Page images

« Jews and Heathens, were justified by their good moral, I works; and that the baptism of infants was a mere « foppery' He was countenanced, at first, by some of the magistrates, who hated Calvin : so that, besides his natural maliciousness, he was rude enough, in maintaining his blasphemies, to give Calvin the lie above fifty times in one discourse : He also as often called him a wicked wretch, and Simon Magus. The council could no longer endure his impudence, but committed him to prison, and articles were drawn up against him, which were sent to the four protestant cantons for their concurrence ; after which, he was burnt alive, without shewing the least sign of repentance, but only a great fear of death.

The enemies of Calvin on this account, said, that he copied after Saul the persecutor, and not after St Paul the apostle of the beneficent Jesus. They assert, that (though Calvin caused the papacy of Rome to be banished « out of Geneva, yet he established a papacy of his own : ? That as there was a pope at Rome, so he was no other " than a pope at Geneva; not only by establishing an in

fallibility in the very constitution of that church, but by his maintaining and carrying on of that constitution, < together with his own authority, by persecution and « blood, of which the fate of Servetus affords sufficient

demonstrations, and undeniable proofs. Even Erasmus, in the beginning of his epistle to Conradus Pellicanus, says, that Calvin exposed Servetus to the resentment of his greatest enemies; and that, Upon his information, Servetus I was imprisoned at Vienne, and would have been burnt s alive in that city, had he not made his escape. He was

burnt in effigy, with five bales of his books. That un« happy physician, having resolved to retire to Naples,

where he hoped to practise physic among his countryi men, was so imprudent as to take his way through Ges neva, though he knew that Calvin was his mortal ene« my. Calvin was informed of his arrival, and acquainted 6. the magistrates of it. Servetus was arrested, tried, and « burnt alive, on the twenty-seventh of October, 1553, 6 for the heresies contained in the book printed at Vienne, « Thus the unfortunate Servetus fell a sacrifice to the re6 sentment of that illustrious Reformer.'

The author of the memoirs of literature says, “ If the $ religion of Protestants depended on the doctrine and s conduct of the Reformers, he should take care how he < published his account of Servetus: But as the Protestant • religion is entirely founded on holy scripture ; so the


s defaults of the Reformer ought not to have any ill in.' o fluence on the Reformation. The doctrine of non-' s toleration, which obtained in the sixteenth century, 6 among some Protestants, was that pernicious error which s they had imbibed in the church of Rome: And, I be

lieve, I can say, without doing any injury to that church, 5 that she is in a great measure, answerable for the execu<tion of Servetus. If the Roman catholics had never o put any person to death for the sake of religion ; I dare < say, that Servetus had never been condemned to die in < any Protestant city. Let us remember, that Calvin, and s all the magistrates of Geneva, in the year 1553, were « born and bred up in the church of Rome: This is the « best apology that can be made for them.

In the lives of Oecolampadius and Melancthon, it has been mentioned how the protestant divines were disgusted at the two first books which Servetus published against the Trinity; and that he continued an anti-trinitarian. But it is necessary, in this place, to set the whole matter in a plainer light.

Servetus was born, in 1509, at Villanueva, in the kingdom of Aragon, in Spain. He studied the civil law at the university of Toulouse in France, in which kingdom it does not appear, that there were any anti-trinitarians at that time : Therefore, it is probable, that Servetus himself began the new doctrine, for which he was afterwards put to death. He was convinced, by studying the scripture, that the church wanted to be reformed; which made him resolve to retire into Germany, and set up for a Reformer. In 1531, he published his first work, entitled, De Triniļotis erroribus libri septem ; wherein he undertook to prove, that the words, Jesus and Christ, and Son of God, denote only a man; which he endeavoured to shew by several passages of scripture. Concerning the person of our Saviour, he said, Christ was præformed in the divine mind : He ( was a certain mode of being himself there, which mode • God disposed of in himself, that he might make him< self known to us ; that is, by describing the effigies of « Jesus Christ in himself.' He called this - the face of

GOD, and the word that was made flesh.' He denied the Trinity, like the modern Unitarians : But he had a very different opinion from theirs, concerning Jesus Christ. It is strange, that a man who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, as being incomprehensible, should substitute a: notion so obscure and unintelligible in the room of it. He used several expressions in this book, at which the ortho


dox were very much offended; for he called the three divine persons a chimæra, and metaphysical gods. In 1.532, he put out another book with this title, Dialogorum de Trinitate libri duo. Thus Servetus published two books against the Trinity, in less than two years, without scrupling to put his name to them. He was young, zealous for his new opinion, and perhaps unacquainted with the principles of the Reformers : Nor is it unlikely, that he thought he might as freely write against the doctrine of the Trinity, as the Reformers had done against transubstantiation. And, in 1553, he published a third book against the Trinity, which consisted of seven hundred and thirty-four pages in octavo, printed at Vienne, a very ancient city of the Lower Dauphine in France, sixtyeight miles S. W. of Geneva. This book was entitled, • The Restitution of Christianity: Wherein the know• ledge of GOD, of the Christian faith, of justification,

regeneration, baptism, and of eating the Lord's Supper, ? are perfectly restored.'

Servetus was in the forty-fifth year of his age when he published this book, to which he would not venture to put his name, as he had done to the former books. Many believe, that he was burnt for the first book ; but this is a mistake, for Servetus was committed to the flames for the last book. It contained the following pieces. 1. Of the divine Trinity, that there is not an illusion of three invisible beings in it; but the real manifestation of the substance of GOD, and communication of his Spirit. 2. Of the faith of Christ, and the righteousness of his kingdom, excelling that of the law; and of charity. 3. Of regeneration from above, and the reign of antichrist. 4. Thirty epistles to John Calvin, preacher at Geneva, 5. Sixty signs of the reign of antichrist, and his discovery just now at hand. '6. Of the mystery of the Trinity.

When Servetus had published his second book, he left Germany, and went to Paris, where he was admitted doctor of physic in that university. Calvin knew Servetus in Paris, and opposed his doctrine. In 1942, Servetus was at Lyons, where he corrected the proofs of Pagninus's Latin Bible, and added a preface to it, with some notes, under the name of Villanovanus. Calvin called these notes impious and impertinent; and says, that Servetus fraudulently got five hundred livres from the bookseller for his trouble. What is most considerable in the notes was concerning Christ, figuratively represented in the scripture,

Calvin kept a long correspondence with Servetus, whom he endeavoured to reclaim from his errors, Servetus sent Calvin the three following questions, and desired him to answer them. 1. Whether the man Jesus, who was

crucified, is the Son of GOD ? And what is the foun. (dation of that sonship? 2. Whether the kingdom of • Christ is in men ? When may a man be said to enter

into it; and when to be regenerated ? S. Whether (the baptism that Christ instituted ought to be received « in faith, even as his supper is? And to what purpose < these were instituted under the new covenant ?? Calvin answered these queries in a manner that offended Servetus; and Calvin says, this dispute occasioned the hatred which Servetus conceived for him from that time.

Servetus, upon all occasions, expressed a great indignation against the church of Rome, which he took to be the beast mentioned in the Apocalypse : But he delivered hima self so confusedly about the nature of Christ, that it is difficult to have a notion of his doctrine. It appears, from the whole tenor of the fourth book of the Trinity, that he was a subtil metaphysician; had read the school. men, and many of the fathers: That he understood Hebrew: That he believed the soul to be material : and that he was a great enemy to the doctrine of predestination.

Though the Christianismi Restitutio, was printed very privately at Vienne, Calvin had a copy sent to him, and was informed that Servetus was the author. It is said, he sent to Lyons, to have him arrested, and prosecuted as a heretic: That Servetus was apprehended on the fifteenth of June; but made his escape on the seventeenth : That he was condemned ito be burnt alive, if he could be seize ed; and, in the mean time, to be burnt in effigy, with his books. The sentence was pronounced against him

upon the scandalous crime of heresy, dogmatisation,

composition of new doctrines, and heretical books, <schism, perturbation of union and public peace, rebelslion, and disobedience to the orders made against heresies.' His effigies, and five bales of his books, were burnt by the common hangman at Vienne, pursuant to the sentence of the delphinal court, which mentions the epistles and manuscripts of Servetus sent to Calvin, who, on that account, was charged with having informed against Servetus.

But Calvin wonders how it should come to pass, that all of a sudden, there should start up such a great familiarity and friendship between him and the guardians of


er than who are up by

the pápacy. « Will it ever be credited, (says he,) that « there is such a free correspondence kept up by way of W letters between me and them, who are not less at vå6, riance one with another than Christ is with Belial? t Whereas, there is nothing more wanting to refute such 6 a foolish calumny, than the bare denial of it.” He adds, that Servetus had spread this report among the Papists, four years before ; and that, if he had informed against him then, the Papists would not have spared him so long.

When Servetus escaped from Vienne, he resolved to retire to Naples, and took Geneva in his way, where Calvin caused him to be imprisoned, and prosecuted. His accuser was Nicolas de la Fontaine, and Servetus was brought to the bar, for the first time, on the fourteenth of August, when thirty-eight interrogatories were exhibited against him. The trial was procrastinated, and the magistrates of Geneva 'ordered Calvin to extract several propositions out of Servetus's book, entitled Christianismi Restitutio ; and he reduced those propositions to thirty-eight articles, which, according to the title, - the o ministers of the church of Geneva declared to be full of • impious blasphemies against GOD, and of other mad ! and profane errors, altogether repugnant to the word r of GOD, and the orthodox agreement of that church.' Servetus answered the whole ; and the state of the case was transmitted to the Helvetic churches for their opinions.

On the twenty-sixth of October, Calvin wrote to Farel, at Neufchatel, how the matters stood, as follows: " The « messenger is returned from Switzerland. The cantons i unanimously declare, that Servétus has revived the im"s pious errors with which Satan formerly disturbed the

church, and that he is an intolerable monster. Those " of Basil are right. Those of Zurick are the most vehe

ment; for they express the heinousness of his impiety “ in very emphatical words, and exhort our magistrates « to use him severely. Those of Schaffhausen subscribe “ to their judgment. The latter of the divines of Bern, “ which is also to the purpose, is attended with that of " the senate, whereby our magistrates have been very « much animated. Cæsar, a comical man, pretended to 66 be sick three days, but came to court at last to acquit " that profligate fellow; for he was not ashamed to pro" pose, that the cause should be removed to the council o of two hurdred. Nevertheless, he has been con• demned without any dispute. He will be executed

" to morrow.

« PreviousContinue »