Page images

could hardly be trusted with safety; and that some mistake, some abuse of power, or some neglect in the use of it, might render his degradation absolutely necessary for the good of his fellow-creatures. The heathen poets tell us of a young man, Phäëton, to whom his father rashly committed the reins of the horses and chariot of the sun, (but a small part of the universe), and that only for one day; and that, mistaking his way, and unable to govern the steeds, the young man set the earth on fire, and obliged Jupiter to strike him with his thunderbolts; and for the preservation of the earth from impending destruction, to fling him from his chariot. No alarm, however, seems to have been felt, either by Socinus, or by his followers, for the safety of the universe, under the government of simple humanity. They considered the grasp of a man sufficiently powerful to retain the stars in their orbits, and to regulate the concerns of heaven and earth. That must certainly be a blundering system, which first strips the Saviour, of the infinite power and wisdom, which reside in his Divinity; and which, having degraded him to the rank of a mere man, then places that man on the throne of the universe, to give laws to intelligences little inferior, or, it may be, even superior to his own. It is surely not difficult to determine which of the two systems is the wiser and better; that which takes the reins of the universe out of the hands of God, to put them into the hands of a man; or that which recognises them as in his hands, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person; and which enables us to say, “God reigneth, let the earth rejoice ; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof."

To the folly of setting a mere man on the throne of the universe, the impiety of worshipping him must be admit

It was

ted to be a fit counterpart. Socinus and his followers contended for the simple humanity of Christ, and yet they claimed for human nature in him, the religious worship due only to God. For man to worship man, is just as absurd as for a man to worship himself. Heathen worship was directed to dead men, but it supposed them to be men no longer, but, being now deified, to have attained a superior nature. Though there were, no doubt, instances in which adulation offered to living men the honours of God, yet paganism was too cautious a system, openly to admit that its gods were nothing more than men. not till the minds of the Romans were broken by despotic power, or intoxicated by the blandishments of luxury, that religious honours were offered to their emperors. The manly race of patriots, beroes, and sages, whose love of their country, whose arms, and whose wisdom laid the foundation of the Roman greatness, spurned a worship so absurd. Among the Greeks such baseness was unknown, till the time of Alexander the Great; and when he set on one of his flatterers to propose to his officers, that divine honours should be paid him, the reply of Calisthenes shows how abhorrent such practices were to the manners of the Greeks. And yet we behold in Socinus, a man of learning and ingenuity, prostituting his talents; and in opposition to the light, not only of Judaism, but of Christianity, enjoining the worship of a man of his own order.

The Socinians are often at great pains to collect a variety of Scriptures, in which our Saviour is called a MAN, and these they are careful to hold up, in marked characters, to those who contend for the Divinity of Christ, lest the force of the word MAN should not be sufficiently perceived. This method of arguing, which is certainly not destitute of simplicity, is not with sen. sible men likely to make much impression. The doctrine, which teaches that Christ is “ God made manifest in the flesh,” supposes him to be as truly a man, as it supposes him to be truly God. Their business therefore is not to prove that he is a man, a fact about which there is no controversy, but to prove that he is nothing MORE than man.

It is one of the leading principles of the Socinians, that no articles or doctrines are to be admitted as truths of Christianity, which their reason cannot comprehend or investigate. All mysteries they set aside, and therefore consistently enough reject the doctrine of the Trinity ; the union of the Divine and human natures in the person of Christ; the Atonement and Sacrifice of the Son of God; the Personality and Deity of the Holy Ghost. But we have seen that they most inconsistently adopt two doctrines, much more mysterious and unaccountable than those they reject, a mere man filling the throne of the Universe, occupying the place, and having a right to the honour due to the Creator of it.- Almost the only peculiar doctrines of Christianity which they hold, are, those of the Mission and Resurrection of Christ, and these they hold in common with the followers of Mohammed. Mobammed even goes beyond them in acknowledging the truths of Christianity, by admitting Christ to be the Word of God. This circumstance had probably escaped their memory, at the time that epistle was written to Ameth ben Ameth, in which they claimed their relation to Mohammed as the prophet of a sister church; which epistle Mr. Leslie has prefixed to his “ Socinian Controversy Discussed.”

At first their principles appear to have been embraced, only by a few men of some literary talents, who rather felt the want of a subject to sharpen and employ their powers, than of a Saviour to deliver them from sin and its awful consequences.

With full confidence in their own acumen to form for themselves a system of religion, or to defend that which had been formed for them, by men of the same lofty looks and haughty tempers, and disdaining to accept (as sinners ready to perish), salvation through the Mediation and Atonement of the Son of God, they contrived, or they embraced, a system, by which, if they could not entirely do without him, they might at least render his office nugatory, and his grace unnecessary. Having discarded from Christianity all that was peculiar to it, and having left it nothing by which it could be discriminated from Natural Religion, they paid it the compliment to adopt its name. 66 We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel, only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.”

About the middle of the sixteenth century, the Socini. ans had considerable success in disseminating their tenets in Poland; and the city of Racow, in the Palatinate of Sendomir, was built for them. From this metropolitan seat of their religion they sent out missionaries to convert their neighbours ; but their exertions were exceedingly cramped, by the vigilant care of both Lutherans and Calvinists, who considered their doctrines as subversive of Christianity, but who repeatedly called to their aid weapons, which are proscribed by the Gospel they sought to defend. A catechism composed by Valentinius Smalcius, was published by them, which from the city of Racow was called the Racovian catechism. In it the simple humanity of Christ is taught, together with the other peculiarities of the party, and get the invocation, or worship

of him is enforced in the following manner. Q. What do you think of those who do not call upon Christ, nor think that he ought to be invoked? A. I reckon that they are not Christians, since in reality they have not Christ. Socinus, in his reply to Nemogevisis, declares, that he is persuaded that he who does not incline, or who does not dare to pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, deserves not the name of a Christian. Socinus accordingly persecuted Francis David, who rejected the worship of Christ, and procured his being cast into prison, where he died. In 1638, through the imprudence of some students at Racow, who demolished a crucifix with stones, by a sentence of the senate of Poland, intended to conciliate the Roman Catholics, the academy of Racow was dissolved, its professors banished, and the printing-house of the society shut up, as well as their churches. By a sentence of the Diet, held at Warsaw, in 1658, they were for ever banished from Poland, and capital punishment was denounced against all who should either embrace their opinions, or conceal their persons.

During the reigu of the long Parliament in this country, John Biddle published several Socinian tracts, and two catechisms, containing the same principles, which he called “ Longer and Shorter Scripture Catechisms.” The Westminster Assembly of Divines, who were them sitting, solicited the Parliament, and procured an ordinance for inflicting death upon those who professed opinions contrary to the doctrine of the Trinity, and severe penalties against those, who in some other doctrinal points, differed from the standards of orthodoxy. Such strangers were they to the spirit of Religious liberty.

Biddle, however, escaped the danger he had incurred, by a dissension in the parliament. The celebrated Dr. John

« PreviousContinue »