« ÖncekiDevam »
are inclined to think, that the doctrines by which its members are chiefly distinguished, were first maintained by Paul of Samosata, who was bishop of Antioch about the middle of the 3d century, and by Artemon, his contemporary.
They themselves lay claim to a very high antiquity, and even venture to say, “ that there is no such thing as a Trinitarian Christian mentioned, or supposed, in the New Testament; all there named being perfect Unitarians, the blessed Jesus himself, his apostles, and all his followers."*
Their sect may doubtless be traced to a very early period of the Reformation; aud we are told by Mosheim, that they have been thought to have originated among the Anabaptists; a name by which those in Poland, who afterwards received the title of Socinians, were for some time known.t
John Campanus, and Michael Servetus, a Spanish physician whose unhappy fate is well known, who both flourished about the middle of the 16th century, were among the first of the Reformers who distinguished themselves as Anti-Trinitarians, and, according to some, in behalf of those doctrines which were afterwards embraced by L. and F. Socinus; under whom, particularly the nephew, the jarring opinions of their predecessors began to assume the appearance of a regular system.
* Mr. Lindsay's Conversations on Christian Idolatry, 8vo. 1792, p. 29.-See also Mr. Belsham's bold assertion above, p. 150. Note.
* Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. Vol. IV. p. 505. 509. 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 afterwards, was put to death at Constance."-Ibid. p. 487.
A society near Venice, to which Lælius belonged, whose members discussed many points of religion, and particularly those relating to the Trinity, with great freedom, being discovered, and its members dispersed, they sought a refuge in Switzerland, Germany, Moravia, and other countries; while he escaped into Poland, in 1551, where he sowed the seeds of his doctrine, which grew apace, and produced a rich and abundant harvest.* His followers became, indeed, so numerous and powerful, that they soon assumed almost the consequence of an establishment, under the protection of Jo. Sienienius, palatine of Podolia, who gave them a settlement in Racow, which he had just built in the district of Sendomir.*
* Such is the account of the origin of Socinianism, that is generally given by the writers of this sect, who date it from the year 1546, and place it in Italy; but Dr. Mosheim, who partly rejects it, remarks, that the Socinians first formed themselves into a distinct congregation, or sect, in Poland, in 1565, when, in consequence of some violent contests between them and the Lutherans and Swiss Calvinists, with whom they had been principally connected, they were required, by a resolution of the diet of Petrikow, to separate from those denominations. The Doctor further remarks, that, till the date of this separation, the founders of the Socinian denomination “ had not carried matters so far as they did afterwards ; for they prosessed 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.". Ecclesiastical History, Vol. IV. p. 500.
In this station the Socinians enjoyed peace and prosperity, until towards the middle of the succeeding century, when, (in 1638,) owing to the imprudence of some of their students at Racow, in breaking a crucifix with stones, the terrible law was enacted by the Senate of Poland, by which, to appease the Roman Catholics, it was resolved, “ that the academy of Racow should be demolished, its professors banished with ignominy, the printing-house of the Socinians destroyed, and their churches shut.”—-Yet these were but the beginning of evils to this society;--a still more terrible catastrophe awaited them; for, by a public and solemn act of the diet, held at Warsaw, A. D. 1658, they were banished for ever from the territory of Poland, and capital punishment was denounced against all those who should either profess their opinions, or harbour their persons.
In 1661 this cruel act was renewed; and all the Socinians that yet remained in Poland, were barbarously driven out of that country, “some with the loss of their goods, others with the loss of their lives,--as neither sickness, nor any domestic consideration, could suspend the execution of that rigorous sentence.”*
* Lælius, after travelling into different countries, where the Reformation was going forward, and revisiting Poland in 1558, settled at Zurich, in Switzerland, and died there A. D. 1562, in the thirty-seventh year of his age. His religious sentiments were propagated in a more public inanner afterwards by Faustus, his nephew and heir, who is supposed to have drawn from his papers the substance of that religious system upon which this sect is founded,
From Poland their doctrines had made their way into Hungary; and, about A. D. 1563, into Transylvania, where they were embraced by Sigismund, the reigning prince, and by many of the nobility, chiefly by the address and industry of George Blandrata, the prince's physician; and though they afterwards met with opposition from the Batori, who were chosen dukes of that country, yet they had there acquired so deep a root, that they never could be entirely eradicated.
Hence, some of those unhappy exiles from Poland sought for a refuge among their brethren in Transylvania, while a considerable part of them were dispersed through the provinces of Silesia, Brandenburg, and Prusssia; and in all these
provinces their posterity are to be found at this day. Others went in search of a convenient settlement for themselves and their brethren, into Holland, England, Holstein, and Denmark, but with little
Several other attempts also were made, in different countries, in favour of their peculiar doctrines; but the success of those who engaged in them is said to have been still less 'considerable:
* Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. Vol. V.
† Vide Petr. Bod. Historiam Unitariorum in Transylvania. Lugd. 1781.
any of the European nations," Mosheim, “be persuaded to grant a public settlement to a sect whose members denied the divinity of Christ."*
Socinians were but little heard of in England till during the troubles in the reign of Charles I., when the famous John Biddle, who erected an independent congregation in London, adopted, and openly avowed, their tenets, for which he suffered various persecutions, and at last died in prison in 1662.
The same tenets were soon afterwards embraced by several others, particularly among the dissenters; but their abettors, in England, never made any figure as a community, until towards the end of the last century, when they began to increase, and to acquire some distinction, from the writings and influence of Dr. Priestley and his associates.
“I have, indeed, no hesitation in stating it as my firm conviction,” says Mr. Belsham, “that, in consequence of his (Dr. Priestley's) personal exertions, and his admirable writings, in connexion with those of his able and learned associate in the same cause, the venerable Theophilus Lindsey, whom I am proud to call my revered friend, the number of converts to a pure and rational Christianity have been multiplied a hundred fold, and are daily increasing among all ranks of society.”+
* Eccles. Hist. Vol. V. p. 503.
“ We consider it as a very favourable symptom of the increase of pure religion in the present times, that Unitarian