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the Genevan council, he adds: “I have been surprised that there are men who blame this severity.”2
We have given but a small part of the testimony which might be adduced to show that the course of Calvin and the council of Geneva was approved by the leading men of the time, but it is deemed unnecessary to dwell longer upon a topic, which is far from being a pleasant one. It is exceedingly to be regretted that this remnant of popery had not been cast off with many of its other errors, but it is not strange that the accumulated contaminations of the dark ages were not all purged away at once.
Degree of Calvin's Criminality in respect of his treatment of
Servetus. We have endeavored to give an impartial sketch of the Life of Servetus and Calvin's relation to him, as far as the limits which we have assigned to ourselves would permit. A recapitulation of some of the principal points of the discussion, with spe. cial regard to the conduct of Calvin, may not be inappropriate before we close. The character of Servetus is not without interest. It is cheerfully conceded, that he was possessed of superior powe ers of mind, a versatility which falls to the lot of but few of the children of men, and varied acquirements. But he was restless and unstable, obstinate under restraint, ambitious of distinction, and not sufficiently conscientious in reference to the means of accomplishing his purposes. He seems to have been desirous of signalizing himself as a reformer, and was impatient to find his course entirely hedged up by another. Becoming more violent and contumacions by opposition, he impugned with ribaldry those doctrines which were held sacred by the church. He was finally arrested at Vienne by the Catholics, without the knowledge or connivance of Calvin. But in order to enable a friend to defend his character for integrity, which was brought into jeopardy, in defence of the persecuted Protestants in France, Calvin, by presenting leaves of his Institutes, which had been sent to him with blasphemous and insulting notes upon the margin, and by giving up letters which had been forced upon him contrary to his will, furnished proof that Servetus was the author of a vile book which had been secretly issued. After the clandestine escape of Servetus from Vienne, and after he had been condemned and burned in effigy there, he was arrested at Geneva, at the acknowledged
See Henry, Calvini Opp. Omn., etc., as quoted above.
suggestion of Calvin, and every means was used to convince him of his errors. Although he often attacked Calvin during his trial with the most abusive language, he received from him kind and Christian treatment. Calvin always showed himself free from personal animosity, or desire of personal revenge, and sought only the advancement of the cause of truth. He says in his Defence of the treatment of Servetus: “I wish his errors were buried. But while I hear that they are spreading, I cannot be silent without incurring the guilt of perfidy.—Those things which were done by the Senate, are by many ascribed to me. Nor do I at all dis. semble that by my influence and advice, he was by the civil power, committed to prison. For having received the freedom of this city I was bound to impeach him, if guilty of any crime. I confess that I prosecuted the case thus far. From the time that the articles were proved against him, I never uttered a word concerning his punishment. To this fact all good men will bear me witness, and I challenge the wicked to produce whatever they know."I These declarations of Calvin himself, made and published at Geneva, and to the world, very soon after the trial, are substantiated by the minute accounts which remain, of all the proceedings against the prisoner. It is believed that not a single well authenticated fact can be adduced, which is inconsistent with the sincere and earnest desire of Calvin for the retraction and repentance of Servetus; but on the contrary, all proper exertions were made by him for this end. At the request of the prisoner, the case was submitted to the Swiss churches, who were unanimous in recommending the suppression of his heresies in some way or other. The execution took place after the repeated solicitation of Calvin for a milder form of punishment, and the conduct of the council in condemning and executing Servetus, was approved by all the leading men among the reformers. Similar punishment was inflicted upon heretics in Germany, England and in other countries where the tenets of the Reformation prevailed.
What then is the decision to which we come in reference to the guilt or innocence of Calvin ? It is deemed entirely unnecessary even to mention numerous slanders which have been repeated against him in reference to this matter. The facts in the case are a sufficient confutation of them. Why should Calvin be singled out, as he has often been, as the only person in all
Quoted in Waterman's Life of Calvin, p. 93.
Dr. M Crie's Opinion of the Case of Servetus.
antiquity who was in favor of intolerance? Why is the case of Servetus alone mentioned, whilst many others, who were at least no worse than he, suffered the same punishment, without anything like so equitable a trial. It certainly cannot be because there was any peculiar atrocity in this case. Mr. Waterman challenges an opponent' of Calvin “ to name, not merely in the annals of persecution, but even in the records of criminal justice, an instance of more moderation and liberality, than was exercised by the magistrates of Geneva in the trial of Servetus. Let this learned historian,” he continues, “lay his finger on the page of the history of any man, who has been burnt for his religious opinions or writings, that was not a victim to more cruel tyranny and treated with less moderation than that Spaniard.” It cannot be denied that the prominence of the actors has contributed to the notoriety of this case. But that the hatred of some of the doctrines of Calvin, has had much more influence seems equally indisputable. Errorists of different grades, have for a long time been accustomed, when all other arguments fail, to come back upon this, “ Calvin burned Servetus.” Even the Catholics have shielded themselves, when reproached for want of tolerance, under this poor defence, “ Calvin burned Servetus;” as if this one death-fire at Geneva, outshone the myriads that were kindled by their hands throughout Christendom, and this one victim overshadowed the hecatombs of their offerings, the smoke of whose burnings, has gone up as a loathing and an abomination before the Most High God.
The testimony of such men as Francis Turretin and Bishop Hall, who entirely approved of the course pursued in the punishment of Servetus might be quoted, but we will conclude our discussion, already perhaps too much protracted, after quoting the opinion of Dr. Thomas M'Crie, who had thoroughly examined the subject, and had commenced writing a life of Calvin before his death. “I have no doubt,” he says, “that, according to the laws in force at Geneva, as well as elsewhere, the punishment of Servetus, on his being found guilty, was a matter of course; nor do I think it can be proved that Calvin did anything in that affair but what he was bound to do, agreeably to those laws, and his own views of Scripture and civil jurisprudence. My objections are
· Mr. William Roscoe, whose unjust attack upon Calvin, in a note to his Life and Pontificate of Leo X, Mr. Waterman has very warınly and triumphantly repelled in his Life of Calvin, pp. 106-120.
· See Waterman, p. 127 sq.
to the law itself, which authorizes the capital punishment of heretics. Had the law been against blasphemy, or heresy assuming that form, much might be said in favor of punishing those who rail at or revile the Being whom the State adored, and certainly Servetus was chargeable with this high offence.-Considering the nature of the heretic's conduct, the odium which Geneva had contracted as a receptacle of heretics, and the outcry which had been made against Calvin as an anti-trinitarian, I would have justified the council of Geneva for punishing Servetus, or detaining him in prison. But besides the horror that I feel at blood or fire in anything immediately connected with religion, I am afraid of any principle which leads either to persecution, or to a confounding of the objects of civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction.”I
Is it right, we ask, to try a man belonging to the sixteenth century by a jury belonging to the nineteenth ? Nothing is plainer than that in order to judge intelligently of a person's conduct, we must know the influences which act upon him and the motives by which he is urged to action. It cannot be denied that the measure of Calvin's guilt is that of all the best men of the age. If he deserves the reprobation which he has often received, not one of the early reformers can escape it. We should not forget, in making up our decision upon this case, that Roger Williams had not then lived, and that the great secret of toleration which was first discovered on our own shores, was then shrouded in darkness. Who is sure that if he had lived at the same time, and in the same circumstances, he should have conducted, with as great moderation as Calvin. Who will cast the first stone? If any, let him look well to himself and inquire what manner of spirit he is of. For intolerance in judging those, whose motives we cannot fully appreciate, is allied in its nature to persecution for heretical opinions. Fortunate are we in living at an age when we are not exposed to the temptations which assailed the pioneers of the reformation. We ought ever to rejoice that a more excellent way is discovered, for the treatment of those who differ from the established maxims of the community in religious belief. Where arguments are of no avail, neglect is a far better antidote for heresy than the civil tribunal; and the insane retreat is often a good substitute for the criminal prison, and kind treatment, for the gibbet or the flames.
Life of Thomas M'Crie, D. D., by his son, Edinburgh, 1840, pp 38), 2.
The theme on which it is proposed to present some free observations, is the youth of the scholar, or the early training which is best fitted to form the useful and accomplished scholar.
I shall enter into no direct argument to prove, that a genuine scholar holds a most important position in human society, and that the higher and more perfect is his scholarship, the greater and the more salutary is his influence. These two points I shall consider as conceded; thongh my remarks may tend still farther to vindicate their truth. Still less, shall I argue, that if scholars are to be had, they must be educated. How this may be done at the college or the university, it is not my business to inquire. The inquiry is most important, and much may be said upon it; but it is not a question with which I have any concern at present. My concern is with the scholar in his youth, before he enters the college ; and the questions which I would discuss all relate to the early training of one set apart to a finished and genuine scholarship.
But what is genuine scholarship? What is it to be a scholar? Opinions upon this point are very diverse. Often are they indefinite and confused; often they are little better than strong and bitter prejudices. I seem forced therefore to define my own views, in order to save myself from being misunderstood; certainly I am, if I would be rightly understood.
The scholar is more than a man of great natural genius or native force of mind. He may be a man of genius. It is desirable that he should be. His native force may, and must be respectable, and it is well that it should be commanding. But this of itself does not make him a scholar. One may accomplish much by this native force, that educates itself upwards and onwards; but he would have done far more, had he strengthened and sharpened and regulated this natural power by the discipline of the schools.
He is also more than a man, whose powers have been called forth by the stern discipline of life. The discipline of life is not