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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Pietists

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PROTESTANT, a denomination in the seventeenth century, which owed its origin to "the pious and learned Spener," as Dr. Mosheim calls him, who formed private devotional societies at Frankfort, in order to cultivate vital and practical religion; and published a book entitled "Pious Desires," which greatly promoted this object. His followers laid it down as an essential maxim, that none should be admitted into the ministry but those who not only had received a proper education, but were also distinguished by their wisdom and sanctity of manners, and had hearts filled with divine love. Hence they proposed an alteration in the schools of divinity, which embraced the following points:

1. That the scholastic theology, which reigned in the academies, and was composed of intricate and disputable doctrines, and obscure and unusual forms of expression, should be totally abolished.

2. That polemical divinity, which comprehended the controversies subsisting between Christians of different communions, should be less eagerly studied, and less frequently treated, though not entirely neglected.

3. That all mixture of philosophy and human science with divine wisdom, was to be most carefully avoided; that is, that Pagan philosophy and classical learning should be kept distinct from, and by no means supersede, Biblical theology. But,

4. That, on the contrary, all those students, who were designed for the ministry, should be accustomed from their early youth to the perusal and study of the Holy Scriptures, and be taught a plain system of theology, drawn from these unerring sources of truth.

5. That the whole course of their education was to be so directed as to render them useful in life, by the practical power of their doctrine, and the commanding influence of their example. Such, in substance, is Mosheim's account of the meditated reforms in the public schools. But it was not intended to confine these reforms to students and the clergy. Religious persons of every class and rank were encouraged to meet in what were called Biblical colleges, or colleges of piety, (we might call them prayer meetings,) where some exercised in reading the Scriptures, singing, and prayer, and others engaged in the exposition of the Scriptures; not in a dry and critical way, but in a strain of practical and experimental piety, by which they mutually edified each other. This practice, which always more or less obtains where religion flourishes, as, for instance, at the Reformation, raised the same sort of outcry as at the rise of Methodism; and those who entered not into the spirit of the design, were eager to catch at every instance of weakness or imprudence, to bring disgrace on that which, in fact, brought disgrace upon themselves, as lukewarm and formal Christians. "In so saying, Master, thou reproachest us also." This work began about 1670. In 1691 Dr. Spener removed from Dresden to Berlin, where he propagated the same principles, which widely spread, and were well supported in many parts of Germany by the excellent Professor Francke and others, until the general decline of religion which has unhappily prevailed in Germany for the last half century. See NEOLOGY .

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Pietists'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/p/pietists.html. 1831-2.

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