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Holy Ghost, as subordinate to the Father. Nearly allied to this, was the doctrine of Matthew Gribaldi, a lawyer, whom a timely death, in the year 1566, saved from the severity of an ecclesiastical tribunal, that was ready to pronounce sentence against him on account of his errors; for he supposed the divine nature divided into three eternal spirits, which were distinguished from each other, not only by number, but also by subordination. It is not so easy to determine the particular charge that was brought against Alciat, a native of Piedmont, and Sylvester Tellius, who were banished from the city and territory of Geneva, in the year 1559; nor do we know, with any degree of certainty, the errors that were embraced by Paruta, Leonardi, and others,' who were ranked among the followers of Servetus. It is however more than probable, that none of the persons now mentioned were the disciples of Servetus, or adopted the hypothesis of that visionary innovator. The same thing may be affirmed with respect to Gonesius, who is said to have embraced the doctrine of that unhappy man, and to have introduced it into Poland ;" for, though he maintained some opinions that really resembled it in some of its points; yet his manner of explaining the mystery of the Trinity was totally different from that of Servetus.
VII. It is evident that none of the persons, now mentioned, professed that form or system of theologi. Erroneous cal doctrine, that is properly called Socinianism, ile origin of the origin of which is, by the writers of that sect, Socinianism. dated from the year 1546, and placed in Italy. These writers tell us, that in this very year, above forty persons, eminently distinguished by their learning and genius, and still more by their generous zeal for truth, held secret assemblies, at different times, in the territory of Venice, and particularly at Vicenza, in which they deliberated concerning a general reformation of the received systems of religion, and in a more especial manner, undertook to refute the peculiar doctrines that were afterward publicly rejected by the Socinians. They tell us further, that the principal members of this clandestine society, were Lælius, Socinus, Alciat, Ochinus, Paruta, and Gentilis ; that their design was divulged, and their meetings discovered, by the temerity and imprudence of some of their associates ; that two of them were apprehended and put to death ; while the rest, being dispersed, sought a refuge in Switzerland, Germany, Moravia, and other countries, and that Socinus, after having wandered up and down in several parts of Europe, went into Poland, first in the year 1551, and afterward in 1558, and there sowed the seeds of his doctrine, which, in process of time grew apace, and produced a rich and abundant harvest. Such is the account of the origin of Socinianism, that is generally given by the writers of that sect. To assert that it is, in every circumstance, fictitious and false, would perhaps be going too far; but, on the other hand, it is easy to demonstrate that the system of religion, commonly called Socinianism, was neither invented nor drawn up in those meetings at Venice and Vicenza that have now been mentioned.m
g See Bayle's Dictionary, at the article Gentilis. Spon, Hist. de Geneve, livr. iii. tom. ii. p. 80. Sandii Biblioth. Antitrinitar. p. 26. Lamy, Histoire du Socinianisme, part ii. chap. vi. p. 251. Fuesl. Reformations Beytrage, tom. v. p. 381.
h Sandii Biblioth. Antitrinit. p. 17. Lamy, loc. cit. part ii. ch. vii. p. 257. Spon, loc. cit. tom. ii. p. 85, not. Halerus, in Museo Tigurino, tom. ii. p. 114.
i For an account of these, and other persons of the same class, see Sandius, Lamy, and also Lubieniecius, his Historia Reformat. Polonicæ, lib. ii. cap. v. p. 96. There is a particular and ample account of Alciat given by Bayle, in the first volume of his Dictionary; see also Spon, loc. cit. tom. ii. p. 85, 86.
k This is affirmed upon the authority of Wissowatius and Lubieniecius ; but the very words of the latter will be sufficient to show us upon what grounds. These words, Hist. Reformat. Polon. cap. vi. p. 111, are as follows: “Is Serveţi sententiam de pre-eminentia patris in patriam attulit, eamque non dissimulavit," i. e. Gonesius introduced into Poland the opinion embraced by Servetus in relation to the preeminence of the Father, and was by no means studious to conceal it.
Who now does not sce, that if it was the pre-eminence of the Father that Gonesius maintained, he must have differed considerably from Servetus, whose doctrine removed all real distinction in the divine nature? The reader will do well to consult Sandius, loc. cit. p. 40, concerning the sentiments of Gonesius; since it is from this writer, that Lamy has borrowed the greatest part of what he has advanced in his Histoire de Socinianisme, tom. ii, chap. x. p. 278.
I See the Biblioth. Antilrinitar. p. 18 and 25 of Sandius, who mentions some writings that are supposed to have been published by the clandestine society of pretended reformers at Venice and Vicenza; though the truth of this supposition is extremely dubious. Andr. Wissowatti Narratio quomodo in Polonia Reformati ab Unitariis separati sunt, which is subjoined to the Biblioth. of Sandius, p. 209, 210. The reader may likewise consult Lubieniecius, Histor. Reformat. Polon. lib. ii. cap. i. p. 38, who intimates, that he took this account of the origin of Socinianism from the manuscript Commientaria of Budzinus, and his Life of Lælius Socinus. See also Sam. Przipcovius, in Viia Socini.
m See Gustav. Georg. Zeltneri Historia Crypto Socinianismi Altorfini, cap. ii. sect. xli. p. 321, note. This writer seems to think that the inquiries that have hitherto been made into this affair are by no means satisfactory ; and he therefore wishes that some men of learning, equal the task, would examine the subject anew. This indeed were much to be wished. In the mean time, I shall venture to offer a few observations, which may perhaps contribute to cast some light upon this matter. That there was in reality such a society as is mentioned in the text, is far from being improbable. Many circumstances and relations prove sufficiently that immediately after the reformation had taken place in Germany, secret assemblies were held, and measures proposed, in several provinces that were still under the jurisdiction of Rome, with a view to combat the errors and superstition of the times. It is also, in
VIII. While therefore we reject this inaccurate account of the matter under consideration, it is incumbent upon us to substitute a better in its place; and in- Theresleri deed the origin and progress of the Socinian doc- lauism · trine seem easy to be traced out by such as are acquainted
a more especial manner, probable, that the territory of Venice was the scene of these deliberations ; since it is well known, that a great number of the Venetians at this time, though they had no personal attachment to Luther, approved nevertheless of his design of reforming the corrupt state of religion, and wished well to every attempt that was made to restore Christianity to its native and primitive simplicity. It is farther highly credible, that these assemblies were interrupted and dispersed by the vigilance of the papal emissaries, that some of their members were apprehended and put to death, and that the rest saved themselves by flight. All this is probable enough ; but it is extremely improbable, nay utterly incredible, that all the persons, who are said to have been present at these assemblies, were really so. And I therefore adopt willingly the opinion of those who affirm, that many persons, who, in after times, distinguished themselves from the multitude, by opposing the doctrine of Trinity in Unity, were considered as members of the Venetian society, by ignorant writers, who looked upon that society as the source and nursery of the whole Unitarian sect. It is certain, for instance, that Ochinus is erroneously placed among the members of the famous society now mentioned ; for, not to insist upon the circumstance, that it is not sufficiently clear whether he was really a Socinian or not, it appears undeniably, from the Annales Capucinorum of Boverius, as well as from other unquestionable testimonies, that he left Italy so early as the year 1543, and went from thence to Geneva. See a singular book, entitled 'La Guerre Seraphique ou l'Histoire des perils qu'a courus la Barbe des Capuchins,' liv. iii. p. 191, 216. What I have said of Ochinus may be confidently affirmed with respect to Lælius Socinus, who, though reported to have been at the head of the society now under consideration, was certainly never present at any of its meetings. For how can we suppose that a young man, only one and twenty years old, would leave the place of his nativity, repair to Venice or Vicenza, and that without any other view than the pleasure of disputing freely on certain points of religion ?* Or how could it happen, that a youth of such inexperienced years should acquire such a high degree of influence and authority, as to obtain the first rank, and the principal direction, in an assembly composed of so many eminently learned and ingenious men? Beside, from the Life of Lælius, which is still extant, and from other testimonies of good authority, it is easy to show, that it was the desire of improvement, and the hope of being ailed in his inquiries after truth by the conversation of learned men in foreign ‘nations, that induced him to leave Italy; and not the apprehension of persecution and death, as some bave imagined. It is also ccr. tain, that he returned into his native country afterward, and, in the year 1551, remained some time at Sienna, while his father lived at Bologna. See his letter to Bullinger, in the Museum Helveticum, tom. v. p. 489. Now surely it cannot easily be imagined, that a man in his senses would return to a country from whence, but a few years before, he had been obliged to fly, in order to avoid the terrors of a barbarous inquisition and a violent death.
But, waiving this question for a moment, let us suppose all the accounts we have from the Socinians, concerning this famous assembly of Venice and Vicenza, and the members of which it was composed, to be true and exact; yet it remains to be proved, that the Socinian system of doctrine was invented and drawn up in that assembly. This the Socinian writers maintain ; and this, as the case appears to me, may be safely denied; for the Socinian doctrine is undoubtedly of much later date than this assembly. It also passed through different hands, and was, during many years, reviewed and corrected by men of learning and genius, and thus underwcut various changes and improvements, before it was formed into a regular, permanent, and connected system. To be convinced of this, it will be sufficient to cast an eye upon the opinions, doctrines, and reasonings of several of the members of the famous society so often mentioned ; which vary in such a striking manner, as show manifestly that this society had no fixed views, nor had ever agreed upon any consistent form of doctrine. We learn, moreover, from many circumstances in the life and transactions of Lælius
IT * Is such a supposition really so absurd ? Is not a spirit of enthusiasm, or even an uncommon degree of zeal, adequate to the production of such an effect? VOL. III,
with the history of the church during this century. There were certain sects and doctors, against whom the zeal, vigilance, and severity of Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists, were united, and, in opposing whose settlement and progress, these three communions forgetting their dissensions, joined their most vigorous counsels and endeavours. The objects of their common aversion were the anabaptists, and those who denied the divinity of Christ, and a Trinity of persons in the Godhead. To avoid the unhappy consequences of such a formidable opposition, great numbers of both classes retired into Poland, from the persuasion that in a country whose inhabitants were passionately fond of freedom, religious liberty could not fail to find a refuge. However, on their first arrival, they proceeded with circumspection and prudence, and explained their sentiments with much caution and a certain mixture of disguise, not knowing surely what might happen, nor how far their opinions would be treated with indulgence. Thus they lived in peace and quiet during several years, mixed with the Lutherans and Calvinists, who had already obtained a solid settlement in Poland, and who admitted them into their communion, and even into the assemblies where their public deliberations were held. They were not however long satisfied with this state of constraint, notwithstanding the privileges with which it was attended; but, having insinuated themselves into the friendship of several noble and opulent families, they began to act with more spirit, and even to declare in an open manner, their opposition to certain doctrines that were generally received among Christians. Hence arose violent contests between them and the Swiss or reformed churches, with which they had
Socinus, that this man had not, when he lest Italy, laid the plan of a regular system of religion ; and it is well known, that, for many years afterward, his time was spent in doubting, inquiring, and disputing; and that his ideas of religious matters were estremely Auctuating and unsettled. So that it seems probable to me, that the man died in this state of hesitation and uncertainty, before he had reduced his notions to any consistent form. As to Gribaldi and Alciat, who have been already mentioned, it is manifest that they inclined toward the Arian system, and did not entertain such low ideas of the person and dignity of Jesus Christ, as those that are adopted among the Socinians. From all this it appears abundantly evident, that these Italian reformers, if their famous society ever existed in reality, which I admit here as a probable supposition, rather than as a fact sufficiently attested, were dispersed and obliged to seek their safety in a voluntary exile, before they bad agreed about any regular system of religious doctrine. So that this account of the origin of Socinianism is rather imaginary than real, though it has been inconsiderately adopted by many writers. Fueslin has alleged several arguments against it in his German work, entitled Reformations Beytragen, tom. üi: p. 327.
been principally connected. These dissensions drew the attention of the government, and occasioned, in the year 1565, a resolution of the diet of Petrikow, ordering the innovators to separate themselves from the churches already mentioned, and to form a distinct congregation or sect. These founders of the Socinian church were commonly called Pinczovians, from the town in which the heads of their sect resided. Hitherto indeed they had not carried matters so far as they did afterward; for they professed chiefly the Arian doctrine concerning the divine nature, maintaining that the Son and the Holy Ghost were two distinct natures, begotten by God the Father, and subordinate to him."
ix. The Unitarians, being thus separated from the other religious societies in Poland, had many difficulties to encounter, both of an internal and external kind. The progress From without they were threatened with a formi- ism. dable prospect arising from the united efforts of Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists, to crush their infant sect. From within they dreaded the effects of intestine discord, which portended the ruin of their community before it could arrive at any measure of stability or consistence. This latter apprehension was too well grounded; for as yet they had agreed upon no regular system of principles, which might serve as a centre and bond of union. Some of them chose to persevere in the doctrine of the Arians, and to proceed no further; and these were called Farnovians. Others, more adventurous, went much greater lengths, and attributed to Christ almost no other rank or dignity than those of a divine messenger, and of a true prophet. A third class, distinguished by the denomination of Budneians, went still further; declaring that Jesus Christ was born in
n Lamy, Histoire du Socinionisme, part i. chap. vi. &c. p. 16. Stoinii Epilome Originis Unitariorum in Polonia, apud Sandium, p. 183. Georg. Schomanni 'l'estamentum, apud eundem, p. 194. Andr. Wissowatius de Separatione Unitar. a Reformatis, ibid. p. 211, 212. Lubieniccias, Historia Reformat. Polonicæ, lib. ii. cap. vi. p. 111, cap. viji, p. 144, lib. iii. cap. i. p. 158.
o This will appear abundantly evident to all such as consult, with a proper degree of attention, the writers mentioned in the preceding note. It is unquestionably certain, that all those, who then called themselves Unitarian brethren, did not entertain the same sentiments concerning the Divine Nature. Some of the most eminent doctors of that sect adopted the notions relating to the person and dignity of Christ, ibat were, in after times, peculiar to the Socinians ; the greatest part of them, however, embraced the Arian system, and affirmed, that our blessed Saviour was created before the formation of the world, by God the Father, to whom he was much inferior, nevertheless, in dignity and perfection. Dp For a more particular account of the Farnovians, see ş xxii. of tbis chapter,
Pq See the part of this chapter referred to in the preceding note.