Petersen, Johann Wilhelm

Petersen, Johann Wilhelm a German writer noted for his theological studies, and his heresies in certain branches of Christian doctrine, was born July 1, 1649, at Osnabrick, was educated at Lubeck in the preparatory branches, and studied theology at the universities of Giessen, Rostock, Leipsic, Wittenberg, and Jena. He then lectured for a while at Giessen, preached at Lubeck, and finally accepted a professorship at the university in Rostock. He had written a poem satirizing the Jesuits; they in turn had made it so uncomfortable for him at Lubeck that he went to Rostock, but also here, and at Hanover later, they followed him with their opposition and invectives, and in 1678 he gladly accepted the superintendency of the churches at Eutin. In 1688 he became superintendent at Lineburg, but did not remain long, as differences sprang up between him and the pastors. In 1692 he was deposed, on the ground that he espoused chiliastic ideas. He now purchased a farm near Zerbst, and died in retirement, January 31, 1727. His last years were spent in the advocacy of chiliasticopietistic opinions, and he wrote much for that purpose. A list of all his writings is given in his autobiography (1717). This book is valuable, as it indicates the sources whence the pietism of Spener and Francke drew its strength. We must not be understood, however, to say that Spener's pietism depended on Petersen, but simply that Petersen and Spener had much in common, and that the former, by his influence and acceptance of pietistic views, strengthened Spener's hands. Petersen seems to have misapprehended Spener, and to have gone farther than he. Thus, for example, Petersen. misunderstanding Spener's doctrine concerning "better times to come",

SEE ESCHATOLOGY; SEE SPENER, and the realization of God's kingdom on earth, announced the speedy approach of the millennial reign, and, for the sake of accommodation, even adopted the final restoration theories of Origen (q.v.), with which he became acquainted, as he tells us, in the writings of the English fanatic Jane Leade (q.v.). His wife adopted these views also, and became a propagator of this heresy and the notion of a universal apocatastasis. But the doctrine, though it pleased many by limiting the eternity of punishment, and some who had almost strayed from the Church beyond hope of regaining their former hold on Christ and his Church, yet met with almost universal rejection, because it obliged its advocates to embrace a physical process of redemption, or at least one which was not brought about by the Word of Christ. A train of thought Which was the germ of the Terministic controversy of 1698-1710 might well lead farther. It had been usual so to identify the day of grace with the duration of earthly life as to allow no hope beyond it, and also to regard the term of grace as unexpired while life lasted. Though the original foundation of this opinion was a serious view of the importance of earthly life, it was yet capable of being made the basis of that levity which would delay repentance till the approach of death. To put a stop to this notion, Bose, with whom Rechenberg (q.v.) agreed, upheld the tenet that there is, even in this life, a peremptory termination of grace. This cannot depend upon so external a matter as time, but upon the inward maturity of the decision for or against Christ. Grace is taken from those who have repeatedly refused it, and the justification formerly pronounced is withdrawn. See, however, the art. GRACE SEE GRACE . To Petersen's adoption of a millennium and a universal restoration, he added, thirdly, faith in the continuation of supernatural inspiration. He was led to this step by a Miss Rosamunda Juliana Von Arnburg, who professed, after her seventh year, to see miraculous visions, especially during prayer, and to experience extraordinary divine revelations. Petersen was acquainted with her after 1691. He boasts that his house had been blessed by her presence as the house of Obed-Edom. He then busied himself with the matter, and composed a work in favor of the lady, in which he sought to establish the divine character of her revelations against all doubt. Besides, Petersen and his wife also claimed to be themselves favored with such illuminations and revelations, and they not unfrequently entertained their superstitious age with extraordinary experiences of a disorganized and infatuated brain. But notwithstanding all his peculiar views, and his too ready credulity, Petersen must be pronounced a noble and pious man. He wrote many hymns, some of which are preserved in German collections to this day. Dippel (q.v.) and Edelmann joined Petersen, though they differed from him much on doctrinal points. See Hurst's Hagenbach, Ch. Hist. 18th and 19th Cent. 1:159 sq.; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 2:370; Dorner, Hist. of Protestant Theology, 2:154; Lebensbeschreibung (1719). (J.H.W.)

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