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Martin Chemnitz

Born: 9-Nov-1522
Birthplace: Treuenbrietzen, Brandenburg, Germany
Died: 8-Apr-1586
Location of death: Braunschweig, Brunswick, Germany
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Lutheran
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: Germany
Executive summary: Lutheran theologian in Brunswick

German Lutheran theologian, third son of Paul Kemnitz, a cloth-worker of noble extraction, was born at Treuenbrietzen, Brandenburg, on the 9th of November 1522. Left an orphan at the age of eleven, he worked for a time at his father's trade. A relative at Magdeburg put him to school there (1539-42). Having made a little money by teaching, he went (1543) to the University of Frankfurt-on-Oder; thence (1545) to that of Wittenberg. Here he heard Martin Luther preach, but was more attracted by Philipp Melanchthon, who interested him in mathematics and astrology. Melanchthon gave him (1547) an introduction to his son-in-law, Georg Sabinus, at Königsberg, where he was tutor to some Polish youths, and rector (1548) of the Kneiphof school. He practiced astrology; this recommended him to Duke Albert of Prussia, who made him his librarian (1550). He then turned to Biblical, patristic and kindred studies. His powers were first brought out in controversy with Andreas Osiander on justification by faith. Osiander, maintaining the infusion of Christ's righteousness into the believer, impugned the Lutheran doctrine of imputation; Chemnitz defended it with striking ability. As Duke Albert sided with Osiander, Chemnitz resigned the librarianship. Returning (1553) to Wittenberg, he lectured on Melanchthon's Loci Communes, his lectures forming the basis of his own Loci Theologici (published posthumously, 1591), which constitute probably the best exposition of Lutheran theology as formulated and modified by Melanchthon. His lectures were thronged, and a university career of great influence lay before him, when he accepted a call to become coadjutor at Brunswick to the superintendent, Joachim Mörlin, who had known him at Königsberg. He removed to Brunswick on the 15th of December 1554, and there spent the remainder of his life, refusing subsequent offers of important offices from various Protestant princes of Germany. Zealous in the duties of his pastoral charge, he took a leading part in theological controversy. His personal influence, at a critical period, did much to secure strictness of doctrine and compactness of organization in the Lutheran Church. Against Crypto-Calvinists he upheld the Lutheran view of the eucharist in his Repetitio sanae doctrinae de Vera Praesentia (1560; in German, 1561). To check the reaction towards the old religion he wrote several works of great power, especially his Theologiae Jesuitarum praecipua capita (1562), an incisive attack on the principles of the society, and the Examen concilii Tridentini (four parts, 1565-66-72-73), his greatest work. His Corpus doctrinae Prutenicum (1567), drawn up in conjunction with Mörlin, at once acquired great authority. In the year of its publication he became superintendent of Brunswick, and in effect the director of his church throughout Lower Saxony. His tact was equal to his learning. In conjunction with Andreä and Selnecker he induced the Lutherans of Saxony and Swabia to adopt the Formula Concordiae and so become one body. Against lax views of Socinian tendency he directed his able treatise De duabus naturis in Christo (1570). Resigning office in infirm health (1584) he survived until the 8th of April 1586.

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