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[in Poland) assumed a new aspect under the dexterity and industry of Faustus Socinus; a man of superior genius, of moderate learning, of a firm and resolute spirit, less erudite than his uncle Lælius, but more bold and courageous. . . . By his wealth, his eloquence, his abilities as a writer, the patronage of the great, the elegance of his manners, and other advantages which he possessed, he overcame at length all difficulties; and, by seasonably yielding at one time, and contesting at another, he brought the whole Unitarian people to surrender to those opinions of his which they had before contemned, and to coalesce and become one community. J. L. MOSHEIM : Ecclesiastical History, book iv. cent. xvi. sect. 3, part 2, chap. 4, $$ 1 and 11; Dr. Murdock's translation.
Such and so considerable a man was [Faustus Socinus] the author and patron of this sect. All those qualities that excite the admiration and attract the regards of men, met in him; that, as it were with a charm, he bewitched all who conversed with him, and left on their minds strong impressions of wonder and affection towards him. He so excelled in fine parts and a lofty genius; such were the strength of his reasonings and the power of his eloquence; he displayed, in the sight of all, so many distinguished virtues, which he either professed, or counterfeited in an extraordinary degree, – that he appeared formed to engage the attachment of all mankind; and it is not the least surprising that he deceived great numbers, and drew them over to his party. So that what Augustin said of Faustus Manichæus may not improperly be applied to Faustus Socinus ; that he was
magnum Diaboli laqueum,” the Devil's decoy. - GEORGE ASHWELL: De Socino et Socinianismo, p. 18; as quoted by Toulmin, in his Memoirs of Socinus, pp. 15, 16.
Amid the ill temper displayed in this passage, it will be seen that the writer was forced to pay a high compliment to the virtues and genius of a man whose name has been so often held as synonymous with all that is vile and blasphemous in theological opinions. But, though Unitarians, whether believers or disbelievers in the pre-existence of Christ, have reason to
Socinus for what he did and suffered on behalf of their leading doctrine, the simple oneness and paternal character of God, they cannot regard him as the author or founder of their views, or as their leader in matters of religion; nor can they consent to be called by his honorable
Thankful for all the helps which God has vouchsafed to them by the labors of the good and wise either of their own denomination or of others, they dare not bend in lowly reverence before any Lord and Master but the Man of Nazareth, the Holy One of God.
In this unhappy battle (the battle of Newbury, 1643] was slain the lord viscount Falkland; a person of such prodigious parts of learning and knowledge, of that inimitable sweetness and delight in conversation, of so flowing and obliging a humanity and goodness to mankind, and of that primitive simplicity and integrity of life, that, if there were no other brand upon this odious and accursed civil war than that single loss, it must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity. . He was a great cherisher of wit and fancy and good parts in any man, and, if he found them clouded with poverty or want, a most liberal and bountiful patron towards them, even above his fortune; of which, in those administrations, he was such a dispenser as if he had been trusted with it to such uses, and if there had been the least of vice in his expense, he might have been thought too prodigal. .. . His house being within ten miles of Oxford, he contracted familiarity and friendship with the most polite and accurate men of that university; who found such an immenseness of wit and such a solidity of judgment in him, so infinite a fancy, bound in by a most logical ratiocination, such a vast knowledge, that he was not ignorant in any thing, yet such an excessive humility as if he had known nothing, that they frequently resorted, and dwelt with him, as in a college situated in a purer air. . . . He was so great an enemy to that passion and uncharitableness which he saw produced by difference of opinion in matters of religion, that, in all disputations with priests and others of the Roman church, he affected to manifest all possible civility to their persons, and estimation of their parts. . . . Thus fell that incomparable young man, in the four and thirtieth year of his age, having so much despatched the business of life, that the oldest rarely attain to that immense knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more innocence; and whosoever leads such a life needs not care upon how short warning it be taken from him. LORD CLARENDON : History of the Rebellion, vol. iii. pp. 185–8, 198; Oxford, 1849.
The evidence for Lord Falkland's Unitarianism will be found in Wallace's Antitrinitarian Biography, vol. iii. pp. 152–6. According to John Aubrey, as quoted in that work, Lord Falkland " was the first Socinian in England."
We cite no appreciatory notices of " the ever-memorable John Hales of Eton” and “ the immortal Chillingworth," because the evidence for their Unitarianism is less satisfactory. Whatever may have been their views respecting God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, their Christian principles were too broad to permit a bigoted adherence to any religious party, - too catholic to be moulded into any sectarian shape.
Sir Isaac Newton (was] the most splendid genius that has yet adorned human nature, and [is] by universal consent placed at the head of mathematics and of science. . . . He was exceedingly courteous and affable, even to the lowest, and never despised any man for want of capacity; but always expressed freely his resentment against immorality or impiety. He not only showed a great and constant regard to religion in general, as well by an exemplary life as in all his writings, but was also a firm believer in revealed religion, with one exception, — an important one, indeed, — that his sentiments on the doctrine of the Trinity by no means coincided with what are generally held. An innate modesty and simplicity showed itself in all his actions and expressions. His whole life was one continued series of labor, patience, charity, generosity, temperance, piety, goodness, and every other virtue, without a mixture of any known vice whatsoever. ALEXANDER CHALMERS : Biographical Dictionary, art. “ Newton, Sir Isaac.”
When we look back on the days of Newton, we annex a kind of mysterious greatness to him, who, by the pure force of his understanding, rose to such a gigantic elevation above the level of ordinary men; and the kings and warriors of other days sink into insignificance around him; and he, at this moment, stands forth to the public eye in a prouder array of glory than circles the memory of all the men of former generations; and, while all the vulgar grandeur of other days is now mouldering in forgetfulness, the achievements of our great astronomer are still fresh in the veneration of his countrymen, and they carry him forward on the stream of time with a reputation ever gathering, and the triumphs of a distinction that will never die. I cannot forbear to do honor to the unpretending greatness of Newton, than whom I know not if ever there lighted on the face of our world, one in the character of whose admirable genius so much force and so much humility were more attractively blended. - DR. THOMAS CHALMERS : Astronomical Discourses, Discourse 2; in Select Works, vol. iv. pp. 370, 372.
If Christianity be not in their estimation true [if, in the estimation of absolute unbelievers, Christianity be not true}, yet is there not at least a presumption in its favor, sufficient to entitle it to a serious examination, from its having been embraced, and that not blindly and implicitly, but upon full inquiry and deep consideration, by Bacon and Milton and Locke and Newton, and much the greater part of those who, by the reach of their understandings or the extent of their knowledge, and by the freedom ton of their minds, and their daring to combat existing prejudices, have called forth the respect and admiration of mankind ? .... Through the bounty of Providence, the more widely spreading poison of infidelity has in our days been met with more numerous and more powerful antidotes. One of these has been already pointed out; and it should be matter of farther gratitude to every real Christian, that, in the very place on which modern infidelity had displayed the standard of victory, a warrior in the service of religion, a man of the most acute discernment and profound research, has been raised up by Providence to quell their triumph. It is almost - superfluous to state, that Sir William Jones is here meant, who, from the testimony borne to his extraordinary talents by Sir John Shore, in his first address to the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, appears to have been a man of most extraordinary genius and astonishing erudition. WILLIAM WILBERFORCE: Practical View, chap. vi. sect. 3.
With the exception of Lord Bacon, the men here named, whose moral and intellectual qualities rank them so high in the scale of humanity, and whose attachment to or defence of the Christian faith is regarded as presumptive evidence in its behalf, cherished, as is now well known, Unitarian opinions. To all who share in Wilberforce's admiration at seeing those men of master-minds sitting reverentially at the feet of Jesus, and who agree with him in the inference which he has drawn, the following remark by the same writer, in immediate connection, will scarcely be regarded in any other light than as inconsistent and illogical, if not unjust: “In the course which we lately traced from nominal orthodoxy to absolutè infidelity, Unitarianism is, indeed, a sort of half-way house, . ... a stage on the journey, where sometimes a person indeed finally stops, but where not unfrequently he only pauses for a while, and then pursues his progress.” So far from being true that the adoption of Unitarian principles generally leads to infidelity, as is implied in the charge adduced, that, with all its faults and shortcomings, probably no denomination in Christendom has been more faithful to its professions, or, if the number of its adherents be taken into account, has done so much in presenting the evidences of Christianity in a clear and cogent point of view, than that of Unitarians. Can Orthodoxy, with all its array of truly distinguished writers, place the names of any defenders of our common faith above those of Nathaniel Lardner, Joseph Priestley, William Ellery Channing, and Andrews Norton? We mean not in respect to their talents or their genius, - though they were unquestionably men of powerful intellect, – but merely as to the amount or the worth of their services as " apologists” for Christianity.
This year , Thomas Firmin, a famous citizen of London, died. He was in great esteem for promoting many charitable designs ; for looking after the poor of the city, and setting them to work;
for raising great sums for schools and hospitals, and, indeed, for charities
of all sorts, private and public. He had such credit with the richest citizens, that he had the command of great wealth, as oft as there was occasion for it; and he laid out his own time chiefly in advancing all such designs. These things gained him a great reputation. He was called a Socinian, but was really an Arian. ... Archbishop Tillotson, and some of the bishops, had lived in great friendship with Mr. Firmin, whose charitable temper they thought it became them to encourage. BISHOP BURNET: History of his Own Time, vol. iii. p. 292; Lond. 1809.
I was exceedingly struck at reading the following Life; having long settled it in my mind, that the entertaining wrong notions concerning the Trinity was inconsistent with real piety. But I cannot argue against matter of fact. I dare not deny that Mr. Firmin was a pious man, although his notions of the Trinity were quite erroneous. JOHN WESLEY: Preface to an Extract from the Life of Thomas Firmin; in Works, vol. vii.
574. (William Whiston] has all his life been cultivating piety and virtue and good learning; rigidly constant himself in the public and private duties of religion, and always promoting in others virtue and such learning as he thought would conduce most to the honor of God, by manifesting the greatness and wisdom of his works. He has given the world sufficient proofs that he has not misspent his time, by very useful works of philosophy and mathematics : he has applied one to the explication of the other, and endeavored by both to display the glory of the great Creator. — BISHOP HARE: Study of the Scriptures ; in Sparks's Collection of Essays and Tracts, vol. č. p. 163.
Newton and Locke were esteemed Socinians; Lardner was an avowed one; Clarke and Whiston were declared Arians; Bull and Waterland were professed Athanasians. Who will take upon him to say, that these men were not equal to each other in probity and Scriptural knowledge? And, if that be admitted, surely we ought to learn no other lesson from the diversity of their opinions, except that of perfect moderation and good
will towards all those who happen to differ from ourselves. BISHOP WATSON: Appendix to Theological Tracts, vol. vi.
I do actually feel a constant and deep sense of your goodness to me; and, which is much more, of your continual readiness to serve the public with those distinguished abilities which God has been pleased to give you, and which have rendered your writings so great a blessing to the Christian world. ... In the interpretation of particular texts,