Those Illustrious and Most Noble Lords,
Baron of Czema, etc., Castellan of Chelmno,
and Starost of Sztum:
Burggrave and Baron of Dohna,
Electoral Counselor of Brandenburg:
my most gracious Lords,
Grace and peace from GOD.
Illustrious and most noble Lords, Lords most gracious:
As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters: is the sentence of Eternal wisdom in the Song of Solomon 2:2. The Church, the bride of Christ, is that love: the Daughters, either nations foreign to the Church of Christ, which nevertheless are bound to us by the common bond of humanity, and descend from the same progenitor of mankind; or they also profess their names among the citizens of the Church of Christ, and want to be held as γνήσια/lawfully-begotten members of Christ. But the profound Mystic quite elegantly compares, as the Church to a lily, so the daughters to thorns.
Nothing is more beautiful, nothing more pleasant, than a lily! Nothing is more beautiful, nothing more pleasant, than that love, the bride of Christ! Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair, exclaims the Bridegroom Himself, Song of Solomon 1:15; 4:1. Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee, Song of Solomon 4:7. The small of thine ointments is better than all spices, Song of Solomon 4:10. Spikenard and saffron, odiferous calamous and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices, Song of Solomon 4:14. Nothing is purer, nothing more radiant, than a lily! Nothing is purer, nothing more radiant, than that love of Christ! She is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one among the begotten; as soon as the daughters see her, they shall declare her blessed; queens shall praise her, Song of Solomon 6:9. She hath washed her feet; how shall she defile them? Song of Solomon 5:3. The Bridegroom gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify her, cleansed by the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself as glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless, Ephesians 5:25-27. Nothing is more fertile than a lily; with one root often sending forth fifty bulbs, with Pliny as our authority, Natural History, Book 21, chapter 5: the dew of heaven makes it fertile: the warmth of the sun makes it fertile: the richness of the soil makes it fertile. Nothing is more fruitful than that love of Christ. Formerly fixed in the field of one, even Jerusalem, with Apostolic men sprinkling her with the dew of word and signs, and with the sun of righteousness, Christ, spreading vital warmth, into what parts of the world, in the course of a few years, has she not put forth her roots, and sent forth fruit from her roots? In one day, enriched by the accession three thousand souls, at the feast of Pentecost (who would believe it, unless the sacred writings stood as witness, Acts 2:41, 8?), she extended her roots into Parthia, Media, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, and Italy. Thus the increase of this lily surpassed the velocity of lightning. In the last age, after this flower had been repressed for a number of ages by Roman winters and Alpine snows, and its leaves had been reduced to a surprising fewness, hardly visible to the world, and its roots had been confined to narrow spaces, how great, how rapid, O immortal God! were her advances, with heaven sending again at that time her dews, which formerly appeared to be shut up! We saw fulfilled at that time, what we found formerly promised to Israel: I will be as the dew unto Israel: He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as the trees of Lebanon: his branches shall put forth themselves, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon, Hosea 14:5, 6. Has not the spread of her roots and branches been seen, has not her scent been sensed, within brief cycles of years, by Germany, England, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, and Sweden, and some corners not of Europe? The Papal waves, flames, and axes were not able to drown the flower of this lily, nor to burn her leaves, nor to dig up her roots.
The shadow of the Most High restrained the flames, His spirit held back the waves, His right hand checked the axes; with the ancient Dragon snarling and gnashing his teeth in vain, with the Beast and the False Prophet. The height of no flower is greater than of the lily, with the same Pliny serving as the authority. Certainly nothing is highter than that love of Christ. The latter dwells secure on that highest rock, projecting unto heaven, Matthew 16:18, to be overthrown by no schemes of enemies, to be overcome by no attempt of the Dragon. This is that chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people that God claims as His own, and calls out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9. But, even if she appears presently to creep on the ground, and to wander in darkness, as it were: yet not forgetful on her height, she rests securely in God, and easily disperses the darkness cast by Satan from the kingdom of darkness, surrounded by the glorious radiance of her Savior, soon to be called unto heavenly home of her Father, ἀχειροποίητον καὶ αἰώνιον, not made with hands and eternal, 2 Corinthians 5:1.
The lily always has a neck weak and insufficient for the burden of the head: Pliny’s Natural History, Book 21, chapter 5. Who does not know that the head of the Church is far greater than the Church herself? The heaven of heavens cannot contain it, 1 Kings 8:27; it is higher than the highest heaven, Job 11:8; He measureth the waters in the hollow of His hand; He meteth out the heavens with a span, and comprehendeth the dust of the earth in a measure, Isaiah 40:12. Whence He upholds His body, and is not upheld by His body, since He upholds all things by the word of His power, Hebrews 1:3.
The Church herself, contemplated with respect to her strength, as long as she sojourns in this wretched exile, is certainly quite infirm [and] weak: but through her head she can do all things, Philippians 4:13; and, clothed with spiritual armor, Ephesians 6:13 and following, which she gets from that same head, she readily triumphs over sin, Satan, and the world.
Therefore, in this way that love of Christ, after the likeness of the lily, is beautiful, pleasant, pure, radiant, fertile, and high, indeed, infirm in her body, but strong in her head.
Yet neither beauty, nor pleasantness, nor purity, nor radiance, nor fertility, nor height, protects her from the injuries of thorns. By these she is readily hurt, often hurt. Whence the Mystic compare her to a lily and the daughters to thorns, among which she grows.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
Now, there are two thorns, whereby that love of Christ has been often and grievously wounded, and does not yet cease to be hurt, from her earliest years, even unto this decrepit old age of the world, unto this very day; the one, Tyranny; the other, Heresy: prickly and poisonous thorns, which not only graze the skin of that love of Christ, but on many occasions penetrate to the innermost parts, and, not content and satisfied with the wounding of the body, wish to wound and kill the soul also.
From Tyranny comes persecution, which befouled the earliest years of the Church, assailing that love of Christ only recently born in paradise itself, with Satan as the leader, who, inasmuch as he is the ἄσπονδος/implacable enemy of God and men, attempted to destroy the spirit of this offspring, while almost between the very hands of its Former. But he delivered such a deep wound, that though his side pierced all mankind; to which, together with its progenitor, there was to be destruction, unless the Creator in His mercy had promised, revealed, and applied a remedy, prepared before the foundations of the world.
Nevertheless, neither did the impudent spirit, after his daring acts had ended in disappointment, cast aside his spirit, nor hide his hatred. For, hard by the city of God he raised his citadels, stationed his garrisons, whereby he might make hostile assaults upon the Church, and, if it were possible, topple it from its foundations. He levied these garrisons first from the Cainites, whom he incited against the Sethites; and the monstrous brigand died that golden age with blood: with the persecution of the good continued all the way to the flood, which turned the divine patience into the heat of fury, only to be extinguished with all the waters of heaven and the deep.
When that love of the Savior emerged by paternal power somewhat more fully grown, as it were, and had begun to be subject to an aristocratic or royal Magistrate, O good God, how did she groan, assailed on all side and pierced with the thorns! For, if I might pass over in silence the Egyptian servitude (which was also itself more ancient than the political state of Israel), the toils of which under Pharaoh Orus, as it appears in Josephus, or Misphragmuthosis, as in the African, increased above measure, neither were they able to be put to an end except by the ten miraculous plagues of Egypt; under the judges what did she not endure? In scarcely three centuries, she is found in the sacred books to have been carried into captivity six times: under the king of Syria and Mesopotamia, Judges 3:8, 9: under Eglon, king of the Moabites, Judges 3:14: under the Canaanites, Judges 4:2: under the Midianites, Judges 6:7: under the Philistines and the Ammonites, Judges 10:7; 13 and following. Neither was her lot more placid under the kings. Under Hoshea the ten tribes were carried off to Assyria, sentenced to perpetual exile; and they never returned, 2 Kings 17. The Babylonian captivity of seventy years followed the Assyrian; dismissed from which, the people of God were nearly worn out by the unjust vexations of the Persians. Neither, with the temple and city now rebuilt, was her peace secure, nor her security constant. For, dreadful tempests, arising from Syria, Italy, and other kingdoms, most grievously afflicted, and all but overwhelmed, the Church.
But, after the Redeemer of mankind, the promised Messiah of the Church, about the fourth millennium of the world, by His ἐνανθρωπήσει/ incarnation advanced to this His kingdom, making use of angels and men as heralds of His advent, how great, I ask, were the thorns that followed this most desirable Prince of peace, and His love? The woman about to bear that ancient Drago, making use of Herod as an instrument, solicitously observed, so that he might crush the life out of the recently born infant, and do so in the very earliest days: for which matter he formed a monstrous plan of παιδοκτονίας/ infanticide, and he imbued Judea in the blood of tender martyrs. In the place of Herod he substituted the Pharisees, who, assailing the Messiah, now man, with all possible inventions, sought Him and at last carried Him off to death. The Savior Himself foretold that the future lot of His disciples and Church would be no better: In the world ye shall have tribution: ye shall weep and lament, John 16:33, 20. The servant is not greater than his lord; if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you, John 15:20. The Apostles experienced this: the successors of the Apostles experienced this, to such an extent that the Church, with her holy Overseers, carries the cross as an indelible mark, as it were, impressed upon her forehead: which the Apostles confirmed in the midst of the very beginnings of the nascent Church: We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God, Acts 14:22: which with strenuous efforts was drawn out and intensified by the Roman Emperors and Popes, lest this mark should be wanting to the Church. For, these Emperors and Popes beset the bride of our Redeemer with so terrible and piercing thorn-brake, that she was not able anywhere even to rest her head without a wounding. Secular and Ecclesiastical histories furnish us with an abundance of witnesses. Those famous ten persecutions, under Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, Antoninus the Philosopher, Antoninus Verus, Severus, Maximinus, Decius, Valerian, Diocletian, Maximianus, Valerius, and Maxentius, unto the three hundredth year of Christ, what corner of the Roman Empire did they not soak with Christian blood? Whoever confesses himself a Christian, decrees Nero, thus convicted as being an enemy of mankind, with any further defense of him, execute. Under Decius, says Cyprian, Those dear to God were deprived of house, spoiled of their inheritance, burdened with chains, shut up in prisons, cast before wild beasts, punished with fire.
Neither ought mention to be omitted here of Constantius the Arian, Julian, and Valentius the Arian, who with all zeal wove the beginnings of the cloth after the greater of the persecutions. While the Emperors were already nearly drenched with Christian blood and sated with slaughters, a vicarious work was rendered in the Roman Empire, and outside of it, by the Barbarian princes and kings, the Persians, Goths, Vandals, Lombards, Saracens, and Turks, who covered the East and West with the innocent blood of Christians. But those thorns of the Church of Christ, blunted with so many blows, and just about rotten from soaking so long in blood, the Roman Popes again sharpened; and, as that race is productive of portents and miracles, they restored the withered rod of Aaron to its vigor by a certain sacerdotal prerogative. Whence sharper, in the following ages, they were thrust into the bride of Christ, either by the very hands of those holy Fathers, or by the substitute hands of secular Princes crazed with love for the great harlot. Spain, Italy, England, France, the Netherlands, and all our Germany stand as witnesses.
Oceans of Christian blood soaked into the soil of the Netherlands: soaked into the soil of France, which, after the Colloquy of Poissy in 1562, saw the slaughter of three hundred thousand Martyrs. A greater cruelty never raged in the bowels of Christians: when, with all humanity cast off, men assumed a bestial ferocity, and tore the entrails of the slain to pieces. That Holy Spanish Inquisition, born through the midwifery of the Roman Popes for the exstirpations of the Church of Christ, is there any corner of Spain that it did not stain with blood? I pass over in silence the slaugters and exiles of our times, whereby the Church of Christ in the North was nearly worn out, inasmuch as with those Apocalyptical souls it groaned and cried out: How long, O Lord, holy and true, does thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth, in requiring it? Revelation 6:10.
Thus far we have seen only one thorn, which that love of Christ has felt from the beginnings of the world unto this day, and that indeed dreadful, but yet, if it be compared with the other, less dangerous: because it only wounds the body, to be healed soon, and to be brought back to a blessed immortality. Another far more terrible and dangerous follows, which we call Heresy: which, with the body generally uninjured (unless perchance it joins to itself Tyranny), after the likeness of piercing lightning, penetrates to the innermost parts of the soul; and the more easily it penetrates, the more dangerously it strikes; and it appears to titillate with pleasure, rather than to wound with sorrow. For, this is the curious depravity of the human mind, that, wearied with ancient things, it always follows the new, and deludes itself with the very novelty, as of the practices, so also of the doctrines. That is its ingenious infelicity, that it scarcely acquiesces in the simplicity of the divine word, and of the truth itself, and measures divine mysteries by its own small measure. Whence either by craft it destroys divine authority, or with scornful contempt evades simple truth. These are the mothers, these the nurses, of heresies and heretics. All Heretics, says Tertullian, are puffed up, all promise knowledge: simplicity they call the overthrow of discipline.
This sharp and venomous thorn, already of old in Paradise, with the work of Satan having arisen, and painstakingly developed in all possible ways thereafter, throughout the entire οἰκουμένην, inhabited world, by shoots runs along and advances; and frequently it arms and animates Tyranny itself against that love of Christ. And, as the instruments of Tyranny are nearly innumerable, which the cruelty of Satan and of men seek out to afflict the Church; so also you will not easily discover the number of heresies: because innumerable are the errors deviating from the straight and simple way of truth. The doctors of the Church, occupied in surveying them, have composed thick volumes, in which you may see touched upon Barbarism, Scythism, Samaritanism, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Nasachæans, Herodians, Simonians, Cleobians, Dositheans, Gortheans, Thebuteans, Nicolaitans, Menandrians, Ebionites, Cerinthians, Gnostics, Carpocratians, Chiliasts, Valentinians, Bardesanists, Secundians, Florinians, Rhetorians, Lampetians, Marcionites, Severians, Sethians, Abelians, Cainians, Antitacti, Perates, Adamites, Ophites, Hermogenians, Encratites, Montanists, Quintillians, Pepuzians, Cataphrygians, Theodotians, Proclianites, Artemonites, Melchisedecians, Apostolici, Tascodrongites, Artotyrites, Origenists, Hierarchites, Liberatores, Beryllians, Helcesites, Valesians, Agrippinians, Alogi, Samseans, Aquarii, Noëtians, Hermians, Novatians, Cathari, Sabellians, Samosatenians, Nepotians, Manichæans, Melitians, Arians, Eunomians, Dorotheans, Marians, Pytherians, Dulians, Colluthians, Donatists, Montenses, Circumcellions, Timoleontes, Rogatenses, Maximinists, Archontici, Angelici, Ascodruptæ, Ascitans, Messalians, Marcellians, Photinians, Macedonians, Aëtians, Apollinarists, Anthropomorphites, Melitonians, Helvidians, Priscillianists, Patricians, Paternians, Tabennesiotæ, Pelagians, Nestorians, Luciferians, Eutychians, Theopaschites, Tritheists, Collyridians, Armenians, Monothelites, Fratricelli, Beghards, Anabaptists, Schwenckfeldians, Libertines, Socianians, etc. Who would believe that the wheat of the Lord would have been able to grow up among so many thorns, and to struggle upwards? Who would believe that that love of the Lord would hve been able to survive, to mature, and to age unto this hour? But the right hand of the Most High is stronger than all the engines of hell; neither Tyranny nor Heresy is anything against Him.
But, although the Church sometimes with great courage set itself in opposition to the thorns of heresies, and labored to extirpate them from the field of the Lord, with so man myriads of volumes and so many canons of Councils as witnesses: yet they adhered so tenaciously that they were never able to be plucked up as completely as desired, nor is there now hope, before that great day of judgment, of the extirpation of them. Since there must be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest, 1 Corinthians 11:19. It is necessary, I say, that there be heresies, with the malice of men working continually in them, the patience of God bearing them, and the use of those approved requiring them. In this exhausted old age of the world we here see them growing stronger, in such a way that, not only are ancient ones, buried long ago, exhumed in great number, but also new ones daily sprout and grow, and labor to pollute the pure bride of Christ with their unclean touch, and to disfigure all the member of Theology with monstrous outrages.
 Fabian Czema (c. 1575-1636) was a Polish noble, Castellan of Chelmno (an administrative district in western Poland), and Chairman of Sztum piviat (an administrative distrinct in northern Poland, centered around Sztum). Although raised in a Lutheran family, he converted to the Reformed faith, favoring it in his lands, but not to the exclusion of Lutheranism.  Dohna was a town in the eastern reaches of German Saxony. Brandenburg was a major principality in North-Eastern Germany.  Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79), distinguished himself as a learned author, a celebrated Roman Procurator, and a courageous soldier. In his Natural History, Pliny in encyclopedic fashion attempts to cover the entire field of human knowledge as it stood in his day. It remains an invaluable resource in the fields of history, geography, literature, and Biblical studies.  Malachi 4:2.  Acts 2:9, 10.  Psalm 91:1.  See Revelation 12; 13; 16:13; 19:20; 20:10.  See Revelation 12.  See Genesis 4-6. Against Apion, Book 1, sections 15, 26.  Perhaps a reference to Manetho (third century BC), an Egyptian historian. His Ægyptiaca has been of enduring value in the study of Pharaonic dynasties. Manetho is cited by Josephus on this issue.  See Ezra; Nehemiah; Esther.  Matthew 2:16-18.  Nero reigned from 54 to 68; Domitian, from 81 to 96; Trajan, from 98 to 117; Hadrian, from 117 to 138; Antoninus Pious, from 138 to 161; Marcus Aurelius (Antoninus Philosophus), from 161 to 180; Lucius Verus, from 161 to 169; Severus, from 193 to 211; Maximinus, from 235 to 238; Decius, from 249 to 251; Valerian, from 253 to 260; Diocletian, from 284 to 305; Maximianus, from 286 to 310; Decius, from 249 to 251; Valerius, from 315 to 316; Maxentius, from 306 to 312.  Constantius II was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. He endeavored, and failed, to get the Church to adopt a compromise position between Nicean Orthodoxy and Arianism.  Julian the Apostate (331-363) was the last pagan Emperor of Rome. He was raised as a Christian, but rejected Christianity in favor of Theurgy, a form of Neoplatonism. As Emperor, he sought to revive paganism and reduce the influence of Christianity. Julian died after a battle with Persian forces, and it is said that his dying words were, Vicisti, Galilæe, Thou hast conquered, O Galilean.  Valens was Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was an Arian, and was willing to punish the Orthodox with exile to maintain order; but generally he favored compromise.  See Revelation 17; 18.  The intention of the Colloquy of Poissy was to reconcile the Catholics and Protestants of France. The Protestants were represented by Theodore Beza of Geneva and Peter Martyr Vermigli from Zurich. The Colloquy failed to produce the desired end.  Tertullian was a Latin Father of the second century. He labored as an apologist during times of persecution, and was important in the development of the Trinitarian vocabulary in the Latin-speaking West. De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, chapter 41.  See Romans 8:31; Psalm 118:6.  See Proverbs 21:30.