Speratus, Paul

Speratus, Paul a Swabian poet and Reformer, is said to have been descended from a noble Swabian family named Spretter or Sprett. His name is frequently followed in documents by the addition of a Rutilis, the significance of which is not well understood. He was born Dec. 13, 1484 (see Melch. Adami Vit. Germ. Theol. 1, 200). He is said to have been educated in Paris and Italy, but his name does not appear on the lists of the Sorbonne. He first appears as a preacher at Dinkelsbuhl, in Franconia, and then, in 1519, as preacher in the cathedral at Würzburg. His sermons presented the Word of God in its purity, and fearlessly rebuked existing abuses and corruptions in the Church; and as Luther's influence became more powerful in the chapter, Speratus was accused of fomenting disturbances, and was dismissed from his post (see Scharold, Luther's Ref. in Beziehung auf das damalige Bisthum [Würzburg, 1824], p. 136 sq.; De Wette. Luth. Briefe, 2, 448). He also labored for a time in the ministry at Salzburg, but the exact period is not known. In 1521 he was at Vienna, living in privacy until January 1522, when he took occasion, from a notorious sermon by a monk in defense of celibacy, to demonstrate the sanctity of the marriage state and to show that the traditional theory and practice of vows are in direct contradiction of the Gospel and the baptismal covenant. On the 12th of that month he preached a sermon to this end from the pulpit of St. Stephen's Church, which was subsequently printed at Königsberg (1524), and a copy of which he sent to Luther. The theological faculty at once branded the sermon as heretical, and selected from it eight specifications for a charge against him which was laid before the bishop, and also published. Being wholly unprotected against the rage of his foes, Speratus departed from Vienna, and, having been thrice summoned to appear, he was formally excommunicated under the canon law. His word had, however, fallen upon receptive soil, and the refutation of his arguments which was required of all preachers served only to spread his sermon over a wider area.

On his flight through Moravia, Speratus was requested by the abbot of the Dominican convent at Iglau to accept the position of preacher to the convent church. He accepted, but, to the great surprise of his patron, at once began to preach the Gospel, and with a success that won the town councillors and citizens in a body to his support. A public pledge of protection and support was given him in the town hall, while the abbot and his monks were preparing to begin violent measures of repression. His activity rapidly extended his influence over the whole of Moravia, and gave him intimate association with all the leaders in the Evangelical movement throughout Bohemia and Moravia. It is noticeable that he was unable to agree with the Bohemians in regard to the Lord's supper, and that he sought counsel and instruction from Luther with reference to this and other points of doctrine. In the meantime the abbot of Iglau had laid a complaint against Speratus before the bishop of Olmutz, who was confessor to the inexperienced king Louis and a determined enemy of the Reformation. The result was that Speratus was thrown into prison without having been allowed a trial, and was kept there until the intercession of powerful friends, among them margraves Albert and George of Brandenburg, supported by the fear of a popular rising, which the attempt to burn Speratus at the stake would have caused throughout Moravia, induced the king to order his liberation, though coupled with a positive prohibition of a renewal of his ministry at Iglau. His late parishioners furnished him with testimonials setting forth his character and usefulness while their pastor, and allowed him to depart. He went to Wittenberg, and became the assistant of Luther in literary labors. Among the labors performed by him in this period was the participation with Luther in the first collection of German Evangelical hymns, which appeared in 1524, and included three hymns of his own (Es ist das Heil uns kommen her; Hilf Gott, wie ist der Menschen Noth; In Gott glaub' ich, dass er hat, etc.).

In the year 1524 the margrave Albert extended to Speratus a call to Konigsberg which he accepted after ascertaining that no likelihood of his being able to return to Iglau existed. He brought with him Luther's recommendation as a "dignus vir et multa perpessus," and at once joined Briesmann, the earliest Reformer of Prussia, in carrying forward the work of Protestantism. He remained twenty-seven years, during six of which he was court preacher at Königsberg, after which he became bishop of Pomerania. While at Königsberg he was directed in March, 1526, to participate in the introduction of the new system of Church government devised by the clergy and adopted by the legislative body in December, 1525. He also contributed materially towards the improvement of the liturgical part of public worship by composing hymns for use by the congregation, and in some instances accompanying them with original melodies. A collection in the library of Königsberg contains, under his name, three hymns with melodies, and two separate collections of hymns without music (see Schneider, M. Luther's Geistliche Lieder, p. 26).

A vacancy among the bishops occurred in 1529 by the death of the bishop of Pomerania, and duke Albert gave the post to Speratus. He undertook to administer his office with zeal and energy, but found that he had uncommon difficulties to encounter. The diocese was almost a moral wilderness, where the thorns and thistles of a former heathenism were yet unsubdued. Lawlessness prevailed, and Anabaptist and Sacramentarian sectaries abounded. In view of this state of affairs, he endeavored first to perfect the constitution and organize the life of the Church. Archipresbyterial synods in harmony with the visitation of 1529 were established, and soon afterwards provincial synods endowed with judicial functions. In 1530 Speratus assisted in the preparation of a Church book, designed to afford the clergy a guide to the administration of their office, and a compend of Evangelical doctrine. Personal visitation of the churches followed, and in 1540 a new Church discipline, the plan of which originated with Speratus, was promulgated by the government. Circulars and addresses to his clergy urged a constant inculcation of the leading truths of Christianity and a zealous administration of discipline, even to the extent of compelling the attendance on divine service of the people, whose ignorance and boorishness in many instances rendered them incapable of appreciating any other kind of influence. The greatest need of the work was a supply of competent preachers of the Word, which he endeavored to provide as he was able. In all his activity he showed himself more concerned to promote the practical welfare of the people than to contend for abstractions in doctrine. When the Augsburg Confession was made authoritative by duke Albert, he directed the clergy to preach in harmony with its teachings, and threatened to visit any. departure from its tenets with expulsion from the Church; which measures were regarded as necessary because of the low degree of Evangelical knowledge attained to by many of the clergy, and because of the constantly widening influence of the Anabaptists and Sacramentarians. Martin Cellarius had gone to Prussia as early as 1525, and Schwenkfeld (q.v.) endeavored to introduce his views from about the same period. Speratus became involved in controversies with the followers of the latter from the time of his entrance on the duties of the episcopacy. In 1531 he held a synod by direction from the duke, at which he met the leaders of the sectarian movement among his clergy, and endeavored to turn them from their errors, but in vain. A second colloquy ended with like results, and the principal sectaries were, deposed from the ministry. In time the duke himself was infected with their spirit, and it required all the energy and influence of Luther, Melancthon, and Jonas, combined with the efforts of Speratus, to prevent him from turning away from orthodox truth. The constant immigration of fugitive Hollanders perpetuated the Anabaptist troubles down to and beyond the close of Speratus's life. He wrote his book Ad Batavos Vagantes against them in 1534. Throughout these conflicts he approved himself a decided adherent of Luther.

It appears that the lot of Speratus was not without anxieties growing out of a meager income, so that he complained of poverty, which the duke was not in haste to relieve; but after he had determined to resign his office and depart to other lands his request for a better support was at length gratified in the donation of an estate. Before the close of his life he was permitted to provide a refuge for his Bohemian friends of earlier days, who were now fleeing from the persecutions of king Ferdinand I. He also drew up the statute by which their relations were governed (comp. Gindely, Gesch. d. bohn. Bruder, 2, 340 sq.). It does not appear that Speratus took any prominent part in the Osiandrian disputes. His health gave way, and his last years were a constant struggle against illnesss, from which he was relieved by death Aug. 12, 1551. See the documentary sources in the secret archives at Königsberg, and Rhesa, Vita Pauli Sperati (Progr. 1823); also Cosack, Paul. Speratus Leben u. Lieder (Brunsw. 1861).

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