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" Him that overcometh will I makf a pillar 
in the temple of my God!' 


Mr. James Sprung of Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1911 
established a perpetual lectureship at Union Theological 
Seminary in Virginia, which would enable this institution to 
secure from time to time the services of distinguished min- 
isters and authoritative scholars as special lecturers on sub- 
jects connected with various departments of Christian 
thought and Christian work. The lecturers are chosen by the 
faculty of the seminary and a committee of the Board of 
Trustees, and the lectures are published after their delivery 
in accordance with a contract between the lecturer and these 
representatives of the institution. 

The series of lectures on this foundation for the year 1950 
is presented in this volume. 

B. R. LACY, JR., 

Union Theological Seminary, 
Richmond, Virginia. 


The material in this book represents in large part lectures de- 
livered at the invitation of the faculty and trustees of the 
Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia, on the 
James Sprunt foundation. Portions of these lectures were de- 
livered also at the Danforth Conference at Camp Mini- 
wanca, Shelly, Michigan; at the Eden Theological Seminary, 
Webster Groves, Missouri; and at the Vermont Congrega- 
tional Ministers Conference, Montpelier, Vermont. For pub- 
lication, these lectures were revised and in some cases am- 


The Divinity School, 

Yale University, 

New Haven, Connecticut. 


Foreword 7 

Preface 9 

Introduction 13 



1. The Peak of Catholic Persecution: Thomas of 

Torquemada 33 

2. The Peak of Protestant Intolerance: John Calvin 54 

3. The Victim of Protestant Persecution: Michael 

Servetus 72 




4. The Remonstrator: Sebastien Castellio 97 

5. The Heretic as Hypocrite: David Joris 125 

6. The Heretic as Exile: Bernardino Ochino 149 




7. The Bard of Speech Unbound: John Milton 179 


8. The Seeker: Roger Williams 208 

9. Apologist for the Act of Toleration: John Locke 229 

Reflections 253 

Sources 261 

Crat?ail of 
Heligious liberty 


The historian who set out twenty-five years ago to write the 
history of the struggle for religious liberty believed the sub- 
ject peculiarly suited to his pen because the evidence was all 
in. The victory had been won, and to recount the tale was a 
task of filial piety in order to extol the exploits of those who 
had put to flight armies of aliens. Today the armies of aliens 
hold the field in many quarters, and the history of religious 
liberty is a chapter in the intelligent man's guide to the read- 
ing of the newspapers. We approach the story now not sim- 
ply to laud but to learn. 

The contrast, however, between the now and the then is 
not wholly due to the resurgence of persecution but in part 
to an earlier provincialism which took into account only the 
Western world. Even twenty-five years ago the picture would 
not have been so rosy had the survey included the Near East 
and the Far East and the Russian steppes. Russia has never 
been a land of liberty. Under the old regime there was a 
graded system of toleration determined by considerations of 
political security. The religions of the annexed territories 
were granted that degree of recognition requisite for tran- 
quillity. The scale ran through the Catholics, Lutherans, Mo- 
hammedans, and Armenians, to the Jews and the Russian 
sects which enjoyed the least consideration of all. Moreover, 
in the predominantly Catholic countries of Europe, Protes- 
tantism could never be said to have enjoyed a genuine parity, 


and certainly not in South America. Yet unquestionably the 
last quarter of a century has seen retrogression. Fascism, first 
in Italy and then in Germany, was the earliest setback, and 
then the emergence of Communism has exhibited the major 
characteristics of a militant religion the like of which has 
not been seen since the rise of Mohammedanism. Liberty has 
receded even in Russia, and notably in those countries that 
have been sucked into the Soviet orbit. We tremble for our- 
selves lest we too be engulfed, and even more lest in the 
effort to extricate ourselves we succumb to the very methods 
that we abhor. 

We turn now to the record of the earlier gains for religious 
liberty in order to be instructed, both as to why men perse- 
cuted and as to how persecution can be overcome. A very 
facile answer is that the Communists persecute because they 
are atheists and if they were but Christians they would be 
gentlemen. This answer is shattered on the concrete base of 
history. With shame we must confess that the present ap- 
palling methods employed to cow resistance by disintegrating 
the very integrity of opponents is only a refinement along 
technological lines of the devices elaborated under the aus- 
pices of the Church, The story of persecution related in this 
book was practiced entirely by Christians. 

Then comes the equally facile answer that really religions 
and religious ideas have nothing to do with the case. The 
causes of persecution are sociological, and if the existence of 
a people or a party be menaced, even though it profess the 
religion of brotherly love, it will find some casuistry whereby 
to bend even brotherhood to the service of suppression. The 
difficulty with this explanation is that it fails to account for 
crusading religions whose adherents are not content to in- 
sure the cohesion of their communities by purges from 
within, but with no provocation set out with a fanatical sense 
of mission to benefit the world by constraint. As a matter of 


fact, both the ideological and the sociological, both beliefs 
and situations, exercise a continual interplay. 

The like is true also with regard to religious liberty. In 
part tolerance has displaced persecution because the presup- 
positions of persecution have been undercut, but in part also 
because the entire religious question has been relegated to a 
position of lesser importance in comparison with secular 
concerns. Political security, economic prosperity, and aes- 
thetic enjoyment have come to appear more significant than 
religious rectitude. At this point liberty has come to depend 
upon a diversion of interest. 

The present study is distinctly limited first, as to scope, 
because it deals only with the struggle in Christian lands in 
the West and there chiefly with Protestantism. The selection 
may well appear invidious, because there is a chapter on 
Catholic persecution but none on Catholic liberalism, and to 
recognize the possibility of a liberal Catholicism is particu- 
larly important at the present juncture when such fears are 
entertained of the possibility of Catholic dominance in the 
United States. Yet the omission can be justified, partly be- 
cause Catholicism is capable of tolerance on far fewer counts 
than Protestantism, and partly because these lectures were 
delivered at a Presbyterian seminary where a centering upon 
our own tradition was not inappropriate. 

There is a limitation also in time, in that the period se- 
lected runs from the late fifteenth century to the late seven- 
teenth, a span of only two hundred years, and of course per- 
secution had been rife long before the fifteenth century and 
liberty was far from wholly won in the seventeenth. Never- 
theless, the essential struggle is bracketed within these years. 

Finally, the biographical approach entails very serious limi- 
tations. The impression may be created that the whole prob- 
lem was simply one of personal clashes, whereas entire 
peoples and cultures were in convulsion. The nine persons se- 


lected were all passionate Christians and their lives therefore 
afford no illustrations of the secular motives for liberty. They 
were likewise private persons and not subject to the pressures 
of political responsibility, which induced even a bigot like 
Charles V to moderate his severity and engendered indiffer- 
ence to religion in Queen Elizabeth and Henry IV as they 
observed the disruptive force of confessional controversy for 
the body politic. The economic arguments for liberty might 
have been illustrated through Jakob Fugger or William the 
Silent, who were not disposed to see the transport of goods 
wrecked on transubstantiation. If these limitations be adduced 
as objections, the answer is simply that this is but a little book 
and leaves abundant room for another manner of treatment,, 
and this way has also ks merits. To deal with specific persons 
keeps continually to the fore what is so readily forgotten^, 
that persecution thwarts, warps, and crushes individuals. The 
drowning of a thousand Anabaptists or the exile of ten thou- 
sand Huguenots may leave us cold, whereas a picture of one 
man burned, one man broken, one man exiled, may invest 
with meaning all the thousands and the tens of thousands. 

The nine selected fall into three groups. The first trio have 
been chosen to illustrate persecution, Catholic and Protes- 
tant. They consist of two persecutors, the first Catholic, the 
second Protestant, namely, Torquemada and Calvin, and one 
victim of persecution from both parties, namely, Michael 
Servetus. The second three epitomize the struggle for liberty 
on the Continent in the sixteenth century. They are Sebastien 
Castellio the Frenchman, David Joris the Hollander, and 
Bernardino Ochino the Italian. The third three exemplify 
the struggle in England and the colonies in the seventeenth 
century, namely, John Milton for the Puritan revolution in 
the Old Country and Roger Williams in the New, and John 
Locke for the age of the Glorious Revolution and the Act of 


Before turning to these men, a word is in order with re- 
gard to the theory of persecution and in justification of the 
remark that Protestantism can be more readily tolerant than 
Catholicism. The prerequisites for persecution are three: 
(i) The persecutor must believe that he is right; (2) that 
the point in question is important; (3) that coercion will be 

On all three counts Catholicism and Protestantism, in so 
far as they were persecuting, were agreed. Both believed that 
outside the Church there is no salvation and that heresy 
damns souls. Lord Acton was quite mistaken in portraying 
the Protestant theory of persecution as diametrically opposed 
to the Catholic on the ground that Protestants had nothing 
left for which to persecute save error, whereas Catholics with- 
stood the disruption of society through dissent. This picture 
is utterly misleading. Neither Catholic nor Protestant ever 
persecuted mere error but only obstinate error. Both perse- 
cuted heresy as heresy, and both believed that heresy, if un- 
checked, would disintegrate society. Both were driven by the 
exigencies of the situation to suppress dissent. 

A few differences there are between the Catholic and Prot- 
estant theories, but they are not important. Luther sought to 
limit persecution by restricting it to blasphemy instead of 
heresy, but the gain was slight because he well-nigh identi- 
fied heresy and blasphemy. Calvin declined to avail himself 
of this subterfuge and burned Servetus outright as a heretic. 
At several points Calvin intensified the Catholic theory of 
persecution. First, he accentuated the feudal conception of 
sin, according to which the enormity of an offense depends 
on the rank of the person against whom it is committed. 
When Calvin exalted God to dizzy transcendental eminence, 
heresy as an insult to his majesty became a crime of infinite 
depravity. In consequence the Catholic proviso that only a 
relapsed heretic should be put to death was abandoned. On 


no pretext could Servetus be regarded as relapsed. The other 
great difference was that the doctrine of predestination neces- 
sarily altered the purpose of persecution, which could not be 
to save souls, since they were saved or damned already, but 
could only be for the glory of God. 

The greatest difference lay in the legal basis for persecu- 
tion. For Catholics this was the canon law which was jet- 
tisoned by the Protestants. For it were substituted the Bible 
and the Roman law. In the long run this shift made for 
liberty, because the Bible provides but an insecure basis for 
the persecution of heresy, and the Roman law, while explicit 
enough, was to enjoy only a temporary vogue. The difficulty 
in the case of the Bible is that, although the Old Testament 
is severe in its penalties, they are directed, not against heresy, 
but only against idolatry and apostasy, whereas the New 
Testament, though mentioning heresy, is mild in its treat- 
ment of the offender. The Protestant persecutors had to com- 
bine the offense of the New with the penalty of the Old 
Covenant, a combination that the liberals were not slow in 
prying apart. 

The Roman law was more explicit with regard to both 
the offense and the penalty. The two heresies penalized by 
death in the Codex Justinianus were a denial of the Trinity 
and a repetition of baptism. This ancient legislation directed 
against Arians and Donatists was revived in the sixteenth 
century and applied to Anti-Trinitarians and Anabaptists. 
Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin all appealed to the impe- 
rial law. Joris, Gentile, and Servetus, and the Anabaptists as a 
whole, suffered under its terms. In fact the very name " Ana- 
baptist," meaning " Rebaptizer," was invented in order to 
subject to the imperial laws those who preferred to call them- 
selves simply Baptists. They would never admit that they 
baptized over again, for infant baptism was to them no bap- 
tism, but rather a " dipping in the Romish bath." The preva- 


lence of the imperial code goes far to explain why Anti- 
Trinitarianism and Anabaptism were the two heresies visited 
with the severest penalties in the sixteenth century. Signif- 
icantly, the last infliction of the death penalty for heresy in 
England under James I was for just these offenses. Roman 
law, however, was destined to succumb in favor of national 
codes, and a policy of persecution resting on no deeper legal 
basis than the old imperial laws could not indefinitely sur- 

Differences, then, there are between the Catholic and Prot- 
estant theories of persecution but they are comparatively triv- 
ial. When one turns to the theory of liberty, the case is dif- 
ferent, for Protestantism can be tolerant on more grounds 
than Catholicism, which cannot relinquish so many of the 
requisites for persecution. 

With regard to the first prerequisite for constraint in re- 
ligion, that the persecutor must believe he is right, the Cath- 
olic can never admit any uncertainty as to the cardinal affir- 
mations of the Church. Neither can he concede that a willful 
denial of an article in the ecumenical creeds is a venial 
offense, since it will certainly entail damnation. The only 
ground for tolerance is expediency; but this is a larger 
ground than the word at first connotes, for expediency may 
be ecclesiastical, political, or religious. The Church can argue 
from the ecclesiastical point of view that persecution will re- 
coil upon Catholics and do the Church more harm than 
good. This has been the situation in the United States. If any 
Church had been established, it would not have been the 
Catholic, and if any Churches were persecuted, the Catholic 
would not have been exempt. Leading American Catholics 
have clearly recognized this situation and in the past have 
wholeheartedly endorsed the American system of toleration. 

Again expediency may be conceived in political terms. 
Persecution is then regarded as indiscreet because it wrecks 


the State. Here is the program of the French Politiques- As 
a Catholic, Henry IV promulgated the Edict of Nantes, and 
as a Catholic, Joseph II established the Decree of 1781. He 
was actuated by distress over the impoverishment and de- 
population of the land through the expulsion of wealthy 
Protestants. As a corrective, toleration was granted openly 
to Lutherans and Calvinists and tacitly to Husites, though 
not to Deists who presumably mattered less. 

Finally, expediency may be religious. From this point of 
view persecution is ineffective because incapable of engen- 
dering that heartfelt adherence which alone the Church can 
regard as adequate. Such a feeling presumably lies behind the 
repeal in the latest edition of the canon law of every penalty 
for heresy save excommunication. 

In saying, however, that Catholics can be tolerant only on 
grounds of expediency one must not forget that Catholicism 
has nurtured three movements that made for tolerance, espe- 
cially when transferred to Protestant soil, namely, mysticism, 
humanism, and sectarianism. Mysticism contributes by di- 
verting attention from dogma to experience and by equating 
the way to God with the way of suffering, which comports 
more readily with martyrdom than with persecution. Hu- 
manism demands freedom for investigation in a limited area, 
and sectarianism, as in the case of the Spiritual Franciscans, 
places obedience to God or to the founder of the order, or to 
the Holy Spirit, above obedience to the pope. Such move- 
ments, to be sure, were restricted or suppressed by Cathol- 
icism, but nonetheless served in a measure to check dog- 
matic intolerance within Catholicism and proved a powerful 
solvent when transmitted to the Reformation. 

Protestantism has made for liberty in much more varied 
ways, because it has been able to attenuate all three reasons 
for persecution. Certitude with regard even to the most car- 
dinal doctrines and with regard to the authority of the 


Church and the Bible has wavered in the face of attack on 
Protestant soil A vein of rationalism runs from Erasmus 
through Castellio to Locke. 

The second prerequisite for persecution, that the point in 
question be regarded as important, was demolished in part 
by a shift of interest within the realm of religion itself and 
in part by a secularism which diverted attention from reli- 
gion as a whole, though this of course is extraneous to Protes- 

Within the sphere of religion the importance of the dog- 
mas supported by the sword of the magistrate was mini- 
mized in favor of the mystical and ethical elements. The one 
elevated inner experience, the other right conduct, as more 
significant than correct opinions. In Protestantism the ethical 
attack was the more prevalent. The argument was that in 
the eyes of God deeds count for more than creeds and creeds 
themselves must be subject to ethical tests. Just as the medical 
theories are judged by the cures which they effect, so too 
must theological affirmations be evaluated in terms of the 
correction of sins. Creeds are even ethically conditioned, for 
correctness of opinion is valueless apart from sincerity of con- 
viction. From this position the step was easy to the assertion 
that sincerity is to be esteemed even though the opinions 
held be incorrect. Thus even error has rights as a stage in the 
quest for truth. Error is not the goal, but honest error is 
nearer to the truth of religion than dishonest correctness. 

On this basis alone does conscience acquire any rights. The 
dominant Reformers of the sixteenth century scoffed at any 
conscience save a right conscience. Conscientia, they claimed, 
means nothing apart from scicntia; Gewissen must be based 
on Wissen. Heretics have only a fictitious conscience. One 
recalls how Knox scoffed at Queen Mary's appeal to her con- 
science. The plea for conscience becomes relevant only when 
moral integrity is prized above dogmatic impeccability. 


Another way of minimizing the importance of the points 
over which persecution raged was to make a distinction be- 
tween one dogma and another. In this way fundamentalism 
arose. It was an attempt to segregate the fundamentals from 
the nonessentials in the interests of liberty. This type of 
thought has a long history. The Devotio Moderna had dep- 
recated theological speculation to the point that Wessel 
Gansfort declared no ampler theology necessary for salva- 
tion than that of the penitent thief who was admitted to 
Paradise on very minimal terms. In the same vein Erasmus 
upbraided those who dissipated their energies on arid triviali- 
ties. The mediators between the Lutherans and Zwinglians 
relegated the sacramentarian controversy to the periphery. 
Other examples will appear in the course of this study. 

The third premise for persecution is the belief that perse- 
cution is of some good. Here the Protestant was compelled 
to inquire, " Good for what ? " The Catholic would have 
had an immediate answer, for the obvious purpose of perse- 
cution for him would be to save souls. But the Protestant, if 
he were a Lutheran or more particularly a Calvinist, could 
never say this, because according to the doctrine of predesti- 
nation the salvation of souls is predetermined by God. The 
purpose of persecution is not to alter his decrees but to vindi- 
cate his honor. To this, the liberals replied that also here per- 
secution is ineffective, since God is quite able to look out for 
himself. Neither can his honor be vindicated by burning 
men, for he takes no delight in holocausts. 

The champions of liberty, while hammering at the notion 
that persecution either should or can glorify God, at the same 
time drew from the predestinarian arsenal in order to batter 
the Catholic position that persecution can be of any avail in 
saving souls. The doctrine of predestination at this point be- 
came a weapon of liberty, on the ground that if man's salva- 
tion depends wholly on God, then constraint is futile. On 


the Godward side it means indifference to the fate of the 
damned, but on the manward side it means impotence to 
alter matters by coercion. The particular determinist slogan 
on which the liberals fastened was a phrase from the apostle 
Paul that faith is a gift of God (Eph.2:8). 

Because, however, the liberals in general were not them- 
selves predestinarian in their thought, they preferred to give 
the determinist argument a different slant and shifted it 
from the soul to the mind. There is a determinism of the in- 
tellect. No more can the mind assent to that to which it does 
not assent than can the eye see as red that which it sees as 
blue. Constraint will not mend matters. In some cases this 
determinism is absolute. A moron never can grasp an argu- 
ment; but in other cases the point is simply that appercep- 
tion is slow and impeded by many obstacles. To effect con- 
version we must then master the art of persuasion. The 
greatest hindrances to clear sight are passion, pride, and prej- 
udice, and these are only accentuated by vainglory and ar- 
rogance on the part of the one who is seeking to persuade. 
Humility and obvious devotion above everything else to the 
truth are the prime requisites for winning converts. Beneath 
the argument, of course, lies a confidence in the ability of 
truth to shift for itself and in the long run to command 

In the realm of theory certain considerations had an in- 
direct bearing on the problem of persecution, and among 
them none was more important than the theory of the 
Church. Christian history exhibits two main views, and they 
are sometimes distinguished by calling the one the church 
type and the other the sect type. In England the terminology 
has been more frequent of the " parish " versus the " gath- 
ered " Church. They differ markedly in their attitude to re- 
ligious liberty. The church type is based on a sacramental 
theory of salvation in which force is more appropriate be- 


cause the sacrament can be regarded as a " medicine of im- 
mortality " which, will benefit the recipient whether he likes 
it or not The sacrament of Baptism is administered to babies. 
In a Christian land the Church is then considered to include 
all those born and baptized into the community. Alliance 
with the State becomes more natural because both Church 
and State comprise the same persons. Salvation outside the 
Church is impossible because the Church, even the visible 
Church, is like the ark of Noah, outside of which no souls 
were saved. To be in the ark one must receive the sacraments, 
subscribe to the doctrines, and obey the officers. Achievement 
of the moral demands is not so imperative because the un- 
clean beasts were allowed in the ark. They are the tares to 
be left until the harvest. The heretics are not the tares. To 
them applies the text, f{ Cotnpdle intrarc" for they are com- 
parable to Noah's wife in the mystery plays, who, incredu- 
lous of the flood, refused to board the ship until picked up 
bodily and shoved up the gangplank by her sturdy sons, 
whose place in the Christian commonwealth is taken by the 
secular arm. This theory of the Church is entirely compatible 
with a latitudinarianism which makes the gangplank broad > 
that as many as possible may enter the ark. 

The sectarian theory of the Church looks upon the insti- 
tution less as an ark of salvation than as a city set upon a hill 
to save itself and the world by an example of righteousness. 
The emphasis is ethical rather than sacramental. The tares 
are the heretics, who must be left outside and not compelled 
to come in lest they sully the purity of the community. The 
moral offenders are not the tares, and they must be excluded 
by excommunication. Babies are not to be baptized and 
church membership depends on mature conversion. This the 
State cannot effect by the sword of the magistrate. All con- 
straint in religion is renounced, and commonly any alliance 
with the State is repudiated, since the State is instituted by 


God because of sinners and is to be administered only by 
sinners. This view of the Church makes it exclusive. The 
ideal of comprehension is rejected and liberty is demanded to 
form small purist groups. The slogan of this party Is: 

We are the choice elected few: 

Let all the rest be damned: 
There's room enough in hell for you. 

We won't have heaven crammed. 

These two types can be combined, provided the community 
itself be select, granting residence, or at any rate the fran- 
chise, only to the saints. 

Another question of significance for liberty is that of the 
form of political organization. The assumption is common 
that democracy is the form most conducive to tolerance, but 
democracy of itself is no guarantee of liberty. In Cromwell's 
days toleration could be achieved only by dictatorship. Crom- 
well could accord liberty to the Anglican Church, as he was 
disposed to do, only by flouting Parliament, which he was 
not disposed to do. On the other hand, religious restrictions 
were progressively removed under enlightened despots like 
Frederick the Great. The democratic form of the State means 
most for religious liberty in those cases where the Church 
seeks to influence political issues. Such activity will be tol- 
erated only by a State that grants a similar liberty to various 
groups within its structure, like trade-unions. The totalitarian 
State will concede freedom to those Churches alone that con- 
fine themselves strictly to divine worship. Hence we may say 
that although the democratic State need not be tolerantly 
disposed, nevertheless in no other State is there so wide a 
scope for the activity and influence of the Churches. 

As an administrative problem, the policy to be adopted by 
the State to dissident groups is conditioned only in part by 
its own constitution. Much more depends on the number 


and the temper of the groups themselves. Only if they are 
willing to live and to let live can the State drop the matter. If 
they are not so disposed, some measure of control becomes 
inevitable. Three solutions have been tried: territorialism, 
comprehension, and complete religious liberty. The first 
two methods were tried when the sects were intolerant of 
each other. The third became possible only as their temper 

Territorialism was rooted in the view which went back to 
antiquity that the State must be supported by a religion and 
that a single established religion is the best guarantee of 
the security and unity of the people. Such a motive led to the 
adoption of Christianity as the most favored religion of the 
Roman Empire. The division of Christendom occasioned by 
the Reformation was far from shattering the ideal. Since it 
could no longer be realized on a universal scale, the attempt 
was made to conserve it in many miniatures. The welfare of 
the State was still the determinative factor, and the prince 
was permitted to decide which religion should prevail in his 
domains. No other religion should be tolerated. Dissenters 
could be banished. The system of the union of Church and 
State, of the fusion of religion and the community, was thus 
conserved by an exchange of populations, and that was the 
point at which the system of territorialism enshrined liberty 
of a sort. Extermination was displaced by emigration. 

This solution was adopted in Europe at the Peace of Augs- 
burg of 1555, which recognized, however, only the Catholic 
and Lutheran Churches. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 
was conceived after the same pattern, but added the Re- 
formed. And the American Constitution of 1787 was still 
cast in the same mold. Though no religion was to be estab- 
lished by the Federal Government, the states were free to 
retain or introduce any or none. The colonies had naturally 
grown up on the principle of territorialism. The Congrega- 


tionalists gravitated to Massachusetts and Connecticut, the 
Baptists to Rhode Island, the Presbyterians to New York and 
New Jersey, The Catholics went to Maryland, the Quakers 
and Pietist sects colonized Pennsylvania, and the Anglicans 
predominated in the South. Established Churches prevailed 
everywhere save in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, which 
latter presented the anomaly of religious disabilities without 
an establishment. The Federal Constitution interfered with 
none of this. Certain prerogatives of the Episcopalians in 
Virginia lasted until 1802. The establishment of Congrega- 
tionalism continued in Connecticut until 1818 and in Massa- 
chusetts until 1833. As a matter of fact, territorialism was 
nowhere so compatible with liberty as in the American colo- 
nies because the right of emigration was not too difficult of 
realization so long as the frontier remained open. 

But to pull up with goods and kin was never easy, and for 
that reason governments had recourse to another expedient 
for solving the problem through a system of comprehension, 
which sought to satisfy as many as possible in the commu- 
nity by latitude as to their most cherished tenets. These being 
conceded, they were then asked to subscribe in other matters 
to a scheme of uniformity. The recusants on the fringes to 
the right and the left were subject to one penalty or another. 
The Augsburg Interim which Charles V endeavored to im- 
pose on Germany enshrined this plan, and only after it 
failed did he have recourse to the territorialism of the Peace 
of Augsburg. 

The English settlement was built on the same theory and 
succeeded. The reasons for the failure of comprehension in 
Germany and the success in England are a matter of specu- 
lation, but some differences are obvious. Charles V tried to 
reconcile the Catholics and Protestants. Elizabeth attempted 
comprehension only within the Protestant frame. Charles 
was half Spanish. Elizabeth was English and Tudor. And the 


date was later. England was already wearied by change and 
persecution from Henry through Edward and Mary. The 
disastrous effects of the religious wars on the Continent had 
given dramatic reinforcement to the theories of the Politiques. 
Besides, Erastianism from the outset had been deeply rooted 
in England. This, by the way, was not the doctrine that the 
State might introduce any religion it chose, but that in a 
Christian community the king held the two keys rather than 
the pope. Here we have the culmination of medieval im- 
perialistic thought transferred to the head of one of the new 
national states. Perhaps deeper than any other reason is the 
closer continuity of the Reformation with the Renaissance 
in England than in other lands. The comprehensive philoso- 
phy of the Florentine Academy, with its candles for Plato 
as well as for Christ, suggested chapels for diverse cults be- 
neath the one dome of the universal temple. The incursion 
of the Arminians further reinforced universalist tendencies. 
The system of comprehension, however, succeeded only rela- 
tively in England, since the champions of the narrow way 
refused to be comprehended and at length won for them- 
selves an unmolested place outside of the Establishment. 

The same thing happened in the American colonies, for 
if our Federal Constitution is an instance of territorialism, 
the individual colonies, whatever the religion established, 
displayed the same basic pattern as that of England. The 
rigidity of the first settlements soon moved in the direction 
of comprehension. At the same time the dissenters on the 
fringe gained an increasing footing: Baptists, Quakers, and 
Presbyterians in Virginia; Episcopalians, Baptists, and Quak- 
ers in Connecticut; and these, plus Unitarians, in Massachu- 
setts. The process was arrested at this stage in England, but 
in America passed on to the third solution of the problem, 
that of a complete religious liberty in which the dissidents 
agree to differ. 


The pax dissidentium had its first exemplification in Po- 
land, in 1573, when those who frankly differed in religion 
covenanted to preserve the peace among themselves, to shed 
no blood, to impose no penalties, and to confiscate no goads 
because of diversity in faith and practice. This peace, how- 
ever, was made only between Protestant groups, and was 
soon upset by the Counter Reformation. The next great at- 
tempt at this type of settlement was made by Oliver Crom- 
well, and will be discussed in connection with Milton. 

An idea of great moment for the entire problem is that of 
a united Christendom. The advance in liberty has actually 
been associated with the disintegration of this ideal. The 
Protestants of the sixteenth century had lamented the rend- 
ing of the seamless robe of Christ and did their best to mend 
the rents among themselves. But the sectaries of the seven- 
teenth century definitely abandoned the ideal of unity and 
regarded diversity and competition as wholesome and stimu- 
lating, sometimes adducing the analogy of laissez faire in 

The previous discussion refers several times to liberals over 
against persecutors, as if there were two parties within Prot- 
estantism. That is correct. The one strain stemming from 
Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin was dominant and continuous. 
The other, stemming from Erasmus, asserted itself at recur- 
rent intervals in all the rationalist movements and notably in 
the Age of the Enlightenment. Coupled with the rationalist 
approach were sometimes mystical and sectarian motifs. The 
implication appears, then, to be that if Protestantism became 
tolerant, it was only because of the triumph of the one party 
over the other. The case, however, is by no means so simple. 
Persecuting Protestantism also made its contribution to lib- 
erty not, of course, by its persecution, but rather by its utter 
intransigence. The liberals were in danger of securing toler- 
ance by the evaporation of faith and the dissolution of the 


Church. The intransigents were in danger of springing from 
resolute defiance to an imposition of their own creed, but 
their very defiance required that they be either exterminated 
or tolerated, and if they were numerous, toleration com- 
mended itself as the wiser expedient. They thus wrung tol- 
eration for themselves from the Catholic powers. To extend 
the same liberty to others was, however, possible only after 
some modification of their own position. They might, of 
course, wring their hands if unable to suppress their rivals, 
but if they became genuinely tolerant, as indeed they did, it 
could be only because they had come to esteem honest error 
as a stage toward truth, and even to conceive of themselves as 
possibly mistaken. But to concede this was to go over to the 
other camp. Very largely in Protestantism this is what has 

These themes will not be pursued systematically in the fol- 
lowing study because it is set up around particular men. 
Rather, an attempt will be made to show the continual inter- 
play of forces both in the realm of idea and in the realm of 
external circumstance, the tensions between the struggle to 
uphold truth and the effort to achieve tolerance. The story 
is carried through the most significant milestone, namely, 
the Act of Toleration in England in i( 



Chapter (Dm 


Thomas of Torquemada 

A bald enumeration of the presuppositions of Christian 
persecution gives no sense of the devastating intensity of 
conviction that could impel men to 
banish, imprison, torture, strangle, 
behead, drown, and burn. The su- 
preme example and symbol is 
Thomas of Torquemada who, more 
than any other, fomented persecution 
in Spain, was instrumental in estab- 
lishing and heading the Inquisition, 
and was the prime mover in the ex- 
pulsion of the Jews. Torquemada 
was a bigot; he was also a Spaniard, 
and in him religious fanaticism and 
nationalist zeal were combiaed. 

The passion of his life was to unify 
Spain under the banner of Christian 
orthodoxy. Spain occupied a unique 

Thomas of Torquemada 

position. Prior to the Crusades this land had been the meet- 
ing point of three religions Islam, Judaism, and Christian- 
ity. Under the tolerant regime of the caliphs the three dwelt 
in peace. Cultural interchange was fostered. Spain was the 
bridge between the Arabian and the European worlds, the 
crossroad of Islam and Christendom, where the Jews also 
had free passage. The ability of these religions to lie down 


together was due to no inherent tolerance, because each of 
them on occasion had been highly intolerant. Each makes 
exclusive claims. In this instance they manifested mutual re- 
spect, perhaps because the Saracens, like the Romans and the 
British, discovered that tolerance of religions is a convenient 
instrument for a tranquil administration. Wars, to be sure, 
there were, but not along confessional lines. Spain stood at 
the meeting of East and West. 

This situation was not to last. The great disturbing factor 
was the Crusades. The root idea was religious, to protect the 
holy places from profanation and the holy pilgrims from 
molestation by dislodging the Turks and the Saracens from 
the Holy Land. An incidental effect was to forge a sense of 
European unity, to give reality to the ideal of Christendom. 
But this could scarcely be realized so long as the infidel re- 
tained a foothold in Europe itself. The Moor must be dis- 
lodged from the Iberian peninsula. The Mediterranean must 
become a Christian sea. 

In this strife for unity the Jews were caught. The Crusad- 
ers on their way to the Holy Land, wearying of the long 
trek, vented their fanaticism in pogroms. In Spain the plan 
of reconquest demanded, not merely that the political power 
of the Moor be broken, but that the Christian faith be every- 
where recognized, in which case the devotees of Jehovah 
were as alien as the worshipers of Allah. 

As military pressure was applied to the Moor, popular 
antipathy was inflamed against the Jew. Friars preached 
hate. Archbishops, kings, and even popes might remonstrate, 
but those who had dedicated themselves to the most rigorous 
forms of the Christian life would not suffer themselves to be 
intimidated from attacks upon those alien to the Christian 
faith, Late in the fourteenth century a wave of anti-Jewish 
riots swept Spain. 

They are better described as anti-Jewish than as anti- 


Semitic, because race played no part and the Jew by renounc- 
ing his religion could relieve himself of all persecution. The 
temptation was acute, especially because no safe asylum was 
anywhere open. The Jews had been expelled from England 
in 1290, and from France in 1306, and in Germany were sub- 
ject to periodic outbursts. For the first time in history a mass 
movement occurred in the Jewish community of wholesale 
conversion to Christianity. Thousands accepted baptism. The 
laver of redemption then washed away all disabilities, and 
the converses, as they were called, became not only immune 
from molestation but eligible to the highest offices of the 
State and likewise of the Church. Converted Jews became 
treasurers, chancellors, bishops, and even archbishops. The 
more flourishing married with the Spanish nobility, so that 
scarcely any prominent family could claim purity of blood. 
Conceivably this process might have continued until assimila- 
tion was complete. 

But it was not to continue, and one of the chief figures in 
arresting the process was Thomas of Torquemada, a Domini- 
can friar who is said himself to have had a Jewish grand- 
mother. He fell into one of the two classes of the converses. 
The majority accepted Christianity only superficially, and 
in their homes continued to practice the rites of Judaism, to 
keep the kosher regulations, and to observe the feasts and 
the Sabbath. Some in clandestine circles may even have made 
mock of Christianity, but others by way of compensation be- 
came fanatically orthodox and sought to secure themselves 
in the Christian community by excessive zeal against any 
who lapsed into Judaism. Of such was Torquemada, or at 
any rate so he is explained, though the extant evidence is 
too scanty to warrant a confident judgment. 

Apart from his personal motives this is clear, that Spain 
had reached a point of turning. The intolerance fanned by 
the Crusades had rendered impossible its former position as 


the link between the crescent and the cross. Now it must be- 
long either to Islam or to Christendom, oriented toward the 
East or toward the West. And in the latter case there could 
be but one religion, the orthodox faith of the Catholic 
Church. Torquemada may or may not have sensed the full 
import of the situation. From his behavior one can only 
judge that he was fanatically committed to a Christian Spain, 
purged of all alien elements, a veritable Gibraltar of Chris- 

In all this one observes that religious persecution was 
closely tied to social concomitants. The kernel was the con- 
cept of a Christian society, the Church itself built on a pure 
faith. But this ideal could readily fuse with some earthly 
entity, whether the Holy Roman Empire or one of the rising 
national states. This time it was Spain. 

The instrument on which Torquemada seized for the 
achievement of his purpose was the Inquisition. In his day it 
was already fully two hundred years old, and back of the 
Inquisition itself lay a still longer history of persecution. To 
understand what it was all about a little review is necessary. 
For this purpose one need not go back quite to Adam. 
Moses will do as a point of departure, because he is the 
founder of Judaism and Judaism is the parent of Christian- 
ity, notably with reference to the presuppositions of persecu- 
tion. On the three counts of certainty, importance, and ex- 
pediency, Judaism entertained no doubt. There could be no 
question that the faith of Judaism was true, because delivered 
by God upon the Mount to Moses. Neither could one deny 
the supreme importance of maintaining the faith, since Jeho- 
vah is a jealous God who will visit his displeasure upon the 
disobedient unto the third and fourth generations. And coer- 
cion certainly could preserve the purity of the elect people 
by eliminating any apostates. The book of Deuteronomy 
therefore decreed in the thirteenth chapter, the classic passage 


on persecution alike for Jews and Christians, that if any Isra- 
elite should entice his fellows to follow after other gods, he 
should be taken beyond the camp and stoned. And in this 
purge no son of the covenant should spare his brother, his 
child, or even the wife of his bosom. Elsewhere in the Old 
Testament, to be sure, one will find more liberal sentiments, 
but here is the manifesto of persecution. 

Christianity was the heir to Jewish exclusiveness and even 
increased its claims. To the one and only God was added the 
one and only Lord. The conflict in the Roman Empire was 
not, as in Judaism, between Jehovah and Baal but between 
Christ and Caesar. In place of the one chosen race arose the 
one chosen religious community, the new Israel of God, the 
Christian Church. Very soon emerged the view that outside 
of this Church salvation was impossible. The Church was a 
spiritual ark of Noah beyond which all were drowned. Ob- 
viously, then, adherence to the Church was of supreme im- 
portance. Adherence entailed submission to the Church of- 
ficers, acceptance of the Church's rites, and subscription to 
the Church's faith, the acceptance of a creed. This was a new 
element. In the Old Testament the offense was apostasy, de- 
fection from the community. In the New Testament the 
offense was heresy, a wrong belief, the rejection of an article 
of the faith. The penalty in the Old Testament was death, 
in the New Testament only avoidance. " Him that is a heretic 
avoid " (Titus 3:10). The day was yet distant when the New 
Testament offense and the Old Testament penalty were com- 
bined, but it was to come. 

During the period when the Church was itself subject to 
persecution there was of course no possibility of utilizing the 
arm of the State for the punishment of heresy. But the pre- 
suppositions of persecution were further intensified by the 
growth of a spirit of fierce antipathy toward those of a dif- 
ferent persuasion. The Early Church swarmed with sects, 


and hostility was bitter. When the orthodox and the Mon- 
tanists were condemned to die in the same arena for the 
same Lord, they separated themselves to opposite corners 
rather than be eaten by the same lions. Such an attitude could 
manifest itself in active persecution. After the acceptance of 
Christianity by the Roman Empire, Constantine inflicted 
banishment upon the dissenting bishops at the Council of 
Nicaea. By the end of the fourth century the death penalty 
was actually exacted by the Emperor Theodosius, a Spaniard, 
of the heretic Priscillian also from Spain. Churchmen were 
aghast at this shedding of blood over a matter of the faith. 

But churchmen were willing to condone and justify less 
extreme measures, particularly when heresy coalesced with 
social disorder in northern Africa, a region which by the end 
of the fourth century had come to be dominated by the party 
of the Donatists, who, after the persecution of Diocletian, 
had seceded from the Catholic Church rather than commune 
with those who had been lenient in receiving back collabora- 
tionist bishops. Once the schism was consummated, the 
Donatists attracted to themselves all the elements of discon- 
tent in northern Africa, where the old Punic population, 
after the demolition of Carthage, had long survived in the 
condition of peonage. To the Donatists flocked the oppressed 
and the dispossessed. Violence ensued. Saint Augustine, the 
bishop of Hippo in this region, still would countenance no 
retaliation. But when the government despite his remon- 
strance, stepped in and compelled the Donatists by fine and 
imprisonment to attend Catholic services, and when many 
of the Donatists then averred that formerly they had been 
intimidated by their own party from learning the truth and 
that now, through the forcible unstopping of their ears, their 
minds had been voluntarily opened, Saint Augustine de- 
clared himself no longer able to withstand the testimony of 


He had questioned hitherto, not of course the truth of the 
faith or its importance, but only the effectiveness and pro- 
priety of constraint. With this example before him, he suc- 
cumbed and proceeded to elaborate a theory of Christian 
persecution based on the premise of Christian love and con- 
cern for the welfare of the person coerced. If there is salva- 
tion only in the Catholic Church and if constraint can re- 
move obstacles to genuine conversion, then to employ it is 
an act of kindness. Surely a father may properly hold back 
a child from playing with a snake and a son may restrain a 
crazed father from throwing himself over a cliff. A horti- 
culturist prunes a rotten branch to save a tree and a doctor 
amputates a diseased limb to conserve a life. Even so may the 
erring be constrained. Augustine was here using fateful anal- 
ogies which for him were comparatively innocuous because 
he did not personify society and did not admit of the death 
penalty. But if and when the body to be saved should be 
identified with the Church or the State, then the rotten mem- 
ber would become an individual to be destroyed. That step 
in the chain of logic was, however, not taken for centuries. 

In between came the barbarian invasions in the West. The 
intruders were tolerant. Some were themselves heretical 
Arians; some were at first pagans. None of them were con- 
cerned about or so much as understood the intricacies of 
Eastern theology. Persecution slumbered. It was not to be in- 
voked again for some six centuries. The reason is that heresy 
and sectarianism also slumbered. Why that should have been 
the case is distinctly puzzling. The Early Church was rent 
by sects, and likewise the Church of the late Middle Ages. 
Conceivably during the intervening period the collapse of 
culture and the decline of intellectual interest removed one 
of the causes of conflict. Again the winning of the West for 
Christianity consumed all energies, and monasticism pro- 
vided a sufficient outlet for the urge to diversity. 


Persecution was revived when sectarianism and heresy re- 
curred. The beginnings are found in the eleventh century 
and culminated in the thirteenth, when, paradoxically, the 
Church reached the zenith of its prestige and power as a con- 
trolling and integrating factor in European civilization and 
coincidentally was menaced with disruption by a prolifera- 
tion of sects. Both developments stem from a great reforma- 
tory movement which essayed to purge the monasteries, 
purify the Church, and Christianize the world. The effort 
produced new monastic orders, holy wars, and the papal the- 
ocracy. But even such glittering successes were a disappoint- 
ment to ardent reformers, who deplored the resurgent wealth 
of the monasteries, the bestiality of the Crusades, and the 
secularization of the papacy through the acquisition of tem- 
poral power. The inference was that society cannot be Chris- 
tianized and the Church as a whole cannot be reformed. 
Consequently small convinced groups must undertake the 
reformation, even at the price of secession. Conjoined with 
this moral urge was defection at one point or another from 
the faith. Such a dissipation of forces the Church could not 
abide at the very moment when a united effort appeared 
capable of erecting a new Jerusalem on earth. The arm of 
the State was therefore invoked to allay dissent. The result 
was the Inquisition, an institution founded by the popes in 
the thirteenth century and directly subject to their control. 
The Inquisitor was commissioned to ferret out heresy, un- 
deterred by fear, favor, or affection. The convicted should 
be committed to the secular arm to be burned, rather than 
beheaded, because the Church abhors the shedding of blood. 

Such was the instrument that lay at hand for Torque- 
mada's purpose. Yet it was not entirely suitable for all that 
he envisaged. To begin with, its jurisdiction was too re- 
stricted, because the Inquisition could take cognizance of of- 
fenses only when committed by Christians. The test of a 


Christian was exceedingly perfunctory, since it consisted in 
infant baptism. The unbaptized were free. This meant that 
the Inquisition might deal only with the converses, and not 
with the loyal Jews and Moors. Increasingly Torquemada 
was of the persuasion that they too, notably the Jews, must 
come within the net, because the converses could never be 
held to the Christian faith so long as the Jews were at hand 
to seduce them. Either, then, the scope of the Inquisition 
must be enlarged or some other device must be discovered. 

Still another question was whether in any case the Inquisi- 
tion could be bent to deal adequately even with the con- 
versos, because the Inquisition was directly subject to the 
popes and the popes in this era were not fanatical. The late 
fifteenth century was the period of the Renaissance, when 
the popes had become Italian despots, elegant, loose, some- 
times flippant, and often indifferent as to the faith. Crusad- 
ing zeal, now at its peak in Spain, had cooled at the very 
seat of its origin, and Pope Alexander VI, himself a Spaniard 
by the way, actually made a treaty with the Turk against the 
most Christian king of France. It looked almost as if the 
former role of Spain as the bridge between religions and 
cultures might be taken over by Rome. Although such frat- 
ernization was but of short duration, Torquemada was 
rightly dubious as to whether the popes would abet his im- 

The only recourse was to extricate the Inquisition from 
papal hands, and no other power was strong enough to ac- 
complish this save the crown. Already in France, Philip IV 
had turned the Inquisition into an instrument of State to 
suppress the Templars. Torquemada undertook to do the 
like in Spain in order to extinguish the Judaizers. The sover- 
eigns of Spain at this time were Isabella and Ferdinand. Isa- 
bella deserves to be named first, for she was the abler and 
more enterprising of the two. The contemporary verdict on 


their relative endowments was registered on their tombs. The 
head of Isabella sinks deeply into the stone cushion, whereas 
the brains of Ferdinand make but a slight impression. Isabella 
was a visionary, hospitable to the schemes of madmen. She 
suffered herself to be persuaded by two such in her lifetime. 
The one induced her to sponsor his wild plan to reach the 
Indies by sailing westward; and the other enlisted her for 
the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. To contemporaries, 
Columbus probably appeared the madder of the two. Tor- 
quemada became the confessor of Isabella in 1467, when she 
was sixteen and he was forty-six. 

Ferdinand was of a different breed. His primary concern 
was to complete the process, already advanced in France, of 
the establishment of order through the reduction of baronial 
power and the concentration of authority in the crown. This 
was one aspect of rising nationalism. The great nobles and 
the great churchmen, who were also nobles, stood in the 
way, and sometimes the pope interfered. An institution that 
would not only preserve the unity of the faith but might at 
the same time break the nobility, both lay and clerical, was 
greatly to be prized, and just this the Inquisition might 
achieve. The goods of the convicted were subject to confisca- 
tion. If they could then be awarded, not to the Church, but 
to the State, the victim would be impoverished and the 
crown enriched. Furthermore, any who harbored heretics 
were themselves subject to prosecution. If, then, any of the 
feudal lords and great churchmen offered an asylum to the 
converses, to whom they were frequently bound by ties of 
blood, they would at once come under the jurisdiction of the 
dread tribunal. Ferdinand perceived that the Inquisition 
could be highly serviceable, provided he and not the pope 
controlled it Torquemada was not averse to playing upon 
the bigotry of Isabella and the cupidity of Ferdinand. The 
Inquisition was thus to become the great weapon for the 


purity of the faith and the honor of Spain. Orthodoxy and 
nationalism were combined. 

Torquemada well knew that he would not have easy going 
even in Spain. The masses were not in a continuous state of 
eruption against the converses, and the process of assimilation 
had actually gone so far that only by a din of propaganda 
could it be arrested. And propaganda in those days could not 
employ the radio, nor to any large extent even the printing 
press. The great instrument was the spoken word, and the 
speakers were the friars. Long had they been the preachers of 
intolerance. They were practiced in the art of inflammatory 
harangues. For rougher work there were the familiares, 
young nobles who were given certain clerical immunities in 
return for running down and rounding up suspects. Children 
even were encouraged to inform against their parents. Or- 
dinarily a boy must be fourteen and a girl twelve to make 
their testimony admissible. But a case is reported of a girl of 
but ten who was forced to depose against her mother. 

One of the chief weapons in the hands of Torquemada was 
any act of indiscretion or retaliation on the part of the con- 
versos. Every incident was magnified in proportions and gen- 
eralized in extent. The first episode occurred when a young 
Spanish noble, visiting his mistress among the Jewish con- 
verts, overheard her father and his friends reviling the Chris- 
tian faith. The young man's orthodoxy was above his morals, 
and he promptly reported the case to the Church. The pen- 
alty imposed was lenient. The noble then remonstrated to the 
queen, and at this point Torquemada stepped in to plead that 
the local clergy could not be trusted. Therefore an independ- 
ent tribunal must be introduced, namely, the Inquisition. 
The queen consented. Then the white-and-black-robed Do- 
minicans marched in solemn procession into Seville and set up 
the Holy Office. One of their number would post himself 
every Saturday on the roof of the convent to scan the chim- 


neys of the city. If any were without smoke, the house was 
investigated to learn whether the Jewish Sabbath was being 
observed within. One wonders why the Jews could not have 
been suffered to retain certain of the externals of Judaism 
just as the early Christians were not required to abandon the 
observance of the law. But unhappily in times of stress the 
trivial externals commonly become the symbols of diversity 
and the objects of attack. 

Torquemada pushed for the extension of the Inquisition 
from Seville to the whole of Castile and Aragon and de- 
manded further from the pope that the officials be appointed., 
not by the pontiff, but by the king. The pope refused and 
demoted Torquemada. Ferdinand promptly backed the friar 
and threatened financial retaliations against the papacy. The 
pope, seeing his income jeopardized, at once capitulated, and 
in October, 1482, Torquemada became the Grand Inquisitor 
for Aragon and Castile. 

The campaign began by exhorting all in the community to 
confess or to inform. Those who confessed and did penance 
could thereby forestall the confiscation of their goods. Three 
days of grace were allowed. Then arrests were made of sus- 
pects. If they proved tough, various methods of softening 
were employed. The prisoner would be brought into a dark- 
ened chamber. Before him sat the Inquisitors robed in white. 
Behind him stood the guards. A notary was ready to take 
down every word. The Inquisitor in silence fumbled papers, 
casting a dubious eye at the accused. After he had been made 
sufficiently apprehensive, his examination began. If the sus- 
pect proved obdurate, the Inquisitor might announce that he 
had to go on a journey and would leave the accused in chains 
until his return. Or the hearings might be accelerated. Again 
the prisoner might be transferred to pleasant surroundings 
and allowed visits from his friends, who would insinuate the 
suggestion that he confess. A spy might come, pretending to 


be himself a prisoner, and would seek confidences. A com- 
plete pardon might be proffered in return for confession and 
the implication of others, though after the information was 
elicited, the pardon would be interpreted as that of God and 
not of the Inquisition, or the reward might be merely stran- 
gling prior to burning. The witnesses for the prosecution 
might be heretics or criminals, but for the defense only good 

All other attempts having failed, torture might be used. 
The rack and the burning of the feet became popular later. 
In Spain the commonest modes were the hoist and the water 
torture. The hoist consisted in tying the hands behind the 
back. One end of a rope was then secured around the hands 
and the other end of the rope passed through a pulley on 
the ceiling. The victim was raised and then dropped by sud- 
den jerks. Each time the elevation was increased and weights 

A Burning at the Sta^e in the Spanish Inquisition 


might be placed on the feet. In the water cure the suspect was 
bound to a ladder, so placed that the feet were above the head. 
The mouth was held open by an iron clasp and the nostrils 
plugged. A rag was placed down the throat. The mouth was 
then filled with water. Swallowing took the rag down the 
gullet and cut off breathing. When the victim was on the 
point of suffocation, the rag was pulled up and the soft voice 
of the Inquisitor appealed for a confession. 

If the accused were adjudged guilty, he suffered the con- 
fiscation of his goods. If penitent, he might be imprisoned for 
life or at least placed under close surveillance. If impenitent, 
he was burned at the stake, often after previous mutilation. 
Penitents were required to wear the sanbenito, a single shape- 
less, sulphur-colored garment, on Sundays and on all reli- 
gious festivals. The only possible extenuation that can be 
urged for these practices is that civil penalties were at that 
time no less severe. 

In the year 1488 the Inquisitors in Toledo handled 3,300 
cases. Torquemada had to request the king to construct spe- 
cial dwellings for the throngs of the accused since the dun- 
geons were full. 

Further incidents played into his hands. The converses 
divined that he meditated their extinction and resolved on 
retaliation. The most expedient method appeared to be to as- 
sassinate the Inquisitors. A band of six formed a conspiracy. 
One of their number was himself the son of a condemned 
converse. Two Inquisitors were to be dispatched. The task 
would not be easy because they were known to wear coats of 
mail beneath their Dominican cowls. The plotters concealed 
themselves in the church where the friars came at midnight 
for Mass. On the night in question only one of the Inquisitors 
appeared. The assassins debated whether to postpone their 
coup until both could be caught. When the lone Inquisitor 
went to a side chapel but a few yards distant, the opportunity 


was not to be missed. The son of the converse drove his sword 
through the coat of mail And the other Inquisitor died 
shortly thereafter under suspicion of poison. The populace 
was inflamed. The familiares unearthed several of the con- 
spirators. Some fled to France; one took his life. Those who 
were caught had their hands cut off on the steps of the ca- 
thedral. They were half hanged, castrated, and quartered. 
The attempt of the converses to protect themselves by rebel- 
lion had failed. 

Next a handful of converses and Jews sought to protect 
themselves, not by the arm of man, but by the assistance of 
the powers of darkness. In place of assassination came magic. 
The whole story is to be reconstructed from the single dossier 
of one of the accused, preserved in the files of the Inquisition. 
The records begin in June of the year 1490 with the examina- 
tion of a converted Jew, Benito Garcia by name, fifty years 
of age. He had been returning from a pilgrimage to Com- 
postela, and stayed at an inn where, for lack of space, he had 
to share a room with some drunkards, who rummaged in his 
bag and found a wafer which they took to be a sacred host. 
The case was referred to the vicar. Under torture Benito con- 
fessed that he had relapsed into Judaism and that at the house 
of two Jews, Mose and Yuce Franco by name, he had eaten 
meat on a Friday. He had declared the Corpus Christi to be 
humbug and spat during the procession, but he confessed 
nothing about the wafer. 

He had incriminated two Jews. Strictly speaking, they 
were not subject to the Inquisition, but they were investi- 
gated. Mose Franco turned out to be dead. Yuce was a lad of 
twenty. He was arrested. For good measure his father, eighty 
years of age, was also taken into custody, unbeknownst to the 
son. In prison Yuce fell sick and, believing himself to be on 
the point of death, asked for a rabbi. Such a request com- 
promised him in no way because he was a Jew and had never 


been a Christian at all. The Inquisitors saw here a providen- 
tial opportunity and introduced in the robes of a rabbi a con- 
verso fully conversant with the dialect of the local Jews. He 
inquired of Yuce for what reason he had been arrested. The 
boy replied that he did not know, unless perchance because 
of what had happened some eleven years previously, namely, 
the mita of a nahar after the manner of the Otohays. These 
three words were not Spanish but Hebrew. Mita means " kill- 
ing." Nahar means " a boy/' and Otohays is a combination 
of two words meaning " that man/' the expression used 
among the Jews to signify Christ. In other words, eleven 
years before there had been a killing of a boy after the man- 
ner of Christ, that is to say, by crucifixion. The feigned rabbi 
reported the conversation and Yuce was confronted with 
what he had said. He then incriminated a family of converted 
Jews of the town of La Guardia. Like himself, they were 
named Franco, though not related to him. These Franco 
brothers, he claimed, had crucified a boy on Good Friday. 

The Inquisitors then pieced together the separate items 
and constructed the charge that Benito had stolen a sacred 
wafer and Yuce had participated in a crucifixion in order to 
obtain the heart of a Christian boy. Heart and wafer were to 
be used together for purposes of magic. Yuce denied any 

Then Benito and Yuce were placed in adjoining rooms 
with a crack between. An Inquisitor was listening in. Yuc 
began to strum on his guitar. Benito told him to stop lest he 
disturb his father. This was the first intimation he had had of 
his father's arrest. Yuce then asked Benito for what reason 
he had been apprehended, and Benito related the story of 
the discovery of the wafer at the inn. He had been subjected 
to water torture. The Inquisitors he considered were worse 
than Antichrist. If he ever got out, he would go to Judea. 
Better die than be tortured. Let Yuce, when he recited the 


prayer, " Helohay nesama" remember him. Yuce then began 
plying him with questions about the wafer until Benito grew 

The Inquisitors who had tapped the conversation were con- 
fident that Yuce was privy to the theft of the wafer. They 
laid before him the report of all that he had said to Benito, 
and extracted thereby the confession that he did know that 
Benito and the Franco brothers of La Guardia, who like 
Benito were converses, had stolen the wafer to employ it in 
magic to protect them against the Christians. But the magic 
had not been successful. Nothing more would Yuce confess. 
After two months he made a reference to a human heart. 
After another month he was promised immunity for his fa- 
ther if he would confess more. And then he admitted that the 
human heart had been taken from a boy who had been cruci- 
fied. Then the father was shown his son's confession. He cor- 
roborated the crucifixion and laid the responsibility upon the 
Francos of La Guardia. He and his sons, who were Jews and 
not conversos, had merely been present. The heart had been 
extracted to make a spell and the body had been disposed of. 

The next procedure was to bring prisoners together in 
pairs. The Franco brothers of La Guardia were of course by 
this time under arrest on the orders of " Frey tomas de Tor- 
quemada." What one suspect had told about another was re- 
lated to him in the hope that he would be angered and would 
retaliate by telling something against the informer. In this 
way Yuce came to be charged with having conducted the 
Francos of La Guardia and Benito to a cave for a crucifixion. 
He had himself opened the veins of the child and had de- 
clared Christianity to be humbug. 

The defense and the prisoner was allowed defense 
pointed to discrepancies in the testimony and called in ques- 
tion the participation of Yuce in view of his youth. The ob- 
jections were overruled. 


Then came the torture. According to the record, on the sec- 
ond of November in the year of our Saviour 1491, the In- 
quisitors entered the dungeon and besought Yuce lovingly 
and with all humanity to tell the truth. He should relate 
whose child this was, how he was obtained, and who was the 
first to start this business. If he would tell the truth, they 
would deal with him mercifully. Then Yuce confessed that 
fifteen days after the crucifixion they had made fetishes, but 
the Inquisitors were sure that he was not telling the truth 
and committed him to torture. He was roped to a ladder and 
his arms pinned. He was assured that if they proceeded to the 
torture it would be his fault, and not theirs, because he had 
not confessed, that in any case they would treat him merci- 
fully without effusion of blood or mutilation of members. 
Then Yuce confessed that Juan Franco had obtained the 
child at Toledo, having enticed him with candy, but whose 
child he was he did not know. The purpose of the fetishes 
was to obtain protection against the Inquisition, and the 
child was crucified after the manner of Christ because if he 
who represented Christ were destroyed, the power of Christ 
would be destroyed. In other words, this was representative 

The confessions were forwarded to Torquernada. He had 
followed the progress of the case but had not hurried, since 
he wanted the evidence to be unimpeachable. Nine months 
had elapsed in eliciting this much. Torquemada submitted 
the documents to seven of the most learned professors of the 
University of Salamanca. They rendered the verdict that 
Yuce and the others were all guilty. And now came the crucial 
point. Could the Inquisition exercise any jurisdiction over 
Yuce and his father, since they were Jews and not conversos 
like Benito and the Francos of La Guardia ? The reply was 
that in such a case the authority of the Inquisition extended 
also to the Jews. 


Invoking then the name of Christ, the judges pronounced 
the sentence of death. The auto-da-fe took place on the six- 
teenth of November, 1491. Certain of the converses returned 
to the faith and were rewarded by strangling before burning. 
Young Yuce and his aged father adhered resolutely to their 
Judaism. Their flesh was torn by red-hot pincers before the 
fires were lighted. 

What shall we make of this story ? Some modern historians 
have assumed that the charges were a pure fabrication, con- 
cocted by the Inquisitors and corroborated by torture. Against 
this may be said that, unless the entire deposition is false, the 
first testimony as to the crucifixion came from the statement 
of Yuce to the feigned rabbi, and the first admissions as to the 
wafer were derived from his confidential conversation with 
Benito. The Jewish historian Sabatini was so far impressed 
by these facts as to concede the reality of the crucifixion. He 
insisted only that it was not a case of ritual murder by the 
Jewish community, but an instance of representative magic 
practiced by a few Jews and converses. We need not be sur- 
prised if some Jews were no more enlightened and no more 
humane than many of their Christian neighbors. And we 
may even be able to understand how among a people threat- 
ened with extermination a few unbalanced spirits might sum- 
mon the aid of the powers of darkness. 

But they merely succeeded in supplying Torquemada with 
the means of their complete undoing. He pressed upon Isa- 
bella that the converses could never be held to the faith so 
long as the Jews remained to seduce them. The unbelievers 
must be banished from the land. Isabella hesitated. Ferdi- 
nand hesitated. Well they might, because the Jews were the 
tax collectors and the crown needed taxes. But Ferdinand be- 
came more amenable when the immediate object of taxation 
was removed. The great drain was the constant war to expel 
the Moors from Spain. On January 2, 1492, Granada fell. 


The war was over and Ferdinand could afford to dispense 
with the Jews. Their banishment was decreed after three 
months. They could take with them only what they could 
carry away. The leaders of the Jewish community appeared 
before the king and queen to protest their former services 
and to proffer their future contributions. As a token they 
presented 30,000 ducats. The sovereigns hesitated. Torque- 
mada advanced to the table. " Judas/' he cried, " sold his 
Master for thirty pieces of silver. You would sell him for 
thirty thousand." Holding aloft a crucifix, he flung it on 
the table, saying, " Take him and sell him, but do not let it 
be said that I have had any share in this transaction." 

The edict of expulsion stood. The Jews disposed of their 
goods, a house for a donkey or a vineyard for a piece of cloth. 
The galleons of Columbus setting out for the New World 
passed the ships taking the Jews into a new dispersion. 

This is of course but a single instance from the whole story 
of the Inquisition. After the fall of Granada the process that 
had been applied to the Jews was extended to the Moors. 
Later the Inquisition was to be employed against the Protes- 
tants. But quite enough is here to illustrate the principles and 
the procedures. The point to be emphasized is that this was 
primarily religious persecution. The fact that orthodoxy 
could be fused with nationalism must not obscure the fact 
that friars preaching in the name of religion had created a 
situation out of which the fusion could arise. Nor is perse- 
cuting religion to be regarded as insincere. Dostoevsky mis- 
represented the Spanish Inquisitor when he portrayed him 
as cynically ready to burn even Christ should he return. The 
Torquemadas were not cynics, but passionately sincere fanat- 
ics. All of which should make abundantly plain that virtues 
are not without their vices. A concern for truth can end in 
inhumanity and love itself can be perverted into cruelty. This, 
too, is obvious: that Christianity as such cannot be regarded 


as the panacea for all the ills of the world. It all depends on 
what kind of Christianity. And whatever else may be added, 
this certainly is an appalling reflection: that the barbarities 
practiced in modern times to ensure conformity to the pro- 
gram of a party are but refinements of the methods em- 
ployed by those who invoked the name of Christ. 



On the monument of the Reformation at Geneva stand in 
stone four massive figures. The tallest and most imposing is 
John Calvin, in life a frail and emaciated Frenchman, whose 
colossal proportions are here justified only because his spirit 
fashioned Geneva, divided Holland, convulsed France, 
molded Scotland, and guided New England. Beside him 

Monument of the Reformation at Geneva 


stands his henchman, Theodore Beza, who, after Calvin, held 
the citadel o Geneva begirt by foes. On one side stands Wil- 
liam Fare!., of the red beard, of whom contemporaries said 
that " no one bellowed more vociferously/ 5 and on the other 
side John Knox, who intimidated a queen and turned the 
Scottish nation from raiding cattle to raiding hell and rear- 
ing a nation of saints. One could scarcely find in the six- 
teenth century, apart from Luther, four more intrepid and in- 
fluential figures, and they were all persecutors. John Calvin 
was responsible for the execution of Michael Servetus at the 
stake. Farel attended the execution. Beza justified the holo- 
caust, and John Knox applauded. 

At the far end of this monument of the Reformation stands 
a figure who, if he had been in Geneva in the sixteenth cen- 
tury, would have been drowned if not burned. He is the Bap- 
tist and Seeker, Roger Williams by name, a champion of 
religious liberty and of the separation of Church and State. 
What is he doing flanking this phalanx of persecutors ? The 
paradox of the monument is that it includes men who would 
have destroyed each other had they met in life, but who 
nevertheless are placed in a line of succession. And the line is 
valid, as the sequel will reveal. 

Another anomaly is that at the moment of its beginning 
Protestantism was more intolerant than contemporary Ca- 
tholicism. The Catholic Church is not monolithic, and in the 
days of Torquemada the popes were more tolerant than were 
the Inquisitors. When Luther emerged, he was, in temper at 
least, vastly more intolerant than Pope Leo X. Luther was 
aflame for the Word of God. Pope Leo X was titillated by ele- 
gant tapestries. Catholicism again became deadly in earnest 
only in the Counter Reformation. The basic reasons for the 
comparative tolerance of the opening decades of the sixteenth 
century lay, however, not in the flippant indifference of in- 
dividual popes, but partly in a sense of security, inasmuch as 


the menace of the Moors and the Jews had passed and the 
menace of Protestantism had not yet emerged. In such an 
interlude the philosophy of tolerance was able to flourish. 

This was the age of the Renaissance. One of the strains in 
that movement is called humanism. It was in part an attitude 
to life,, aspiring to fulfillment rather than, renunciation. The 
ideal was to encompass all departments and master all dis- 
ciplines. Nothing was alien; all learning, all systems, and 
even all religions should be studied and sympathetically un- 
derstood. The pious pagans were esteemed as almost Chris- 
tian saints and were not excluded from paradise. And Chris- 
tianity was at times on the verge of losing its absolutely 
unique place among religions. Coincidentally, the essence of 
Christianity was attenuated, and defined as comprising little 
more than those universal beliefs and moral maxims com- 
mon to all peoples. Christianity tended to be expressed in 
terms of the Fatherhood of God, the leadership of Christ, and 
the brotherhood of man. These were of course later the slo- 
gans of the Enlightenment and of liberal Protestantism. They 
were first formulated in the age of the Renaissance. 

Another aspect of humanism was free inquiry, particularly 
with regard to historical documents, including those on 
which rested the claims of the Church and of the Christian 
religion itself. The textual and literary critics demonstrated 
the spuriousness of many bulwarks of orthodoxy and theoc- 
racy. The Apostles' Creed was shown not to have been ac- 
tually by the apostles. The Donation of Constantine was ex- 
posed as false. And many of the decretals buttressing papal 
claims were demonstrated to have been fabricated. Even the 
text of the Bible was shown to be incapable of restoration 
with perfect assurance, and certain texts such as the one on 
the three witnesses, the great proof text for the Trinity, was 
proved to be an interpolation. The humanists demanded for 
themselves freedom to conduct such investigations and 


stoutly resisted interference. Humanism, whether within 
Catholicism or Protestantism, was one of the great strands 
in the fabric of liberty. Another was mysticism, which like- 
wise flourished in this period, especially in the Rhine Valley 
and the Low Countries. Mysticism views the end of religion 
as the union of man with God. The devotee loses himself in 
the abyss of the Godhead as the drop of water is merged with 
the ocean. But this process is not easy, because there are alien 
elements impeding the union which must first be eliminated 
by a purgative process. The subduing of the flesh is at this 
point a wholesome discipline and any suffering imposed from 
without is to be welcomed. In this whole approach to religion 
there are three points making for religious liberty. The first is 
that the object of the quest is not the understanding of God 
by some intellectual process but absorption into his Being. 
Hence interest in speculative theology is diminished and 
rigid orthodoxy becomes less a ground for persecution. Sec- 
ondly, if suffering is an essential stage upon the way, persecu- 
tion is never to be inflicted, but rather to be endured with 
patience, if not indeed with joy and gratitude. The inference 
is not far removed that a persecuting Church cannot be a 
true Church, and the afflicted are by that very token to be 
regarded as true Christians. Finally, in the third place, the 
entire process of mystical absorption cannot be hastened or 
helped by any external constraint. Force may elicit a confes- 
sion to a creed. It can scarcely unite the believer with God. 

The man in whom all these tendencies converged was Eras- 
mus of Rotterdam, and he deserves mention here because he 
was the father of so many of the liberal tendencies within Ca- 
tholicism and Protestantism alike. In the early decades of the 
sixteenth century his spirit prevailed. Even in Spain he en- 
joyed an enormous vogue in the 1520'$. The reason was of 
course in part that the Inquisition had done its work all too 
well, and the rigors could safely be relinquished. Throughout 


Europe before the emergence of Luther the pressures were 
relaxed. Reformers might criticize and scholars might probe 
without throwing the Holy Office into hysteria. 

The tolerance of Erasmus was based partly on rationalism. 
He deplored even discussion, let alone constraint over matters 
that cannot be known on this side of the Judgment Day. 
Many problems, he thought, were commonly deferred until 
the meeting of a general council, and it would be better to 
defer them still further, " until no longer we see in a glass 
darkly but behold God face to face." Among such questions 
he would include the problem of the relation of the three 
persons in the Trinity and the distinction between the nativ- 
ity of the Son and the procession of the Holy Ghost. Specula- 
tion in any case appeared to him inimical to piety. " The sum 
of our religion is peace and unanimity and these can scarcely 
stand unless we define as little as possible and in many things 
leave each one free to follow his own judgment." 

The ethical note also was prominent, Erasmus always 
sensed a perversion of values in leniency toward clerical con- 
cubinage and severity toward queries with regard to the con- 
substantiality of the second member of the Trinity. " What 
does it matter if there be no blasphemy of the tongue if the 
whole life breathes blasphemy against God ? ... If the Beat- 
itudes which bless the meek and the persecuted are called a 
lie ? What blasphemy could be more detestable than this ? " 

Again Erasmus, in keeping with the mystical tradition, 
sharply differentiated the spiritual from the physical and situ- 
ated religion in the realm of the spirit. For this reason most 
of the controversies of his day appeared to him irrelevant, 
because centering on things outward, which in the eyes of 
God are of small significance. The chief heresy and the su- 
preme blasphemy in his judgment was to turn the spiritual 
into the carnal. To burn men simply for observing kosher 
laws would be in his eyes a monstrous perversion of true re- 


ligion and utterly ineffective in producing the right spirit, 
which alone matters. 

But if Erasmus deprecated theological hairsplitting, it was 
not because he was not an intellectual. In the domain of liter- 
ary studies he demanded the freedom of the scholar to carry 
on his investigations without dogmatic presuppositions or 
ecclesiastical interference. 

Humanism and mysticism thus converged in him, and 
from him they flow out into much of liberal Catholicism and 
liberal Protestantism. On the other hand, one must not re- 
gard him altogether as the enlightened liberal. He had a very 
deep feeling for the authority and integrity of the Church, 
and when he saw the structure buttressing the European 
unities menaced by sectarianism, he was aghast and not un- 
willing to take some restrictive measures. Against blasphe- 
mous heresy that looked in the direction of sedition he would 
use the sword. 

Protestantism arose during the Erasmian interlude, when 
the fires of the Inquisition smoldered and men might think 
and men might speak. Those who spoke were affected by the 
mood. Luther in his youth had been as intolerant as an In- 
quisitor, and declared that he would have been willing to 
bring a fagot for the pyre of John Hus. But when he found 
himself suspected of heresy, he endorsed the Erasmian prin- 
ciple that to burn heretics is against the will of the Holy 
Spirit. And this statement was one of Luther's propositions 
condemned by the Roman bull. He did not relinquish this 
position even after the pressures became intense. His view 
altered, however, when he passed from the status of a fugitive 
to that of a builder of a Church. 

After a year in exile at the Wartburg, he returned unau- 
thorized to Wittenberg and commenced the construction of 
what came to be known as the Lutheran Church. The first 
problem was what to do with the Catholics and their serv- 


ices. Luther's followers resorted to violence, intimidating and 
mauling priests and the religious. All this Luther roundly de- 
cried, " Of course there are abuses/' said he. " So also the sun 
has been abused by being worshiped, but shall we therefore 
pluck the sun from the sky? And men have gone wrong with 
wine and women, but shall we on that account prohibit wine 
and abolish women ? " His counsel was to correct the abuses 
by patience and a process of education. Faith is too inward 
and spiritual to be judged or forced by outward means. Con- 
straint leads the weak to deny their convictions. Better to let 
them err than force them to lie. The Mass actually continued 
for three years after Luther's return to Wittenberg. Much 
more disconcerting was the rise of sectarianism within his 
own ranks. He was cut to the quick when he discovered that 
the predictions of his Catholic opponents were being all too 
abundantly fulfilled that one secession would lead to an- 
other and the seamless robe of Christ would be reduced to 
shreds. Yet Luther was extremely loath to countenance any 
constraint. " Let the spirits fight it out/' was his advice. 

It was not he who started Protestant persecution, but rather 
Zwingli, and that may be all the more surprising because he 
was a son of the Renaissance, a disciple of Erasmus, and very 
cordial to the pious heathen. But the form of dissent that 
arose in Zurich was not so much directed against dogmas, 
with regard to which Zwingli might have been tolerant, as 
against the very nature of the Church and its relation to civil 
society. Here is another case where the eternal mingled with 
the temporal. The Anabaptists (they preferred to call them- 
selves Baptists) had a theory of the Church that necessitated 
its separation from the State, because they claimed that the 
Church should be composed only of heartfelt believers of 
upright life, whereas the State should include the total body 
of the inhabitants in a community. They could not endorse 
the system whereby every child was by birth a citizen and by 


baptism a Christian, and the whole populace was deemed 
Christian by virtue o a rite accorded to unwitting infants. 
The Church must comprise only the regenerate. The Church 
therefore would have to be a select community. But the State 
should include everybody within a given district. Conse- 
quently State and Church could not coincide. The symbol of 
the Baptist system was the rejection of infant baptism and 
the repetition of the rite in adult life, though for the Baptists 
there was no repetition because infant baptism was no bap- 
tism at all but only " a dipping in the Romish bath." The 
question of baptism mattered vastly less in Zwingli's eyes 
than the disintegration of a Christian society. He foresaw, 
and rightly, as the outcome of their position the possible sec- 
ularization of the State. The Church might in the process 
be purged, but the community would be dechristianized. 
Such abandonment of the world to the devil he could not 
abide, and his answer was to invoke at once the arm of the 
State. The Anabaptists were subjected to a law that originated 
in the Christian Roman Empire against the 'ancient Dona- 
tists, who claimed that baptism was invalid unless practiced 
by themselves and therefore repeated baptism in case any 
Catholic joined their ranks. Against this practice the death 
penalty was decreed in the Code of Justinian. Not the canon 
law of the Church of Rome, but the civil law of the Empire 
of Rome provided the legal basis for Protestant persecution. 
The Anabaptists were drowned in mockery of adult immer- 
sion. This was in the year 1525. 

Luther did not approve, and in 1527 he wrote: " It is not 
right, and I am deeply troubled that the poor people are so 
pitifully put to death, burned, and cruelly slain. Let every- 
one believe what he likes. If he is wrong, he will have pun- 
ishment enough in hell fire. Unless there is sedition one 
should oppose them with Scripture and God's Word. With 
fire you will accomplish nothing." 


But in the year 1525 another incident occurred that shook 
Luther powerfully. It was a further coincidence of religion 
and social disturbance. The Peasants' War alarmed him tre- 
mendously. Yet the Peasants' War by itself would never have 
disposed him to become a persecutor had it not been for the 
injection into it of a highly explosive religious idea by that 
firebrand Thomas Miintzer, the first Protestant theocrat. The 
great difference between Miintzer and Luther was that 
Miintzer believed in the possibility of the Kingdom of God 
on earth. Luther claimed that this is entirely unrealizable. 
The world is and remains a devil's pigsty, which can be re- 
strained from outrageous villainy by the sword of the magis- 
trate but can never be converted into the Garden of Eden. 
Not even the Church is a Garden of Eden, because the 
Church is a field in which the tares are mingled with the 
wheat. But Miintzer asserted that the wheat can be segre- 
gated from the tares because now is the time of the harvest. 
The wheat are the elect and they can be known. This is an- 
other point that Luther denied. He believed very strongly 
that there are elect and nonelect, but he saw no means by 
which they can be infallibly distinguished. Miintzer had a 
test, and it was the new birth, the descent of the Spirit, a 
radical, datable conversion. People who have had such an ex- 
perience know very definitely that they have had it and are 
in a position to form a Church. More than that, they can 
form a society. Here is the idea of a holy commonwealth, 
the Kingdom of God realized upon earth. For Miintzer the 
hour had struck for the saints to reign. Into their hands had 
been placed the sword to smite the ungodly. Here is a form 
of intolerance staggering in its dimensions, if a little handful 
of saints are to put all the uncircumcised to the edge of the 
sword. Miintzer tried to recruit his saints from among the 
princes and failed, from among the humanists and failed, 
then from among the peasants, who were already on the 


rampage. Thus religious and social revolution coincided. 
Miintzer unfurled the banner of the Peasants' Revolution in 
the very sanctuary and then went out to lead the hordes to 
slaughter in the name of the Lord of Hosts. 

Luther was stupefied and then infuriated. He believed in 
the elect, but also that their identity is known only to God. 
He believed in the Kingdom, but that God would give it in 
his own good time. He believed in the use of the sword, but 
only in the hands of the magistrate ordained of God. Under 
no circumstances did he believe that each man should be his 
own avenger, and for social revolution to clothe itself with the 
slogans of the gospel was to him utterly monstrous. He called 
upon the princes for a ruthless suppression of the rebellion. 

When it was all over, he was left in a state of distraught 
nerves and ready, for the future, to suppress persons like 
Thomas Miintzer before the situation got out of hand. Then 
the Anabaptists began to infiltrate into his district. They did 
not agree with Thomas Miintzer 's program of revolution, 
but they did believe in the segregation of the saints and the 
establishment of holy communities. They did disintegrate 
the Church-State relationship, and in Luther's Thuringia 
there were among their leaders some who had been associ- 
ated with Thomas Miintzer. Luther's position gradually 
veered. For a time he was silent. When the Diet of Speyer in 
1529 decreed death for the Anabaptists throughout the Holy 
Roman Empire, Luther made no immediate comment. But 
in 1531 he was ready to countenance death for blasphemy 
and sedition. Faith he would not constrain. Heresy in the 
form of an incorrect opinion he would not molest. But open 
reviling or overt rebellion must be suppressed. For a long 
time there was no open rebellion on the part of the Ana- 
baptists. They were as sheep for the slaughter. But in 1534 
the worm turned, and a little group of fanatics reverted to 
the program of Thomas Miintzer and forcibly seized the 


city of Miinstcr in Westphalia. Their entire coup failed. But 
the episode branded all Anabaptism with the suspicion of 
revolution, however unjustified. In the year 1536 Melanch- 
thon drafted a memorandum on the treatment of the Ana- 
baptists, in which he distinguished the peaceful from the 
revolutionary and demanded death for both varieties, and 
Luther signed. He still held to his formula that only blas- 
phemy and sedition should be punished, but he interpreted 
as blasphemy a rejection of an article in the Apostles' Creed 
and as sedition a mere refusal to participate in war or to 
serve as a magistrate. Yet in later life Luther came back to 
his earlier statement that banishment was sufficient as a pen- 
alty, and of course imprisonment. There was an Anabaptist, 
Fritz Erbe by name, who suffered incarceration for nine 
years in the Castle of the Wartburg, where Luther himself 
had been for a year in exile. Erbe died in captivity but Lu- 
ther never expressed one word of sympathy, respect, or re- 

The year of the Anabaptist memorandum was the year 
when John Calvin published his Institutes, That is, his ca- 
reer began when the Protestant position was already for- 
mulated, and that explains in part why he never went through 
the liberal period as Luther had done. The lines were already 
sharply drawn as between Catholic and Protestant. Calvin 
came from France at a time when one could no longer be a 
liberal Catholic reformer, neutral as between Wittenberg and 
Rome. In France the king and the high ecclesiastics would 
march in solemn procession to the cathedral to attend the 
celebration of the Mass, then dine sumptuously and top off 
the day by watching the burning of heretics. John Calvin 
escaped such a fate by flight. He came as a refugee to the 
Protestant cities of Strasbourg and Basel, where also the lines 
were sharply drawn as to the varieties of Protestantism and 


dissenters could no longer expect here to find an abiding 
place. John Calvin was twenty-six. He became the formu- 
lator of an entrenched Protestantism and the inaugurator of 
a militant Protestantism. His manifesto, published in Basel 
in the year 1536, was the Institutes of the Christian Religion. 
Calvin's Protestantism was more activist than Luther's, 
partly because of the point of departure. Luther started with 
the grace of God in Christ, which we cannot earn but can 
only accept. Religion entails an initial act of passivity. Calvin 
opens the Institutes, not with a proclamation of justification 
by faith, but with the disclosure of the sovereignty of God. 
He is the only Lord, the Everlasting, the Eternal, the Crea- 
tor of the ends of the earth, before whom the nations are as a 
drop in the bucket. Here and throughout his writings Calvin 
never flagged in lauding the majesty of the Eternal. " Our 
souls are but faint flickerings over against the infinite bril- 
liance which is God. We are created, he is without beginning. 
We are subject to ignorance and shame. God in his infinite 
majesty is the summation of all virtues. Whenever we think 
of him we should be ravished with adoration and astonish- 
ment. . . . God has made the sun our servant and the moon 
our chambermaid, and the very creatures will rise against us 
in the judgment because we, having been irradiated by the 
sun and the moon, nourished from the fowls of the earth 
and enriched by all bounty, have by our ordures sullied the 
glory of God. The chief end of man is to enjoy the fellow- 
ship of God and the chief duty of man is to glorify God. 
Observe," remarked Calvin, " it is not that we may be kept 
alive on this earth that God saves us from our enemies, but 
that we may be sustained by his grace. What is this life but 
a passing shadow ? Let us then recognize God as our eternal 
Saviour and let us so walk in his fear that we may expect 
from him not only guidance for a brief moment but recep- 


tion at the last to himself. The blessings of this life may be 
enjoyed in so far as they minister to our salvation. Otherwise 
they are a curse." 

Ours it is to glorify God, to accept his judgments, not to 
murmur at his dispensations, to receive without repining 
whatever he may give. " The children of God must put a 
check upon their affections so that they desire nothing which 
is not pleasing to him. All our prayers should be grounded 
in faith. We must fully accommodate our requests to the will 
of God, and if in a burst of fervor we exceed this rule, then 
we should add, * My God, thy will be done! ' Take the ex- 
ample of a man who has a sick wife or child. He may cry 
vehemently, * O my God, wilt thou not have pity on me? ' 
Such a man is at fault and should hasten to add: ' Alas, my 
God, it is true that this is my desire, nevertheless thou re- 
quirest that I render unto thee absolute obedience, that I be 
humbled in thy hands. Therefore, Lord, dispose of me and 
of all things mine according to thy will. It suffices me to 
know that there is nothing better than to be held by thy 

Such a view of God and man might end in absolute qui- 
escence. The paradox of Calvinism is that the utter malle- 
ability of man in the hands of God makes for an adamantine 
rigor over against men, and the reason is that God is not qui- 
escent. He has a work to do. He will accomplish it on earth 
within the historical process. Here is the point at which Cal- 
vinism, with all its pessimism as to man, becomes optimistic 
as to history. Not that men are good, but God is great and 
God has a plan. He will not achieve it through the immedi- 
ate return of Christ to set up his Kingdom. Here again Cal- 
vin diverged from Luther, and curiously at this point Luther 
was closer to the Early Church and Calvin to the medieval 
Church after Augustine. For the early Christians, and Luther 
after them, expected the imminent return of the Lord, but 


Augustine, and Calvin in his wake, projected the coming in- 
definitely into the future. In that case the historical process 
becomes the field of God's operation. Here in religious form 
is the doctrine of progress. 

In what way and through what instruments is God's pur- 
pose to be accomplished? Through human instruments, 
through his chosen, through the elect. Calvin was not hope- 
ful because of any roseate picture of men, whom often 
enough he compared to dogs and swine, but rather because 
the elect, even though imperfect, are nevertheless chosen by 
the Eternal to achieve a stupendous work on earth. 

There arose once more the problem of how the elect are 
to be known. Luther denied that they can by any means be 
recognized. Miintzer found the distinguishing mark in the 
new birth. The Anabaptists fastened on an upright life. 
Zwingli discovered a test in the possession of a sound faith. 
Calvin agreed with Luther that there is no absolutely in- 
fallible test. Nevertheless there are presumptive signs ade- 
quate for practical purposes. He selected three, and he did 
not include the new birth. This was to return as a test in 
New England Calvinism and to prove very much of a tor- 
ment to sensitive spirits. Calvin did not suffer himself to be 
distraught in this fashion. His tests were all comparatively 
external and realizable. They consisted in (i) a confession of 
faith; (2) a disciplined life; (3) participation in the sacra- 
ments. Creed, deed, and sacrament these were the three. 

If anyone qualified by these standards, he should assume 
his election and stop worrying. To be constantly anxious 
over one's salvation is unworthy and devastating. He who is 
perpetually troubled about his destiny can never worship 
God aright. 

This was the faith that forged heroes to accept without 
a murmur as God's will whatever should befall, to be utterly 
unconcerned about oneself, to be wholly committed to the 


implementing of God's program on earth. This ends in the 
cry, "Onward, Christian soldiers!" "God with an out- 
stretched arm delivered Israel of old and his arm is no whit 
weakened today. God says to us, ' My children, you are weak 
and your enemy is strong, but nothing laid upon you will 
exceed your strength. Though the devil and the world rage I 
will curb them. I will help you. Fear not.' " " Fear," said Cal- 
vin, " can never be entirely overcome, but fear should never 
impede us from calling upon God. How else shall we con- 
front the world and the infinity of devils raging like lions ? " 

This stupendous dream could not be realized simply by 
writing an Institutes of the Christian Religion. It called for 
concretion among men here on earth. The place proved to 
be Geneva. The city was at the moment independent, having 
thrown off the yoke of the duke of Savoy and the bishop, and 
not yet having joined the Swiss Confederacy. William Farel, 
the vociferous, had converted the city, but felt himself un- 
equal to curbing the turbulence of the unyoked bullocks, and 
commandeered the young theologian, John Calvin, much 
against his inclination, to leave his studies in order to head 
the incipient holy commonwealth. To recount here the whole 
story of Geneva is beyond our limits. Suffice it to say that 
after invitation, exile, and reinvitation, Calvin was able in 
the end to fire a populace with his dream. Greater than Tor- 
quemada, he imposed a grandiose concept, not on an impres- 
sionable girl, but upon a hard-boiled citizenry, who became 
quite as much imbued with the vision of a holy common- 
wealth as himself. Geneva became une mile eglise, a city that 
was a Church. 

This end was attained through a selective process. Those 
who did not subscribe to the constitution of the holy com- 
monwealth had to leave. The Catholic religious orders de- 
parted at the outset. The Mass of course ceased, and all public 
practice of Catholicism. Catholics accepted the new regime 


or migrated. Those excommunicated from the Church, if not 
reconciled within six months, left the city. In the meantime 
hordes of refugees flocked in, fleeing from persecution in 
France, Spain, Italy, and even England. Geneva became by 
inclusion and exclusion a city of the saints. Thus the Ana- 
baptist ideal of a pure Church of convinced believers was 
combined with the Catholic-Lutheran-Zwinglian pattern of 
the Church coincident with the community. Only convinced 
believers belonged to the Church. Everyone in the commu- 
nity belonged to the Church because only convinced be- 
lievers stayed in the community. Thus was the Church both 
holy and catholic, comprising all Within the walls. 

But what should be done with dissenters who arose within 
the midst of the holy commonwealth not those whose 
lives were impure so much as those who despised the sacra- 
ments or rejected some article of the creed ? Recall that for 
Calvin the creed admitted of no uncertainty. It was fhe epit- 
ome of the will of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. 
To be sure, not everything declared by God is entirely clear, 
for the mountain was shrouded with thick darkness when 
God declared himself unto Moses. But the Ten Command- 
ments admit of no obscurity, and the saving articles of Chris- 
tian redemption are neither dubious nor obscure. To reject 
one of these is to give the lie to God. 

What Calvin would do to such people nobody could doubt 
who had read his commentary on the thirteenth chapter of 
Deuteronomy, which presents the stoning of false prophets. 
" This law," comments Calvin, " at first sight appears to be 
too severe. For merely having spoken should one be so pun- 
ished? But if anybody slanders a mortal man he is pun- 
ished and shall we permit a blasphemer of the living God to 
go unscathed ? If a prince is injured, death appears to be in- 
sufficient for vengeance. And now when God, the sovereign 
emperor, is reviled by a word, is nothing to be done ? God's 


glory and our salvation are so conjoined that a traitor to God 
is also an enemy of the human race and worse than a mur- 
derer because he brings poor souls to perdition. Some ob- 
ject that since the offense consists only in words, there is no 
need for such severity. But we muzzle dogs, and shall we 
leave men free to open their mouths as they please ? Those 
who object are like dogs and swine. They murmur that they 
will go to America where nobody will bother them. 

" God makes plain that the false prophet is to be stoned 
without mercy. We are to crush beneath our heel all affec- 
tions of nature when his honor is involved. The father should 
not spare his child, nor the brother his brother, nor the hus- 
band his own wife or the friend who is dearer to him than 
life. No human relationship is more than animal unless it 
be grounded in God. If a man be conjoined to a wife with- 
out regard to God, he is worthy to be cast out among the 
brute beasts. If friendship is contracted apart from God, 
what is this union but sheer bestiality ? God wishes to denude 
you of all love for your wife if she seduces you from him." 

This language of Calvin's sounds appallingly like that of 
the Communists, who place the party above every human tie. 
The difference is that Calvin made the demand, not in the 
name of a human institution or party, but in the name of 
the Author of our being, whose will is our law and his glory 
the end of our existence. If we would rise above the level 
of the beasts, every human tie must be contracted only in 
loyalty to him. Therefore no matter how dear, no matter how 
near, we must cast off and chastise all who blaspheme the 
name of the Creator. " He who has trampled under foot the 
majesty of God is worse than a brigand who cuts the throat 
of a wayfarer." And the God who spared not even the babies 
of the Amalekites requires that we be inexorable. If this de- 
mand appear to us cruel, " we must rest assured that God 
would differ only those infants to be destroyed whom he 


had already damned and destined to eternal death." Thus 
the doctrine of predestination was summoned to steel men 
against any tenderness of feeling, for why should man be 
more compassionate than God ? 

One wonders whether Calvin would have been quite so 
obdurate if his holy commonwealth had not been so im- 
periled. It was like the apex of a triangle jutting into Catho- 
lic territory, perpetually menaced with extinction by a mili- 
tary coup from the king of France or the duke of Savoy, 
continually replenished by those who had only just escaped 
with their lives, who left goods behind and often martyred 
loved ones. And there were those who came for a period of 
training before returning to probable death. Geneva lived in 
all the tension of a wartime psychology. Those men steeled 
themselves by taking as their model that Abraham who, at 
the behest of God, refused not to lift his knife even against 
his only son through whom he had been promised to be- 
come the father of a great nation. In the Biblical story, as 
Abraham raised his knife, the voice of an angel arrested him 
and a ram appeared in the thicket. All too often in Calvin's 
case there was no ram. 



^Michael Servctus 

The most celebrated case of Protestant persecution is the 
burning of Michael Servetus at the stake for heresy at Ge- 
neva. He was a Spaniard, born in the 
early years of the sixteenth century 
(1511), when the work of Torque- 
mada was done and the Inquisition 
had in a measure mitigated its rigors. 
There were, indeed, still converted 
Jews and converted Moors to be 
watched, but they had learned either 
to conform or to be exceedingly dis- 
creet and the Inquisition was content 
to tread softly. The converses had 
their revenge by cultivating mystical 
illuminist tendencies within Christianity. The Alumbrados 
were later to suffer, after Protestantism had occasioned a re- 
kindling of inquisitorial fires, but for the moment they were 
indulgently treated. 

Even more significant was the wave of Erasmianism which 
flowed over the Pyrenees. There was a particular reason for 
the vogue of Erasmus in Spain, apart from his general Eu- 
ropean reputation. It was that the king of Spain, Charles, the 
grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, had been reared in the 
Spanish dependencies, the Low Countries. He spoke Flemish 
by preference and surrounded himself at court with persons 

Michael Servetus 


from The Netherlands. These circles were addicted to the 
cult of the great Hollander, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and car- 
ried with them their devotion when, in the train of the 
monarch, they entered the Iberian peninsula. The popularity 
of Erasmus was a part of the cultural interchange between 
Spain and its dependencies. The views of Erasmus have al- 
ready been noted his undogmatic piety, his rational and 
ethical emphasis, his decrying of contention over the subtle- 
ties of theological speculation. 

Among the liberals at the Spanish court was the king's 
confessor, Quintana, a Franciscan, who at one time had ex- 
pected even more from Luther than from the pope. To the 
service of . this man Servetus was attached. The reason could 
hardly have been the liberalism of the king's confessor, be- 
cause the family of Servetus appears to have been distinctly 
orthodox. A brother was a beneficed priest, who joined with 
his mother in the erection of an altar in their native town. 
But any sort of post at court no doubt appeared advanta- 
geous, and the family probably thought to facilitate the son's 
advancement. The position was not onerous, and did not pre- 
clude a period of university study. Servetus was permitted to 
go to the University of Toulouse for the study of juris- 

That he had imbibed something already from the illumin- 
ism of Spain and the Erasmianism of the court may be 
inferred from tendencies manifest in his later work. A Span- 
iard he remained, and was deeply preoccupied with the prob- 
lem that had so long agitated his country of what to do with 
the Moors and the Jews. The Inquisition had been tried, and 
the problem had diminished in intensity but was not wholly 
at an end, and certainly was not solved for Europe as a 
whole. Servetus addressed himself to the more fundamental 
question of why the problem existed at all. If God has re- 
vealed himself in Christ and through the sacred Scriptures. 


why should the Jews and the Moors be so obstinate in re- 
fusing to accept God's gracious declaration? The obvious 
answer was that the monotheism alike of Judaism and Mo- 
hammedanism was offended by the Christian doctrine of the 
Trinity: that God is of one substance, differentiated in three 
persons. The unbelievers interpreted the doctrine as plain 
tritheism, and some warrant was at hand for their assump- 
tion in the artistic representations of the Trinity which por- 
trayed God sometimes with one head and three faces and 
sometimes even as three indistinguishable old men. 

Servetus, revolving this problem, came to the University 
of Toulouse, renowned for its orthodoxy, only to discover 
that the very citadel of doctrinal rectitude harbored evangeli- 
cals. Student groups were poring over the Scriptures. Serve- 
tus discarded Justinian for the Gospels, and thereby to his 
amazement discovered that the one essential tenet of Chris- 
tianity required of the Moors and the Jews was not so much 
as mentioned in the Bible. To be sure there is something 
about the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, but the 
word " Trinity " does not occur. There is nothing of the one 
substance and the three persons. The relationship of the Son 
to the Father is not described as consubstantial. There is no 
reference to the procession of the Holy Ghost. Servetus was 
perfectly right in his observation, because the Council of Ni- 
caea had been driven reluctantly to the conclusion that the 
teaching implicit in the New Testament could be safe- 
guarded against Arian misinterpretation only if extra-Biblical 
language were used, since the Arians would accept any Bibli- 
cal terminology and place upon it their own construction. 

The whole history of the matter was not apparent to Serve- 
tus. The one point of crucial importance to him was this, 
that the Moors and the Jews should not be alienated from 
the fold by requiring of them subscription to a formula that 
is absent from the Bible. At the same time Servetus was con- 


corned to know for what reason the doctrine had originated 
and whether it could be defended. To answer these questions 
he addressed himself to the whole history of Trinitarian 
speculation. He read mostly the late Scholastics, without 
properly sensing their relation to previous periods of thought* 
The earliest phase was that of the primitive Church, when 
the need was felt to satisfy the Hellenistic theological urge 
to explain the relation of Christ to God. The primitive Chris- 
tians had experienced in Christ redemption from guilt, sins, 
sinfulness, death, and the power of the devil. They were 
clear that the Redeemer must have been man, to provide a 
moral example, and at the same time God, if he was able to 
overcome sin, death, and hell. At first they were content to 
call him simply the Word of God or the Son of God. More 
precise formulation came at the Council of Nicaea in 325, 
with the teaching that Christ so participates in the being of 
God that he may be described as of one substance or essence 
with God. With the Father and the Son was associated the 
Spirit, all participating in the being of God. In this sense all 
are God, yet all are at the same time in a measure distinct. 
They are not sufficiently separate to constitute three Gods, 
nor sufficiently one to obliterate all differentiation. The doc- 
trine of the Trinity was a formula devised to express the 
complexity within the unity of God by defining the rela- 
tionship of the Son and the Spirit to the Father. 

After the doctrine had once been formulated, schools of 
thought arose in the West in the Middle Ages with regard 
to the degree to which it can be established as true. Saint 
Augustine gave the first and the dominant answer, that the 
doctrine cannot be demonstrated but can be illustrated, be- 
cause man, having been made in the image of God, although 
corrupted by the fall, yet retains at least analogies to the 
Trinitarian structure of God in that the mind of man can be 
differentiated psychologically into intellect, memory, and 


will. The analogy is not conclusive proof, but if the doc- 
trine has already been revealed, we are able then in a 
measure to comprehend by virtue of these comparisons* This 
line of thinking runs from Saint Augustine straight through 
Saint Thomas Aquinas. 

The second view arose in the high Middle Ages, according 
to which the doctrine can be not only illustrated but even 
demonstrated. Richard of St. Victor in the twelfth century 
originated this view. The demonstration was discovered 
through the Neoplatonic conception of God as expansive be- 
ing continually throwing oil emanations. The problem is to 
stop them at three. Saint Richard here had recourse to the 
Christian picture of God as love, and love, he said, requires 
at least two persons, one to love and one to be loved. And 
perfect love requires a third, to provide the possibility of ex- 
cluding jealousy. All this doubtless sounds very farfetched. 
Servetus certainly thought so. What it amounts to is this, 
that the philosophic doctrine of God as expansive being was 
checked by the Jewish-Christian view of God as personality. 
In the whole process the Victorine school found an under- 
girding for the orthodox doctrine that God expands up to 
but not beyond the limits of personal life. This type of 
thought is characteristic of those with mystical leanings in 
the Middle Ages. 

A third view held that the doctrine of the Trinity can 
neither be illustrated nor demonstrated, but only believed. 
The reason was the adoption of the nominalist philosophy, 
according to which reality consists, not of great entities 
called universals, but only of unrelated particulars. There is 
no such thing as " chair " apart from this chair or that chair. 
Extreme nominalism reduces reality to atoms. When this 
philosophy is applied to the Trinity, the three persons, being 
deprived of any relating universal, must of necessity become 
three Gods, and this, said the nominalists, is precisely what 


the doctrine entails from the philosophical point of view. 
The Trinity therefore cannot be proved and cannot even be 
illustrated but only accepted on the basis of the authority of 
the Church. Philosophy and theology are thus considered to 
be conflicting disciplines. Not that there are two varieties of 
truth, but there are two sorts of logic, which end in contra- 
dictions to be resolved only by an act of credence. This was 
the type of thinking inaugurated by William of Occam in 
the early fourteenth century and prevalent in Servetus' day. 
Erasmus and Luther alike agreed that, philosophically speak- 
ing, the doctrine of the Trinity entails tritheism. 

At this point Servetus made his contact with Trinitarian 
thinking. He accepted avidly the Occamist criticism without 
appreciation of the philosophical background and interpreted 
all the earlier development in terms of this outcome. But he 
was not content like the Occamists to rest with double logic 
and accept the authority of the Church, because the repercus- 
sions of the Reformation had shaken him even in orthodox 
Toulouse, and presumably also because he was relieved to 
discover a valid way of facilitating the conversion of the 
Moors and the Jews by removing an unnecessary impedi- 
ment. A doctrine that is neither Biblical nor philosophically 
defensible, argued Servetus, ought not to be made a sine qua 
nan of Christianity. 

When he came to the reconstruction of his own view of 
God and of Christ, he landed in a state of rich confusion, be- 
cause he considered the fall of Christianity to have occurred 
at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and consequently would 
accept only the Scriptures and the ante-Nicene writers as 
normative for his own thinking. But they were not clear. 
That was exactly why Nicaea had essayed a more precise 
definition. Servetus developed a view compounded of the 
ideas of Tertullian and Irenaeus and highly reminiscent of 
a position that we now know to have been that of the heretic 


Paul of Samosata. Servetus destroyed immediately the doc- 
trine of the Trinity by declaring that the Holy Spirit was not 
a person at all, but simply the spirit of God indwelling in 
man. With regard to Christ, a distinction, he contended, was 
to be made between the pre-existent Word and the incarnate 
Son. The Word was forever with God, but the Son was pro- 
duced by the union of this Word with the man Jesus. The 
Son therefore had a beginning of existence in time. The 
Word was eternal but the Son was not eternal. Yet after the 
union the Father and the Son were scarcely to be distin- 
guished save as modes of divine activity. 

But the terminology of Servetus was often inexact as he 
moved from theology to lyrical rhapsodies about Christ. 
" With Daniel," he said, " 1 see Jesus Christ coming on the 
clouds of heaven. I see him in the chariot of Ezekiel and 
riding among the myrtles of Zachariah. I see him on the 
throne of Isaiah. He is more than the effulgence of the glory, 
as Paul speaks of the Lord of glory crucified, he is the glori- 
ous star of the morning, he is the light of God, the light of 
the Gentiles. The splendor of his countenance illumines the 
whole heaven and will illumine the worlds in generations to 
come. He is the power of God by which the worlds were 
made, and although the Word of Christ is to some foolish- 
ness, to others it is the power of God. With marvelous power 
he has subjected the world to his sway and will subdue it. 
Without clamor of arms he leads captive the minds of men." 

The position of Servetus could scarcely commend itself to 
the orthodox because he had denied the affirmation so funda- 
mental to Athanasius of the eternal, timeless generation of 
the Son of God. If there were any change in the Son, then, 
according to Athanasius, our salvation would be imperiled. 
There was another point at which Servetus was even more 
to offend John Calvin. It was in the appropriation from the 
Greek theologians of the view that humanity is capable of 


participation in divinity. Men can so share in the being of 
God as themselves to become divine, and the significance 
of the incarnation is that in Christ God and man were fully 
conjoined. The significance of the sacrament of the bread 
and wine is that by feeding upon Christ we can through him 
attain divinity and immortality. " What is the mystery of the 
incarnation/' exclaimed Servetus, " other than the mingling 
of man with God ? Unless I believe this with regard to the 
flesh of Christ I should have no hope, for we shall be made 
sharers in the divine substance even in the flesh as now in the 
spirit we are partners of the divine nature." 

The combination of this view of the possible deification 
of man with the current Catholic belief that man is capable 
of doing good sufficient to merit reward at the hands of God 
went far to complete the Renaissance doctrine of man. There 
was one other ingredient, namely, the idea of the full- 
orbed personality, the master of all skills and learnings. And 
this Servetus well-nigh accomplished in his own person, 
for he was a theologian, Biblical scholar, geographer, anat- 
omist, and physician. His picture of man alienated Calvin 
even more than his view of Christ. The union of humanity 
and divinity was for Servetus an elevation of humanity, but 
for Calvin a degradation of divinity. 

Servetus was recalled in 1529 from his studies at Toulouse 
by his master, Quintana, who himself had been summoned 
to accompany Charles at his coronation as Holy Roman Em- 
peror by the pope at Bologna. The withdrawal of the court 
from Spain in the wake of the emperor was fraught with 
consequences that contemporaries little divined. This marked 
the end of the Erasmian period in Spain, though no doubt 
it would have passed in any case, as it did elsewhere, under 
the impact of the wars of religion. The works of Erasmus 
were to be placed on the Index in Spain, and the censors 
vented their spleen on his woodcut portrait by crisscrossing 


with a pen and blackening the eyes to suggest a skull. 

Yet even the Erasmians in the train of the emperor would 
scarcely tolerate the position developed by Servetus. Con- 
sequently he slipped away and went to the Protestant cities 
of Basel and Strasbourg, there to publish his views. His book 
on The Errors of the Trinity appeared near Strasbourg in 
the year 1531. He had chosen wisely. Basel was the city 
where Erasmus had spent his last days and where he was 
buried. He had left behind him there a circle of liberals. And 
Strasbourg was still extremely lenient toward Anabaptists. 
Yet Servetus was to experience that not even these, the most 
broad-minded of the Protestant cities, would harbor him. At 
Basel he was told that if he were to be received as a Christian 
brother, he must confess Christ as the eternal Son of God, 
consubstantial with the Father; and Strasbourg, after a pe- 
riod of hesitation, became equally firm. Melanchthon studied 
his views and concluded that they were utterly unacceptable. 
Servetus had hoped that the Erasmians might be favorable, 
but Quintana was thoroughly shocked. After all, Erasmus 
had only taught that so abstruse a doctrine as the Trinity 
should not be discussed until the Judgment Day. He had not 
said that it might be rejected. 

Servetus would have been highly naive if he expected a 
sympathetic hearing among the more orthodox Catho- 
lics. When Aleander, Luther's old opponent at the Diet of 
Worms, saw the book on The Errors of the Trinity, he de- 
clared that he had never read anything more nauseating. He 
proposed to notify the authorities in Spain to burn the book 
and the effigy of the author al modo di Spagna. They scarcely 
needed this instigation, for Servetus had the temerity to send 
a copy of his book to the bishop of Saragossa, who denounced 
him to the supreme council of the Inquisition. An order was 
issued that a notice should be placarded in Servetus' native 
place, summoning him to appear. But a postscript added tha 



the summons should be posted only at an hour when no one 
would read it, lest he be warned not to return. Rather let a 
confidential agent be employed to entice him back to Spain. 
The one selected for this office was his own brother. A record 
five and a half years later indicates that this envoy actually 
made a trip to Germany but came back without success. 

Portrait of Erasmus 
Censored by the Inquisition 

Where, then, should Servetus go ? The Protestant and the 
Catholic lands alike were closed to him. For the first time 
perhaps in history he thought of America as a possible place 
of refuge for victims of religious intolerance. " With Jonah/' 
he said, " I longed to flee ad novas insulas, to one of the new 
isles." Were he to leave, however, he would be recreant to a 


mission. He decided instead to preach repentance to the peo- 
ple of Nineveh, yet only under an assumed name. He went 
to France with the pseudonymn of Michael Villanovanus or 

Of course he had to support himself and nearly everything 
he did got him into further trouble. For a time he was estab- 
lished at Lyons as a corrector of proof and an editor. In this 
capacity he brought out a new edition of the Bible, earlier 
edited by Pagnini. Servetus in the preface explained his the- 
ory of prophecy, namely, that the prophets were not predic- 
tors but were simply describing the events of their own time. 
To be sure the Holy Spirit placed in their mouths language 
too rich for the occasion in hand. And thus the link be- 
tween the Old Testament and the New Testament is not 
dissolved. Yet the argument for the truth of the Christian 
revelation from the fulfillment of prophecy is undercut. 
Likewise Servetus eliminated the allegorical chapter head- 
ings of The Song of Songs, which turned an Oriental love 
poem into a rhapsody of the Christian soul and Christ the 

Next he edited the geography of Ptolemy. In typical hu- 
manist fashion he was interested in men rather than in 
fauna, flora, or topography. Unhappily, however, at one point 
he did deal with the external features of the land and that was 
in the description of Palestine, which he declared to be in- 
deed a promised land but not a land of great promise. Serve- 
tus, as a matter of fact, was not the author of this passage 
which he borrowed from a prior edition, but he was accused 
of giving the lie to Moses. To clear himself in the next edi- 
tion he left the page completely blank, but even so he was 
not to hear the last of this unfortunate remark. 

Perhaps the vexations of publishing disposed him to seek 
another means of livelihood. He turned to medicine and 
studied in Paris, where he was a fellow dissector of cadavers 


with Vesalius. In the course of his studies Servetus became 
the discoverer of the pulmonary circulation of the blood. 
This does not mean of course the complete circulation, 
which was fully grasped only by Harvey, but only the cir- 
cuit in the lungs. The older view of Galen was that the blood 
originates in the liver and is used up in feeding the body 
without ever returning to the point of origin. The blue blood 
seeps through the wall of the heart and, having done so, 
changes in color. Only a trickle goes to feed the lungs. Serve- 
tus made three important observations. The wall of the heart 
is impermeable. The artery that carries the blood to the 
lungs is large enough for the entire blood stream, and the 
change in color through aeration takes place in the lungs. 
Thus he discovered the pulmonary circulation. This point is, 
strictly speaking, irrelevant in a consideration of Servetus as 
a heretic, but it is worthy of note to impress the point that 
persecution may often enough liquidate a highly gifted and 
serviceable individual. 

After his medical training Servetus for twelve years prac- 
ticed in the neighborhood of Lyons. He had not lost interest 
in theology. The old ideas still filled him with missionary 
zeal, but they were reinforced by two new currents. While in 
Strasbourg he had come in contact with the Anabaptists and 
had imbibed from them the concept of the Church as com- 
posed only of convinced believers. He agreed with them that 
baptism is desecrated by application to infants. He pointed 
even to the example of Christ, who- was not baptized until 
his thirtieth year. Since the orthodox gave baptism to chil- 
dren in order to wash away original sin, Servetus held that 
no unforgivable sin could be committed, at any rate not 
until after the twentieth year. 

From the Anabaptists he received also a belief in the im- 
minent return of the Lord to set up his Kingdom. All specu- 
lations as to the date employ the figure 1260, the number of 


days spent in the wilderness by the woman in the book of 
Revelation. The common procedure is to make the days into 
years and add them to some date in early history that will 
project the coming shortly ahead of one's own time. Serve- 
tus selected the year 325, the year of the Council of Nicaea, 
which marked for him the fall of the Church, and, by adding 
1260 to this, arrived at the date 1585, within his own gen- 
eration, as the time of the great renewal. Then would come 
the complete restoration of the Church, the " restitution/' 
another favorite Anabaptist term. 

The second influence profoundly to bear upon Servetus 
was that of the Neoplatonism of the Italian Renaissance, 
then enjoying a great vogue among humanist circles in 
France. The current fashion in this school to seek confirma- 
tion of Christianity by precarious borrowings from the eso- 
teric lore of the East disposed Servetus to copious citations 
from the Jewish cabala, the Sibylline and Zoroastrian oracles, 
and the wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus. Even more sig- 
nificant for the thinking of Servetus was the interpretation 
of light in terms, not of physics, but of metaphysics, as a 
form infused into all objects rendering them capable of 
luminosity. Servetus combined these ideas with Christology: 
Christ is the light of the world. It is he, then, who confers 
the light forms which transform clay into resplendent stones 
and water into lustrous pearls, which in regeneration trans- 
form the spirit of man and in the resurrection will transform 
also his body. Christ, thus infusing all reality with the lumi- 
nous, becomes himself a universal presence. One is reminded 
of Luther's doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ. To Calvin 
such thinking was completely alien. For him God is utterly 
transcendent and Christ is seated at his right hand. 

Servetus entered into correspondence with Calvin. The 
two men were both profoundly religious. From the stand- 
point of a secularized generation they appear highly similar, 


but within a common framework of ideas the differences 
were so great as to be resolved in that day only by death. 
Servetus was drawn by the austere magnetism of Calvin and 
sought to reassure himself by convincing this trenchant in- 
tellect. Servetus initiated the correspondence and made no 
secret of his identity, which he could scarcely have concealed 
since he repeated in a measure the views already known 
through the publication of his earlier work. Calvin at first 
courteously replied until Servetus became both galling and 
demanding. Calvin regarded him as an emissary of Satan to 
waste his time, and to answer all questions with a single 
throw sent him a copy of the Institutio which Servetus 
adorned with insulting marginalia and returned. He sent 
also a manuscript copy of a work entitled Restitutio, possibly 
a play upon Calvin's title. Calvin retained the manuscript, 
broke off the correspondence, and confided to a friend in 
Lyons that if Servetus came to Geneva he would not get out 
alive if Calvin's authority prevailed. This was in 1546. 

Servetus reworked his manuscript, and in 1553 published 
it secretly at his own expense through a concealed press near 
Lyons. One thousand copies were struck off. One fell into 
the hands of a Protestant in Geneva who had a Catholic 
cousin living in Lyons. They had often debated the relative 
merits of their faith, and the Catholic had reproached the 
Protestant with destroying the discipline of the Church. The 
arrival of Servetus' book provided an opening too good to 
miss. The Protestant wrote to his Catholic cousin that 
whereas he reproached the Protestants with a lack of disci- 
pline, the Catholics in Lyons were tolerating a heretic who 
compared the Trinity to Cerberus, the three-headed hound 
of hell (this was true), and disgorged all possible villainies 
against the eternal generation of the Son of God. Such views 
were not only heresy but such detestable heresy as to abolish 
the entire Christian religion. This man wrecked all the 


fundamentals of the faith. He denied infant baptism. The 
man was Michael Servetus, masquerading under the assumed 
name of Villeneufve. The printer was named Arnollet. 

This was news in Lyons, because the Restitutio appeared 
only with the initials " MSV," standing for Michael Servetus 
Villanovanus but cryptic to the uninitiated. In the circle of 
Calvin, who had the manuscript, the identity of the author 
was not difficult to decipher. How the printer was known 
eludes us. The Catholic cousin promptly laid the disclosure 
before the Inquisitor, who conducted an examination, but 
fruitlessly because Servetus had already disposed of all in- 
criminating evidence. The informer then wrote back to Ge- 
neva requesting some tangible proof. The following letter 
from the Protestant cousin discloses the sequel and brings 
John Calvin into the affair: 

"My dear cousin: 

"When I wrote the letter which you have communicated to 
those whom I charged with indifference, I did not suppose that 
the matter would go so far. I simply meant to call your attention 
to the fine zeal and devotion of those who call themselves the 
pillars of the Church, although they suffer such disorder in their 
midst, and persecute so severely the poor Christians, who wish to 
follow God in simplicity. Inasmuch as this glaring instance had 
been brought to my notice, the occasion and subject seemed to me 
to warrant mentioning the matter in my letters. But since you 
have disclosed what I meant for you alone, God grant that this 
may the better serve to purge Christianity of such filth, such 
deadly pestilence. If they really want to do anything, as you say, 
it does not seem to me that the matter is so very difficult, though 
I cannot for the moment give you what you want, namely, the 
printed book. But I can give you something better to convict him, 
namely, two dozen manuscript pieces of the man in question, in 
which his heresies are in part contained. If you show him the 
printed book he can deny it, which he cannot do in the case of 
his handwriting. The case then being absolutely proved, the men 


of whom you speak will have no excuse for further dissimulation 
or delay. All the rest is here right enough, the big book and the 
other writings of the same author, but I can tell you I had no 
little trouble to get from Calvin what I am sending. Not that he 
does not wish to repress such execrable blasphemies, but he thinks 
that it is his duty rather to convince heresies with doctrine than 
with other means, because he does not exercise the sword of jus- 
tice. But I remonstrated with him and pointed out the embarrass- 
ing position in which I should be placed if he did not help me, 
so that in the end he gave me what you see. For the rest I hope 
by and by, when the case is further advanced, to get from him a 
whole ream of paper, which the scamp has had printed, but I 
think that for the present you have enough, so that there is no 
need for more to seize his person and bring him to trial. . . . 

" Geneva, March 26." 

What actually was sent was a body of the manuscript let- 
ters of Servetus and a copy of the Institutio containing Serve- 
tus' contemptuous comments. Thus Calvin collaborated with 
the Inquisition. Servetus was again summoned and con- 
fronted with his handwriting. He examined it closely. It had 
been written so long ago he was not sure whether it was 
his. But on a more careful examination he thought that it 
was. Then he admitted that when he had been in Germany 
some twenty-five years ago a book was published near Stras- 
bourg by a certain Spaniard named Servetus. His views ap- 
peared plausible, and, being curious as to their validity, Vil- 
lanovanus had submitted them for criticism to Calvin, who, 
perceiving the questions to be those of Servetus, assumed his 
correspondent to be Servetus, to which the correspondent re- 
plied that although he was not, yet for the sake of the dis- 
cussion he was willing to assume the role. " On those terms," 
said Villanovanus, " we interchanged until the correspond- 
ence became heated and I dropped it. For the last ten years 
there has been nothing between us, and I affirm before God 


that I have no desire to dogmatize or to assert anything con- 
trary to the Church and to the Christian religion." 

But Servetus well realized that his position was becoming 
precarious, and, committed to prison, promptly sent a valet 
to call in his debts outstanding. For exercise and the needs 
of nature he was permitted access to a walled-in garden on 
application to the jailer for the key. One evening Servetus 
carefully surveyed the terrain. At the far end of the garden 
was a flat roof abutting on the edge of the wall. The next 
morning Servetus rose at four as the jailer was starting out 
to dress his vines. The prisoner wore his velvet nightcap and 
fur bathrobe, which in the dusk concealed a full costume be- 
neath. The jailer, though he was to be gone for several hours, 
confided the key. Servetus, when he was sufficiently distant, 
disposed of the velvet nightcap and bathrobe in the garden, 
scaled the roof and thence the wall, and let himself down 
without mishap on the other side. Before the alarm was 
given, some two hours later, he was well beyond the city gate. 

Two months subsequently the secret press at which his 
book had been printed was brought to light. The printers, on 
being examined, professed complete ignorance of the Latin 
language, which they had set letter for letter. The Inquisition 
closed the case by confiscating all the available property of 
Servetus and by consigning all recoverable copies of the Res- 
titutio to the flames. Only three survive today. One is at 
Vienna, one at Paris, and one at Edinburgh. The author was 
condemned to be burned at a slow fire until his body was re- 
duced to ashes. In his absence all details were executed upon 
his effigy, which was first strangled and then consumed. 

Some four months after the flight certain brothers from 
Lyons attending church at Geneva on a Sunday morning rec- 
ognized Michael Servetus in the congregation and reported 
his presence to John Calvin, who immediately lodged against 
him with the town council a capital charge of heresy. Why 


had Servetus thus walked into the mouth of the lion? This 
question, which is genuinely puzzling, has provided the 
ground for a conjecture which seeks to exonerate Calvin 
from religious intolerance on the ground that the menace 
of Servetus was political: He had come to Geneva because 
he feared nothing since he was in league with Calvin's po- 
litical opponents, the so-called party of the Libertines, who 
were plotting a coup for his overthrow and exile. Servetus 
before his detection had actually been in Geneva for a month 
conniving with the conspirators. He chose a most auspicious 
time for his arrival, inasmuch as Calvin's position at the mo- 
ment was highly tenuous. He had excommunicated a leader 
of the Libertines and a trial of strength was pending. If Cal- 
vin failed, he would undoubtedly again go into exile. 

Contemporary evidence for this interpretation is extremely 
scant. There is nothing to support the claim that Servetus 
had been ambushed in Geneva for a month, and his own 
statement went unrefuted in the courtroom that he had 
arrived on foot the night before, had taken lodging at the 
Inn of the Rose, had requested the innkeeper to engage a 
boat that he might sail to Zurich, whence he proposed to 
make his way to Italy and practice medicine at Naples. 

Calvin's position actually was precarious, but if Servetus 
had really understood the situation, he would have derived 
from this little comfort because the town council in matters 
of heresy had been rigorous enough during Calvin's previous 
banishment. One can only infer that Servetus did not under- 
stand the situation, and if he misjudged the council, in all 
likelihood he may also have misjudged Calvin, never dream- 
ing that he would go to such lengths. 

This much may be conceded with regard to his relations 
with the Libertines, that some of the conflicting contempo- 
rary testimony indicates that the Libertines did seek the re- 
lease of Servetus after he had been brought to trial. But this 


they might well do in order to embarrass Calvin, without 
having been engaged in any previous machinations or collu- 
sion with Servetus for the overthrow of the Genevan regime. 
One further argument is adduced, that during his trial 
Servetus was at times brazen to the point of recklessness. 
Why should a man who had dissembled in France have been 
so impudent at Geneva if not that he counted on help ? The 
question admits of no easy answer, but this must be taken 
seriously, that Servetus was passionately earnest in his ex- 
pectation of vindication from heaven. He had indeed set the 
date for the Second Advent in the year 1585, but, as he felt 
the power of Antichrist closing in upon him, he may have 
forgotten his chronology, and perhaps even he may have be- 
lieved his death to be a necessary prelude to the denouement, 
for he had written earlier in a private letter: " I know that I 
shall die on this account, but I do not falter that I may be a 
disciple like the Master. He will come, he will certainly 
come. He will not tarry/ 5 One thing is plain. Calvin brought 
no political charges against Servetus and the public prosecu- 
tor sought to convict him only of immorality, not of sedition, 
and in any case failed. The counts on which Servetus was 
condemned were entirely theological. 

Calvin's action certainly calls for as much explanation as 
that of Servetus. One can understand why he would not 
tolerate dissent within Geneva, but why should he detain a 
man who was simply passing through and had hired a boat 
to depart the next day ? Geneva frequently disposed of the 
unassimilable by banishment. Why not let this man banish 
himself? The answer could only be that Calvin did not 
equate Christendom with Geneva. He still thought in uni- 
versal terms, and it is significant that the statute under which 
Servetus was condemned was of course not that of the canon 
law of the Catholic Church; but neither was it, save for de- 


tails, the law of Geneva. It was the law of the Holy Roman 
Empire, the Code of Justinian, that proscribed the penalty 
of death for a denial of the Trinity and a repetition of 

During the trial all Servetus' indiscretions and misde- 
meanors were adduced to discredit him. The description of 
Palestine was interpreted by Calvin as giving the lie to 
Moses. Servetus replied that he had not composed the pas- 
sage, and in any case it was simply a description of the pres- 
ent-day condition of the Holy Land. Calvin believed his de- 
nial of the authorship to be a plain lie. Calvin was perfectly 
outraged by the treatment of the Old Testament prophecies. 
Even the great fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, so commonly re- 
ferred to Christ, was by Servetus interpreted as applying to 
Cyrus. Calvin characterized this view as " a bold corruption 
of a signal prophecy." 

Much more serious was the clash over the doctrine of man 
in relation to God. Servetus believed that Calvin's doctrine 
of original sin, total depravity,, and predestination reduced 
man to a log and a stone. Calvin believed that Servetus' doc- 
trine of the deification of humanity degraded God and made 
deity subject to the vices and infirmities of the flesh. Here 
more than anywhere else was the conflict between the Ren- 
aissance and the Reformation. 

On the subject of the Trinity, Servetus was inclined to be 
somewhat concessive. He said that he did believe in the Trin- 
ity, that is, in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three 
persons in God. But he interpreted the word " person " dif- 
ferently from the moderns, by which he meant that he took 
" person " to mean simply a mode of the divine manifesta- 
tion. He went on to say that he applied the terms " Trin- 
itarian " and " atheist " only to those who placed a real dis- 
tinction in the divine essence, which is of course precisely 


what the orthodox doctrine does. In other words, Servetus 
admitted that he repudiated the teaching of the Nicene 

On the subject of infant baptism he was positively abusive: 
" It is an invention of the devil, an infernal falsity for the 
destruction of all Christianity." He freely admitted that he 
could not regard as mortal any sin committed before the 
twentieth year. 

The trial on both sides was conducted without amenities. 
When Servetus asked for a lawyer, which the Inquisition 
would not have denied, he was told that he could lie well 
enough without one. Servetus often railed at Calvin, whom 
he called Simon Magus, on the supposition that Simon origi- 
nated the doctrine of predestination. Servetus petitioned the 
court for a change of raiment, declaring that his clothes were 
torn and the lice were eating him alive. He remonstrated 
against being judged by the law of Justinian, for Calvin 
would concede that in the days of Justinian the Church was 
already degenerate. Servetus was even bold enough to de- 
mand that Calvin himself be brought to trial for having be- 
trayed him to the Inquisition, and on the charge of being a 
false accuser and as a magician following Simon Magus. 
"Let Calvin be not merely condemned but exterminated 
and driven from your city. His goods should be adjudged to 
me as compensation for what he has caused me to lose." The 
council did not deign a reply. 

During the course of the trial a courier came from France 
requesting that Servetus be surrendered to the Inquisition. 
Servetus fell on his knees, begging to be judged in Geneva. 
He exonerated the jailer from any complicity in his escape. 

The council evidently felt a measure of insecurity as to its 
course because advice was sought from the Swiss Protestant 
cities. All recommended severity. Zurich felt that Servetus' 
denial of the possibility of a mortal sin before the twentieth 


year was subversive of morality, "especially in these days 
when the young are so corrupted." But none recommended 
the death penalty. The reason was that every city had at 
least a small dissenting minority. Yet the general tenor was 
so severe that Geneva felt warranted in proceeding. 

One must remember that the sentence was pronounced, 
not by John Calvin, who was only an accuser and not even 
a prosecutor, but rather by the town council, a body of lay- 
men. The verdict dropped all the charges save two, and those 
two are exactly the ones visited by death in the Code of 
Justinian, namely, the denial of the Trinity and the repudia- 
tion of baptism. The sentence read: 

" And we syndics, judges of criminal cases in this city, having 
witnessed the trial conducted before us at the instance of our 
lieutenant against you ' Michel Servet de Villeneufve/ of the 
country of Aragon in Spain, and having seen your voluntary and 
repeated confessions and your books, judge that you, Servetus, 
have for a long time promulgated false and thoroughly heretical 
doctrine, despising all remonstrances and corrections, and that 
you have with malicious and perverse obstinacy sown and divulged 
even in printed books opinions against God the Father, the Son, 
and the Holy Spirit, in a word, against the fundamentals of the 
Christian religion, and that you have tried to make a schism and 
trouble the Church of God by which many souls may have been 
ruined and lost, a thing horrible, shocking, scandalous, and infec- 
tious. And you have had neither shame nor horror of setting your- 
self against the divine Majesty and the Holy Trinity, and so you 
have obstinately tried to infect the world with your stinking 
heretical poison. . . . For these and other reasons, desiring to 
purge the Church of God of such infection and cut off the rotten 
member, having taken counsel with our citizens and having in- 
voked the name of God to give just judgment . . . having God 
and the Holy Scriptures before our eyes, speaking in the name of 
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we now in writing give final 
sentence and condemn you, Michael Servetus, to be bound and 


taken to Champel and there attached to a stake and burned with 
your book to ashes. And so you shall finish your days and give an 
example to others who would commit the like." 

On receiving the news Servetus was at first stunned, then 
cried out in Spanish, " Misericordia, misericordial " When 
lie recovered his composure, he sent for Calvin, who came to 
him in prison. Servetus begged his pardon for the scurrility 
used during the course of the trial Calvin told him to beg 
God's pardon. If he would but return to reason, Calvin of- 
fered to do everything to reconcile him to the servants of 
God. When Servetus proved unamenable to remonstrance, 
Calvin withdrew from the heretic. Servetus addressed to the 
council a request that he might be executed by the sword 
rather than at the stake, lest in the extremity of his anguish 
he should recant and lose his soul. Calvin supported this re- 
quest, which was denied. 

William Farel, who happened at the moment to be in Ge- 
neva, accompanied Servetus to the stake, exhorting him on 
the way to repudiate his errors. Servetus was silent. He was 
bound to the stake with an iron chain, his book was attached 
to his arm, a stout rope was wound four or five times about 
his neck. From the flames he was heard to pray, " O Jesus, 
thou Son of the eternal God, have pity on me! " Farel said 
that if he had been willing to confess Jesus, the eternal Son 
of God, he might have been saved. He put the adjective in 
the wrong place. 

We are today horrified that Geneva should have burned a 
man for the glory of God, yet we incinerate whole cities for 
the saving of democracy. 



Sebastien Qastcttio 

The case of Servetus became a cause celebre. Some feel that its 
significance has been grossly exaggerated. Why should the 
execution of one man be regarded as 
so much worse or so much more im- 
portant than those of thousands who 
suffered equally and quite as cruelly? 
The answer is simply that the Serve- 
tus case became more celebrated be- 
cause it was the point of departure 
for the toleration controversy within 
Protestantism. Hitherto the voices sOnuten Castdho 
raised on behalf of liberty had been 

few and little regarded. Sebastien Castellio by his attack 
brought the issue into prominence, provoked replies and 
counterreplies, and set going an agitation that runs in a direct 
line to the English Act of Toleration. 

Castellio exemplifies within himself the conflicts of Prot- 
estantism. He was enough of a Calvinist to migrate on his 
own volition from France to Geneva and to place himself at 
the service of the Reform. He was at the same time in many 
respects more of an Erasmian. From collaboration with Cal- 
vin he passed to acrid criticism, yet he never ceased to have 
the clear-cut decisiveness that was more characteristic of Cal- 
vin than of Erasmus. 


Castellio had spent his youth at Lyons, before the period 
of Servetus' activity. He was one of those exuberant hu- 
manists who reveled in the classical revival and so distin- 
guished himself in Latin and Greek composition that his 
comrades altered his name of Chateillon to Castalio, after 
the nymph Castalia, whose fountain flowed from the foot 
of Parnassus. The form Castellio came, however, to be pre- 
ferred and is that by which today he is commonly known. 
His formative years fell like those of Servetus in the liberal 
interlude when a Catholic could still laud the Bible as 
" fairer than c The Romance of the Rose ' " without incur- 
ring the suspicion of Lutheranism. But the days of am- 
biguity were abruptly ended when Cardinal de Tournon 
burned three Lutherans at Lyons in the year 1540. Some of 
the Catholic liberals submitted to the Church with a formal 
gesture and a shrug and thereafter went neither to Mass nor 
to prison. Like Montaigne, they believed that either to die or 
to kill for an idea is to place too high a price upon a conjec- 
ture. Others like Margaret of Navarre, the king's sister, sol- 
aced themselves by mystical piety which could allegorize the 
superstitions of the crowd. 

Some were so converted to the Reform that for them the 
only choice lay between death or exile. Of such was Sebastien 
Castellio. As to what moved him, we know even less than 
we do in the case of Calvin. The sight, perhaps, of some hardy 
spirit refusing to uncover or bow at the passing of a Catholic 
procession, the fervor of Huguenot psalm-singing, some word 
from the Bible that refused to be dislodged, or perhaps the 
cry of a Lutheran martyr at the stake forever reverberating in 
memory. Whatever the occasion, Castellio made the choice 
and fled from the confines of France. 

The place to which he directed his steps was Strasbourg. 
The reason can hardly have been the same as in the case of 
Servetus ten years earlier. At that time Strasbourg was re- 


nowned for liberalism toward dissent, in 1540 rather for lib- 
eralism restricted to mediation between the Lutherans and the 
Zwinglians. Quite possibly the greatest attraction was the pres- 
ence of John Calvin, at the moment himself an exile from Ge- 
neva. In Calvin's home Castellio found lodging. He was then 
twenty-five years of age. When the plague smote the city, 
Castellio acquitted himself manfully in caring for the sick, 
and received from Calvin a tribute of praise. In 1541, Calvin, 
having been invited to return to Geneva, requested Castellio 
to accompany him and to assume the headship of the acad- 
emy. He accepted with enthusiasm. 

Calvin had lofty views of education. He desired to establish 
a school where Protestant boys would be educated in the an- 
cient tongues as tools, but not primarily in the ancient litera- 
ture, pagan as to its content. Castellio was heartily in accord 
with the plan that would combine classical Latin with Bibli- 
cal stories, lest youth be corrupted by the obscenities of Ter- 
ence, Plautus, or Ovid. Here was another example of the 
perennial conflict of Christianity with secular culture. Castel- 
lio sought to meet the situation by composing a booklet en- 
titled Sacred Dialogues, consisting of dramatizations of the 
Bible stories in Latin and in French in parallel columns. The 
work was to enjoy an immense vogue, less probably in France 
than in Germany, England, and the United States there, 
of course, in the Latin version. One hundred and thirty-three 
editions have been identified. There is a copy in the Yale Li- 
brary with the inscription, " Bought at Boston, 1759, David 
Eli, his book." 

A collection of Bible stories retold for children is scarcely 
the place to which one would naturally turn for a manifesto 
of religious liberty. Yet here it was that the themes subse- 
quently so dear to Castellio were first voiced. He was particu- 
larly fond of those episodes in the Bible that exhibited kind- 
ness, such as Abraham's entertaining of the angels, and was 


especially indignant over any manifestation of cruelty, as in 
the case of Pharaoh's attempt to exterminate the male chil- 
dren of the Hebrews, or the plot of Joseph's brethren to dis- 
pose of their brother. Here, in English translation, is Castel- 
lio's version of these two themes. The first is entitled " Moses 
in the Bulrushes": 

MOSES' MOTHER: Thus far we have escaped and reached the 
river. Now we must expose the little boy so that Pharaoh will not 
know that we have kept him against his order and will. We have 
run great risk in hiding him these three months, but it is better to 
incur danger and even to lose one's life than to let such a beautiful 
child be killed. Oh, the cruel king, to command that they destroy 
all the boy babies! How many have been killed by his order just 
as they came into life! Who has ever heard of such cruelty? To 
strangle the babies on the threshold of life! O my darling little 
boy, your poor mother must leave you here in the papyrus! I 
carried you, bore you, and hid you these three months. I would 
hide you longer if I could. How bitter! Must I leave you without 
hope of seeing you any more? What will become of me and of 
you, my boy, whom I leave here? But since we cannot do what 
we wish, we have to wish what we can. I did right to hide you. 
Now I leave you to the mercy and care of God. Good-by, my 
darling, good-by, my little son. 

THE SISTER: Mother, I will stay here, if you like, to see what 
will happen. 

MOTHER: That is good, and I will return home. 

PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER: Here is the river where we have come 
to bathe. Maidens, you stay here while I will go with the attend- 
ant to that lovely little hiding place. But what is that papyrus? 
Maid, go and see. It looks like an ark. 

MAID: So it is, and it is covered with pitch. 

PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER: Bring it here. Open it. Oh, the poor 
little fellow, and he cries! It goes right through me. This is one 
of the Hebrew children. 

THE SISTER (to herself) : I begin to have good hope of saving 


the baby. I will go near. (To Pharaoh's daughter) God bless you. 

PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER: What did you say? 

THE SISTER: Would you like a Hebrew nurse for the baby? 

PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER: I should. Go and bring her. 

THE SISTER: She will be here at once. 

PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER: How fortunate that I came! I have a boy 
whom I will bring up for my own. Nothing better could have 
happened. I am not afraid to offend Father in something so kind 
and good. It is a crime to strangle the little babies. Isn't he a dar- 
ling! How well-formed! Isn't it wicked to kill such boys! 

THE SISTER: Here is the nurse. 

PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER: Will you take care of this boy and bring 
him up for me ? I will pay you. 

MOTHER: That I will. 

The second example is " Joseph and His Brethren ": 

SIMEON: Here comes that dreamer. Let's kill him and throw 
his body into some cave. 

LEVI: But what shall we tell Father? 

SIMEON: That a wild beast ate him. We will see what will 
come of his dreams. 

REUBEN : It is a crime to stain our hands in the blood of a boy, 
and a brother at that. Don't do it. You cannot suggest anything 
worse for us or for our father. 

SIMEON: When did you begin to be so tender? Do you want us 
to let him live who predicts in his dreams that all of us, even 
Father and Mother, will bow down to him? Doesn't he deserve 
rather to go to hell with his dreams? 

REUBEN: Brother, if it's going to be, who are you to stop it? 
And if it is not going to be, why are you afraid? [Observe the 
arguments against persecution drawn from predestination.] Does 
it seem to you so wicked that a callow lad should dream? What 
harm is there in dreams? [In other words, the points controverted 
are not so important after all] But if you are so set and will not 
yield, here is a dry well. At least do not lay hands on him. Put 
him down the well. That will not be quite so bad. [Just as banish- 


ment was often to be proposed by the liberals because not quite 
so bad as death.] 

SIMEON : You mind your own business. We are going to make 
away with him. 

JOSEPH : God bless you, brothers. 

LEVI : We'll show you how God will bless you. You dream that 
your brothers worship you and then you salute them so politely. 
Let's strip the pet of his rainbow coat. 

JOSEPH : What are you going to do to me ? 

LEVI : Kill you. 

JOSEPH: Don't. 

SIMEON : We will. 

JOSEPH: My brothers, for God's sake, for Father's sake! He will 
die of grief. Don't. What have I done? What has taken hold of 
you ? 

SIMEON : You waste time. Let him down. 

REUBEN : I am leaving. I can't stand this. 

JOSEPH: Where am I going? I shall die! Father, Father, what 
sad news will you have of your boy! In what grief will you drag 
out your days! Judah, help me, pity me, pity Father! 

LEVI : Let's sit down and have a bite to eat. 

JUDAH: I see some merchants coming. What good shall we have 
of our brother's blood ? Let's sell him to the Ishmaelites over there, 
and lay no hands on our brother, shed no blood, for he is our 
brother of the same seed. Come, listen to me. 

LEVI : He is right. 

SIMEON : But perhaps 

JUDAH: Don't worry. You will be rid of him as well by sale as 
by slaughter. 

LEVI : True, and we shall make something on the sale which we 
shall lose if we kill him. 

JUDAH: Merchants, want to buy a fine boy? 

MERCHANTS: Let's see him. 

JUDAH: Pull him up. They'll take him. 

JOSEPH: Now I am going to die. They are bringing me up to 
kill me. 

JUDAH: Don't be so frightened. You aren't going to be killed but 


sold. Merchants, look at him. He is well built. 

MERCHANTS: Yes, he is handsome and bright. How much do 
you ask for him? 

JUDAH : Thirty pieces of silver. 

MERCHANTS : Done. Here is your money 

Very instructive is a comparison of the way in which Cal- 
vin handles these passages. He scathes, of course, the unparal- 
leled severity of Pharaoh, not because killing babies is itself 
so monstrous, for Calvin fully condoned the slaughter of the 
babies of the Amalekites at the divine behest. Pharaoh's deep- 
est offense lay in his intent to frustrate God, and the moral 
of the whole story is that Providence and not chance directed 
Pharaoh's daughter to the very spot that enabled her to res- 
cue the savior of his people. Likewise in the case of Joseph's 
brethren. They were unquestionably incited by diabolical 
fury, and had they been possessed of a grain of humanity 
could not have sat down to eat after putting their brother 
down the well But the main point is that unwittingly and 
unwillingly the brothers were instruments of Providence for 
their own ultimate salvation. 

Why should men react so differently to the same Biblical 
passage ? Why should one center on the wickedness of cruelty 
and the other on the power of God to circumvent its effects ? 
Why does one shudder at inhumanity as such and the other 
inquire for what purpose it is being exercised ? One wonders 
whether it is ultimately a matter of temperament, and that is 
only another way of inquiring whether after all it may not be 
predestination. Some are tough and some are tender. Some 
shrink not only from bloodshed but from any infliction of 
pain, and would sooner dissimulate than hurt. Others are of 
stouter fiber. If this be true, the arguments used by this side 
or that are immaterial. One fights against this conclusion, and 
with reason, because sometimes arguments have made con- 
verts, and the periods of history do exhibit such advances and 


such retrogressions in the practice of liberty as to suggest 
something more at work than merely temperament. 

But to come back to Castellio. The plague broke out in Ge- 
neva, The town council requested the ministers to send as a 
chaplain to the hospital one of their number other than Cal- 
vin. One went, and died. A successor was requested. The min- 
isters replied that they recognized this service as their duty, 
" but God had not given them the grace, the courage, and the 
constancy to go to the hospital and they begged to be excused. 
They prayed God would give them greater strength for the 
future." Sebastien Castellio volunteered, but his offer was not 
accepted because he was needed at the school and in any 
case was not ordained. 

Then arose a circumstance that gave him a particular rea- 
son for seeking ordination. He married and his stipend was 
insufficient. The Council, unable to raise his wages, proposed 
that in addition to the school he assume a church, to which 
a salary would be attached. For this ordination was necessary. 
But the ministers rejected him on two counts: because he 
denied Calvin's allegorical interpretation of the descent of 
Christ into hell, and because he repudiated the inspiration of 
The Song of Songs in the Old Testament Castellio there- 
upon resigned from the school and asked for a letter of rec- 
ommendation to a post elsewhere. Calvin gladly acceded, 
and in the name of the ministers gave him a letter testifying 
that he would have been unanimously elected to the pastor- 
ate save for the two points of doctrine. 

" The chief dispute," the letter continued, " was about The 
Song of Songs. He said that it was a lascivious love poem in 
which Solomon described his indecent amours. We told him 
that he should not be so rash to despise the perpetual con- 
sensus of the Church Universal, There was no book of doubt- 
ful authenticity that had not been debated, and those books 
that we now receive without a question were at first dis- 


puted. But this book had never been openly rejected by any- 
one. We told him that he should not trust to his own judg- 
ment, especially when he advanced nothing that had not 
been obvious to everyone before he was born, and we pointed 
out the similarity of this book to the Forty-fifth Psalm. 

" When this did not weigh with him, we consulted what 
we should do. We were all agreed that it would be dangerous 
and would set a bad example if he were admitted to the min- 
istry on this condition. To begin with, people would be not a 
little offended if they heard that we had ordained one who 
openly rejected and condemned a book accepted as Scripture 
by all the churches. Further, the door would be opened to 
adversaries and detractors who seek to defame the gospel and 
disrupt the Church. Finally, we should be without an answer 
for the future to any who wanted to repudiate Ecclesiastes or 
Proverbs or any other book, unless we wanted to debate 
whether or no the book were worthy of the Holy Spirit. 

" That no one may suppose there was any other reason for 
Sebastien's leaving, we wish to attest wherever he goes that 
he gave up his position as schoolmaster of his own free will. 
He has so conducted himself that we deemed him worthy of 
the ministry. He has been rejected, not because of any blem- 
ish in his character, nor because of any failure to accept the 
fundamentals, but simply for this reason that we have men- 
tioned. The ministers of Geneva signed in the name and by 
the mandate of all, John Calvin." And Calvin showed a genu- 
ine concern to find a place for Castellio somewhere else. 

Here, then, was a man possessed of more courage than any 
of the ministers, yet denied ordination to the ministry on ac- 
count of two admittedly minor doctrinal points. The contrast 
was all the more glaring because the ministry at Geneva re- 
tained some who in matters of sex were undisciplined and in 
matters of finance irresponsible. Calvin was greatly exercised 
over the situation, but not disposed to go to extremities of 


discipline when he had none better with whom to replace the 
offenders. The task of building up a reputable Protestant min- 
istry within one or even two decades was formidable. The 
alternatives were either to tolerate the tares or to reduce the 
Church to a winnowed conventicle. When the need for 
trained and upright candidates was so acute, the marvel is the 
greater that Castellio was turned down. The explanation is 
simply that a religious community built around an idea can 
less readily tolerate a rejection of the idea than a failure to 
live up to it. 

Castellio went to Basel, still redolent with the spirit of Eras- 
mus even if Servetus had been dismissed. The problem of 
ordination, which had occasioned the departure from Geneva, 
was not again raised. Castellio remained for life a layman. 
But the problem of financial support was all the more strin- 
gent. He tilled the earth, carried water for the gardeners, har- 
pooned the logs that drifted down the Rhine, and engaged 
in tutoring and in correcting proof for Oporinus, the famous 
publisher of Basel. 

The residue of time and strength was devoted to classical 
and Biblical studies, with the aim of rendering the Bible into 
a Latin not offensive to the humanists and into a French sa- 
voring of the soil. The vernacular version should wherever 
possible avoid words of immediate Latin derivation because 
foreign terms obscure the stark vigor of Christ's demands. He 
calls upon a would-be disciple to take up his cross. If the Latin 
word " cross " be used, many will readily consent because the 
term has so familiar a ring. But render the passage, " If any- 
one would come after me, let him carry the rope for his own 
lynching" that strikes home. Castellio went rather far, 
however, in making the Bible indigenous when he turned the 
officers of Israel into marshals, seneschals, bailiffs, and gen- 
darmes. All in all, his work was marked by high competence 
and distinction. The Latin version has necessarily become a 


curiosity because Latin has ceased to be a spoken tongue, and 
the French, of course, has been superseded. 

Only the preface to the Latin version is still read. It was in 
the form of a dedicatory epistle to Edward VI, the boy king 
of England, and constituted a plea for religious liberty. Here 
again a comparison with Calvin is instructive. The Insti- 
tutes begins with a dedication to Francis I, the king of France, 
who was besought to exercise clemency in religion, not be- 
cause constraint as such is wrong, but because the Calvinists 
were right. Castellio adduced other considerations. The Scrip- 
tures, he claimed, " are full of enigmas and inscrutable ques- 
tions which have been in dispute for over a thousand years 
without agreement, nor can they be resolved without love, 
which appeases all controversies. Yet on account of these enig- 
mas the earth is filled with innocent blood. We certainly ought 
to fear lest in crucifying thieves justly we crucify Christ un- 
justly. If we suffer Turks and Jews to live among us, the 
former of whom scarcely love Christ and the latter dearly 
hate him, if we suffer detractors, the proud, envious, avari- 
cious, immodest, drunkards, and like plagues, if we live with 
them, eat with them, and make merry with them, we ought 
at least to concede the right to breathe common air to those 
who confess with us the same Christ and harm no one, who 
are indeed of such a temper that they would rather die than 
say or do anything other than that which they think they 
ought to say and do. Of all men this sort is the least to be 
feared because he who would rather die than say what he 
does not feel is not open to bribery and corruption. I venture 
to say that none are more obedient to princes and magistrates 
than those who fear God in simplicity and obey him to the 
extent of their knowledge. On controverted points we would 
do better to defer judgment, even as God, who knows us to 
be guilty, yet postpones judgment and waits for us to amend 
our lives." 


Castellio's achievements in the field of scholarship were not 
without their recognition. In the month of August of the 
year 1553 he was made a Master of Arts at the University of 
Basel and thus became eligible for a teaching post which 
shortly thereafter was conferred upon him. He was thirty- 
eight years of age, a humanist with an international reputa- 
tion, and now so comfortably situated that he might look 
forward to another quarter of a century of tranquil literary 
labors. So might it have been if in October of that same year 
Geneva had not burned at the stake Michael Servetus. 

Castellio, profoundly indignant, took counsel with like- 
minded spirits on how best to launch an effective protest. The 
decision was to issue an anthology of opinions, ancient and 
modern, against persecution, in which the earlier or incau- 
tious utterances of contemporary persecutors were skillfully 
interlaid between the statements of genuine and persistent 
liberals in order to create at once an appearance of unanimity 
and to provide an occasion for embarrassment. Luther and 
Calvin were side by side with Sebastian. Franck and Sebastien 
Castellio. But Castellio's name did not appear save at the' head 
of the excerpt from the dedication of his Bible to Edward VL 
The collection as a whole was attributed to Martin Bellius, 
who signed the dedicatory epistle. Other pseudonyms were 
Basil Montfort and George Kleinberg. The recent discovery 
of a lost manuscript of Castellio puts to rest at last all the con- 
jectures of his contemporaries and of the moderns as to the 
authorship of these portions. He was responsible for; the 
whole. The place of publication likewise was fictitious, osten- 
sibly Magdeburg. Beza surmised that it was Magdeburg on 
the Rhine and he was quite right, for the title of the book has 
been discovered in a list of the publications of Oporinus of 
Basel. The identity of the author was not so readily deter- 
minable, and although Castellio was speedily suspected,, the 
pseudonym was accepted and the term Bellianism was used 


to denote the advocates of religious liberty. The work bore 
the title Concerning Heretics, Whether They Are to Be Per- 

A lively duel ensued, the more so because Calvin had al- 
ready entered the lists. Murmurs of disapproval prompted 
him at once to essay a justification in the tract, A Defense of 
the Orthodox Faith Against the Errors of Michael Servetus* 
To this work Castellio replied in the Contra Libellum Calvini 
(" Against Calvin's Book "), which, however, was not pub- 
lished until 1612, in Holland, long after his death. Beza at 
once undertook to refute Concerning Heretics in a work with 
the same title appearing in the same year, 1554. Castellio 
wrote a rejoinder both in French and in Latin, but that work 
has not yet been published and was only recently discovered 
by a Russian refugee among the papers of a Dutch Bellianist 
in the Library of the Remonstrants at Rotterdam. A collec- 
tion of theological tracts entitled Four Dialogues was per- 
mitted in Basel, but not until 1578, after the author had long 
been dead. One of the most significant of his works, the 
treatise On the Art of Doubting, has found itself curiously in- 
volved in the struggles of our own time. A Frenchman in- 
tended to edit it but was deterred. An American entertained 
plans of doing it, but delayed. An Italian wrote to the Ameri- 
can of his own purpose to undertake it until he learned that 
a German professor in Heidelberg was about to begin. Then 
came word to the American that a young woman in Berlin 
had the task actually in hand. The American informed the 
professor in Heidelberg and the young woman in Berlin of 
their mutual plans. The professor withdrew in her favor, but 
when she had finished, she was unable to publish because of 
Hitler's racial laws. Then the Italian came to the rescue and 
brought out the work on the other side of the Alps just before 
Mussolini succumbed to Hitler. 

Castellio's days were embroiled in controversy. The min- 


isters at Basel were not eager to molest him, yet were not de- 
sirous of any open breach with Geneva. One of them wrote 
to Beza advising him not to stir up Castellio, who was in- 
nocuously engaged in editing classics. The advice went un- 
heeded, and he was at last brought to trial in Basel. The out- 
come would scarcely have been worse than banishment, and 
in all likelihood he would have migrated to Poland had not 
death intervened in 1563. 

Concerning Heretics begins with the parable of the White 
Robe. It is couched in the form of a dedicatory epistle to Duke 
Christoph of Wurttemberg, and opens : 

" Most Illustrious Prince, suppose you had told your sub- 
jects that you would come to them at some uncertain time 
and had commanded them to make ready to go forth clad in 
white garments to meet you whenever you might appear. 
What would you do if, on your return, you discovered that 
they had taken no thought for the white robes but instead 
were disputing among themselves concerning your person ? 
Some were saying that you were in France, others that you 
were in Spain; some that you would come on a horse, others 
in a chariot; some were asserting that you would appear with 
a great equipage, others that you would be unattended. 
Would this please you? 

" Suppose further that the controversy was being con- 
ducted, not merely by words, but by blows and swords, and 
that one group wounded and killed the others who did not 
agree with them. * He will come on a horse/ one would say. 

" * No, in a chariot/ another would retort. 

"'You lie. 5 

" * You're the liar. Take that.' He punches him. 

" * And take that in the belly.' The other stabs. 

" Would you, O Prince, commend such citizens ? Suppose, 
however, that some did their duty and followed your com- 
mand to prepare the white robes, but the others oppressed 


them on that account and put them to death. Would you not 
rigorously destroy such scoundrels ? 

" But what if these homicides claimed to have done all this 
in your name and in accord with your command, even 
though you had previously expressly forbidden it? Would 
you not consider that such outrageous conduct deserved to be 
punished without mercy? Now I beg you. Most Illustrious 
Prince, to be kind enough to hear why I say these things. 

" Christ is the Prince of this world, who on his departure 
from the earth foretold to men that he would return some 
day at an uncertain hour, and he commanded them to pre- 
pare white robes for his coming, that is to say, that they 
should live together in a Christian manner, amicably, with- 
out controversy and contention, loving one another. But con- 
sider now, I beg you, how well we discharge our duty. 

" How many are there who show the slightest concern to 
prepare the white robe ? Who is there who bends every effort 
to live in this world in a saintly, just, and religious manner 
in the expectation of the coming of the Lord ? For nothing 
is there so little concern. The true fear of God and charity are 
fallen and grown cold. Our life is spent in contention and in 
every manner of sin. We dispute, not as to the way by which 
we may come to Christ, which is to correct our lives, but 
rather as to the state and office of Christ, where he now is and 
what he is doing, how he is seated at the right hand of the 
Father, and how he is one with the Father; likewise with re- 
gard to the Trinity, predestination, free will; so, also, of God, 
the angels, the state of souls after this life, and other like 
things, which do not need to be known for salvation by faith 
(for the publicans and sinners were saved without this knowl- 
edge), nor indeed can they be known before the heart is pure 
(for to see these things is to see God himself, who cannot be 
seen save by the pure in heart, as the text says, ' Blessed are 
the pure in heart: for they shall see God '). Nor if these are 


known do they make a man better, as Paul says, * Though I 
understand all mysteries, and have not love, it profiteth me 
nothing.' This perverse curiosity engenders worse evils. Men 
are puflfed up with knowledge or with a false opinion of 
knowledge and look down upon others. Pride is followed by 
cruelty and persecution so that now scarcely anyone is able to 
endure another who differs at all from him. Although opin- 
ions are almost as numerous as men, nevertheless there is 
hardly any sect that does not condemn all others and desire 
to reign alone. Hence arise banishments, chains, imprison- 
ments, stakes, and gallows and this miserable rage to visit 
daily penalties upon those who differ from the mighty about 
matters hitherto unknown, for so many centuries disputed, 
and not yet cleared up. 

" If, however, there is someone who strives to prepare the 
white robe, that is, to live justly and innocently, then all 
others with one accord cry out against him if he differ from 
them in anything, and they confidently pronounce him a 
heretic on the ground that he seeks to be justified by works. 
Horrible crimes of which he never dreamed are attributed to 
him, and the common people are prejudiced by slander until 
they consider it a crime merely to hear him speak. Hence 
arises such cruel rage that some are so incensed by calumny 
as to be infuriated when the victim is first strangled instead 
of being burned alive at a slow fire. 

" This is cruel enough, but a more capital offense is added 
when this conduct is justified under the robe of Christ and is 
defended as being in accord with his will, when Satan could 
not devise anything more repugnant to the nature and will 
of Christ! Yet these very people who are so furious against 
the heretics, as they call them, are so far from hating moral 
offenders that no scruple is felt against living in luxury with 
the avaricious, currying flatterers, abetting the envious and 
calumniators, making merry with drunkards, gluttons, and 


adulterers, banqueting daily with the scurrilous, impostors, 
and those who are hated of God. Who, then, can doubt that 
they hate not vices but virtues ? To hate the good is the same 
as to love the evil. If, then, the bad are dear to a man, there 
is no doubt but that the good are hateful to him. 

" I ask you, then, Most Illustrious Prince, what do you 
think Christ will do when he comes ? Will he commend such 
things ? Will he approve of them ? " 

This passage comes close to epitomizing Castellio's whole 
position. It brings to the fore the idea destined to play an 
enormous role in the entire struggle for religious liberty, 
namely, the distinction between the essentials and the non- 
essentials of Christianity. Fundamentalism arose in the six- 
teenth century in the interests of reducing the number of the 
fundamentals, that persecution might be allayed. Castellio 
in the above passage did not enumerate what they were, but 
he definitely indicated what they were not. His refusal to in- 
clude any judgment with regard to the location of Christ's 
body after the resurrection touched upon a moot point be- 
tween the Lutherans and the Calvinists, for Luther regarded 
the body of Christ as ubiquitous, needing only to be dis- 
closed, not to be conjured upon the altar, whereas Calvin 
held that Christ, being at the right hand of the Father, can 
be present only spiritually in the sacrament. The assigning 
of the Trinity, predestination, and the nature of the afterlife 
to nonessentials, elicited a blast from Theodore Beza, who 
ejaculated: " Bellius says that publicans and sinners were 
saved without these beliefs. O unheard-of impudence! Saved 
by him on whom they had not called. Did they call on him in 
whom they did not believe ? Did they believe in him whom 
they had not known ? If Christ is not in heaven, how can he 
be our high priest? If he be not coeternal and consubstantial 
with the Father, how can he be our Saviour ? " 

The question of the essentials entailed, of course, the prior 


question, essential for what? And the answer was always 
that essential referred to salvation. Here Castellio, with the 
Erasmians, introduced a rational consideration, that nothing 
can be essential for salvation that cannot be known, and 
much in Christian teaching cannot be established with ab- 
solute certainty, particularly the matters that are most con- 
troverted. Calvin and Beza promptly dubbed Castellio an 
academic, that is, a skeptic, and charged that he would reduce 
the whole of Christianity to conjecture. He replied by reviv- 
ing an ancient distinction between faith and knowledge as 
representing two levels of certainty. In accord with a venera- 
ble tradition associated with the name of Thomas Aquinas, 
Castellio held that faith and knowledge are mutually ex- 
clusive. That which is known is no longer believed and that 
which is believed by definition is not yet known. Another 
and equally persistent tradition, congenial especially to the 
mystics, held that, since the vision of God is possible in this 
life, he may be at the same time known and believed, be- 
cause faith and knowledge are not mutually exclusive but 
are rather variant modes of apprehending God at the same 
time. Calvin stood perhaps unwittingly in this line, and 
went even beyond his predecessors in equating faith with 
knowledge, assurance, and certitude. That was why he could 
not be deterred from constraining others through the fear 
of making a mistake. Under such circumstances to take no 
action to curb death-dealing error appeared to him to be 
culpable negligence. And Beza declared religious liberty to be 
" a most diabolical dogma, because it means that everyone 
should be left to go to hell in his own way." 

Such assumptions of certainty Castellio flatly challenged. 
In the preface to his Bible he had already contended that 
Scripture is fraught with enigmas. The very fact of contro- 
versy is itself the proof of uncertainty. " All sects hold their 
religion according to the Word of God and say that it is cer- 


tain. Calvin says that his is certain, and they, theirs. He says 
they are wrong and wishes to be judge, and so do they. Who 
shall be judge ? Who made Calvin the arbiter of all the sects, 
that he alone should kill ? He has the Word of God and so 
have they. If the matter is certain, to whom is it certain ? To 
Calvin? But why does he then write so many books about 
manifest truth? There is nothing unknown to Calvin. He 
talks as if he might be in paradise and writes huge tomes to 
explain what he says is absolutely clear. 

" In view of all this uncertainty we must define the heretic 
simply as one with whom we disagree. And if, then, we are 
going to kill heretics, the logical outcome will be a war of 
extermination, since each is sure of himself. Calvin would 
have to invade France and other nations, wipe out cities, put 
all the inhabitants to the sword, sparing neither sex nor age, 
not even the babes and the beasts. All would have to be 
burned save Calvinists, Jews, and Turks, whom he excepts." 
At this point Castellio was not fair, because Calvin did not 
contemplate a crusade and did not insist that every Church 
conform to the pattern of Geneva. He too distinguished the 
essentials and the nonessentials and would correct a slight 
superstition with patience and only when religion was 
shaken to the foundations would have recourse to the ex- 
treme remedy. 

But Castellio returned to the charge that the points at 
which the extreme remedy was invoked were precisely the 
least certain because the most controverted. " No one doubts 
that there is a God, whether he is good and just, whether he 
should be loved and worshiped, whether vice should be 
avoided and virtue followed. Why? Because these points are 
clear. But concerning Baptism, the Lord's Supper, justifica- 
tion, predestination, and many other questions there are capi- 
tal dissensions. Why ? Because these points are not cleared up 
in Scripture." 


The moral is to wait. "We should imitate Judas Mac- 
cabaeus who, not knowing what to do with the altar of sacri- 
fice, laid aside the stones until a prophet should arise to tell. 
Let us wait, lest we pull up the wheat with the tares, which 
has so often happened when the martyrs and the Son of God 
were put to death under the color of religion. Let us wait, 
just as, when night falls upon the field of battle, fighting 
ceases lest by striking at hazard friends be killed instead of 
foes. Since, then, so much is doubtful and entangled, with- 
hold fire until the day dawns and the forces are better disen- 
gaged, that in the darkness and confusion you do not that 
of which you will have afterward to say, ' I did not in- 
tend to/ " 

Castellio, as a matter of fact, was not a skeptic, but he was 
a rationalist. In his judgment there are two sources of knowl- 
edge. One is sense experience and the other is revelation. 
Neither is beyond the need of correction, and the office falls 
to human reason. The senses obviously are not infallible, be- 
cause a stick half immersed in water appears bent and a 
mountain in the distance seems to be blue. Reason therefore 
must interpose control and it is competent to do so because 
not vitiated by the Fall of man. The tree from which Adam 
ate was the tree of knowledge, and we are not to turn it into 
a tree of ignorance. Thus Castellio turned the story of the 
Fall into a myth of progress. After the manner of the En- 
lightenment he waxed lyrical in praise of reason: " She is, so 
to speak, the daughter of God. She was before letters and 
ceremonies, before the world was, and she is after letters and 
ceremonies, and after the world is changed and renewed, she 
will endure and can no more be abolished than God himself. 
Reason, I say, is a sort of eternal word of God. According to 
reason Jesus Christ himself, the Son of the living God, lived 
and taught. In the Greek he is called Logos, which means 
4 reason ' or * word. 5 They are the same, for reason is a kind 


of superior and eternal word of truth always speaking." 

Reason thus became for Castellio a principle of continuous 
revelation, and this explains why he had no sense of depart- 
ing from the Christian revelation when he called upon rea- 
son to resolve Scriptural riddles. Nor was he an apostate in 
distinguishing different levels within Scripture or even in ad- 
mitting positive discrepancies. When told that if these were 
true the authority of Scripture would be undermined, he re- 
plied that if the inference were correct the statements were 
not therefore false, but he would not admit the inference, be- 
cause authority does not reside in a few passages pressed into 
a rigid conformity, but in the tenor and body of the whole. 
" My confidence," he said, " in the authority of sacred au- 
thors is confirmed when I see them so intent upon the salva- 
tion of .men as to be unconcerned for words. Their reliability 
is thereby manifest. Those who tell the truth do not strain at 
words. It is precisely liars who aim at a particular verbal con- 
sistency to hide their deception." Castellio did not fully per- 
ceive that he was undoubtedly introducing a subjective factor 
into Biblical interpretation, and no doubt this was why he 
was the more ready to repudiate the passages condoning per- 
secution in the Old Testament as contrary to the mind of 

Alongside of the rational in Castellio lay a strong ethical 

" Now I know well that my detractors are accustomed to 
say that one must look not at the life, but at the doctrine, and 
that my life is hypocrisy. There are even some who say that 
to live well is the peculiarity of heretics. ... I answer that 
it is a great shame for those who wish to condemn others to 
so live that their life is worse than that of those whom they 
condemn. . . . Shall it be said that the spirit of the heretics 
has more power than that of the Christians ? 

" This man you say is a heretic, a putrid member to be cut 


off from the body of the Church lest he infect others. But 
what has he done? Oh, horrible things! Yes, but what? Is he 
a murderer ? an adulterer ? a thief ? No. What then ? Does he 
not believe in Christ and the Scriptures ? Certainly he does, 
and would rather die than not continue in his belief. But he 
does not understand them correctly, that is, he interprets 
them differently from our teachers. . . . This is a capital of- 
fense to be expiated in the flames." 

Castellio would say not merely that deeds are more impor- 
tant than creeds, but that deeds must be the test of creeds. The 
layman cannot pass judgment on the arguments of the medi- 
cal sects, but he can tell which one cures the most. So he can 
evaluate the theological sects by observing which one best 
cures vices, and changes the greatest number from drunk to 
sober, from intemperate to continent, from greedy to gener- 
ous, making them patient instead of impatient, kind instead 
of cruel, instead of impure, chaste. Sound doctrine is that 
which makes men sound. The doctrine of the persecutors 
must be bad because their lives are bad. 

Good deeds, moreover, are the condition of right creeds. 
These obscure religious matters can be known only by the 
pure in heart. The Scriptures can be rightly understood only 
by Christ's disciples, and they are his disciples who obey him 
and have love. This point was made all the more insistently 
by Castellio because he believed in the possibility of moral 
perfection. He did not claim to have attained it, but he did 
demand that the gospel be taken seriously, and he held that 
the new man in Christ is able to overcome sin, provided he 
strive as assiduously as he would to learn German or French, 
music, dancing, or cards. When critics scornfully demanded, 
" Show us a perfect man," Castellio witheringly retorted, 
" Such men are generally obscure and unknown, but if I 
knew one I would not point him out, because the question is 
like that of Herod who asked the Wise Men to report to him 


the whereabouts of the newborn King of the Jews that he 
also might worship him." 

A controversy with Geneva over the moral requirements of 
Christianity must appear anomalous in view of the repute of 
the Calvinists for rigorism comparable to that of monastic 
asceticism. The difference was in part the one already noted 
between the relative weight of the doctrinal and the moral. 
But there was also a divergence as to the outward and the in- 
ward in morality. A religious society that exacts from its 
members a pattern of behavior is almost bound to center on 
that which can be readily determined. Thus the Genevan 
consistory declared that " a minister should be deposed for 
heresy, cardplaying, and dancing, but a fraternal admonition 
would suffice were he guilty of scurrility, obscenity, and 
avarice." To this scale of vices Castellio applied the test of in- 
wardness. " Why," he asked, " does Calvin not bring about 
the death of hypocrites and the avaricious ? Or does he think 
that hypocrites are better than heretics ? He claims that her- 
etics destroy souls. So do the envious, the avaricious, and the 
proud. But if Calvin wished all the proud to be punished by 
the magistrate, none would be left to punish the magistrate 

Because righteousness for Castellio was so inward, the 
criterion of morality became subjective. He defined con- 
science as loyalty to that which one believes to be right, even 
though objectively one may be in error. If a boy follows a 
man supposing him to be his father, the intention need not 
be corrected but only the opinion. To say what one believes 
is to tell the truth, even though one may be mistaken. Serve- 
tus was put to death for telling the truth. Had he been will- 
ing to recant and speak against his conscience, he might have 
escaped. He was executed because he would not lie. He per- 
ished because he said what he thought. 

Scarcely anything in the teaching of Castellio was more 


radical than this. He relativized conscience. Few in his day 
agreed or even understood. Not until the late seventeenth 
century on the eve of the Enlightenment did his position 
come to prevail. In his own day the almost universal view 
was that conscience, to have any validity, must be grounded 
on truth. Error had no rights. Castellio did not counter by 
saying that mere conviction makes one correct, i>ut he did in- 
sist that loyalty to conviction is an elemental necessity, be- 
cause " I must be saved by my own faith and not by that of 
another." If a man recant, his soul is destroyed and his moral 
fiber undermined. Castellio could cite examples of men who 
lived blamelessly so long as they were loyal to their convic- 
tions, but who, after recantation, suffered a complete moral 
disintegration. Therefore, " to force conscience is worse than 
cruelly to kill a man." 

Castellio's position at this point has come to be the com- 
mon coin of liberalism. The danger implicit in such relativ- 
ism is that truth itself will follow the way of conscience. The 
slogan has frequently come to be that one idea is as good as 
another so long as it be sincerely held. Not until recent dec- 
ades have we been brutally taught that sincerity in the service 
of a pernicious idea only makes it all the more frightful. How 
hard it is to remedy one abuse without incurring another! 

A further element in Castellio's thinking, likewise Eras- 
mian in tone, was a sharp distinction of the spiritual from the 
carnal. The reason why the sword of the magistrate is inap- 
propriate in religion is that religion is spiritual and the sword 
carnal, and incapable therefore of creating or even under- 
standing religion. " Religion resides not in the body but in 
the heart, which cannot be reached by the sword of kings 
and princes. The Church can no more be constructed by per- 
secution and violence than a wall can be built by cannon 
blasts. Therefore to kill a man is not to defend a doctrine. It 
is simply to kill a man." Certain things persecution can do, 


but they are the wrong things. The magistrate can constrain 
men to recant and thus turn heretics into hypocrites. The 
number in the Church is thus increased, but the quality is 
not improved. " I say that those who have regard to numbers, 
and on that account constrain men, gain nothing, but rather 
lose, and resemble a fool who, having a great barrel and a 
little wine in it, fills it up with water to get more, but instead 
of increasing the wine, he spoils what he had." The gospel 
was forced on England under Edward VI, but the accession 
of Mary revealed how few were genuinely persuaded. " The 
Jews in Spain, who have been baptized by force, are no -more 
Christians than before." 

Again, coercion may completely defeat its own end by 
simply advertising heresy. Calvin complains that the views of 
Servetus are spreading. " He has only himself to blame. There 
was no mention of the first book of Servetus and the later 
could be sold like the others without disturbance, but now 
that the man has been burned with his books, everybody is 
burning with a desire to read them." Castellio knew a man 
who had been converted to the views of Servetus by the ex- 
tracts from his works that Calvin included in the refutation. 
The Protestants flourished " like drops of dew at break of 
day " when they suffered persecution, which served merely to 
make seven for one. 

Another and still more serious consequence of persecution 
is that it may provoke sedition. The common claim was that 
heresy would disturb the body politic. On the contrary, an- 
swered Castellio, " seditions come rather from the fact that 
they want to force and kill heretics rather than to let them 
live without constraint, for tyranny engenders sedition." 

Closely akin to the spiritual is the mystic approach, accord- 
ing to which the way of salvation is the bearing of the cross, 
the crucifixion of the old man. The way to God is the way 
of suffering. It follows of necessity, therefore, that although 


those who suffer may not be martyrs, certainly those who in- 
flict suffering cannot be saints. Castellio declared that to " as- 
sert one's faith is not to burn a man, but rather to be burned." 
Calvin and Beza called the heretics wolves. Castellio replied: 
" The mark of the wolf is to eat raw flesh. Therefore they are 
not the wolves who are killed, but rather those who kill." 
" The just have always been killed." " From the foundation 
of the world the truth has always been persecuted by the 
great and renowned." " He who is according to the flesh 
persecuted him who is according to the Spirit." Christ, the 
apostles, and the martyrs were persecuted, and such has al- 
ways been the fate of simple and true Christians. 

Castellio's spiritualization of religion had unhappily also 
its pitfalls. His fear of the externalizing of Christianity 
brought him to the verge of dissolving the visible Church. In 
a tract as yet unpublished he declared: " They are of the true 
Church who have heard the voice of the Shepherd and obey, 
who have the true sacraments, who have gone into the laver 
of redemption and experienced the new birth. They are new 
creatures, baptized with fire and in the Spirit. They have 
truly eaten of the flesh of Christ and drunk of his blood, 
having put off the old man of sin and put on the new. This 
Church is unknown to the Calvinists because, being taken up 
with their visible and carnal Church and impeded by its 
visible marks, they are not able to consider and see the spir- 
itual Church. In this regard they are like the ancient Jews 
who were so immersed in the shadows and ceremonies of the 
law that they could not see the end of the law in Christ. But 
the children of this celestial Church recognize it just as chil- 
dren recognize their mother, and they know no less their 
brothers than the carnal know their own. And not only do 
they recognize each other, but strangers also mark them by 
the fruits of charity and of the spirit which are proper to those 
who fear God. Thus they are discerned as the disciples of 


Christ, and not by exterior sermons and sacraments, which 
are common to the good and to the bad. Our Lord said, ' By 
this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have 
love one to another.' Those who are in this Church recognize 
it as a musician recognizes music and sings in accord." 

In this passage Castellio comes close to reducing the 
Church to an invisible fellowship. Surely that is a high price 
to pay for liberty! The centuries have demonstrated that it 
is an unnecessary price, but radical diseases require drastic 
cures. Perhaps in his day no lesser word would have sufficed. 

Finally, in Castellio there was an element of abiding valid- 
ity rooted in his faith in the mercy of God and the compas- 
sion of Christ. The Christian God is a God of mercy and for- 
giveness. If, argued Castellio, " before the sacrifice of Christ 
God had compassion on guilty Nineveh, how much more 
now on innocent babes ! God draws, attracts, urges, invites, 
and persuades. The imitation of this heavenly Father leads 
us to love our enemies and to err on the side of mercy. Christ 
likewise was so meek that to seek a warrant from his example 
for putting to death heretics with the sword is like trying to 
discover a case of a lamb eating a wolf ." The preface of the 
tract Concerning Heretics ends with an impassioned apostro- 
phe to Christ: 

" O Creator and King of the world, dost thou see these 
things ? Art thou become so changed, so cruel, so contrary to 
thyself? When thou wast on earth, none was more mild, 
more clement, more patient of injury. As a sheep before the 
shearer thou wast dumb. When scourged, spat upon, mocked, 
crowned with thorns, and crucified shamefully among 
thieves, thou didst pray for them who did thee this wrong. 
Art thou now so changed ? I beg thee in the name of thy Fa- 
ther, dost thou now command that those who do not under- 
stand thy precepts as the mighty demand be drowned in 
water, cut with lashes to the entrails, sprinkled with salt, dis- 


membered by the sword, burned at a slow fire, and other- 
wise tortured in every manner and as long as possible ? Dost 
thou, O Christ, command and approve of these things ? Are 
they thy vicars who make these sacrifices ? Art thou present 
when they summon thee and dost thou eat human flesh ? If 
thou, Christ, dost these things or if thou commandest that 
they be done, what hast thou left for the devil ? Doest thou 
the very same things as Satan ? O blasphemies and shameful 
audacity of men, who dare to attribute to Christ that which 
they do by the command and at the instigation of Satan! " 

T)avid Joris 

Bellianism as a term would never have gained currency had 
there not been Bellianists. Castellio had disciples and collab- 
orators. Two of them will be noticed 
here because they represent variant 
emphases in the theory of liberty and 
because they exemplify in their lives 
certain of the fruits of persecution. 
The first, David Joris, was a Hol- 
lander and an Anabaptist of a very 
eccentric variety. He is of interest 
chiefly as an example of the mystical 
approach to tolerance and likewise 
because in his behavior he demon- 
strated the thesis of Castellio that per- 
secution can all too readily turn a heretic into a hypocrite. 

Joris was born in Holland in the early years of the six- 
teenth century (1501-1502) when the Low Countries were a 
Spanish dependency. The political tie between Spain and The 
Netherlands made possible mutual influences in reverse di- 
rections. Through the Flemish court at Madrid the liberal- 
ism of the Brethren of the Common Life and Erasmus was 
disseminated in the Iberian peninsula. Through the Spanish 
court at The Hague heresy was closely watched and severely 
restricted in the Low Countries. But thereby a rift was created 

David Joris 


between the occupying power and the native administration 
which out of national resentment would often abet heresy. 
In consequence at the same time auto-da-fes multiplied and 
heresy increased. From the point of view of the Catholic pow- 
ers the variety mattered little. Lutheranism and Anabaptism 
were alike subject to fire and water. The first burning of 
Luther's books began in the Low Countries and the first Lu- 
theran martyrs were here to suffer. Coincidentally Anabap- 
tism found the way prepared by the simple Biblical human- 
ism of Erasmus and the Brethren, and by the 1530'$ Holland 
had come to be a land of three religions, Catholicism, Lu- 
theranism, and Anabaptism, to which Calvinism as a fourth 
was about to be added. 

Joris grew to manhood in a period of exceptional ferment, 
because only in The Netherlands could one find such a jux- 
taposition of an intensely orthodox foreign administration in 
clash with a populace widely addicted to Protestantism of the 
most radical type. Joris was a strapping young fellow, 
squarely built, impressive in person, red-bearded, artistically 
gifted, a painter of stained-glass windows by trade. After 
commissions in France and England, he married in 1524 and 
settled in Delft. He was then twenty-two or twenty-three 
years of age. The Lutheran agitation enlisted his ardor and 
he began to distribute scurrilous sheets against the pope as 
Antichrist. He would affix them to church doors or leave 
them in the confessionals. Once on Ascension Day, when a 
solemn procession marched from the Church of Our Lady to 
the New Church, he cried out against the abomination. He 
was condemned by the local court to a mild penance, which 
the court at The Hague increased to fine, whipping, tongue- 
boring, and three years of banishment. 

His zeal was only the more inflamed, and he passed speed- 
ily from Lutheranism to Anabaptism when one of the Ana- 
baptist martyrs at the stake called out to him by the name of 


" brother." The Anabaptism of The Netherlands at the time 
of his adherence had assumed highly ecstatic forms. The 
movement was already ten years old and the soberer leaders 
had been liquidated. The direction fell in consequence to less 
balanced spirits, and in any case placidity does not well sur- 
vive a decade of the dragnet. Hunted and hounded, the little 
flock dreamed of vindication at the hands of the Lord, and 
the Apocalypse provided the imagery for the unfolding of the 
world drama when Antichrist should be overthrown and 
the one hundred and forty-four thousand apostles should go 
forth in the power of the Spirit to usher in the reign of the 
saints. Human agents were indispensable as precursors and 
prophets of the great day. Soon the woods were full of Enochs 
and Elijahs, all of them Spirit-filled, able through dreams 
and visions to declare the mind of the Lord. 

Into this maelstrom Joris was drawn. He was ecstatic over 
the new day, when, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew having been 
rejected, the Holy Ghost was talking Dutch. He knew well, 
however, that tribulation was the prelude to the Great Day 
and the saints must expect to suffer. In one of his hymns he 

" All the godly must drink 
From the chalice of bitterness, * pure red wine/ 
But the dregs shall God give to the godless to drain. 
They shall spew and shall belch and fall into death without end. 
Understand, ' dear Christian. 
Hold fast. God's honor spread. 
Be ready ever to die.' " 

At the same time one should be ready for the Great Day. 
Joris sang: 

" Are you ready ? 
O I am ready. 
Are your clothes white? 
Are your feet washed?/' 


The mood grew ever more tense. In the town of Miinster 
in the year 1535 the saints succeeded in obtaining control of 
the government. The New Jerusalem was established, with 
several novel features. One was the avowal of vengeance 
rather than of meekness toward the Babylonian abomination. 
Now was the hour to gird on the armor of David, who by 
slaughter should prepare the way for the peaceful Kingdom 
of Christ. The second innovation was the introduction of 
polygamy, on the ground that it had been permitted in the 
Old Testament to the patriarchs and never abrogated in the 
New Testament. When Paul said that a bishop should be 
the husband of one wife, he implied that others might have 
more, A third novelty arose among the Dutch Anabaptists of 
going naked as a sign. This particular aberration had nothing 
to do with sex. It was an imitation of the example of the 
prophet Isaiah, who for six months went naked as a testi- 
mony to the doom of Jerusalem. Similar manifestations were 
later to occur among the early Quakers and in recent times 
among the Dukhobors. The practice was of one stripe with 
the act of a Dutch Anabaptist who took a live coal from off 
the hearth and touched his lips after the manner of Isaiah, 
except that, unlike the prophet, he was not able to say, " Here 
am I ; send me," because for two weeks he was speechless. 

The New Jerusalem at Miinster was of short duration. The 
city fell and the leaders were put to the sword. Then the Ana- 
baptist movement in The Netherlands was confronted by the 
necessity for clarification. A conference to that end was held 
in the early fall of 1535 at Bocholt, where Joris proved to be 
the most influential figure. The discussion brought to light 
two opposing parties. There were the Covenanters of the 
sword, who still adhered to polygamy, chiliasm, and revolu- 
tion. They ravaged the land, carrying off cattle, rooting up 
trees, trampling grain, plundering churches, burning villages, 
and hanging the inhabitants. On the other side were a sober 


group who maintained their persistent repudiation of revo- 
lution, polygamy, and millenarianism. They were Anabap- 
tists in their insistence on adult baptism, austere deportment, 
strict discipline, and the rejection of war and capital punish- 
ment. Of this group the leader was Menno Simons, the 
leader of the Mennonites. 

Joris undertook to mediate. He stood with the Mennon- 
ites in his complete rejection of revolution. The saints should 
bear the cross and suffer injustice. The problem of polygamy 
was handled by a periodization of history. The first period 
was that of the Old Testament patriarchs marked by polyg- 
amy, the second that of the Son in the New Testament char- 
acterized by monogamy, and the third would be the age of 
the Spirit distinguished by celibacy. Thus the patriarchs were 
not condemned and polygamy was not condoned. As for 
nakedness, Joris averred that he had no urge to make of him- 
self a spectacle before the lewd but, if one were impelled by 
the Lord, he could not gainsay him. In other words, this was 
a form of testimony to be adopted only under direct inspira- 
tion. Joris was at one with the Covenanters, however, in his 
vivid expectation of the imminence of the Great Day of the 
Lord. He differed from all the parties in displaying already 
certain mystical tendencies that were to enable him in the 
end to spiritualize and allegorize the beliefs and programs of 
all the parties. Perhaps that was why he was able at Bocholt 
to reconcile for the moment groups so diverse. The agree- 
ment between such irreconcilables was, however, of necessity 
but short-lived. The significance of the conference was rather 
that it marked a parting of the ways and that it brought Joris 
into prominence. 

Shortly thereafter he received a prophetic call to come for- 
ward himself in a messianic role. The immediate occasion 
was a rhapsodic letter from a female admirer, who addressed 
him in these terms: " May the Lord who inhabiteth eternity 


. . . increase and fulfill in thee that which he has begun. I 
thank my Father and glorify my Saviour for the gift of grace 
in thy wisdom which comes down from above through an 
exalted spirit and a wonderful counsel of God to the honor 
and glory of his most holy name and the sanctification of his 
people. Blessed be thou in the Lord, my brother. Faint not 
to complete what thou hast begun in the house of the Lord. 
Be thou the fan in his hand to prepare for him an acceptable 
people that he may speedily come to his temple. . . . There- 
fore, O valiant knight of Israel, beloved of the Lord, look 
well to his vineyard. The Lord will increase thy strength and 
wisdom in whom he is well pleased. He has made thee a 
watchman in his house, a shepherd for his flock. Thou art the 
most godly among those whose names are written. As the 
rain refreshes the earth and the dew the flower of the field 
and makes the scent sweet to man, so do thy warnings, teach- 
ing, and instructions, though simple and plain, give men life, 
showing them the way to the perfect wisdom of God in 
which they grow up to the full stature of the man in Christ 
Jesus our Lord. O how excellent art thou among others! " 

On the receipt of this letter, Joris declared: " The glory of 
the Lord shone round about me eight or ten days thereafter. 
The brilliance in my eyes I cannot describe. It was no out- 
ward light, but with inward vision I saw the children of God 
coming in radiance, and before them and before me the un- 
godly princes and the mighty fell down in great anguish. . . . 
Then I came to myself and saw that I stood on my feet, I 
heard many voices and saw dreams and visions. From that 
moment I had to write furiously, for the words would come 
to my mouth three or four times more rapidly than I could 
pen them." 

The result of these visions was the assumption of a new 
messianic role. " Hitherto," said Joris, " I have been ashamed 
of everyone. Now I am ashamed of none, be he kaiser or 


king." For himself, he claimed to be the third David. The 
first was David the king; the second, Christ the Son of David; 
and the third, David Joris. The greatest is he who is in the 
middle, who has already killed Goliath so that nothing re- 
mains for the the third David but to cut oft his head. The 
first David was a type, the third an ambassador. 

Yet Joris was accused of exalting himself above Christ. He 
certainly indulged in some high-flown pretensions, as, for 
example, when he wrote: " Come hither and hear me. Come, 
I say, you who thirst for the water of life. Come to the foun- 
tain of wisdom in the highest. Behold I, David, who have 
been awakened by God's grace in the last time in the faith, 
shall set before you the eternal truth and declare the right- 
eousness of my God according to the promises from heaven 
upon earth before the face of the firmament. The truth shall 
abide firm and unchangeable in eternity and be found from 
death unto life. Consider this." And again : " I, David, have 
power with my spirit to judge you in the Lord according to 
the Spirit and to bless and curse according to the truth . . . 
to forgive or retain sins, to bind and to loose by the Lord in 
heaven. Yes, at the right time to slay with the rod of my 
mouth, which is the eternal word of the power of God. These 
are hard thunderclaps, are they not ? " A good many thought 
they were. Precisely what was meant is, however, difficult to 
assess since Joris may have been laying claim to nothing more 
than the word of the apostle (I Cor. 6:3), "Know ye not 
that we shall judge angels ? " At the same time Joris did de- 
mand of fellow Anabaptists that they give him implicit cre- 
dence, and they found themselves driven to insist on testing 
the prophets by the norm of the written Word. To this Joris 
opposed the inward word, and there his mysticism came into 
play, so that the role of the third David was transmuted into 
that of the purgative stage of the mystic and resembled there- 
fore greatly the mission of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. 


" The victory," he wrote, " or the resurrection in spirit and 
truth is against no flesh and blood outwardly, but inwardly 
against the unrighteous and perverted spirit and all lying, 
which brings forth through enmity of God nothing but evil, 
death, and darkness, which must become naught. . . 
Wherefore the struggle and the victory are spiritual and can 
neither begin nor end save in love and through love and 
with love. . . , This victory seems at first to be defeat, this 
power to be weakness. The reason is that he who has de- 
served no enmity, disquiet, trouble, or labor, must suffer in 
the strife, and must endure disquiet, trouble, and labor. He 
must pay what he does not owe. He must be weak and de- 
spised although he is godly, strong, and worthy of honor, for 
he cannot receive the name until he has shown himself a 
servant to those in need. Therein must his glory, honor, 
power, victory, and truth appear and be found." 

Soon for Joris the blowing of the trumpets in the last day 
was reduced to an inner experience and " death, the devil, 
hell, and damnation/' he said, " take place in a man and not 
outside." If such mystical tendencies had been dominant at 
the beginning, he could scarcely have founded a sect. But 
even at the outset he was vague. His fulsome language 
attracted tender spirits who discerned in him a seer and 
prophet, a new David in the spirit of Elias. A following 
gathered and a sect was formed. 

Blesdijk, a lad of sixteen, later to be Joris' son-in-law, testi- 
fied: " Among the writers from the time of the apostles until 
now there is none who has so touched my heart, so power- 
fully drawn me from the love of vanity, self-wisdom, arro- 
gance, and impurity to the true wisdom which is the fear of 
God, to simplicity, chastity, and righteousness as this one 
writer has done. Many others can testify that we have been 
led through the service of this man from darkness to light, 
from the love of ourselves to the love of God." Some of the 


disciples were men of means, who placed their substance at 
Jons' disposal and thus enabled him to bring out his first ex- 
tensive publication, the massive Wonder Eoo\ of 1542. The 
title page bore the combined figure of a lion and a lamb, de- 
signed no doubt by Joris himself. The reference was to the 
book of Revelation 5: 5, 6, where the book sealed with seven 
seals is opened by the Lion of the tribe of Judah and by the 
Lamb that was slain. 

Joris' activity all this time, one must remember, was clan- 
destine and every movement fraught with danger. Those 
who attended Anabaptist conferences did not expect to die 
in bed. After the birth of his first son in 1535 he sought refuge 
for wife and child in Strasbourg, but in vain. An attempt to 
reach England was frustrated by a storm. When his wife 

David Jorii Lion and Lamb 


again became pregnant, he left her with his mother in Delft 
and sought employment here and there, suffering several 
near betrayals at the hands of travelers. Sometimes he found 
no shelter and walked throughout the night. Once he es- 
caped from a town through the kindness of a servant, who 
packed him in a basket like a dog, covered him with skins, 
and dropped him into a boat. Worry, privation, and severe 
fasting weakened his health. 

In 1538 the court of The Hague decreed that should he be 
caught he should be hanged before his own door, and a price 
of one hundred gulden was placed upon his head. In that 
same year his own mother was beheaded because of her con- 
fession that her son was as true in his teaching as were the 
prophets and the apostles. His wife and daughter were ban- 
ished from Delft and thirty-one followers were executed. 
Joris himself continued as a fugitive, saved on one occasion 
by the descent of a heavy fog and on another by the failure of 
a servant in an inn to provide a candle. 

One is not amazed that the head of an underground re- 
ligious association, wandering for five years with a price on 
his head, should have been an advocate of religious liberty. 
The arguments that he adduced in favor of liberty differed in 
their emphasis from those of Castellio, with whom the ethi- 
cal and rational considerations predominated rather than the 
mystical. With Joris the reverse was true. Occasionally he 
could say that we " ought not to strive and condemn one 
another over the relation of the persons in the Trinity about 
which we do not have perfect light and assurance of the 
truth." And there was at times an ethical note as when he 
protested against the incongruity of shedding the innocent 
blood of those who have committed no offense other than to 
reject war and the oath, " Whereas nothing is done against 
the idle, frivolous, drunkards, adulterers, double-dealers, 
gamblers, swearers, and revilers," 


The approach of Joris was, however, prevailingly mystical. 
Basic was his picture of God as impartial and unrestricted, 
extending his grace to all creatures and refusing to be bound 
by all man-made lines of land or sect: " How may we recog- 
nize those who truly follow Christ ? Are they a nation called 
and separated from a city or land in Europe, Asia, Africa, or 
the New World? Are they a particular sect or order? To 
this I would answer: They are neither a nation nor sect nor 
people from any city or land. Christians were called from 
Christ, religious orders from their founders such as Augus- 
tinian, Franciscan, Dominican, et cetera. But the way is not 
here. Rather, it consists in a firm faith in love and patience." 
The object of the religious quest was union with this bound- 
aryless God, to be God with God himself. And the way of 
union is the way of inward transformation through a re- 
enactment in personal experience of the incarnation and 
passion of Christ, neither of which is of any avail unless thus 
inwardly appropriated. " What does it help me to know that 
Christ was conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the 
Virgin Mary, if he be not born in me ? " " If you have missed 
the nature and spirit of the love of Christ, all the outward 
physical blood of our Lord Jesus will not help you, however 
firmly you believe that it has been shed for you. Listen to this, 
you slaves of the letter, who teach that we are justified by a 
faith which consists in holding firmly that Jesus Christ died 
for us." 

That being the case, faith cannot be assent to an article, 
but only an experience of the spirit. "The faith of Jesus 
Christ is in no word spoken with the tongue, but in the 
eternal, true, pure, and divine work and spiritual nature of 
God against all flesh and is intelligible only to him who has 
received it. Faith does not consist in any special articles or 
spoken words, but in the true, eternal, living God and his 
Christ. No one can speak of the true faith if he is not found 


in it. Can anyone witness of that which he has not seen and 

If faith is thus defined, the customary tests of orthodoxy 
are demolished, the common objects of religious controversy 
are eliminated, and the competence of the magistrate in re- 
ligion is destroyed. 

The customary tests are the Creeds, the Bible, and the 
Spirit. With regard to the Creeds, Joris wrote: " Faith is dis- 
played by the power of the Spirit and the truth, not by the 
recital of Biblical history, nor by the miracles of the apostles 
and prophets, nor by the outward cross of Christ, nor by his 
incarnation, death, resurrection, and Second Coming for 
judgment. The devil believes all this. But what good is it 
apart from the Spirit of Christ ? If a man believes in the Holy 
Trinity, is baptized in outward water in the name of the 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, if he believes in the twelve arti- 
cles of the Holy Creed and can recite the larger and smaller 
catechisms like an angel, yes, if he can remove mountains, 
gives his goods to the poor, and his body to be burned, apart 
from the love of the truth it profits him nothing." There is 
no value in repeating the Lord's Prayer and the Creed accord- 
ing to the letter, no, not even in Dutch. Joris had ceased to 
be exuberant because the Holy Ghost was talking Dutch. 

The Bible became nebulous as a test because its value re- 
sides only in the eternal Word. " This book which is so won- 
derfully written inwardly and outwardly is no visible book 
written by the hand of man, but it is living, eternal, and 
potent. No one is worthy to discover, open, teach, confess, or 
read it. Yet this book of life is not in itself obscure or hidden, 
but it is a sevenfold light shining in the faces of men and 
angels. No one can open the seals save the Lamb, the Lion 
of the tribe of Judah. The eternal living word lies not in the 
power of men but of God. Otherwise men could save them- 
selves through the Bible, the written Scripture which is 


called the word of God, though Paul called it the dead letter. 
He who has the eternal word of God in his heart needs noth- 
ing else. If we had not only the whole Bible, but also all the 
words delivered by the Holy Ghost through the fathers, 
apostles, and prophets from the beginning of the world, these 
could not make a new creature." 

Joris himself very frequently appealed from the Creeds 
and the Bible to the Spirit and thereby introduced the possi- 
bility of a new intolerance such as that of the Miinsterites, 
who grasped the sword under divine inspiration. But Joris 
had checks for the extravagances of the Spirit and they were 
derived in Erasmian fashion from the mind of Christ as well 
as from the prevalent teaching of the mystics that suffering 
is the way to God. Persecution, said Joris, " is contrary to the 
holy faith of Jesus Christ and to the apostolic teaching of the 
Holy Church, for the Holy Church is not that which perse- 
cutes but that which suffers persecution." Religious con- 
troversies were cited by Castellio to prove that the issue 
must be uncertain, but by Joris to demonstrate that the dis- 
putants must have a bad spirit. " Some claim," he wrote, 
" that Christ is a human God, others that he is a divine man ; 
some give him two natures, some one; some believe that 
Christ became flesh spiritually from the Spirit; others that 
he received his flesh from Mary, and others hold both to 
be true; some believe that he ascended to heaven with the 
same body which he had on earth and they condemn any 
doubter as a heretic worthy of death, but others say that 
Christ rose with a glorified body. In a word they are all 
divided and persecute one another with bitterness. What does 
it all prove ? Simply that they do not have the true faith and 
love, but a bad spirit." 

Then who is a heretic? Castellio had said that according 
to the current definitions the heretic would be simply the one 
with whom we disagree. Joris undertook to define the real 


heretic as the one who lacks the new birth, " who is proud 
toward God, who for a single error in an article of belief will 
deprive another of his goods and honor and even his life." 
The objects of religious controversy were relegated by Cas- 
tellio to the nonessentials, because uncertain and unimportant 
in comparison with a good life. Joris arrived at the same con- 
clusion by contending that for the most part the contro- 
verted points dealt with externals, whereas the inward alone 
mattered. For Joris neither water baptism nor exile and 
martyrdom were of avail without the spirit: " One may ob- 
serve Baptism and the Lord's Supper, preaching, marriage, 
and all the rest of the sacraments and miss the eternal truth. 
Why? Because the Kingdom of God does not lie in outward 
things." The church does not consist of wood and stone, but 
the Lord Almighty is their temple and the Lamb is their 
light. Those who serve God worthily are themselves a holy 
temple or house of God in the spirit according to the truth. 
They have no need for outward sacraments. The outward is 
of so little importance that it is permissible even to attend the 
papist churches, though we should do so only with a heavy 
heart, for " how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange 

The inwardness of religion destroyed likewise the compe- 
tence of the magistrate in matters of faith. Joris' political 
theory was very similar to that of Luther save for the stronger 
emphasis on the separation between the two kingdoms. The 
sphere of the magistrate is restricted by Joris much more ex- 
clusively to the external. " Wherefore," exclaimed Joris, " you 
noble and elect men in Christ Jesus, consider in what faith 
consists. If it is in earthly temporal outward things, you are 
right to permit the magistrate to drag men in or drive them 
out, but if faith consists in heavenly eternal things, then the 
heart cannot be forced. Let the magistrate confine himself 
to goods and houses and leave faith to the proper judge and 


to the proper time. Better to die a thousand deaths than to 
kill a believing Christian or a righteous soul If it be said that 
only heretics are destroyed I answer that the upright have 
always suffered along with Christ as heretics. Leave the 
tares. God alone has jurisdiction in the spirit over soul and 
body. Men have jurisdiction only over the body, but the new- 
born man of God from heaven judges and knows all things 
and is judged of none." 

Constantly Joris reverted to the theme so congenial to the 
mystics that suffering is a part of the purgative stage in the 
process of union with God. Hence the true Christian must 
expect to suffer, and although the deepest suffering is inward, 
the outward may be an aid and may definitely be expected. 
" No one can have a real true faith, love, and firm trust in 
Christ who has not suffered and died to himself." The Chris- 
tian must expect to follow Christ " in his shame as well as in 
his glory, in his cross as well as in his exaltation, outwardly 
as well as inwardly, according to the flesh as well as accord- 
ing to the spirit." 

Joris made more continuously than Castellio the point that 
the true Church is bound to be a persecuted Church. " The 
true Church kills no one, but rather suffers. The persecutors 
kiss costly crosses while in their hearts they affix Christ to the 
cross. God's chosen people will be found as roses among 
thorns, as sheep among wolves. There is one Church that slays 
without mercy or consideration of conscience, and another 
that is scattered to the four winds, banished, condemned, and 
downtrodden as most abominably heretical and unworthy to 
mingle with the good. Are there then none who love the 
Lord? Oh, yes. And who may they be? They are those who 
are despised and rejected, publicans, sinners, and Samaritans, 
who love their neighbors." 

The negative mark of the Church for Joris was suffering; 
the positive mark was love which finds expression in meek- 


ness, gentleness, and lowliness. This spirit excludes not only 
persecution but even abusiveness: "Let us stop reviling the 
pope and the monks, and if the end cannot be attained with- 
out contention, leave it to God." What words are these from 
one who in his youth had had his tongue bored because of 
scurrility against the pope and the monks! Joris was in part 
reproving himself when he exclaimed: "What makes men 
so bitter against one another ? The cause is a false heart and 
a proud spirit. No one ought to take offense at another, 
despise and judge, let alone persecute and kill in the name of 
Christ. I have in mind the various sects as of Cephas, Barna- 
bas, Apollos, Paul, Peter, and James as well as the Papist, 
Lutheran, Zwinglian, Philipist, Calvinist, and Anabaptist, 
not to mention the hundreds of Catholic orders. There are 
diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. If anyone knows more 
than others he ought not to curse them. He who has the most 
love, grace, peace, and mercy has the best faith. 

" How comely and beautiful is love! How excellent is she 
before God and his angels as she comes in her majesty in 
festive peace on the last day, as she appears more radiant than 
the sun! Then shall she be praised and honored above all 
others, for in her is the world redeemed and all men made 
blessed. Who understands this? Consider love, for she is 
known neither by angels nor devils nor men. Her children 
are without father and mother in the flesh, like the Son of 
God in eternity. They are brought forth by the living word 
of faith in the will of God by the Holy Spirit to his glory and 
to a vision of eternal truth. Be mindful of this. 

" God himself is love, for love is his life, his desire, his 
honor and glory, a crown of exaltation and beauty from his 
eternal holy wisdom for a light to the angels. She is the most 
holy and beautiful tabernacle of God's eternal unseen being, 
his holy heaven, the seat or throne of the honor of his high 


majesty, his own glorious being and body, adored and 
crowned, blessed above all, triumphant in eternity. 

" O how beautiful is her generation, how noble, how excel- 
lent are her children, obtained through love and affection! 
Her memory is imperishable, for she is known by God and 
by men. When she is present she attracts all loving hearts 
through the affectionate glow of her being, and draws them 
to follow her, and when she is absent men have a desire and 
yearning for her. In eternity is she crowned and held in honor 
for in the strife of the pure she has overcome. Love is among 
the first, yet is she the last of the three. God has made faith for 
a way. Hope leads through Christ to the truth, but for life 
the Holy Spirit has revealed love, the most beautiful and abid- 
ing being of God in eternity, for whom through the glory of 
his countenance all things were made, both seen and unseen, 
for joy and eternal happiness in heaven and peace on "earth." 

Joris was very far from enjoying peace on earth. Word 
reached him that his wife had been arrested and his daughter 
was left alone in a strange city. He was prompted to give 
himself up in the hope of saving them, but the wife through 
the sudden death of a magistrate obtained release and found 
her daughter. Under cover of a heavy fog early one morning 
Joris joined them. 

" How long, O Lord, how long ? " he must have exclaimed. 
Death, perpetual hiding, or exile were the only possibilities, 
and even exile was not available to a place which would suf- 
fer an open profession of the cult of the third David. Why 
not, then, go into hiding? The inward cross after all is more 
important than the outward. Noah hid himself in the ark, 
Jacob put on the clothes of Esau, the Lord told his disciples to 
go into the chamber and shut the door and forbade casting 
pearls before swine. Why not make a cloister of one's own 
heart, and seek to win by persuasiveness and meekness rather 


than by bluster and controversy ? Thus persecution without 
and mysticism within induced Joris to abandon an open 

But where should he go? An inquiry revealed that Ana- 
baptists at Basel were not molested if they kept quiet and did 
not disturb the peace or disseminate strange doctrines, if they 
attended church and conducted themselves in a Christian 
manner. In April of the year 1543, David Joris presented him- 
self, accompanied by his large family and a considerable 
colony of followers. He announced himself as Jan van 
Brugge, a fugitive for the gospel. Which gospel he did not 
say. He was imposing of person, with sparkling eyes and a 
reddish beard. His deportment was grave and pleasing. Both 
he and his companions were dressed with taste. Basel ac- 
cepted them and even conferred citizenship upon several, in- 
cluding Joris himself. The refugees were no doubt the more 
cordially received because they were not beggars but brought 
with them considerable household goods, beds, towels, pil- 
lows, red Catalonian blankets, elegant clothes of divers colors, 
feather hats and caps, caldrons, kettles, silver platters, bowls, 
tankards and pitchers, and some thirty or forty thousand 
liters of wine. And there was enough in coin to purchase no 
little property in Basel. 

The household lived comfortably. Joris himself was occu- 
pied in turning out innumerable mystical meditations in 
Dutch which continued to be printed in The Netherlands. 
The earlier part of the day was devoted to writing and the 
remainder to romping hilariously with the children, visiting 
the somewhat scattered members of the colony, and painting 
the charming landscapes about Basel. Joris was reported to 
be fervent in prayer, unwearied in exhortation, captivating 
in teaching. Relations with the Baselers were on the whole 
friendly. Two of Joris' children married into Basel families. 
The Netherlanders ingratiated themselves by their generosity. 


Among others Joris came to know Sebastien Castellio, who 
submitted to him for criticism the preface to the Latin trans- 
lation of the Bible. 

Then came the news of the execution of Michael Servetus. 
When Geneva asked the counsel of the Swiss cities, Joris 
undertook to compose his own reply. It was written in Dutch 
and in all probability never so much as reached the court. 
Here is a portion: 

" Most noble, just, worthy gracious, dear Lords, now that 
I, your friend and brother in the Lord Jesus Christ, have 
heard what has happened to the good, worthy Servetus, how 
that he was delivered into your hands and power by no 
friendliness and love but through envy and hate, this news 
has so stirred me that I can have no peace until I have raised 
my voice as a member of the body of Christ, until I have 
opened my heart humbly before your highnesses and freed 
my conscience. I trust that the learned, perverted, carnal, and 
bloodthirsty may have no weight and make no impression 
upon you, and if they should ingratiate themselves with you 
as did the scribes and Pharisees with Pilate in the case of our 
Lord Jesus, they will displease the King of Kings and the 
teacher of all, namely, Christ, who taught not only in the 
Scripture according to the letter, but also in divine fashion, 
that no one should be crucified or put to death for his teach- 
ing. He himself was rather crucified and put to death. Yes, 
not only that, but he has severely forbidden persecution. Will 
it not then be a great perversion, blindness, evil, and darkness 
to indulge in impudent disobedience through hate and envy ? 
They must first themselves have been deranged before they 
could bring a life to death, damn a soul forever, and hasten 
it to hell. Is that a Christian procedure or a true spirit? I say 
eternally no. 

" Noble, wise, and prudent Lords, consider what would 
happen if free rein were given to our opponents to kill her- 


etics. How many men would be left on earth if each had this 
power over the other, inasmuch as each considers the other 
a heretic ? The Jews so regard the Christians, so do the Sara- 
cens and the Turks, and the Christians reciprocate. The 
papists and the Lutherans, the Zwinglians and the Anabap- 
tists, the Calvinists and the Adiaphorists, mutually ban each 
other. Because of these differences of opinion should men 
hate and kill each other? . . . 'Whoso sheddeth man's 
blood, by man shall his blood be shed,' as Scripture says. Let 
us, then, not take the sword, and if anyone is of an erroneous 
and evil mind and understanding let us pray for him and 
awaken him to love, peace, and unity. . . . 

" And if the aforesaid Servetus is a heretic or a sectary be- 
fore God . . . we should inflict on him no harm in any of his 
members, but admonish him in a friendly way and at most 
banish him from the city, if he will not give up his obstinacy 
and stop disturbing the peace by his teaching . . - that he 
may come to a better mind and no longer molest your terri- 
tory. No one should go beyond this. . . ." 

The advice, of course, went unheeded, and in the mean- 
time Joris himself was insecure even at Basel because dissen- 
sion was breaking out in the colony and threatened to reach 
such proportions as to incur exposure. 

His son-in-law, Blesdijk, became disquieted by Joris' aban- 
donment of an open witness. Blesdijk had been intrigued by 
the flaming outlaw in The Netherlands, living in cellars and 
garrets and holds of ships and proclaiming great wonders 
from before the face of the Lord. Now the austere prophet 
had become the genial patriarch, painting pictures and romp- 
ing with the children beyond the decorum befitting his age. 
Worst of all, the third David was basking under his vines 
and fig trees while his followers still confronted the Philis- 
tines in The Netherlands. Was all this in accord with 
the teaching of Scripture? Was Joris after all the Lord's 


anointed? And if he were not, had Biesdijk deceived con- 
verts ? Their souls weighed heavily on his conscience. He con- 
fronted " the old gentleman " with the question of his mes- 
sianic role. Joris freely conceded that he had claimed too 
much, and in the second edition of the Wonder Eoo\ he had 
already softened the expressions that had given offense be- 
cause of personal pretensions. These admissions spelled for 
Biesdijk the dissolution of the sect. Other members of the 
colony, however, still regarded Joris as the Messiah biding 
his time. Neither party shared the mysticism of Joris which 
enabled him to spiritualize all the externals of the Great Day 
of the Lord. Among his following the strife was acute. 

In the meantime a traveler from The Netherlands, staying 
at Inn of the Stork, reported that Joris was no nobleman but 
a heretic. The news reached the Baseler mother-in-law of 
Joris' son and she went straight to Frau Joris, who had been 
ill for some time. The shock hastened her death within a 
few days. Joris too was in a critical condition and outlived his 
wife but briefly. His last hours were filled with lamentations. 
" No one is true. If only the in-laws would agree . . . What 
wonders I have gone through this night! I have traveled 
through the heights of heaven and the depths of hell. The 
Lord strengthen you." Then the apocalyptic note returned: 
" The day, the day, the day will reveal all things. Every heart, 
every heart shall be made manifest. Oh, it is too much you do 
to me! It is too much." 

After his death the dispute in the colony became more rife. 
Van Schor, who had been Joris' secretary for fifteen years, 
sided with Biesdijk and was banned by the rest. He left and 
took service with a doctor in the city, who naturally desired 
to know the reason for his leaving. Then Van Schor " let the 
bung out of the barrel," claiming that he had left because 
Joris had concubines. Van Schor was then asked why in that 
case he had stayed so long, and he replied that he had only 


just found it out, which seems odd in the case of one who had 
been a member of the family for fifteen years. Some thirty 
years after Joris' death the story had become quite circum- 
stantial that he had a bigamous wife Anna and by her two 
children. Strange that in all the investigation that followed 
the disclosure of the sect, none of this came to light. Anna 
was, however, a real person, and is known to have married 
someone else in 1548, And there is among the Joris papers a 
letter to her husband saying that the father would not be 
satisfied with the provision made for the children. The 
father in question may be Joris. But still it remains strange 
that Blesdijk, when examined, did not make this accusation 
and that the story, if true, should have been so long in com- 
ing to light. 

Van Schor removed the bung very completely from the 
barrel by informing not only his employer but also two mem- 
bers of the town council, one of the ministers, and several 
others. But no one was disposed to take any energetic action. 
As a matter of fact, several persons in Basel had long known 
or suspected the truth and refrained from troubling such ex- 
cellent and generous people. The ministers called in some of 
the Jorists, but could learn nothing from them, and the case 
lagged from spring until fall. Then the Honorable Boniface 
Amerbach, sworn advocate of the city of Basel, intervened. 
An odd person was he to prosecute heresy, for he was the 
executor of the estate of Erasmus, and on earlier occasions 
had shielded liberals from fanatical pressures. But now he 
was exercised " for the honor of Christ and for the honor of 
Basel," whose reputation would suffer abroad were it indif- 
ferent to so notorious a case of heresy. 

This was in November, but not until March of 1559 was 
any serious action taken. Then eleven of the men in the 
colony were imprisoned and their quarters searched. A chest 
of papers was discovered and two portraits of Joris. The pa- 


pers yielded enough to warrant the arrest of Blesdijk, who 
admitted that Jan van Brugge was Joris. The other suspects 
feigned ignorance of anything amiss. One son-in-law said that 
to be sure he had married Joris' daughter, for she was pretty 
and he was twenty-two. One of the sons pleaded ignorance 
and youth. He was thirty-five. The women were examined at 
home and all averred that they had come to Basel simply be- 
cause the gospel was there better preached. 

But the charge of Van Schor and Blesdijk that Joris was 
the outlawed Anabaptist, the third David, the head of the 
sect of the Davidists, was all too abundantly confirmed by 
the discovery of the books and papers. The university faculty 
were consulted as to whether Joris might be exhumed and 
whether relatives should be punished. The answer was that 
in accord with the Roman law a dead heretic should be dis- 
interred and burned, but relatives if innocent were not to be 
molested. All the members of the university were required 
to attest their abhorrence of Joris' errors. Castellio wrote that 
he repudiated " the articles which are said to be excerpted 
from the works of David Joris." 

The auto-da-fe took place on the thirteenth of May. The 
crowd was so huge that one would not have supposed the 
city could hold so many. Sebastien Castellio stood among 
them. A box 9' X 5' X 6' was filled with Joris' books. A 
pole carried his portrait. His body was removed from the 
coffin and affixed to a stake. " The old gentleman " was still 
recognizable with his red beard. On his head was a velvet 
bonnet trimmed in red as well as a crown of rosemary. A 
long toga covered his body. The flames reduced all to ashes. 

The action against the Jorists was mild. They were re- 
quired to make public abjuration in the cathedral of the 
errors of David and to subscribe to the Basel confession. The 
church was packed. The minister preached on the parable of 
the Good Shepherd, and the congregation sang the i3Oth 


Psalm. The Jorists sank upon their knees as the absolution 
was pronounced and the minister extended to each the right 
hand of reconciliation. After the singing of the Apostles' 
Creed the assembly was dismissed in peace. 

When one of the ministers reproached Bern for burning 
a heretic, the retort was, " If Basel would burn her heretics 
alive, she would not have the trouble of digging them up.'* 

One can imagine Sebastien Castellio walking home on that 
thirteenth day of May and reflecting upon the singular dem- 
onstration of the truth of his contention that persecution can 
turn a heretic into a hypocrite. 



Bernardino Ochino 

A second associate of Castellio's who was significant for the 
problem of religious liberty was Bernardino Ochino of Siena. 
His life illustrates how inadequate was the counsel some- 
times proffered by the liberals that banishment be substi- 
tuted for death as the penalty for heresy. Joris had made this 
suggestion to the Genevans. In that particular instance Serve- 
tus would have been well satisfied to be released. But in 
cases where the fox had no hole and the bird no nest per- 
petual wandering could make death appear as a release. The 
case of Ochino was not quite so drastic because his five exiles 
were distributed with interludes of respite. Yet in the end 
protracted insecurity beclouded his spirit. He is of interest 
also for himself as a Franciscan, a representative of that order 
which in the Middle Ages was most disposed to criticize 
Crusades and of that branch of the order which derived the 
rule of Saint Francis directly from the Holy Spirit without 
papal mediation. 

Ochino had turned the half-century mark when he first 
came into prominence as the general of the Capuchins, a 
newly founded branch of the Franciscans. The Capuchins 
were in the tradition of the Spirituals and the Fraticelli, the 
radical followers of il Poverello, insistent on following liter- 
ally his devotion to Lady Poverty. Like him,, they would beg, 
travel barefoot, sleep in the open or in the crudest of shelters, 
devote themselves to the care of the lepers, preach the gos- 


pel; denouncing vice, warning of impending doom, despis- 
ing all meretricious rhetoric, yet rising to the level of poetry 
in lyrical rhapsodies on the wounds of Christ. Ochino had 
been a member of the Observant Franciscans and at first 
opposed the formation of the new branch lest the with- 
drawal of the ardent should impede the reformation of the 
whole. Only when disillusioned with regard to the possibil- 
ity of a comprehensive reform did he join the secession. His 
zeal and his endowments were such that in a few years he 
was elected as the general of the Capuchins. This was in the 
year 1538, when he was fifty-one years of age. 

Already he had been preaching for twenty-five years, yet 
only now began his phenomenal career as the Savonarola of 
his generation. He was the perfect exemplification of the 
medieval saint, austere, emaciated, frail, and venerable, with 
the rapt and ethereal look of a Moses descending from the 
Mount, the glory still haloing his countenance. With a white 
beard flowing over his coarse brown cowl, and his feet bare, 
the general tramped the thoroughfares of Italy from the 
foothills of the Alps to the shores of Sicily. His sermons were 
marked by chaste diction and vibrant emotion. There was 
no blatant striving for effect but the artistry of melodious 
words cumulating in musical crescendos. His ravishing voice 
and Sienese pronunciation melted his hearers. Dolcezza was 
the word that described his speech. 

So great was his popularity that the pope had to regulate 
his engagements. Huge throngs assembled hours in advance 
of his coming. On one occasion he requested the sacristan 
not to ring the bell because he was too ill to preach. The 
sacristan replied that he had already done so, but in any case 
the bell made no difference because the church had been 
crowded since midnight, with some people even perched 
upon the roof. At Naples, the emperor Charles "particu- 
larly delighted to hear Fra Bernardino of Siena, the Cap- 



uchin who preached in the Church of San Giovanni Mag- 
giore with such spirit and devotion as to make the stones 
weep." At Venice, Cardinal Bembo declared that so saintly 
a man he had never seen. The power of Ochino's word at 
Naples unloosed purses and collected five thousand scudi for 

Bernardino Ochino 

charity. At Perugia, a society was founded to care for or- 
phans. At Faenza, feuding factions were reconciled. In 
Rome, at two o'clock in the morning, an assembly gathered 
including twelve purpled cardinals. When the service ended 
at six o'clock, the preacher was scarcely able to finish his 
sermon because of the tears of the audience. 


The popularity of Ochino was certainly not due to flattery. 
At Venice, lie took as his text John 8:59, " Then took they up 
stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of 
the temple." "As I came into the pulpit reciting the Ave 
Maria I thought to myself of the meaning of this word, that 
Christ ' hid himself.' I reflected that he has veiled his face in 
order not to look upon the abominations of false Christians 
who fifteen days before the celebration of his Passion have 
not mended their ways. Your pomp and your pride have 
caused Christ to hide himself. Go to Rome, visit the chan- 
cery, and you will find that Christ has hidden himself and 
gone out of the temple. Visit the district of ill fame in this 
city, that veritable hell, and you will find that Christ has 
hidden himself and gone out of the temple. Go up and down 
the length of poor Italy and you will discover how many in 
the course of thirty or forty years have died without remorse 
for wars which have made widows and orphans and de- 
molished cities. Christ has hid himself and gone out of the 
temple. And you, my Venice, how many preachers and not 
merely myself have declared in your city, not philosophy or 
fables, but the pure Word of God and of Christ, alive and 
true; how many have spoken of your salvation and of the 
correction of sins, and you are just the same as you were. 
With what truth, charity, and love, with what labor and 
vigils have I besought you, and without fruit. I am confident 
that if in Germany, if in England, yes, if among the Turks 
and the Jews, I had so spoken there would have been a 
greater response. Nevertheless I still hope to see good and 
sincere Christians, and I can tell you this, that if you do not 
mend your ways I will testify against you at the judgment, 
and all those on the left hand who have not had your oppor- 
tunities will rise against you, but I beg you and pray you 
with all my heart through Christ that in these few days you 
prepare yourselves by discipline and penitence, by a living 


love and a firm resolve, no more to offend Christ. Put off 
the old; put on the new. If you will not be as Nineveh you 
will be as Sodom. Strive and labor to improve and may God 
inspire you." 

Denunciation and exhortation were not, however, the 
staple of his preaching so much as the way whereby the crea- 
ture might be lifted to the vision of the Creator and the 
Christian dissolved in adoration before the Crucified. " Let 
us consider the creatures," said Ochino, " how in them as in 
a mirror are reflected all the divine goodness, wisdom, power 
and beauty, love, and every perfection. And let us make of 
the creatures a ladder by which to ascend to the divine 
beauty. Behold the exquisite loveliness of flowers and fruits, 
rise to the contemplation of the light of the stars and the ce- 
lestial bodies, look upon the beauty of the soul when clothed 
with virtue and adorned with spiritual gifts of light and 
grace, gaze with the eyes of the mind on the blessed and 
angelic spirits commencing with the angels, ascending to the 
archangels, from choir to choir up to the seraphim. And if 
one can glimpse the Mother of God in her beauty, this will 
reward every effort. Lift yourselves in loving thought, I will 
not say to the divinity of Christ but only to his gracious hu- 
manity, and behold his sacred wounds and his great love, for 
although God in creating and conserving the world has dis- 
closed a drop of his power, goodness, justice, mercy, and 
wisdom, yet by joining himself to man and dwelling among 
us for thirty-three years in profound humility, conversing in 
love, teaching the way of salvation, dying for us a shameful 
death, behold in this not a drop merely of his goodness and 
mercy but an infinite sea. 

" Let us, then, contemplate Christ upon the cross and put 
away all vanities and hold converse only with persons steeped 
in the divine love, whose words, when they speak of Christ, 
are flames of fire which deeply stir. If, then, there enter into 


you some harmonious sweet and -gracious sound, some me- 
lodic voice or angelic song, your spirit will lift you up to 
contemplate the harmony of the celestial hierarchy of the 
three divine Persons." 

Ochino was beloved and cherished by all sensitive spirits, 
and those who did not model their lives after his words yet 
loved to hang upon his lips. How much more warmly was 
he welcomed by the like-minded who in divers ways culti- 
vated the interior life and sought to follow in the footsteps of 
the Redeemer! Such a circle gathered at Naples at the villa 
of a Spanish nobleman, Juan de Valdes. Naples was at that 
time a Spanish dependency, and the currents which because 
of the political connections flowed from The Netherlands 
to Spain were transmitted likewise from Spain to Naples. 
Valdes was a disciple of Erasmus and the mystics of the 
North. His One Hundred and Ten Divine Considerations 
are suffused with inward piety. " Is the only difference," he 
demanded, " between Christians and Moors that we abstain 
from meat during Lent and that we observe the Sabbath and 
the holy days ? " The monastic vow appeared to him to 
afford no better way to salvation than the matrimonial. Nor 
was dogma the distinguishing mark of the Christian for 
Valdes. When questions were put to him about such prob- 
lems as free will and predestination, he would reply: " What 
is that to thee ? follow thou me." He was so inebriated with 
the love of God that he could see no need for any propitiation 
of an offended deity, and explained the death of Christ as ne- 
cessitated only by man's faulty notions. For since man is im- 
peded from returning to God through the belief that the 
sinner cannot be received until after expiation, therefore 
God, to allay such fears, has made the superfluous sacrifice. 

Valdes was a man of great saintliness and charm, whose 
villa on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples was fre- 
quented by choice spirits, men and women of the aristocracy. 


After his death one of the circle wrote to another: "Mon- 
signor, I confess that Florence is lovely within and without, 
yet the amenity of Naples, the site, the shores, the eternal 
spring afford a higher degree of excellence. The entrancing 
gardens, the laughing sea, a thousand vital spirits which well 
up within the heart! I well know that you have often in- 
vited me to return, but after all where should we go now 
that Senor Valdes is dead ? " Ochino was drawn to him, and 
Valdes was the occasion of his first mutation. For in the eyes 
of Valdes, Christianity did not consist in going barefoot or 
in drinking only water. Ochino, under his influence, began 
to preach that true religion is not exhibited in costumes but 
in customs, not in clipping one's hair but in pruning one's 
vices, not in prayer with the lips but with the heart, not in 
obedience to men but to God.* 

Inevitably a doubt arose in the mind of Ochino as to 
whether his own literal imitation of the poverty and garb of 
Saint Francis was after all a genuine following of Christ 
And at that moment Protestant works were infiltrating into 
Italy under pseudonyms. Calvin, for example, was Alcuino. 
Ochino was given a dispensation by the pope to read and 
refute such works, a perilous permission because Valdes had 
not imbued his disciple with that mysticism which could 
cultivate the interior life within any framework. Ochino, 
grown dubious as to the pattern of his own behavior, was 
not so disillusioned as to question the possibility of discover- 
ing the correct imitatio ChristL The problem was to answer 
the question, "What doth the Lord require of thee? " Per- 
haps Luther, perhaps Calvin, had the answer. Ochino began 
to relax the rigor of his Franciscan devotions. In his sermons 
he was noted to be speaking always of Christ and no longer 
of San Geminiano. In private he was disseminating Lu- 
theran tracts. 

Why, then, did he not come out with an open profession 


of Lutheranism ? Cowardice is not the answer so much as a 
mingling of uncertainty and hope. He was not yet fully sure 
of himself, and he entertained the dream that all Italy might 
be converted to the Reform and a reconciliation effected be- 
tween Rome and Wittenberg. The very same motive that in- 
duced him to remain for some time with the Observants be- 
fore going over to the Capuchins impelled him to wait in 
this instance, and his hopes were not entirely fatuous. There 
was a very imposing body of Catholic liberals who envisaged 
drastic reform and were willing to make overtures to the 
Protestants. Cardinal Contarini was the leader of this party. 
He would subscribe even to justification by faith. His stand- 
ing was such that in 1541 he was sent as a representative 
from Rome to the Council of Regensburg, the last occasion 
when Catholics and Protestants met together in the hope of 
accord. Calvin was present. But the hope of any mediation 
collapsed. Contarini returned to Italy, broken in spirit and 
in body. In 1542 the Roman Inquisition was established and 
in 1545 the Council of Trent began. 

At this juncture a preacher was imprisoned at Venice sim- 
ply for having expounded Saint Augustine's doctrine of 
grace. Ochino could not contain himself and broke into an 
apostrophe: " O Venice, thou queen of the sea! If thus thou 
dost cast into prison those who declare unto thee the truth, 
what place is there left for the truth? " The papal nuncio 
thereupon suspended Ochino from preaching and shortly 
thereafter he received a summons to Rome. A few years be- 
fore he might have supposed that he was being invited to 
the purple. Now he had reason to surmise the stake. He 
started with foreboding to Rome, and passing through Bo- 
logna called upon the dying Cardinal Contarini. Ochino 
claimed that the cardinal had counseled flight. The accuracy 
of this assertion has been contested, but whatever the cardinal 
said, there can be no question that his death marked the end 


of the liberal era in Italy. Thereafter the choice for many 
of the Reformers lay between making a cloister of their own 
hearts after the manner of Joris, or of going to the stake or 
into exile like Calvin and Castellio from France. Highly dis- 
traught, Ochino continued to Florence, where he fell in with 
a fellow friar already resolved on flight This example was 
decisive. Ochino reversed his direction. 

From the heights of the Alps he looked back upon his na- 
tive land, where he had labored for more than half a cen- 
tury. He was fifty-six. Behind him lay the sunlight playing 
upon the Bay of Naples, the silhouette of Siena against an 
evening sky, daybreak over Fiesole, conversations on heav- 
enly themes with distinguished men and artistocratic women, 
churches packed and throngs in tears, the pope, the emperor, 
and a dozen cardinals hanging upon his words all this be- 
hind. Before him lay bleaker lands and unknown tongues, 
struggling refugee congregations, and all the insecurity of 
religious revolution. Never again could he experience the in- 
toxication of swaying multitudes* 

In 1542 he arrived in Geneva, where he was to be harbored 
for the next three years. Calvin was charmed with the ven- 
erable exile, and all the Reformers rejoiced in the acquisition 
of a celebrity so renowned. The Council at Geneva assigned 
to him the Church of the Italian Refugees. Ochino was 
equally charmed with Geneva. Here he discovered the pat- 
tern of Christian perfection missed by the Capuchins. The 
Protestants had abandoned monasticism in order to make 
every Christian a monk in disciplined deportment. Geneva 
was characterized by preaching of the pure word of God 
from the sacred Scriptures, daily prayers, public and private; 
instruction for old and young in the catechism; strict repres- 
sion of sexual irregularities; prohibition of gambling; such 
charity as to eliminate the need for begging; no criminal 
prosecutions because no homicides. Here all superstition had 


been eradicated. In the churches there were no organs, no 
candles, no relics. Every trace of idolatry had been purged. 

Even the doctrine of Geneva, Ochino found himself able 
to endorse. The Franciscans had so emphasized the wounds 
of Christ that to attribute all man's salvation to his suffering 
and nothing to human merit was not too far a step. In that 
case predestination naturally followed. To a Franciscan, be- 
lieving in the possibility of the vision of God while on earth, 
Calvin's view that God may be both known and believed at 
the same time was not difficult. Hence faith could be equated 
with certitude. Ochino testified to the reality of his con- 
version by emitting a blast against Antichrist, the tone of 
which may be inferred from the cartoon (page 165) on 
the title page of the Spanish translation; On the more posi- 
tive side he averred that there is no need to make a pilgrim- 
age to Rome or Compostela, but only through faith to come 
to God, and there is no purgatory other than Christ crucified. 

In every respect Ochino appeared to be a thorough Cal- 
vinist. Yet Calvin mistrusted him. A long examination on 
the score of doctrine disclosed no deficiency. But when the 
proposal was made that the sermons of Ochino should be 
translated, Calvin was of the opinion that they would be 
more useful if left in the original. Precisely where the dif- 
ference lay is not too clear, though Calvin may well have 
had his reservations with regard to Ochino's lyrical exuber- 
ance. The chief divergence is probably to be sought in 
Ochino's view of the operation of the Spirit. Calvin held, of 
course, that the Scripture must be corroborated and appro- 
priated through the Spirit, but Ochino spoke of the Spirit 
as if it might be independent of Scripture. He claimed that 
his flight from Italy had been due to " the counsel of God 
and the direction of the Holy Spirit." Such an expression 
savored all too much of Thomas Miintzer and the Miin- 
sterites. Calvin did not feel altogether easy. 


But no avowed breach was responsible for Ochino's de- 
parture from Geneva. The reason appears, as initially in the 
case of Castellio, to have been financial Ochino got married. 
He explained his course in accord with the usual Protestant 
claim that marriage is a remedy for sin, which sounds fan- 
tastic in the mouth of one who had been chaste until nearly 
sixty. The real reason was that any convert from the Catholic 
clergy or monastic orders was almost constrained to marry 
as a demonstration of sincerity. Ochino's wife was a refugee 
from Lucca who had heard him preach at home in the me- 
teoric days. Financial stringency was increased by the arrival 
of a daughter. Presumably because Geneva could not sup- 
port his household, Ochino left for Augsburg in Germany. 

On the way he spent some time in Basel and there formed 
a friendship with Sebastien Castellio. 

Augsburg in 1545 received the penniless pilgrims and pri- 
vate benefaction tided over the emergency until the town 
council assigned to Ochino the Church of St. Ann. Here he 
resumed in a limited way his dazzling eloquence, preaching 
in Italian to a congregation of two hundred Germans, who 
understood him because they were of the great banking 
houses of Welser and Fugger and had served several years of 
apprenticeship in the branch offices at Venice. To have now 
the Savonarola of his time as their private chaplain was a 
source of gratification. Ochino became the lion of the aristoc- 
racy. He was consulted on questions of state and employed 
to decipher intercepted papal letters. 

The religious situation in Augsburg acquainted Ochino 
for the first time with a pattern of diversity in a single com- 
munity. The Catholic monastic orders still retained a foot- 
hold and the great banking magnates were not eager for a 
break with Rome drastic enough to imperil financial col- 
laboration. The Lutherans were dominant and the Zwing- 
lians also were represented. More significant for Ochino's de- 


velopment was the presence of a fourth group representing 
an element in Protestantism still further to the left, namely, 
the Schwenckfelders. They took their name from a Silesian 
nobleman of courtly manners and Christian demeanor who 
spent his life traveling about Germany in the interests of 
pietism, within whatever Church it might be. He had even 
Catholic adherents. His ideal was to leaven all lumps rather 
than to form a new lump. But, being cast out, he came to be 
the founder of a sect. With Ochino he exchanged tracts. 
They had in common a fear of that learning which quenches 
the spirit, a distrust of externalism, and an openness to lead- 
ings of the Spirit, together with an urge to revive the apos- 
tolic pattern of Christianity. Schwenckfeld complained of 
the externalism and the intolerance of the established forms 
of Protestantism. Ochino began therefore to wonder whether 
Calvinism after all represented the perfect school of Christ 
and the apostles. 

Then came war. The emperor Charles V, after having 
been impeded by conflicts with the French, the Turks, and 
the pope from taking action against Luther and the Protes- 
tants, at length in the very year of Luther's death, 1546, 
found his hands free. The emperor came to Regensburg and 
there waited for his Italian and Spanish troops to assem- 
ble. The Protestants sprang to arms under a general famed 
in the Turkish war, Sebastian Schertlin von Burtembach. 
Within eight days 12,000 men were gathered under his ban- 
ners. He wished to strike at once, but the Protestant Con- 
federation objected to his various proposals lest they provoke 
new enemies. The emperor was left to assemble 34,000 foot 
and 5,000 horse. Schertlin had in the meantime brought to- 
gether 35,000 foot and 6,000 horse, but his advantage was 
wasted by delay. His forces began to dissolve and the Prot- 
estant cities started to make peace separately. 

Augsburg prepared for a siege. Ochino justified resistance 


along the lines already laid down by Luther, that a lower 
magistrate may resist a higher. Augsburg manned its de- 
fenses and all the people prayed. The Schwenckfelders 
prayed for the Lutherans. One wonders whether the Lu- 
therans prayed for the Schwenckfelders. But defense proved 
hopeless. The emperor demanded as the price of milder 
terms that the city deliver up the general, Sebastian Schertlin 
von Burtembach, and the preacher in whose words at Naples 
he had so delighted, Bernardino Ochino of Siena. The Prot- 
estant notables and the Catholic magnates tried to purchase 
his safety, but the emperor was adamant. The city gave the 
two a chance to escape. Schertlin with thirty horse rode out 
to Constance. Ochino, leaving behind for the time being 
wife and child, followed upon his heels. Once more he was 
an exile. 

Basel afforded again a temporary shelter. There was an- 
other occasion to talk with Sebastien Castellio. Then came 
an invitation to go to England. The bill of the English agent 
in charge of the passage is extant, allowing a pair of hose 
for Ochino and a nightcap of velvet, garters of silk ribbon, 
a supper and breakfast in London, and freight for shipping 
books. The total for Ochino, a friend, and servants was 126 
js. 6d., with a request for more to bring over his wife. 

England at the moment of Ochino's arrival was more 
Protestant than at any other time during the sixteenth cen- 
tury. The king was the boy Edward VI, to whom Castellio 
had dedicated the preface of his Bible. The real ruler was 
the boy's uncle, the Duke of Somerset. At no time in 
that century was England less subject to foreign inter- 
ference or more open to foreign influence. The refugees 
for religion were numerous and from many lands Ger- 
many, Spain, Poland, France, Holland, Italy, and Scotland. 
The German congregation in London numbered 5,000; Lu- 
theran, Zwinglian, and Calvinist influences alike were felt; 


and Archbishop Cranmer entertained dreams of an ecu- 
menical Protestantism to be achieved by summoning to Lon- 
don an evangelical counterpart to the Council of Trent. Me- 
lanchthon, Bullinger (Zwingli's successor), and Calvin were 
urged to come. 

In such circles Ochino was warmly received. He was made 
a prebendary of Canterbury for life, without obligation of 
residence and with an additional stipend from the king. He 
began preaching again to the Italian colony in London. The 
imperial ambassador informed Charles V that Ochino's elo- 
quence had deserted him now that he had become a heretic 
and that soon he would have no adherents save the Duchess 
of Suffolk and the Marquis of Northampton. The duchess, 
by the way, an ardent Protestant, was the daughter of a 
Spanish lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon. The mar- 
quis was the brother of Catherine Parr, the widow of Henry 
VIIL But these were by no means the only adherents. Ochino 
was again the lion of the aristocracy. One of his works was 
translated into English by Ann Cooke, the mother of Fran- 
cis Bacon. It bore the title: " Certayne sermons of the ryghte 
famous and excellent? clerl^ master Barardine Ochine, borne 
within the famous unwersitie of Siena in Italy, now also an 
exyle in thys lyfe, for the faithful testimony of lesus Christe. 
Faythfully translated into Englyshe. . . . Imprinted at Lon- 
don by John Day: dwelling over Aldersgate beneth S. Martins. 
These books are to be sold at hys shop in Chepesyde, by the 
Little Loundnit at the sygne of the Resurrection/' Another 
who turned Ochino from Italian into Latin was the Princess 
Elizabeth. In long discussions over predestination Ochino 
came to admire her subtle intellect. In after years when the 
Puritans feared she would suffer in the churches the relics of 
the Amorites a plea was sent to Ochino, then in Zurich, to 
remonstrate, since his influence with her was great. 

The situation in England confronted Ochino with some- 


thing new. At Geneva lie had seen a Church State, a holy 
commonwealth, a select community based upon the Word 
of God. At Augsburg he had witnessed four religions side 
by side with a moderate Lutheranism in the ascendant In 
England he was to watch the birth pangs of a national 
Church. The prevailing theory was Erastian, that the State 
might determine the form of religion. The Reformers did 
not perceive into what dilemmas they would be thrown if 
the State should return to Rome, nor did Ochino foresee the 
peril. Without reserve he set himself to the service of the 
Reform and composed a work which curiously survives only 
in English and Polish translations. The English bore the title 
A Tragedy or Dialogue of the Unjust U surfed Primacy of 
the Bishop of Rome, and of All the Just Abolishing of the 
Same, Made by Master Barnardine Ochino, an Italian, and 
Translated Out of Latin Into English by Master John Ponet, 
Doctor of Divinity. "Never Printed Before in Any Language. 
Anno Do. 1549. The work began with a passage that may 
have provided the model for the opening of Paradise Lost. 
Lucifer and Beelzebub were in conference as to how to re- 
gain that shred of dominion left them by the Fall but ut- 
terly lost through the redeeming work of the Son of God. 
They hit upon the " witty invention " of elevating the bishop 
of Rome into the pope, that Christ might be undone by his 
own vicar. The realization of this plan through the theocracy 
of the late Middle Ages was of course recounted. The whole 
point was, however, that Antichrist was now being over- 
thrown and Christ's Kingdom restored through the reforma- 
tion commenced by Henry VIII and in process of glorious 
completion by his son, Edward VI. The question of course 
then arose as to the means by which the work should be 
achieved. The very concept of a national Church predicates 
the assistance of the civil arm, yet the protector Somerset 
would not go to extremes. There were no executions for 


heresy under his regency. He has been described as " one of 
the most obstinate optimists in English history who believed 
he could almost dispense with the ax and the gallows." 
Ochino highly approved of so tolerant a policy, and placed 
in the mouth of young Edward the words: " If we mind to 
overcome Antichrist in short space we must first go about to 
drive him off the hearts of men; for as soon as he hath once 
lost his spiritual kingdom in men's consciences, he shall 
forgo by and by all the rest of his jurisdiction without any 
great difficulty. But to drive him out of the hearts of men, 
it is not needful to use sword or violence. The sword of the 
Spirit, that is, the Word of God, is sufficient, whereby Christ 
overcame and conquered his enemy Satan in the desert" 

But the protector Somerset did not last long, nor did his 
successor, because the boy king Edward sickened and died. 
He was followed by his half sister, the Princess Mary, the 
daughter of Catherine of Aragon. Then England by the 
crown was taken back to Rome. The leaders of the English 
Church went to the stake; the foreigners were suffered to de- 
part. Ochino was again an exile. He arrived at Geneva on 
October 27, 1553, the day of the execution of Michael Serve- 
tus. Ochino protested. Calvin was displeased. 

While seeking relocation, Ochino had twice previously 
found a temporary abode in Basel. For the third time it was 
true, and for the third time association was renewed with 
Sebastien Castellio. Ochino was with him in the very year 
when he brought out the treatise Concerning Heretics. But 
Ochino was busying himself with something else. He was of 
one mind with Erasmus that satire is a more Christian and 
more effective weapon than the sword, and for that reason 
he brought out in Basel a collection of anecdotes designed to 
ridicule many of the beliefs and practices of the Church of 
Rome. Here are a few examples: 

Two Roman nobles were accused of rejecting prayers to 


the saints. The first justified himself on the ground that one 
should pray only to Christ. He was sent to the stake. The 
second justified himself on the ground that one should ad- 
dress oneself only to the pope. He was made a bishop. 

A village priest once addressed a petition to the cardinals 
in the form of a litany. They told him to speak distinctly and 
respectfully. He answered that he was only speaking to them 
as they spoke to God. 

A Roman was asked why Rome is considered the holiest 
city. " You would admit/' he explained, " that the richest city 
is the one that draws all riches from others to itself. So Rome 
is the holiest because she deprives all others of holiness." 

The pope was asked why he had appointed only one man 
to three bishoprics. " So that only one will be damned/' he 

A converted Jew continued to keep his accounts with 

A Cartoon: O chinos "Image of Antichrist" the Pope, Receiving 
His Commission from Satan 


Christians in Hebrew. When they objected to the use of an 
unknown tongue, he answered that if he had to trust them 
to pray for him in Latin, they would have to trust him to 
keep accounts with them in Hebrew. 

A friar declaiming against those who ate meat in Lent 
pointed out that for having eaten meat on Friday Christ was 
crucified and the disciples persecuted. If God did that to his 
own Son, what will he not do to you ? 

Such persiflage was more diverting than lucrative, and 
Ochino was relieved when an invitation came to become the 
pastor of a congregation of Italian refugees in Zurich. The 
situation there was very tense. These refugees consisted of 
ninety-three heads of families, and their dependents, who 
had migrated from the Italian-speaking city of Locarno in 
southern Switzerland. They had adopted the reform after 
the decree of Kappel in 1531, which forbade Protestant mi- 
norities in Catholic cantons. The entire Swiss Diet was now 
called upon to enforce the terms and penalize the converts. 
Zurich absolutely refused. The other evangelical cantons 
were willing to concur in banishment, lest otherwise the 
Catholics might inflict the death penalty. Zurich was ada- 
mant The outcome was banishment, and the emigrees then 
presented themselves at the gates of that city which had so 
stoutly championed their right to espouse the true faith. 
Zurich took them in. She was well aware of the risk, but 
manned her walls and at the same time trod softly to avoid 
needless provocation. She was soon to discover that to save a 
lamb from the lion may be easier than to live with him after- 
ward. The Italians were too prolific and too enterprising. 
They bought grain on the Zurich market, disposed of it at 
a profit in Italy, used the proceeds to purchase trinkets in 
Italy, and then sold them at a price undercutting the rate in 
Zurich. Local merchants were irate. The town council there- 
fore parceled the Italians out among the guilds and con- 


ceded to them a church with services in their own tongue 
only until such time as they could learn the Zurich dialect. 
Ochino was called to be the pastor of this group. 

The situation was quite unprecedented for him. He had 
been previously the lion of the aristocracy and now he was 
the spokesman of unwelcome guests in an atmosphere where 
an indiscretion might provoke an open war within the con- 
federacy. For that reason all the ministers in Zurich were 
required to act in unison. Such submission to regulation was 
difficult for Ochino. He was a prima donna, an incorrigible 
individualist, who had just been diverting himself by ribbing 
the papacy. Installed in Zurich, he embarked upon a series 
of publications, some of them presumably composed earlier, 
at any rate quite oblivious of the existing tensions. The first 
was a tract on purgatory, in which an interlocutor inquired 
why, if the pope were able to release souls from purgatory, 
he did not empty the place. The answer was that some eggs 
had to be left in the nest. The tract appeared in Italian, Latin, 
and German. To the town council these gibes at the pope at 
such a juncture appeared irresponsible. Ochino believed that 
Antichrist should be resisted only with the pen. The Zurich 
fathers were ready in an extremity to resist with the sword, 
but they were not minded to have the extremity precipitated 
by the pen, and they pointed out to Ochino that his tract 
would incense the Catholic confederates. All copies were 
called in. 

Ochino mended his ways, and sought to do a service to 
the Zurichers by defending their view of the Lord's Supper 
against a rabid Lutheran, who held that the body of Christ 
in the elements is eaten with the teeth even by unbelievers. 
Ochino not only refuted this view, but in so doing pointed 
out that Luther advanced in many respects from one position 
to another and very probably would have arrived at Zwing- 
li's view of the Lord's Supper if Zwingli had not done so first. 


This thrust so angered one of the Lutheran princes that he 
canceled his contribution to the support of Ochino's con- 

Colleagues were of the opinion that Bernardino had not 
treated the subject with proper dignity. He tried again,, and 
this time, to relieve Zurich of any responsibility, published 
his book at Basel. He dealt once more with the sacramen- 
tarian controversy, and this time relegated the whole dispute 
to the area of nonessentials, because " the penitent thief was 
saved without having taken Communion, without having 
thought about the Lord's Supper, without ever having con- 
sidered whether the body of Christ was or was not in the 
bread, and his blood in the wine. The one thing needful is 
to believe with a warm faith and in spirit to taste and feel 
that Jesus is Christ the Son of God, who out of the highest 
love died for us. God is everywhere but his presence is of no 
avail if we be not enamored- of him. And what good is the 
presence of the body of Christ unless we feel it in faith which 
is not attached to places ? " 

The relegation of the Lord's Supper to the adiaphora was 
pleasing to no party, and even less were the Swiss pleased by 
the next tract emanating from Basel, on the problem of pre- 
destination. The treatment is suggested by the title, Laby- 
rinth, and from the dedication to Queen Elizabeth, who her- 
self was fond of saying that grace may be resisted when it is 
not irresistible. Ochino set forth four dilemmas involved in 
predestination and four in free will, and then extricated him- 
self from the first four and then from the second four, and 
ended just where he began. The difficulties of course with 
predestination lie in the realm of morals and the difficulties 
for free will in the area of theology. If man's destiny and, to 
some extent at least, his behavior are determined in advance, 
what meaning can there be in morality, but if he is a genu- 
inely free agent, how can God foresee and control the course 


of events? Ochino made use of the classical explanations that 
foreordination applies, not to conduct, but to salvation. The 
point is not that man cannot do this or that, but rather that 
nothing he does will alter his destiny. The whole discussion 
was marked by ingenuity and ended again with the theology 
of the penitent thief, "who was saved without the least 
thought as to the freedom or the servitude of his will. If it 
were necessary to believe in freedom, Augustine would be 
damned, and if in predestination, then Chrysostom would 
be a heretic. The safest way in view of such doubt is to strive 
for the good as if we were free and give all the glory to God 
as if we were not. God has placed us before Christ the cru- 
cified, the heavenly bread of life, and the sweet truth of the 
gospel, with all its riches and benefits. There is no need for 
us to inquire how these gifts are bestowed. Enough that we 
thank God and use them well, giving unto him all glory and 
honor through Jesus Christ our Saviour." 

This book too was published in Basel. 

Then came a volume of sermons that declared that all 
Protestants agreed in regarding " the doctrine of the papists 
as pestiferous. If one looks at the Reformed Churches in Ger- 
many, Switzerland, France, and elsewhere, one observes that 
some call themselves Zwinglians, some Lutherans, and some 
Anabaptists and some Libertine, and so on. Between them 
are great dissensions, with discord, detraction, infamy, and 
calumny, hate, persecution, and innumerable ills, for each 
Church holds the other as heretical. One can only infer that 
they do not have the true gospel, because Paul said that God 
is not a God of division but of peace. These dissensions show 
that they are anti-Christian and diabolical, for Christ prayed 
that his disciples might be one. It may be replied that there 
is agreement as to the essentials, but Paul required of the 
PhiHppians that they be of the same mind and love toward 
each other. These Churches cannot be truly evangelical be- 


cause the Evangel bears fruit in love." 

A committee of the Zurich ministers waited upon Ochino 
and remonstrated with him for eluding the Zurich censors by 
publishing at Basel. He should print no more books unless 
approved by their deputies. 

In the year 1563 merchants from various parts gathered at 
Basel in the Inn of the Ox and began to discuss the religious 
situation. " The Niirnbergers," said one, " allow everyone to 
keep his own faith." 

" That's because they don't know where they are," said 

" But at Zurich," charged a nobleman from Baden, " there 
are most heretical sects." 

A Zuricher sprang to the defense and demanded evidence. 

" A book," replied the German, " has just been published 
here in Basel by Bernardino Ochino, who lives in Zurich. It 
contains most offensive and unchristian things, including a 
defense of polygamy." 

" I am bound in honor," said the Zuricher, " to report that 
to my lords." 

" If you don't believe me," said the German, " I can take 
you to the printer's. The book is in Latin. Six hundred copies 
were struck off and a number have gone to Wittenberg. The 
Basel authorities on learning of it stopped the sale until 
further notice." 

The book was indeed by Bernardino Ochino. It had been 
translated into Latin by Sebastien Castellio and bore the title 
Thirty Dialogues, and there was one on polygamy. Into the 
mouth of one of his interlocutors Ochino had placed a de- 
fense of polygamy drawn from a German tract originally 
composed to justify the bigamy of Philip of Hesse. Ochino 
himself undertook to refute the arguments and did so well 
enough until he came to the very end, where the conclusion 
was that polygamy should not be allowed unless in response 


to a special revelation from God. This was the device com- 
monly used to exculpate the patriarchs in the Old Testament, 
and would have been innocuous if Ochino himself had not 
on occasion pretended to divine inspiration. The whole ques- 
tion was rendered the more dubious because this dialogue 
was dedicated to the king of Poland, who at the moment was 
in the predicament of Henry VIII of having had no issue, in 
this instance by his deceased wife's sister. Annulment might 
have been granted by the pope if not impeded by the house 
of Hapsburg. Ochino seemed to be hinting at bigamy as the 

Other passages also were offensive. There was one on the 
subject of religious liberty. Ochino, like Castellio, distin- 
guished nonessentials from essentials. No one, he said, should 
be punished for an error in the nonessentials, and if the 
Apostles' Creed contains the essentials, then all those who 
have been punished for heresy in the last forty years have 
suffered needlessly. But even in the case of the essentials there 
is the further qualification that the offender must recognize 
the article in question to be essential. For that reason a denial 
of the Trinity should not be punished unless the heretic him- 
self first grants the belief to be indispensable. In any case the 
penalty should not exceed avoidance, for heretics should be 
corrected by modesty, charity, and long-suffering. 

Ochino was more discerning than any of his contempora- 
ries with regard to the problem of conscience. The persecu- 
tors contended that no conscience has any right save a right 
conscience. Castellio retorted that sincere conviction is to be 
respected. " But what " the pope is made to ask in Ochino's 
dialogue " what of a conscientious tyrannicide ? " There 
were such in the sixteenth century on both sides of the 
wars of religion in France and Holland. These men were 
conscientious and quite ready to die for their convictions pro- 
vided they could first kill. Could the State respect conscience 


in such a case ? Ochino did not answer tie question. His dis- 
tinction is first to have raised a problem when others did not 
sense its existence. 

Another ground of offense in his book was a disapproval 
of armed resistance on the part of the Protestants in France. 
The gleeful announcement is made by one of his characters 
that the papists had been beaten in France. " And do you re- 
joice at that? " is the response. " Christians without a special 
command from God should not fight. I rejoice more to hear 
that one martyr has been constant in the flames than that the 
papists have been killed." 

Even more galling were direct strictures on the Reformed 
Churches, " They have rejected prayers for the dead/' said 
Ochino, " and do not pray for the living. Saints' days and 
Lent have been abolished and now all days are profane. Im- 
ages have been smashed, but God is not worshiped. The 
kingdom of Antichrist is overthrown, but the Kingdom of 
Christ has not been established." 

The ministers and the council at Zurich, having examined 
the book, decreed that Ochino should be banished because 
he had disregarded the Zurich censorship. He should have 
three weeks in which to leave. Ochino admitted that he had 
received a remonstrance from the ministers, but when they 
said that his books should have the approval of the censor he 
supposed that the Basel censor would suffice. As a matter of 
fact, the Italian manuscript of his book had received a cur- 
sory examination by the censor of Basel, but the Latin, due to 
an oversight, had gone to the press without scrutiny. For this, 
of course, Ochino was not responsible. He added that in any 
case he regarded the counsel of the ministers as advice and 
not as law, and wondered whether Zurich had a pope of her 
own. His remonstrances were unavailing. He was told that 
appeal to conscience is the cloak of hypocrisy and conscience 
has no validity unless grounded in the written Word of God. 


Nothing was said about the local circumstances, but the sur- 
mise is difficult to stifle that the desire of the Zurichers to dis- 
solve the Italian congregation was one of the reasons for 
hastening the departure of their minister. His request to be 
allowed at least to wait until spring was not granted. Ochino 
left with recriminations, not all of them entirely fair. 

In the month of December of the year 1563, Bernardino 
Ochino, at the age of seventy-six, took to the road with four 
little children. His wife was already dead. The oldest daugh- 
ter, born while the parents were at Geneva, had stayed and 
married there. The son born in England was fourteen. The 
other three were younger, though precisely of what age we 
do not know. The ministers of Basel would have harbored 
them for the winter, but the magistrates refused. Ochino was 
allowed only to pass through. There he was able to take a 
last leave of Sebastien Castellio, who would have been 
brought to trial for having translated his book had not death 
released him from the proceedings. 

Ochino started out for Poland. Already there were many 
Italians in the land because the queen, Bona Sforza, was 
Italian. The religious situation was more diversified than 
anywhere in Ochino's previous migrations, including even 
Augsburg. The king of Poland was Catholic, though flirting 
with the idea of espousing the Reform. The varieties of the 
Reform were many. The Germans had introduced Luther- 
anism. Visitors from Switzerland and France and the many 
Polish students who had attended the universities of Basel, 
Zurich, and Geneva, brought back Calvinism. In this Slavic 
land the Czechs were readily at home and brought with them 
Husitism. The Italian exiles, when they forsook Rome, 
found no resting place in any of the varieties of the Reform, 
and moved in the direction of Anti-Trinitarianism soon to 
take shape in the Socinian movement. Such extensive diver- 
sity was possible because the crown was weak and the feudal 


nobles, when so inclined, were in a position to offer an asy- 
lum to those whom all others regarded as heretics. Poland 
was the country on which all of the expellees of Europe con- 

Ochino became once more the idol of the aristocracy. The 
leaders of the Reformed movement vied for his pen. Earlier 
works were adapted to the Polish situation. A Tragedy or 
Dialogue of the Unjust Usurped Primacy of the Bishop of 
Rome, which had been rendered into English by Bishop 
Ponet, was turned into Polish, with the elimination of course 
of all reference to Henry VIII, Edward VI, and a substitu- 
tion of discreet hints to King Sigismund Augustus to take 
over their role. The circumstances of the appearance of this 
work symbolized the international character of the Polish 
Reformation. The book was written by an Italian, had previ- 
ously appeared in English, was now translated by a Pole, 
subsidized by a German, printed by a Bohemian, and dedi- 
cated to a Lithuanian. 

The one party in Poland with which Ochino had had 
no previous acquaintance, save for isolated individuals like 
Servetus, was the Anti-Trinitarian. The claim was made by 
contemporaries that Ochino gave to this group his adherence. 
Nothing in his printed works substantiates the claim, but 
there was one point at which he did contribute to the the- 
ology of the Socinians. It was not with regard to the Trinity 
but rather concerning the atonement. Nor was he in this re- 
spect original. Rather, he was the transmitter of the views of 
Juan de Valdes. Like his master, Ochino said that God does 
not need to be propitiated because he is not angry. Wrath 
comports neither with his impassibility nor with his love. If 
the death of Christ had any expiatory value, it was only be- 
cause God so chose to regard it. The real purpose of the 
death of Christ was not to change God but to change us. 


One notes of course here also echoes of the Scotist view that 
God might equally well have chosen any other way of sav- 
ing men. Thus the lines from Scotus and Valdes ran through 
Ochino to the Racovian catechism of the Socinians. 

His period of influence in Poland was speedily cut short. 
The king was alarmed by the heresies abroad in the land and 
thought to banish the anti-Trinitarians. His Catholic advisers 
pointed out that to do so would be to tolerate other varieties 
of Protestantism. By this time the king had recoiled from any 
attachment to the Reform, but feared to banish all the Prot- 
estants lest an upheaval should be created. The decision was 
to expel all foreign non-Catholics. The Bohemians, however, 
were specifically excepted, and the German Lutherans were 
unaffected because already naturalized Polish citizens. A no- 
bleman of the country sought to provide this way of escape 
for Ochino by conferring upon him a tract of land and thus 
making him eligible for citizenship. But Ochino declined to 
avail himself of the subterfuge, and again with his children 
took to the road. 

On the way the plague overtook them. Two sons and one 
daughter died. The old man, with the one remaining child, 
set out for Moravia to find a refuge with a fellow Italian, an 
Anabaptist, a member of the Hutterian colony. Under the 
patronage of liberal nobles the Anabaptist communities in 
Moravia had come to number three thousand. There were 
Germans, Hungarians, Poles, and not a few Italians. Colonies 
were restricted to about one hundred and fifty. The religious 
communism of these groups more nearly resembled the vol- 
untary poverty of Saint Francis than the attempts of modern 
Communism to raise the standard of living. The funda- 
mental conception of these brethren was the aim to restore 
primitive Christianity with ascetic living, repudiation of the 
oath and of war, abstention from all force in religion, and 


dedication to the way of suffering. Ochino, who began as a 
spiritual Franciscan, ended in strong sympathy with the 

Would he have been disillusioned with regard to them 
also? Would he have once more repeated his judgment on 
the Reformed Churches that the wings of Antichrist are 
everywhere ? We do not know. Had he lived, he would not 
have stayed. An invitation came from Johann Zapolya, the 
king of Transylvania, to come to his country, where under 
the suzerainty of the Turks religious liberty prevailed among 
Christians. Ochino with his child would once more have 
taken to the road had he not been intercepted by that last 
great migration of which Saint Francis sang: 
" Be praised, O Lord, for Sister Death 

Which none escapes who draweth breath. 

Blessed to die in Thy holy will; 

Then the second death can do no ill." 



John <JvLilton 

The survey thus far presented of the toleration controversy 
as precipitated by the execution of Servetus and as waged by 
Calvin and Beza on the one side and 
by Castellio, Joris, and Ochino on 
the other must have left the impres- 
sion of liberty in rout. So indeed it 
was in so far as liberty of the person 
was concerned. But great gains had 
nevertheless been made during the 
course of the century, not so much 
for individuals as for confessional 
groups, and individuals at the same 
time benefited because the penalties 

John Milton 

for heresy had been mitigated. As the sixteenth century ad- 
vanced, dissenting religious bodies increasingly attained at 
least a restricted toleration. First were the Zwinglians, who 
by the peace of Kappel in 1531 obtained a recognized posi- 
tion and were to be unmolested in those areas where already 
established. In similar fashion Lutheranism acquired an 
assured territorial status by the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. 
Calvinism, apart from Geneva, first obtained toleration in 
the United Provinces of The Netherlands by the Pacification 
of Ghent in 1576, later in France by the Edict of Nantes in 
1598. Anglicanism became under Elizabeth the partner of 
the State. Thus four varieties of Protestantism were both 


recognized and established: the Zwinglian, Lutheran, Cal- 
vinist, and Anglican. And although no individual could lay 
claim to any rights apart from the group to which he be- 
longed, yet the lot of the private dissenter was ameliorated in 
that the death penalty fell into abeyance even when not 
formally abrogated. The last execution in Holland took place 
in 1597. In England there were but two instances of death 
for heresy after 1600. And on the Continent in general the 
seventeenth century was to be marked rather by banishments 
and imprisonments than by death. 

This century was to make still further gains in the direc- 
tion of freedom for the individual, and no country con- 
tributed more at this point than England. The reasons were 
several. England was more favorably situated to make ex- 
periments in liberty than was any Continental country at 
that time, because England enjoyed an island isolation and 
had therefore less reason to fear that weakening through in- 
ternal dissension might invite foreign intervention. At all 
times this was true in a measure, but peculiarly in the seven- 
teenth century, because the power of Spain had been broken 
when the galleons of the Armada skulked to their base. On 
the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War in 1618, the great Con- 
tinental powers were involved in an all-engaging conflict 
with each other, from which the English with discretion 
were able, and for the most part did, remain aloof. Thus the 
English were at liberty to make a venture toward freedom. 

Furthermore England was consolidated, and not like the 
Germany of Luther's day when religious ferment might en- 
gender social anarchy. England under the Tudors had ex- 
perienced a century of centralized government. Feudal an- 
archy had been overcome. The task had been in fact so well 
achieved that now Englishmen had become restive under re- 
straints and were for throwing off controls, both economic 
and political. When the Stuarts attempted to continue the 


pattern of the Tudors, there were cries of innovation and 
tyranny. The monarchs rightly retorted that the innovation 
lay rather on the other side, and for historical precedent the 
champions of the rights of Englishmen had to construct the 
myth of Saxon freedom and make of Magna Charta a mani- 
festo of personal liberties. The arguments are of less interest, 
however, than the situation, where a struggle for civil lib- 
erties and democratic controls provided the milieu in which 
religious liberty could and can best arise and flourish. 

The possibility of achieving some understanding in mutual 
toleration in the field of religion was facilitated in England 
because the conflict lay between less implacable opponents 
than on the Continent inasmuch as England was wholly 
Protestant. The strife was between the varieties of Protestant- 
ism, and, bitter as this might be, there were not the long- 
accumulated grievances that the Middle Ages had piled up 
against the Church of Rome, nor were the Protestants dis- 
posed to hurl at each other all the imagery of Antichrist and 
the whore of the Apocalypse. 

Again, the controversy was not doctrinal because in the 
area of doctrine the Anglican Church was latitudinarian. 
Some lessons had been learned from the previous struggles 
and already it was apparent that force could not deprive men 
of their convictions. The distinction made by Castellio and 
many other liberals between the essentials and the nonessen- 
tials for liberty had been appropriated by the Anglican di- 
vines, who were prepared to concede toleration as to the es- 
sentials over which men would be damned if they believed 
incorrectly. This, of course, is not to say that there were no 
doctrinal demands. The Thirty-nine Articles were employed 
as a test, yet they were ambiguously couched and mildly en- 
forced. Queen Elizabeth was no bigot. Her desire was to 
minimize dissent. Her successor, James I, averred that " no 
religion or heresy was ever extirpated by violence or the 



sword, nor have I ever judged it a way of planting truth." 
And Archbishop Laud, who so largely determined the policy 
of Charles I, could discover in Scripture only one doctrinal 
requirement, namely, the belief that "God ... is, and that 
he is a rewarder of them that . . . seek him" (Heb. 11:6). 
The line, he held, should not be drawn so narrowly as to shut 
even the meanest Christian out of heaven. 

The controversy centered rather on points that admittedly 
were not essential for salvation. They had to do with the ex- 
ternals of the Church, with polity and liturgy. The main 
reason for this was a political union of two countries with 
different Established Churches. Under James I, England and 
Scotland came together, and in England the State Church 
was the Anglican and in Scotland the Presbyterian. There 

A Cartoon: Puritans Demolishing Crosses on Canterbury Cathedral 


might have been no problem at all if each had been satisfied 
with a territorial solution whereby Presbyterianism should 
remain the Church of Scotland and Episcopalianism the 
Church of England. But the idea was not yet extinct that, in 
the interests of national unity and civil peace, one country 
must have one religion. Presbyterianism therefore aspired 
to be the religion of England and Anglicanism endeavored to 
enforce itself upon Scotland. The debate became warm as to 
the relative merits, the divine ordination, and the Scriptural 
warrant of prelacy, prayer books, and vestments. 

The matter was further complicated by the proliferation of 
Protestantism into a multitude of sects. The pattern that Ger- 
many had exhibited a century earlier was, by a fortunate time 
lag, postponed in England until it coincided with the con- 
ditions of political and social stability already described. The 
sects were numerous. Among those that have survived were 
the Congregational, Baptist, Unitarian, and Quaker. In that 
day there were in addition the Muggletonians, Ranters, Fam- 
ily of Love, Fifth Monarchy Men, not to mention social and 
political parties with a strong religious ideology, such as 
Levelers and Diggers. With the death penalty in abeyance, 
the problem of religious diversity could not be solved by gen- 
eral extermination. Banishment was possible, but England 
would be seriously impoverished by an extensive migration of 
enterprising citizens. Wholesale imprisonment was a great 
strain upon penal accommodations. Toleration, then, alone 
remained. For the wisdom of this solution the example of 
Europe during the preceding century afforded irrefutable 
arguments: France had been decimated by wars of religion, 
whereas Holland was thriving under religious liberty. 

In all this ferment Calvinism, which had been persecuting 
on the Continent in the sixteenth century, came to be the ally 
of liberty. The reason was of course in part that Calvinists 
were immalleable and would not leave off agitation, civil 


disobedience, and even armed revolution until they had 
achieved recognition for themselves. This had always been 
true, and in this sense John Calvin himself had sponsored 
liberty. Calvinist intransigence had wrung from France the 
Edict of Nantes. But the England of the seventeenth century 
presented a new situation. Calvinist theology was shared by 
a number of the contesting groups. The Presbyterians, the 
Independents, and many of the Baptists were Calvinists, not 
to mention the Puritan wing in the Anglican Church. If Cal- 
vinism was not to devour itself, some measure of mutual 
recognition must be accorded. And this was only an extension 
of the principle already espoused by Calvin himself, that not 
every church need exhibit the pattern of Geneva and " tol- 
erable ineptitudes " could be suffered. The seventeenth cen- 
tury need only enlarge the area of the ineptitudes deemed to 
be tolerable. But to do so immediately opened the door to 
some of the considerations adduced by Castellio as to degrees 
of importance and relative incertitude of religious doctrines. 
Thus in the i6oo's Calvinists not infrequently employed argu- 
ments that earlier would have ranked them with Calvin's 

The men chosen to epitomize the struggle in Britain in 
the Puritan period are two, John Milton for England and 
Roger Williams for the colonies. One may question whether 
Milton should be considered a Calvinist at all. On some doc- 
trinal points he would have been anathema in the Geneva of 
John Calvin. Yet in his general justification of the ways 
of God with men he is the poet of Puritanism and the bard 
of Calvinism. Some would question whether he is the best 
single figure to select in order to illustrate the struggle for 
religious liberty, because his pleas were never timed to strike 
the most decisive moments. Sometimes he did no more than 
voice in nobler language what others had abundantly de- 
clared, and sometimes he raised his voice only after the cause 


was lost. The reason is that Milton was never satisfied with 
any party in power and was always torn within himself and 
moving from one camp to another. In his allegiances he was 
almost as migratory as Ochino. For that reason Milton is a 
poor representative of any single position or group but an 
admirable mirror of his age. 

He might be described as a Renaissance Puritan, a scholar 
amazingly versed in all the learning of antiquity whether 
classical or Christian, and profoundly lured by the quest of 
all knowledge and the enjoyment of all loveliness. He was a 
son of England by birth and of Italy by adoption. While in 
college, he had made the acquaintance of a young Italian, 
and from him had acquired the rudiments of the tongue. A 
visit to Italy enabled him to indulge his passion for the new 
science, when he called upon the aged Galileo, who through 
his glass perused the craters of the moon and pursued the 
satellites of Jupiter. Here was a living symbol of the uncon- 
querable human spirit despite the censures of an obscurantist 
Inquisition. By another aspect of the Renaissance Milton was 
enthralled. He went to Rome and attended the presentation 
of an opera. Here he heard the singing of Leonora BaronL 
She was twenty-seven years old, with golden hair and flash- 
ing eyes. She composed, and played several instruments. 
Her voice was an echo of the song of pure conceit, sung in 
the morn of endless light before God's sapphire throne. Hers 
was an Orpheus voice, which could move forests and lure the 
moon to earth. Careful, Milton! She was reputed to be of 
questionable morals. This was the pagan Renaissance, the 
cult of beauty divorced from ethical restraints. Already Mil- 
ton was an inharmonious spirit, for at that very moment he 
made his stay in Rome almost untenable by his frankness in 
identifying the papacy with Antichrist. Never to the end of 
his life did he cease to berate the Church of Rome as the 
whore of the Apocalypse. Never would he concede tolera- 


tion to Catholics in England. Yet he was a child of beauty, 
who quivered at the memory of Leonora's voice and had no 
mind to subject England to a regime of dour rigidity. He 
had no sympathy with a Puritan like Prynne, who in the in- 
dex to his book on stage playing defined actresses as whores, 
and that at the very moment when the queen was playing in 
a masque. For this offense Prynne lost his ears, and Milton 
again was outraged by lopping ears to penalize indecorous 
indexes. No wonder that he could not bring himself to issue 
clarion calls when those with whom he mainly and yet not 
entirely sympathized came into power! 

Milton returned to England from Italy in 1639. He was 
then thirty-one. To what should he devote himself? He had 
considered the Church. The oath stood in his way. A life of 
literature appealed to him, that he might " imbreed and 
cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civil- 
ity, celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and 
equipage of God's almightiness, and sing the deeds and 
triumphs of just and pious nations.'* He thought to become 
the bard of Arthur and the Table Round, but this had to be 
left for Tennyson, because too much history was in the mak- 
ing to be singing of Arthur just then. England was seething. 
What had been commended as a firm hand under the Tudors 
was considered tyranny when practiced by the Stuarts: the 
levying of taxes on inland districts to support a navy super- 
fluous after the debacle of the Armada, the quartering of 
troops on the civilian population in time of peace, above all, 
the enforcement of religious uniformity these were not to 
be endured. The Stuarts did believe in uniformity and it was 
to be Anglican uniformity. James I, though his mother had 
been a Catholic, did not propose to return to Rome and sub- 
ject Britain to papal vexations. Neither, though Scottish, did 
he intend to impose Presbyterianism on England. He had 
had his belly full of Presbyterians who called him " God's 


silly vassal." The Anglican Church, decorous and amenable 
to royal control, best suited his taste. But the Anglican 
Church, as the Church of England, did demand something of 
Englishmen. If they were allowed to believe as they liked, 
they must behave as they were told, in the interests of seem- 
liriess, decorum, and good order. Charles I thought so too, 
and even more was this the position of Archbishop Laud. 

A Cartoon: Archbishof Laud Dining on the Ears of Prynne, 

and Barton 

Had he gone no farther than to enforce his program on Eng- 
land, there would have been trouble with the Puritans, but 
when he attempted to impose it also upon the Scots, there 
was war. English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians joined 
to resist Laud and Charles and all the mitred bishops and 


hireling priests parading in the rags of Antichrist. 

Milton, not always in terms more decorous, devoted his 
pen to the service of the Puritan cause. His first tract was a 
defense of the repudiation of any prescribed form of prayer, 
including, of course, The Boo\ of Common Prayer. Why, he 
inquired, should they who can " learnedly invent a prayer of 
their own to the Parliament still ignorantly read the prayers 
of other men to God ? " Where did this English prayer 
book come from if not from the " abomination of the anti- 
Christian temple?" Essentially it is the Mass. "Is this to 
magnify the Church of England " that it should have re- 
course to the Church of Rome? Strange that John Milton 
who had such an ear for speech should not have been en- 
thralled by the solemn cadences of The Eoo\ of Common 
Prayer! Perhaps it was because he knew so well how to com- 
pose prayers of his own. The following is an example, not 
only of his incomparable style but of his ardent hope, essen- 
tially Calvinist, that God would establish his Kingdom upon 
earth and in England: 

" Come, therefore, O Thou that hast the seven stars in thy 
right hand, appoint thy chosen priests according to their or- 
ders and courses of old, to minister before thee, and duly to 
dress and pour out the consecrated oil into thy holy and ever- 
burning lamps; thou hast sent out the spirit of prayer upon 
thy servants over all the land to this effect, and stirred up 
their vows as the sound of many waters about thy throne. 
Every one can say that now certainly thou hast visited this 
land, and hast not forgotten the utmost corners of the earth, 
in a time when men had thought that thou wast gone up 
from us to the farthest end of the heavens, and hadst left to 
do marvelously among the sons of these last ages. O perfect, 
and accomplish thy glorious acts; for men may leave their 
works unfinished, but thou art a God, thy nature is perfec- 
tion: shouldst thou bring us thus far onward from Egypt to 


destroy us in this Wilderness ? Though we deserve ... yet 
thy great name would suffer in the rejoicing of thine ene- 
mies, and the deluded hope of all thy servants. When thou 
hast settled peace in the Church, and righteous judgment in 
the Kingdom, then shall all thy saints address their voices of 
joy and triumph to thee, standing on the shore of that Red 
Sea into which our enemies had almost driven us. And he 
that now for haste snatches up a plain ungarnished present 
as a thank offering to thee, which could not be deferred in 
regard of thy so many late deliverances wrought for us one 
upon another, may then perhaps take up a harp and sing 
thee an elaborate song to generations. In that day it shall no 
more be said as in scorn, * This (or that) was never held so 
till this present age,' when men have better learned that the 
times and seasons pass along under thy feet to go and come 
at thy bidding: and as thou didst dignify our fathers' days 
with many revelations above all the foregoing ages, since 
thou tookest the flesh, so thou canst vouchsafe to us (though 
unworthy) as large a portion of thy Spirit as thou pleasest: 
for who shall prejudice thy all-governing will? seeing the 
power of thy grace is not passed away with the primitive 
times, as fond and faithless men imagine, but thy Kingdom 
is now at hand, and thou standing at the door. Come forth 
out of thy royal chambers, O Prince of all the kings of the 
earth, put on the visible robes of thy imperial majesty, take 
up that unlimited scepter which thy almighty Father hath 
bequeathed thee; for now the voice of thy bride calls thee, 
and all creatures sigh to be renewed." 

Next Milton undertook to support the Presbyterian attack 
on prelacy, by which he meant the Episcopal system. At this 
point his defense of liberty commenced. The argument in 
favor of prelacy was that without its strict control England 
would teem with sects. Milton replied that if all sects were to 
be suppressed, then England might as well imitate Italy and 


Spain. Then he turned to an analogy from nature. If the chief 
end were to have no weeds, then " winter might vaunt it- 
self " as the season that keeps down " all noisome and rank 
weeds." To this the reply would be that winter destroys also 
" all wholesome herbs " and confines all " the fresh dews in 
hidebound frost." For the destroying of weeds there is no 
need of such " imprisonment and bondage." Let rather " the 
gentle west winds open the fruitful bosom of the earth." Let 
" the sun scatter the mists." Then when " the flowers put 
forth and spring . . . the hand of the tiller shall root up all 
that burden the soil without thank to " winter's " bondage. 
But far worse than any " such " frozen captivity is the bond- 
age of prelates." 

The conclusion is not only that the tares should be left to 
grow with the wheat, but that in some measure the tares may 
be regarded as useful to the wheat. " Sects and errors it 
seems God suffers to be for the glory of good men, that the 
world may know and reverence their true fortitude and un- 
daunted constancy in truth." Virtue that wavers is not virtue. 
The English people, being a hardy nation, should be left to 
exercise themselves in the field of truth. The magistrate 
should not step in save to concern himself with the body and 
its outward acts. " His general end is the outward peace and 
welfare of the Commonwealth and civil happiness in this 
life." The purity of the Church is to be guarded solely 
through its own discipline by means of excommunication. 

In this defense Milton far overshot what was expected or 
desired of him. The Presbyterians objected to prelacy, not 
on the ground that it would curb the sects which they were 
of no mind to encourage, but because the system in their 
judgment was not ordained of God and enjoined in Scrip- 
ture. They were quite as eager to impose their system on 
England as were the Anglicans to accomplish the reverse for 
Scotland. And neither one would tolerate sects. The Presby- 


terians were soon to have their turn. The fortunes of war cast 
down the king and exalted the Westminster Assembly. There 
followed the ejection of ministers and the licensing of books. 

And that was the point at which Milton fell foul of their 
regime. He had some tracts to publish for which he could 
not well expect the approval of any Presbyterian licenser be- 
cause the subject was a defense of divorce solely on the ground 
of incompatibility. Behind the tracts lay an urgent personal 
dilemma. In the summer of 1643, Milton had visited the 
country estate of a loyalist squire, Richard Powell, in order 
to collect a debt of five hundred pounds. Milton came away 
without the payment of the debt, but married to the squire's 
daughter Mary. She was seventeen and he was thirty-five. 
They went up to live in London. Milton considered the 
whole duty of a wife to be ministering to her husband. Mary, 
who had been used to the bustle and convivialities of a coun- 
try house, did not care to be a maid in waiting to a grave and 
sedentary scholar. After a month she returned home. 

Milton a year thereafter eluded the censors and brought 
out a tract on the legitimacy of divorce for reasons other than 
adultery. Knowing that he would have difficulty in obtaining 
a hearing, he began with a plea that " the womb of teeming 
truth " be not closed. Then he addressed himself to the argu- 
ment. In so doing he delineated a view of marriage that was 
peculiarly the product of Puritanism. Previously there had 
been, broadly speaking, two Christian attitudes toward mar- 
riage. The first may be called the sacramental. This was the 
position of the Catholic Chutch prevalent throughout the 
Middle Ages, according to which marriage is a sacrament in- 
stituted mainly for progeny and property. There was no 
touch of romance, because marriage was esteemed inferior to 
virginity. Unions were commonly made by families. Against 
this view arose the romantic revolt in the Courts of Love, 
which exalted love as an ennobling passion rather than as a 


sickness. The beloved became the object of almost a religious 
devotion, but this cult in its beginnings was extramatrimonial, 
on the ground that love freely given is impossible within the 
marriage bond. Only in the age of the Renaissance was ro- 
manticism transferred to marriage, and only then of course 
could it be accommodated to a Christian view. A third posi- 
tion entered with Puritanism, and Milton expounded it with 
singular persuasiveness. It is the position that marriage is 
primarily a companionship in a common endeavor, calling 
for mutuality of taste and conviction. Companionability is a 
prime requisite. The center of common interest for the Puri- 
tan was, of course, religion. Secularized versions have later 
stressed common interests, intellectual, artistic, and the like. 
Milton commenced his tract by saying that the first com- 
mand of God was not, " Be fruitful and multiply " (the fa- 
vorite text for the Catholic sacramental view), nor was it that 
" To marry is better than to burn " (the chief proof text of 
the Lutherans), but rather this, " It is not good for man to be 
alone." " In God's intention a meet and happy conversation 
is the chiefest and noblest end of marriage." " The chief so- 
ciety thereof is in the soul rather than in the body, and the 
greatest breach thereof is unfitness of mind rather than de- 
fect of body." " Since we know it is not the joining of an- 
other body will remove loneliness, but the uniting of another 
compliable mind; and that it is no blessing but a torment, 
nay a base and brutish condition to be one flesh, unless where 
nature can in some measure fix and unite the disposition." 
" Loneliness is the first thing which God's eye named not 
good." " There is a peculiar comfort in the marriage state 
beside the genial bed, which no other society affords. No 
mortal nature can endure either in the actions of religion or 
study of wisdom, without sometime slackening the cords of 
intense thought and labor"; therefore we "have need of 
some delightful intermissions wherein the enlarged soul may 


leave off a while her severe schooling; which as she cannot 
well do without company, so in no company so well as where 
the different sex in most resembling unlikeness and most un- 
like resemblance cannot but please best, and be pleased in the 
aptitude of that variety." So fundamental indeed is commu- 
nity of taste, interest, and conviction for such a spiritual inter- 
change that in Milton's judgment it were better both parties 
should be irreligious than that one should be religious and the 
other not. 

If these conditions be not fulfilled, there is no real mar- 
riage, " What a violent and cruel thing it is to force the con- 
tinuing of those together whom God and nature in the gen- 
tlest end of marriage never joined." He who misses the true 
end of marriage " by chancing on a mute and spiritless mate 
remains more alone than before." " Suppose he erred. It is not 
the intent of God or man to hunt an error so to the death with 
a revenge beyond all measure and proportion." The magis- 
trate is not the one to decide whether a marriage be success- 
ful When a Roman was asked why he had put away his wife, 
he pulled off his shoe and said, " This shoe is a neat shoe yet 
none of you know where it wrings me." The magistrate should 
take care only that the conditions of the divorce be not in- 
jurious. If two such spiritual persons as Paul and Barnabas 
found it wise to separate, shall the married be held " to the 
most intimate and incorporating duties of love and embrace- 
ment ... if unfitness and disparity be not till after marriage 
discovered ? " 

The difficulties that Milton had experienced in eluding 
censorship for three tracts on divorce prompted an eloquent 
plea for the freedom of the press. The treatise was entitled 
Areopagitica, from Areopagus, the hill of Mars, where the 
Athenians exercised freedom of speech. Not one word was 
said about divorce. The greatness of Milton was that he could 
rise above some particular and personal circumstance to an 


overarching principle, and in tones majestic plead for all time 
the cause of truth in free encounter. The Areopagitica ap- 
peared in the year 1644, and opened with an unparalleled 
apologia for the printed page. " Books are not absolutely dead 
things but do contain a potency of life. . . . They do pre- 
serve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that liv- 
ing intellect that bred them. ... As good almost kill a man 
as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable crea- 
ture, God's image; but he who destroys a good book kills rea- 
son itself kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. 
Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is 
the precious lif eblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treas- 
ured up on purpose to a life beyond life. 'Tis true, no age can 
restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss; and revo- 
lutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, 
for the want of which whole nations fare the worse. We 
should be wary therefore what persecution we raise against 
the living labors of public men, how we spill that seasoned 
life of man preserved and stored up in books; since we see a 
kind of homicide may thus be committed, sometimes a mar- 
tyrdom, and if it extend to a whole impression, a kind of mas- 
sacre, wherein the execution ends not in the slaying of an 
elemental life but strikes at ... the breath of reason itself; 
slays an immortality rather than a life." 

Then the argument soars from books to truth itself, which 
is not a deposit recorded or committed to a Church, but rather 
the object of a quest. " To be still searching what we know 
not by what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we 
find it, this is the golden rule in theology as well as in arith- 
metic." Milton was no skeptic not, indeed, as much of a 
skeptic as Erasmus or Castellio, who insisted that certain 
theological tenets can never be known in this life and dis- 
cussion should be deferred until the Judgment Day. Milton 
welcomed discussion because of his confidence that truth 


could be reached provided inquiry were unimpeded. His 
assurance rested upon pessimism as to licensers and optimism 
as to Englishmen. No individual is sufficiently inerrant to be 
trusted with the responsibility of suppressing a book. If it 
come to prohibiting, nothing is more likely to be prohibited 
than truth itself. If there be found in an author " one sentence 
of venturous edge, uttered in the height of zeal, and who 
knows whether it might not be the dictate of a divine Spirit, 
though it were Knox himself they will not pardon him their 
dash; and the sense of that great man shall to all posterity be 
lost, for the tearfulness or the presumptuous rashness of a per- 
functory licenser. . . . What is it but a servitude like that 
imposed by the Philistines, not to be allowed the sharpening 
of our own axes and coulters, but we must repair from all 
quarters to twenty licensing forges." When I "visited the 
famous Galileo, prisoner of the Inquisition/' Italians vaunted 
the liberty of England. 

Licensers cannot be trusted but Englishmen can. The judg- 
ment of the entire people will fall upon the side of truth. Nor 
is licensing " to the common people less than a reproach; for 
if we be so jealous over them that we dare not trust them with 
an English pamphlet, what do we but censure them for a 
giddy, vicious, and ungrounded people ? " " I cannot set so 
light by all the invention, the art, the wit, the grave and solid 
judgment which is in England." " Lords and commons of 
England, . . . why else was this nation chosen before any 
other, that out of her as out of Sion should be proclaimed and 
sounded forth the first tidings and trumpet of reformation to 
all Europe [that is, under Wycliflfe] ? " And why did God 
when he desired a reforming of reformation show himself 
first to his Englishmen? " Behold now this vast city; a city 
of refuge, a mansion house of liberty, encompassed and sur- 
rounded with his protection." 

Nor would Milton restrict soundness of judgment to the 


English. All mankind are, if not equally, at any rate similarly 
endowed, and truth itself has a potency that compels recog- 
nition. "Let truth and falsehood grapple; whoever knew 
truth put to the worst in a free and open encounter. . . . 
For who knows not that truth is strong next to the Almighty; 
she needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings, to make 
her victorious. . . . Give her but room, and do not bind her 
when she sleeps." 

The triumph of truth is, however, contingent upon the 
process of a co-operative quest in which the insights and the 
findings of each are subjected to the scrutiny and criticism of 
all Clash is an indispensable ingredient in the emergence of 
truth, which can be discerned only through its ability to with- 
stand the onslaughts of falsehood. Here it is that error itself 
performs a useful function, so that one may speak of " the 
knowing of good by evil." Truth requires a sparring partner. 
" I cannot praise," exclaims Milton, " a fugitive and cloistered 
virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and 
sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race." " Our faith and 
virtue thrive by exercise. . . . Truth is compared in Scripture 
to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual 
progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and 
tradition. A man may be a heretic in the truth; and if he be- 
lieve things only because his pastor says so, or an assembly so 
determines, without knowing other reason, though his be- 
lief be true, yet the very truth he holds becomes his heresy." 
Milton here enunciates a far-reaching principle. He has gone 
beyond the customary definition of truth as that which is ob- 
jectively correct and has made it also that which is inwardly 
appropriated. Truth, then, is almost a synonym for faith, and 
all the arguments for the inviolability of faith then become 
pertinent for truth. 

When at last truth is attained, one is not to suppose that it 
will necessarily exhibit a single face. " Is it not possible that 


she may have more shapes than one ? What else is all that 
rank of things indifferent, wherein truth may be on this side 
or on the other without being unlike herself? . . . What 
great purchase is this Christian liberty which Paul so often 
boasts of? His doctrine is, that he who eats or eats not, re- 
gards a day or regards it not, may do either to the Lord. How 
many other things might be tolerated in peace and left to con- 
science, had we but charity, and were it not the chief strong- 
hold of our hypocrisy to be ever judging one another! I fear 
this iron yoke of outward conformity hath left a slavish print 
upon our necks." This passage is fraught with vast implica- 
tions because in it Milton espouses the ideal of variety rather 
than of uniformity. He was but voicing an idea grown preva- 
lent in his day that variety is the glory and the gift of the 
Creator, who in nothing so much displayed his beneficence 
to man as in fashioning the world with such rich diversity. 
The same principle applies to marriage, when companion- 
ability is enhanced by " most resembling unlikeness and most 
unlike resemblance." Variety had become also a principle of 
aesthetics, and some hold that Milton deliberately introduced 
certain apparently inharmonious styles into Paradise Lost 
in order to exhibit a greater variety. When, then, this thesis 
was applied to religion, the death knell tolled for the Corpus 
Christianum, the Christian society based upon one form of 
religion. Milton was not an originator at this point. Some of 
the Remonstrants in Holland and the Baptists in England 
had declared variety and competition to be wholesome for 
the Church. What earlier centuries had deplored as a calam- 
ity and compared to the rending of the seamless robe of 
Christ was hailed by the sectaries as an ideal and as a state of 
health for Christendom. Uniformity for Milton was sym- 
bolized by vegetation dormant in the grip of ice, but diversity 
by all the profusion of the variegated flowers of spring. 
Plainly at this juncture Milton did not belong with the 


Presbyterians. He transferred to the Independents, as the 
Congregationalists were then commonly called, and became 
in time the secretary of their champion, Oliver Cromwell. His 
greatest historical significance lies in this, that he substituted 
a national religion for an Established Church. Cromwell was 
a profoundly religious figure, a Gideon, a Joshua fighting the 
battles of the Lord of Hosts, a man of prayer who would ad- 
journ a council of officers in order to seek the leading of the 
Spirit. Cromwell aspired to rear in England a holy common- 
wealth, much after the Genevan model but with this great 
difference, that a larger diversity would be allowed. Milton's 
ideal of variety had laid hold on him, and he compared the 
several sects to the trees mentioned by the prophet Isaiah, the 
myrrh and the olive, the cypress and the plantains of Israel, 
all different and all alike affording shade. Diversity, however, 
should not be permitted endless ramifications. Here the dis- 
tinction between the essentials and the nonessentials deter- 
mined the lines, and the essentials were so defined that the 
Catholics and the Unitarians were excluded; the Presby- 
terians, Congregationalists, and Baptists constituted the core. 
The Episcopalians and Quakers might be unmolested if de- 
void of political threat. Cromwell hoped to disestablish the 
Anglican Church and to erect instead a commonwealth of 
the saints recruited from the central three. 

But the saints were able to collaborate only up to a point. In 
opposition to the bishops and the king the three groups were 
one. In the first stage of the civil war the Presbyterians of 
Scotland and the Puritans of England, of whatever com- 
plexion, were allied. The intent was not to destroy the king 
but only to dislodge the bishops. The theory eloquently ex- 
pounded by Milton was that the Roundheads were not fight- 
ing the king at all, but only the " Malignants " by whom he 
was surrounded and beguiled. The war was designed to lib- 
erate His Majesty, but when His Majesty refused to be thus 


liberated and made abundantly plain that he was responsible 
for the policy attributed to the Malignants, then either the 
war must stop or else frankly be directed against his person. 
At this point the Presbyterians called a halt. They would not 
lift a hand against the Lord's anointed. 

Then the Independents and the Baptists, the element strong- 
est in the army, purged the Presbyterians from Parliament 
and forged ahead to bring to book " that man of blood, 
Charles Stuart." The theory of course changed, and again 
Milton became the spokesman and now urged the covenant 
theory 'of government, that the king is bound in compact 
with the people and if he violate the covenant is no longer 
king. In that case Parliament, as the representative of the 
sovereign people, may constitute itself into a court of high 
judicature to sit in judgment on his person, even to the point 
of depriving him of life. Charles went to the block. Then 
Cromwell and the saints began their reign and Milton's dis- 
illusionment recommenced. Liberty, he perceived, cannot be 
conserved by giving power to the mass of Englishmen nor 
even to the saints. Cromwell's parliaments were less tolerant 
than he, and soon the protector found himself confronted 
with a choice between democracy or freedom. His Parlia- 
ment desired to suppress The BooJ^ of Common Prayer. He 
did not approve. Either, then, he must flout Parliament and 
compromise democracy in the interests of liberty or else give 
democracy the rein to the detriment of tolerance. He chose 
democracy and the prayer book was suppressed. The pro- 
tector then, lacking the divinity which " doth hedge a king," 
found himself even more than the monarch an object of scur- 
rilous and seditious attacks. He had no mind to suffer Eng- 
land to be flooded with such subversive pamphlets. His sec- 
retary, John Milton, was called upon to exercise the office of 

Milton became almost embittered against " the common 


rout, that wandering loose about, grow up and perish, as the 
summer fly." He inquired: 

" And what the people but a herd conf us'd, 
A miscellaneous rabble, who extol 

Things vulgar, and well weigh'd, scarce worth the praise. 
They praise, and they admire they know not what; 
And know not whom, but as one leads the other; 
And what delight to be by such extolPd, 
To live upon thir tongues and be thir talk, 
Of whom to be disprais'd were no small praise? 
His lot who dares be singularly good. 
Th' intelligent among them and the wise 
Are few." 

The brutish, ignorant, and wayward are to be held in con- 
stant check; if once they are given the bit, their capricious 
stupidity will throw off the yoke of reason and order. 

And even the leaders filled Milton with foreboding. To 
Cromwell he addressed a sonnet, reminding him that peace 
has its victories no less renowned than war, and General 
Monk was warned to surround himself with a perpetual 
council. The guarantee of liberty should be the rule of the 
wise, but the end actually was martial law. 

And then came the Restoration. The regicides in their turn 
went to the block. As Harrison was led to execution, some- 
one called out, " Where is now your good old cause ? " With 
cheerful smile he clapped his hand to his breast and said, 
" Here it is and I am going to seal it with my blood." He was 
first hanged, then pulled down while still alive. He was 
emasculated, his entrails were burned before his eyes, then his 
head was severed and his body hacked into quarters. His 
head was then pilloried on a pike and his quarters exposed 
upon the city gates. When the turn of Hugh Peter came, the 
rabble made so much noise that he could not be heard. An- 


other who was similarly hooted, remarked, "It is a very 
mean cause that will not hear the words of a dying man." 
Evelyn recorded in his diary: " I saw not their execution but 
met their quarters mangled, cut and reeking as they were 
brought from the gallows in baskets on a hurdle. O the 
marvelous providence of God! " 

And all this, be it remembered, took place in merry Eng- 
land only three hundred years ago! 

Milton, though he had justified tyrannicide, was spared by 
the clemency of Charles II, who was loath to make excessive 
martyrs, and Milton had not signed the death warrant. Be- 
sides, he was a poet of reputation and was blind. Then let 
him alone. In his retirement Milton voiced one more plea for 
liberty, brave and futile. It was all the more brave because of 
those to whom he would accord religious liberty. " We suf- 
fer," said he, " the idolatrous books of the papists to be sold 
and read as common as our own; why not much rather the 
Anabaptists, Arminians, and Socinians ? There is no learned 
man but will confess he hath much profited by reading con- 

The problem had come, however, to be much more serious 
than the way to truth. The deepest question was as to the 
ways of God with men. One could understand why He 
should suffer the rabble to perish, but how explain the fall 
of the saints ? 

" Such as thou hast solemnly elected, 
With gifts and graces eminently adorn'd 
To some great work, thy glory. 
And peoples safety, which in part they effect: 
Yet toward these thus dignifi'd, thou oft 
Amidst thir highth of noon, 

Changest thy countenance, and thy hand with no regard 
Of highest favours past 
From thee on them, or them to thee of service. 


" Nor only dost degrade them, or remit 
To life obscur'd, which were a fair dismission. 
But throw'st them lower then thou didst exalt them high, 

Oft leav'st them to the hostile sword 

Of Heathen and prophane, thir carkasses 

To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captiv'd: 

Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times, 

And condemnation of the ingrateful multitude." 

To find an answer Milton had to reach beyond the immedi- 
ate to contemplate the design of God and the nature of man. 
He must unfold the drama of Creation, Fall, and redemption. 
Not Arthur and the Table Round enlisted his pen, but the 
sublimer task of justifying the ways of God to men. When 
Paradise Lost was finished, it had to be scrutinized by the 
licenser. He examined minutely to discover any veiled con- 
temporary allusions, but could smell out nothing, and he was 
right. Milton was pillorying no persons under the guise of 
Satan, Belial, or Beelzebub. England and humanity were his 

The opening scene of Paradise Lost obscures the prob- 
lem of why the saints should be brought low, for here it is 
the archrebels who have been cast into the lurid abyss. Milton, 
himself an outcast, felt the sympathy of common circum- 
stance with those who had been ejected but yet were not 
broken in spirit. Many commentators have sensed in the poet 
an unavowed admiration for the magnificent rebel's courage 
" never to submit or yield " or for that yet more audacious 
outcast who counseled wearing out the patience of the Most 
High. But one must not confuse Milton's dramatic artistry 
with his final judgments. To be sure an uncowed spirit evokes 
a transient ejaculation of applause, but in the end, as the cause 
makes the martyr, so also thej:ause justifies or confounds the 
insurrection. Implacable resistance to tyranny is noble, but 


the most superb defiance of God is ultimately base. Courage 
cannot justify itself. There is some higher and absolute refer- 
ence. Milton would not begin by relativizing God. 

The opening scene of the poem is of course a conspiracy, a 
council of war among the fallen chiefs as to how best to re- 
cover their forfeited estate. Some propose direct attack, but 
Satan, who quivers from the shock of the encounter, dis- 
misses such a fatuous suggestion. The plan that at length 
commends itself is that of seeking to undo God at the point 
of his creation, and Satan therefore insinuates himself into 
the Garden with intent to seduce God's glorious and frail 
creation, to beguile the primal pair by false ideas one is 
tempted to add, as the Restoration pamphleteers were then 
doing in their legends of Charles the martyr. 

The story then moves back to give an account of the Crea- 
tion. Adam is made of the dust of the earth, a superb creature. 
Eve is wondrous fair. Was Milton reminiscent of Leonora 
Baroni? The mother of mankind "infused sweetness into 
the heart unfelt before." 

" Grace was in all her steps, Heav'n in her Eye, 
In every gesture dignitie and love." 

Created because God saw it was not good for man to be 
alone, she was the perfect mate, whose " sweet compliance 
declared unfeigned union of mind." She plied her husband 
with questions and listened adoringly to his responses. The 
perfect wife! 

Now Satan is abroad in the Garden. He is espied from 
Paradise, and a warning is sent to Adam and Eve, who well 
know that the condition of their bliss is that they shall refrain 
from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, 
for in the day in which they eat of it they shall surely die. 

The fall begins before the Fall Adam and Eve are dressing 


the vines of the Garden when Eve proposes that they should 
divide their labors in the interest of greater efficiency. 

" Let us divide our labours, thou where choice 
Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind 
The woodbine round this Arbour, or direct 
The clasping Ivie where to climb, while I 
In yonder Spring of Roses intermixt 
With Myrtle, find what to redress till Noon." 

Adam requires the reason for such increased production in 
a garden where all things needful are supplied. He would not 
be deprived of her company for the sake of a little more fruit. 
" For not to irksome toil but to delight God made us." Of 
course,, if Eve craves a little solitude, he will not begrudge it,, 
for " short retirement urges sweet return." So far Adam had 
carried himself well, and had he stopped here. Eve might 
have been deterred. But he went on to add that by herself she 
would be more open to the seductions of Satan now abroad 
in the Garden. Then her back is up and she pours out upon 
Adam all the arguments of the Areofagitica. His fear be- 
speaks a lack of confidence in her " firm faith and love." 

" And what is Faith, Love, Vertue unassaid 
Alone, without exterior help sustaind? " 

Adam is Milton the licenser, who must remind her that free 
will can be abused and even reason may " fall into deception 
unaware." Yet for all his misgivings he will not repudiate his 
liberalism and interpose constraint. 

" Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more; 
Go in thy native innocence, relie 
On what thou hast of vertue, summon all, 
For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine." 

And Eve trips blithely into the bushes. 
Then Satan as a serpent raises his head and speaks. Eve is 


amazed. Not that in Paradise any wonder should amaze, save 
this, that a lower creature should speak, inasmuch as God had 
conferred speech on man alone. The serpent explained that 
he had chanced upon a goodly tree laden with fruit of fairest 
colors, mixed ruddy and gold. He had eaten, and a strange 
alteration had given him the power of speech. Eve desires of 
course to see the tree, and at once recognizes it as the one of 
which she may not taste. Satan remonstrates. Not eat of this 
" sacred, wise and wisdom giving plant, mother of science " ? 
It is Galileo speaking. What harm can there be in reading the 
riddles of the universe, charting the stars, splitting the -atoms ? 
How ridiculous the threat that he who tastes of this fruit shall 
surely die! 

" Doe not believe 

Those rigid threats of Death; ye shall not Die: 
How should ye? by the Fruit? it gives you Life 
To Knowledge." 

" Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on." Eve hungered. The 
fruit was savory and she ate. 

Her eyes were opened. Should she tell Adam, or should she 
enjoy this newly won advantage which overcame the inferior- 
ity of her sex? But she resolves to tell him, so dear to her is 
his love. 

Now Adam meanwhile had " wove of choicest flowers a 
garland to adorn her tresses." She comes to him with counte- 
nance blithe and tells her tale. Adam, " astonied stood and 
blank, while horror chill ran through his veins, and all his 
joints relaxed." Well he knew that Eve would die and he 
alone live on forever. Might he perhaps give up another rib 
and let God make another Eve? Not that: "Loss of thee 
would never from my heart." Fully aware then of what he 
was about, Adam tasted of the apple in order that he might 


share the doom of Eve. Through chivalry he fell. 

There follows a moment of voluptuous delight. Then bit- 
terness ensues, and Eve starts to upbraid Adam for granting 
the liberty she had craved, just as children demand to have 
their way and, when things go wrong, reproach their parents 
for having given in. Adam and Eve are quarreling as they 
are cast out of the Garden. Having sacrificed integrity for 
love, Adam has lost also the love for which the sacrifice was 

All this may seem to have wandered far from the theme of 
liberty yet not so far. Love cannot thrive without integ- 
rity; no more can freedom. At long last all comes back to 
truth. For all its varieties, it is yet truth. And all refers to God 
and his laws of virtue and soundness of mind. 

The archangel Michael points the lesson when he assures 
Adam and Eve that their plight is not hopeless. They can 
yet make of earth a paradise if they will observe that love and 
liberty can thrive only when blessed with virtue and right 

" Yet know withall, 
Since thy original lapse, true Libertie 
Is lost, which alwayes with right Reason dwells 
Twinn'd, and from her hath no dividual being: 
Reason in man obscur'd, or not obeyd, 
Immediately inordinate desires 
And upstart Passions catch the Government 
From Reason, and to servitude reduce 
Man till then free. Therefore since hee permits 
Within himself unworthie Powers to reign 
Over free Reason, God, in Judgement just 
Subjects him from without to violent Lords; 
Who oft as undeservedly enthrall 
His outward freedom: Tyrannic must be, 
Though to the Tyrant thereby no excuse. 


Yet sometimes Nations will decline so low 
From vertue, which is reason, that no wrong, 
But Justice, and some fatal curse annext 
Deprives them o thir outward libertie, 
Thir inward lost." 

This, then, appears to be the moral, that the fall of the 
saints is but the nemesis of their own excess, and the guaran- 
tee of liberty is not, after all, the sound sense of Englishmen 
as Englishmen, nor even of the saints, but only of those qual- 
ities rooted in God which alone can make a commonwealth 
holy and free. Milton ends by no means with despair. In 
"Paradise Regained," the Saviour declines to establish his 
Kingdom by constraint, holding it rather " more humane, 
more heavenly first by winning words to conquer willing 
hearts and make persuasion do the work of fear." 

T^pger Williams 

Roger Williams, the lonely seeker who flanks the monument 
of the Reformation, has been selected to exemplify the strug- 
gle for religious liberty in the New 
World. He is a particularly intri- 
guing figure because although ban- 
ished by a Calvinist theocracy he was 
at certain points even more Calvinist 
in his theology than his opponents. 
Williams was an Englishman, born in 
1603 and thus a contemporary of Mil- 
ton. His career was divided between 
the Old World and the New. Wil- 
liams illustrates full well the intimate 
relation of the coincident battle for 
freedom in the colonies and in the 
Roger Williams mother land. The aims were similar; 

the circumstances were distinct. 

The peculiar circumstance of the New World was that 
here " God hath set before us an open door of liberty," which 
by no means meant the establishment of a community where 
each should be free to go to hell in his own way. Liberty con- 
sisted in the opportunity to erect a commonwealth that would 
concede very little liberty to the dissenter. The hope was to 
do in the New World that which had failed in the Old. In 
virgin territory, untrammeled by all the incubus of a per- 


verted tradition, a new Canaan should be reared in the wil- 
derness. The objective was well voiced by John Cotton when 
he said : " And therefore it is for us to do all the good we can, 
and to leave nothing to those that shall come after us, but to 
walk in the righteous steps of their forefathers. And there- 
fore let us not leave, nor give rest to our eyes, until in family, 
church, and commonwealth we have set a pattern of holiness 
to those that shall succeed us." 

The Puritan dream for a new world was an extension of the 
optimism already ingrained in Calvinism that God through 
the elect would achieve his purpose in the course of the his- 
torical process through the erection of his Kingdom. It was a 
phase of that optimism which in the 1640'$ inspired Milton 
with his confidence that the English were a people highly 
favored and chosen of the Lord to sound the tidings of the 
Reformation. And when hopes for England waned, all the 
more were looks averted from a blighted land to a shore that, 
though bleak, barren, and rugged to the outward eye, yet 
was burgeoning with possibilities for those who would plant 
in the spirit a new Israel of God. 

But then, of course, arose again the problem of knowing 
who constituted the New Israel. What were the marks of the 
elect? The answer was basically Calvinist, that the chosen 
are for all practical purposes those who profess the true creed, 
exhibit a righteous life, and come to the Lord's Table. But 
New England Calvinism added a fourth requirement of even 
greater import. In so doing it was reverting to the test origi- 
nally posited by Thomas Miintzer of a definite experience of 
inner regeneration. The saints are those who can testify, not 
only to the intellectual and ethical signs of grace, but also to 
the emotional. Candidates for church membership must give 
evidence that " they have been wounded in their hearts for 
their original sin, and actual transgressions, and can pitch 
upon some promise of free grace in the Scripture, for the 


ground of their faith, and that they find their hearts drawn 
to believe in Christ Jesus, for their justification and salva- 
tion." What a ring of personal experience there is in the 
" solemn and public promise before the Lord, whereby a 
company of Christians, called by the power and mercy of 
God and fellowship with Christ, and by his providence to 
live together in the unity of faith, and brotherly love, and 
desirous to partake together in all the holy Ordinances of 
God, do in confidence of his gracious acceptance in Christ, 
bind themselves to the Lord 5 and to one another, to walk to- 
gether by the assistance of his Spirit in all such ways of holy 
worship in him and of edification one towards another, as 
the Gospel of Christ requireth of every Christian Church and 
the members thereof "! 

Such a test is of all the most difficult to discern, and the 
most tormenting to achieve and perpetuate, precisely because 
it is so inward. The problem was immediate as to the exact 
way in which the colony should be constituted and perpetu- 
ated. The founders were Protestants and would emphatically 
not base their commonwealth on celibacy with survival con- 
tingent upon a steady stream of new recruits. They were or- 
ganized on a family basis and relied in part for perpetuation 
upon propagation. Then the question was how to preserve 
the pattern among their own children. To make Abrahams 
out of Isaacs is no easy matter, particularly if they have been 
sacrificed on the altars of their parents 5 devotion. One way of 
preserving the pattern is to shield the children from con- 
tamination by placing some sort of hedge about the commu- 
nity. This is the device employed by the Hutterites, Men- 
nonites in the more extreme branches, and the Dukhobors. 
The Amish, for example, exclude the outside world by pro- 
hibiting automobiles, telephones, movies, comics, and the 


The Puritans, however, did not choose the way of segrega- 
tion. They had no mind to separate themselves from the 
mother country, " dear England, left indeed by us in our per- 
sons, but never yet forsaken in our affections." Neither did 
they desire for the most part to separate from the Church of 
England. The preface to the Cambridge Platform in 1648 
declared that " we, who are by nature Englishmen, do desire 
to hold forth the same doctrine of religion (especially in fun- 
damentals) which we see and know to be held by the Church 
of England according to the truth of the Gospel." Their hope 
was not to lose contact with England, but rather, by their 
" hazardous and voluntary banishment into this remote wil- 
derness," to stir up the old land to an emulation of the new 
pattern. Nor, again, did the emigrants seek to segregate them- 
selves from the Indians; for the purpose in coming had been 
" chiefly to display the efficacy and power of the Gospel, both 
in zealous preaching, professing, and wise walking under it 
before the faces of these poor blind infidels." Finally they 
would not separate themselves from the " unregenerated, 
that are aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to 
the covenant of promise." 

This is the most amazing element in all their program that 
a body with intent to plant a holy commonwealth should not 
insist at the very outset upon a homogeneous complexion. 
Even at the very beginning there were saints and strangers, 
" profane men who, being but seeming Christians, have made 
Christ and Christianity stink in the nostrils of the poor in- 
fidels." How could the pattern be maintained? How could 
the community be perpetuated if it were not pure even in the 
beginning? The answer was by conversion. The same power 
that had been operative in Old England in calling forth a 
regenerate people would no less manifest itself in the New 
World in winning and holding saints. The Indians should be 


converted, the children should be converted, the strangers 
should be converted. Surely in all history never was there a 
more transcendent optimism! 

There was, nevertheless, one very definite safeguard. The 
saints should rule. Church members alone could vote, and 
they alone could be church members who exhibited all the 
evidences including the emotional signs of grace. State and 
Church were one, but Church, State, and community did 
not coincide. Those who were not of the Church were not 
citizens, but only inhabitants, even though they might con- 
stitute, as at New Haven, but nine tenths of the population. 
That they should be willing to subject themselves to the rule 
of the saints must appear very surprising. The only answer 
can be that, if they were not saints, they nevertheless aspired 
to be. They respected the saints, and were willing that they 
should set the tone for the community. Also it must be re- 
membered that most of these people had not lost anything by 
way of political privilege, since in the old country they were 
debarred from the franchise by the property qualification. 
Here, then, was a community that did indeed display a pat- 
tern of liberty to an astonishing degree, in that it set out to 
preserve its quality, not by the rope and the gallows, but by 
producing conviction. They would " by winning words win 
willing hearts and let persuasion do the work of fear." * 

In the course of time, however, the rule of a handful of 
saints produced restiveness. The masses were eager to qualify 
for the society of the elite. The problem was all the more 
acute because the Puritans, if unable to transmit to their chil- 
dren an experience of grace, yet succeeded in instilling into 
them a rugged honesty which disdained to make a pretense 
of grace in order to be admitted to the Lord's Table and to 
the town meeting. Then the temptation became urgent, if 
the demands could not be met, to lower the qualifications. 
The Cambridge Platform already in 1648 was on the road 


toward relaxation. " Severity of examination should be 
avoided . . . and such charity and tenderness should be used 
as the weakest Christian if sincere may not be excluded." The 
tests should be only vigorous enough to satisfy a " rational 
charity." In this spirit the saints were defined as, first: " Such 
as have not only attained the knowledge of the principles of 
religion, and are free from gross and open scandals, but also 
do together with the profession of their faith and repentance, 
walk in blameless obedience to the Word, so as that in chari- 
table discretion they may be accounted saints by calling 
(though perhaps some or more of them be unsound, and 
hypocrites inwardly) "; and, second, " The children of such, 
who are also holy." 

Some proposed to go even farther and to include the grand- 
children of the saints, but the framers of the Cambridge Plat- 
form were not willing to see the elect of New Canaan de- 
generate into the elite of New England. They dug in their 
toes. Yet before the end of the century the Halfway Covenant 
had included even the grandchildren. The alternative to this 
method was a revival which would generate the requisite ex- 
perience. Thus the Puritan commonwealth oscillated between 
efforts to lower the standards to the level of the community 
and revivals to raise the community to the level of the stand- 

But what, then, should be done with those who rejected the 
standards altogether, who repudiated the very ideals on 
which the commonwealth was established? They might be 
of upright life. If so, they were only the more insidious and 
seductive because their exemplary demeanor would make 
their attack the more plausible. Here again was the old ques- 
tion whether the moral or the doctrinal offender constitutes 
the greater menace, and New England like Geneva displayed 
more leniency to the one who failed to live up to the ideal 
that he professed than to the one who refused to make any 


profession. But in that case what should be done with the 
nonconformist ? There was more than one possibility. When 
Obadiah Holmes refused to have his child baptized, he was 
fined. He denied the jurisdiction of the court and declined to 
pay the fine. Then he was whipped. The favorite method of 
punishment was expulsion from the community. This did 
not appear to be an illiberal solution. It was the European sys- 
tem of territorialism: "To each region its religion," with 
freedom to migrate for dissent. Nowhere was this method less 
illiberal than in the New World, where open land was abun- 
dant and the hardships of moving no greater than those ex- 
perienced by every other breaker of the wilderness. The Bay 
colonists believed in their right to stake off a piece of ground 
and ask of settlers only this, that either they should subscribe 
to the principles of the foundation or go somewhere else. But 
the Quakers denied the right to stake off a corner of the earth 
in which to intern oneself against the spokesman of the spirit. 
" The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," and no 
one has any authority to pre-empt a section. The Quakers in- 
vaded Massachusetts. The Puritans put them out. They said 
to them, in effect, this: " If you do not like it here, go back to 
Pennsylvania. You have your own colony. You can conduct 
it there as you please. Be satisfied with yours and leave us 
ours." The Quakers refused to be banished. They came back. 
They were again expelled, and again they came back. At last 
four were hanged on Boston Common. No one in this land 
would today condone such barbarous treatment, but one must 
not forget that an issue was involved. Has any group the right 
to erect a no-trespass sign in order to carry out an experiment 
in idealistic living according to some given pattern? May 
there be zoning laws in the things of the spirit? 

At the moment when such issues were acute Roger Wil- 
liams arrived in Massachusetts. The year was 1631. He was 
then twenty-eight years of age. He was given a pastorate in 


Boston from which because of scruples of conscience he re- 
tired to Plymouth and from there received a call to Salem. 
After but four years of ministry in Massachusetts, he was 
banished in 1635 because of a rejection of the cardinal tenets 
of the theocracy. The manner of his dismissal was harsh, in 
that he was forced to leave in the inclement season of the 
year. Leaving for the time being his wife and two children, 
he took refuge with the Narragansett Indians. Thirty-five 
years later he declared that he could still feel the bite of that 
winter snow as he sought an asylum " in the howling wil- 
derness." The spot that harbored him was called Providence. 

The first reason for his banishment was that he denied the 
validity of the patent from the English crown conferring a 
title to Massachusetts, because the English king has no right 
to expropriate the lands of the Indians and confer them upon 
his subjects. Nor would Williams concede the contention of 
John Cotton that the Indians were the Amalekites, rightfully 
to be displaced by the new Israelites, on whom God had con- 
ferred this Canaan. The war with Amalek, said Williams, is to 
be spiritualized, and the only proper way to acquire land from 
the Indians is not by conquest, nor by purchase, but only by 
good will and free gift. The lands that he later acquired 
around Providence he did not pretend to have paid for. What 
he had given was merely a token of gratitude and not an 
equivalent for the gracious generosity of the Indians. 

The denial, however, that the Indians were the Amalekites 
was much less disconcerting to the Bay than the rejection of 
the claim of the Puritans to be the Israelites. Ancient Israel 
did constitute a national Church, said Williams, but properly 
speaking it is the only valid example in all history, because 
after Christ the Jewish nation ceased to be the chosen people. 
From that day forward the elect have been gathered into the 
Christian Church, but this can never be identified with any 
nation. There is no such thing as Christendom unless the 


term be applied to the Church itself and not to any geograph- 
ical entity, since no nation is really Christian. The Church 
and the world are not Christian. Among them are lukewarm 
Protestants who are worse than ignorant papists. No whole 
populace ever was or ever will be wholly regenerate. The 
entire Puritan dream of establishing a provincial Church 
after the pattern of a national Church is utterly illusory. An- 
cient Canaan was called " Jehovah's Land " and " Imman- 
uePs Land/' " which names and titles I think Master Cotton 
will not say are competent and appliable to any other lands or 
countries under the Gospel, but only to the spiritual Canaan 
or Israel, the Church and people of God, the true and only 
Christendom ... to the then only Church of God Master 
Cotton can produce no parallel to that, but the Christian 
Churches and people of God, not national but Congrega- 
tional." Part of the reason is that a Christian community 
should not and cannot be maintained and perpetuated by the 
methods the Bay employed. One method was the way of 
comprehension which modified the standards in order that 
a larger number might be able to attain. Such a dilution was 
in Williams' eyes fatal to the purity of the Church. When 
the hedge is broken down, the garden becomes a wilderness. 
The standards must be pitched so high that only the regen- 
erate can qualify. Williams took more seriously the concepts 
of election and reprobation than did the Puritan colony itself, 
in that he would endeavor to fashion the Church only out of 
the elect. In this respect he was, of course, reviving the Ana- 
baptist attempt to purge the Church of the tares, an ideal that 
Calvin had always disclaimed. And yet Calvin himself closely 
approximated the Anabaptist ideal by positing certain pre- 
sumptive tests whereby the elect could be recognized. Wil- 
liams proposed to heighten rather than to diminish the 
requirements, and thus refused to make the Church cotermi- 
nous with an un weeded society. He declared: 


" From this perverse wresting of what is writ to the Church 
and the officers thereof, as if it were written to the civil State 
and officers thereof, all may see how the Church and civil 
State are now become one flock of Jesus Christ; Christ's 
sheep, and the pastors or shepherds of them, all one with the 
several unconverted, wild, or tame beasts and cattle of the 
world, and the civil and earthly governors of them; . . . 
Christ's lilies, garden, and love, all one with the thorns, the 
daughters, and wilderness of the world." Williams was in- 
deed so extreme in his separatism that " for a season he with- 
drew communion in spiritual duties even from his wife, till 
at length he drew her to partake with him in the error of his 
way." So reports John Cotton. 

The standards, then, should not be reduced. At the same 
time Mr. Cotton's dream of converting everyone in the en- 
tire community in order that all might be able to meet the 
requirements was entirely fatuous. One ought indeed to 
make the attempt, but Mr. Cotton himself conceded that no 
wholesale conversion was to be expected until after the com- 
ing of Antichrist. Williams at this point was placing his 
finger upon a practical paradox in Calvinism in the combina- 
tion of predestination and revivalism. A revival is very dif- 
ficult to explain or justify unless its object be to save souls, but 
if the number of the elect is predetermined, no amount of 
revivalism can effect a change. The New England Calvinists 
did not suffer themselves to be impeded by this logic from 
employing the only sound method open to them for perpetu- 
ating their community. Williams pressed their premises with 
greater consistency. 

If, then, the standards should not be diminished and con- 
versions could not be expected, only one further expedient 
was open for maintaining the mores of the holy common- 
wealth, and that was constraint. Cotton did not propose to 
apply it in every direction. He distinguished between things 


indifferent and the fundamentals, and would use coercion 
only on behalf of the latter. Williams pronounced him wrong 
on both counts. He ought not to be tolerant with regard to 
the things indifferent, since nothing is indifferent that God 
has enjoined. Within the Church no easygoing tolerance 
should obtain. At the same time no coercion should be em- 
ployed either to put men out or to draw them in. The whole 
fallacy of the national Church is that it cannot dispense with 
constraint because a national Church must be a single 
Church. If there is a single Church, there will be dissenters, 
because uniformity is impossible. Williams did not defend 
diversity as an ideal, and he drew no analogies from competi- 
tion in trade or variation in poetry, but simply assumed that 
diversity is the law of life, and men will be no more satisfied 
with a single religion than they will fit themselves into one 
style of coat. Since, then, variety is a fact, a national Church 
without coercion is unattainable. 

And if force be once allowed, it will be used not only to in- 
sure the norms of the community but also to extend its con- 
fines. The maintenance and the extension alike will be fos- 
tered by the sword. However great may be the disclaimer of 
any intent to convert by force, soon the commonwealth will 
be overreaching its borders. Wars of religion will ensue. 

But whichever be the purpose, whether to maintain or to 
extend, force in religion ought to be disowned. The first rea- 
son is the grave danger of making a mistake. Often enough 
the saints have been put to death as heretics, as in the case of 
Hus, and Christ himself was condemned as a deceiver. Here 
once more is the rational argument that no infallible tests and 
no infallible persons exist by which and by whom to admin- 
ister coercion. The rational argument in Williams is, how- 
ever, comparatively scant. 

He found much more congenial the considerations to be 
deduced from the cleavage of flesh and spirit. There is, he 


claimed, an order of the spirit and there is an order of the 
flesh. The sword belongs to the one and the word to the other. 
The State properly uses the sword. This Williams never de- 
nied, nor was he an Anabaptist in declaring that the Chris- 
tian man may not assume the office of the magistrate and 
employ the sword as a servant of the State, provided he re- 
strict himself to the proper sphere of the State. The point is 
not that the sword as such is inadmissible, nor that the State 
corresponds entirely to the reprobate and the Church exactly 
to the saints. Even Williams conceded that the Church con- 
tains some tares. The line between Church and State, there- 
fore, is not exactly the line between the elect and the repro- 
bate, but rather the line between the spirit and the flesh. The 
distinction was one that Luther had drawn, but he was at 
the same time insistent that spirit and flesh exist together in 
the same individual and that their spheres cannot be so neatly 
segregated. Williams affirmed that they can and must be sep- 
arated. If the sword exceed its own province, it will but work 

" I hence observe, that there being in this Scripture held 
forth a twofold state, a civil state and a spiritual, civil officers 
and spiritual, civil weapons and spiritual weapons, civil 
vengeance and punishment and a spiritual vengeance and 
punishment: although the Spirit speaks not here expressly of 
civil magistrates and their civil weapons, yet, these states be- 
ing of different natures and considerations, as far differing as 
spirit from flesh, I first observe, that civil weapons are most 
improper and unfitting in matters of the spiritual state and 
kingdom, though in the civil state most proper and suitable." 

The arguments that Williams adduced in support of his 
position were those formulated earlier by Castellio and since 
grown to be the commonplaces of the advocates of liberty. 
The first was that constraint must engender hypocrisy. " Can 
the sword of steel or arm of flesh make men faithful or loyal 


to God ? Or careth God for the outward loyalty or faithful- 
ness, when the inward man is false and treacherous ? Or is 
there not more danger from a hypocrite, a dissembler, a 
turncoat in his religion (from the fear or favor of men) than 
from a resolved Jew, Turk, or papist, who holds firm unto 
his principles ? " 

A carnal weapon or sword of steel may produce a carnal 
repentance. " Faith is that gift which proceeds alone from the 
Father of lights, and till he please to make his light arise and 
open the eyes of blind sinners, their souls shall lie fast asleep 
and the faster, in that a sword of steel compels them to a 
worship in hypocrisy." Even more serious is the effect that 
compulsion to religion " carries men to be of no religion all 
their days, worse than the very Indians." 

As for ridding the commonwealth of inconvenient persons, 
toleration is more effective. With regard to the Quakers, Wil- 
liams reported : " We moreover find in those places where 
these people aforesaid in this colony are most of all suffered 
to declare themselves freely and are only opposed by argu- 
ments in discourse, there least of all they desire to come. Axid 
we are informed they begin to loathe this place for that they 
are not opposed by civil authority and with all meekness and 
patience are suffered to say over their pretended revelation 
and admonitions, nor are they like or able to gain many here 
to their way." Williams was unquestionably too sanguine at 
this point. The Quakers were before long to avail themselves 
of the liberties * of Rhode Island and the colony was to have 
Quaker governors. 

The consideration most frequently and ardently invoked 
by Williams in favor of liberty was the violation of con- 
science entailed in persecution. Here he showed himself to 
be a son of the seventeenth century, because under conscience 
he included the erroneous conscience. Those who like Castel- 


lio employed this argument in the sixteenth century were 
few. One hundred years later their opinion had come more 
nearly to prevail, and John Cotton appeared as almost an 
anachronism in adhering to the ground of the earlier Re- 
formers that one who obstinately rejects the fundamentals 
sins against his own conscience. Williams stoutly defended 
the integrity of the mistaken. His supporting evidences were 
relatively few. He did not, like Milton, urge that truth is a 
quest in which error may represent a necessary stage. He 
did not regard error as an indispensable foil to truth. Nor 
did he define truth as many-sided, so that those embracing 
different and apparently discrepant aspects could yet both be 
right. Williams' argument was simply that those who by 
common consent of the Puritans were actually in error were 
nonetheless as devoted and as sacrificial as those deemed to 
be correct. And if devoted and if sacrificial, then to be re- 
garded as sincere. 

Let Williams speak. Here are passages culled from several 
of his works: 

" I have before discussed this point of an heretic sinning against 
light of conscience: And I shall add that howsoever they lay this 
down as an infallible conclusion, that all heresy is against light of 
conscience; yet ... how do all idolators after light presented, 
and exhortations powerfully pressed, either Turks or pagans, Jews 
or anti-Christians, strongly even to the death hold fast (or rather 
are held fast by) their delusions? . . . 

" Yea, God's people themselves, being deluded and captivated, 
are strongly confident even against some fundamentals, especially 
of worship, and yet not against the light, but according to the 
light or eye of a deceived conscience. . . . 

" Now all these consciences walk on confidently and constantly, 
even to the suffering of death and torments, and are more strongly 
confirmed in their belief and conscience, because such bloody and 
cruel courses of persecution are used toward them. . . . 


"I speak of conscience, a persuasion fixed in the mind and 
heart of a man, which enforceth him to judge and to do so and 
so, with respect to God, his worship, etc. . . 

"This conscience is found in alf mankind, more or less, in 
Jews, Turks, papists, Protestants, pagans, etc. And to this pur- 
pose let me freely without offense remember you ... [of the 
story] ... of William Hartly in Queen Elizabeth her days, who 
receiving the sentence of hanging, drawing, etc., spake confidently 
(as afterward he suffered) : ' What tell you me of hanging, etc. 
If I had ten thousand millions of lives, I would spend them all 
for the faith of Rome,' etc. . . . 

" I confess in this plea for freedom to all consciences in matters 
(merely) of worship, I have impartially pleaded for the freedom 
of the consciences of the papists themselves, the greatest enemies 
and persecutors (in Europe) of the saints and truths of Jesus: yet 
I have pleaded for no more than is their due and right. . . . 

" However, I commend that man, whether Jew, or Turk, or 
papist, or whoever, that steers no otherwise than his conscience 
dares, till his conscience tells him that God gives him a greater 
latitude. For, neighbor, you shall find it rare to meet with men of 
conscience, men that for fear and love of God dare not lie, nor 
be drunk, nor be contentious, nor steal, nor be covetous, nor volup- 
tuous, nor ambitious, nor lazybodies, nor busybodies, nor dare 
displease God by omitting either service or suffering, though of 
reproach, imprisonment, banishment, and death, because of the 
fear and love of God. . . . 

" It is to me most improbable that the number of Protestants 
turning papists will be great in a Protestant nation. . . . Why 
should not rather the glorious beams of the Sun of Righteousness 
in the free conferrings, disputings, and preachings of the gospel 
of truth, be more hopefully like to expel those mists and fogs out 
of the minds of men, and that papists, Jews, Turks, pagans, be 
brought home, not only into the common road and way of Protes- 
tantism, but to the grace of true repentance and life in Christ? I 


say, why not this more likely, by far, than that the mists and fogs 
of popery should overcloud and conquer that most glorious 
Light? . . . 

" [But] if any or many conscientiously turn papists: I allege the 
experience of a holy, wise, and learned man, experienced in our 
own and other states' affairs, who affirms that he knew but few 
papists increase, where much liberty to papists was granted, yea, 
fewer than where they were restrained: Yet further, that in his 
conscience and judgment he believed and observed that such per- 
sons as conscientiously turned papists (as believing popery the 
truer way to heaven and salvation) I say, such persons were or- 
dinarily more conscionable, loving, and peaceable in their dealings, 
and nearer to heaven than thousands that follow a bare common 
trade and road and name of Protestant religion, and yet live 
without all life of conscience and devotion to God, and conse- 
quently with as little love and faithfulness unto men." 

Some of the passages already cited indicate that Williams 
called for a sharp separation of Church and State. The reason 
was not simply that the spheres of their operation are distinct, 
but that the basis of their respective memberships must be 
different. The State includes everybody in a given area. The 
Church comprises only the regenerate, and they are bound 
to be few and incompatible with the world which will cer- 
tainly subject them to persecution. 

" Precious pearls and jewels, and far more precious truth are 
found in muddy shells and places. The rich mines of golden truth 
lie hid under barren hills. . . . The most high and glorious God 
hath chosen the poor of the world: and the witnesses of truth are 
clothed in sackcloth, not in silk and satin, cloth of gold, or tissue. 
And therefore I acknowledge, if the number of princes profess- 
ing persecution be considered, it is rare to find a king, prince or 
governor like Christ Jesus the King of Kings . . . who tread 
not in the steps of Herod the Fox or Nero the Lion, openly or 
secretly persecuting the name of the Lord Jesus." 


For the sake of the Church itself, it must be separated from 
the ungodly, who may and will persecute but cannot be suf- 
fered to have any part in its internal life. The Bay colony 
prevented this by excluding the unregenerate from the fran- 
chise. They stoutly resisted any extension of the vote, for 
fear that strangers would then dominate the saints. The com- 
mon assertion must therefore be qualified that New England 
Calvinism transmitted the democracy of Congregationalism 
to the political order. This could become true only when the 
principle of Roger Williams was adopted which completely 
separated the two. The pattern of the Church could not be 
transferred to the State unless the State were distinct from 
the Church, because if the entire populace were admitted to 
the electorate, the Church would be subjected to aliens. Not 
until after such a fear was allayed by separation could the 
democratic pattern carry over into political relations. 

The result of the separation was the emancipation of the 
Church but at the same time the secularization of the State. 
Williams pushed to extremes the principle of Luther that 
the State is not to be regarded as a Christian institution. Lu- 
ther's point was simply that the State is not specifically Chris- 
tian because it is valid equally among non-Christians and the 
Turks are perfectly capable of a sound political administra- 
tion. For Luther this was no reason why Christian mag- 
istrates should not function as nursing fathers to the Church. 

Williams began with Luther by pointing out how many 
States had been successfully administered without the benefit 
of Christianity. 

" The commonwealth of Rome flourished five hundred years 
together, before ever the name of Christ was heard in it; which 
so great a glory of so great a continuance, mightily evinceth the 
distinction of the civil peace of a State from that which is Chris- 
tian religion. . . . 


" And since also the Turkish monarchy hath flourished many 
generations in external and outward prosperity and glory, not- 
withstanding their religion is false. . . . 

" If none but true Christians, members of Christ Jesus, might 
be civil magistrates, and publicly intrusted with civil affairs, . . . 
then none but members of churches, Christians should be hus- 
bands of wives, fathers of children, masters of servants: But 
against this doctrine the whole creation, the whole world, may 
justly rise up in arms, as not only contrary to true piety, but com- 
mon humanity itself. For if a commonweal be lawful amongst 
men that have not heard of God nor Christ, certainly their officers, 
ministers, and governors must be lawful also. 1 * 

All this Luther could have said, but Williams went on to 
make much more drastic deductions, in that he affirmed that 
since a non-Christian could be a magistrate, a Christian when 
acting in the capacity of a magistrate could do no more than 
a non-Christian and should not therefore undertake to med- 
dle with religion, 

" A P a an or anti-Christian pilot may be as skillful to carry the 
ship to its desired port as any Christian mariner or pilot in the 
world, and may perform that work with as much safety and 
speed: yet have they not command over the souls and consciences 
of their passengers, or mariners under them, although they may 
justly see to the labor of the one, and the civil behavior of all in 
the ship. A Christian pilot . . . performs the same work (as like- 
wise doth the metaphorical pilot in the ship of the commonweal) 
from a principle of knowledge and experience; but more than 
this, he acts from a root of the fear of God and love to mankind 
in his whole course. Secondly, his aim is more to glorify God 
than to gain his pay, or make his voyage. Thirdly, he walks 
heavenly with men and God, in a constant observation of God's 
hand in storms, calms, etc. So that the thread of navigation, being 
equally spun by a believing or unbelieving pilot, yet is ... drawn 


over with the gold of godliness and Christianity by a Christian 
pilot, while he is holy in all manner of Christianity. . . . But 
lastly, the Christian pilot's power over the souls and consciences of 
his sailors and passengers is not greater than that of the anti- 
Christian, otherwise than he can subdue the souls of any by the 
two-edged sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and by his holy 
demeanor in his place. . . . 

" There goes many a ship to sea, with many hundred souls in 
one ship, whose weal and woe is common, and is a true picture of 
a commonwealth, or a human combination or society. It hath 
fallen out sometimes, that both papists and Protestants, Jews and 
Turks, may be embarked in one ship; upon which supposal I 
affirm, that all the liberty of conscience that ever I pleaded for 
turns upon these two hinges that none of the papists, Protes- 
tants, Jews, or Turks be forced to come to the ship's prayers or 
worship, nor compelled from their own particular prayers or 
worship, if they practice any. I further add, that I never denied 
that, notwithstanding this liberty, the commander of this ship 
ought to command the ship's course, yea, and also command that 
justice, peace, and sobriety, be kept and practiced, both among the 
seamen and all the passengers. If any of the seamen refuse to per- 
form their services, or passengers to pay their freight; if any refuse 
to help, in person or purse, toward the common charges or de- 
fense; if any refuse to obey the common laws and orders of the 
ship, concerning their common peace or preservation; if any shall 
mutiny and rise up against their commanders and officers; if any 
should preach or write that there ought to be no commanders or 
officers, because all are equal in Christ, therefore no masters nor 
officers, no laws nor orders, nor corrections nor punishments; 
I say, I never denied, but in such cases, whatever is pretended, 
the commander or commanders may judge, resist, compel, and 
punish such transgressors, according to their deserts and merits." 

Thus Roger Williams achieved religious liberty by the 
high price of opening the door to the secularization of the 
State. Often in our day this achievement is vaunted as his 


greatest contribution to liberty, and the new problems 
thereby created are overlooked. One may justly wonder 
whether, rather, his greatest contribution is not to be found 
in his tolerant spirit. He was commonly a reconciler. As one 
who had lived among the Indians and knew their speech, he 
sought to keep the peace among them and between them 
and the white colonists. The Bay recognized his services at 
this point and considered recalling him from banishment, 
but their gratitude could not quite bring them to reduce the 
standards of the holy commonwealth. He should remain in 
exile, yet esteemed and thanked. 

His personal relations with the men of all parties were 
marked by both frank controversy and friendliness. A person 
who could retain the friendship of Cromwell, Milton, Endi- 
cott, and Winthrop was certainly, even if he were not a gen- 
ius, yet a man of amazing quality. Williams had learned the 
high art of carrying on a battle of ideas without loss of re- 
spect, esteem, and affection. 

He remonstrated very openly with the Bay for their deal- 
ings with the Indians. " Have they not entered leagues of 
love, and to this day continued peaceable commerce with us? 
Are not our families grown up in peace amongst them? 
Upon which I humbly ask, how it can suit with Christian in- 
genuity to take hold of some seeming occasions for their de- 
structions ? " 

He remonstrated with the Bay over religious persecution. 
Nothing could have been more direct than his apostrophe to 
Endicott: " It is a dismal battle for poor naked feet to kick 
against the pricks. It is a dreadful voice from the King of 
Kings, and Lord of Lords: Endicott, Endicott, why huntest 
thou me? Why imprisonest thou me? Why finest, why so 
bloodily whippest, why wouldest thou (did not I hold thy 
bloody hands) hang and burn me? Yes, Sir, I beseech you 
to remember that it is a dangerous thing to put this to the 


maybe . . . that in fighting against several sorts of con- 
sciences ... I have not fought against God, that I have not 
persecuted Jesus in some of them ? " 

He was equally forthright with Winthrop, telling him that 
he mourned his nakedness and poverty in spirituals, yet at 
the same time wished him well in a civil way and hoped that 
the way of the Lord Jesus might be more fully disclosed to 
them both. 

Winthrop reminded him that they thought differently. 
" Yes/' replied Williams, " and the fire will try your works 
and mine. The Lord Jesus help us to make sure of our per- 
sons that we seek Jesus that was crucified. However it is and 
ever shall be ... my endeavor to pacify and allay, where I 
meet with rigid and censorious spirits who not only blame 
your actions but doom your persons; and indeed it was one 
of the first grounds of my dislike of John Smith the miller, 
and especially of his wife, viz., their judging of your persons 
as devils." 

To young Winthrop, then living in Connecticut, the son of 
the man who had subscribed to his banishment from the Bay, 
Williams wrote saying, " Your loving lines in this cold dead 
season were as a cup of your Connecticut cider." 

Controversies of spirit with spirit and even body with body 
we seem scarcely able to surmount. To be able to struggle 
even to the point of banishing and being banished in the 
winter's cold and yet to preserve the unity of the spirit and 
the bond of peace may well be the highest of Christian attain- 




The record of particular episodes in the struggle for religious 
liberty often reads like chapters in the story of lost causes. 
Doubly so is this the case if the bio- 
graphical approach is chosen, because 
so often those who fought against 
persecution died themselves as the 
victims of persecution. Roger Wil- 
liams in exile in the colonies and 
Milton in enforced retirement in 
England are scarcely the symbols of 
tolerance triumphant. Nevertheless, 
just as one cannot write off the tol- 
eration controversy of the sixteenth 
century as barren of results, neither 
can one dismiss the strivings of the 
sectaries in England and America 
during the seventeenth century as fruitless for liberty. At the 
close of the Cromwellian period England was more disposed 
to tolerance, if for no other reason on account of fatigue and 
yearning for tranquillity. Charles II rightly thought to facili- 
tate his return to England by promising a general amnesty 
and by declaring " a liberty to tender consciences and that no 
man shall be disquieted or called into question for differences 
of opinion in matter of religion which do not disturb the 
peace of the kingdom.' 5 

John L.oc'ke 


Yet the reigns of Charles II and James II were marked by 
the last important resurgence of persecution. The reason was 
curiously in large part a fear of persecution. Englishmen 
would not tolerate Catholics because they did not trust Cath- 
olics to be tolerant of Protestants. However much a Catholic 
might aver his tolerance, the suspicion could not be allayed 
that if he were given the power, he would revert to the In- 
quisition and the stake. Such fears in the seventeenth century 
could not be considered groundless if one watched the course 
of events in France where, despite a political loyalty vocifer- 
ously expressed by the Huguenots, Louis XIV progressively 
curtailed their liberties, suppressed their churches, and in the 
end, by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, sent 
thousands of them into exile. 

For that reason every move on the part of Charles II to 
fulfill his promise of indulgence, if it included any relaxation 
for Catholics, was looked upon askance by Parliament lest 
the glove should prove to hold the whip. And again such mis- 
giving was not without warrant, for Charles did entertain a 
vast plan whereby England should be made Catholic in re- 
ligion and absolutist in government. French arms should 
effect the revolution. But the kind of Catholicism that Charles 
envisaged was that of his grandfather Henry IV rather than 
that of his cousin Louis XIV. The Church in England should 
be dependent only in spirituals on Rome. Subscription in 
dogma should not be exacted with rigidity and the sects 
should be tolerated. Charles may very well have been sincere 
in saying, " I am in my nature an enemy to all severity for 
religion and conscience, howsoever mistaken it be, when it 
extends to capital and sanguinary punishments." But Eng- 
land was too impressed by the transformation of the tolerant 
Catholicism of Henry IV into the intolerance of Louis XIV 
to believe that Catholicism in power could long concede 


Charles II was too astute openly to avow his grand scheme. 
He early perceived that the achievement of political abso- 
lutism in England was possible only on the basis of an 
ostensible adherence to the Protestant religion. For that rea- 
son he concealed his real position until his death. But enough 
about him savored of Romanism to evoke suspicion without 
any direct profession. His mother had been a Catholic; his 
sister in whom he confided was in France and was a Catho- 
lic; one of his natural sons was a Jesuit. The alliance with 
France and all the subsidies from France bespoke friendliness 
for the Catholic power. The king's brother, James the Duke 
of York, openly declared himself to be a Catholic and he was 
the heir to the throne. Hence there were plots to prevent a 
Catholic succession, with all the suspicion and severity that 
plots engender. The upshot of it all was, as far as the Catho- 
lics were concerned, that by the Test Act of 1673 all were ex- 
cluded from public office who did not disclaim the doctrine 
of transubstantiation. Yet the succession to the throne was 
not altered, and James the Catholic followed his brother. 

But if the hostility against Rome was motivated by distrust 
and fear of Roman intolerance, one might suppose that the 
attitude toward the sectaries would have been indulgent. It 
was not so, however. The reason was very similar. The sec- 
taries themselves had been intolerant. Cromwell's spirit had 
not prevailed and the prayer book had been proscribed, and 
Cromwell himself had not scrupled to behead the Lord's 
anointed. The best hope for tranquillity appeared to lie in the 
maintenance of the middle way of the solid, sober Church of 
England. The sectaries were even looked upon as the allies 
of Rome, because by their defection from the national Estab- 
lishment they weakened the solid front against the papacy. 
Then, too, there were those, especially of the clergy, who had 
old scores to settle, though one would suppose that their 
grievances could have been sufficiently redressed by restora- 


tion to their former sees through the eviction of those ap- 
pointed during the interregnum. That further steps were 
taken in the direction of the suppression of sectarianism can 
only be explained in part as a fear of disorder and in part as 
a refusal to acknowledge the dissolution of Christendom. On 
a European scale, of course, it was gone, but on a national 
scale Englishmen still clung to the ideal of one State and one 
Church embracing one people, born and baptized into a 
commonwealth both of earth and of heaven. For this they 
would make one last effort by constraint. The paradox of 
persecution on the part of men weary of persecution is after 
all no greater than recourse to war on the part of those weary 
of war when new perils loom and new goals appear un- 
attainable save by arms. 

The actual measures against the nonconformists were en- 
acted under Charles II in the Clarendon Code, including the 
Conventicle Act, forbidding unauthorized meetings of as 
many as five persons at a time, and the Five-Mile Act which 
forbade ministers of the sects to come within five miles of 
cities. The most drastic stroke was the Uniformity Act of 
1662, which required all the clergy to give unfeigned assent 
to The Boo^ of Common Prayer newly revised. They must 
also renounce the Solemn League and Covenant and profess 
the unlawfulness of taking up arms against the king. Those 
who refused to comply by the feast of St. Bartholomew 
should be deprived. Some 1,700 declined. They were called 
Bartholomeans because the terminus had been set for St. 
Bartholomew's Day. If to them be added those earlier evicted, 
the number approximates 2,000. The hardships of those thus 
cast out with families and denied the right either to preach 
or to teach were undoubtedly severe, yet Calamy's Sufferings 
of the Clergy is far different from Foxe's Boo% of Martyrs or 
Van Braght's Bloody Mirror. Calamy discovered a merciful 
providence in that " few of them either perished or were ex- 


posed to sordid, unseemly beggary." Either by manual la- 
bor or by the generosity of congregations or by teaching 
with the connivance of the authorities,, a way was found to 
support wives and families. Greater were the sufferings of 
clergy and laity alike who for disobedience to the Conventicle 
Act and the Five-Mile Act suffered distraint of goods and 
prolonged imprisonments. In the course of twenty years some 
eight ministers died in prison. The last persecution, which 
kept Bunyan in Bedford jail and so many Quakers in dur- 
ance, is not by any means to be minimized. Neither is it to be 
exaggerated, for the treatment of dissent had been greatly 
modified since the days of Torquemada or Servetus. 

James II, when in 1685 he succeeded his brother Charles II, 
felt that the time had come for toleration; he therefore issued, 
in 1687, a Declaration of Indulgence, in which he candidly 
avowed his own adherence to the Church of Rome and his 
wish that all his subjects might be members of this com- 
munion. " Yet we humbly thank Almighty God, it is and has 
of long time been our constant sense and opinion that con- 
science ought not to be constrained nor people forced in mat- 
ters of mere religion. It has ever been contrary to our inclina- 
tion, as we think it is to the interest of government, which it 
destroys by spoiling trade, depopulating countries, and dis- 
couraging strangers, and finally, that it never obtained the 
end for which it was employed." 

There were two counts that made this declaration unac- 
ceptable. The first was that the king was a Catholic, apd Eng- 
lishmen suspected his indulgence as a device for removing 
the restraints upon the practice of his own faith without 
sincere concern for the consciences of others. The king's pre- 
vious behavior warranted -distrust, for on his accession he had 
demanded of the Scottish estates the most sanguinary law 
enacted on the island against Protestant nonconformists. Un- 
der its provisions the aged widow Margaret Maclachlan and 


a lass of eighteen, Margaret Wilson, for refusal to say, " God 
save the King/' without adding, " if it be God's will," were 
chained in the Solway at low water and engulfed by the ris- 
ing tide, 

The second count against the declaration was that it had 
been promulgated solely on the royal prerogative without 
parliamentary authorization. Seven bishops refused to read it 
in their churches, and on that account were sent to the Tower 
and tried for disloyalty. They were acquitted. 

England had had enough. The king must be a Protestant. 
An invitation was therefore issued to the king's son-in-law, 
William, Prince of Orange, to come over from Holland to 
England and assume the government. Thus came to pass the 
Glorious Revolution of 1688. 

The religious question had now to be settled. William 
would have been glad to make the Church of England more 
comprehensive by reducing its demands and thus allaying 
the scruples of many who remained without. He would at 
the same time tolerate all who could not subscribe and would 
make no religious tests for public office. The attempt to enact 
this program into law was only partially successful. The Bill 
of Comprehension designed to facilitate conformity through 
a reduction in the requirements was a failure. The Anglican 
leaders were not willing to augment numbers at the price of 
such dilution. But toleration for dissenters succeeded and 
found its expression in the famous Act of Toleration of 1689. 

This document is commonly regarded as one of the mile- 
stones in the struggle for religious liberty. In and of itself it 
was not much. The older legislation of the Conventicle Act 
and the Five-Mile Act was not repealed, but the number of 
people to whom it might be applied was reduced. The Pres- 
byterians and Independents escaped if they would subscribe 
to all of the Thirty-nine Articles save those bearing on polity 
and liturgy. The Baptists need not adhere to the article on 



infant baptism. Quakers received a special exemption from 
the obligation to take an oath. But Catholics and Unitarians 
were left still entirely without the pale, and disabilities as to 
public office and university degrees continued to apply to all 

The Act of Toleration was very meager compared with 
the liberties subsequently achieved in England and the 
United States. Its .significance is less to be found in its actual 
enactments than in its position on the boundary betweejtxtwo 

A Cartoon: "A Delicate Dainty Damnable Dialogue Between 
the Devill and a Jesuite'" 

eras. Behind lay the Inquisition, the wars of religion, the 
dragonnades, imprisonments, and exiles. The sixteenth cen- 
tury had been marked by extensive use of the death penalty 
for heresy and the seventeenth, in England, by incarceration 
or exile plus many social distraints. The eighteenth century 


was the age of the Enlightenment, with its war upon super- 
stition, fanaticism, and bigotry, even to the point of its ex- 
tinguishing all enthusiasm. The Act of Toleration stands at 
the threshold of this change. Its ambiguity lies in the effort 
to combine religious liberty with a national Establishment, to 
bring together a union of Church and State and freedom of 
religion. The concept of a Christian society, if only on a na- 
tional scale, was still not abandoned, yet tacitly was relin- 
quished when the sects were conceded an existence along- 
side of the Church. 

The man who best epitomizes this whole development is 
John Locke. He was not an exciting figure. His life, despite 
one exile, was comparatively uneventful. His ideas were not 
profoundly original albeit extremely influential, and his style 
was drab. Drama belongs to the days of intense persecution. 
Toleration was achieved by matter-of-fact people who, with- 
out any fanfare, had learned something about the everyday 
art of living together. 

Yet all this is true only in a comparative sense as over 
against the days of Torquemada and Servetus. The times of 
John Locke were stirring enough. Born in 1632, he was ten 
years old when the civil wars broke out in England. His fa- 
ther supported the Puritan side and was well-nigh ruined in 
the early reverses, but sufficiently recouped by the subsequent 
triumphs to be able to send his son to Oxford. John Locke 
thus studied there during the Puritan ascendancy. The prob- 
lem of a public career then confronted him. The cloth was 
rather too narrow of cut. Diplomatic service appealed, and 
he went on a mission to Cleve in 1665. The decision, how- 
ever, was for medicine, in which he distinguished himself; 
and medicine curiously led him into politics for in 1667 
he became the physician and secretary to Lord Shaftesbury, 
the progenitor of the Whigs. Ill health sent Locke to France 
for a sojourn of four years from 1675 to 1679. On his return 


to England he came to be suspected of complicity in an un- 
successful attempt on the part of Shaftesbury and others to 
forestall a Catholic succession to the throne by the way of re- 
bellion. Locke, though able to satisfy interrogators of his in- 
nocence, nevertheless considered withdrawal the course of 
prudence and went therefore into exile in Holland for the 
years 1683-1689. On the very ship with William and Mary he 
came back to England, there to reside until his death in 1704. 

Shortly after returning he wrote his Letter on Toleration, 
the Treatise on Civil Government, and The Essay Concern- 
ing Human Understanding. These works taken together, 
and particularly the two former, are commonly considered 
an apology for the Glorious Revolution. They were not this 
in the sense that the revolution had matured Locke's ideas 
which had been conceived much earlier, nor in the sense that 
his influence brought to pass the revolution, for he became 
vocal in print only after its establishment. The point is, 
rather, that he was himself so much a part of these events 
that he was qualified to declare the word that spoke to men's 

His ideas on religious liberty were not original. No one 
could blame him for that. The best to be said on the subject 
had already long since been said. The time had come, not 
for better theories, but for an implementation of the old. But 
the case did need to be restated and in terms pertinent to the 
immediate situation. 

One might indeed suppose that Locke would have re- 
enforced arguments from the past by a skepticism drawn 
from the advance of the natural sciences, in which he was 
himself both interested and adept. But that in science which 
intrigued him was " the improvement of natural experiments 
for the conveniences of this life "; in other words, technology, 
and not metaphysical implications. He could speak of the 
universe as a machine, but did not think of it as a mechanism 


subject to immutable law and immune from divine interven- 
tion. He had no objection to miracles on the ground of possi- 
bility. The only question was whether the evidence for their 
occurrence was sufficient to warrant belief in their actuality. 
The problem was thus not so much theological as historical, 
and although he would scrutinize even Biblical miracles, he 
did not for that reason come out with negative conclusions. 
Even in his treatise. The Reasonableness of Christianity, there 
was no rationalist attempt to discover natural explanations 
for supernatural events. Locke is often classed with the En- 
lightenment, but this ascription is sound not so much be- 
cause of his conclusions as because he restated the old prob- 
lems in new forms, with which the succeeding age was to 

He was himself another of those Protestants in whom the 
rigors of Calvinism and the mildness of Erasmianism were at 
odds. Quite possibly the reconciliation of this conflict within 
was the condition for the achievement of toleration without. 
Locke was the son of a Puritan, ready to " let goods and kin- 
dred go, this mortal life also." He knew the mettle of men 
who counted faith above estates and the command of God 
above the mandate of a sovereign. In his own justification of 
revolution he was the heir of those who had dethroned and 
beheaded a king. 

But Locke was acquainted also with another aspect of de- 
veloping Calvinism which, finding itself subject to persecu- 
tion, had in the interests of liberty extended Calvin's view of 
the English prayer book as containing "tolerable inepti- 
tudes." The whole controversy in England was about just 
such matters. The great doctrines were neither questioned 
nor enforced, for in the area of faith the Established Church 
was mild. Uniformity was required only with regard to pol- 
ity and liturgy, and the defense of this policy was a curious 
reversal of the argument advanced formerly by the Eras- 


mians in the interests of liberty. When they distinguished the 
essentials from the nonessentials, and made the latter numer- 
ous in order to remove them from the field of constraint on 
the assumption that none would care to persecute over a 
matter unessential to salvation, then the argument proved to 
be a boomerang, for the leaders of the Anglican establish- 
ment said, in eff ect, to the sectaries, " You agree that all this 
great body of teaching and practice is not essential for sal- 
vation ? " 


" And you will not be damned whether you do or do not 
conform on these points ? " 

" Correct." 

" Very well, then. If your eternal salvation is not imperiled, 
why will you not in the interests of order subject yourselves 
to the judgment of the Christian magistrate in order that all 
Englishmen may worship with seemliness, decorum, and 
after the same manner ? " 

A refusal to comply under such circumstances was made 
to appear the height of obstinacy. 

The answer fell to John Owen, the Independent who had 
been the outstanding figure at Oxford in Locke's early days. 
Precisely because the great dogmas of the Church were not 
in question, he was able in the tradition of Calvin's " toler- 
able ineptitudes " to avail himself of Castellio's argument that 
the controverted must be uncertain. These points are con- 
troverted and therefore they cannot be sure. But persecution 
over the uncertain is inappropriate. Such was the answer, but 
it was not adequate, for the Establishment was claiming pre- 
cisely that the uncertain may be regulated, not in the name 
of an absolute but for the sake of good order, and he who re- 
fused to comply was punished not for his faith but for his 

Locke, in the spirit of Owen, had a better answer. He 


agreed with the Church of England that the magistrate 
might regulate nonessentials with several provisos: First, he 
must himself be a member of the Church that he regulates, 
and, secondly, he can regulate only that which affects the 
public peace, and the question is very real whether too much 
regulation may not itself be provocative of disorder. And fi- 
nally, and this is the most drastic consideration, the essential 
and the nonessential in religion are incapable of determina- 
tion because they belong to the inner life. Nothing is trivial 
to him who deems it important, unless first of all he be con- 
vinced of its triviality. This is but another version of the 
Pauline dictum that each to his own conscience must stand 
or fall. 

On other occasions Locke employed the liberal argument 
in its traditional form, that persecution over trifles simply 
does not make sense. " Suppose," said Locke, " that I be 
marching on with my utmost vigor in that way which, ac- 
cording to the sacred geography, leads straight to Jerusalem." 
(In other words, I hold to the fundamentals.) Shall I then 
be " ill used because I wear not buskins; because my hair is 
not of the right cut; because I eat flesh upon the road, be- 
cause I avoid certain byways, because I follow a guide that 
either is or is not clothed in white and crowned with a miter ? 
Certainly, if we consider right, we shall find that for the 
most part they are such trivial things as these, which without 
any prejudice to religion or salvation of souls might either be 
observed or omitted I say ... such things as these which 
breed implacable enmities among Christian brethren, who 
are all agreed in the substantial and truly fundamental part 
of religion." And granted that there be but one right road, 
the magistrate is in no better position to determine what it is 
than each private man by his own search and study. And if 
the magistrate undertakes to require that which is in itself 
indifferent, he thereby makes it essential because he has en- 


croached upon God's province, who will say to him, " Who 
has required these or such like things at your hands ? " 

In this discussion Locke was, however, far from coming 
entirely into the clear. He appeared to rest his case upon 
skepticism as to the nonessentials, but plainly he thought they 
could be easily determined. The analogies from the triviali- 
ties of a journey have clearly that implication, and indeed he 
went on to make the point that certain matters were alike in- 
different for salvation and innocuous as to the public peace. 
" Kneeling or sitting at the sacrament is no more injurious 
to the neighbor than sitting or standing at my own table. 
Wearing a cope or a surplice in the church can no more 
threaten the peace than a cloak or a coat in the market place. 
Being rebaptized can no more make a tempest in the com- 
monwealth than in a river. Observing Friday with a Mo- 
hammedan, Saturday with a Jew, or Sunday with a Christian 
can make me neither a better or a worse subject of the mag- 
istrate or a worse neighbor." 

" If, then, these points are nonessential and harmless, why 
not let them alone? " asked Locke. And the other side re- 
torted, " If they matter so little, why not consign them to the 
magistrate instead of holding out obstinately for a private 
opinion ? " 

The answer to this question compelled one to go back 
farther and inquire as to the very nature of the Church itself. 
Should it be composed of those who took their religion so 
lightly that they were ready to permit even its outward forms 
to be settled by the civil power? What should be the basis of 
church membership ? The whole Calvinist tradition had em- 
phatically insisted that the members of the Church must be 
those who each for himself subscribed to the doctrine, gave 
evidence by a good life, and participated in the sacraments. 
And no lukewarm adherence was tolerable. Calvinism had 
endeavored to combine this Church with an entire commu- 


nity through, a process of exclusion with regard to the un- 
worthy as at Geneva, or by converting the entire populace as 
in Scotland, or by ruling the land through a militant minor- 
ity as in England. But this latter program had collapsed, and 
now if all England could not be regarded as genuinely Chris- 
tian, and if a convinced minority could no longer impose its 
will upon the aliens, then the Church had no recourse left, if 
it would maintain its integrity, other than to dissociate itself 
from the populace at large. In other words, the very logic of 
Calvinism pointed to the conventicle, the sect. 

Locke had great difficulty in coming into the clear on this 
subject, because he was and remained an adherent of the Es- 
tablished Church, and sometimes argued for toleration on 
the ground that it would attract the nonconformists. At the 
same time he would not invite them save on the basis of 
sincere conviction. 

" Open dissenters are better than secret malcontents. If all 
the dissenters were forced into the Church we should then 
have only an exasperated enemy within." Can anyone, he 
asked, question the sincerity of King James II, who gave up 
three crowns for his religion, or was Mr. Chillingworth less 
sincere when he became a Roman Catholic than when he re- 
turned to the Church of England ? " It becomes all men to 
maintain peace and the common offices of friendship in a 
diversity of opinions, since we cannot reasonably expect that 
anyone should readily and obsequiously quit his own opinion 
and embrace ours with a blind resignation to an authority 
which the understanding of man acknowledges not." 

But if the Church includes only convinced believers and 
the State embraces the entire populace, of necessity the the- 
ories of Church and State must differ and the union of the 
two becomes well-nigh impossible. 

Adherence to the State depends on residence, adherence to 
the Church on voluntary subscription. This way of putting 


the case may seem to do violence to Locke's political theory 
because there, too, he adduced the principle of consent and 
often enough the analogy has been pointed out between his 
covenant theory of the Church and compact theory of the 
State. But there was a difference, because in the case of those 
born into a society after the original compact, membership 
was held to depend upon tacit consent to be inferred from 
the mere failure to remove elsewhere, whereas membership 
in the Church rested upon commitment. In other words, 
despite the compact theory of government, Locke held still to 
the birth theory of the State, and, despite his Anglicanism, to 
the new birth theory of the Church. 

" A Church then," said he, " I take to be a voluntary so- 
ciety of men, joining themselves together of their own accord, 
in order for the public worshiping of God, in such a manner 
as they judge acceptable to him, and effectual to the salvation 
of their souls. I say it is a free and voluntary society. Nobody 
is born a member of any Church; otherwise the religion of 
parents would descend unto children, by the same right of 
inheritance as their temporal estates, and everyone would 
hold his faith by the same tenure as he holds his lands; than 
which nothing can be imagined more absurd. No man by 
nature is bound under any particular Church or sect, but 
everyone joins himself voluntarily to that society in which 
he believes he has found that profession and worship which 
is truly acceptable to God." And " if afterwards he discover 
anything erroneous, . . . why should it not be as free for 
him to go out as it was to enter? " If separatism be a sin, why 
should not a nonconformist who secedes from his own group 
in order to join the Church of England be regarded as sin- 
ful ? The question of course makes sense only if one assumes 
the parity of the established Church and the sects, and that 
is precisely where Locke came out. With Roger Williams he 
reached the conclusion that " there is absolutely no such 


thing, under the gospel, as a Christian commonwealth." And 
he was even more logical than Williams in his denial that 
there ever had been a Christian commonwealth, because even 
in ancient Israel strangers were tolerated within the gates 
and not exterminated because of their practice of idolatry. 
Locke was the very epitome of the English system, with a 
love for the national Church and a complete acquiescence in 
a multiplicity of sects. 

Alongside the Calvinist strain in Locke was the Erasmian, 
and it was mediated to him through two lines: the first was 
English and the second Dutch. In England the ethical em- 
phasis that insists that only the pure in heart can see God was 
cultivated by the Cambridge Platonists. One of their leaders, 
Cudworth, was a personal friend of Locke's, and Cudworth's 
daughter, Lady Masham, extended the hospitality of her 
home to Locke in his declining years. The Neoplatonist tradi- 
tion held that because the eye of the soul is impaired by im- 
purity, the vision of God is attainable only after a purgative 
process. One of the school of Cambridge affirmed that since 
love was enjoined by Christ as the chief among the virtues, 
therefore without love one cannot attain to Christian truth. 
And Cudworth, the friend of Locke, preached before the 
House of Commons an exposition on Paul's "Hymn of 
Love," recalling that the way to heaven lies, not through 
speculative knowledge, but through divine obedience. He 
trusted that " a sweet harmonious affection in these jarring 
times should tune the world at last into better music." Cer- 
tain passages in Locke read almost as if they might have 
been taken from this very sermon, for Locke held that " obe- 
dience to what is already revealed is the surest way to more 
knowledge " and that " the indispensable duty of all Chris- 
tians " is " to maintain love and charity in the diversity of 
contrary opinions, since Christianity is not a notional science 
but a rule of righteousness. Therefore we should lay aside all 


controversy and speculative questions and instruct and en- 
courage one another in the duties of a good life and pray 
God for the assistance of his spirit for the enlightenment of 
our understanding and subduing our corruptions. . . . Agree- 
ment in things necessary to salvation, and the maintaining 
of charity and brotherly kindness with diversity of opinions 
in other things, is that which will very well consist with 
Christian unity." 

Still deeper in its impact on Locke was a movement di- 
rectly in the succession not only of Erasmus but also of Cas- 
tellio, that of the Remonstrants in Holland. Locke spent 
six years of his life there as an exile. For a time he lived in 
concealment and under the assumed name of Mynheer Van 
der Linden. But when he was removed from the list of the 
proscribed in England, he feared no longer to reveal his 
identity, yet declined the pardon procured for him by Wil- 
liam Penn on the ground that to accept would be an admis- 
sion of complicity in a plot of which he had been innocent. 

Holland at the time of Locke's arrival appeared to be the 
last stronghold of Protestantism and liberty. Elsewhere in 
Europe the prospect was grim. The year 1685 saw the acces- 
sion of the Catholic king to the throne of England, the revo- 
cation of the Edict of Nantes in France, the passing of the 
Calvinist Palatinate into Catholic hands, and the cessation of 
toleration in Savoy for the Waldenses. But in Holland old 
sects and new survived either by toleration or connivance. 
Here Locke met the Mennonites and the Labadists. For 
some years he stayed in the home of an English Quaker, 
Benjamin Furley. Here were new refugees from France, 
Calvinists reconstructed and unreconstructed, and rationalists 
such as Pierre Bayle. No subject was more warmly discussed 
in these circles than toleration, and more important than all 
were the native Hollanders, who cherished the memory of 
the great Hollander, Erasmus of Rotterdam. Locke became 


intimate with Le Clerc, the editor of the works of Erasmus, 
and, indeed, had it not been for the encouragement of Le 
Clerc, one may doubt whether Locke would ever have pub- 
lished anything. And there was Limborch, the leader of the 
Remonstrants and the exposer by historical science of the 
cruelties of the Inquisition. 

Exile gave Locke leisure to think and to write, and the 
new pressures incited thought. The problem of conscience 
was here receiving a more searching consideration than had 
hitherto been the case. The sixteenth century, save for a few 
exceptions in men like Castellio, had claimed toleration only 
for a right conscience. The seventeenth century came to rec- 
ognize also the claims of the erroneous conscience. But then 
the question was whether conscience could claim to be an 
absolute in the eyes of the State, and whether any particular 
course of action could be exempted by the State from penalty 
simply because the perpetrator was sincere. Castellio hardly 
saw the problem. Ochino raised it in the case of a conscien- 
tious tyrannicide, but left the problem in mid-air. 

Pierre Bayle brought it to earth, in his discussion of the 
text, " Compel them to come in." He went so far as to say 
that if one is conscientiously convinced of his duty to spread 
his religion by force, then he is bound to do so, and this 
applies quite as much if he be in error. Thus Bayle either 
justified persecution when exercised by the erroneous or 
made it ridiculous, and in any case he pointed up the difficul- 
ties entailed in treating conscience as an absolute from the 
subjective point of view and a relative from the objective. 
Then came the question left suspended by Ochino of the 
conscientious tyrannicide. Bayle concluded that zealots, like 
the assassins of Henry III and Henry IV, if they believed it 
their duty to kill, must kill. But the magistrate who is not a 
searcher of hearts must at the same time punish. Thus Bayle 
emerged with an irreconcilable clash between the conscience 


of the citizen and the conscience of the State. 

Locke could discover no better way out; if the magistrate 
conceived himself in duty bound to enact laws for the public 
good that appeared to his subjects to be clean contrary, there 
was no judge between them but God. The magistrate was 
bound to act, the subject was bound to suffer. Only if the 
magistrate's behavior imperiled the common weal might the 
subjects have recourse to revolution. The reconciliation of 
the problem, then, could not lie in any comparison of con- 
sciences, but only in constraint and resistance whether pas- 
sive or active. 

In such cases Locke could find no practical way of deter- 
mining who was right. But it was for no lack of considera- 
tion of the question of how man can know what is true and 
right. Locke's fame rests largely upon his Essay Concerning 
Human Understanding. Curiously only two men in the 
course of the struggle for religious liberty have written trea- 
tises alike on the problem of liberty and the problem of 
knowledge and have sought to bring the two into relation. 
Those two men were Sebastien Castellio and John Locke. 
For that reason it is very interesting to discover in the letters 
of Limborch and Locke for the year 1693 a correspondence 
on the question of the desirability of publishing a complete 
edition of the works of Sebastien Castellio. Locke's opinion 
was that they would be received with high favor in England. 

One wonders whether he was thinking only of the pub- 
lished works or whether perhaps he may have known the 
manuscript On Doubt and Belief. There is a bare possibility, 
though it cannot be pressed. This at any rate is certain, that 
Locke in Holland was moving in a succession of Castellianist 
thought, and the similarity between the ideas of Locke and 
Castellio is striking. Locke, like Castellio, took as the source 
of knowledge sense experience and revelation. Both were to 
be corrected and amplified by reason. And although Locke 


rejected innate ideas, he accepted intuitive modes of under- 
standing, which meant very nearly the same thing. Much he 
was prepared to accept on faith, and if he attempted by rea- 
son to demonstrate the existence of God, yet for the character 
of God he relied upon Christian revelation. 

His main point was that faith and reason are not anti- 
thetical, and that religion can be understood. Further, if it 
cannot be understood, it is of no practical consequence. This 
is where Locke distinctly sets himself in the Castellianist and 
Erasmian antidogmatic tradition. It may in a sense be called 
even antirationalist, since despite all the praises of reason it 
disclaims any capacity on the part of reason to scale the 
heavenly heights and pry into the ultimate mysteries. All 
that has been vouchsafed to men is enough light to get home 
by, a few simple truths, and a code of behavior. There is a 
vast area that man cannot know, but should he complain 
" that we are not furnished with compass nor plummet, to 
sail and fathom that restless unnavigable ocean of the uni- 
versal matter, motion and space " ? Because, however great the 
ignorance of mankind, no one who sincerely sought to learn 
his duty with a design to do it had miscarried for want of 
knowledge. Locke's system is rational only in the sense of 
reasonable, and significantly he entitled his theological work 
The Reasonableness of Christianity. The object of the book 
was to discover an intelligible reason for the reticence of 
Jesus with regard to his Messianic role. The gist of the whole 
matter was this: what is needed to be known for salvation 
must be accessible to the uninstructed and therefore clear 
and simple. Locke was another exponent of the theology of 
the penitent thief. 

Curiously, his treatise on knowledge was brought less di- 
rectly into relation with the problem of liberty than was Cas- 
tellio's, and the reason was that in Castellio's day persecu- 
tion rested on a claim to truth, but in Locke's day only on 


a claim to order. He had no need to argue with the Church 
of England about truth, but only as to how much constraint 
was necessary for the preservation of the public peace. 

And on this score he conceded the necessity of some con- 
straint, notably in the case of the Roman Catholics, whose 
worship was by no means to be allowed. Practical experience 
had taught Locke much on this score. He had learned that 
Catholics may be urbane and less insufferable than argu- 
mentative Calvinists. Nevertheless they are not to be trusted 
in Church-State relations. In his judgment they were bound 
by their presuppositions to persecute, and therefore should 
not be tolerated. 

His journals give some intriguing accounts of personal 
contacts with Catholics on the Continent The first eye opener 
was on the mission to Cleve when he saw a Christmas creche. 
To him it was but an instance of popish superstition and the 
images of the holy family appeared to him but the second 
cousins of Punch and Judy or their progenitors. The little 
models of sheep were but symbols of the people who were 
as sheep without a shepherd. Locke sprinkled himself with 
holy water and recorded in his diary that Catholics slobber 
over their ceremonies. But in the next entry he declared that 
" the Catholic religion is a different thing from what we be- 
lieve in England. I have not met with any so good-natured 
people or so civil as Catholic priests, and I have received 
many courtesies from them. But the Calvinists are as bad as 
the Presbyterians, and one young sucking divine assaulted 
me furiously." Locke visited a Franciscan friary and con- 
versed with the brothers in bad Latin. " The friar had more 
belly than brains and methought was very fit to be rever- 
enced and not much unlike some head of a college and I 
liked him well for entertainment The truth is they were 
very civil and courteous." 

But the subsequent years in France revealed instances 


enough in which Huguenot churches were being suppressed. 
Amid notes on relics, vineyards, uniforms, and irrigated or- 
chards of Chinese oranges, Locke recorded that the Prot- 
estants had had three hundred churches demolished and 
within these two months twenty more condemned. Louis 
XIV was moving toward the revocation of the Edict of 
Nantes. Locke was convinced that this was the inevitable 
logic of Catholicism and never receded from his position that 
if any sect teach that promises are not to be kept to heretics 
or that excommunicated kings forfeit their crowns, such a 
sect is not to be tolerated. 

The works of Locke written in exile with little hope of 
their ever seeing the light of day became, in fact, the apology 
for the Whig revolution when he returned on the very same 
vessel with William and Mary. His first letter on toleration, 
published in the year 1689, began with a protest in the spirit 
of Castellio: 

" If the gospel and the apostles may be credited, no man 
can be a Christian without charity, and without that faith 
which works, not by force, but by love. Now I appeal to the 
consciences of those that persecute, torment, destroy, and kill 
other men upon pretense of religion, whether they do it out 
of friendship and kindness toward them, or no; and I shall 
then indeed, and not till then, believe they do so, when I 
shall see those fiery zealots correcting, in the same manner, 
their friends and familiar acquaintances, for the manifest 
sins they commit against the precepts of the gospel; when I 
shall see them prosecute with fire and sword the members 
of their own communion that are tainted with enormous 
vices, and without amendment are in danger of eternal perdi- 
tion; and when I shall see them thus express their love and 
desire of the salvation of their souls, by the infliction of tor- 
ments, and exercise of all manner of cruelties. For if it be out 
of a principle of charity, as they pretend, and love to men's 


souls, that they deprive them of their estates, maim them 
with corporal punishments, starve and torment them in 
noisome prisons, and in the end even take away their lives 
I say, if all this be done merely to make men Christians, 
and procure their salvation why, then, do they suffer 
4 whoredom, fraud, malice, and such like enormities,' which, 
according to the apostle, Rom., ch. i, manifestly relish of 
heathenish corruption, to predominate so much and abound 
amongst their flocks and people ? These, and such like things, 
are certainly more contrary to the glory of God, to the purity 
of the Church, and to the salvation of souls, than any con- 
scientious dissent from ecclesiastical decision, or separation 
from public worship, whilst accompanied with innocency of 
life. Why, then, does this burning zeal for God, for the 
Church, and for the salvation of souls burning, I say lit- 
terally, with fire and faggot pass by those moral vices and 
wickednesses, without any chastisement, which are acknowl- 
edged by all men to be diametrically opposite to the profes- 
sion of Christianity; and bend all its nerves either to the in- 
troducing of ceremonies or to the establishment of opinions, 
which for the most part are about nice and intricate matters 
that exceed the capacity of ordinary understandings ? Which 
of the parties contending about these things is in the right, 
which of them is guilty of schism or heresy, whether those 
that domineer or those that suffer, will then at last be mani- 
fest, when the cause of their separation comes to be judged 
of? He certainly that follows Christ, embraces his doctrine, 
and bears his yoke, though he forsake both father and 
mother, separate from public assemblies and ceremonies of 
his country, or whomsoever, or whatsoever else he relin- 
quishes, will not then be judged an heretic." 

One is not surprised that Locke was not satisfied with the 
Act of Toleration. To Limborch he wrote, " It is not what you 
would wish, but it is something." And then he set himself 



indefatigably to urge that what had already been done should 
in all logic call for more. The arguments adduced in favor of 
abolishing the penalties of confiscation, maiming, and incar- 
ceration were valid equally for the removal of civil disabili- 
ties. And likewise the arguments against removing civil 
disabilities would be of equal force in favor of restoring con- 
fiscation, maiming, and incarceration. Then, England should 
go either backward or forward, and Locke was sufficiently 
confident that England would not move backward to be cer- 
tain that his plea would impel it forward. Such, indeed, at 
long last was the outcome. England thus demonstrated the 
possibility of retaining a union of Church and State and of 
combining it with religious liberty. 

A Cartoon: Two Devils Helping Nonconformists Pull Down 
the Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral 


A survey of the events and the theories described or alluded 
to in these brief sketches prompts at least certain reflections. 
The most obvious is that something was accomplished and 
that the process was exceedingly slow. The best things on 
religious liberty were said in the sixteenth century but not 
practiced until the nineteenth. From this observation we may 
derive alike comfort and concern. By way of comfort we 
have reason to hope that as the religious controversies of by- 
gone days have been allayed, so also in time will the political 
and economic clashes of our time be assuaged. The day may 
come when men will think it preposterous to die and kill 
over a system of land tenure or a political constitution. On 
the other hand, if all this is to take two hundred years, quite 
conceivably there will be nobody here to celebrate the victory. 
Our situation differs from that of former times in that the 
very technology to which Locke looked to enhance the com- 
forts of life has introduced the possibility of man's extinction. 
The only conclusion can be that either we perish or else the 
pace of social change must be accelerated. We cannot afford 
to wait two centuries to solve our present dilemmas. 

Another reflection is that when one problem is solved, an- 
other will undoubtedly replace it. If one lion is persuaded to 
lie down with a lamb, another lion rampant leaps from his 
lair- Life does not seem to have been constructed for tran- 
quillity. When the religious problem in the Western world 


was relatively solved, political and social upheavals emerged, 
which In turn set back religious liberty. Conceivably, now 
that at last all problems are being grappled with on a world 
front, we may, if we succeed at all, manage to achieve solu- 
tions that will offer a greater stability. But certainly the past 
discloses a never-ceasing bubbling of the caldrons. Eternal 
vigilance and unremitting labor are our mortal lot. 

This is in part true because every solution, however wise 
and necessary, carries within itself the possibility of some new 
abuse. If doubt be invoked as a check on dogma, the course of 
skepticism may run so far that in the end neither God, nor 
right, nor neighborliness, nor decency survive. If reason be 
invited to temper orthodoxy, reason may erect its own guil- 
lotines. If to curb the arrogance of the Church or to check 
the meddling of the State the two be separated, then the State 
is prompted to remove from our coins " In God we trust." 
All of which is not to say that dogma is not to be curbed and 
orthodoxy is not to be restrained and Church and State are 
not to be separated. But even that which is imperative in any 
given situation opens the way to abuses of another sort. The 
ideal is to strike some sort of golden mean. 

If formerly all the slogans of persecution deserved to be 
challenged, today many of the catchwords of liberty call for a 
re-examination if genuine liberty is to be conserved. The most 
serious problem is as to the certitude of truth in the field of 
religion. So far has relativity gone that now one idea is com- 
monly held to be as good as another and one religion to have 
quite as much claim as another, provided only that it satisfies 
its own adherents. If they find in it peace, the character of the 
religion is inconsequential. Surely the rise of all the frightful 
isms of our time ought to have been enough to make clear 
that the satisfaction of adherents is no criterion either of the 
worth or of the truth of any system. The ideologies of racial 
extermination have been satisfying enough to those who pro- 


fessed and practiced them, and yet they are not for that rea- 
son either right or true. Satisfaction and peace of mind are 
not after all the chief end of man. We must square up to 
what is actually so, whether or not it bring peace and satisfac- 
tion. If we are to deal with the tough in behavior, we shall 
have to be tough in belief. 

And yet we cannot return to the appalling dogmatisms of 
former days. The protests of Erasmus and Castellio and all 
the rationalists against unqualified pretensions to religious 
knowledge were perfectly valid. The distinction between rea- 
son and faith is sound. Perhaps here another distinction should 
be introduced which was never distinctly formulated in the 
course of the long struggle, namely, the distinction between 
knowledge sufficient for private consolation and knowledge 
adequate for public legislation. Belief in immortality, for ex- 
ample, is a very great comfort to the bereaved, but our cer- 
tainty of the future life and its details is not so great that we 
can blithely blot out whole cities with the bromidic reflection 
that after all we have not destroyed life but only transferred 
it to another sphere. 

We need likewise to rethink the common assumption that 
superior knowledge has no right whatsoever to interfere with 
religious conviction. A very thought-provoking instance is 
related by Dr. Heiser in his book An American Doctor's 
Odyssey. He was the health officer for Manila when cholera 
was reported in various parts of the city. Simultaneously came 
the news of a miracle in the bay, for a fisherman had observed 
upon the surface of the water a black streak in the form of a 
cross and the water was sweet. He summoned the priest, who 
confirmed the miracle. The people then paddled out with 
bottles and drank of the holy liquid. Investigation discovered 
a break in the sewer. The doctor then appealed to the militia 
to suppress the miracle. He was told that a riot might be ex- 
pected, since the natives were already incensed over the burn- 


ing of some of their huts for sanitary reasons. The doctor re- 
plied that he preferred a riot to an epidemic and the populace 
was kept back while the damage was repaired. 

Here we have an instance where force was used to restrain 
people for their own good and the justification was superior 
knowledge. The difference between the American doctor and 
John Calvin was that the American doctor did know and 
John Calvin did not. At least that was the first difference. 
And a very much more important difference was that the mi- 
litia did not burn the natives but merely kept them back un- 
til the sewer was mended. This introduces a sound principle, 
that although constraint may be justified when grounded on 
knowledge and genuinely directed to the welfare of those 
constrained, it must nevertheless be chary of means and con- 
fine itself to the very minimum needful 

This brings us directly to the problem of conscience. In the 
matter of religion its claims have come to be generally rec- 
ognized, but not in matters of conduct, and conscientious ob- 
jection to military service in the Western world fares very 
differently from country to country. Great Britain has been 
the most liberal. The problem was faced in other form clearly 
enough by Bayle and Locke, who saw that conscience can- 
not be regarded by the State as an absolute. If the individual 
be conscientiously convinced of a particular course of action 
that is deemed inconsistent with the public welfare, some de- 
gree of restraint will have to be exercised. There is no recon- 
ciliation of the clash other than by penalty from the one side 
and endurance from the other. But all this is not said to deny 
the rights of conscience nor to justify ruthlessness. Nothing is 
more precious than conscience, and no quality is more inte- 
gral to the sound life of the body politic. The State in exercis- 
ing restraint should be guided by several principles of limita- 
tion. First, the object of constraint should never be to break 
down integrity but only to prevent overt acts being inimical. 


And when the peril is past, there should be no continuing 
penalty, let alone deprivation of citizenship, because he who 
out of conscience refuses to serve the State in time of war may 
well be in peace a most scrupulous and devoted public serv- 
ant. The State ought ever to be ready to take such men into 
its service the moment they can conscientiously comply. Fur- 
thermore the State should cultivate humility, since acts that 
in one generation are deemed subversive often come to be re- 
garded as innocuous by the next. Moreover, the State should 
exhaust every other recourse before employing the prison or 
the concentration camp. 

The distinction so persistent throughout the struggle for 
religious liberty between the essentials and the nonessentials 
of Christianity calls for reconsideration. It is still a potent con- 
cept, for the whole Church unity movement within Protes- 
tantism and the continuing attitude of aloofness toward the 
Roman Church are based on the assumption that Protestants 
are agreed in essentials with each other, but that with Rome 
they are not. This is true, but the distinction cannot be main- 
tained without continual inquiry as to what is essential. 
There is no answer other than through theology, and the con- 
temporary revival of theological interest is wholesome, how- 
ever much theology in the past may have been the symbol, if 
not the cause, of persecution. There are a number of points 
involved in this matter of the essentials and the nonessentials. 
One view is that in case of a difference both sides cannot 
be right, but there is no infallible way of telling which is 
right and, since the point is not vital, each may leave the 
other to follow his own preference. The other view is that 
both views may be right because truth is varied, just as God 
is diversified. If this theory be adopted to cover the varieties 
of Protestantism, then the question arises whether it may not 
be extended to cover all the religions of the world, and in that 
case a complete relativism ensues. No simple answer is ready 


to hand. This is one of the areas requiring constantly to be 

As for the theory of the Church, one observes throughout 
the course of Christian history a perpetual tension between 
permeation and withdrawal in the attitude of the Church to 
the world and the corollary has been the view of the Church 
either as coterminous with society or as separated in the form 
of a sect. All the previous failures to Christianize the world 
have more and more disposed Christians in the West to 
abandon the attempt at holy commonwealths and to regard 
the Church as an independent voluntary society. But this 
leaves the question only the more crying of what then be- 
comes of the State and of society. The ideal is that of a na- 
tional religion envisaged by Cromwell rather than that of an 
established Church, and in the United States, despite all the 
secularism, that ideal has perhaps more nearly been realized 
than anywhere else. Church and State are separated and 
friendly and exert a mutual influence. The Churches in some 
measure do affect public policy. The problem at the moment 
is most acute in the field of education, where the separation 
of Church and State has led to secularization. Some Church 
bodies feel the necessity of reverting to the system of the pa- 
rochial school. Others seek to introduce religion on released 
time. Whatever the method, the need is acute. 

The most devastating reflection to be cfeduced from this 
study is that much of the previous controversy is simply ir- 
relevant now because the whole context has changed. In the 
past in Western Christendom those who debated persecution 
and liberty were on both sides concerned to make men Chris- 
tian. Today the greatest persecutors desire to eradicate all re- 
ligion. Even the argument^that constraint will not make sin- 
cere Fascists or Communists will not weigh too greatly with 
them because they do not need many genuine converts so 
long as they hold the machinery of power. What they require 


of the others is only that they should not impede. A recanta- 
tion is useful only in a few instances to affect public opinion. 
For the most part silent submission suffices. And even the old 
techniques of resistance are gone. Martyrdom is seldom al- 
lowed and obstructionists merely disappear. 

The noblest achievement of the Western world has been 
the conduct of controversy without acrimony, of strife with- 
out bitterness, of criticism without loss of respect. But when 
men do not operate within the same framework, this becomes 
impossible. Only those who believe in universal right, in in- 
tegrity, law, and humanity, if not in the Christian God, are in 
a position to clash on higher levels and retain personal friend- 
ship as did Roger Williams with most of his opponents. But 
if one side makes the will of a party into an absolute, and for 
it will lie and assassinate, then for the other side to fight ac- 
cording to the rules is very difficult. 

The more the contestants are locked, the greater becomes 
the danger that the rules will be scrapped on both sides, and 
in that case the liberalism of the West is already undone. The 
very effort to control the unscrupulous foe leads to unscrupu- 
lousness. What is still more disconcerting is the Communist 
technique of insinuating agents under false colors, which 
breaks down laith, awakens suspicion, sows the poison of dis- 
trust, and produces panic and fevered witch hunts which are 
vastly more inimical to the innocent than to the guilty. In 
the United States at the present moment the greatest danger 
is not from a Communist coup but from anti-Communist 

Which again is not to say that the fear of Reds is entirely 
hysterical. Balance and again balance is what we need. In so 
many quarters of the globe whole peoples are incapable 
of considered judgment. War, privation, disease, fear have 
warped all sobriety of judgment. One word may be extricated 
from the long travail of liberty in the past and made a watch- 


word for the present, and that word is " reasonableness." 

These concluding remarks have gone beyond the immedi- 
ate question of religious liberty into a discussion of all liberty 
and all rights, and the extension is justified because all free- 
doms hang together. Milton properly associated freedom of 
religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Civil 
liberties scarcely thrive where religious liberties are disre- 
garded, and the reverse is equally true. Beneath them all is a 
philosophy of liberty which assumes a measure of variety in 
human behavior, honors integrity, respects the dignity of 
man, and seeks to exemplify the compassion of God. 


Since this work is directed to the general public, documentation has been 
used only sufficiently to enable the specialist to find his way to the sources. 
The first six chapters are in a different category from the last three, because 
the sources are in foreign languages and the treatment is largely a rework- 
ing of books and articles of a more technical nature and previously pub- 
lished. All that is needful is to refer to the previous studies save for ad- 
ditional bibliography and references for new citations. The last three 
chapters are almost wholly new and the sources are in English. For that 
reason the documentation is complete. 

FOREWORD: The opening section is a reworking of an article, "The 
Struggle for Religious Liberty," Church History, X,2 (June, 1941), 3-32. 
This article has three pages of bibliography. The theory of the Church in 
relation to persecution is more amply treated in the article "The Parable 
of the Tares as the Proof-text for Religious Liberty to the End of the Six- 
teenth Century," Church History, 1,2 (June, 1932), 67-89. 
CHAPTER I: TORQUEMADA: The sketch of the earlier history of the 
theory and practice of persecution in Christian history is condensed from 
my book, Sebastian Castellio Concerning Heretics (New York, 1935). 

On the Inquisition in general, the classic work is that of Henry C. Lea, 
A History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages (reprint, New York, 
1922). A briefer and more recent treatment is that of A. S. Tuberville, 
Medieval Heresy and the Inquisition (London, 1920). 

For the Inquisition in Spain, consult Henry C. Lea, The Inquisition in 
Spain, 4 vols. (reprint, New York, 1922), and Cecil Roth, The Spanish 
Inquisition (London, 1927). 
For Torquemada, the following: 

Hope, Thomas, Torquemada Scourge of the Jews (London, 1939). 
Lucka, Emil, Torquemada und die Spanische Inquisition (Vienna and 
Leipzig, 1926). 

Sabatini, Rafael, Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition (Boston and 
New York, 1924?). The documents on the Franco case are printed in the 
article of Fidel Fita, "La Inquisition y el Santo Nino de la Guardia," 
Boletin de la Real Academia de la Historia t XI (1887), 7-160. 


Some documentary material is in Juan Antonio Llorente, Historia Critics 

de la Inquisition de Espana, II (Madrid, 1822). 

CHAPTER II: CALVIN utilizes the following previous studies: 

" The Development and Consistency of Luther's Attitude to Religious 

Liberty," Harvard Theological Review, XXII,2 (April, 1929), 107-149. 

Sebastian Castellio Concerning Heretics (New York, 1935). 

" The Struggle for Religious Liberty," Church History f X,2 (June, 1941), 


The citations from Calvin's commentary on Deuteronomy will be found 

in the Calvini Opera, XXVI, and in the following order: pp. 150 ft, 177, 21, 


The citation on page 71, line i, is from the Calvini Opera, XXIV, 363. 
CHAPTER III: SERVETUS: A detailed study is in preparation. The fol- 
lowing articles have appeared: 

" The Present State of Servetus Studies," Journal of Modern History, IV, i 
(March, 1932), 72-92. 

" The Smaller Circulation: Servetus and Colombo," Sudhoffs Archiv fur 
Geschichte und Medizin, XXIV, 3-4 (1931), 371-374. 
" Servetus and the Genevan Libertines," Church History, V,2 (June, 1936) , 

The documents on the trial at Geneva are in the Calvini Opera, VIII. The 
best biographical study of Servetus is that by E. Morse Wilbur, A History 
of Unitarianism, I (Cambridge, 1945). He has translated "Servetus *On 
the Errors of the Trinity,'" Harvard Theological Studies, XVI (1932). 
Citations from Servetus: 

page 78, line 17, De Trinitatis Erroribus, n6b; 
page 78, line 26, De Trtnttatis Erroribus, 783 j 
page 79, line u, Dialogorum de Tnmtate hbri Duo, B6a. 
CHAPTER IV: CASTELLIO is for the most part a reworking of materials 
in my Sebastian Castellio Concerning Heretics (New York, 1935), and 
especially of the earlier article, "Sebastian Castellio and the Toleration 
Controversy of the Sixteenth Century," in Persecution and Liberty, Essays 
in Honor of George Lincoln Burr (New York, 1931), 183-209. 

The standard work on Castellio is the life by Ferdinand Buisson, Sebas- 
tien Castellion (Paris, 1892), in two volumes. Castellio's "De Arte Dubi- 
tandi " has been published by Elizabeth (Mrs. Felix) Hirsch in " Per la 
Storia degli Eretici Italiani del Secolo XVI in Europe," Reale Accademia 
d'ltalia Studi e Documenti, VII (Rome, 1937). 

The newly discovered manuscript referred to in the text was found by 
Dr. Bruno Becker, of Amsterdam, and is described in Church History, 
IX,3 (1940), 272. I have discussed Castellio's theory of knowledge in the 
article "New Documents on Early Protestant Rationalism," Church His- 
tory, VII,2 (June, 1938), 179-187. The references to Calvin on page 103 


are from the Calvini Opera, XXIII, 482-487; XXIV, 16-24. The passage 
from Beza on page 113 is from his De Haereticis, pp. 48-53 condensed, 
and his statement on page 114 is from the Eptstolae (1575), 20. 
The counsel to let Castellio alone mentioned on page no is from an un- 
published letter of Simon Sulzer to Theodore Beza from Basel, May 2, 
1560, cited here by the courtesy of Dr. Fernand Aubert, of Geneva, who 
is editing Beza's correspondence. 

CHAPTER V: DAVID JORIS rests on my book David Joris Wiedertaujer 
und Kampfer fur Toleranz in 16. fahrhundert, translated by Hajo and 
Annemarie Holborn, Archiv jur Rejormationsgeschichte, Erganzungsband 
VI (Leipzig, 1937). My work has been corrected by Paul Burckhardt, 
"David Joris und seine Gemeinde in Basel," Easier Zeitschrijt jur Gc- 
schichte und Altertumsfyunde, XL VIII (1949), 5-106. He discovers a num- 
ber of errors in my readings, but dissents from my conclusions at only 
two important points. The first has to do with Joris' reputed bigamy. A 
letter, the significance of which I overlooked, written by someone to the 
subsequent husband of the allegedly bigamous wife says that the father 
would not have been satisfied with the provision made for the children. 
The father appears to be Joris, in which case the charge is substantiated, 
but Burckhardt is not positive. The other point is my contention that at the 
end of his life Joris abandoned his messianic pretensions in favor of mysti- 
cism and allegory. In a region necessarily so vague precision is impossible, 
but I still sense a great difference between the earlier and the later Joris, 
and between the later Joris and some of his materialistic followers. 

There is an illuminating discussion of Joris on religious liberty in Jo- 
hannes Kiihn, Toleranz und Offenbarung (Leipzig, 1923). 
CHAPTER VI: BERNARDINO OCHINO rests on my book Bernardino 
Ochino Esule e Rijormatore Senese del Cinquecento, translated by Elio 
Gianturco, Biblioteca Storica Sansoni, N.S. IV (Florence, 1940). The fol- 
lowing study appeared slightly earlier, but too late to be used: Benedetto 
Nicolini, II Pensiero di Bernardino Ochino (Napoli, 1939). 
CHAPTER VII: JOHN MILTON: For the background of religious tolera- 
tion in Milton's age, consult W. K. Jordan, The Development of Religious 
Toleration in England, 4 vols. (Cambridge, 1932-1946), and Thomas Lyon, 
The Theory of Religious Liberty in England 7603-39 (Cambridge, Eng- 
land, 1937). There is an illuminating discussion in Michael Freund, "Die 
Idee der Toleranz im England der grossen Revolution," Deutsche Viertel- 
jahrschrijt jur Literaturwissenschajt und Geistesgeschichte , XII (Halle, 
1927). A section is devoted to Milton by Johannes Kiihn, Toleranz und 
Offenbarung (Leipzig, 1923). 

Among the recent books on Milton, the following have proved useful: 
Buck, Philo M., "Milton on Liberty," University of Nebraska Studies, 
XXV,i (1925). 
Hanford, James Holy, John Milton Englishman (New York, 1949). 


Hutchinson, F. E., Milton and the English Mind (London, 1946). 

Raymond, Dora Neill, Olivers Secretary (New York, 1932). 

Wolfe, Don M., Milton in the Puritan Revolution (New York, 1941). 

The following two instructive articles are in the Journal of the History 
of Ideas: 

Ogden, H. V. S., "Variety and Contrast in I7th Century Aesthetics and 
Milton's Poetry," X,2 (April, 1949), 159-182. 
Siegel, Paul N., "Milton and the Humanist Attitude Toward Women," 

xr,i (1950), 42-53. 

The citations are from the Columbia edition of The Worlds of John Milton t 
18 vols. (New York, 1931-1938), and are as follows: page 188, line 8: 

III, i, 356; page 189, line 28: III, i, 147-148; page 190, line 13: III, i, 214; 
page 192, line 20: III, 2, 390-39*; page 192, line 23: III, 2, 423; page 192, 
line 27: III, 2, 478; page 192, line 29: IV, 83; page 193, line 5: IV, 85-86; 
page 193, line 13: HI, 2, 395; page 193, line 15: III, 2, 397; page 193, line 17: 
IV > 775 P a ge 193, line 21: III, 2, 503-504; page 193, line 27: IV, 116-117; 
page 194, line 24: IV, 297-298; page 194, line 30: IV, 339; page 195, line 16: 
*V, 326-330; page 195, line 23: IV, 328; page 195, line 25: IV, 327; page 
195, line 33: IV, 339-340; page 196, line 8: IV, 347-348; page 196, line 19: 

IV, 311; page 196, line 26: IV, 333; page 197, line u: IV, 348; page 200, 
line 13: Paradise Regained III, lines 49-59; P a g e 202 > * me 8: Samson Ago- 
nistes, lines 678-696; page 203, line 21: Paradise Lost VIII, lines 488-489; 
page 204, line 8: Paradise Lost IX, lines 214-219; page 204, line 22: Para- 
dise Lost IX, lines 335-336; page 204, line 30: Paradise Lost IX, lines 373- 
375; page 205, line 17: Paradise Lost IX, lines 684-687; page 207, line 5: 
Paradise Lost XII, lines 82-101; page 207, line 15: Paradise Regained I, 
lines 222-223. 

CHAPTER VIII: ROGER WILLIAMS: The biographical material on 
Williams is scant, and any treatment in the compass of a volume has to be 
filled out with copious drawing from the works of contemporaries. On the 
whole that by Emily Easton, Roger Williams (Boston, 1930), strikes me 
as the most sound. James Ernst, Roger Williams, New England Firebrand 
(New York, 1932), is interesting. The heart of the matter is in the succinct 
and discriminating evaluation by Lawrence Wroth, "Roger Williams," 
Brown University Pafers (1937). The works of Roger Williams are pub- 
lished in six volumes by the Narragansett Club (1867-1874). 

The opening section of the chapter is drawn from my article, "The 
Puritan Theocracy and the Cambridge Platform," in the commemorative 
volume entitled The Cambridge Platform (Cambridge, 1949). The article 
appeared also in The Minister s Quarterly , V,i (1949). 

The following citations from Roger Williams' works are identified by 
these abbreviations: The Bloudy Tenent ET; The Bloudy Tenent Yet 
More Bloudy - BTB; Letters L. 

Page 215, line u: L, 335; page 216, line 16: BTB, 277; page 217, line 9: 


BT, 174-175; page 218, line 28: kTB, 23-24; page 219, line 19: BT, 132; 
page 219, line 29: BT, 147; page 220, line 6: BTB, 208; page 220, line 12: 
BT, 138; page 220, line 14: BT, 290; page 220, line 25: Works, V, vii; 
page 221, line 34: BT, 272; page 222, line 11: BTB, 508-509; page 222, 
line 16: BTB, 47; page 222, line 26: L, 328-329; page 223, line 16: BTB, 
S/S-S 1 ;; page 223, line 34: BT, 180; page 224, line 33: BTB, 71; page 225, 
line 3: BTB, 189; page 225, line 12: BT, 332; page 226, line 7: BT, 399- 
400; page 226, line 32: L, 278; page 227, line 25: L, 271; page 228, line 3: 
L, 225; page 228, line 18: L, 90; page 228, line 22: L, 306. 
CHAPTER IX: JOHN LOCKE: The background is taken from chapters 
in Vol. V of the Cambridge Modern History: C. H. Firth, "The Stuart 
Restoration"; John Pollock, "The Policy of Charles II and James II"; 
and H. M. Gwatkin, "Religious Toleration in England." Useful is the 
book by A. A. Seaton, The Theory of Toleration Under the Later Stuarts 
(Cambridge, Eng., 1911). The ecclesiastical documents are printed in 
Henry Gee and W. J. Hardy, Documents Illustrative of English Church 
History (London, 1914). On the evictions, consult A. G. Mathews, Cdamy 
Revised (Oxford, 1934) . For the Cambridge Platonists, the most illuminat- 
ing work is that of Ernst Cassirer, " Die Platonische Renaissance in Eng- 
land und die Schule von Cambridge," Studien der Bibliothe\ Warburg 
(1932). For Huguenot thought and the Glorious Revolution, consult Guy 
Dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (New 
York, 1947). 

For Locke's own thought, the following were especially helpful: 
Driver, Cecil, " John Locke," in F. J. C. Hearnshaw, The Social and Po- 
litical Ideas of Some English Thinkers of the Augustan Age (London, 

Gibson, James, Locke's Theory of Knowledge and Its Historical Relations 
(Cambridge, England, 1917). 

Gough, J. W., John Lodges Political Philosophy (Oxford, 1950). 
Herding, Georg Freiherr von, John LocJ(e und die Schule von Cambridge 
(Freiburg im Breisgau, 1892). 

Citations are from the edition of Locke's works in 1801 and from the docu- 
ments given in the biographies by Lord King, The Life of Locke, new 
edition, 2 vols. (London, 1830), and by H. R. Fox Bourne, The Life of 
John Loc\e, 2 vols. (London, 1876). These are as follows: page 237, line 32: 
King, I, 197-198; page 240, line n: King, II, 84-87; page 241, line 2: 
Works, VI, 24-31; page 241, line 18: Fox Bourne, I, 177; page 242, line 19: 
Fox Bourne, I, 191; page 242, line 23: Works, VI, 376-379; page 242, line 
28: Works, II, 279; page 243, line 12: Works, V, 395-410; page 243, line 28: 
Works, VI, 13; page 243, line 31: King, II, 202; page 244, line 5: Works, 
v * 38~39; Fge 245, line 4: King, II, 65; page 245, line 8: Works, VI, 237; 
page 248, line 22: King, I, 164-168; page 249, line 33: King, I, 28-44; 
page 251, line 31: Works, VI, 6-7. 



33 Thomas of Torquemada, drawn from the painting by Pedro 
Berruguete in a detail from a work commissioned by Torquemada 
for the monastery at Avila, reproduced in Thomas Hope, Torque- 
mada, 1939. 

Page 45 A Burning at the Stake in the Spanish Inquisition, reproduced 
from an illustration in Adriaan Van Haemstede, De Histonen der 
Vromen Martelaren, 1604. 

Page 54 Monument of the Reformation at Geneva, drawn from a photo- 

Page 72 Michael Servetus, drawn from the copperplate in Johann L. 
Mosheim, Histona Michaelis Serveti, 1727. 

Page 8 1 Portrait of Erasmus Censored by the Inquisition, reproduced 
from the Cosmographia of Sebastian Miinster, available in Marcel 
Bataillon, Erasme en Espagne, 1925. 

Page 97 Sebastien Castellio, drawn from the plate in his Latin Bible of 

Page 125 David Joris, drawn from the painting in the Basel Museum. 

Page 133 David Jons' Lion and Lamb, reproduced from Joris* Twonder- 
boecJ^, 1542. 

Page 151 Bernardino Ochino, reproduced from his Dialoghi Sette, 1542. 

Page 165 A Cartoon of the Pope Receiving His Commission from Satan, 
drawn from an illustration in a Spanish translation of a work of 
Ochino entitled Imajen del Antechnsto, 1557. 

Page 179 John Milton, drawn from the picture of a bust reproduced in 
Denis Saurat, Milton, Man and Thinker, 1925. 

Page 182 A Cartoon: Puritans Demolishing Crosses on Canterbury 
Cathedral, reproduced from Bruno Ryves, Mercurius Rusticus, 1647. 

Page 187 A Cartoon: Archbishop Laud Dining on the Ears of Prynne, 
Bastwick, and Barton, drawn from an illustration in "A new play 
called Canterburie his change of Diet" as reproduced in Edmund W. 
Ashbee, Occasional Fac-similie Reprints, 1868-1871. 

Page 208 Roger Williams, drawn from a photograph of the Monument 
of the Reformation at Geneva. 

Page 229 John Locke, drawn from illustrations in Lord King, The Life 
of Loc^e, volume one, London, 1830. 

Page 235 A Cartoon from A Delicate Dainty Damnable Dialogue Be- 
tween the Devil and a ]e suite, by John Taylor, 1642. 

Page 252 A Cartoon: Two Devils Helping Nonconformists Pull Down 
the Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, drawn from an illustration in The 
TJmehouse Dream (1710) by Andrew Marvell the younger. 


Acton, Lord, 17 
Alcander, Jerome, 80 
Alexander VI, 41 
Amerbach, Boniface, 146 
America, 70, 135, Chapter VIII, 

229 ^ 

American Colonies, 28 

Constitution, 26 
Amish, 210 
Anabaptism, 16, 18, 19, 60, 61, 63, 

64, 67, 69, 80, 83, 126, 176, 201, 

210, 216, 219 
Anglican Church, 25, 27, 179, 181, 

182, 184, 187, 198, 239, 242 
Antitrinitarians, 18, 19, 173, 174 
Apostasy, 18, 37 
Aquinas, Thomas, 76, 114 
Aragon, 44, 93 
Arians, 18, 39, 74 
Armenians, 13 
Arminians, 28, 201 
Atheist, 14, 91 
Augsburg, Interim, 27 
Peace of, 26, 27, 179 
Augustine, 38, 39, 66, 75, 76, 156, 


Bacon, Francis, 162 

Baptism, 18, 24, 35, 41, 61, 83, 86, 

91, 92, 93, 115, 129, 138, 235 
Baptists, 27, 28, 55, 60, 183, 184, 197, 

198, 234 
Basel, 64, 65, 80, 1 06, 108, 109, no, 

142, 144, 146, 147, 159, 161, 164, 

168, 169, 170, 172 
Bayle, Pierre, 245, 256 
Bellianism, 108, 109, 125 
Bellius, Martin, 108, 113 
Beza, Theodore, 55, 108, 109, no, 

113, 114, 122, 148, 179 
Bible, 18, 21, 56, 61, 69, 73, 74, 77, 

107, 114, 117, 118, 131, 136 
Blesdijk, Nicolaes, 132, 144-145, 146, 


Bocholt, 128, 129 
Bool^ of Common Prayer, The, 188, 

199, 232 

Boston, 99, 214, 215 
Braght, Tieleman, Van, 232 
Brethren of the Common Life, 125, 


Bullinger, Heinrich, 162 
Bunyan, John, 233 
Burtembach, Sebastian Schertlin 

von, 1 60, 161 

Calamy, Edmund, 232 

Calvin, John, 16, 17, 18, 29, 54, 64- 
71, 78, 84-94, 97, 98, 99, 103- 
105, 107-109, 113-115* H9> 121, 
122, 155, 157, 158, 162, 164, 
179, 184, 256 

Calvkiists, 20, 22, 97, 107, 113, 115, 
119, 122, 140, 144, 158, 173, 1 80, 
184, 208, 241, 244, 245, 249 

Cambridge Platform, 211, 212. 213 



Canon Law, 18, 20, 61, 90 
Castellio, Sebastien, 16, 21, Chapter 
IV, 125, 134, 137, 138, 139, 143, 
147, 148, 157, 159, 161, 164, 170, 
171, 173, 179, 184, 194, 219, 
239, 245, 246, 247, 248, 250, 255 
Castile, 44 

Charles I, 182, 187, 199, 203 
II, 201, 229, 230, 232, 233 
V, 16, 27, 72, 79, 150, 159, 162 
Chiliasm, 128 
Christendom, 29, 33, 34, 36, 90, 197, 

215, 232, 258 
Church (see State) 
authority, 19, 20, 59, 77 
no salvation outside, 17, 24, 37, 


types, 23, 6o~6t, 83, 122-123, 139 
Clarendon Code, 232 
Codex Justinianus, 18, 61, 74, 90, 


Communism, 14, 70, 175, 258, 259 
Comprehension, 26, 27, 28 

Bill of, 234 
Congregationalists, 26, 27, 183, 198, 


Connecticut, 27, 28, 228 
Conscience, 21, 120, 171, 172, 215, 

220-222, 230, 246, 247, 256 

Constantine, 38 

Donation of, 56 
Contarini, Caspar, 156 
Conventicle Act, 232, 233, 234 
Cotton, John, 209, 215, 216, 217, 221 
Counter Reformation, 29, 55 
Covenanters, 128, 129 
Cranmer, Thomas, 162 
Creeds, 19, 21, 37, 67, 69, 92, 118, 

136, 137 

Apostles', 56, 64, 148, 171 
Cromwell, Oliver, 25, 29, 198, 199, 

200, 227, 231, 258 

Crusades, 33, 34, 35, 36, 40, 115, 149 
Cudworth, Ralph, 244 

Death Penalty, 19, 37, 61, 63, 93, 

98, 149, 166, 179, 180, 183, 235 
Declaration of Indulgence, 233 
Decree of 1781, 20 
Democracy, 25, 94, 199 
Deuteronomy, ch. 13, 36, 69 
Devotio Moderna, 22 

Diggers, 183 
Dominicans, 43, 46, 135 
Donatists, 18, 38, 61 
Dostoevsky, Feodor, 52 
Dukhobors, 128, 210 

Edict of Nantes, 20, 179, 184, 230, 

245, 259 
Edward VI, 28, 107, 108, 121, 161, 

163, 164, 174 
Elect, 25, 62, 63, 67, 138, 209, 215, 

216, 219 
Elizabeth of England, 16, 27, 162, 

168, 181 

Endicott, John, 227 
England, 16, 19, 23, 27, 28, 35, 69, 

99, 121, 133, 152, 161, 163, 164, 
173, Chapter VII, 211, Chapter 
IX, 256 

Enlightenment, 29, 56, 116, 120, 238 
Episcopalians, 27, 28, 183, 189, 198 
Erasmianism, 72, 73, 79, 80, 97, 114, 

120, 238, 244, 248 
Erasmus of Rotterdam, 21, 22, 29, 

57-59, 60, 72, 73, 74, 79, 80, 81, 

97, 106, 125, 126, 146, 154, 164, 

194, 245, 255 
Erastianism, 28, 163 
Error, 17, 21, 30, 60, 63, 94, 114, 

120, 138, 190, 196 
Ethical, 21, 24, 58, 73, 117, 134 

Fall of Man, 75, 116, 163, 203 
Family of Love, 183 
Farel, William, 55, 68, 94 
Fascism, 14, 258 
Ferdinand, 41-51, 72 



Fifth Monarchy Men, 183 

Five-Mile Act, 232, 233, 234 

Foxe, John, 232 

France, 16, 35, 41, 42, 54, 64, 69, 
71, 82, 84, 90, 92, 97, 98, 99, 
no, 115, 157, 161, 169, 171, 172, 
*73> *79> 183, 184, 230, 231, 236, 


Francis I, 107 
Franciscans, 20, 73, 135, 149, 150, 

i55 ? 158, 175 
Franck, Sebastian, 108 
Franco, Mose, 47-51 
Yuce, 47-51 
of La Guardia, 48-51 
Frederick the Great, 25 
Fundamentalism, 22, 86, 93, 105, 

113, 211, 218 
Furley, Benjamin, 245 

Galileo, 195, 205 

Gansfort, Wessel, 22 

Garcia, Benito, 47-51 

Geneva, 54, 55> 68-69, 8 5 ? 86, 87, 
88, 89-94, 97, 99, 104, 105, 106, 
108, no, 115, 119, 143, 157- 
159, 163, 164, 173, 179, 184, 213, 

Gentile, Valentine, 18 

Germany, 14, 27, 35, 81, 87, 99, 
152, 159, 160, 161, 169, 180, 183 

Ghent, Pacification of, 179 

God, Glory of, 17, 18, 65-66, 70, 77, 

94, MO 

Neoplatonic conception of, 76 
Granada, 51, 52 

Halfway Covenant, 213 
Harrison, Thomas, 200 
Hardy, William, 222 
Harvey, William, 83 
Heiser, Victor G., 255 
Henry III, 246 

IV, 16, 20, 230, 246 
VIII, 28, 162, 163, 171, 174 
Heresy, 17, 18, 19, 24, 37, 39, 40, 
58, 59, 63, 85, 88, 93, 94, 119, 

126, I43-I44* *7*> 181, 235, 251 
Holland (see Netherlands), 16, 54, 

109, 125, 126, 161, 171, 1 80, 
183, 197, 234, 236, 245, 247 

Holmes, Obadiah, 214 

Holy Spirit, 20, 58, 59, 62, 120, 122, 

127, 136, 149, 158, 159 
Huguenots, 16, 98, 230, 250 
Humanism, 20, 56, 57, 59 
Hus, Jan, 59, 218 
Husites, 20, 173 
Hutterites, 175, 210 

Idolatry, 18 
Image of God, 75, 194 
Independents, 184, 198, 234, 239 
Inquisition, 246 

French, 86, 87, 88, 92 

Roman, 156, 195 

Spanish, 36, 40-52, 57, 72, 73, 80, 


Isabella, 41-51, 72 
Islam, 33, 36 

Italy, 14, 16, 69, 89, 150, 152, 156, 
157, 161, 162, 166, 184, 189 

James I, 19, i8r, 186 

II, 230, 233, 242 

Jews, 13, Chapter I, 56, 72, 73-74, 
77, 107, 115, 119, 121, 122, 144, 

152, 220, 221, 222, 226, 24! 

Joris, David, 16, 18, Chapter V, 149, 

157. 179 
Joseph II, 20 

Kappel, Peace of, 179 

Kingdom of God, 63, 66, 138, 172, 


on earth, 62, 83, 188-189 
Kleinberg, George, 108 
Knox, John, 21, 55, 195 


Labadists, 245 

La Guardia, 48-51 

Latitudinarianism, 24, 181 

Laud, William, 182, 187 

Le Clerc, Jean, 246 

Leo X, 55 

Levelers, 183 

Limborch, Philip van, 246, 251 

Locke, John, 16, 21, Chapter IX, 

2 53> 256 
London, 162 
Lord's Supper, 79, 113, 115, 138, 


Louis XIV, 230, 250 
Luther, Martin, 17, 18, 29, 55, 58, 

59-60, 61, 62, 63, 66, 67, 73, 77, 

80, 84, 108, 113, 126, 138, 155, 

1 60, 219, 224 
Lutherans, 13, 20, 22, 26, 69, 98, 99, 

113, 126, 140, 144, 152, 161, 167, 

*69> 173, *75> *79> l8o J 9^ 

Maclachlan, Margaret, 233 

Madrid, 125 

Magistrates, 21, 24, 62, 63, 64, 107, 

119, 120, 121, 136, 138, 219, 

225, 239, 240, 246-247 
Magna Charta, 181 
Malignants, 198, 199 
Marriage, 192-193, 197 
Martyrdom, 20, 172, 259 
Mary, Queen of Scots, 21 

Tudor, 28, 121, 164 
Maryland, 27 
Mass, 60, 64, 68, 98, 188 
Massachusetts, 27, 28, 214 
Melanchthon, Philipp, 18, 64, 80, 


Mennonites, 129, 210, 245 
Middle Ages, 75, 76, 149, 163, 181, 

191 . 
Millenarianism, 129 

Milton, John, 16, 29, Chapter VII, 

208, 209, 221, 227, 229, 260 
Mohammedans, 13, 14, 241 

Mohammedanism, 74 

Monotheism, 74 

Montaigne, Michel, 98 

Montanists, 38 

Moors, 41, 51, 56, 72, 73-74, 77, 


Moravia, 175 

Miinster, 64, 128, 137, 158 
Miintzer, Thomas, 62-63, 67, 158, 

Mysticism, 20, 21, 29, 57, 58, 59, 72, 

121-122, 131, 132, 135, 139, 

142, 145, 154, 155 

Naples, 89, 150, 154, 155, 157, 161 
Navarre, Margaret of, 98 
Netherlands (sec Holland), 73, 125, 

126, 128, 142, 144, 145, 154, 179 
New England, 16, 54, 67, 209, 213, 


New Jersey, 27 
New York, 27 
Nicaea, Council of, 74, 75, 77 

Creed of, 92 
Nonessentials, 22, 113, 115, 138, 168, 

171, 181, 198, 239, 240-241, 257 

Oath, 134 

Ochino, Bernardino, 16, Chapter 

VI, 179, 185, 246 
Old and New Testaments, 18, 37, 

74, 82, 117, 128, 129 
Oporinus, Johannes, 106, 108 
Orange, William, Prince of, 16, 234 
Owen, John, 239 
Oxford, 236, 239 

Pacifism, 129, 134, 172 
Pagnini, Santes, 82 
Pax Dissidentium, 29 
Peasants' War, 62, 63 
Penn, William, 245 
Pennsylvania, 27, 214 
Persecution, ideological, 15 
presuppositions, i?. 17. 18. T<V-->'> 



36, 37> 39. *o8 120-1:22, 137, 

143, 164, 249 
sociological, 14, 36 
Peter, Hugh, 200 
Philip IV, 41 

of Hesse, 170 
Plymouth, 215 

Poland, 29, no, 161, 171, 173, 174 
Polygamy, 128, 129, 145-146, 170 
Powell, Richard, 191 
Predestination, 91, 92, 101, 103, in, 

113, 115, 158, 162, 168, 1 69, 217 
Presbyterians, 15, 27, 28, 182, 183, 

184, 186, 187, 189, 190, 198, 199, 

234, 249 
Providence, 215 
Prynne, William, 186 
Ptolemy, 82 
Puritanism, 184, 187, 191, 192, 209, 


Quakers, 27, 28, 128, 183, 198, 214, 

220, 233, 235, 245 
Quintana, 73, 79, 80 

Racovian Catechism, 175 

Ranters, 183 

Rationalism, 21, 29, 58, 73, 116, 255 

Reason, 116-117 

Renaissance, 28, 41, 56, 60, 79, 84, 

91, 185, 192 
Revivalism, 217 
Revolution, 128, 129, 238 

Glorious, 1 6, 234, 237, 250 
Rhode Island, 27, 220 
Roman Law, 18, 19, 61, 90, 147 
Rome, 41, 64, 151, 152, 156, 158, 

159. l6 3> 164, 173, 185 
Roundheads, 198 
Russia, 13, 14 

Sabatini, Rafael, 51 
Sacraments, 22, 23, 24, 122, 123, 
138, 241 

Salem, 215 

Savonarola, Girolamo, 150, 159 

Savoy, 68, 71, 245 

Schor, Heinrich, Van, 145, 146, 147 

Schwenckf elders, 160, 164 

Scotland, 54, 55, 161, 182-183, 190, 

198, 242 
Sectarianism, 20, 23, 24, 29, 39, 40, 

59, 60, 232, 242, 244 
Sedition, 59, 63, 64, 90, 121 
Servetus, Michael, 16, 17, 18, 53, 

Chapter III, 97, 98, 106, 108, 

121, 143, 144, 149, 164, 174, 

179, 233, 236 
Siena, 149, 157, 161, 162 
Simons, Menno, 129 
Sin, 17, 21, 75, 92, nr, 130, 243 

original, 91, 209 
Socinianism, 173, 174, 175, 201 
Spain, 16, 27, Chapter I, 57, 69, 72- 

73> 79) 8o > 8l > 93> **<>> * 2I > I2 5> 
154, 180 

Speculation, theological, 73 
trinitarian, 75, 77 

Speyer, Diet of, 1529, 63 

State, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 37, 40, 41, 
42, 55, 60, 63, 211, 217, 219, 
223, 226, 232, 235, 242, 246, 
249, 252, 253, 256, 257, 258 

Strasbourg, 64, 80, 83, 87, 98, 133 

Switzerland, 166, 169, 173 

Tares, 24, 62, 106, 139, 190, 216, 219 
Territorialism, 26, 27, 28, 214 
Test Act, 231 

Thirty-nine Articles, 181, 234 
Titus 3:1, 37 

Toleration, Act of, 16, 30, 97, 229, 
234, 236, 251 

American, 19 

as expediency, 19-20 

grades, 13, 179, 184 
Torquemada, Thomas, 16, 68, 

Chapter I, 72, 233, 235 
Trent, Council of, 156, 162 

272 INDEX 

Trinity, 18, 56, 58, 74-80, 91-93, Waldenses, 245 

in, 113, 134, 136, 154, 171, 174 Westphalia, Peace of, 26 
Tritheism, 74, 77 Williams, Roger, 16, 55, 185, Chap- 

Turks, 34, 41, 107, 115, 144, 152, ter VIII, 229, 243, 244, 159 

160, 176, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226 Wilson, Margaret, 234 

Winthrop, John, 227, 228 
Worms, Diet of, 80 

Uniformity, Act of, 232 Wiirttemberg, Christoph of, 110 

Unitarians, 28, 183, 198, 235 
United States, 15, 19, 99, 235, 258, Zapolya, Johann, 176 

259 Zurich, 60, 89, 92, 162, 1 66, 167, 168, 

170, 172 

Zwingli, Ulrich, 29, 60, 61, 67, 162, 

Valdes, Juan de, 154-155, *74-i75 
Venice, 151, 152, 156, 159 
Virginia, 27, 28 

Zwinglians, 22, 69, 99, 140, 144, 
159, 169, 180