« Brieger, Johann Friedrich Theodor Briessmann, Johann Briggs, Charles Augustus »

Briessmann, Johann

BRIESSMANN, brîs´mɑ̄n, JOHANN: Reformer; b. at Cottbus (on the Spree, 43 m. s.s.w. of Frankfort), Brandenburg, Dec. 31, 1483; d. at Königsberg Oct. 1, 1549. He belonged to a prominent family, and as a Franciscan he studied after 1518 at Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and after 1520 at Wittenberg, where he was promoted in 1521 as licentiate and in 1522 as doctor of theology. Influenced by Luther's appearance at the Leipsic disputation with Eck (1519), but more especially by Luther's great reformatory writings of the year 1520, he soon found himself one in the Evangelical faith with his beloved friend. When the Franciscans had to leave Wittenberg, Briessmann went to Cottbus, but on the initiative of Luther he was able to return in 1522. He addressed a reformatory epistle to the congregation at Cottbus, Unterricht und Ermahnung (Cottbus, 1523), and at the instance of Luther wrote a powerful refutation of the attacks of the Franciscan Schatzgeyer upon Luther's De votis monasticis (Wittenberg?, 1523), stating in his declaration to Spalatin that he could not refuse the wish of Luther, "since he felt himself in agreement not so much with a Luther as with the Evangelical truth."

Preacher in Königsberg, 1523–27.

On the recommendation of Luther, he was called in 1523 as preacher to Königsberg by Albert, the grand master of the Teutonic order (see Albert of Prussia). A Königsberg chronicler thus describes his life and work: he preached the word with gentleness but with all seriousness; many became pious Christians and better men; "on account of his godly, honorable, moral life he was beloved by many and his sermons were gladly heard." About the time when he entered upon his pastoral duties he published his Flosculi de homine interiore et exteriore de fide et operibus (ed. P. Tschackert, Gotha, 1887), containing 110 verses in which, following Luther's work "Concerning Christian Liberty," he defends the Evangelical doctrine against Rome and the fanatics. His influence upon Bishop George of Polentz is seen in the latter's sermon delivered on Christmas day, 1523, in which he publicly expressed his belief in the Evangelical teaching of justification by faith alone. As the bishop did not preach himself, he appointed as his substitute "the learned Dr. Johann Briessmann, a man well versed in the holy scripture." In 1524 the bishop issued his first reformatory mandate, enjoining the ministers to use only the German language in their ministerial acts, and to read Luther's writings, especially his translation of the Bible. Of lasting effect were also certain writings of Briessmann, 270as his Umschreibung und Erklärung des Vater Untsers als Anleitung zum wahrhaft evangelischen Gebetsleben im Gegensatz gegen die Mariengebete; a Sermon von dreierlei heilsamer Beichte, as guide to Evangelical confession in opposition to auricular confession; and his sermon Von der Anfechtung des Glaubens und der Hoffnung, with reference to the Gospel-lesson on the woman of Canaan (Matt. xv. 21–28). For the benefit of the more cultured members of the congregation he delivered lectures on the epistle to the Romans. He laid stress upon the inwardness of the Christian life in opposition to the impetuous zeal of Amandus in forcibly doing away with ancient usages and forms. With Luther, who greatly rejoiced over the rapid progress of the Reformation in Prussia, he entertained a lively correspondence, and on June 12, 1524, one day before Luther, he was married, being the first married minister of Prussia.

In Riga, 1527–31.

After the secularization of the territory of the Teutonic Order in 1525 under Polish feudal supremacy, Briessmann and his colaborers, Speratus and Poliander, faithfully assisted Duke Albert at the diet, Dec., 1525. He accepted a call from the citizens of Riga to complete the reformatory movement there, with the consent of the duke, Oct., 1527. By preaching and teaching he brought about the necessary reformation and published in 1530 Kurze Ordnung des Kirchendienstes sammt einer Vorrede von Ceremonien.

Activity in Königsberg 1531–49.

After four years of faithful work he returned to Königsberg in 1531 as cathedral preacher. With his colleagues he had soon to oppose the fanatical tendencies of Schwenckfeld, which the ill-advised duke had favored at first. As he labored for the purity of Evangelical doctrine, he also labored for the upbuilding of the inner life of the Church by the new Landesordnung (1540), by the articles concerning the appointment and support of the ministers (1540), by the introduction of a new order of marriage and divine service (1544). He recommended the lectio continua, or continuous reading of the whole Bible in divine service, thus making the congregations acquainted with Holy Scripture, and a thorough instruction in the catechism besides the preaching; he introduced church-singing by the use of a hymn-book, the first in Prussia. Repeated calls to Rostock he declined. He also devoted his energies to the development of the schools and higher education. He formed the plans for the university which was founded in 1544. During the sickness of Bishop Polentz in 1546, the business of the episcopal see was entrusted to Briessmann, and in 1547 he made a tour of inspection to correct abuses which still existed in the diocese. He opposed especially teachings brought thither by refugees from the Netherlands, represented by the humanist Gulielmus Gnaphæus (or Fullonius), a sympathizer with Carlstadt. It was also due to Briessmann's energy that the troubles caused by the first rector of the university, Georg Sabinus, had no lasting influence. Against Andreas Osiander, whom the duke had called to Königsberg, he defended the genuine Lutheran doctrine and confession. Painful as was this Osiandrian controversy for Briessmann, yet he rejoiced toward the end of his life that the Moravian Brethren, driven from Poland by the intrigues of the Polish-Catholic clergy, were in 1548 received into the Prussian state church, after being settled in Prussia with the permission of the duke. In opposing the Osiandrian errors, Briessmann also opposed the duke who at first adhered to Osiander. To the suggestion of the duke to hear the opinion of churches from abroad, Briessmann replied: "Since the present controversy concerns doctrinal points which have been preached in Prussia for over twenty-four years, the opinion and judgment of others is not to be awaited." These are the last words from his mouth and pen, "the testament of the first Reformer of Prussia, and therefore especially valuable for the history of the Prussian Reformation" (Tschackert). In the spring of 1549 he retired from his arduous duties. He is buried in the choir of the cathedral at Königsberg.

David Erdmann.

Bibliography: P. Tschackert, Urkundenbuch zur Reformationsgeschichte des Herzogtums Preussen, vols. i., ii., in Publikationen aus den koniglichen preussischen Staatsarchiven, vols. xliii.-xlv., Leipsic, 1890.

« Brieger, Johann Friedrich Theodor Briessmann, Johann Briggs, Charles Augustus »
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