THE accession of Stephen Báthory to the rule formerly held by John Sigismund marked a turning point both for Transylvania and for the Unitarian congregations in it. It meant that the ruling prince was henceforth to be the acknowledged vassal of the Emperor and also that the Unitarians were no longer to enjoy the especial favor and sympathy of their ruler. In itself the choice of Stephen was an admirable one. He was thirty-eight years old, and came of an ancient and illustrious Hungarian family. His father had already served as Vaivode of Transylvania under King John Zápolya, and he himself had been Governor of Várad. He was of royal stature and handsome appearance, had been liberally educated at the University of Padua and was fluent in Latin. A polished gentleman and a very able general, experienced in public affairs at home and abroad, he had been a favored member of the Emperor’s Court, and he proved himself a fair, just and impartial man and a wise and firm ruler.1 The Báthorys were one of the only eight noble families and three magnates in Transylvania who had remained Catholic when the Reformation swept the country, and the Catholic reaction began under him. But though he had always retained his own Catholic chaplain he was broadminded; as ruler of a country overwhelmingly Protestant he attended Protestant Worship as long as he remained in Transylvania2 and while resisting all efforts of John Sigismund to convert him,3 refused to abridge the religious liberty decreed by the Constitution, and showed himself under the law impartial toward the several religions. Early in his reign, when urged not to show so much favor to Protestants, he replied in words often quoted to his credit, that he was King of the people, not of their consciences, and that God had reserved three things for himself: to create something out of nothing, to have foreknowledge of future events, and to be Lord over consciences.4 Although he chose new councilors for his court, dismissing most of the Unitarians whom John had about him, he nevertheless retained Biandrata as his physician and as Privy Councilor, not to mention also Bucella, Squarcialupi and Simone, all physicians, as well as Békés, Berzeviczy and others by no means orthodox who attended him in Transylvania or Poland.
Dávid of course ceased to be court preacher when John died, and the Unitarians no longer had the privilege of the press patronized by the King at Gyulafehérvár; instead the new ruler early in his reign issued an edict of strict censorship over the printing, circulation or sale of all printed works.5 This edict was issued with definite reference to the works of Unitarian writers then widely circulated in his dominions. From this time on, therefore, for more than two centuries Unitarians in Transylvania were unable to publish with their previous freedom, and their propaganda was thus greatly hampered.6
After the political peace of the country had been brought about by the defeat of Békés, King Stephen’s next concern was to quiet the religious confusion that had prevailed. He ordered the leaders of the Saxon churches to meet and bring their doctrine and practices into harmony with the Augsburg Confession, and to elect a new Superintendent in place of the one lately deceased, who should enforce strict discipline in place of the prevailing looseness.7 As there were quite too few Catholics to compose his court, he seems to have chosen his councilors largely from those Hungarians that had separated from the Lutherans in 1564, but were not now following Dávid. From this party he restored Alesius to his old post as court preacher, and he later became Superintendent of the Reformed Church in Transylvania proper.8
As for the Unitarian churches, King Stephen faithfully observed the privileges that had been granted them under King John in 1571 as one of the received religions, although as a loyal Catholic he could of course not look upon them with any particular favor. At the Diet at Torda in May, 1572, he confirmed King John’s decree of religious freedom; but in the same breath he gave warning that if anyone introduced any innovation in religion he should be investigated, and if found guilty of preaching a different faith from that of the late King, he should be excommunicated or otherwise punished according to his deserts.9 The warning was repeated and made more strict at the Kolozsvár Diet a year later, and on several occasions later yet.10 The matter of innovation in religion was a very thorny and critical subject in the period of the Reformation, and nowhere more so than in Transylvania. It referred to any considerable change in doctrines or usages, since these were bound to create heated differences and often to disturb religious or civil peace. As early as 1548 the Diet at Torda under Queen Isabella had decreed that in the matter of religion no one should henceforth dare make any innovation;11 though the decree did not avail, as had been hoped, to check the progress of the Reformation. But Stephen had seen too much of the disturbances growing out of religious disputes to be indifferent to them, hence he determined if possible to prevent them. The idea seems to have been that the surest way to avoid religious dissension was to require each of the received religions to maintain the status quo unchanged, and thus to discourage any further development of the Reformation. This policy was soon to involve Dávid in tragic consequences, as will presently be seen; but in the meantime trouble arose for him from a more intimate quarter.
It appears that Dávid and his young wife12were unhappily married, and that in 1574 she petitioned for a separation. Until comparatively recent times it has been customary in Transylvania to try divorce cases in the church courts, whence many scandals eventually resulted from the ease with which divorces could be obtained.13 It was Dávid’s wish that this case be determined by the civil court, and a decree was given by it in his favor; but his wife was dissatisfied and the case was retried, still with the same result. She then appealed to the Prince to intervene, and after a hearing he remanded the case to the court of the Reformed Church under the superintendence of Alesius, since the Unitarian churches were not yet properly organized for the purpose, and had no authorized Superintendent. The case dragged on and at length came to trial at a special synod convened at Enyed in 1576 by order of the Prince, before a panel composed of both Hungarian and Saxon ministers. The extant records of the case are vague and indefinite as to details, but it seems to have been a case of serious incompatibility, marked by incessant quarreling, and involving factors of jealousy, abusive language, defiance, and an interfering mother-in-law. The court found fault on both sides; and as the mutual alienation had gone too far for any reasonable hope of reconciliation, a separation was approved.14 It is significant that the prevailing public sentiment at Kolozsvár was strongly on the side of Dávid, and that he continued to be the idol of the city and the church. Orthodox opponents, however, magnified the episode to the prejudice of Dávid and his cause, which was thus doubtless somewhat weakened by it.
While Stephen was still settling accounts with the rebels who had followed Békés, the throne of Poland suddenly fell vacant. King Henry, after a few short months in Poland, received word that his brother the King of France had died, and in greatest secrecy he hastened away to claim the throne for himself, leaving his kingdom exposed to imminent danger of attack from hostile neighbors on the east; whereupon the Diet formally ‘exaugurated’ him, and proceeded to choose a new King. Several candidates for the vacant throne appeared, and competition between them was intense, but it lay chiefly between the Emperor Maximilian and Stephen Báthory.15 Each was ably represented at the electoral Diet: the Emperor by Andreas Dudith, and Báthory by his trusted physician and Privy Councilor, Biandrata. Both were amply supplied with funds and used them freely to influence the election.16 Báthory was finally chosen, and he rewarded Biandrata’s faithful and able services by the gift of three villages near Kolozsvár, valued at 5,000 forms.17 As soon as his election was confirmed, Stephen reported the fact to the Diet and recommended that his elder brother Christopher be chosen to govern the country as Vaivode in his absence. He himself retained the title of Prince of Transylvania, and as long as he lived was regularly consulted in all weighty matters, and signed the more important documents.18
Christopher Báthory had the same high qualities as his brother Stephen, but he suffered from ill health, and he was inclined to be less broad-minded than Stephen; but Biandrata was still kept as his court physician and Privy Councilor and had great influence with him. He succeeded to power in 1576, though Stephen as still ruling Prince kept a long-range supervision of affairs in Transylvania. Despite the set-backs they had received in consequence of the death of King John, the Unitarians, though no longer so aggressive as before, continued to grow and now began to pay more attention to the organization of their churches. Their experience with Dávid’s divorce trial will have made them realize the importance of having an authorized Superintendent of their own. At the Diet of Megyes therefore in 1576 it was decreed (evidently in response to a petition) ‘that those brethren that are of the religion of Francis Dávid may have Francis Dávid for their Superintendent, and if he dies or becomes ill, or is for any other reason replaced, they may replace him and substitute another with the same authority; provided only that in the matter of religion he shall introduce no innovation, but it shall remain in the state in which he found it.19 By this Decree the Unitarians at last had a lawful Superintendent of their own; and Dávid having in the first place been Lutheran Superintendent, and then Reformed Superintendent, now at length became Superintendent of the Unitarian churches.20
Prince Stephen Báthory had from the first urgently desired to see the Catholic Church regain, at least to some extent, the position that it had lost in the past generation, and since the existing laws, and his promise faithfully to respect them, forbade persecution by force, his policy was to try to extirpate heresy and regain converts to the old faith by the milder means of preaching and teaching. To this end he tried to have missionary priests sent from Hungary, promising them freedom to reenter the country from which they had been driven out a few years before. But Hungary was then so poverty-stricken and priests were so few, and the country was so demoralized by continual wars, that in a whole year he was able to obtain hardly a single recruit. He therefore next appealed to the Jesuits for aid, although it was again several years before his request could be answered from this quarter.21 In the meantime little more could be done than to insist on strict observance of the law by the heretical Protestants, of whom the most feared and hated were the Unitarians.
We have already seen that in the first year of his rule Stephen issued a sharp warning against extending the reformation further through any ‘innovation’ in religion, and that the warning was repeated at almost every Diet as long as Stephen lived. The warning was obviously aimed at the Unitarians; and now their activity was restricted in another way. At the Diet of Kolozsvár in 1576 they were granted permission to hold synods for ministers of their own faith at Kolozsvár or Torda, but not to have authority over the Calvinists there, who had a Superintendent of their own.22 At the Diet of Torda in the next year the restriction was made more definite. Although they had congregations in many parts of the country, and especially in Szeklerland, the Unitarians were now allowed to hold synods only at Kolozsvár and Torda; whereas the new Reformed Superintendent, Andrew Sándor of Torda, was authorized to act and to hold synods anywhere in the land, and to try if possible to convert ministers of other faiths. This law was for some time enforced throughout Transylvania, and in the remote Szekler county of Háromszék it held for well over a century, until 1693, during all which time the Unitarian churches there might not be visited nor have their ministers ordained by their own Superintendent, but only by one of the Reformed faith.23 This unfriendly legislation of the Diet, however acceptable it may have been to the Prince, was after all the doing of the members of the Diet, and it indicates that the Lutherans and the Calvinists (for there were still but few Catholics in the government) were acting in concert against a common adversary. Nevertheless the Unitarians went on their way undaunted, and in the next year (1578) held a synod at Torda at which 322 ministers were present, coming from all parts of the country, and took action on several important matters. But dark clouds were gathering over their heads, though little did they dream that in the next year a storm was to break that would involve their leader in tragedy and threaten their church with extinction.
After the death of King John, Dávid being now no longer court preacher was restricted in his activities to being simply chief preacher in the great church at Kolozsvár, although in this sphere he exercized commanding influence, But he could no longer reach the public eye through books printed on the press at Gyulafehérvár, nor the public ear through great open public discussions such as King John had fostered; and even when confirmed in 1576 in the official station of Superintendent of the Unitarian churches, the scope of his authority, as we have seen, was soon narrowly limited. By temperament, however, he seems to have been less interested in the organization and administration of his churches than in the further reform of their doctrine. For only a small part of the whole field of doctrine had as yet been canvased by the Unitarian reformers, in fact, scarcely more than the doctrines of God, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and the nature and office of Christ. No confession had been agreed upon as a comprehensive statement of what they believed, nor could the propositions or theses that Dávid and Biandrata had defended in debate be fairly regarded as representing the general belief, since even these statements, never having been approved or adopted by any synod, had only the authority of individual opinions.
Dávid, however, having an inquisitive mind, was much more inclined to pioneer in fresh fields than to rest content in those already won, and he was open to the stimulating influence of able and independent scholars teaching in the school at Kolozsvár. Of these, Johannes Sommer had been called in 1569 to take the chair vacated by Károli three years before, and he served the Unitarian cause with great ability and energy until four years later, when the plague carried off both his family and him. A yet more striking character was Jacobus Palaeologus, whose previous career in Poland has been related in connection with the history there.24 He seems to have gone from Poland to Constantinople for a visit, and then to have returned to Transylvania and for some time to have been busy with his pen on various theological works; also with lecturing in the Kolozsvár school, where he took an active part in the work of reform. Here he served for a brief period as interim Rector after the death of Sommer, perhaps late in 1572, until the appointment of Hunyadi in 1574,25 and after that he still continued his residence there apparently for several years. In the judgment of Dr. Squarcialupi, one of the court physicians, he was very learned, a great philosopher and theologian, an accomplished debater, acute, daring, persistent and e1oquent.26 Before coming to Kolozsvár he had been one of the leaders in the non-adorantist movement in Poland; and according to Socinus he had been the first of all to teach in Poland ‘the very wicked and detestable view that Christ should not be adored or invoked.’ 27 It will be remembered that just before this time this question had been very hotly discussed among the Polish Brethren, and that the majority in Little Poland, following the leadership of Paulus and Czechowicz, had adopted the conservative view, rejecting that of Budny and Palaeologus.28 Knowledge of this controversy will of course have reached Biandrata, who kept in touch with the brethren in Poland; while at Kolozsvár Palaeologus no doubt found a sympathetic ear in Dávid as he laid before him the view that he had unsuccessfully advocated in Poland.29
The question whether Christ should be invoked in prayer was not an entirely new one in Transylvania. At a general synod held at Rádnoth as early as 1567, when the Unitarian controversy had barely started, Biandrata had a catechism read and given to the public which Paruta had prepared, and which some later said had taught very clearly that only God the Father should be invoked; though Biandrata denied having written in favor of this view.30 The subject had been raised again in 1570 and publicly discussed in the Kolozsvár church in 1572 31 (perhaps at the time of Neuser’s transient sojourn there), but no public stir followed, and any discussion soon quieted down. Also Stephen Basilius, who was one of the associate preachers with David in the great church there, declared that the doctrine was already being preached among the Szeklers in 1575 and in 1576 Benedek Óvári was openly teaching non-adoration at Simánd in Lower Hungary; so that he was appointed to undertake the defence of David before the Prince in 1579.32
Sommer, finally, in his posthumous Refutation of Caroli (1582), asked the question who was to be invoked and adored, and answered, ‘Only God the Father who dwells in light inaccessible’; though he did not deny that he was to be invoked and adored through the Son.33 These instances, however, seem to have been exceptions to the view generally prevailing among the Unitarians. Thus at a synod held at Torda May 15, 1566, and presided over by Biandrata and David, the first in which Unitarian doctrine was clearly expressed, a confession in three articles about the Trinity was adopted, which declared that ‘Christ is Lord of all, and thus through him and in his name we have access to the Father, and through him and together with him we invoke the Father, seeing that the Father has given him all things, and he himself bestows all things upon US.’34 Again, the book DE falso et vera Dei cognitione which Biandrata and Dávid put out in 1567, in the chapter on One God the Father, speaks explicitly of ‘Jesus Christ . . . whom we reverence and invoke after the Father, in accordance with his command, and the rule prescribed to us by the Apostles, who invoked him not as the Most High, but as his son.’ 35 Also in the authorized Unitarian report of the great debate at Gyulafehérvár in 1568, Dávid is recorded as saying to Mélius, ‘This man conceived by the Holy Spirit is to be adored since he is not mere man.’ 36 Finally, in the second of the propositions offered for disputation at Várad, Dávid speaks of Christ as one whom we both adore and reverence and worship.37
It thus seems evident that while there had been, both a few years before John’s death and in the years since, some sporadic and more or less tentative instances in which the invocation of Christ in prayer had been called in question, yet this practice, as the action of the Torda synod and the writings of Dávid and Biandrata had distinctly stated, was still the one generally prevailing and no doubt deeply cherished. For while the Protestant reformers had abandoned the Catholic practice of worshiping the Virgin Mary and invoking the saints, they still continued to adore and invoke Christ as the author of their salvation; and this was deemed the outward sign most sharply marking the distinction between Christianity and Judaism. To abandon or oppose the practice would thus be taken as indicating a relapse into the Jewish religion. Writers on doctrine, notably Socinus, tried indeed to distinguish clearly between adoration and invocation as directed to Christ; 38 though when Socinus tried to make the difference clear to Niemojewski, by saying that while all Christians are bound to give reverent adoration to Christ as their Lord and Savior, yet they are not bound but only permitted to invoke his aid in prayer, whether directly or as an intercessor with God, yet that one that will not or dare not invoke him scarcely deserves the name of Christian, Niemojewski found the distinction too subtle, since he could perceive little difference.39 Undoubtedly in common thought and practice the distinction between the two tended to become blurred yet more, as both being in some sense acts of worship; and it may be doubted whether those engaged in worship often, if ever, stopped in the midst of their devotions to consider whether they were adoring or invoking.
It is evident that soon after the accession of Stephen reports of innovations in the Unitarians’ religion began to be heard at court, and in the Diet at Torda in 1572 the Prince reported that some of the pastors were said to be carrying Dávid’s faith too far, and denying that it was right to invoke Christ; whereupon it was voted that he be authorized to call the Superintendent and Dávid before him to ascertain whether they were departing from the religion that they held in the time of the late King; and that if so they should be excommunicated or otherwise duly punished.40 It is not of record what action followed, but the evil was evidently spreading, for further warnings were decreed at the Diets of 1573, 1576, and 1578, the last especially sharp in its terms.41 Evidently the orthodox enemies of Dávid’s church were keenly on the watch at court for vulnerable points to attack; for to them it was not simply a matter of violating a law, but of spreading a doctrine which, if accepted, would strike at the very heart of the Christian religion.
With the existing background thus understood, we may proceed to the history of the tragic conflict between Biandrata and Dávid.42 The germ of the trouble that grew up between these two leaders of the Unitarian churches, Dávid their Superintendent and Biandrata as their chief lay Elder, may be said to be found in the general synod held at Torda in March, 1578, and attended, as already noted, by a number of ministers which surprised them all.43 At this synod they passed a resolution about introducing communis prophetia in the church, ‘which gave all the ministers liberty without danger to discuss with one another and to investigate matters that have not yet been decided and settled by the general synod, but to which serious consideration might be given in good order and under rules suited to our times.44 A common confession was confirmed; infant baptism was rejected. The purpose of this resolution was to authorize ministers in private circles to discuss unsettled points of doctrine without laying themselves open to prosecution for innovation. Protected, as he thought, by this rule Dávid now began in his own house to raise the questions, in the presence of some others: Whether Christ, since he was not called God by the Apostles, could positively be called God; Whether he could be invoked in prayers; Whether justification and predestination could be believed in in the sense taught by Luther and Calvin; Whether Jesus could have been Christ had he not died.45
Two of the Kolozsvár ministers, Demetrius Hunyadi and Stephen Szatmár, who were present reported to Biandrata (whether at his request or spontaneously does not appear), who had thus far been Dávid’s friend, about the discussions that he was carrying on; and meanwhile Dávid called another synod at Torda after harvest, 1578. Biandrata therefore, who from his position at court and his intimacy with the Prince was in a position to know what dangers lay in wait for those found to be innovating, wrote Dávid advising him to refrain from taking up at the synod any of the questions that he had been discussing with a few in his own home, lest the Prince be moved to anger and he himself be condemned as an innovator. Dávid heeded the warning as far as the synod was concerned, and when one of the speakers seemed to be going too far, he was silenced.46 But having long weighed the subject Dávid had now reached a firm conviction about it; and when a religious doctrine was in question which he deemed vital, he was not the man to maintain silence about it himself for mere reasons of prudence. Moreover, he felt sure not only that he was defending divine truth, but that the recent vote of the synod secured him from harm. He therefore kept on discussing and spreading this subject both privately and from his pulpit, denying that Christ, since he was not God, should be invoked in prayers. Immediately after the synod he also put forth three theses to the same purpose, which were at once reported to Biandrata at the capital. The latter opposed these with thirty of his own, to which David replied with thirty more. All these David now put into print and sent a copy to Békés in Poland, who in happier days had been his generous patron in Transylvania.47 Behind the scenes Biandrata was acutely conscious of the growing danger which might involve in ruin both him and the whole Unitarian cause, and he tried every means to forestall the disaster. He is said even to have proposed to Dávid that three or four of the ministers should be accused and punished by the Prince, that the rest might then be the safer, but this went against Dávid’s conscience.48 Finally the attempt was made to undermine David’s influence by the publication of sixteen theses that purported to represent his views, and stated them in a way calculated to shock any but those that were radical almost to the verge of Judaism; while opposite them were an equal number of antitheses by Biandrata in refutation.49 Dávid never acknowledged these theses as his own, indeed he heard of their existence only through others; but they alienated a great many of his followers.
Biandrata, finding in Dávid one so firm in his own convictions and so blind to any danger incurred in spreading them, that he would neither follow well-meant advice, nor listen to reasonable argument, nor recognize the perils that threatened them all, now attempted one more means. Faustus Socinus, who a few years before had won reputation among the liberals at Basel as a thorough scholar and an able debater, had lately followed the footsteps of his uncle Laelius and come to Kraków, as Biandrata will have learned from the leaders of the church there. To him therefore Biandrata wrote, relating the situation at Kolozsvár, and urging him to come and try to convince Dávid of his errors.50 He promised to pay all the expenses of his journey and his stay in Transylvania. Socinus accordingly came and, as Biandrata had arranged, was Dávid’s paying guest for four months and a half from about the middle of November, hoping that by their mutual conversations Dávid might be brought to change his opinion as to invocation.51 He also brought Biandrata a letter from the brethren in Poland about the theses that Dávid had sent to Békés, urging that Dávid ought to be excommunicated, as they had done to Budziński two years before for holding the same opinion. 52 By this letter Biandrata was considerably disturbed, and he was yet more so when Socinus reported to him that he was making no impression on Dávid, who continued to adhere to his view and to declare it openly both to him and to others.53 Dávid however had promised earlier to abide by the decision of the Polish churches if the matter were referred to them, and it was therefore agreed that he should put the main lines of the matter in writing, that Socinus should write in reply, and that both writings should be sent to the Polish brethren; after which the subject should be laid before the General Synod for a decision which should be taken as final. Dávid therefore wrote four theses as follows, and gave them to Socinus:
1. The strict command of God is that no one is to be invoked save God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.
2. Christ, the teacher of truth, taught that no one is to be invoked beside the heavenly Father.
3. True invocation is defined as that which is paid to the Father in spirit and in truth.
4. The forms of simple prayer are directed not to Christ but to the Father.54
Socinus then refuted these theses at length; and Dávid confuted the refutation at greater length yet.55 These pieces, together with the theses that Biandrata had previously offered in Opposition to those of Dávid, and some other writings, were eventually sent by Biandrata and Socinus to the Polish brethren with a request for their judgment.
There seems, however, to have been considerable delay in preparing these writings, for they were not despatched from Gyulafehérvár until June 17.56 In the meantime the oral discussions between Dávid and Socinus continued with increasing warmth, and with no approach to agreement, as long as Socinus remained Dávid’s guest; and the written discussion was not finished until May.57 Dávid, however, was not content to have the affairs of the churches remain at a standstill while the doctrinal question was undecided; and impatient of the delay he had called a synod at Torda for February 24, 1579. At this Biandrata took great offence, and he strove to prevent the meeting until the answer should be received from Poland. Dávid however insisted that it was necessary to ordain ministers and to correct moral abuses among the clergy, and the synod was held. But Dávid went further at the synod than he had intimated to Biandrata, and among the ten articles adopted were two maintaining that to purify old doctrines from error and superstition is not innovation; and that a natural consequence of belief in the one God is the doctrine that he alone should be worshiped.58 This action angered and alarmed Biandrata when he learned of it, as violating their understanding that the disputed question was to be held in abeyance until the Polish churches had rendered their opinion and a general synod had settled the controversy. It also changed the relations between Biandrata and Dávid from those of comrades in disagreement to those of enemies in open hostility to each other. Dávid, however, full of self-confidence now that the synod had supported his view, brought up the subject on the following Sunday in his sermon in the great church,59 boldly declaring that invoking Christ in prayers was no better than the Catholic practice of worshiping the Virgin Mary or the dead saints. This must have roused considerable commotion among those of the congregation that were still accustomed to offer prayers to Christ; for the accounts make it evident that from the beginning of the controversy all the Kolozsvár clergy but one had been more or less out of sympathy with Dávid on this matter.60 Biandrata now, while passing near Kolozsvár on a journey to Várad, sought a conference with five of them and revealed to them his plan of action; at the same time sending word to Dávid that he had now declared himself to the Prince as Dávid’s open enemy.61 He had reported the whole situation to the Prince, who as soon as he learned what Dávid was now teaching wrote to the city Council at Kolozsvár, ordering that Dávid be forbidden to exercise his office as preacher until otherwise ordered, and be kept under guard in his house and be allowed to see no one.62
Before the Prince’s orders were put in force by the Council, Dávid, after at first hesitating, decided to follow the advice of his son-in-law, Lucas Trauzner, who was Secretary of the Council, and to enter the pulpit on the Sunday just at hand. He therefore preached in both the large (Hungarian) and the smaller (Saxon) church in the public square, and told the people plainly the reason why he was to be arrested, and concluded by declaring, ‘Whatever the world may yet try to do, it will nevertheless become clear to the whole world that God is one.’ It was the last sermon he ever preached. On the next day there was a crowded meeting of the Council where the communication from the Prince was received. Quite at a loss what to do in so unusual a case, they sent a delegation of their leading members to intercede with the Prince lest he inflict disgrace on their great Pastor; but he was inexorable. Witnesses were summoned, a searching inquiry was made, and the leading men of the church were examined as to Dávid’s sermon. A provincial meeting of the Diet was appointed at Torda on April 24, and Dávid was ordered to appear. His friends were there in great number; but he bade them raise no disturbance, remembering that on a previous occasion a number of their number had been put to death for turbulence. They merely urged the Prince not to take too hasty action, while Dávid’s opponents, fearing that he might be set at liberty, urged immediate severity.63 But the Prince took note of the threatening attitude of the nobles, who had gathered from a district very largely Unitarian, and fearing an uprising he prudently adjourned the matter to the general Diet to be held at his capital at the beginning of June. Dávid was returned to Kolozsvár, and for the intervening month was placed under closer guard than ever.
In the interval, the long disputation that Dávid and Socinus had been having orally was finally reduced to written form by some time in May,64 and was forwarded by Biandrata to the brethren in Poland. The corrected text as published by Socinus sixteen years later fills fifty-four double-column pages of fine print.65 The discussion is carried on earnestly but in good spirit. It is strictly scriptural, and turns on the interpretation and application of scripture passages, arguing from what they teach or seem to imply or involve; and it runs out into great detail which it would be profitless to try to report. In brief, David insisted on strict observance of the Old Testament command that no one should be worshiped but God (Deut. vi, 13; Matt. iv, 10), and held that no command to the contrary had ever been given; while Socinus held that, though we are not bound to do so, yet we may properly invoke Christ, and he appealed to such texts as Matt. xxviii, 18, John v, 22 f, Acts vii, 59, Phil. Ii,9 f, to show that the words of Jesus and the practice of the Apostles sanctioned such invocation. To the popular mind it seemed to be the question whether in worship one should follow Christian tradition or Jewish. Upon receipt of the papers in the case the Polish churches met after harvest in a synod at Belzyce. Gregory Paulus presided, and the whole session was given over to the question. The judgment was not difficult for them to arrive at, for the question had lately been thoroughly canvased in the controversy with the Lithuanian radicals,66 as Biandrata doubtless knew when he proposed submission of the matter to the Polish brethren. Judgment was voted in favor of the view of Socinus: that the Lord Christ should be invoked. Alexander Witrelin was authorized in the name of all the ministers to write out the judgment and forward it to the brethren in Transylvania, where it was published before the end of the year.67 The decision so long awaited came too late to have any effect upon the case of Dávid; for when the matter was taken in hand by the Diet in April the question at issue was already no longer whether Dávid’s teaching was true or scriptural, but simply whether it constituted an innovation going beyond the teaching accepted in the time of King John, and this issue had been decided against him at the Diet nearly two months before the Polish synod met.
After returning to Kolozsvár from the Diet at Torda, Dávid had a severe attack of what was known as ‘colic’ (from which he had been suffering for some time even before his arrest), insomuch that he could scarcely speak; and as the date of the Diet approached he hardly had strength to move hand or foot, and was placed in his carriage in what seemed to be a dying condition.68 Almost the whole city followed him to the gate with tears and heard his parting farewell. On the first day he reached Torda, but so shaken up by the journey and the inclement weather that he was not expected to survive the night On the third day they arrived at Gyulafehérvár. Accompanied by his son-in-law Lucas 69 and by an armed guard he was at once taken into the great hall of the palace where the Diet was meeting. A great crowd had gathered, but weak as he was Dávid had to stand until the Prince took pity and had a chair brought for him.
Christopher Báthory presided, flanked on either side by the officers of the court and then by a large number of the nobility who had been summoned to judge the case. Facing him on the one hand were the accusers headed by Biandrata, on the other the trinitarian Hungarians and the Saxon pastors, and crowded between the two were Dávid, his son in law and his guards The case was formally opened by the Chancellor, Alexander Kendi, speaking in the name of the Prince. Biandrata then began the prosecution, professing great regret at having to take this step, which he had for a year tried to avoid by warning Dávid to refrain from innovation; but as Dávid would not listen to warnings he was forced to do this in order to save the church from greater injury. The Chancellor then, after reciting the things that had been credibly reported to the Prince by Dávid’s followers about his teachings, asked him whether he confessed to having said: 1, that Christ was not to be invoked in prayers; 2, that those that invoke Christ sin as much as those that invoke the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and other dead saints; 3, that certain writings in evidence were his own. Lucas was permitted to answer for him that he admitted any writings that were really his own, but not those that were being falsely circulated as his; but that the writings were not now in question, for they were still pending until the Polish churches had given their judgment. But as to the first question he had preached that no divine worship not commanded by the word of God can be acceptable to God, and the invocation of Christ is not so commanded. As to the third, he held that invocation of the saints can be practiced by the same warrant as that of Christ. The inquiry of the Prince, however, is not whether the teachings are true or not, but whether they are new.
Biandrata taunted Dávid with returning to Judaism, and Dávid replied that Biandrata himself had a few years before been of the same opinion. Biandrata denied this, but said that if he had happened to say anything of the sort he now retracted it, and he advised Dávid to do the same. He then urged that Dávid’s theses be read; but Lucas objected that on a question of newness of doctrine they were nothing to the point. In the angry colloquy that followed, Biandrata lost his temper and resorted to threats. The defence then asked that in view of Dávid’s illness the case be adjourned to the next day, and despite strong opposition from the prosecution the request was granted: after which Dávid’s friends in the ministry and among the nobility took counsel how to proceed, though urged by him to be careful for his sake not to give any offence. When the trial was resumed the next morning, Dávid was so weak that he had to be carried into the session in a chair. Allowed now to defend himself, he introduced in evidence various printed and written works showing that as long as five or even eight years ago, before any edict about innovation, Biandrata and others had opposed the invocation of Christ, and to this Biandrata made but a feeble reply. When the defence was finished Dávid and his friends were allowed to withdraw while the case was deliberated, though at the Prince’s desire the accusers were permitted to remain, as necessary to an understanding of the situation in the church. Deliberation lasted for an hour and a half. Biandrata and some twenty-five of his party solemnly swore that they had never held Dávid’s view, and that it was new and blasphemous. A single one of the trinitarian Hungarians dissented, saying that it had been publicly expressed at the Várad disputation. The Saxons refused to express an opinion, while the nobles of Dávid’s party declared their adherence to his view rather than subscribe to worshiping Christ as God.
When Dávid and his companions were called back into the hall to hear the decision, Biandrata gave Dávid a Judas embrace, bade him be of good courage and promised his intercession, while his fellowaccusers begged the Prince to spare his life. One of the Calvinist ministers present, on the other hand, made a long address to the Prince urging the death penalty, appealing to the law of Moses that a false prophet should not be suffered to live, and threatening him with the wrath of God if he failed in his duty.70 It was the trial of Christ before Pilate reenacted in all its essential details, even to the ‘Crucify him.’ The Prince was visibly impressed, and gave assurance through the Chancelor that he would see to it that so great a crime should not go unpunished. Dávid was then told that the Prince would decide what punishment blasphemy and innovation should be inflicted as a warning to others and that meantime he should be held in custody. He was then away by soldiers and allowed to see no one.71 Three days later, condemned to perpetual imprisonment, he was taken away to Déva, or forty miles to the southwest, and imprisoned in the castle dungeon on the summit of a high hill overlooking the valley of Maros. His last days are shrouded in darkness. The legends usual in such cases became current about Dávid, how he fell into insane frenzy, was haunted by demons, and the like; 72 but all that is authentically known is that, though wasted by his long illness, he survived for over five months, and died probably on November 15, 1579. The place of his burial no man knoweth unto this day.73
The trial of Francis Dávid and judgment upon the persons connected with it have been the subject of warm controversy for more than three centuries and a half; but it ought now to be possible to sift and weigh the conflicting evidence and to form judgments without being unduly swayed by prepossessions or prejudice as to the persons involved. As to the main question at issue in the trial, whether Dávid was or was not committing an innovation in 1578 when he brought forward the doctrine of non-invocation of Christ in prayers, it seems clear that while it can not be maintained that this was until then an unheard-of doctrine, since various instances were adduced to prove the contrary, still it had never been formally adopted or even generally accepted; and the fact that Dávid thought it so important to bring it forward and emphasize it when he did is in itself an indication that even if not quite unknown it had at all events lain dormant. It is this view of the facts that was apparently taken by the judges at the Diet, in a trial that seems on the whole to have been fairly conducted; although it is evident that they were much swayed by the fact that the doctrine of Dávid in itself seemed execrable blasphemy. But as to the doctrine that David was here defending, the modern man’s sympathies are naturally with him. The arguments by which he supports it are plain, straightforward and scriptural, while those of Socinus are obscure, involved and traditional. As between the two, the history of liberal Protestantism, at least, has long since given its verdict for Dávid, for its customs of worship to-day show but faint relics of the invocation of Christ.
In judging a case that presently developed, or degenerated, into a personal contest between the two who for a dozen years or more had harmoniously worked together in promoting the Unitarian movement in Transylvania, it is next to impossible to refrain from taking sides, and sympathy naturally goes to Dávid as the suffering party. In his behalf it must be said that he had long devoted himself to building up a church whose beliefs should conform strictly to Scripture; and after purging it of the two central doctrines of the Trinity and the deity of Christ as not meeting this standard, he was now concerned to extend reform to other doctrines. He had become clearly convinced that the next step to be taken related to the current practice of addressing worship to Christ. Once quite clear on this point, his eager nature was impatient of any delay in proceeding to it. Nor could he conceive that teaching a doctrine so plainly scriptural could, when it had already been broached, possibly violate a law of the land, now that it had the support of his synod. This Conviction blinded him to the dangers that Biandrata saw gathering: and he doubtless resented it that in what was his own province as responsible head of the churches, a layman even though he were an Elder should presume to interfere and direct him as to what he should do. If, as was later rumored, relations between him and Biandrata were on other grounds already strained, it was the easier for Biandrata to regard Dávid’s persistence as a matter of personal stubbornness. If, on the other hand, Biandrata, living at a court where the dominant feeling was actively hostile to Unitarians, saw signs of a gathering storm which, if it were allowed to burst, might overwhelm the church, he was bound to take any measures necessary to prevent such a catastrophe. It was a situation in which Dávid on the one hand could not postpone the sacred cause of reform in the church for fear of a danger which might be only imaginary, and in which Biandrata on the other could not retreat without imperiling the very existence of the church. It may be doubted, however, whether his interest in the reform of doctrine had ever gone much beyond that already achieved.
With the issue thus defined, Biandrata had no alternative but to smother the alleged innovation at whatever cost; and if from this point on his attitude changed from that of a fraternal critic to that of an active enemy, who resorted to whatever means were necessary to accomplish his end, his course, however regrettable, is at least easy to understand. If Dávid should be ruined in the process, he will have brought upon his own head a disaster which he had been abundantly warned to avoid. But it is not necessary to accept the interpretation afterwards made by Biandrata’s enemies, that from the beginning he was only carrying out for personal reasons a deep-laid diabolical plot to undermine his rival. This was indeed the interpretation of the case published two years later in the Defencio Francisci Davidis, which has strongly influenced judgments in Transylvania to this day, and causes Biandrata to be spoken of only with loathing, and Socinus with only grudging respect, as one whom he used as a tool to achieve his ends. It was not until some fifteen years later that Socinus was able at length to publish his apologia and to vindicate himself from the charge of having played an unworthy role in the drama of Dávid’s ruin.74 Though his associations were naturally with those that approved invocation, his part is shown to have been merely to try by calm argument to persuade Dávid that his view was erroneous. While he attended the trial at Gyulafehérvár by written invitation of the Prince, he took no part in the proceedings there. He seems not to have returned to Poland until 1580, when an epidemic of ‘colic’ threatened his health in Transylvania.75
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