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In the following pages, it is intended to exhibit a rapid sketch of the History of Unitarianism on the continent of Europe subsequent to the æra of the Reformation ; but more particularly of its rise, establishment, and vicissitudes in Poland and its dependencies, with a view to the churches of which the annexed Catechism was originally compiled.
It is not possible to ascertain the precise date to which the revival of the doctrine of the divine Unity ought to be referred. Long before Luther renounced the communion of the Church of Rome, and erected the standard of the Reformation in Germany, many individuals had declared their dissent from particular articles of its creed, and, in defiance of its authority, had formed themselves into societies for separate religious worship upon other principles and with different forms*. Among the tenets which were called in
question * Such, among others, was the case of the Waldenses, who arose about the middle of the twelfth century, and who hold a very interesting place in Ecclesiastical History. They denied the supremacy of the Pope, remonstrated against indulgences, confession to a priest, prayers for the dead, and purgatory. They had bishops, presbyters and deacons. Some of them admitted the Catholic Church to be a true church, others re
garded garded the Pope as Antichrist. According to some of their published Confessions, they seem to have held the common opinion on the subject of the Trinity; but the following extract from a confession inserted in a curious old work, intituled Histoire des Vavdois, par Jean Paul Perrin, printed at Geneva in 1618, will furnish some ground of suspicion that on this point all their churches were not strictly orthodox. “1. Nous croyons qự'il n'est qu'un seul Dieu qui est Esprit, createur de toutes choses, Pere de tous, qui est sur tous, et par toutes choses, et en nous tous, lequel on doit adorer en esprit et verité, auquel seul attendons, et donnons gloire de nostre vie, nourriture, vestement, santé, maladie, prosperité, et adversité, l'aimons comme autheur de toute bonté, le craignons, comme celuy qui cognoit les
question after men had thus ventured, in spite of their spiritual shackles, to think for themselves, and to bring the received opinions to the test of the Scriptures, the doctrine of the Trinity appears to have been one of the first. In several of the writings of this period traces incidentally occur of antitrinitarian sentiments, which were regarded with deep horror, and assailed in the severest terins of reprobation, both by persons who still maintained their fidelity to the Roman Church, and by those who had begun to arraign the purity of its faith in other matters. seems probable, however, that these censures were drawn forth by the doubts and insinuations which had
2. Nous croyons que Jesus Christ est le Fils de l'image du Pere; qu'en luy habite toute plenitude de diuinité; pur lequel nous cognoissons le Pere, lequel est nostre Mediateur et aduocat, et n'y a point d'autre nom sous le ciel donné aux hommes, auquel il nous faille estre sauués : au nom duquel seul nous invoquons le Pere, et n'usons d'autres oraisons que de celles qui sont contenuës en l'Escriture Saincte, ou concordantes a icelles en substance. 3. Nous croyons que le Sainct Esprit est nostre consolateur, procedant du Pere øt du Fils, par l'inspiration duquel nous faisons prieres, estans par luy renouuelés, lequel fait toutes bonnes buures en nous, et pur luy auons cognoissance de toute verité.
in some cases been hinted, more or less obscurely, respecting this doctrine*, rather than by any public renunciation of it; of which no well attested instance is recorded, until after the Reformation had made some progress. As far as can be collected from the accusations of their adversaries, the persons who first openly impugned this tenet were ANABAPTISTS of Germany and Holland;-a designation under which were comprised, not only those wild and infuriate visionaries who were at one time the terror of all Europe, but likewise men of high character and reputation, distinguished by their solid learning, their rational
* Of the mode of impugning the popular creed which was adopted at this period, we have two remarkable examples in the persons of Bernard Ochin and Lælius Socinus. Ochin is charged with having pursued this method to bring some of the doctrines of the Catholic Church into disrepute in his public discourses, while he adhered to her communion, stating difficulties and objections, and omitting to answer them, or subjoining unsatisfactory solutions. At a later period of his life he did the same, in respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, through the press. In his celebrated Dialogues, (Dial. xx. et xxi. lib. ii. pp. 146 et seqq.) in discussing this subject, he insi nuates strong objections to the popular notion, but adduces very feeble arguments in its support ; and plainly shows that he has not without reason been charged with having embraced antitrinitarian sentiments. Lælius Socinus pursued the same plan during his residence in Switzerland, never, seemingly, openly avowing his own opinions, but embodying his objections and difficulties in the form of questions, which he submitted, with apparent modesty and diffidence, for the solution of the great luminaries of the Reformation. The freedom of some of these questions exposed him to the suspicion of heresy, and had nearly involved him in difficulties; and others of them drew from Calvin a very angry letter, in which he pet tishly observes-Si plura desideras aliunde petenda sunt. Vide Bock, Hist. Antitrin. tom. ii. p. 485 &c. et p. 609.