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His sentiments, or rather doubts as to certain points, were embodied, and more openly propagated by his nephew Faustus; who, as is supposed, drew up from his papers the religious system afterwards known under the name of Socinianism. There is however a considerable degree of obscurity hanging over the rise of this sect, and no one has given a satisfactory history of it. The first appearance of Unitarians, as a distinct congregation, was in Poland, where they obtained a settlement in the city of Cracow in the year 1569; and in 1575 they published at Cracow the “Catechism or Confession of the Unitarians;” but Faustus Socinus having settled among them in the year 1579, soon obtained so much influence as finally to remodel the whole religious system of the sect, and a new form drawn up by Socinus himself, was substituted for the old Catechism. The following is an abstract of the doctrines taught in this Catechism. After affirming that the Christian religion is “a road for arriving at eternal life, divinely made known,” the pupil is told that the will of God on points essential to salvation was revealed by Jesus Christ. The Catechism then goes on to affirm the entire unity of the Deity; since, if he is one essence, then must he also be individually one,f and therefore Christ cannot be truly said to be a separate person or individual, partaking of the essentia of the Deity, since that essentia is necessarily one. That the Spirit of God, being an essential part of the Deity, cannot be a separate individual (for in this sense the Catechism interprets the word personaj), any
* Some of the passages of this Catechism are quoted by Mosheim, which differ very little from the doctrine of the primitive church; all that can be noticed is, that they omit a distinct recognition of the divinity of Christ.
t “Fausti Socini Senensis Opera omnia,” vol. i. p. 561. These works form a part of the “Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum qui Unitarii appellantur.” Irenopoli post anno dom. 1656.
f It is remarkable that persona should so often be confounded with individual. Persona in its original sense was the mask of the actor, through which the sound came. The same actor might wear many persona. If Socinus had recollected this, he might have spared himself the trouble of controverting a notion more than his wisdom or his goodness is a separate individual, and that therefore the manifestations of the Spirit of God are manifestations of the Deity himself. “Christ,” says the Catechism, “is a man, according to Rom. v. 15, conceived by a virgin, through the power of the Divine Spirit, without the intervention of man in the ordinary course of generation. He was first subject to suffering and death—afterwards impassible and immortal, Rom. vi. 9. It is in the sense of his existence derived immediately from God, that he, though man, is called the Son of God—as Adam is so termed from the same cause. Jesus Christ was the immediate instrument of God’s communications to man; and being, whilst on earth, the voice of God, he is now the anointed King, or Christ, over the people of God.” The passages where he is said to have existed from the beginning; to have created all things, &c., are laboriously explaimed away, as referring to the regeneration, or new state of things introduced by Christ's mission on earth: and in this part there is much forced interpretation. I shall annex some of the passages in the language of the original,” as a proof that I have given a fair account of the real Socinian doctrine, which is very little understood at present. Writers from whom we might expect greater accuracy, have very generally confounded Socinians and Arians, although Faustus Socinus was at the pains to write a labored refutation of the Arian doctrine, and although a reference to the doctrines of the two sects would show that they are the antipodes of each other. Arius taught that Christ was not of the same nature (Ögosovos) with the Father, but of a like nature (oubtsovos), and therefore individually separate—separate in will, and capable of differing. This is a direct assertion of two Gods. Socinus on the contrary strenuously asserts the unity of the Deity to the extent of denying the pre-existence of Christ; which Arius, though acknowledging that there was a time when he began to exist, nevertheless
refers to a period remote beyond human calculation. Thus upon their characteristic doctrines, the two sects are , diametrically opposed to each other. Having now given you the real opinions of Socinus from his own works, for the book is lying beside me as f write, I shall pursue my plan of examining how far they accord with what was taught by those who certainly ought to be best informed on the subject, namely, Christ himself, his Apostles, and their immediate successors; as well as with the deductions of reason. The unity of the Deity is so frequently and so decidedly asserted in Scripture, that it is impossible to consider any man as unorthodox who professes to make this the groundwork of his belief—so far therefore the Socinian is in accordance both with Scripture and the general voice of the Christian Church, for the early Apologists for Christianity, who had to address polytheists, are full of declarations that they worship One only Deity, who by various manifestations has made himself, at different times, known to mankind.* There is not a writer of the first and second centuries who does not anxiously assert the oneness of the God whom the Christians worship: but then they as anxiously assert the identity of their Teacher and Lord with that God. From Christ himself, who says, “Before Abraham was, I am;”f “I and the Father are one;”f “He who hath seen me hath seen the Father;” “the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works;” $ to St. Paul, who tells us that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,” down to the fathers of the early church, to whom I may refer passim for the same doctrine; all have distinctly asserted that the message of peace to man was delivered by God himself, making use of a human form as the mode of communication with his creatures, and dwelling in “the man Christ Jesus,” as in a temple built up for his especial use; the human nature, to use the expression of the church, “having been
|| 2 Cor. v. 19. * 1 Tim. ii. 5.
taken into God,” not the Godhead circumscribed in man. I will not swell the length of my letter with quotations from the fathers which may be found elsewhere; I think the texts I have quoted, with many more of the same purport, which you will readily call to mind, suffice to prove that when Socinus asserted the Christ to be merely a man, he erred; for though Jesus “the Carpenter's son,” as his cotemporaries called him, was to all intents and purposes a man “of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting;” and though this may be proved from numberless passages in the Scripture, where the man Jesus speaks of his inferiority to the Father and bestower of his human frame and spirit, yet if we do not entirely distort the meaning of words, that man at times uttered declarations of divine power which could only have proceeded from the indwelling Deity, otherwise they must have been the assertions of imposture, which Socinus by no means teaches to have been the case. I know not, therefore, how the believer in the Gospel can avoid acknowledging that Christ was a compound being:—perfectly a man, and speaking as such on some occasions; but, at the same time, the temple of the Ever-living God, whose words flowed from his lips like the answer from the Mercy seat: “Heaven and the heaven of heavens” no doubt “cannot contain” the Infinite; and no true believer will assert that God can be circumscribed in a human body—but, if so mean a comparison may be permitted—as the crater of the volcano is but the mouthpiece of the mighty agents operating within for the fashioning of the earth, so the manifestation of the Deity in the form, and from the lips of a man, is but that spot of the material creation where the ever blessed Divinity allows himself, as it were, a vent; and gives forth a visible and tangible sign of his existence. “He that has seen me hath seen the Father,” says the Christ. “I can of my own self do nothing,”f says the man: and this distinction which the Christ, who necessarily knew something of the composition of his own nature, so frequently asserts, has probably been the groundwork of the mistaken views of this class of Christians, and we may well look with charitable indulgence on the errors of men, who, dreading lest they should incur the penalty of giving the incommunicable glory of the Mighty God to another, have not allowed their due weight to the passages which assert that Mighty God to have undertaken the task of bringing his creature man back to Himself. Having thus given you a fair account of the creed of Socinus, I must next notice the modern Unitarians, who on some points differ from him. Where there is no acknowledged creed or catechism,” which may be quoted
* Athanasian Creed. f John v. 30.
* The following are extracts from the “Book of Common Prayer reformed,” professing to have been a selection made by “ the late Rev. Theophilus Lindsey for the use of the congregation in Essex Street”—and as a liturgy is generally allowed to be a fair exponent of the doctrines of those who use it—perhaps we may assume that the violent and reprehensible expressions made use of by some few persons of this persuasion, are not such as would be acknowledged by the congregations of Unitarians in general. Form of baptism. “I baptize thee into (si;) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “Almighty and ever blessed God, by whose providence the different generations of mankind are raised up to know thee and to enjoy thy favor for ever; grant that this child now dedicated to thee as the disciple of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, may be endued with heavenly virtues...... and that we may daily proceed in all virtue and goodness of living, till we come to that eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord.” Order for the administration of the Lord's Supper. Confession, the same as in the liturgy of the English church as far as “we do heartily repent and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings, the remembrance of which is grievous unto us. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; forgive us all that is past: and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life to the honor and glory of thy name.” The absolution is the same with the trifling change of us for you. The sentences following are the same till “Hear also what St. John saith,” where the text 1 John i. 8, 9, is substituted. Prayer before the minister receives the communion. “Al