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A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and Its Antecedents Earl Morse Wilbur

A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and Its Antecedents

Earl Morse Wilbur

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Hardcover
630 pages
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 About the Book 

Those whove looked forward to the publication of Dr Wilburs historical researches will find their expectations more than fulfilled in this book. The fruit of 40 years of labor, it fills an empty place in the story of the Reformation. 0ur UnitarianMoreThose whove looked forward to the publication of Dr Wilburs historical researches will find their expectations more than fulfilled in this book. The fruit of 40 years of labor, it fills an empty place in the story of the Reformation. 0ur Unitarian Heritage (25) a much briefer preliminary study, has been the only book in English on the subject based on original research. The two German studies of Socinianism are a century old & inadequate in their treatment of the Reformation movement from which Unitarianism arose. This volume deals with the early stages of Unitarianism: 1st, with the scattered, mostly obscure individuals who began early in the 16th century to question trinitarian dogma, of whom Servetus was most notable- 2nd, with the work of the Socinus, under whom arose a group of churches in Poland definitely unitarian, tho the movement was long known by the name of its leader or called Arien. The 2nd part tells of Unitarianism in Hungary, England & the USA. Its fortuitous that Wilbur has been able to complete this volume, not only because no other is so competent to cover this field, but because he had opportunity between the 1st & 2nd World Wars to spend 3 years in Europe carrying on research & collecting materials in libraries, especially in Poland, many of which have since been scattered or utterly destroyed. Had his work been postponed, it couldnt have been done so thoroughly, if at all. The impressive scholarship is indicated by the fact his studies involved a working acquaintance with 13 languages, by the accuracy of his footnotes & by the detail with which he traces the activities of little-known individuals, many of whom were driven from pillar to post to escape persecution & who had reasons to cover up their tracks. The book is fully indexed, complete with cross references & has a Pronouncing Table of proper names, invaluable as a guide to Polish pronounciation. But the book is no mere dry-as-dust record of forgotten people & controversies. Heres a vividly written, often moving story of the long struggle for freedom of religion & of utterances, for toleration of diverse beliefs- & for the exercise of reason in the examination of the bible & the dogmas of Catholic, Lutheran & Reformed Churches. While the beliefs of the early anti-Trinitarians were different from those held by modern Unitarians they exhibit the struggles of devoted souls to free themselves from the bondage to ancient dogmas in which the human mind was entangled in the 16th & 17th centuries, together with their principles of freedom, of toleration, of the use of reason & of Xianity as a way of life rather than a prescribed system of thought that led hy devious ways across 4 centuries to the liberty which we enjoy. Its hoped that his work will be read not only by scholars but by Unitarians. The storys a tragic one, of those hunted for daring to question accepted beliefs--wanderers & exiles, some martyred. Particularly tragic is the account of the crushing out of the Socinian churches in Poland by Catholic reaction. That the Polish Socinians were notable alike for their scholarship & their exemplary standards of conduct was of no avail in an age in which heresy was the worst of crimes. In some aspects of their theology, & especially in their teachings about wealth, war & the relations of individuals to states, they anticipated by over a century the principles of the early English Quakers & by more than 3 centuries those of many modern idealists. Its well for us to realize the great price paid for religious freedom- to understand that controversies long outdated were once desperate battlegrounds for that freedom- & that were the spiritual heirs of a priceless treasure. We all owe thanks to Wilbur for this invaluable book, written so vividly & with such final authority that no later student will feel it necessary to cover the same ground again.