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CALVIN AND SERVETUS. * The names of Calvin and Servetus are here placed in juxtaposition to announce the appearance of a new work, intended to record the history and develop the characters of those celebrated men. To such of our readers as are familiar with the ecclesiastical literature of the sixteenth century, and conversant with the remarkable transactions to which this book professes to relate, it must, we think, appear that little remained for any literary or theological adventurer to add of really new information to the abundant and well-authenticated facts already before the public. Eminent writers, who have professedly devoted their labours to the subject, have had access to the best sources for their materials; authentic documents of great value and indisputable authority have been supplied for their use from official records ; numerous facts have been furnished by contemporary historians and biographers of unimpeachable veracity; and, above all, they have had at their command written statements, in the form of narratives or of correspondence, from the pens of the chief actors themselves in the recorded events, authenticating the proceedings, and avowing the principles with which their names are associated, and for which they are held to be responsible.
Under these circumstances, we opened Mr. Tweedie's book with no sanguine expectations of adding to our store of knowledge, or discovering just ground for any change in our opinions, on this branch of ecclesiastical history; and the perusal of it has confirmed us in the correctness of our anticipations.
The extraordinary form under which this publication appears, renders necessary a few words of explanation before we proceed to the examination of its contents. The English title-page simply announces that the work ascertains historically " the Reformer's Share in the Trial of Michael Servetus"—that it is “ from the French, with Additions and Notes by the Rev. W. K. Tweedie.” On opening the volume we meet, first, with a Life of Calvin by the translator, in the Preface to which we learn that the book Mr. Tweedie has translated was written by Albert Rilliet; but of Albert Rilliet we hear no more till we reach the sixty-second page, after passing over a fourth part of the contents. We are then informed in a note, “ It is here the translation from Rilliet begins." Still we are without any account from M.
Calvin and Servetus—the Reformer's Share in the Trial of Michael Servetus historically ascertained. From the French. With Notes and Additions, by the Rev. W. K. Tweedie. 12mo. 1846.
Relation du Procès Criminel intenté à Genève en 1553 contre Michel Servet, redigée d'apres les Documents originaux, par Albert Rilliet. 1844.
Rilliet himself of the nature and particular object of his undertaking; nor do we meet with this information till we reach the Appendix, into which Mr. Tweedie has thought fit to transfer it from its original position in the text. For what reason he has made this strange distribution we are at a loss to conceive, unless to convey to the reader the impression that his share of the labour in the preparation of the book was the more valuable, and thus to elevate the translator and editor at the expense of the author. Be this as it may, we shall pass by this Life of Calvin with the simple repetition of the author's own judgment upon it,—that it is “a very meagre sketch,'*— and proceed to more important matter-M. Rilliet's own account of his work.
M. Rilliet's statement, which is too long to be transcribed, is in substance as follows:t - The really original historians of the case of Servetus, he remarks, are only two, viz. M. de la Roche and Dr. Mosheim. M. de la Roche's account was published in the first volume of the Memoirs of Literature, printed in 1712, and in the second volume of the Bibliotheque Anglaise, printed in 1717. His history was drawn up from extracts made by himself from the original papers relating to the trial in the archives of Geneva, but, according to M. Rilliet, is incomplete. Dr. Mosheim published in German, I in 1747, “ a prolix biography of Servetus," also drawn up from extracts from the same original documents, made purposely for his use. This account M. Rilliet pronounces to be equally imperfect. These defective statements, he proceeds to say, are the materials from which all the subsequent accounts have been written. But in 1839, M. Trechsel, of Berne, "published a good history of Servctus, in German, in which he employed a sufficiently accurate copy of the authentic proceedings made in the last century, and deposited in the Library of Berne."'S All these publications being, in M. Rilliet's opinion, thus unsatisfactory, another work seemed called for to enable the public to form a just judgment of Calvin's conduct, and such a work it has been his object to supply.
The original official documents relating to the trial of Servetus, were, it appears, for many years lost from their proper place in the archives of Geneva, but in 1812 were fortunately discovered by M. de Valayre. “It is an accurate analysis of these different documents," M. Rilliet states, “ that forms the basis of the present work. In addition, we have made use of historical details contained in contemporary letters, MS. and printed ; of the information furnished by the Vindication which Calvin himself published in 1554; and of some facts concerning the sojourn and the punishment of Servetus contained in a narrative which an adversary of Calvin published a short time after the heretic's death.”—P. 231.
• Preface, page xv.
# Geschichte des beruhmten Spanischen Arzte Michael Serveto. plement, comprising some valuable official documents, was printed in 1750, under the title of Neue Nachrichten von dem beruhmten Spanischen Arzte Michael Serveto, der zu Geneve ist verbrannt worden.
$ The title of that portion of M. Trechsel's valuable work to which M. Rilliet refers is as follows: Die Protestantischen Antitrinitarier vor Faustus Socin, &c., Erstes Buch, Michael Servet und seine Vorgänger. Heidelberg, 8vo, 1839.
We have no disposition to undervalue the importance of M. de Valayre's discovery. We know, from information obtained on the spot, that in 1841 active measures were taken by the gentlemen in charge of the archives of Geneva to recover valuable documents which had disappeared from that depository, and we rejoice to learn that the discovery of these records was among the first fruits of these labours. But, forming our judgment from the use that has been made of them in the book before us, we are bound to say, that the author has not established the charge that the former histories were, as to any of the material facts, erroneous. It must be borne in mind that these
documents, though afterwards mislaid-or, as we could easily prove, first purposely put out of the way-were accessible both to M. de la Roche and to Dr. Mosheim, who employed such portions of them as suited their respective plans and objects. And M. Rilliet has pointed out no omission or mistake of the least consequence in their statements. He acknowledges that the transcript employed by M. Trechsel was “sufficiently accurate;" and the only fault he finds with that writer's excellent work is, that he had not, while preparing it, a knowledge of the Registers of the Little Council and of some other documents. We feel authorized to conclude, then, that, separately or together, these works exhibit, upon the whole, a correct view of the transactions they record. Nor is this all. Greatly as we feel indebted to M. Rilliet for the extracts he has given from the registers, we look in vain among them for new information of any real value for the elucidation of the subject; and equally in vain for any materials calculated to place the conduct of Calvin in any other and more favourable light than that in which it had before presented itself to our deliberate judgment. Of one thing in M. Rilliet's work we feel disposed to complain. He has not, like M. Trechsel, given the actual interrogatories and answers, as recorded in the official minutes. He has substituted his own summary and analysis, in which he occasionally betrays a decided bias and a partial colouring, originating, no doubt, in the feelings with which he regarded the two prominent parties whose conduct was under his examination.
There are in M. Rilliet's statements and inferences many things adapted to tempt us to a circumstantial review of the whole case of “Calvin and Servetus,” — but our circumscribed limits warn us to forbear. We cannot, however, reconcile it to our sense of literary justice to allow this fresh attempt, on the alleged ground of new evidence, not alone to palliate, but to justify, Calvin in his treatment of Servetus, without giving expression to our entire and decided dissent, and without placing before our readers the chief circumstances from which the Reformer's conduct must be appreciated.
In this hasty sketch we shall engage in no controversy on the theological system of Calvin ; neither shall we dwell upon the consideration urged by both M. Rilliet and his orthodox translator in extenuation of his conduct—the judgment of the age as to the right and duty of the civil magistrate to punish heretical opinions. Though not unimportant in their relation to our subject, we shall, for the present, pass them by, and confine our observations to matters almost wholly irrespective of them. From these matters we propose to shew, that the persecutions of Servetus originated with Calvin ; that through all their stages, including what, by a strange perversion of language, has been called his TRIAL, they were instigated and directed by his immediate agency and personal labours ; and that, from first to last, they were carried on in a spirit of deadly hostility and implacable resentment wholly irreconcilable to our notions of the Christian temper, and demanding unqualified condemnation. A brief account of the earlier history of Servetus may be necessary to complete our view of his case.
Michael Servetus was born in 1509 at Villaneueva, in the kingdom of Arragon, in Spain, where his father pursued the profession of a public notary. Being intended for one of the learned professions, he was educated with great care at a school of the Dominicans, where he made unusual proficiency in the acquisition of the learned languages. In the year 1528, he entered the service, as private secretary, of Quintana, a Dominican monk, then confessor to Charles V., and in this capacity was in the suite of the Emperor at Bologna in 1529, when he was crowned by Pope Clement VII. The spectacle greatly shocked his feelings, and he afterwards referred to it with great indignation, as savouring of idolatry.* Quintana dying in Germany in the year following, Servetus, being left at liberty, proceeded to Basle. His mind had at this time been unsettled in respect to some theological questions by his intercourse with the German Reformers, and he availed himself of his residence at Basle to consult Ecolompadius, then in high repute in that city, with reference to some of his religious scruples, particularly as to the doctrine of the Trinity. The freedom with which he canvassed the received doctrines of the Reformers gave umbrage to his correspondent, who answered him with some severity, and at the same time wrote to Bucer at Strasburg, whom Servetus intended to visit, to put him on his guard against his lurking heresies. Servetus was not, however, to be intimidated by such discouragement and opposition. Attaching importance to his new opinions, he determined to publish them to the world, and accordingly printed at Haguenau, in Alsace, in 1531, his first book, under the title of De Trinitatis Erroribus Libri vii., per Michaelem Serveto, alids Reves ab Aragonia Hispanum. This book attracted great attention, and was severely condemned by the Protestant divines, especially by (Ecolompadius and Bucer, the latter of whom declared that the author deserved to have his bowels torn from his body. In 1532, he republished his work under the title of Dialogorum de Trinitate Libri duo. De Justicia Regni Christi Capitula Quatuor, with his name as before. This edition differs greatly from the first. But in referring to the matters which had been omitted or given in a different form, the author's apology is—"Not because they are false, but because they are imperfect, and written as if by a boy for the use of boys"-non quia falsa sint, sed quia imperfecta, et tanquam d parvulo parvulis scripta.
These publications rendering the situation of Servetus at Strasburg unsafe, he removed to Paris, where he devoted himself with great assiduity and brilliant success to the study of medicine under the
Christianismi Restitutio, p. 462.
Hisce oculis nos vidimus eum super principum cervices cum pompa gestari, cruces sua manu minando, et in mediis plateis a cuncto populo genibus flexis adorari, &c.