• Modrevius Andrew Fricius


    Modrevius Andrew Fricius






    Modrevius Fricius Andrew (Polon. Andreas Frycz Modrzewski,) was a Polish Knight, belonging to one of the most illustrious families in the Palatinate of Sandomir. Accounts of him have been written by Lubieniecius, Sandius, Bayle and others. Though he never formally joined any of the denominations of Protestants, he pursued his religious inquiries with the most perfect freedom ; and cheerfully allowed to others the liberty which he claimed for himself. In the Preface to one of his works, (De Mediatore,) he says, "Our Churches are divided, because no one will make concessions. For my part, I will not hide my talent, how inconsiderable soever it be: but let every man be free ; let none imagine my sentiments are oracles, proceeding from the Pythian Apollo ; they are only to be considered as the opinions of Frycz, that is, of one man among many." He had a dislike to everything of the nature of theological subtlety ; and was a great admirer of simplicity, both in the forms and doctrines of religion. Lubieniecius speaks of him in the highest possible terms, and says, that his learning would have enabled him to attain to the highest honours in the state ; but that he lived on a moderate fortune, content with a knowledge of the truth, which was so hateful to many of the men of that age.


    He was born in the year 1506, and received his first religious impressions, when he was in imminent danger of his fife. "When he was very young," says the Rev. Robert Robinson, (Eccles. Researches, Chap. xv. p. 606,) " some affairs called him to Cracow. A young gentleman of his acquaintance accompanied him. They lodged one night at an inn on the road, where the family was all in health, but where they heard the plague was at Cracow. They were obliged to go forward, and having procured all the guardians of health that the medical art afforded, they proceeded on their journey ; and though they found the city much worse than they had apprehended, yet they dispatched their business, and returned in perfect health, and with a high opinion of the medical precaution which had preserved them. Journeying on, they arrived late at night at the inn, where they had lodged before. It was cold: they ordered a large fire, supper, and beds. After they had enjoyed themselves two hours, they understood that the mistress of the inn, and two maid servants, had died suddenly of the plague. They were thunderstruck, and thought themselves dead men: but while they were chiding the master for not informing them, and deliberating what to do, a fine child of three months old in perfect health set out a crying in the cradle. 'This child,' said one of the servants, 'lay sucking at the breast of my mistress when she expired.' This information was life from the dead to the travellers. They took heart, admired providence, which had preserved a babe in such imminent danger, and hoped they should escape unhurt. They did so, but they conversed all the way back on providence, and from thence, by a natural transition, they proceeded to talk of predestination, and thirty years after Modrzewski published a treatise on these subjects, in the preface to which, addressed to his companion, he relates this story, and the deep impressions the affair had made on them both."


    From the age of twenty-eight to thirty-one, he spent his time in Germany, and principally at Wittenberg, in the school of Melanchthon, with whom he was a great favourite. In the course of these three years, however, he seems to have gone once at least to visit his friends in Poland. This was in 1536. The year following, he went to the University of Nuremberg, where he stayed some time, for the purpose of acquiring a knowledge of the German language, and forming an acquaintance with some of the learned men of that place.


    He was called an apostate by the Roman Catholics ; but this did not prevent Sigismund Augustus, King of Poland, who was an earnest inquirer after Christian truth, from conferring upon him the office of his Secretary, consulting him on the most weighty affairs of state, and employing him on various important missions to foreign countries.


    Modrevius opposed the celibacy of the clergy, and other objectionable practices, which had obtained the sanction of the Romish Church. Hence, as might have been anticipated, he made himself many bitter enemies among the papal dignitaries, and those who had an interest in upholding things as they were. The Popes, Paul IV. and Pius V., excommunicated him, and urged the Catholic clergy in Poland to denounce, and brand him as a heretic. But he heeded them not; and, in truth, the censures of the Church had then become a mere brutum fuhnen in Poland. Orichowski, however, was hired to assail his character, and took advantage of the confidential intercourse which had formerly existed between them, to charge him with heresy, and drag him before an ecclesiastical tribunal. But the attempt to degrade and punish him only issued in Orichowski's own discomfiture.


    On one occasion Modrevius was imprisoned, for having publicly attacked the worship of saints, and other vulnerable parts of the Roman Catholic system ; but he was soon released, through the influence of powerful friends, and on retiring to Pinczow, induced Olesnicki to open the first place of worship in Poland, in which the service was conducted upon Protestant principles.


    At Konigsberg he held a disputation with Osiander on the subject of Christ's mediation ; and he visited Hungary and Transylvania, for the purpose of forwarding the progress of the Reformation. But he could not properly be said to belong to any party. "It is not to be doubted," says Bock, (Hist. Ant. T. I. p. 469,) "but Modrevius, who had great influence with the King, and had frequent access to the royal presence, did much to promote the cause of the Antitrinitarians with his sovereign ; although he seems to be not improperly reckoned among Academics and Sceptics, who disputed both for and against the Trinity." Ruarus (Ed. Zeltneri, p. 17) assigns him a middle place between the Evangelical party and the Catholics, when treating upon political reform ; but regards him as occupying a kind of neutral ground, between professors of the Athanasian Trinity and Unitarians, in his Sylvce. Outwardly, however, he was a Catholic ; and from the Catholic body he never avowedly seceded.


    He was appointed Secretary of the Legation, commissioned, by the Polish Diet of 1552, to attend the Council of Trent ; and on that occasion, the proposals, which he made to the King for reforming the Church, were of the most radical and startling kind. The principles developed in these proposals, if carried out, would have stripped the Pope of all his authority, and rendered him amenable to his own Ministers ; but the Council was deferred, and the Legation was never called upon to act.


    The talents of Modrevius, however, were not permitted to remain idle. The King, perceiving his aptitude for originating useful reforms in the discipline of the Church, commissioned him to inquire into its doctrines, and particularly that of the Trinity ; to ascertain, and report upon the existing state of the controversy ; and to unfold accurately and fully the true opinions of the Antitrinitarians, which were then making great progress in Poland, as well as the arguments, by which those opinions were defended. In issuing this Commission, the King was not only actuated by a desire to obtain information for his own private satisfaction ; but anxious to devise some method of composing the differences, which existed among his subjects, on this much agitated question.


    Modrevius endeavoured to realize the wishes of his sovereign, by the composition of a work, which he drew up with great care, and entitled "Sylvae." But in carrying out the King's intentions, he met with difficulties of the most formidable and harassing kind. Among others, Jerome Ossolinius, or Ossolinski, a well-known patron of the Evangelical Church, repeatedly urged him to desist from the undertaking, and not to be instrumental in making generally known what had been written on the subject of the Trinity ; advice which had been often given before, by Calvin, Peter Martyr, Beza, and other foreign theologians in their letters to the Polish Reformers. This did not prevent Modrevius, however, from prosecuting his inquiries, and embodying the result of them in the work above mentioned. But the consequence was, that he incensed many, and particularly Pope Pius V., whom he thus addresses in the Preface to the 3rd Part of his Work. "I think I shall not be wandering beyond the subject, if I call your attention to these controversies, and dedicate this Book to you, which may afford you an opportunity of settling them, and may, at the same time, commend to you my poor labours, respecting which you seem to have conceived an unfavourable opinion, and therefore to have given orders to those whose business it is to take cognizance of such matters, to spoil me of my possessions, to destroy my fortunes, and to banish me from house and home, and the society of men. Is this the reward due to merit ? Is this a humane act, most holy father ?" It appears, from the same Preface, that Modrevius's work was translated into German, French and Spanish ; but these versions circulated only in manuscript, and were never published. It was with the greatest difficulty, indeed, that the original was carried through the press. The author tells his readers, in the Preface to the Fourth Sylva, that he had entered into an agreement with John Oporinus, to transmit copies of it, through the booksellers who attended the fair at Frankfort, to some of the most learned men of the time, and to all the Catholic and Protestant Universities throughout Europe : but it appears, from the following distich, in Erasmus Otvinovius's "Lives of Christian Heroes," confirmed by other authorities, that Christopher Trecius, a countryman of Modrevius, twice prevented its being printed, by purloining the manuscript, while it was in the printer's hands.


    Rex Augustus jussit, Fricz scripsit, Trecius astu,
    Sub prselo scripta haec, bis niger impediit.


    Budzinius, in the 36th Book of his manuscript "Commentaries," says, that, after these repeated disappointments, the author recomposed the work from his notes, and enlarged it, by the aid of some Transylvanian books, which had been published in the mean time. In this improved form it was published at Racow, in 4to., July, 1590.


    The following are the subjects upon which it treats. Sylva I. On the three persons and one essence of God ; dedicated to Sigismund Augustus, King of Poland. This was written in December, 1565. Sylva II. On the necessity of holding a council for settling religious controversies. This also was dedicated to Sigismund Augustus, and bears the same date as the preceding one. Sylva III. On Jesus Christ, the Son of God and man, and our Lord and God ; dedicated to Pope Pius V., and written in the month of June, 1568. Sylva IV. On the word Homousius, and its adjuncts ; dedicated to James Uchanski, Archbishop of Gnezno, papal Legate, and Primate of the kingdom of Poland. This was written in the month of June, 1569. To these was added, An Examination of the Question concerning the Union of the divine and human Nature in the Person of Christ.


    This work, which is now exceedingly rare, is of great importance in the history of modern Unitarianism. There is a copy of it in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth. Bock also met with a copy, which had formerly passed through the hands of Faust Socin, and Michael Gittichius, both of whom had marked the passages, which they conceived to be most deserving of notice, and occasionally added marginal notes of their own. Socin's opinion of it is expressed in a letter to a friend, written less than a year after its publication. In this letter he says, "I hope you have received Fricius's book, or will receive it very soon, for it is an excellent work ; but it should be read, as I am fully persuaded that you will read it, with the greatest discrimination ; and I hope that, by a perusal either of this book, or of others, you may attain to a perfect knowledge of the truth." The opinions of Modrevius, as may be inferred from this passage, though not precisely the same as those of Socin, were not very dissimilar from them. Count Krasinski, speaking of the "Sylvae," says, " It savours strongly of a philosophical indifference about the principal dogmas of the Christian religion, an indifference which seems to have been shared by his royal master, and which accounts for the vacillating conduct which Sigismund Augustus held in respect to the religious parties which agitated his dominions." (Historical Sketch, &c. Vol. I. Pt. ii. Chap. iii. p. 201.)


    Modrevius seems to be not improperly reckoned by Bock among the number of Antitrinitarians. Cloppenburg describes the "Sylvae" as openly Antitrinitarian (Theolog, Opera Omnia, T. II. p. 329) ; but says, that its author, in a letter addressed to Lismaninus, and dated March 26th, 1563, wished to have it thought, that he approved of an orthodox Confession of Faith concerning the Trinity. It is fair to presume, therefore, that Modrevius's opinion upon this subject changed, between that time and the composition of the " Sylvae." It appears, however, from his own account of a conversation, which he had with Spiritus, about the year 1546, and which will be more particularly noticed in the next article, that an impression, unfavourable to the doctrine of the Trinity, was made upon his mind at that time, which was never afterwards effaced ; and which predisposed him to listen to what was said in opposition to it, when the subject was again brought before him, during the preparation of his " Sylvae."


    The principal works of Modrevius, next to the "Sylvae," are the following.


    1. Four Orations, On Homicide.


    2. On the Laity's partaking of the Communion of both Kinds. Prague, 1549.


    3. A Disputation on 1 Cor. vii. 1. 1551.


    4. On the Reformation of the Republic, in Five Books ; namely, 1. On Morals ; 2. On Laws ; 3. On War ; 4. On the Church ; 5. On the School. The last of these Books, which is not found in the Cracow edition, published in 1551, is decidedly of an Anti-Roman character. Other editions, containing that Book, were afterwards published at Basle, in 1554 and 1559 ; and the work was translated into French, German and Spanish.


    5. A second Book, On the Church, written in an ironical style, and dedicated to Pope Paul IV.


    6. A Speech on the Legates to be sent to a Christian Council ; dedicated to John Tarnovius, to whom the author acknowledges his obligation, for affording him an asylum in time of persecution. 8vo. This is the most Anti-Roman of all Modrevius's works, and excited unusual anger in the Catholic party.


    7. A Treatise against the Enactment of 1543, which gave exclusively to the Nobles the right of possessing landed property.


    8. Three Books on the Mediatorial Office of Christ. In this, which was written in 1560, and dedicated to the reformed Synods of Vlodislav and Xionx, and to the two Protestant Grandees, Stanislaus Stadnicki and Jerome Ossolinski, there is said to be an evident leaning to the opinion of Stancarus. It was published in4to., 1562, at the end of


    9. Three Books: 1. On Original Sin ; 2. On Free Will ; 3. On Predestination. A. D. 1562, 4to.


    10. Prudent Advice on making War against Infidels. This work was translated out of Latin into Spanish by John Justiniani of Padua, who sent a manuscript copy of his translation to the King of England, which is now in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth. Bock also speaks of a manuscript copy of this translation, as being in the Imperial Library at Vienna.




    (Vidend. Sandii B. A. pp. 35—38. Bayle, Diet. Hist, et Crit. Art. Modeevius. Bock, Hist. Ant. T. I. pp. 466—496. Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches, Camb. 1792, 4to. 1. c. Cloppenb. Theol. Opera, T. II. p. 329. Lubieniecii Hist. Ref. Polon. L. i. C. v. Ruari Epist. Cent. i. N. 46. Wissowatii Narratio Compend. p. 210. KrasinskVs Hist. Sketch of the Ref. in Poland, Vol. I. Pt. ii. Chap. iii. pp. 199 —204; Chap. iv. pp. 218—233; Chap. viii. p. 363.) 






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