The following discussion appears in the 1894 edition of the Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, IX, 845-46. George P. Landow scanned, adding paragraphing, formatted in html, and linked the text.]
Faustus Socinus (Fausto Sozzini), the real founder of the Socinian sect, was the nephew of Lælius Socinus , and was related, through his mother, with the famous race of the Piccolomini. He was born in Sienna, Italy, Dec. 5, 1539, and was orphaned at a tender age. His early training was neglected, and his education remediably defective. Theological questions engaged is mind wliile he was yet employed in the study ofjusprudence on which he had entered, and his concluons were largely determined by the anti-Roman training he received, his uncle Lælius acting as his principal instructor. In 1562 the papers of Lælius, then recently deceased, came into the possession of Faustus, and their study contirmed the opinions held by him, so that they became convictions. He was wont to declare that, aside from the Bible, his only instructor had been his uncle Lælius.
I. Life and Labors.
The literary life of Socinus began in 1562 with the publication of a work entitled Explicatio Primæ Partis Primi Capitis Evang. Joannis [An Explication of the first part of the Book of the Gospel of St. John] — in effect a declaration of antitrinitariaii principles; but twelve years of courtier life in Florence interrupted his activity in this direction. A single minor work, De S. Script. Autoritate [The Authority of Scripture], belongs to this period. He subsequently devoted four years (1574 to 1578) to the perfecting of his system and the propagating of his views, his residence being at Basle; and at this time he wrote two of his most important works, the De Jesu Christo Servatore [Jesus Christ Saviour] and the De Statu Primi Hominis ante Lapsum [The State of Man before the Fall] . From Basle he went. to Transylvania, and whence, in 1579, to avoid the plague, to Poland, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Socinus now undertook the work of unifying and organizing the scattered Unitarian elements which existid, especially among the upper classes of Polish society; but his success was not at first encouraging. Anabaptist views prevailed to a degree which prevented his own admission into the Unitarian society at Cracow during four years, because he declined rebaptism as a needless ceremony. He came, however, to be in time regarded as the recognised and principal champion of the sect. His discussions and writings secured to it prominence and reputation, and gradually produced a measure of agreement in the views of its adherents. In 1603 the Synod of Rakov, or Racovia, settled the specially controverted question of rebaptism by approving the teachings of Socinus.
But few events belong to Socinus's private life which claim notice in this place. He left Cracow in 1583 to avoid persecution by the king, Stephen Bathori, and settled in the adjoining village of Pawlikowice, where he married a lady of noble rank, the daughter of Chriatoph Morsztyn. At the same time he became impoverished through the loss of his Italian properties. He soon returned to Cracow. In 1588 he secured the favor of the Lithuanian Unitariaus, whose synod he visited at Brzesc. The other features of his history are simply illustrative of the bigotry of his age. He was exposed to frequent persecution, now at the hands of a military mob (1594), then through the fanaticism of the students of Cracow, who were incited to their action by Romish priests (1598). They dragged him from a sick-bed to the streets, beat him, sacked his house, and burned his books and writings. To avoid his foes he again left Cracow, and lived in a neighboring village, Pawlikowice, where he died March 3, 1604.
His works were collected and published in the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum [Library of the Polish Brothers or Brotherhood] , vol. i and ii. They also bear the title Fausti Sinesis Opera Omnia in Duos Tomos Distincta [The Complete Works of Faustus Socinus in Two Volumes] . They include expositions of Scripture; polemics against Romanists, Protestants, and Unitarians; and dogmatical writings. The more important are the Prælectiones Theologicæe and the Christianas Religionis Brevissima Instutitio per Interrog. et Respons [a brief catechism] , etc., to which may be added a Fragmentum Catechismi Prioris F. L. S. qui periit in Cracoviensi Rerum ejus Direptione.
[The remaining portion of M'Clintock and Strong's entry on Socinus details the history of his followers — and the severe pesecutions they endured — in Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, and England and the appearance of socinianism in North America. GPL]
M'Clintock, John, and James Strong. Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. 10 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1894.
Last modified 14 May 2010