« AnteriorContinuar »
how to seek after the truth. Whereupon adventuring not only to spread his error in private, but publickly to proclaim it in the pulpit, he drew present danger on himself, being soon cast into prison by the command of the Prince of Transylvania, where he shortly after ended his life. Of whose death, though Socinus was altogether guiltless, yet did he not escape blame. As if he were not able to vanquish the said Franciscus with other weapons, when notwithstanding the disputations of both are published. Or that magistrate was so addicted to the cause of Socinus, as to employ the weapons of his authority for him, or any one of his party. But, if perhaps some person, who favoured the cause of Socinus, did incite the princes to deal roughly with the said Franciscus, whereof nevertheless I am not certain, yet let not Socinus be blamed for him, inasmuch as he could neither know his counsel, nor approve his deed. For, to omit sundry considerations, there could not happen any thing more contrary to the mind of Socinus, than that such a doctrine, as could not be defended with the words_and wit of the said Franciscus, whilst he lived, should seem to be confirmed by the mute, but efficacious testimony of his death: especially because, carrying the face of a martyrdom, it presently turned the eyes of all men to it. The disputation of Socinus with him, though written, whilst the said Franciscus was alive, could notwithstanding hardly come to light fifteen years after. When this disputation was finished in May, anno 1579, and presented to the Transylvanian churches, Socinus could not long tarry there, by reason of a disease then raging, which they commonly call the cholick. Wherefore in the same year, being now forty years old, he travelled into Poland, where he made suit publickly to be united to the Polonian churches, which acknowledge none but the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the most High God. But, not concealing his dissent in certain doctrines, here suffered a repulse very roughly and for a long time.
Nevertheless he, being composed unto patience, not so much by his natural inclination, as by the resolution of his mind, was no whit enraged with this disgrace, nor ever gave any signs of a disaffected mind; but rather undertook to repel with his wit the incursion of divers adversaries, who then infested those churches. And first of all he received the charge of Andreas Volanus, by refelling his Paraenesis; and upon the same occasion, at the request of Niemojevius, the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans was explained. Afterwards it pleased him to assail Jacobus Palaeologus, whose reputation and authority did at that time cherish the relicks of pernicious errors in men otherwise well-minded. Him being somewhat roughly handled, not out of hatred, but advice, he always excused. A little after, when Volanus had renewed the fight, he was again encountered, and withal an answer made to the positions of the college of Ponsa. Whilst Socinus undergoeth so much fighting and hatred for the patronage of the truth, amongst so many enemies there wanted not some calumniators. Stephanus was then King of Poland. A pickthank blows his ears with the report of a book written against the magistrate; adding, that it would be a very dishonourable thing to suffer a wandering Italian exile to escape Scot-free with so bold an enterprise. He hinted at the book aoainst Palfeologus. Which though it required no other testimony of its innocency, than the reading, yet did he think good to decline the danger.
Whereupon, he departed from Cracovia, where he had now lived four years, to a nobleman, named Christophorus Morstinus, Lord of Pawlicovia; in which place he defended his innocency, not so much by skulking, as by the privilege of nobility in our nation: for that suburb-farm is a few miles distant from Cracovia. It seemed a wiser course to clear himself from the crimes laid to his charge, rather out of that place, than out of prison j nor was he entertained in that hospitable house, for that nick of time only, but there cherished for above three years. And, to the end that the courtesy shewed to ah exile and stranger might be more abundant, a little while after, the daughter of the family, a noble virgin, was, at his suit, given him in marriage; so that, being of a stranger become a son-in-law, he seemed to have established his security in those places, by affinities and friendships. Whilst he lived in the country, he wrote many notable pieces, and chiefly that against Eutropius, constantly defending the fame and cause of that church, which had, with most unjust prejudice, condemned him, and caused him, though innocent, continually to suffer many indignities. His daughter Agnes was born to him in the year of our Lord 1587, and forty-eighth of his age; of whom, being, after her father's death, married to Stanislaus Wiszowatius, a Polonian knight, there are as yet remaining nephews and nieces. In September the same year, he lost his wife Elisabeth; which sad and disastrous chance was followed with a grievous fit of sickness, so obstinate, that, for certain months, it caused the use of his studies to cease. And, that no kind of calamity might be wanting, almost -about the same time, by the death of Fianciscus, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the revenues of his estate, which he received yearly out of Italy, were quite taken away from him. Indeed, a little before, by the bitterness of accusers, and threats of popes, his estate came into danger; but, by the strenuous endeavour of Isabella Medicea, the Grand Duke's sister (who was married to the aforesaid Paulus Jordanus Ursinus) whilst she lived, and afterwards by the favour of Franciscus, the Grand Duke, it came to pass, that, during his life, Socinus received the yearly income of his estate. For, indeed, his old deserts were still so fresh in memory, that those princes, though long since forsaken, and oftentimes rejected, did yet, in a most difficult matter, gratify the letters and prayers of a condemned and exiled person. Yea, letters full of courtesy were sent unto him, and he bidden to be of good chear for the future, as long as they lived, so that, in setting forth books, he suffered not his name to appear. But those princes were then taken away by a destiny disastrous to Socinus. And, that all things might seem to have conspired to the perplexity of the man, being a widower, sick, and stripped of all his fortunes, he was molested with the very times of our common-wealth, which were then exceeding turbulent, because divers did contend who should be the King of Poland; so that the adversaries, thereupon, took greater license to themselves. Socinus was now returned to Cracovia, and sought solace, in the midst of so many evils, from the employment, .which Qod had imposed on him, to purge the church of such errors as were then rife in her. Wherefore, although he had been formerly accustomed to frequent ecclesiastical assemblies, yet, in the year 1588, in the synod of Breste (which is a town on the borders of Lithuania) he disputed with greater earnestness and fruit, than before, touching the death and sacrifice of Christ, touching our justification, touching the corrupted nature of man, and, finally, with the Davidians, and Budneists, touching the invocation of Jesus Christ. This was the year, wherein the care and charge of the church at Luclavicia was committed to Petrus Stoinius, son of Petrus Statorius of Thornville; whose family, having heretofore been naturalised into the nobility of our nation, hath, even at this day, some men surviving, who have been invested with great honours, in our own country. He, being no less sharp in judgment, than ready in speech, being once admitted into the friendship of Socinus, yielded willingly to his opinion. A little before, also, he had privately drawn many of the chief ones into his opinion, and there was daily an accession made of such men as complied with them. Nevertheless, certain men of very great authority still stood off, as, Niemojevius and Czechovicius, together with the greatest part of the ancient ministers. The report is, that Securinius was the first that adventured openly to maintain the tenets of Socinus, to which he had assented; not long after, others followed: which party was exceedingly strengthened by the accession of the three Lujenecii, Andreas, Stanislaus, and Christophorus; who, being brethren of noble descent, and born to very great hopes, and brought up partly in the King's court, and partly in the society of the greatest peers, were, by a sacred instinct, transported from the midst of the allurements of this life to the care of religion. These men, as they had, by a most inflamed zeal, trodden under foot all the impediments of piety, so, with an equal candour and greatness of mind, they subscribed to the known truth.
And now others of the pastors came in a vie to the party, especially the juniors, who were less retarded with the prejudice of inveterate opinions and authority; and that, by reason of an accident very notable for the newness thereof, which gave a memorable proof, how great the force of the truth is. Amidst a great jarring of opinions, this was a laudable agreement of that church, That those men contended only with arguments, and not with hatred: and, though they detested one another's opinion, yet did they not condemn one another; and therefore, keeping mutual tolerance intire, they oftentimes disputed very eagerly; and this was the chief work of their synods.
Wherefore, anno, 1585, in the synod of Lublin, the opinion of Socinus, touching the seventh chapter of the Romans, was exceedingly agitated. There were somethat defended it; but as great a number of pastors that opposed it: One whereof, named Nicolaus Zitinius, being willed by others of the same party to explain that chapter contrary to the mind of Socinus, and having, to that purpose, stoutly managed the matter, falling in his discourse upon those words, wherewith the apostle giveth thanks to God for his freedom, stood like a man amazed. And by and by, What is that freedom? saith he. What is that benefit, which drew from the apostle so great thanks? Was it, that he was of necessity detained in so great a servitude of sin? Certainly, such a thing as this can, at no hand, gain approbation with me. I therefore, saith he, in like manner give very great thanks to the Father of Lights, in that he would have the light of his truth arise unto me, who am now freed from error. Afterwards, entering upon a contrary way of explaining, he accurately disputed for the orthodox opinion. When they, whose cause he had undertaken, being amazed, did rebuke him; his answer was, that he could not resist the judgment of a convinced mind. This business was of great moment for the propagation of the truth; nor did their endeavours less conduce thereunto, who had lifted up the standard unto others to embrace it. Amongst them the eloquence of the foresaid Petrus Stoinius did excel. That elegant tongue only had God bestowed on those churches, equal to the wit of Socinus, and able to deliver, in a popular manner, his subtle senses, that were above the ruder sort, and to commend them unto all by h.s flexanimous speech. Him, therefore, as the chief interpreter of bis mind, did Socinus make use of, to the notable advantage of God's church. And, indeed, certain things happened, which did inforce a stricter union with him. Socinus, sojourning at Cracovia, began, long since, to be environed with such dangers on every side, as are, for the most part, wont to accompany the faithful servants of Christ. How great an indignity was there offered to him by that insolent soldier Vernecus, he himself signifieth in a certain letter? But above all, after the printing of his book, Touching the Saviour, the adversaries again began to shew the rancour of their hatred. Whereupon, in the year 1598, the scholars, having stirred up the dregs of the rabble, took Socinus, being then sick and minding the recovery of his health, and pulling him out of his chamber halt naked, drag him in a contumelious manner through the market, and the most noted streets, the greatest part, in the mean time, crying out, to have him brought to execution. At length, having been grievously handled in that furious rout, he was, with much ado, rescued out of the hands of the raging multitude, by Martinus Vadovica, professor of Cracovia. The plundering of his goods and houshold stuff, together with other things liable to spoil, did not so much grieve him, as the irreparable loss of certain writings, concerning which, he often did profess, that he would redeem it with the expence of his life. Then perished together a notable labour of his against atheists, which he had undertaken to refute the ingenious devices of a certain great man. But when, to so barbarous an example of cruelty, threats were also added, he departed from Cracovia to Luclavicia, unto a certain village, famous for his last habitation and death, and distant about nine miles from Cracovia; where having, for certain years, used the table and house of a nobleman, named Abrahamus Blonscius, he lived a neighbour to Stoinius. Both, therefore, affording mutual help near at hand, in chacingaway the relicks of errors, had now brought almost that whole church to an unanimous consent in all opinions; for even Niemojevius himself having, in most things, already given assent to Socinus, condemned his own mistakes with such ingenuity, as can never sufficiently be extolled. Czechovicius only could not be removed from his opinion: who, at
the better part prevailed, conniving, though with much ado, at other things, a little after began to make a stir about the opinion, concerning baptism, which nevertheless being suddenly, according to the wish of Socinus, laid asleep, did afterwards vanish of its own accord. Having thus fully purged the church from errors, as if his life had been prolonged hitherto for this purpose only, he was at the end of winter, in the sixty-fifth year of his age, taken away at Luclavicia, by a death not so untimely to himself, as sad to his followers. His last words at his death were these;'namely, That he no less full of envy and troubles, than of days, did, with a joyful and undaunted hope, incline to the period of his appointed time, which shewed to him both a discharge from his sorrows, and a reward of his labours.
Petrus Stoinius, who had been the associate of his life and labours, was also the praiser, and in the year following, the companion of his funeral. For, as if he had already ended the appointed task of his life, he followed Socinus, being hardly forty years old.
Having passed over the race of Socinus's life, through which we have made a short cut, it remaineth, that we stop a while in considering what he did and performed.
No man in our memory did better deserve of all the Christian world, but chiefly of all the Polonian churches. For first, by setting out so many works, he opened the genuine meaning of the Holy Scriptures in innumerable places.
Next, he only shewed how to confirm with solid arguments, and skilfully to defend, from subtle cavils and sophisms, those opinions touching the person of God and Christ, which he found already rife in Poland. After that he happily extinguished some impious, other prophane opinions, whose deadly poison did by stealth insinuate itself into the bosom of the church. No man did more vigorously quell Judaizers. He also exploded the opinion of the Chiliasts, and many other fanaiick dreams besides. As for the errors, received from the reformed churches, which did, in agreat number, as yet reign in that church, he did, with a marvellous felicity, root them out. Such were that of justification, that of appeasing the wrath of God, that of predestination, that of the servitude of the will, that of original sin, that of the Lord's supper and baptism, together with other misconstrued doctrines. Finally, having taken away pernicious errors, that he might not also leave any fopperies in the church, he exterminated very many superstitions about indifferent things; of which sort was the over-much affectation of mean clothing, and the eschewing of magistracy, and refusing to prosecute ones own right, even without a desire of revenge, and what other like spots there were, caused by the inconsiderate zeal of their first fervor.
Having explained the order of his life, and his actions, it remaineth that we add a few things concerning the habit of his mind and body. To relate the praises of his wit and judgment is a superfluous labour, inasmuch as there are so many monuments thereof extant. As for his learning, the more pertinaciously he hid it, the more impatiently it breaketh out. It was somewhat late, but more solid. Nor are there wanting, in his writings, the footsteps of a happy memory also. I can