William Simpson.

The man from Mars; his morals, politics and religion online

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by theologians for ages, we see fit to transcribe here the
argument of one of them, made a long time ago it is true,
but nevertheless a fair sample of the theological methods
of thought. It is copied from a book written by one
Scipio Chiaramonti, and dedicated to Cardinal Barberini.
' ' Animals which move have limbs and muscles, the earth
has no limbs and muscles, therefore it does not move. It
is angels who make Saturn, Jupiter, the Sun, etc., turn
round. If the earth revolves it must also have an angel
in the center to set it in motion; but only devils live
there ; it would therefore be a devil who would impart
motion to the earth." All branches of the Protestant


church condemned the theorj^ of the earth's movement,
Calvin asked, ' ' Who will venture to place the authorit)^
of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit ? ' ' Wesley
also denounced the new theor>', declaring it to "tend
toward infidelity." The grand men who were coming
forward in their efforts to advance knovv'ledge unavoid-
ably encroached upon many of the * ' truths of scripture ' '
and both churches were equally engaged in their efforts
to suppress them, bj^ argument if possible, but if not, by
fire and stake. The Protestant chturch, which has always
made a claim of especial enlightenment, vied with the
other in its cruel and relentless warfare upon what is
known among the churches as heresy, the proper definition
of which is reason and common sense. We have said that
the case of Galileo was the monumental shame of
Christendom ; the case of Servitus was a monumental
crime, which Protestantism alone must answer for.

The persecution of Michael Servetus by John Calvin,
one of the leaders of the Reformation, was one of the
most unjust and inhuman exercises of religious authority
that the world has seen. There were many features in
this tragedy of burning at the stake, that were out of the
common. The victim was a man of unblemished char-


acter, of great learning, and a scientist, with a genius for
investigation. He was a skilled practitioner of medicine,
out of which profession he derived his income. He had
made some advances in medical science, coming so near
to a discovery of the circulation of the blood, that it is
quite likely, but for his untimely death, he would have
reached it instead of Harvey, many years afterward. His
active mind had led him to devote much of his leisure to
the study of theology, and, laboring among its problems,
he strove to reconcile a number of orthodox beliefs and
doctrines with the scientific knowledge of his time, not
combating them or contriving at their destruction, but by
changing the sense of words, to make them apparently
accord with known elements of truth. He was an ardent
supporter of the Reformation, and a friend and admirer of
Calvin, and he began and maintained for some time, a
correspondence with him, with the view of obtaining his
advice and support. The proposed modification in the
sense of scriptural texts, was not favorably received by
Calvin, and the two were drawn into a controversy,
which finally became acrimonious. The world, at present,
partially recovered from its long period of hypnotized
reason, is able to appreciate the small value of the ques-


tious which engaged these two men, and which led one to
strike the other down to death, and it is also able to judge
how much Servetus was in advance of his adversary in
their discussions.

Calvin maintained, that under instructions from God,
through the Bible, an infant, dying without baptism,
could not escape the tortures of Hell, a locality described
by the same authority, as a place of horrors, of endless
burning amid sulphurous fires, of never ending thirst,
and of a "weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth"
through all time to come. Servetus expressed his doubts
of the justice of this infliction upon sinless infants, and
attempted to show that it was not authorized by the
Sacred Book. He also denied the doctrine of the Holy
Trinity, as it was commonly received. He did not deny
a kind of Trinity in the unity of God, but believing that
it was merely formal, and not personal, mere distinctions
in the divine essence, and that, as generally understood,
it was a dream, and an invention of the Fathers of the
Church. He also asserted, upon good authority, that
there was a Christian doctrine before there was an}' adop-
tion of the Hebrew legends ; that these legends did not
become a part of the church, until nearly a century after


the great moral teacher had met his cruel death. He also
came as near as he dared, to expressing his belief, that
the Son was merely a man, with the divine inspiration in
a large degree. Such advanced ideas as these, asserted
with the positiveness of coniiction, and backed with
unanswerable argument, were the cause of his undoing.
Calvin, at this time, was at the head of a church
already powerful. He ruled it with an autocratic will,
and upon all questions of doctrinal beliefs, he was the
last court of appeal. He had long accepted the homage
of his followers, as one selected by the Almighty for their
spiritual guidance, and, with the common weakness of
humanity, he became arbitrary' and despotic in his man-
agement of church affairs. He was always ready to
advise and direct, and in his first letters to Servetus,
assumed some show of argument while denying his
doctrines. Servetus answered him, not with that defer-
ence that his adversary usually received, but in all the
spirit of earnest debate. Nothing more exasperating to
Calvin could have occurred, and to cap the climax of
affront, his adversar>% a mere layman, published a book
"Christianity Restored" setting forth his advanced views,
and with a reckless temerity, sent the reformer a copy.


The controversy between them immediately degenerated
into mutual recrimination and abuse. Calvin's anger
was raised to a white heat, when he saw the errors and
blasphemies, as he regarded them, and which he had
vainly sought to combat, confided to the printed page,
and thrown broadcast upon the world. Besides the alleged
heretical matter of the book, he found himself taken to
task, declared to be in error, and his most cherished doc-
trines controverted. But he discovered withal some
matter in the book which pleased him. His enemy had
committed himself in abusing the Papacy: evidence
sufficient to convict him at once of blasphemy in the
Roman Catholic city of Vienne in France where Ser\'etus
then resided, and he proceeded at once to put the cruel
scheme of his death into execution. By information to
the authorities at Vienne through dictated letters, he suc-
ceeded in having Servetus thrown into prison there, from
whence he escaped, and became an outcast for months.
The malignant and inhuman manner in which this
Christian leader followed his innocent victim, could
scarcely have occurred upon any other question but a
religious one, and his murderous intent, from the first,
is shown by a letter from Calvin to a friend in which he


says, "Servetus wrote to me lately, and besides his letter
sent me a great volume of his ravings, telling me, with
audacious arrogance, that I should find there things stu-
pendous and unheard of until now. He offers to come
thither if I approve ; but I will not pledge my faith to
him ; for, did he come, if I have any authority here, ' ' I
he proved himself, in this instance, true to his word.

The Roman Catholic authorities of Vienne, discovering
after a while the connivance of Calvin, in putting the
execution of his enemy on them, contrived, it is said, to
make his escape easy. They had no mind to have this
work thrust upon them. They probably felt that the
reformers should take care of their own heretics. Ser-
vetus, after his escape, wandered about from place to
place, all the time his life in imminent danger, and
finally brought up in Geneva, the home of Calvin, dis-
guising himself, and hiding in the outskirts. What
induced him to take such desperate chances is not posi-
tively known. His intention is supposed to have been to
go to Naples, and to be gone from Geneva on the first favor-
able opportunity. Weary of confinement, and always
piousl}' inclined, he ventured imprudently to show himself.


at the evening sen^ice of a neighboring church, and being
there recognized, intimation of his presence was conveyed
to Calvin, who, without loss of a moment, demanded his
immediate arrest, making his arraignment himself, and
industriously working until the end, as chief prosecutor
and witness. The barbaric cruelty during imprisonment
to this famous man, in an eminently Christian community,
and by a Christian leader is shown by the following letter
from his prison cell. " Most noble I^ords, it is now three
weeks since I petitioned for an audience, and I have to
inform you that nothing has been done, and I am in a
more filthy plight than ever. In addition, I suffer terri-
bly from the cold, and from colic and my rupture, which
causes me miseries. It is very cruel that I am neither
allowed to speak, nor not have my most pressing wants
supplied ; for the love of God sirs, in pity give orders in
mj' behalf. ' ' And here is another one : ' ' M}' most
honored I^ords, I humbly entreat of you to put an end to
these great delays, or to exonerate me of the criminal
charge. You must see that Calvin is at his wits ends, and
knows not what more to say, but for his pleasure, would
have me rot here in prison. The lice eat me up alive,
my breeches are in rags, and I have no change, no doub-


let, and but a single shirt in tatters." Thirty-eight
articles of impeachment were drawn up by Calvin, and
after a protracted trial, wherein he acted as chief interro-
gator, this unhappy victim was sentenced to be burnt at
the stake. Servetus, during his whole examination,
showed himself to be a brave, conscientious, religious
man. His answers to each one of the articles was able,
consistent, and would have been considered in this day
unanswerable, and what is more his views have since
been adopted by the most advanced of the Christian sects.
The following is a description of his execution recorded
at that time.

" When he came in sight of the fatal pile, the wretched
Servetus prostrated himself on the ground and for a while
was absorbed in prayer. Rising and advancing a few
steps he found himself in the hands of the executioner,
by whom he was made to sit on a block, his feet just
reaching the ground. His body was then bound to the
stake behind him by several turns of an iron chain, whilst
his neck was secured in Hke manner by the coil of a
hempen rope. His two books-the one in manuscript
sent to Calvin in confidence six or eight years before for
his stricture, and a copy of the one lately printed at


Vienne вАФ were fastened to his waist, and his head was
encircled in mockery with a chaplet of straw and green
twigs bestrewed with brimstone. The deadly torch was
then applied to the fagots and flashed in his face ; and
the brimstone catching, and the flames rising, wrung from
the victim such a cry of anguish as struck terror into the
surrounding crowd. After this he was bravely silent ;
but the wood being purposely green, although the people
aided the executioner in heaping the fagots upon him, a
long half hour elapsed before he ceased to show signs of
life and sufi^ering. Immediately before giving up the
ghost, with a last expiring eflbrt he cried aloud, ' ' Jesus,
thou Son of the eternal God, have compassion upon me ! ' '
All was then hushed, save hissing and crackling of the
green wood, and by and by there remained no more of
what had been Michael Servetus, but a charred and
blackened trunk, and a handful of ashes." So died in
advance of his age, this victim of religious fanaticism and
personal hate, a fitting triumph of the theological over the
scientific methods of thought, the result among many
thousands like it of the adoption of the Jewish legends
by Christianity, and in this case, brought about by a
Christian leader, the founder of a creed, in which to this


day, enough of his spirit remains to make it the greatest
enemy of free thought and liberal opinion, among all the
creeds of Protestantism. Of this disgraceful tragedy was
it the spirit of the Master which led the inhuman crowd to
vie with each other in piling on the fagots, or was it the
malign influence of a vindictive and cruel Hebrew God ?
Every conflict between science and theology since the
days of Copernicus has resulted in an unequivocal victory
for the former. Both churches resisted the truth of the
rotundity and movement of the earth as though their
existence depended upon it. They fought each question
as it arose in the same spirit. The Mosaic account of the
creation, the age of the world, the deluge, the length of
man's sojourn upon the earth, are questions as effec-
tively settled adversely to the "truths of scripture" as
the one for which Galileo suffered. And yet Christianity
lives, and will continue to live and flourish, solely on
account of the inherent and increasing affinity of the human
heart as civilization advances for the precepts and ex-
ample of its founder. If Christianity were destined to
fall by the undermining of its legends it would fall now
with the recent destruction of one upon which its exis-
tence appeared to depend, which has, more than any


Other, shaped its course and laid the foundation of its
rituals. The doctrine of evolution now established as a
truth is the most serious and apparently destructive one
that theology ever met. The fact that man has arisen
from a condition of brutality, instead of fal,len
from a state of perfection is, to ecclesiasticism, a raking
blow from stem to stern, compared with all previous bat-
tles with science as the shot of a modern thirty-two
pounder with old fashioned ordinance. The legend of
the fall of man, compared with all others, is the vilest.
It was brought from Assyria, by the Hebrews, who
obtained it during their captivity, from a barbarous people,
among whom it was current for ages, and was thus
inserted in our Sacred Book, proofs of which have recently
been found in deciphering the Ninevite records. A sus-
picion is not entirely without warrant that it ma)^ have
been adopted with a purpose of creating miseries and
sorrows in the multitude for the profitable occupation of
a divinel}'' authorized few in the buisness of consoling
them, and right well has it fulfilled its mission. It has
changed the facial expression of Christendom. It has
deepened the furrows of sorrow upon old age, and fixed
lines of care upon the features of youth. It has brought


the undeserved dejection of criminality, and the downcast
of shame, where of right belongs the reflection of hope-
fulness and the light of expectancy. It has incalculably
multiplied the sorrows of life, and created for each death
a nightmare of imaginary horrors. This legend is
the foundation and inspiration of most of the evil
and cruelty that Christianity has inflicted on
human kind. Fabulous itself, it has been the parent of
unrealities, witchcraft and magic for instance, from which
millions of innocent victims have been sacrificed to torture
and death. It has transformed reasonable enjoyments of
life into crimes by the invention of a word, which with
the latitude given its definition, has kept in trembling
uncertainty the innocent and harmless. To the parent it
has bestowed the agony of dread for the fate of departed
offspring, guileless infants, as well as the matured. This
legend of the fall of man has established in the paths of
life its drag net Sin, a word of such unlimited theological
definition, that any one of average rectitude, by some
trifling inadvertance of thought or action, is likely to
bring upon himself the condemnation of a frowning God ;
so that, the worthy as well as the unworthy, may not
escape the ser\dces of theological assistance and interces-


sion. But for the doubt that exists, and has probably
always existed, except among the ignorant and sluggish
minded, of the truth of this peurile invention, it would
have reduced humanity long ago to a state of universal
hopelessness and despair.

The theologians have but little left now but the miracles
to defend, and although it must be conceded by them that
the miracle of Joshua has fallen, others whose fallacy can-
not be so well demonstrated by science, are held to with
the tenacity of desperation, and in utter disregard of
reason and common sense. Fortunately, in the interest of
truth, we are given an opportunity to study the evolution
of miracles, in a case so modern that every statement in
proof of their fallacy can be substantiated by the current
literature of the time. Saint Francis Xavier was an
earnest, sincere and truthful Jesuit, whose religious ser-
vices were performed in the middle of the sixteenth cen-
tury. He gave up a promising career as professor in a
Paris academy, and in his enthusiasm and devotion to
Christianity, went as missionary to the Far East. Among
the various tribes of lower India, and afterward in Japan
he wrought untiringly, toiling through \dllage after
village collecting the natives by means of a hand bell.


After twelve years of such efforts seeking new converts
for religion, he sacrificed his life on the desert island of
San Chan. During his career as missionary he wrote
great numbers of letters, which were preserved, and have
since been published, and these, with the letters of his
contemporaries, exhibit cleary all the features of his life.
No account of a miracle wrought by him appears either
in his own letters or any contemporary document. More
than that, his brother missionaries, who were in constant
and loyal fellowship witk him, make no illusions to them
in their communications with each other, or with their
brethren in Europe. This silence regarding his miracles
was clearly not due to any unbelief in them, because these
good missionary fathers were free to record the slightest
occurance which they thought evidence of Divine favor.
One of them sends a report that an illuminated cross had
been recently seen in the heavens ; another that devils
had been cast out of the natives by the use of holy water;
others send reports that lepers had been healed by baptism,
and that the blind and dumb had been restored by the
rites of the church ; but to Xavier no miracles are imputed
by his associates during his life, or during several years
after his death. On the contrary we find his own state-


ments as to his personal limitations and the difficulties
arising from them fully confirmed by his brother workers.
It is interesting for example, in view of the claim after-
wards made, that the Saint was divinely endowed for his
mission with the ' ' gift of tongues ' ' to note in these letters
confirmation of Xavier's own statement utterly disprov-
ing the existence of any such Divine gift, and detailing
the difficulties which he encountered from his want of
knowing various languages, and the hard labor he under-
went in learning the elements of the Japanese tongue.
With all this evidence, and much more available if
necessary, to prove that Xavier never performed a miracle
the church began building them up for him, unmindful
of the fact that he lived in an age of literature, books and
printed correspondence, and not in those remote times
when it held supreme control of all learning and commu-
nication by letters ; accordingly, the first of the Xavier
miracles began to appear about ten years after his death.
They multiplied from time to time begining, it is reason-
able to suppose, about the gossiping hearth and eagerly
confirmed by the cloister, until they began to be men-
tioned in church literature. The first of which, a letter
twenty years after his death by a Jesuit father entitled ' ' On



religious affairs in the Indies" says nothing of Xavier's
miracles. The next, a publication called "History of
India" thirty-six years after his death by another Jesuit
father dwells lightly on the alleged miracles. The next,
sixty years later, a " I^ife of Xavier" shows an increase
of his miracles, and representing him as casting out
devHs, curing the sick, stilling the tempest, raising the
dead, and performing miracles of all sorts. Since Xavier
was made a Saint many other lives of him appeared, one
of them one hundred and sixty years after his death, the
best so far written and now esteemed a classic, in which
the old miracles were enormously multiplied. According
to his first biographer he saves one person from drowning
by a miracle, in this one he saves, during his Ufe time,
three. In the first he raises three persons from the dead,
in this one fourteen. In the first there is one miraculous
supply of water, in this one three, and so on, until this
date when the Xavier miracles are counted by hundreds.
This case of the evolution of miracles is largely copied
from a recent publication of President White of Cornell
University. It is not only highly instructive as indicating
the process by which these deceptions are evolved, but
also tends to the pleasant and welcome conviction that many


of the earnest and self-sacrificing workers in the field of
Christianity, to whom miracles are imputed were guiltless
of them. But more than all it shows the way to a reas-
oning mind by which, through the present and coming
rationalism, a pure and worshipful personality shall retain
his hold upon the affections of men.

Those men of science and independent thought who
went over to the Reformation, expecting encouragement
and protection under it, were doomed to be disappointed.
It was not a movement caused by the pressure of enlighten-
ment. At that period, both Germany and England were far
below Italy in their conditions of knowledge and learning.
It was a rebellion caused by the oppression of e\'ils, and a
desire for change in the management of church matters only.
Every one of the superstitions of the old church were
transferred to the new one. The same, in fact a stricter
literal adherence to the words of scripture in managing
the affairs of life, and in deciding questions of science,
were maintained, the same incessant watchfulness toward
those men of learning who were threatening the ' ' truths
of scripture" in their scientific labors, and the same
cruelties invoked for their suppression, and the extinction
of heresy. No more intellectual freedom was permitted,


except upon minor doctrinal points of beliefs, and upon
these there began those controversies which soon broke
up the movement into factions or creeds. The intention
of the new church was to do away with those rituals and
ceremonies, which had been adopted from paganism as a
compromise in the second and third centuries, and to
bring their church back as far as possible, to that simplicity
which characterized the first teachings of Christianity.
But the leaders of the Reformation never attempted nor
had they any desire to bring back that entire freedom of
thought and expression which existed in the early days.
No one with immunity would be allowed to deny the
doctrine of the Holy Trinity or the truth of Immaculate
Conception, as the old Greek philosophers were wont to
do. Such vital questions it was torture and death to
adversely consider, Servetus being and earl}^ victim to such
temerity. There were questions enough however within
the limits of safe discussion, to set agoing those unending
controversies which distinguished Protestantism to this
day. The newly acquired privilege of discussing sacred
affairs among laymen as well as others, were indulged in
to such an extent that debate between the sects, in defense
of their several interpretations of scriptural texts, monop-


olized in society its hours of intercourse and conversation.
When their leaders were indulging in such discussion as
the dialogue between Eve and the Serpent ; whether the
Serpent stood erect on his tail, or in its natural coil when
it was addressing Eve ; fixing the hour of this remarkable
event ; accounting for the manner in which Noah fed the
animals in the ark ; how fishes appeared before Adam to
be named by him, and such troublesome problems, laymen
were mostly engaged in the examination of those doc-
trinal points which were dividing the movement into

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Online LibraryWilliam SimpsonThe man from Mars; his morals, politics and religion → online text (page 2 of 14)