THE CALVINISTIC REACTION IN THE
REFORMED CHURCH IN POLAND
HAD THE SPIRIT of conciliation and mutual tolerance generally prevailed which characterized the proceedings of the synod at Krakow in December, 1561, consciences might have been left free as to the speculative questions on which there was difference of opinion, and all could have joined harmoniously and effectively in promoting the practical ends of the church. Had all been willing to deal patiently, the way seemed open for avoiding serious division. Some, however, were determined to force the issue, and to treat these speculative matters not as incidental but as central and primary in the life of the church. The leader in keeping the breach open and making it wider was Stanislas Sarnicki, a minister of no mean ability and energy, and of insatiable ambition, who had long aspired to leadership in the Reformed Church, and was not too scrupulous as to the means he employed or the associates with whom he joined to attain his ends. Even his ablest colleague in the cause of orthodoxy at length pronounced him a miserable hypocrite, who was willing to sacrifice the good of the church to his personal ambition.1 He had early attached himself to the Reformed cause, and had for a time been chaplain to Jan Bonar, its most prominent patron in Little Poland. Later, while minister at Niedzwiez twenty miles north of Krakow, he had alienated his patron Stadnicki by aggressively taking sides against Stancaro, and had therefore been forcibly ejected from his pulpit in i He bitterly complained of this to the synod, and sought their aid and comfort. His ambition for leadership in the church had already led him to oppose the vote by which Lismanino was invited to come from Switzerland.2 He continued to be jealous of Lismanino’s superior influence in the church, 3 and when in the summer of 1561 Czechowicz was sent by Radziwill to Switzerland, Sarnicki sent by him a letter opening correspondence with Bullinger; and he not long afterwards wrote one currying favor with Calvin, and a second one to Bullinger, in the role of a champion of orthodoxy against Biandrata and Lismanino, unjustly blaming the latter for introducing Biandrata to the Polish churches.4 He also enlisted the cooperation of Jakob Silvius (Lesniowolski), a minister of kindred nature with his own, 5 who had already been compelled before the synod to retract, as unfounded, charges that he had made against Lismanino; and these two now induced two others to join them in signing a letter to Calvin containing, as though in the name of the synod, a confession that did not at all represent the views of the majority. 6 Hearing of this, the lawful officers of the Krakow synod wrote Calvin asserting their orthodoxy, and warning him against unauthorized letters of private persons; 7 while Lismanino wrote at length to allay the suspicions with which his enemies had sought to poison Calvin’s mind.8. ‘Errare possum,’ he humbly wrote Wolph, ‘haereticus esse non possum.’ 9
In the meantime, while Biandrata’s standing in the church was pending, Sarnicki was busier than ever. Instead of attending the synod at Krakow in December, 1561, at which the alleged heresies of Lismanino and Biandrata were to be examined, he went on a journey, ostensibly to his old home in Red Russia, but really on a hurried visit to Italy in order to enlist the aid of Christopher Tretius (Trecy) in the interest of the orthodox cause in Poland. Tretius10 was a young scholar of great promise who had been sent abroad for two years of advanced study in preparation for a career as leader of education in the Reformed Church in Poland. 11 He was then at Padua, but he readily joined in Sarnicki’s plan for inducing the Swiss theologians to work on the Polish nobles, through letters, to counteract the threatening heresy.
While these moves were being made in the background, Biandrata prepared his confession as previously voted,12 and presented it to the next synod at Xiaz in March, 1562. It was held over nearly a month for consideration; for though some looked upon it as insincere, yet it was so scriptural and plain that they could find nothing to lay hold on, and after long discussion even they were forced reluctantly to accept it. 13 Biandrata was thus officially exonerated from suspicion. The synod promised to try to reconcile Calvin, while Biandrata on his part promised to consent to all that Calvin and the Polish churches should agree upon, if only permitted to confess that Christ is the Son of God most high and eternal, and if Calvin himself would speak of the one God simply and without any explanation; but if this did not seem good to Calvin, let him at least promise him this: that he would adhere to the simple word of God and the Apostles’ Creed, and would retract his recently published letter to the Palatine of Wilno, prefixed to his Commentary on the Acts. 14 All this was agreed to; and that Biandrata thus demanded of Calvin concessions implying that they were treating on even ground eloquently shows how sure he felt of overwhelming support from the churches. Of no less significance is the resolution also adopted at this synod: that none of the ministers in his teaching should use philosophical terms about the Trinity, essence, generation, or the method of proceeding, which are all foreign to the word of God; but that each should confine himself to the terms used by the Prophets and Apostles, and the Apostles’ Creed.15
With this complete vindication of Biandrata by the Synod, and with the adoption of this direction for the ministers, the church was apparently committed to a position granting practically all that he desired, on a platform of simple, undogmatic, scriptural and apostolic Christianity, with generous tolerance of differences of view as to non-essential and speculative details, and primary emphasis on the cultivation of truly Christian life and character. 16 Had this fair regulation been complied with in good faith, a long step would have been taken toward the goal of full tolerance in religion, and all might have enjoyed freedom of conscience while pursuing the main end of the church as ‘a national society for the promotion of goodness’; and the fatal division, which was first to weaken the Protestant movement in Poland just as its success seemed all but secured, and was eventually to bring it to the verge of complete ruin, might have been avoided.
But Sarnicki had other designs in mind. He had by now been elected an Elder in the church, and having no regular post, and being disappointed in a plan for a position as teacher at Kráków, he cast covetous eyes on the pulpit of the large congregation there, which worshiped in the suburban garden of Jan Bonar, 17 Governor of the castle, and of which Gregory Paulus, 18 also an Elder in the church, was now the minister.
Paulus scrupulously observed the regulation adopted at the Pinczow synod in April, avoiding scholastic terms in his sermons, and preaching simply of one God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and his Holy Spirit. But Sarnicki, taking advantage of his office as Elder, and of the credit that his rank as a nobleman gave him, began to spread rumors that Paulus was not sound in the faith, and to blame Lismanino for the fact. 19 Not content with this, he went to Bonar and other nobles of great influence in the church with charges of heresy against Paulus. Bonar, desiring to avoid public scandal, arranged a friendly conference between the two at his house at Balice,20 and when this achieved nothing, yet other meetings to the number of four in seven weeks were held in July and August. The most important of these was at Rogow, July 20, which both ministers and nobles from the vicinity of Krakow attended in considerable numbers. At a synod at Pinczow August 18 Paulus defended his teaching eloquently on purely scriptural grounds, while Sarnicki appealed to ecclesiastical tradition, and pressed his charges that Paulus was heretical as to the Trinity, and maneuvered him into a clear assertion of the strict unity of God. The result of the debate was inconclusive; but the sympathies of the company were plain, from the unanimous vote still to observe the rule adopted at Pinczow in April:
that scholastic terms be avoided in preaching. The synod also adopted a brief confession to be sent to the Swiss and the Strassburg churches as a witness of their orthodoxy. 21 Sarnicki protested in vain, but at length yielded and promised to keep the peace, though he soon persuaded Bonar to put Paulus under examination for heresy. In what followed, Sarnicki grew more aggressive and abusive until it was obvious that his real purpose was to bring about a division in the church. To put an end to the disorder a general synod was called at Pinczow in August. Sarnicki promised to be present, but evidently realizing how strong was the sentiment against him, he failed to appear, and instead took up plans for a new movement. Nor would he attend a later synod at Pinczow in November, where however Biandrata, Alciatj and Gentile were all in attendance. 22
While this controversy was at its height an event took place which created a profound sensation. Lightning struck the ball at the top of the steeple of Trinity church at Krakow. Those opposing the doctrine of the Trinity were disposed to take this as a sign that Heaven had set the seal of approval on their cause; the Catholics, however, interpreted it as a sign of divine anger at the current blasphemies. 23
Less than a month after the August synod at Pinczow, Bonar suddenly died. He had already become so disgusted over the quarrel in the church that three days previously he had refused to provide it longer with a place of worship, and ordered the benches removed. Hereupon Sarnicki, seeing that a large number had come to town for Bonar’s funeral,24 seized the occasion to gather a few ministers and others of his faction, and with them to form an opposition synod of his own, at which he persuaded some of them to sign a confession that he had prepared. Paulus, though in town, was not invited to the meeting, was declared a heretic, and was deprived of his pulpit without a hearing, while Sarnicki was put in his place as minister of a new congregation of seceders. Those present subscribed a confession affirming the three ancient creeds, and expressly condemning the doctrine of Servetus, Gribaldi, Gonesius, Gentile and Alciati. 25 It is evident that in this high-handed proceeding Sarnicki felt confident that though he might be outvoted in the regular synod, yet he might count on the support of a majority of the local congregation, for Paulus offered no resistance. Instead, a new place of worship was at once offered his followers in the residence of the noble Stanislas Cikowski, 26 and his ministry continued without interruption. Sarnicki had his new confession distributed from house to house in Kráków, and even had it sold before the very door of Paulus’s new meeting-place, thus seeking to win further adherents. Of the few ministers that took his side, the chief was a somewhat notorious Lawrence Discordia, who had previously been suspended from the ministry for his scandalous life.27 Besides him, Sarnicki called to his side two other ministers of tarnished reputation, Silvius who, like Sarnicki, had formerly been chosen Elder but had not been retained in office, and Gilowski.
While these things were going on in the opposing synods of the two factions, other things were being done behind the scenes. On the one hand, while the seceders were writing full details to the leaders of the churches in Switzerland, to whom they looked for aid in their fight against the rising heresy, Paulus also wrote stating and defending the views he was maintaining against Stancaro. 28 On the other hand, Paulus, conscious of the sympathy of the great majority of the ministers, came out in print in November with a little book, Tabula de Trinitate,29 the best known of his early works. It was intended as his contribution to the controversy with Stancaro, but it marked a turning-point in the controversy over the doctrine of the Trinity, for it offended the orthodox by emphasizing the three persons at the expense of the unity in the Divine Being, and it furnished Sarnicki with demonstrable proof of Paulus’s doctrine. When Tretius besought Calvin to reply to this work, Calvin, vexed that the Polish churches had paid so little heed to his warnings against Biandrata, at first refused to comply with the request. 30 But early in the year he yielded to importunity and came out with a Brevis Adrnonitio ad Fratres Polonos, which he confirmed a little later by an Epistola ad Polonos. 31 Calvin saw in the Tabula a worse heresy than that of Stancaro, a revival of the tritheism of Gribaldo and Gentile which he had lately put down at Geneva. 32
At just this time fuel was added to the flame by the arrival of Alciati, who at Biandrata’s invitation had come from Switzerland late in 1562 and joined the other Italians at Pinczow. He was a man of great talents, learning and piety,33 but was a much more open propagandist than Biandrata. He had drawn up some twenty theses on the Triune God. and had loaned them in confidence to his fellow-countryman Prosper Provana; but unauthorized copies were made and circulated, and precipitated fresh controversy. 34 In the course of the following year (1563), Gentile also arrived to join Biandrata and Alciati.35 Gentile had evidently hoped that his doctrine might be acceptable in Poland, for he had already dedicated his Antidota to Sigismund Augustus; and as in controversy he was much more modest than Stancaro, he was a welcome ally in the struggle against him. But he had sharply attacked the Athanasian Creed (which he ridiculed by calling it Satan-asian),36 and his explanation of the Trinity made of it three eternal and distinct spirits, hence obvious tritheism. He made many converts, and had numerous followers in both Poland and Lithuania, 37 but before the end of the year it became unsafe for him to remain at Krakow, and he removed to Pinczow at the invitation of the liberal group there. Both Alciati and Gentile at once entered into the controversy with Stancaro, but like Biandrata, Lismanino and Paulus, controverted him only with a doctrine more heretical than his.
At the time of the Diet in 1563, at which the reformers were in the saddle, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishops’ courts was annulled, 38 Sarnicki went to Piotrkow and won over several of the ministers that had gone thither with their patrons, and also took advantage of the opportunity to force the hand of the other side by means of a joint debate. 39 In this the cause of Paulus was so strongly maintained by several distinguished nobles and ministers, of whom some came out against the Trinity, that it was more than ever clear that the two parties must separate. 40 Sarnicki therefore proceeded to organize synods for Great Poland, and chose Discordia, despite his unsavory record, as Superintendent. He also urged the King to execute against Antitrinitarians the death penalty prescribed by a long obsolete decree of 1424.41 During the winter and early spring the schism was industriously promoted, and when the Superintendent Cruciger suddenly died after preaching a farewell sermon at Secemin on Easter, 42 Sarnicki seized the occasion to make a coup. In greatest secrecy he joined with Discordia and others to call at Krakow a synod of his faction, not inviting any of the opposition, and secured the support of some of the noble patrons. The synod when held proved to be a fiasco, 43 but Lutomirski, as lawful Elder of the church, when he learned of the plan for it, at once called a synod of the whole church to extinguish the spreading fire, and denounced the so-called synods held by Sarnicki as spurious and unauthorized. The call was signed by the Elders and twenty-one other ministers, and was also sent to the brethren in Lithuania.44
Much as they might differ in opinion, the brethren that received the letters of Lutomirski were generally desirous of harmony in the church, and those in Lithuania and Podlasie were so indignant at what had been done that instead of waiting for the synod appointed for September they at once got permission from Radziwill to hold a synod in his town of Mordy in Podlasie on June 6. Despite its being the busy season in the fields, forty-two were present, many of whom vigorously opposed the doctrine of the Trinity, while others, less clear in their opinions, wished longer time for consideration. The following resolution was adopted and reported to Radziwill: ‘Although we have been unable, on account of some weaker brethren, wholly to reject the word Trinity, yet we have for the most part abandoned the present misuse of it, so that now, being man’s word and not God’s, it is by many less valued than formerly.’ 45 In striking contrast with the inflexible rule of orthodoxy to which it was opposed, this will be noted as another distinct step toward freedom of conscience and tolerance in expression in religion.
Though the liberal wing had thus far had an overwhelming majority in the regular synods, and the conservatives following Sarnicki had from the first been pitifully weak, unable to count on more than the smallest handful of ministers of influence, 46 yet the rift was steadily growing wider, and the conservatives were slowly gaining strength. Some of the ministers who, after wavering, had gone with the majority, were now returning to the safety of the fold, and Sarnicki had won influential support among the nobles living near Kráków. Lismanino made one last feeble attempt to stem a tide of doctrine which had now swept beyond his control, and at the same time to justify himself, by publishing a Brevis explicatio doctrinae de sanctissima Trinitate early in the year. But he had lost his influence, was broken in health and spirit, burdened with debt, and with stipend unpaid. After wavering about accepting an invitation from Heraklides, an adventurer who with Polish aid had lately overthrown the government of Moldavia and was establishing the reformed religion there, and about returning to Switzerland to vindicate his orthodoxy, he finally took his leave of the brethren at the synod at Mordy, and sought and found shelter and a pension at the court of Duke Aibrecht at Konigsberg, where his life ere long reached its tragic end.47
Ever since his vindication in the spring of x Biandrata had been content to stand in the background. Though attending synods, he seems to have taken no active part. He apparently realized that in Paulus a skilful and aggressive leader had now arisen who could be trusted to do the work and take the blows. Moreover, as the influence of Calvin in Poland was on the increase, he may have felt danger threatening him for that reason. At all events, when Prince John Sigismund invited him early in 1563 to come to Transylvania as his personal physician, as he had been that of his Queen mother Isabella, he at once accepted a position where he might feel secure from attack, and might through the young Prince at the same time influence the development of the Reformation in that country. How effectively he did this we shall see in the next division of this history. Meantime, though Lutomirski was soon elected to succeed Cruciger as Superintendent of the church, Paulus became in effect its real spiritual leader. A new synod was held at Pinczow in September. The attendance was larger than ever before. The liberals were in the majority, and a confession acceptable to them was adopted. 48 Paulus now became ever more active in propaganda, publishing in the course of the following months sev eral works in Latin for circulation abroad, and several in Polish from Radziwill’s press at Nieswiez in Lithuania for missionary purposes at home. 49 To these Sarnicki replied in three sermons preached at War-saw at the time of the Diet there in April, 1564, to which Paulus rejoined with an Antidoturn no longer extant.
The year 1564 was a critical one in the history of our movement in Poland. Those that had hitherto directed it were gone: Cruciger, who as Superintendent had at least not opposed it, had died, Biandrata had gone to Transylvania, and Lismanino had retired to Königsberg. Paulus, now its most conspicuous figure, was arousing increasing hostility by the boldness of his attacks on the received doctrine, while the theologians of Switzerland were making a wide impression by their writings in defence of the orthodox faith. A Calvinist reaction was beginning to gather force, in which Tretius, at last returned from Switzerland furnished for the fight, was showing himself an able leader, while Sarnicki retiring into the background was to be henceforth active chiefly with his pen.
Coincidently with this, a powerful Catholic reaction against the whole Reformation was also beginning. Cardinal Commendone, an ecclesiastical statesman of great ability and practical wisdom, had come as Papal nuncio to present the decrees of the lately adjourned Council of Trent for the acceptance of the King, and to represent the Roman Church at court. In close connection with him, Cardinal Hosius 50 was beginning a long campaign to undermine Protestantism by bringing Jesuit fathers into the country to establish schools and colleges which should form the minds of the nobles of the next generation. Finally the King, who had hitherto shown himself more or less favorable to the Reformation, was under the influence of the Calvinists becoming increasingly hostile to Antitrinitarians as foes to any form of Christianity. Already on Christmas day in 1563 there had been an outbreak of hostilities between Calvinists and their opponents at Warsaw so sharp that when the former complained to the King, he took their side and had Paulus’s Tabula burned in the market-place, and forbade the printing of any Arian book at Krakow.51
Events that now followed in the struggle of the orthodox Calvinists against the Pinczovians were not a little influenced by political factors. For while a large majority of the lesser nobility, and nearly all the ministers, had gone over to Paulus, leaving Sarnicki but a very small and weak following among the clergy, most of the powerful nobles in Little Poland remained orthodox and were strongly represented in the Senate, in which there now remained only one or two lay Catholics, and no Antitrinitarians at all. The way therefore seemed clear for the orthodox to get their opponents suppressed by the secular power, even if they could not be overcome by argument; and in this plan they counted on the support of the Catholics, whom they would be glad to have held responsible for any persecutions that might follow. At the Diet at Warsaw (April, 1564) Tretius had indeed already got a promise from the King that he would banish the heretics, as he called them, or at least the foreign ones; though his plan had been thwarted by Hosius. 52 Of late, however, Paulus had grown increasingly aggressive, and it was even reported that a Calvinistic official at Krakow planned his arrest, but had been unable to lay hands on him. 53 When the next Diet met at Parczów in midsummer, 1564, therefore, Tretius was stirred up to renew his efforts to get all Antitrinitarians proscribed from the realm. The King was willing enough, but Commendone and Hosius, more farsighted, brought to his attention that this would not only strengthen the Calvinists (whom Hosius considered more guilty than their opponents) by disposing of their chief rivals, but would also imply that since only Antitrinitarians were proscribed all other Protestants were approved. They strongly urged that all the sects should be proscribed without exception, but if not, that they should all be left to waste their strength in mutual quarrels rather than spend it in opposing Rome, according to the proverb, Bellum haereticorum pax est Ecclesiac. The King saw great danger to the State if he attempted to banish all Protestants, numerous as they now were. A compromise measure was there fore arrived at, and the so-called Edict of Parczow was issued on August 7, decreeing that all foreign apostates from the Catholic faith who had taken refuge in Poland and were in any way spreading any new doctrine should be proscribed from the realm by October 1, and if found thereafter should be taken and treated as criminals. A second edict was appended to this, forbidding natives of inferior status to let themselves be led astray by any strange doctrine, especially the antitrinitarian.54
When the attempt was made at Poznan to enforce the edict against the Bohemian Brethren as foreigners, of whom there was a large number in Great Poland, such great opposition was made that the King weakened, and having not long before accepted their confession as sufficiently orthodox, he issued a declaration that the edict was meant to apply only to Antitrinitarians. 55 At Kráków the Castellan Myszkowski was too fanatical a Calvinist to enforce the decree against any of his own brethren. The Antitrinitarians planned also to protest, but since they themselves as natives did not fall under the edict, they decided to wait. Now that Biandrata and Lismanino had already left the country, the only persons actually to feel the force of the edict were Alciati and Gentile, who had been in the country a year or two, and Ochino who had but recently arrived. 56 Gentile returned to Switzerland to suffer death for his faith, as we have seen in a previous chapter.57 Alciati went at first to Moravia58 but ere long to Danzig, where he lived, probably practicing as a physician, until 1573 or 1ater. 59 Ochino, who had been in Poland since May, preaching to the Italians at Kráków, retired to Pinczów for a time, but could not be persuaded to accept the shelter offered by noble friends. Obeying the edict, he went to Moravia, where he very soon died. No other person is known to have been immediately affected by the Edict of Parczów; but nearly eight years later, when the vigilant Tretius discovered that Adam Neuser, a religious fugitive from Heidelberg, was preaching to the antitrinitarian congregation at migiel, he invoked the edict against him, and Neuser sought safety in immediate flight.60
Though concrete results of the edict were thus not serious, yet the Antitrinitarians apparently felt that it suggested caution, for they dared hold no further synod that year. 61 Yet they were not broken in spirit. Paulus’s pen was more active than ever, and his writings were supplemented by those of others; 62 while Sarnicki replied to these in a work which, adopting a term recklessly employed in controversy by Stancaro, established the name Arian as the designation of any that were heretical in their doctrine of God and Christ, however wide the difference between their view and that of Arius himself. 63 The name was not fairly given, but it served its purpose of identifying its objects with the most hated heretics of the early Church, and in Poland it is to-day still applied to those that later were better known as Socinians.
The quarrel in the Reformed Church had thus far been one promoted by theologians, and it related chiefly to more or less disputable theological questions, having little enough bearing on Christian character or Christian civilization. It was coming, however, to have other bearings, which those prominent in the State could appreciate even if the spiritual leaders of the Church did not. There were among the Protestant nobles not a few whose old friendship with one another, notwithstanding their differences in matters of religious belief, remained unimpaired, and who realized the importance at this time of maintaining the Protestant ranks unweakened by internal quarrels. It was expected that at the next Diet the decrees of the Council of Trent, which at Parczów had been presented to the King, would be offered for the acceptance of the Diet, and the question thus be settled whether or not the long desired national council should be held, to undertake a thorough reform of abuses in the Church in Poland. In the hope of creating a solidly united Protestant front, therefore, to oppose the lately reviving power of the Catholics, some of these, following the initiative of a leading Antitrinitarian, Jerome Filipowski, and with the approval of the King who, in the face of an impending war with Russia, also was anxious to see harmony restored among his subjects, arranged for a debate of outstanding questions, to be held at the time of the coming Diet, in the hope that differences might be adjusted.64 This was in no proper sense a synod of the church, as it is often called, but simply a carefully arranged debate between members chosen from each side, who had come together at Piotrków for the annual Diet, January 1 to April 30, 1565.
The meetings were held at the residence of Jan Firley, Palatine of Lublin, and leader of the Protestants.65 The debates occupied live sessions, held intermittently during two weeks in March, mostly in the afternoon or late evening, when the Diet was not sitting. Each side chose three or four disputants, a secretary, and four prominent noblemen as umpires, of whom one was to act as Moderator, to preside on alternate days. Rules of procedure were drawn up with great care, in the interest of peace and good order. All points to be discussed were to be presented in writing; speakers were bound to express themselves clearly, without rhetorical flourishes; and all was to be done in love, not in tumult. Any infraction of rules might after due warning be punished by exclusion from the meeting at the discretion of the Moderator. All was well meant, but trouble began almost at the start, when a Calvinist umpire proposed to open the debate with a prayer in the name of the Trinity, to which the spokesman for the other side objected as something in which they could not join. After a squabble the item was omitted, and the debate duly began.
It would not be greatly to the purpose to give a detailed report; indeed, the two earliest accounts are incomplete, and are more or less colored by the sympathies of the writers. The discussion followed three stages. The first concerned the Scriptures, which the Arians regarded as the only authentic source of Christian teaching; in the second, the appeal was to the early Fathers of the Church; in the third, it was to the testimony of Christian history. Each side tried to prove that its views were supported by these three witnesses, and to confute the interpretations and arguments of the other; and, radical as was the difference between the two in point of view and method of approach, each apparently began fully confident of being able to confute the other. The Calvinists seem to have taken the aggressive throughout, trying to expose their opponents as perverse heretics; while the latter tried to prove that the Calvinists laid their main emphasis on doctrines that had no support in the Scriptures nor in the writers of the early Church. The discussion ran at first on a calm and dignified plane as had been intended; but as it proceeded it became more angry, hot words were spoken, and there was increasing evidence of impatience and irritation. The Calvinists, emboldened perhaps by the strong support they had among the lay members of the Diet, held toward their opponents an overbearing attitude, which showed itself in terms of disrespect that made the debate appear more like a conflict between sworn enemies than a conference of parties in the same camp seeking conciliation and willing to make mutual concessions. After various insulting expressions in the course of debate one of the Calvinist debaters so far forgot himself in the last session as to call his opponents Satans, blasphemers, and traitors to the country. They tried to get a verdict condemning the Arians, and inciting the nobles against them as enemies of the Christian religion, and were far more bitter against them than the Catholics themselves had been. At last the Calvinists, having made no headway in their attempt to convert their opponents, abruptly broke off the debate without giving notice,66 and refused to have any further dealings with them.
What makes this debate significant in our history is the fact that it was the last serious attempt at harmony between the two wings of the Reformed Church. The schism had in fact already taken place when Sarnicki formed his first dissenting synod at Krakow three years before; but now it was recognized as final and complete, and the party led by Paulus from now on maintained its organization and held its synods without regard to the orthodox Calvinists. Henceforth no union of all Protestants was to be hoped for, still less a union of Protestants with Catholics in one reformed national Catholic Church. Hosius who, with the other Bishops, had done all in his power to prevent holding this debate at all, and had left Piotrkow rather than be a witness to its heresies, now rejoiced at the issue of it. He perceived that Protestantism was beginning to disintegrate, and said with satisfaction, ‘Now we shall hear no more of a national synod.’ A more sinister result was not at once perceived. The Calvinist majority were now to use their influence for persecuting and suppressing their opponents through the power of the State, little anticipating that in two generations more the same weapon would be used against them. At the critical hour when the reformers needed all their forces united in the struggle with Rome, their blind, suicidal zeal against their brethren of more liberal beliefs alienated them, made them enemies, denied them the Christian name and in the next year even all but secured for a time an edict of banishment against them, thus taking the first step toward digging their own grave.
The outcome of the debate was duly reported to the King, with whose consent it had been held, and he declared the case closed. Yet he seems even now not entirely to have abandoned hope of church union. For soon after the Diet at Piotrk6w he commanded his trusted Secretary Modrzewski 67 (Modrevius), who had long advocated measures of compromise, to collect all the various views as to the doctrine of the Trinity, and see if the warring parties could not be brought together. The result of his investigations fell into four extended theological tracts, which were presented to the King as written, and were at length published under the title of Sylvae. The manuscript when completed was sent to a Basel publisher to print. Tretius being at Basel and hearing of this, and knowing the liberal tendencies of the author, persuaded the printer to loan it to him for examination. He forthwith handed it over to the Zurich theologians that they might answer its arguments; but, being unwilling that such a book should ever see the light, he never returned the manuscript. When Tretius returned to Krakow, Modrzewski meeting him asked if he had seen the printer at Basel or knew anything of the book; whereupon Tretius shamelessly declared that he had seen neither book nor printer. The printer him self later revealed what had taken place. Fortunately Modrzewski had retained his draft and notes, and was thus able to reconstruct the work. It was then circulated widely in manuscript, but it was not until after the author’s death that it was printed by the Antitrinitarians on their press at Rakow as a valuable document in their cause. 68 Those that had the reading of the manuscript found it a book of great weight, and it called forth a careful controversial reply in Simler’s work mentioned above, 69 the reply, singularly enough, for the reason explained in the preceding paragraph, being published more than twenty years earlier than the book replied to.
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