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Samuel Werenfels.

Samuel Werenfels (March 1, 1657 – June 1, 1740) was a Swiss theologian. Werenfels was born at Basel and died there.

After finishing his theological and philosophical studies at Basel, he visited the universities at Zurich, Bern, Lausanne, and Geneva. On his return he held, for a short time, the professorship of logic, and in 1685 became professor of Greek at Basel. The next year he undertook an extensive journey through Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, one of his companions being Gilbert Burnet. In 1687 he was appointed professor of rhetoric, and in 1696 became a member of the theological faculty, occupying successively, according to the Basel custom, the chairs of dogmatics and polemics, Old Testament, and New Testament. He was thus in a manner compelled to manifest a many-sided activity.

In his De logomachiis eruditorum (Amsterdam, 1688) Werenfels shows how often controversies that divide even Christians are at bottom mere verbal disputes arising from moral deficiencies, especially from pride. He proposed to do away with such disputes by making a universal lexicon of all terms and concepts. In the Oratio de vero et falso theologorum zelo he admonishes those who fight professedly for purity of doctrine but in reality for their own system to show their zeal where the fruits of faith are wanting and Christian love has grown cold. He considers it the duty of the polemicist not to combat antiquated heresies and to warm up dead issues, but to overthrow the prevalent enemies of true Christian living. His epigram on the misuse of the Bible is well known: " This is the book in which each both seeks and finds his own dogmas."

He had a high conception of his duties as a theological professor, as shown in his address, De scopo doctoris in academia sacras litteras docentis. He believed that it was more important to care for the piety of candidates for the ministry than for their scholarship. It was his belief that a professor of practical theology is as necessary as a professor of practical medicine. He represented a theology that put doctrinal quibbles in the background and laid emphasis upon the pure doctrine which demands a Christian life of purity and love. He stood for the necessity of a special revelation of God, and defended the Biblical miracles as confirmations of the words of the divine evangelists. In his Cogitationes generales de ratione uniendi ecclesias protestantes, quae vulgo Lutheranarum et Reformatorum nominibus distingui solent, he sought away of reconciling the two branches of the Protestant Church.

Werenfels's writings went through many editions, as did the sermons he preached in French, which were received with great applause, and were translated into German and Dutch. During the last twenty years of his life he lived in retirement in order to devote his whole time to the care of his soul's welfare, though his solicitude for students did not cease.

It is all the more surprising, on this account, that he thought proper to issue from his retirement and take part in the proceedings against Johann Jakob Wettstein for heresy, especially as he had himself in 1720 expressed the opinion that fallible man ought not to decide upon the regularity of another's faith. He expressed regret afterward at having become involved in the affair.

His Sylloge dissertationum theologicarum appeared first Basel, 1609; a further collection of his works is Opuscula theologica, philologica, et philosophica (Basel, 1718, new ed., 3 vols., 1782).




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