SOCINIAN EXILES AT KREUZBURG, MANNHEIM AND FRIEDRICHSTADT AND IN BRANDENBURG. DEVELOPMENT OF SOCINIANISM IN EAST PRUSSIA AND DANZIG
WHILE THE COMPANY of exiles that set out for Transylvania was doubtless the largest of those that left Poland, their number was soon so greatly reduced by misfortune and disease that but few survived to carry on. Quite the most important group, therefore, and the most influential on the history of their movement, was that which for more than ten years sojourned at Kreuzburg in Silesia. 1 This was a convenient place for the exiles to stop, take breath, and form their plans, being but a dozen miles from the border; so that they could easily return from here to settle their affairs, and the ministers could secretly go back to visit their members, or be visited by them. Antitrinitarians had been known here a full ninety years before,2 and for the better part of a century the Polish Brethren had received recruits from Silesia, of whom several reached high standing among their ministers; 3 while in the recent years Socinians had fled from the dangers of the Swedish war in Poland and sought the protection of Duke George of Liegnitz, whose territory, though he was a Protestant, lay in the domain of the Austrian Emperor. 4 When the first band of refugees reached Kreuzburg in 1660, they were ordered to leave the city within three days, and a few did so; but most stayed and addressed to the Duke a petition for leave to stay longer, not with ,a view to permanent settlement, but to see whether the sentence against them in Poland might not yet be modified, and to save what they could of their property, and quietly look about for a place to settle. 5 Their petition was warmly supported by Prince Boguslaw Radziwill, formerly their fellow-countryman, but now in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg as Governor of Prussia. The desired indulgence was granted for three months, on condition that they furnish a list of their families, and abstain from any propaganda and from holding public worship. The inhabitants, who the year before had suffered from a great conflagration, were sympathetic and helpful; the Lutheran ministers, whose public worship they attended, were kind; 6 their domestic worship was not interfered with; and they were granted a special place to bury their dead. Their minister during the first few months was Andrew Wiszowaty, who was succeeded by Christopher Crellius.
When their leave had expired, and there was no complaint against them, they continued to stay on. They were evidently in sore need, for in June, 1661 twenty-six of them, nearly all bearing the names of noble men, addressed an elaborate letter to the Remonstrant churches in Holland, setting forth at length the long history and the wide reach of their misfortunes, and their present desperate need, and humbly beseeching for generous relief. They related that their stay at Kreuzburg was precarious and liable at any time to be cut short. Though the most of their company were of noble birth, many had not enough to live from. Some had been officials in the State, others had lived from the rentals of their own estates, and some had managed the estates of others; but all these sources had now been cut off. The ministers were in great destitution, and some of them were aged and enfeebled by their long misfortunes. Their craftsmen, being foreigners, were not permitted to follow their trades. Their very speech was a hindrance. All in all their situation was most pitiable. Even if they were deemed to be in error as to their beliefs, it was for conscience’ sake rather than subscribe to the opinions of the Pope; and this should commend them even to those that disagreed with their views, especially as to mysteries beyond human understanding. Forty years ago they had offered a refuge in Poland to the Remonstrants when they in their turn had been exiles for conscience, and they now appealed for like treatment for themselves.7 This letter, dated June 17, 1661, was at once entrusted to the Rev. Christopher Crellius, son of the celebrated Ráków professor, who bore a confidential letter of the same date, 8 and in due time delivered it to the Rev. Jan Naeranus (van der Neer), Remonstrant minister at Oudewetering (Oudewater), whose father Samuel had visited Ruar at Danzig thirty years before, 9 and had had a long and intimate correspondence with him. He in turn had the letter translated into Dutch and forwarded to all the Remonstrant ministers. 10 From Holland Crellius went on to England, where the Socinians had long had sympathetic friends and correspondents. There he seems to have had only moderate success in collecting funds, 11 but from the brethren in Holland the response was generous. After a year, as the number of exiles at Kreuzburg was diminishing, and those in East Prussia were increasing, remittances were made to the latter, and by them were care fully distributed to the scattered brethren in need. A careful record was kept, and a due report was rendered to the generous givers. The brethren at Kreuzburg expressed their heartfelt appreciation upon receipt of the first gift in 1662 (not without a note of disappointment that it was only 2,200 thalers, and that no more could be confidently expected); but the gifts kept coming on for three years as the condition of the exiles was more fully realized, and in the end they amounted to ten or twelve thousand thalers. When in 1665 the aid was at an end, the Synod in Prussia voted a formal letter of thanks for the generous gifts, adding that ‘it is the more grateful and acceptable to us for the reason that, though you differ from us in certain opinions about religion, this did not detract from nor lessen your benevolence to us.’ 12
In the meantime, while these hard days were passing, the members of the Kreuzburg company were gradually slipping away. Some of them found new homes in the neighboring Principalities of Oppeln and Ratibor, whose owner, the Queen of Poland, allowed them to settle on her hereditary territories. Some dispersed through other parts of Silesia, or in Brandenburg. Yet more removed to East Prussia, where the confident hope was entertained that the Elector would allow them to live in security. Some had already removed to Mannheim on the Rhine, where there seemed to be good promise; so that when a synod was held at Kreuzburg in 1663, with delegates present from all quarters, Wiszowaty, who had been summoned to come from Kolozsvár, was appointed to remove thither to look after them. The leadership of the whole Church was given to Przypkowski, and he removed ere long to East Prussia, where he oversaw the distribution of the aid that the friends abroad were now asked to send thither; and Iwainski was appointed one of the ministers to the church at Kolozsvár.13 Still hovering between life and death, the churches now began to make more determined efforts than ever to ensure their continued existence. Correspondence was maintained with all the scattered groups; the education of a new generation of ministers was planned; the publication of needed books was ordered. Only one more synod was held at Kreuzburg. But three noble families remained there in 1669, and the Austrian government at Vienna now announced that even these might no longer be tolerated. 14 They asked the new King of Poland, Michael Wisniowiecki, to intercede for them, and further indulgence was granted. But a traveling Jesuit discovered them and demanded their expulsion, and the Duke found himself reluctantly forced to send them away. 15 They left Kreuzburg in March, 1671, and apparently went to East Prussia, where their old pastor, Christopher Crellius, after returning from England and holding a short pastorate of the exiles at Friedrichstadt (see below), was now minister of a little congregation at Kasinowo (Andreaswalde). Yet some still remained secretly in Silesia, to whom Crellius went from time to time to visit and administer the Lord’s Supper. It was while on such a pastoral visit in the winter of 1680 that death overtook him. 16
Next, geographically, to the company of exiles at Kreuzburg were a few scattered groups here and there in the Neumark of Brandenburg. The population here was more or less mixed, and many Poles had long lived here. A few Socinian communities had long existed here, and though not legally tolerated were connived at under the tolerant government of the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, who needed colonists and granted them admission and protection. Perhaps the earliest of these was at Meseritz, east of Frankfurt on the Polish border, where an Anabaptist movement had developed into a Socinian one. This movement existed long before it had a regular minister or its own place of worship, and held its meetings now at Meseritz, now at Bobelwitz on the Polish side of the border, drawing its members from both communities. It was patronized by several important noble families.17 Other centres of Socinianism of which we find mention were Selchow (Züllichau), where Schlichting died in 1661 worn out by his constant labors and the persecutions of many years; also Möstchen, Griesel, Neuendorf, Landsberg, and Konigswalde, all within some fifty miles eastward from Frankfurt on the order. In most of these the brethren, following a characteristic Socinian custom, gathered for simple domestic worship in the manor-house of one of the patrons. Of these centres records are scanty; but the one that survived longest was that of Konigswalde. A considerable group of Socinians lived here after the exile from Poland, and had for their minister Johannes Preuss. Toward the end of the century he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Samuel Creihus, son of the Christopher Crellius above mentioned, who had been born in the very year of the exile. 18 After studying in England and Holland and being ordained in 1687 he established his home at Königswalde, where he ministered to the congregation for some forty years.
After the death of the Great Elector, the clergy began to urge the extermination of the Arian heresy. Crellius met the demand with a little book arguing that both Lutherans and Calvinists ought to tolerate them and admit them to the Lord’s Supper. 19 For some time this resuited in more tolerant treatment; but in 1716, when he saw that the younger generation were now forgetting Polish and speaking German, Crellius published for them a brief catechism20 which was so well received that two years later he published a much larger edition for general circulation,21 which as much as possible softened doctrines that might give offence. The Lutheran Superintendent took notice and complained to the King, who issued a warning against further Unitarian meetings. Crellius responded with a petition, setting forth that their numbers had so fallen off that in the whole Neumark there were now but 72 persons all told professing the Unitarian faith, and in Konigswalde not more than 20; that their meetings were held within closed doors, and that no proselyting or controversy was carried on. They therefore begged his Majesty either to allow them to continue their private services, or else to order Lutherans and Reformed to admit them to their celebration of the Lord’s Supper, as they had before requested. 22 They remained quiet and were not further disturbed. But the little group rapidly declined, and ere long yielded to the inevitable; and in 1725 Crellius, who had served them with unshaken loyalty for forty years, took his leave of them and joined his countrymen in Holland. He had given himself much to studies and the writing of learned works, and had from time to time visited Frankfurt or Berlin, Holland or England, where he had eminent literary friends, and enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most learned men of his time. There will be occasion to speak of him again further on.
Even with their pastor gone the scattered individuals in Brandenburg were not forgotten or wholly neglected. The brethren in East Prussia felt responsible for them, and every year a minister would go from there to visit them and administer the Lord’s Supper, which they so deeply valued.23 But from this time on they disappear from the record. In 1750 but one of the brethren was reported, still loyal to the faith of his fathers, and even he had a Lutheran wife, and his children were brought up in their mother’s faith. 24
As has been already related above, some of the exiles had early gone from Poland to Mannheim in the Rhine Palatinate. The Elector Karl Ludwig was now making every effort to build up this city after the damage it had suffered in the Thirty Years’ War, and to that end he had welcomed as settlers those that had suffered religious oppression elsewhere, including Protestant refugees from Holland and Anabaptists from Moravia, with enjoyment of religious freedom. 25 At the last Socinian synod held on Polish soil in 1662, two ministers were appointed to go thither to minister to their brethren. 26 Their reports were evidently favorable, for Stanislas Lubieniecki, who was then more or less at the Danish court, and in correspondence with many of the ruling princes in Europe, had evidently made the Elector well-disposed to the exiled Poles, 27 so that at the Kreuzburg synod the following year, to which Wiszowaty was summoned from Kolozsvár, he and Joachim Stegmann were appointed to repair to Mannheim, where the Elector, already sympathizing with them in their misfortunes, had granted them a place of residence under his patronage. They at once set out on the long journey with their families, and dwelt at Mannheim for three years, happy under the Prince’s protection. 28 They held their worship and observed the various rites of their religion in their own dwellings, but they also made every effort to commend their faith to others. 29 The Elector showed Wiszowaty his favor, sometimes inviting him to the castle, sometimes coming down with the members of his court to visit Wiszowaty, when they would talk intimately, especially about religion. But when it was discovered that through conversation or the circulation of books and writings the faith of some of the citizens was being shaken, the clergy had the Socinians called before the authorities at Heidelberg, where they were enjoined from discussing religion or giving religious books to any subject of the Elector. This restriction of their religious liberty deprived them of their greatest happiness; and as war with Lorraine had broken out and the plague had smitten the city, they decided to remove. They were urged to join the exiles in Prussia, Brandenburg, Silesia or elsewhere; but Wiszowaty had long felt attracted to Holland, and in 1666 he therefore took his family down the Rhine to Amsterdam, where many of the brethren already were, where he was to spend the rest of his life, and where we shall meet him again. Stegmann, however, went to Kolozsvár in Transylvania, where he became minister of the German-speaking Transylvanians. Both died in 1678.
One more attempt to establish in a foreign land a colony of Socinians was made. It will be recalled that when the Swedes evacuated Kraków in 1657 Stanislas Lubieniecki was one of those that followed with them, hoping through Swedish influence to get the Socinians included in the general amnesty when the treaty of peace should be drawn. Disappointed in this hope, since he could not return to Poland he went on with his family to Copenhagen, with the plan of obtaining from the Danish King some place in his dominion where the exiles might settle. He was received with much favor at court, and did get from the King assurance that he would connive at their dwelling at Altona. He himself therefore took up his residence at Hamburg near by. While here, he received from the brethren a request to procure permission for them to settle at Friedrichstadt, a tidy Dutch-looking little city on the western coast of Schleswig-Holstein near the mouth of the Eider. It had been built some forty years before by the enlightened and liberal young Duke Frederik III, of Holstein-Gottorp as a city of refuge for the Dutch Remonstrants, who had in 1619 been excluded from the Re formed Church and forbidden to hold religious assemblies in Holland.
The Duke offered to build them a town with complete religious freedom, saying, ‘I do not understand how any one can be forced in respect to his conscientious convictions.’ Thus in an intolerant age Friedrichstadt soon became conspicuous as a haven for the persecuted. Soon after the Remonstrants came the Mennonites, then Lutherans, Catholics, and finally Quakers and Jews, who have now lived side by side in tolerance and peace for more than three centuries.30 Lubieniecki went at once to Friedrichstadt, and early in 1662, having explained to the Magistrate that his people would join in with the Remonstrants, he was assured that they would be gladly received. The Synod upon learning this requested Lubieniecki to do all possible in their behalf, and especially to conclude a union with the Remonstrants. He made great efforts, and spared no expense of his own property to remove the brethren thither and aid them after their arrival. 31 The brethren sent several of their ministers, Preuss, Crellius, and young Martin Ruar, besides several members from the Danzig congregation, to prepare the way; and early in the autumn seventeen Polish Brethren were enrolled among the Remonstrants, and many others were on their way, assisted by funds sent from Holland. 32 Unfortunately all their hopes were soon dashed to the ground. The Lutheran Superintendent Johannes Rein-both thwarted their plans. He prevailed upon the new Duke, Christian Albert, a more conservative man than his father, to expel the Socinians from the city, with the excuse that the Magistrate had not consulted him before admitting them. 33 The Remonstrant brethren intervened, but in vain. The Polish Brethren tried to move the Superintendent to show a milder spirit, again in vain. In October, 1663, after barely a year’s happy residence, a new order of expulsion was issued, and they too went on to Holland. Thus the last attempt to form a compact colony of the exiles under conditions of religious liberty fell to the ground. 34
It has now been seen that, aside from the exile church at Kolozsvár, which dragged out a feeble existence for 130 years, none of the other groups of exiles that have been mentioned took root or held together for more than a few years. Their tenure of residence was too precarious, and the pressure of the orthodox confessions was too strong and steady, for them firmly to establish new centers of church life. In East Prussia, however, conditions were somewhat more favorable to their continuing their existence and perhaps even extending their work. From 1525 Ducal Prussia, as it was called, though governed by its own hereditary Prince, had been bound to Poland by ties of feudal allegiance, and was practically, if somewhat loosely, a part of the Polish State. Its population was predominantly German, and its religion after the rise of the Reformation was strongly Lutheran; though there was also a large infiltration of Poles, especially along the eastern border. But in the settlement of affairs by treaty after the war with Sweden, Poland was obliged to renounce all claims to sovereignty over Prussia, and it be came henceforth a part of Germany, ruled by the Elector of Branden burg, and locally by a Governor appointed by him. At the time of the exile of the Socinians the Governor was Prince Boguslaw Radziwill, who was related to the Great Elector. In the recent war he had, as a magnate in Lithuania who was discontented with the rule of King Jan, given powerful help to the Swedes and Germans, and in 1657 he was rewarded with this office.35 Though he was of the Reformed Church, he was not unfriendly to the Socinians, with whom he had many connections, and whose cause at Kreuzburg he supported with the local government there in 1660; 36 and his cousin Janusz had championed their cause in the Diet when the fate of Raków was at stake in 1638. Hence on all accounts Prussia seemed to offer the exiles a promising refuge, even though it had long had provincial laws against ‘Arians.’ Long before 1660, however, pioneers of Socinianism had appeared in Prussia; and although they arose more or less independently of the movement we have been following in Poland, yet they had such affinities and eventual connection with it that their record deserves to be given here.
Not counting Lismanino and Alciati, who in 1563 and the following year had taken refuge in Prussia but had excited no disturbance by their views, the earliest recorded instance of Antitrinitarianism here is found in 1574. In this year one Ralph Rutter37 of London, who had for some years been active in eastern Europe as a trader in the service of the Muscovy Company, but was now trading on his own account, formed an acquaintance with Simon Budny, Antitrinitarian minister at Losk, who through him opened correspondence with John Foxe, the English martyrologist. 38 But it appears also that through their conversations on religious matters Rutter became a convert to Budny’s views, and undertook to make them more widely known. For in the following year (1575) a book by the Lutheran Bishop Johannes Wigand39 of Pomesania appeared at Konigsberg, from which it is evident that Rutter had been spreading among university students at Konigsberg dangerous views as to the deity of Christ. 40 There is no evidence that Rutter himself had published these views, or was the author of them. It seems rather that they formed a brief appendix to a recent book of Budny’s on the two natures of Christ, 41 and were now circulated as a separate reprint, or else in manuscript, with the title, Brevis demonstratio, quod Christus non sit ipse Dens qui Pater, etc. It was a brief and lively polemic against the current view of Christ as God, equal with the Father, and the related doctrine of the Trinity; and it contended that Christ was a man of wholly human origin. Wigand reprinted the tract entire in his book, and then undertook to refute it sentence by sentence. 42 What the immediate result was we do not know, for Rutter was a bird of passage and did not pause to reply.
It was not many years, however, before signs of heresy were again discovered. For about 1580 a congregation of ‘Anabaptists’ was gathered at Danzig, which had relations with the brethren of the Minor Church in Poland. Its meetings were doubtless held in great secrecy; but in 1592 they received a notable accession. Matthew Radecki, a native of Danzig and a graduate of Konigsberg, who had for twenty- six years been Secretary of the city, but had led a restless and wandering religious life, received immersion and joined this congregation. When this fact became known to the city Council he was removed from office, and left town with his wife and eight children. 43 He then became a Socinian minister and served his churches for the twenty remaining years of his life. One of these churches was at Busków, a near suburb of Danzig, whither many from Danzig went to worship when their meetings were forbidden in town; and another near by was at Straszyn.
A generation later, about 1626, trouble broke out at St. Peter’s Re formed church in Danzig itself. Joachim Stegmann, who had already been under suspicion when minister of a church in Brandenburg, and had at that time been in communication with the Racovians, was now for a short time minister at St. Peter’s, where he was discovered to be holding Socinian opinions. He was therefore dismissed, and went at once to Raków as Rector of the college there. Two years later he was called to be minister of the Saxon Unitarian church at Kolozsvár in Transylvania, where he died in 1633. A printed controversy ensued at Danzig, which tended much to spread Stegmann’s views. It was begun and ended by Johannes Botsak, minister of Trinity church and Rector of the gymnasium there.44
At the time of Stegmann’s dismissal from his church, the Raków Synod began to be interested in pushing forward the work at Danzig, where the number of adherents was rapidly growing, and made an appropriation toward the cause; and in 1631 Martin Ruar, who had several years before spent some time at Danzig, took up his permanent residence there. He was ostensibly and actively the factor for various Polish gentlemen in their commercial affairs; but he was at heart above all devoted to spreading his religious faith in that influential centre. Ruar, 45 born in 1589, was a native of Krempe in Holstein, son of a Lutheran school Rector. Early distinguished as a student, he went to the Academy at Altdorf, where he was converted to Socinian views by Professor Soner, and became an ardent and life-long propagandist of his new faith. He traveled extensively in France and England, Italy, Holland and Germany, became a man of the broadest culture, highly accomplished in nearly half a score of languages, and was offered a professorship in history at the University of Cambridge on very flattering terms, but declined the tempting offer rather than compromise his religious freedom, as he would have had to do. 46 Later for one short year he was Rector of the College at Raków; but the restrictions of academic life did not suit him, and he had ten years more of unsettled life, ranging like a bee, as he said of himself, 47 among flowers of the classics, studying to perfect his style and enrich his mind as a preparation for practical life. Thus by the time he settled at Danzig Ruar had come to be widely known as one of the most learned men in Europe. In religion, though agreeing in general with the Socinians, he was no narrow sectarian, but was tolerant and irenic in spirit, and for many years tried to bring about union with the Remonstrants and the Mennonites. His activity, however, was that of a layman, for he was not ordained to the ministry until late in life.
Soon after his arrival in Danzig, the brethren in Poland commissioned Ruar to purchase a piece of land in a convenient location for a church, and also a house for the regular minister; and he used to preach to the Socinian congregations in German, since the regular minister knew only Polish. These meetings were of course private assemblies; though once or twice, being invited to do so, he took part in a public discussion, and defended his cause against misrepresentation.48 But his more effective work was done by recommending and distributing books from the Raków press, and by cautious and skilful private conversations and discussions with individuals or small groups, mostly with common people. 49 The results of this activity could not well escape the notice of the Council of the city, who since Stegmann’s case had already put some pressure upon the congregation of the Socinians; and now that these were increasingly active, and Ruar himself, having married into one of the prominent families of the city, had converted to his faith not only his wife but her relations, the Council were aroused to drastic action. Encouraged by what the Diet had done that very year in the case of Ráków, they notified Ruar in 1638 to leave the city and thus free the church from further danger, 50 on the ground that he not only professed the ‘Arian’ religion but was leader in spreading it in the city.
He answered 51 that it was next to impossible for him to leave at once, since that would cause great loss to several Polish magnates whose interests there he had in charge, and he asked meantime to be heard in his own defence and legally tried before punishment. He had borne, he said, a good reputation throughout learned Europe, and had chosen Poland out of all places for its boasted golden freedom of conscience and its tolerant laws; and he had liked Danzig the more as a place of residence because here adherents of various religions were freely allowed to dwell and to practice their religion publicly or (by connivance) secretly. He had lived here for seven years without complaint from any, and had married into an honorable family. In religion he had nothing in common with Anus, and chose Scripture alone as the standard of his faith and life. He had never been ordained or acted as a minister, but only as a private Christian; had never discussed religion with any student, nor forced his views on any one in private, nor persuaded any one in the city to change his religion; had loaned religious books only when asked; and had done nothing against the laws or customs of the city. Finally, he hoped that at a time when religious persecution of the innocent was rife elsewhere it would not be permitted in this free state to begin with him.
Ruar also asked the intercession in his behalf of some of the leading nobles in Poland whose factor he had been, of whom more than a dozen, persons of the highest standing, addressed a letter to the Danzig Council.52 The Council yielded to these influences, and suspended the decree, on condition that Ruar should not slyly spread his religious views. Five years later, finding these conditions irksome, and seeking wider liberty, Ruar through the influence of two friends at court obtained from King Ladislas an appointment as member of his court, 53 which was supposed among other things to secure him immunity from arrest. This distinction, however, proved of little advantage to Ruar, for under the royal privilege granted to the city a certain precedence had been assured to the Lutheran Church. 54 When therefore in 1643 it became known that he had again been actively making converts, including several of note, he was again ordered to leave the city. Ruar hastened to Warsaw where he again found influential friends to intercede for him, urging that though the city might be within its rights under its charter, it would be safer policy to exercise there the same toleration that prevailed in the Republic at large; since if the principle of general toleration were abandoned, all Protestants might soon suffer persecution from the Catholics. The Council so far yielded as to grant Ruar leave to enter the city to transact his business, but he must reside outside it and give up his propaganda, a condition that he had thus far failed to fulfill. 55 He therefore removed to Straszyn, a (German) mile distant, and there spent the rest of his life, busy with the care of his flock, 56 and with extensive correspondence, in which he persistently tried to promote the cause of church union on a basis of mutual toleration in doctrine. He died in 1657, just too early to witness the ruin that was the following year to overwhelm the Polish Brethren.
The year after Ruar’s expulsion the Danzig Council took a further step, against some citizens who could not be accused of carrying on propaganda, but only of professing the Socinian religion and attending its services at Straszyn. Ruar’s father-in-law, son of a councilor and a man of large business affairs, also an old man of eighty, a life-long Socinian, who had dwelt there for almost seventy years honored and undisturbed, as well as several more of humbler station, were required to remove at great personal loss.57 Besides these there were evidently a considerable number of others, who were summarily ordered, uncited and unheard, at dead of winter to leave within twenty-four hours, though some were women on the verge of child-birth, or with young infants. 58
Among those that were drawn within Ruar’s circle at Danzig were three others that deserve special mention. Valentin Baumgart of Memel in Prussia had won distinction in 1634 at the University in Königsberg. Later, led by scholastic disput4tions to doubt the doctrine of the Trinity, he grew interested in the Socinian doctrine through books from Raków that were finding many readers in Prussia, and had correspondence with Ruar and others. One of his letters was intercepted and led to his being called to account by the University authorities; in consequence of which he made in 1640 a solemn public recantation of his errors. This fact, however, did not prevent him from fleeing within a few weeks and joining the Socinians in Poland. So fine a scholar was welcomed by them, and he was soon made Rector of the school at Kisielin, then of that at Luclawice, and finally chief pastor and Rector of the College at Kolozsvár, as we have already seen. 59 A second victim of the in tolerance of the Danzig Council was Dr. Florian Crusius, who has been called the most distinguished philosopher of all the Antitrinitarians. He was a native of Lithuania, and studied at the University of Königsberg, and afterwards far and wide as tutor to students traveling abroad. He was devoted not only to philosophy, but also to astronomy and the mathematical sciences, and finally to medicine, which he made his profession, practicing it with great success at Danzig, where he took up his residence soon after Ruar. He had fallen under the religious influence of Ruar when the two were fellow-students at Strassburg, and had since married into a leading Socinian family; so that he naturally became an ardent fellow-laborer with Ruar in the Danzig church, and suffered the same fate with him, despite the powerful intercession of the Palatine of Poznan.60 His later history is mostly unknown; but his influence survived in the person of an important convert, Dr. Daniel Zwicker 61 of Danzig, whom he made acquainted with Ruar. Both his father and his brother were successively pastors of one of the Danzig churches, but he himself took up medicine, and thus became intimate with Dr. Crusius, and shared with him and Ruar their active devotion to their cause. He was required to leave town together with them, and also removed to Straszyn. The next year, seeing that their efforts were thwarted, he visited the Moravian Brethren in Hungary, and was so favorably impressed with their way of life that he remained among them for ten days; 62 and then, after returning to Straszyn for three years, just as the storm was about to burst upon the Socinians in Poland, he removed in 1657 to Holland, where he spent the rest of his life, published many little controversial works, and was a consistent advocate of ecclesiastical peace on the triple basis of reason, Scripture and tradition. We shall meet him again in a later chapter.
Besides those above mentioned who were active in supporting the Socinian cause in Prussia two others should be briefly spoken of who stood a little aside from the organized movement. The first of these was Heinrich Nicolai,63 born at Danzig in 1605, where his father was Secretary of the city. He had been elaborately educated in Germany, and had for some time had a reputation as professor of philosophy in the Danzig gymnasium. Now that the Thirty Years’ War was drawing to a close, no question more concerned Christians than that of a peace able union of all the divisions of Christendom in one harmonious body; and when the Colloquium Chairitativum was proposed in Poland, Nicolai sought to make a contribution toward it in a little tract that he entitled Irenicum, sive de diflerentiis religionum conciliandis (Gedani, 1645). He urged that Lutherans, Calvinists, Catholics and Socinians could be united on the basis of the ancient apostolic faith. All should adhere not to their own sects, but only to the Scriptures, considering only what was absolutely necessary to salvation. They should avoid equivocal terms, and use only those of Scripture. The fundamental and essential article of the Christian faith is that Christ is the only-begotten Son of God: all else is incidental. Naturally such a simplification of the Christian faith as this, which ignored all the doctrines over which men had been accustomed to dispute and fight, and opened the door even to Socinians, was as far as possible from being acceptable. The tract was censured by the city ministers, and such great hatred rose against Nicolai that he retired from his post and removed from the city. He secured another post at Elbing in the same year, and wrote a defence and several other works of theology.64 He did not admit that he was an Arian; but he certainly was not a Trinitarian. He died in 1660.
The only other persons to be spoken of in this connection are Christopher Sand, father and son. 65 The father, after his studies at Königsberg, traveled widely in Western Europe, and is said for a time to have been amanuensis to Grotius. Later he held important public offices for twenty years, as Councilor of Brandenburg, Secretary of the provincial government, and of the Tribunal in Prussia. During this period he was seriously studying the early history of the Church. Thus he became acquainted with Arianism, and converted to it; and as he abstained from attending church and from taking the sacrament, he was suspected of being an unbeliever. When he made no secret of his opinions, and efforts to bring him back to the right way did not succeed, he was removed from office, and spent the remaining twenty years of his life in private study. His son of the same name was more closely related to our movement, though he never professed to be a Socinian.
He had imbibed the Arian doctrine from his father, and after his studies at Königsberg read for some time at Oxford. After his father’s dismissal he removed to Amsterdam, where he spent a dozen years in study and writing, while he supported himself by correcting for the press. His most important work was Nucleus historiae Ecclesiasticae (1669), which is in fact a history of Arianism, ancient and modern, by way of showing that primitive Christianity was Arianism, which can be traced in a continuous stream down to the present. Besides various minor works, discussing theological topics from the Arian point of view, he left at his death in 1680 the manuscript of a work invaluable for the student of Unitarian history, his Bibliotheca Antitrinitariorum (1684), which is a brief biographical dictionary of all antitrinitarian writers since the Reformation, with an account of their writings. It was prepared for the press by Benedict Wiszowaty,66 who added to it eight valuable brief writings bearing on the history of Polish Socinianism, which have been repeatedly cited in the present work. Thus we come to the end of our survey of currents in Prussia down to the time of the banishment of the Socinians from Poland, which in their beginnings were largely independent of Socinianism, but ran more or less parallel with it, had various connections with it, and in the end, especially in Holland, tended to coalesce with it.
Click here to open the frame set built to read this document.
This page was last modified
Sunday 12 November 2006.