Devay Matyas Biro

Devay Matyas Biro, the most prominent among the Reformers of Hungary in the 16th century, was born towards the close of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century, in Deva, a hamlet in the comitat (county) of Hunyad. It is not certain, as some Hungarian writers think, that he studied at Ofen with the celebrated Grynaeus, the first promoter of the Reformation in Hungary. In 1523 his name is mentioned among the students of the University of Cracow. After his return from this university, at which he studied for two years, he became a priest and a monk. In this position he still was in 1527, but soon after he adopted the principles of the Reformation, and in 1529 went to Wittenberg, to study the new theology. While in Wittenberg he lived in the house of Luther. In 1531 he was minister of a Protestant congregation in Ofen, and distinguished for his reformatory zeal. About this time he wrote a small work against the invocation of the saints (De sanctorum dormitione), and fifty-two propositions explaining the fundamental principles of the Reformation. Still, in the course of the year 1531, he was called as preacher to Kaschau by the council of that town. On Nov. 6, 1531, he was arrested by order of Thomas Szalahazy, bishop of Erlau and councillor of king Ferdinand, and kept a prisoner first at Likava, subsequently at Pressburg, from whence he was taken to Vienna. In Vienna, bishop Faber, one of the leading opponents of the Reformation, conducted the trial; but Devay was soon discharged, and returned to Ofen. As he, however, at once resumed his reformatory activity, he was rearrested in 1532, and held in prison at Ofen until 1534. After his liberation from this captivity, Devay placed himself under the protection of count Nadasdy, a Hungarian magnate who had openly espoused the cause of the Reformation. He devoted his time chiefly to a refutation of two works which Gregory Szegedy, the provincial of the Franciscan order in Hungary, and a member of the Sorlbonne, had written against the Reformation. This work (together with the defense of Devay before bishop. Filter) appeared in 1537 at Basel, under the title Disputatio de Statu in quo sint beatorum animae post hane vitam ante ultimi judicii diem. At the close of the year 1537 he returned, together with his friend Johann Sylvester, who likewise distinguished himself as a reformer of Hungary, to count Nadasdy, bringing with him a letter of recommendation from Melancthon. For several years, Nadasdy, Devay, and Sylvester displayed great activity for the propagation of the Reformation. Devay wrote an outline of the Hungarian grammar for elementary schools (Orthographia Hungarica), the first book printed in the Hungarian language. This little book contained, besides the grammatical matter, a statement of the fundamental principles of the Reformation, and children's prayers taken from the smaller catechism of Luther. The civil war in Hungary, in which a Turkish army supported the claims of the son of Zapolya, the rival of king Ferdinand, to the Hungarian crown, and in which Nadasdy, Devay, and Sylvester were on the side of Ferdinand, interrupted the labors of the reformers, and destroyed the Protestant school and printing-press at Uj-Sziget. Devay had to leave Hungary, and was recommended by Melancthon to Margrave George, a zealous patron of the Reformation, who owned large possessions in Hungary. Devay on this occasion paid another visit to Switzerland, and there adopted the views of the Helvetic Reformers on the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. On his return to Hungary he zealously preached his new views. The Lutheran ministers of the district of Sarvar, where Nadasdy lived, complained of this change of views to Luther, who in his reply (dated April 31,1544) finds it difficult to believe in the change, but says that, at all events, Devay has not received this doctrine from him, and that he (Luther) would continue to fight that "abomination" publicly and privately. After his return to Hungary, Devay labored as preacher and "senior" (elder) in the town of Debreczin, where the Reformation had a powerful patron in count Valentin Torok of Enying, a near relative of count Nadasdy. While at Debreczin, Devay wrote, in the Hungarian language, his exposition of the Ten Commandments, the Articles of Faith, the Lord's Prayer, and the Seal of Faith. This book was probably printed at Cracow. The year and place of the death of Devay are not known, but it is probable that in the year 1547 he was no longer alive. Besides the works already mentioned, Devay is the author of a hymn containing the principal articles of the Reformed Faith, and which was received into the hymn-book of the Reformed Church of the Helvetic Confession in Hungary. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 19:406, Wetzer und Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 3, 123; Craig (transl.), History of the Protestant Church in Hungary (Lond. 1854), p. 50 sq.; Schrockh, Kirchengeschichte seit der Reformation, 2:730.

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