Werenfels, Samuel

Werenfels, Samuel a Swiss theologian, was the son of the antistes of Basle, Peter Werenfels, and was born March 1, 1657. He was educated at Basle, Zurich, Berne, Lausanne, and Geneva; became professor of Greek at Basle; and soon afterwards undertook an extended scientific tour through Holland and North Germany. On his return he received the chair of rhetoric at Basie. He was himself an orator, and sought to develop the oratorical faculty in his pupils, encouraging them to cultivate naturalness and simplicity of manner and style, together with elegance of diction. He regarded disputatiousness as a malady having its root in moral conditions, as pride, etc., and for its cure he recommended a universal lexicon containing exact definitions of all scientific conceptions. In 1696 Werenfels became a theological professor, receiving the chair of dogmatics and polemics, and in the same year received the doctor's degree. He interpreted his duty in the new position as having less to do with the antiquated heresies of bygone ages than with the perverse tendencies of the time in which he lived, and as involving the effort of restraining theological zeal within its proper limits. In these opinions he had the sympathy and cooperation of Friedrich Osterwald (q.v.) and Alphonse Turretin (q.v.), with whom he became acquainted at this time, and with whom he formed the so-called theological triumvirate of his day. He also entered into relations with the learned Parisian Benedictine Montfaucon, though by no means indifferent as respects the profound questions at issue between Romanism and Protestantism. In 1703 he was promoted to the chair of Old-Test. exegesis. In this office he devoted himself to an exposition of the Psalms, and introduced a new study into the curriculum of the school — that of hermeneutics. His principles of interpretation were altogether those which were subsequently brought to general recognition and acceptance, viz. the principles of the grammatico-historical method. In 1711 he served for a time as preacher to the French Church, and became very popular, though' obliged to speak in an acquired tongue. His sermons were printed and translated into Dutch and German. In the same year he advanced to the foremost theological professorship in the university — that of New-Test. exegesis — and continued to hold that office until his death, June 1, 1740. He rejected a call to the University of Franeker, secured for him through the intervention of Vitringa, but accepted the honor of membership in the "British Society for the Spread of the Gospel in Foreign Lands" and in the "Berlin Scientific Association." No striking events occurred in the life of Werenfels by which he might secure a name, nor did he compose any important and epochal theological work. His Opuscula, however, contain a collection of treatises on different exegetical and doctrinal subjects which are still deserving of notice. His spirit was irenical, and his labors were put forth in constant endeavors to promote honorable fraternity among Christians. He felt assured that the root of evil is not in the head, but in the heart. As a teacher, he combined practical instruction with theoretical, that he might give a higher fitness to the young men who came under his care. In the evening of his life an effort was made to compel Werenfels to assist in the endeavor to degrade the learned and meritorious Wettstein from the ministry on account of alleged heterodoxy. He consequently absented himself from the sessions of the theological court, and ultimately withdrew from the academical life to privacy.

No suitable biography of Werenfels has yet been prepared, and the many grains of information scattered through his Opuscula have not been collected. See the Athen. Raur. page 57 sq.; Hanhart, Erinnerungen an Samuel Werenfels, in Basler wissensch. Zeitschr. 1824, page 22; and Hagenbach, Programme, 1860. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v

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