Archive E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

July 29, 1579

Today is the anniversary of Niels Hemmingsen’s deposition from the University of Copenhagen in 1579 for his “crypto-Calvinist” views on the Lord’s Supper.

I’ve mentioned before that he was for a time a man of very great stature and influence, not only in Scandinavia, but in much of Europe and the British Isles. The excerpt transcribed below testifies to this: it comes from a book of tributes to Protestants written chiefly by Thomas Fuller (c.1607-1661), Abel Redevivus; or The Dead Yet Speaking. The Lives and Deaths of Modern Divines, first published, as far as I can tell, in 1651.

In that book, Hemmingsen was included with such luminaries as Knox, Bullinger, Chemnitz, Zanchi, Danaeus, Beza, Junius, Scaliger, and others.

Oddly, none of Hemmingsen’s works are mentioned in the entry, and its hagiographical nature is evident from the omission of the circumstances of his departure from the University of Copenhagen, which is instead attributed to old age and exhaustion and was rewarded with a “liberal pension” (that last part is true).

The Life and Death of Nicolas Hemmingius,

Who Died Anno Christi 1600.

Nicolas Hemmingius was born at Loland in Denmark, anno Christi 1513, of honest parents; but his father dying when he was young, his grandfather brought him up carefully in learning, placing him forth in divers schools. And when he had laid a good foundation of learning there, he had an ardent desire to go to Wittenberg, which was made famous by Philip Melancthon’s lectures; and having gotten some little money in his purse, he travelled thitherward; but by the way some thieves met him, and stripped him of all that he had. Yet, when he came to Wittenberg, he found the people very charitable to him, especially Melancthon. There he remained five years; and by his writing for and attending upon richer students, and teaching some privately, he maintained himself. When he returned home, he had an ample testimony from Melancthon for his excellent wit and learning; and he was there entertained by Olaus Nicholas to teach his daughters. And from thence he was chosen to be pastor at Hafnia [Copenhagen], and accordingly ordained to it; which place he discharged with much diligence and faithfulness; and many young students resorting to him, he read privately to them, and afterwards was chosen Hebrew Professor in that university.

In the year 1557 he was made Doctor in Divinity, and performed his place with much sedulity twenty-six years. Anno Christi 1579, when he was grown old, and exhausted with his daily labours, Frederick II., king of Denmark, gave him a liberal pension, upon which he lived holily and comfortably all the remainder of his days. Some years before his death he grew blind, and was troubled with several diseases, desiring nothing more than that he might be dissolved, and be with Christ. A little before his death he expounded Psalm ciii. with so much fervour, efficacy, and power of the Holy Ghost, that all that heard him wondered at it; and shortly after resigned up his spirit unto God, anno 1600, and of his age 87.

Hemmingius doth deserve to be

Recorded in each memory;

Who for his wit and worthy parts

In learning, tongues, and excellent arts,

Was by Melancthon much respected,

And for his learned gifts elected

Hebrew Professor worthily

In Hafnia University;

Where six-and-twenty years he stay’d

With great esteem, and there was made

A Doctor in theology,

And full of years and love did die.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.