תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

ture of Christ, and a trinity of persons in the godhead. But, in a strict and proper sense, they only are deemed the members of this sect, who embrace wholly, or with a few exceptions, the form of theological doctrine which Faustus Socinus either drew up himself, or received from his uncle, and delivered to the unitarian brethren, or Socinians, in Poland and Transylvania." III. The origin of Socinianism may be traced to the ear

liest period of the reformation. For scarcely had fucinianism. that happy revolution in the state of religion taken place, when a set of men, fond of extremes, and consequently disposed to look upon as erroneous whatever had hitherto been taught and professed in the church of Rome, began to undermine the doctrine of Christ's divinity, and the other truths that are connected with it, and proposed reducing the whole of religion to practical piety and virtue. The efforts of these men were opposed with united zeal and vigilance, by the Romish, reformed, and Lutheran churches; and their designs were so far disconcerted, as to prevent their forming themselves and their followers into a regular and permanent sect. So early as the year 1524, the divinity of Christ was openly denied by Lewis Hetzer, one of the wandering and fanatical Anabaptists who, about three years afterward, was put to death at Constance." There were not wanting, among the first Anabaptists, several persons who entertained the opinions of Hetzer; though it would be manifestly unfair to lay these opinions to the charge of the whole community. But it was not only from that quarter that erroneous opinions

The origin of

y We have hitherto no complete or accurate history either of the sect called Socinians, or of Lælius and Faustus Socinus, its founders ; nor any satisfactory account of those who laboured principally with them, and after them, in giving a permanent and stable form to this community. For the accounts we have of the Socinians, and their principal doctors, from Hornbeck,* Calovius, Cloppenburg, † Sandius,f Lubieniecius,l! and Lanterbach, 1 are far from being proper to satisfy the curiosity of those, who desire something more than a vague and superficial knowledge of this matter. The History of Socinianism, that was published at Paris by Lami in the year 1723, is a wretched compilation from the most commonplace writers on that subject; it is also full of errors, and is loaded with a variety of matters that have no sort of relation to the history of Socinus, or to the doctrine he taught. The very learned and laborious La Croze promised, in his Disserlations Historiques, tom. i. p. 142, a complete history of Socinianism, from its origin to the present times, but did not fulll this interesting engagement.

z Sandii Bibliotheca Antitrinitar. Jo. Bapt. Ottius, Annal. Anabaptist. p. 50. Breitingeri Nuseum Helveticum, tom. v. p. 391, tom. vi. p. 100, 479.

* In his Socinianism. Confutat. vol. i. † In his Opera Antisociniani. I In his Dissertat. de origine et progressu Socinianismi, tom. ij. opp. $ In his Bibliotheca Antitrinitariorun. || In his Historia Reformationis Polonica. 1 In his Ariano Socinismus, published in German at Francfort in the year 1725.

و

were propagated in relation to the points already mentioned; others seemed to have been seized with the contagion, and it manifested itself from day to day in several countries. John Campanus, a native of Juliers, disseminated at Wittemberg, and other places, various tenets of an heretical aspect; and taught, among other things, that the Son was inferior to the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was not the title of a divine person, but a denomination used to denote the nature of the Father and of the Son ; and thus did this innovator revive, in a great measure, the errors of the ancient Arians," A doctrine of a similar kind was propagated, in the year 1530, in Switzerland, Augsburg, and among the Grisons, by a person whose name was Claudius, who, by his opposition to the doctrine of Christ's divinity, excited no small commotions in these countries." But none of these new teachers were so far encouraged by the number of their followers, or the indulgence of their adversaries, as to be in a condition to form a regular sect.

iv. The attempts of Michael Servede, or Servetus, a Spanish physician, were much more alarming Michael Serto those who had the cause of true religion at vetus. heart, than the feeble and impotent efforts of the innovators now mentioned. This man, who has made such a noise in the world, was born at Villa Neuva, in the kingdom of Arragon, distinguished himself by the superiority of his genius, and had made a considerable progress in various branches of science. In the years 1531 and 1532, he published, in Latin, his Seven Books concerning the errors that are contained in the doctrine of the Trinity, and his Two Dialogues on the same subject, in which he attacked, in the most audacious manner, the sentiments adopted by far the greatest part of the Christian church, in relation to the divine nature, and a trinity of persons in the Godhead. Some years after this he travelled into France, and, after

a See the Dissertation de Joh. Campano, Antitrinitario, in the Amanilates Literaria of the very learned Schelbornius, tom. xi. p. 1--92.

b Sec Schelbornii Dissert. Epistol. de Mino Celso Senensi Claudio item Allobrage, homine Fanatico et SS. Trinitatis hoste, Ulme, 1748, in 4to. Jac. Breitingeri Museum Helvetic. tom. vii. p. 667. Jo. Hallerius, Epistol. in Jo. Conrad. Fucslin, Centuria Epistolar. Viror. Eruditor. p. 140.

c By taking away the last syllable of this name, I mean the Spanish termination de, there remains Serve, which, by placing differently the letters that compose it, makes Reves. Servetus assumed this latter name in the title pages of all his books. He also called himself sometimes Michael Villanovanus, or Villanovanus ajone, after the place of his pativity, omitting the name of his family.

a variety of adventures, settled at Vienne in Dauphine, where he applied himself, with success, to the practice of physic. It was here, that letting loose the reins of his warm and irregular imagination, he invented that strange system of theology, which was printed, in a clandestine manner, in the year 1553, under the title of Christianity restored. The man seemed to be seized with a passion for reforming, in his way, and many things concurred to favour his designs, such as the fire of his genius, the extent of his learning, the power of his eloquence, the strength of his resolution, the obstinacy of his temper, and an external appearance at least of piety, that rendered all the rest doubly, engaging. Add to all this, the protection and friendship of many persons of weight, in France, Germany, and Italy, which Servetus had obtained by his talents and abilities, both natural and acquired ; and it will appear that few innovators have set out with a better prospect of success. But notwithstanding these signal advantages, all his views were totally disappointed by the vigilance and severity of Calvin, who, when Servetus had escaped from his prison at Vienne, and was passing through Switzerland, in order to seek refuge in Italy, caused him to be apprehended at Geneva, in the year 1553, and had an accusation of blasphemy brought against him before the council. The issue of this accusation was fatal to Servetus, who, adhering resolutely to the opinions he had embraced, was, by a public sentence of the court, declared an obstinate heretic, and in consequence thereof condemned to the flames. For it is observable, that at this time, the ancient laws that had been enacted against heretics by the emperor Frederic II. and had been so frequently renewed after his reign, were still in vigour at Geneva. It must however be acknowledged, that this learned and ingenious sufferer was worthy of a better fate; though it is certain, on the other hand, that his faults were neither few nor trivial; since it is well known that his excessive arrogance was accompanied with a malignant and contentious spirit, an invincible obstinacy of temper, and a considerable portion of fanaticism.

i d This accusation was brought against Servetus by a person who lived in Calvin's family as a servant; and this circumstance displeased many.

op e Dr. Mosheim refers the reader here, in a note, to an ample and curious history of Servetus, composed by bim in the German language, of which the first edition was published at Helmstadt, in 4to. in the year 1748, and the second, with considerable additions, at the same place, the year following. Those who are not acquainted with the German language, will find a full account of this singular man, and of his extraordinary history, in a Latin dissertation, composed under the inspection of Dr. Mosheim, and published at Helmstadt under the following title : Historia Michaelis Serveti, quam, Præside Jo. Laur. Mosheimeo, Abbate, &c. placido Doctorum examini publice exponit Henricus ab Allwaerden.' There is an accurate history of this unhappy man in the first volume of the work, entitled 'Memoirs of Literature, containing a Weekly Account of the State of Learning, both at home and abroad.' This was composed by Monsieur de la Roche, and was afterward augmented by him, and translated into French in his Bibliotheque Angloise, tom. ii. part i. article vii. p. 76. There is also an account of Servetus given by Mackenzie, in the first volume of his 'Lives and Characters of the most eminent writers of the Scots nation,' which was published at Edinburgh in the year 1708. To these we may add An impartial History of Servetus, &c. written by an anonymous author, and published at London in 1724.

The doctrine of
Servetus.

y. The religious system that Servetus had struck out of a wild and irregular fancy, was indeed singular in the highest degree. The greatest part of it was a necessary consequence of his peculiar notions concerning the universe, the nature of God, and the nature

of things, which were equally strange and chimerical. Thus it is difficult to unfold, in a few words, the doctrine of this unhappy man; nor indeed would any detail render it intelligible in all its branches. He took it into his head that the true and genuine doctrine of Christ had been entirely lost, even before the council of Nice; and he was moreover of opinion, that it had never been delivered with a sufficient degree of precision and perspicuity in any period of the church. To these extravagant assertions he added another still more so, even that he himself had received a commission from above to reveal anew this divine doctrine, and to explain it to mankind. His notions, with respect to the Supreme Being, and a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, were obscure and chimerical beyond all measure, and amounted in general to the following propositions :“That the Deity, before the creation of the world, had produced within himself two personal representations, or manners of existence,' which were to be the medium of intercourse between him and mortals, and by whom, consequently, he was to reveal his will, and to display his

It is impossible to justify the conduct of Calvin in the case of Servetus, whose death will be an indelible reproach upon the character of that great and eminent reformer. The only thing that can be alleged, not to efface, but to diminish his crime, is, that it was no easy matter for him to divest himself at once of that persecuting spirit which had been so long nourished and strengthened by the popish religion in which he was educated. It was a remaining portion of the spirit of popery, in the breast of Calvin, that kindled his unchristian zeal against the wretched Servetus.

If These representations or manners of existence, Servetus also called economies, mlispensations, dispositions, &c. for be often changed his terms in unfolding his visionary systems

mercy and beneficence to the children of men; that these two representatives were the Word and the Holy Ghost; that the former was united to the man Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary by an omnipotent act of the divine will; and that, on this account, Christ might be properly called God ; that the Holy Spirit directed the course, and animated the whole system of nature; and more especially produced in the minds of men wise counsels, virtuous propensities, and divine feelings; and finally, that these two representations were to cease after the destruction of this terrestrial globe, and to be absorbed into the substance of the Deity, from whence they had been formed. This is, at least, a general sketch of the doctrine of Servetus, who however did not always explain his system in the same manner, nor take any pains to avoid inconsistencies and contradictions; and who frequently expressed himself in such ambiguous terms, that it is extremely difficult to learn from them his true sentiments. His system of morality agreed in many circumstances with that of the Anabaptists ; whom he also imitated in censuring, with the utmost severity, the custom of infant baptism.

vi. The pompous plans of reformation, that had been Other Anticrini, formed by Servetus, were not only disconcerted,

but even fell into oblivion, after the death of their author. He was indeed, according to vulgar report, supposed to have left behind him a considerable number of disciples; and we find in the writings of the doctors of this century, many complaints and apprehensions that seem to confirm this supposition, and would persuade us that Servetus, had really founded a sect; yet, when this matter is attentively examined, there will appear just reason to doubt, whether this man left behind him any one person that might properly be called his true disciple. For those who were denominated Servetians by the theological writers of this century, not only differed from Servetus in many points of doctrine, but also varied widely from him in his doctrine of the Trinity, which was the peculiar and distinguishing point of his theological system. Valentine Gentilis, a Neapolitan, who suffered death at Berne, in the year 1566, adopted the Arian hypothesis, and not that of Servetus, as many writers have imagined, for his only error consisted in this, that he considered the Son and the

tarians.

1

1

« הקודםהמשך »