Johannes Matthaeus Meyfart

Short Name: Johannes Matthaeus Meyfart
Full Name: Meyfart, Johannes Matthaeus, 1590-1642
Birth Year: 1590
Death Year: 1642

Meyfart, Johann Matthäus, was born Nov. 9, 1590 at Jena, during a visit which his mother (wife of Pastor Meyfart of Wablwinkel, near Waltershausen, Gotha) was paying to her father. He studied at the Universities of Jena (M.A. 1611; D.D. 1624) and Wittenberg, and was thereafter for some time adjunct of the philosophical faculty at Jena. In 1616, he was appointed professor in the Gymnasium at Coburg and in 1623 director; and during his residence at Coburg was a great moral power. When his colleagues in the Gymnasium made a complaint to the government regarding a dissertation (De disciplina ecclesiastica) which he published in 1633, he accepted the offer of the professorship of theology in the revived University of Erfurt. He entered on his work at Erfurt, July, 1633, was rector of the University in 1634, and in 1636 became also pastor of the Prediger Kirche. He died at Erfurt, Jan. 26, 1642 (Koch iii. 117; Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie xxi. 646, &c.).

Meyfart's devotional works (Tuba poenitentiae prophetica, 1625; Tuba Novissima, 1626; Höllisches Sodoma, 1629; Himmlisches Jerusalem, 1630; Jüngste Gericht, 1632) passed through various editions, and produced a great impression by their vivid picturing and their earnest calls to repentance and amendment of life. His well-meant efforts, by books and otherwise, towards raising the tone of student life in Germany, and his exposition of the excesses and defects in both academical and churchly life at that period, brought him much ill will and opposition, and did not produce useful fruit till much later. His hymns were few in number, and appeared mostly in his devotional books.

Only one of Meyfart's hymns has passed into English, viz. :—
Jerusalem, du hochgebaute Stadt. The New Jerusalem. This splendid hymn appeared in his Tuba Novissima, Coburg, 1626 [Ducal Library, Gotha], a volume containing four sermons preached at Coburg on the Four Last Things, viz. Death, Last Judgment, Eternal Life, and Eternal Punishment. It forms the conclusion of the third sermon (on St. Matt. xvii. 1-9) which is entitled "On the joy and glory which all the Elect are to expect in the Life everlasting." This conclusion is reprinted verbatim et literatim (i.e. with the introductory and closing sentences, and the connecting sentences between st. i., ii., iii. and iv.) in the Blätter für Hymnologie, 1883, pp. 120-124. The text of the hymn, in 8 st. of 8 1., is given unaltered, according to the marginal directions of the original (save st. vii. 1. 6, where the original is "Man spielt"), as No. 1537 in the Berlin Geistliche Lieder ed. 1863. Of it Lauxmann, in Koch viii. 669, says:—

"The hymn is a precious gem in our Treasury of Song, in which one clearly sees that from it the whole heart of the poet shines out on us. Meyfart had his face turned wholly to the Future, to the Last Things; and with a richly fanciful mysticism full of deep and strong faith, he united a flaming zeal for the House of the Lord, and against the abuses of his times."

He adds that the hymn was a great favourite with Charles Gützlaff, the apostle of China (died at Hong Kong, Aug. 9, 1851), whose last words were "Would God I were in thee" (st. i. 1. 3) ; and of Julius Schnorr of Carolsfeld, the well-known painter, whose last work was the illustrating of this hymn, and at whose funeral in 1872 it was sung. The popularity of the hymn was greatly aided by the magnificent melody, generally ascribed to Melchior Franck [born at Zittau, 1580 ; c. 1604, capellmeister at Coburg; died at Coburg, June 1,1639], but not yet traced earlier than to the Erfurt Gesang-Buch, 1663.
Translations in common use:—
1. Jerusalem, thou city built on high. A good tranlation of st. i.-iv., vii., as No. 112 in the Dalston Hospital Hymn Book, 1848.
2. Jerusalem, thou city built on high. A good translation of st. i., iv., vi., vii., by A. T. Russell, as No. 261 in his Psalms & Hymns, 1851. St. i., 11. 1, 2, 4 are from the 1848 translation. The form in Dr. Pagenstecher's Collection, 1864, No. 288, is i. 11. 1-4, ii. as 1848; i. 11. 5-8, vii. as 1851.
3. Jerusalem, thou city fair and high. A good and full translation by Miss Winkworth, in her Lyra Germanica, 2nd Ser., 1858, p. 220; repeated in her Chorale Book for England, 1863, No. 193, set to the melody of 1663. Included in full in the Ohio Lutheran Hymnal, 1880, and, abridged, in the Pennsylvania Lutheran Church Book, 1868, and the Uppingham and Sherborne School Hymn Book, 1874.
4. Jerusalem! high tow’r thy glorious walls. A good and full translation, by Bishop W. R. Whittingham, in the American Episcopal Hymns for Church and Home, 1860, No. 414; and the American Episcopal Hymnal, 1871. St. i., iv., viii. are in M. W. Stryker's Christian Chorals, 1885.
Translations not in common use:—

(l) "Jerusalem, thou city of the skies." In the United PresbyterianJuvenile Mission Magazine, Dec. 1857. (2) "Jerusalem! thou glorious city-height." By Mrs. Sevan, 1858, p. 19, repeated in L. Rehfuess's Church at Sea, 1868. (3) “Jerusalem, thou high-built, fair abode." In the Christian Examiner (Boston, U. S.), Sept. 1860, p. 254. (4) "Jerusalem, thou city rear'd on high. By Miss Manington, 1863, p. 94. (5) "Jerusalem! thou city towering high." By Miss Cox, in her Hymns from the German, 1864, p. 101, and in Lyra Mystica, 1865, p. 365. (6) "Jerusalem! thou city builded high." By Miss Burlingham, in the British Herald, April, 1866, p. 249, and Reid's Praise Book, 1872. (7) "Jerusalem! high tow'r thy glorious walls." A full and spirited translation by J. H. Hopkins, in his Carols, Hymns and Songs, 1882, p. 182, dated 1862. St. i., 11. 1-2, are taken from Bishop Whittingham's version.

[Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

Texts by Johannes Matthaeus Meyfart (13)sort descendingAsAuthority LanguagesInstances
Jerusalén, altísima ciudadJohann Matthäus Meyfart, 1590-1642 (Author)Spanish2
Jerusalem, du fagre himmelstadJohannes Matthaeus Meyfart (Author)Norwegian2
Jerusalem, du heilge GottesstadtJohannes Matthaeus Meyfart (Author)German4
Jerusalem, du hochgebaute StadtJ. M. Meyfart, 1590-1642 (Author)German64
Jerusalem high tower thy glorious wallsJ. M. Meyfart (Author)English12
Jerusalem, thou city built on high!Johann M. Meyfart (Author)English2
Jerusalem, thou city fair and highJ. M. Meyfart, 1590-1642 (Author)English54
Jerusalem! thou glorious City-heightJohannes Matthaeus Meyfart (Author)English2
Jerusalem, tot' mesto vzneseneJohannes Matthaeus Meyfart (Author)2
Jerusalem, whose towers touch the skiesJohannes Matthaeus Meyfart (Author)English2
JeruzalemJohannes Matthaeus Meyfart (Author)Polish2
O grosser Gott von MachtJohann Matthaeus Meyfart (Author)German13
Sag, was hilft alle WeltJ. M. Meyfahrt (Author)German3
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