THE FINAL MONTHS before the date of the exile of the Socinians were full of confusion and anxiety for those that had still to dispose of their property before leaving the country. Poland had suffered frightful losses and ruin during the recent years of war, and money was scarce and high in value. Buyers took advantage of the necessities of the exiles and drove shrewd bargains. Very few were able to sell what they owned at any price, since the remaining inhabitants realized that property left behind must inevitably fall into their hands. Cases were reported where property valued at 1,000 thalers brought only 300 forms, and where values of 10,000 thalers realized only 8,000 florins. Many had to be content with a tenth, a fifteenth, or even a twentieth of a fair price. Some, trusting to the good faith of purchasers, accepted a mere promise to pay, only to be disappointed of this when a new decree forbade any one to have the least communication with the exiles, under penalty of confiscation of goods without recourse.1 Hence even the friends that most pitied them dared give them no aid or comfort for fear of the law.

As the day for their departure drew near, the exiles from various places scattered in different directions, crossing the border at whatever point promised to be most convenient. How many were of the number can only be guessed. Probably there were only a few hundred families altogether. It was estimated that a thousand families, unable to emigrate, were left behind in want; while others were shifting for them selves or were still wavering and in hiding with their friends.2 Much the largest company was composed of those that lived south of the Vistula, where Socinians had been the most numerous. A train of more than 380 of these, with 200 wagons, 3 made their way across the southern border toward Transylvania, where they had chosen Kolozsvár (Clausenburg) for their future home.4 Here they would be surrounded by those of their own faith, in the Unitarian capital of the country, and under the protection of laws that specifically gave toleration to the Unitarians as one of the four religions formally recognized by the government. The churches here had for nearly a century had friendly intercourse with those in Poland, had drawn teachers, ministers, and even a Bishop from there, and had often sent their sons thither to supplement their education. Hardly had the caravan crossed the Carpathians into Hungary, where they planned to take breath under the protection of a famous Protestant noble, Count Francis Rhedei 5 at Huszt in Máramoros County, when a roving band of Imperial soldiers (secretly incited, it was rumored, by enemies in Poland) fell upon them unexpectedly, pitilessly robbed them of their money, plundered the few goods they had been able to rescue from their homes, seized their pro visions for the journey, and stripped them of the very clothes they wore. 6 This calamity, and the threat of new wars just beginning there, led the greater part of them to retrace their steps and seek shelter in East Prussia, which since the treaty of Oliva was no longer subject to Poland, but under the rule of the Elector of Brandenburg. The rest, with minds resolute in face of danger, persevered in their journey, joined perhaps by others that had first been given refuge at Kesmark in Szepes (Zips) County by the Governor, Count Stephen Thökoly. 7

Thus in 1661 a company of about 200 at length reached their destination at Kolozsvár, 8 whither Prince Janos Kemeny had granted them safe-conduct in January. The brethren at Kolozsvár, though they had themselves recently been ravaged and plundered in repeated incursions of Turks and Tatars, who had exacted almost all their money, and plundered even the funds of their churches, when they heard of the approach of the exiles and of their wretched condition, went out many miles on the road to meet them with wagons and supplies of provisions and clothing, gave them shelter in their own homes, and did everything for them that brotherly love could suggest. But the pilgrims’ troubles were not yet at an end. The severe weather there was especially hard on them, and a plague that was just then prevalent attacked them, worn as they were with their hardships, with the most fatal results; and out of their whole number left barely thirty surviving. At long last their situation began to improve. Two years later, in 1663, the new Prince, Michael Apafi, granted them the right to stay in the country, 9 and they made arrangements for permanent settlement, in which others doubtless joined them latter on. They were granted the right of citizenship, and a separate church in Inner Monostor street was provided for them to worship in their own tongue. As they dispersed in the country, three other congregations were organized. That at Bethien lasted until 1745, though those at Adamos and Banffy Hunyad were short-lived 10 They were long poverty-stricken, and as late as 1710 they were forced to appeal to sympathetic friends whom they had left behind in Poland for aid in relieving their various necessities. 11 During this period of pressing want some of them thought to better their condition by returning to Poland, and collected funds to that end; but when the attempt was made in 1711, the sight of their ruined homes, and the religious hatred that the inhabitants still cherished, discouraged them from carrying out the plan.12

The church of the Socinian exiles at Kolozsvár after loyally sustaining their cause for nearly four generations, at length succumbed to the inevitable fate of any small foreign colony in a strange land. The original exiles died, their children intermarried with Transylvanians and gradually scattered, and they eventually forgot their mother tongue and became absorbed into the surrounding population. They kept up occasional correspondence with the brethren in other lands, and sometimes sent delegates to the synods in Silesia or Prussia that attempted to hold them all together. They maintained worship in the Polish language, and had Polish ministers. But it became increasingly difficult to secure ministers, and their congregations slowly dwindled. Before their last Polish minister died in 1702 his congregation had already coalesced with that of the local Unitarian church. Their descendants, however, gratefully remembered the Christian kindness of their hosts. Some of them rose to high position in public life; and one of them, Pal Augustinowicz, who had been Judge in the Royal Hungarian Supreme Court, as well as Chief Curator of the Unitarian Church, when he died in 1837 left the Church a bequest of 100,000 florins, which long amounted to more than all the rest of the church funds put together. 13

During all this period of tragic affliction, one able, devoted and heroic figure stands out before all his brethren. Their faithful teacher, wise counselor, unfailing comforter, devoted friend, bold champion, intrepid leader from the beginning to the end was Andrew Wiszowaty 14 and his active career so strikingly embodies and expresses the character and spirit of the surviving Socinian group that he deserves more than this passing mention. He was born in 1608 near the Prussian border in Lithuania, where his father was for a time Vice-Starost under Christopher Morsztyn, whose daughter had married Faustus Socinus. He was of noble family, and his mother was Socinus’s only daughter, Agnes. After his early schooling with Morsztyn’s sons he was sent to Rakow, where he enjoyed the privilege of living in the family of Jan Crellius, minister of the Rakow church, and of being under the stimulating influence of Smalcius, Stoinski and Moskorzowski, who were members of the community, and of Ruar, who was Rector of the College. He thus advanced rapidly. A public career had been planned for him; but his teachers so strongly urged that the first male descendant of Socinus should devote himself to the ministry, that his parents consented. After finishing at Raków, he served for a year as tutor to the son of a Catholic magnate and then, with a subsidy from the Church, was sent abroad to continue his studies. He had Ruar, Niemirycz and other prominent Socinians for his companions to Holland, where he studied first at Leiden, and later at the new Remonstrant seminary at Amsterdam, where he heard famous teachers and formed intimate acquaintance with the liberal theologians, Episcopius and Courcelles. Here he met an old friend, Arciszewski, a Socinian from Smigiel, who was leading a military expedition to Brazil, where Holland was then trying to found a colony, and who invited him to join him, with the hope of promoting his faith in a fresh field. The temptation was great, but he resisted it, and continued his travels, first visiting England, where he met some distinguished men, and then traveled widely in France, heard lectures at the Sorbonne in Paris, and formed acquaintance with such men as Grotius, Gassendi and Mersenne. On all occasions, privately with individuals or publicly in universities, he was ready to defend or promote his faith.

At length, after six profitable years abroad, he returned home in 1637 and became tutor to a young nobleman. The fall of Rakow occurred at this period, but unterrified by this he appeared before the Diet at Warsaw the next year and fearlessly defended his faith in the Chamber of Deputies, discussing its articles with both Catholics and Protestants, as he never shrank from doing whenever opportunity offered. The next year he again went abroad, visiting Germany, Holland and France as traveling tutor, and renewing his acquaintance with distinguished men whom he had previously met. After this preliminary period, protracted for more than a dozen years, Wiszowaty finally returned to Poland prepared to enter upon his work as a minister. Never, perhaps, had a young man among the Socinians entered upon his career so richly furnished for it, nor had one ever faced a longer and heavier succession of calamities than were to fall to his lot, or confronted them with more devoted consecration or a spirit more unafraid.

His first charge was brief, but must have been phenomenally successful; for the Calvinist proprietor on whose land his church at Piaski stood soon ordered it closed, out of fear, she said, lest all the people of the place should be converted to his religion. He was next appointed assistant minister of a church in the Ukraine, where before the year was out he had news that his father had been murdered by night robbers on his estate in the Podgorze;15 but he at once buried his grief in work, and warmly commended himself to his people and his patron. In 1644 he was given charge over four important congregations in Volhynia. It was at the time when the Catholic reaction, encouraged by the destruction of Rakow, was rapidly gathering force, and was attacking the Socinians in their new centre in the Ukraine. As was related in a previous chapter, the Socinian patrons in this region were haled into court and heavily fined for fostering Arianism’ on their domains, their churches were ordered destroyed, and their worship was forever abolished. 16

Nevertheless Wiszowaty kept on with his work there in face of continued opposition from his adversaries. Priests often haled him into the local courts, though these evidently favored him, and once he was even brought before the supreme Tribunal at Lublin, where he barely escaped banishment from the country for conducting religious worship; so that he had already resolved to remove to Holland, had not the brethren dissuaded him, so highly did they value his counsel and help.

Having fortunately escaped these threatening dangers, he now married the daughter of one of the leading ministers in 1648. It was a year of great disturbance in Church and State. Feeling was still high over Schlichting, who had been proscribed; a new King had just come to the throne; and the Cossack war was about to break out. At this juncture the Synod transferred Wiszowaty to the important congregation that had had to remove from Lublin to Siedliska, and had just lost its minister. He was barely settled there when the congregation scattered in fright before the invading Cossacks, and he with his family and many of his people sought safety in East Prussia, where he spent the winter, not in idleness but in busily ministering to three congregations near Danzig, preaching three times a week, and administering the sacrament in Polish to those that used that language. When the storm of war had passed in the spring, he returned to Lublin, gathered his scattered flock, and went on as before. But not for long, for within the year the Synod again transferred him to Radostow to minister for three years to what was left of the church at Rakow near by. Diligent in his calling as ever, besides his regular duties he thrice a week held meetings for brethren coming from Rakow, which on fast-days lasted all day. It was not long before the growth of his congregation roused the hostility of a neighboring priest, who tried with threats of danger to frighten him away. When this plan failed, trumped-up charges against him and his people were laid before the Diet at Warsaw, and he and his leading members were cited to defend themselves there. Before they could answer the summons, the matron of the church died, her estate fell into Catholic hands, and the Socinians were deprived of their place of worship. Wiszowaty then removed to the Podgorze and became minister at Rabkowa close by the place where his father had met his death and his mother still lived. Here he was to pass the last eight active years of his broken and troubled ministry. Besides the care of his own flock, he was appointed to supervise that at Luclawice, and he also ministered to shut-ins in another village in the vicinity where he went to hold services, despite the constant opposition of Catholic neighbors. Such leisure as these occupations left he occupied with his pen, annotating the whole New Testament,17 making a Polish translation of the Psalms in verse for church use, together with numerous hymns. The Synod also appointed him to write an answer to Cichowski’s ‘Thirty Reasons why self-respecting men should abominate the Arian Church’; 18 but in the disorders that soon followed, the manuscript perished with the rest of his books.

The two years of anarchy and desolation in Poland, lasting from the capture of Warsaw by the Swedish forces to their evacuation of Kraków, and their devastating effect upon the churches in Little Poland, have been spoken of in the preceding chapter, 19 and need not be reviewed here further than to say that the one that gathered the people together when the peasants had risen and in their drunken fury were sweeping on ready to pillage or burn everything and to murder every one in their way; that guided them through the bitter cold of a winter night across the Vistula to a refuge at Czarkow; that so long as they could stay there gathered the fugitives together again from all directions and kept their spirits strong by daily religious services, as their custom was, both before morning light and during the day; that when danger pressed close again led the company to Krakow as the safest place for them, and obtained from the commanding general permission for them to enjoy his protection; that once again, when safe, made it his first care to establish the customary offices of religion as their greatest solace in adversity, observing as usual their daily prayers, as well as their regular fasting and church discipline and the Lord’s Supper; that when Transylvanian forces entered Kraków arranged religious services for the many Unitarians among them in a language that they could understand; and that at last, when the country was again at peace, at once returned to his station in the foot-hills with its wasted fields and ruined homes, and set about his work again as though nothing had happened, visiting those whom he could find, and writing letters to those that were scattered, and starting to rebuild his ruined work from the foundations—that one was the heroic Socinian minister, Andrew Wiszowaty. Was ever a Christian minister braver in danger, wiser in disaster, more resolute under discouragement, more devoted to his calling?

In the few months that elapsed between his return to his station and the publishing of the decree of banishment, Wiszowaty could accomplish little toward reviving his work, though he did that little with his accustomed diligence. At a time when many, shrinking from the miseries of exile, looked first to their own safety, abandoning their own cause and deserting to the Catholic camp or to that of Calvin, he remained unshaken, and performed his duties as before, heedless of the dangers and plots to which he was daily exposed. And when new orders were issued by the King, strictly forbidding the ‘Arians’, on pain of imprisonment, to meet for religious worship, even then he did not shrink from the duties of his office; for when the proprietor of the estate on which his church stood dared not allow further use of it, he did not hesitate to invite his people to meet for worship in his own home in a neighboring village, to which some came openly, others under cover of darkness, while he went in person to confirm in their faith yet others that could not or dared not come at all. Thus he held almost daily worship in his home, sustaining courage in face of threatening danger. His final service to his cause, in the debate with the Catholics in the castle at Roznów, was mentioned above.20

Before the final day for exile arrived, Wiszowaty, forewarned of plots being made against him, anticipated the time and withdrew with his family across the border into Silesia. Here he stayed for half a year, occupied as ever in serving the religious needs of those that had fled thither. Then as winter drew on, and the country had grown some what more quiet, he stole back into Poland, where some of the brethren, and especially widows and orphans who had lacked the means to remove, had remained. Not a few of these, when they heard of his coming, flocked to him; and as long as he stayed he gave them such counsel, encouragement and help as he could. All this exposed him to constant danger, which might have cost him his life had he been discovered; so that advised by his friends he again left the country and crossed into northern Hungary, where he spent the summer at Késmérk with an old friend, a Scottish physician named John Patterson, who had been a resident of Poland, but had left it for the same reason as himself. 21 As many Socinians were believed still to be lying concealed in the country, the Diet in the spring of 1661 passed a third decree, requiring all officers and magistrates to enforce the decree against them. 22 This however did not deter Wiszowaty from making another visit to the brethren the following winter, though again at the risk of his life, that he might remind them of their duty and confirm them in their religion, especially women whose husbands had now apostasized. In the spring he returned to Késmérk, where he stayed the year through, since there no longer seemed any hope of his being able to accomplish anything in Poland. For at the Diet that summer (1662) a yet more stringent law was passed. 23

Seeing that there were many in the country that were ignoring the severity of the law, it was declared that it applied to all women as well, even to wives of men that had accepted the Catholic faith but continued to live with ‘Arian’ wives, and to any that kept ‘Arian’ servants, or corresponded with ‘Arian’ ministers, or allowed their children to be taught ‘Arian’ errors, or aided ‘Arians’ in any way, etc. All such were subject to confiscation of property, the half to go to the informer. To give this law the more certain effect, all of any standing whose names were known were now proscribed, without any hearing, and their names were publicly read and posted at Warsaw, including even women, widows and young girls, without exception, or the indulgence of brief delay granted in case of any that were aged, infirm or ill.24 As a triumphant finale to his twenty years’ polemic against the ‘Arians,’ Cichowski now celebrated the centenary of the Society of Jesus in Poland by publishing a jubilant commemorative volume. 25

The indefatigable Wiszowaty did not even now sit down in idleness in a quiet retreat at Késmérk He ministered to those within reach and kept up correspondence with the scattered exiles, considering the while where he should now go. Both Transylvania and lower Hungary attracted him as promising fields of service to the churches there, and he even went to Kolozsvár for a short time to learn the difficult Hungarian language.26 But at just this time a messenger came to him from a company of exiles at Kreuzburg in Silesia, summoning him to attend an important synod there, at which plans for the future were to be considered. He at once responded, and hastening through Poland, bristling with dangers for him, presented himself, with results for his future and his cause that will soon be related.

While the little company of surviving fugitives were getting settled in Transylvania, the brethren remaining in Poland were concerned in making plans for the future of their cause. They had no idea where it might find another home, but they had no mind to let it perish for want of care. They therefore met in a synod held in greatest secrecy in 1662 at some place not recorded, but doubtless near the Silesian border. It was the last Socinian synod in Poland. 27 They were concerned for the early publication of a work in defence of religious liberty. 28 Besides, now that their history threatened to be approaching its term, they were more than ever anxious to have that also committed to writing, and this duty as well was laid upon Przypkowski at the same time, while all the brethren were requested to assist him in collecting materials. More pressing obligations would seem constantly to have interfered with this one, of which he was finally reminded again by the synod at Kreuzburg in 1663. 29 They also authorized Schlichting to publish his commentaries on the New Testament (Amsterdam, 1666). Seweryn Morsztyn and his son were appointed to stay on in Poland and have a care for the brethren, which was faithfully done until 1668 or later;30 and a minister was appointed to serve the exiles in Silesia, and another to look after the exile congregations in Prussia, and a third to go to Holland to try to bring about a union with the Remonstrants, and on the way to visit brethren scattered about in Silesia and Brandenburg, and two more to go to minister to brethren at Mannheim on the Rhine. Finally, still with a view to an indefinite future, they charged two of the ministers to preserve and continue the records of the synods. 31

Click here to open the frame set built to read this document. 

This page was last modified Sunday 12 November 2006.
Website ©1998–2006 Rev. Dr. Alicia McNary Forsey. Text ©1998–2004 t
he heirs of Earl Morse Wilbur.  All rights reserved.
For comments or requests write to { webweaver at pacificuu dot org }.