Flacius (Flach), Matthias
Flacius (Flach), Matthias also called ILLYRICUS from his native country, an eminent Lutheran reformer, was born at Albona, in Illyria, about 1520. At sixteen he proposed entering a convent, but Baldo Lupetino, the provincial of the Franciscans, who had imbibed Protestant tendencies, advised him to study theology in the universities of Germany. Accordingly he went to Basle in 1539, to Tubingen in 1540, and in 1541 to Wittenberg, where he rave private lessons in Greek and Hebrew. In his travels he became acquainted with Grynsus, Leonard Fuchs, Eber, and finally with Luther himself, whose zealous disciple he soon became. He was after a while appointed professor of O.T. literature at Wittenberg, but, driven away by the issue of the Smalcaldic War in 1547, he went to Brunswick. Recalled by prince Maurice, he came back, but, having opposed Melancthon's Leapsic Interim SEE ADIAPHORA AND INTERIM, he went to Hamburg, and thence to Magdeburg, whence he published several writings against the Interim, though in other points, especially in the Osiandrian controversy, he sided with Melancthon. He was also for several years engaged ill theological controversies with Major, Strigel, Schwenkfeld, etc. SEE SYNERGISTIC CONTROVERSY. About the same time he projected the Magdeburg Centuries SEE CENTURIES, of which great work he was the life and soul. In 1557 he was made professor of the newly-organized University of Jena, which became the stronghold of strict Lutheranism, and where he was chiefly instrumental in the drawing up of the Slichsische Confutationsschrift, to enforce Lutheran views. It, however, proved injurious both to the university and to himself, as it led the duke to establish a censorship, to which Flacius and his colleagues were unwilling to submit, an! were dismissed in 1561.. He bad made himself especially odious by the rash statement (in his discussion with Strigel at Weimar, 1560) that original sin is the very substance of man in his fallen state. He was accused, therefore, of Manicheeism. After spending five years in Regensburg, he accepted a call to Antwerp, and from thence to Frankfort -
and Strasburg. Obliged to leave the latter city on account of his opinions, he returned to Frankfort, where he died in the hospital in 1575. The career of Flacius was, on the whole, a stormy and unhappy one. But, after all the abuse that has been heaped upon him, it cannot be denied that he was a. consistent upholder of the doctrines which he learned originally from Luther. The writers in the Reformed interest have generally treated him too severely; an unfavorable view of him is given by Planck, Geschichte des Protestant. Lehrbegriffs. The best account of him is to be found in Preger, Matthias Flacius Illyricus u. seine Zeit (Erlangen, 1859-61, 2 vols.), from a notice of which, in the Bibliotheca Sacra (1862, p. 226), we make the following extracts: "If it was right for a sincere follower of Luther to espouse the cause of his deceased friend and teacher, and to show by the severest logic that the Lutheran Church was, under Melancthon's. guidance, drifting away from . its moorings, then Flacius is to be exonerated from the charge of unchartiableness, and his plea must be- allowed, that the unhappy division was not chargeable to him who defended the old Wittenberg theology, but rather to him who introduced innovations. 'We say nothing now about the truth of the one or the other view; we only remark that Flacius was the undoubted champion of the genuine theology of Saxony, as taught by Luther. We cannot, therefore, uphold Luther and condemn Flacius. In theology we cannot say that what Luther, as the first reformer, had a right to teach, Flacius, his inferior in authority, had not a right to maintain against so greet a men as Melancthon; for the theologian swears allegiance not to men, but to principles. Flacius could justly reply to all who thus reproached him, that if Melancthon was great, truth was greater.... But how stands the matter as it affects the intellectual and moral character of the two chief combatants? Flacius clearly had Luther's great authority on his side, and that was enough for him. Melancthon saw that the Genevan and Strasburg theologians entertained clearer and more scriptural views of the subject than Luther and the party of Flacius. With him the authority of Luther was not final. According to Flacius, all questions of theology and church usages were to be decided by the authority of the Bible and of Luther. According to Melancthon, they were to be decided by the authority of the Bible and of reason. Both were sincere and deeply in earnest. Both make out their points by' irresistible logic. Schmidt, in the new Life of Melancthon just published by him, vindicates Melancthon's character in this controversy triumphantly. Preg-er has done the same for Flacius. Flacius shows more firmness and tenacity, Melancthon more conciliation and forbearance. The former had such a reverence for truth, or for what seemed to be -truth, that he forgot the respect due to a great and good man. He was mercilessly but conscientiously contentious. The latter was so amiable and fond of peace that he would for the sake of it yield what he might have maintained. He was never a polemic, except by necessity... It is a somewhat remarkable fact that Flacius was incessantly persecuted, and often driven from place to place for teaching exactly what Luther taught. He was evidently a tenacious man, and born to be a polemic; but, notwithstanding his bad name for disputatiousness, he was far less violent and abusive in his language than his opponents, sand more measured and unimpassioned than Luther. It was the sharpness of his logic, and the unsparing severity with which he exposed to the light of day any deviation from Luther, that- so galled his opponents. They charged him, and perhaps not unjustly, with assuming to be the guardian of the Church. He did, indeed, endeavor to persuade princes and magistrates to watch over the purity of Christian doctrine, and confessed that he called every man to account, no matter what his rank or position was, who either openly or secretly attempted to destroy what Luther had built up. At the same time, he affirmed that he did it as a faithful son of the Church, doing only what every one was bound to do, namely, to guard its purity with all the power and skill he possessed. He furthermore. maintained that, as the pupil and friend of Luther, he owed it to his memory to defend him and his doctrines against all assaults, even though they were made at Wittenberg itself, and by no less a man than Melancthon. He was undoubtedly governed by conscientious motives, however he may have erred both in matters of doctrine and of expediency; but when he trusted in princes to preserve the orthodoxy of the Church, he found, to his grief, that he trusted to a broken reed. Though unfortunate in his life, and a wanderer and fugitive in his old age, and apparently unsuccessful in the chief aim of his life, still he ranks third among the men of his age in his influence upon the doctrines of the old Lutheran Church. He has, indeed, been long almost forgotten, except as an ecclesiastical historian." The chief writings of Flacius are Omnia Scriptla Latinia contra adiaphoristicas fraudes edita (Magdeburg, 1550, 8vo):-Osiandri de Justificatione Refutatie (Franecf. 1552, 4to) :-Catalogus Testaum Veritatis; etc. (Ba'e, 1556; Frainef. 1674, 4to):-Unses. Prim. Ecclesice consensus de non scrutando divinae generationis Filhi Des modo (Bale, 1660, 8vo):-Historia certaminum de primats- Papee (Bale, 1554, 8vo).:- Clavis Scripturae Sacrce (Bale, 1567, 4to; Jenan 1675, fol.; a valuable Biblical and hermeneutical dictionary). See, besides the works already noticed, Twesten, M. Flaclus Illyrsicus (Berlin, 1.844); Adami, Vitee Theolog. Germ.; Hoef. Nouv. Biogr. Generale, 17:808; Herzog, Real- Encyklopadie, 4:410 sq.; Heppe, Die confess. Entwickelung der altprotest. Kirche Deutschlands (Marburg, 1854); Stueian u. Kritiken, 1855, 648; Schmidt, in Zeitschroft f. d. histor. Theologie, 1849; Dorner, Geschichte d.prot. Theologie (Munchen, 1867, 8 vo), 361-374; Gieseler, Ch. History, ed. Smith, vol. 4:§ 37;. and the articles SEE ADIAPHORISTIC CONTROVERSIES; SEE SYNERGISTIC CONTROVERSY.