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God;* all is bound together and mutually penetrated, and the supreme law of existence is universal unity.t
The unity, harmony and consubstantiality of all beings, is the principle which led Servetus, as it had done the schools of Ionia and Elea, as it had also more than once won Plato and intoxicated Plotinus, as it afterwards captivated Sabellius and Eutyches, and was one day to beguile Bruno and Spinoza and Schelling and so many other great and noble geniuses. Here is the everlasting temptation of Pantheism, the invisible loadstone by which it attracts to itself the mind and feeling. Let us not count it a crime in Servetus to have given himself up to these nobly chimerical doctrines, in an age especially in which most of the leading spirits felt their illusion.
The two distinctive features of the time, enthusiasm and the total absence of criticism, are found united in that curious book of his work on the “ Restoration of Christianity,” which Servetus has devoted to the development of pantheistic ideas. If we may believe him, the doctrine of the universal unity is as old as the world, and forms the common foundation of all religious and of all philosophical systems. Proclaimed throughout the books of the Old Testament, it was known to the priests of Chaldæa and Egypt. Zoroaster and Hermes taught it to Orpheus, by whom it was transmitted to Greece, to Pythagoras, Parmenides, Plato. All is a unit; this is the mystery of mysteries, the key to all symbols, the ultimate expression of divine and human wisdom. “ He that sees me,” says Jesus, “ sees the Father.” “My Father and I are only one,” says St. John ; “ He has made us partakers of His spirit.” “It is in Him," says St. Paul, “ that we live and move and have our being.” Thus the old law and the new, Reason and Faith, the musings of sages and the symbols of sanctuaries, every thing unites in proclaiming the universal consubstantiality of beings.
Servetus was so convinced of the truth of this doctrine, that he had the courage to confess it even in the presence of his judges and in the face of death. Calvin, who had made the pantheistical doctrines of Servetus one of the principal heads of the capital charge laid against him, thus questioned him before the Council of Geneva: “Do you
" Ipse Deus, qui est in lapide lapis, et in ligno lignum, omnia suis ideis essentians."-De Trin div., Dial. i. p. 184, Mead.
“Omnibus mundi rebus immixtus est ipse Deus.”-Christ. Rest., p. 282. "Spiritus regenitorum sunt Deo consubstantiales et coæterni."-Christ, Rest.,
+ Ex præmissis comprobatur vetus illa sententia, omnia esse unum... Parmenidis ergo et Melissi de unico principio sententia hoc modo vera erit..”-De Trin., iv., at the end.
| This is the 4th book, entitled, On the Omniform Essence of God and on the Elements of Things.
s Christ. Rest., lib. iv., at the end.
I Here are articles 24, 26, 27, of the accusation laid by Nicholas de la Fontaine, and drawn up in form by Calvin :
24. That the essence of the angels and of our souls is of the substance of God.
26. Item: Instead of confessing three persons in the Divine essence, or three hypostases, each of which has its peculiar distinction, he says that God is one single thing containing a hundred thousand essences, in such a way that He is a portion of us, and that we are a portion of his Spirit.
27. Item : Consequently, that not only the models of all creatures are in God,
maintain that our souls are an offshoot of the Divine substance; that there is in all beings a deity of substance-I maintain it, replied Servetus.—What, then, wretch! cried Calvin stamping his foot, is this pavement God? Is it God that I now tread upon ?-Without any doubt.-By this rule, added Calvin ironically, the devils themselves contain God?-Do you doubt it? replied the indomitable pantheist in the same tone,” now losing all prudence, but not hesitating to give up his life rather than disavow his faith. V. THEOLOGICAL SYSTEM OF MICHAEL SERVETUS—HIS THEORY
RESPECTING CHRIST. We now apprehend the pbilosophical doctrine of Michael Servetus, in its general principles. How, then, does he apply this pantheistic Platonism to the restoration of Christianity, the supreme aim of his efforts ? Long explanations would be necessary to expound this vast enterprize in all its details. We shall confine ourselves to throwing light upon the fundamental point, namely, his theory respecting Christ. We may sum it up in a few words : Ideas, regarded in their entire sense, are, according to Servetus, the uncreated Light, or the Word of God. So they all emanate from one general and superior type, which is the type of human nature, the primitive model of all beings. This central idea in which all ideas unite, this sun of the world of ideas, this superior and primitive type, this eternal model of human nature, is Christ. This is a definition of Christ which may seem whimsical, obscure, extraordinary; let us endeavour to clear it up: it forms the foundation of the religious doctrine of Servetus.
At the first glance over this strange conception, it recals more than one recollection. In the Cabbalistic doctrine also* we find placed between Nature and God, a world of ideas (monde intelligible), the world of the Sephiroth; and the first Sephira, which embraces all the others, is the heavenly Adam, the type of human nature. Spinoza, who has been often accused of borrowing his pantheism from the Cabbala, would readily define Jesus Christ as an idea, an eminent and superior mode of the Eternal Thought. Lastly, the Hegelian school proposes in its turn to reduce Christ to an idea, the idea of human nature. We state these curious and striking analogies without wishing in the slightest degree to make a wrong use of them. What ought particularly to put us on our guard is a leading difference in the views of Servetus, which
but also their essential forms, so that our souls are part of the seed and the word of God.
Calvin, in several of his writings, retorts with power on this pantheism of Servetus: “Above all,” says he (Inst. Chr., b. i. ch. xiii. p. 38), " there is in Servetus an execrable blasphemy....for he affirms, flatly and without reserve, that there are parts and portions in God, and that every portion is God himself ; that the souls of the faithful are co-eternal and consubstantial with God; so much that he also attributes deity of substance not only to us, but to all created things." Calvin says elsewhere (Inst. Chr., i. ch. xv.), " Then, before proceeding further, we must refute the dream of the Manicheans, which Servetus has taken pains to revive in our time... It is too desperate rage to tear the essence of the Creator to such a degree that each should possess a portion of it... Creation is not a transfusion, as if one were drawing wine from a cask or a bottle ; but it is giving origin to some essence which did not before exist."
* See the learned work of M. Franck on the Cabbala, pp. 161, 178.
implies many others. Neither the Cabbala, nor Spinoza, nor Hegel, recognize the truth of the gospel facts. Their Christ is a creature of the reason, not an historical personage. Servetus, on the contrary, expressly acknowledges the miraculous birth and the supernatural resurrection of Jesus Christ. This positive faith is a grave and important matter. Let us be on our guard, then, against the sometimes deceptive attraction of analogies; and before tracing any resemblance, let us endeavour to give an exact and faithful account of what would in our day be called in Germany the Christology of Michael Servetus.
We must first, according to him, distinguish an ideal Christ and a real Christ. The real and visible Christ began to exist when he came forth from Mary's womb; the invisible and ideal Christ never had a beginning and will have no end. The Sun of the ideal world, the first ray of the light of God, he is eternal, like God himself. Are there then two Christs? No; the historical Christ, who lived and suffered with men, who held on his bosom the well-beloved head of St. John, in a word, the Christ of the gospel, is no other than the eternal Christ, become real and visible from invisible and ideal.
One might think, at the first glance, that this opinion about Jesus Christ does not differ in the main from the orthodox doctrine of the incarnate Word, on which Servetus, it might seem, here innovates more in words than in reality; and that, when defined, his distinction of the ideal Christ and the real Christ would answer, point by point, to that which the Church establishes between the Son of God co-eternal with his Father, and the Son of Man born in time and liable to birth and death; but there is an infinite distance between this and the real meaning of M. Servetus. Among all the dogmas taught by the Church, there is none that shocks him more decidedly than the distinction of two natures in Jesus Christ. There, if we may believe him, is the fatal leaven of error which has corrupted the whole Christian doctrine; there is the capital fault of the Nicene fathers. The same spirit of contentious subtlety which made them distinguish three hypostases in God, led the Greek sophists to decompose Jesus into two natures. It was not enough to have rent the Divine essence, they must also pull in pieces the unity of Christ. “What empty chimeras,” cries Servetus, & what vain refinements of analysis, all these things are! Open the gospel, and where is there any trace of these puerile distinctions? Do you see in it two Sons of God—one perfeet, infinite, impassible; the other finite, imperfect, subject to temptation and suffering ? No; but a single Christ, a single Son of God, one and indivisible.* Hear what St. John says: “ Christ came forth from God.” Hear Jesus himself: "I came forth from my Father. My Father is in me, and I am in my Father. My Father and I make but one.” Read in St. Matthew that touching and sublime recital. The disciples of Jesus are
in doubt as to the true character of his person. Is he a prophet, like Elijah or Jeremiah, or is he something greater? Jesus turns to one of the simplest of them, Saint Peter. And you, Simon Peter, what do you think of me? You are the Christ, Son of the living God.-Such is the exclamation of an unsophisticated conscience, of an energetic and simple faith. So the truth which made itself clear to Jewish fishermen, has
Dial. de Trin., lib. i. Christ. Rest., lib. ii. and iii.
eluded learned men and philosophers! What would the apostles have said, if some one had come and told them that the Jesus whom they had just seen ascend to heaven, was nothing but a man, united in an unintelligible way to one hypostasis of the Trinity? As sure as can be, they would not have understood this language, or would only have understood it to repudiate it as blasphemy.*
With such incredible vehemence does Servetus raise his voice against the Nicene doctrine. Certainly, if there is a strange and unexpected sight, and one which on a less serious subject might be called piquant, it is to find Michael Servetus vindicating, in opposition to the Church, in opposition at once to Catholics and to Protestants, the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ. If we are to believe him, whoever distinguishes between the divine and the human nature in Jesus Christ, the former remaining impeccable, impassible, infinite, and consequently separate from the second,—whoever maintains that the soul and body of Jesus Christ are purely human, thereby maintains that Jesus Christ. is not the Son of God, that God was not made flesh.
Scandalous and absurd as this reasoning may seem, we must here acknowledge the perfect sincerity of the strange reformer, who, while ruining Christianity to its foundation, really believed he was restoring it. The reasoning of Servetus rests, however, upon a fact which we deem incontestable,-namely, that the distinction of two natures and two wills in Jesus Christ, united in a single person, is not found explicitly stated in the gospel. The gospel is not a treatise on metaphysics ; but an incomparable record, which must be read with the heart still more than with the mind. Every thing there is simple and in unison. No refinings, no distinctions, no formulas. It is doctrine in action, philosophy alive. There is, then, a certain degree of truth in the doctrine of Servetus; what he does not perceive is, that the doctrine of Nice, the distinction of two natures is Jesus, is in perfect harmony with the spirit of Christianity. And why does he not perceive this? Because the spirit of Christianity is not his; because the breath of pantheism has invaded his intellect and his heart ; because he reads the gospel with prejudiced eyes; because he burns to find in Christ the highest application of the principle which is dear to him above all others, the principle of universal consubstantiality.
Yes, the distinction between the divine and the human nature in Jesus Christ, reconciled in the unity of his person, is profoundly conformable to the genius of Christianity. The primary idea of this great religion is, indeed, the idea of the divinity of Christ. Do you mean, then, that Christ is entirely God, God in the absolute plenitude of his being? Then Christ can no longer be a man. If Christ, considered in a simple and absolute manner, without distinction and reserve, is identical with God considered also in his absolute simplicity, you verge upon a flagrant contradiction. The incarnation is then no longer a mystery, but a palpable absurdity, a real enormity. One ought to say with Spinoza, that in maintaining the doctrine of God-man, one might as well maintain a square
circle. Certain heretics, too, of the first ages adopted the plan of considering Christ as a sort of phantom or human shadow, which served merely as the organ of Deity. This fantastic
* Christ. Rest., lib. i. pp. 13, 14.
Christ is too unreasonable for one to dwell upon seriously. If, then, Christ was a real being, and if you maintain at the same time that he is God, in absolute literalness of speech, you fall into the absurdity of levelling the Being of beings to a creature, of circumscribing the infinite nature of God within the limits of individualism, -unless you should add that God is Christ in the same way as he is Socrates, as he is the last man that was born, as he is the plant that grows, the water that runs, the flint that I trample beneath my feet. But then, I repeat, there is no longer a unique supernatural incarnation of God in Christ; there are as many incarnations as there are real individuals. God becomes incarnate every where and continually. The life of nature is but the infinite and incessant metamorphosis of a single and self-same principle, which becomes every thing, destroys every thing, survives every thing, and is every thing. Then, too, Christ, at the most, is only an eminent, but still fleeting, manifestation of God. We may place him in the chapel of Alexander Severus with Moses, Orpheus and Zoroaster; but we must no longer call him the Son of God.
It was then in order to maintain the divinity of Christ, the cornerstone of Christianity, that the Councils established the distinction of his two natures. Servetus does not enter into this thought. He will not acknowledge two natures in Christ, and maintains that Jesus Christ as man, as son of Mary, is Son of God, consubstantial with God. His flesh is divine; his soul, his spirit, every thing in him, is divine. It is thus that he understands and accepts the famous term Homousion of the Nicene Council.* On this principle, all beings are sons of God; all nature is consubstantial with Him; and thereby even the Christ comes to be reduced to one particular and definite incarnation of God : Arianism and Sabellianism meet. 1. The denial of the divinity of Christ is the consequence logically imposed on Michael Servetus. , Did he resolutely accept it? or did he clearly reject it? Neither the one nor the other. He tried to soften sit while accepting it. This is what causes obscurity in his Christology. The key to all the difficulties which it presents is, that he wishes to be at once a Christian and a Pantheist. To solve this insoluble problem, sto acknowledge in Christ something more than a man, without seeing in him God himself mysteriously united to human nature, Servetus devises his theory of an ideal Christ who is not God, who is not man, but an intermediate being between man and God. He is the Central Idea, the Type of Types, the celestial Adam, the model of human nature, and consequently of all other beings. To the Church, Christ is God; to Pantheism, Christ is only a man, one part of nature. Between the Divinity, who is the inaccessible sanctuary of eternity and absolute unchangingness, and Nature, which is the region of motion, division and time, Servetus places an intermediate world, that of ideas; and he makes Christ the centre of this ideal world. In this way he thinks
* Christ. Rest., lib. ii. p. 48, seq.--"Caro Christi de cælo est, panis cælestis, de substantia Dei, et ex Deo exivit.”—Lib. i. p. 15.—“Sanguis Christi est Deus, sicut caro Christi est Deus, et anima Christi est Deus.” — Christ. Rest., p. 217, Mead's ed.
+ *Christus ipse est idearum pelagus æternum.”—Chr. Rest., p. 278.--"Quemadmodum in medio immensitatis et inaccessæ lucis apparet solaris vultus : ita in VOL. IV.