Edmund Alexander De Schweinitz.

The history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr online

. (page 31 of 64)
Online LibraryEdmund Alexander De SchweinitzThe history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr → online text (page 31 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

which ought to be cherished toward faithful Christians and
brethren greatly beloved." His concluding words were the
following :

" I commend myself to your intercessions. Pray to the Lord,
that He may, through the power of His Spirit, keep me, in my
old age, faithful unto the end, and supply what I lack of strength

5 This paper was composed by Vergerius but signed by Kokita and

^ Letters and documents relating to the negotiations with Vergerius and
the Duke, are found in L. F., IX. and reproduced in Quellen, pp. 185-193.


of body and mind, not permitting me, who am an unprofitable
servant, to fall away from His grace. Salute your Churches
most heartily, and admonish them that with prayers to God our
Father rather than with a war of words, they may contend with
the adversaries." '

On the twenty-eighth of June Herbert reached Geneva,
delivered to Calvin the letter of the Bishops, and begged hini
to convene the Reformed theologians of the city. When they
had assembled, Herbert addressed them, setting forth the
injury that they had done to the Brethren in Poland. " Is
it therefore your opinion," said Calvin in reply, " that we have
been deceived by lies and in consequence have written falsely
against you and given rise to evil prejudices against your
Church ?" Herbert rejoined, that this was presenting the case
from an extreme point of view ; explained, once more, what
the Brethren complained of; and added that Calvin, if he
objected to their Confession, ought to have written to them
and not to their enemies. As reasons for not having done
this, Calvin assigned the want of letter-carriers and the great
distance at which he lived from the Brethren. To the
Reformed of Poland he had written, because they had asked
him to do so. Of the polemical tone which pervaded the
Apology of the Brethren and especially of its obscurity, he
could not approve. Herbert answered : that the polemical
tone of the Apology, particularly in the article of the Lord's
Supper, was occasioned by disputes with the Habrowanites,
whose assertion that this sacrament is a bare sign the Brethren
rejected, because the words of Christ, when instituting the
Lord's Supper, ought to be strictly upheld, otherwise they
would become vain words, and believers would be deluded by
empty signs and spectacles ; that the religious disputes which
were agitating Poland could certainly not be laid at the door
of the Brethren ; that Bohemia was nearer than Poland, and
that it would have been easier for Calvin to write to the
former than to the latter country.

T Letter of Musculus, Quelleh, pp. 206, 207.


After this conference had come to an end, Yiret and Beza
both excused themselves for the letters which they had sent
to Poland, telling Herbert that they had been misled.

On the following day he was invited to a dinner given
by the entire body of Reformed theologians. It took place at
the house of Beza; and at its close Calvin told Herbert
that they wished to assure him of the love they bore to the
Brethren and begged him to accept a paper which he had
written in the name of his colleagues.

This paper was addressed "To the faithful servants of
Christ, who proclaim the pure Gospel in Bohemia, our
beloved fellow- ministers and brethren in the Lord;" and
after a few introductory remarks, gave expression to the fol-
lowing fraternal sentiments :

" We return to you our sincere thanks that you have sent to
us a brother as a witness to our love and Christian communion,
and rejoice the more because you have done this out of pure and
pious hearts. Therefore we beg you not to doubt that we
earnestly desire to abide in a close fellowship with you. Such
a fellowship is to us a source of comfort, in view of the distance
by which we are separated and the enemies that surrouud us.
Hence, with one accord, we testify, that we have one Father in
heaven and are one body of which Christ is the Head. That
such are our sentiments, we are prepared to show by our deeds,"

The letter then proceeds to discuss the points at issue. It
encourages the Brethren to extend the hand to the Polish
Reformed, in order that the pure doctrine of the Gospel may
have free course; it tells them that the article on the Lord's
Supper, in their Confession, is too brief and obscure, and their
Apology too polemical ; it denounces those wlio under the
shadow of the Augustana seek peace and rest, although not
entertaining its views, and thus escape tribulations, odium
and crosses; and closes, as it began, with words of friendship
and of love. This letter was signed by Calvin and all liis
colleagues, thirteen in number.^

« The letter of the Geneva divines is found in fnll in Quellen, pp.
203-206, which work contains a complete account of Herbert's mission, pp.
193-207, taken from L. F., IX.


Thus was renewed the bond of union between the Swiss
Reformers and the Brethren ; but to suppose that they had
now come, or ever after came, to a full doctrinal understand-
ing with one another, would be wide of the mark.

Some time after Herbert's return to Poland, where his
recent mission had served to increase the influence of the
Unitas Fratrum, a Synod was held at Xionz (September,
1560). The deliberations, which were loud, vehement and
more like those of a Polish diet than of an ecclesiastical body,
related almost exclusively to the government of the Reformed
Church.^ In the interests of union nothing was done ; and
Rokita and Lorenz, the delegates of the Brethren, had no
occasion to take an active part in the proceedings. Otherwise,
however, their relations to the Reformed members were of a
friendly character and they mutually agreed to propose to the
Lutherans a conference of the three church es.^^

It took place at Posen, on the first of November, of the
same year, but led to no understanding and did not further
the cause of union. Influenced by Flacius Illyricus, the
Lutherans manifested an open antagonism to the Brethren ;
while the Reformed, on the contrary, continually drew closer
to them. At a subsequent convocation, held at Buzeniu, on
the sixth of January, 1561, the compact of Kozminek was
renewed ; both parties agreed to attend each others synods
without invitation ; and the Brethren promised to submit to
the Reformed, before publishing it, the Polish version of their

^ An executive committee, or consistory, numbering three ministers and
three nobles, was, on this occasion, appointed to govern the Kcformed
Church. These nobles received the title of Sentores politici. It was this
arrangement which led Zinzendorf to introduce in the Kenewed Brethren's
Church the office of Seniores civiles, who were to assist the Bishops in all
matters not of a spiritual character and especially to negotiate with civil
governments. Men of noble birth were generally appointed and received
a special ordination. This office no longer exists.

'" Comenius in his Hist., | § 99-102, disapproves of this Synod and
speaks in very severe terms of the political and carnal wisdom which, in his
judgment, guided its deliberations.


Confession, This promise was fulfilled in 1562; in the
following year the Confession appeared in print."

The spread of Antitrinitarian views within the Reformed
Church, gave to its fellowship with the Unitas Fratrum a new
and urgent importance. Laelius Socinus had planted the
germ of this heretical system in Poland, in 1551 ; and now
it had grown to alarming proportions. The Antitrinitarians
began to constitute an influential party, with Gregory Pauli
at its head, and many Reformed ministers in its ranks.
Sarnicki, a zealous Calvinist, pointed out to the Diet the
growing danger. A Colloquy was agreed on, with the hope
of winning Pauli back to the true faith. It took place at
Cracow, but failed to accomplish this end (1563), In his
opening address George Israel said, that the Protestants of
Poland would not present so lamentable a spectacle of
divisions and feuds, if the compact of Kozminek had not
been so utterly neglected.

The Roman Catholics, too, were alarmed by the rapid
increase of Antitrinitarianism, and induced Sigismund
Augustus to issue an edict banishing all foreign heretics
(August the seventh, 1564). Its execution was intrusted to
John Koscielecki, Governor of Great Poland. Being one of
the most implacable enemies of the Brethren, he enforced it
against all such among them also as had been born in Bohemia
and Moravia. But the magnates of the Church came to their
rescue. A deputation, consisting of Jacob Ostrorog — ^a
favorite of the King — Raphael Leszeynski, John Krotowski,
Albert Marszewski, and accompanied by John Lorenz,
appeared before Sigismund, presented the Polish version of
the Confession of the Unitas Fratrum, and persuaded him to
issue a second decree (November the second, 1564), addressed
specially to Koscielecki, exempting the Brethren from the

^^ It was a translation of the Confession of 1535, presented to Ferdinand.
Gindely asserts that the title which sets this forth is incorrect and that it
was a version of the Confession of 1564, presented to Maximilian. But
tliis latter document constituted merely a revised edition of the Confession
of 1535.


penalty of the first. This measure aiFected Koscielecki in
such a way that he fell sick and died.'^ A year later the
governorship of Great Poland, through the resignation of his
successor, Luke Gorka, passed into the hands of Jacob
Ostrorog. Under his administration the Brethren prospered,
and the only mode of attack remaining to the Catholics was
the pen. In this warfare Benedict Herbst, Prebendary at
Posen, was their champion ; while James Niemojewski, an
influential noble of the Reformed faith, entered the lists on
behalf of the Brethren.

'^ The hatred which Koscielecki bore to the Brethren was so great that
when he was on his death-bed he sent, so it is said, for his court-fool and
ordered him to make sport of their religious ceremonies. Lukaszewicz, p. 47.



Augusta reconciled to the Council. The Synod of Sendomir
in Poland. A. D. 1564-1570.

Meeting of the Bishops at Leipnik. — Reconciliation with Augusta. — Death
of Vergerius. — Increasing hostility of the Lutherans in Poland. —
Benedict Morgenstern. — A Lutheran Synod against the Brethren. —
Joint Synod at Posen. — Twelve reputed Errors. — Decision of the
Synod of Prerau. — Lorenz at Wittenberg. — Favorable Opinion of the
Theological Faculty. — Controversies wane. — Synod of Sendomir. —
Alliance between the Brethren and Reformed and Lutherans. —
Consensus Sendomiriensis. — Further Union, at Posen, of the Brethren
and the Lutherans.

After spending the festival of Easter at Jungbunzlau,
Bishop Augusta proceeded to Leipnik, in Moravia, where he
met, on the Day of St. Mark (April the twenty-fifth), 1 564,
Cerwenka, Czerny and Blahoslaw. The details of this
conference are not known, but its result was auspicious. A
complete reconciliation took place between Augusta and his
colleagues, and he was reinstated in his episcopal seat. At
the same time the constitutional provision, that not less than
four bishops should stand at the head of the Church and
eight or nine priests constitute the other members of the
Council, was anew ratified.^

1 L. F., X. cited by Gindely; Jaffet's Sword of Goliath. This latter
authority says, I. p. 21, etc. "Im Jahr 1564, kam Br. Job. Augusta aus
dem Gefangniss und begab sich noch in demselben Jahr zu den Aeltesten


In the following year (1565) Vergerius died at Tubingen,
on the fourth of October. The Brethren, and Blahoslaw in
particular, prized the friendship which he manifested toward
their Church; among the Swiss Reformers he enjoyed but
little confidence. His sincerity and the service which he
rendered Protestantism, can not be doubted ; but he was fond
of claiming authority and often interfered in matters which
concerned him not.

Meanwhile the relations of the evangelical churches in
Poland remained unchanged, except that the Lutherans grew
more and more hostile to the Brethren. Of this hostility
Benedict Morgenstern, an ecclesiastical demagogue, restless,
bigoted and unscrupulous, was the chief instigator.

He had charge of the Lutheran parish at Thorn, where, in
1563, he gave a notable example of his chicanery. Although
the Brethren had established themselves in that city on their
first arrival in Poland, he forced upon their minister and his
assistants, what he called, a Colloquy, and by his vehement
denunciations and unparalleled impudence, constrained them
to relinquish their church and withdraw from the town.
Elated by this victory he published twenty-two doctrinal

nach Leipnik, am Tage des H. Marcus, berieth sich dort mit alien und
setzte sich wieder auf jenen ersten Platz. Die Bischofe standen nun fiir
kurze Zeit folgendermassen : 1. Johann Augusta. 2. Johann Czerny,
3. Matthias Cerwenka, 4. Georg Israel, 5. Johann Blahoslaw." In the
same work, II. p. 37, etc., we read : Augusta " versohnte sich dort (Leipnik)
mit ihnen. Er wurde wieder auf seinen bischoflichen Platz gesetzt, und
man willigte ein, dass fortan stets die Ordnung beachtet werde, dass vier
Bischofe in der Fronte sassen, und acht oder neun Personen im Rath."
Gindely says that Augusta did not again receive the rank of first Bishop
but only co-ordinate authority with the other Bishops. It is clear that
he was no longer Chief .Judge (Vide p. 320 of this Hist.), and it is certain
that he did not exercise the same overweening authority as formerly ; but
that he continued to be President of the Council, Jaffet's words plainly
show, and Gindely himself, in his list of Bishops (Quellen, p. 451), assigns
to him this place even after his liberation from prison. His influence,
however, undoubtedly waned, the older he grew, and in the last years of his
life his presidency may have become nominal.


errors which, he falsely asserted, they had acknowledged at

the Colloquy.^

And now, in 1565, he issued another work reducing these
errors to sixteen. The cry which he raised was taken up by
a Lutheran Synod at Gostyn. This body adopted a formal
resolution declaring, that the Brethren oppressed the Lutherans
and refused the hand of friendship which these held out. In
itself considered no charge could be more absurd ; understood
from the point of view of the Lutherans, however, it had a
grave meaning. Not all the priests of the Unity were as
submissive as those at Thorn. The Lutherans came to many
places where they found the Brethren established, and the
Brethren would not yield the ground. This was the oppres-
sion from which the Lutherans suifered ! For the followers
of the Unity to point to the friendship that Luther had shown
them, to acknowledge the Augustana and yet to uphold a
Confession of their own and maintain churches of their
own, instead of meekly allowing themselves to be engulfed
in the maw of Lutheranism, was schism ! -^ That under such
circumstances, heated disputes took place and " the royal
law" was frequently broken on both sides, may well be
supposed. There were those who so entirely forgot it, as to
maintain, that Luther's Preface to the Confession of 1535
had not been written by him but forged by the Brethren.*

"^ The Brethren withdrew from Thorn chiefly because the magistrates
sided with Morgenstern, and when these magistrates invited them to
re-establish their Church, declined this overture. Morgenstern's headstrong
course, ere long, alienated his own people. In 1567 he was dismissed from
Thorn. Both the works which he wrote are preserved, in MS., in the
Herrnhut Archives. The first is entitled De Valdensium schismate, etc.;
the second, Errores fraterculorum Bohemicorum, etc.

3 Tlie mild sarcasm with which Gindely expresses himself on this point
provokes an appreciative smile. He says: "Es ist sehr schwer, eine
gerechte Definition des Wortes Druck zu geben, wofern es von religiosen
Parteien gebraucht wird. Mir leuchtet so viel ein, dass die Lutheraner
sich iiberall da gedriickt glaubten, wo ihnen die Briider beim ersten
Erscheinen das Genomene nicht abtraten und sich nicht willig darein
ergaben, sie als ihre Erben und Kechtsnacliiolger anzusehen." II. p. 78.

* Quellen, p. 294.


In order to put an end to such unhappy controversies,
Erasmus Gliczner, the newly appointed Superintendent of the
Lutheran Churches in Great Poland, in conjunction with
prominent nobles of his faith, proposed to the Brethren a
joint Synod at Posen. It took place on the twenty-eighth of
January, 1567, and was attended, on the part of the Unity,
by Israel, Lorenz, and a number of magnates. A more
friendly feeling prevailed and, as Lukaszewicz says, "many
obstacles in the way of peace were removed ;" but the
doctrinal diflPerences were not settled. In the name of his
associates, Morgenstern set forth twelve points of difference
between the Confession of the Brethren and the Augustana
— hence, in the estimation of the Lutherans, twelve errors.
This paper was subsequently sent to Bishop Israel and he
was asked to furnish a reply.*

Instead of at once complying with this request, Israel
appealed to the Executive Council which laid the case before
the Synod convened at Prcrau (June the twenty-fourth,
1567). This body, while rejecting an absorption such as the
Lutherans aimed at, declared that the Brethren were willing
to unite with them and with the Reformed in an alliance
which would leave their own peculiarities, their own ministry,
discipline and doctrine intact.^ After this resolution had
been made known, Lorenz published a reply to Morgenstern's
paper .^

While deliberating upon a rejoinder, the Lutherans, by the
advice of Stephan Bilow, a bitter foe of the Unity, determined
to have it condemned through the University of Wittenberg.

* The paper bore the following title : Arnica at fraterna adnotatis naevorum
et verborum minus recta positorum in Confessione fratrum, quos Valdenses
vocant, proposita in synodo Poznaniae 28 Januarii, 1567, celebrata, a
Ministris Confessionis Augustanae iisdem fratribus Valdcnsibus in duodecim
partes distincta.

® Dekrete d. B. U., p. 228, cited by Czerwenka.

' Lorenz's reply was revised by Israel and Eokita. It bore the following
title : Eesponsio brevis et sincera fratrum, quos Valdenses vocant, ad naevos
ex Apologia ipsorum excerptos a Ministris, Confessioni Augustanae addictis,
in Polonia.


Inasmuch as the Polish Lutherans were violent adherents of
Flacius Illyricus and the theologians of Wittenberg Philip-
pists, the success of this scheme could not but be doubtful.
Its actual failure was, however, owing to another cause.
Before the Lutherans could send a deputation, Bishop George
Israel, who was ignorant of their intentions, commissioned
Lorenz to go to Wittenberg and appeal to the University
(February the tenth, 1568).^ Lorenz arrived on the sixteenth,
delivered letters from Israel to prominent theologians, gave
an account of the controversies in Poland, presented Morgen-
stern's work and his own reply, and begged the Theological
Faculty for a decision with regard to the entire case. Such
a decision was given, in writing, on the twenty-second of
February. It acknowledged the orthodoxy of the Brethren,
attributed the attacks of the Polish Lutherans to the poison
instilled by Flacius, and sided fully with the Unity, except
on two unimportant points. The document was signed by
Paul Eber, as Dean of the Faculty, George Major and Paul

This step of the Polish Brethren led to important results.
On both sides the magnates began to discountenance contro-
versies and to urge upon all Protestants the necessity of
presenting an undivided front both to the Romanists and the
Antitrinitarians ;^" while the idea gained ground, that an
inter-denominational Synod of the Lutherans and Reformed
and Brethren ought to be convened, in order to determine the
basis for an ecclesiastical alliance. These three Churches were
not to be organically united, but, in harmony with the enact-
ment of the Brethren at their Synod of Prerau, to be brought
into such a relationship that a member of one body would
practically be a member of all the three bodies. A Synod of

* Lorenz was accompanied by a young man named John Polycarp. A
full account of this mission is found in L. F., X. and reproduced in Quellen,
pp. 294-318.

® Document in full in Quellen, pp. 311, etc.

'" The Antitrinitarians had, by this time, secured firm seats at Kakau and
on the domains of Prince Ragotzi, in Transylvania.


this kind was agreed on. It was to meet at Sendomir, in
Little Poland." Preparatory Synods were held by the
Brethren and Lutherans at Posen, and by the Lutherans and
Reformed at Wilna.

As the Diet of Lublin, in 1569, constituted an epoch in
the civil history of Poland, so the Synod of Sendomir, in
1570, became an era in its ecclesiastical history.^^ That Diet
brought about the union of Lithuania with Poland ; this
Synod effected, what had never before been accomplished
since the birth of Protestantism, a religious confederation
among the evangelical churches of the kingdom. On all
sides the utmost interest was manifested ; from all parts there
flocked together theologians and ministers and magnates.
The majority of the representatives belonged to the Reformed
Church. Prominent among them were Paul Gilovius, Jacob
Sylvius and Stanislaus Sarnicki, clerical delegates ; and
Stanislaus Mysskowski, the Palatine of Cracow, Peter
Zborowski, the Palatine of Sendomir, and Stanislaus Iwan
Karminski, a councilor of Cracow, lay delegates. The
Lutheran Church was represented by Erasmus Gliczner, its
Superintendent in Great Poland, Nicholas Gliczner, his
brother. Superintendent of the Posen district, and Stanislaus
Bninski, a magistrate of Posen and the proxy of Luke Gorka,
its Palatine. On the part of the Unitas Fratrum, commis-
sioned by its Executive Council, appeared Andrew Praz-
mowski, Superintendent of the Reformed Churches in
Kujavia, with whom was associated Simon Theophilus
Turnovius, a deacon of the Brethren.^^

" Sendomir or Sandomir, is now the capital of the Polish circuit or
government of Eadom, and lies on the left bank of tlie Vistula. Its
inhabitants number about five thousand.

'' Sources for the history of this Synod are : Jablonski's Historia Con-
sensus Sendomiriensis ; Lukaszewicz, Chap. VII. p. 55, etc.; Fischer, I. pp.
157, etc.; and especially Itinerarium Sendomiriense, being a most interesting
MS. journal by Turnovius, in classical Polish, rendered into German by
Fischer and given in his German translation of Lukaszewicz, jjp. 51-81,
also in his own work, I. jjp. 257-286.

'^ Prazmowski was therefore not a minister of tlie Brethren, as Croeger


Turnovius, who became one of the most influential leaders
of the Polish branch of their Church, taking; his place by the
side of Israel and Lorenz, was born at Turuau, on the
fifteenth of September, 1544. In his fourth year, because of
the fierce persecution raging throughout Bohemia, his parents
fled with him to Marienwerder, in East Prussia. Not long
after this flight his father died, and he was adopted by George
Israel, who put him, in 1555, to the school at Kozminek.
At a later time he visited the University of Wittenberg.
When he had completed his studies, in 1568, he came to
Ostrorog, was ordained a Deacon, and subsequently, although
only twenty-six years of age, sent to Sendomir as Praz-
mowski's associate.^*

In that town, on Sunday, the ninth of April, a solemn
service was held, Jacob Sylvius preaching a sermon on the
twentieth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. In
the afternoon, "at the nineteenth hour," the Synod was
opened by the Palatines of Cracow and of Sendomir. The
former welcomed the members ; the latter set forth the object
of the convocation. Four presidents were then chosen : two
laymen, Zborowski and Karminski ; and two ministers,
Gilovius and Prazmowski. Sokolowski was ajipointed
secretary. This organization having been completed, the
Synod adjourned.

On the next day, Monday, April the tenth, at eleven
o'clock, after a religious service at which Valentin preached
on the first chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, the
second session began. First of all, the delegates presented
the salutations of their constituents. In expressing the good

Online LibraryEdmund Alexander De SchweinitzThe history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr → online text (page 31 of 64)