Curione Celio Secondo
Curione Celio Secondo
Curione Celio Secondo (Italie, Curione,) was born at San Chirico, in Piedmont, May 1st, 1503 ; and was the youngest son in a family of twenty-three children. He lost both his parents, before he had completed his ninth year. His father, who was allied to some of the first families in Piedmont, held a distinguished civic office at Moncaglieri, and superintended his son's education, till the period of his own death. Celius was the favourite child of both his parents ; and his father, who always regarded him as the hope and stay of the family, besides leaving him an equal share in his personal property with the rest of his children, bequeathed to him the family mansion at Moncaglieri, together with an estate in the country, and a beautifully embellished Bible.
After the death of his parents he was sent to a public school, where he made a rapid proficiency in classical knowledge; but the course of education pursued in this seminary being too narrow to satisfy his aspiring mind, he removed to the University of Turin, and devoted himself to the study of Oratory, Poetry, History and Jurisprudence, under the Professors who then had charge of those departments.
He had scarcely completed his twentieth year, when the names of Luther and Zwingle began to be the general topics of conversation: and deeming it unjust to join in the prevailing outcry against them, without allowing them an opportunity of defending themselves, he resolved to procure their writings, and make himself thorough master of the controversy. By the assistance of some friends he obtained a sight of Luther's treatises on Indulgences, and on the Babylonish Captivity, Zwingle's Essay on true and false Religion, and some of the writings of Melanchthon and Erasmus; and his curiosity was so much excited by the perusal of these, that he felt an ardent desire to become acquainted with their authors. With this view he invited James Cornelli and Francis Guarini, two of his fellow-students, who afterwards became eminent Protestant Ministers, to be his companions on a tour into Germany;—an invitation, which neither of them was slow to accept.
Before they had proceeded many miles on their way, these sanguine youths, with buoyant spirits and light hearts, to beguile the tedium of their journey, entered into a friendly religious discussion; but being reported to Boniface, Cardinal Bishop of Ivrea, by some of the country people, as men of suspicious character, he caused them to be apprehended, and lodged in prison. Curio was now separated from his companions, and conducted to the castle of Capriano: but after a confinement of about two months, he was liberated at the request of some influential friends, and discharged with a gentle admonition.
The Bishop, who saw that he was a young man of considerable promise, took him under his own protection, and sent him to prosecute his studies at the monastery of San Benigno. But here his contempt for the Catholic superstitions soon began to display itself, and was carried to a length, which, but for the good fortune that ever accompanied him, might, even in more enlightened times, have been attended with very serious consequences. Having clandestinely obtained access to the shrine, where certain relics were deposited, he abstracted them from their hidingplace, and left in their stead a copy of the Bible, which he had taken from the library of the monastery, and in a blank leaf of which he wrote these words:—" This is the ark of the covenant, from which the genuine oracles of God may be learned, and in which are contained the true relics of the saints." All this was done with so much tact and cleverness, that for a long time no suspicion was entertained of what had taken place. The relics which Curio had removed were only allowed to see the light on particular occasions, and on the eve of one of these, apprehending that the suspicion of having purloined them would fall upon himself, he absconded, and travelled on foot, by way of Milan and Rome, into the Neapolitan territory.
After visiting most of the principal cities in Italy, he returned to Milan, where he resided for some years. As he was endowed by nature with talents of the highest order, which he had improved by assiduous cultivation, he was at no loss for the means of obtaining a comfortable livelihood, which he did by devoting himself to the office of an instructor of youth. During his residence at Milan, he was noticed by some of the principal families of the place ; and conducted himself so as to secure the esteem and good-will of all parties. At that time the Milanese was occupied by Spanish troops, and the country was ravaged by famine and pestilence, and all the horrors which usually follow in the train of war, Curio was unwearied in his attention to the sufferers. He not only distributed to the poor what he obtained from the liberality of many persons of distinction, but, cooperating with the noble family of the Isacci in the suburbs, to which he had retired, he induced the clergy, when all other resources failed, to apply the Church revenues to the relief of the poor; and when all besides fled, and left their friends and relations to provide for themselves, he remained at his post, and not only administered consolation to those who stood in need of it, but, with the aid of a single companion, buried those who had fallen victims to famine or disease.
By his noble and disinterested conduct on this occasion, Curio so far ingratiated himself into the favour of Margherita Bianca Isacca, an elegant and accomplished young lady of illustrious family, as to obtain her hand in marriage. Wishing now to settle in some quiet part of Italy, where he and his bride would be free from the hostile incursions of the Spanish troops, he removed to Casale, in the neighbouring Duchy of Monferrat. This was in 1530 ; but after the lapse of a few years, his brothers being then all dead, he was urged by friends to return to his native place, where a married sister, the only surviving member of the family beside himself, had possessed herself of his patrimony. On his arrival, he met with a hospitable reception from his sister and her husband, who thought that he had come merely for the purpose of visiting his friends. But when they found, that his object was to recover what they had dishonestly appropriated to their own use, his sister, pretending that his life was in danger, on account of his heretical opinions, urged him to seek safety, by flight to a neighbouring town, then in the occupation of Claude of Savoy. Curio thought that he might there settle his affairs without danger; and, in process of time, when the rumours against him had died away, might return, and take possession of his property. Meanwhile, however, that he might not remain unemployed, he undertook the education of some youths of noble family, and by his learning and acquirements, combined with a happy mode of imparting instruction, obtained the patronage and friendship of most of the neighbouring nobility.
At this period of his life, he chanced to be one day on a visit with some friends in a certain place, where a Dominican Friar, of Turin, was zealously declaiming against Luther ; and telling his hearers that this great light of the Reformation not only permitted his followers to indulge in every species of licentious gratification, but even went so far as to deny the Divinity of Christ, and his birth of the Virgin Mary. At the close of the discourse, Curio requested the Preacher to point out any passage in Luther's writings, from which these grave charges could be substantiated ; to which the Friar replied, that he would not then discuss the matter with him, but that if Curio would accompany him to Turin, he would convict Luther of having advanced far more dangerous opinions than these. Upon this, Curio took out of his pocket Luther's "Commentary on the Galatians," and proved the utter falsity of the Friar's charge, by quoting the Reformer's own words. This exposure completely discomfited the Preacher ; and the people would have wreaked their vengeance upon him in a summary way, had he not made a precipitate retreat to Turin. Safely arrived in that city, he applied to the Chief Inquisitor to arrest Curio, whose lot it was again to suffer imprisonment on a charge of heresy. The old story of the relics was now revived; and he was reminded of the heretical conversation, which had brought him under the displeasure of the Bishop of Ivrea. All things, in short, seemed to conspire against him; and his friends were upon the point of giving him up as lost. At this critical conjuncture he dexterously eluded the vigilance of his keepers ; and effected his escape in the following curious manner.
The Bishop of Turin had undertaken a journey to Rome, for the purpose of obtaining the Pope's sanction to the proceedings against him. In the mean time, Curio was consigned to the custody of the Bishop's colleague, David, brother of Cardinal Cibo, who, for greater security, had caused him to be placed in fetters, and removed by night to a private apartment, enclosed within strong walls, and guarded by two sentinels. It so happened that Curio, when a boy, had been confined in this very room, so that he had a perfect recollection of every part of the premises ; and as his feet were much swollen by the tightness of the shackles which were fastened upon them, (the debilitating effects of which he continued to feel through the remainder of his life,) he requested that one foot might be set at liberty, and when the swelling was removed, that this might be bound, and the other liberated. This request being granted, it occurred to him, after he had been in confinement for some days, to try whether he could not make a false leg, and get it fettered instead of the true one. With this view he took off the stocking of the leg which was at liberty, and stuffed it full of linen rags ; and when he had succeeded in completing his ingenious contrivance, he begged that he might be allowed to have the convalescent foot bound, and the other set at liberty. His request was granted: the true foot was liberated ; the pretended one was fettered; and he was now comparatively a free man again.
One stormy night, while the sentinels were asleep, he opened the door of his place of confinement, slipped down , stairs unperceived by them, and finding the outer door securely bolted and barred, made his escape through the window. In the morning, when the guards saw that their prisoner was gone, and that the fetters by which he had been bound were still locked, and had not been forced asunder by violence, they came to the conclusion that he had effected his escape by the aid of magical arts ; and when this rumour concerning him got abroad, that the Christian name might not he under so odious an imputation, he published a humorous dialogue, under the title of "Probus," in which he gave a detailed account of the whole matter, and expressed his gratitude to- God for so remarkable a deliverance.
He had now become so obnoxious to the Catholic clergy, that his only means of safety lay in flight ; and taking with him his wife and children, he made the best of his way to Sale, a town of Milan, which lay at some distance from the high road. Here he was soon recognized by some gentlemen, who usually spent their summer months at their country houses near this place, and by whom he was prevailed upon, almost against his will, to accept of a Professorship in the University of Pavia ; and although the Inquisitors had strict orders to seize him, he was enabled for a long time to set them at defiance by the vigilance of his pupils, who escorted him daily backwards and forwards, between the University and the place of his residence, for the space of three whole years. At length the Pope threatening to excommunicate the whole senate of Pavia, if Curio was not delivered up, he was allowed to make his escape, and took refuge in the Venetian territory. The vengeance of his enemies still pursuing him, he sought the protection of Renata, Duchess of Ferrara, by whose interest he obtained a Professor's chair in the University of Lucca: but before the expiration of a twelvemonth, a papal order for his apprehension, and removal to Rome, was received by the Senate, and he once more found it expedient to consult his safety by flight.
Curio now saw, that he could remain no longer in Italy, without being daily in imminent hazard of his life; and came to the determination of seeking that asylum in a foreign country, which was denied to him in his native land. Having therefore procured letters of recommendation from the Duchess of Ferrara, he went to Switzerland, and was appointed Rector of the College of Lausanne, an office which he discharged with great credit and acceptance for about four years.
Soon after his settlement at Lausanne, he returned into Italy in quest of his family, and narrowly escaped being taken by the Pope's emissaries at Pisa. While seated at dinner, the Bargello, or Prefect of the Inquisition, unexpectedly made his appearance; and having previously secured the approach to the house by a strong guard, he entered the room in which Curio was regaling himself, and arrested him in the name of the Chief Pontiff. Curio rose from the table, and was in the act of surrendering himself ; but happening still to have in his hand the knife which he had been using at dinner, and being a robust and powerful man, the Prefect was in his turn alarmed, and fainted. Curio, with remarkable presence of mind, now seized his opportunity. He left the room, went down stairs, passed, without being recognized, through the midst of the guard which was stationed at the door, entered the stable, mounted his horse, and rode off. On the recovery of the Bargello from his fainting fit, the alarm was given, and the hue and cry raised. But Curio was now beyond the reach of his pursuers. A violent storm soon compelled them to take shelter, and the delay thus occasioned, while it favoured his flight, rendered further pursuit on their part hopeless.
Having thus once more escaped the jaws of death, he returned to Lausanne, where he was shortly joined by his wife and children ; and finally removed to Basle, A. D. 1547, during the Rectorship of Sebastian Munster. His original intention was not to have settled in that city; but some of the most eminent Professors of the University, among whom was Martin Borrhaus, and the celebrated printers, Jerome Froben and Nicholas Episcopius, together with others who knew the extent of his erudition, requested him to take up his abode among them. With this request he was induced to comply ; and he had not been long resident in Basle, before he was appointed Professor of Eloquence and Belles-lettres in the University, an office for which he was eminently qualified, and which he discharged, with uninterrupted satisfaction, till the end of his life.
The Pope now solicited him to return into Italy, and made him a very liberal offer, together with the promise of a free pardon, on the sole condition of his abstaining, in future, from the discussion of religious subjects. The Duke of Savoy, on hearing of this, made him a still more flattering proposal. The Emperor Maximilian was likewise anxious to secure his literary services in the University of Vienna ; and the Waiwode of Transylvania offered him a valuable appointment in the newly-established College of Weissenberg. But he declined all these inviting proposals, and continued, for the space of three and twenty years, to devote himself, with unwearied assiduity, to the discharge of his official duties in the University of Basle, preferring the society of such men as that seat of learning afforded, to all the splendid allurements held out to him by foreign courts. He died at Basle on Tuesday, November 22nd, A.D. 1569, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.
A few months before he was attacked by the complaint which carried him to the grave, he had his likeness taken ; and when he was asked the reason by a friend, his reply was, that the period of his dissolution was not far distant, and he was anxious that his family, when they saw that representation of him, should remember him, and call to mind the pious precepts, which he had inculcated upon them during his life. From that time, he ceased not to meditate upon his approaching end ; and when it arrived, he met it with the calmness and composure of a Christian.
Curio left behind him, in his works, many splendid monuments of genius and erudition. His Introductory Address, prefixed to Valdez's " Considerations on a Religious Life," has been already mentioned. (Vide Art. 9.) Besides editing that work, he translated into Latin Guicciardini's " History of the Wars of Italy," and some of Ochinus's " Sermons;" and published a collection of " Pasquinades" in French and Italian, which were remarkable for the pungency of their wit. Among his original writings, an imperfect list of which is given by Stupanus, in his " Panegyrical Oration on the Life and Death of C. S. Curio," were many on the subjects of Education, Philosophy, Grammar, Logic, History, Antiquities, and other topics connected with General Literature. His Theological and Metaphysical Works comprise
1. An Essay on the Providence of God ;
2. An Essay on the Immortality of the Soul;
3. A Paraphrase on the Proem of John's Gospel;
4. Dialogues on the Extent of God's Kingdom; and
5. Christian Institutes.
It has been customary to represent the subject of this memoir simply in the light of an Italian Reformer ; but judging from a variety of well known, and incontestable facts, there appears to be ample ground for the conclusion, that he was, what numbers beside have been, who have lived and died with a fair reputation for orthodoxy, a Crypto-Unitarian. Sandius, it is true, has not inserted an account of him in his "Bibliotheca Antitrinitariorum." But Sandius, it should be recollected, died before he had completed that work, and left it in so unfinished a state, that Benedict Wissowatius, on whom the labour of editorship devolved, inserted nearly seventy additional biographical notices ; and, after all, by no means held it up to view as a finished production. In his prefatory remarks, he requests the reader to correct any errors which may have crept into the work ; and particularly desires, that, if he should detect any omissions, or acquire any additional information, he will not scruple to imitate the example of Sandius and himself, in communicating the result of his inquiries to the literary world. The indefatigable Fred. Sam. Bock, acting upon this principle, has made considerable additions to the list of Antitrinitarians contained in the "Bibliotheca" of Sandius. Yet, fully conscious of the almost insuperable difficulties attendant upon his Herculean undertaking, he sent his elaborate history into the world, not as a perfect work, but only as an improvement upon what Sandius and others had done before him ; and there can be little doubt, that future inquiries will enable us still further to extend the catalogue. Unless, therefore, more substantial reasons than the above can be assigned, for excluding Curio from among the number of Antitrinitarians, there is little probability of his name being ultimately lost to the Unitarian cause, particularly as many Trinitarian writers have not been backward in laying his character under a suspicion of heresy. This has been done by Lampe, in his Ecclesiastical History; by Peter Jaenichi, in his Animadversions upon a Catechism published by Samuel Crellius ; by Michael De la Roche, in his Memoirs of the Literature of Great Britain ; and by Allwoerden, in his History of Servetus.
We learn from the last of these writers, that a copy of the "Christianismi Restitutio," in its original shape, written out by Servetus himself, once belonged to our Curio ; and that it afterwards passed into the hands of M. Du Fay, at the sale of whose library, in the year 1725, it was purchased by the Count De Hoym, the Polish Ambassador at the French Court. This celebrated manuscript appears, from the account given of it by Allwoerden, to have had the name of Celius Horatius Curio written in the titlepage. It differed in many respects from the edition published by Servetus in 1553; and Allwoerden adopts M. Du Fay's conjecture, that it was the embryo of Servetus's larger work, and written out by himself. The same writer intimates, that Celius Secundus Curio, the father of Horatius, was once the possessor of this book ; and pledges himself, on some future occasion, to prove that the elder Curio was a friend and follower of Servetus. This pledge was given in the year 1728 ; and that it was not given without due consideration, all will be disposed to admit, who have read the elaborate treatise on the life of Servetus. Schelhorn, however, writing only two years later, attempted to prove that Curio lived and died a firm believer in the Trinitarian faith ; and by Bock and others his arguments have been deemed unanswerable. But the religious views of Curio have been represented to the world through a false medium by Schelhorn ; and many important circumstances have been overlooked by him, which tend to shew, that the suspicions thrown out by Lampe, Jaenichi, De la Roche and Allwoerden, are worthy of more attention, than it has hitherto been their lot to receive.
Schelhorn mainly rests his defence of Curio's orthodoxy respecting the Trinity upon three passages, taken from his "Opuscula," an octavo volume published at Basle, A.D. 1544. These Opuscula are small detached pieces, or tracts, written upon different subjects, and at different periods of the author's life ; and exhibiting those shades of opinion, which it is natural to expect in the intellectual history of a man like Curio. Most of them appear to have been composed before the views of their author became confirmed, and therefore assume a character more or less orthodox; but a Paraphrase on the Proem of John's Gospel, which occupies the last place in the volume, and may therefore be regarded as containing the author's mature thoughts, is of a heterodox complexion, and has been adduced for the purpose of proving, that Curio had ceased to be a believer in the doctrine of the Trinity, at the period of its composition.
The first piece, to which our attention will be directed, is an Essay "on the Providence of God," called by its author " Araneus." In Schelhorn's first extract, which is taken from this Essay, (p. 81,) Curio speaks of "Jesus Christ as the Eternal Wisdom of the Father; as redeeming us from the curse of the law; and as becoming a victim, as well as sin and a curse for us." In his second extract, which is taken from a letter "On the pious Education of Children," (p. 132,) addressed to Fulvio Pelligrino Morato, Curio rises in his orthodoxy, and says, that "God made all things by his Word, whom the sacred oracles designate by the terms Jesus Christ, and Son of God ; and that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, who was at once true God and true man, begotten of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary." Judging from these passages, without reference to the probably early date of their composition, or without taking into account the circumstances attendant upon the publication of the volume of which they form a part, we should find it difficult to arrive at any other conclusion, than the one, to which it is the object of Schelhorn to lead us ; namely, that the volume in which they occur was the production of a Trinitarian. But knowing, as we do, that, at the end of the collection of pieces from which the preceding extracts are taken, was printed, for the first time, aParaphrase on the Proem of John's Gospel, expressed in such terms as to lead one orthodox writer, (Jaenichi,) to infer, that its author was "entangled in the errors of Servetus;" and another, (Gerdesius,) to absolve him from the charge of heresy, solely on the ground of his not being "a theologian by profession:" knowing further, that, according to Schelhorn's own admission, Curio has, in this instance, transgressed the legitimate bounds of orthodoxy: our curiosity is excited to learn, what motive could have actuated him in the composition of this Paraphrase, and its publication in a volume of tracts, containing sentiments and expressions of a decidedly orthodox character.
The passages already quoted from the "Opuscula," it must be acknowledged, are far from being of a nature to excite suspicion ; and Schelhorn has therefore adduced them as proofs of their author's soundness in the faith, in spite of his own admission, as to the heretical tendency of some expressions, introduced by Curio into his Paraphrase on the Proem of John's Gospel. The same line of argument has been adopted by Gerdesius, who says, "Although we will not deny, that in his brief Paraphrase upon the beginning of the Gospel of John, he has laid down some things incautiously, which might bring upon him the suspicion of heresy, yet his remaining writings teach and evince, on the contrary, that he acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the true Son of God, and true God." But what are the "remaining writings" to which allusion is here made ? Evidently those, which were composed before the above Paraphrase, and which have therefore nothing to do with the subject of our present investigation.
That Curio was a Trinitarian, when he first embraced the principles of the Reformation, is highly probable ; but that he continued a Trinitarian to the end of his life, there is no evidence to prove. Schelhorn, however, would fain persuade us, in spite of his own admission respecting the latitude of Curio's interpretations, that expressions at variance with the sentiments of Servetus and the early Unitarians, are to be found in an exhortation subjoined to the Paraphrase so often mentioned ; and, in proof of this, he has adduced the following passage, which forms the third and last extract from the "Opuscula" of Curio." What can be more delightful, or more becoming the character of a Christian man, than a mind which entertains correct views concerning God and Christ, and is instructed in all kinds of heavenly wisdom ? Jews, philosophers and Mahometans can speak of God at once ingeniously, eloquently and profoundly, without mentioning the name of Christ, the Son of God, or having any fixed belief in him. But inasmuch as they do not acknowledge Christ, they build without a foundation: for Christ is the true, sole and permanent image, likeness and representation of God. Let them say or think as they please, therefore, their reasoning is all to no purpose. We receive and worship one God in Christ, and one Lord Jesus Christ in God."
Now this passage, though not perhaps such as a modern Unitarian, of the school of Priestley or Lindsey, would have penned, contains nothing at variance with the sentiments of Socinus and his followers ; for while Socinianism agrees with Judaism, Theism and Mahometanism, in maintaining the sole and undivided Unity of God, it inculcates a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God ; recognizes him as the appointed Mediator between God and men ; holds him up to view as the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of his perfections ; represents the most intimate union as subsisting between him and his heavenly Father ; and teaches us, that, as Christians, it is incumbent upon us to "receive and worship one God in Christ, and one Lord Jesus Christ in God." These were the sentiments held by the majority of Antitrinitarians at the period of the Reformation, and taught in the Catechisms and Confessions of Faith published by their successors, of which the following extract from the Racovian Catechism affords sufficient evidence.
Q. " What has the Lord Jesus added to the first commandment ?
A. " That we are required to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ himself as one who has divine authority over us, and in that sense as God; that we are bound, moreover, to put our trust in him, and pay him divine honour."
Q. " Is not the first commandment of the Decalogue altogether changed by this addition ; that we are bound to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God, in the stated sense, and to approach him with divine worship ?
A. " That commandment is in no respect changed; for it only requires that we have no other Gods before God. But Christ is not another God, since God has communicated to him of his divine and celestial majesty, and has so far made him one and the same with himself.—-The command therefore to have and worship but one God only, remains in force; the mode alone of worshiping him is changed, in so far as that the only God was formerly worshiped Without Christ, but is now worshiped Through Christ." (The Racovian Catechism, with Notes and Illustrations, translated from the Latin, by Dr. Thomas Rees, Sect. v. Chap. i. pp. 189. 194.)
This is but an echo of the sentiment, quoted with an air of triumph, by Schelhorn, from Curio, as an evidence of the belief of the latter in the Trinitarian faith ; and yet the authors and editors of the Racovian Catechism, and the members of the Churches for whose instruction that Catechism was originally drawn up, are to this day reckoned among the warmest, and ablest advocates of the Unitarian doctrine.
From a letter of Curio, inserted in the Works of Olympia Fulvia Morata, and, though without date, probably written after the publication of his Paraphrase, it appears that he had fallen under a suspicion of heresy ; and when urged by the friend, to whom that letter was addressed, to publish a reply to the charge brought against him, he says that he deems it "a sufficient reply, if his life corresponds with his profession," and alludes to his published writings as vindicating him from the charge of heresy, and proving that he " worships one God in one Jesus Christ." Here he obviously refers to the language employed by him in the passage from which Schelhorn's third extract is taken ; and that language, as we have seen above, is in perfect accordance with the principles advocated by the Polish Socinians. But if Curio still retained the sentiments expressed in his letter to Olympia's father, why did he not repeat the stronger terms which he had there used ? Let those who claim him as an orthodox believer consider this ; and say whether they, as Trinitarians, would have contented themselves with stating, as Curio does, that they were worshipers of "one God in one Jesus Christ," if their faith had laboured under a similar imputation.
The circumstance of Curio's publishing the Paraphrase, which seems first to have brought him under the suspicion of heresy, in the same volume with other writings of a more orthodox cast, is one which will excite little surprise, when we recollect the character of the age in which he lived. Incredible are the artifices, to which men of liberal principles were at that time compelled to have recourse, for the purpose of disseminating their opinions. Sometimes an obnoxious author's name was concealed under an anagram, or an acrostic: sometimes a work was published, professing to be on the orthodox side of a question, but intentionally sustained by weak and trifling arguments, with a view to excite doubts: sometimes the language of truth insinuated itself into the mind under the form of a dialogue, when it could make its way through no other channel ; and sometimes an heretical sentiment was promulgated under the cover of a work, which was otherwise of a character not to excite suspicion. These were the methods, by which the abuses in the Church of Rome were attacked, before the time of Luther ; by which the remaining errors of the Reformed Churches were covertly undermined, before the friends of rational Christianity found an asylum in Poland and Transylvania; and of which, indefensible as they are in themselves, persecution affords some palliation. It was thus that Curio acted, when, in accordance with the spirit of the times, regarding his own safety, he published his volume of "Opuscula," and made it the instrument, by which the seeds of Unitarianism were first disseminated among the rocks and valleys of Switzerland. In this volume the Paraphrase on the beginning of John's Gospel occupies the last place; and it was, no doubt, intended as an expression of the mature and deliberate opinion of its author, on an important subject, to which he had only slightly and incidentally adverted in the former pieces. It was sent into the world at a time, when Unitarianism had not dared to shew itself under any shape, among the Reformed Churches of Switzerland ; and although Curio survived its publication a full quarter of a century, no circumstance appears to have occurred, during the whole of that time, to weaken the doubts which had arisen as to his soundness in the faith, but many to strengthen and confirm them.
The first of these, which it falls in our way to mention is the confidential nature of Curio's intimacy with Laelius Socinus.—Laelius left Italy on the dispersion of the celebrated society at Vicenza, A. D. 1546 ; and after wandering over a great part of Switzerland, arrived safely at Basle in the year following, where he was kindly received, and hospitably entertained by Curio. This fact, which might in itself be deemed unimportant, is far otherwise, as connected with the subject of our present inquiry. Curio thought highly of the mental and moral qualities of Laelius; nor was the connexion which subsisted between them a mere casual intimacy, but a friendship founded upon mutual esteem. At the time that Laelius became Curio's guest, his religious opinions were perfectly formed, and never afterwards underwent any change of the slightest importance. He is said to have taken the lead among the followers of Servetus in Italy, and to have disbelieved the doctrine of the Trinity before he had any thoughts of quitting that country. But he had the prudence to conceal his heretical opinions ; and was in the habit of proposing them in the shape of doubts, for the solution of those, with whom he happened to converse. Some have thought it not improbable, that B. Ochinus, with whom Laelius was also upon terms of strict intimacy, was indebted to him for the objections, which form the basis of his celebrated " Dialogues on the Trinity." But however this may be, Laelius seems to have been upon a more friendly footing with Curio, than any of the persons with whom he associated, after his flight out of Italy ; and probably opened his mind more freely on religious subjects to him, than to any one else. Hence it has been thought, and not without reason, that, though the opinions of these friends might not coincide on all points, there must yet have been a great similarity in their views, and modes of thinking; and that Curio must at least have been acquainted with the heterodox notions of Laelius on the subject of the Trinity. Of this circumstance Schelhorn professes to make light ; observing, that Melanchthon and Bullinger, whose names stood in such high repute among orthodox Protestants, have both spoken in honourable terms concerning Laelius. It should not be forgotten, however, that with these two great men, his intercourse was of a far less confidential nature than with Curio, and that, in despite of all his caution, both of them were led to express doubts as to the soundness of his orthodoxy: whereas Curio never breathed the most distant hint respecting the heretical tendency of the religious views of Laelius, but on all occasions spoke of him in terms of the greatest endearment and affection.
The next circumstance, to which we shall advert, appears still more conclusive, as to the fact of Curio's heterodoxy on the subject of the Trinity. In the year 1540, he published a work, entitled, "Christianae Religionis Institutio;" and in such a work it might very reasonably be expected, that an orthodox believer would dilate upon the subject of the Trinity, and represent it as a necessary and fundamental article of the Christian Faith. But not a syllable of the kind occurs in this treatise. Its author, on the contrary, explains the articles of the Christian Religion, without saying one word about the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead ; whence it has been inferred, by M. De la Roche and others, that he was not a believer in that doctrine: and indeed it would seem in the highest degree improbable, that a believer in the doctrine of the Trinity should have published a work, the express object of which was to unfold the principles of the Christian Faith, without allowing a single observation of a decidedly Trinitarian character to escape him. It is not thus that the principles of Christianity are taught by Trinitarians in the present day : it was not thus that they were set forth by learned divines and theologians in the days of Curio : nor, it may be presumed, would Curio have laid himself open to the charge of so palpable an omission, had he entertained a conscientious persuasion, that the doctrine of the Trinity is taught in the books of Scripture.
But silence is not the only offence, which has been laid to the charge of Curio. M. Dav. Clement, a French writer, has accused him of having purposely had recourse to tortuous modes of expression, with a view to conceal his heterodoxy ; and even of having so artfully disguised his language, as to give it an apparently orthodox sense. The author of the present work has not the means of verifying this accusation by a collation of the writings of Curio, which are exceedingly scarce ; but it may easily be imagined, that, surrounded as he was by such men as Calvin and Beza, he would express himself in precisely the terms attributed to him. He had a general character for liberality, and was, on that account, an object of great suspicion to Calvin, who would not have hesitated to immolate him upon the altar of persecution, had he been as unguarded in his expressions, and as confiding in his conduct, as the illfated Servetus. But the long series of indignities and sufferings, to which he had been exposed during his residence in Italy, had taught him a lesson of prudence, and put him upon his guard against the wily reformer.
The author of the celebrated "Dialogue between Calvin and Vaticanus," includes Curio in a long list of authors, quoted by Minus Celsus, in his treatise "De Hareticis, an sint persequendi;" and adds, "qui omnes contra Calvinum pugnant, quos omnes nunc Calvinus uno in fasce colligates conjecit una secum in cineres Serveti." (Calv. 22.) The above Dialogue was originally published A. D. 1544, with the following title: "Contra Libellum Calvini, in quo ostendere conatur, Haereticos jure gladii coercendos esse.—Nolite ante tempus quicquam judicare, donee veniat Dominus, qui illustraturus est occulta tenebrarum, et patefaciet consilia cordium. 1 Cor. iv. 5." A second edition of this Dialogue was published by the Arminians, A. D. 1612, with an Appendix, containing some remarks on the history of Servetus, and two vindicatory epistles by Castalio, one of which is addressed to our Edward VI., and the other to the Council and Senate of Basle. Two copies of this edition are in the possession of the present writer. To one of these the original title-page is prefixed. The other is called, "Dissertatio qua. disputatur, quo jure, quove fructu Haeretici sunt coercendi gladio vel igne;" and instead of the original motto, from 1 Cor. iv. 5, the following is subjoined from Deut. xiii." Si frater tuus incitaverit te, dicens, Eamus et serviamus diis alienis, non parcet ei oculus tuus ut occultes eum, quin potius occides eum, et manus tua prima sit ut ilium interficiat." In the remarks on the history of Servetus, subjoined to this edition, Curio is mentioned as one of those, whom Calvin would not have scrupled to persecute unto death, if he had happened to possess the power, and to hold intercourse with whom was a mortal sin.
Of the prudent course which Curio found it necessary to steer, in the disclosure of his opinions, respecting controverted points of doctrine, some idea may be formed from the circumstances attendant upon the publication of his work, entitled, "De Amplitudine Beati Regni Dei Dialogi sive Libri duo, 1554," 8vo. The main peculiarity in the religious system of Calvin is a belief that God has destined to eternal happiness a comparatively small number of his rational creatures, and consigned the larger portion of the human race to everlasting misery. Upon this doctrine a covert attack is made in these Dialogues, in which Curio and Augustine Mainardi are the speakers ; the former proposing questions, and the latter undertaking to answer them, and to prove that the number of the elect exceeds that of the reprobated, or damned. By thus representing himself under the character of an inquirer, and putting into the mouth of another person all that was likely to be deemed obnoxious, Curio hoped to avoid giving offence, and at the same time to excite attention to a subject, on which the Helvetic Church appeared to have pronounced a hasty, as well as an arbitrary decision. These Dialogues were written at least seven years before they were published ; and the publication of them was delayed solely by prudential considerations. "While Curio was residing at Lausanne, he placed them in the hands of Martin Cellarius, whom he consulted as to the expediency of their publication. He was aware that they would excite a sensation in the religious world ; and wished to fortify himself with the opinion of that learned and excellent man. What the advice of Cellarius was is not known ; but, judging from the delay which occurred in the publication of these Dialogues, it seems reasonable to infer, that he recommended a cautious mode of procedure. Curio afterwards submitted them to the inspection of the censors of the press, and Ministers of the Reformed Church at Basle, who pronounced them unfit to meet the public eye ; and when, notwithstanding this formal decision, they surreptitiously made their appearance, it required all the sagacity of their ingenious author, combined with some degree of duplicity, to avert the consequences of so daring a violation of public authority. Curio, in his Apology, addressed to the Senate of Basle, says, that his son Horatius published them, in some town in the North of Italy ; but the latter part of this assertion is directly contradicted by the testimony of John Oporinus, an eminent printer at Basle, who has included them in a Catalogue of Works, printed by himself. " The author," says Schelhom, (Amcen. Lit. Tom. XII. p. 626,) " was afraid of bringing himself into trouble, by an open declaration of the truth, because he published this work without the consent and knowledge of the censors of Basle." Bayle assures us, that the first edition of these Dialogues made its appearance at Basle, A. D. 1554, and if this be true, the other part of Curio's assertion is rendered extremely dubious ; for his son, Horatius, upon whom he charges the act of publication, died on the 15th of February in that very year. But the truth is, that Curio had a violent struggle to maintain, between his love of truth and a regard to his own safety; and if he was sometimes led to prevaricate with his conscience, and to conceal his real sentiments, we must attribute it to the temper of the times in which he lived, and to the dread of falling a victim to that persecuting spirit, which had recently consigned the unhappy Servetus to the flames.
But we come now to notice, in the last place, the part which Curio took in the publication of Ochinus's Dialogues; and which, it may safely be affirmed, could not have been the act of a conscientious Trinitarian. A manuscript copy of these Dialogues, in the Italian language, was submitted, by Peter Perna, the printer, to the inspection of Basil Amersbach, Rector of the University of Basle, who, being unacquainted with the Italian, referred it to the judgment of Curio. When Curio had perused it, he returned it to the printer, and gave it as his opinion, that it contained nothing, which need operate as a bar to its publication. Upon this, the printer ventured to commit to the press, not the Italian copy, which Curio had examined, but a Latin version of it by Castalio ; and thus made it accessible to the learned throughout Europe. But notwithstanding Curio's favourable opinion of the contents of these Dialogues, they were found, on examination, to contain much that was objectionable, on the subject of the Trinity ; which brought upon their author a summary sentence of banishment from the city and territory of Zurich, where he was residing at the time of their publication. Here, then, arises an interesting question for the casuists. The printer could say, that he did his duty in submitting the manuscript to the inspection of Basil Amersbach, the censor ; and that, if the work was fit for publication, it mattered little whether it was printed in Latin, or Italian: the censor might plead ignorance of the language in which the manuscript was written, and refer to the high character of Curio, in justification of the part, which he took in the transaction: while Curio would hold himself exonerated upon the plea, that he was answerable only for the contents of the original manuscript, which might have undergone a thousand changes in the process of translation. We find, accordingly, that the whole burden of the blame ultimately fell upon Castalio, the translator, who thus attempts to exculpate himself, and the printer who employed him: "With regard to the charge of my having translated the Dialogues of B. Ochinus, that, I think, cannot in fairness be imputed to me as a fraud. For I rendered them into Latin, as I had before rendered other works of the same writer, not as a judge, but simply as a translator by profession, with a view to obtain something for the support of my family: and the printer informed me, that he had submitted the book to the censorship, and that it had been regularly approved, according to the laws of the city of Basle." Who does not see, then, that, if responsibility attaches to any one, it must be to the person, who pronounced these Dialogues fit for publication ? Curio could not fail to know, that they contained a great deal of matter at variance with the creed of the Reformed Church, particularly on the subject of the Trinity ; and, knowing this, how shall we free him from the suspicion of secretly favouring the sentiments of their author ? The whole affair, it must be confessed, has very much the appearance of an ingenious plot, invented for the purpose of introducing these Dialogues into the world, without directly implicating any of the parties concerned.
(Vidend. Stupani Oratio Panegyrica de Coelii Secundi Curionis Vita atque Obitu, habita Basileae Anno 1570; apud Schelhornii Amcen. Lit. T. XIV. pp. 325—402. Hist. Dialogor. C. S. Curionis de Amplitud. beati Regni Dei; apud Schelh. Aoen. Lit. T. XII. pp. 592—627. Bock, Hist. Ant. T. II . pp. 308—313. 457. 498. 502. 584. 588. AUwoerden, Hist. Mich. Serveti, p. 194. Bayle, Diet. Hist. et. Crit. Art. Cueion. Aikin's General Biography, Art. Cubio. Trechsti, Michael Servet und seine Vorganger, S. 214—217. M'Crie's Hist, of the Ref. in Italy, Ch. iii. pp. 129—133, etc.)DidierLe Roux
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