THE LAST SOCINIANS IN HOLLAND. CHANGES IN DOCTRINAL AND SOCIAL VIEWS
BESIDES the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum, the only other publication issued with general Socinian sanction in the post-exile period was the Racovian Catechism in several successive editions, to be spoken of below. Any other works published were purely individual matters. In such an environment as has been indicated, Socinianism as a distinct movement now began gradually to fade away. No further recruits could be expected from Poland, and only an occasional one still came from East Prussia, Silesia or Brandenburg. No distinct organization or propaganda might be maintained for the winning of converts and the continuance of the movement, and the surviving exiles either died off or were assimilated to the existing churches. The broken narrative has therefore to be followed in the story of the separate individuals in whose hands its torch finally flickered out.
Easily first of these was Andrew Wiszowaty, the account of whose earlier life has already been given.1 He removed to Amsterdam from his brief ministry at Mannheim in 1666, at the age of 58, to spend the remaining twelve years of his life in the peace and quiet that he had long craved and so little enjoyed. Those, however,, were not years of idle ease. From all quarters the scattered exiles turned to him for the advice, comfort and encouragement that his letters gave them; while near at hand his mind was full of concern for brethren who were tempted to desert the faith of their fathers or were likely to be misled by the new philosophies of the time, and his pen was active in meeting the continued attacks of enemies, or the vagaries of friends. The struggle of the new philosophy of Descartes with the old scholastic philosophy was under way, and skepticism of every hue was rife. Views long abandoned were reappearing under the guise of Platonism, a ferment of philosophical and religious thought was universal, the scriptural foundations of theology were being modified or outgrown. He was driven to recognize that besides Scripture there are other ways to the truth, and he inquired into these. The mature fruit of his thought was given in a work which he highly valued on Rational Religion, which was not published until some years after his death.2 In this little book he strove to vindicate the claims of reason as a source of religious truth and the arbiter in religious questions. This was a radical and epoch-making departure from views hitherto held among the Socinians. Socinus had definitely denied that man has by nature any knowledge of God apart from revelation from above. Hence his total reliance upon Scripture as the source of religious truth. Ostorodt wholly agreed, and so did the earlier Racovian Catechism, despite some obvious difficulties and inconsistencies involved. Crellius, however, acknowledged natural sources of religious knowledge; while his pupil Wiszowaty, now living in an atmosphere where the new philosophical views of Descartes, and especially of Spinoza, were the subject of lively discussion, and were causing the serious schism among the Collegiants mentioned above,3 was forced to think the question through, and he came to the conclusion that sound reason is the touch-stone of truth, the inner eye given us by God to see and explore it and distinguish it from the false. Though revelation has come to us, all religious controversies arising about it must be decided in the court of reason; and anything in Scripture conflicting with plain reason should be rejected. True philosophy does not contradict the teaching of Christ but agrees with it. Thus a way was opened into new fields of thought and new methods of religious thinking. In the field of ethics one other work of Wiszowaty was published; 4 and he left half a hundred manuscripts that were never put into print. He died at Amsterdam in 1678 at the age of 70 years, and his devoted wife a year later. His two sons were both ministers, Benedict at Andreaswalde, and Andrew over the Polish exiles at Kolozsvár. 5
Contemporary with Wiszowaty at Amsterdam was Christopher Sand (Sandius), Jr., already spoken of. 6 Though a definite Antitrinitarian, he never identified himself with the Socinian tradition, but all his life adhered to the Arianism which he had accepted from his father, thus contenting himself with a phase of doctrinal development which the Socinians had outgrown early in their history. After coming to Amsterdam to oversee the publication of a work by his father, he obtained a place as corrector for the press, and spent the rest of his life in writing theological works, in which he showed himself so much given to Platonism that Wiszowaty felt bound to oppose him in a book against Arianism, to which Sand replied, followed by a rejoinder and another reply.7 Sand also wrote works explaining difficult passages in the Gospels in an Arian sense, on the origin of the soul, and on the Holy Spirit, which Wiszowaty, as a defender of the Socinian position, felt called upon to answer. These controversies were an indication that the old Socinian views were being called in question even by their friends, and were precursors of impending modifications called for by a new environment and new tendencies of thought. Sand’s Arian writings received considerable attention in England during the Trinitarian controversy of the seventeenth century.
Another witness of changing thought among the Socinians in Holland was Jeremias Felbinger, born in Silesia as a Lutheran, who after teaching for years in Germany adopted the Socinian faith, became an ardent opponent of Trinitarian views, and suffered much for his bold ness in attacking them. He at length came to Amsterdam, where he published several religious works, and translated into German a Socinianizing version of the New Testament by Courcelles, professor at the Remonstrant seminary. But he had become an eclectic in theology, inclined to Arianism, and therefore was denied a pension by the Socinians, and dragged out a miserable life by teaching and correcting proof.8
A very interesting figure more or less connected with the history of Socinianism in Holland is that of Dr. Daniel Zwicker, whose earlier career has been spoken of. 9 He was associated for some years with the congregation of the Polish Brethren at Danzig, was a zealous promoter of their cause, and was therefore forced to leave the city along with Ruar, Crusius and the rest. He was a restless spirit, by temperament much inclined to controversy, and a zealot almost to the point of fanaticism for whatever cause he espoused; and seeing little hope of progress in Ruar’s little congregation now excluded from Danzig, he sought a field of activity elsewhere. In 1644 he visited the colony of Moravian Brethren at Sobotist Hungary, whither they had gone into exile from Moravia over twenty years before. He became persuaded that their way of life was the true way of imitating Christ, and became an enthusiastic devotee of their system. He had an extensive correspondence with Ruar about the excellence of the Moravian system and enthusiastically urged a union of the Socinians with the communistic Anabaptists among whom he was then living.10 Ruar did not share his enthusiasm, but Zwicker decided to join their community. They were so much flattered by receiving such an able convert that they waived certain conditions to which he objected, and ordained him as Minister of the Word, and commissioned him to do missionary work in Prussia and Poland.11 This was in 1654; but the results were evidently disappointing, for in 1657 he removed to Holland, where he was to spend the rest of his life agitating for religious and social reform. He had previously formed the acquaintance of Jan Amos Comenius (Komen ski), one of the outstanding minds of his time. Comenius was Bishop of the Bohemian Brethren, and in a celebrated school at Leszno (Lissa) in Great Poland he had won enduring fame as an educational reformer; for he believed that the regeneration of the world was to be attained through a new system of education. 12 As a step toward that universal and enduring peace for which so many in that turbulent period longed, he called first of all for a union of all Protestant churches. He had recently been forced to leave Poland and seek refuge in Holland, and Zwicker now renewed acquaintance with his fellow-exile and discussed with him the great theme of church union. Though he did not reveal his heretical views to Comenius, he found that there was otherwise such deep sympathy between them that he felt encouraged to publish a book on the subject. 13 He cherished the illusion that all men with normal faculties could by rational proofs be persuaded to become Christians, and by the same token members of the same universal Church. The truths of religion as laid down in the Bible are simple, open, and demonstrable to the ordinary mind. Professing to be committed to none of the many existing sects, in each of which there was some good, but to be devoted only to Truth,14 he proposed for the investigation of truth these three standards: sound reason, Holy Scripture, and the tradition of early Christian writers.
Not content, however, with laying down these general principles, Zwicker proceeded to apply them forthwith, by demonstrating that by each of these three standards it is clear that not Christ, but only the Father, is God over all.15 This was too much for Comenius. After reading the first part he said he had never read so clever a book, and Courcelles deemed it irrefutable; 16 but he felt outraged that some expressions in the book seemed to commit him to the author’s doctrine, which he now felt bound to attack decisively, since he considered the book only a mask for Socinian tendencies. Hence ensued a long and bitter controversy, which more and more degenerated into mutual abuse and personal invective. 17 During the course of this controversy or soon after it, Zwicker published a number of other works, mostly controversial, on toleration, 18 office-holding, pacifism, criminal law and prisons, and on various doctrinal questions in which he sometimes defended Socinian writers, sometimes opposed them. In them all he reflected the tendency of the time, in which writers of Socinian antecedents were showing independence and bearing witness that the Socinian system was gradually dissolving in the atmosphere of a new age and a changed environment.
The only other person that needs to be considered as a significant factor in the declining history of Socinianism in Holland is Samuel Crellius, whose earlier course in Germany we have already traced.'19 After having to leave his little congregation at Königswalde, he went first to England, where he renewed earlier friendships and formed new ones with distinguished scholars, enjoyed the patronage of Lord Shaftesbury, received a singular token of sympathy from Sir Isaac Newton,20 then far advanced in age, and had intimate conversation with several distinguished Anglican divines. His chief occupation in England, however, was to attend to the publication of his best known work, which the generosity of an unorthodox English sympathizer enabled him to bring out. 21 The purpose of this work, 22 in two handsomely printed volumes, was to demonstrate on the ground of a corrected Greek text of John i.I, and of the witness of early Fathers, that the chief scriptural foundation of the dogma of the deity of Christ was a corrupt text. The thesis was argued with great cleverness and an encyclopaedic knowledge of early Christian writings, and the work created a great sensation by its impressive weight of learning. Its edition of 1000 copies soon went out of print. It naturally called forth numerous replies; 23 but for our present purpose the point of most interest is in the preface, in which he says (p. xv): ‘You have seen that I am not an Arian nor an Athanasian; you now see that I am not a Socinian either. What distinguishes Socinianism from all other denominations and views in Christendom is not the doctrine concerning one God the Father, and the person of Christ; . . . but the erroneous view about our justification, the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ, is what properly constitutes Socinianism. . . . Socinus, in opposing the crude view of Christ’s satisfaction, fell into the opposite extreme.’ As to the doctrine of satisfaction, then, he forsook Socinus and followed the Remonstrants, and late in life he declared that he was sure that few if any remained who could properly be called Socinians. But as to the doctrine about God, he remained to his last breath a Unitarian.24
The last twenty years of his life Crellius spent quietly in Amsterdam, occupied with studies and literary work. He associated with both Collegiants and Remonstrants. The Collegiants long gave him a yearly contribution from their funds, to make up for the salary he had forfeited when he left Konigswalde; and as he lived very modestly he spent much of this on the new books that he was always eager to read until his vision became impaired. 25 He regretted the rise of an anti Socinian spirit among the Remonstrants, fostered by their Professor Adriaan van Cattenburgh in order to soften the hostility of the Reformed Church, but he declared that after the Collegiants he knew no better people than the Remonstrants. 26 He died at Amsterdam in 1747, honored by the learned world for his extensive and accurate scholarship, and beloved by all that knew him for the virtues and graces of his character. His intimate friend and correspondent for many years, Professor Mathurin Veyssiere la Croze at the French college in Berlin, who grieved only that Crellius was not properly sound in saving faith, wrote Mosheim of him that, heresy apart, he was the best and most lovable man in the world. 27 He may be said to have been the last surviving Socinian of importance. He was survived by two sons, Stephen and Joseph, who emigrated to the colony of Georgia in America, which was settled 1733—’38 by Protestant refugees under English auspices. Their joining the colony may be presumed to have been facilitated by English friends of their father. Stephen held there the office of Justice of the Peace, and Joseph followed agriculture. Both were married, but left no male offspring. 28 They are the only Polish Socinians known to have gone to the New World, but persistent efforts to trace them or their descendants there have met with no success.
The preceding pages have taken note of a growing tendency among the surviving leaders of thought in the Socinian tradition, to criticize and depart from some of the doctrines taught by Socinus and in the Racovian Catechism. This tendency began to appear, indeed, soon after the death of Socinus, and grew stronger as time went on and conditions changed. These modifications are in part reflected in the later editions of the Racovian Catechism, as will be noted below; and they gradually went on until the surviving Socinians had become fairly assimilated to the liberal churches in Holland, and there was no longer any important difference between them. What is thus said relates to the theological teachings of the Socinians, but in their social teachings, as to the duties of Christians as citizens of the State, thought was still very active at this period, and deserves attention as we pass. It will be remembered that early in the history of the movement we have been following in Poland its members, in the effort to follow New Testament teachings punctiliously, felt bound to depart from the existing usages in relation to the State. The matter of bearing arms, engaging in warfare, paying military taxes, taking judicial oaths, holding the office of Magistrate, indulging in luxury in dress and food, and joining in demoralizing social amusements, was deemed to be something with which religion had directly to do, and the Socinians surpassed all others in their high ideals in these respects and their strict adherence to them. It is true that their earliest leaders, Paulus, Czechowicz, and Niemojewski went to almost fanatical extremes; but the saner teachings of Socinus introduced a more reasonable standard, and while the commoners and artisans in the churches remained for the most part socially radical, the nobles for the most part tended to be less rigorous in practice. Socinus gradually relaxed his social teaching, and Völkel and Crellius in the next generation taught a more practicable system of Christian ethics.
In the Collegiant circles in Holland, where the writings of all these writers were now known, nearly all the questions they treated would naturally come up for discussion, and among them that of the relation of Christians to the State. As a result of the interest thus existing, Daniel van Breen (Brenius), a leading Collegiant of Amsterdam, in 1641 published a work 29 in opposition to the social conservatism of his master, Episcopius, giving the most consistent expression of the radical view of the Christian’s political duties. Christ’s kingdom (the Church) is entirely different from the State in structure and purpose. Its members rule themselves strictly by his commands and thus are subject to no other. They do not disturb the foundations of society, but though they may not take part in civil government, wage war or resist evil, they are bound to obey the authorities. This pronouncement of Brenius made a strong impression upon the Polish Brethren, for it revived teachings that had been widely accepted at the beginning of their movement. It was followed by two contrary reactions, the one from the element that as far as possible held aloof from public activity, and for its spokesman had Wolzogen, and the other from the gentry or nobles who, despite all the oppressions they had lately suffered from an intolerant government, were heroically trying to maintain the fragment of the rights they had enjoyed under Sigismund Augustus. The idealistic standpoint of Brenius was championed by Wolzogen in a work 30 that was both longer and more extreme than that of Brenius. In Christ’s kingdom secular rulers have no place, and Christians may take no part in secular government. Wolzogen maintains his cause unflinchingly, and answers all objections confidently.
Such a doctrine could not be allowed to pass unchallenged as the teaching of the Polish Brethren, and the most prominent member of the church, Jonas Schlichting, pupil of Crellius and the main champion of Socinianism against its Protestant opponents, came forward to uphold the more realistic view of the conservatives. Following the teaching of St. Paul, 31 he saw no reason why others might hold public office, but not Christians: if all were Christians, must they still be ruled by unbelievers Reasoning thus, he wrote against Woizogen a work no longer extant, whose argument is seen from the latter’s reply, to which Schlichting made a rejoinder, to be met by a closing response by Wolzogen. 32 Apart from this controversy, in which Schlichting abandoned the old standpoint as to arms, war, offices, etc., and tried to consult practical requirements of the citizen, Wolzogen also supported Brenius further in another work.33 A yet more powerful voice was now raised in favor of sober conservatism on social questions by Samuel Przypkowski, whose active life had been largely connected with public affairs at court and in the field, and who held a statesmanlike vie quite out of sympathy with fanatical extremes. In opposition to Brenius, who held that there was an essential moral opposition between Church and State, and that one must choose which to serve, he maintained in a work that he wrote in 1650 34 that one must accept a positive relation to the State; for he had long been convinced that the general dislike, hatred and secret machinations to which the Polish Brethren had been subject were largely due to the social-political views that they had held since the beginning of their movement. He therefore felt the crying need for a revision of these views. In this work the most talented of the Socinian writers followed the arguments of Brenius step by step in brilliant style. It was one of the ablest works produced in the Socinian circle, as the author proceeded by strict logical reasoning and with perfect courtesy to expose the absurdity of his opponent’s positions. In this work he was settling matters with the extremists, and for certain reasons did not think best to publish it at the time, but Grotius’s great work De jure belli et pacis had removed any doubt Przypkowski may have cherished as to the soundness of his position, and he therefore prepared for publication another work, addressed to the moderate group.35 In this he spoke out more boldly than before, and declared that Socinus, great and incomparable as he had been in many points, had been mistaken in this respect: complete non-resistance was not only opposed to declarations of Scripture and of reason, but also to all order, justice, and peace. This was the reason why their adherents had never grown in number and respect. Surely men might seek justice and defend themselves Even war was no sin, still less the holding of office.
For a Socinian this was revolutionary doctrine indeed, and it provoked two replies. The first was by Joachim Stegmann, one of the younger ministers, who having seen a copy of what Przypkowski had written, attacked his work in a writing which is not extant, though its contents can be made out from Przypkowski’s rejoinder. 36 He was not an extreme fanatic, but he was under the influence of Woizogen, and totally opposed to war. Though he held Przypkowski in high esteem, he reproached him for raising the question at this unfortunate time, when it would be better to let it remain in abeyance; he was under mining the established good order in the church, and many were beginning to take up arms; nor should he have shown such disrespect for Socinus. Finally he repeated all the known arguments against military service, and predicted that the church would not follow Przypkowski, but that all worthy members would condemn his untimely stand. Przypkowski could not let such reproaches go unanswered, and now produced a large and powerful work, 37 in which he undertook to undermine his opponent’s position and shatter his authority. In this work, nearly as long as Socinus’s reply to Palaeologus, he brought into action not only all his powers of argument, but the weapons of sarcasm, derision and mockery, and in the greatest detail he annihilated the traditional arguments of Stegmann and reduced them to absurdity.
The other reply which Przypkowski’s work on the Magistrate evoked was made by Dr. Daniel Zwicker in the form of objections. Zwicker’s writing is not extant, but the reply to it concludes the volume of Przypkowski’s collected works. 38 In this work the author again ob serves the limits of calm and reasonable argument. With this the main controversy had spent its force and the disputants relapsed into silence as the wars that overwhelmed Poland removed the subject from the field of controversy. It should be kept in mind that this, however, was not a printed controversy spread before the whole public, but a written one addressed to the leaders of Socinian thought through manuscripts that had a limited circulation. The significance of this discussion therefore lies not in the breadth and depth of its immediate influence, but in the unmistakable evidence it gives that in what had for half a century been the fairly uniform thought among the Socinians, there were now developing sharp differences in social ideals no less than in doctrinal views—in the one case under the pressure of disturbed conditions of national and international life, in the other, in response to new currents of thought in philosophy. The ferment we have just been tracing began in Holland, with the work of Brenius in 1641; it overflowed among the Socinians in Poland when their cause there was declining; and in Holland again it flickered out. Dying echoes of the controversy continued even after the exile of the Socinians from Poland. The contentious Zwicker continued to discuss it with Stegmann, and published his latest views in 1666, 39still condemning war, capital punishment, prisons and the use of force. The final publication of which we need take note is that of Jan Hartigveld, an influential and wealthy merchant among the Collegiants at Rotterdam, who espoused the cause of Brenius against Przypkowski, reasserting the extremest positions to the last.40
The changes that Socinianism had undergone in the eighty years since Socinus’s death may be clearly seen in the later editions of the Racovian Catechism. No new edition or revision of it had taken place since Moskorzowski’s Latin version in 1609 and the second Polish edition in 1619; and meanwhile thought had moved on as the current of history, the criticisms of opponents, and a new foreign environment raised new questions. Even Moskorzowski had introduced a consider able number of minor changes into his translation, which then remained the standard text for half a century. The modifications, corrections or additions that experience suggested were made by several scholars in Poland authorized by vote of the Synod, evidently with a view to the preparing of a revised edition, and it was further revised several years later by Johannes Crellius, who died iii 1633, and finally, after long delays doubtless due to the increasing persecutions and exile of the Socinians, it was prepared for the press by Jonas Schlichting, with an appendix of notes by Martin Ruar and some answers by Schlichting. It was at length brought out at Amsterdam in 1665 at the expense of an anonymous patron;41 with a long preface by Joachim Stegmann, Jr., and Andrew Wiszowaty, pleading for a reasonable freedom in teaching and liberty of conscience, with generous mutual tolerance. ‘While we compose a Catechism,’ says the preface, ‘we prescribe nothing to any man; while we express our own views, we oppress no one. Let each man be free to express his own mind in religion, provided we too be permitted to bring forward our own thoughts about religious matters, without wronging or attacking any one.’ A particular occasion for publishing this edition at this time was the fact that in 1659 Jan Knol (Cornelis), an influential Collegiant at Amsterdam, took the liberty of bringing out a translation of the (1612) Catechism into Dutch, but on his own authority made arbitrary additions, omissions (especially of the chapters on baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and alterations to such an extent that the responsible surviving Socinians felt that they could not acknowledge it as their own. 42 Hence the revised Latin edition here referred to, and an authorized Dutch translation of it in 1667. 43 This newly revised edition was in contents more than half as large again as the first edition, thus bearing witness to the plastic state of Socinian thought, in contrast to the fixed and unyielding form of the Augsburg Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, which made no provision for change or growth. In this feature the editors took pride, saying in their preface, ‘We do not think the we need blush if our Church advances in some things. We ought not in every case to cry out, We believe, I stand fast in the ranks, here I plant my foot, I will not allow myself to be moved from here ever so little.44 This edition made a few brief omissions of matters that had grown obsolete in thought or practice, and in many places made expansions of the text or extensive additions to it. Quite noteworthy are the large number of passages which have been revised in contents, modified in expression or rewritten in substance: especially the greatly strengthened chapter on the Person of Christ, that on Christian morals and religious practices, those on the Sacraments, on Eternal Life, the Holy Spirit, Free Will, and above all on the Death of Christ. This last was greatly revised and expanded, and shows the influence of the Remonstrant theologians by treating the death of Christ as an expiatory sacrifice. Comparison of the changes made in this edition with the various orthodox refutations of the earlier editions shows that many significant changes were made to answer or disprove the criticisms that had been made. 45 One significant feature in the newer editions of the Catechism is their frequent appeal to reason in support of positions taken, and their objection to current doctrines as repugnant to reason.
It is by no means easy to estimate fairly the extent to which Socinianism and the other religious bodies in Holland influenced each other. As for the Socinians, they held unwaveringly to their belief in the strict unity of God as contrasted with any interpretation of the doctrine of the Trinity; nor did they waver as to the person of Christ as a being subordinate to the Father, though in their latest period an Arian construction made to a significant number a stronger appeal than bare humanitarianism. On the other hand, as their predominant emphasis upon practical Christian virtues and graces led them to attach the less importance to speculative dogmas, they tended to find the Remonstrant doctrine of the religious meaning of the death of Christ more satisfying to their religious experience than the rather superficial doctrine that Socinus had handed down to them; and, still enjoying entire freedom of individual belief and speech, they gradually coalesced with the prevailing religious life of their tolerant neighbors.
The Remonstrants, on the other hand, though persistently called Socinians by their orthodox contemporaries in the Reformed Church, never fairly deserved the reproach. In one or two prominent doctrines they may have accepted the Socinian view, but the whole body of Socinianism did not attract them. Nevertheless in the series of professors in the Remonstrant Seminary at Amsterdam,—Episcopius, Courcelles, van Limborch, van Cattenburgh, Le Clerc, Wetstein—we see, with the exception of the reactionary van Cattenburgh, an ever in creasing sympathy with the teaching and the Spirit of Socinianism. Though they still counted themselves Trinitarians, yet they were not orthodox as to the relation of Christ to God; and they accepted wholeheartedly the Socinian principles of scientific method, grammatical and historical exegesis of the Scriptures without dogmatic presuppositions, moral freedom, full tolerance, and admission of the claims of reason in religion.46
The Mennonites, Especially The Collegiant Element Among Them, Went further in their approach to the Socinians, and some of their influential leaders went the whole way; but as a whole they never embraced Socinianism, but repeatedly denied such a charge, even while giving Socinians the most unstinted welcome, as being equally with themselves devoted to governing themselves by the principles of the Gospel in every relation of life. The affinities of the Socinians in Holland were on the intellectual and social side more with the Remonstrants; on the practical side more with the Mennonites. 47
Here, at the point where Socinianism as a distinct movement has run its course, where its surviving adherents have been happily assimilated to the freer religious bodies about them, and when its intellectual tendencies are being absorbed in the broader current of the Rationalism of the eighteenth century, we take leave of the Socinians, not without warm admiration for their depth of religious devotion, the sincerity of their efforts, at the cost of whatever sacrifice, to follow the way of life that Jesus had taught and the early Christians had illustrated, and for the heroism with which they remained stedfast at the cost of nearly every earthly advantage. But though their body perished their spirit and thought survived and lived on transformed in other lands. In the first half of the eighteenth century, at the time when Socinianism was drawing to its close in Holland, currents of religious reform were stirring in England, and the relations between progressive minds in England and the liberal theologians in Holland were active. Scholars and theologians passed back and forth, books were circulated in both directions, and much community of thought and feeling existed. Thus Socinianism, somewhat changed in form, was destined to experience a new life in England. There we shall in a later division of this history be able to follow its further course. Before doing that, however, we must return to Eastern Europe, and follow in Transylvania the almost exactly contemporaneous and yet largely distinct history of an allied movement, which is again marked by devotion, sincerity and heroism.
At this close of our survey of the history of Socinianism it is fitting to estimate, apart from its doctrinal or social aspects, what measure of progress the movement has made toward the three major ends of freedom, reason and tolerance in religion. It totally escaped from bondage to creeds and ecclesiastical tradition; and though it still acknowledged the authority of Scripture, it accepted it in the end only in so far as it corresponded with the inner authority of reason and conscience. In the successive editions of the Racovian Catechism, it set forth not an authoritative creed to define and limit belief, but a convenient summary of generally accepted beliefs, always subject to criticism and revision in the light of new thought. For religious faith was conceived not as static and unchangeable, but as vital, plastic and progressive.
It required a little struggle at first to assert clearly and without flinching the paramount claim of reason in religion, though Socinus himself realized that if ever a clear conflict arose between reason and Scripture, reason must be accepted as final. It remained for Wiszowaty, however to state the view boldly and without evasion or equivocation. Henceforth the religious faith of the Socinian must be not only perfectly free but perfectly reasonable.
Finally, tolerance of differing views or practices was almost from the beginning the Socinian’s very breath of life; and even in the early history of the movement it was infringed only in aggravated cases. But the whole history of the movement gives repeated proofs of how the most varied views of religious truth could peaceably coexist with unity of spirit in the bond of peace, and of how conflicting views could either be resolved in the alchemy of free and reasonable discussion, or else could be left behind as minor details not much worth contending for. This point was reached even while Socinus lived, and largely as a result of his own practice; and if any, like the followers of Stancaro or Farnowski, could not peaceably endure divergence from their own views, they naturally gravitated to a body which preferred the bondage of dogma to the freedom of tolerance. The further history of our movement in other lands, with other origins, and in other circumstances, will show how perfectly these three principles were achieved, and how faithfully they were maintained.
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