Socinus, Lælius

, a man of great learning and abilities, was the third son of Marianus Socinus, an eminent civilian at Bologna, and has by some been reckoned the founder of the Socinian sect, as having been in reality the author of all those principles and opinions, which Faustus Socinus afterwards propagated with more boldness. He was born at Sienna in 1525, and designed by his father for the study of the civil law. With this he combined the perusal of the scriptures; thinking that the foundations of the civil law must necessarily be laid in the word of God, and therefore would be deduced in the best manner from it. To qualify himself for this inquiry, he studied the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic tongues. What light he derived from this respecting the civil law is not known, but he is said to have soon discovered, that the church of Rome taught many tilings plainly contrary to scripture. About 1546 he became a member of a secret society, consisting of about forty persons, who held their meetings, at. different times, in the territory of Venice, and particularly at. Vicenza, in which they deliberated concerning a general reformation of the received systems of religion, and particularly endeavoured to establish the doctrines afterwards publicly adopted by the Socinians; but being discovered, and some of them punished, they dispersed into other countries; and our Socinus, in 1547, began his travels, and spent four years in France, England, the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland; and then settled at Zurich. He contracted a familiarity, and even an intimacy, with the learned wherever he went and Calvin, Melancthon, Builinger, Beza, and others of the same class, were amongst. the number of his friends. But having soon discovered, by the doubts he proposed to them, that he had adopted sentiments the most obnoxious to these reformers, he became an object of suspicion and Calvin, in particular, | wrote to him an admonitory letter, of which the following is a part; “Don't expect,” says he, “that I should answer all your preposterous questions. If you chuse to soar amidst such lofty speculations, suffer me, an humble disciple of Jesus Christ, to meditate upon such things as conduce to my edification; as indeed I shall endeavour by my silence to prevent your being troublesome to me hereafter. In the mean time, I cannot but lament, that you should continue to employ those excellent talents with which God has blessed you, not only to no purpose, but to a very bad one. Let me beg of you seriously, as I have often done, to correct in yourself this love of inquiry, which may bring you into trouble.” It would appear that Socinus took this advice in part, as he continued to live among these orthodox divines for a considerable time, without molestation. He found means, however, to communicate his notions to such as were disposed to receive them, and even lectured to Italians, who wandered up and down in Germany and Poland. He also sent writings to his relations, who lived at Sienna. He took a journey into Poland about 1558 j and obtained from the king some letters of recommendation to the doge of Venice and the duke of Florence, that he might be safe at Venice, while his affairs required his residence there. He afterwards returned to Switzerland, and died at Zurich in 1562, in his thirty-seventh year. Being naturally timorous and irresolute, he professed to die in the communion of the reformed church, but certainly had contributed much to the foundation of the sect called from his, or his nephew’s name, for he collected the materials that Faustus afterwards digested and employed with such dexterity and success. He secretly and imperceptibly excited doubts and scruples in the minds of many, concerning several doctrines generally received among Christians, and, by several arguments against the divinity of Christ, which he left behind him in writing, he so far seduced, even after his death, the Arians in Poland, that they embraced the communion and sentiments of those who looked upon Christ as a mere man, created immediately, like Adam, by God himself. There are few writings of Laelius, and of those that bear his name, some undoubtedly belong to others. 1


Dupin.—Gen. Dict.—Mosheim.