Ernst Soner


From A HISTORY OF UNITARIANISM : Socinianism etc., 1945 by Earl Morse Wilbur

Of all these interesting academic hot-beds of Socinians, one . . . deserves more than casual mention. At Altdorf, a few miles distant from Nuremberg, there was early in the seventeenth century a flourishing academy (given the rank of a university in 1623, and eventually absorbed by Erlangen in 1809), which was patronized by Nuremberg as its own, and had an able faculty and attracted many foreign students, especially from Poland.14 Among its earlier graduates was one Ernst Soner, who in the course of his post-graduate studies abroad spent some time at Leiden, at the very time when Ostorodt and his companion [Wojdowski] arrived there, (etc).15 He formed a close intimacy with them, and became a ready convert to their faith. In due time Soner became a professor at Altdorf, where he was one of the most popular teachers. He maintained a secret correspondence with his Socinian friends in Poland, and cultivated confidential relations with such students as came thence to Altdorf, often bringing books fresh from the Raków press, and cautiously spreading their views among susceptible fellow-students. While exercising the greatest caution as to what he did, Soner embraced the opportunity which his most private courses gave him, to rouse debatable questions in the minds of susceptible students, and to direct the course of their thought ; and all this so inoffensively that when he met premature death by an incurable disease no one had entertained serious doubts of his orthodoxy. As the movement quietly spread, it developed into what was in effect a secret religious fraternity, whose members held meetings in one another's rooms (etc). About twenty students in all were concerned in the movement, and they were known for heir devout piety and their exemplary lives.

After but seven years of fruitful teaching, Soner himself died i 1612, and his disciples, bereft of his guidance, mostly scattered to do missionary work in other centers. Of these one of he earliest was Johannes Krell (Crellius), who scenting danger fled in 1612 to Raków, where he later became Rector of the College, and and the most distinguished scholar among the Socinians. Another was Martin Ruar, who left Altdorf to spread the doctrine at Strassburg, and later became the most energetic propagator of Socinianism in foreign lands. Ere long, however, reports began to transpire of what had been going on behind the scenes, and the authorities of the Academy instituted a thorough investigation.     (Etc.)

      14cf. A. G. Will, Geschichte und Beschreibung der Nürnbergschen Universität Altdorf (Altdorf, 1795).   For an elaborate account of what is here to follow, cf. Zeltner, Crypto-Socin.; summarized by Earl M. Wilbur, 'Socinian Propaganda in Germany three hundred years ago.' U. H. .S., Boston, iii (1933), 22-41.

      15V. supra, p. 417.

A HISTORY OF UNITARIANISM : Socinianism and its Antecedents.
Harvard University Press 1945, pages 425-6.


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