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Described by a Polonian Knight,
Whereunto is added an excellent Discourse, which the same author
would have had premised to the works of Socinus; together with a catalogue of those works.
London, printed for Richard Moone, at the Seven Stars in Paul's Church-yard
1653. Octavo, containing forty-two pages.
TO THE READER. THE life of Socinus is here exposed to thy view, that by the perusal thereof thou mayest receive certain information concerning the man, whom ministers and others traduce by custom, having for the most part, never heard any thing of his conversation, nor seen any of his works; or, if they have, they were either unable or unwilling to make a thorough scrutiny into them, and so no marvel, if they speak evil of him. To say any thing of him here by way of elogy, as that he was one of the most pregnant wits that the world hath produced; that none, since the apostles, hath deserved better of our religion, in that the Lord Christ hath chiefly made use of his ministry, to retrieve so many precious truths of the gospel, which had a long time been hidden from the eyes of men by the artifice of Satan; that he shewed the world a more accurate way to discuss controversies in religion, and to fetch out the very marrow of the holy scripture; so that a man may more avail himself by reading his works, than perhaps by perusing all the fathers, together with the writings of more modern authors; that the virtues of his will were not inferior unto those of his understanding, he being every way furnished to the work of the Lord; that he opened the right way to bring Christians to the unity of the faith and acknowledgment of the Son of God; that he took the same course to propagate the gospel, that Christ and the apostles had done before him, forsaking his estate, and his nearest relations, and undergoing all manner of labours and hazards, to draw men to the knowledge of the truth; that he had no other end of all his undertakings, than the glory of God and Christ, and the salvation of himself and others, it being impossible for calumny itself, with any colour, to asperse him with the least suspicion of worldly interest; that he, of all interpreters, explaineth the precepts of Christ in the strictest manner, and windeth up the lives of men to the highest strain of holiness : To say these and other the like things (though in themselves true and certain) would, notwithstanding, here be impertinent, in that it would forestal what the Polonian knight hath writien on this subject. To him, therefore, I refer thee, desiring thee to read his words without prejudice, and then the works of Socinus himself; and though thou beest not thereby convinced that all which Socinus taught is true (for neither am I myself of that belief, as having discovered that, in some lesser things, Socinus, as a man, went awry, however in the main, he hit the truth) yet for so much of Christ, as thou must needs confess, appeareth in him, begin to have more favourable thoughts of him and his followers. .
To pursue the life of Faustus. Socinus
, in a brief and perfunctory manner, would be below the dignity of so great a man; but to do it, fully and elaborately, would perhaps be above our strength. For to relate the praises of renowned men by snatches,and in a negligent fashion,is an injury to virtue; and, if there was ever any, certainly this is the man who deserveth to be described, not only with care, but also with wit. Yet since it is better, that excellent endowments should be commended below their merit, than wholly passed over in silence: It is unreasonable, either that the meanness of the relators should prove prejudicial to famous men, or the greatness of those, who are celebrated, be any prejudice to the wit of the writers. But, as for myself, pardon is due to me upon another account, being cumbered with many cares, and hurrying my discourse, within the limits prefixed, to a pittance of time.
Socinus was born in Sene, a most famous city of Tuscany. The nobility of his stock was ancient, and the splendor of his alliances exceeding the condition of a private man.
His father, besides the honours of his own family, was, on his mother's side, further ennobled by the Salvetti, which family sometimes flourished with so great power amongst the Florentines, that Pandulphus Petruccius, being expelled out of Sene, was chiefly beholden to the assistance and wealth of Paulus Salvettus for the restitution of his country, and shortly after of his princedom. By which benefit, being obliged, he conferred on him the freedom of the city, and persuaded him to leave his country, and dwell at Sene. This Paulus was father to Camilla, wbo, being married to Marianus the younger, was mother to Alexander and Lælius Socinus, and grandmother to Faustus. His mother, born to the hope of more than a private fortune, was daughter to Burgesius Petruccius (sometimes prince of the commonwealth of Sene)and to Victoria Piccolominea, who being the daughter of Andreas Piccolomineus, lord ofCastilio and Piscaria, and niece to Pope Pius the Second, and Third of that name; and either sister or kinswoman to cardinal John Piccolomineus, to the dukes of the Amalphitani, to the mar quisses of Capistranum, to the earls of Calanum, and many other Italian princes, married into the house of the Petruccii, which then held the
fortune of the princedom of Sene. But Burgesius, succeeding his father Pandulphus, and not long after by a fatal change expelled out of his country, did not long survive his dignity. · Nevertheless Cardinal Raphael Petruccius was his successor in the government of his country, and held for a while the helm of that commonwealth. But Victoria, being left a widow, suffered not her mind, which, in the splendor of her former height, she had never lifted up, to be quailed with so disastrous a vicissitude of things. So that, for the space of fifty-six years, wherein she survived the life and common fortune of her husband, she did with singular modesty, and approved integrity and chastity, endure the solitary condition of widowhood. Her daughter Agnes, whom, according to the dignity of so great a family, she had trained up in most holy manners, she gave in marriage to Alexander Socinus, a young man of noble extraction, but private condition. He was the father of our Faustus, and born in such a family, as had, for a long time, not by arms and power, but by wit and scholarship, seemed to hold a kind of princedom in one sort of learning. For this very Alexander was called the master of subtleties; and his father Marianus the Younger, the prince of lawyers; and Bartholomew, the uncle of Marianus the Younger, was by Angelus Politianus, stiled the Papinian of his age; finally Marianus the elder, Bartholomew's father, a most grave lawyer, is by Æneas Sylvius so highly extolled, that the narration almost exceeds belief.
The son of this Marianus was Alexander the elder; the grandchild Marianus the younger ; the great grandchildren, Alexander and Lælius, the one (as we said) the father, the other, the uncle of our Faustus. Both of them, for greatness of wit, and endowments of learning, exceede ing famous; but to whom that of the poet may justly be applied,
These to the earth the Fates will only show,
Causing them presently away to go. For Alexander having a marvellous sharpness of wit, together with a divine memory and excellent eloquence, had scarce fulfilled the one and thirtieth year of his ago, but he was suddenly snatched away, to the great grief of all Italy. And Lælius, having, in a short race of life, performed very great matters, exceeded not the seven and thirtieth
of The memory of this man I judge worthy to be exceedingly admired by posterity, who, in so short a space as he lived, not only smelt out so many grievous errors, which had privily crept into the church, but pulling them out of their very holes, first shewed the way how to kill them. He, being by his father Marianus put upon that study which was hereditary to his name, thought that the knowledge of human laws was to be fetched out of the very fountains of God's law. To which purpose, whilst he diligently turned over the sacred volumes, he without difficulty found that very many of those doctrines of the church, which are commonly received, are quite opposite to the divine testimonies. And that so much the more easily, because most of them are also repugnant to reason, and such principles, as nature itself hath implanted in us. Inasmuch therefore, as the height of his excellent wit and sharpness of his judgment were accompanied with a singular probity of mind, having detected the errors of the church, he did not (as the greatest part do)
abuse them to the contempt of the scripture and religion, but rather used the authority of the scripture, and of the Christian religion, to heal the diseases of the church, which could not be cured, unless the errors were detected. Wherefore, in that study, to which his sublime and pious mind was carried with inflamed speed, a great light, not without the divine assistance, suddenly broke out unto him, especially because, to fetch out the senses of the scripture, he brought with him the knowledge of the oriental tongues, the Hebrew and Greek chiefly, and also the Arabick. Whether,therefore, it were for fear of danger as it is likely,or that he might more exactly study purer divinity, and the tongues, he soon passed out of Italy into Switzerland and Germany.
He left his country very young, not being above one and twenty years old. In the next four years, having travelled over France, Brittany, Belgium, all Germany, and Poland, he took up his dwelling at Zurich. Whereupon although he was often drawn away with publick and private affairs; yet did he spend the chiefest part of his exile there, being endeared to sundry princes in all parts, and favoured also by certain Kings.
There was not a noted scholar in that time (than which, none ever abounded more with learned men) but he had by his carriage won not only his friendship, but his familiarity also. Whereby it came to pass, that the inbred goodness of his judgment was accompanied with a singular prudence and sweetness of behaviour. Which endowments are acknowledged in him, as by very many other famous men, so chiefly by Philip Melanchthon, in his commendatory letters, which he wrote to him as he was departing. And indeed what correspondence was between him and the most renowned men of that age, chiefly Calvin, Melanchthon, Bullinger, Brentius, Musculus, Munster, Zanchius, Vergerius, Castellio, Beza, Martyr, Ochinus, Cæleus, and sundry others, thei frequent letters unto him do testify, the copies whereof, in a great num ber, have come to our hands. He did not more desire to enjoy their friendship, for the safe-guard of his fortune, than to make use of the same to the benefit of the church. Wherefore he did, by his questions, much urge and exercise those redoubted doctors of the then flourishing divinity. I have a letter written with Calvin's own hand, wherein he openly professeth that he was put into choler by him, and, instead of an answer, sends him back a check and threatening.
• It is not fit, saith he, that you should expect until I answer those portentous questions which you object. If you are disposed to fly through those airy speculations, I beseech you, suffer me, an humble disciple of Christ, to meditate on such things, as tend to the edification of my faith. And indeed I will by my silence gain what I desire, namely, that
be not henceforth troublesome to me. Now that so gallant a wit, as the Lord hath bestowed on you, should not only be unprofitably taken up with slight matters, but also corrupted with pernicious figments, is a very great grief. What I not long since testified, I again seriously warn you of. That, if you do not timely correct this itch of enquiring, it is to be feared, you will draw on yourself great torments. Should I, under a shew of indulgence, cherish such a vice, at
I know to be very hurtful, I should be perfidious and cruel towards you. Wherefore I had rather you should be a little offended with my roughness, than be drawn away, with the sweet allurements of curiosity, beyond all recovery. The time will come, I hope, when you will rejoice, that you were so boisterously awakened.
JOHN CALVIN. Jan. 1, 1552.
Neither was the truth of this threatening either uncertain or contempo tible. For, in the month of October, the next year, Servetus was burned at Geneva. Nevertheless, the gravity of Lælius, and his incredible modesty in the grealest endowments of learning and wit, together with his dexterity of carriage, had so disarmed the anger of those that were in a chafe, that they did not endure to hate the man, although, otherwise, they could not brook his freedom. Which thing may teach them, whom over-much freedom of truth betrayeth into needless dangers, that that very truth, which they maintain, is more secured by the circumspect mildness of prudence, than by unbridled zeal. So that they, who of their own accord meet dangers, seem to make greater haste to their own praise, than to the advancement of the publick good. And certainly, if there be any, this is the place where the simplicity of the dov is to be mingled with the subtlety of the serpent. Unless we suspect the counsel of our Saviour condemning their unadvised rashness, who oftentimes have very bad success in casting down their pearls where they cannot be estimated according to their worth. The truth is, Lælius remained intire and inviolate amongst the capital enemies of his opinion; yet did he not suffer the sense of his judgment to perish within the closet of his conscience. Wherefore, to those whom he liked, he feared not to entrust the things that had been discovered to him by God. But chiefly, he instructed his countrymen, the Italians, who, by a pious and voluntary exile, were scattered through several regions of Germany and Poland. I find, in the commentaries of the Polonian churches, that he came twice into our country: First, about the year 1551, when he was six and twenty years old, at what time he is said, not without great success, to have conversed with very many of the Polonian nubility, and to have caused Francis Lismaninus, the Corcyræan, confessor to Bona Sforzia, the queen, and who was then (if I be not mistaken) the provincial of the Minorites, and first lifted up an ensign of revolt from the Pope in this kingdom, to cast away his cowl. But then, in a few months space, departing into Moravia, he retired thence to the Switzers. His second coming into Poland I find to have happened, after the death of his father Marianus, who died at Bononia, in the year 1556. For not long after, about the years 1558 and 1559, he desired letters of recommendation from the Kings of Poland and Bohemia, that he might the more securely treat with his friends in Venice concerning his patrimony. Then, indeed, it appeared, to the greatest part of the German and Polonian nobility, in what favour he was. For, in his case, there