Josef83 - I couldn't help to notice your take on what happened with Calvin, Servetus and later Beza.
Thought I'd give you this History from a Calvinist website -
Excerpts from Philip Schaff - 'The History of the Christian Church' - Cpht 16
The deed of accusation, as lodged by Nicholas de la Fontaine, consisted of thirty-eight articles which were drawn up by Calvin (as he himself informs us), and were fortified by references to the books of Servetus, which were produced in evidence, especially the "Restitution of Christianity," both the manuscript copy, which Servetus had sent to Calvin in advance, and a printed copy.
The principal charges were, that be had published heretical opinions and blasphemies concerning the Trinity, the person of Christ, and infant baptism. He gave evasive or orthodox-sounding answers. He confessed to believe in the trinity of persons, but understood the word "person" in a different sense from that used by modern writers, and appealed to the first teachers of the Church and the disciples of the apostles.1174
He professed to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God according to his divinity and humanity; that the flesh of Christ came from heaven and of the substance of God; but as to the matter it came from the Virgin Mary. He denied the view imputed to him that the soul was mortal.
He admitted that he had called infant baptism "a diabolical invention and infernal falsehood destructive of Christianity."
This was a dangerous admission;
for the Anabaptists were suspected of seditious and revolutionary opinions.
He was also charged with having, "in the person of M. Calvin, defamed the doctrines of the gospel and of the Church of Geneva." To this he replied that in what he had formerly written against Calvin, in his own defence, he had not intended to injure him, but to show him his errors and faults, which he was ready to prove by Scripture and good reasons before a full congregation.
On Thursday, the 17th of August, Calvin himself appeared before the Council as the real accuser, and again on the 21st of August.1176 He also conferred with his antagonist in writing. Servetus was not a match for Calvin either in learning or argument; but he showed great skill and some force.
In the mean time Servetus had, within the space of twenty-four hours, prepared a written defence, as directed by the Council, against the thirty-eight articles of Calvin. It was both apologetic and boldly aggressive, clear, keen, violent, and bitter. He contemptuously repelled Calvins interference in the trial, and charged him with presumption in framing articles of faith after the fashion of the doctors of the Sorbonne, without Scripture proof.1184 He affirmed that he either misunderstood him or craftily perverted his meaning. He quotes from Tertullian, Irenaeus, and pseudo-Clement in support of his views. He calls him a disciple of Simon Magus, a criminal accuser, and a homicide.1185 He ridiculed the idea that such a man should call himself an orthodox minister of the Church.
Calvin replied within two days in a document of twenty-three folio pages, which were signed by all the fourteen ministers of Geneva.1186 He meets the patristic quotations of Servetus with counter-quotations, with Scripture passages and solid arguments, and charges him in conclusion with the intention "to subvert all religion."1187
These three documents, which contained the essence of the doctrinal discussion, were presented to the Little Council on Tuesday the 5th of September.
On the 15th of September Servetus addressed a petition to the Council in which he attacked Calvin as his persecutor, complained of his miserable condition in prison and want of the necessary clothing, and demanded an advocate and the transfer of his trial to the Large Council of Two Hundred, where he had reason to expect a majority in his favor.1188 This course had probably been suggested to him (as Rilliet conjectures) by Perrin and Berthelier through the jailer, Claude de Genève, who was a member of the Libertine party.
On the same day the Little Council ordered an improvement of the prisoners wardrobe (which, however, was delayed by culpable neglect), and sent him the three documents, with permission to make a last reply to Calvin, but took no action on his appeal to the Large Council, having no disposition to renounce its own authority.
Servetus at once prepared a reply by way of explanatory annotations on the margin and between the lines of the memorial of Calvin and the ministers. These annotations are full of the coarsest abuse, and read like the production of a madman. He calls Calvin again and again a liar,1189 an impostor, a miserable wretch (nebulo pessimus), a hypocrite, a disciple of Simon Magus, etc.
Take these specimens: "Do you deny that you are a man-slayer? I will prove it by your acts. You dare not deny that you are Simon Magus. As for me, I am firm in so good a cause, and do not fear death
. You deal with sophistical arguments without Scripture
. You do not understand what you say. You howl like a blind man in the desert .... You lie, you lie, you lie, you ignorant calumniator .... Madness is in you when you persecute to death
. I wish that all your magic were still in the belly of your mother
. I wish I were free to make a catalogue of your errors. Whoever is not a Simon Magus is considered a Pelagian by Calvin. All, therefore, who have been in Christendom are damned by Calvin; even the apostles, their disciples, the ancient doctors of the Church and all the rest.
For no one ever entirely abolished free-will except that Simon Magus. Thou liest, thou liest, thou liest, thou liest, thou miserable wretch."
He concludes with the remark that, his doctrine was met merely by clamors, not by argument or any authority," and he subscribed his name as one who had Christ for his certain protector.1190
He sent these notes to the Council on the 18th of September. It was shown to Calvin, but he did not deem it expedient to make a reply. Silence in this case was better than speech.
The debate, therefore, between the two divines was closed, and the trial became an affair of Protestant Switzerland, which should act as a jury.
Calvin and Farel saw, in his refusal to recant, only the obstinacy of an incorrigible heretic and blasphemer. We must recognize in it the strength of his conviction. He forgave his enemies; he asked the pardon even of Calvin. Why should we not forgive him? He had a deeply religious nature. We must honor his enthusiastic devotion to the Scriptures and to the person of Christ. From the prayers and ejaculations inserted in his book, and from his dying cry for mercy, it is evident that he worshipped Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.1203
Farel raised him up and said: "Confess thy crime, and God will have mercy on your soul." Servetus replied:, I am not guilty; I have not merited death." Then he smote his breast, invoked God for pardon, confessed Christ as his Saviour, and besought God to pardon his accusers.1195
On the short journey to the place of execution, Farel again attempted to obtain a confession, but Servetus was silent. He showed the courage and consistency of a martyr in these last awful moments.
Farel invites Servetus to solicit the prayers of the people and to unite his prayers with theirs. Servetus obeys in silence. The executioner fastens him by iron chains to the stake amidst the fagots, puts a crown of leaves covered with sulphur on his head, and binds his book by his side. The sight of the flaming torch extorts from him a piercing shriek of "misericordias" in his native tongue. The spectators fall back with a shudder. The flames soon reach him and consume his mortal frame in the forty-fourth year of his fitful life.
In the last moment he is heard to pray, in smoke and agony, with a loud voice: "Jesus Christ, thou Son of the eternal God, have mercy upon me!"1197
This was at once a confession of his faith and of his error. He could not be induced, says Farel, to confess that Christ was the eternal Son of God.
The tragedy ended when the clock of St. Peters struck twelve. The people quietly dispersed to their homes. Farel returned at once to Neuchâtel, even without calling on Calvin. The subject was too painful to be discussed.
The conscience and piety of that age approved of the execution, and left little room for the emotions of compassion. But two hundred years afterwards a distinguished scholar and minister of Geneva echoed the sentiments of his fellow-citizens when he said: "Would to God that we could extinguish this funeral pile with our tears."
§ 157. Calvins Defence of the Death Penalty for Heretics.
The public sentiment, Catholic and Protestant, as we have seen, approved of the traditional doctrine, that obstinate heretics should be made harmless by death, and continued unchanged down to the close of the seventeenth century.
Not only dissenters and personal enemies, but also, as Beza admits, some orthodox and pious people and friends of Calvin were dissatisfied with the severity of the punishment, and feared, not without reason, that it would justify and encourage the Romanists in their cruel persecution of Protestants in France and elsewhere.
Calvins plea for the right and duty of the Christian magistrate to punish heresy by death, stands or falls with his theocratic theory and the binding authority of the Mosaic code. His arguments are chiefly drawn from the Jewish laws against idolatry and blasphemy, and from the examples of the pious kings of Israel. But his arguments from the New Testament are failures. He agrees with Augustin in the interpretation of the parabolic words: "Constrain them to come in" (Luke 14:23).1209 But this can only refer to moral and not to physical force, and would imply a forcible salvation, not destruction. The same parable was afterwards abused by the French bishops to justify the abominable dragoonades of Louis XIV. against the Huguenots. Calvin quotes the passages on the duty of the civil magistrate to use the sword against evil-doers (Rom. 13:4); the expulsion of the profane traffickers from the temple (Matt. 21:12); the judgment on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1 sqq.); the striking of Elymas with blindness (13:11); and the delivery of Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan (1 Tim. 1:20). He answers the objections from the parables of the tares and of the net (Matt. 13:30, 49), and from the wise counsel of Gamaliel (Acts 5:34). But he cannot get over those passages which contradict his theory, as Christs rebuke to John and James for wishing to call down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54), and to Peter for drawing the sword (Matt. 26:52), his declaration that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), and his whole spirit and aim, which is to save and not to destroy.
Calvins "Defence" did not altogether satisfy even some of his best friends. Zurkinden, the State Secretary of Bern, wrote him Feb. 10, 1554: "I wish the former part of your book, respecting the right which the magistrates may have to use the sword in coercing heretics, had not appeared in your name, but in that of your council, which might have been left to defend its own act. I do not see how you can find any favor with men of sedate mind in being the first formally to treat this subject, which is a hateful one to almost all."1211 Bullinger intimated his objections more mildly in a letter of March 26, 1554, in which he says: "I only fear that your book will not be so acceptable to many of the more simple- minded persons, who, nevertheless, are attached both to yourself and to the truth, by reason of its brevity and consequent obscurity, and the weightiness of the subject. And, indeed, your style appears somewhat perplexed, especially in this work." Calvin wrote in reply, April 29, 1554: "I am aware that I have been more concise than usual in this treatise. However, if I should appear to have faithfully and honestly defended the true doctrine, it will more than recompense me for my trouble. But though the candor and justice which are natural to you, as well as your love towards me, lead you to judge of me favorably, there are others who assail me harshly as a master in cruelty and atrocity, for attacking with my pen not only a dead man, but one who perished by my hands. Some, even not self-disposed towards me, wish that I had never entered on the subject of the punishment of heretics, and say that others in the like situation have held their tongues as the best way of avoiding hatred. It is well, however, that I have you to share my fault, if fault it be; for you it was who advised and persuaded me to it. Prepare yourself, therefore, for the combat."1212
§ 158. A Plea for Religious Liberty. Castellio and Beza.
Cf. § 126, p. 627, and especially Ferd. Buisson, Sébastien Castellion. Paris (Hachette et Cie), 1892. 2 vols. 8vo (I. 358413; II. 128).
A month after Calvins defence of the death penalty of heretics, there appeared at Basel a pseudonymous book in defence of religious liberty, dedicated to Duke Christopher of Würtemberg.1213 It was edited and prefaced professedly by Martinus Bellius, whose real name has never been discovered with certainty. Perhaps it was Martin Borrhaus of Stuttgart (14991564), professor of Hebrew learning in the University of Basel, and known under the name of "Cellarius," in honor of his first protector, Simon Cellarius (not to be confounded with Michael Cellarius of Augsburg). He studied at Heidelberg and Wittenberg, appeared first among the Zwickau Prophets, and then in connection with Carlstadt (who ended his days likewise as a professor at Basel).1214 The book was misdated from Magdeburg, the stronghold of the orthodox Lutherans, in opposition to the tyranny of the Imperial Interim. A French edition appeared, nominally at Rouen, but was probably printed at Lyons, where Castellio had a brother in the printing business.1215
Calvin at once suspected the true authors, and wrote to Bullinger, March 28, 1554: "A book has just been clandestinely printed at Basel under false names, in which Castellio and Curio pretend to prove that heretics should not be repressed by the sword. Would that the pastors of that church at length, though late, aroused themselves to prevent the evil from spreading wider."1216 A few days afterwards Beza wrote to Bullinger about the same book, and gave it as his opinion that the feigned Magdeburg was a city on the Rhine [Basel], and that Castellio was the real author, who treated the most important articles of faith as useless or indifferent, and put the Bible on a par with the Ethics of Aristotle.1217
Castellio wrote, however, only a part of the book. He adopted the pseudonym of Basilius (i.e. Sebastian) Montfortius (i.e. Castellio).1218
The body of this work consists of a collection of testimonies in favor of religious toleration, extracted from the writings of Luther (his book, Von weltlicher Obrigkeit, 1523), Brenz (who maintain that heresy as long as it keeps in the intellectual sphere should be punished only by the Word of God), Erasmus, Sebastian Frank, several Church Fathers (Lactantius, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustin, in his antiManichaean writings), Otto Brunsfeld (d. at Bern, 1534), Urbanus Rhegius (Lutheran theologian, d. 1541), Conrad Pellican (Hebrew professor at Zürich, d. 1556), Caspar Hedio, Christoph Hoffmann, Georg Kleinberg (a pseudonym) and even Calvin (in the first edition of his Institutes). This collection was probably made by Curio.
The epilogue is written by Castellio, and is the most important part of the book. He examines the different biblical and patristic passages quoted for and against intolerance. He argues against his opponents from the multiplicity of sects which disagree on the interpretation of Scripture, and concludes that, on their principles, they should all be exterminated except one. He justly charges St. Augustin with inconsistency in his treatment of the Donatists, for which, he says, he was punished by the invasion of the Arian Vandals. The lions turned against those who had unchained them. Persecution breeds Christian hypocrites in place of open heretics. It provokes counter-persecution, as was just then seen in England after the accession of Queen Mary, which caused the flight of English Protestants to Switzerland. In conclusion he gives an allegorical picture of a journey through the centuries showing the results of the two conflicting principles of force and liberty, of intolerance and charity, and leaves the reader to decide which of the two armies is the army of Jesus Christ.
Castellio anticipated Bayle and Voltaire, or rather the Baptists and Quakers. He was the champion of religious liberty in the sixteenth century. He claimed it in the name of the gospel and the Reformation. It was appropriate that this testimony should come from the Swiss city of Basel, the home of Erasmus.1219
But the leaders of the Swiss Reformation in Geneva and Zürich could see in this advocacy of religious freedom only a most dangerous heresy, which would open the door to all kinds of errors and throw the Church of Christ into inextricable confusion.
Theodore Beza, the faithful aid of Calvin, took up his pen against the anonymous sceptics of Basel, and defended the right and duty of the Christian magistrate to punish heresy. His work appeared in September, 1554; that is, five months after the book of Martinus Bellius. It was Bezas first published theological treatise (he was then thirty-five years of age).1220
The book has a polemic and an apologetic part. In the former, Beza tries to refute the principle of toleration; in the latter, to defend the conduct of Geneva. He contends that the toleration of error is indifference to truth, and that it destroys all order and discipline in the Church. Even the enforced unity of the papacy is much better than anarchy. Heresy is much worse than murder, because it destroys the soul. The spiritual power has nothing to do with temporal punishments; but it is the right and duty of the civil government, which is Gods servant, to see to it that he receives his full honor in the community. Beza appeals to the laws of Moses and the acts of kings Asa and Josiah against blasphemers and false prophets. All Christian rulers have punished obstinate heretics. The oecumenical synods (from 325 to 787) were called and confirmed by emperors who punished the offenders. Whoever denies to the civil authority the right to restrain and punish pernicious errors against public worship undermines the authority of the Bible. He cites in confirmation passages from Luther, Melanchthon, Urbanus Rhegius, Brenz, Bucer, Capito, Bullinger, Musculus, and the Church of Geneva. He closes the argument as follows: "The duty of the civil authority in this matter is hedged about by these three regulations: (1) It must strictly confine itself to its own sphere, and not presume to define heresy; that belongs to the Church alone. (2) It must not pass judgment with regard to persons, advantages, and circumstances, but with pure regard to the honor of God.
(3) It must proceed after quiet, regular examination of the heresy and mature consideration of all the circumstances, and inflict such punishment as will best secure the honor due to the divine Majesty
and the peace and unity of the Church." [End Quotes]