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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

And the two Sozzini from Siena


Curiously

enough, the leaders in the third group, the anti-Trinitarians, were almost all Italians.

The most outstanding man among them, distinguished alike by his learning, his pure moral life, a distinct vein of piety, and the calm courage with which he faced every danger to secure the propagation of his opinions, was the Spaniard Miguel Servede (Servetus),[599] who was burnt at Geneva in 1553. He was very much a man by himself. His whole line of thought separated him from the rest of the anti-Trinitarian group associated with the names of the Sozzini. He reached his position through a mystical Pantheism--a course of thought which one might have expected from a Spaniard. He made few or no disciples, and did not exert any permanent influence.

The other anti-Trinitarians of the first rank were all cultured Italians, whom the spirit of the Renaissance prompted to criticise and reconstruct theology as they found it. They were all men who had been driven to reject the Roman Church because of its corruptions and immoralities, and who had no conception of any other universal Christian society. Men of pure lives, pious after their own fashion, they never had any idea of what lay at the root of the Reformation thought of what real religion was. It never dawned upon them that the sum of Christianity is the God of Grace, manifest in Christ, accessible to every believing soul, and unwavering trust on man's part. Their interest in

religion was almost exclusively intellectual. The Reformers had defined the Church as the fellowship of believers, and they had said that the marks of that fellowship were the preaching of the Word and the right use of the sacraments--the means through which God manifests Himself to men, and men manifest their faith in God. These men never apprehended this; the only idea which they seemed able to have of the Church was a school of definite and correct opinions. Compelled to flee from their native land, they naturally took refuge in Switzerland or in the Grisons. It is almost pathetic to see how they utterly failed to understand the men among whom they found themselves. Reformation to them was a criticism and reconstruction of theology; they were simply carrying the criticism a little further than their new neighbours. They never perceived the real gulf fixed between them and the adherents of the Reformation.

They were all highly educated and cultivated men--individual units from all parts of Italy. Camillo Renato, who proclaimed himself an Anabaptist, was a Sicilian. Gentili came from Calabria; Gribaldo from Padua; Bernardino Occhino, who in his later days joined the band, and the two Sozzini from Siena. Alciat was a Piedmontese. Blandrata (Biandrata), the most energetic member of the group save Fausto Sozzini, belonged to a noble family in Saluzzo which had long been noted for the protection it had afforded to poor people persecuted by the Church. They were physicians or lawyers; one, Gentili, was a schoolmaster.

The strong sense of individuality, which seems the birthright of every Italian, fostered by their life within their small city republics, had been accentuated by the Renaissance. The historical past of Italy, and its political and social condition in the sixteenth century, made it impossible for the impulse towards reform to take any other shape than that of individual action. The strength and the impetus which comes from the thought of fellow-man, fellow-believer, and which was so apparent in the Reformation movements beyond the Alps and in the


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