidiget hast.


§. 13. Fliessen nun bey dir, o Seele, solche Thränen, so siehe zu, daß sie recht beschaffen seyn, daß sie wahrhafftig und hertzlich, Demuths und Glaubens=voll, ja auch Liebes=voll und eifersüchtig seyn. Je freyer und frecher du vorhin deine Sünden getrieben, desto milder laß aus deinen Hertzen und Augen Thränen fliessen. Doch wasche dich nicht so in deinen Thränen, als ob du durch dieselbe dich von deinen Sünden abwaschen wollest und könnest. Das sey ferne. In deines JEsu Thränen, die Er für dich so mildiglich vergossen und in seinem Blute bade dich nur getrost und beständig. Das wird deine Sünde wegnehmen. Ebr. 5,7. Luc. 19,41. Joh. 11,35.

§. 14. O Seele, bete, daß dir GOTT die rechte Thränen gebe. Im Gebet erweichet das Hertz. Je mehr du betest, je besser werden die Thränen fliessen. Schäme dich auch der Buß=Thränen nicht, ob dich die Welt gleich darüber verhöhnet. Gnug, daß deine Thränen GOtt angenehm sind. Ps. 6, 9.

§. 15. Ach mein JEsu! erweiche du mein hartes Hertz, und gib mir rechte Buß=Thränen. Blicke mich, wie dort den Petrum an, daß ich auch wie er, meine Sünden bitterlich beweine. Amen.

Quelle: Die 23. Betrachtung. Von Thränen eines bußfertigen Sünders. In: Porst, Johann: Compendium Theologiæ Viatorum Et Regenitorum Practicæ oder Die Göttliche Führung der Seelen, und Wachsthum der Gläubigen, in einem kurtzen Auszug vorgestellet.[...]. Halle: Waisenhaus, 1723. BFSt: 43 H 3


Johann Porst's (1668-1728) didactically prepared text Von den Thränen eines bußfertigen Sünders stands for the strict observance and disciplining of weeping in Pietism. Tears are among the emotional practices that belong to the conditio humana, but are only tolerated and considered valuable in the pious world of life if they flow from the right, i.e. correct, inner, religious attitude and feeling and are regulated by binding norms. Therefore, Porst first lists which tears are undesirable: Tears of earthly emotion due to a soft constitution, out of hypocrisy and imitation, out of fear of God's punishment, out of relief from overcoming suffering or out of outward compliance with laws. In contrast, in the middle of the text, from § 8, the criteria are named that distinguish »right« tears, »tears of repentance«: Tears from the realisation of one's own sinfulness and from deeply felt repentance, from the grace of God, from the law of God and from the realisation of God's love towards the sinner.


Tears, according to the Christian conception, are limited to human life on earth, because at the end of all days God will »wipe away all tears from their eyes« (Rev. 7:17). There will be no more weeping in paradise. That is why the banners on the title page of Friedrich Eberhard Collins' (1684-1727) Exempelbuch für Kinder, Wundervoller Schauplatz der Heiligen Märtyrer (1729) say: »Here we wept but a short time. There we jubilate for eternity.« Not exactly appropriate for children - from our contemporary point of view - it drastically contrasts the martyrdom of pious children on a battlefield on earth with the jubilant choirs in heaven.

Kneeling and praying

The copperplate engraving shows a kneeling »Communicant« in the foreground, praying alone on stony steps in front of imposing columns that open up a view of a church room in which several people are entering the church on the right and taking communion on the left. According to the Gebetbüchlein, the kneeling person should only take part in communion after »penitential preparation«. Therefore, he kneels down, prays in silence and seclusion and not in communion. Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), who wrote the preface to the Gebetbüchlein, was concerned with reforming the church and confessional system, which in his view was in a deplorable state. With his Gebetbüchlein, he wanted to contribute to ensuring that only believers who have called upon God in repentance and penance and have received his grace receive communion worthily and with »godly hearts«.

In Christian iconography and also in Protestant devotional literature, the faithful found many examples of kneeling prayers going back to the Bible. Images of praying men from the Bible are impressively collected in Johann Saubert's (1592-1646) Icones Precantium (1638). Opened is an engraving showing King David. He has taken off his crown as an insignia of power and is kneeling in a bent posture to worship God. Kneeling and praying are thus part of the self-evident repertoire of emotional pious practices that are passed on from generation to generation.

Ecstasy and visions

[…] Den 16. Decembr. Nachmittag als ich da ankam / fand ich die Person im Bette sitzend / und als ich sie grüssete / und ihr die Hand gab fragete ich ob sie kranck wäre? und was sie machte; Darauf sie mir antwortete: Daß ihr nichts mangelte / und über nichts zu klagen hätte / weil Sie ja GOtt bey sich hätte. Darauf ich sagte: Daß derjenige glückselig genug wäre / der in seinem Hertzen versichert sey / daß GOTT neben und üm ihn sey. Hierauf wurde sie gantz stille / und als ich ferner mit ihr redete / antwortete sie kein Wort / sondern saß mit offenen Augen gantz starre. Die Hände / als sie von mir in die Höhe gehoben wurden / fielen wieder nieder. Der Pulsus war gantz natürlich / doch etwas langsam / die respiratio libera. Ich fühlete ihr an die Augen mit den Fingern / welches geschahe ohne einzige ihre Empfindniß / und Bewegung der Augenlieder. Ferner stach ich sie mit der Nadel tieff ins Fleisch / davon ich nicht die geringste Entzückung von ihr anmerckete. Die partes extremae waren gantz natürlich warm / nach Verfliessung einer Viertel=Stunde kam sie wieder zu sich selbst / seuffzete mehrmal sehr tieff / und vergoß etliche Thränen.

Als ich sie fragete: Was ihr gewesen? und ob sie wohl gehöret / was ich mit ihr geredt? Und gefühlet / das ich ihr in die Hand gestochen? auch ob sie keine Angst am Hertzen oder Schwindel im Haupte verspürete / antwortete sie: Daß ihr über diese Worte / die ich gesprochen / gleichsam ein tieffer Schlaff ankommen wäre / welchen sie sich nicht enthalten können. Sie hätte aber darinnen grosse Freude gehabt / welche sie nicht beschreiben könnte noch dürffte / hätte aber nichts gehöret noch gefühlet / und wäre sie gantz gesund / und klagete über nichts. Nach einer kurtzen zeit / als ich wieder mit ihr aus dem Worte GOTTES / absonderlich von der Liebe JESU kräftiglich sprach / bekam sie eben diesen Affectum, bey Endigung dessen aber eine elevatio pectoris sich etliche mahl herfür that. Als der Paroxismus geendigt war / fragte ich sie: Ob sie keine Angst am Hertzen / und ihr die Brust weh thäte? weil sie ja sehr dieselbe erhoben. Darauff sie antwortete: Daß sie voll solcher Freude gewesen / daß sie gemeynet / das Hertz sollte ihr zerspringen. Diesen Paroxismum hat sie binnen 24. Stunden / me observante, wohl 12. Mahl gehabt / so wohl stehend / sitzend als liegend / und zwar allezeit / wann mit ihr kräfftiglich über GOttes Wort geredet wurde […].


In this writing, the expressions of specific and particularly intense religious emotional experiences are described. Influenced by the apocalyptic mood towards the end of the 17th century, there was an increase in ecstatic apparitions and visionary experiences in the environment of the enthusiastic direction of Pietism. The most frequent reports of such revelations in central Germany came from theologically uneducated women of low social standing, who were therefore also referred to by contemporaries as »enthusiastic maidens«. Magdalena Elrichs (1667-?), who came from the poor quarter on the Münzenberg in Quedlinburg, was one such maid. From December 1691 onwards, she experienced frequent ecstatic states accompanied by various visions.

The author of the work, which in addition to the case of Magdalena Elrichs also deals with other comparable cases, is probably the philosopher and Protestant theologian Gerhard Meier (1664-1723), who came to prominence with several writings against the Quedlinburg Pietists. The frontispiece corresponds with the baroque title page, which already tells us that Magdalena gave birth to an illegitimate child at her mother's home on the Münzenberg in 1699 and that a fire broke out due to a lantern being knocked over, which developed into a major fire. The illustration supports the intended vilification and condemnation of both the protagonist and the direction of Pietism, which was characterised by enthusiasm with partly radical ecstatics.

6. Epilogue: The Winged Heart

Copper engraving. In: Heinrich Müller: Himmlischer Liebes-Kuß. Nürnberg: Endter & Engelbrecht; Fleischmann, 1745. THOL: XVI D 746