תמונות בעמוד

The main principle of

xv. Although the Socinians profess to believe that all

our knowledge of divine things is derived solely

from the Holy Scriptures; yet they maintain in Socinianism. reality, that the sense of Scripture is to be investigated and explained by the dictates of right reason, to which, of consequence, they attribute a great influence in determining the nature, and unfolding the various doctrines of religion. When their writings are perused with attention, they will be found to attribute more to reason, in this matter, than most other Christian societies. For they frequently insinuate artfully, nay sometimes deciare plainly, that the sacred penmen were guilty of several mistakes, from a defect of memory, as well as a want of capacity ; that they expressed their sentiments without either perspicuity or precision, and rendered the plainest things obscure by their pompous and diffuse Asiatic style ; and that it was therefore absolutely necessary to employ the lamp of human reason to cast a light upon their doctrine, and to explain it in a manner conformable to truth. It is easy to see what they had in view by maintaining propositions of this kind. They aimed at nothing less than the establishment of the following general rule, viz: that the history of the Jews and of Jesus Christ was indeed to be derived from the books of the Old and New Testament, and that it was not lawful to entertain the least doubt concerning the truth of this history, and the authenticity of these books in general; but that the particular doctrines which they contain, were, nevertheless, to be understood, and explained in such a manner as to render them conformable to the dictates of reason. According to this representation of things, it is not the Holy Scripture, which declares clearly and expressly what we are to believe concerning the nature, counsels, and perfections of the Deity ; but it is human reason, which shows us the system of religion that we ought to seek in, and deduce from, the divine oracles.

xvi. This fundamental principle of Socinianism will apThe danger. pear more dangerous and pernicious, when we querons of this consider the sense in which the word reason was principle. understood by this sect. The pompous title of right reason was given, by the Socinians, to that measure of intelligence and discernment, or, in other words, to that faculty of comprehending and judging, which we derive from nature. According to this definition, the fundamental rule of the Socinians necessarily supposes, that no doctrine ought to be acknowledged as true in its nature, or divine in its origin, all whose parts are not level to the comprehension of the human understanding; and that, whatever the holy Scriptures teach concerning the perfections of God, his counsels and decrees, and the way of salvation, must be modified, curtailed, and filed down, in such a manner, by the transforming power of art and argument, as to answer the extent of our limited faculties. Those who adopt this singular rule, must at the same time, grant that the number of religions must be nearly equal to that of individuals. For as there is a great variety in the talents and capacities of different persons, so what will appear difficult and abstruse to one, will seem evident and clear to another; and thus the more discerning and penetrating will adopt as divine truth, what the slow and superficial will look upon as unintelligible jargon. This consequence does not at all alarm the Socinians, who suffer their members to explain, in very different ways, many doctrines of the highest importance, and permit every one to follow his particular fancy in composing his theological system, provided they acknowledge, in general, the truth and authenticity of the history of Christ, and adhere to the precepts the gospel lays down for the regulations of our lives and actions.

xvii. In consequence of this leading maxim, the Socinians either reject without exception, or change and accommodate to their limited capacities, all those gub doctrines relating to the nature of God and of Socinianism. Jesus Christ, the plan of redemption, and the eternal rewards and punishments unfolded in the gospel, which they either cannot comprehend, or consider as attended with considerable difficulties. The sum of their theology is as follows; “God, who is infinitely more perfect than man, though of a similar nature in some respects, exerted an act of that power by which he governs all things; in consequence of which an extraordinary person was born of the Virgin Mary. That person was Jesus Christ, whom God first translated to heaven by that portion of his divine power, which is called the Holy Ghost; and having instructed him fully there in the knowledge of his will, counsels, and designs, sent him again into this sublunary world, to pro

ancornmodate ting to the redemption; gospel, whied with

The sum and substance of The moral doctrine of

mulgate to mankind a new rule of life, more excellent than that under which they had formerly lived, to propagate divine truth by his ministry, and to confirm it by his death.

« Those who obey the voice of this Divine Teacher, and this obedience is in the power of every one whose will and inclination leads that way, shall one day be clothed with new bodies, and inhabit eternally those blessed regions where God himself immediately resides. Such, on the contrary as are disobedient and rebellious, shall undergo most terrible and exquisite torments, which shall be succeeded by annihilation, or the total extinction of their being."

The whole system of Socinianism, when stripped of the embellishments and commentaries with which it has been loaded and disguised by its doctors, is really reducible to the few propositions now mentioned. XVIII. The nature and genius of the Socinian theology

has an immediate influence upon the moral sysdette memoral tem of that sect, and naturally leads its doctors the Socinians. to confine their rules of morality and virtue to the external actions and duties of life. On the one hand, they deny the influence of a divine spirit and power upon the minds of men ; and on the other, they acknowledge, that no mortal has such an empire over himself as to be able to suppress or extinguish his sinful propensities and corrupt desires. Hence they have no conclusion left, but one ; and that is, to declare all such true and worthy Christians whose words and external actions are conformable to the precepts of the divine law. It is at the same time remarkable, that another branch of their doctrine leads directly to the utmost severity in what relates to life and manners, since they maintain that the great end of Christ's mission upon earth was to exhibit to mortals a new law, distinguished from all others by its unblemished sanctity and perfection. Hence it is that a great number of the Socinians have fallen into the fanatical rigour of the ancient anabaptists, and judged it absolutely unlawful to repel injuries, to take oaths, to inflict capital punishments on malefactors, to oppose the despotic proceedings of tyrannical magistrates, to acquire wealth by honest industry, and other things of that nature. But in this there is something extremely singular, and they are here indeed inconsistent with themselves. For while, in matters of doctrine, they take the greatest liberty with

the expressions of Scripture, and pervert them in a violent manner, to the defence of their peculiar tenets, they proceed quite otherwise, when they come to prescribe rules of conduct from the precepts of the gospel; for then they understand these precepts literally, and apply them without the least distinction of times, persons, and circumstances.

XIX. It must carefully be observed, that the Catechism of Racow, which most people look upon as the great standard of Socinianism, and as an accurate sum- chi mary of the doctrine of that sect, is, in reality, no cow. more than a collection of the popular tenets of the Socinians, and by no means a just representation of the secret opinions and sentiments of their doctors.' The writings therefore of these learned men must be perused with attention, in order to our knowing the hidden reasons and true principles from whence the doctrines of the Catechism are derived. It is observable beside, that in this Catechism, many Socinian tenets and institutions, which might have contributed to render the sect still more odious, and to expose its internal constitution too much to public view, are entirely omitted ; so that it seems to have been less composed for the use of the Socinians themselves, than to impose upon strangers, and to mitigate the indignation which the tenets of this community had excited in the minds of many.' Hence it never obtained, among the Socinians, the authority of a public confession or rule of faith; and hence the doctors of that sect were authorized to correct and contradict it, or to substitute another form of doctrine in its place. It is also observable, that the most eminent writers and patrons of the Socinians gave no clear or consistent account of the sentiments of that sect in relation to ecclesiastical discipline and government, and the form of public worship. All that we know is, that they follow in these matters, generally speaking, the customs received in the protestant churches.

The Calecbism of Ra

9 We have an account of the authors of this famous Catechism, and of the various success it met with, in the Commentatio de Catechesi Racoviensi, published by Jo. And. Schmidius, in the year 1707. See also Koechieri Biblioth. Theolog. Symbolicæ. A new edition of the Catechism itself, with a solid refutation of the doctrine it contains, was published in 8vo. at Francfort and Leipsic, in the year 1739, by the learned George Lewis Oeder.

r This appears evident enough from their presenting a Latin translation of this Catechism to James I, king of Great Britain, and a German one to the academy of Wittemberg.

This is manifest from a work composed by Peter Morscovius, or Morscowsky, un" VOL. III,


The state of learning among the Socinia ns.


hey actina "uck

xx. The first founders and patrons of this sect were emi

ate nently distinguished by their learning and genius. of learning Their successors, however, did not follow their Socinia ns. steps in this respect, nor keep up the reputation they had universally obtained. The unitarians in Poland seem to have had little ambition of science. They gave no encouragement to learning or talents; and appeared little solicitous of having in their community subtile doctors and learned disputants. But when they perceived, on the one hand, that the success of their community required as able defenders, as they had learned and ingenious adversaries; and were so lucky, on the other, as to obtain the privilege of erecting seminaries of learning at Racow and Lublin, they then changed their sentiments with respect to this matter, and became sensible of the necessity under which they lay, to encourage in their community a zeal for the sciences. This zeal increased greatly from the time that Faustus Socinus undertook the restoration of their declining credit, and put himself at the head of their tottering sect. At that time, many persons, distinguished by their birth, education, and talents, embraced its doctrine, and contributed to promote the love of science among its members. Then the youth were taught the rules of eloquence and rhetoric, and instructed in the important branches of oriental, Greek, and Latin literature. Nay, even the secret paths of philosophy were opened, though their treasures were disclosed only to a few, who were selected for that purpose from the multitude. The Racovian doctors, in compliance with the spirit and taste of the age, chose Aristotle as their guide in philosophy, as appears evidently from the Ethics of Crellius, and other literary records of these times. xxi. Notwithstanding this progress of philosophy among

the Socinians, their doctors seemed to reject its

od succours in theology with obstinacy and disdain. in theology. They declare, in numberless places of their writings, that both in the interpretation of Scripture, and in

Their method of proceeding in theology.

der the following title ; Politia Ecclesiastica, quam vulgo Agenda vocant, sive forma Regiminis exterioris Ecclesiarum Christianarum in Polonia, quæ unum Deum Patrem, per filium ejus Unigenitum in Spiritu Sancto, confitentur.' This work, which is divided into three books, was composed in the year 1642, and published in 4tó. at Nuremberg, but a few years ago, by the learned George Lewis Oeder. It is mentioned by Sandius, in his Biblioth. Antitrinit. p. 142, who says that it was drawn up for the use of the Belgic churches.

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