Meyfart (or Mayfart), Johann Mattheus

Meyfart (Or Mayfart), Johann Mattheus a Lutheran theologian of considerable note, son of a Protestant divine, was born at Jena in 1590. He received an excellent philological and philosophical education a Gotha, and afterwards entered the University of Wittenberg, where he devoted himself to the study of logic, physics, ethics, and the classics. In 1611, having secured the degree of A.M., he began the study of theology. In 1616 Meyfart was called to a professorship a the newly-founded University of Coburg. He published his first theological essays in 1617. In 1624 he was created doctor of theology by the University of Jena. In the same year he began the preparation of large dogmatic work entitled De theologia, de philosophiae sobrio usu, de S.S., et de symbolis; but he never completed this work. In 1627, however, he went before the public with quite large and valuable works: Anti-Becanus sive manualis controversiarum theol., a Becano collecti, confutatino (L'eipsic, 1627, 2 volumes); Nodu. Gordius Sophistarum solutus, i.e. de ratione solvend argumenta sophistica, etc., libri 4 (Coburg, 1627, 8vo) Meyfart is one of the most remarkable characters of the 17th century, and can justly be called the forerunner of Spener (q.v.). With an intense longing for the highest ideals, which undoubtedly had been fostered by his classical studies, he united a true, living faith in Christ and desired to leave this earth to be with his Saviour. At the same time he was quick to perceive the many errors and the moral decay of the Church, and, with an earnestness seldom surpassed, he raised his voice against the manifold sins and imperfections of the Church of his day and country. In 1626 he issued his Tuba novissima, i.e., of the four last things, viz. death, judgment, eternal life, and condemnation. These were originally four sermons preached by him at Coburg; but they created such an impression that he had not only to publish them in book form, but was also urged to publish more sermons and admonitions on these and similar subjects. Thus he published six more volumes on The Heavenly Jerusalem, Eternal Damnnation, and the Final Judgment. Some of these books passed through five and more editions. Henke, in just appreciation of his merits, calls Meyfart "a German Dante, full of poetry and knowledge." During his later life Meyfart published several books and essays which were written in the spirit of the Reformation. One of his essays contains an earnest address to the clergy how to live and how to pray; another is directed against the vice of nepotism and simony; and in another, De concilianda pace inter ecclesias per Germaniam evangelicas, he enumerates seventeen characteristic reasons why theologians are so ill adapted to peace, e.g. insufficientia mtorum et eruditionis, metus odii et invidiae, intuitus humanae auctoritatis, etc. After the capture of Erfurt by Gustavus Adolphus, Meyfart was called as professor of theology to the newly-reorganized Lutheran University of Erfurt, and in 1635 he was elected rector of the university, and senior of the theological department. He died January 26, 1642.

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