silesia luther christ doctrine protestant
SCHWENKFELD, CASPAR (1490-1561), of Ossing, as he called himself from his property at this place in the principality of Liegnitz in Silesia, one of the first and noblest representatives of Protestant mysticism in the 16th century, was born in 1490. He was of noble descent, and acquired at Cologne and other universities an education greatly superior to that possessed by most noblemen of his time. After leaving the university he served in various minor courts of Silesia, finally entering the service of the duke of Lieg-nitz, over whom his influence was great. Though he was educated as a strict Catholic, the writings of Tauler and Luther produced a profound impression upon him, so that in 1522 he visited Wittenberg, where he made the acquaintance of Carlstadt and Thomas Miinzer, spirits destined to be more congenial to him than Luther himself. On his return to Liegnitz he joined in an active propaga-tion of the principles of the Reformation in the principality and in Silesia. But very early Schwenkfeld uttered warn-ings against the abuse of the doctrine of justification by faith. The Protestant controversy as to the Eucharist (1524) revealed his disagreement with Luther on that critical point. He sought to establish a via media between the doctrines of Luther and Zwingli, and vainly hoped to obtain for it Luther's acceptance. He as vainly sought to secure Luther's adoption of a strict rule of church discip-line, after the manner of the Moravian Brethren. Mean-while the Anabaptists obtained a footing in Silesia, and suspicions of Schwenkfeld's sympathy with them were aroused. Letters and writings of his own (1527-28) proved hiin to hold strongly anti-Lutheran heresies, and both Catholics and Lutherans urged the duke of Liegnitz to dismiss him. He voluntarily left Liegnitz in 1529, and took up his abode at Strasburg for five years amongst the numerous Reformed clergy there. In 1533, in an important synod, he defended against Bucer the principles of religious freedom as well as his own doctrine and life. But the heads of the church carried the day, and, in consequence of the more stringent me„asures adopted against dissenters, Schwenkfeld left Strasburg for a time. While residing in various cities of south Germany he kept up a wide corre-spondence with the nobility particularly, and in Wiirtem-berg propagated his views personally at their courts. In 1535 a sort of compromise was brought about between himself and the Reformers, he promising not to disturb the peace of the church and they not to treat him as a dis-turber. The compromise was of only short duration. His _theology took a more distinctly heterodox form, and the publication (1539) of a book in proof of his most charac-teristic doctrine - the deification of the humanity of Christ - led to the active persecution of him by the Lutherans and his expulsion from the city of Ulm. The next year (1540) he published a refutation of the attacks upon his doctrine with a more ela,borate exposition of it, under the title Grosse Confession. His book was very inconvenient to the Protestants, as it served to emphasize the differences be-tween the Lutherans and Zwinglians as regarded the Eucha-rist at a moment when efforts were being made to reconcile them. An anathema was accordingly issued from Schmal-kald against Schwenkfeld (together with Sebastian Franck); his books were pla,ced on the Protestant " index " ; and he himself was made a religious outlaw. From that time he was hunted from place to place, though his wide connexions with the nobility and the esteem in which he was held by numerous followers and friends provided for him secure hiding-places and for his books a large circulation. An attempt in 1543 to approach Luther only increased the Reformer's hostility and rendered Schwenkfeld's situation still more precarious. He and his followers withdrew from the Lutheran Church, declined its sacraments, and formed small societies of kindred views. He and they were frequently condemned by Protestant ecclesiastical and political authorities, especially by the Government of Wiirtemberg. His personal safety was thereby more and more imperilled, and he was unable to stay in any place for more than a short time. At la,st, in his seventy-second year, he died at Ulm, on 10th December 1561, surrounded by attached friends and declaring undiminished faith in his views.
Schwenkfeld left behind him a sect (who were called subsequently by others Schwenkfeldians, but who called themselves " Confessors of the Glory of Christ ") and numerous writings to perpetuate his ideas. His writing,s were partially collected in four folio volumes, the first of which was published in the year 1564, containing his principal theological works. Erbkam states that his unprinted writings would make more than another four folios. His adherents were to be found at his death scattered throughout Germany. In Silesia they formed a distinct sect, which has lasted until our own times. In the 17th century they were associated with the followers of Jacob Mime and were undisturbed unti11708, when an inquiry was made as to 'their doctrines. In 1720 a commission of Jesuits was despatched to Silesia to convert them by force. Most of them fled from Silesia into Saxony, and thence to Flolland, England, and North Amelica. Frederick the Great of Prussia, when he seized Silesia, extended his protection to, those who remained in that province. Those who had fled to Philadelphia in Pennsylvania formed a small community under the name of Schwenkfeldians ; and Zinzendorf and SpangenberF, when they visit,ed the United States, endeavoured, but with little success, to convert them to their views. This community still exists in Pennsylvania, and according to information obtained from their rninisters by Robert Barclay they consisted in 1875 of two 'congregations of 500 members, with three meeting-houses and six ministers. Their views appear to be substantially those of the English Society of Friends. See Robert Barclay's Inn,er Life of the Religious Societies of the Com-monwealth, London, 1876, pp. 226-247.
Schwenkfeld's mysticism was the cause of his divergence from Protestant orthodoxy and the root of his peculiar religious and theological position. It led him to oppose the Lutheran view of the value of the outward means of grace, such as the ministry of the word, baptism, the Eucharist. He regarded as essential a direct and immediate participation in the grace of the glorified Christ, and looked on an observance of the sacraments and relig,ious ordi-nances as immaterial. He distinguished between an outward wOrd of God and an inward, the former being the Scriptures and perish-able, the latter the divine spirit and eternal. In his Christology he departed from the Lutheran and Zwinglian doctrine of the two natures by insisting on what he called the Vergottung des Fleisches Christi, the deification or the glorification of the flesh of Christ. The doctrine was his protest against a separation of the human and the divine in Chnst, and was intimately connected with his mystical view of the work of Christ. He held that, though Christ was God and man from His birth from the Virgin, He only attained His complete deification and glorification by His ascension, and that it is in the estate of His celestial Vergottung or glorification that He is the dispenser of His divine life to those who by faith become ono with Him. This fellowship with the glorified Christ rather than a less spiritual trust in His death and atonement is \vith him the essential thing. His peculiar Christology was based upon profound theological and anthropological ideas, which contain the germs of some recent theological and Christological speculations.
See Arnoldt, Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie (Frankfort, ed. 1700); Sail& Maoris der Augsburg. Confession ; Erbkam, Gesch. der prot. Salm (18.18) ; Horner, Gesch. d. prat. Theol. (1887); also Erbkam's article in Herzog's Reatencykloplictte, Rot Bamlay's work quoted above, and Beard's Ilibbert Lectures (isss).